Mighty Fiona

This marked my second year of mini sessions with repeat clients and wonderful new families to capture. Dear friends joined in for the deal and due to horrendous weather and a young baby, I made way to their home for a cozy, home-based photoshoot.

Meet Fiona, an old soul, with wonderfully kind and adoring parents. She's healthy and happy with the ability to look straight down the barrel of my lens and into my soul.

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Miss Fiona is due to have surgery next month. The plates of her skull have fused in places that could create pressure in her brain, delays in development, and potential disabilities that could alter her quality of life. She has an extremely rare condition called craniosynostosis that was discovered after a co-worker recognized the physical signs in photos Fiona's mother, Erin, was sharing. Thanks to this serendipitous warning, they were able to pursue the necessary steps to give Fiona every fighting chance to lead a healthy life. Now, they stoicly await a surgery that would scare the hell out of any new parent.

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Fiona will be fine. She's mighty. I see it in her eyes- as though many lives have already been lived, and so many lessons are awaiting the words to share and enlighten. The love this family has inspires me deeply. My heart is with them.

For more information on craniosynostosis, please click the link.

Fall Mini-Sessions!!

A few years ago, I began offering mini-sessions as a way to set up "shop" at any one of the beautiful parks in Seattle, providing each client with 30 minutes to capture their family and provide images for gifts and holiday cards. It's been such a fun challenge to meet families for the first time and capture all of the personalities in one speedy fell swoop!

Join me! (click the link to see more photos and details)

  • Woodland Park November 11th
  • Discovery Park November 12th

Heather + Chris @ The Edgewater

Heather & Chris married on a Tuesday in the penthouse of The Edgewater Hotel. Having lost family members during the planning process, the intimate gathering felt even more special in the celebration of love and family. Heather, a natural beauty, hesitantly applied mascara fearing looking too made up. Their sweet sincerity and hilarious sense of humor made me feel so honored to share their space and document their day... 

Becky + Eli...

Becky and Eli are lovely, laid back people with a gorgeous sense of style! They're both architects with a love for clean lines and white spaces. With a baby due any moment, they invited me to join them on a rainy day at their home.


Reflecting on Photographic Philanthropy

Thinking back on 2016 and the business I've developed, I'm honored to be regularly called upon by local nonprofits to photograph events and projects that promote the ways in which they benefit the community. I donate a large portion of my hourly to their pursuit and success. 

For five years, I've been photographing events for Futurewise, an organization originally founded to support the Growth Management Act that analyzes space usage, minimizes urban sprawl, and encourages healthy living communities. They annually reward organizations that support their mission all over Washington State. Their most recent Executive Director was just elected as Washington State Lands Commissioner! She used a portrait I took as her campaign photograph. Congratulations Hilary Franz!

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Originally a volunteer instructor of the Flagship Foundation, I was invited to photograph classroom instruction- and the moments when kids blossom into full-fledged Nutrition Detectives!- after their rebranding as Pure Food Kids. Many of my photos can be found throughout their website, proudly showcasing the discoveries children make during every presentation. Documenting that wonder and shock gives me hope that kids will make healthier food choices and inspire their families to do the same. They've recently spread their influence to New York with eventual hope of spreading their healthy mission nation-wide!

Before the holidays, I teamed up with Stoup Brewing and WeCount to provide Santa photographs. A portion of every photo sold went to WeCount, a nonprofit that helps connect homeless and disadvantaged individuals to supplies and comforts they need. This is a new service founded by Graham Pruss that's empowered those in need to ask for the specifics that help their lives thrive. Keep them in your sights...

The most recent project I completed this week was for the Charlie Cart Project founded in Berkeley, CA by former Edible Schoolyard coordinator, Carolyn Federman. The project aims to insert home economics learning opportunities back into the classroom while also providing English, Math, and Science-based curriculum. The carts are adorable, the potential is exponential, and the honor to work on a project who's advisory board includes Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma, Botany of Desire) and Alice Waters (Chez Pannise, Edible Schoolyard) was immense! I'm passionate about any project that inspires children to lead healthier lives by encouraging healthier, whole food choices!

