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life list

Life List: Visit Joshua Tree – Check!

This year has been my year to just Be. I’m not getting married or divorced or buying or selling real estate or moving or dealing with my dog dying or running around trying to find my place in this world or working on losing weight or changing my name yet again or struggling to build a business or dealing with any sort of drama or… anything. For the first time in years. 2016 has been my year to just Be. I took that to mean “travel”, I guess; since the beginning of the year, we went to Maui, and then I went to Paris and Dubai, and Nicaragua, and we just got back from Palm Springs, and we’re going to Malaysia and Thailand in a few months, and I haven’t been blogging ANY of it, but oh man. I have some photos.


Last week in Palm Springs was a photo workshop, and Marley joined me for five days after it ended. On our list for certain: Joshua Tree. After several years of going to Camp Mighty in Palm Springs and never making it the 20 miles or so over to the park, I finally did, and I was so glad I got to go with Marley for the first time.

On Sunday, we headed there just at the tail end of the sun being high in the sky. We drove for miles, stopping to get out of our car frequently to take pictures of the Joshua Tress and plants and rocks. We stayed to watch the sun sink and the heavenly bodies to emerge: first Mars, Saturn and Antares in the usual place just as soon as the sun dipped down, then five, then ten, then a million at once. There were meteors, too. I’ve never seen stars like this.

Shout out to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs for loaning me the pool robe, which is perfect attire to see Joshua Tree in. Paired with their provided in-room walking stick and my own scarf-turned-headwrap, I was perfectly dressed to be a freckled, enthusiastic cult leader.

p.s. We made a playlist:

Amber Marlow Joshua Tree 1

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life list

Life List: Go Rock Climbing – Check

photo by Sarah Hoppes

When Nicki asked if I wanted to go hiking, I envisioned a few miles through the fall leaves in my sneakers with my backpack on, a pause for lunch by a river or shit like that, and then back home.

Nicki took Sarah and me over a mountain.

To get to the top of Diamond Mountain, you have to go up three really intense sections of topography, and while what we were doing is still absolutely considered hiking, I was, at once point, on all fours CLIMBING ROCKS and fairly certain I was going to pass out, so I’m going to count it, especially because this is what I looked like at the end:

(Thank you for the photo, Nicki; this sprawling on rocks is all your fault)

But after a minute I got up again, and this is what I felt like:

Thanks, Sarah

I have what I think of as healthy FOMO. I always ask every really old person I meet what bits of wisdom they have for people my age, and most of them say some version of, “Do fun stuff so you have good stories.” I try to think of stuff on my own, but I appreciate that I have friends that do interesting things, too, and invite me so I don’t have to plan.

Nicki, I like that I know you.

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life list

Life List: Catch Fireflies in a Jar on a Summer Night – Check!

We rented a car on Saturday and loaded it with Matty and Leeloo, then drove the hour plus up to Easton, Connecticut to pick blueberries at Stu!’s parent’s house. They live in an old farm house that her grandfather was born in, and in the back are a dozen enormous blueberry bushes that produce amazing organic fruit. Ages ago, her parents made these goofy/awesome coffee can holders with string that holds them around your neck for picking, and after dinner the four of us marched out to the bushes to get to work. As we picked, Matty, Leeloo, and Jack – her black lab, and my dogs’ oldest friend – wove themselves around our ankles, and Jack showed my two how to pick berries for themselves right off of the dog-height branches. Emily and Stu!, of course, are friends from high school, who knew me way before I was cool (stop laughing!) so it was fun to hang out with them and show Marley off to some of my old friends.

After we had our fill and added some wild raspberries to the mix, we caught fireflies in a jar and watched them light up the yard for a while until mosquitos got us, and then had some sort of invented dessert that I think was pretty close to blueberry shortcake, with blueberries from their yard from earlier in the season and homemade ice cream.

The whole evening felt like someone mending the sail of a sailboat, sewing small tears up in my soul. Between the root canal, lots of weddings, tons of places to be all the time all over the City and a scary medical procedure*, it was a long month, and it was so good to be still, and quiet. There is almost nothing more magic to me than late July in New England. Or friendship.

Thanks, Emily and Stu!

*Story forthcoming. Spoiler: I’m fine.

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life list

Life List: Throw a Surprise Birthday Party – check!

Kathryn is a fantastic friend. When I was slated to have a ridiculously crummy 30th birthday, she swooped in with some others and helped throw one of the most amazing dinner parties in my backyard, and we’ve been good friends since. When she was having a crummy birthday this year, I thought I’d get her back.

