Thursday, July 26, 2012

Totems & The Messages They Brought To Me Tonight

The baby long-legged bat I encountered tonight.

A few months ago wild animals began appearing in my life. It started with a bald eagle I spotted perched on top of a tall pine tree in the parking lot at work. I snapped as good of a photo of it as I could with my iPhone, then stood there and watched it as it looked for prey. It was, quite literally, awesome. I could almost feel it's strength and spirit.

After that encounter, I began to wonder if there was a message in there for me. Even though I wasn't raised in the Native American culture, I do have Cherokee blood from my birth father's side and I've studied a bit about totems and traditions of the Native American people. Seeing the eagle made me wonder about it's meaning within that culture and whether or not that meaning had a Universal message.

At the time, I was struggling with my photography and had very low self-confidence around it. I hadn't picked up my camera in quite a while, to be honest. After looking up the meaning of the eagle totem I found the message of “not allowing the illusion of limitation to ground us in our flight”. I took it to heart and picked up my camera once again.

A month or so later as I was driving home from work late at night, I crossed paths with a raccoon. He was almost instantly in front of my car in a dark stretch of highway and in a place where I was absolutely unable to avoid hitting him. I felt horrible when it happened and still do. The rest of my drive home was filled with tears and apologies and heart ache. I have never hit an animal and now know how traumatizing it is. I am still so sorry.

A week or so after that I noticed a deer on the side of that same freeway. She was feeding on leaves about 50 feet from the freeway. After I passed her I silently asked her to stay away from the road. 

Last night on my way home from work on that same freeway I passed the body of a mountain lion that had been hit. I regret not stopping and going back to it, but what would I have been able to do? It wasn't moving so I assumed it was killed on impact. Again, I felt horrible. Even though I wasn't the one who hit it, I felt horrible for being a part of the same species that killed it. I shed some tears and sent a prayer up into the Universe for it's smooth transition into the next life.

While I was at work tonight, on my lunch break, my co-worker called me over to his work area and pointed at something on the floor. It was a baby long-legged bat. The only other time I've ever seen a bat was when I visited family in Massachusetts while still a teenager so I was awestruck. The little guy was trying to find it's way out of the warehouse, I assumed, so I quickly found a clear bowl in the kitchen and led him inside of it then covered it so he wouldn't try and fly away until I got him outside. I took him to the back of the building where there are a few trees and nothing much else around, hoping he'd find his way and be safe. After putting him down he quickly found the wall of the building and started to climb it. I wished him luck and watched him for a few moments.

After going back to work tonight I started thinking about all of these encounters and sort of putting them together. When I came home tonight I had to sit down and research each one of their totem meanings.

The eagle is about not allowing the illusion of limitation to ground us in our flight.
The raccoon is about cleverness, adaptation, leadership in groups, empowerment of others, and the masks we wear.
The deer is about seeking out our inner treasures.
The mountain lion is about courage, power, patience, decision and intuition.
Finally, the bat is about the ability to see through illusion or ambiguity and dive straight to the truth of matters. It is also a symbol of rebirth.

When I put all of these things together, I am clear that the path I am on with my new project and my new business is the path that I am supposed to be on. For that message, I am truly grateful.

Just to note, even though I am grateful, my heart is sad for those beautiful animals. We, as humans, don't tread lightly on this Earth and that affects every single one of them. My respect for this planet and the creatures that inhabit it is great and I do my best to live peacefully, compassionately and respectfully.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Style of Wedding Photography

Last weekend I had the pleasure of photographing an incredibly sweet, small and simple wedding for two wonderful people, Diane and Michelle. It's the third wedding I've photographed and I am very much enjoying watching the progress of my photography.

I'm not the typical wedding photographer in that I don't do all of the set up shots, although I'm feeling as though I could make that happen at this point, as well. (I won't make the wedding party jump up in the air though. Unless they really want to.) For this wedding, the only shot that I set up was this one:

Most of my shots are candid shots. I have discovered that I have a unique ability to observe. I am a people watcher and always have been. That power of observation combined with my empathic abilities helps me to see things that some, or most, people do not.  I use that to my advantage to capture shots like this:

Diane & Michelle

Or this:

And this:

My ultimate goal is to capture those moments that are filled with emotion. Moments that tell the story of that day or that love or those people. I believe that a photograph should tell a story.

