What do you do when you're an adventurous homebody? This.
I enjoy my travels with a very loyal and loving friend, Yiska. Is it cramped? Yes, but in the same way that a hug is cramped.
A while back I was “tagged” on Facebook to share little known and possibly interesting things about myself. I spent days toying with the idea of whether or not to participate, and if I did, what in the world should I say? I decided to just write – not filter – just write. The final list surprised me because I realized it’s a snapshot of one person’s crazy, flighty, weird life… And then I thought, we all have a list like this. We all have quirks, and crazy thoughts, and weird reasons for doing what we do. At least I hope I’m not alone. So, I’m sharing mine. And I hope you’ll share yours. Doesn’t have to be with me, but share a snapshot of yourself with someone you love. Something little known and maybe even interesting. Bare your soul and give a piece of yourself.
1. When I was a baby, my parents were missionary helpers in Bolivia. I rode around on the back of a Bolivian helper all day, and so my first words were Spanish. When I was three, my parents moved to Ireland and I first learned to read in Gaelic. I remember reading the Gaelic books to my mom on our drive home from school each day. The ironic thing is, I have always wanted to speak another language and don’t remember either of the ones I once knew.
2. When I was growing up I dreamed of being a famous movie star. We’re talking uber famous and super rich. Then I decided it would be better to be a truck driver, out on the open road seeing the country side. This lasted until I was 11 and I just had to become a prima ballerina (I actually studied dance very seriously). Then I wanted to be a nurse, before a stint in community theater changed my mind and I went to college for a grand total of one semester as a drama student. That’s when I changed majors to psychology. Yep, I was going to be a counselor. Then there was the summer I decided my passion was white water rafting and that there could be no better job in the world then to be a white water rafting guide… Sigh. In the end I grew up (a bit) and settled into a 15 year career as an elementary school teacher, and feel very blessed for it. Teaching allowed me to have the same schedule as my children and do something each day that felt meaningful and important.
3. Yes, I love art, but that’s not the only reason I took to photography. I started photography because of all the people in my life that have transitioned to spirit. I started photography right after my son passed away. Every single time I photograph someone, whether it be a wedding, a newborn, or a portrait session, I actually say a silent prayer of thanks that I’m documenting this person’s life at that moment… because it is all so fleeting. Capturing a butterfly on a tender new flower is a moment in time that feels holy and connects me with nature on a deeper level and explains why I don’t mind carrying a camera that weighs the same as a wet dog.
4. I’m an adventurous homebody. Traveling has defined years of my life and yet it gives me great anxiety. I’ve lived out of a backpack or suitcase in 29 countries, on 5 continents. But, I get nervous, a bit sick to my stomach, and my hands shake every time I set out to get from point A to point B. Why do I still travel if I feel this way? Because facing those fears and putting myself on a path of living life fully is the greatest experience I can imagine. I have a choice; to sit safely in a comfortable home… or head out the door and risk it all by living each day with the unknown and discovering all the wonders of our world.
5. My daughter, Marina, is my earthly angel. Truly. Those that have experienced her loyalty, integrity, and humor know they are in the presence of a slice of the divine. I can look at her and I know that I have lived my life’s purpose.
You can read a full account of Yiska’s unique beginnings here, as told from his point of view.
In November of 2014, I took a photography trip through Arizona. One of the places I’d always wanted to explore was Monument Valley.
This is where Yiska (Navajo for “the night has passed”) came into my life. Yiska, now 2.5 years old, spent his first year of life as a stray, having been born under the hotel at Monument Valley. He somehow managed to survive the cold winter nights and the scorching summer heat by begging from tourists that pulled into the parking lot.
I was staying in a little cabin above the cliffside when Yiska showed up. It was Thanksgiving evening and I found him curled up under a rock behind my cabin, ready for another freezing night. It broke my heart to see how he gulped down two tubs of water and left over food I offered. In that moment, I knew he needed to come home with me. I broke all the rules by sneaking this stray into my cabin and eventually off the Navajo reservation at the end of my stay. He was given a clean bill of health by a Flagstaff vet, and although he was very thin, once he was groomed he was absolutely beautiful!
Yiska’s personality sometimes has me forgetting he’s a dog and not a human. His intelligence is beyond anything I’ve seen in a dog, as he outsmarts me constantly (I suppose this might say more about my intelligence). I’m sure this intelligence is a big reason he survived his first year. No amount of coaxing will get him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. He’s the only dog I’ve ever allowed to jump up on me because he wraps his legs around my waist and buries his head in my tummy to give me a genuine hug. In fact, I find myself bending the rules a lot with Yiska since I feel he’s earned extra pampering after the hardships he’s endured.