29 November 2017


portra 400 - november 2017 - glendroa
portra 400 - november 2017 - glendora

There's a comforting softness in a wrinkled white duvet cover in the mid-minutes of four PM, where light that peaks in through half open windows comes paired with a wavering branch hitting shadows on the far wall which fit together like rosemary and a deep, slow inhale – and all I can think of is how perfect this silence is, and how tempting it is to fill it with sound, with breath, with an appreciation of what my fingers can create if I put some effort in. 
I find myself appreciating moments of stillness more now that my days are filled with laundry list of tasks or workouts followed by meal prep. When was the last time I laid on the grass? When did I last leave my phone home for a day and just be. I think of high school days when I'd wake up with the sun and search my twin bed around me for the book I fell asleep reading the night before, continuing from where I left off. I'd read until my stomach growled and the urge to brush my teeth overtook my desire to find out what happens next.  
I fengshuied a lot with my bedspace while at the old house. Technically, there were only two corners where my bed could properly fit, but once or twice my bed blocked the entry way to the closet because I felt like having a headboard that rested under a window and sunlight on fresh pages. One Christmas break was spent reading the whole series of Harry Potter on a brown pleather lovecouch in my closet, the ceiling slanted from the roof above but I didn't mind, I was and still am so short. My mom called me a hermit. I'd come downstairs at 2 pm for tea or curry and she'd comment, "Sarah's finally out of her hole!" But I reveled in it. I'd microwave a bowl of dad's chicken curry while holding my arms, now exposed to the element that is an AC'd house with no blanket in sight. I'd pivot foot to foot, warming the sole of one against the side of my calve, flamingo style, protecting it momentarily from a cold wooden floor. As the microwave whirred and the chicken popped, I'd put a tortilla on the fire of a stove, flipping with bare fingers until puffs formed. With a beep and a turn of the knob, I placed the tortilla on the rim of the bowl and and retreat back upstairs, away from the noise of a poker tournament on tv, where the floors don't need swifting and I could warm my soul up while the down-comforter warms my feet. 
Last month, I moved to Hollywood, where my room is upstairs and my bed has finally found it's home under a window after three failed fengshui attempts. I get a sneak peak of light in the morning which hits my face in the most lovely way. My bed is filled with pillows that sneak their way into the abyss that is bed-meets-wall. On a day like today, where I did not have work, I turned off my alarms and slept until my body woke me up. I'm finding a rhythm in my being that, in recent months, has been forced with the axe of willpower. 

14 November 2017

Aural Allure

These curves mark playing dress up with myself in cold winter months getting over a crush. A vintage blue dress. A touch of bright lipstick. Body balancing on the edge of a cushioned seat while eyes glaze over to darkness, opening up ears to feel what I hear.  What lies within heals, excites, impresses and astounds. You are my longest love — I will listen to your whispers and feel the rhythm of everything that moves you until silence draws its heavy blanket over my ears.

It's more than music discovery. More than appreciation. Music is the language in which my emotions emit themselves. Headphones in, walks are soundtracked with non-diegetic tunes: tapping steps under a shining sun to Stevie Wonder; serene strolls on a stormy Sunday with Daughter quietly playing along to raindrops on wet concrete. It's very much a chicken / egg scenario – do I choose music to fit my mood or a mood to fit the music? 

I sway to "Your Hand Holding Mine," imagining just that. Hedonistic. Melancholic. 

I get a heavy head tingle to Dustin O'Halloran, thinking that maybe this is what loving unconditionally might feel like. His keystrokes hold so much longing.

I yearn for a cold quiet night, covered in blankets while a muffled melody of sad bedroom bands play under the duvet cover off a small iphone speaker, or waves that warmly fog up a room on a 70's record player until the needle reaches null. Cat Power, Keaton Henson. Singular. Soft. 

I dance to millennium hip hop while I run, arms flailing and shoulders following suit. Rapping with furrowed eyebrows and shifting feet to curious glances running towards me. Power drives me. Bonfire ignites me. 

"What's your favorite band" is an impossible question to answer. There's no ultimate favorite, just a jam for the time being. 

Last month: Arcade Fire, Yellow Days, The Zombies.
This week: Christine and the Queens, Rhye, old school Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton. 
Next week? who knows. 

