Tag Archives: Miranda McDonald

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Into the Mountains

A Journey of Loss And Acceptance in Wyoming

STORY & PHOTOS BY MIRANDA MCDONALD

“Are you meeting someone in Jackson Hole?” inquired the lady sitting next to me on the plane.

I wondered if she was genuinely curious or simply making conversation because she felt as anxious as I did about the turbulence currently bombarding our tiny aircraft.

“No,” I choked out as I tightly gripped the arm rest of my seat. At this point, my stomach felt like it was permanently lodged in my throat. “I am actually spending the week alone.”

“Oh. What brings you to Wyoming?” she continued. Her confusion now momentarily replacing the fear.

As I looked down at the backpack wedged between my feet, I thought of the list of possible answers I could give her: a failed marriage, the two years of utter confusion that followed, or I could describe the overwhelming guilt I carried with me every day since the moment I decided to leave my old life behind.

“I am here to hike in Grand Teton National Park and do some writing.” I decided to keep it simple.

“That sounds nice,” she replied. “Be sure to take some bear spray and try to find other hikers to walk with on the trails. They say groups of three are best!”

I wanted to tell her it wasn’t the bears I feared. I wanted to explain to her that I was embarking on a spiritual journey with this trip, and that I hoped to unpack all that guilt I had strapped on my back so many months ago and leave it on those trails in the mountains.

Besides the wildlife tour I had booked two days prior to my departure, lightening my mental load was the only thing I had really planned for the trip. Oh, but there was the minor detail of finding a place to sleep for three nights. I had thought about pitching a tent. However, once I discovered the temperatures dipped down to the 30s when the sun went down, I decided to book a stay at a Heart Six Ranch in Moran, instead.

My Arrival

Like the city itself, which has a population of just under 12,000 people, the Jackson Hole airport was small. Well, small enough for it to nestle comfortably at the southern base of the Grand Teton mountain range. As I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac, I counted the snow-covered mountain caps directly in front of me. The mountains were unlike any I had ever seen.

“I hope you enjoy your stay in Wyoming,” the lady said with a smile as she walked by with her luggage rolling noisily behind her.

I watched her walk quickly ahead of me and into the airport. She had been so kind, and yet I had never bothered to ask her name. I was thinking of our interaction on the plane when my thoughts were interrupted by the sound of another plane flying overhead. I guess names were irrelevant at this point. It was time to gather my luggage and pick up my rental car.

Twenty-Six Miles

Even though the temperature was only 50s in Wyoming that day, I rolled down every window in my rental so I could take in the spring air rolling off the mountains. I quickly typed the address to Heart Six Ranch into Google Maps, and it informed me that I only had 26 miles to travel from the airport. However, what Google didn’t mention was that I would be driving through a national elk refuge that housed 25,000 acres of wildlife, or that I would also encounter some of the most beautiful views of the Grand Teton mountains during my commute.

By the time I reached Moran, I had parked to take pictures at almost every turnabout on the highway, stopped twice to allow elk to cross the road and watched a moose graze in a small creek that was just a few miles away from the ranch. Somehow, I turned my 30-minute journey into four hours of sightseeing.

When I finally reached Heart Six Ranch, the sun was going down, and I was welcomed by a furry, four-legged “ranch hand” named Leo. His body stiffened and he began barking as I got out of my car. As a peace offering, I let him sniff my hands. I guess he found my smell acceptable because once he was finished, he walked with me to the lodge for check in. I had been in Moran for less than an hour and had already made a friend.

A Cup of Coffee

The next morning, I loaded my backpack with water, a journal, my camera and a book, and walked over to the main lodge at the ranch. I needed guidance on which trails to hike while in the national park. Leo was sprawled out and still asleep on the couch by the front desk, but the property manager was already up and reading the local newspaper behind the counter.

“I was told I need a big can of bear spray for my hike,” I said as I slung my bag onto the desk. I hoped a little humor would be a good way to start a conversation so early in the day.

“Of course, but how about some coffee first?” he asked.

As we walked into the dining room, the smell of eggs drifted from the kitchen and into my nose. With our coffee in hand, we sat at a large table made of beautiful, tan wood. It matched the logs that constructed the entire building and all the cabins on the property. I sipped my coffee slowly and hoped it would help me shake off the fogginess from another sleepless night. I seemed to be having quite a few of those lately.

“So, what brings you to Wyoming?” he asked.

“I want to hike the trails by the Grand Tetons, and hopefully do some writing,” I explained.

“Oh, you are a writer,” he said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster up before 8 a.m. “What will you write about?”

I picked my mug up and took a large drink of the hot liquid inside. “Divorce,” I explained after the coffee was fully down. Something about his presence made me feel comfortable enough to finally say it. “Well, not just divorce. I want to start figuring out who I am after divorce.”

