Hike: Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs

Hiking opportunities have been few and far between lately. There are many reasons for this including: My operated-on knee is only just now returning to its normal operating conditions, my hiking shoes are packed in a storage unit until August, I’m currently staying with my parents about three hours away from the better hiking trails, and this summer has been insanely ridiculously busy.

I still had a couple goals for hiking this summer, one of which was to hike up to Hanging Lake (the other is to hike a 14er). And yesterday, thankfully, I was able to head up to the mountains with a friend and meet my goal. 6:30 a.m. wake up time? Check. Dorky hiking poles? Check. Dramatic fall on my good knee, which is currently swollen and bleeding? Check. Beautiful views? Check check check!

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This post has no point. (I mean it.)

I’ve really been questioning what to do with this blog lately.

Actually, I’ve always questioned what to do with my blog: Do I want it to be a DIY blog? (Those seem to be popular and people make money doing that.) Do I want it to be a cooking blog? (That also seems to be popular and people make money doing that.) Do I want this to be a travel blog? A teaching blog? A hiking blog? A collection of personal essays and poems which I will never ever be able to publish and get paid for because I naively published them here?

I’ve dabbled a bit with all of them, and here we are – three years later, three jobs later, three or four boyfriends later, many mental breakdowns later – and I still don’t know.

The bulk of my anxiety about this blog is the big question of “Does this even matter?” Do people actually read it (other than my mom) or do they just delete the updates from the inbox without opening it? If someone does read it, does it really make a difference? Does anyone actually relate to it? Am I putting something out into the world that I’m actually proud about?

The thing about writing, and maybe most art forms, is that I don’t see immediate feedback. And I desperately want feedback, and more important, I desperately want approval. I admit this about myself. I’m not perfect by any means, and this is one of my faults. At least with teaching I can see whether the kids are responding or whether I need to change something up. I can see what works and what doesn’t. But what does it mean for this blog to “work”?

These are a whole lot of questions that have been mulling about in my mind, and I just needed to get out there. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with letting go of my life and allowing myself to be guided, and I think the anxiety about this blog is a symptom of that.

Thanks for listening, if you made it this far.

Moving Forward and Such

The last couple of months have been ridiculous. Ridiculous in that I’m being torn apart, transformed and entering a new phase of my life.

That’s not to say that my life isn’t good; it is. It is a truly blessed life, full of supportive and caring friends and family, laughter, hugs, vulnerability and most of all, love. I am incredibly, incredibly thankful for this life. I wish I could express the magnitude of my gratitude (I rhymed!) to my friends, but I think it may be impossible, so I hope a simple “Thank you” is enough.

This is also not to say that everything that has happened in the past couple of months has been bad; it hasn’t. I’ve been given wonderful opportunities and I’ve made beneficial changes to my life. My life is moving forward, and it feels pretty good.

On the subject of making good changes to my life, a few weeks back I decided it was finally time to take my photography business seriously. I created a legitimate website (with it’s own domain name! Fancy!), updated my business Facebook page, wrote an actual business plan and signed up for an online photography course on lighting.

Some of the changes in my life have been difficult, and every so often I still feel like I’m reeling from those changes. But the truth is, I love my life exactly as it is, and I trust that I’m in the right place, at this very moment, on my life journey.

This print is feeling pretty appropriate for the moment:

Would you like to check out my photography business? It’s right here!

Would you like to be a fan of Christine Hartlaub Photography on Facebook? It’s right here, too!

And if you happen to be in the Denver area, for a limited time I am offering discounted sessions. Kids, families, couples, pets….send me an e-mail and we can talk!

Thanks for being here and staying with me through all this sentimental, nostalgic writing. You’re a trooper, you.

Poetry and Love

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Saying I love poetry is an understatement.

I adore it. I obsess over it. I read it and I’m pretty sure my soul starts salivating. When I’ve finally ingested a particularly meaningful piece, my soul digests it and it becomes part of me.

I’ve discovered that poetry, unlike any other form of literature, feeds me and moves me in a very similar way to love.

In my life, poetry is love.

I know many people don’t like poetry the way I do, and I blame the education system for that. Poetry is a living, breathing animal and is meant to be observed and studied from afar, and then up close if it will let you. The education system assumes poetry is an already dead animal, to be cut up and cadavered and studied in detail, whether it wants you to or not. The education system makes poetry reek of formaldehyde and plastic gloves and face masks, not bare feet and warm breezes and clean air.

If I were to teach poetry, here is how I would teach it. If you read poetry, I think this is how you should read it.

