I am as passionate about wrought-iron gates as I am about varnishing teak trim on boats. I love to discover these gates and then photograph them, just as much as I love each layer of varnish that eventually makes the wood reflect like a mirror. Then, I love writing verses to match the images.
Writing verses and photographing gates led to the creation of my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. The book is about my journey from a very miserable person to one filled with peace and joy. Since that time, my passion has become working with others so that they can open the gates of their own heart to a place of emotional peace and freedom.
Although I am now filled with peace and joy, it wasn’t always that way, as I mentioned above. My beginning as Carolyn CJ Jones the photographer and author was far removed from gates and varnishing boats. I invite you to scroll down to read my story and the story of the magical creation of my peace, freedom, and joy.
Growing up in various places on the East coast and then Ohio, life was emotionally and physically violent. I kept my rage and feelings of worthlessness and despair in check, though, presenting the face that everything was fine with me.
After high school, I attended Kent State University School of Nursing, and graduated in 1974. Shortly after graduation, I moved to Colorado, where I practiced nursing and photography for the next 22 years.
During those 22 years, I discovered alcohol and drugs, which numbed those long-standing feelings of despair and worthlessness. I drank like an alcoholic from the get-go. Rather than deal with the underlying issues from my childhood that led to my drinking and drugging, I moved from one place to the next with my also-alcoholic husband.
We finally moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1996 in order to live aboard a sailboat and to go cruising one day, and I continued my heavy drinking. I did live aboard for three years, at which point, I left my troubled and failing marriage and the boat. I soon developed extreme love feelings for a man whom I believed with all my heart reciprocated my feelings.
When he told me he didn’t care for me, I flipped out, became psychotic, could only drink and cry for several months. Finally coming to the realization that I was going to die if I didn’t get a handle on my drinking, I prayed to a God I didn’t believe in to help me, as I couldn’t do my life any more.
Soon after that desperate plea, I found myself on a road trip to “find myself” and to get handle on my drinking. Sixteen months in San Diego found me instead learning to live as a sober woman. While there, I bought an old Dodge van outfitted with a stove, oven, and refrigerator, gutted it, and rebuilt it in cherrywood. I began to travel in my “land yacht,” beginning the task of resolving years of deep-seated shame, feelings of worthlessness, and despair. I was on a journey of healing.
My passion of photographing wrought-iron gates began with my travels. I found myself back in the Bay Area in 2004 and I started photographing these lovely gates I had stumbled upon three years earlier. Soon the gates began to represent my heart, closed from life’s pains.
After I realized this, my long-standing daily practice of journaling changed, as I started to write about my closed heart and the emotions I was feeling. Then one day I wrote in my journal something that described a gate photo I had just titled. I was flabbergasted, as it gave voice to the image way beyond the visual element!
This discovery prompted a search of all my journals, in which I found verses that matched three-quarters of the photos that I had titled in preparation for selling to galleries. When this occurred, the idea of a book was born and I began to pair together verses of inspirational quotes about life and love that I had found in my journals with gate photographs I had titled.
In 2010, I became Gate Lady Publishing to publish my book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing, which I did on October 8th, 2010. Since then, it has won many awards for spirituality and photography/art alike. The book is a recent Silver Medal Winner for best gift/specialty book from Nautilus Book Awards. It has also received the daVinci Eye Award for best cover art from Eric Hoffer Book Awards.
In addition to gates, I photograph colored light as it is shined through cut glass. This produces vibrant and magical images. Down the Straightaway, pictured to the right, won First Prize in a publicly juried contest. Other images which have won awards are listed in my biography.
In 2012, I expanded my scope of practice and became Carolyn CJ Jones Speaking and Coaching. This includes working with others to guide them from anger, resentment, and grief to a place of forgiveness where they experience the peace, freedom, and joy in their lives that I found through the process of my healing, which includes discovering forgiveness for my parents. This practice includes speaking and coaching, which I define further under the “Services” tab.
I hope you join me at a talk, or avail yourself of my coaching services if you are struggling with anger, resentment, or grief. There is another world past bitterness, past blaming – one of hope, one of beauty. I hope you allow yourself to discover it.