“I see,” he replied.

“I was recently laid off from my desk job, so my schedule just got a lot more flexible,” I responded with a sarcastic tone as I played with the loose string hanging from a seam in my jeans. “I don’t own a home. I have no kids or even a dog. My marriage is over and there is no significant other that claims me. Oh, and my landlord just sold the house I am living in. So, here I am.”

“I see,” he replied again. “So, you are a gypsy?” His tone made the words sound more like a declaration than an actual question. “At this point in your life, you don’t have anything tying you down to one place,” he continued. “You, my dear, are a gypsy.”

I had never thought about this title before. Of course, I had been labeled many over the years: sister, writer, spouse, friend, coworker and now there was the heavy title of ex-wife. However, this one – gypsy – was completely new to me. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it, but I sat there for a moment and imagined myself trying the word on like a new pair of gloves. In my head, I pictured myself slowly pulling these gloves up over my fingers and then onto my wrists. Looking down at them as they covered both hands, I wasn’t quite sure how they fit.

“Now, about that bear spray,” he said after a long moment of silence.

Lake Taggart

After a few recommendations from various sources, I decided to hike the trail to Taggart Lake first. I was informed the walk was under 5 miles and boasted spectacular views of the park.

Once I arrived at the starting point, I laced up my hiking boots, tightened the straps on my backpack and wrapped a denim jacket around my waist. With a can of bear spray also hanging from my belt strap, I started my journey to the lake.

Even though it was May, there were still mounds of snow covering parts of the path. Eventually, I came upon a bridge that had an extraordinary view of a small waterfall. I slowly walked onto the narrow apparatus, and with water rushing over rocks of all shapes and sizes below me, I sat on its edge and dangled my feet over the side.

I thought about why I was there. I forced myself into these woods in search of something that would help me finally move forward and out of my current mental state, but I still wasn’t quite sure what that something was. I guess I was hoping it would meet me somewhere on the trail.

After sitting for a few moments, I realized the answers I searched for were not on that bridge, so I got up and started walking again.

I hiked a mile before I reached a small clearing. The trees were sparse in this area, and the snow was deep. I had only come across a few hikers that morning, but there was still a large path of footprints showing me the way to a part of the woods where the trail picked back up. The sun bounced off the snow with such ferocity that I was forced to shield my eyes with one hand as I walked. Once I reached the next set of trees, the temperature took a noticeable drop. I was getting close to the lake.

After a few minutes of walking through more snow and trees, I came to another clearing and stepped out onto a bed of pebbles. I then looked up and before me was a frozen Taggart Lake and an astonishing view of the Grand Tetons behind it. I walked to a fallen tree at the edge of this frozen body of water, and after a few minutes of stunned silence, I sat down to journal.

This is what I wrote:

At some point after my divorce, I came to believe that I deserved to be punished for hurting a person that I loved for so many years. Even if our 12-year relationship needed to an end, the guilt I feel from leaving my marriage consumes me every day. I still see the pain in his face and the fear in his eyes when I told him I had to leave. I still hear sadness in his voice when he told me not to go. The memory is just so vivid in my mind.

I have allowed this memory to block all the good memories that came from my marriage. I have allowed this memory to put a halt to any happiness that has tried to enter my life since that day. My failed marriage has made me also feel like a complete failure.

However, as I sit in front of something so grand and pure, I realize that there is so much beauty to be seen in this world. I have to start making space for this beauty. I have to unpack this guilt and leave it at on the edge of this lake.

I sat on the shore of Taggart Lake for what seemed like an hour. It was so peaceful in this spot that I could hear the silence fill the space around the trees behind me. Tears rolled down my face as I sat in the silence.

Before I started my journey back, I walked to the edge of the lake. There were a few inches of shallow water that had thawed under the warming rays of the sun. Dipping my fingers into the cold water, I tried to imagine the entire ecosystem that existed just below the surface. There was so much life sitting under that ice and it was just waiting for everything to melt so that it could finally reveal itself. Was I like this lake? Was I also waiting for a new season to arrive so that I could finally reveal a metamorphosis that was slowly taking place just underneath my own surface?

I’m Not Good at Goodbyes

After three days of soul searching on the trails of the Grand Tetons, it was time for me to catch my flight back home. I woke up early to see my last sunrise at Heart Six Ranch. As I watched the sun peek over the valley below the lodge, I wished I had booked my stay for longer. Leo must have known I would be leaving soon because he came to sit down beside me around the time the sun was almost completely above the ridge.

“I am not good at goodbyes,” I said to the French Mastiff as I rubbed a spot behind his ear. Besides a small group of bison I stopped for every day while driving back and forth to Jackson Hole, Leo and the ranch manager were the only regular contacts I made while in Wyoming. Most of my days were spent alone, and in silence.

