days of may on the coldest afternoon of winter

The rug was a dollar and the house sits right on the river.

I wish I owned every book on their shelf. Every oil portrait hanging on the wall or resting on the midcentury buffet.

They offer French pressed coffee and we talk about what it means to be outside of the cities, on the fringe.

They look perfect in their space. But then again they are the type of people who I suspect would look perfect just about anywhere.  A black-tie fundraiser or around a campfire. Equally at ease.

She owns a floral studio, and every picture from every event I've ever seen is a work of art. It transcends bouquets and centerpieces.

Their lives feel deliberate and thoughtful. It made me want to be the same, though I know there will always be an apple with two bites taken out of it thrown back into my fruit bowls. And the pictures on my walls are all kaddywonk. And the sound of Youtube toy videos punctuates in the background. 

But maybe they'll invite me back. I'll wear matching socks without any holes, and I'll get to finish that cup of coffee before it gets cold.

This is my first time shooting on a mix of film and digital, the perfect creative antidote for the slow season.

If you're in need of some inspiration, check out Michaela's website Days of May Florals or her Instagram. And obviously, if you're looking for flowers at your wedding to stop guests in their tracks, get in touch with her.

different

Leo Tolstoy, I'm hear to tell you that you are wrong. All happy families are not alike. 

I see them. The way some love quietly and some love boldly.

I watch as some adventure and as other's prefer the refuge of home.

Yes, they all have a light, the glow of people who love well and are loved in return. 

But you weren't there as I pulled up to see a barefoot, dapper teen pick a dew covered rose for his mother before he realized anyone else was there.

And you didn't witness the way each son wanted his turn to lean on to his mother and smile for a camera so that the future would know how much he loved her. 

You didn't see the pride on the smallest face as she wore the dress made just for the occasion.

How they laughed with each other, even when they teased. 

How their home was such a magnet that even the neighbor's cat came in and out as he pleased.

I have made a job of studying happy families, Leo. And I've never seen one quite like this.

knowing a place

When I was young, I thought I would see the world. I thought I would fill my passport with stamps and collect stories of adventure.

But that wasn't to be my story. 

I ended up back in my small town immediately after college graduation, and here I've stayed.

The stamps in the passport are few and the adventures are of a different variety. But what I've come to discover is that there is a beauty in learning a place well. Learning your home. Knowing it in and out.

The small stretch of beach a couple of hundred yards from my door has become my study. I have learned how the light works in each season. I watch the way the cliffs fall. I pay attention to what blooms and who lives there. I observe the tide and  notice the changes in the creek. 

I don't know many places. But this place, I know well. And the more I know it, the more I know there is to learn.

And now I get to bring new people there. I get to watch as they search for the teeth of ancient sharks. As they clammer over fallen logs and as they slip and slide on the wet clay . And sometimes, I know they see the murky magic in this place too. 

risk and reward // pictures from a first birthday party

I have an unhealthy fear of being boring. 

I have never been particularly afraid of standing out, but I have been afraid of being dull.

I don't want to say what other people say, or do what they do. I don't want to be dressed like everyone else. And I don't want my house to look like every other one on the street. I have always been attracted to sub-culture over pop-culture,

I've always been more attracted to quirky than I have to preppy or popular or pretty.

And every time I flirt with the idea of minimalism, I remind myself that every house I have ever loved has been weird and bold and filled with bits and pieces that serve no purpose except to amuse.

So of course I love Eryka and her family and her house filled with pets and farm animals and hand painted murals. She's not afraid of big undertakings and substantial risks. 

Her house is the type that keeps you entertained- peeking around to find hidden treasures. The kind of house that evolves and transforms, sometimes in fits, sometimes in spurts, but never stagnates. 

Maybe she's always feared fitting in too.

A hopefully, probably, that's what she's instilling in to her kids, one of whom turned one year old a week ago, complete with musubi and sprinkle cakes, balloons and water guns. 

shacktown

 

The story, as told by Chris, is that when I came into Tastee Freeze for the first time when he was working with my little sister, he knew then and there that I was a nerd. He claims I was wearing glasses and was reading a book. The glasses part is true; I had definitely "failed" an eye examine so that I could get a pair, and thus make myself seem more intellectual. As for the book, I don't quite believe him because, although I wouldn't put it past fifteen-year-old Rachel to carry around a tattered copy of East of Eden, I've always taken my ice cream eating pretty seriously. I feel I would have focused on the task at hand rather than get too distracted with prose or poetry.

Chris was working with my sister Molly; he flipped burgers, she made milkshakes, and they became unlikely friends. And their friendship grew to envelop my sister Claire. For seventeen years he was held fast in their lives, and mine too. For Molly's fifteenth birthday, Chris and I surprised her with tickets to go see Outkast and Ludacris, with special guest Slimm Calhoun. He was a bridesman in my sister Claire's wedding. When Tom first moved to Chesapeake Beach and needed a roommate, Chris moved in with him, and six months later, after Tom and I got married, I moved in too. For a short time the four of us (Chris, Tom, Sena, and I) lived together in that little cottage on the bay, occasionally get yelled at by the neighbor for playing beer pong too late into the night.

A few years ago Chris started dating Brittney. I know that every speech at every wedding claims that people knew that this relationship was different, that this was the real deal. And so I'm hesitant to make that claim. But it's true. It was clearly different. Brittney had twin babies, and Chris had clearly fallen for them as he fell for her. 

We always used to tease Chris because he would show up wearing ridiculous coordinating outfits; like a bright orange tracksuit with matching shoes and a visor. And he would proudly declare he had gotten the whole thing for 26.50 from Wal-Mart. He's always liked a good deal. 

Chris knew a good deal when he saw one: beautiful, loving wife plus a son and daughter in one fell swoop? He signed up. In a few weeks, they're getting married and making the whole thing official.

They've made a solid life with each other already. They are raising those kids wild and free, but with a healthy dose of manners. Instead of doing typical engagement pictures, they decide for an engagement/ family hybrid in a little spot on the bay I had never before explored, which is arguably my favorite spot I've ever photographed. It's a cluster of summer cottages rented by the year to people who come every weekend to revel by the shore. It's brackish magic.