On Storytelling

I held my Abuela’s hand in the last moments of her life. I rubbed my thumb over her paper-thin skin as her breathing waned until she was gone. Sometimes the most life changing moments are but a whisper though they reverberate with the force of a gong. The experience is one of the most profound of my life. Even in that moment of bone shaking grief I felt connected her, to all those who came before her. I felt her stretch back into the past letting me know that it was alright, that the connection would always be there. Hand over hand, one soul to the next, her legacy, my legacy continued unbroken.

Epalad79000005-R3-E022I used to sit in her little living room, her sewing machine providing the soundtrack, a soft click-clicking, needle weaving thread. I’d ask her about life before us. She would weave elaborate stories so rich in detail that they revealed themselves like her embroideries did: a delicate tapestry of color, connecting and combining into beautiful shapes.

When I think about her, I think about connections, about these stories that we leave behind for others to tell. These stories aren’t in our DNA, but they are marks on our souls that tell us every bit of who we are just as the string of genes buried deep in our blood. In that room, arms resting on her crochet-topped table, I learned the power of stories and that I would find any means to tell them.

For me, it started with a pen. I often found solace in words, both in the garbled words I’d string together and those infinitely more eloquent sentences in my favorite books. The blank page was where I figured it out, where the scratching of the pen would unfurl the stories going on in my head.

When I first picked up my camera, I found another tool with which I could weave tapestries both in my own life and in the life of those who trusted me to tell their story. Those stories captured with the click of the shutter became part of the legacy of those in the images. I was the needle weaving their story with their future. Click-clicking, needle weaving thread.

I want to tell the stories that will live on for generations. I want my pictures to speaks truths, to the people, to the moment. I want you, with one glance, to be transported back to the moment when you finished walking down the aisle and realized that your forever has begun. I want you to look at that picture and feel that rush again, feel the strain of your heart close to bursting. I want you to look at an image of those first days after the baby was born and relive the elated exhaustion, the sleepy cluelessness and utter joy. And I want those who come after you, to see those pictures and see the story you lived.

“Stories are essential,” as my favorite lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda said. They are essential to my life, to the way that I move through my days. Stories connect us, hand over hand, from this life to the next. I am a storyteller. I use words. I use images. I share my story and know the incredible honor it would be to share yours.

Currently Listening to: History Has It’s Eyes On You from Hamilton: An American Musical 

Love, e

  • Eliana Cardenas

    What an impressive and memorable piece of work. You had a special relationship with your grandmother till the end of her life. She loved you and your sister very much. I am glad she was able to share her stories with both of you and be part of your life.
    Having her with both of you gave me peace and solace and a sense of security knowing both of you were protected when we were not around. I want to do the same with my g-children, to tell our stories, to share our love and help them grow to be as outstanding and admirable as you both are. Love you

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