"you are beautiful!" myriam exclaimed as i walked into camp registration. who me? she can't be talking to me. we proceeded to have a transformative conversation that night: beauty is about letting ones inner light *shine* through. it is not about what's on the outside, the physical ... it's all about what's on the inside. i know this t-h-e-o-r-e-t-i-c-a-l-l-y but, ohhhhhh, i could see the storm brewing. so THIS is my secret reason why i came to camp.
i've known for many years that i am not my body and that i (and everyone and everything) am soul, spirit. i had my spiritual awakening the night my mom passed 9 years ago.
but it's a whole other thing to really grok ... not when i look at others, but when i look at myself. many/most/all? of us are so hard on ourselves and so loving with others. we see their inner beauty. we see their hopes and dreams and tenderness. but when i look in the mirror, i see chubby cheeks, small eyes, thin lips, extra pounds, and on and on. and i hear my mom's unknowing words of many years ago jangling around in my head ... "i wouldn't consider you beautiful, but you're interesting-looking."
what i so needed -- and didn't even know i needed -- i got from myriam the first night of camp, so naturally, so very effortlessly: you. are. beautiful.
the minute our hosts tracey, myriam and jen started talking, i knew this experience was going to be about so much more than the technicalities of photography: intentions, secret wishes, poetry, permission, passion, sharing, seeing and being seen, gratitude. and beauty.
before reading several soulful poems out loud to the group, myriam mentioned "this is especially for hillary" more than once. she could see that i really needed to get this. i know this poem well, but i obviously needed to hear it again, and apply it to myself:
Love After Love by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
when i looked at every single one of my fellow shutter sisters at camp, i could so clearly see their beauty:
when i asked tracey the first night which class i should take, "composition" or "self-portraits," she blurted, "you? self-portraits."
my comfort zone stared me down. i knew i had to do this, to go toward the scariest thing.
fortunately i was in safe hands. taught by the lovely meredith, i learned that making self-portraits is not the height of narcissism as i had thought in the past (this judgment a sure sign i was really just scared of it). now i know it's quite the opposite, in fact. making self-portraits is a high act of self care, self love. of really seeing my inner self and honoring that. of seeing my truth, my story, not other people's stories about myself. about seeing my inner beauty. ohhhh.
ohhhh. so THAT'S why i came to camp.
to learn that i, too, am beautiful.