Day 366: On Living Negative


“The Constant” – © 2014 Michelle Mendieta Mitchell,

A year and one day ago, or 366 days, I received the wonderful news my biopsy had come back negative. The breast lump my OBGYN had discovered, on Valentine’s Day no less, was benign and nothing more. As the news swept through me, I felt like screaming it at the top of my lungs through the streets of San Francisco. A couple of cupcakes later, the celebration was complete and I had the most restful sleep that night.

A few weeks before, I had found myself on BART traveling to my favorite place in the entire world, First Exposures, a San Francisco-based youth photography mentoring program, and everything seemed to start going in slow motion.

I realized, “This could be IT” —  no more days, no more chances, this could be the final chapter of my story.

What surprised me was that instead of feeling scared or anxious, I started to cry because I felt incredibly grateful. In the last year I had given myself a chance to go back to school to become a photographer, left a job I had outgrown, worked very hard to strengthen my relationship with my husband, was doing everything to live my life out of love and truth, and had the amazing opportunity to become a part of First Exposures. If this was the last chapter of my life, so be it. I had left nothing to chance and I felt at peace.

So, a year and a day after the news, I’m still doing what I can to keep the authentic living going. I’m still working on understanding myself and my motivations, being kinder to those around me (and thanks for being patient with me when I fail miserably), and living with the spirit I discovered that day. And I am incredibly grateful to have 366 more days.

P.S. First Exposures, an organization very near and dear to my heart, is having its Looking Forward, Giving Back benefit on Wednesday, March 25, from 6-9 p.m. at Left Space Studios. One of my prints along with work from my fabulous mentee will be part of the silent auction (the photo above is my print “The Constant,” which was part of the 2014 auction). Buy Looking Forward, Giving Back 2015 tickets here.

She dreamed outside the fish bowl.

Sometimes some moments are so perfect that they are begging to be photographed.

I spotted this woman with her kids leaning out the window, watching the Carnival parade weave its way through San Francisco’s Mission district. The photos with the kids were fine, but it wasn’t until she was alone that I felt I captured something more.

This post is part of my six word stories collection: when six words and photos unite to create rich narratives.

She dreamed outside the fish bowl.

She dreamed outside the fish bowl.


The swoosh was all he had.

One of my favorite things to do is to drive to the middle of nowhere, with no plan in mind, and find an interesting photo. I actually go to places that don’t seem that interesting, or maybe I’ll go to a place that I don’t know anything about. It’s an exercise that keeps my eye sharp, forces me to drop my preconceptions, and makes me slow down and really see.

Recommended by my husband, who had stumbled upon it as part of his job driving to and fro, I ventured to Port Costa one crisp fall afternoon. This tiny town, estimated to have 190 inhabitants, didn’t disappoint. I had a great time exploring its sleepy streets and kitschy Warehouse Cafe. “It’s the land that time forgot,” I often tell friends.

In the school yard of the Port Costa School I came upon this lonely basketball net. With my idea for six word stories in mind, I photographed it from different angles, trying to capture more than just a net.

This post is part of my six word stories collection: when six words and photos unite to create rich narratives.


The swoosh was all he had.

He skittered right into fate’s jaws.

No matter how old I get or how many times I have seen them, I still get sad when I see crab carcasses on the beach. And this little guy found on a beach that is part of the Point Reyes National Seashore reminded me of the great struggle to survive in this big world.

I hope it was just his time.

This post is part of my six word stories collection: when six words and photos unite to create rich narratives.

He skittered right into fate's jaws.

He skittered right into fate’s jaws.

Six Word Stories

A couple of years ago I started a 365 photography project — a goal, really, of posting one photo a day — and failed miserably. I don’t even think I made it through January.

Although the project wasn’t a success, I came away with the idea to combine my love of the written word with my passion for photography using Ernest Hemingway as my inspiration. It is said that Mr. Hemingway composed a six word story to win a bet (although Snopes figures this legend is undetermined).

It read:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Pretty powerful stuff in six little words, no matter who wrote it.

And so, I bring to you the first installment of my version of the six word story: when six words combine with a photograph to create an even richer narrative. Look for the six word story in the photo caption below.


Come back. My ears need flapping.
–As seen at Stinson Beach