Misadventures: Jesus in the Hills

It wasn’t either of our first misadventure, because we are humans and none too lucky. My luck isn’t rotten per say, but Tamrin tends to bring to light the cruel humor of the universe. Separately we’ve experienced the whole gamut: death, heartache, failed brakes, food poisoning – the works. But Jesus in the Hills was our first unfortunate happening together, and quite honestly the birth of The Hive. Because sometimes the best ideas are formed out of sheer terror, and some people don’t let fear stop them in their tracks. We are those girls, not necessarily brave, but defiantly determined.

It was the last day of Winter Break our senior year of undergrad, 2015. The plan was to leave at four in the morning to head south and catch the sunrise over the rolling hills of southern Ohio. I will take this moment to tell any budding (or seasoned) photographer that this was not enough of a plan. If you want to photograph a sunrise or set, you scope out your location beforehand and arrive at least thirty minutes prior to your shot. We drove aimlessly watching the sky light on fire in the most chromatic of fuchsias and didn’t make a single photograph of it. But we were already out and so we continued to drive, the kind of driving where you purposefully get lost. This was the real start of our relationship as copilots, the beginning of us figuring out our rolls as travel companions. Halfway into the day I told her I was driving to Colorado for Spring Break and asked if she would like to come along. For those of you following our journey, you already know that she did, and that the 4×5’s we shot in Rocky Mountain National Park while on that excursion were The Hive’s very first posts.

That Sunday morning we drove, and drove, and drove, made turns for no apparent reason and stopped whenever a pool of light would catch our eye. At one point a sign that read “Jesus in the Hills” came into view and with curious minds we turned the Jeep in their general direction. I will now admit that these signs were sketchy, that anytime an extreme religious billboard pops up, you should turn the other way, but we didn’t, we followed the arrows to what seemed like a perfectly welcoming place. If they didn’t want us there, why would they have signs calling to us from miles away?

By this point the sun was creeping west; we moved southeast. A large billboard featuring the Lord and Savior himself welcomed us in. We drove a good stretch of gravel road through a wooded lane before they appeared: sign after sign that read in stark blue text, “God is watching you”. He wasn’t the only one. We got out of the vehicle, I won’t even say that we knew better, because we didn’t, not then. We wandered, not too terribly far, into the hills, but enough so that the Jeep was out of view. The place seemed odd, but desolate, we figured it was only populated in the summer months when the trees were green and the ground wasn’t dusted in snow.

We got back into the Jeep, no worse for the wear, and drove through the rest of what we assumed was an abandoned campgrounds. Just before reaching the long wooded lane that led back towards civilization, he came out of nowhere. Leathery skin hardened by years of smoking and a life in the sun, in overalls and flannel he knocked hard on my window. I rolled it down. The trach in his throat made his words almost incomprehensible – almost. But I understood the word gun before I saw it, I understood the word Terrorist before he pointed at the gleaming metal tucked neatly into his jeans and I knew that this was not a place anyone other than this man with his gaping trachea and sandpaper voice was welcome. The window rolled up before another word could be exchanged and Tamrin peeled out of the gravel and down the wooded lane faster then the wheezing Jeep was willing to go. Our hearts thudded in our chests, blood boiling and eyes wide. Unspokenly we headed back to Columbus and away from the hills where Tamrin has always sworn “nothing good has ever happened”.

 

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On the West

On the Grand Canyon

We arrived at the Grand Canyon on an unexpectedly dreary day. Dressed for a sunny 99 we found ourselves in a rainy 62. Determined to see as much as we could before the drizzle turned into a pour we scurried down to the first lookout. Even in the rain with the fog preventing us from seeing across the canyon I couldn’t help but feel tingly in the knees looking out across the view.

I stood amongst the tourists greedily grabbing their pictures and wondered how I was different than them. I stood with my cameras just as they stood with theirs and we looked out at the same view and I wondered if they were as humbled as I was, if they felt the same urge to bend at the knee and confess all sins to the canyon. How was the click of their iphone any different than the snap of my shutter? Were we all just desperate to capture some of the beauty and take with us, something to show the world “I made it, I was here.”

