Personal Projects

Julieanne Kost was afraid to fly. It led to her starting a hobby which led to her book "Window Seat". She started to take pictures out of airplane windows of the ground. What started as an attempt to manage fear became a large enough collection of work that it rose to the level of a personal project.

Yesterday I edited an interview I did with Julieanne at MacWorld in January for inclusion in this week's podcast "Distributing the Future". Although she is talking about taking the photographs, processing them, and producing a book, she keeps returning to the theme of personal projects. She thinks that everyone should have at least one. Something you are working on in a dedicated way. Even if her collection hadn't been a book, she might have shown it in a gallery. Even if it hadn't been an official show, she might have shown it to friends. It somehow moved, without her being able to articulate when or why, to something she did.

A personal project.

MacWorld in January was the last time that I flew. That's pretty unusual for me. I didn't go to several conferences in January and February that I could have. There was no particular reason not to. I just didn't. But as a result, I got to spend the last month and a half of Elena's life at home. I'm thankful for those memories that I didn't know then would have to last a lifetime.

The next time I was scheduled to fly was the day after Elena died. I half remember calling the airline and canceling. It was one of those details that needed to be taken care of in the week between her death and her funeral. I was to go to Denver for a "Head First" bootcamp to work intensively on the Calculus book I'm writing. The book I've just gotten back to. But that book is not my personal project.

This is.

As with so many obvious things, I didn't see it. I didn't recognize the fact that was as plain as the nose on my face. I rise every day and record something. It's my photograph out of an airplane window. I sit to write a first draft with no plans to ever revise it. I publish it in the blog and it sits with my other daily photographs.

Julieanne flies between the same cities often but says that the pilots always seem to take a slightly different route. The shot she gets today might not be available ever again. I think of that when I read the comments from other people who have lost someone close. A parent. A spouse. A sibling. A twin even. A child. A child not yet born. We're traveling between the same cities and yet our view out of the window is different.

She says that people see her pictures and have a variety of reactions. Some say "I was there that day and I didn't see that." Others feel a connection because they were in the same spot but at a different time. The photograph that she took because of some trigger is in turn a trigger for something different for the people viewing them.

I don't know what moved me to start writing. I don't know why I did it in a private but public forum. I don't know why I didn't post something on one of my existing blogs. It seemed inappropriate to post something so intensely personal as the death of my baby in one of those other places. But why post it at all? And why return to it each day?

I said in the beginning and say again, I don't know how often or for how long I'll post. But between then and now it's become a personal project. It may become a book. It may not.

It might have been a way for me to try to manage grief or to try to make sense of it all. It hasn't worked.

After looking through the beautiful pictures, I asked Julieanne about her fear of flying. When she looks at her pictures while on the ground, there is no association with the fear she feels while flying. But, she said, she is still afraid of flying.

Published in: on May 9, 2006 at 7:20 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you Dan for writing these words. You remind me everyday how much I love my children and how much I need to let them know. I feel so sorry for what you and your loved ones are enduring. Elena, living through your words, reaches us all deeply.

  2. This morning, my nine year old son asked me to hold on a second as I was pulling out of the drive heading to work. He smiled with his big toothy grin and wrapped his arms around my neck through the window and told me he loved me.

    As our lives get busy and out of control, you forget to cherish those small moments that make it all worth while. Thank you for reminding me to do so.

  3. Your story and writing has changed me and the way I look at things. I think of Elena often and wish I could have known her. It sounds like she really loved life .

  4. Writing these pages might not be bringing you any relief now, but years from now, when your memories have begun to dim, I think you will be grateful you chose to write them down.

  5. Though writing these pages might not bring you any relief now, in the future when your memories begin to dim, you will, I think, be so grateful for every one you chose to save here.

  6. Thanks for this post about Julianne Kost’s book. I picked up a copy this week in Sebastopol when I was visiting at O’Reilly. It is indeed beautiful and the words are thought provoking. The collection of photos spans a relatively long period of time…she’s been working on her personal project for *years*. Me, I don’t have years of patience for much of anything (as my blog shows…its been months since I updated it). I am consistently impressed in reading DearElena that you’ve kept up the discipline of writing everyday and that the posts are consistently so evocative and real. I know you started the blog in the heat of the moment, but I think the sustained effort to reconnect everyday with the persistent sweetness of being Elena’s Dad is helping the people who read here. IMHO it would make a beautiful book someday, Daniel.


  7. Daniel, I hope you do publish this as a book. I know the value of blogs but I still believe in books. I for one would love to buy it.

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