Category Archives: Activism/Politics

Grief, Love, and Remembrance


A few days ago I found myself standing in front of the memorial for the victims of the racist, violent attack that happened last week on a MAX train in Portland. I stood there and cried, while other people did the same. Portland has always been my home, but standing there made me feel like I was somewhere else, in a place I didn’t know, even though I knew in my heart that it is very much this place, that led to this attack happening. This made it all the more painful. We have not done enough. I have not done enough. This incident has put a spotlight on the legacy of colonialism, racism, and white supremacy that is alive and well in our community and in our country. As long as hateful people can see their views reflected and held up in our society, these acts will continue. We must do more. I must do more. But, too many people claim to have the answers; claim to know the one righteous path forward. There is a general lack of humility and refusal to listen, that is pervasive is the current dialogue. Our community feels like it is both coming together and breaking apart all at once. But, I believe that there are no simple answers and I rarely trust those who claim to have them. Humans are more complicated than that. We live in both a causal condition, while also constantly striving towards free-will. Until we can recognize both the causality of our lives and our personal responsibility to act morally and ethically, we will continue to spin in circles of violence and extremism; of righteous self-indignation that leads to discord and the disintegration of compassion for others. We must start using love and empathy as verbs, not slogans. We must start listening, start seeking to understand that which makes us uncomfortable, and working to actively dismantle oppressive systems and ways of thinking that are woven into our culture. I am heartbroken that this happened and I grieve for the families who lost loved ones and those who were traumatized by this act of terror in our community. But, I will also continue to have hope knowing that most people are good people and that together we can work to make this world a better place for all.


State Testing: A Poem

State Testing: A Poem

When you make State Testing

Two weeks long

And feel like prison

It becomes clear that a test

Is more important than my learning

Like something I deserve  

Because I am not good enough already

When I get detention for acting out

Because I am sad

My home is falling apart

I am hungry

It becomes clear that rules

Are more important

Than me

Than my dreams and aspirations

Than this pit that grows in my belly

And makes me want to scream

When you tell me

Through daily repetition

Of the importance of grades

My worth gets tangled up in abstraction

I learn that failure is inevitable

That I am worthless

Top students get praised

I get scolded

Words that burn

On top of scars

That are now my identity

Words that follow me

Everywhere I go

When you make sitting in class

More important

Than living life

I never learn to live

And I never live to learn

Oly Fall 2014-4

Two Years!

Hello everyone!

Today I am celebrating my 2 year anniversary of this blog! Because of this milestone, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about what blogging has meant to me and some of the many changes I have experienced as a result.

Two years ago when I made my first post (, I was terrified at the idea that people might <gasp> actually look at my work and that for the first time ever I would be exposing myself to both criticism and praise (which were equally difficult for me to hear). At first I just posted here and there, when I felt like it, as I was crawling out of a dark depression and creative stagnation that had lasted for many years. I was not confident in my work, but I did enjoy having somewhere to put it that I could at least reflect upon from time to time. Up until that first post 2 years ago I had not shared my work with anyone in years and this was my attempt at trying to be daring and maybe spark new creativity in my life.

And the amazing thing is that it worked. Less than a year later I began taking photos at Occupy Portland protests and had my photography featured in a number of local and national publications.

some of my photos from that time can be found here:


Also during the spring of 2012 I decided that I would travel to South Korea and Japan and try my hand at travel photography. During that trip my photo essay on Kyushu Island, Japan was featured on Freshly Pressed and suddenly I had an audience that I never expected. In just a few days I received over 10,000 views and hundreds of comments.


This “success” just made me want to work harder and made me feel like there were actually people out there that were interested in what I was doing. So, I kept at it.

I traveled to Spain in August of 2012 to walk the Camino de Santiago and had a life changing experience. I was able to blog about my trip while on the trail (although I’m not sure that the weight of my camera and iPad were worth it, next time I will blog when I get back!).

Many entries from my time on The Camino can be found here:




Then in the fall of 2012 I was Freshly Pressed again for an essay I wrote on this journey I have been on to reclaim my life and creativity called: The Swifts, Conflict, Decision Making and Following my Dreams. This one, though, was a bit more difficult for me to see end up so public, as it was extremely personal and I wasn’t really sure I wanted too many people to see it…I guess putting it on my blog was risky, but I never thought it would end up getting so much attention. But, there it was and the response I got was incredible. So many people let me know that the essay touched them personally and made a difference in their lives. I felt so honored to have people I have never met feel impacted by my words.


Also over these past 2 years I have found inspiration as a photographer in my home and around the Pacific Northwest, which I had often overlooked before, but now brings me more joy and beauty than I have known anywhere else in the world.


Which brings be to today. Two years later. I’m happy, inspired, excited about the future and in love with life. I’m not sure that I would be where I am today with these many adventures and personal breakthroughs behind me if it hadn’t been for blogging and my commitment to taking a risk and sharing myself with the world.

So, thank you to each of you that has followed my journey, my photography and my work. Without your support I’m not sure where I would have ended up. I am eternally grateful!

