Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The deepest & most heartfelt blog I'll probably EVER write (with pictures ;)

"Fairy tales are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated..." -Neil Gaiman


This blog is as much for me as it is for you. It's very personal, so I hope you enjoy it. ;)

When I was a little girl, my family and I lived (the 4 of us) on a 42 acre horse farm in rural Minnesota. I'm always amazed at how often I think about those days, and indeed some of my best memories (even still) are as a child playing underneath one particular willow tree....

Yes, this is a shot of that tree, and that is me as a very little girl (smiling & standing) in the pink...

I was probably about 3 years old here.

There was a ladybug patch at the base of it, and I spent many long hours playing underneath it's limbs with the heaps of ladybugs that called it home (that is, in fact what we are doing in this picture). It's very interesting what sticks out to us in life. What was so precious about that that it's such a golden memory to me? Was it the season, the people, the innocence of being a child? Was it the animals, no responsibilities, the 42 giant acres to wander on two little feet? This is, incidentally, my favorite tree in the entire world to this day...

I think that is the power of childhood and it's influence over us; That this remains my favorite tree in the world, though I cannot pinpoint the why.

And so with that being said, I think it's important to note that regardless of the why - our pasts, inevitably so heavily influence our present, our life, our choices, our art, our photographs, our vision, and our message. They are deeply stitched within us. They are the very fabric and stepping stones that brought us here, to this moment.

On that very same property not even 20 feet from this tree, I use to sit and have many long talks with my dad as that little bitty girl you see above. He would read me storybooks and play Frisbee with me in the driveway. He would tell me about following my dreams; About how anything is possible and attainable; That we really can be and do anything we believe in. What a powerful message.

The point is, if I'm that attached to a willow tree from my childhood, imagine how attached I became to my father's words. Those were some of the first bits of advice I got as a human being, and so they became the roots from which I grew.

Now, why do I write this blog? Well, because all little bitty girls ( and boys too ;) grow up. We become adults and endeavor into this world with those pieces of advice we had as children. They are reference points from which we look back to figure out what to do with the present. We carry them far from our first homes, and we keep them as reminders. Through every experience in life, we stray from our first beliefs, or grow further into them. Maybe they change in shape or size. They so often bend to fit us, and sometimes in all that bending even break.

With all that being said, this last year (2009) was one of the most life changing years I've ever experienced, and it was all packed in to just 365 little days (which as we age all go soooo fast!).

It was the most beautiful. I learned about the truest love.
It was the most difficult. I learned about true heartbreak & loss.
It was the most insightful. I created more than I'd ever created before.
It was the most vulnerable. I really had to open up to learn what I needed to learn.
It was the most freeing year as much for the good as for the bad that all happened within it.

It was the most I'd ever deviated from my childhood beliefs, and somehow also the most I'd ever built upon them. They definitely changed in shape. Sometimes they were my only reference points. Life is so funny in that it carries us so far from what we knew. The trick is knowing how to get back (if getting back is what you need to do) in order to move forward again in a better way. Does that make sense?

I made very recently some huge life changes. Had to really assess some aspects of my life. In retrospect, I had deviated too far from what I knew was right for me. Why do we do this? Well, I think sometimes we need to in order to know what's worth fighting for, what we are willing to do, and what we aren't. Further, some experiences I firmly believe exist to remind us of what we already knew (yes, even as children and perhaps especially as children) what is so important, and most importantly who.we.are.

My hope for myself and for others, is that we realize that before it's gone. Before we bend too far from our own happiness'.

My message is simply this. Don't forget your willow tree. Don't forget to water it.
Whatever built you into who you are- Don't let go of it. Not for anyone or anything.
Some people would have you believe that fairytales don't exist, or that your dreams are less than that, or that you cannot be who and what you are. But you can. It took the greatest loss and heartbreak of my life to remind me that in my greatest adversity, I'd grown into myself. It's hard to distinguish what to let go, and what to hold onto, especially when it plays such a part in shaping us.

As my new years resolution this year, I stood tall and reminded myself and those who were not good for me, that I choose to believe in fairytales. I choose the dream and my own happiness. I choose my willow tree from childhood. I choose my Dad's words, even if he's forgotten them over time. I choose to dance and sing and love and create. I choose to validate who I am before and beyond anything external. I now choose to do what I do because it's what I need to do to be happy, and I do it for me. We are not and cannot be happy or good for anyone without first taking care of who we are. And whoever you are, you are great. Nurture yourself and your dreams. They came with you from soooo long ago. Do not forget them.

