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A Photoshoot at Dawn

Almost all the pieces for the first issue of Mabel were coming together—we were waiting on some art, and a few edits, there were a few holes still to fill,  but the planning map of the book had been made, and initial layouts had begun, and Stef was pondering the cover.

Beginnings. New things. First starts.

The first issue had a June debut date so we wanted a summery feel. We talked through different ideas and venues, and what would best show people who Mabel was, and what she might have to say to them… at a glance.

mailboxes-and-bridgeStef did some scouting, and we picked our spot: Muir Beach—a short-ish drive over the mountain, a small sandy cove-like beach with steep hills rising out of the ocean, and some cool rock formations a little ways off the beach. We’d get there in time for the sun rising over the mountain. Dawn at the beach, on the cover of our first issue, with all the metaphor and meaning. Check!

I loaded up my car the night before and on a very early dark April morning, drove out to the beach. The sky brightened just a little as I wound my way down the ocean side of the mountain, and the grasses waved on the breeze—still so green from the late spring rain—the air smelled salty and it felt sweet and crisp.

I arrived about 6am and found Stef waiting for me at the gate to the parking area.

Gate locked. Parking lot empty.

Apparently the rangers don’t get up at the crack of dawn to open the park gates. Huh… The last time I was at Muir Beach it was still a funky pot-holed parking lot, no gates, no public bathrooms, no schmancy painted parking spaces. But the funky was gone, and that parking lot was all business.

So we did what anyone would do when on a mission: we unloaded our things and walked around the gates, walked through the parking lot and over the bridge (again no longer funky), through the dunes to the beach. And we left our cars parked in the driveway just in front of the gate.

chloe-and-indiaThree trips later, we had blankets and scarves, journals and pens, feathers and beads, 2 strings of prosperity chickens, a string of silk butterflies and some magic wands made by Stef, three vintage suitcases, oh, yeah and 2 painted mannequins all on the beach. A photo shoot for a magazine cover, the beach at dawn, so, yeah, we needed models.

We walked to the water, we scouted good positions, and we watched the light come up over the mountain, and then . . . watched the fog come in over the water. After 3 days of hot hot hot, the fog did it’s Bay Area thing, and came in—not on tip toes or with with delicate fingers—but with big gusts and a chilly wind.

We did the shoot, we worked Chloe and India till they were exhausted, and we laughed—and frowned. Stef got some great photos and they all looked quite wintery—not at all what we were hoping for a June cover.

It was a moment for us amongst so many other moments as this magazine project began unfolding—where we got to feel Mabel as she became more and more real. We were really doing this: making a magazine. We were leaning into the joy of the work and the unexpected problems to solve and finding the real in the disappointment, and also in what occurs when creating something new. It doesn’t always go the way the plan has been drawn up—the path through doesn’t always go in the direction we first thought.

muir-beach-cases-&-butterfliesAnd there, right there, that’s one of the biggest reasons to lean into the process of creating.

So many things will go wrong, and so many other things will go right, and then there are those things that surprise you, the things that were never part of the plan but they reveal themselves to you, and they belong. All those things {and so much more} form an experience that keeps us in touch with our humanity, and our creativity, and our longing for more of all of it.

When we finished with the shoot, we packed everything back out, and lo and behold the parking lot gate was open, our cars were still sitting where we had left them parked right in front of the now open gate, and right beside the sign that said Cars Parked Illegally Will be Towed.

green-gulchAnd the happy after story: After the beach we drove over to Green Gulch Zen Center to take a walk through the gardens. A month or so later when I was laying out the magazine I remembered that Stef had taken photos while we were there, and I asked her to look through them and send the ones that she liked. The photos for Jill Salahub’s piece Let Go and Come Back wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t made that pre-dawn drive out to the coast for the cover that was not to be.

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