Gratitude & the Mountains

Hiking boots. 4:30am alarm. Fender-bender.
3 Generations. Mountains. Gratitude.

For many, this collection may seem completely at odds. ©WAVphoto

Years ago, my hiking partner & I would greet the day with an early alarm. Rising with the alarm would be crazy to assume, as neither one of us would have slept a wink, knowing we had the opportunity to hike together in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of upper New York State.  One of the first on the trail that day gave us the chance of collecting all the spider webs, making our footprints in the mud from the night before and getting a jump on the summer daylight. (the truth: most days it rained when we hiked…there was no beautiful sunrise).

Back then, we hiked with a mission to finish hiking all 46 peaks in the Adirondacks over 4,000 feet in elevation. Once we accomplished that goal (and it was a huge accomplishment) everyone wondered “what’s next?” will you continue to hike or just pack it in now that you’ve accomplished your goal? I knew instinctively that I’d return with my camera. It wouldn’t be a hike, it would be a photo op. The photo documentation from our hikes had consisted of: arrival at the peak – sometimes with a marker or a plastic disc with the mountain name – in the rain – the swift removal of my point & shoot from the zip lock baggie, one shot at a selfie with both of us in it, the return of the camera to the zip lock & trying to get below the tree line for shelter so we could take in a quick energy break.

During the miles of footprints on the trails I saw so many beautiful places that I wanted to photograph. Carrying a camera & spending the time to stop & start seemed counter to our success at that time. However, in my mind, my creative thoughts flowed constantly…almost as strong as the river we ascended Seward Mountain in. I pictured a beautiful vista – we passed several – with a strong woman in red, in complete possession of her beauty and power with the Adirondack mountains as a stunning & supportive backdrop. The mountains with all their beauty couldn’t shine as bright as a strong woman. The combination, in my mind, was powerfully crazy. It kept my thoughts occupied as the long winter months dragged on, just waiting for the opportunity, the stars to align, the moment when I could look thru my camera, press the shutter and capture the beauty, the strength, the elegance, the moment.

Until it happened.


A small window created itself. Then closed. The only day for a hike was postponed by a fender-bender. It couldn’t be helped. Fortunately no one was injured, just the mounting anticipation postponed. It had already been two years, what’s another day?

Funny thing when we listen to the energy of the universe.

The fender-bender was only to delay our hike, avoiding heat, humidity and…rain & thunderstorms. The weather the following day was…incredible. It began with a gift of a beautiful blue moon reflecting on the lake. We hiked a long road into the base of the mountain, uphill all the way.

I carried my pack with my usual hiking gear and an additional pack with my camera, a few dresses and flow-y fabric and a few assorted props. Gratefully, my hiking buddies/models helped to carry the additional pack. We quickly ascended to our destination. Up. And more Up. I had only seen photographs of our location, sight unseen but listening to the universe.

The day was just dawning with beautiful sun rays peeking through the trees along the trail. The birch trees glowing white. The river singing alongside our path. My only Adirondack hike of the year and I anticipated the smell of balsam. I wasn’t disappointed.

With excitement came our last turn off the uphill trail, I was leading and as the trees parted, I came out onto the granite ledge. W. O. W. All I could say was “wow”…with that raspy, not-really-a-sound but more of an exclamation, almost to myself…and to the universe. Gratitude flowed over my soul as I looked out onto the most beautiful sight I had only dreamed of. Mountains to the left and to the right, mountains I had climbed over 25 years, with the beautiful blue lake, nestled in between. Blue sky and white clouds as far as I could see.  There really are no words when you come across such majesty. Nature is an incredible editor, making everything just so.

My girls, hiking buddies, taking in the view as well, were psyched! I had packed a couple dresses and fabric – game ON. Hiking boots and beautiful dresses! I could not contain my excitement for another minute. The three of us, bonded by legacy. Our fathers had known each other years ago at a local camp (the Greatest Camp in the Universe). We reunited recently, after one of the connectors passed away. We were together to sprinkle some ashes in his beloved mountains.


Our hike quickly erupted into a photo session…my vision came to life right before my eyes! It’s always a wonderful feeling when others will take your lead and trust you immensely – to allow me to coach their body into a moment and wait for me to photograph it. Completely vulnerable. Strong. Incredible. Feminine. Powerful. Without a doubt, beautiful.

