Actually, the origin of Leaf And Twig is a story of recovery.
There came a time when I had nothing left but hopelessness and despair. Each day was an abyss. All the color, light, purpose and connection had drained out of my life. I’d spent decades self-medicating my depression until eventually, my ‘solution’ became an addiction. Together, depression and addiction, held me hostage for a number of years and then brutally robbed me of the will to live. With the support of my family and friends, I moved from a large city to a tiny rural town. Slowly I found resources and began the hard work of managing my depression and recovering from addiction.
I found comfort in the quiet of the woods and in the peacefulness a lack of cell service imposes. Nature asked nothing of me but my respect. I could be exactly as I was. Slow. Speechless. Sparkless. My spirit was in tatters. Nature provided the things I needed to reclaim myself and my life: the sunshine and rain, the particular beauty of each season, births, blossoms, transformations, the transitions of aging and the natural order of death, the eternal return of spring. A model of the whole, complicated, entwined, gloriousness of life.
That second spring I started to notice colors again. So many shades of green! A sky so blue you could practically splash it on your face. I had been living in a desolate, gray monochrome for a long time. The healing was happening in infinitesimal increments, too small to notice daily or even monthly. And then suddenly, like in the Wizard of Oz, the world was full of color once again. Darkness wasn’t banished, not nearly – but now neither was light.
The question I had to answer was: how do I keep moving toward the light?
While wandering the internet I came upon the work of Satya Robyn, an author and psychotherapist who runs a Buddhist Temple in the UK. She had written a book of “Small Stones” which are short, poetic observations. I followed her prompt of writing a short observation each day for a month – and then just never stopped. I decided to take a photograph of what I observed as I communed with nature each day and pair it with my words. Later I would learn this pairing is an ancient art form called Ekphrastic Poetry. All I knew was that it was helping me stay connected, aware, hopeful and grateful. States that improve the quality of life for anyone but especially someone with the life-long work of managing clinical depression and addiction recovery.
One day at a time for over a decade I’ve built a foundation for my recovery and a body of work that honors and celebrates the natural world and our human condition. It happened organically, not as a grand plan. Just a practice to keep connected, to focus my mind towards gratitude rather than despair. This daily art-making saves me. I’ve been training my eye to always be on the lookout for beauty as I listen deeply for all the languages of nature so I can translate them into poetry and share them. In doing that I’ve constructed a kind of life raft that keeps me from being pulled under by the ugliness, grief and disappointment that is inevitable in life. There is room on that raft for everyone. Especially you.
Like the woods, Leaf And Twig has been a refuge. It has grown a lovely community of people who share their views through the comments. In all these years there has never been anything that needed to be moderated. That has been so healing to me, that the response to my work echoes the spirit in which it is offered. I’ve been uncertain about whether I should share my whole story. My skin is thin. The internet can be a mean place. But I am no longer willing to carry the shame and stigma that our culture assigns to people with addiction and mental health issues. I am trusting the universe with this – that the sanctuary will not be destroyed.
Maybe you don’t have the woods nearby to wander. Perhaps you aren’t drawn to creative practices.
I invite you to wander the woods through my images and words.
You can depend on a beautiful encounter every day.
Come. Rest. Gather strength and let the light find you.