I had massages booked at my favorite spa a few blocks away from my apartment, and while we were getting the royal treatment, Johanna was in my kitchen, secretly cooking up a storm.

“Next is dinner,” I told Kat, “but I have to stop by my house first.”

We walked back, me nervously texting our location updates to Johanna back at the house. When we were two blocks away, I realized everyone would have left their shoes outside my apartment in the hallway, so I texted Jo “SHOES!” and she gathered them inside. Later, Kathryn told me I was acting normally, but it felt like I was ooozing suspicious behavior the entire time.

As I put the key in the lock, she remarked that “my neighbors must be cooking something awesome.” because of the smell.

“Yeah… they, um, like to cook?” I stammered, voice shaking, palms sweating. You have to understand, I had a grand total of 9 people over, this was NOT a huge deal, but it felt so exciting!

We walked into a semi-dark house. My apartment opens to a middle room that serves as an office/dinning room. It was empty, and then… it wasn’t. Friends came streaming out from the living room yelling “Surprise!”, and I burst into tears while Katherine burst out laughing, and then she got misty while I started giggling. It was a stellar moment.

I completely forgot to take any photos at the party itself, and only snapped this one shot of us in our robes post-massage, which will have to do.

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life list only in new york

Life List: See a Broadway Play – check!

How I managed to live in New York for five years without going to the theater is baffling. It wasn’t high on my list of things to remedy just yet, but a friend had two tickets to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, so I pulled on a pretty dress, swept my hair into an updo, put on a fancy face, and headed to a Monday evening performance.

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are amazingly fun to watch, and made the rather dreary subject matter enjoyable (it took me a minute to get past seeing Gandalf interacting with Captian Picard!)

Have you been to a Broadway show? What did you see?

image of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart on top of the Empire State Building, courtesy of their Pinterest board

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career life list NYC with Amber

Life List: Row Boats in Central Park – Check!

First, fun news: I have an intern! She’s Alex, and has an enthusiasm for photography – and life in general – that rocks my world. I need to get a better photo of her face, but for now, enjoy her cool-girl photo stance and rockin’ blond hair patch.

On Friday, 3 May, I finally did what I’ve been hoping to do for about 18 months: I convinced an eloping couple that getting into the row boats of Central Park in their wedding clothes was an excellent idea. Since I had Alex to boss around help, she rowed, and I was able photograph them around the 22 acre pond from the stern of my very own row boat. Then I tried rowing, and she snapped some shots of me. It was so cool, like a scene out of Stuart Little.

Life list, go mighty

It’s a career highlight, a Life List item I got to check off, and I’m pretty sure that I won a bet with Katie Jane over who can get newlyweds in a row boat first.

If you do this, I recommend going on a week day and slathering on a good sunscreen.

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life list

Life List: Redesign – check!

Like many long-term bloggers, my little corner of the internet has gone through several evolutions. Right now, one of my biggest goals for this space is to share more photography which is a change from my usual verbose style of blogging about my feeeelings.

There are a lot of reasons for this: I want to promote myself as a photographer for hire. I want to hone my voice as an artist. And (maybe just temporarily) Writing About My Feelings is on the back-burner a little bit.

It ebbs and flows, you know?

My smart friend Jesse built everything for me. We kept the same basic shape, but made the photos to display wider at 800px. We also moved the navigation buttons to the top and removed the color so they wouldn’t compete with the photography. Johanna hand wrote them, which is my favorite part. We also have a hilarious 404 error, which Jesse wrote the quirky copy for. I read it in the back of a cab, and snorted out loud!

The logo is the same; I just couldn’t part with it, and also, I have a lot of business cards printed with it. It’s not going anywhere for a while.

What do you think?

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life list

Life List Tweek of 2012

image by ali mitton

Camp Mighty is in a few weeks, and I’m excited. As a reminder: part of my attendance requires me to raise funds for Charity:Water, and I’m doing that by selling some of my fine art prints on, which I will be doing right up until I leave.


I decided it was a good time to eyeball my entire Life List to see if it needed tweaking, and it does. As I’ve gotten older, wiser, and more comfortable in my skin, I’m happy to change or delete things off my list that are no longer a reflection of who I am now or hope to be in the future. Also, in keeping with a big rule of Life Lists – don’t have anything on there that will make you feel bad if you don’t accomplish – I’ve removed some stuff entirely.

These are my changes:

“Go ‘real camping’ with no showers and bathe in a river.” turned into “Go camping”, because that’s badass enough. Cabin+flush toilets is just enough rustic, thank you very much.

“Make a bed-size quilt out of re-purposed fabric.” is out. I don’t like sewing, and every time I thought about doing this, it bummed me out.