We laughed. We worked hard. Almost as hard as the hike to get here. My vision had come to fruition. These women made it happen. I was filled with gratitude beyond words. Just images.

my vision of strength

The final series was with both women. A bond with roots 50 years in the making. We are the middle. Our sons were also at the Greatest Camp in the Universe this summer, together. Continuing the legacy of their grandfathers.

I positioned the models on the edge of the cliff, allowing their poses to naturally flow, as the clouds came over and covered the sun, as the breeze blew cool air through their hair, their hands connected, the moment captured.

As I pressed my shutter for the final time that morning, tears fell from my eyes. The beauty. The majesty. The honor. I knew that was my final frame. There could be no more.

Legacy bonds

Gratitude poured from my soul, from my eyes. My vision of my hiking partner in a red dress on a mountain, strong, beautiful, came to life. The legacy and friendship between three people captured forever.

On a mountain.


a writer

The doors will be opened
to those who are bold enough
to knock.


It’s an honor to be allowed into a person’s world and to be invited to capture
a moment in their life. High School seniors have such incredible energy – it’s
always a pleasure to photograph them.

When I met with this beautiful girl for her pre-session consultation we discussed wardrobe choices. She casually mentioned she might like to have a photo or two with her red lipstick on. ‘Is this possible?’, she asked. ‘Of course!’, my reply.  I suggested that the red lips arrive at the end of our session & didn’t give it another thought until I arrived on location to take her photographs.

She gracefully moved into poses with a little coaching & adjusting, and a few gentle laughs. She became even more attractive as her personality had a chance to shine. A quick wardrobe change and more photographs, making sure we had at least one image for her yearbook selection. The warmth of the late autumn sun quickly fading.

‘Any more poses you’d like to have?’ ‘Oh yes! my red lipstick!’

In a moment she ran into her house and returned as a grown-up writer!
Red lipstick, eyeglasses and ready for her first book signing! We had chatted during our consultation and as our session evolved, so I knew she wanted to be a writer…and here she sat…in my camera frame…a writer.

I was honored when she saw this photo, picked up the proof and enthusiastically stated, “THIS photo is going to be on my first book cover!”

The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock.

small gesture

In this big world, it’s the small things. One small gesture of human kindness speaks volumes to the heart.

Hollywood screen writers could make this stuff up, but it means so much more when it’s unprompted & genuine.

My son was ten when we moved half way across the country. Honestly, I was more concerned with my 13 year old daughter finding friends. My son was the one who would reach out to the underdog, befriend the new kid, listen patiently to the quiet one in class and was completely stunned when he found himself as that new kid without an ally. The course of events in a growing school district meant while new schools were being built, my son had the ‘opportunity’ to attend 4th thru 7th grades in different schools (one change due to our move).

The first day of another new school transition into 7th grade, he came home with a smile in his voice and said, “I finally found someone who speaks my language!”  His language — drums. The boys talked drums and everything drumming, evaluating every rock band, drumming style, equipment set up and dreams of a big stage. High school finds two friends who enjoy the peaks & endure the valleys of finding out who they are, what they need from the world and continue a mutual respect of each other’s skills. Drumming connects them again, still.

The year of high school “lasts” has to happen to find their way into the big world.

They’ve played in the jazz band for the Jazz Dance for years. An incredible evening of music that hundreds of parents, grandparents, siblings and friends enjoy. These two kids alternate playing the drum set throughout the evening. The last song starts with my son on the set, the final song of the night, the last song of their years together as jazz drummers. The four hour evening rapidly coming to a close with the next down beat.

My son starts in with both hands & both feet moving with some innate, remarkable ability, dynamics known only to drummers. What I saw next humbled me. My son handed his extra sticks to his friend standing on the edge of the stage and nodded toward the cymbal…the slight nod of encouragement to, yes, you have to play, yes, now.

They speak the same language.

I ask him about it, his reply, a slight lift of one shoulder, its no big deal, mom. The small gesture spoke volumes to my heart.



WAVphoto Chris VonDerLinn
‘the things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling’
~fabienne frederickson

I know a young man who has passion.
Passion in how he learns, the quantity of knowledge he has, his joy in sharing his gift with the world.

This young man is a drummer who was born with rhythm coursing through his veins and always a steady heartbeat, barely able to contain his drumming fingers…always at the dinner table, frequently on a drum set.

I know this drummer. I gave birth to him.

‘Passionate’ is the perfect description of his enthusiasm of all things percussion. As a barely two year old trying to configure a drum set using a coffee can, tape, paper plates & a barbecue skewer, frustration mounting as the high-hat cymbals wouldn’t open & close like he saw in a Beatles video.

