A Girl Named Leney

THE JOURNAL

The Same But Different
Storm portrait on the Oregon coast, Fall 2016

Storm portrait on the Oregon coast, Fall 2016

Sometimes it’s good to look back at where you were three years ago and recognize how far you’ve come.
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In chasing after long held dreams that were of the waking hour variety more than the sleeping kind. The dreams that you were scared to say out loud because they seemed too crazy to share with even your most intimate friends, for fear of being told how weird they were.
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And now those dreams are your reality and they’re just everyday facts that you share with strangers you meet at bars and in the checkout line at grocery stores.
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Time stamps of growth have always seemed important to me. To witness records of becoming. I look back often in this way. At old writing and photographs, to remind my current self of how good life really is. Of how much hard work really does pay off. (And dogged determination and sheer stupidity sometimes too...)
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But also I’ve realized the importance of recognizing how the same you are in various ways is worth noting too.
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www.agirlnamedleney.com

I believe in a growth mindset and reaching for things beyond ourselves. But I also recognize there are core aspects of our makeup that speak to who we inherently are and shouldn’t be altered out of shame. Our consistencies and patterns and routines are often some of the most beautiful pieces of us.
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You love the things you love for a reason.
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This includes both your far reaching dreams and your close love for coastlines and sitting at home amongst your books.
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You can have both.
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You can be ever changing and exactly the same in an ever cycling constellation of duality.

Life On The Road
Image by Heath Herring

It’s been a little over six months since I hit the road in my Subaru, Blue Moon, and headed West.
I thought I would make more time for posts here on the journal, have a proper road log if you will, but clearly the last post having a time stamp of ‘March’ proves otherwise. I’m even silent on Instagram most days.


While I do make time to write at least a little almost every day, I am too engaged with the real world it seems to enter into the virtual one to share with you all as much as I would like.
The validation of life lived outside of screens and not shared with others, aside from whoever you’re presently with, is a thing I admit I wrestle with on occasion. Especially in my profession as a photographer. For what are images to be made for if not to share and tell stories with?


I have a pretty solid line when it comes to my personal life in this way, but I am finding the line moving closer and closer the longer I choose to travel and live in the way that I do. Whether that’s a specific feeling that comes with age or with a learned focus in the value of intimacy— I am still in the process of understanding. Perhaps it is a little of both.


It’s been a very busy year though, and I have been working on a myriad of projects that I hope to share more about soon. Most of what I’ve been working on is still in the process and creation and becoming stages, which is a space I’m not sure I’ve ever spent quite this much time in before.
My turnaround time for projects and ideas is usually a bit quicker, or there’s at least some measure of sharing about the journey of it all along the way, but I am finding that the richer and more rewarding projects deserve more space and time to become what they deserve to be. I am learning to sit with things longer than I am used to being comfortable with and not rushing creation for the sake of producing and proving productivity.


A hard thing for a person whose days often orient around measuring productivity levels and finding contentment most often in checking things off of lists…


All of that being said, living on the road has not looked at all like I imagined. In some ways it’s far better, and others it’s a little more real and raw then my dreamer’s heart initially pictured. But one thing is absolutely certain, which is that it has proved to be one of the greatest and most rewarding seasons of my life thus far and I would not trade it for anything. Even amidst some hardships and working through some situations I never imagined I’d have to work through. It is primarily good and beautiful and full.


My make-up is one that is oriented around searching much of the time.
My insatiable curiosity has given me license and drive to paths I never would have found otherwise. To learn and attempt to understand that which is foreign to me and to find things that fuel the fire for living a different and outside-of-the-box kind of life. That mindset has of course led me to states of motion when I should in fact be inhabiting stillness, and vice versa. But striking that balance is what life is made up of. You swing too far one way only to need to readjust based on what you learned over there and swing back.