I have no doubt this year will be equally rewarding. I'm currently on the search for more projects that make the work I create even more fulfilling. Please send inquiries and opportunities my way!


Joining the Village that "It Takes..."

When friends have babies and you don't have children, there's a part of you that feels as though your relationship will change forever. After trying for several years with devastating results and now triumph, my friends Ethan and Rebecca finally have baby Lowell. I had the opportunity to meet him 3 days after he was born and I instantly fell into his spell. He's more baby bird than human with delicate and long appendages, arms ready for flight. He was three weeks early, ready to take on this world with strong and very capable parents at his side. He is the gessoed canvas of Ethan and Rebecca's life-altering masterpiece. Already, after having two meetings with the family in entirety, I can confirm that our relationship has changed- There is even more to love, more to inspire, more play, more care in my words and actions, more support, and more determination- as a member of this child's community- to ensure he has all of the opportunities to become the best person he can be.


Amsterdam: 7 hours to soak it in

Amsterdam is SO amazing! I took the train from the airport to the city center, realizing that this Saturday is the holiday for lots of Europeans who love to visit the city for its lax laws on prostitution and drug use. I arrived at the station and wandered around uncertain as to which way to go. As soon as I decided to commit to a direction, I walked up the stairs to the most beautiful scene... The city is stunning in its modern advancements and historical charm. The buildings are so old, colorful, and lined up and down the canal, providing a delightful backdrop for passing cyclists I enjoyed photographing. I'd been given lots of ideas on where to go but decided to take advantage of the weather and just walk everywhere. The cafes, shops, galleries were plentiful and quaint tucked into intimate roads utilized by the highway of cyclists and less by the infrequently used car. Nothing felt part of a chain of markets or a conglomerate of businesses. The dinging of the encroaching cyclist was merely a jovial, "Attention, I'm about to ride by..." making for a friendly sound still playing in my ears. I wandered and wondered, welcoming the strong feeling of direction to dictate my path, taking photographs of over the top decorated bicycles made so to help the owner find their mode of transportation in a literal sea of bikes.

I met Sachil and her mother when I asked her if she minded my taking her photograph with her bike. They were both sweet and shared more ideas to fill my time. I opted to head to the market "biologisch" where much like our Farmers Markets, the produce is healthy, seasonal,  and straight from the farm, the farmers are present, and the quality is perfect. Craft artisans, honey producers, butchers, food vendors, coffee carts, and mobile baking overs seduced with alluring scents, attractive vendors, and charming displays. I stopped at a glass counter where vegan sushi made with brown rice and 3 choices of filling were sold for 3,50 Euro. Topped with tamari and fresh-made wasabi, I was in heaven! I chatted with the vendor about food quality, my experiences in Italy, and all of the places I needed to experience while visiting Amsterdam. I wished I'd made more time to visit. I don't know why I felt it necessary to go straight to Paris when there was so much to experience in this new place. I made promises to return and kept walking in the direction of what could have been the train station. I honestly had no idea and seemed to prefer the feeling of being lost. Feeling as though I had more time to soak in the culture, I stopped in to a cafe to write and try a couple of Dutch beers. An intellectual-looking man named Joost ("Yost") sat down next to me to watch the voetbal (soccer) match but quickly became interested in what I was doing there. We spoke about beer and the series of events that lead me to Amsterdam. He shared that he works at a language school teaching English and Italian. When it came time to leave, he offered to walk me to ensure I made it in the right direction. He took me to a butcher shop where cured legs of pig where lined up in a row (hoof and all!) in a convenient position for carving. They sold fresh sandwiches made with these carvings and a slice of cheese. Apparently the shift in finer food culture was influenced by all of the visiting foodies from all over the world. The Dutch didn't have much to offer in this category of their culture, so they began adopting finer culinary habits and adapting them to their own style. Joost bought a sandwich to share with me for the rest of our walk. The street we traversed was busy with an incredible highway of bicycles flooding past with their fashionable riders transfixed on their destination. I did not want to leave. The youthful energy was inviting me for a lengthier experience, but my luggage was already bound for Paris... it felt important to join my things. So, with a goodbye and gratitude for my unintended guide, I lugged my heavy carry-on of computer and camera back to the station to arrive in perfect time for my flight to Paris.