A few more minutes passed before I walked to my cabin to gather the luggage I packed the night before. Leo followed closely behind. I picked up my backpack. It seemed so heavy when I first arrived, but now it felt a bit lighter. I guess I had accomplished lightening my load after all. This made me smile.

“Where will you go next, Gypsy?” the manager asked as I started to walk to my car with my luggage, Leo my faithful escort.

“Everywhere. I will go everywhere,” I declared with a feeling of confidence I hadn’t felt in some time.

After all, I was now a gypsy and there is just so much world to see.

Look from Sapphire on Spring:
Dress Romper with Shorts $42, Initial Plate Necklace $19.

Sizzle This Summer

Styling and Photos by Miranda McDonald

Model: Kristen Kirsch

This summer is all about making a fashion statement with your outfit choices. From playful prints on off-shoulder frocks to stand out accessories and bold button details, you are sure to turn heads with these trendy, summer looks.


FASHIONS FROM: Sapphire on Spring

326 Spring St.

Jeffersonville

812.920.0017


Mariposa Consignments

222 Pearl St.

New Albany

812.725.8508

 

Look from Mariposa Consignments: Vintage Dress $21.99, Yellow Necklace $12.99, Silk Scarf $14.99.

Look from Mariposa Consignments:
Vintage Dress $21.99, Yellow Necklace $12.99, Silk Scarf $14.99.

Look from Sapphire on Spring: Dress Romper with Shorts $42, Initial Plate Necklace $19.

Look from Sapphire on Spring:
Dress Romper with Shorts $42, Initial Plate Necklace $19.

Look from Mariposa Consignments: Vintage Audrey Hepburn Tee $6.99,  Red Skirt $14.99, Denim Jacket $16.99.

Look from Mariposa Consignments:
Vintage Audrey Hepburn Tee $6.99, Red Skirt $14.99, Denim Jacket $16.99.

Look from Sapphire on Spring: Floral Blouse $48, Hem Denim $39, Tassel Earrings $30.

Look from Sapphire on Spring:
Floral Blouse $48, Hem Denim $39,
Tassel Earrings $30.

Look from Sapphire on Spring: Lemon Dress $59, Lemon Clutch $12, Beaded Earrings $14.

Look from Sapphire on Spring:
Lemon Dress $59, Lemon Clutch $12,
Beaded Earrings $14.

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The New Blak

Story and Photos by Miranda McDonald

Two years ago, Sellersburg resident Amanda Dougherty founded The New Blak, a local, eco-friendly clothing brand, with the idea that fashion can not only be created locally with sustainable fabrics, but that it can also be used as a tool to support, encourage and empower women.

“I launched my business to help spark a fashion revolution,” she said.

Each piece of clothing is handmade in the company’s personal studio space at Oxmoor Mall in Louisville by a group of women that Dougherty affectionately calls her “girl gang. We provide a very different experience… . When a customer comes into the store, they have the opportunity to meet the fashion designer and company owner, and speak with the stylists. They are also introduced to the team of seamstresses,” she said. “We want to unveil the idea that fashion doesn’t have to be an automated manufacturing process. It is a personal experience between a seamstress and the cloth itself.”

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The Cost of ‘Fast Fashion’

Dougherty noticed that this personal experience and the connection customers have with the clothing they buy was completely lost when she worked in retail management for several years. She was so astounded by how quickly trendy clothing was being produced and the low price point that it was being sold at that she decided to research garment factories.

Daugherty soon realized workers in many of these establishments are exploited in order to produce poorly-made garments that are created with materials that are also harmful to the environment. In fact, she discovered that these materials are so harmful they contribute to making the fashion industry the second most damaging industry to the planet.

It was after this realization that Dougherty decided to make it her mission to help spread the word about the true cost of what’s known as “fast fashion,” and be one of the clothing brands that is striving to use eco-friendly materials.

“It can take polyester up to 200 years to break down in the environment. With the rate that we buy, throwaway and repeat, we will eventually be completely over-crowded by fast-fashion waste,” Dougherty said.

So, the designer decided to use bamboo when constructing each of the garments for The New Blak. The material is anti-microbial, helps regulate body heat and has a four-way stretch that makes each piece extremely comfortable to wear.

Start Small, Think Big

Although Dougherty is part of a global initiative that is working to eradicate fast fashion, she understands the impact starting on a local level can truly have. She plans to collaborate with local manufacturers and expand her business concept over the next several years.

“We know this cannot happen overnight. Opening the shop in Oxmoor Mall was just the first step in the fashion revolution. We hope to eventually collaborate with other companies, and build up Louisville and Southern Indiana as a self-sustaining fashion hub.”