My biggest challenge oftentimes is finding contentment in the familiar and being satisfied with where (and I would venture to also say who) I presently am. Finding enough in the now is a constant push for my dream and goal oriented brain. But when I think about it, I wouldn’t want to be wired any other way. Because it is that very searching and seeking that has led me to live the fulfilling life I’ve led thus far. It’s incredibly hard much of the time. Incredibly hard.
In fact I remember one conversation with my Father a number of years ago during a season of feeling stuck and unsure of which direction to go in and frustration at things being as hard as they were. We were standing in my parents driveway and it was nighttime. I was about to drive back to my apartment downtown and return to a way of living I wasn’t satisfied with. I had just spent the better part of an hour voicing my dissatisfaction and my Father looked at me and said “Well babe, you chose to live a different life. The path isn’t going to be easy.”
I found solace in that. Because he was right. I had chosen this. I am fortunate and blessed to have had a choice when I know so many do not.
It is that privilege that I try not to take for granted.
Especially when things are hard. Because for every bad day I have on the road, there are many more incredible ones, and more often still: perfectly-great ones.
And it is within the perfefctly-great that I am learning most of life happens. Not in the extremes. But in the every day. And contentment truly has little to do with outside circumstances and physical place.
It is in fact a thing that’s anchored within.

To Walk In Beauty

One of my pursuits in living here in New Mexico has entailed learning more about the Diné (Navajo) culture.
I came across this blessing today which from my understanding is often traditionally sung during the process of weaving, in reference to Spider Woman, who is said to have first woven the universe and taught the Diné to spread the “Beauty Way” by creating beauty in their own life and thus encompassing the balance of mind, body and soul.

It is also a part of the story that when Spider Woman discovered her abilities and after showing Spider Man, he created tools for her with which to weave out of the Juniper tree (read more here).

A fact that seems even more meaningful to me due to my own fascination and interest in Juniper trees.

(I don’t fully know why this feels meaningful exactly, other than the fact that I always take note when more than one interest seems to intersect with another…)

The more I learn about this beautiful culture, the more I feel it has to teach us in so many ways.
I thought I would share the blessing here with you today— I got chills reading it and cannot imagine how beautiful it must be in it’s original native tongue.


The Beauty Way

Today I will walk out, today everything unnecessary will leave me, 
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body. 
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, 
nothing will hinder me. 
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me. 
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me. 
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful. 

In beauty all day long may I walk. 
Through the returning seasons, may I walk. 
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk. 
With dew about my feet, may I walk. 

With beauty before me may I walk. 
With beauty behind me may I walk. 
With beauty below me may I walk. 
With beauty above me may I walk. 
With beauty all around me may I walk. 

In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk. 
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk. 
My words will be beautiful.


The Rewilded Bookclub
www.agirlnamedleney.com

I shared on Instagram last week that I was reading Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. A book that I’d had in the trunk of my car for three months and was eagerly waiting for the right moment to start.
It generated so much interest and wonderful conversation that I decided to start a virtual bookclub!

The #RewildedBookclub can now be found on Facebook in a private group (join below!) or followed through that hashtag on instagram.

It is one of my inherent qualities that as long as I make time to at least both read and write in a day, I feel pretty good about the day as a whole. Although despite this belief, they are almost always the things I place on the back burner when I feel stressed or overwhelmed.
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However, these two habits are both such important parts of who I am and part of how I process and engage with the world in a way that feels meaningful to me.
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Balancing screen time with these things is hard. Which is of course the irony of sharing this... because it’s taking me away from this very book that’s presently in my lap...
But I am so excited to have a group of women to encourage and remind me to make it a priority in my day-to-day.

If you’d like to join, follow the link below! I foresee this being a whole thing and I have a whole stack of other books in the trunk of my car to share in the coming months…. ;)

 
The Rewilded Book Club
Closed group · 36 members
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This is a bookclub for women to come together and have conversations centered around themes of living a more engaged and mindful life. Challenging the...
 
Goodnight House

i feel at home within the stillness of a house at night

i rarely waver in the dark or quiet spaces of a slightly unknown place

for there is a lightness there

it is inside these spaces that i find my place

amongst tired floors and resting furniture

it is me and the small-slow creeping things

(unsure as i am if the dark impressions of motion are on the floor or inside of my mind—there is even comfort to be found in that too)

the creaks and groans are the tones of hidden hellos specific to these walls

the things heard are of my own creation or that of the inherent nature of the frame i’m inside of

it is on and under these sloped sleeping lines that i am able to recenter and remember my sense of self that is now and at once a mirrored home: the inner home of me

Across The Sky

The days begin with the slow saturation of the suns rays kissing and caressing the landscape gently awake, like you would your lover who’s still asleep next to you, deep under the warm darkness of sleep.

