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Stations are for Coming and Going

Stations are for coming and going.

A repeated theme in military spouse life: PCS. (Permanent Change of Station) Moving. Starting over. Moving some more...

Sometimes the cycle can seem pretty daunting, and exhausting.

Sometimes, you are graced with amazing people. I've been pretty lucky with our moves to pick up a good friend or two. (This, too, is bittersweet for the military spouse. Not to sound too melodramatic, but every military spouse knows there is an expiration on the friendship. Sure, we can continue on social media and hope that we'll bump shoulders again... But more than likely, PCS will happen. A Station Change will happen. #Stationsareforcomingandgoing

Monica and Mayra down at South Docks- at the West Point Train Station

Last April, Mayra sat for me in a sundress and hat. It was still chilly in the Hudson Valley. Despite that, Mayra looked amazing in her dress and hat. But West Point was still freezing. The sun had finally emerged and was flirting with spring, but it was still so cold. Mayra sat in front of her house; I positioned her so that the strong sun cast a lovely shadow across her eyes. I knew instantly that it was the photo I wanted to reference for her military spouse portrait.

At the same time, I could feel the eyes watching us on her front stoop. Some lady taking pictures of another lady in a sundress, in the cold. Geez. West Point was watching:)

Okay, maybe not.

But Monica might have been. Across the street from Mayra, Spain's flag graced a stoop, and patio lights draped across a small fenced lawn.

"You know, Monica is going back to Spain soon," Mayra said while looking out her neighbor's window.

" You should photograph her." Mayra smiled; she's always smiling. And she proceeded to cross the street, knocking on Monica's door and pulling her out.

Stations are for Coming and Going, WIP, 2023, 40" x 43", oil, pastel, gouache, charcoal, spray paint on Arches Oil Paper

And that is how I found myself photographing these two a month later. At first, I didn't know where I would take these photographs- or what to do with them. I didn't know how to put them together or what I wanted to say. Often, I let the sitters move through the motions of a photo shoot. I don't pose them, I let them settle in. Eventually, they get comfortable, and magic starts to happen. At least, I catch a glimpse of what I think is magic. It's this tiny moment. It's a moment when they get comfortable, and their actions become natural and relatable. It's when there's an intersection of everyday realities, common ground, and understanding. It's a moment when a little vulnerability pops up. When the military spouse lets go of her toughness. For a moment.

I loaded up Tiny (my miniature Subaru van) with my camera and these two ladies.

I spent the next few hours watching two friends interacting and photographing them.

Monica left West Point this summer. After a two-year leave of absence to accompany her husband to the US, she returned to Spain and the Spanish Army as a nurse.

After all, Stations are for Coming and Going.

Today, we all chatted over What's App as I shared the progress of their painting. I'm always amazed by how the spouses react to these. At first I thought the loud colors and abstracted figures would put them off. Yet, generally, their reactions are positive.

Today, after Monica saw the painting in its raw state, she stated, "How appropriate" to the title.

And yes, it is appropriate.

This piece has many more layers as I move the figures slightly, adjust the colors, and draw over areas. My process has to play itself out.

All these layers represent military life: starting over, building again...

Sometimes, whole passages of beauty are lost; moments, friendships, and places we cherish are gone.

It's easy to get downtrodden or overwhelmed. However, It's important to remember that new opportunities and friendships will pop up. I suppose the life lesson is to cherish these moments, cultivating them while we can. And remembering.

Mayra, Monica, Tiny (the Vany), and myself on South Dock along the Hudson
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