I’m so excited to present the second installment from an ongoing series of photo essays that explore individual rituals of self care.
About these Photo Essays: This project began when I started recognizing marketing around the concept of self care - especially marketing geared towards women - that seemed to summarize acts of self care as treats to be purchased, and/or overwhelming missives of things we “should” be doing to cope with expectations of busyness, the hustle, ingrained capitalism, the pressure to stay plugged in, perfect, et al. While I believe that every act of care we give to ourselves - big or small - is a triumph, I also believe that self care goes deeper. It doesn’t begin and end with self-soothing - self care is not always easy, or easily accessible to all. For example, it can also involve us nurturing ourselves through the ecosystems in which we thrive, caring for ourselves via caring for the air we breathe into our lungs, the earth that supports us, the plants that nourish us - and so much more. Discovering our needs and the voices of our body and spirit and what they are asking for is a unique and individual journey - and I truly believe that recognizing and giving space to listen, explore and develop this is an act of self care in and of itself.
The concept of this project grew from wanting to tell stories from a unique female-identifying perspective about some of the individual ways in which we engage in self care.
In documenting these self care rituals, I engage with a self care ritual of my own: visual storytelling. I am often compelled to make & create projects, and being able to document processes has always brought me peace. The interesting thing to me about this project is that it engages my own desire for self care as well, but doesn’t involve purchasing a product, or a list of things I should be doing to keep up. Instead, it mingles with the parts of myself that will always be fascinated by rituals of soothing, nurturing, connection and creation - while documenting the very real and incredibly individual stories of how we define care.
This is an ongoing series, and will slowly be developing over the next year or two.
One thing that’s been very important to me in developing this project is being able to hear the stories from the subjects - and so the words to follow were written by Alyssa Campbell, a local baker. For our shoot, on a really rainy May day, she brought all of her planters and plants, en masse, to Gwynne Vaughan Park. She brought so many that someone thought we were holding a plant sale. I watched as Alyssa poured so much into each planter - it was a flurry of beautiful activity, a process of care & emotional intention. I documented it as it happened, and we didn’t stop often - in some ways, it was almost as if I wasn’t there. There was an inward focus that felt, to me, very therapeutic - this mindful intensity for each individual nurtured planting, from the root of every marigold, to the heart of every seed.
My Plants Take Care of Me
By: Alyssa Campbell
I'm such a sentimental person and I save everything and this also gets channeled into gardening for me. Keeping the seeds over all the seasons brings me so much pride. I can say generations of marigolds have grown in my gardens
To be able to grow plants and vegetables to share with my loved ones is a really good feeling because I put so much time and love into my plants it's a really (or at least I feel) precious gift.
My history of gardening all began up the east side of Harrison Lake 22 km and 40 minutes outside of town where my family and I lived for almost 7 years. My first memory of anything to do with plants is planting a peony with my Nanan and the greenhouse my dad and Papa (his dad) built. My mom and Nanan worked in that greenhouse and it was pretty full of veggies, mostly tomatoes. I admit I never wanted to help out or be involved with it at the time ( I had quite the bad attitude as a child) but I know that those memories are what planted the seed of my love for gardening. (Pun definitely intended.) I am not a pro but I've been using the internet and winging it and loving it and that's all I need.
Four years ago, before I had my daughter, Chloe, I worked a lot. I have always been a little bit of a workaholic, so when I went on mat leave I found that I had way too much time on my hands. I struggled with postpartum depression, anxiety, and really lost what it looked like to take care of myself while trying to care for everyone else around me. I have learned that because I have these workaholic tendencies being productive, completing tasks, and achieving goals brings me peace.
Self-care to me is body, mind, and soul.
Our world is so fast paced: screens, phones, jobs, social media can all trigger anxiety and racing thoughts. Its so important to take time to slow down, calm your thoughts and care for your mind. So when I'm feeling down, anxious, or when my thoughts are overwhelming, instead of letting my anxieties whirl out of control I turn to my garden. Taking care of my garden is a reflection of taking care of myself.
Plants, like our souls, mind, and body need care, positivity, sunlight, devotion, and nutrients. As I apply these things to my garden I am in turn also applying them to myself.
Being outside in the sunshine improves mood and stimulates body's production of vitamin C, and sunlight and mood elevators are so important for people struggling with depression. When you are down it's hard to bring yourself up, but I've found that when I put myself into a natural atmosphere with sun, beauty, and nice garden smells, I feel better. I also completely believe in talking to plants. Outputting and surrounding yourself with positive affirmation aloud is not only good for the plant’s growth but it's good for one’s self-esteem - not to mention the hard labour it takes to tend to a fully thriving garden.
I know that gardening makes me feel calm, productive, proud of my plants and myself, and I get excited like a child when I see my first sprouts. So, when I'm feeling anxious and my thoughts are overwhelming me, I go outside. I get my hands dirty, rally my thoughts, and busy my mind. My plants are my babies and knowing that they need me to flourish motivates me to get out there and take care of them.
A garden can be a whole job in itself so I keep myself focused - complete tasks, water, feed, transplant, and get to the end result: a beautiful productive garden. It's exciting to see each new stage and it brings happiness to my heart.
How We Self Care is a small batch project happening over the next two years, sharing self care stories told from a female-identifying perspective. Each story is developed into a visual process through conversation, documented in photographs chosen by each participant, and explained in their own words. Comments, Questions, and Inquiries regarding the project are welcome!