On a personal note, I got married last weekend to the love of my life (which two years ago I would have never imagined was ever possible!). We eloped and took our own photos of the ceremony. Here is one of them:

Lauriel and August

I’m not sure where there next two years will take me, but I can only hope that they will be anywhere near as amazing as the last two. One thing is for sure though, I will continue to share my photography and my words on this blog and I hope to continue to inspire others to find their own creative voice, whatever that may be!


~The Perpetual Vagabond

(AKA Lauriel~Arwen)

To Whom it May Concern,

(The following is an open letter to publications or people I would like to work for. I have not yet sent it anywhere, but I hope to in the near future as I figure out the best way to approach following my dream of working in this field. As this is already an unconventional approach, I figured I would publish it here in hopes that one of you our there will see it and can help me on my way!)

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing in hopes of finding a way to follow my passion of becoming a photojournalist and if nothing else maybe get some good advice on what steps to take next. I am a photographer and I have been taking pictures for the past 22 years as a hobby. I got my first camera at 9 years old and started taking photos of any and everything I could. The only thing that got in my way was growing up in fairly extreme poverty, where affording food and socks was a stretch, let alone film, so my growth in the art was slow. Despite that, I scraped together money for film and printing and kept taking pictures throughout my childhood. Then at 17, I stumbled into a camera store in Bend Oregon and fell in love with an Olympus OM1, walking out spending almost my entire summer’s salary to take it home with me. Over the years I took a few black and white photography classes, but for the most part have taught myself as I go along.

After high school, I unfortunately listened to too many people that told me not to go into photography and art, but instead get a degree in something more “practical”. So, I put down my camera and decided to go to college to study Environmental Studies and later go on to get a Master’s Degree in Leadership for Sustainability Education. After 8 years in school, and 4 study abroad programs later (I apparently was more attracted to adventure than sitting in a classroom) I quickly realized I was not meant to sit behind a desk and do only administrative work and may have made a mistake in my career choice.

This brings me to today. I have found myself in a place where I know what I want to do with my life, but I don’t know how to get there. I know that I want to combine my passion for environmental and social justice with my photography and I know I have the skills and motivation to make it happen. In lieu of knowing what to do, I have spent the last year doing any and everything I can to build my experience and abilities.

I got involved with a local media collective in Portland, OR and started taking photos at Occupy Portland events. I was granted a small amount of money by a supportive donor in order to essentially “volunteer” full time with the movement. During this time I was published in many activist publications and developed a solid following of people interested in my work. I often found myself standing next to photographers from the major news outlets in the region and doing the same quality of work as they were. During many of the events I documented, I worked with a team of people to do live, day-of coverage and learned to quickly shoot, edit and publish photography that was relevant and timely.

This past April I decided to travel to Korea and Japan for a three week trip to visit a friend and take a stab at travel photography (while I have traveled for many years of my life, I never really tried to make anything happen with the photos I took). I committed to either posting a photo, a photo essay, or a story each day I had internet access on my blog and see if it was something I liked and was successful with. It was only my first attempt in the medium, but within a few weeks, my blog was featured on’s Freshly Pressed and I quickly built a small following.

Over the past year I have also worked with a few music journals to take photos at concerts, I have shot promotional photos for a dance studio, done product photography, weddings, and started printing and selling my artwork. With each project I find myself more excited about where I can go and what I can do if given the opportunity.

I understand that becoming a photojournalist is not for everyone. I have no delusions of grandeur or false ideas of traveling the globe taking pictures of cute wildlife. I know that getting the right photos to tell a story can be exhausting, challenging, and requires a dedication unlike any other. But, I do know it’s what I want to do and I know I can do it.

The scope of my experience as a photographer may be limited, as it’s only been the last year that I have really taken my work seriously, although I know that my skills are solid and my motivation infinite. I have traveled throughout large parts of the world, have a strong understanding of environmental and social justice, and feel that photography can be one of the most important ways to tell stories and hopefully have an impact for the better. I know that I will continue to do this work on my own whether or not I am getting paid to do it, but I know that I will be able to do so much more if I have funding and an outlet for my work. The funding I received for my work with Occupy has now run out and I am faced with going back to working behind a desk to make money, while spending my free time doing photography instead of it being my life.

It seems to me that getting into photojournalism is unlike any other field as it is not just about skill, but about the ability to do the challenging work that is necessary and a deep passion for what you do. As someone who is self taught and has limited finances to purchase the best equipment, I am not sure what I need to do next to make my dream a reality, but I know I am ready to do whatever it takes.

In writing this letter I am hoping that I will be given an opportunity to work in this field. I would be happy to intern on an assignment in order to gain the specific skills of professional publications and show I am able to do this work. In viewing my work, please know that this is just the beginning of my creative abilities. I understand that my blog, website and published pieces are not representations of an extensive portfolio of polished professional work.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I would be happy to provide any additional information about myself and my work if it would help. I look forward from hearing back from you and hopefully having the opportunity to work for your publication!


(AKA The Perpetual Vagabond)

May Day in Photos: Portland, OR 2012

Across the globe, May Day 2012 was filled with protests and celebrations, and overshadowed by police violence. This photo set is from May Day events in Portland, OR. The first 4 photos are from the High School Student Strike March, the next 16 are from the General Strike March and the last 18 are from the annual May Day March organized in solidarity with International Workers Day. If you would like to see my complete set of photos from the days events please visit my flickr site at: