Guest Artist Sherry Shahan

Women Work, Paris, France by Sherry Shahan (C) All Rights Reserved.

Watching the World

Since I am a woman who is not well-traveled, I must glean my understanding of women from other lands, other cultures from reading, from movies, & from images like the ones I share here today by guest-artist/photographer, Sherry Shahan. Of her work, Ms. Shahan writes:

I’ve traveled extensively as a travel writer and photographer, often watching the world and its people from behind; whether in the hub of London, a backstreet in Havana, or alone from a window in a squat hotel room in Paris; whether with a 35 mm camera or an iPhone. Other times I get up close and personal with people in their neighborhoods and homes.

Women Work, Sollier, Spain by Sherry Shahan (c) All Rights Reserved.

Sheltering in place, time stretched while I reorganized 32 archival binders, holding an aggregate of 10,000 slide negatives. The images date back to 1982, a horseback safari into Kenya’s Maasailand that produced my first published photos. Later press trips: hiking a leech-infested rain forest in Australia, riding inside a dogsled during the famed 1,049-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, snorkeling with penguins in the Galapagos.

My photographs have appeared in scores of national and international publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Backpacker, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor and more. Photo-illustrated books for young readers include Dashing Through the Snow: The Story of the Jr. Iditarod, The Sunflower Family, and Feeding Time at the Zoo.

~Sherry Shahan

One thing to which these photographs point is that we women, from every country, work. Maybe we sweep or carry water. Maybe we care for children or corporations. Maybe we write or invent or practice medicine or law. But we all work. & all work is good work.

One thing to which these images point is the preciousness of water.

I have water at my fingertips. It is unconscionable to me that many peoples of the world do not.

When I want to cook, I fill a pot with water from the kitchen sink. When I want to water my garden, I pull out the long, red hose and water away. Running a hot bath at the end of the day is a distinct pleasure and one of the tools in my tool-kit for letting go. Every time I turn on the faucet to run a bath, I give thanks that I do not have to carry water. I give thanks for the readily-available abundant supply of water I enjoy and for the conveniences of my privileged life.

In case you want to be part of a solution and help bring fresh water to lacking communities, here is one organization doing good work to make that happen: Charity: water.

So far, I am able to do my own household cleaning, but many times, I have hired help. The day is coming soon when I will need help again. When I bend down onto my creaky knees and try to reach the greasy crevices of my bathtub, I groan in pain. When someone else is willing to do this for me, I am overjoyed.

Maybe you are doing your own housework, too. Maybe though, you are doing a different kind of cleaning: working as a small, independent business owner, cleaning up corporate greed; working as a politician cleaning up the justice system; working as a minister, cleaning up social prejudice; working as a an environmental activist, cleaning up the planet; working as a corporate executive, cleaning up inequitable hiring practices.

However you are cleaning up, keep it up. The work is endless.

Women Share, Paris, France by Sherry Shahan (c) All Rights Reserved)

Face to Face/Heart to Heart

The image that most affects me today, though, is the women sharing, face to face, heart to heart. I miss this, so much right now: being in the presence of other women, holding a healing space for each other and for the world. Letting it all out. Shoring each other up.

Women friends have held me together, pushed me onward, supported my work as an artist, my work as a woman claiming my own space in my marriage, in the world. Not counselors, though there have been a few of those. Not ministers, though there have been many of those. Not life-coaches or self-help books, though my shelves are full of those (books, not coaches).

It has been women. My friends & my spiritual practice have seen me through the conundrums of living. Two women. Face to face. Heart to heart.

Thank you, Ms. Shahan, for the presence of your work in the world here today & for giving us so much to consider.

Ms. Shahan holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and taught a creative writing course for UCLA Extension for 10 years. Vist more of Ms. Shahan’s work here.

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image credit (thumbnail above): “sing” by Kathleen Tyler Conklin via Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

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