Lava on the Big IslandMy favorite picture of myself is one of me kneeling next to an active lava flow. It was taken on the Big Island of Hawaii, where I had hiked 7 difficult miles across hardened lava following a series of flashing beacons. It’s actually a terrible picture from a photography perspective: out-of-focus, too much foreground, incredibly unflattering — another fearless hiker (who was apparently not a photographer) took the picture — but to me it represents everything I think I am: adventurous, intrepid, open to new experiences. It also represents the rewards of persistence: I almost turned back several times. I was tired, having already hiked several miles that day before I headed out to the lava, and I also wasn’t totally sure I was headed in the right direction. I stopped frequently to shoot photos of the lava on the hillside, orange dots glowing against the black silhouette of the mountain, thinking I was getting great pictures. Until I scrambled up over the last fissure and the lava field opened up in front of me, and I could feel the heat and watch the molten rock ooze over the hardened lava underneath it. Not just a dot on the hillside, but bright enough that I could actually shoot photos without a tripod. I was amazed, and humbled. From an emotional perspective, that’s the best photo in my portfolio.

Sometimes I go to write in my journal, and I see that the last date I wrote was a month ago. Have I not been writing? I think. I don’t usually feel as if I’ve missed it, so it always jars me to find that it’s been a month since I last put my thoughts down on paper. I realized, belatedly, that I do write, even if I don’t write in my journal. I go through my notebooks and most are full of ramblings, story starts and unsent letters. I’ve got text files and blog post drafts scattered all over my computer, and every time I clean up my desktop I’m surprised to discover how many get moved to my writing folders. I apparently write all the time, I just don’t write in my journal all the time. Funny, because I don’t sit down at a certain time every day to write, nor do I make it a habit to do a writing exercise on a regular basis. I just write. Chastising myself for not writing is, in fact, punishment for a crime I didn’t commit. I write. All the time. It’s my passion.

Another passion of mine is travel. Getting out of my comfort zone and experiencing new and different things. Even in my backyard — I was living in Honolulu at the time that picture was taken. And, it’s great fodder for my writing. I’ve been to Europe, Australia, Mexico, Chile and Argentina, and much of the U.S. I grew up in Alaska, and lived in Hawaii for three years (the result of a job transfer that worked in my favor). But the sum of my travels is not the list of the countries I’ve been to, nor is it the scrapbooks I put together after I returned home. It’s the various journals I kept throughout my trips, it’s the articles and essays I produced both in the midst of my experiences and after my observations had time to marinate, and it’s the photographs that succeed in painting a thousand (more) words. In short, it’s me.