07 February 2018

Blue Butterfly

shay falkenstein | jan. 13 2018 | nikonos V | ilfordHP-5 plus 400, pushed to 1600 | el segundo, ca
For a couple years, I've had this yearning deep within to get on a board and catch a wave. It started with my uncle, who spoke about surfing in San Diego or camping in Mexico, ditching school for weeks at a time with only his jeep, a board, enough for gas, and a camera. When I was twelve, we went out to Malibu. From his white truck cranked "Blitzkrieg Bop" between moments of traditional mexican music on a radio station lost in time. The hula dancer danced on the dash as a mid-morning sun shifted across her hips, casting mini dancing shadows that stretched and shrunk depending on direction. We parking across the street from a set of secret stairs. A surfer walked by us, board under his arm shoulder, wetsuit arms swaying with each step. Uncle Jeff threw a thumb at him as he said to me, this is how you should carry it, right on the shoulder resting against your head, no effort. And he did just that. We walked down the steps to the rocky shore, hopscotching across pebbles to find a diagonal break that I blamed for my inability to stand.
Defeated, I took eleven years for a second attempt. And let me tell you, riding a surfboard until my toes hit the sand felt like stepping off a rollercoaster – when the blood is rushing back to where it belongs but I want to skip the line and sit right in the front. It's the same feeling of a first kiss after a big build up – we both can't help but smile and I'm washed over with the liberation of turning a one day into a finally.
It’s been a few months since I’ve been in the ocean, due to a shoulder injury. A few weeks ago, I met a guy at a coffee shop (thanks, cool pants) and after a few back-and-forths, we dove right in – he, with his surfboard; me, with my camera. I forgot how happy I am floating over waves. And looking up at the warm winter sky, blue as can be with stretches of white streaked like cotton balls being torn apart. The water seeped in through thin wrists and thin ankles, but my breath was steady in the cold winter water. Peace rocked me back and forth. I think of the current, reflective grins, water sneaking through my toes, and the morning light sliding softly on a warm wash, highlighting eternity. I make note of how trusting I am with this stranger, with this camera, first dive. I notice the particles that bounce under water during a moment under the surface, eyes open. I see green below, a dark blue above. The colors of the earth draw me in: foamy white, auburn hair, pink skies, golden light, pure blue and a luminescent green, which sits on a polluted skyline. These photos don’t show how sunday’s sky was paintbrushed, but know that the day held the same freshness as stepping out of a six hour roadtripped car and taking the first breath of forest air. It felt like finding the sunny spot on a brisk day when a cast of light warms my soul, and I can’t help but look up and smile, shoulders relaxed. The day was a deep breath which expands the stomach after months of realizing I’ve only treated my body with shallow breath.