I had the privilege of photographing Clockshop‘s most recent event with Diana Nyad at Bowtie Project, two weekends ago this July. It was a pleasant summer evening around the fire while author and celebrated long distance swimmer Diana Nyad shared excerpts from her memoir, Find a Way, as the full moon rose over the L.A. River.
Reading by Moonrise is a fireside reading series organized by Clockshop and held at the Bowtie Project on the eve of the full moon. Guests are encouraged to bring picnic items and blankets and s’mores are provided after the reading.
Clockshop is an artist-run organization that creates new conversations about Los Angeles and the world beyond. They commission work by artists and writers, curate public programs about pressing issues, and collaborate with larger institutions to reimagine what is possible.
“On September 2, 2013, at the age of sixty-four, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage, swimming 111 miles in fifty-three hours from Havana to Key West. In the 1970s, she became known as the world’s greatest long distance swimmer with her open-water achievements, including a record-breaking swim around Manhattan. For the next thirty years, Nyad was a prominent sports broadcaster and journalist, filing compelling stories for National Public Radio, ABC’S Wide World of Sports, and others. She is the author of the memoir, Find a Way, and three other books, is a national fitness icon, a talented linguist, and is one of today’s most powerful and engaging public speakers.” — Clockshop.org
Diana Nyad is an exceptional woman and I suggest you read this New Yorker article to understand her full force: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/02/10/breaking-the-waves-2
Excerpts from Ariel Levy’s article from The New Yorker:
“When Nyad was growing up, in Fort Lauderdale, her mother used to take her to the Lago Mar beach club and, pointing off the shore toward Cuba, say, It’s so close you could actually swim there. ‘She meant it figuratively,’ Nyad said. ‘But I think somewhere, bubbling in my imagination, I was, like, It’s right there.’ “
“Her mother died shortly before Nyad turned sixty, and something shifted inside her. ‘I don’t care how healthy I am—it’s not like I’m going to live another sixty years,’ she said. ‘There’s a real speeding up of the clock and a choking on, Who have you become? Because this one-way street is hurtling toward the end now, and you better be the person you admire.’ She didn’t want to ponder her past anymore.”
After reading this article, I felt very connected to Diana’s relentless drive and her ties to Cuba as much more than a landmark to swim from. She attempted the 111 mile swim from Cuba to Florida 4 times before succeeding on her 5th attempt, at the age of 64. I was so moved as I stood listening to Diana speak about Cuba and the Cuban people, and the process of maintaining the kind of mental endurance it takes to achieve such a feat. Gratefulness filled me in that exact moment, at that exact place, to have the opportunity to bear witness at such an event.
I should explain — at this present time it’s difficult for me to not draw parallels from Diana and her relationship with Cuba as Place, with my own experience with Cuba and my Cuban family origins. With Cuba’s isolation, the country easily takes the form of a mythical beast, lurking just out of reach from a better understanding, a better connection to my roots. I also related to Diana’s relationship with her mother who passed away and the thoughts she had of her own mortality. My mother passed away just this last March, and it is a struggle everyday to come to terms with your place in present life, your past, and how it reconciles into a future. In this instance, Diana chose to awaken her dormant dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida, and come out the other end triumphantly. For other people there are different connections to be made, and very day I wake up and try to unearth mine. It is admirable to be in the presence of someone, with such beautiful vulnerability, harness her body and mind and achieve something so great. I see it as an invitation to do the same — and I’ll take it.