But looking at the canyon was not enough, just as looking at anything is rarely enough and the urge to dive in head first was strong. I wanted to spring to the nearest pathway and beg my feet to carry me down, to stumble on the rocks and touch the brush with my fingertips and really experience the land. To consume the land and be consumed by the land as my body worked with and against it to get me to the bottom.

 

On the west

Something about the west just catches me in the spot right between my heart and my stomach, that spot that occasionally swells up when you’re falling in love or when you get a bit of especially good news, and that’s a hard spot to touch in a person. You can’t forcefully trigger it and half the time you don’t even feel it exists until it suddenly starts swelling up like a balloon again and you find yourself remembering it’s there, caught up in the swell of things and feeling elated.

It’s that feeling that pushed me out of the Midwest, away from everyone I love. It’s that feeling that I’m chasing around out here like a fool in the desert. And every time I think that the longing for the people I left behind will get so strong I can’t take it anymore, we round a corner to the most beautiful stretch of road, or the strong western light strikes the mountains just right, or the giant sky of the west opens up and reminds me that there’s something bigger out there, or the fading sunset silhouettes the saguaros in a way that can’t be portrayed on tv or in a picture but can only be seen and felt in real time, and then the swelling happens, that gut/heart falling in love swoon that pulls you further down the road, that pushes you to the next adventure.

I don’t have it figured out, this compulsion. I don’t know where it comes from or what it means. But there’s something special out here in the west, something that they don’t make anymore. It’s not a feeling you can get from a person but something that exists in the land, and you can only get by living presently in a place that excites the most childish but also wisest part of your body.

Dancing Before My Eyes

Photo Aug 11, 3 15 44 PMAnd now I get it, why the greatest stories were told before television, why the most romantic of poets have already come and gone. The date is August the eleventh and I sit beneath the Milky Way and a billion stars. A comet burns bright above my head. I watched the sun set, perched high atop a fleshy rock, boulders strewn haphazardly by the hands of God across the barren land. The sky turned violet as the Joshua trees transformed from friendly counterparts to foreboding, spiked silhouettes. I am in California for the first time, in a tent amongst the gravely sand. The Mojave Desert has kissed my skin and swallowed me whole. I am salty and caked in dirt, left in this great expanse to contemplate how small it feels beneath these stars.

We came to Joshua Tree National Park for the Joshua trees, but quickly fell in love with the earth in which they grow. Smooth boulders with womanly curves and ambiguous skin congregate amongst the scraggly foliage. They beg you to climb, to touch, to feel their physicality within their land. They reveal their age through wisdom, sharing knowledge of a long life well lived.

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I sit with zero contact to the outside world, a pen and my sketchbook, reflecting on a day well spent in the sun. It is incomprehensible that I should find myself in California, so very far from Ohio and everyone I have ever known and loved. Yet today as I watched the white cotton clouds ascend over the jagged stone, my heart was full. I am not too blind to see that the opportunity I have been given is special. I vow not to take it for granted. A new chapter of life has begun, and even though it is greatly entangled with what chapters came before, it is its own separate entity – terrifyingly exciting and new. If I dwell too long on the change it becomes unbearable, so for now I will put down my pen, sprawl out on the dirt and gaze longingly at the galaxies dancing before my eyes.

 

*Film from Joshua Tree to come.

We Rolled On

All of this to say, we have safely arrived.

When I was nineteen years old and saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time I promised myself that I would move west. Four days after my twenty third birthday I stood in front of my new home. A six hundred square foot pink stucco house nineteen hundred and ninety miles away from everything I have ever known in the heart of Tucson, Arizona. For four years I had promised myself that I would leave. I finally did.

