normal wonderful pictures taken in charleston south carolina

Sometimes, I forget where I live. Today, sitting in the sand on the the smallest of low tide beaches, I watched my dog jump at the water. Emma Louise has never seen the ocean before. She’s never kicked up sand with her puppy gallop. She’s never sported muddy paws, nor a sandy underbelly, nor sea salt encrusted fur. She’s like no dog I’ve ever known. 

“Come on goof, let’s check it out.” I slipped under the Battery’s fence and jumped a few feet down; Emma– my skittish, worried, tail-between-legs dog, quickly followed. She nose dived on the jump, coming up with a sandy snout. I laughed, she shook. I took off her leash and she followed me to the water’s edge. She watched me walk in. She watched, I waded. “It’s so fun!” I said, bending down, asking her to join me. Tentatively she placed one paw in the cold water. Then two. Then she was all in, rubbing against my legs, running back towards the sand, lapping at the waves–becoming fully muddy, sandy and sea salt encrusted. Emma Louise, water dog.

Sometimes I forget where I live. I live on a peninsula. I grew up on a peninsula. I grew up with muddy dogs. If I want, I can live with a muddy dog too.

Five days a week, I commute to my two different jobs. I leave downtown Charleston for Mt. Pleasant and Daniel Island. I like my jobs a lot–one teaches me more than I ever thought I’d want to know (about finance, if that gives you an idea of the learning curve I’m working with), and the other lets me play with dogs. I come home, eat dinner, watch TV, pretend to read a novel, and fall asleep. And then I start all over.

It’s not that I never see my city. I run downtown. I do laundry downtown. I go out and drink too much downtown. Sometimes Sissy and I get dinner downtown. We walk home, marvel at our courtyard’s lit up fountain, enter our apartment, go to bed. 

I get caught up in the normalcy of life. Don’t get me wrong–I think life at its most normal is often life at its most beautiful. But it can also be the kind of life that passes us by. Here I am, forever seeking balance. 

Every Monday I see some kid on Instagram post “Carpe Diem” (with a terrible filter to match), and I laugh out loud. Really? You’re gonna seize the day in your cubicle? Please, let me know how it goes. You don’t have to get riled up about something that’s perfectly normal. Your job pays your rent and teaches you something and gives you paid holidays. Why would you try to “carpe” any more than that?

So, yes, some normal things should stay that way. If we don’t bask in the boredom of our 9-5s, then how the hell are we going to see the beauty in 5:15 sunsets? 

I have one 9-5, and one 12-7. Does that make me normal? 

I find myself taking more and more pictures on my phone. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I have an iPhone 5s, and that it takes really sweet photos. But most of it has to do with me, putting something between myself and my reality. If I take a picture of a moment, do I make it better?

I almost cried at Emma’s sandy snout today. A few days ago, the same thing happened, when I took Emma to the park for the first time. The sun had just risen, but hadn’t had time to melt all of the frost. Emma bit at the grass, licked it. She ran and ran through the field like she’d never felt so free. Maybe she hadn’t. Seeing my dog puppy-jump through a field felt like the most brilliant bit of normalcy I’d experienced in a while. I took a picture of her standing between the sun and the shadows. My galloping girl. 

I had to capture her. Here, this. It exists. Parks and beaches exist. I think, without Emma Louise, I would forget where I live. I would see a palmetto and remember ah, yes, South Carolina. But would I remember to stand knee-deep in salt water in December?

When it comes to pictures, I guess I don’t believe in balance. I have over 1,000 Instagram pictures. Are my moments made less when I share them with others? Do I feel validated by likes? I’m not sure. Yes, and no, would answer both of those questions. 

I live a normal life. I don’t travel across Europe, Nikon in tow. I don’t have a high-powered, high-paying job. I don’t seek my “passions;” I don’t spend my spare time trying to better myself. I read more magazines than novels. I run so that I may drink. I sleep so that I may wake up and sleep some more. I never have enough money–for gas, for gifts, for the nice brand of dog food. And I take lots and lots of pictures of my cat and dog. 

