Very simply, this is one of the most meaningful projects I’ve done in many years.
As always, I hope you find some inspiration in it for yourself.
By Melanie Curtis
Blue Skies Magazine
So I had this idea… it involved a particular parachute, professional friends and playing on the streets of New York.
Sometimes the direction of a creative project that calls is strange… unusual… seemingly “not normal.”
Kind of like Lydia in Beetlejuice. She was a perceptible f*cking weirdo, but she could see the ghosts. She could connect with the ghosts and she could go forward through fear. So much creativity connects because it’s strange and unusual… because we are strange and unusual. Because we are all the same and at the same time, entirely unique. Called to our own unique styles of expression and life.
Creating to me is a calling into one of my most core values of courageous self-expression. Writing, imagery, movement, etc. Leaning into my creative curiosities… employing courage to explore and expand ideas has helped me heal. Helped me grow. Helped me help others so much more than I ever could before. It has helped me transform struggle into beauty, contribution and calm. It has helped me feel free, funny, powerful, vulnerable and valuable all at the same time, and in times I really needed that. Sometimes it feels big, and most of the time it feels like one more flap of the butterfly wing believing that it builds to become massive ripples of leadership and love.
Everything I gather my guts to actually put out into the world, I hope helps anyone in the emotional trenches feel supported. I hope it helps them know they’re not alone. I hope it helps them feel inspired at what is possible for them through and on the other side of pain and transformation too. I also hope it lights a fire under the asses of those resting in the perceived safety of their comfort zone, blissfully unaware that regret is rolling at them.
Harsh, I know.
This project represents so many things that are meaningful to me. So much of my personal story, so much of what I believe and so much I am grateful for. I have been working to find the words to describe all I see in these images for the last few months, and I haven’t been able to. I’d start writing, expand into an idea, and pretty much immediately feel it not working. Every time one avenue expanded too much it did the entire piece a disservice.
Then it struck me… that this particular project for me embodies the complexity of life. How it only works when it ALL comes together. It only works when every piece is there and in proper proportion. How all of it, around us and in us, makes the masterpiece.
When I look at this image, I immediately see some more obvious things… I see my love of skydiving, New York and art. I see concepts coming together in unlikely combinations resulting in something curious and cool. I see something that causes the mind to question. To open. To consider something we thought was not possible, is in fact possible. Not only is it possible… it’s f*cking beautiful.
This idea was burned into my brain and being when I was 18 years old… when I did the impossible thing of jumping out of an airplane, landing and living.
No way that was possible… but of course it was.
Everything we think is not possible… everything we think is not f*cking beautiful… I challenge us to challenge that.
When I look more deeply at this image, I see myself standing seemingly alone.
In that idea, I see how far I’ve personally come. How much work I have done to grow forward from the fear of being alone… disconnected… not enough. I see how much work I have done to heal. How deeply I dove into myself at every stage to experience, connect to, and learn the skills necessary to source the peace, power and love I now feel in myself and for others as a singular person connected to the universal whole. I see all the courage it took to trust myself and be myself however weird and out-there that person is.
One love in a onesie is way more than a party on this plane.
Even when we feel alone, we aren’t. I may look alone in this picture, but I’m not. Not even close. We never are. If you imagine beyond this image, you’ll feel my friend Irina behind the lens capturing this moment. You’ll feel my friend Shane behind the scenes schlepping the stuff. You’ll feel the thread of every relationship in that embroidery. You’ll feel Lara, Kolla and Pierre, teammates in whatever magic we can create for the entire community every month in these pages. If you look beyond what’s blasting you in the face, you’ll feel every person who’s ever supported me… loved me… and believed in me.
They’re all there.
Jonathan Tagle gets special mention. My best friend. A champion in every respect of the word and absolutely a champion for me. When he died in 2012, I felt like a major pillar of my stability and safety in life was instantly gone. I felt a flood of uncertainty, fear and grief. What I have learned in the years since Jonathan’s passing is that the stability and safety and love we created together in our friendship is still with me. He is always with me. He consistently shows up in the fabric of my confidence, comedy and courage to act. The parachute in this picture is a Velocity 90 we both owned. He flew it earning his skills to get on the PDFT. I flew it earning my skills to drag water and brag wildly to my friends about sneaker saturation indicating my level of coolness. Hahaha I mean, duh. He helped me learn to fly it well, safely and my very best the one time I competed in US Canopy Piloting Nationals.
By the way, at that CP Nationals, I got second to last, f*ck yeah! Aka NOT last, f*ck yeah! It might have been because Art left early, but whatever, I have earned actual gold medals that didn’t feel even close to as good as that day.
Only people with the courage to play get this feeling.
I see Jonathan flying near me, with me, lifting me up, making this image, my life and me that much stronger and richer as a result. I see all of my loved ones that are metaphorically flying free, undeniably with me too. I feel certainty in the idea that all of those we love, we never actually lose.
With all of that life, I see a woman standing with two feet on this earth, grounded in her power. I see a woman rocking red lips and resting into one hip ‘cause she dances and likes the attitude when weight settles subtly to one side. I see a creator throwing the metaphorical bird to the system in favor of art for art’s sake. I see all the years, tears, fears and fire it takes to stand in this kind of calm. I see a person committed to using her voice and inspirations for good. I see a person more committed to standing up, than sitting back in silence safe from judgment and conflict. I see a person committed to vulnerably speaking from the depths of our shared humanity, believing that’s one bridge in the real project of reconnecting us all.
Sometimes we go underground to be in a new place when we reemerge. Sometimes even when we’re waiting things feel like they’re still moving so fast. Even then, know you’re solid. Know that wind is what blows our hair up and makes life fun. Know we can put the pause button on any moment and see through to the other side.
The whole journey is so fun. Trust the journey. Get to the city shortly after sunrise. Try stupid sh*t with tons of people staring just because you had an idea and are crazy enough to see it through with your crazy-enough friends who are fired up to ride this roller coaster with you. (PS. Ladies, a heads up, when you bend over to pack, people can look down your shirt.)
The idea of being out there as ourselves for real can feel super scary. Anytime you feel that, remember… literally no one cares. In the good way.
This is f*cking funny and I love it.
SIDEWALK (Jump & Dance)
In every moment we get to choose how we live it. What we bring to it. What we create in it. Sure, I face forward with full-focused blinders on and look down at my phone like the rest of the world sometimes too… and sometimes I do this. I jump. I dance. Because that’s what I choose to live into and bring into the world. What do you want to do? … Whatever you just thought… f*ck yeah, go do that.
You might be thinking, “This sh*t is for the birds, yo.” Hahaha clearly that sentence exactly running through your mind. Duh. If so, I’d say you’re right.
I’m a winged weirdo artist dreamer doer dancer lover believing in tidal waves.
What are you?
What are you called to create? Do? Be?
It certainly doesn’t have to be a photo manifestation of life’s complexity, beauty and comedy on the streets of New York, but whatever it is, I hope this piece inspires you to follow your curiosities and courage into new experiences, expressions and connections too.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Tennessee Williams:
“The world is violent and mercurial – it will have it’s way with you. We are saved only by love – love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share; being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”