I had hoped to be visiting textile workshops in Ethiopia and maybe bed net distribution centers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but the pandemic has put those trips on hold.
But I did do something I hadn't in a long time: I spent the day making new friends.
It started on the drive down to Laguna Beach to shoot two new-for-2022 scarves: a bold cobalt blue with red and white stripes, and a gorgeous slate color. (Coming soon!)
With Covid numbers dropping and with both of us boosted, Lisa Smith, our model, and I felt safe enough to drive south in the same car--without masks. We spent the time chatting and I learned that Lisa, a Brit, is not just beautiful but smart, charming, and accomplished in a variety of ways. Plus, she's a dog lover. Her rescue, Wags, joined us, napping upside down in her lap while I drove.
We arrived at our meeting spot, an unassuming but delicious taco stand on PCH, where Shaun Fenn, our photographer and my good friend, was waiting for us, reclining in the sun, his tanned legs stretched out on the wooden picnic bench. Soon, his assistant Chris showed up with photo gear and fascinating stories of his recent work with NatGeo in Alaska. For three week stretches, he films people living off the grid in extreme weather conditions (while living off the grid in extreme weather conditions himself). Next Mark, Shaun's cousin and a Laguna local, arrived, along with two big retrievers, to lead us to his favorite cove and play hooky for the afternoon.
The sun was shining, the water sparkling. Little Wags kept up with the big kids and we all worked really hard (except for Mark who, as I mentioned, was there to play hooky). Between lens and scarf changes, we exchanged snippets of conversation.
Chris told us about his time working in Alaska where, in the summer, enormous, blood-thirsty mosquitoes are everywhere. He covers his body, head to toe, whenever he leaves his tent and protects his hands by wearing surgical gloves when operating his cameras. At one point, I think he said he has a masters in spiritual philosophy. I want to know more!
Mark is a laid-back beach guy who also happens to be a polyglot who's lived on every continent holding big positions in private companies as well as in our government. I peppered him with questions, which he kindly answered, but he seemed most happy to talk about the dogs, their quirks and abilities. He's seen the world a few times over but he's happy to be back home, still in awe of the natural beauty he grew up in. (And as the sun set, it was hard to believe anyone could ever take it for granted.)
Shaun was the busiest of all, thinking about angles and breezes and light and the sinking sun, but he did let on that he's planning a trip to Paris soon with his beloved. I know I'll hear all about that when they get back.
As the sky got darker, we packed up our bags and headed up the very steep, long, wooden stairway to the highway. I was utterly exhausted but didn't want to say goodbye.
As Lisa, Wags, and I sped north in the carpool lane, Lisa told me that, as a young girl growing up in England, she'd always wanted to be a model. She dreamed of being discovered, like Kate Moss was at Heathrow. That didn't happen, alas, and she went on with life. After graduating from college, she moved to Vermont, taught science to middle-schoolers, worked at summer camps, ran her fair share of half-marathons, taught yoga, got married, and (amicably) got divorced.
Without a plan, she moved west. Some decades after she first dreamed of being discovered, she was scouted by a photographer in San Francisco. Today she's a 50-something with a thriving modeling career.
But that's not all. She's recently launched a passion project with a friend to help others age gracefully by focussing on exercise and healthy living. You can follow them on Instagram at @modelhealthcoaching and learn more at her website, modelhealthcoaching.com. I can attest that Lisa is very inspiring and living proof that her regimen works.
When you see photos of Lisa wearing Shoo for Good scarves on the beach I hope you'll get a sense of the fun we all had being out in the world, morphing from strangers to friends.
And as we all head out of this pandemic, I hope we seek out and cherish our time with others, both our old friends and potential new ones.