First and Last


So hey it's New Years Eve Eve.  I'm stepping up to my two favorite days of the year…The Last and The First.  Reflection on the Last and then Hope on the First.  Both are more difficult now than in years past.

Two Thousand Fifteen has been important for me.  I got a head-start on considering the review.

The book.  I can't believe it happened.  I still can't.  Exhibitions come and go and when they're over it's almost as if it never happened.  A dream.  A wish.   Poof.   The book is different.  It is an artifact that represents me and I ran myself through the finest mesh filter to take it all down to the essence.  I used as few words as possible.  Uncharacteristically…I wanted to live or die by the photographs alone.  Not everyone loves the book.  But not everyone loves me. 

The Nest.  She saved me.  I started building The Nest on September 20th.  I know the date because I took a picture of the very first tic-tac-toe-stick-grid that I hoped would be a solid foundation.  I worked constantly for many weeks and as she took shape I began to recognize the significance.  Creating The Nest has been physically taxing.  I am grateful.  It's been meditative, cathartic, and defiant.  She is in my backyard right now in the rain as I type this.  And typing that sentence literally moves me to tears.  She is mine.  And but I am hers.  She cannot be sold.  No one has any say about what goes on between she and I.  I can wake up at any hour and take my coffee out to sit with her…see how she's doing…see what she needs.  (Sometimes consider my own well-being…which I would rather not.)  So I usually choose to get to work.  Nesting.  Caring for her and helping her make it through the rain and the seasons.  And the damage.  

Which brings me to my worries about Hope.

I am not an optimist but still - I dream big.  I believe that I'm strong enough to handle the disappointment if the dream doesn't work out.  I believe in being brave enough to ask the universe for exactly what I want.

I am self-reliant.  I don't need anybody.  It's best if I just take care of myself and that is how I have lived since before I even knew to think about such things.  But I am vulnerable in my art.  Because I don't think the work is valid without the real truth of me.  

I am vulnerable with the people I trust. And so this has been a year of loss.  I have lost people I've admired.  I have lost people I've trusted.  I have lost people I love.

Because integrity is not negotiable.

You can't use me.  You can't steal from me.  And when you think I won't notice…you're wrong.  I know what it looks like.  Because I've had the real thing.  I do know what integrity looks like.  I do know what real friendship is.  And I do know love.  This year I've been heartbroken to realize how rare it all is.  Integrity should not be assumed and I am devastated by this fact.  It's a loss of faith.   

I do not claim to be perfect.  And I don't expect perfection from the world.  I'm looking for integrity.  Hoping for it.  And that's all.  

I made a film this time last year.  I'm watching it and sharing it with the hope of renewal.  As my heroic Ray Wylie Hubbard so eloquently puts it..."When I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations...well, I have mighty fine days."   Thanks RWH.  I'm going to hitch my cart to that idea for 2016.  2015...Thank you. I am grateful for the gifts and the lessons.  Don't let the door hit you in the ass.




Observations of a Little Girl

I found this buried in my old blog and I felt grateful.  I wrote this on April 24th, 2008


On the surface, Olivia appears to be above it all.  Sarcasm, bossiness and ambivalence could lead one to believe that she is not much of a deep thinker.  That she doesn't feel anything too deeply.  That she's too busy running the show to notice.  As her mother, I know better.

At bedtime...

Olivia:  You know mom, some people think God made people but they're wrong.

Me:  Oh really?

Olivia:  People evolved from monkeys.

Me:  Well maybe God planned it that way.  Where do you think those monkeys came from?

Olivia:  Other monkeys.

At the dinner table...

Olivia:  What if those baby birds fall out of their nest?

Me:  Well they will probably die.

Olivia:  What if the mama bird leaves and doesn't come back?

Me:  Sometimes it happens that way.  Even in the woods...the baby birds fall out, or something eats them, or the mama bird abandons them.  Nature isn't always kind.

Olivia:  But these birds are on our porch.  We can save them.

Me:  Yes, that mama bird was very smart.  Our porch is a good place to have babies but still...they may not live.  Ya never know for sure.

Olivia:  Well that's not fair.

Me:  No it isn't.

Pregnant fish, floating dead in the top of the aquarium.  Olivia bursts into tears...sobs for half an hour...three days later we discover two tiny baby fish...

Olivia:  Their mama is dead.  How will they eat?

Me:  I'm not sure. But maybe they can.

Olivia:  We should feed them extra tiny food.


Jim:  You can't do that.  They will either make it or they won't.

Olivia:  That's not fair.

Me:  No it isn't.

My girl is obviously going to carry on my tradition of conflict with Mother Nature.  I suppose I should steer her into a loving relationship with that Mutha but how can I?  I've learned that I can be disgusted and in awe at the same time.  Its unfair and wrong.  Its perfect.  Look away.  Closely observe.  Reject.  Embrace.

