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How a picnic in Buttes-Chaumont taught me the value of people, not place.
It hit me today that this year-long project is rapidly drawing to a close. The realization came, heavy like the flaccid summer air that sits oppressively on your shoulders at the height of summer. My external drive has eleven month’s worth of photographs. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t sure if I would see this project through. As an Aries, I am notorious for the fizzy, vibrant spark of inspiration…that then is quickly doused by a fire hydrant. But last year, pecking out a list of goals, resolutions, and daydreams on my typewriter, I wrote “6. Complete my self-portrait series.” For a while, I’ve had the unsettled feeling of dissatisfaction that I have never really seen anything through, that doesn’t pertain to my day job. This was one of the ways I wanted to challenge myself to keep the spark, to light the fuse, and let the rocket take off. I’m nearly there.
I shot July’s portrait this afternoon, two days before the end of month, and here is June’s. I think this particular portrait is special to me, not for its great artistic merit, but because my headpiece was built from community. It’s composed of bits and bobs of bouquets brought by guests for the midsummer party that I hosted. The main activity was to make floral crowns, but the actual point was to gather people together.
A few years ago, a kindred spirit, and the person I most aspire to be, introduced me to the concept of Midsummer. But more than flower crowns and caprese salad served with real silverware in Buttes-Chaumont, she taught me the beauty of community, of gathering your people, and loving them well. It just so happened that loving them that day took the form of picnic blankets draped on a grassy knoll and feeding people the summer’s finest baby heirloom tomatoes and creamiest burrata. Dancing on the hill at sunset, heads bedecked in flowers. To me, Midsummer isn’t about the longest day of the year. (Though that itself is divine.) It’s gathering people. My people.
My mindset as I’ve moved these past years has always been to find the right place. Friends, I’ve always told myself, will come, but I can’t make myself love a city. Now, I’m finding the opposite has been true all along. It’s the people who have made it hard to say goodbye. Some days it feels like I’m still in friendship-crusade mode, because, as previously established, friendship is a war of attrition. And after twelve months, sunlight is finally streaming through cracks in the walls. I might even venture to say that in some places, it’s crumbling. Though I’m still on the search for a kindred spirit in this city, there are already so many lovely faces here with whom I have spent dancing, drinking wine, chatting over coffees, and admiring sunsets and flowers.
Looking back, this series has served its purpose: to push me to see the city and to document how we’ve changed each other—more accurately, probably, how it’s changed me.
There’s one last portrait left to make. Thanks for following along on this joyride.