Music is the way to my heart. The biggest turn on is a good playlist. The most romantic thing that's happened to me in recent years was getting asked to start a spotify collaboration playlist. It was infatuation in the first ten songs. And while I don't have favorites, I'm thinking that now's the time to stick to an artist for a good chunk of time. A shifting pattern of affection makes for an interesting life, but there's something to be said about consistency. 

03 November 2017


idyllwild, photo by nick serabyn

I'm a leaner by nature – give me a wall or a ledge or the ground and I will find a way to rest uneasily on it. I went climbing last weekend in Malibu Creek Park, where the sun shot hot rays on our shoulders, and my fingers blistered blood, and chubby smokers took pictures of us top roping with their phones, squinting through the glare of a 3 PM light. My back found a tilted boulder, a perfect spot to rest between climbs. Hand behind head, I closed my eyes. The hand feels so much, filters touches and grazes. Fingers can be the source of butterfly brushes, a tinge of touch so delicate, it requires attention to notice. It's odd to feel your hand rather than feeling things your hand touches. My palm falls asleep in cold tingles, electric blue pulses, cool under a pure blue sky. It's a blue I take for granted. It's a color so pure, I forget it exists until I open my eyes and it's all I see. I feel small but safe, and all at once relieved. A good hug does something similar to me. When I'm in your arms and my head fits perfectly in your neck,  I am overcome with the heaviness of being. And when you look at me, and your eyes reach my lips, there's this moment of limbo, of in-between, where anything can happen. That's a blue sky with no clouds in sight. 

I adjust my hand for comfort, sending shocks to my wrist. Sweat drips down my face from an indian summer sun, but my hand tingles blue. When was the last time I saw the snow? Actually went knees deep in it? I've hiked in Big Bear recently, but falling and slipping on dirty ice isn't what good-winters makes. We'd be in the car for hours, asleep, shifting uncomfortably. Usually I got stuck in the third row with the luggage and pillows falling on me every sharp turn. Hours of indian music and Kenny Chesney, and finally the windows fog over. I rest my cheek on there, the cold side of the pillow. I draw hearts that are never symmetrical. I write "Sarah Serrano" or just "Ambreen," testing a name to see if I fit it, to see if it fits me. Snow trickles the sides of the streets, dirty, black. A slow transition to white the further we climb up the mountain. We're getting restless, seeing all the powder. It's begging for deep footsteps, crunches, wet socks. Dad parks the car on the side of the road. He looks behind him at all the women in his life, breaks out a grin and starts running. We shove blankets, wrappers, pillows away, digging for shoes in the cave that a car transforms into during a long drive. Dad's prepping. I lunge myself over the back of the second row, spring open the door, racing my sisters across a field. And we're pummeled. My dad throws things. Launches. Pillows when we don't expect it, the bird when he's pissed on the freeway, and now packed snow. He was all around varsity at boarding school, and clearly hasn't lost his aim. Sofia's laughing the only way an 8 year old can: pure, unfiltered, unapologetic. Samira's cold. I'm digging my hands in, cupping powder into a shape that's anything but spherical. I hear mom's voice by the car, "Irfan, be careful!" We're all in this now, each on our own team, everyone missing throws too short to maim a loved one. Our hands turn numb and our teeth chatter. We gorilla hop back to the car. The heat is cranking. Pink hands hurt to move, hurt to warm up, though try as we do with the heater on max and blankets spread. There are some colds that only time and movement heal. Polar-bearing at camp, competing to out-time other girl scouts holding breath in winter mountain run-off. I never got passed 18 seconds. The swim in Catalina, jumping in the water and forced to swim to shore, shocked into shallow breath. It's a cold crush.The first quiet night after heartbreak. It's summer outside, and there's no air conditioning inside, but your fingertips are white-cold, and it hurts to take a deep breath. It hurts to get up to pee because his beard shavings still stick to the sink. It hurts to drown thoughts out with music, for every lyric ties back to him. No amount of oversized shirts or warm tears can break the electric numbness of a broken heart. Only time. And movement. And a drive through car wash. The mind cannot think of past-lovers while a hum surrounds a metal safety bubble, and giant sponges swish, water spurts, rainbows pop up in corners of the eye.

