Chincoteague Pony Swim 2019

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Do you have any events or places you’ve dreamed about your whole life? The Chincoteague Pony Swim on the Virginia shore was one of those for me. I started riding horses when I was 7 and have been obsessed with everything about them for the subsequent 25+ years. The Assateague Island beach on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is the only beach I’ve ever actually enjoyed - few people, more horses and mule deer and birds to observe. The Swim is on a Wednesday in July, and I’ve never planned enough in advance to be able to take time off work to go, so when I left my full time job in mid July I realized I definitely had the time to go this year.

The wild ponies of Assateague Island are pretty famous. There are other places along the east coast that has them as well, but this is the only place where the swim is done. Since they are not a native species to the island and there are no natural predators, the ecosystem can’t sustain huge numbers and too many would trample and eat all the vegetation, ultimately starving the ponies and destroying the fragile life of the barrier island. So every year, the Chincoteague Island Volunteer Fire Department rounds up the herd and brings them across from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island to check their health and auction off some of the foals to new homes. The event both helps maintain herd and island health as well as provides money to the CVFD. Starting over the weekend, the “Saltwater Cowboys” round up the herds, vet check them and corral them on the south end of the island. Any ponies that are too old, too young, pregnant or injured are trailered across and the rest partake in the famous swim.

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I got to the park and ride on Chincoteague around 6 am Wednesday morning, staying overnight on the Eastern Shore instead of driving down from Baltimore, because I’m not crazy enough to wake up at 2am. The townspeople are accustomed to this event and were great at directing where to go. The bus dropped us off at the main park and from there I walked over to Pony Swim Lane, then waded into the marsh where the ponies come ashore. The marsh gets DEEP and my duck boots hardly helped after I sank several feet into the muck. I made friends with some fellow Marylanders as we waited nearly 4 hours for the ok. To make the swim as safe as possible, they wait for slack tide, the lowest point of the day, which on this day took awhile due to the wind. Finally just before 10am the flare went off and the ponies started their 4-minute journey. Like a thoroughbred race, it’s a quick event. They clambered to shore where they hung out for an hour or so to give them time to rest.

Once the crowd has thinned and the ponies are rested, the Saltwater Cowboys round them up again and take them on a short parade through the town from the beach to the corral at the fairgrounds, where they will stay for a few days during the auction.

It was amazing to see the tenacity of the ponies and the skill of the cowboys during this event. While they are used to seeing people, they are still wild animals. I definitely cried - being able to be a part of something I had dreamed about for so long.

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Thoughts on February and March

This winter has been one of the busiest I have ever had. Usually winter is (or is supposed to be) a time of rest, of hibernation, of slowness, but 100% not the case this year. I wanted to blog twice a week this year and I haven’t posted anything in nearly 2 months. But I’m letting myself off the hook because I’ve been home 3 weekends and gone 5 since the start of February, so I think that definitely warrants a pass and a reminder that I can’t do everything. There’s a reason I was sick for 2 months, having run myself completely into the ground with no time to rest.

So instead of resting or sharing my writing or photography I traveled. First to State College then to Tallahassee, St Louis, Pittsburgh and Houston. State College was for hockey, and a visit with my family and our friend Tim, where Penn State decisively won over Minnesota, and then an early drive back to Baltimore for the Maker’s Market at Union Craft Brewing with Bam Co Create where Todd had his first craft show and I made friends photographing the other makers.

My first time visiting Tallahassee was for a workshop with the Alpha Rho Chi chapters at FAMU, where I spent a day with 2 other national representatives reviewing a variety of topics with the students there. We did the same thing the following weekend at Washington University in St Louis. I spend a lot of time in my role as Director of Finance communicating with students, but it’s less frequent that I see them in person, which is so much more fun and rewarding. The creativity and talent of these students blows my mind and makes me incredibly hopeful for the future, particularly of the design fields.

I stayed an extra day in St Louis to visit my friends Kim and Mark, who moved in the summer, and we attempted to fit ourselves down the insane multi-story slides at City Museum and visited the gorgeous Cathedral Basilica of St Louis. The following weekend completed my 4-weekend travel run with a trip to Pittsburgh to hang out with my parents and check off a bucket list item by seeing Phantom of the Opera which I’ve obviously been singing ever since. Of course, no visit to Pittsburgh is complete without going to the Strip District for coffee, tea and cheese, and was also able to catch an exhibit of early 20th century Paris street photography.

