I set out on a mission to create and to utilize this platform to dive deeper into blogging as an art. I partnered with friend and photographer extraordinaire, Nina Medard of Bluefly Lens, to kick off this new project – a monthly series centered around beauty. It is partly about finding beautiful places to explore and share with all of you, especially our fellow Massachusetts readers, but also to explore beauty itself. In the inaugaration piece I’d like to introduce you all to Chesterwood, the summer home of sculptor, Daniel Chester French, which is in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The property is breathtaking and so dynamic that I had to split this post up into two parts to truly celebrate the character of Chesterwood. I also want to speak on a subject that requires a level of authenticity and commitment that I can not do justice in one post.
I’d like to talk about finding yourself beautiful and share my ongoing journey to self-love with all of you.
It is said that Daniel Chester French, world renowned sculptor most commonly known for the Abraham Lincoln monument, was a lover of beauty. He was consumed by beautiful things for he drew his livelihood and his passions from inspiration. So he built a beautiful summer home in the Berkshires that was not only inspired by his many trips to Paris but also by the beautiful Berkshire Hills across the way. Like many of us, myself included, we crave beauty. We buy beautiful clothes, beautiful cars, beautiful homes, beautiful food, have beautiful children…and so on.
But where we seem to fall short is in finding beauty in ourselves, in delighting at our reflection in the mirror. Sometimes it feels like we will love anyone but ourselves.
When I was a child, I was perfectly content with my appearance. I enjoyed wearing pretty dresses and rocking dozens of multi colored butterfly clips, and I felt beautiful. Then, my family and I moved from Brazil to America and I no longer had those things to draw beauty from, we were poor, and I can still distinctly remember the forest green sweatsuit I wore to school more than once a week.
I looked like the Hulk and not in a cool way.
It was like I had nothing to hide behind and kids and adults alike began to tease me about my weight. I was severely underweight, though not unhealthy, and it was apparent that I was different.
When I had finally started to get my bearings, wearing cooler clothes and making friends, I turned 11. Things just got awkward from there. You know that phase where nothing in your face is proportional? Yeah, that was the one. I grew obsessed with how large my nose was and despised the obvious bump that ridiculed me every time I gazed at my reflection.
Eventually, I learned to tame my frizzy curls and began to dabble in the art of makeup. But by the time I had started to feel comfortable again life threw me another curve ball. I was chasing beauty, acceptance, validation. I was gasping for air trying to catch my breath when I woke up with a visibly swollen right foot (like I was transforming not into a beautiful mermaid but a puffer fish). I was 15 when I was diagnosed with lymphedema, which causes significant swelling throughout my right leg. Once again I felt defeated and certain I was turning into the Elephant Man. Over the years the swelling has gotten progressively worse bringing this nightmare closer to life and challenging my definitions of beauty.
And what I have found is this…self love comes from a history of love. It comes from the kindness and the love of others who build you up and displace all of the self loathing in your head with words of encouragement.
For so many years I have been searching for this beauty – for self love.
I’d like to share this story of encouragement and love with all of you in the next post but I wanted to first open up about my struggles so that hopefully you realize we’ve all struggled and are struggling and it’s ok. We are human.
But we are also works of art.
Although Chesterwood was filled with a variety of sculptures both old and new, some of Chester’s original work and others commissioned from upcoming local artists, I was drawn to this crocheted caterpillar made from recycled materials.
Perhaps it’s because I identify with this caterpillar – not because I’m waiting to transform into a butterfly (some unattainable state of perfect beauty) but because I’ve finally realized that all my unique quirks make me as cool as this caterpillar.
They make me a statement piece, something to talk about, someone to be recognized, a beauty all it’s own to be admired.
And you are too.
Special thank you goes out to Nina for helping me to capture this topic with such stunning photography. Check her out on Bluefly Lens for all of your photography needs, she does gorgeous wedding, portrait, and creative work.
Thank you to Chesterwood for allowing us to shoot at this amazing property. If you are ever in western Mass I highly recommend visiting Chesterwood. The breataking French inspired home, studio, original and modern sculptures will take your breath away and Stockbridge’s charming downtown area is well worth the drive. Not to mention, Stockbridge has the best donuts I have ever had (blueberry sour cream anyone?). Chesterwood also makes a stunning wedding venue… I know I’ve certainly got my eye on it.
To see more photos you can check out Nina’s blog post about the shoot and be sure to check back here for part two!
Dress: Club Monaco
Necklace: Bauble Bar
Burgundy Heels: Zara
Anklet: Free People