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Models:
Hali Meeks

Kaelin Shay

Heather Rous Weeks

Amanda Haas

Krista Prak

Shelby Thomas

Tees and dresses created by The New Blak
Jewelry provided by Bloomed Roots, Oak
and Olive Jewelry, Darling Handmades and
Wood If I Could, all of which is available at
The New Blak

The New Blak
7900 Shelbyville Road inside Oxmoor Mall

Louisville

502.309.9363

www.thenewblak.com

shopthenewblak@gmail.com

@shopthenewblak on
Facebook & Instagram

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KMAC Couture: When Art Walks the Runway

Photo by Gary Barragan courtesy of KMAC

By Miranda McDonald

Dedicated to exploring the meaning of art through fashion, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft will present its fifth annual KMAC Couture: Art Walks the Runway on April 15.

Since its inception in 2013, KMAC Couture is a fashion presentation dedicated to showcasing handcrafted, wearable art from emerging and established regional artists that include costumers, milliners and designers. Every year, there is a unique theme for the event. This year, KMAC artists will explore the idea of color and how it has been utilized throughout history to connect people.

According to KMAC’s website, “Color theory connects us to centuries of creative expression seen by artists using vivid colors as texture and narrative, like Sam Gilliam, Helen Frankenthaler and Dan Flavin, or artists who use lack of color as texture, like Eva Hesse or designer Alexander Wang. Color can be a symbol of beauty and power, as well as a political tool used to divide and isolate. This year, KMAC Couture artists will challenge the vast spectrum of color as a subject matter by adding layers of creative interpretation that evoke emotion.”

Through the creation of handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces that are composed of unconventional materials, local artists like Gunnar Deathrage (former contestant on Project Runway) will explore the distinctive relationship between art and fashion for KMAC Couture. The unconventional materials that are used range from human hair to candle wax, and even match sticks.

The event will take place under a tent outside of KMAC Museum. Proceeds from the show support educational and exhibition programming for the museum throughout the year. To find out more and purchase tickets, click here.

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All Tied Up

Story and Photos by Miranda McDonald

Starting and maintaining a small business is always a challenge. However, what if you needed to factor in homework, extracurricular activities and the usual social angst that comes along with being a teenager? Meet Ethan Thomas: a 15-year-old entrepreneur who recently launched his first company, All Tied Up, and is proving that success doesn’t have to come after a certain age.

tie3Even as a young child, Ethan had a deep appreciation for fashion. His eye for mixing fabrics and knack for building interesting outfits is something the young business owner has always prided himself on.

Wanting to add some panache to his wardrobe, Ethan bought his first pre-tied bowtie and instantly fell in love with the accessory. “I got to a point where I wore a different bow tie to school every day for a full year,” he explained.

However, as a young fashion enthusiast with limited income, his affection for the accessory became costly. So out of necessity, he decided to start making his own. “Eventually, people started telling me how much they really loved my bow ties and that I should sell them,” said Ethan. That is when he decided to setup his first booth at a local craft show last year. “I did a lot better than I was expecting, so things just kind of evolved into something much bigger from there.”

Now, Ethan regularly sets up booths at craft fairs and art-related shows – like the Flea Off Market – and fields orders for custom creations from those who hear about his company through social media or by word of mouth. This year, he is even expanding his line of products to include skinny ties, pocket squares and cufflinks that will all be made by hand.

However, even with this expansion of products, Ethan is still determined to stay tie2true to his mission of creating accessories that are handcrafted from interesting materials. Many of his fabrics are sourced from local shops, but some are so unique that they date back as far as 70 years in age. He attributes the acquisition of these one-of-a-kind fabrics to a family friend named Mary Norris.

Ethan met Norris when his first sewing machine broke down. Her husband, Bill Norris, not only gifted Ethan with a high quality sewing machine from the1940s, but he also became a mentor to the young business owner. Because of this relationship, Ethan regularly pulls from Mary’s carefully-curated collection of fabrics. He was even able to acquire a fabric which features a colorful Van Gogh print he used to construct his favorite bow tie.

Choosing the right fabric is just a first step in the process of making a bow tie though. “After I choose the fabric, I cut out the pattern. Then I sew it, flip it and iron it out,” explained Thomas.

However, the process doesn’t stop there either. Thomas also handles the marketing of each of his custom pieces. His passion for selling at such an early age is extremely rare, but it is what has allowed Thomas to successfully grow his business in such a short amount of time. His motto? Everyone should “give a bow tie a try once.”

All Tied Up by Ethan Thomas

Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/ATUbowties

Instagram: @alltiedup_bowties

Facebook: www.facebook.com/alltiedupbowties

ethanthomas2001@gmail.com

*Please message Ethan Thomas directly for orders and details.