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.
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.
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 is something special about being intimately invited into people’s spaces, lives and routines in a way that photographs cannot always capture.
Though, truth be told, it is that very specific situational aspect of life that I am most often drawn to in my photography work. Capturing the raw and unposed moments that conspire within the framework of the mundane and attempting to convey the interpretation of that perceived beauty.
Raven is someone I’ve met here in New Mexico who has taught me so much about the caring for a type of animal I, admittedly, have not thought too in depth about aside from eating their eggs for breakfast most days of the week…
However her love and care for her chickens is evident, even in these images, and is a heartwarming thing to witness.
(It should be noted that giving her chickens baths is not actually a regular occurrence, but they were preparing for a chicken show in Arizona the next day)
This is just a small vignette of what have become numerous unexpected moments throughout living on a farm in New Mexico.
Why am I in New Mexico working on a sheep farm?
Telling you the story of this sweater will help answer that question...
In 2017 I took a Border Leicester sheep fleece that I’d bought in Vermont, processed it from start to finish into roving at a wool mil l, spun the roving into yarn and then designed and knit this sweater.
(I actually made a video of this process which you can watch here)
I used to design and knit knitwear collections for a living.
It was part of my two-part business from 2011-2016 (the other part being @agirlnamedleneyphotography)
But I started being bothered by the fact that I had no idea where the yarn I used was coming from, how it was made, or how the sheep were treated.
This led me down the path of learning how to spin yarn in 2015, furthering my education of sustainable fibers which coincidentally went hand-in-hand with my ventures into slow living, which I was also practicing at the time.
Along with that came the conviction of selling goods and feeding into a consumerist society. Creating products that, while well made and more ethical than something you could buy at Target, weren’t necessarily things people always *needed*.
Regardless of my heart behind my knitwear, the nature of selling things, especially when you need to pay the bills, is to convince people that what you have is something they need.
Which doesn’t sit right with me.
Nevertheless I have a passion for the fiber arts and have since I was 8 years old and my Grandmother placed two knitting needles in my hand.
This avenue of creation is a part of me.
I’m on a journey to figure out what kind of part and how I can use it and couple it with my beliefs to better the communities I’m apart of and the world I live in.
Living more simply, sustainably and back-to-the-land are convictions of mine as well.
I’m not sure if I’m meant to have my own homestead or farm, but I’m out here figuring it out.