A Girl Named Leney

THE JOURNAL

Posts in Travel
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.


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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Aspiring Shepherdess

Why am I in New Mexico working on a sheep farm?
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Telling you the story of this sweater will help answer that question...
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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)
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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.
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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.
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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*.
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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.
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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.
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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.


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Your Home Is The Road
Somewhere on the road in California during    The Wild + Wonderful American Road Trip   . Shot on 35mm film

Somewhere on the road in California during The Wild + Wonderful American Road Trip. Shot on 35mm film

Putting this next season of my life into words feels nearly impossible.

I have been dreaming of this exact moment for so long, and to have it here, happening, and in process is the most incredulous thing to me. It truly leaves me in awe and in somewhat of a state of disbelief.

Such is the feeling, perhaps, of realized dreams.

I have been on the road for 7 days. Which is the average length of most of my travels.
The longest I’ve ever been away from Virginia, my home state, was during The Wild + Wonderful American Road Trip this past Summer, which was an adventure lasting 59 days through 30 states.

I have travelled extensively throughout my lifetime, visiting 44 of the 50 states in America and 9 other countries besides. I am so fortunate in that, I realize. But it is my life’s passion. I give up and do without a lot of things so that I can go as much as I do.
(You can read a little bit more about that here in this post if you like)

I have been wanting to do something like this for a number of years.


But part of me was always waiting for either a particular place to speak to me more than most, a job to move for, or (most of all I think) a person to do it with.
I thrive on being alone and my solitude is a huge part of me, and has been a significant choice in my life these last few years. But an adventure of this sort felt so daunting alone. Especially financially. Not just relationally.

But I came to the point where I was tired of waiting. I felt like I was waiting for something that would never come. And I realized I could very well be waiting for forever and for a thing that I might never find if I stayed put. There would never be an easy time to leave my family. Never a time that “made sense”.

Despite my extensive travels, I have never lived anywhere other than Virginia. And for some reason it feels important for me to do this. I say for some reason, but I know the reasons. Many of them anyway, and I know there are a great deal more to be yet discovered.
Outside of the extensive explanations and reasons that I could give, what it comes down to is that I needed to do this for myself. I think much of my life I have done things for other people, something I only fault myself for, if there is fault to find in that at all. I have stayed and done things based on the desires and wishes of others for much of my life and I need to learn the safety and freedom both that can be found in boundaries and space.

I do not know what the year will hold for me. Or when I will return to Virginia, though I do know I will return. Indeed much of the next few weeks and even days are a mystery to me.

But I think the chance to place trust in people, and entities outside of myself, and of course learning to trust myself as well in new ways, is a thing I need to do. I want to learn new things, meet new people, and have experiences that will define my story and thought process in ways I am challenged by.
And I want to go to new places.


Because my favorite place to be is somewhere I’ve never been.


I was talking with a friend one evening, one week into The Wild + Wonderful American Road Trip over the Summer (the trip that solidified the possibility for this one and made me feel that this dream really was doable) and I was in a state of elation.

I was expressing this to a friend, telling them about the first few days of being on the road and how it felt. I was lying in a tent next to my sleeping brother and watching the light of the moon kiss the rippling Buffalo River in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas.
A place that I had all but written off as a drive-through state and was the first that captured me wildly and incredibly by surprise. I was head over heels for the greenery of the forests and mountains and it injected a kind of high into my veins that I quickly became addicted to.
The high of being on the road.
How I wanted to just keep going, to never return.
As I was expressing my contentment to my friend, they texted this one small sentence back, and the little blue bubble summed up so simply what I was feeling:


”Why would you? Your home is the road kid.”


That is the feeling that I had nearly every single day of that two month trip.
Of course there were hard times. Of course there were situations that led to frustration and discomfort.
But I did not want to come home.
And I think that’s a testiment to there being something out here that I need to do. Someone, someones, I need to meet. Things I need to experience.

That is how I feel now.
Amidst the exhaustion and the sleep deprivation of this first week, and the harried activities and expensive car repairs… I have a deeper feeling of unshakable joy.


Because I am finally, once again, on the road.