The sun always arises before the land. 

Dutiful in its routine. 

In the way that you too are always the first to awake before the form in bed next to you. 

A morning person. 


I wonder if the sun ever gets weary in its lonely trek across the sky, day after day, fated to a pre-planned path of journeying. Only able to have temporary, though distant relationship with the land and the things upon it. 

Too far to ever have much of a chance to get to know the moving things down below, though it’s impression in turn upon them is lasting.


But, I suppose it does have the moon, if only for a brief moment, to play for a time with at dusk on some days. When both the moon and the sun are parallel in the sky from one another. 

The moon is in fact the only one who knows a little of what it’s like to be the sun. 

More so than any earthbound thing. 


Two celestial friends. 

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?
www.agirlnamedleney.com
www.agirlnamedleney.com

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?
//
Portraits of Heath Herring in Silver City, New Mexico


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To Live Again

I am sitting cross legged on the earthen floor, thick patterned blankets between me and the dirt. It is dark inside the dome, which is made of 16 willow saplings tied together with cloth and string and covered in worn blankets and I am centered on the doorway, a square of piercing light that frames the fire a half dozen yards away where the fire keepers are excavating the lava stones, Grandfather, from the molten embers. 


“Mitakuye Oyasin,”


I am inside of a sweat lodge, the ceremony, Inipi which means “To Live Again” is to purify and place ourselves in a position of openness to send prayers for ourselves and those we love who are suffering.


“Nothing will hurt you here”


The drums beat and I feel one with the sound. My head is the drum. 
My body is heating up, thawing out from the cold of the Winter I’ve been living in for over a month.


“Pray hard”


It isn’t until the third round that I find the heat unbearable. 

It hits me in a wave then. 

I have never felt this type of heat before, it engulfs my body and seizes my lungs, making it difficult to breathe. I place the towel over my head, and the experience of having my breath from inside of my body feel cooler than the air outside is jarring.

The steam emanating from the pit in the middle of the dome which holds 14 new lava rocks from the fire outside. And the Mimi, sacred water of life, has been poured afresh, extinguishing their rolling red sparks. 


This is the Lakota way.


The door opens and the fresh air takes a while to reach me but when it does it feels life giving. 
The chanupa is passed towards me and I carefully take the bowl in my left hand and the lighter in my right. The tip is wet.

The fourth round starts and I feel as though my skin is on fire.
I work to suppress the panic that starts to arise in my body. 
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

“You are under our protection now. 
Now you are family.”

There Isn't A Shortcut
Photo by Siobhan Watts of Bless The Weather

Photo by Siobhan Watts of Bless The Weather

I’ve been getting a lot of messages lately asking how I lead such a ‘different’ life.

How did I take the leap of faith to do ______?

How did I overcome fear or indecision?

How did I come to lead a life doing what I want to do?

How did I figure it all out?


And while I feel pressed to say that I absolutely do not have it all figured out and that you cannot compare your beginning to someone else’s middle... truth be told: I’ve always been asked this question.

Because I have always lead a different life.



I think to some degree it does come more naturally to me than most to live counterculture.
I must admit that I strive to be different to an unhealthy degree at times. But there are a lot of circumstantial things that have contributed to my counter perspective of how to live.

For example:

I didn’t go to college. 

I started my own business at 18.

I’ve lived and traveled alone much of my adult life.

I live minimally and slowly.

I don’t own or watch a TV.

I have never been in debt.

I refuse to use dating apps.

98% of my clothing is vintage/thrifted/secondhand/handmade.

I sold 50% of my belongings to live on the road for an undetermined amount of time with no real destination and no real specific reason.


Essentially, I go against the grain in regards to a lot of societal norms.


Hopefully I don’t have to state that if you do the opposite of any of these things I don’t think you’re doing it wrong or think less of you…. but if I do have to state it… well... I just did.

