A Girl Named Leney

THE JOURNAL

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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Artists In Film | Jeanie Tomanek of Everywoman Art in Marietta Georgia

I wish I remembered exactly how Jeanie Tomanek’s work came into my life.
I do remember a Winter afternoon in 2015, looking at her Etsy shop and being captivated by the elusive and etherial figures and scenes she depicted in her paintings.
I favorited nearly every single one.
I soon discovered she had an instagram and after following, would regularly click on her account, drawn time and time again to the peaceful and dreamlike imagery that, to me, conveyed this spirit of hope and resilience.

A theme she often focuses on when painting, I later learned after meeting her.

I finally purchased one of her originals, which you can see here, titled Tiny Bit of Faith, which reminded me of the great many leaps of faith I’ve taken in my life, and how each and every time I have always landed after leaping.

A thing you can forget when you are on the precipice or in mid air.

Of course her celestial themes and moon centered works leave me star struck (pun somewhat intended…) as well. You all know how I feel about the moon.
Her figures, often featureless, without hair or skin color, are the defining symbol behind her art’s moniker. Something I tried to rewrite to convey what she told me in person, but I think I will just let her own words convey the idea.

“I love to show the strength and optimistic attributes of women. Even when they are in a quandary or in danger, I always try to show a glimmer of hope and wisdom—that they will solve the riddle and make it through, stronger and with dignity. Being bald and shorn of any particular identity, they become all women.”

Jeanie did not hesitate to welcome me to visit her in her studio space when I inquired if she would be up for this photo essay.
I brought a dear friend along and coffee and cinnamon buns were awaiting us as we entered her sun splashed home last Spring. I instantly felt at home, not just in her space but in her presence as well. Jeanie is the kind of warm and friendly that makes you want to be her life long friend and that you kind of just want to be around in hopes that some of her depth and wisdom rub off on you.

The mess of artist’s spaces are my favorite. The slant towards imperfection and allowing natural creation to take you where it will. There is a kind of raw freedom there.
A freedom that knows that the process is often more important than the end goal.
It was all the more incredible seeing her work in person, as well as some of the tangible inspiration behind it. Our conversation that afternoon centered around the beautiful resilience of women, following your heart in it’s inclinations of what it was made to beat for, and pushing past fear and indecision and allowing yourself to sit in vulnerability so as to reach a braver and stronger self.

Follow Jeanie on instagram here
And her website and online shop here

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


If you enjoyed this Artists In Film essay please check out the others below!

Artists In Film | The Cowboy Prince In New Orleans
Artists In Film | Anna of Experimental Vintage in Portland Oregon

and

A newer series I’ve started
Spaces In Film

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

I would really love it if you have an artist or a space you’d like to introduce me to for these 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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Slowly Slowly
Hitchin, England in 35mm film

Hitchin, England in 35mm film

My outsides are wrapped up in a vintage Pendleton blanket my Dad found (this thing is so good and warm that if it were anyone else’s I’d steal it in a heartbeat).
It’s well after midnight.
My insides are full of red wine and lemon poppy seed muffins.
I am also filled with the kind of tired happiness that can only be felt on a Sunday evening. With a weekend of motion behind you, and the upcoming week rolling out ahead of you with empty promise.

It snowed unceasingly all day, so much so that I got snowed in at my parents. Not an altogether unpleasant thing. In fact quite a pleasant one. Not only for the fact of there being a thermos of coffee on the counter all day and food to help yourself to, but also the warmth of the familiar presence of each individual in this home of mine.
For even though I no longer live here, it is still one of my homes.

I spend so much time alone it’s nice to be around others, even if they’re just in the vicinity while I do my own thing. I prefer that actually, most of the time. A passive and communal togetherness.

Having internet (a very foreign thing to me as I have lived without it for over a year now) has led to an equally productive and unproductive day as I am now fully caught up with my accounting but conversely have spent an embarrassing amount of time on Etsy favoriting vintage 1970s sheepskin jackets…

But such are the things snow days should be made of.

Puzzle building and fires, late night walks through white powdery streets and laughing over the camaraderie of a day off from the outside world.

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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Dawn

the end of this season is nearing. 

a year of flush faced wonder. 

of physical and spiritual mountain climbing. 

of stripping away and down to the bone, to uncover the essential facts. 

my mind offers up the familiar words i’ve often used to describe this past year, but i am reaching for more. 

‘more’ is perhaps not possible to describe this kind of living. 

this sussing out and stealing in.


the icy ground is verbal in its protest of my warm steps as i walk towards the placid liquid sky.


the night is what greeted me here the first time i called this place home. 

the dark wall of sky pierced through with needling white-light stars.

but now, now it is the mauve maw of dawn. 