08 October 2017

surf session soliloquy

I went surfing for the second time today, and for the first time in my life, I stood up on a surfboard in the ocean. I didn't let the board ride me, I controlled it and pointed it right at the shore line, eyes straight ahead until the fin hit the sand. I landed with a fist bump to the sky and a guy just north of me giving me a cheer. I hopped off the board and I looked at the smooth surface around me and I thought, This deserves a f*cking cartwheel. This deserves that lick of enjoyment, that overwhelming power of pure joy and bewilderment and accomplishment – an ecstasy of I've been dreaming of this for years and finally I have this moment in my memory. Easy as pie, my hands made contact with the ground, followed by each foot. I looked back at the horizon and the sun is setting, and I see my great grandmother's painting, the one I pointed out to a friend earlier,  which hangs in the sitting room. The sun in that painting glistens a soft orange between breaks of waves leading up to the shore, and that's what I saw today: warmth glowing on the smooth surface of the water, reds and oranges glowing right on the thin layer of wet along the shore. I felt connected to this woman, as if we stood with our toes dug into the same sand nearly a century apart, looking at the rays of light break through clouds, casting tangerines between lines of fluff, connected through space and time and experience.
Grandma Norris's painting
Huntington Beach, oct. 8, 2017

 This feeling of this is where I need to be right now overtakes me. It's the same feeling that I witnessed in the mother pushing her baby in a stroller on manhattan beach last friday, just looking down smiling while walking. Not on her phone, not looking around at the people passing by her, nor at the sun rising to her right. She's looking at her child, beaming. This is where she needs to be. And it's the same feeling that I got looking at the man looking at the shore. He's not giving any mind to people running through his view point, and he doesn't catch me watching him. He's experiencing the break of a new day, and it's doing something happy-filling to his brain.  This surfer dude, with his lips slightly ajar and eyes a bit squinted has a smile he can't help but show on his face. it's not an ear to ear smile, it's a twinkle that you get in your cheeks – butterflies, just not in the stomach. I'm having it now, where the cheekbones are showing and I just feel happy. 

And I know that this moment will pass and I know i'm not going to feel this way forever. But I had this good wave today and it made today a Good Day. I will have Good Moments. Capital G, Capital D Good Days. And I will have capital B, capital D days. It comes and goes in waves. The key is to not let those bad days or a bad hour dictate the rest of my week. Let the good times shine through, breaking warm rays through dark clouds to create something beautiful. I'm letting this moment set up an amazing week ahead of me. Even if shit fails and I never get hired for a job again, I had this great session and good wave, and sometimes that's all one needs: some appreciation in store for later.

voice memo transcript | 10.8.17 | 18:35 | state rt 55 n

23 September 2017

beauty in detail

Edinburgh, U.K. | september 3, 2017
I love the wrinkles on my hand, the dust in the glass, the grain painted behind the camera. I love Harley's rusted corner, aged but strong, sturdy, stubborn. It's a future description people will say of me: wrinkles that reach past my hands, stubborn in her views but still finds beauty, strong if not scarred from a well-lived and well-loved life. 

A fear that I don't talk about often but which presents itself in my every day life is losing my ability to see. It may be the wind hitting me while I sit on this stranger's front porch, but I'm tearing up watching blades of grass dance. Singularly. Together. Spurts of movement in shade and sun. I'm weary of the day I pass by a rose without diving my nose in its petals. I lose sleep over losing appreciation for these small things. 

I lost vision in my eye last year. It was an ocular migraine. I felt it coming, which was the worst part. With my back on the bed, I stared up at the white patched ceiling of that gross Crenshaw place. Dead of summer, ice cream truck going by. That truck doubled as a weed dispensary, kind of genius but it always reeked. My gaze, stuck on the remains of a spider, long dead, started to dim. Slowly, slightly, then all at once. A black curtain shut on my right eye and i panicked. I wanted to dig it out, for the pain. I wanted to cradle it in my hand, feed light back into it, warm it up with my breath, but I was paralyzed. Kenny came in, I heard him throw his apron on the homemade coffee table Alan made — tired, sweaty from work. And I can imagine this in my head, I've seen him do this a couple times, but lingering behind my pulsing eyeball was a trace of a thought that I may not see this again, at least not fully. Twenty minutes of slow anxiety sat in my chest before the curtains drew back. That spider moved, guess it wasn't dead. I rolled over to my stomach. I looked at my hands, that crooked finger, the loose thread on the cheap orange throw pillows I got at target the week before. Crawling out of bed, I went to join Kenny in the next room, a silent appreciation sitting underneath the surface. 