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On The Move
Walden Pond shot in Kodak Gold 35mm film Winter 2017

Walden Pond shot in Kodak Gold 35mm film Winter 2017

It has been a little over a year now since I left and moved away from Richmond.
Granted, only to the bay, which is a second home and place of familiarity in and of itself, but it’s the first time I have ever lived anywhere other than in the city I have called home for my entire life.

This is not something I have ever explicitly shared on the internet, and something that many people still don’t really know about me, though here and there over the course of the year it has been implied and referenced in varying ways or conveyed in person to various individuals.

But to spell it out, a year ago I packed up my apartment in The Fan and (after many many trips because I stubbornly refused to rent some sort of Uhaul which made the whole process way harder than it needed to be…) moved to the bay.

The move was made for a number of reasons, and I wasn’t really sure how long I’d be there, but it was mostly an initial attempt at listening to a voice I have had echoing in me for several years that I hadn’t fully listened to until that point.

A voice telling me I needed to go.

I have been feeling the tug to move away and go off and do something else for a while, but the various doors I pursued stayed closed and the timing just never seemed right. That, and there wasn’t any one reason to really go other than just the feeling that, for some reason, I needed to.
This was coupled with the fact that it wasn’t easy for me to leave Richmond.
Because despite the fact that I had felt the tug to leave, I’ve yet to find a place that I love as much as this city. I still get teary eyed driving down the cobblestone streets of my old neighborhood and there isn’t a block in the whole city that doesn’t have some sort of memory associated with it.


No matter where I am in the world, and whether or not I ever permanently come back, it will always be my home.

It is, perhaps, a case of not realizing what you have until it’s gone.
But I actually don’t think that was ever really the case. I have had a hard time leaving Richmond because I have always known what I’ve had there. It’s a place I will never not love with every fiber of my being.
But what I eventually came to realize was that, one, just because I didn’t have a practical or subbstantal reason for wanting to leave, it didn’t mean I was running away from something. And, two, it would never be the right time to leave. It would always be comfortable and this place would always be my home. But there was also the realization that the more time went on, the more my motivation for staying was out of fear, and if there is one thing I refuse to allow to influence the choices I make in my life, it’s that.

And so I have been gone for a year.

Living in a small town on the bay where I knew no one but have over the course of the past four seasons, made some of the dearest friends and have had some of the most important revelations and experiences in my life.

Most are simple in nature, but I have found that it is in simplicity that the most clarity comes.

This place on the water has become yet another home for me. It has been my Walden pond of sorts, (something I have written about here) my Thoroughvian experiment to suss out what is most important in my life and to see what I could do without in order to find what it was I needed to hold onto.

Although, all of that being said, I have to admit that I have not spent more than two consecutive weeks there during the entire year. I have still been on the go. Back to Richmond (much more than I thought I would be… turns out an hour and half isn’t really far enough to be away from it for any length of time), New Orleans, Atlanta, New York, The Wild and Wonderful Road Trip (a two month cross country road trip involving 30 states), and then most recently England and Greece.

All of that being said, it was always meant to be temporary, a stepping stone to the next thing.
I feel as though I have been waiting and seeking that next thing with a somewhat exhausting vigilance and searching which has at times led me to not really and truly appreciate where I presently am and the gift that this season has been. And now that I feel it coming to a close, I am wanting to hang onto it, to not let go.

But there is something on the horizon for me. A thing I feel sure about, as scary as it feels too.
But even that is a confirmation.
The fear.
The push it is giving me in the direction it emanates from is sign enough for me that this is the next right thing.


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Hitchin England | Siobhan

These are portraits of a dear friend of mine. She lives in England. We’ve been friends for about seven years, but met in person for the first time this year.
Okay, there is more to this story…

Siobhan and I have been internet friends through our blogs for longer than we’ve had Instagram. I remember having my blog on Blogger when she started following it, and I remember her blog, Bless The Weather, on Wordpress back when she was mostly knitting and only dabbling in taking photos. (For those of you who don’t know, she’s a kick ass full time photographer now.)
We have come a long way in the development of our businesses, but more importantly our friendship.