It has not been easy, any of this, but when your dreams are eight states away you drive thirty hours into the sunset to chase them. My other choice was to stay, and as easy as that choice would have been to make, I know that I would have regretted it forever. It took an army of people to get me here. Friends, family, peers, colleagues and mentors who believed in me at moments when I was filled with nothing but doubt. I am eternally grateful for each one of them. To the kid who sat in the back seat of my car and yelled, “you are incredibly talented and you have to stop acting surprised that you’ve been given this opportunity”. To the boy on the roof who assured me that it would be worth the pain, that I NEEDED to go. To a dad that thanked me for all of the crazy adventures and a mom who said, “never once did I doubt that you’d get in”. Dreams are hard, they are scary and they rarely are accomplished in solidarity. So here we are: Tamrin and I and our three cats (who miraculously made the journey), ready to embark on life’s next great feat. There is a palm tree in our yard and mountains along the horizon. This is not Ohio, but for the next three years this is home. This home is one in which I will accomplish great things, it is here that a new chapter begins.


I wrote those lines day one, with my parents still here and some sense of security. That was last Monday. A week later I feel the same, but we promised ourselves no moping, that to do so would have been to break our hearts for no good reason. We choose this, and so we owe it both to ourselves and those we left behind to take advantage of every single opportunity we came here to seize. Saturday I dropped my parents off at the airport. Saturday it was just the bees against the world. Saturday the desert adventure actually began.

At four in the morning I drove away from Sky Harbor airport with glossy eyes. It was pitch black and Running on Empty decided to grace the airways of my 2001 Ford Windstar. Serendipitously Jackson Browne told me, “Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels. I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels. Look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through. Looking into their eyes I see them running too.” The tears dried as I drove to pick up Tamrin the other ‘running friend’ and as the sun rose over the desert painting the red rocks blue I fell in love with this vastly different landscape, my new home.

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We decided to head north through Phoenix and Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, because neither of us had ever seen it seemed like the thing to do. When we left Phoenix it was over one hundred degrees, less than two hours later with the rise in elevation it dropped to below sixty. We got to the Grand Canyon in tank tops and shorts amongst a crowd of jacketed tourist. The sky was black and the air misty. Freezing we set foot into the souvenir shop where we bought overpriced matching fleece sweatshirts that proudly boasted ‘Grand Canyon’ and the fact that we were totally unprepared, rookie south westerners.

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It wasn’t long before the sky opened up and we dashed to the van. The canyon wasn’t real, hazed over it felt more like a giant projection than actual rock. Still it took my breath away. We sized it up and promised the terrain that someday soon we would become better aquatinted, that we would strap on our boots and hike down to the bottom. As we drove away we were fascinated by our surroundings, the amount of trees and foliage that dotted the land. Quickly this changed into a pine forest and then suddenly we found ourselves unexpectedly at Sunset Crater, a volcano I had no idea existed. This was my favorite part of Saturday. It stood in sharp contrast to the canyon for many reasons, most notably the lack of people. There we were, the only souls for miles, a lone raven keeping us company. It was post apocalyptic, a barren land with vibrant hints of new life. We walked across a vast expanse of lava, black and brittle beneath our feet. It stretched on for miles, a naturally scarred landscape amongst the mountains. One half of the sky was a vibrant blue, the other black. Three mountains stood opposite the crater dark and smooth and void of all life. We stood in awe of the world around us before driving away. As quickly as we happened upon this wonder it was gone, dissipating into the never ending horizon. The land changed to hills and bushes, Native American ruins and in the distance wide open sandy desert where the sun danced wistfully over the plateaus. It was Hollywood and we rolled on from one movie set to the next.

For the first time in a long time I was myself, driving countless miles, guzzling cup after cup of gas station coffee and sharing a large McDonald’s fry with my favorite co-pilot. After the hardest bandaid I have ever had to rip off was gone there was/is comfort in knowing that I am still me. I long for the road, a wandering bone my mother once called it. I break my own heart then piece it back together because I am a hopeless romantic and west is where all of the hopeless romantics go. For now I am finding peace in knowing that even though it has proven to be the hardest thing in life to date, I am following my dreams. For now, this is enough.

