"The pull of our roots can be such a strong force, no matter how far or wide we may roam."

― Lauren McDuffie, Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest: Recipes and Stories Inspired by My Appalachian Home

When Lexie first contacted me...

it took a moment before I realized who she was. The change of last name and zip code successfully fooled me. I have actually known her since we were children. Her older brother and I played tee-ball together and then again at the same university years later. This woman driving from a city out of town was actually the same little girl I remembered from childhood. It was a two hour trip, but she was coming home for a holiday weekend and scheduled a maternity session with me. I definitely was excited for her and to be working with a former pageant queen. Lexie had a vision for this session and I was here to help carry it out.

Lexie sent me some inspiration images with clothes lines and white dresses. She told me of a spot on her family's land that she hoped to use for a location. We live in a very small region of Appalachia where everyone knows everyone, everywhere, and everything in these hills. I somewhat new of the location and we started to prep. We discussed back and forth and shared some images via inspiration board. I definitely felt the pressure to perform here but knew that a fantastic opportunity was presenting itself.

My husband loaded up with me as my wonderful assistant and we headed out of our valley and into another. The distance was only 11 miles as the crow flies, but to drive it was 23. A 35 minute trip. These curvy, mountain roads can stretch out a trip and wind through hollers and towns along the route to your destination. I never mind these journeys in the summertime because the smell of freshly cut hay and warm air through open windows is calming. When we arrived at the home of Lexie's Aunt, Brett quickly noticed a trout fisherman in the water. Being an angler himself, he and Alex were immediately kindred spirits. I chatted with Lexie's family and quickly discovered her uncle was a boss when my father was working in the coal mines through college. Around here, everyone has men in their family who spent a full career underground in the black dust. My father, grandfather, uncles, cousins, and even husband spent time there. Same goes for my husband's family. It was a rite of passage for the older generation of men in Appalachia and would not be the last time it was mentioned for the day.

Lexie's mother brought me a collection of items for the session and showed me where they had hung the clothes line. This glass washboard had been in the family for quite some time and it was the most beautiful prop I have used in a maternity session. Some family called down the stream for Alex to return and we were off to start the session. Lexie told me how special this place was to her. They are living in a much more metropolitan area now like a lot of my fellow classmates. She may have moved away but I could tell her heart belonged here in these mountains and on this warm stream. Lately, there has been a slow trickle of people returning to the area and it makes me happy to see a younger crowd in our area. Slowly and steadily, life is coming back into our little town and every season it looks more and more like a Hallmark movie.

And speaking of Hallmark movies, that is a great way to describe this session. Everything was perfect. The sun was shining, the sunset was starting to turn orange, and even the trout stream was warm. I think Alex was excited to include fishing into the session. I work hard to make sure that each of my clients have a unique experience from the first email until well after their gallery is delivered. I do the same with the session itself. The images should be tailored to each individual person that is captured. After some splashing in the water, we ventured up the mountain as the sun set and the lightning bugs began to flash up from the grass.

Out from the trunk came a beautiful family quilt that was stitched together by Alex's great-grandmother. It was definitely needed because the crisp air was making their clothes quite cool after splashing in the stream. Deer were munching in the fields and crickets chirped while my husband chatted with a second uncle about working with his father in another mine. In Appalachia, big life moments are celebrated as a family. Much of Lexie's family was involved in this session. From the audience to the land and props, family members on both sides were involved in some way to make this all possible. I'm so glad they have such strong support because everyone knows it takes a village to rase a child. Thats what we have here in these mountains, a village of support. Whether its family by blood or by heart, the people in our community make us feel like we belong. Not much longer now and baby boy will arrive. He has no idea how much he is loved and supported already. Maybe we can meet back in this same spot once he is here and celebrate those family ties once again.