Shortly after, a December holiday brought an entire drum set–and at his birthday party only 3 weeks later he shared his drumming passion with the world. Ok…maybe to most of his first grade class and all the neighbors.

What I admired about his performance was he didn’t know if he was a great drummer or an ok drummer. He just wanted to play. And he played along with the Beatles music and he started the party.

WAVphoto Chris VonDerLinn

So this passion continues and gets deeper (as does his song selection) over the years to include all genres of music. It’s a pleasure to watch the evolution of his style and skill as he proceeds through each phase. I am grateful that heavy-metal was relatively short lived and that jazz is in the heavy rotation.

When I see passion in a young person, it’s not forced. It’s an inner drive, strength, motivation. An athlete on the practice field before the team, the artist who has filled every page of the sketchbook before the semester begins, the mountain climber who has studied the map well before the hike. The drummer who is on the stage for every performance that involves music: the pit musical, the symphonic & orchestra concerts, the student showcase, marching band & jazz bands. And then playing through his selections for hours at a time on his set in the basement. Without applause. Drumming is the blood that keeps him alive.WAVphoto Chris VonDerLinn

Where does it come from? I’d like to take a little credit – for the 9 months I carried him I taught step aerobics to a perfect 8 count…

…but that doesn’t explain why, on one of the coldest days in winter, he packed up his set (breaking down drums, stands, cymbals, amps), loaded the pieces into his car – unloaded them at school, set up the drum set, rocked the stage for his Tri-M (music honor society) recital, then took the whole kit apart, in the car, home & back into the basement. It was well below zero degrees F. I know because I was ‘helping’ him get it packed into his car at the school, when everyone else was gone. The janitor was already cleaning the hallway outside the room. There was no applause, just frostbite. Frostbite and passion.


Live the magic
Have faith in simplicity
Always dare to dream.
(Posted at the Field of Dreams movie set, Iowa)

In a cornfield in the middle of the United States.
I had a magical experience there.

“People will come….they’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom”

I think everyone knows about the 25 year old movie ‘Field of Dreams’ starring Kevin Costner, a corn field and a famous line,
build it, he will come
Its a great story about baseball, passion & dreams.

I couldn’t fathom exactly why I went to Iowa. Except to watch magic unfold right before my eyes on a beautiful October day. We turned down yet another country road in between even more cornfields and quickly approached THE field, THE house with THE white picket fence, with THE red barn in the background. It was not a movie set that was removed when the movie wrapped. It’s a pristine baseball field, acres of corn stalks and magic in the air.

movie set  for Field of Dreams movie WAVphoto

movie set for Field of Dreams movie

“And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon”

Field of Dreams, Iowa

Field of Dreams, Iowa

“…they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters”

My friend knew to bring a glove, ball and a bat and ran onto the field ready to throw & catch and run…kids again! There was no way to capture or translate what happened next. We took the obvious photos: walking out from the cornstalk rows – just like in the movie. I chatted with other visitors, a family from the east in town for a wedding–the grandparents, parents and a baseball playing young man – I offered to take a family photo. Afterward, they reluctantly returned to their car. A young couple with a toddler were sitting on the bleachers…waiting.
Enjoying the day. Just waiting.

With energetic enthusiasm, my friend encouraged the young couple onto the field. The gal jumped up excited to have been called up. Her face lit up as she connected the bat to the ball and watched it sail past second base. By her skill you could tell it wasn’t the first hit of her life. You would have thought she hit a grand slam in a major ball park – I could tell it felt like home to her. In the outfield she ran down all the balls that were hit…chased them at top speed, smiling the whole time. Alive. Happy. She moved gracefully, as if she fielded grounders every day. I learned from her husband that she dearly missed her college softball team and he said they had just moved to Iowa to start their new life with big dreams.

The wedding family had backed out of the dusty parking space and were summoned to play. A dreamer who loves the game of baseball, pulled the car right back into the parking space after hearing the yelling, “come back-we need more players!” The young man ran to home plate – thrilled to have a chance to bat. He asked his dad to take a video of him running the bases. He ran fast and free, hardly touching the ground knowing all eyes were following him. Grandpa? Yes, he savored each moment watching his son and grandson hitting, running, laughing– playing baseball. I could see the shine in his eyes.
The magic had taken over.

It was a beautiful October day in a cornfield in Iowa.

“It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again…. people will come… people will most definitely come”

72WAVphoto self 1898

Live the magic~ have faith in simplicity~always dare to dream