sacred space by Shelby Robinson

2017 has started how I dreamed it would. Exactly how I'd like to see the rest of the year to go. And it feels incredibly empowering. 

2017 has been intentional, creative, independent. It's been freeing and joyful and filled with the most lovely balance of my people and my self. It's brought clarity and peace. It's been rejuvenating. Which feels so good because I felt like the tail end of 2016 wasn't any of these things ― I felt tired, off-balance, frustrated and mostly, just out of sync with myself. 

You see, I moved home last March after a year and some months abroad, back to my childhood home. And it was difficult. Not that I don't love or cherish my family, but because I'm an independent person who craves solitude and an immense amount of personal space. And it was difficult to cultivate this separate space at home. 

On January second I moved into my own apartment, complete with the things I dreamed my next space would be : cozy with hardwood floors and natural light and a bath tub. I even have a second room for my soon-to-be studio. It's been the most fulfilling thing to start the year adorning my new home and filling it with plants and candles and the things I kept in boxes in the basement at home. It feels more permanent. Like I'm no longer in transition. And the best part is, it's all my own. 

This move has made me think a lot lately about the relationship between physical space and emotional / mental space. How, the more sacred physical space you have, the more room you have for that sacred emotional space, too. The more space you have to grow and listen to your self. And the more uninterupted space you have to rejuvenate and come back to your self, the more peace and relaxation then spills over into all other areas of your life. 

And I can feel it  mornings that usually started anxious and rushed have now turned into slow mornings of NPR One and pour overs and watching the sunrise from my kitchen counter. My mornings start well and therefore my days feel lighter. Because I've intentionally started to create routines out of seemingly mundane tasks, they have become spaces for me to just be without thinking or planning or worrying that someone will try and ask me a question or ask when I'll be out of the bathroom (lol). These spaces have been in my morning coffee and in my evening baths (in the new tub that I'll never, ever tire of). They've been in my evening tea and in my daily phone calls with my people. 

And it's all of these small routines that begin to make waves. Day by day. I feel so grateful that I've been able to create these new routines that paint a theme for the rest of the year. That paint a picture of the person I want to become. 

Thank you, thank you to all of the friends and family who helped me move, provided home-things, groceries and the sweetest words of encouragement in this new transition. Thank you to all of the friends who've stopped over for mini-tours and games of Catan and quiet nights in. I'm incredibly lucky to have you in my life. I'm so fortunate to begin to make these sacred spaces with all of you in it. 

Cheers to a balanced, creative, intentional 2017. 

senior portraits: meghan by Shelby Robinson

Each winter, I find myself in a bit of a rut. A little uninspired. A little restless. It's dark. And very cold. Taking my camera out seems more challenging than it did in the summer. 

But this day, this shoot, was one of those sweet moments that brought back that spark again. It was one of those "wow, connecting with people and documenting their lives and passions is actual magic" moments. It was such a deep reminder of why I do what I do. And a reminder to keep doing it. That despite having  a 9 - 5, keeping these photography side projects going is so important. 

Meghan is such a sweet, talented, passionate human.

This summer, we took some of her senior portraits on one of the most mosquito-filled days we've ever experienced, so meeting up again this winter was such a treat. We both agreed we'd take the cold over mosquitoes any day. I felt all kinds of gratitude to be able to spend the day with her, laughing and talking about how she feels so much more comfortable behind the camera while she's on the ice than on land (which I really beg to differ because both are equally as beautiful). We ended the night with hot tea and conversations about future plans at the Corbett counter... a place that I spent countless hours at in high school with my girl, Lindsey.

It was a really special day. 

Documenting for others is seriously one of the coolest things. I'm excited for all of the new projects and connections that 2017 will bring. 

new adventures by Shelby Robinson


It almost seemed divinely planned, you know? 

How all of these seemingly mundane things could come together to form this next adventure I'm embarking on.

All the years spent working at a sushi restaurant to pay my bills in college. The four-year advertising degree that I thought I'd never actually pursue. The year spent in Korea that, although important for my personal growth, felt lacked purpose or meaning. The months upon arriving home spent serving at Maru to get back on my feet again. 

All of this, all of these seemingly random life choices... and then I end up here. I meet the owners of the restaurant that I already know and love so well. I meet them, we talk creative work and aesthetics and Asia and Korean culture and food. We meet and we click. We realize we're basically on the same wavelength. We meet and we decide to take things a little further.

So now, I'm smack dab in the middle of a new role for this company, Maru Hospitality Group, which encompasses all of the Maru Restaurants in Michigan. With five locations (in EL, Okemos, Midland, Grand Rapids and Detroit), a new location coming to Kalamazoo and a new concept restaurant, Ando, opening in Grand Rapids next year, I couldn't be more proud to call this company my first real career. My role, even though it is new and evolving and will most definitely change, right now includes all of our marketing and branding efforts. Basically, we are building a lifestyle around Maru. We want people to enjoy eating our food. And drinking our cocktails. We want our employees to enjoy what they do each day. To be a part of our family. We want to create an experience so much more than simply eating a meal.

I couldn't be happier to be given the freedom, the trust and essentially full creative control over where to take this brand. I couldn't be happier to be with a company that puts such an emphasis on service, creativity, culture and quality. All things that are important me, too. 

Through this transformation, although hesitant at first because #committmentissues, I have really begun to trust that this is exactly where I'm meant to be. That although I'm back home, living in the same town that I grew up in, this opportunity is important and filled with purpose. And for that, I am content. I am content being here. And it feels really, really good.