Olivia:  Let's go check on the baby birds.

Me:  Good idea. 

crossing over


 New Year's Day  is my favorite holiday.  I love a clean slate.  I prefer mornings over the night for the same reason.  Nothing is out of sort, no one has hurt my feelings or pissed me off and there is a very real possibility for goodness in the hours to come.  The indigenous people of Sapelo, the Geechee Gullah, have a name for the precious seconds just between the dark night and dawn…they call it "Dayclean"

Before Thanksgiving I spent four days on Ossabaw…a barrier island off of the coast of Georgia.  It is a place that is absolutely Southern and mysteriously exotic at the same time.  It feels otherworldly.  Ancient.  Sacred.  I'm not a great traveling photographer...I choke.  I was there only with the hope of coming back a better person.  To be honest...I have sunk over the last six months to a place where I have completely lost faith in humanity.  Not just the world…given current events that wouldn't be surprising.  I've lost faith in my own world.  And that's a heavy thing to wake up to every day.

 So there was this particular afternoon on Ossabaw where we were working our way on foot to a specific area and a huge chunk of land had been washed away.  We were a hot mess trying to get ourselves across this gully with our gear.  We managed but it wasn't pretty.  We made photographs for awhile and then headed back for the treacherous path to the truck.  As we approached the gully we could see that our caretaker had quietly left us shooting and ran back to construct a make-shift bridge so that we could cross with ease.  He had laid palm fronds in the mud, stretched wood from one side to the other with a found piece of styrofoam placed underneath for support and then had posted a walking stick into the mud…up high so that we could grab onto it as we made our way across.  Caretaking.  At it's finest.  Thinking of what we would need to be okay without a word.  I thought to myself right there in that moment…here is kindness.  Here is respect.  Here is generosity.

 I'm hanging on to that memory with all my might.  I'm hanging on to that awareness in spite of the contradictions that are before me on any given day back here in real life.  There are good people in the world.  I'm looking for them.  And I hope they're looking for me.

 I'm grateful to my traveling companions Anne Berry, Ann George and Meg Griffiths.  

 And to our caretaker Mark Frissell.  who changed my mind.  

 Here are my favorite images from my beloved Ossabaw.


a muse yourself

 Once upon a time there was a girl who had a blog.  She whole heartedly posted almost every day.  She thought of it as her diary and wrote freely without a hint of self consciousness.  She loved the blog.  And then some weird stuff went down where a few freak-o-philes started stalking and commenting and e-mailing and a dark cloud moved over her blog life and she became very aware of her vulnerability in the badness of the world.  And she shut it down.  She was safe from the freaks.  But she missed the blog.  For a long long time.

 She grew older and a bit wiser.  She reconsidered the blogging and the badness of the world and chose light and creativity just to spite the mean freaks.  She decided it was time to write her ass off and flames began to fire off of her smoking keyboard of full-blown expression.

I am lori vrba.  I prefer my name in lower-case.  I'm 51.  Writing seems to help me process my own thoughts in a way.  I don't edit myself much.  Over-thinking the writing would murder whatever goodness it might hold.  I'm also not much of a stickler for the rules of grammar and punctuation.  I am a huge fan of the dot dot dot…it's the perfect pause.  These are the things that might annoy you or someone and I'm giving you or someone the immediate heads up…cool your jets or move on dot com.  Namaste Bitchachos.  Word…I do enjoy sarcastic humor.  Very much.

I'm going for it.  I'm going to write about my whole life because I don't separate the art from the kids from the daily chores from the guitar from the best friends from the hurt feelings from the long walks in the woods from the crying from the laughing so hard you snort or maybe wet your pants a little.  It's all the same life.  Mine.  Welcome.  ( Jim Vrba just came in and informed me that there are several mis-spelled words in this first post.  GOD DON'T BE SUCH A HATER )

the state of things

Much has happened in the last few months...some good and some bad and here is what has mattered most -- I built an epic nest in my backyard.  I still work on it every single day.  Yesterday I bought a wider lens (that I could not afford) and I borrowed a higher ladder and made this image called Awakening.  This nest is more important to me and my well-being than you might imagine.  

Two Upcoming Exhibitions in my own backyard!

The Moth Wing Diaries

Opening reception and book signing Friday, March 27th 6-9pm and by appointment (email

Daylight Project Space:  121 W. Margaret Lane, Hillsborough, NC


Drunken Poet's Dream

Opening reception is Sunday, April 12th 2-4pm.  Exhibition runs April 5th-April 26th.

Horace Williams House: 610 E. Rosemary Street, Chapel Hill, NC