The sun is setting, and this landscape in front of me is nearly all in the shadow of trees and shrubs. There's a scrap of litter trying to escape uneven blades. I'll pick it up when I get up to pee.  

09.22.17 | 18:07 | Santa Monica, CA  

16 September 2017

idle time

For 16 hours, I lived in my dream apartment. Number 19, a good prime number. Right around the street from a coffee shop (I know, because immediately after illegally parking, I hustled into the shop, rolled my suitcase to a corner and power walked to the restroom. Very clean). The door to the complex was heavy and closed with a loud thud. I worried about the neighbors and treaded lightly up the 13 steps. Another prime number. I don't really care this much about numbers, usually. 
I don't know how to begin a description of this place except to say I fell in love with Gen's apartment right when I walked in. It exists – love at first sight. and it was magical. 
I think my jaw dropped. 
Everything from the sage colored walls to the bay windows with original wallpaper, the bookshelves with knick knacks from decades / centuries past – all of it wrenched at my old romantic heart. I glanced at every corner, imagining poses and thinking of where I could place the camera for a time-d photo shoot. After a quick chat with cleaning-gloved Gen, I closed the door and went into zen-mode. No unpacking, not yet – light's good, and my growling stomach can wait. 
I'm a fan of props. I've even held some mugs in the past (someone get my reference plz). This place was a haven. Old viewmaster reels. Window boards that revealed original Victorian wallpaper. Photobooks of strangers, now gone with the wind. Leatherbound books holding on to the seams. I'd choose no other spot to play dress up, to dress down, to move around, to chase the sound of a buzzing timer. 

15 September 2017

Dog Days Down

Light breaks through the clouds, shining on a lake in the Scotland Highlands

vw van, Newport Beach, June 2017

Self-portrait overlooking Scotland's Highlands

I woke up to gray skies and crisp air, marking the beginning of fall. It only seems natural to write an ode to summer. 

When I think of Summer, ancient past and recent days collide.

Windows down, music up, hair whipping on the overpass.
A week at the lake, flying over wakes, holding on for dear life, fighting for first showers.
Bike rides up Huntington, photoshoots with Lynn, releasing hands, testing balance and hitting bins. 
Two beats on the edge of a cliff, on the edge of the high dive, on the edge of the couch where I peeled off dead skin from your beet-red shoulders.
Fruit flies in the kitchen, a dad rat decomposing, the sun's constant beating, filling up on watermelon.
Burning sand on bare soles, sprinting to the shore for the cold, hours clawing out holes eventually sunk in with the rising moon.
Singing "At The Bottom Of Everything" in an Arizonan cave, flashlights dim, acting brave.
Losing track of the days, a couple weeks in a drug-induced haze (I'm glad I'm over that phase).
July lemonade stands on quiet streets, cartwheels and grass-stained knees, that one time I got stung by a bee.
Warm nights under the galaxy scratching mosquito bitten limbs, sleepovers spent doing everything but sleeping, walks to boba in the morning.
Dinner outside on a Sunday night, a water balloon war with no champion, exploring new worlds on pen and in the open.

Summer is an eternity and a heartbeat.

24 August 2017

thoughts on identity

\ \ \ ? / / /

I had dinner with my cousin a few months ago, and over fries we talked about how we revert back to this childhood version of ourselves while around family. I'll get defensive at the smallest remark. Or super possessive over clothes. I don't talk much, having grown used to my dad or a sister talking over me. I mulled over this for a night, but did not think about it until a couple of months later.

After a friend's graduation in May, I went to a bar where I ran into an old friend. We chatted about podcasts and identity. He said his family is in town, and it's freaking him out because who he is with his family isn't who he is with his friends. "Who are you alone?" I asked. He grinned and shrugged, I responded the same, while mentally thinking, Shit, who am I alone? 

I have a theory that relationships happen when you're not looking for a relationship. Not on the hunt to impress anyone or match interests with the human sitting next to you, your guard comes down. The moat around the glass castle of your heart dries up, the bow-and-arrow men at the ready go inside for a drink, the gate comes down, and out blasts "All My Friends" while you dance in socks with your eyes closed and arms flailing.

