Laura Hartema

LoveThisDay…seeking inspiration, beauty and humor in each day.


“Laura, you don’t need a flag. You are a flag. You could use a baton though,” one of my coworkers says to me as I, in my flowy kaftan, lead my parade of eight through the busy intersections of Pioneer Square like a marching ringmaster. Or maybe a crossing guard jogging it out with high-knees? Either way, we are heading toward Pike Place Market and Seattle TheatreSports, an improv comedy show, because I want nothing more for my birthday than laughter with friends on all sides.

And then I see him.

There he is, crouched down on one knee about thirty feet ahead of us. He scoots back and forth on the sidewalk pivoting off one hand like a real-life Spiderman, though one who is wearing holes through a nice pair of jeans. He holds a camera and shoots up and down the street and landscape and sky at alternate angles. I can’t see what he’s photographing. What I do see is an opportunity. With his back to me, he’s unable to spot me rushing him like a cheetah hunting a laser-focused gazelle.


“Hold me back,” I say to my gaggle of friends.

One says to another, “As if she can be restrained.”

I gain speed in my three-inch high wedge sandals and pull away from the pack. Another says, “There she goes,” like they let loose a bouquet of colorful balloons into the cloudy Seattle sky.

My swirling kaftan gives me wings to fly. I surge and become a long-jumping ballerina. I am instantly IN the photo.

I squeal, “Photobombbbbb!” Take that, Spiderman in nice jeans!

photobombed Greg Westhoff in SeattleOf course, one never knows how a photographer will receive such mischief. Nor do I ever know how I will respond to their response. This is one reason to photobomb—if alone—for the surprise factor.

My friends are generally used to my spontaneous desire to jump into any scene for the fun of it, photographed or otherwise.

photobombing Leslie Leyland Fieldsphotobombed Todd

And the times when my body can’t get there fast enough, at minimum, I attempt a “fingerbomb.” It is my positive spin on flipping the bird; it is a flick of happy.

fingerbombedI’ve even been told, “Laura, you just photobombed a flower.”


Mr. Nice Jeans photographer turns. His eyes are kind and his perfect teeth smile wide behind a lumberjack beard and a telephoto lens. I smile wider to match his. It is contagious. Then…


Click. Click, click.

He closes in on me and my face and shoots a series of, what I can only guess, are close-ups of a whale shark seining for plankton. Because I cannot shake this gummy grin.

Click, click, click. “What’s your story?” he asks me from behind his lens.

In the snap of a shutter, I learn his name is Greg Westhoff. In minutes, I discover he’s a director/editor/cinematographer and contributor to Instagram’s @ourneighbors.


“Awesome,” I tell him. “I need an author photo for my memoir.”

“What’s your book about?” he asks, as he clicks a few more rounds.

“It’s about my time working as the sole female and scientist on a fishing boat on the Bering Sea,” I say.

“I’m hooked already,” he says. “I know the life well. I’ve commercially fished in Alaska since I was fifteen years old.”

Serendipitous? What are the chances of such an encounter? This is why I talk to strangers. This is why I photobomb. You never know what spontaneous interactions will bring your way. Photobomb and you shall receive?

We both shuffle off together. He says, “You know, you didn’t really photobomb anyone.”

“Well, I photobombed your cityscape,” I replied.

“Nice friends, by the way,” he says. I look blocks ahead where my flock of friends has flown.

I joke, “Well, Greg, there’s another reason to photobomb, because you never know when you need a few substitute friends.”

We are both late to our plans but happy to have paused long enough to interact and laugh with a smiling stranger, both who surprisingly happened to have worked on fishing boats in Alaska.

In this technological age where reaching out to people is mostly, and literally, at your fingertips, don’t forget to look up, to interact with the many smiling faces in front of you. They might make your day or  at least make you smile, and you might form a new friendship or at least find a much needed photographer out of it.

Plus, photobombing is fun.

Love This Day.




  1. Cynthia Beach

    loved this reminder. being free-spirited has its benefits: connections!

  2. This is so you! You live life with such freedom and ease. Someone sent me photos of Patti and I at Harvester Island and yep, you were there!

    • Laura Hartema

      Hi Diane. I suppose it all stems from what makes us feel rewarded. For me, it’s playful banter and connecting with people. Some don’t enjoy that, but they have other talents I so appreciate. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I liked your reminder to look up from our phones and computers so we can connect with the people around us. I would take a real-world friendship over a digital one any day!

    • Laura Hartema

      Exactly, Laura. I walked into a coffee shop and looked around. Each person sat staring into a computer or phone, at separate tables, and no one was interacting. The whole scene made me a little sad. Praise to human interaction!

  4. Love this, Laura! You’re a hoot! So spontaneous, fun and full of adventure. Plus, you’re a really good writer!

    • Laura Hartema

      Heather, YOU, my friend are an explosion of personality. We will make an adventure out of this when I visit you. Dual photo-bombing Can’t wait.

  5. Barbara Meyer

    Laura, I loved this story! Probably too shy to photobomb, though.

    • Laura Hartema

      Oh, Barbara. The shy are less suspect, so I challenge you to do a sneak attack on the sly. Do it! I appreciate you.

  6. You are a HOOT thats for sure. I will have to try your trick!! By the way there is NO Rickie associated with me!! Not sure how that happened, that was years ago. Keep up your wonderful spirit!

    • Laura Hartema

      Thanks John. You probably meet enough people as it is, but I’m pretty sure you’ve got the photobombing spirit, too.

  7. leslie leyland fields

    Haaaa!! What a great moment! But photobombing is something of a gift. Or, will you argue and say we simply need to practice and release our inner photobombing child?? Yes, probably that. (Fun!)

