The gifts of my summer babies – what they’re here to remind us of.

I was standing at my back door staring out into the yard when I saw it. Something was moving in a tree. One little thing. And then another. And another.   It took me about 10 seconds to recognize what I was looking at. Three tiny raccoons climbing, and balancing, and tumbling along the branches of a tree in my neighbor’s yard.   They were slightly bigger than kittens, with striped tails dangling as they wobbled their way along the tree’s limbs. Their mother was sitting on a larger branch, watching over them. It was like they were having a climbing lesson.   And I was in love instantly.   What a gift to witness this moment in their lives. I would have missed it, surely, had I been trapped in my phone. Had I been in my old routine of checking, and scrolling, and posting, and losing time on social media, I never would have met my summer babies at this stage of their lives.   Okay, maybe I would have met them. I’ll never know. But it wouldn’t have been on this day during their climbing lesson. And I probably wouldn’t have felt so deeply connected to experiencing more moments like this.   And maybe I wouldn’t have understood the role my choice to take time away from my phone played in all of it.   Some (most) people will say it was a coincidence that I came upon this scene when I did. Sure, that’s possible. But I don’t think so.   Life is happening all of the time, all around us. We can be witness to it, or we can ignore it. When we can’t hear or feel our intuition guiding us toward the moments unfolding for us, we miss out.   When we are stuck watching other people’s lives on social media, we can’t hear our own life calling for us.   I was listening on this day. And something inside of me said, “Get up, walk to the door, and look outside.”   A video compilation of my encounters with my summer babies.   The first time I saw the babies (I call them “my summer babies”) was July 2nd, 2022. The most recent experience with them was March 18th, 2023. Every time I saw them, it felt like I was being reminded to be present. And that if I took time to appreciate this gift, I would find deep meaning in it.   Some sweet things I was reminded of through my encounters with my summer babies:   Remember how fun it is to learn something new. That feeling of making connections through deeper understanding of ideas and the ways in which things work. How what was once a mystery becomes a part of you in knowing its magic. Watching the babies learn to climb had a deep impact on me. And seeing them use their skills over the following months felt like I had had a secret window into this sacred and natural piece of their wildness.   Delight in the simplest of things. And the magical things. In all of it. Each time I saw my raccoon babies, my child heart rose up to the surface. My voice changed, my eyes brightened, and my entire energy shifted into wonder.   It’s okay to take the long way. If that’s what you love, go for it. If you’re in it for the journey more than the destination, take as long as you need. Go as far and as high as you feel called. Sometimes I didn’t see the babies, but I heard them on my roof. They have a route that goes from my office window (up a tree we call the ‘rat ladder’), over and across the roof, and down another tree outside our bedroom window. Then they head back across the neighbor’s driveway in the same direction they came from before. The long way is sometimes the most fun.   Find a spot with a great view and rest there. Take it all in. Wave to the world. And then nap. Pretty much every encounter with the babies involved them climbing to a high point – my roof, a tree, the back fence – where they could look out across the yard, and rest for a while.   Play. Find the people you love the most, and get them outside to play. At sunrise. In the middle of the day. As the sun goes down – play. My encounters with the babies happened at all times of day. The first time was after 3 in the afternoon. The second was before sunrise. And there have been many times I’ve heard them in the middle of the night. And every time, they showed me the joy of play.   And I might have missed all of this had I chosen to get lost in my phone rather than find out what was right outside my back door.   Be well and wild, my friends.   All my love, Marika     This post is part of “The fire” blog series. Welcome to the fire. Where we step outside of the walls built around us to discover something more beautiful and more alive together. Marika Moffitt is an artist and storyteller focused on expressing the spirit of dogs through photography. As the owner of SoulDog Creative in Seattle, Washington, Marika helps clients throughout the Pacific Northwest to honor their journeys with their Soul Dogs with one-of-a-kind artwork. Full of life and movement, Marika’s photographs touch deep within the heart of what it means to live the journey with the dogs we love. To commission artwork of your dog, cat, or horse, book a consultation with Marika to begin your journey.