It’s a funny thing to some to befriend complete strangers online (though I’m not sure why, when they’ll date online with apps like Tinder without a second thought… a thing I still refuse to partake in…). But it’s been somewhat of a normal aspect of my life for a number of years now. Obviously I befriend people in person as well, but to not utilize the complete wonder of social media these days in this way seems so silly to me. Literally, the entire world is at our fingertips, and this beautiful human is most definitely one of the top people I’ve met online that I can say that I am endlessly grateful turned into a real life friend.

After years of emails and commenting on one another’s blogs and interacting over social media, we finally had the pleasure of meeting in real life in New Orleans earlier this year. We both made the trek down (albeit a much longer trek for Siobhan, coming from England and all) and we could not have clicked any more fully and immediately, finally solidifying our sisterhood and friendship in person after all these years of virtual connection.
There also could not have been a better place for the blossoming of our friendship than the vibrant motion of the jazzy New Orleans.

This Fall I stopped in England on my way to Greece and spent a few lovely days visiting her and her dear family in the incredibly charming small English town of Hitchin.

Taking these portraits of her was only one of the many highlights of our weekend.
Especially because she is due to have her second little one in the beginning of the year! Being present to capture this season of her life felt like such a special gift to us both.

I am sure you can see, from these images alone, why we make such good friends. I mean, overalls, a brimmed hat, film camera, loving plants and being outside??

Yes. Yes, we are indeed soul sisters.


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Spaces In Film | The Jupiter Flats in Joshua Tree California

Much like Artists In Film, Spaces In Film is focused around a more intentional and simple documentation of intriguing interiors and favorite vignettes found on the road.


Why Film??


Film is a format of photography that I increasingly fall in love with as the years go by.
Indeed, I often prefer it over its digital counterpart. While I shoot digitally for work most of the time, there is a mystical, etherial and nostalgic way about film that just can't ever quite be replicated with digital images. 
For these reasons, as well as the often imperfect and one-time-shot aspects of the medium, I have come to treasure my film photos in a way i'm not sure i'll ever feel about any other kind of photograph.

Film is one of my favorite ways to create, to document. Largely because of the intentionality and slowness and care I have to execute in the midst of it, but also because it teaches me to appreciate imperfections. 
Blurred edges. Out of focus planes. Light leaks. 
Some would argue that these are the makings of a bad photograph, but I beg to differ. 
Because they are real. 
They are raw.
They are capturing exactly what it was in front of the lens at the time, unapologetically, with no filter.


This first space I am sharing with you is The Jupiter Flats, an Air BnB in Joshua Tree California that was a stop during The Wild + Wonderful American Road Trip.

My favorite spaces are the ones that incorporate the outdoors into their functionality and everyday living. They are the ones I find myself happiest in. Closer in routine to that which we came from. A natural invitation to rewild.

We spent the evening unpacking and repacking our bags, playing vinyl records, turning on the twinkle lights, making a batch of margaritas from our earlier-in-the-day purchased roadside tequila, and soaking our clothes and then ourselves in the outdoor tub.

As the day wore out and the stars grew more contrasted as the sun rotated further from our patch of sky, it was apparent that this space was not only a respite for our road weary bodies, but our minds as well. 

Simplicity brings space which allows for open thoughts, concise actions and clear convictions.

This space was rich with it.


You can follow the jupiter flats on instagram and book your own stay with them on Air BnB hereDon’t have an Air BnB account? Follow my link here to get $40 off your first stay!

All images shot on Portra 400 35mm film and are in their original as-shot unedited state.

If you enjoyed this Spaces In Film essay, check out some of the Artists In Film essays!

Artists In Film | Anna of Experimental Vintage in Portland Oregon

Artists In Film | The Cowboy Prince in New Orleans

and

Keep an eye out, because there are more film essays in the works! 

Especially with coming home and getting all of the film developed from

 Wild + Wonderful American Road Trip

I would also really love it if you have an artist or space you’d like to introduce me to for the series.
Send ideas and intros to: agirlnamedleney@gmail.com or through the form on the contact page!

Thanks for reading friend. 

This project is incredibly close to my heart and it means the world that you paused for it.