Everyone has a different path by which they choose to reach their goals and their desired way of life. I am not saying my way is the way, but because I am continually asked “how I do it” I thought laying out some of my personal history would help answer that question.

But in thinking more in depth about it, I do have some specific beliefs that I realize are major components in my lifestyle that contribute to me being able to live so differently more often than not.


  1. I refuse to let fear dictate my life.
    As soon as I’m scared of something I realize that it’s most often an indication of wanting to avoid a kind of vulnerability. However, it is within vulnerability that I grow so I try to embrace those opportunities vs. running away from them. 

  2. I purposefully put myself in new situations and environments.
    Especially alone. Because that is where I will grow, learn the most, and meet new people.

  3. I am always looking for new things to try.
    Because trying new things creates a resiliency when you inevitably fail at half of them. And having a constant stream of change in your life can help stimulate ideas and an open perspective which leads to paths you otherwise would never have been exposed to.

  4. I read. A lot.
    I don’t keep up with the news to be honest, but I read books voraciously as well as articles and other things of interest that come across my path. I think that having a constant source of things to read helps too in the widening of your openness to the world, and in turn, it’s openness to you.
     

  5. When I feel drawn to something, I go after it.
    I’ve learned to trust my intuition and recognize that most of those feelings are for good reasons that rarely lead me astray. 

  6. I see mistakes as stepping stones to the next right thing and live without a regret mindset.  


But most of all guys: There isn’t a shortcut. 


You just have to decide at some point to live the life that you want to live. 


Overall, I live with the idea that I would rather make mistakes by doing something than from not doing something.
Perhaps it’s an incorrect viewpoint, but I’ve always felt that action is better than passivity in most cases. Personally, I have a reoccurring theme in my life of passivity leading to seasons of unhealth. So when it comes to doing something vs. not doing it... usually I just do it.

But most of all, I want to put out the reminder that I didn’t just arrive here right off the bat, in this magical looking place, (and again, this feels like one of those things I probably don’t need to say but in case I do…. Instagram is not the whole story guys).
Behind this accomplishment or that goal is years and years of trying different things that did not work out, pursuing what I thought were open doors, only to have them closed in my face, getting my hopes up about opportunities that seemed like the right thing, only to be sent back to the drawing board. Everything in my life has built on top of itself and accumulated over a long period of time to this particular season of rightness. And even now, within this good place, there are imperfect and frustrating things because, well, that’s life.
Have I been handed certain chances? Sure. Have I had some opportunities fall into my lap? Of course. But I have also worked my butt off for a very long time, tried new things after failing old ones, continually gotten back up after being knocked down and not given up on myself or my dreams.

So please, please, remember to not compare your journey to someone else’s. That doesn’t do you, or the person pulled into your comparison, any good at all. But moreover, it doesn’t do your individual dreams any good. They were planted inside exactly you for a reason, so quit looking backwards and trying to figure out how someone else got to where they got to and put your energy into forward thinking and choose action instead of stagnation.



I would love to engage more in conversation about this topic though and hear your thoughts on it, whatever they may be.
Feel free to comment below, send me a DM on instagram, or shoot me an email.
I love having in depth conversations with you all and it’s so many of those conversations that have led to solidifying and expressing these personal beliefs which is something I’m very grateful to you for because it’s helped in my own growth and forward focus.


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When The Shadows Sleep

And I am watching now for the time of day when the shadows sleep.
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When there is still light in the sky but the sun has sunk low enough to put an end to the contrast of miraged skin.
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What is the exact moment in time that your body no longer casts a shadow onto the earth and if that moment had a name what would it be?
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The point of gradual desaturation before the gloaming sets in is an unnoticed thing to the naked eye. Perhaps permanently so, for how do you measure an intangible disappearance?
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Where does the secondary world of dark figures retire to? 
Isn’t it a kind of faith to know they will come back?
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Perhaps it is as my Father said: “nothing good ever happens after dark”
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For bodies no longer have mirrored accountability of their actions.
The leaching of apparitions’ measured movements.
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It is a secret world that they go to—the shadows.
Frozen in an invisible realm until the sun rises just-so again.