Photos

Every day is so full of rich experiences!

It is now the 7th day I've been in Tuscany. I can't truly express how enriching and AMAZING this experience has been! Every day has introduced a new and informed perspective on food, terroir, living intentionally... It's so profound that I feel a strong desire to share what I've learned. The way Tuscans live feels so much more connected to family, community, the animals they eat, and the earth they till... They seem more apart of the greater picture and the cycle of life, respecting so many aspects that affect the harvest and happiness of their homes. The history is so rich and the connection is so present that it's made me quite emotional at points during the last few days...


I have so many photos and stories to share. Please be patient as I process them and process the details of each incredible day...


In the meantime, enjoy the photos I have posted. 

Italy...I am really here

It's 02:43 and my mind is swirling in all of the incredible experiences I've had thus far and it's only day 3. I've been having difficulty sleeping through the night, partly because I'm still adjusting to the 9 hour difference and mainly because my being is on sensory overload and it's high time I start recording these experiences- it feels unfair to go another day without sharing the magic that continues to unfold around me.

Cucinare mi fa emozionare.

This tour was created by a chef and former 8 year resident of Florence, so naturally there's a huge focus on food, the local specialties, and education of the importance in protecting and honoring the resources that are harvested with success by maintaining the natural balance. The olive trees aren't shaken free of their fruit, they're gently raked and freed of their gifts. The vegetables are grown and sold with the highest quality kept in mind, matching the standards of the residents who prepare them...there are no pesticides in this region, very few mass produced commercial farms to feed the world. The terroir is protected and in exchange, it provides ample nutrients for it's inhabitants. There is a passion for what is local and historically preserved through tradition and stubborn pride. The bread of Tuscany does not contain any salt due to an excessive tax that was placed on its purchase by the Romans during the Medieval times. The Tuscans adapted and through boycott the tax was repealed, but the stubborn tradition is present in the regional bread. The lack of salt is certainly plentifully compensated in its culinary prowess of cured meats, soups, and meal preparations, but everything finds balance and the tannins of the regional wine resets the palette. It goes down far too easily for my American-cultured stray thoughts, "drinking wine every day must mean you're an alcoholic?" No, especially not here. The purity of product supports a guilt-free consumption of the finest ingredients in the world! To think a lot of these recipes were created by poor farmers who's resourcefulness kept the belly full and the smile wide. It makes you question the true sources of happiness...in context, its certainly not the flashy car nor the well-dressed friends. The simplicity is so rich here. Family is nearby if not living in the same house, everything is shared, and laughter is plentiful.

With this foundation I'll begin to share the day's experiences that feel far too surreal to believe I'm actually here... I hope you enjoy.

OARNW-Senegal: The James Robert Hanssen finally arrives

Yesterday we FINALLY acquired the boat with a dramatic unveiling from a port container set by itself near the water's edge. Watching the HIGHLY anticipated reactions of the guys gave me goose bumps and inspired some tears. It was such a load off! We were accompanied by a small crew from AGS, the boat's international shipping/receiving company that seemingly busted their butts with "Africa time", prayer days, unforeseen kinks in the rusty chain that consistently got in the way. On Friday, we enthusiastically spent an entire day near the port waiting for the call that the boat was ready. We showed up at the AGS office at the designated time of 3:30pm and were taken to the port after an hour of waiting... and then waited again for a guy that never received the memo that the container with the boat needed to be there right then. Defeated, we were turned back and told to show up the next morning. 