—☽ —


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New York Portraits | The Dowdy Girls

the kind of girls who follow their dreams, not trends.
the kind of girls you want as friends, sisters, partners, mothers. 
the kind of girls who encourage you to be more you by simply being unapologetically themselves. 
the kind of girls you will be late for buses and trains for.
the kind of girls to go dancing with under late night city lights. 
the kind of girls who have wild and relentless ambition. 
the kind of girls who listen with their hearts. 
the kind of girls you will book plane tickets with.

these are the kinds of girls i feel grateful to not only know, but call dear friends. 
these three strong, independent and beautiful sisters inspire me endlessly. 
i feel lucky that from time to time our lives line up to allow us to be underneath the same little patch of sky and with the same rooftops beneath our feet.

—☽ —


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Announcing New Travel Dates
on a rooftop in New York

on a rooftop in New York

travel dates are to let you know when i'm going to be somewhere other than home (which for me is sweet beautiful Virginia) and have availability for additional bookings for photography work.  
because while, yes, i totally can and will come to you for a session wherever you're located, if you see that i'm already going to be near you during a certain time it'd be more cost efficient to go ahead and book a shoot while i'm already planning on being in your area!
make sense? 
plus i've decided in 2018 to offer my photo sessions booked during travel dates at a discounted rate!
what's not to love right?
for the latest travel dates announcements check out the blog tag! or my instagram story highlights.

Feel free to message me on Instagram or shoot me an email if you have any interest!


Norfolk, VA August 28th-30th
New York City September 9th-12th
London October 17th-22nd
Greece October 22nd-30th
Texas December 30th-January 7th

Artists In Film | The Cowboy Prince in New Orleans

Charlie Umhau and i used to be neighbors back when we both lived in Richmond, Virginia. 

it was a while before i realized the jovial wild-haired being, who always greeted me on the sidewalk with a grin and a wave, was the same one on Instagram commenting on and resonating with my wild and creative musings (and here is just one of the many examples of how the internet has brought the most remarkable people into my physical world).

though we really only had the opportunity to become friends and hang out for a short time before he moved to New Orleans, there was an instantaneous connection in our conversations and ways of viewing and loving the world. from our common ideas on rewilding, our mutual experience of feeling a little-bit different than everyone else around us, to answering the call of leading and living a life counter to what our society told us to live. such was the scope of more than a few late night talks over beer and underneath city lights and starry skies. 
all coupled with the recognition of our lives being fueled by the art of our self-made themes, concepts and projects. 

if you love it, it will survive
ride boldly ride
hope is a verb with it’s sleeves rolled up

writings from a would be beatnik
anywhere on the water is a place i call home

learning to let a little green into my life

not to mention, we both lived in proverbial castles, though his was a castille
(you'll have to follow his Instagram to learn more about that and similarly, those of you who have not been following me will need to familiarize yourself with my documentation of #theknittingqueenscastle)
however this dwelling was not just in our minds, but in the real world too.
for we are both royalty.
The Knitting Queen meets The Cowboy Prince.

we’ve talked extensively in the way of how to be in the world as artists but also in what it means to be a part of humanity in general, within the boundaries of that desire. the balance of being in the world as individuals but also as a part of a larger body of others. staying true to inner drives of creation though not to the point of alienation. 
i wish i could convey some of those conversations and ideas to you now, but the second-hand translation wouldn’t even begin to do them justice. 
i will say however, with the deepest sincerity, that his way of creating and being an artist is unrivaled by anyone else i’ve ever met before, or since. 
i have truly never encountered another soul like his. 

his themes of resilience of the human spirit, strength, hope, and action are bold and both vocally and visually portrayed in not just his art but all that he does. 
he is one of the few i feel i can truly say who not just create his art, but embodies and lives it, in every single aspect possible. through his painting, writing, sewing, pattern making, sculpting, drawing, and countless other trades and skills woven in between, each piece created, whether it’s wearable by body or wall, is steeped with symbolism and meaning.

i am going to be incredibly transparent and open when i say that i am not sure i have ever encountered an artist and art that has so completely intrigued and moved me. 

