remembering how to leap

In Film, Inspiration
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One of my professors once opened class with a story about how to boil a frog. He said, if you try to place a frog in a beaker of boiling water, it will jump out as soon as one of its webbed feet touches the water. But, if you place a frog in a beaker of cool water, then raise the temperature ever so slightly, degree by degree, the water will remain comfortable to the frog as it adjusts to these gradual temperature changes. Right up until it can no longer tolerate the heat, and voilá –  boiled frog.

Not to worry, I’m not advocating for kitchen experiments with amphibians. The frog is a metaphor for us – for how we go about spending our precious hours and days and years. Our own water growing ever more comfortable, our worlds ever smaller, not as a result of confining beaker walls, but due to the consequence of our decisions, conscious or unconscious, in favor of ease, familiarity and routine.

Earlier this spring I had the chance to meet a dear internet friend in person. She was chaperoning her daughter’s whirlwind tour of the East Coast from Southern California. I kept up with their itinerary on Instagram and practically got whiplash at the speed with which they were ricocheting through my familiar sites. Every single minute of her days seemed to be programmed, but we were both holding out for the possibility that she’d have a few free hours so we could meet. I just couldn’t bear the thought of her being so close and not being able to lay eyes on her in person. I kept my schedule flexible and my fingers crossed. She’d text me whenever they popped on the bus in between stops to give me updates, and let me know if and when it looked like she’d be able to break away from her charges.

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The planets did align for us. She got a few hours off-duty and on a beautiful spring evening in early March I drove into D.C to meet her.  Mind you it’s only a 10 minute drive, but I haven’t made that trip at night on my own in well over a decade, and were it not the only opportunity I’d have to meet her, I’m not sure that I would have. I parked and met up with her outside Georgetown Cupcakes, and it really was as cliché as they say – like I’d known her forever and this was our thousandth time meeting up on a street corner, not our first.

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She needed to eat, so we sat at a cafe, and then we wandered. We walked through Georgetown’s shopping district at Wisconsin and M Streets, into neighborhood streets lined with grand historic row homes, down a famous alley where we could hear the featured performer through the window while we took photos by street lights. Then I took her to see the towpath, which was especially magical, dancing with sparkly candle light from canal-side restaurants that had thrown all of their windows open to the night.

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We each took some pictures, not so many, really, as always seems to be the case when I meet up with a fellow photographer. And we talked and talked and talked some more, right up to the moment I dropped her off to rejoin her group.

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It was a wonderful, beautiful night. And as I made my way back to my car, I had a spring in my step, and felt an old electricity within me – familiar, but long-dormant. I thrilled at being out in the world on a weeknight – a sense of endless possibility all around, and being open to it and being a part of it. Middle age, parenthood, and their attendant, never-ending responsibilities and routines, a body that no longer does so well when denied its minimum allotment of sleep and habit. All of these work in concert to keep me content in my beaker. Most of the time, honestly, they dull my awareness to the fact that I am even living within one.

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So not only are these photos from the special night I got to meet my old friend for the first time, they are a totem for me as well. Forever a reminder that the water is always getting just a little bit warmer, and from time-to-time I need to force myself to leap into the possibilities of the cold air, if only to assure myself that I still can and because I feel more alive – and more myself – when I do.

When was the last time you leapt?

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  1. Oh Debbie, it was such a wonderful night. I feel like I get the inside scoop, the meaning behind the title;) It’s so awesome to see the images I watched you take with your film camera. You have such an eye for magic that surrounds us that so many of us can miss, if we just blink….we could miss so much. Walking side by side and taking in your wisdom for sure was a high-light of my quick trip to your coast. The history you gave me, the stories you told. I could have listened for days. I’m thankful for the time we had. (the hat shop photo!!!!!) I watched you take that.

    • It was! I loved every minute of my time with you & it was crazy how for those few hours time sort of slowed. We seemed to fit in more than I would have imagined possible & never ever felt rushed. Magic! I look forward to when we get the chance to do it again – I know we will! I think you took a picture of me taking a picture of the hats 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness, you have NO idea how relatable this is! Brava for making that leap. And here’s to more! x

  3. I always love hearing stories about the kick or the inspiration to leap into something new. And someday? My fondest wish is to walk and talk and shoot and drink coffee with you – your city or mine or somewhere inbetween.

  4. Thank you for this great reminder! I really needed it. GoGo on your leaping, and may I find some leaps to take that expand my world a bit.

  5. these shots are wonderful…love the grain and the mood.
    and the reminder to leap is always a good one. gosh, I need that. x

  6. Not only am I in love with the way you write, these images are gorgeous! So jealous you got to meet up with Tracy – someday I’ll get to meet you. I dream about how awesome it will be 🙂

  7. this is so good!! i love these images… and that you got to meet up with tracie!! i hope to meet both of you one of these days!!

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