valentines

a heart waits for her flight

Last autumn while learning to dance salsa, I met Leo. He founded a startup called flightSpeak because he believes airports should not be about steel and scanners, but about people--their sights, stories, and connections. He invited me for coffee and asked if I'd write an essay about flight. I loved the idea. Where will you fly next? Why will you go there? No, why will you REALLY go? This post originally appeared on Valentine's Day, at blog.flightSpeak.net. xo -Laura

No matter who we are or where we are going, I think we have the same reason for our flight. It is connection.
— Laura Lowery

Bump-bump, bump-bump. This exquisite organ pumps life force through our bodies and connects us to one another in unseen ways. 

Your heart can detect the pulse of other hearts around you and it begins to mimic them. Waves form with every beat, carrying information from one heart to another. Most of the time, without even realizing it, we are talking and listening with our hearts.

While lovers buy roses, I am preparing for a different kind of heart connection. It started when I met my high school crush at our reunion in Oregon. He had followed the pulse of his ancestors and gone to live among the Sioux on the Great Plains.

I asked if I could come for a visit and capture photographs for a story in Lucia (following my own heart led me to return to my Pacific Northwest origins and create this magazine). He offered to introduce me to his community’s leaders. “They are all Grandmothers,” he said. He wrote the word with a capital G.

Now I am dreaming of a flight to the heart of the continent, leaving Seattle’s steel buildings and city sounds for Painted Hills and the vast, rich silence of Dakota prairie—something deep in my psyche yearns to meet these Lakota Grandmothers.

Native American blood flows through my veins too, sloshing with genes of Icelanders and Europeans. My father’s great-grandmother was Cherokee, orphaned on the Trail of Tears. She gave birth to sixteen children. My great-grandfather was her youngest. I want to know, better, who she was.

I do not have a photograph of her, or any other direct connection to draw from. Perhaps this sentimental desire to fly halfway across the country and meet Native women to whom I have no direct connection is really my heart’s way of seeking to unravel one more knot in the mystery. We all have mysteries, don’t we? How deep do your roots go?

No matter who we are or where we are going, I think we have the same reason for our flight. It is connection. We make sense of our world, and the people in it, through our bodies. We must see them with our own eyes, hear their songs with our own ears, sit beside them to eat. We must sense the cadence of their pulse with our own hearts. This is how we come to know one another. This is how we come to know ourselves. This is why we fly.

The heart is the great connector. Perhaps we will be next to each other at the airport while I wait for a flight to Denver, or on the way to a Rapid City connection. You will know me by my pulse beat (bump-bump, bump-bump) and because I will want to hear your heart’s story, too.


{Visit flightSpeak for more airport inspiration...}

selfies, self-portraits & self-love

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Have you ever felt embarrassed to take a photograph of yourself? In honor of Valentine's Day tomorrow, I'd like to share this inspiring essay about selfies, self-portraits, and self-love. It's by Lucia's brilliant editorial advisor, Amanda Ford, and first appeared in Lucia Issue One : Inspiration. You can read more from Amanda on her blog at writerloverdreamer.com. xo -laura

Today a camera lives in nearly every cell phone. Self-portraits and selfies flood social media. These images are widely critiqued as self-involved and over abundant. I disagree.
— Amanda Ford

By Amanda Ford

You can stop yourself from anything, even your destiny. Logic can list a million cons. The pros, though, are often nebulous to the rational mind.

~

The first time I pointed a camera at my own face, I could have easily stopped myself.

For one thing, I thought I was ugly. I was born with very rosy red cheeks. During childhood and young adulthood, a good day was a day that nobody commented on the color of my face. Good days were rare. In high school I took a semi-feminist literature course where the teacher asked us to anonymously rate our own appearance on a scale of 1 to 10 as part of a lesson about self-worth. I rated myself a 2, the lowest score amongst the group. Well into my twenties I still could not look at myself in the mirror when others were around as I imagined them wondering, “How can she stand to see how hideous she is?”

For another thing, I knew nothing about photography. I owned a digital camera only because I was writing for a travel website that required me to post snapshots of the restaurants, shops and neighborhoods that I profiled. I could point and shoot. That was all.

But in 2005, at age twenty-seven, through a series of random internet coincidences, I found myself online admiring self-portraits taken by strangers that had been uploaded to a photography sharing site. This was before Facebook, before Twitter, before the launch of the first iPhone, before selfie had entered the lexicon. To me, at that time, these images were surprising, fresh, like visiting a foreign country. Some portraits were highly stylized and surreal, others were spontaneous and out of focus. Some people took a self-portrait every day. Every day I logged on and clicked through image after image.

~

The most unexpected things can call to us, you know. I studied art history in college and knew well the self-portraits of Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman, but it wasn’t until I saw the self-portraits of my contemporaries, of “ordinary” people who were not artists in the academic sense of the word, that I was deeply stirred. As I looked at those images online, an innocent voice inside me shouted, “I wanna play!” It made no sense. As I said, I didn’t care for my appearance, I knew next to nothing about taking photos, I didn’t think of myself as particularly creative or imaginative, I knew I would never earn money or acclaim by taking self-portraits and I could easily build a case that doing so was frivolous naval-gazing.

~

Longing does not surrender to logic, not easily anyway. Longing takes hold of the body, it swells up, rouses feeling, ignites energy, encourages you to take action. When inspiration hits, I believe it is better to follow it than to fight it. I believe we were born to participate.

That’s why I reached my hand out as far as I could and snapped that first arm’s length self-portrait.

