look back

Things I Learned From Sir Terry Pratchett And His Marvelous Worlds (A Necessary List)
  1. The dogged determination and patience of one person to do what is Right and Necessary may not always win the day or even be noticed, but it will tip the balance just a little in the direction of good.
  2. “[T]he innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like ‘The innocent have nothing to fear’.”
  3. Help when you can, lift when you can, work as you can, but never be afraid to ask ‘will I get paid for this?’
  4. Everyone’s got hidden depths.  Some people have beautiful hidden mountain glades filled with adorable doe-eyed bunnies.  Some people have black oubliettes filled with nightmares and worse. Endeavor to be the sort of person that has both sorts of depths as neighbors.  Plumb them with caution.
  5. Find a place to call home, and know it so well you can tell what street you’re on by the feel of cobblestones through your boots.
  6. You can always come home again, but that doesn’t mean you’re moving backwards.
  7. There is never a bad time for a pun.
  8. There’s also never really a good time for a pun.
  9. You might as well just stay braced for a pun at all times, and ride them when they come with as much grace as you can manage.
  10. The fact that you can replace ‘pun’ with ‘disaster’ in the last three rules says a lot about the human race.
  11. Many people can survive absolutely anything as long as they know where their next meal is coming from. Others can not survive much, no matter how many meals they know about, and there’s no shame in that, nor admitting that, nor leaning on others to get there.
  12. You can protect children and you can teach children, but never perfectly in either case.
  13. You may not be able to change the world, but that doesn’t mean you have to stand for any sort of nonsense in your personal life.
  14. Everybody has somebody.  It could be a friend, a lover, a spouse, a writing partner, or even That One Person You See At The Coffee Shop each day.  Sometimes they exist to comfort you.  Sometimes they exist to drive you absolutely mad.  Be open to either as a form of self-improvement.
  15. Death comes to us all, but memory is long and time is tricky.  The end for you is, most likely, not really the end for everyone else.  
  16. If you know the end, if you can see the end, there’s no need to be resigned.  Keep walking on cheerfully, whistling right up to the precipice, and let people remember you by the beautiful song you leave in the air.

Thank you, sir.  You will be missed.

Home.

When I was sixteen years old, I was a very lost little girl. 

I am tremendously lucky; my family is open and kind, my parents are loving, my church was liberal and warm, my school was progressive and thoughtful.

But I still remember getting teased mercilessly about how much of a ‘boy’ I was, with my short haircut and my t-shirt and shorts at the pool.  I still remember getting mocked for being fat, for being not enough of a girl, for not developing fast enough, for developing too fast.  I still can’t question my identity as a woman too much without cracking into a nasty mess of trauma.  I was nine, and I wanted to be anything but what I was.

I still recall the pastor at our church crying because of the gay brother she lost to AIDS.  I remember people outside of our little circle mocking us for working on his quilt square.  I remember sobbing myself, wondering what I would do if I got infected, wondering if the way I was would kill me before I graduated.  I was fourteen, and I knew that I was going to die.  Young, probably.  Certainly alone.

I can replay in my head when, at summer camp, were were tasked with writing monologues including one from the perspective of ourselves, fifty years in the future.  I wrote a comedy about robot limbs and virtual pets.  My friend wrote about how she would be dead, because something would have killed her.  The world would have killed her. AIDS or violence or the government would have killed her. I was sixteen, and I knew none of us would see the other side of twenty.  Some of us had pills to make sure it was so.

And then I remember this day, this miracle, magical day, when a girl from my youth group, three years older than me, beautiful and queer and proud, just came to my house.  I think she knew, though I never talked about it, I think she could see in me what I was and where I was going. 

We never hung out, but she picked me up and she told my Mom we were just going to hang out, and she drove me to a part of town I’d never been before.  It was a coffee shop, and it had a bookstore, and it had rainbows painted into the fence, and I knew what that meant.  And I was terrified.  But N, she was so cool.  She was so cool and so amazing and so confident and so self-assured.  So I went with her.

She ordered a french press and I had a tea, and we just talked.  About life, and philosophy, and all the beautiful, weird things teenage girls talked about.  And all around me, there were these people I’d never seen before.  There were boys holding hands.  There were photos of women kissing on the walls.  There were shelves of queer studies texts.  There were Polaroids of quilt squares stuck all around the register.

And the longer I was there, the better I felt.  And when we left, when the shop closed, I was so regretful to leave, so grateful to be there – I put every dime of my money in the tip jar.

And when I got back to my bedroom, I cried.

Because that place – it was home.  Home. Home.  It was safe.  For all my objectively wonderful, fantastic life, I had never, not once in my life, felt like that.  I could say anything.  I could do anything.  I could be anything.  

And there were people there twice my age.  Three times!  There were old people drinking coffee, holding hands, buying books, obviously not alone and they were like me.

