I can’t believe it’s been a year since we moved to Seattle (okay, it’s actually been 13 months since we moved but I’ve been busy and this blog is late). Leaving South America and moving here was supposed to be about settling down a bit, finding some routine in our lives, and taking a moment to breathe. In reality, this year ended up full of the unexpected and not without its share of adventures/misadventures.
Most of you know the story: We arrived in Seattle one week after returning from our six-month expedition through South America, found an apartment, and I went to work for an international nonprofit. After four months of very challenging but also very rewarding work, that nonprofit found its budget squeezed unexpectedly tight and I found myself forced to say goodbye. Life got thrown sideways, there might have been a moment (or two, or three…) of panic, but we got through it and I became an in-house storyteller for the University of Washington. When we passed the one year mark in Seattle, I had actually spent more time working for the University than I had for the nonprofit. Every time I think about that, it kind of turns my world upside down. It reminds me of how often our lives do not go according to plan and how, if we’re willing to accept change, things can work out better than we expected.
This past year, I’ve learned a lot about myself, about perseverance, and staying focused even when you’re not quite sure what you’re focused on. This year has helped me learn to ask for help and to appreciate that I am not alone. No matter how much I want to pretend that I’m self-sufficient, I am where I am today because amazing people like my wife, my family, and my friends have come alongside me, supported me, and even at times carried me. I’m incredibly grateful to still be in Seattle and still doing work I love. For that, I know I owe a lot of thanks to others.
Thankfulness is another lesson this year in Seattle has taught me, especially thankfulness for the place I live. I struggle to write about the Pacific Northwest. Whenever I try to describe this place, I feel my language becoming overly-flowery and sometimes I feel like I’m just bragging, but truthfully, this place is awe inspiring. To live minutes from both the mountains and the ocean is good for my wandering soul. Watching real seasons and learning to adjust to each in its time is soothing. Traveling a few hours in any direction and finding powerful landscapes feeds the adventurer in me.
I see this place in my work too. I see it literally as my personal work has shifted heavily to landscapes and nature, and I see its influence on my style and approach. The deepness of the woods, the soft contrast of diffused light on undergrowth, and the brilliance of wildflower meadows below mountain glaciers have helped me to develop and grow my photography. There were times this year where the demands of life meant I hardly had time for personal work but there were other times where I found a strange freedom after my involuntary break with the working world. During those free times I traveled and photographed extensively. So extensively in fact, I’ve produced two new portfolios of my work from the this past year. North by Northwest: SUN and North by Northwest: RAIN represent unique bodies of work and a branching of my style. They also remind me of how natural forces can play a huge part in the work a photographer produces. No longer am I in California where I can count on blue skies 350 days a year. Now I have to work with nature and be open to plans evolving with the weather. Like so many things this year, I think it’s a good change, a healthy change, a change that will help me become better at what I do.