We arose before the sun eager to get across the water and receive a boat that'd arrived nearly a month after it was supposed to. We cabbed it with several bags full of La Brioche Doree croissants leaving a trail of crumbs from la boulangerie to the AGS office. More enthusiastically than I expected to see our new "friends" receive us, we were almost immediately taken to the port with yet another stomach full of butterflies as we approached this magical container of what we only hoped was an in tact ocean rowing research vessel. The doors opened and the men looked on in awe and relief, the way a NASA engineer might receive a safely returned spaceship after its orbit around the Earth. Messages of luck and safe travels from shipping crews were written on the white plastic that hugged every curve and edge. A not-so-well-thought-out, makeshift ramp was created for the significant drop from the edge of the container to the ground. 

A heaving and pulling of all the men on site finally got the beautiful beast to budge from her 3 month home out into the sunshine where- once plastic was removed- solar panels could begin to restore whatever leak half-way drained the batteries. The ramp, consisting of a series of small steps made from 2x4s, didn't smoothly receive the backend of the boat. It dropped with the final tug and the 3000lb boat's load broke the support deeming it pointless to ship back but still usable for its short time on the port. It took several people to move it to a working space where the rowers opened their gift like children and began assembling all of the gadgets necessary to create a working, researching, desalinating, acidification-testing, twitter-sending machine. It was so exciting, the non-rowing crew jumped in and helped where they could. As soon as the wind turbine was installed, a director of port security showed up to instigate a yelling match of epic proportions! Our small team of Wolof and French speakers attempted to convince the guy that all of the papers were scanned and approved, the President supposedly accepted its arrival, all of the necessary steps were taken to receive this fear-inducing research vessel- unlike anything anyone had ever seen- into the port. The head AGS rep told us to keep working and not to worry while intermittently exclaiming in French to the flexing ego of the "gate keeper". There were fears that yet another day would be spent fighting bureaucracy and unfounded fears of what this boat actually was and what it did. Who the hell rows across the ocean anyway? I jumped in the middle, with the Sirou children's magazine displayed to the page featuring the OAR Northwest story, explaining their reasoning and mission. I'd hoped the validity of the city-wide magazine might ease tensions and promote understanding. To no avail, the yelling and physical restraining continued. Just when the volume died down, Gendarmie vehicles pulled up with a van sized perfectly to haul us all away to prison. Fears began to mount and Chris was told to put his videocamera away or it'd be thrown into the water! A prestigious commander-looking man stoically approached the boat to inspect the oars and satisfy his natural curiosities. I greeted him and welcomed him to check out the article. With a smile and the final word, we were granted the peace to carry about our business.

As one stress eased, another mounted when a large coast guard-looking ship began approaching the very spot where our boat would be placed. Ironically, the port director who had moments earlier contested our very existence on "his" property, immediately jumped to our aid, directing the ship to "park around the corner". Momentum was on our side as the crane, attached to a large truck, got into place and straps were secured around the bottom of the vessel. A bit nervous about the shippers' questions regarding how to also secure the chain, the boat was lifted anyway. It was difficult to prevent the anxieties from getting in the way of my job. What if the boat dropped? I had to walk away from all of the what-ifs and have faith that this wasn't the crane operator's first day on the job. Nothing seemed to help as the boat continued to be jerked by the crane's mechanics. The boat rotated above the truck and was lowered on the other side, barely over the edge of the port. With a considerable jerk and several inch drop heightened by the, "WHOA!!" of the crowd, the boat finally and safely reached water. The water's edge was littered in curious on-lookers, both from the port, and the nearby ships. Everyone seemed to celebrate the accomplishment with handshakes and smiles. Jordan blew the conch shell and the boat was off to head toward it's 4 day moorage at the Hotel Terrou Bi.

Dunkit gets a bath

Dunkit is one of the many mangy dogs that has become everyone's pet and nuisance. She begs, barks at shadows, jumps on you when she wants to play, and seems to really love hanging out at La Maison des Rameurs ("The House of Rowers"). Her sweet disposition and persistence has really endeared herself to us, but following any attempt to pet and love her is a quick trip to the sink to wash our hands. She's flea bitten and dreaded, and dingle berries follow her wherever she goes. After a month of visits, timed with a growing homesickness longing for familial contact, Adam and Jordan decided to give Dunkit a bath.

