“That was the hardest thing I've ever done."
Those were the words that were looping in my head as our kitchen porters greeted me back at Kosovo Camp (4,900m). Pouring me a glass of vitamin water, I was given a big, warm congratulatory smile that was common among the crew, and that promptly brought tears to my eyes.
The words continued to echo in my mind, as I downed the glass of sweet vitamin water in seconds and collapsed into my tent, and as one of our guides, Casper, started untying my shoes for me, because I was too exhausted to think of it myself. I felt those words with my entire being as they changed to, “I can’t believe I just did that.” I lay, unmoving, on my back, roughly 9 hours after we began our midnight journey to summit Uhuru Peak, the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It’s now been two and a half weeks since I reached the roof of Africa with 21 women on International Women’s Day. I’ve been wanting desperately to reflect, to write it all down, before the memories faded, but I haven’t known how to begin.
How do you describe the feeling of your body physically shutting down and refusing to take another step, while your brain forces you to take one more? Or the disconnect between your mind and the pain that your lungs are feeling? How do you describe seeing the summit 200 feet away and feeling like there were still miles to walk - that the past 5 hours of the steep ascent, surrounded by the darkest night, were nothing compared to those last few hundred feet. Or the joy and disorientation I felt being embraced by all the women I became friends with that week, as we all celebrated the accomplishment of reaching the top? How to describe the bond that's formed through suffering and achievement? How to express the immense gratitude towards the local men (and one kickass woman!), lead guides, assistant guides, cooks, kitchen team, and porters (roughly 70 crewmembers in total), who took care of us and literally sang us all the way to the top.
It’s difficult to summarize the week long trek that I went on with WHOA travel in Tanzania. The tallest free standing mountain in the world towers at 5,853 meters, or 19,341 feet. There were so many highs and lows, feelings of utter defeat and pure bliss. The landscape made me feel like I was on another planet with views that literally took my breath away. There was the breath itself - something I rarely think about on a day to day basis, and what turned into hours and days of meditation as I concentrated on the simple act of breathing. There were the guides and porters who were the most encouraging and selfless humans, carrying unfathomable weight on their heads, and who scrambled around and ahead of us daily to have everything set up by the time we stumbled into camp. The stars seemed closer and brighter the higher and higher we got. There were the 21 women, all coming to this mountain for different reasons, supporting and helping each other, making it that much easier to keep going. My mom, who at 52, and battling altitude sickness for the majority of the time, kicked the mountain’s ass and beat me to the top! There was Uhuru Peak, hovering above us for days, taunting us with it's height, which now feels like a blurry memory. It was understanding what pure exhaustion actually meant. Getting a glimpse into why people push themselves to extremes, experiencing the addicting high you get when accomplishing something that feels like it nearly fell out of your grasp.
A few hours before we began our summit bid, I sat in our dining tent, trying hard to not let fear get the best of me. Everyone had a quote in front of them, and mine, by the great Maya Angelou read, "You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it."
The gratitude and respect I feel to this mountain, is hard to describe, but I know I will be trying to find those words for the rest of my life.
words written on 3/26/2016
Trek organized and led by WHOA TRAVEL
What makes one high end fashion company stand out from another? These days, it seems to be the positive focus of transparency and education.
Fashionkind not only offers stunning luxury and high end fashion and home goods on their e-commerce site, but uses their business as a platform for awareness and choice. Created and led by Nina Farren, they pride themselves on shedding light on the big issues facing the workers in the fashion industry, such as inadequate education and health care, unsafe working conditions, repression of women’s rights and human trafficking.
I respect brands that highlight the fact that while we live in a consumer driven society, we can still make powerful choices with our purchases.
I photographed the entire shop a few months ago, and now that the site is live, am excited to be part of the initiative!
Check out more HERE!
Simone designs and handbuilds beautiful ceramic jewelry. Her pieces are minimalistic, yet bold and made custom per order. Handmade in Brooklyn, you can order through her site or at various shops (locations listed in her About section).
I don't know if anyone knows this, but I am obsessed with anything ceramics. I spontaneously signed up for my first class about a year ago, and it was love at first...wheel? It is now one of the few hobbies in my life that I can quite literally loose myself in. I can easily sit down at the wheel, put my headphones on, turn on a good album or podcast, and 5 hours will go by before I realize my knees have locked up and I need to walk around. It is the most meditative thing for me.
SO! When I found out that one of the locations I was going to be shooting at for the new Progressive campaign was Heath Ceramics, I was so giddy I could barely contain my excitement.
The studio was incredible. It was huge, and dusty, and quiet, with diffused light streaming in, in all the right places, and beautiful raw pieces everywhere waiting to be fired, gorgeous samples scattered all over the place, and...well, I could go on and on. It was an amazing work space
We spent a couple hours with Garrett, the mold makers, while he showed us his process.
The husband and wife team behind Little Creek Oysters are a pretty rad duo. Ian & Rosalie run the 10 acre oyster farm on the Peconic Bay of New York. I spent a day with the two while Ian was being filmed for the Progressive Apron Project, and got to see the entire process of farm to table...err, bay to table? To learn more about Little Creek Oysters and how their oysters are cleaning up the bay, visit their site.
Sarah Greenberg designs and creates her beautiful jewelry in Oakland, CA. I loved spending time in her gorgeous studio (huge windows and ample natural light makes me weak in the knees). The simple yet bold jewelry reflects her work style and method. Check out her collection and more info on her site.
An afternoon with the brothers of Spud Point Crab Company!