“Run a marathon.” turned into “run a 5k.”, and I’m perfectly happy to have that be a very, very loose interpretation of “run”. My exercise jam is not running. There is, frankly, too much of me that needs to be tied down by expensive spandex before I can hit the road. (Boobs.)

“Learn to play a song on guitar” turned into “ukelele”. I asked my friend Jon what he thought about me playing the uke, and he laughed. “What’s that, Zooey?” Look, I know they’ve become a bit of a twee hipster cliche, but I love them. Shut up, Jon.

“Backpack through Europe” became “tour Europe”, because I’m sure as shit not backpacking anywhere. “Backpacking” was added when I was 15 and made my very first Life List, and it sounded like a lot of fun. At 30, it sounds horrible.

“Make an article of clothing for myself that is acceptable to wear out of the house.” is gone, because, again, I hate sewing.

“Help build a house in a third world country” turned into “Travel to Africa and document charity efforts with my photography.”, because I’m way better with a camera than a hammer, and I pretty much just want to be Karen Walrond when I grow up anyway.

“Hold a tarantula.” turned into “Pet a tarantula.” because let’s not get crazy. But maybe it can sit on my lap? We’ll see.

“Give birth” turned into “Become an essential part of a child’s life.” because that makes more sense to me right now. Related: if anyone needs a thoughtful, loving, atheist (no)god-parent for their kiddo, I’m all yours. I can teach them about evolution, loving thy neighbor, and the art of frozen margaritas.

“Crochet an afgan.” is out, because I hate sewing-ish activities, too, or anything to do with putting textiles together.

“Grow an appreciation and knowledge of good hip hop” is out. I tried because I thought it would be cool, and hip hop has an amazing story from the bit I’ve read, but I don’t care enough to get into it in depth.

I’ve added “Learn French, conversationally” and “Learn Italian, conversationally” to my list, too, because these days, languages are fascinating me. I’m also considering removing “do a huge zip line”, as I have a well documented fear of jumping off of high platforms into the air, but I’m going to let Future Amber figure that one out.

How are you doing with your Life List?

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life list NYC with Amber

Life List: Fly Through the Air with the Greatest of Ease… on a Trapeze – Check!

New York Trapeze School | Pier 16 (South Street Seaport), New York, NY 10036 | Manhattan

Well… maybe not with the “greatest of ease”.

I started off pretty positive…

… however, if you read the last post where I jumped off of something high into the air, it will not surprise you that I got to the top of the ladder at trapeze class and shook my head.

“I am not going to jump off of this.” I said to the instructor, looking down. “I’m terribly sorry, but it’s back down the ladder for me.”

She blinked at me a few times from under her hoodie; later I found out she was briefly accessing if I was one of the scared people that needed the kind-and-gentle approach or a tough-love kick in the rear. She went warm and reasonable with me, which ended up working.

“What are you afraid of? It’s safe!”

“It’s high.”

“It’s supposed to be high.” she said, somehow managing to avoid a “Duh!” tone of voice. “That’s the point. Don’t worry, you’re totally safe. We have celebrities and little kids that come here. No one gets hurt.”

The ladder already had someone else on it waiting, and I was all strapped in, and really, the only way off the platform was through the air. So I smushed the tears off my face with my sleeve’s edge and jumped, while doing an epic ugly-cry that turned into a belly laugh, because, after two seconds, it got really fun to be swinging around up there.

You can’t tell from these photos if this is the most awesome thing that ever happened to me or the worst, right? Neither can I. I think, though that jumping off of things that are high is not my jam. But in retrospect, it was cool, I felt victorious, and, after the four staff members on the ground all shouted up at me to open my eyes, I was able to get an amazing view of Brooklyn, the FDR, and the river between them.

Thank you to the crew at the Trapeze School of New York at Pier 16, especially Dana who picked all the right words to get me to leap, and to my sweet friend Lara Ruth for setting this up and snapping shots with my camera. Now go do this!

first photo by James Stress

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life list only in new york

Life List: Get Good and Kissed on Top of the Empire State Building – Check!


Yeah, that’s right! Two list items in one weekend!

Saturday night me, Dana, Wesley and Rob headed to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. There are touristy things to do in New York City that are way overrated, but going to the top of the Empire State Building is not one of them, especially at night when all the lights on the ground are twinkling and you can see three states worth of view. The observation deck is open until 2 am and the last elevator up is at 1:15. We walked through the lobby doors at 1 and sailed through the empty maze of velvet ropes that usually are jammed with tourists. From lobby to observation deck was about 5 minutes.

At the top, I got good and kissed.

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