This wasn’t the summer I was expecting. I had high hopes for a glorious spring and summer and a garden full of delicious veggies. I had looked forward to meeting new people and growing stronger relationships with the friends I’ve made in Santa Fe. It was going to be my second season there, in my new home surrounded by beauty and hiking and fun times.
But, after a misdiagnosis in Santa Fe, I discovered I had breast cancer when I returned to Boston for a second opinion in May 2015. I had just returned to Santa Fe from Mother’s Day weekend in Boston only to turn around within days to learn what was to come.
I’ve had a bilateral mastectomy with expander reconstruction. Surgery went fine and I’m recovering but it’s still freaky. I feel weird. But, from what I hear, I will be perky and beautiful again… I’ve completed two rounds of chemotherapy. I have four total. So, I’m half way done. The fourth and fifth day following infusion is the worse. I’m emotional and teary and a mess. But, otherwise, when I have energy, the remaining two and a half weeks are not so bad. I’ve also learned that I need to take this one day at a time. Actually, hourly. I can feel great one minute and crash the next. So weird.
After two more rounds of chemo, I will start six weeks of radiation. Exhaustion supposedly will set in but I’ll be able to go home to Santa Fe following radiation. That’s the goal.
I’ve been staying at friend’s and family’s homes and they have been gracious and welcoming even though this is difficult for them too. I’m so appreciative of all of the love and support I’ve had here. Soon, I will move into my own place for a few months. My time here has been broken up into segments which I think, in the long run has made this bearable…
I know this is an odd update and I’ve probably got so much to say, the words just aren’t forming, this is all I have.
But, as promised, here’s where I’ve been….
This week I decided that it was time to do a real hike. I’ve been walking all over Santa Fe, but after a year of being here, I want to start exploring the area and at the same time strengthen my body and mind and spirit. I’m guessing I’m a little slow regarding this feeling, after all, just being here in New Mexico, it’s just the way it is, Mind – Body – Spirit – Growth. (For me, it seems that the body has been growing faster than the rest… )
So, off we went to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu. It’s about an hour and twenty minute ride from my home in Santa Fe.
I was lucky today, my neighbor Martina happily decided to drive us and I was delighted. Here’s Martina, always a bit ahead of me, starting the hike.
I thought at this point, piece of cake! I can do this!
Remembering photographer Arthur Meyerson always mentioning ‘the 180 rule’ and my reminding friends of this all the time, I was constantly turning around to see what was behind me.
Here’s the first view I could have missed if I didn’t turn around. The light was perfect for December 3rd. It was just slightly cloudy but it was a bright overcast and the sun was not too strong.
I’ve never seen a landscape like this before. The sand beneath our feet was not dusty, which I was surprised. It was sandy and the gorgeous red color of the local clay.
I kept turning around.
The rocks were gorgeous with natural drawings of mold and lichen.
Then, the rocks started to change color. For my daughter, Lisa, who thinks this place is just brown… I don’t think so!
And, here is where I stopped my hike. It was an interesting hike up to this point. The hills were rolling, with a few dips and climbs. I got a little winded, but it was nothing that I couldn’t handle. And, then, this came up. The drop below was oh, maybe, 200 ft or more and the rocks we were climbing were wobbly. I started to do it and then, I just froze. It didn’t take long for me to decide not to continue. I was at first proud of myself for knowing what I could handle and what I couldn’t and was happy to tell the group that I was going to stay behind and wait for them to return. This is Martina just buzzing up the cliff. I called out to her asking if I could do it and she said, ‘of course’. But, my little voice was saying, ‘maybe next time’.
So here I stayed. There’s the drop below me. I was happy to be sitting on my rock.
So, I started to look around. I was shooting with my iphone and my Fuji xPro1 and the colors were nice but flat. I got up to stretch and the rocks fell off the landing I was on into the area below, so I sat down. I decided, no time like the present to learn every aspect of my camera. I played with buttons and dials that I never knew were there.
And then, just like that, I started to get a show from G-d. The light changed.
I started to wonder how this area was formed.
I started to listen to the sounds. (mostly my tinnitus… but it seemed to be a bit quieter).
I started to hum.
Then I started to wonder about bears. And tigers. And lions. And snakes.
What was I thinking???
When would they return?
How far from the top was I?
Were they going to eat up there?
What was I missing?
Did they miss me?
Do multiple exposures!
Play with my camera!
That was fun, now back to the view in front of me. If I took twenty photos, would they look different?
I’ve never been a landscape photographer but maybe this is changing a bit.
It’s been over an hour. I’ve been all around the 20 ft circumference of my stone ledge seat.
Time to play with apertures.
Look at the textures!
Now I’m laying on my back, catching rays and playing with depth of field.
How could I have missed this? This was to my right. It didn’t look like much of anything until the sun hit it. I tried to go to the white rocks but by this time I didn’t feel steady enough to do anything but make my way back down.
Now I’m noticing little details. This wasn’t so bad! I learned all about my camera and took lots of images with different filters. None of those made this cut, but I know where the settings are now.
Oh look! My footprints. This looks like a movie set to me. I expect to see little creatures marching by.
At this point I was happy to see Martina and head back down safely.
This twisted dead branch of what I believe is a juniper tree, looked like a bird to me.
I’m looking forward to trying this hike again. Want to come with me? I wonder who will chicken out and who will make it to the top with me next time.
I learned a lot about myself on this day. I listened to my buddy inside my brain and allowed myself not to be pressured to attempt something I wasn’t ready for.
Now that I know what to expect, I’m hoping that the little buddy will cheer me on, at my own pace.
The market is open on Saturday’s every week all year round and on Tuesday mornings in the summer. It’s such an interesting place. I had the idea of going there today to check out the hats people wear there. Instead I got caught up in how the locals and the tourists don’t interact and that no one looks at each other. It could be such a happy place but there’s something quite ‘off’ about it. It was crowded today, there were musicians and produce of every kind. It’s too early for fruit, which is what I was also interested in today, but there was none. The market’s goods are overpriced but the farmers are wonderful, full of character and most are friendly. Friendlier, of course, if I’m buying something. I think this could be a good place for me to figure out and here is where I start.
As I settle in to Santa Fe, this blog-site will continue to grow, with additions to the galleries and posts. Please subscribe to the site if you wish to be in the know of what is happening with me, my work, my play and of course, Riley.
My home is almost complete inside and now I have the opportunity to create wonderful outdoor spaces. I’m loving learning how to garden in the high desert. I’ve had a few visitors, Lisa, Jonah, Amy, Barb, Mark and Patti is arriving this week. I will be back in Boston to celebrate Lisa’s graduation from NU when she receives her MBA. I am very proud and excited for her.
I have been working at Sierra West Designs, photographing interiors and loving it. I’ve developed a wonderful friendship and working relationship with Wendy and Michael, the owners.
And the most exciting news of all is that I have been hired by longtime friend, National Geographic photographer, Nevada Wier to be her studio manager. It’s a part time position and a highly coveted one, as I will learn and grow with her as well as I manage and organize her photography tours. I’ll be in her studio and using my photoshop and lightroom skills. I’m very excited about this opportunity.
To my longtime followers, I have not deleted past posts, merely put them in draft mode. This blog started in 2006 and I heavily edited the posts for practical reasons. If you would like to see your particular post, please contact me.
Santa Fe is a wonderful place and I feel embraced here. Everyday unfolds in to a new adventure.
Come along for the ride.
During this time of year in New Mexico, there are Art Crawls every weekend. Yesterday, it was Dixon’s turn. I picked up Susan and a new friend, Jay, dropped Riley off at Paw’s Plaza, her adorable day care place, and off we went. It was a gorgeous drive, at times along the Rio Grande. The cottonwoods were glowing in their autumn glory, all yellow, and they lined the banks of the Rio Grande. I remembered the route from over ten years ago when I first visited Santa Fe, with Lisa and we thought we’d try a white water rafting trip. At that time, the river was not flowing adequately for a river ride and yesterday it was also gentle.
We stopped at a fruit stand where I bought a gorgeous butcher block cutting board for $20! Susan bought me a sage duster. I’m supposed to light it and wave the burning aroma in each room of my house to make any spirits leave. Not sure I want to do that, I like the spirits here and the energy I receive from it.
When we arrived in Dixon, the place was hopping with residents, locals and tourists. I don’t think these two guys were too happy with the crowd.
I watched them for a while before my lens was raised and they had the same expression the entire time.
But, Jay ran into two close artist friends of his and it was wonderful to see them interact.
I’m continuing to find my way here in New Mexico. It’s different. Not in the way that Santa Fe calls itself ‘City Different’, but different for me in every way. The air, the sky, the food, the people, the friendliness, the grass, the weeds, Manana time! and the traffic… Most things have been amazing. I’m definitely understanding the ‘ripping off’ that happens here. I caught on quickly, as I was energetic and positive when I arrived. But, in all honesty, I allowed myself to be a target and was vulnerable and taken advantage off. Me, with my positive attitude, was excited and generous. I’ll continue to be generous, but will not be taken advantage of. Don’t worry about me! I’m a tough cookie.
photo credit: Susan Crowe
The truth of the matter is, I have hundreds of photos to share since the end of July and I don’t know where to start. I’m stuck.
I edit, I compile, I group them but it doesn’t seem to work. Suffice to say that I moved from Wayland at the beginning of August, spent time at Helen and Andy’s, then to Maine to Anne and Steve’s in Bridgton, ME, back to Emily and Paul’s in Wayland, drove cross country, 2300 miles, with Riley and ended up in Santa Fe, to the most beautiful rental? Whew, that’s all? Does that work?
The best part is that I found a home here during the first week! It was a home I had seen before and fell in love with 10 years ago. I have moved in and am in the middle of a little renovation, not much… and find myself enjoying learning about the plants, the trees and watching the crazy weather. It snowed last week, had a wind warning, meaning, ALERT: stay inside! and the temps vary from 32-70 every day!
I have so much to share…but I’ll start with yesterday. I took a walk downtown and there was a Porsche gathering. Must have seen about 200 beauties! They were stunning! Then, since it was early afternoon, took a ride to Abiquiu. There was a studio tour which allowed us to drive to areas that are typically not open to the public.
Being primarily a portrait photographer, I find photographing everything BUT humans a challenge. I’m forced to see different things, to work composition, color and the difficult task of gesture. That will come. This was the first time out shooting with a camera other than my iphone… and it felt great.
Feel free to comment and maybe I will be encouraged to post from my trip… in the meantime, the winds are picking out outside and I need to go see what’s happening out there! (update, check out the last image… that was what was happening while I was posting…)
On to Abuquiu.
This little creature was on the hood of my car and hung on while I drove.
Colors of New Mexico in Autumn.
It’s getting windy outside…
I moved out of 8 Webster Lane yesterday and as I backed up I took one last photo. My amazing cleaning women, Lisa and Petra had just arrived to polish up the lovely girl one last time. It was such a pretty morning.
I thought I might get emotional, but I wasn’t. Not yet anyway. I took Riley to get groomed, I did a bit of that for myself and drove to the Cape to Helen and Andy’s and received a very warm welcome. Last night I slept great for the first time in a long time. The closing was today, this morning and it’s all settled. It’s all good. Weird, but good…
I doubt I will be blogging until I start my trip out west. I need to sleep for about a week to recover from this move.
Business: I won’t be shooting any additional 2014 senior portraits in Massachusetts.The seniors that I did work with have all been uploaded to the yearbook.
My 508-358-6173 phone number has been disconnected.
