Faith, Light, and Chocolate Chip Muffins

". . . that detail outside ourselves that brings us to ourselves, was here before us, knew we would come, and see beyond us."  -Adrienne Rich

Last week I had a moment when I laid my wavering faith down on the dining room table, wrapped my hands around my warm cup in prayer, and grilled my god.  I was mad.  I was scared.  For a dear friend, for Baltimore, Nepal.  For the world.  What is fair, I demanded to know.  Why so much injustice?  So there in sunlight and silence I waited, and waited some more.  And in the moment, no real epiphany came to me, no bright light.  But there in the middle of fear and anger and sadness was quiet.  

I garden all morning long.  My toes are painted with dirt.  I spray them down with the hose in the greening grass studded with dandelions.  Right there I see light.  

Sully wakes in the night and screams out for me in terror.  Voldemort has taken over his imagination - day and night - going on two months now.  I crawl into his bed and pull him to me.  His forehead is damp, his eyes are wild.  I can tell him that Voldemort is not real with assurance and fact.  But I waiver when he asks me to promise him that we will always be safe and fine.  

My boys get home from school and I hug on them and kiss the tops of their sweaty heads.  These are promises I can keep.  Here, there is love and light.  I am giving the absolute truth. 

I go to yoga.  My teacher says, today we will find the sweet life force.  We will soften.  We will sweeten.  The light of hope seeps in.

I go to the garden and farm store and walk the rows.  It is a warm day, my winter-pale arms are blissfully bare.  This is wonderful choice, I think to myself as I pick and choose perennials.  This is some good light.

I divide lemon balm and black eyed susan's in my garden.  I pull up cables of sweet mint and smile at the persistence of some things.  By bike, Theo and I deliver plants and chocolate chip muffins to friends.  Sunday things.  Bright.

Later that same day, I see my friend on her porch.  Her belly is full-term round with baby.  Her left breast - the cancer - removed two days before.  I look at her and see the most beautiful, luminous pillar of life.  Goddess and strength.  

In the quiet light falls upon what is real, scary, raw, beautiful.  I think about light as love and doing the very best we can in the moment.

I'm getting it.


Chocolate Chip Muffins
(adapted from Huckleberry)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup plain whole yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips, or chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line one 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Incorporate the eggs.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.  Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, yogurt, vanilla, and chocolate, just until incorporated.

Fill the muffin cups with batter all the way up to the top.  Sprinkle the tops with a little dusting of coarse sugar.  

Bake for 20 minutes, until the muffins are just brown.

Keep covered in an air-tight container for up to two days, or enjoy half the batch and deliver the other half to a friend.


Saltwater Birds and Mountain Air

"She wasn't doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together."  -J.D. Salinger

I was sitting at the dining room table the other day, alone in the quiet house and early afternoon light.  A memory came to me.  I thought about being a "driveway" kid; long slabs of sun-bleached concrete with wisps of palm tree shade, thick heat, citrus spritz, doing crazy eights on my sparkly bike with a banana seat.  Weekends and kids for days, up and down, down and up.  Evenings, running, cooling in the shade.  1970's coastal Florida houses did not have porches, not a one that I recall.  Scratchy, aluminum chairs set up in the driveway.  Parents, tan, highball in hand.

My children are porch children, and "courtyard" kids.  We do not have a driveway to speak of.  My watching chair is a step or perched on the side of a raised garden bed.  This air is less dense, bone-sucking dry.  I watch them run around in the grass and play rougher than I'd like them to.  Games of tag have begun, staring contests, and arm wrestling.  They fly by on scooters with light up wheels, looking like great herons standing in the salt flats, stick legs, wobbling.

One week from today, Theo will turn eight years old.  He is in what I think of as the thick of childhood, and Sullivan is not far behind.  My heart isn't on fast rewind these days like it was a year or so back, when I was still mourning the days of holding them in my arms more than the days of now when they walk by my side, hand-in-hand, closer to my heart, on their own feet.  I have enough years of mamahood tattooed on the hollows of my bones now to recognize that this time is purely for living in.  For inhaling and gathering up to make for good stock later.

In the middle, life is sweet and raw with truth.  It is the driveway and the courtyard.  It is the tides and mountains and the moon.  Right now, as Mary Oliver said, "I say to my heart: rave on."


Please meet Fergus and Flora.  They've been here three weeks today, and I'm falling in love.


Introducing Katie Neuman | Prints

I recently brought to life a dream and vision I've had for quite some time.

Last year was a wonderful time of growth for myself and for my photography business.  I could clearly distinguish the roots I'd been tending and the new shoots of growth - collaborations, portraits, and creative projects - taking on new and healthy shapes of their own.  

Starting this new year, I spent the better part of my days during January and February taking creative and entrepreneurial e-courses and reading companion books to the courses.  This is the year that I am focusing on my vision, and getting fully behind my quiet business style.  I also had to work hard at accepting a fact that has given me anxiety since the first day I decided to be paid for my work: I am a non-competitive creative.

And you know what?  Since I stopped worrying about what all the other photographers around me are doing, and how my un-branded approach to business is not the norm, I've gathered this amazing tribe around me. Like-minded creatives and entrepreneurs and mamas.  And doors for new editorial work and portraiture sessions keep opening in the most unexpected, blissfully welcomed ways.

But back to the dream that is now a real, tangible thing.  I opened a print shop!  A Web market of photographs that I have selected to sell in print.  In addition to my editorial and portraiture business, this is pure, creative fun for me.

I thoughtfully chose to begin small.  After looking through hundreds of my photographs, I realized that I did not want to work backwards.  I want to move forwards, so I plan on growing the shop from here on out, with just three prints to start, all taken within the last eleven months.  

I hope you'll have a visit to the Print Shop, and I'll update here when new prints come available - ocean and desert trips are on the horizon.

And I hope you, too, will continue whatever work is yours, in your very own way.  I believe wholly in staying true to the vision you have for your creative process.  There is enough for everyone.