An issue that I face is that I have a responsive type of personality. My mood, actions, and responses mirror that of someone I'm not too familiar with.
Are you a heady human being who talks about identity, recent books you've read, upcoming travels, creative outlets, and enjoys flirting for the sake of a good time? Me too, all the time. 
Oh, you're a twenty something girl who just wants to drink and dance and eat at brunch places you can't afford? WOW, same here!! We're, like, best friends! 
You like to hike, rock climb, meditate, listen to podcasts, discovering bands, and you walk around to clear your head? I do all of that and fit in a yoga sesh by 11 am. 
While I enjoy all of those things, I hone in on a "type" and cater to the person in front of me.

Maybe now is a good time to explore who I am when it's just me and my dog. Here it goes:

I don't feel like my name matches my identity. Sometimes, at coffee shops, I say my name is Amber. I've never done that, but I've thought about it enough. I want to camp more, specifically around big trees. I love my family but sometimes they are too loud and I wish I had a hearing aid that I could turn off. I enjoy going to museums and galleries but often find myself more interested in the people looking at the art, or the artist's intention and mental space while making the art, than the art itself. I talk to strangers often, and somehow get them to tell me their life story. I wish I were more tenacious in my career / love life. I'm a notorious two-monther, whether it's the way I like my eggs, the genre of music I listen to, romantic crushes,  kombucha, or deleting my instagram – I'm trying to get over this trend. Lately I've had an urge to work on a farm in New Zealand, where my hands will get dirty and blistered as sweat runs down into my eyes. I'll be smelly with no makeup and hairy legs, but I'll be happily hard-worked. I take a weird pride in my music taste, sometimes that bugs me. I love dancing, mostly alone but surrounded by people. One of my favorite things to do is search used books that have handwritten inscriptions on the first couple of pages (usually leather bound with a divine smell, a century old, and a "turn to pg 63" type of instruction). I hate how social media sucks me in. I don't really like alcohol. I'm getting over a weird relationship with food. I find an unmeasurable comfort in laying on the floor. I miss an intimacy I never really had, and recently I've had an intense urge to get out my watercolors and paint. It's been four months. 

The takeaway is that I'm on a mission to be authentic with my whole self, not just in parts, to those around me. No more picking and choosing. If I feel like playing Santo & Johnny in the car while a Miguel type of guy sits next to me, you betcha "Sleep Walk" is going to be in my queue.

20 August 2017

the sound of silence

cinestill50d | newport | july
I sit here on this living room couch with a hot mug of tea warming my aching ovaries as my body heat warms the leather seat. These are my 02:12 am observations:
1. The AC, a constant whir, has churned to a stop
2. The air duct in the ceiling creaks 
3. My dad's snores are airy and inconsistent. 
    3a. Shit, is he breathing right now? 
    3b. Oh. Ok it's picked up again. 
4. From my grandmother's room plays melancholy Indian music. Very low, melodic. 
5. Tibby is walking around the house. His collar jingles, his paw pads. 
6. He sniffs like a coke addict. 
7. Tibby licks his lips a lot. 
8. I hear a clock ticking.
    8a. We don't have a clock?? 
9. There's a cricket quickly tapping somewhere beyond. 
10. Indian music and snores compete for an audience. 
11. The fridge joins in with a medium airy, wavy hum.

Freshman year of college, Jenkins began Intro to Fiction with what he called the greatest composition of all time. He pressed play and we heard nothing. Watching on screen, it was clear why: the violinists touched no bow to string, the winds held their breath, the triangle did not ring. Silence. at least, from an orchestral point of view. The people around me shifted with creaky chairs, sneakers padded dirty carpet, a bird chirped outside the window, and the projector hummed. 

All this, I picked up in moments, minutes – my ears slowly getting used to honing in on what's around me. How often do I smother my surrounding sounds with bites of media? What am I missing? Hell, before I buckle, I hit shuffle.

Life is a series of ambience hidden under 2 dialogue tracks and a score. Time to hit the mute button.