My mom asked why I was crying, and all I could tell her was that I was going to be okay.  And that was it, that was the whole story.  I was crying because I was going to be okay.  Because there were people who lived beyond twenty.  Because no matter what else happened, there was a home.  I went back, over and over.  When school started, I gave my carefully hoarded pills to someone else, but I also asked them if they wanted to come to the coffee shop with me.

That coffee shop is long gone, and N has moved on and we haven’t talked in decades, but that first trip was absolutely essential to my survival, because it taught me there were places out there that’d feel like home.  Other queer spaces, ones that were quite explicitly so.  Clubs.  Parties.  College groups.  I never really came out, I just started being this person.  The world around me was accepting enough that I could.  And always, no matter what, if the world got too hard, I could find one of those places.  I wouldn’t get hell.  I would be home.

Where you go in, and you see someone like you.  You see a hundred people like you but not like you, old people, successful people, beautiful people, ordinary people.  You feel safe.  You go home.  Because it doesn’t matter what the place is, what people do there, it’s the people, it’s the strangeness, it’s the things you can not see in your mainstream life that make them special.

These places are so important.  And when one of them is violated, even when I don’t know anyone personally affected, I feel like my own home was broken into.  I feel terrified.

My family has been relentlessly, endlessly, constantly under siege since long before I was born.  It will still be at war long after I die.  But there are places like that coffee shop, like Pulse, where I can go to plan and play, to mourn and dance, to be.  

I don’t have some big conclusion for this.  I don’t have one of my usual messages of hope.  I just wanted to say that places like this are important, that we need more of them.  Places like this changed me, and for the better.  Places like this are where my family lives.  And while I will be on my guard, I refuse to be afraid to go there.  I will go home, any time, any city, and there is nothing anyone can do to change that.  The reward is worth the risk.  

If you feel the same – if you can, if you feel safe – please, go to one of these places this week.  Go to a club, go to a coffee shop, go to a mixer or an event, hell, go to a thrift store if it’s an explicitly queer one.  There are a lot of people that are going to be afraid, this week.  Go, please, if you are brave, and make those places weird and wonderful and diverse and home.  

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2014 Community Look Back: Surfing in the Clouds, Space Dreams and Life on the Trail

For more creative moments from our community this year, visit blog.instagram.com and follow @instagram on Instagram.

This week we are looking back at some of the inspiring stories we’ve featured in 2014 from around the Instagram community. Today’s spotlight is on Hawaiian Instagrammer Sarah Lee (@hisarahlee), Texas-based photographer Lauren Marek (@laurenmarek) and National Geographic contributor Joe Riis (@joeriis).

Photographing below the water’s surface, Sarah exposed us to the atmospheric beauty of the underside of breaking waves.

Lauren used tinfoil, a football helmet, a black curtain and her little sister to make a stellar photo for the Weekend Hashtag Project #whpspacedreams.

Joe, a wildlife photographer following the Yellowstone elk migrations, captured the flying embers of his campfire and was selected for The Week on Instagram in July.

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2014 Community Look back: Exploring Ecuadorian Landscapes, Spreading Flowers on Paper and Spotting Human Chameleons

For more creative moments from our community this year, visit blog.instagram.com and follow @instagram on Instagram.

This week we are looking back at some of the inspiring stories we’ve featured in 2014 from around the Instagram community. Today’s spotlight is on photojournalist Ivan Kashinsky (@ivankphoto), Malaysian artist Limzy (@lovelimzy), and Texas-based photographer Emily Blincoe (@emilyblincoe).

Ivan’s photo series, “Project Mi Barrio,” juxtaposed the many faces of Equador through portraits of local people and places.

Limzy, a former art teacher, combined watercolor illustrations with flower petals for a simple, delicate series as a gift to her grandmother.

Emily, a prolific creator of thematic hashtags on Instagram, invented #chameleonportrait, where subjects of photos blend into the background.

Wanted: your plastic bags!

But only specific ones, heh.

As mentioned previously, my sister works on a project where she turns plastic shopping bags into a kind of yarn and crochets mats that are sturdy, hold up to weather well, but also provide some comfort to homeless folks or anyone sleeping rough.  There’s an organization that hands them out for free at various shelters throughout Chicago.

Katie has been getting more and more creative with her designs for these mats – she totally believes that things should be beautiful as well as functional – but most of the bags they get in are white, brown, and grey.

So!  If you shop somewhere and get bags of a different color (or get newspapers in a plastic bag, or anything else like that) – please consider sending them my way!  Especially if you live in Chicago and I can pick them up from you.

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2014 Community Look Back: World Cup Kickoff, Surrealist Taxidermy and Art from Everyday Objects

For more creative moments from our community this year, visit blog.instagram.com and follow @instagram on Instagram.

This week we are looking back at some of the inspiring stories we’ve featured in 2014 from around the Instagram community. Today’s spotlight is on Rio de Janeiro-based Instagrammer Arthur Maciel (@arthurmartins), the Belgian taxidermist duo Mothmeister (@mothmeister) and Israel-based creative director Dudi Ben Simon (@dudibensimon).