So today I may stand alone in that, but I do not feel alone. I stand taller and more proud that I found strength enough to put my life back on track, and believe me - it was not easy. It still isn't always easy.

Those who have wronged you are not worth your time.
Those who lessen your dreams are not your friends.
Those who lift you up and allow you to be you, well, hold onto them... ;)

But that's all just my opinion... though I think it's pretty solid advice.

Like I said, all little girls (and boys) grow up, which is just what I did.

Below, there are three shots from my time (and the pinnacle of my decision making) in Hatteras on that 7 week Applachian/Outer Banks trip, where I'm dancing and spinning in the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and winds- No longer 3 years old, but 26...

You may see water in these shots of me, and indeed my feet DID get wet ;) But I've got to be honest, all I really saw in the surf was my willow tree.

Thanks for stopping by...
Ash x | Bottle Bell

ps. I've got my first shoot(s) of 2010 starting this Thursday, and cannot wait to get back to creating and sharing new stuff with you guys! Amazing new concepts that I hope you all will love. You can be sure this last years experience will be loudly reflected in the content and message of my new pieces!

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Karen said...

DEFINITELY worth the read! I love the shots, but this also made me tear up. You are such an inspiration. <3

Anonymous said...


Stacie said...

Very well said! I connect with those words more than I realized! Several changes are going on in my life and I find a lot of comfort in what you said.

Joe Whittle Photography said...

"...in my greatest adversity, I'd grown into myself."

so true. so, so true. there's a beautiful thing about life which allows us to take it's worst and weave it into beauty. that beauty being our souls. who we are. it's like a song that has a haunting melody, the kind that pulls on your heart and makes you sad in a way, yet at the same time those sad notes are somehow the most beautiful part of the song.

beautiful post ash! you are doing well i can see, and that makes me glad! :) loved reading about your dreamy childhood memories, and about your dad. makes me hope that mia will remember the things i've tried to teach her in that same way. i guess i know she will, but it's still scary. to hear that your dad's words still affect you in that way after all these years was very heartening to me with the stress i've had lately trying raise this incredible blooming rare flower i have been blessed with for a daughter! so thank you for that! :)


It was Wordsworth that said "the child is the father of the man" appropriate I think :)

Bottle Bell Photography said...

Joe. She will. I'm sure of it.
@ Poppy, indeed it was. very appropriate, I agree.

Thanks so much, and to those who've stopped through and started that amazing list of kind sentiments about this on my facebook wall (i woke up to so many) THANK YOU. Very humbling ;)

ash xx

Anonymous said...

very heartfelt and sweet.
and wonderful advice.
you shared one with me.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, even us boys grow up but that doesn't mean that I have to stop being that little boy once in awhile.

I love getting on the floow with my g-kids and playing with them, pushing cars, rolling down hills or sitting on the banks of a stream with my feet in the water as we splash each other. It does no harm and is even fun to act like a little kid once in awhile, even for grown up girls who are now lovely adult ladies.

What I'm saying is, yes, we grow up but the little kid inside of all of us is still there. She/he is just waiting to be let out to play. So, why not? Who says we can't?

I love being a kid, it helps in being an adult and it helps to understand that look in the little ones eyes as they look up at you. So, get down once in awhile and just let that little girl back out and play with the ladybugs, be innocent once again.

Even just for a few moments, live the fairytale as you show in your photos. I'm sure that little girl will give you a big hug :-)

Anonymous said...

"The will to do, The soul to dare"
Hoping you have a kinder and gentler 2010! I Love You..Mom <3

.E. said...

so well said.. it took me a very long time to learn that I cant be good for anyone until I am good for me and I still struggle with that at times.. however. I think we need to learn and grow from all our mistakes from all our successes and to keep a bit of our child selves within us

Sharon said...

Beautiful post Ashley ... I'm not really a New Year resolution person, but this year "Go placidly amid the noise and haste" (Ehrmann) has been in my mind a lot. I think I'll carry that with me this year! Best wishes

Ligeia said...

beautiful words and beautiful images missy!!

Trevor Chesler said...

Your words are as expressive as your imagery... Reading them, I felt as if I was looking at a piece of your work...Breath Taking. God has certainly touched you. Best of blessings in 2010.

Anonymous said...

Live Ladybugs will give us good luck in our business. Not only that, they are also best enemies of aphids....