Wedding days are filled with so much love and joy that it almost makes it too easy. Almost.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Butch/Femme Photo Project Announcement

I've been thinking about doing this photo project for a few months now. It's taken a bit of thought and I've let it gently brew for those few months, not knowing exactly what it would look like. Over the past week or so, it's become much more clear so I'd like to get started with it.

It could, certainly, morph into something entirely different then what is currently rattling around in my brain. But, for now, these are my thoughts on why I want to do this and what it looks like at the moment.

Over the course of the last few months I've been reading two books that have made quite the impact on me by teaching me a lot about the history of butches and femmes. The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader edited by Joan Nestle and Persistence: All Ways Butch And Femme edited by Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman. Both are anthologies and contain an abundance of incredible writers. I highly recommend getting your hands (and eyes) on these books.

One of the things I've learned from reading these books is that butches and femmes have always been here. We're always going to be here. No matter how much our community fights amongst itself about our presence, we are always going to be here. We are a part of it's history, we are a part of it's present and we are a part of it's future.

There is no one way to be butch or femme. Each one of us is our own unique and individual expression of the identity. Those expressions are what I would like to capture and document for future generations.

Do you identify as butch or femme? If so, would you consider participating in my project by answering some questions via email and allowing me to photograph you? This could turn into a book so you must be comfortable with being a part of our documented history.

At the moment all of the expenses for this are coming out of my pocket so I must keep the traveling to a minimum. I hope to find a way to raise some funds for traveling over the course of this project but in the meantime, if you live anywhere between Eugene, Oregon and Seattle, Washington and would like to participate, please send me an email with your name, the town you live in and whether you identify as butch or femme. My email address is wendikali(at)gmail(dot)com.

I'm so very excited about this project and cannot wait to get started! I hope to hear from you!

Wendi Kali

**UPDATE (7/23/12) - If you live anywhere in the US or Canada and would like to participate in this project, please email me so I can get you on my list of possible places to travel! I have been offered help in getting Kickstarter (or something similar) campaign going to raise funds for travel for this project! I am so excited about this project!

Thanks to everyone who has emailed me already!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Why Did It Bother Me? Getting To The Deeper Question.

Photo by SD Holman
Over the course of the past week, I've been "Sir"ed and given the twice (maybe even three times) over by a guy in the Home Depot near my house. Being "Sir"ed is just one of those things for me so it didn't even phase me but I didn't even notice the guy in the Home Depot.

My girl did. She seemed a bit surprised by it but my reaction to her when she mentioned it was one of, "It happens a lot. I've just become oblivious to it." A few steps after that I realized that I was surprised by my reaction to her.

Sometimes I feel as if I'm constantly trying to make the people around me feel comfortable and by doing that I down play situations, make them seem not so important. I make it seem as if those situations don't bother me when they actually do. My concern for their comfort takes a higher priority then my own. It did bother me. Yes, it does happen to me the majority of the time but the majority of the time I'm not bothered by it. When it does bother me, I have to ask myself the deeper question of why and what's really the issue that's at the deeper level that needs to be dealt with at the moment?

I've been struggling lately with self-confidence issues which is having a huge impact on my self-esteem. Lately all of that energy has been focused on my body and how uncomfortable I am in it. It's bigger then what I'm used to and it doesn't fit into clothes that it used to. It doesn't do the things it used to do when I was younger and an athlete. It constantly aches.

I was a sprint swimmer, a catcher and first basemen in softball and center and left tackle on the women's full tackle football team. I wasn't ever the best athlete on the field or in the pool but I poured my heart into every sport I played. My second home was the gym. Everything I did revolved around a physical activity.

Then the injury happened and I gave away those physical things that I loved, which, looking back, gave me a connection to my body. A connection I no longer feel.

I think it all stems from the frustration I feel over the fact that I can't do what I used to do. I can't go for a jog or a run without doing further damage to my knee. I can't. I can't. I can't. The words "I can't" have wormed their way into my vocabulary and it makes me feel weak. That feeling beats on my self-confidence and, in turn, crushes my self-esteem. Does being strong and being an athlete define who I am? Have I allowed it to define who I am?

The fact of the matter is, I can do other things like bicycle or swim or use the elliptical and I can continue to work out. Something in me gave up when my knee went belly up though.

Why did I choose to lose that connection to my body, to myself?

There it is. The deeper question to all of this. Interesting. I have more to ponder.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Reading "First Ride"

Photo by Sinclair Sexsmith

Reading my story aloud last night in front of a kinky crowd and in the presence of so many amazingly talented authors made me finally realize that my writing is, well, good. 