Participating in the Weekend Hashtag Project prompt of #WHPGameOn, Arthur captured the fervor and excitement on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro at the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Mothmeister, a two-part team of Belgian creative directors, explained their inspiration for creating masked figures that create a sense of uneasiness and curiosity.

In a feature on his artistic use of household objects, Dudi discussed his fascination with the creative results of disconnecting daily items from their everyday use.

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We’re still without a laptop which is preventing Theo from editing any new images, but we’re missing posting so much that we’ve created a review post, of some of our favourite places or experiences during our first 6 months on the road. We’ve included a link in each review to the original post the image was from, in case you want to read more about it.

  • Trolltunga - The hike Theo really really wanted to do, although we actually drove hundreds of kilometers past it without even realising our error. This was by far our favourite hike in Norway, standing on the trolls tongue is definitely an experience any hiker should complete. 
  • Day 1 in Dungeness - An area we’d visited 7 months before in our self-converted Citroen Berlingo (named Wilson), it felt fitting to spend our first night of our European adventure on the Kent coast in our new VW home. We explored the shingle beach by starlight, mesmerised by the glowing sea kale and creaky abandoned shacks and boats.
  • Clouds in Lofoten - We’d been hopeful to catch our second glimpse of the Aurora borealis, instead a vast cloud blanket settled down across the islands obscuring any chance of watching the polar lights again. Instead we spent the day driving through the clouds, drenching the GoPro in cloud moisture, and stopping for plenty of photo opportunities. 

  • Reine - It feels as though we spent a lot of time in Reine, we met a number of fantastic people there, spent a good few hours hiding from the rain in Bringen Blomster, and hiked Reinebringen three times. People watching from the privacy of our van allowed us to see the many tourists excitedly jump out of their vehicles, exclaim at the stunning mountains before them, snap some photos, then drive off to the next Lofoten ‘must see’ location. 
  • Fur Island - Told to go there by a solo motorbike adventurer one sunny morning in Denmark, we crossed onto Fur island an hour or so later and stayed for almost a week. The island is small enough for a yearly ‘Fur rundt’ where the inhabitants walk the 26 kilometers around the island during the height of summer, we even took part!
  • Folgefonna glacier  - We drove past the glacier more times than I can remember, eventually hiking up to it a few days after Trolltunga. It was an extremely rainy day but it just added to the fun of pulling ourselves up incredibly steep rock-faces with rope, jumping across glacial rivers, hiding in huts, and face to face encounters with inquisitive sheep. 
  • Reaching the Lofoten Islands - We didn’t/don’t do much planning when we’re travelling, there’s always a few things we’d like to see, but most of the time we just roll with it (pardon the pun). Lofoten was an exception as we’d put a lot of thought into visiting this particular area of Norway, the images we’d seen on Google fired up our longing to travel and I suppose were one of the main reasons we ended up travelling in the first place. We finally reached Lofoten in August, the night before Theos birthday, waking up amongst the mountains was a view to cherish. 

  • Lofoten, again - We’d been in Lofoten for a few weeks when we met up with Cody and Justyna to camp out on Myrland beach. It was ace to spend some time with others, talking about our experiences, and drinking some Baileys! 
  • Wildlife in Copenhagen - Achieving the shot of the Heron during sunset in Copenhagen was an accomplishment in itself; Theo was perched atop a 4 foot fence, about 2 inches wide, so of course needed my help. He essentially stood on my shoulders whilst I held onto his ankles, hoping to keep him upright and from diving headfirst into the midge-infested lake before us. The locals had a good laugh, as did we, but the image he captured was worth it. Forever thankful the Heron didn’t fly off during our escapades. 
  • Aurora borealis - We were incredibly lucky to see the Aurora so many times during our month in Lofoten. This night near Henningsvær goes down as the most memorable as we’d been waiting hours in the dark for it to begin and were packing up to go to bed in the van when it started!

We’re hoping to be up and running in a few weeks time, our return journey to Spain is booked and we can’t wait to be back exploring again. 

Once again we’d like to thank everyone for their support throughout our journey, through good and bad, you’ve made this experience a whole lot richer. 

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2014 Community Look Back: Capturing Liquids in Midair, Growing up in Rural Australia and Paying Tribute to the King of Rock and Roll

For more creative moments from our community this year, visit blog.instagram.com and follow @instagram on Instagram.

This week we are looking back at some of the inspiring stories we featured in 2014 from around the Instagram community. Today’s spotlight is on Australian photographer Sam Harris (@samharrisphoto), Dutch designer Manon Wethlij (@manonwethly), and Elvis tribute artist Dean Zeligman (@deanzaselvis).

Sam’s photo series, “Middle of Somewhere", documenting his daughters growing up in rural Australia, was included in our feature on Burn Magazine, an online journal for emerging photographers.

Manon, a designer with a love of photography, created #flyingstuff for her ongoing series of liquids arrested in midair.

Dean, who began first impersonating Elvis at the age of three, paid tribute to the “The King” during the annual Elvis Week competition in Memphis, Tennessee.