in sharing this man and his art, vision and space with you, i so badly want to do it all justice through these photos and in my words. 
but i think part of this project for me is realizing that i am unable to do that.
to encounter another art form is something that transcends secondary interpretation. 
to see a print of an original painting does not move you nearly as much as seeing and smelling the real thing. hearing a recording of a song can hit you in the chest, but not nearly as deep and bone rattling as being at a concert standing in front of the stage, hearing the music come at you and feeling it in your body right then and there. 
such is also the case, at times, with seeing photographs of things. 

but my heart in this project, of photographing artists in their spaces and studios, has a few intentions behind it.
being that i first and foremost want to expand the understanding and thought process of what it means to be an artist. 
secondly, that i want to simply blend and share an art form of mine with another’s and emphasize what a privilege that is. because i think often we are meant to mesh and blend our lives and passions with others more often than we perhaps allow for.
thirdly, i want to highlight some of the amazing people i’ve met over the years in all manner of places, doing such genuine heart-felt things and who truly treat their lives as their proverbial canvas.
last but not least, i am looking to stretch myself in my own ideas and understanding of what it is in me that feels alive and passionate about my various art forms through witnessing the fire and passion of others practicing theirs.

film is one of my favorite ways to create, to document. largely because of the intentionality and slowness and care i have to execute in the midst of it, but also because it teaches me to appreciate imperfections. 
blurred edges. out of focus planes. light leaks. 
some would argue that these are the makings of a bad photograph, but i beg to differ. 
because they are real. 
they are raw.
they are capturing exactly what it was in front of the lens at the time, unapologetically, with no filter.

i can achieve certain elements of that in digital photography at times, even with my iPhone on occasion (for every single photo on my instagram feed is shot and shared from my iphone because i have always been somewhat of a purest in that way— feeling as though sharing my DSLR images on a platform originally meant for phone snaps was “cheating”.) but i cannot tell you the last time i didn’t actually take 15 shots to get the one that i wanted, or shared a photo i hadn’t edited in some way.
in film i can’t do that. 
i only have 36 frames on a roll of film (sometimes even only 24 or 12) and part of my self imposed limitations with this project was to shoot only one roll of film for each session and to share the photos afterwards as-is, without any touching up. 

i have found that it is within limitations that my best, and most loved, work is created. the shots i probably never would have gotten had i been given all of the luxuries and conveniences of digital technology.
of course there is also a certain heightened love and appreciation for that which is scarce and in small supply. 
not to say that these are incredible photographs, publish worthy, jaw dropping.
accept, well, to me they kind of are. 
they are once-in-a-life-time. 
because that’s what a photograph is: a millisecond captured of an irreplaceable moment in time.
they are the result of my rawest and most vulnerable kind of image making.
i have to overcome a lot of insecurities and self doubt in creating these photos because i am not proficient in film and am not as practiced at documenting with it as i am with digital (which is my paid profession).

and i think that is what i find most precious and special about these sessions: that these artists are extending to me a similar kind of vulnerability. 
they have welcomed me into their most sacred space, the place where they create and put out the art that they just can’t help but do. the things they go to bed thinking about, dream of in their sleep and then wake up with in the morning still on their minds. 
because they have to create. 

they were made to do this specific thing, and they don’t know how to not do it. as an artist who holds the spaces in which she creates as very reverent and sacred, i know all too well how meaningful it is for someone to be willing to share that with others. 

so. 
with all of that being said, i am going to let these blurry imperfect photos not speak for Charlie and his art, but at least start an introduction for you.
if you would like to hear more of Charlie’s own voice and witness more of his process in creation, i highly encourage you to follow his instagram account: @thecowboyprince. it is one of my favorites to keep up with. 
(and be sure to read the captions, because that’s where most of the magic lies…)


if you enjoyed this Artists In Film essay please check out the original one i put out!

Artists In Film | Anna of Experimental Vintage in Portland Oregon

and

keep an eye out, because there are more essays in the works! 

especially with the impending Wild + Wonderful American Road Trip that i am embarking on next month. 

i would also really love it if you have an artist you’d like to introduce me to for the series.
send ideas and intros to: agirlnamedleney@gmail.com or through the form on the contact page!

thanks for reading friend. 

this project is one that is incredibly close to my heart and it means the world that you paused for it.
—☽ —


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