originally published Sunday, December 4, 2005.

The holiday season is not easy to get into these days. Maybe it is the news in the media, layoffs, plant closings (I leave near Flint, Michigan, and work at a community college there); maybe it is the Iraq war, the still homeless victims of Hurricane Katrina, knowing that so many are far from home, have no home, or otherwise face the prospect of impending homelessness, heartache or both. I find that it is my family that gives me the most positive energy to face the day. The prospect of my oldest’s return from college for the holiday also gives me a lightness of heart that contrasts to the other burdens of the day.

My emotional radar has also been tuned to those close to me who are in the midst of unfathomable heartache, too. A sad anniversary of life lost, another at risk of being lost. Though we live far away from each other, I send out mental images of emotional strength, hoping that they can feel the virtual “hug” and lean on the shoulder that offers them support at a time when they’re feeling drained.

It seems that no matter what I do to try and focus on the project at hand, I find myself drawn to other things, other thoughts, many related directly or indirectly to the subject at hand, creating Rebecca’s portrait of her recovery from homelessness. As I listen to her interview again and again, I hear the bitterness, pain, and a sadness that seems difficult to get out from under. It is apparent that Rebecca has not made peace with herself or her outside world. And while she blames many others for her difficulties, she also carries an incredible weight of self-imposed guilt for not making a peaceful and stable world for her two youngest sons. She seems driven to make this happen, even at the risk of her own sanity. And I cannot blame her for acting on this overpowering maternal guardian spirit she possesses.

If I could come up with a characteristic that I hope to portray in Rebecca’s portrait, it is one of physical pressure – from both within and from outside of her physical wellbeing. She imposes such expectations (maybe I see some of myself here, as well), that she faces incredible personal disappointment and bitterness when outside factors trip up or purposefully derail her efforts.

The other characteristic that I’m considering as part of this portrait is one of the monologue as Rebecca portrays her process of recovery with not only photographs but also a more personal descriptive narrative that relates the image in the photos to her personal self-image. She wrote almost poetic captions to accompany these photos and I would like to include the words as a running soliloquy throughout the piece.

I’m finding, too, that the act of writing this blog, while meant as a publicly available journal on the creation of these portraits, has created a means of putting my thoughts into focus, providing an opportunity to both release myself from the emotional weight that comes and goes with this work built upon empathy, but also a place where I can literally leave my thoughts before going onward to the task at hand.

I appreciate the reader’s patience as I, too, make my way through the labyrinth of emotive creation and unload my burden here.

Here are two photos that I recaptured today from my family’s early days.

Sarah, Sanibel Island

This one is of my daughter Sarah when she was only about 2 years old on Sanibel Island. This morning I awoke, thinking of this photo and the phrase “proof that angels exist”. The birds, the clouds, seem to reinforce this notion and I had to find the photo before I could put the thought to rest again.

Sarah & Anastassia

This second photo I came across while looking for the first. It is of both daughters, Sarah (age 3 yrs, 3 mo.) and Anastassia as a nearly newborn. It speaks for itself.

Sunday, December 4, 2005
Mara Jevera Fulmer