Hearing the audiences reactions to certain places within the story and having people come up to me afterwords to tell me how much they loved my story and listening to me read it was amazing. I'm still thrown a bit when people ask me to sign the book. It's a very surreal feeling.

As much as my mind and my body resisted going last night, I am so glad I did because I needed that boost. 

I have some things to work on as far as reading this story aloud, such as more eye contact while I'm reading, but all in all I did pretty well. My girl and my friends said they couldn't tell I was nervous, which was good because my heart was racing.  Thankfully, I wasn't shaking. It's nice to know that I can keep myself collected on the outside while the bundle of nerves do their thing on the inside.

This morning I feel the motivation to write more. It's a motivation that hasn't shown it's face around here for a while. After listening to other authors read their stories, I'm also reminded that I need to go to readings more. It's a good place to find inspiration.

I think I'll go work on my memoir now.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Writing Insecurities

I woke up this morning thinking about lots of things. The weird dream I vaguely remembered, a butch/femme photo shoot project I'm slowly trying to dream up, books I've been reading and of course doing some writing. Specific to writing, a blog post or working on that essay book I keep talking about. The book where I talk about growing up as me, a "masculine of center" woman or, as I have labeled myself for the past couple of years, a butch woman. After deciding to write a blog post I began writing about the books I've been reading on butch women.

A lot of books I've been interested in lately are on the subject of the butch/femme dynamic and the history of "my people", as I lovingly refer to them. The lessons that I've taken from these books are many. The biggest one being the fact that I have and am a part of a rich history of strong woman. Woman who have fought to be who they truly are in this world. Women who would rather die fighting with their heads held high then walk around on this planet defeated and broken, living as society believes they should. The pride I feel from knowing this history is immense. It's too big for mere words to capture.

Therein lies my dilemma. Not only has it been difficult for me to capture in words those feelings I feel about all of this rich history I am learning about and embracing, it's also been difficult for me to fully capture any feelings in words. Let alone post any of those words in a public space for all the world to see. So my writing has been infrequent and mostly kept to journaling.

What I've recently discovered, again (because it seems to come and go depending on what's happening in other parts of my life), while reading these books and a few blogs is my inner critic. She's a major pain in the ass, to be blunt. She likes to stop me from doing anything that I really love. She'll sit back in the corners of my thoughts and taunt and tease me while I'm reading these books and blogs. "You're writing will never be as good as this author's. You're not even half as smart as she is. Why do you even try?" She'll go on and on and on until I stop doing anything that brings me joy. She knows how to push my "not good enough" button and she'll do it until I'm a weeping pile of darkness and despair if I let her.

The only way to shut her up is to sit down and write.

And write.

And write.

Then write some more.

So, this morning I attempted to and there she was again. Not wanting to completely give in to her, I took a break and did some chores around the house. Then I sat down and tried again. There she was in all her little pent up bully-ness. This time I got up and went out to the garden to weed and fertilize the vegetables. While outside in the dirt it occurred to me that I was trying too hard to write about something I haven't quite wrapped my brain around.  "Write about what's happening in your head right now."

So, here I am. Revealing my insecurities around my own writing right here on my blog for all the world to see. No, it's not a call for comments or pep talks. It just is what it is.

At the moment, the insecurities are exacerbated by the fact that tomorrow night I will be reading my story from Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica in front of a lot of my friends and a lot of strangers. Normally, I'm totally fine with public speaking. Hell, I've been standing up in front of strangers and telling my very personal story since I was a teenager. My introduction to public speaking involved telling my story of growing up in an alcohol and drug addicted household while involved in Alateen. That's pretty damn intimate.

It's just that this story, First Ride, is an entirely different kind of intimate. It's the ultimate in vulnerability. It's sex and lust and fantasy and it all came from my most intimate thoughts. I am proud of it, don't get me wrong, but I'm simply embarrassed to read it out loud in front of all of those people. I would rather they read it in the privacy of their own thoughts and let me know what they thought of it.

But, that's not the way this works. When you write a story and it gets published, there's a chance someone will want you to read it aloud. I get it. It adds something to it when the author reads it. It's good for promotion. So, tomorrow night I will walk into that space and show nothing but confidence. When I am introduced, I will stand up tall and walk with confidence to the front of the room. Then I'll read my story with pride while doing my best to hide the terribly insecure writer inside. With any luck, I'll keep the redness in my face to a minimum.

Wish me luck.