~

As a teenager, I often danced in my bedroom. Wildly. With candles lit. One evening, after dancing for hours nonstop, I collapsed to the floor. Lying there, feeling my breath and heart return to their resting rates, I distinctly felt my personality split in two. Some part of me left my body and rose to the top of the stairway at the entrance of my bedroom, and I looked down upon myself even as I remained spread across the floor. Time swelled, suspended. I was doubled, both watcher and watched. My self-awareness expanded beyond the small, superficial constraints of a suburban teenage girl and became eternal, omniscient. I saw myself clearly, truly. I. Saw. Myself. And I was beautiful. Not beautiful like an Italian model in French lingerie, but beautiful like Earth seen from outer space, naked and floating.

~

Slowly I learned about my camera. I switched from shooting exclusively in automatic to aperture priority mode and experimented with depth of field. I noticed subtle shifts of light while chasing morning sun rays around my house, documenting their evolution from soft pink hued, to orange, to yellow, to pointed white. I discovered how to set my camera’s timer. I built makeshift tripods from stacks of books and upside down coffee mugs. I dashed into the distance in front of my camera, paused and posed, hoping to capture myself candid, at ease.

For a long period I took a picture of myself every day. I took self-portraits in the morning before brushing my teeth and at night, made up, before heading out on first dates. I captured images of myself reading in the stacks of the library, riding my bicycle, washing dishes, waiting outside the church before my father’s funeral, a man I had not seen in over fifteen years. I set my camera on the floor, taped it to the ceiling, hung it in trees, tucked it into shelves at the grocery store. I photographed my feet, my hair, my back, my boobs. And my face. I captured a lot of my face.

I realize now, looking back on those first images of nearly a decade ago, that the longing prompting me to begin taking self-portraits was a longing to see myself. I wanted to create distance from myself, the sort of distance I had spontaneously discovered that evening after dancing as a teenager. I wanted to see myself beyond the confines of self-consciousness, to get outside my own skin so that I could look back at myself, objectively. It wasn’t so much my physical self ~ my face and body ~ that I was yearning to see clearly. It was something intangible. I wanted to understand my essence and the depths of my personhood.

~

Today a camera lives in nearly every cell phone. Self-portraits and selfies flood social media. These images are widely critiqued as self-involved and over abundant.

I disagree.

While taking a shower just three months ago, I was surprised with strong feelings of empathy and love for my body. After decades of self-criticism for the very vessel that carries me, to feel empathy and love toward my physicality was miraculous. I owe this in no small part to the act of taking self-portraits.

I am not alone in this sort of experience. Perhaps you know what I mean. It’s when you look back at a photograph of yourself taken at a time when you thought you looked bad and what you see is beauty. You think, “I can’t believe I was so hard on myself.”

This story, however, goes beyond the ugly duckling who finally sees herself as a swan.

In all those selfies floating around the internet ether, I see a basic, universal human longing to understand one’s place in the world. We are all reaching our arms out as far as we can, hoping to find the perfect vantage point, to capture a new perspective. We are claiming our journeys, celebrating the mundane details of our lives, owning our worth.

It is a brave act to look at yourself honestly, openly, to be willing to shine light on every nook and cranny, to witness your stuck spots, to acknowledge the times you have been ignorant, jealous, dishonest, enraged, selfish, judgmental. It is a brave endeavor to look at the things inside yourself that are uncomfortable to see.

It is brave, too, to know your generosity, your compassion, your attention, your honesty, your intellect, your optimism, to look at yourself completely, beauty and all.

{writerloverdreamer.com}


a valentine state of mind

February 12, 2016 - Daily Notes, From the Editor

Last night I taught yoga at the women's shelter. They always thank me profusely for coming, as though I am the one doing the favor, as though I am the one doing the giving. Last night I was given a card signed by the staff, and chocolates.

What they don't know, what they cannot know, is how deeply I receive on Thursday nights. How I am filled and that I return to this moment in time and space to remember who I am, what has happened in my life, why I do everything I do, and what matters the most. 

Two mamas came to the candlelit class. Their babies were in the next room, another volunteer watches the children while we do yoga. We could hear them laughing, asking questions, playing through the walls.

"How does your body feel?" I asked both women, before we began. 

I heard them say, "tired," "old," "failing me," "overweight," "exhausted," and "I came to yoga tonight because I know I need to move, but I kind of just want to lay here for an hour and breathe and look at the ceiling."

So we breathed together gently and felt for our heartbeats. "Your heart can detect the other heartbeats around you and it begins to mimic them," I heard myself say.

We envisioned the tiny muscles all up and down our spines. We imagined them as connected directly to our belly buttons. We felt them working to hold us steady as we moved slowly, mindfully, with so much self-reverence and respect. We stayed close to the ground. Every so often we paused to feel our heartbeats again.

Savasana was fifteen minutes long. As the class ended, the doors opened and their little ones poured in, vibrant and energetic. "Mama! Look!" 

They had little Valentine's Day bags of presents and candies they'd been given. They were eager to show me, too. I sat there on my knees for several minutes, taking in the entire scene. Happy children. Relaxed (for a moment) mamas. There was so much love. More love that I have been physically close to for weeks now. It nearly brought me to tears except that my smile was so huge. 

We are all in this mess together. All of us. If you remember one thing this Valentine's Day, let it be this: Your heart is connected in a very real and visceral way to everyone else on the planet.

If you're lucky enough to be with someone you love on Sunday, feel for it and notice how awesome it is. If you're not, please know that all you have to do is head to a coffee shop, or a yoga class, or a bookstore, or a playground, or nature, and witness. Close your eyes and feel your heartbeat. It's connected. We all are. 

xo
laura