Spaces at Kasha-Katuwe / by Rebecca Tillett

Dear Amanda, I’ve been telling you how beautiful you are since we were little girls, but maybe a little too quietly or without enough faith. I never lost it in you. Maybe you didn’t believe me. Maybe you couldn’t. Maybe even you didn’t know how. You were starving and receding and I found you beautiful, but not because of your suffering. I found beauty in the empty spaces that made you feel better and proud because I knew you’d occupy them eventually and peace would softly end the war your mind had declared on the vessel you were given. When we saw each other four long years ago surrounded by the invisible desert walls we’d grown up within, you were so thin, despite birthing two little girls of your own and crossing the sea and inhabiting the world. I wondered if the last ten or fifteen years had only been a vision. You looked as fragile and young as the girl I grew up beside, but I sensed the collapse you’d been working hard to rebuild, the sorrow, the carefulness and caution in every movement. I sensed that this time, you felt no victory over the empty spaces, but you were still so beautiful. I never lost faith and I’d hoped such conviction, this time in my declarations, was apparent. I hoped because someone had to.

Dear girl, friend, sister, muse, confidante, woman, childhood soulmate, Trekking through the night streets of Santa Fe last weekend, talking and laughing about our years as girls, the dialogue and disdain between our mouths and bodies, how little our topics of conversation had shifted as if the last twelve years living apart were only a brief intermission; trekking through the desert with you, carrying our cameras, and laughing about how ill-prepared we’d been for such a thing, laughing over the ridiculousness of our confidence in the vast and scorching and shadeless New Mexico desert because we’d grown up in the confines of that unforgiving landscape, not wanting to admit it could swallow us whole if it really wanted to. We mocked our flip flops, our choice of clothing, our utter and total lack of water. “This is how that french couple died at White Sands,” one of us said while the other laughed in something of a sad and cautious acceptance of our mortality that only really comes with age and close calls. But despite all of this, there was a comforting sense of familiarity and love and profound joy I’ll never forget. And when we found the perfect spot for some photos and you volunteered to climb the rock wall without much hesitation, when you stripped down to bare skin fully trusting that I would let you know if someone was coming, and even when you made some denigrating remarks about your body, your weight, your inability these days to maintain the empty spaces you’d spent much of your life guarding vigilantly, I sensed happiness and acceptance and contentment. I sensed only habit in the discourse. I sensed a peace I’ve spent years awaiting. For the very first time, I saw the beauty you were destined for, not the kind of disaffection and uncertainty, of yearning and wishing you could be something else, of reluctant acceptance. I saw in you the beautiful, voluptuous, confident, woman the tiny little insecure girl I always knew was destined to become. I saw so much love in those spaces that sat empty for so long.

Dear Amanda, You are absolutely gorgeous. The gratitude is overwhelming.

p.s. Thank you for your composure, your grace, and especially your sense of humor when the park ranger happened upon us and demanded we descend the rocks and exit the park, a tale I won't soon forget. "I feel like you and me always go on these...journeys."

Please, please click these to see them so much larger. Really, I insist.

Nudes are a bit of deviation from my normal style and are inspired by the breathtaking work of Philly-based photographer, Corwin Prescott.

My last shoot with Amanda was four years ago and a few of the photos from that shoot can be seen here and here.

Soon is never soon enough.