F OR Years I Operated under the mistaken impression that I was a Type A extrovert, full stop. I’m tall. I can project. I’m a talker and love sharing a good, raucous laugh. Anyone who’s ever met me at party would assume I’m the kind of person who would grab the mic at open mic night and easily talk her way out of a traffic ticket (sad note: never have).
It took a radical lifestyle change—marrying, becoming a mother, leaving a management-level editorial job and moving from the city to a house in the woods, all in the space of a year—to realize that though I was a lover of people’s stories, I was socially exhausted. That though I COULD multi-task and overperform, it shredded my creativity and focus. And that what I really, really wished for was to be quiet, to quit trying to please the unpleaseable in my world, and to hear my own thoughts.
Finding my inner sensitive person was, frankly, a shock. The long quiet hours working from home, the emotional mushroom cloud of motherhood revealed a rawness and vulnerability that hit like a gut punch. But it was the start of a new life, an understanding of who my inner being really was: an observer, an absorber, a connector, a feeler. A crier of tears at small-town parades and Christmas pageants and during certain Hallmark channel commercials.
When writer Caramie Petrowsky first wrote me about photographer Erin Thames and her recent decision to work with animals, the initial, obvious hook was the irresistible photo of Clover the hedgehog perched in a coffee mug. But the deeper tug for me was about Thame’s inner world, her intune-ness and sensitivity. These qualities have a profound effect on her animal subjects, letting them revel in her accepting energy and show their true characters. That hard-to-define touch shines through in her work, and led Thames from a career funk to a deeper calling that so suited her intuitive nature.
In a society where bombast and power and influence are increasingly admired and aspired to, where a “look at me” culture is on a troubling ascendancy, it’s soul-affirming to connect with the art of a watcher, a seer, an allower like Thames. Being behind the lens instead of in front of it can be a gift to the world—and a beautiful relief.