I can ONLY be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-479-5349 (cell)
Stay well and stay tuned and SUBSCRIBE AND BOOKMARK THIS SITE for lots of exciting news to come at Janet Wolbarst Photography of Santa Fe! If you have a photographic request for out of state, please contact me, as I will gladly consider the opportunity and possibility.
There are people we meet along the way that seem to have a glow that radiates outward and Edwidje is one of them.
Edwidje is currently living at the Bridge Over Troubled Waters Transitional Home in Brighton, a place where homeless youth are given the chance to grow a foundation. We met him through a move for another Bridge client who he had come to help because of a language barrier.
The other youth spoke only Spanish.
Edwidje speaks English with a little French, but the language of friendship entitled him to a role of translator.
He was a joy to share the afternoon with, assisting his friend in choosing furnishings from the furniture bank.
He had never heard of Emotional Intelligence, but we assured him he had it in abundance.
Here is his story:
…..this is written by Wendy Price, who has interviewed many Bridge clients and written various pieces that have been used for Bridge PR. She can be contacted at: email@example.com
Edwidje, at 22, has a smile to brighten the cloudiest of days and a warmth about him that can‘t be taught. He was born in Haiti and brought to the US with his dad when he was 12, leaving behind his divorced mother and other siblings. His dad is a man filled with unselfish love that he admires and loves very much but to whom he feels he can‘t relate. “I was a kid…I‘d come home from school and ask ‘How was your day, Dad?‘‘Good‘… ‘How was work?‘‘Good‘…so I‘d just go to my room“. I wanted to talk, but he just didn‘t know how to. It was like I was a baby and I grew up to be a big guy but our relationship never formed.“ After a successful HS career and excelling in soccer in suburban Boston he headed to college. Unfortunately he followed his roommate into a world of partying and it flipped his life upside down. This was unacceptable to his dad and after returning home, he knew he had to leave to look for ‘whatever I was going to look for‘.
He headed to NYC, lost, trying to make something happen but not knowing how. Six months of living in shelters quickly taught him that Manhattan was the toughest place to be on the streets. When he wasn‘t in a shelter, he couldn‘t find a place to shower, bathrooms were for customers. He‘d intermittently go to a shelter to shower and brush his teeth. He would sometimes sleep on streets and say “God- I‘m in your hands“. With one dollar in his pocket, he survived on $.15 bananas for days. But there were no jobs to be found and he didn‘t like what NYC was doing to him. “The lessons of the street are priceless. You quickly learn to not judge a person on how they are dressed. I learned moral values and mental strength and knew that I wanted to do better for myself.“
From NYC, Edwidje decided to go south, having checked it out at the library. He read that there were plenty of jobs and that the cost of living was low. Along the way, he met people that would ask him what he was doing and where he was going and told him that they saw something special in him. A few people would hand him a $20 and tell him to get some food. He‘d use the money for a bus ticket. On the bus, he helped a guy with his luggage and was given $5 that managed carefully, helped him to subsist on peanuts for $.15 a day.
At one point, he walked over 100 miles. He met families that took him in to shower and rest. He lived with a pastor and her family for 2 weeks and they wanted him to stay, but he couldn‘t find a job in the small town. This eventually lead him to San Fransisco where, after sleeping for 2 weeks in a chair due to overcrowded shelters, he met another family at the rescue mission who again, saw something special in him. He ended up living and working there for 8 months when he decided it was time to stop running. He decided to take a bus back to Boston to get his life on track, knowing he was in a stronger place mentally and spiritually, feeling stronger everyday. “Each of the people I met along the way, I am still connected to. They take me as family. It has been a blessing.“
After 3 years on the streets, Edwidje landed at Bridge which he holds as dearly as his spirituality. “My faith allowed me to build myself and my moral values and Bridge has given me the opportunity to plug in and organize. If you do your part, they will help you get to place where you can make progress in life. Without Bridge, and this is truly from deep in my heart, I would still be wandering through Boston trying to find my way. As soon as I met Bridge, they helped…everybody…helped me make a smooth transition to better myself. That‘s priceless. You can‘t pay money for that. They are not just giving you things- they empower you to get in a better place.“
Edwidje has just found a full time job for which he is overjoyed. He is enrolled for college classes in the Fall. “This is the best summer of my life. I am in the right place, leading me to the place I need to go. I am so grateful for everything that Bridge has done for me.“ And for those of us at Bridge, we too, are grateful for knowing Edwidje.
