We walked onto the dock, the sun already beneath the horizon, as she slowly removed her clothing, reluctant against the biting air. "Swimming in open water feels like the closest thing I have to believing in a higher power again, the closest thing to coming home to myself." She paused so I could photograph her staring straight back at my lens before she plunged into the frigid San Francisco bay. The ocean water, dark blue and golden flecked from the remains of light, held her effortlessly and I could see why this was home.
Homecoming. The process began over two years ago in an oak grove in Oregon. With my feet deep in the mud and my heart broken open underneath a canopy of branches, I began the journey of coming home to myself. I held that experience close, until almost a year later when, with my feet again in the mud, the questions started coming. "What does it mean to come home to yourself? Where do you carry that story in your body? What does it feel like? What would it look like, in pictures, to set your story free?" In many ways the questions are still coming, as are the answers.
As a photographer, I wanted to turn the lens onto others asking the questions to any person who would listen. Did they know this feeling too? What was it like for them? Did it feel like an unwavering place of acceptance and love? Were they still finding their way? It turns out a lot of them had and were.
Over the last year I have been photographing women across the country telling their stories of Homecoming. I have been knee-deep in the Pacific Ocean, straddling industrial machinery in an abandoned field, crouching in a desert, sitting at a kitchen table, kneeling in a fern grove, and on and on. Not one story the same, wild, varied, and beautiful in their telling. Their stories push me further homeward up my own path, helping me to find the courage and the words to tell me own story, each one casting more light and tossing their magic to illuminate my way back home.
*Originally published in The Arts Paper.