We have to go to be – finding a deeper connection to place and the journey to being.

I saw the Ansel Adams: Masterworks photography exhibit at MOHAI in mid-June (while taking a sabbatical from social media) last year, and I’ve been on fire about it ever since.   It was supposed to be a date night. I was gonna dress up. We were gonna go to dinner. And then we were gonna attend a special evening presentation after viewing the exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry in South Lake Union. At least, that’s what I imagined when my husband texted me to block off my calendar for Wednesday night date night. On Tuesday, however, we discovered that the tickets to the evening presentation my husband had purchased were actually for an online event. And MOHAI closes at 5 pm on Wednesdays. We had a good laugh about our date-turned-webinar situation before deciding to turn it into a lunchtime adventure instead. So on Wednesday, we visited MOHAI around Noon, and found our way to the exhibit.   Only a few feet into the gallery, I was holding back tears. I’ve known Ansel Adams’ work my entire career as a photographer, but until that day, I never let myself get lost in it. The tears I choked back were there because of a line I read in the introduction to the exhibit. I can’t remember the exact words, but the idea was that the reason why Adams’ work has resonated with so many people over the years is because whether or not we are aware of it, place matters. Those two words – “place matters” – hit me hard. I thought of all the places I’d been in my life. How they hold memories of loved ones long gone. Of times long gone. Places and moments I’ll never see again outside of my dreams and photographs. Places I’ve yet to experience. Places forever tied to moments that shaped me into myself. Yes, place matters. It matters so very much. But even more, it matters that we experience it. As I walked from photograph to photograph, I thought about what it took for Adams to create each piece. Not just the technical know-how, or the equipment he used. But the heart and the vision. He didn’t simply want to photograph a place as it looked – he wanted to photograph how it felt. And how it made him feel. That is everything I hope for in my work – to create art from, with, and for feeling.   I don’t know how I made it through that entire exhibit without bawling my eyes out, but by the end of it, I was wanting more. Not just more of his work, but more of his story. And I wanted to know what my husband thought – how he felt after experiencing the exhibit. We walked around the gallery a second time, pointing out our favorite pieces, and sharing how they made us feel. One piece in particular – probably one of Adams’ most famous works – “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941,” was a favorite for both of us. Not necessarily because of the scene it depicted, but for the story of how it was created. Adams was driving when he saw the moon rising over the scene, and he had only a few moments to make the image before the light changed. It may have been luck that put him in the right place at the right time, but it was his experience and wisdom that made it possible for him to capture the scene in that moment. Experience and wisdom that only comes from doing. From going out again and again and doing.   This is what we’re missing when we’re stuck in our phones – the process of becoming. When we’re only looking for the highlights or the easiest answers, we miss the story and the work and the journey. This exhibit wasn’t a highlight reel to me. It was a doorway into understanding what matters – going to places that make us feel more deeply. Going there and being there. Going again and being again. Showing up. Not just watching and waiting to be shown. Having faith in the process, and being okay with not having all of the answers right away – or ever. After this day at the Ansel Adams: Masterworks exhibit, I knew I wouldn’t return to social media in the same way as I had been present before my sabbatical. There was no “place” there for me.   I wouldn’t be returning to my work (or life) in the same way either.   I had to go out and experience the process and the journey for myself in order to create from, with, and for more feeling.   I had to go to be.   This journey manifested itself in a lot of ways since last June. Most notably, it helped me be present with people I love in beautiful, imperfect moments. And it helped me approach my art with deeper connection than ever before. It guided me in letting go of all of the things I no longer needed.   And it brought me back to what I’m here for – to live, to love, and to create art that moves your soul.     Be well and wild, my friends.   All my love, Marika   p.s. After the exhibit, I found this documentary about Ansel Adams, and I highly recommend it. It covers a lot of the things that were shared in the online presentation (our date night webinar) given by Ansel’s son, Michael, that night.   This post is part of “The fire” blog series. Welcome to the fire. Where we step outside of the walls built around us to discover something more beautiful and more alive together.     Marika Moffitt is an artist and storyteller focused on expressing the spirit of dogs through photography. As the owner of SoulDog Creative in Seattle, Washington, Marika helps clients throughout the Pacific Northwest to honor their journeys with

Welcome to the fire.

