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Cheesy metaphors have a place in everyone’s life. I had a setback this past week, and it reminded me of a difficult (and scary) experience I had last summer.

It was late July, and I was attending a press event in Colorado Springs for Goodyear’s new Wrangler “All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar” tires. During an action-packed day, the Goodyear folks ensured that the media understood the lifestyle to which such tires offered access. We learned to cast fly-fishing rods. We handled very large trucks on a very small, skittery mountain road, which used to be the main thoroughfare to the old mining community of Cripple Creek back in the day. We handled similarly large trucks on a closed wet/dry road course, attempting not to be the first to knock down any cones. And we traveled into a nearby canyon with CityROCK, a famous local rock-climbing outfit, to wear alien-looking gear as we scrabbled up what looked, to me, like a sheer granite face. (The experienced instructors cajoled us with, “There are hand- and footholds everywhere!”… but I maintain to this day that they must have been joking.)

I have a thing with heights. I can do bridges, and I can manage observation towers and things like that. But you can’t convince me to come near the edge of a cliff, I don’t like ladders, and my one experience in a climbing gym led to a massive freeze near the top of the wall. Where I wished the instructor were near me so I could slap him silly when he said, “Just a couple more feet, and you can ring the bell!” Right. I couldn’t have cared less about the bell. I just wondered how they’d pry me off the wall and get me back onto good old terra firma.

So this was scary for me. But I also recognized that you need to try new things, and that moving beyond your comfort zone is where real growth can happen. How can you ever accomplish anything of significance if you don’t put yourself out there? So I strapped on the gear and the fancy shoes, and I started climbing. There were easier bits, and there were harder bits. There were moments I had to grit my teeth, remember to breathe, and simply focus on one hand, one foot, now the next hand, and the other foot.

I wasn’t fast. And it wasn’t pretty. But you know what? I made it to the top of the route. There was no bell, but there was a little shrub growing out of a crack in the rock with a tiny Smurf toy beneath it, grinning at me. I grinned back at him. I made it.

So here’s the metaphor bit. One week ago, the Kickstarter campaign to independently publish our “Home: Cheyenne River” photography book came to an end, and unfortunately, we were unable to raise the funds we needed. It was a major disappointment, and I’ll confess, I felt the urge to just give up, walk away and work on something else. We tried, right? How could we keep going, without a clear path? Scary.

But then I realized that I really didn’t want to walk away. For one, 127 people backed us through Kickstarter, and together we raised nearly $11,000 in pledges. That’s nothing to sneeze at. I’m proud of our campaign, and we learned so much from the experience. And, regardless of the funding outcome, I still believe in the merits and future of our project.

So this clearly does not mark the end of the journey. Far from it. This project has been part of my life — and the life of my husband, Richard Steinberger, and our colleague and friend, Matt Normann — for the last two and a half years, and we’re committed to seeing it through.

Our “Home: Cheyenne River” art exhibition remains on display at the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. Two other venues have expressed interest in hosting the show, so we’re going to work hard to take “Home” on the road. To support the exhibition, we’re preparing to assemble a print catalog that will contain all 30 images and all 30 pieces of text by Cheyenne River youth. Our plan is to make that available through an online publisher, so interested parties can order it directly.

Hopefully, that little book also will serve as a tool to engage potential partners or a boutique publisher, so we can pursue our long-term vision of producing a large coffeetable book with approximately 100 images from our project, and 70-80 pieces of the teens’ creative writing.

And so we’re strapped in and are prepared to keep climbing. One hand, one foot, at a time… knowing that with resourcefulness (and plenty of sheer stubbornness), we can bring “Home: Cheyenne River” to the big finish. And what an accomplishment that will be.

You can keep up to date on our progress through our website and through our Facebook community (if you’re not a member of the FB community, please join us). And, if you’d like to support CRYP’s endowment fund in the meantime, please consider purchasing fine-art prints through this website. Fifty percent of proceeds benefit CRYP! All you need to do is click on “Photography” and select photos to buy. All landscapes and images with unidentifiable people are available for purchase.