“I saw Sonora before me, so otherworldly, so desolate, some cast-out mistress on the pale blue planet, and longed suddenly to stay.”  – Hannah Lillith Assadi

To Dream

Dream following is tricky business.
When you start out you don’t really know what it takes to follow a dream, you can’t know. When I was a little kid I didn’t understand why people gave up on their dreams, why they would ever stop fighting for them. It’s about comfortability, something that most people want and strive to achieve. But dream following isn’t comfortable, it’s not easy and never a guarantee. A lot of us say we don’t want comfortability but sometimes it sneaks up on us. One day you’re fighting for this dream, desperate to make it, the next day you wake up accidentally comfortable, and you’re surprised by how good it feels. Because comfort does feel good, safety feels good. A sense of knowing what happens next feels good. And all of these good feelings can easily takeover and suddenly you’re not as desperate to leave the crappy job you hate or the boring place you live because there’s something oh so satisfying about being comfortable.
A week from today I’ll be in my new jeep with my dad and my cats heading off into the western skies, following my dreams and heading to grad school and going exactly where I’ve always wanted to go to do exactly what I’ve always wanted to do.
But right now it doesn’t feel good. Right now it feels like I’m leaving everyone I love. And that doesn’t feel good.
I’m not hesitant, I’m not feeling any regret and I’m not scared. I know things will be fine I don’t need to be comforted or reassured. I don’t have any doubts. But I knew that leaving Columbus would break my heart and staying would be the same. I think that this is just the point where my naive little heart learns that it’s not the following of dreams that’s hard work, but what gets left behind while you’re out following them. Following is the easy part, working hard is the easy part. It’s what you lose in the chase that really eats at you.

Guest Bee: Sharyn Beodeker

For three short months, Sharyn and I both worked in the photo labs at CCAD. She was beginning her graduate studies there just after I finished my undergraduate ones. She is hardworking, down to earth and passionate and has agreed to share some of her wisdom on The Hive.


Trying to operate in the real world, and be an artist.

Hello Honey Bees! I’m so glad to be able to have a quick little guest post on this awesome artist blog.  Firstly, let me take a second to introduce myself. My name is Sharyn Beodeker. I currently am an artist making work through the combination of photography and craft processes! Specifically linking crochet, collage, and fiber arts with the digital photograph. I am originally from the Pocono Mountains of North East Pennsylvania, and moved to Columbus, Ohio, in August of 2016 to pursue my MFA at Columbus College of Art and Design. I love the outdoors, rugby, and reading. I work at Elevator Brewing Company’s tap room on Tuesdays and Sundays – so feel free to come grab a beer and chat!

Anyway, let’s get down to it. This past May I finished up my first year of graduate school and I was so looking forward to summer (mostly anticipating a break from classes, school work, and graduate assistantships with hopes of spending a lot more time reading, writing, and making work). Unfortunately this past month has been anything but what I had envisioned. Trying to operate in the real world and be an artist is quite the feat.

Upon finishing up the semester I almost immediately jumped into a full time job at Atchley Graphics working on their production team. Finding a job to cover rent, bills, and groceries was a priority for the summer, so this job definitely was a God send and I am super grateful for the opportunity. They were willing to be flexible with my hours and when I asked to have Fridays off as a reserved studio day, they were all for it. Awesome right? Well unfortunately according to my brain, working nearly full time at Atchley along with twice a week at the Brewery isn’t quite enough. Let’s add more to your schedule she said. It will be fun she said.

In addition to being an artist I have always been an athlete and it has always been extremely important to me that no matter what I find a way to keep both of these strong components in my life. Being an athlete and an artist has made me who I am and I am not willing to truly sacrifice one for the other. Maybe one day I will have to, but that’s a bridge I’ll cross when I come to it.

I’ve been playing rugby for about 6 years now so when the opportunity came for me to play with a high level squad this summer alongside some of my teammates from the 15s competitive team that I played with in the Fall I didn’t bat an eye. Sure I can go to practice 4 days a week, travel nearly every weekend, and work and get in my studio. My life was very similar when I was an undergrad – I can do it. Reality check. You’re not invincible Sharyn.