Welcome to the fire. Where we step outside of the walls built around us to discover something more beautiful and more alive, together. This is the beginning. I spent too long last night with my Instagram app open on my iPad. The empty space waiting for me to fill with words to share. Words to go with the photo I had chosen. Words that probably wouldn’t reach far unless I paired them with a quirky, quick, and flashy video. So, words that wouldn’t come. Everything I want to say doesn’t belong there. I mean, it could go there, but it just isn’t the right place anymore. So that’s why we’re here now, building something new.   The breaking point for me and social media. I started 2022 knowing I needed to begin distancing myself from social media. For my own mental health, and because I felt like I was losing valuable time and energy to it. Not just as a creator and artist, but as a person. I was missing out on the things that make me happy. And the things that bring me wisdom and challenge me to grow. At the same time that I started my journey of rebranding my business, I took Facebook and TikTok off of my phone. And then a few months later, I decided to take a sabbatical from all social media. I removed Instagram from my phone and installed the Freedom app on my desktop, iPad, and iPhone. I had planned to take a month-long break to get away from the noise and distractions. Rebranding my business put me in a very raw and vulnerable place, and too much outside influence was overwhelming. What I hadn’t planned on was how angry I would get. Something important to know about me (and something I’ll likely talk about here at times around the fire) is that I’m a recovering alcoholic. It’s still hard for me to actually say those words because even after almost 9 years of sobriety, my instinctual vision of an alcoholic holds a lot of shame for me. But the truth is there is no single defining picture of an alcoholic. It looks like all of us. In the years since I quit drinking, I never thought I’d experience anything close to what that first month of sobriety was like. Until now.   My month-long sabbatical from social media was a detox. I knew immediately what was happening that first day. I recognized the anxiety. The pull. The fear. I was addicted to the scroll. To the short-term engagement. To the immediate gratification that comes with posting, liking, watching. I was addicted to my phone and social media, and I was heartbroken over it. When I got sober from alcohol, my biggest driving force to staying sober was knowing that I could live. I mean that in the most literal of terms, and also in the most dreamy. Sobriety gave me back to myself. Everything I am, everything I have, and everything I create is because I am sober. So realizing that I was addicted to this stupid box in my hand, and the worlds within it made me angry. And I needed to figure out what that meant for me. Both as a person and an artist. Because the thing about creating art and sharing it in these spaces is that what we contribute also contributes to the cycle of consumption and addiction that comes with social media. Heavy, I know. During my sabbatical, I read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism and Deep Work. Both of which provided me with not only comfort throughout the process of detaching from my phone and social media. But also structure and vision for what to do next. My sabbatical lasted longer than a month. I wasn’t ready to return. I had learned too much to go back. Eventually, I started posting from my computer again, but I never installed any social media apps on my phone again. And I’ve not been able to show up on Instagram in the same capacity as before. Because my heart isn’t in it.   And this is where the fire begins. I’m still figuring out how social media plays a part in my work. That’s why we’re here right now. While I’m not leaving social media entirely, this space is the result of me trying new things. This is where I want to be. It’s where I want to share what I love. What I long for. What I’m creating. What I’m wondering. My thoughts and dreams and ideas. And my art. And it’s where I want to start a conversation with you. Here around the fire, I hope we can begin something new together that brings us closer to what social media can’t ever really provide – deep and true connection.   Be well and wild, my friends.   All my love, Marika

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