Eight years ago viral encephalitis attacked my mother’s brain.  The virus erased the past decade from her mind and left her short-term memory severely compromised; she remembers moments for only minutes after they occur. Today, at age 55, her life is largely dictated by a daily journal deemed “the book”, she receives therapy in a hyperbaric chamber and lives a life where she is acutely aware of a once more complete existence.  In the United states, statistics assert that 300 people per year are diagnosed with encephalitis. Of those 300 cases 70% are fatal. My mother was incredibly fortunate to survive, but her life will never again be what she once knew. With a full-time caretaker, a house filled with post-it notes and a vague recollection of her former life, it is an existence that few can relate to or understand.   Here, my mother, Diana, peers out of a hyperbaric chamber during one of her daily, hour long treatment sessions. While HBOT is primarily used for burn victims and decompression sickness there has been an increasing number of uses studied in the past several years -- including the treatment of encephalitis.   It is unclear whether Diana's marginal improvement over the past eight years is due to HBOT or the passage of time.
 “La cruel realidad”, or the "cruel reality", is an ongoing family photo project of undocumented families living in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.     The aspiration is to visually depict the familial fragmentation that occurs when undocumented parents are deported and their documented children remain, often left in limbo.   The name of this project was chosen by several of the families. Each family also receives a "normal" family photograph, often the first and only that they have. 
 At midnight, on August 18th, 2017 I brought in my 30th birthday at Joshua Tree National Park. As the clock ticked twelve I was on top of an enormous boulder, staring up at the night sky, so dark that the Milky Way seemed to be within reach.  I slept out under the stars that night and woke thankful to be 30. Over the course of the previous two weeks, I had covered 7451 miles of road stretching from Pittsburgh to the West Coast.  I saw the badlands, jumped from a cliff in the Grand Tetons, hiked nearly 20 miles to sit on top of a mountain in Glacier National Park, drove the back roads of countless small towns, saw the beauty of Mount Rainier and Crater National and stood in awe at the vastness of Yosemite.  I got a tattoo in Venice Beach, watched the sun set into the Oacific Ccean, drove the 101 down the Oregon coast and spent 12 hours alone with the Giant Redwoods. Along the way, I have been touched by fortuitous encounters with strangers that led me down paths that I could not have previously planned or imagined. I saw a few old friends and made just as many new ones; for all of this, I remain grateful.  It is hard to articulate what this type of trip does for the mind, body and soul, but there is something about unfettered, solo travel that is both cleansing and renewing.