15 August 2017

early bird

la aube

toute à l'heure

la pénombre
My best mornings start in the dark – an accidental early wake-up call brought on by a vivid dream or a dog scratching at my door. I wake up before the sun has a chance to stretch. There's an ultimate stillness in the house, broken only by my tip toes across the hard-wood floors as I make my way into the kitchen. Some days, I spend my mornings french-pressing, but today feels different. As I make my way down to the bottom of a big glass of water, I brainstorm how to utilize such an early start to my day. I can go anywhere, there won't be traffic for a couple of hours. I have nothing planned for today...
The glass hits the counter and I've made my decision: I'm going on a hike. A sunrise hike. I pack up a brunch for an after-workout treat, grab the good socks and my worn down shoes, and I hit the road. It's amazing how close Griffith Park is when Google gives the green light of traffic.
I park and follow these two older asian women up a pretty intermediate path. I'm thirty years younger than them and they're absolutely killing this hiking game. On my third water stop break, I'm doubting being here. What am I doing with my life? This shrubbery is ugly, I'm out of shape, I haven't rationed my water, and I definitely wore the wrong underwear. The coconut oil I put in my hair the night before mixes in with my sweat, creating a sweet sheet of salty whatever on the crown of my head. It drips along my eyelashes, clouding my view until I get the chance to wipe it off.
Complaining isn't going to do anything. I'm on this mountain, I can backtrack the shitty way I came or I can find a better viewpoint.
I twist the cap back on my water bottle, unzip my jacket and continue upward.
An hour later, I find myself in an oasis of mist and trees, benches and stumps damp from dew. Amir's Garden. This place felt like a pond in the middle of the Sahara. I picked a bench, took out my phone, and meditated for ten minutes. Deep breaths, mental focus and unfocus. Eyelids closed off to the beauty surrounding me. People passed but I gave them no mind. Thoughts danced in and out of my mental window. The best part about meditation is that I forget where I am. All I know is that my butt sits on a surface, and my belly grows and shrinks with air. I open my eyes to the jungle around. I take out a pen and notepad from my leg pocket. Red against white, I write:

                      I want my ashes to be buried with seeds, so that I may grow into a tree by a stream.                I want Wind to swoosh through my leaves like summer car rides with the windows down. She'll sway with my branches like Saturday nights as the birds perch like pendants for a dash of color on my brown body. This is how life will be until it isn't, and I'm returned to ash climbing the sky in a swirl of smoke.

The sun rises as I put away my things. I finish the hike as the city awakens, beams hitting buildings bringing downtown to life. I walk along the observatory. There's a man power washing the steps. The old women from earlier drink tea at a small table. A couple take and retake photos in front of the hollywood sign. I wonder what they think of me as I walk by. Maybe they don't think of me at all. 

22 July 2017

remember the source

I can't sleep.

I've been in bed for four hours.

I've meditated. I've watched way too many clips of the Kardashians on instagram.

I made myself some tea.

Now I'm watching Chef's Table: France, for two reasons: I've watched and rewatched all the episodes of the original series, and I'm still fixated on learning french, despite not opening duolingo in months.

With my humidifier pumping out lavender essential oils in a rainbow diffusion, Adeline Grattard speaks to me as I read along. She talks about her husband. He keeps her grounded. He says, "Remember your origins, remember the source."

remember the source

My fingers paused just now.

My mind went into the whirlwind of history, and my eyes are watering up. I'm fixated on the backyard I had as a kid. There was this plastic playground thing that Johanna, Sofia and I would lie on top of. It's red. We'd eat our popsicles from the dairy, red white and blue melting down our forearms, staining khaki shorts and sticking to our skin. Dad jokes revealed on frozen ends, no longer remembered through time. The roof of this playground sunk in from growing girls weighing it down. There was a slight discoloration in the center, a collection of dirt and dried rainfall. We'd jump from this height, landing/falling onto mushy grass and running to the rope ladder that hung from a poor excuse for a treehouse, careful to step on tree-star leaves on the trip over.

Blistered, sugary hands grabbed hold of wooden handles as the tail end of the ladder whipped us in circles, often leading us into the trunk of the tree. One at a time, we'd climb - the girl on the ground holding on to the last rung for tension, support. I don't know how we got up on our own, but we always made it to the top, splintered or bleeding on that triangular platform. Parents these days would be called crazy for letting us have such a free childhood. It's funny, Johanna and I did so much together that I don't remember if something happened to her or to me. One of us got a gash in the leg from a nail sticking out by the bungee swing. We'd sit on that corner of the platform, inching our leg out to catch the contraption. A strong hold and a jump led to a bounce and release down. Bruised knees, scars over scars, sweltering summers and shit lemonade stands. This is the source.