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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Featured | An Interview On Linenbeauty
www.agirlnamedleney.com

I meant to share this much sooner, but with all of my out-of-the-country travels, and still not having a working phone, I am just now getting around to it.
Last month I was featured over on the Linenbeauty blog! You can check out the interview here.
There are so many amazing dialogues over there with inspiring women pursuing slow living and simple paths and I feel so flattered to be amongst them.

In our interview I mention a little bit about The Wild and Wonderful American Road Trip, and the portrait of me is actually the only film photo I’ve shared so far from the 34 rolls of film I shot on the trip. I have chosen not to release any of the images digitally until some of the projects I am working on with them are completed, but there will be an opportunity to see more of them soon!

Thank you all for reading and engaging with me on these ideas and topics. As always, I love talking to you about them, don’t ever hesitate to reach out over instagram or email!

Inviting You Deeper

my life is saturated with art.
not just my own, but others.
i am constantly moved to great depths in short amounts of time by the words and images and sounds i come across. i am trying to listen more intently and pay closer attention to the things that move me in just that way.
there is something there worth meditating on and exploring further.
i have been wanting to share more of these sources of inspiration, and so you might see more of these sorts of posts popping up here on the online journal as time goes on.

(i am also going to practice saying less and letting things just speak for themselves. so i won’t say anything else on this idea for now…)

today’s inspiration was this poem by David Whyte, shared with me by a friend.
the book that this piece is from is now on my reading list.


THE BELL AND THE BLACKBIRD

The sound
of a bell
still reverberating,

or a blackbird
calling
from a corner
of a 
field.

Asking you
to wake
into this life
or inviting you
deeper
to one that waits.

Either way
takes courage,
either way wants you
to be nothing
but that self that
is no self at all,
wants you to walk
to the place
where you find
you already know
how to give
every last thing
away.

The approach
that is also
the meeting itself,
without any
meeting
at all.

That radiance
you have always
carried with you
as you walk
both alone
and completely
accompanied
in friendship
by every corner
of the world
crying
Allelujah.

On Hiatus

going through an alpaca fleece // photo by Meagan Abell

on hiatus. ⁣
that’s the current state i feel some parts of my creativity are in. not for a lack of passion, but simply because i cannot do everything at once. ⁣
depending on how long you’ve followed me, you might not even know that i’m a fiber artist and knitwear designer. ⁣

i started an Etsy shop in 2011 which was part of my full time work until about 2015. it grew into a very successful side of my business. i designed seasonal collections of knitwear centered around themes of inspiration (examples: On The Road, Gypsy Soul and OOAK pieces inspired by my travels), i was on the front page frequently, became a featured shop, interviewed in a book, had pop ups with the likes of Madewell and Quirk Gallery, was featured in various publications and by all appearances had “made it” in the Etsy scene of success. ⁣

but it didn’t feel like success. i was overworked, staying up until 4am knitting to fulfill holiday orders, warring with the desire to remain small so as to have my hand in all of aspects of my business and wanting to create each piece myself but unable to keep up with the demands alone. not to mention still running my photography business which entailed primarily shooting weddings at the time. and then Etsy went public and i quickly grew frustrated and disenchanted with a platform that used to be exclusively for handmade and vintage wares and was now blurring lines by allowing factories in China to open up shops and claim their mass produced goods as “handmade”. (this is a simplified rant of the many complicated changes that have happened at Etsy over the past few years but it was definitely an element in my frustration and stress of maintaining my own shop)⁣

and then of course too there was the realization of not knowing how my yarn was made that led to my pursuing sustainable knitwear. learning how to process wool on my own, spin it into yarn, dye with natural dyes and plants and create pieces that felt like true representations of me as an artist and embodied my ethics and beliefs. ⁣
(which is what these woven pieces are—all yarn i hand spun from a wide array of fibers and some i even processed from raw fleece!)⁣
⁣but other than a few custom orders, i never fully went all in with that venture. perhaps because i was hesitant to grow it to the size of my previous endeavor, or because it was too different of a market for my current customer base, or because it simply became an art form that was just for me-and not something i had to monetize and sell. ⁣
or perhaps because it just wasn’t the season for this dream. who knows?⁣

my Etsy shop is technically still open, i’ve slowly been letting the listings expire and i plan to close it fully after selling all of my extra inventory this fall. ⁣
but this type of creating is still such a huge part of me. ⁣
until recent years i knit almost every day from the time that i was 8 years old. ⁣
i still want to work on a sheep farm to learn a more in depth way to incorporate the whole “from sheep to sweater” idea in my fiber art. ⁣
i still am so turned on by textiles and meticulously study sweater construction.⁣

but as a person with endless interests and passions, i am learning that each have their season. just because i am not full-time pursuing one doesn’t mean that it’s any less a part of me or less valid because it isn’t recognized by others and in the public eye. ⁣

i’m a little all-or-nothing with most things in my life, so this isn’t always easy for me. but it’s a lesson that’s good for my hands to learn how to hold.