Watching two grown, 6'4" men wash a little dog fills me with an appreciation of the type of people with whom I've chosen to surround myself. I reflect on how well these men must have been raised, the kindness in their heart, the peace they spread through their interactions with the world, how they will be or are as fathers (Adam is a father of a 2 year old with a baby due in May), how they'll take care of each other at the mercy of the ocean, and how warmly they've welcomed me into this project and home. Adam said to Dunkit while trimming her muzzle, "If you hang out here long enough, we'll take care of you." To my family and the families of these rowers, be rest assured that we're all in the right place in safe and familial-like company.

When in Rome... or Senegal, dance as the Senegalese do?

We finally got to go out and enjoy the nightlife of a Saturday night. Wow. I most certainly did not bring the right clothes, heels, makeup, nor flare to match the women of Senegal. They're GORGEOUS, dramatic, aloof, and fascinating! The moment I feel as though they might be judging me through their observations of this wacky white woman who gyrates her hips and attempts to dance like the locals, I smile at them in unification and they reply with a shared flash of white, and at times join me for a dance.


Markus, Christopher, and I joined Michael and Delphine (the world-wide surfing couple) and several people from the Island-based surf camp. Germany, Holland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and the USA (I was the only US rep) were represented in two cabs full of adventurers. After wading through the highest tides we'd ever experienced while on the island, we piled in and headed for "Just 4 U", a live music venue designed for the posh dinner crowd. Mammadou, one of the drivers who'd taken us to the Bird Sanctuary, introduced us to Omar Pene through the treble-heavy sound of his mobile, dancing in his seat with the occasional "Hmm!" and "Uh!" thrown in as his satisfactory expletives. It was so exciting to learn that we were going to enjoy Senegal's prided musician LIVE! 


After arriving and arguing with the cabbie about the post-ride inflated price (we seriously argued over 500CFA=$1), we found the others at a large table, the opening band already in session, a large room limited in attendees, and no space for dancing. We ordered beers and whiskey and as I recognized my seating arrangement next to Cole, the often drunk Australian who works for an international wine company that makes "Shit Wine", I knew I'd have to fiercely pace myself. I had the opportunity to bond and chat with Serena, the South African who works for the surf camp, who is also surrounded by men, their dirty habits and jokes, and welcomes any chance to connect with other women. The group was such an eclectic and jovial blend that by the time Omar finally began playing, the room was full of fans! Every table was full and monitors showcasing all of the musicians (there were 9!) were placed at the bar and around the restaurant where visibility of the stage was limited. The music was AMAZING! The lead rhythm was a Kora, a 12-string, gourd-like instrument with a sound somewhere between that of a harp and a sitar. Omar's voice had us entranced, wanting to savor, dance, and celebrate such a welcomed piece of local culture. One man got up to dance right in front of the stage, facing the crowd, gyrating hips, throwing arms, kicking legs, and moving to the beats set in motion by the pitch of the hand drums. He was such a showboater that when he sat down, I pointed at him to acknowledge his proximity. As he saw me point, I moved in a dance motion much like his (I'd had whiskey by this time) and he grabbed my hand to lead me to the front of the stage. I looked back to my table filled with surprise, glee, and curiosity. My mind raced and my body entered a zone completely moved by the beat of the same drum. The man had challenged me to a dance-off in front of hundreds of local, rhythm-cultured, Africans! Shit. I knew this was my chance to represent every Wolof (the native language of this region) declaration of my status, "Toubob" ("White Person" or "Foreigner"). I was going to dance for my table, myself, and for the story I get to now tell. The "Sai Sai" ("Womanizer" in Wolof) was up first and moved in unison to the beat of the drum, welcoming the room to cheer him in his movements as the hometown hero. He threw his arms and moved similar in style to what we'd observed before, but this time it was personal. He dramatically finished the beat and motioned to the space that I move in to it for my turn… I don't know where I went, but I was on a different plane in space… I felt the music and anticipated every rat-a-tat-tat… I moved aggressively, confidently, and without any thought of my station, skin color, nor culture of origin. I felt amazing. I finished with the throwing of my booty toward the crowd (Back in Seattle, I'd been told twice in one week that I had an "African booty" and finally had the chance to use it to my advantage!) and received cheers and nods from the band. Sai Sai moved me over to heighten the challenge with leaps and more kicks and I followed it up with replicated movements with a honey coating of my feminine flare. The crowd roared and an exasperated challenger escorted me back to my chair as though I had won one of the most important challenges of my life. My table clapped, jaws gapping, shaking my hand, giving me high fives… tables around me nodded in satisfaction and women seemed to wonder why I wasn't more reserved. My table declared me as their hero and after a few more beers, they joined in and danced at their seats. I thought of all of the times I'd been invited to dance at weddings I photographed with Cheri and the silliness I brought to the dance floor… All of that practice was all for this moment. 