Maybe my life exists so that others may feel better about their own lives. Oh this chick does this too? Oh and that–god, I don’t even do that. And she pretty much only hangs out with her sister and her pets. Ok, I like her. I can relate to that. I pray that the normalcy of my life brightens the life of just one other person (even if this brightness comes from being on the more favorable end of a comparison). 

Sometimes, I forget where I live. I live in Charleston, SC. Down here, you can get muddy feet for free. You can take as many pictures as you like, and post them wherever you please. If you’re really lucky, you can come home with a muddy-pawed dog, and watch her jump in your bed. You can shrug your shoulders, crawl in next to her, and watch her fall asleep on your leg. 

I’ll let you in on a secret of my normal life–no picture can capture how that feels.




don’t panic…post late

I created this draft last week and I suppose I was having too terrible of a day to find it decent enough to post. But any lesson that involves thrice daily tears, is a lesson worth sharing…


I cried three times today. That’s a lot for a Wednesday.

I first cried at 8 AM when I called my mother. Mama, I think I hurt my leg. “Oh my god, never call me crying again,” she moaned, “I thought something happened.” Sorry, sorry, but I think pulled a muscle! My mother sighed heavily into the phone–clearly not considering a possibly pulled muscle something” that “happened.” Now, how will I stay on track for my marathon? My mother calmed me down for the mile walk back (the mile run preceding this was tainted by that faint, but irritating leg pain often known as it kinda hurts, but should I stop). 

She assured me that I could rest and that I could still run a marathon–maybe just a later one. Ok. I could come to terms with that. I came home, ate pound cake and whipped cream for breakfast, and lay in my bed, staring at my ceiling. I could come to terms with that eventually.

I cried again at 10:48 AM.  I cannot deal with this right now! I jumped out of the driver’s seat and asked my sister to park the car in the parking garage. I was running late for an interview. The interview was for an unpaid internship. Already conflicted about the (f)utility of such a venture, I was greatly peeved by the design of the parking structure, with its too steep ramps and stairs, stairs, stairs (no elevators as far as the tearing up eye could see).

My interviewer assured me that the internship’s flexible hours could work for me. Ok, I can spare 10 hours a week–I’m probably free that much anyway. I listened carefully as she outlined all that the “office of cultural affairs” manages in Charleston. Festivals and art galleries? Of course, I could do that. Unpaid? Yeah, (maybe), I could figure my way around that.

I cried for the last time at 3:30 PM. Walking through the throng of dogs at the kennel, I was almost knocked down by Brandi. Otis bit at my hand (I was probably asking for it–I was wearing a watch). Cate wouldn’t stop barking and Max wouldn’t leave Belle alone. And you can’t really get mad at dogs, when all they’re doing is being dogs. So I cried a bit. Teared up maybe–since I was at work. But I felt that heaviness that comes with holding back tears and I really just wanted to be anywhere but there.

I assured myself that I could find enough work to do in the front of the kennel, so that I could take a break from the barking. I’m used to it–most of the time. But on days when I wish someone–human or canine, could console me, the jumping and yelping echo around the terrible truth of pulled muscles and not-enough-rent-money. Everything’s going wrong.

I tried to cry at 7:01 PM. Driving home, listening to my favorite Dixie Chicks song, I wanted to cry about my bad day. But I couldn’t really muster the tears. Maybe I was cried out. Or maybe I’m just a little bit more sane than self-pitying Wednesday Connelly would like to believe. I was still angry, frustrated, and (as usual) completely unsure about a lot of everything.

This morning, when I bent to stretch my sore leg against a stone pillar, I noticed graffiti sprayed across the bottom: DONT PANIC. I’ve decided to follow this advice. I don’t think that’s asking too much of a Wednesday.

me and emma louise

“What’s wrong with her?” My friend Alec asked, peering around my bedroom door. I trailed him to the bed, where he reached out to pet my new dog. Emma Louise (a name both given and previously owned) shrank against the pillows. “She looks terrified,” Alec laughed, stepping away from her cowering form. “She’s fine! That’s her special spot.”

