The wind pushed and pulled around me, a tug of war of pure white as I sat waiting in my car. I was waiting for Caitlyn and Josh to arrive, my hot coffee beside me, hand and foot warmers heating up, nervous about the weather. The wind-chill was fiercely cold, and the swirling snow heartbreakingly beautiful. This is Alaska, January 25, on the Turnagain Arm.
When they arrived, Caitlyn rolled down her window with wind and snow swirling in and out beside her- and she grinned. “This is absolutely beautiful! What a perfect winter day! We are so blessed!”
We laughed, and froze, and captured the beauty that was already there. Two souls- ready to stand together and vow to a lifetime of shielding each other from the harsh wind that blows- promises spoken to love, and honor, and protect.
Caitlyn and Josh- we were honored to witness your quiet beginnings.
The crickets are chirping when we finally leave and we walk back to the hotel under a blanket full of stars. The sound of laughter echoes behind us and we stop for a few minutes, sink into the sand, crack open two cold Corona’s and let gratitude wash over us. We talk about the day, the whirlwind of flights, the jet-lag, the heat, the joy, the tired legs, the vows, the kindness of the family, the beauty of it all. Here we are, sitting hip-to-hip in the dark, the ocean roaring at our feet. Here we are chasing our dreams down, to this moment, on a beach in Mexico.
“Hanna,” you say, “I love you. Can you believe that we are here?” And I know, because I am your sister, that you aren’t referring to Mexico or the beach or the brilliance of it all. You are referring to the trail, to the path we have been given to travel, hand-in-hand, our whole lives through. You are referring to getting lost in the woods and finding our way home. To the hide-and-seek, to the dances and drama, to growing up right next to each other. You are referring to falling in love, to standing beside one another at the alter, to hearts filling up with hope. I remember when I told you I was pregnant. I was 22. You couldn’t quit laughing, your eyes just danced. You had the same look, a decade later, when the doctor handed you Peter, your son. You were the Northern Lights ripping across the night sky. In life and in death we travel this trail. In heartbreak, you crawl in my bed and cry beside me. In joy, I dance with you like it’s 1999. It’s always been this way. Whether we are 5 and 10 or 30 and 35. We are here. Together.
Life is funny. It throws a lot of curve balls. Sometimes, just when you think you know how things are going to pan out, just when you become sure of it, everything unravels. Sometimes pain is the river that takes you from one shore to another. Sometimes joy is. We have forged through so many rivers, Heidi, and now, tonight, we have washed up on this beach. Who would have ever thought that through all the blood and sweat and tears and laughter and hope that we would we would both fit into this work of artistry and adventure, that we would unfold our lives and wear them in this way?
Sometimes I wonder if it’s the art that I love or if it’s the art with you that I love? I don’t think I could separate one from the other.
The tide rises and we decide to go pack our bags for the morning.
I love you, too.
Alaska runs deep in our blood and bones. When you are from here, you belong, in the same way that a flower belongs to soil, or roots belong to a tree. She is the hard place to live. But she rewards those who cradle into her arms. Those who seek her, find her.
The helicopter chops through clouds and we spot the black bear with her cub. The glacier groans and creaks beneath us like an old woman who is slowly breaking apart. Rams stand as statues on the cliffside, rivers run, and I wonder, taking it all in, about how love is as Alaska.
Love is the grandest adventure. It’s what you try to grasp onto your whole life, like a slippery salmon in bare hands. And when you have it in your hold, it’s this wonderful, terrifying, mysterious force. It’s the feeling of standing on the tippy-top of a mountain, when you suddenly become so small, in the arms of such a great, wide world. Sometimes it’s the peace of snow silently falling in the quiet forest. Or the rip of thunder across a dark sky. It’s risky. It stands on glass lakes and rides white waters. It makes no guarantee. But still, our whole existence is always struggling upstream, toward one singular purpose: to love and to be loved.
Patuk and Bill hand-picked the spot where they would marry. There is history for them here. And they stand, at the feet of these mountains and promise, with their children as witnesses, to love and to be loved. They choose the adventure. They choose the risk and the reward.
I know I have said it before. But it just never stops coming to me, like a new dawn each day: I love my job. I love Alaska. I love the deep well of love. Nothing is more beautiful.
Florals – Mylords Floral // Venue: Knik River Lodge
I wear a dress and Xtratuffs because the sky has opened in rain. The clouds are dark and brooding. But love is waiting for my lens.
I first meet Shane in the middle of Moose Meadow. His eyes are kind and he is grinning from ear to ear. We talk about Alaska, about airplanes, about his toes curled around the precipice and the leap he is about to make into love.
And then there is Nikki, shyly walking up behind him. I wonder if she can hear her own heart beating in her ears? I wonder if the breath has left her lungs? Here is her moment: the one that her whole life has pointed to. Here is the stuff of dreams.
If I believed in the moon and the stars aligning, I would have sworn that this elopement was its proof. Instead, I believe that there is a sovereign force, that there is path that unfolds before us. Sometimes the path is dark and difficult. Sometimes it opens into acres of hope. Sometimes there is praise.
Love is a gift.
The rain holds her breath for us. We stand on the mountain. We dip our toes in the ocean. We dance on wind.
I wonder if there is anything more beautiful than these two standing at the base of these mountains, promising God to champion one another? I wonder at blessing of my own path intersecting with these two? And I wonder where the grip of love will lead us next?
Planner – La Boum Events // Florals – Alaska Knit Nat // Officiant – Castle Ministries Reverend Dorothy Torres
Honestly, we couldn’t wait for this wedding. It didn’t even phase us when we woke up to rain. We had grand expectations, not because of the setting, the weather, the details, the venue – because of the people. We have been to a bazillion weddings and some of the most high-price, glitzy, glam scenarios fall flat. And sometimes, less is more. Sometimes beauty is really just about who you are.
When we met with Rachel and Ian before the wedding, the whole family came. Mama pulled out her planning notebook and we talked about the details. (That she worked HARD on. That itself was such an obvious act of love.) It struck us that it wasn’t a couple in love getting married – it was a family being birthed anew. It was an era unfolding in so many sets of open hands.
Without question, our favorite part of the day was when Rachel got dressed by her mother’s hand. We wept behind our cameras. Sometimes weddings feel like a blur. People are running from point A to point B and all the small events suddenly just stack into a whole day. This mama knew that she needed to stop time. She knew that moments are made, not just stumbled upon. She planned. And when she handed her daughter a journal full of her handwritten wisdom and wonderings, it was a slice of beauty that we just can’t really describe. Then an heirloom handkerchief to carry. Then diamonds that glittered like the tears spilling over their cheeks. The deep well of love was unmistakable.
We loved the grandparents that watched the ceremony with knowing, and awe. The way Rachel looked at Ian as he said his vows. The riotous laughter that carried through the reception. Ian’s arms that folded around Rachel – like she was meant to fit inside them, like they had been empty with the waiting, like they found their home. The flowers thrown in the air and the looks on the faces of all who love at the send off. There was just so much to remember.
That remembering is why we do what we do. This is what makes us come alive. And that is beautiful also.
Relic Photographers – Hanna & Heidi // Florals – Pioneer Peonies and Bouqs Company // Cake – Fred Meyer Bakery // Hair – Whimsy & Beau Hair Design // Make-up – Christy Smith // Gown – Melissa Sweet // Rings – Brilliant Earth // Venue: The Gathering Place