Now this isn’t a post to say you can’t do it all – if you want to you absolutely can, but the reality is, you may need to take a step back from one thing slightly to make another thing work.  This is reason #1 why I made the decision to pull myself from one practice a week for the rest of the season so I can spend more time in my studio. I know, now you’re like ‘oh big deal Sharyn, one less day, are you really sacrificing’. I definitely think so. I’ve also realized that instead of getting home from practice at 9pm and laying around doing nothing for two hours I can better use that time for reading/writing or whatever is necessary to grow as an artist. Studio time doesn’t always mean specifically being in the studio but rather thinking about what you are doing to make your work stronger. What are you doing to become a better artist? How can you do that even at 9pm at night when you’re tired, sore from rugby, and just want to be a vegetable? You make yourself, that’s how. Where there is a will, there is a way. As cliche as that may be, it’s a good statement to go by.

So for those that are artists out living in the world, working for the man, and struggling – just know you’re not alone. For those that think artists just get to sit around all day, chill out, drink lattes and talk about their feelings – please read this post again. For those that are pursuing art or are thinking about pursuing it, know that it’s not an easy road, but that if you truly want it, you will work for it and you will find a way to make it all come together and throughout each struggle just know, it will all be worth it in the end.

Thanks for reading!  If you’re interested you can check out some more of my work and experiences at sharynbeodeker.wordpress.com or my artist site at sharynbeodeker.wix.com/sharynbeodekerphoto (I promise I’ll buy the domain name soon).

Happy making y’all!

Sharyn

The Journey Home

I’m at the airport waiting to board my flight to Louisiana, while flying is not nearly as romantic as driving I thought I would share something I wrote last year about the drive home.

 

How do I explain the journey home?

From Ohio till about halfway through Tennessee it’s more or less the same. The first change that alerts me to being in the South is the highway roads, they begin to shift from the dark black top highways to a dirty brown rock. Once you enter Mississippi the landscape really starts to change, the trees grow taller, broader, untamed, and you begin to notice all of the pine trees, the wilder cousin to the northern spruce tree. In the summer you notice the magnolias, and then the mimosas, and all of the bright lively green and dead crunchy brown that was green a few months ago but after three months of blistering heat it just can’t manage to stand up anymore. And then you notice the water, the roads constantly shifting from pine trees to lakes, ponds, rivers, and swamps. And then the vines, covering everything manmade and nature made the vines cover it all, molding the landscape into one cohesive texture.

Two story houses become one story, garages become carports, pop becomes Coke and you guys switches to y’all and the way the sun hits the trees you can’t help but slow down and the way the shadows hit the ground they become a whisper- discussing everything from politics to death to the weather to what so-an-so wore in Church last Sunday and can you believe that they broke up and they got married and they’re having a baby with their exes best friend’s brother and lord have mercy and bless your heart and can i get you anything to drink, are y’all sure you ain’t thirsty?

The journey home consists of 13 hours in a car, with the first 6 being sleepy trepidation and the final 7 being liberation mixed with that belly flop feeling you get every time you unexpectedly run into that person you’ve had a crush on for months and maybe today will be the day that they notice you and maybe even compliment you or ask what you’re doing later. The journey home is falling in love again and again.

As you wind down interstate 20 towards Vicksburg the road turns to a two lane and the trees start to encroach on the road, not touching in the middle but definitely forming a little tunnel.

And the bridges! Of course a land riddled with water is going to be riddled with bridges, giant steel masterpieces always leading you forward. Once you cross the bridge at Vicksburg leaving Mississippi and into Louisiana the whole world flattens out. The drive becomes a gentle winding journey through flat fields and low standing water. The bear crossing signs start to crop up as you wind through Tensas Parish and the next thing you know you’re already in Crowville and the sun has just set and you can smell the earth in the car even if the windows are rolled up. A few miles later you’re pulling into Winnsboro and it’s 7 oclock on a Thursday night but you can barely see any lights on in town and you remember just how small it is. The next thing you know you’re out of town and making a left turn and then a right turn and another left and you’re on a gravel road, passing the old high school that hasn’t been walked in in at least ten years and passing Uncle Money’s old place that’s dang near falling apart and then it’s a straight shot to open arms and food on the table and the newest batch of babies to hold and talking until 3 am because no matter how much time you have it’s never enough to fill everyone in on everything that’s happened in the last 12 months.

The journey home is a deep breath of fresh air, the coldest glass of sweet tea and the smell of everything that made up the you that you were as a child.