My family vacationed to Conover, Wisconsin ever since I was young - a tradition that started long before I entered this realm. Canoeing across the crystal clear water, diving under in search of supper clams, swimming with the family dog, wandering through dense, quiet woods, climbing boulders, and visiting various waterfalls in the area were all parts of what became a home away from home. After a very long absence, I returned to this sacred place in the fall of 2012 in the company of friends. This was my first visit to this home without family, without a furry companion, and without the presence of summer. It was, at the time, everything I needed.
If you've been following my stories, it’s safe to say you're familiar with Riley. I take her on any trips I can drive to. She and I came here a few years back in passing, and while I couldn’t bring her into the lake like I had hoped, she did get a brief adventure through the neighboring streams and woods. It was around that same time that I discovered the cabins we always stayed at would no longer allow dogs. This hit my family and I like a truck. We always brought our dogs, our furry family members, and the sudden loss of the ability to do so made it seem like we would never be able to return. Out of the grief for a home I felt was lost, I planned on creating a book that celebrates all the elements of this home. From the very birth date of this idea, I knew the title of this project would be "Hiraeth."
Near the end of 2016, I found myself neck deep in the daunting process of rebranding my business. Figuring out what I wanted to call this brand was, at the time, at the top and the bottom of the list. When my desire to create a book on Hiraeth grew, I began to dig into the meaning of that word more and more, eventually realizing it applied to a majority of the work I've been doing over the last thirteen years. There are some that feel hiraeth has a dark and sad undertone to it, but I do not share this thought. To me, hiraeth is a sense of timelessness, an aspect ever strong in the art of storytelling, and more and more I see myself less of a photographer and more of a storyteller.
The past is what has made us who we are today. History is only something we can reflect on and learn from. There are moments in everyone's lives, people who have come and gone, places explored now changed, missed, or vanished. That is not necessarily something inherently sad. We often look back at times we cherish; Celebrations, vacations, accomplishments, reunions with family and friends, the list goes on. Photography is, after all, one of the most common forms of documenting our past.
Hiraeth Diaries follows the lives of other people, places I visit, projects I am passionate about, and the stories behind those adventures and the people involved. The world is constantly changing through the impact we as a species leave behind. Hidden places lose their secrecy and youth. Ecosystems are being destroyed through climate change, deforestation, and natural and man-made catastrophes. Thousands of species - including humans - lose their homes and their lives with each passing day. My goal in doing what I do has always held the hope of elevating the appreciation of our natural environments, to spread awareness, and create change for a better home. Earth is our home, and we share that home with billions of other beings. It's up to all of us to make sure this home lasts for generations to come - to maintain its beauty, to make it better, to create a healthier future for all of us.
Wandering through the early morning fog, breaking the mirrored waters by canoe, paddling into hidden coves beyond the reeds, sharing stories around the fire, and laying down on the pier at night to watch shooting stars; these are all fleeting memories I am glad to have captured and am looking forward to capturing even more on the next trip. I still plan to create a book of images and stories from this place, even if it takes several more visits to complete it. For now I move forward, continuing to grow and learn and love, hoping somewhere along the line what I share helps at least one other do the same.
The cabins my family and I can no longer return to are not what made this place up North our home. What was and still is home rests in the spirit of this place. It resides in the ground, the trees, and the waters of this land. We found another cabin on the same lake, one that welcomes all the family, and in just a few days Riley and I will join the rest of our pack for a long overdue family vacation back Home.