    • Laura Hartema

      That’s a good question, Leslie. I’m sure it comes easier for some with a more mischievous or outgoing spirit. I challenge everyone to try it. Next? Cartwheels in the street.

Comments are closed.

Open Your Heart


I recently traveled to a beach paradise—St. Martin in the West Indies. An invisible line divides the north French side from the southern Dutch, but it is all Caribbean. A much needed respite. A vacation. What would I discover here among these lush hills, winding roads, and turquoise waters lapping over sand the color of café au lait?

At the end of a rickety-rackety road is where we will stay, at the north end of Orient Beach. I stop to view families of les chevres, goats. A woman motions for me to walk with her to the edge of the lagoon. She calls, “Chicka, chicka, chicka.” Is she signaling the chickens to come closer? Mais no. The leaves shake on the mangroves. Out rustle iguanas, maybe ten, of various sizes with citrus stripes painted in orange, yellow and green. They quarrel and snatch the fruit and vegetables only meters from my feet. Across the street is a white stucco studio built into the hillside. Out bounces Alexandra who says, “Bonjour! Allo (hello)!” in her French accent. A pint sized beauty from Montreal with balled up golden hair and a sunshine smile. Her bronze skin is covered by a tiny sport top and stretch capris. Yoga. It is new to me, the more reason to practice it while I’m here.

At the first sunset and on two mornings a small group and I gather on mats on a raised deck on the beach. Loose clumps of eelgrass wash ashore. Over the crystal waters we see the distant jagged peaks of St. Barts. We stretch and pull and lengthen and hold the yoga poses—downward facing dog, chaturanga, balancing table, the cat, a chair, and a candle. I try to stay in the moment, but I think, “Is there a cow pose? I’m pretty sure I’m doing the cow pose right now.”


“Place yourself on your sit-bones. Reach your ahhms (arms) to the sky,” Alexandra says. “Open your ahhrt (heart).” Her words resonate within me.


A different day we kayak through anchored sailboats and catamarans to Pinel, a small islet northeast of our beach. We perch our vessel on a sand bar then pass through tan bodies scattered like fallen coconuts, some still unripened by the sun. We hike to the highest grassy knoll on the hill. Waves pound the north shore between us and Tintamarre Island. We practice standing poses on one leg—a half moon, the tree, Warrior III, or a modified Lord of the Dance. These are more advanced than my four-legged “cow” pose.

“Feel the aihrtth (earth) beneath your feet. Feel the aihr (air) against your skin,” says Alexandra. “Set your intention, whatever feels right for you today.” All feels right. I’m opening my heart, reaching to the sky, and finding balance physically and emotionally.


Another day we launch paddleboards on Le Galion Beach and row to a shallow, white sandy opening in the eelgrass. We tether to one another. This time we are coached by Melodi, long and lean with flowing hair. She says, “It is okay if you fall. Let go.” Balancing on our knees is difficult as we are rocked by light wind and chop. I’ve never seen a cow on a surfboard; this is why.

We arch our backs and hold a bridge pose, then extend one leg to the clouds. We then invert our bodies into a “V” for the boat pose. My abs and legs quake.

“The positions are hard, but you can do it,” Melodi says. “The pain is only temporary.”

At the end she says, “Hear the water beneath you. Feel the wind on your skin. I will release the lines.” And as she did, I felt the tension disappear. The pain was temporary. I let “it” go. We all need to let our “its” go. Daily.

I restore habitat for a living, and yet, at times I need restoration myself. St. Martin and a brief week of yoga taught me three life messages:

1) Open your heart.

I call it living in a full embrace. How do you “show up” to work, to others, and to this day? Is your heart open to others or are you walled off, protected and fearful of what (or whom) might bring you joy? Do you follow “group think” and shut yourself off from other people’s ideas and cultures, different from your own? Roll back and relax your shoulders, open your clenched hands and crossed arms, lengthen your spine, reach your chest and head to the sky, whether grey clouds or bright sun. Make these small adjustments in your body. Your mind, and especially your heart, will follow.


2) Set your intention for each day.

What if you had the power to change your day before you got out of bed? Maybe we can’t change our circumstances, but we can focus our intention. As you become aware of your first breaths and arise, set in motion the kind of day you want. Do you want one of peace? High energy? Laughter? Patience? Forgiveness? Throughout your day, find your balance as if you had to stand on one leg. Refocus your intention.


3) Yes, it is difficult, but it is temporary.

Most days pass easily without some challenges. We’ve all experienced loss, grief and sadness. But for the average day’s difficulties we can embrace the discomfort equally as we do the joy. Feel the pain. Then let it go. It is only temporary. Believe you can get through it.

At the end of my island trip, I felt the earth beneath us as the shuttle bus closed in on the airport. Soon I would say “Au revoir” and fly away, over the beaches that brought me such restoration and joy. After a short conversation with the Jamaican driver, he says to me, “I like your vibe.” I think, “I like my open-heart-yoga-beach-vibe, too.”

“Merci beaucoup,” I say, and fist pump him with “Irie, mon.”

Aime se jour. Love this day.


  1. Ken Gresset

    Fine writing, Laura. The perspective you offer is beautiful.

  2. Stephanie Teal

    I needed this reminder that there is more to life than work and basic existence. I am headed to the beach in a few weeks, until then I will make it a point to notice and appreciate the beauty of my Wisconsin winter!

  3. “Make these small adjustments in your body. Your mind, and especially your heart, will follow.” Good words, Laura. Thanks for sharing! And I’m glad to hear you were restored by this trip!

Comments are closed.

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