So I rolled into March trying to do too many things at once, still being sick, taking a large format photography class at MICA, preparing for the Alpha Rho Chi Convention in Houston, and a whole bunch of other things I can’t actually remember because I feel like I’ve barely paused to reflect. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here. I really try to avoid using the word busy, but that’s what it was. So busy that I felt guilty when I did stop and do fun things like go to a friend’s party, take a macrame class, see Walk the Moon, and photograph an artist friend. We’ve been trying to do work on our house, including replacing the shower and now fixing the leaking roof so it feels like I’m living in a construction zone most of the time.

The month mostly wrapped up with the fraternity Convention in Houston, which was one of the best I think I have been to yet. !t’s always an intense weekend, as one of the people who has to be “on” the entire time, answering questions and presenting and photographing, but it’s also when I get to see lots of old friends and make some new ones. I came home both over-stimulated and over-tired to a full week of work deadlines, but I’m nearing a break in the rush of it all….

So in this last mad week of March I’m getting ready to see a play with a friend tonight and rest and run errands this weekend. I finalized an essay for Quiet Writing which was published today - maybe the most honest things I’ve shared publicly - on moving from living half-heartedly to wholeheartedly. You can visit Terri’s site here if you’d like to take a read.

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me over these past several months! I’m used to the idea that a bit of craziness is just my life, but looking forward to a bit more down time soon.


Photos (L-R, T-B): Walk the Moon; with Mom at Penn State hockey; Todd’s booth at Maker Market; wine time at Reagan National Airport; with the Seshait Chapter of Alpha Rho Chi at FAMU; with friends in Tallahassee; obligatory visit to the Gateway Arch in St Louis; Todd at work remodeling the bathroom; photographing an artist friend; my happy place - with my camera; with some of my favorite people at the Alpha Rho Chi convention in Houston; the old and new board members of Alpha Rho Chi

A Quick Trip to Dallas

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Two weeks ago I took my first trip to Dallas, Texas. I’ve been to Texas many times before - Houston, Austin, San Antonio - but not up to the place that perhaps coined the phrase “everything’s bigger in Texas.” It was…different. Everything really is bigger - roads, buildings, my anxiety…

The reason for my trip was for the biannual board meeting for the professional fraternity, Alpha Rho Chi, I am a member of and volunteer for. We rotate around the country for our meetings and this time went to Dallas where another one of our members lives. Dallas is far from my first choice of places to visit, but we don’t particularly choose our meeting locations for sightseeing, since it’s about business first and foremost, and most of the time is spent in a hotel room, making plans, reviewing policies and discussing goals. There was a high school music conference going on at the same time in our hotel and mid-day on Saturday we heard something in the atrium that made us pause our business and go investigate. On the third floor balcony, surrounding the interior of the hotel by 360 degrees, the student choir was singing hymns, their conductor on the ground floor, their voices echoing through the 12 stories, a perfect acoustical design, while guests came out of their rooms on all levels, memorized by their harmonies.

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We finished out work in the early evening on Saturday, and heading downtown from Richardson, where we were staying, to see a bit of the cultural district in the West End. At Pioneer Plaza, my friend and fellow board member, Hao, graciously agreed to model some of Todd’s bow ties, so we had a mini photo shoot among the native grasses in the garden where great Yucca stabbed me in the legs and bronze Longhorn Cattle statues looked on. From there we wandered to the John F Kennedy Memorial - a monument that from a distance looks like a giant Lego block. Designed by architect Philip Johnson, it is described as “an open tomb, that symbolizes the freedom of John F. Kennedy’s spirit.” The closer I got to it, the more powerful the feeling it invoked. Inside, you are all at once surrounded and unbound, tethered to earth by the monumental concrete and connected to the heavens as you look skyward.

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We admired the rest of the historic architecture of the area, including the Dallas County Tax Office and County Records Building and walked to the Grassy Knoll, the spot by Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was assassinated; a white “X” on Elm Street marks the spot.

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After a dinner of homemade tacos and playing with a yellow lab named Marley, four of us headed to the Uptown district to go out (not just stay out) AFTER my bedtime to go dancing at the Round-Up Saloon. If you have never been to a country and western bar and dance hall, you need to stop what you are doing and find yourself one. I have never seen men dance so well in my life and I left determined to learn out to at least line dance and maybe two step a bit more. At some point in the last decade I lost a bit of self consciousness and stopped caring what others may or may not think about me and decided to dance because it makes me happy, talent be damned.

I’m not sure when or if I will go to Dallas again in the future, but I’m glad I got to see a few things while I was there. My next Texas trip is in less than 2 months, this time back to Houston. Onward!

