Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bear-hood

Wrote this story as part of my feature writing class last quarter. The assignment was to describe a place. I choose one from my childhood. Sophie and I called it Bear-hood.

Enjoy...


In the shade of two pine trees, we had no rules. We could be anything. I could be a mad scientist who was finally able to reveal her true self as a frog. I had the ability to slow and pause time. My best friend, Sophie, could be a giant ant. She could tell fortunes to mysterious looking life forms that traveled from planet Mars to meet her.

Sophie and I spent hours on top of the dirt-floor that was between the curtain of pine-needles and a tree trunk. We played there because it was hidden from outside view. We played there because in that secret place we reveal our true selves. We were seven year-olds who believed in our fantasies.

Our secret place was just across the street from Sophie’s house. We found it one day, after deciding to pack up a few of Sophie’s belongings and exit the picket fence that bordered the front of her house. We filled a paper grocery bag with a random assortment of things we would naturally want to carry with us: a neon-colored slinky, trolls of all hair dyes, and stuffed animals of sorts. We stopped at her next-door neighbor’s house and collected a few white rocks, known to us as crystals.

We had made it across the street when we pushed our way through pine needles and discovered what would soon be known to us as Bear-hood. We imagined it was a suitable place for bears to go about their time, and thus decided it should be named after them.

Bear-hood was in a space formed by an umbrella of two trees’ worth of pine-needles. There was enough space to walk ten or so paces before having to turn back. The branches were high enough for our short bodies to play under, and could be used as shelves for the items we brought. The pine-needles that coated the exterior of the tree were full. Easily ignored was the sound of the passing cars just on the other side of Bear-hood. We could escape the must-do’s and the do-not’s of the world outside.

Soon, we would bring more items to our secret space. We brought cement blocks for chairs and stuffed animals for extra company. We strung sheets as room dividers and designated a corner as a bathroom.

Everything felt different inside of Bear-hood. Sophie and I could form our own rules. We could converse with a stuffed lion, or pour tea from a rock at our side. We simply had to believe in the things we were thinking. For me this task was simple, especially when Sophie was doing it too. We allowed our imagination to run free inside bear-hood.

We discovered bear-hood a few months after Sophie had moved to my hometown, Santa Barbara, a ritzy suburb in southern California. I was in the second grade and, at first, I was resistant to her becoming my friend.

Sophie required a lot of space. Her voice was deep, and permeated like a base guitar. She talked too much, too loud. It was a daily practice for her name to find itself chalked on the board in our classroom. She grinded her fingernails into her legs that were thick with eczema. She bulldozed her way through her lunch and then went for mine.

Meanwhile, I took up a diminished amount of space. My test scores were average and my voice was soft. Rarely spoken was my name; my friends were few.

Sophie moved into a house that was only a few away from mine. It made sense for our parents that the two of us walk home from school together. Soon after her move, our mothers became friends and our brothers became friends too. It was inevitable that Sophie and I would follow. Sophie was like my sister. She was forced upon me with no option, and with time, I began to love her.

After several weeks of our discovery of Bear-hood, it was ruined. A neighbor rang Sophie’s mom to inform her about an abundance of toys that hung from a tree on the other side of a wall that framed her house. The neighbor also told her that the toys were multiplying. She wanted everything removed. That was the end. We carried the weathered dolls, toys and games back into Sophie’s house.

Years later, when we were in high school, we planned an adventure to go back and visit bear-hood. We had since moved homes and experienced our first tastes of being a teenager. We had not seen bear-hood for years.

We each carried a turkey sandwich and some fruit in a backpack, and rode bikes to the long, lost bear-hood.

What we found felt different from what we had remembered. Spiny, fallen pine bristles covered the dirt floor. We wondered if the trees had lost their density, or maybe if we were the ones who lost our ability to dream.

As we sat eating, we knew the cars that passed could see us sitting cross-legged. They would wonder why two teenagers would want to do such a thing. 

This is Soph and me a little while back. She'll always be like a sister to me.

Editing

Been editing, a lot. Trying to package a more up-to-date portfolio....

wanted to share some of the images from these hours while looking back...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Forrest


Sometimes the feelings of extreme are worn on our sleeves. There are times when we can't hold back our cries or laughs, especially when everything around it is controlled by that emotion. Last week I went with a reporter at The Oregonian to photograph a fire in Warm Springs. By the time we arrived, the fire had mostly been contained. There was one man, Forrest Tewee, who lost his house. I was with the other reporter, Stuart Tomlinson, in front of Forrest's home when he appeared. His words were short, and his look was taught. I photographed him as he entered the home for the first time since it had been charred. He had lived in the home since the early 1980’s, his mom left it to him. Without insurance, it will undoubtedly be difficult to put the pieces back together. The story is here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

No more waiting

I met Joyce Long during an assignment for The Oregonian about national drug shortages affecting patients. The story can be seen here. She was visiting the doctor for chemo. Since being diagnosed with myeloma, things changed. Her priorities are different. She doesn't wait anymore, she just does. For two years she resisted from wearing her bleach-white Birkenstock shoes. They remained untouched in her closet for two-years. Not anymore.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Character Study

Created a new gallery in my website. You can see it here. It's a project that was completed during the last quarter of classes at Ohio University. My graduate class took it unto ourselves to design a class. We called it Character Study. The idea was to make portraits, critique, and learn how to make better portraits. We read some photo critiques and discussed the meaning that pictures of people can have, and how these meanings are dialogued and represented to the world out there. The perk? To have another class together. One last bang with the crew. I can't say it enough, I am so fortunate to have had my classmates. They provided a selfless desire for the other to improve.

We had a gallery opening for our "final". The house, also known as The White House, that Victor and I lived in was transformed into a gallery... furniture was removed, photographs were hanged and food was served. Faculty and students came. Twas an amazing night. I'm happy, so happy, for the two-years in Athens at OU, and with my classmates. Thank you.
 What it looked like...
And, some words from Sheila herself...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hello Portland


I'm now a two-week old intern at The Oregonian. So far, it's been good. The practice of being out, every single day, photographing something different has already been a big learning experience. Coming back to the office and being in the mix of the staff is another learning experience. I'm looking forward to 8 more weeks of this internship.