He will be another Bridge success story.
Wendy and I met Seth at the same time, at her first trip to Bridge Over Troubled Waters in Boston. I’ve been volunteering there since 2009, photographing the clients, giving them a ‘face’. This was Seth’s first day at Bridge, the excitement and nervousness was there but we knew he was special.
Seth passed away unexpectedly in April. Wendy and I went to his Memorial and below are her thoughts. Please take the time to learn about Seth, who he was and how he affected those who knew him. Rest in Peace, Seth, your pain is gone. ~ Janet
Reflections of Seths Funeral – Wendy Price
Having no idea what to expect, we showed up at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the church President Obama had visited a few weeks prior following the Marathon bombing and the start of Boston Strong. We were the first to arrive, Janet carrying the photo that captured the life, now gone, in Seth. The cathedral was massive and beautiful and you could feel it’s history. While the front row pews seemed miles away from the pulpit, it was how it’d been done for centuries, just unfamiliar to us. In time, the space disappeared as the one column of thin rows began to fill. Facing us in the distance was the photo that Janet had lovingly taken, framed and placed, facing our small group who had known Seth for less than a year.
You could feel the discomfort in the 25 or so youth who had shared living space with Seth at the Bridge Over Troubled Waters Transitional shelter. You could read the sadness in some, while others paced or sat attempting invisibility, trying to shield themselves from the emotions that were too familiar and too painful. You could hear the pain in the heart wrenching sobs of some of the caseworkers, whose sorrow couldn’t be contained. There was talk of his brilliance, of his knowledge of classical music and composers, his love for philosophy, his comfortable, friendly and easy company. Seth apparently hid his burdens well.
And, then, we witnessed one of the most gracious, generous, brave, human acts of kindness. Seth’s mom approached the pulpit and introduced herself. She explained how strange it was to hear Seth spoken of as homeless. “He had a home…. he was not homeless. We begged him to stay, but I knew if we forced him, he would hate me and I couldn’t bear that”. She spoke of Seth as a young boy, who climbed the backyard tree to sit on the roof of the neighbors barn when he needed some thinking time. She could have forced him to stop, but again, knew that he would hate her if she did, so she called the neighbor and asked if it would be OK for Seth to sit on the top of the barn. And then as he got older, he would go on long, very long walks. She would get calls from friends telling them they had spotted Seth walking along the side of the highway. “If I had stopped him, he would have hated me”. Seth’s hunger for experiences and for learning was complete. If he was curious, he sought out all information and retained it. He was ‘different’. He was ‘unbound-able’ because she was not going to put him in chains. She knew her son and she cherished him.
I remember Seth talking about imagining being homeless being so different from actually being. He spoke of trying to get by having lost his ID, computer, personal belongings in his impounded car when he arrived. He was my first interview at Bridge. I didn’t know if some, or all, or none of what he was telling me was true. I didn’t know if he was making up names of philosophers and authors and musicians to impress me but I had an inkling he was not. He was just clearly more well read. When his mom spoke of the pain she felt when he called home telling her how difficult it was to get by without his ID, she begged him to come home. Pleaded with him. But she wouldn’t force him cause he would hate her.
She thanked each and every one of us in attendance for welcoming her son. She thanked and praised the youth and staff at Bridge for accepting him into their ‘family’. She completed a picture for us, each with our own version, as the tears flowed outwardly and inwardly.