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Thoughts on January

Each year, after the midwinter blizzards, there comes a night of thaw when the tinkle of dripping water is heard in the land. It brings strange stirrings, not only to creatures abed for the night, but to some who have been asleep for the winter. The hibernating skunk, curled up in his deep den, uncurls himself and ventures forth to prowl the wet world, dragging his belly in the snow. His track marks one of the earliest datable events in that cycle of beginnings and ceasings which we call a year.
— Aldo Leopold, "A Sand County Almanac"

The first of these 12 months of 2019 has come to an end and if felt like it could have been two months instead of just one. It started out with a good deal of art, helping inspire me for things to come. I took a visit to the Walters Art Museum one lunch and unexpectedly came across an exhibit on Japanese printmaking and the restoration of a large Buddha. The first weekend of January was the last weekend of an exhibition of the work of John Waters, a Baltimore icon and filmmaker - one such as Hairspray - and it was…interesting. He’s a weird dude. His art isn’t for everyone (probably not for me) but it is still inspiring to see someone who totally did his own thing, regardless of how others undoubtably felt about it. Plus it was a chance to visit with one of my girlfriends who came with me. Later that night I went to a gallery opening of some artist friends at a bar down the street - awesomely talented people I’ve been able to meet through volunteering at the Creative Alliance. I had several volunteer shifts at the CA as well, for Mdou Moctor and Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club. EBFC is an experience, what more can I say? Take some theater, mix in WWE and a dash of burlesque and you may have a vague idea of what to expect.

I had my first mentoring session with Kimberly Wilson and my iEvolution women’s group, a date with a friend to watch Anne of Green Gables, and a ladies dinner for an expectant friend. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many inspiring women.

Halfway through the month I took a trip for “the most low key bachelorette party ever” to Nashville with my bestie Cait. Apparently Nashville is the bachelorette capitol of the US, but we opted more for music, pedicures and vegetarian food than pedal cabs and rowdiness. Cait helped me to slow down and enjoy having a relaxing vacation rather than rushing to see all the things. We made candles, went to the Ryman, discovered new music at a little venue called Analog, ate great vegan food, drank wine, got pedicures by a fellow Pittsburgh native, and meandered our way through East Nashville for tacos and coffee.

The following weekend I headed to Dallas for my winter board meeting with Alpha Rho Chi, 2 days of prepping and planning for the upcoming semester and enjoying my last meeting on the board before my term comes to an end in June. We managed some time Saturday night after finishing our business to visit downtown Dallas to see the Kennedy Memorial and the Grassy Knoll and two-stepped at a cowboy bar later on that night, probably the latest I have gone out in quite a few years, now that I’m more the “be asleep by 10” type rather than the “go out at 10” kinda woman. No regrets! I was also able to take some of Todd’s bow ties and do a quick photo shoot with my friend Hao at Pioneer Plaza.

Unfortunately I was sick for the last 2 weeks of the month (still am actually) so I tried to take it easy after Dallas, reading and watching movies and just one night out to see the Tony award winning musical Fun Home at the Baltimore Center Stage.

February is a full month so I’m reassessing some of the goals I set in early January to see what is actually doable instead of berating myself for not being as “productive” in my down time as I feel like I should be. I read an article recently that talked about millennials always feeling like we have to be doing some kind of side gig or hustling in our spare time and though I’ve never really identified with the stereotypes of the millennial generation, that article did resonate with me. The things that have been hobbies have turned into jobs or work and I don’t know how to just relax and have pure leisure time. I realize that may be a very privileged thing to say in a world where many people are scraping by, but it’s a realization that I need to consider.

Stay warm this winter and enjoy this winter season!

(Photos: Buddha at the Walters, preparing my desk for the start of the year, great sign in Nashville, Cait and I at the Ryman, at candle-making, believe in Nashville, Caitlin Canty, me in my new coat, Dallas photo shoot, Alpha Rho Chi Grand Council in Dallas, dancing in Dallas, Fun Home playbill)

Federal Hill Baltimore Wedding - Second Shooter | Wedding Photography

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Back in September I had the opportunity to work with the amazing Katherine Callahan at a wedding here in Baltimore. I was joining her for my behind the scenes photo documentary on her work as a wedding photographer but when she came down with the flu the week before the wedding she asked if I would also help her by assisting and do a bit of second shooting. I nervously agreed and was both more exhausted and had more fun than I could have imagined!

Kristina and Adam’s wedding was in Federal Hill, with a later reception at the National Aquarium, and I got to help photograph the women getting ready, the ceremony, and some of the bridal party portraits. The bride and groom and everyone in the bridal party was incredibly sweet and easy-going and you’d never know how bad Katherine was feeling during the day because she completely gave it her all! All the best to Kristina and Adam in their life together and thanks to Katherine for having me join her!

Here are some of my favorite photos from the day!

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