1. Read it out loud.

Poems are meant to be musical and heard, not just read. Reading a poem silently takes away some of its impact, while speaking a poem magnifies its power tenfold. Or perhaps even more, depending on the time and day.

2. Just let it be.

Some poems make sense the first time you read them. Some poems you read and they make no impact, but then you read them a year later and suddenly, that poem knows your most private bits of life. Some poems have a certain meaning one day, and then morph into a completely different meaning another day. Just let it be. Don’t analyze the metaphors or stanzas. If you do that, it’s not speaking to you properly. If you don’t sigh and say, “Holy shit” after reading a poem, it wasn’t the right poem. It’s not worth analyzing.

3. Eat chocolate – dark chocolate preferably.

I read once that the Bible should be read while eating dark chocolate. I agree with this, and I think it goes for poetry, too. My theory is that since chocolate induces feelings of love, and since poetry is love, the two enhance and complement each other.

4. Share.

When you do have that sigh of recognition at the end of a poem, when you do feel like the author is your most intimate friend, when you do say, “Holy shit” at the end of a poem, you must share it. It would be a crime to not share it. It’s like when you know you love someone – I really think one of the worst things you can do in life is not share that love, even if it’s unrequited. It kills the love and it kills the poem and it kills some of its power to change you. So share it. On Facebook is okay, calling someone up and reading it is better, reading it to someone in person is best. Then they can see what it does to you, how it changes your face, how your mouth moves, and the poem becomes not just a mystical being, but a real animal.

Believing.

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My camera broke this weekend. The camera itself is actually not broken, except for an insignificant piece I was able to snap back on, but my lens is…separated. That’s the best I can come up with to describe it anyway: it has broken into two separate pieces, which cannot be snapped back together, but each piece by itself seems fine. In fact, the lens itself may be fixable, if I take the time to take it somewhere where it can be fixed.

{I just realized this is basically a metaphor for my life right now, but that’s neither here nor there.}

My point is that I am unable to take photographs. The camera on my phone died a little over a week ago, leaving me to lug around my Big Girl camera, which in turn led me to drop the camera from about a foot off the ground. And even though my camera has literally fallen off mountainsides and received hardly a scratch, that drop of about 12 inches is what did it in.

My initial reaction to this was that since I have recently been thinking about becoming more serious with my photography, God must not want me to take photographs right now. And I’m not sure what to think of that. I’m not sure what to think of the fact that my first thought was that this is part of some bigger plan. First of all is the fact that this seems like a rather insignificant event in my life, something which would be very easy to write off as a random event. Then there is the fact that I keep having trouble with the idea of a large, overarching plan.

There has been other stuff happening, too, since the messy end of an important relationship last week. Constant messages literally telling me to open up about the big, dark, deep stuff that virtually no one except myself knows; messages to be more open in relationships and friendships; messages to believe in a bigger plan. And part of me wants to believe all these messages are random and I’m just noticing these things because I’m thinking about it, but they aren’t really messages for me and they aren’t really important. It would be so easy to ignore them. And I get that for some people, that works for them. It aligns with how they live their lives and it works. And I totally understand why that works for them. How am I supposed to believe in something that scientifically and logically seems unlikely? So I start to think that there is no plan. That we’re tiny people who have randomly evolved on a giant planet made very small by an infinite amount of space and how can all of that be part of a plan? When you add in there the idea of free will and parts of the plan relying on other people to also follow their path, and what happens to your path if those people don’t follow through on their paths…honestly, my brain feels like it’s about to explode.

But then, there is another part of me that connects to these messages, and recognizes them as intended for me. And something inside me says, I know there has to be a plan. I know it because when these messages appear, I can feel something reach into my heart and hold it, very gently but in a very tactile and real way. I know there has to be some plan because in my really deep, dark hours years ago when I was wobbling back and forth between wanting to be alive or dead, something told me I had a purpose. In that moment (or moments, because I’m sad to say there were more than one), it was more clear than anything else that I was here to do something. I know there has to be a plan when one of my students opens up to me about his own thoughts of wanting to hurt himself and I want to hug him and cry and jump up and down because I am indescribably relieved and thankful and happy that he has decided to be honest because I can feel that he too has a purpose. And I can feel it move inside me that all of my students have a purpose, and that everyone has a purpose, and if only everyone would believe that.

Where there is a purpose, there is a plan. I can believe in that. It’s all the rest I don’t quite understand, and I don’t know if I ever really will. But I’ll probably keep trying until my head explodes.

{Edit: I really really welcome conversation and thoughts about this, so if you’ve got ‘em, feel free to share ‘em.}