I look down at my hands now, callouses torn from bouldering, flesh exposed, scars on scars. Sometimes I get the feeling that life is like looking into a mirror with one set up behind me, watching the infinite reflection stretch back into a green forever – a delayed familiarity.

unrelated to the topic of the post, but I just got these photos developed from a shoot Victoria Mccurrie and I did together, and i'm so in love with myself in this picture. I remember how good the sun felt on my face that day, seeing through sunlit eyelids, a red orange glow of nothing / everything. 

july 22 2017 . 1 am

30 June 2017

happy place

Still from my film, "The Call of the Running Tide."
Still from my film, "The Call of the Running Tide."  
Set photo from "The Call of the Running Tide."

I have two true happy places: under the surface and the big comfy chair.

The big comfy chair is where I'm writing this. It's 00:13. My brain is a riot, and I'm missing my other happy space.

It was discovered on accident. I was at a Girl Scout pool party at the Perry's, and a friend (J.?) asked how long I could hold my breath in the jacuzzi. Curious, competitive, eager to please, I took a big gulp of air and went below the surface. I spider-manned against the bench walls, holding myself under. After settling flat underneath, my back to the cement, I listened. Bubbles whirled around me but it silenced my mind, giving me one thing to focus on, one task––internal breath. With this ability to relax under water –– to find comfort in it –– I did pretty well in this non-competition. I hit the surface with a big intake of air and slouched against the chipping tiles.  We spent the rest of the time talking about skin tags and third nipples before it was time to get out of the water. Our leaders (my mom and Mrs. P) sat us on the itchy grass for a discussion regarding cookie sales and the upcoming gift wrapping paper season.

This discovery of underwater clarity did not hit me consciously until a few years later. One particularly hot summer in the SGV, I went for a swim. I found a pair of goggles some friends left behind, and reveled in this crisp and pain-free view of our chlorine-tinted pool. Bored, slightly tired, and a little weird, I rested my calves on the rim of the pool. My fingers plugged my nose and backwards I peddled, as my one free arm maneuvered my oxygenated body down, parallel to the pool wall. I still see it in my head when I think about it: the world upside-down, the surface reflecting the sky above like unset jell-o. From down below, I could hear nothing but my blood pumping in my ears. My full focus was on the pair of birds playing tag on the wavering telephone wire above. I watched this until my lungs ached with desperation, and I finally tore my legs off their awkward resting place.

I find a sense of calm in the water. I've taken naps out on the ocean turbulence, where the waves don't crash and the sun beats down warmly on my eyelids. I've taken laps underwater, riding the pool floor until my eyesight begins to dim. I still hold myself in the nook of the hot-tub, listening to the cacophony of the jets as they whirl around me, swishing my hair in every direction.

From the back seat of my car, my cousin asked earlier today what place is most ideal for me. I answered in a laundry list of memory: laying on carpeted floor listening to music, sitting by a fire with a book, watching lightning erupt across the sky, a cuppa and the quiet company of my dogs. While these moments are serene, none of these hold a flame to the calm I find in the deep blue.

22 June 2017


do i live a life worth telling stories about?

I was just at this concert and my little sister got to talking about being on a tv show, going into detail about all the crazy stuff she had to do. the guy talking to us turns to me and asks, "She was on tv , what about you? What crazy stuff have you done?"

My mind went blank. I've done a lot of cool stuff... I'm justifying all this now, but I haven't lived all too boring of a life –– I've eaten a free Michelin meal in Erfurt, I've ridden around Paris at midnight on the back of a motorcycle, I've taken a jet ski deep into a sandstone crevice with walls 50 feet up on both sides –– these are moments that make me feel alive. What did I tell this stranger? I told him that i took my pants off for a film, once. A student film. Why? Was I tying to be edgy, to relate to my little sister who excels in front of the camera?

See the arrows? That's my dad and his boarding school friends
When i'm 50, am i going to have stories to tell my kids? My dad's prime performance is warming up dinner guests with stories about his adventures as a    r e b e l l i o u s   y o u t h     in Pakistan. He jumped ditches with his motorcycle, he backpacked along the mountains with his friends (where he stumbled upon mounds of heroin and men with big guns), he was an all around varsity player, a defender of the nerds. What will I say?

I've traveled a lot of places, taken a lot of pictures, been on a lot of sets - yet constantly I am always behind the camera. I capture other people living a life worth talking about, worth photographing. when am i ever telling mine? Maybe I should be in front of the lens more often.

Woman turns her gaze to the streets of Riga

I think about this on the drive home from the concert. As my ears ring from being close to the stage, my head fills with these thoughts of being lesser-than, boring, forgettable. I passed under orange lights on the freeway, my mind adrift in a state of bad news.

