Category Archives: Special events

Family Reunion Love

It has been far too long since my last entry…the only excuse I can think of is that my creative brain has become so full the past few months of moments of joy and inspiration, that it has been hard for me to pick out just one thing at any moment to write about.  So while the blog has been missing, I have not been silent at work!  Thank you to those who continue to entrust me with capturing their most precious moments.  I am continually humbled to do the work I do, blessed to step foot into your lives if for just a moment, and overjoyed to deliver to you images that make your hearts smile.

Last weekend I photographed a family reunion, and told the story with my camera. I knew one of the families, and another member only through Facebook.  There were more than thirty people gathered at Turtle Lake Campground on a cloudy, rainy and surprisingly chilly Saturday.  I blended into the rhythm, and quietly snapped away for four hours…paying attention to tender moments of connection, emotions, and the activities.  I could write a book about all that’s gone through my head since photographing this very special family, but will try to sum it up in a few thoughts…

…make the effort to connect with those you love.  We are given today, a living and precious gift, and it is up to us on how to live it.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow, so live for the present.  Don’t wait, connect.  You are beautiful just how you are, right now.  Take care of your elders, they have taken care of you.  Treat them with respect, love them, touch, and breathe in their peace. Laugh a lot. Encourage your kids to play, to be, to connect in a positive way with each other.  Help watch out for others’ kids.  Pray with and for each other.  When it gets hard, connect more.  Ask for help, share your burdens with those you love.  Eat good food.  Don’t complain about things you cannot change, like the weather – but embrace it and continue on.  Buy good coffee.  Be interested in each other.  Welcome outsiders.  When you say good-bye, stay in touch.  Get everyone together yearly. Take family pictures…be YOU in your family picture so you can recognize yourselves.  Love deeply.

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A Visit to PEACE Ranch

I had the joy and honor of working with the first and fourth graders of Eastern Elementary last week, as they came to visit PEACE Ranch for their culminating experience as part of the Heroes in the Community program.  I had visited each class prior to this experience, and shared a bit about photography.  I talked about some general hints on how to take a good picture, but really emphasized the importance of shooting from your heart and looking all around your environment.  I’m a self-taught photographer, and place a great deal of value on being present in the moment, and finding beauty wherever you are.  Put a camera in the hands of someone with that mentality, and I believe the results will shine.

So once the kids had their cameras (huge thank you to The Camera Shop in Traverse City for letting us borrow 10 amazing little cameras!!), I walked around the ranch with them, sometimes giving pointers, answering questions and giving a lot of praise when I saw them changing their perspective, finding something unusual, or framing their shot in a unique way.  My spirit was on fire, and I had a ball!  Throughout the experience, I also shot with my own camera.  I can’t share them all here because I didn’t get permission from all the parents.  However, you can view them all on PEACE Ranch’s facebook page.  The fourth graders are here.  And the first graders here.

Here are a few of mine that came from those two days…   IMG_5516

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The Release

After three weeks of rehabilitation at Wings of Wonder (WOW), this beautiful three-year-old Cooper’s Hawk was ready to go home.  IMG_4087-3

On March 9th, my kids and I responded to a plea from Rebecca Lessard, the Executive Director at WOW – someone had found an injured Coopers Hawk in Traverse City, and he desperately needed a ride out to the raptor sanctuary in Empire.  I thought to myself, what a fantastic opportunity to help for my kids!!  And that it was, I’m sure it will be one of those things they remember forever.  You can read about the rescue experience here.  But on this day, this beautiful creature had come full circle – he was rescued, rehabilitated, and now finally healed enough to return home.

So behind Oryana, a small crowd gathered to witness this amazing experience. As always, Rebecca compassionately and generously told the story – she educated, and she shared the experience.








IMG_4087Someone asked, “are you sure he’s ready to go?”  Rebecca chuckled aloud, “Oooooh, yes!”  She said he’s been in a bit larger flight pen lately, and he’s just been flapping around, eating heartily, looking alert, etc.  And at this point – this happened…


He flapped his wings and tried to fly away!

IMG_4090It was almost as if he heard that question, and yelled out “I’m READY!  Thank you very much for the care, but send me off!” So a little bit more education, as long as she had him held like so…


IMG_4113And then came time for the release…IMG_4117



IMG_4120-2And just like that, he was gone.  If you had sneezed at the release, you would have missed it.  No hesitation.  Off he went…

I like to imagine the story this hawk will carry with him, a story of hurt, pain, and being rescued by compassion. How easy it would have been for an animal to find him first, or some less compassionate soul.  But rather it was someone who knew exactly what to do.  I imagine him being thankful for the time he spent at WOW.  For the care he received.  The healing that was allowed to happen.  I don’t think he’ll forget it.

What an honor to be there from start to finish.  To see the amazement in my kids’ eyes.  To watch the moving in their spirit.  To hear the stories they tell.  Thank you Rebecca for the work you do.

If you come upon an injured raptor, and you’re in the Greater Grand Traverse Area – call Wings of Wonder 231-326-4663.  She’ll guide you on how to safely respond. If you’re not in this area, read this post for some helpful information and what to do.

Thank you for reading this story.




A Hawk Rescue!

My kids and I had a crazy, awesome experience this past weekend.  I answered a plea for help – someone in Traverse City had an injured hawk in a box in her house.  She found it on her morning walk, and it needed to get to Wings of Wonder (WOW), 20 miles away in Empire.  I was the first of many volunteers to respond.  So with a boxed up injured hawk in the back of my Sante Fe, my two kids and I made the trip to WOW.  Upon getting there, we were able to watch firsthand what happens when an injured bird arrives at this blessed sanctuary.  Rebecca gently scooped him up, graciously allowed my kids a closer look (and a few pictures), and then we followed her down to the “hospital.” The hawk appears to be a male Coopers Hawk.


IMG_3020In the hospital, Rebecca performed an examination in an effort to determine the extent of the injuries.  It looked as if the hawk had possibly flown into a window, as one wing looked a bit different, and his right eye wasn’t fully open.  The poor guy just looked like he felt lousy…he probably had one massive headache! It was amazing watching him peacefully allow the exam, almost as if he trusted the hands he was in, sensed the love and care.  And THEN, she allowed my kids to explore the wing, as she gently guided their hands, explaining to them what they were feeling.  AMAZING.




IMG_3043He then found solace in a large cage while we watched Rebecca cut up some quail for a snack.  As I have in past experiences with Rebecca Lessard, the Founder and Director of WOW, I am in awe of the deep respect she holds for raptors and all living things.  I respect the passion she exudes for the work she does – it is clearly evident as she talks about the mission and vision of WOW.  And I respected greatly the grace she showed my children as they eagerly snapped pictures of the entire experiences.  She educated them about what they were seeing, and was patient with and respectful of their curiosity.  If you ever have a chance to visit WOW or hear Rebecca speak in the surrounding area, I highly suggest checking it out!

And as long as we were out there, we got a tour of the place.  Here are a few of the residents…



IMG_3077Last I heard, the Coopers Hawk is doing much better.  He’s been eating well, and will hopefully return home soon!  Thank you to the kind soul who noticed and rescued him in Traverse City, and to WOW for giving this young fellow a second chance.

Read about the release of this hawk here.