A couple Peace Corps volunteers from an earlier dinner on the island, joined our table and the majority of the crew left anticipating huge swells and epic surfing the next morning. Cole, Markus, Christopher, the Peace Corps folks, and I remained ready to see where the night took us. We literally piled into a cab and headed to The Patio, a dance club. The place was packed at 2am!! Familiar songs and beats with foreign flare and vocals filled the space already overtaken by humidity. There seemed to be 4 men to every woman and as I danced I received invitations to join several willing partners. I danced with one to replicate his moves and then left him to look for friends. To escape the sweltering heat, we flowed into the expansive patio where a large bar continued to serve beer well into the morning and where prostitutes target wealthy Europeans including the men in my party. They're well-dressed, well-spoken, manicured, attentive, and all over the place. It was amazing to observe. A drunk Senegalese man kept begging for beers and finally got kicked out by the well-dressed door handlers. At around 5am we decided to exit and find ourselves in a world of cab mayhem. We headed toward the late night eats and ordered burgers and pizza… some of the most disgusting food I've ever had. We piled into a cab and before we knew it, we were waking up at La Plage de Ngor in the backseat. I have no idea how long we'd been there or how we managed to get a pirogue so early in the morning back to the island, but we were all in bed by 6:30am. Although it took sleeping until 11am, a solid multi-hour nap, and a lazy Sunday to recover, I was thrilled to have that experience before I left this place in a week and a half. It's now go-time for the rowers and their documentarians… 

Cold Showers and Candlelight: I'm in Senegal

Somehow I ended up in Dakar, Senegal. I mean, I know how I got here, I just can't believe I'm really here. Every day on the island, I look out across the water where colorful pirogues bob in the swells, fishermen dodge black rocks to deliver their bounty, and birds float on the breeze just before darting into the waves for their preferred catch. For the time I'm here, I'm residing with the OAR Northwest rowers on Ile de Ngor where surfers vacation, local pets are flea-bitten and feral, and our house is powered by the sun and often limited in electricity. I'm here to work, to take photographs, to intimately document the build-up and commencement of the Mid-Atlantic row. Yes, four men are about to embark upon an adventure unlike no other, where the will to set a World Record in being the first to row mainland Senegal to mainland USA via Miami, Florida, will be challenged by patience and determination. Only one of these men, Jordan Hanssen, was part of the team in 2006 that set a World Record rowing from mainland USA via New York to mainland UK via Falmouth, England. Patrick Flemming rowed with Jordan for the University of Puget Sound. Adam Kreek, a rower from Canada, earned a Gold Medal in the Beijing Olympics as a member of an 8-man crew. Markus Pukonen is a lifelong adventurer who's mission is to travel around the world by any means "human powered". Sitting down to enjoy meals prepared by the rotating cast of chefs in the house gives me the incredible opportunity to savor the presence of these men, their dreams, hilarious stories, and jokes. Dinners are often served in the dark as the sun disappears around 7:30pm. Candles are lit, Cotes du Rhone is poured, cards are played, and deeper experiential connections are made.

