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Seventeen years ago I packed up all my belongings in a UHaul truck, buckled in my 8 month pregnant belly, my faithful dog, and my adventure-loving friend Marilyn and drove from Portland Oregon to Boston Massachusetts.  Our mixtape had a curated selection of Lilith Fair women-empowering artists mixed in with Marilyn’s favorite, Bon Jovi, which we played in a handheld tape player. If I had to choose an anthem for our trip it would probably be “Adia” by Sarah MacLachlan, just because it played so often and we sang it at the top of our lungs, and possibly because my as-of-yet unborn son was to be named Aidan.   I think it took us about seven days to make the trip, stopping along I-90 to visit all the national monuments, parks, and sights.  We camped alongside the road in a small tent and cooked with a little camp stove borrowed from a friend, eating anything we could prepare with hot water.  We came face-to-face with Bison, crawled out to huge rock outcroppings amid rattlesnake warnings, weathered a few harrowing storms in steep canyons, learned to pump our own gas for the first time and dealt with a broken A/C. We had no choice but to stop at Wall Drug after 306 roadsigns warned us of its existence and we got hopelessly lost in Chicago and stayed in a sleazy hotel in a crime ridden neighborhood and slept with one eye open all night.  We had no iphone or GPS and cows still grazed in meadows and the corn fields were sparse, but genuine natural product.  After witnessing the humbling power of Niagara Falls we edged closer to our destination, feeling the conclusion looming ahead as we reveled in the beauty of Upstate New York and Western Massachusetts. We arrived in Boston on a busy, hot, late summer afternoon, road-tired and ready to deposit me in my new life in New England with my new baby and my partner in the home we had recently purchased together.  I will forever remember that road trip, what we called our very own “Power Trip.”  Everything was in transition for both of us and we both faced our fears, many unknowns, bittersweet endings and exciting new beginnings.  Marilyn returned to Portland and I followed, to give birth before making the long term move to Boston a month later when Aidan was 3 weeks old.  When Marilyn accepted my request to become my son’s godmother, we joked that I would pick her up in Portland and we would make the road trip to Boston again for Aidan’s high school graduation and to send him off to college…making a full circle of that particular phase of our lives.

Fast forward to today, seventeen years on.  I am living in Michigan with my 3 children now.  My beloved dog from our road trip days is long gone and terribly missed.  And today marks one year since Marilyn died from her final hard-fought battle with ovarian cancer.  Our lives have followed similar roads with different forks and criss crossing paths. We always stayed in touch and made many visits to see and support each other, always picking up where we left off,  remembering promises made.  She was everyone’s favorite godmother and an amazing mother to one little boy, loved into a family,  and a loyal friend to many many lucky people.

Last week I embarked on a road trip again.  Michigan to Boston, with my kids.  As we neared Niagara Falls I was overwhelmed with Marilyn’s presence as I recalled the last time I  had been there, the first for she and I.  I found myself standing in the same places we did together, feeling again the power of something greater than ourselves.  I was reminded of the absolute beauty of driving through the Hudson Valley, the feeling of being enveloped in a quiet soft blanket of rolling hills and lush farmland, just as we had done so many years before.  When I crossed in to Massachusetts my heart hurt for home, for my mid twenties, for my friend Marilyn, for the realization that I was making this trip without her- to take my son on college tours, this time preparing him to embark on his own new life and adventures…and coming full circle.  Almost.  Miss you Marilyn.

marilyn goodman at the badlands 1998

cross country road trip to boston

marilyn goodman at niagara falls september 1998

niagara falls august 2015

xoxo

dena

 

  • Tricia - August 15, 2015 - 10:33 am

    Oh Dena!

    What an incredible tribute to your dear friend. I am so sorry for your loss. What a gift you must have been to each other. And what a gift for your kids to see their mama love and be loved so well.

  • Tina - August 15, 2015 - 11:09 am

    These are two of my favorite pics of Mar, ever.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Hugs to your tender heart.

  • Jenifer - August 15, 2015 - 12:22 pm

    Dena,

    I so enjoyed reading this. You had me laughing and shedding tears at the same time. I remember you taking that trip, and her sharing your adventure with me when she got back home. She was always up for an adventure and wanting to make the most out of each day. Thank you for sharing. Big hugs to you.

    Love,

    Jeni

  • PamN - August 15, 2015 - 12:27 pm

    My heart recognizes this story. I’m afraid that this season of life begins to fill with more of these moments, as we and our friends travel further along life’s path. I hope I can handle it with as much grace as you, focusing on the beauty and meaning of the memories…and not letting it overshadow the new ones yet to be made.

It was early in the morning, Lake Michigan was calm and cool, the beach was quiet, and this lovely lady was golden in the summer sunlight.

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Lake Michigan is one of those places you always come back to, and bring more family and friends each summer you do.  I have loved photographing the many vacationers and extended family sessions on the lakeshore.  Every summer I print a new book with our own summertime photographs as a record of our adventures and passing time.  I like to envision a shelf full of summer books lined up side by side with the year printed on the spine, just waiting for our fingers to scan the titles and pick one out to cuddle up on the couch with in the middle of a bleak January afternoon to remember the golden days of summer…

I met up with Tristen in Grand Haven, Michigan a few weeks ago to document the beginning of his high school senior year.  His mom, sister, aunt and girlfriend all came along for the senior portraits, carrying his wardrobe and helping him rehearse his different smiles…  Following is a small sample of our morning session together.

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If you are looking for Senior Portrait Sessions in Michigan, the time to book is now.  I still have a few session openings available in August.  I highly recommend holding your session before school starts in September.  Please email me at denarobles@gmail.com for more information on Senior Portrait Sessions.  I have 2 different session types available to fit your needs.

 

xx

dena

 

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