The Outdoor Classroom

I spent all of Mother’s Day studying exposure & camera lenses. I remembered my friend explaining to me that I took great pictures, but I needed a better lens on my camera. I was sure this would be a show-stopper and not a single star would appear through the aperture, but I was dedicated to trying anyway.  I visited my mom’s farm and watched my stepdad build a deck, my sister & stepsister sunbathed in the 96-degree weather. Every page I read taught me something new about improving my pictures, and each thing I learned I tested out immediately, aimed at bushes, fences, flowers, or clouds. The wind blew and for once it did not smell like chickens. This is my kind of classroom. I made dinner for my family and waited for them to go to bed. It was a thankfully clear night so the lessons could continue. I set out my quilt in the backyard and went back to class.

Without a tripod, star pictures become nearly impossible. When you leave the shutter open for 20 seconds, all movement of light gets captured. The first few shots I took with the camera in my hands, knowing full well it wouldn’t work. I was still only honing in on my perfect settings. I had the shutter speed down pat but my f-stop was set too high, and only one star would show up. I tested setting it as low as possible, which on my camera is F/4, and bang: there were more stars on the screen than I could see with my naked eyes. But they had trails behind them from where my arm had slipped. This time I set the camera on the uneven ground, and it improved, but not enough. I grabbed a stack of books and aimed at the droopy tree in mom’s backyard. The glow of our distant neighbors backlit the foliage. I looked away while the shutter was open, and knew nothing of the shooting star that passed behind the tree until the next day when I flipped through. It may have been an airplane, but I like to think it wasn’t.

I dropped out of college well over a year ago, and today I’m watching all of my friends in my year graduate. I was positive that I’d be sad or embarrassed when this time finally rolled around, but I’m not. Any space can be a classroom, any person you meet can be a teacher, and any hour can be a time to learn. Without the school system in my way, I’m free to study the things I’m interested in learning, rather than the useless liberal arts requirements. I’m spending my money on camera gear, art supplies, and music promotion instead of $20k a year on an unwanted education in a disinteresting field. I’ve found ways to promote my work, get paid to do what I love, and travel as much as I can. I have talented friends who share their knowledge and experiences for free, and I do the same for them. The world is an amazing place to learn, and more amazing when you trailblaze it yourself.

Morrow Mountain State Park, NC

Near Albermarle, NC is a magical little woodland known as Morrow Mountain. These pictures say the rest.

Mean Mug
Tiny Ecosystems

Vortex Hunting

Before visiting Arizona, I knew little to nothing about vortexes and their fabled healing powers. They say the magnetic and electric forces in Sedona come to a swirl causing trees to twist and rocks to unearth. As a photographer, I knew I wanted to visit before even planning the trip.

My original plan was to fly into Seattle and spend five days with Nathan. I would play a couple gigs in the area then drive down the coastal California highway for five days playing more shows along the way. I’d arrive in Phoenix, AZ and spend five days with my friend Tyler on a road trip. On the day I was set to drive to Portland I got sick. I canceled the rest of my shows and bought a plane ticket to Arizona. I would rest up for a couple more days and then move back out. It turned out to be a sinus infection caused by an allergic reaction that later developed into laryngitis; non-contagious, still no fun for a touring musician.

I’m a generally sickly person. This was my fifth time getting sick this year, and it was March. I’ve been to 6 different doctors asking for help with my immune system, or something other than “Just go to the doctor when you get ill.” This is America. We can’t afford that. I needed something different, Western medicine wasn’t cutting it anymore. I was willing to try anything, and Arizona happens to be known for its healers.

On my first night in Phoenix, I met a woman named Gabby, a holistic healer who also runs Peeramid Studios. She gave me a list of advice for possible changes I could make to my lifestyle to improve my condition. She started with simple things, take zinc, drink water, exercise, but most importantly she showed me Yoga Nidra, or sleep meditation. It’s supposed to bring your body to a sleep state and back in 30-40 minutes, making it a wonderful sleep aid as well. I had never properly meditated in my life, but I was willing to try.

The day Tyler and I got in the car to drive to Arcosanti, my laryngitis had gotten so bad that I was using a whiteboard to communicate. Upon our arrival, we had a little time to kill before our hosts returned, so I laid down and tried Gabby’s Yoga Nidra for the first time. I have never felt so cleansed, happy, warm, and comfortable in my entire life. When I walked out of the room I looked at Tyler and said: “Wow, I feel amazing.”
To which he responded, “Oh my god, you’re talking!” I have no idea what happened during my meditation, but I do know that my voice got easier and easier to use every time I did it.

Arcosanti is by far one of the most interesting communities I’ve ever visited. It’s an experimental town designed by Paolo Soleri in the 1970’s. They make these gorgeous bronze bells as well as all different kinds of art available in the gallery. Every citizen is expected to contribute to the community via art, cooking, planning, tours, or one of many other jobs available.

The Arcosanti Foundry

The most spectacular thing about Arcosanti was the people. They were the most kind, generous, loving human beings I’ve ever met. I feel so lucky to have been able to befriend them. I explained my current mission to my new friends and mentioned that we were going to Sedona tomorrow. Elana brought out a map pointing us in the direction of the Sedona Vortexes. She explained that some of them had been turned into tourist traps, and pointed us towards the more hidden ones. This resulted in a huge, confusing, amazing adventure.

Elana’s directions were wonderfully vague, she gave us a general direction and basically told us we’d know it when we found it. We got started on the hike and instantly I could feel a kind of pull on the roof of my mouth. We followed the trail for some of it, but sometimes for the best pictures, you have to climb a little.

Rolling In

Finally, we started spotting the foretold twisted trees, some appeared to have been struck by lightning, which makes sense, as it has one of the highest rates of lightning strikes in the world. This is due to the hematite, or iron oxide levels in the soil, which is what causes the bright red Sedona rocks. Lightning and electricity are attracted to certain minerals, and this is the likely cause of the vortexes found in the area.

I was told that meditating in one of these electromagnetic vortexes could help to reset wavelengths in my body and help get my voice back. Since the Yoga Nidra alone had been helping so much, and meditation is often a form of focusing the electric energy within your body, this made way more sense than the antibiotics that didn’t work & made me sicker. Western medicine is a wonderful thing for the people it works for, and when seeking health one should be willing to exhaust all options before giving up. Every human body is different, and mine had very clearly rejected pure medication.


We came upon a twisted tree that had very clearly been struck by lightning numerous times, next to a pile of red rocks that seemed to swirl around itself. We decided this was our spot and I sat atop the rock stack and began to meditate.

As soon as I closed my eyes, the skies opened up. I didn’t open them, I just allowed the rain to wash over me as I focused my energy on healing my body. Twenty minutes later, Tyler mentioned he thought he’d left his sunroof open, and we began the trek back to the car. The next day, I was able to sing again. I had won my body back.