I can list off things I've done, or know how to do. My go-to is the time I went couchsurfing in paris, where I rode on the back of my host's motorcycle while we cruised around the city at midnight. I did a lot when I studied abroad: 
I experienced so many firsts in terms of adventure and independence, however it's hitting me now that all of this is in the past. It's memory. I don't want stories of when I'm 21 to be the only stories I tell.

What have I done since then? I've travelled a lot. Held some glow-in-the-dark algae in my cupped hand. I went camping for the first time. I worked on a feature film (hey, leena). I took up rock climbing and yoga. I'm going surfing on saturday.... all this yet I feel inadequate. I feel like I need to one-up my little sister to these strangers at a concert in Echo Park.

Marty got Cooper halfway through his fight against cancer

I could write a book on all the things that strangers have told me in coffee shops or bookstores around los angeles. Therapy dogs, mothers dying, long-term marriage advice, restarting a career in graphic design, driving across the continental US the day after getting hitched. How many pages would a book about me take up? If all these people combined forces, if they all wrote down a take-away from our conversation, would it hold any substance?

01 June 2017

Itchy Feet

Wander azure streets as an auburn sun sets shadows down worn down cobblestones, set in place generations before in a nation of ever changing tides, where viewpoints crashed like pitchforks against blades of grass that, when piled high, acted as beds for napping boys. Each step you walk on unfamiliar land carries the weight of thousands before you, feet marching in the same direction but hands never greeting in a shake. 

23:12 May 23, 2017. 

Missing getting lost in unfamiliar lands. Here's a throwback to May 2016, Puerto Rico. 

24 May 2017

Building Your Roots

Back in March, right around the time that kids dip hard-boiled eggs into glasses of dye, and parents hide dollar bills and candy around the house, I took a trip up north to the Sequoia National Forest with my good friend Sara. There is nothing more soothing in this world than stepping outside of a car and hearing silence. A bird may chirp, and the wind may howl through the trees, but gone is the pollution of planes, automobiles, and construction. Instead of telephone wires, there are canopies. Toppled trees are the new roadblocks. I found myself taking deeper breaths, reaching the full capacity of my lungs, and coming out rejuvenated. 
Sara and I spent the first day there hiking a few trails, mainly Giant Stump and Grant Grove. There were crowds, but only around the landmarks. If only they knew what sites to see further on the trail.... As it got dark, we made our way to our AirBNB. A friendly guy named Ronald greeted us with food, baby chickens, blankets and dogs. The sky showed nothing but stars, and frogs sung us to sleep until we rose at 4 am to hike Moro Rock. 
One of the most pleasurable experiences in my life is when I am happily out of place. I look around at the pink skies of a new day, dewey trees and an empty road, and all my brain comes up with is, "This doesn't feel real." My heart tingles into my gut and a faint smile lingers on the corners of my lips as I process the concept of a life outdoors. 
We set foot on the trail, climbed inside burnt out trees, over rocks, and out to viewpoints. At one viewpoint, we finally found our destination in the distance: the giant structure of Moro Rock, which is less of a rock and more of a mini mountain. We made our ascent, finally reaching the top at around 8 am. With wind whipping our hair and birds flying at eye level, we ate our breakfast of carrots and bars. Sara meditated, I drew – and both of us felt grateful to be up here with someone who could sit in silence on top of the world, relishing in this moment of awe. 

10 April 2017

The Ambivalent Self

Sarah Husein


sarah husein

Sarah Husein

Sarah Husein

Sarah Husein
Most spots on new/used rolls are taken with self-portraits. I want to be the next greatest female self-portraiturer. Francesca Woodman. Vivian Meier.  Judy Dater. Experimental but true to self. Everyone has the ability to create a personality to share to a peer, but through frame and dress, I can choose my portrayal to the world: delicate, explorative, objective, stationary, bold, avant garde. The camera is a powerful tool, and the self-timer is a challenge I like to play with.
Who Am I? 

27 February 2017

flowers & femininity

I'm kind of a tomboy, but I love playing dress-up. The power of photography lies in perspective. Here, I show things typical of femininity: a bouquet of baby pink roses, signifying virginity, purity, youth. A woman in a cool dress swaying these flowers, she's making moves with this picture of womanhood. And finally, the same woman exploring what it means to be a woman in this day and age - figuring out her body and what brings her pleasure.