There are a lot of special things about my dog Emma Louise. For one, she never leaves my bed. Nestled between three pillows (trust me, we’ve tried two, and she simply has nowhere to lay her head), Emma reigns over my bedroom. She is safe in this corner of my room, where she can assess whoever enters. “Emma,” I coo, “do you wanna go outside?” I raise my voice on the out, thinking she may compile a vocabulary of dog-trigger words, like my dogs back home. They go wild at the mention of car, boat, Sammy (the cat). Emma just looks at me. 

I usually (every single time except once when I believe she may have been sleep walking) wrap my arms around Emma and lift her to the floor. She’s only 37 pounds, so it’s not too difficult. All 37 of Emma’s pounds make her special–to me at least. Never did I think I would own a medium-sized dog. Medium! That’s like the human version of having the dull brown of your eyes match your un-shining hair. I fell in love with a skittish dog who has absolutely no connection to the AKC. From where did such a love come?

There’s not a very big difference between loving a dog and feeling bad for a dog. “Ah, poor thing!” rings throughout every SPCA in the nation. He makes you sad–but does that mean you should make him yours? When I first met Emma, I convinced myself that, as a “rescue,” she was tugging at temporary heart strings. She was cute and sweet, but did I really want her? A month and a half later, “Emma Louise,” was getting etched into a silver bone-shaped tag at my local Petco. I guess I really did.

Emma does this thing. She sits, raises her right paw, and reaches out to you. Sure, at camp (the dog kennel where I work, and where she was being fostered), I saw her reach out to other people. I felt an initial pang of jealousy (I thought she was only that cute with me!), but then I just felt good. Warm and fuzzy and shit. I fell in love with Emma Louise, because she reminded me of someone I would like to be. 

Yeah, yeah, Emma’s a dog and I’m a human. Does that mean I can’t learn from her? By god, she requires a lot of patience. She requires even more patience when you try to tell someone, “she requires a lot of patience,” because at that very moment she leaps into their lap as if she were no trouble in the world. That’s the worst part about Emma–she is no trouble. She doesn’t chew. She doesn’t bark. She doesn’t have accidents. She’s just stubborn. She will not destroy any physical object; she will look deep into your soul with her big brown eyes and destroy everything you ever thought you knew about yourself.

“But I’m good with dogs!” I constantly insist, to no one in particular. “Ha!” says Emma”Ha! Well you’re not so good with me.”

I’m really not so good with my dog, Emma Louise. I should have her in my living room right now, curled up on the rug, like a normal dog. She should chase my cat! She should chew the toys I place before her! She should bark for no reason at all! If I were good with Emma Louise, I wouldn’t feed her breakfast in bed. I would tug at her collar–not carry her to her next location. I would somehow, some way, train her to never again tuck her tail between her legs. I would erase all of her fears.

What is my Emma scared of? I really don’t know. She’s six months old, and I “know her history.” That’s what people say when they see my quivering, medium sized dog…they lower their voices and bend down to let her sniff their hands, “Well, do you know her history?” I’ve just started saying, “No, no I don’t.” Because when I tell them that she’s had a pretty okay life, they raise their eyebrows (she must be the one beating her, then, those eyebrows seem to say). 

Maybe Emma isn’t scared. Maybe she’s not so unlike me, after all. I thought, with all that reaching out and quiet, well-mannered behavior, that Emma Louise was simply a kind soul– too gentle for most people to understand. And I do think that Emma is gentle. But maybe she’s also just a little bit picky. Maybe she’s kind of a bitch. Maybe she doesn’t automatically assume that people are good. She cowers because she’s testing them. I’ve never met you, why would I give you my paw? Emma Louise, resident Mean Girl. 

Emma lets me sleep in my bed. Every night we curl up, side by side, in a world that recognizes neither OUTside, nor rules of normalcy. Last night my sister came home late and came into my room to say good night to Emma. I woke up to a bark. Two barks. Emma, ears perked, paw on my chest. Sissy, laughing, backing up. My Emma barked. I stroked her ears, “it’s okay doll.” She quietly snuggled back in under my neck. Emma Louise, my unnecessary protector. Maybe she’s a work in progress. But I’ll be damned if I could find a better partner in such a venture.