 

Our days together consist first of a delicious breakfast hash of varying vegetable and flavor directions with baguette (topped with Presidente butter and babou jam!!!) and eggs, soft boiled or scrambled, a meeting regarding the plan for the day, and a team clean-up. Some will head off to surf, run a few times around the island (it's very small) through narrow alley ways and encouraging locals ("tres bien!" et "sportif!") followed by quick, cold showers to rinse off sand and sweat... others will write blogs on charged computers, make contact with home, and contemplate any unforeseen issues on board the presumed 60-80 day row. Maps are combed over, the phonetic alphabet is practiced and memorized, and software is familiarized. Christopher Yapp is the videographer on hand to document interviews, training, preparation, and story lines. He and I have difficulty with the lack of electricity as we're regularly needing to process images and satisfy the needs and demands of our contracted employer, the Canadian Wildlife Federation. We often head off to the mainland via motorized pirogue, shoeless as we've had to wade through waves to climb over the edge and through the standing water that sloshes on the bottom of the boat. These pirogues have carried everything from rebar and concrete to les bieres (beer) and surfboard-outfitted travelers. The short distance and lack of need for accelaration often cause the motors to stall or break down. Our only obstacle thus far has been grumpy drivers and the occasional stall. It's a minor inconvenience to leave the island in search for electricity at a price (purchased food or beverage), but it's nice to temporarily be surrounded by the bustle of the city in all of its imperfections and grace. There's something tangible about the busy streets, the death-defying pedestrians crossing in front of multi-colored, damaged cabs, familiar branding from any number of mobile carriers and gas stations. Donkey-drawn carriages add to the surreality of place, but the American-based music often on the speakers of the nearest internet hotspot begin to ground the realities... I am here, in a foreign place where I poorly speak the language, am fascinated by the culture, where I want to learn, evolve, and contribute. The photos are processed and uploaded and the electronics are charged. Christopher and I return to the island for approximately $1 each. We pass locals playing soccer or a seemingly invented game of sticks in the sand, generous young girls eating snails from a flavorful broth, large, colorfully-dressed women cooking poulet (chicken) and poisson (fish)- from whom we've ordered lunch to be delivered to the house for $4/plate, mangy dogs, and trash blown from the fire intended to burn it. We return to wetsuits drying in the sun, inviting beach chairs for napping, and the opportunity to participate in the kitchen. The sun quickly disappears, the candles are once again lit, and the conversations that bring us closer together are rekindled.

Food + People = Community

Last night I attended the Seattle Tilth hosted Eat Local for Thanksgiving dinner at the Good Shepherd's Center. Individuals were encouraged to bring a locally grown item with which a volunteer chef would create a masterpiece. I had no idea what I was in for, but I showed up with my locally grown garlic from both Nash's Farm and Willie Green's Farm, three very large Mishirasu Asian Pears from Dry Slough Orchard via Pioneer Organics, and Quark from Appel Farms. I couldn't help myself but bring along my camera to document the process of how strangers create community through their love for food.

We're not experts in the kitchen. Most of us have the knife scars to prove it. There is something so gastronomically empowering when people drive forward with the desire to learn. Nothing is more delicious than the experience we had learning about food! Beth of Matt's In the Market fame, discussed nutritional facts, modestly showed off chopping techniques, enlightened us on varied cooking times, and fed our souls and tummies with straight out of the oven and off the stovetop goodness. One of my favorite dishes, aside from the roasted garlic cloves, was the kohlrabi bake that comforted everyone in the room. Whether our minds were on the voting tallies (as it was a voting Tuesday) or on whether or not we turned off the coffee maker that morning, Beth brought us back to center with her mustard and lemon salmon, roasted root vegetables and feta, pan-seared baby bok choy, honey-dipped parmasian cheese, beet salad, and pan-seared chard and pomegranate. We were in absolute bliss. A few of us brought wine and a little champagne, jokes and great stories. We arrived strangers, uncertain of how the evening was about to unfold and then we walked away, but not without hugs and promises to make this a monthly event.