Simony, Seth’s roommate was the second to ascend the stairs to the microphone. He told us how Seth used to make such fun of his accent and the respect they had for each other. Through his heavy accent, you could feel the depth of their relationship and the pain left in this young man in missing his friend. Asha stepped next to the microphone, unaccompanied and sang “Amazing Grace” for her friend, for us, in this massive cathedral. Another homeless ‘kid’ doing the unimaginable- with immense courage, a broken hearted friend sharing her lovely voice. Seth’s caseworker, Rose spoke of how Seth would come to the office to hang out and talk. Through her tears, it was clear how much she admired and enjoyed this young man for his spirit, intelligence, passion and good humor. This was far more than a job to Rose and the other caseworkers. They created a family in which Seth was a vital part. Edwidje, a young Bridge client I had met previously, sitting next to me, dressed in a crisp button down and khakis, explained that even though he didn’t know Seth well, he knew that they had a great rapport and really enjoyed hanging out and laughing together. Each person had their own Seth story.
Keith Lutz, American Idol contestant, was summoned next with his guitar and sang “It’s Going to Rain’, a song composed and borrowed from a friend. His voice filled the entire space with perfection, paying tribute to the pain felt in the loss of Seth and how even though we are told it will be OK in time, we just might not be there yet.
And then, Father Joe Baggetta did a remarkable thing. He addressed the reality of the pain Seth must have been in to have taken his own life. He didn’t tiptoe around it, and in doing so, helped us all to release the unspokenness of suicide and accept that Seth had made his choice and we needed to find a way to accept it and to keep him alive in our memories. We needed to honor him as his mother had done since the day he was born. We were then asked to create a line leading to Janet’s beautiful photo of Seth, and one by one, say our own quiet good bye. Each courageously climbed the carpeted steps, pausing in front of Seth’s smiling face. And as each of us descended lost in thought, we were met at the base of the stairs by Seth’s’ mom. She wrapped her arms around each and every one of us, whispering thank you, with such gratitude and authenticity that it could burst your heart. One by one, each of us received our hugs and provided hugs in return. It was powerful and beautiful and a beginning.
Loitering, as the line was winding down, was the last of the Bridge youth. She paced away from the line, unable to go far, circling, struggling, unable to approach the photo. Rose gently went to her, and took her elbow to help direct her toward the stairs. She was reticent and afraid and battling with herself. Rose intuitively knew what needed to be done to help Seth’s friend as she held her, coaxing her toward the photo and finally, up each step, leaving her to climb the last on her own. Her momentary shuddering shoulders told the story as she, with mastery, shook off her tears, resumed her brave face and made her way back in our direction. Without Rose to guide her, she would have sidestepped the hug. Unknown to her she was telling a story with no words, the story of so many Bridge clients. It took a few seconds for all arms to be involved, but then it lasted it a little longer on the other end. For these homeless kids, this was a hug from a loving mother, expressing gratitude and acceptance.
At the luncheon following, the mood lightened as strangers and acquaintances made small talk. The food was provided by the owner of the restaurant where Seth had been working in the South End. He had become a valued employee, so much so that the restaurant had received a note of appreciation from recent customers whom he had served. It reminded me of our interview when Seth proudly told me that he had held many jobs and had never been fired from any. This is just another small piece of the story, but one that illuminates how incorrect we can be in our assumptions.
In conclusion, is this about Seth and the choice he made, a mother and family’s love, homeless youth and the caseworkers who care for them or is this about the footprint we leave and the reverberations in the decisions we make? I guess that’s a philosophical question which is so fitting in Seth’s honor and memory. He left his mark on each of us and will not be forgotten.
Today is such an emotional day. I am so shaken by the horrific event that took your life. I meet so many beautiful young adults and they all mean so much to me. I remember them, all of them. You were special. Your session was emotional and I wish you were here to laugh with me about it.
You were memorable.
You were remarkable.
You are unforgettable.
Rest in Peace, sweet girl.
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