Above are a few shots of our latest space in Detroit. It's so. freaking. pretty.

Follow Maru on Instagram for updates and serious food porn. <33

as you are by Shelby Robinson

'as you are.' says the universe.

'after...' you answer.

'as you are.' says the universe.

'before...' you answer.

'as you are.' says the universe.

'when...' you answer.

'as you are.' says the universe.

'how...' you answer.

'as you are.' says the universe.

'why...' you answer.


you are happening now.

right now.

right at this moment.


your happening is beautiful.

the thing that keeps me alive


brings me to my knees.

you don't even know how breathtaking you


as you are.' says the universe through tears.

― as you are | you are the prayer, nayyirah waheed.

her layers by Shelby Robinson

it was one of those moments.
that morning, alone, in the water.
just my breath, the sun, the sway of her waves.
back and forth, back and forth.
wet sand between my toes like putty.
droplets form on my lashes and fall back into the rhythm. tiny droplets amongst millions n millions more.
how many of these droplets have collected - in the mouths, lashes, hands, hair, fins - of those before me?
i take a deep breath and dive into the sway of the silence.
eyes closed, i blindly grasp for stones in the sand.
i come up for breath slowly and examine my treasures. i keep one, two, and throw back the rest.
with each new inhale, i go a little deeper into the sway of the waves. with each exhale, i let go of a little more. of anxious thoughts for air. of the outside world.
i swim and swim and grab three, four more. i come up for air.
inhale, dive. search. exhale, examine. repeat.
again, i dive. this time, i open my eyes for a better view.
it’s all hazy- i have sleepy morning eyes, like a dream, but can still make out color and shape.
i dig them up from the sand.
on the way up, i stop for a bit and look out at the horizon of her vastness, at the layers and layers (sand, deep blue, blue, light blue, even lighter blue, white, the ripple separating water from sky) and stop.
it was one of those moments.
i come up so full, so so full, about to burst i’m so full, and i begin to cry.
i cry for joy. for the beauty. for this moment. for how special and sacred it is. for - how lucky am i? to be a part of this? to live in this gorgeous place? to swim in this water? how lucky and fortunate am i? to see what i see? to feel this? to not just see this- but to really feel this? all of it?
how lucky am i.
how lucky are we.
how lucky.
droplets form on my lashes and back into the rhythm of the water. for millions n millions more after me.
it was one of those same moments that i experienced regularly while traveling earlier this year. in that waterfall in ubud, in the mountains, on the shores in amed. and i thought it was because i was in this exotic place i’d never been. but no, no. i just experienced that same feeling, that same moment here, in the state i grew up in, in the water i’ve been swimming in since i was a girl.
no, no. that can’t be it.
it’s just gotta be this special magic- this combination of solitude, paired with profound present-living, of being absolutely one with the waves, the earth, of breaking from the mundane and from my routine. of remembering what it feels to have an overflowing grateful heart.
and it’s in these kind of moments that remind me of how much i have to be grateful for. in my everyday life. it's in these moments that i'm reminded to let go, to disconnect every once in awhile, to reconnect to what truly matters.
i always seem to experience these experiences in the water, in nature.
do you have them too?
when do you experience them?

portrait sessions: julie by Shelby Robinson


Over the past few weeks, I've made it a priority to spend time with different kinds of people (and to bring my camera along). It's been incredible to explore more of the state through the eyes of friends, both new and old.

On this Thursday, Julie and I met at the best little restaurant in Detroit called Mudgies and then explored Belle Isle for the afternoon. One of the loveliest things about being a photographer (or artist or maker, etc) is that there's this feeling of elation when you create something new. Almost greater than anything else. It's like this buzzing energy, that slowly grows inside of you. And when you can share that with another human being, through a shared vision or activity, it makes it even stronger. I don't really know where this path is taking me, all I know is to keep going and growing. I can feel something slowly building. Inch by inch.


Taken w/ my brand spanking new 35 mm. Edited in Lightroom using Portra 160 VSCO presets.

jackie: my san chingu by Shelby Robinson

Our first adventure together was in late January, right after I arrived.

Jackie had already been living in Korea for over a year.

We met in Seoul Station and adventured to Bukhansan, to climb the mountain alongside Koreans brave enough to face the ice and snow. We laughed as we climbed up the peak (literally climbed, I was on all fours to avoid falling off the side of the cliff) and shared kimbap and makkeoli with our new friends. We went our separate ways that night, and Sunday was filled with warm showers and a full heart. 

As the year went on, we found ourselves on even more adventures together: in Bali over Chinese New Year, on bikes along the Han River in the springtime, getting matching tattoos in Seoul on the Fourth of July, drinking soju and craft beer with friends.

Jackie moved home in August.

This past Sunday, we met for coffee and caught up on stories and adventures of the last ten months apart. I'm reminded how important it is to find like-minded pals who like to travel and see the world through beautiful eyes (but really, doesn't Jackie have the most beautiful eyes you've ever seen?!).

Jack, thanks for reminding me of the beauty of Asia and the world and to be patient with myself here at home- cause I'm still adjusting. Thanks for being a loving, open, honest friend. Always n always my san chingu <333

wild and tame by Shelby Robinson

I've been home for exactly three months today. It's hard not to measure time by the amount of time that I've been back. It's hard not to compare my life to how it was then.

Time is moving so much faster than it did in Korea. Three months from now, where will I be? Where should I be? Where are my friends at? Where was I this time last year? Physically? Emotionally? Mentally?

It's hard not to fall into a state of comparison. Comparison of what my life should look like versus what the lives of my Facebook friends and life heroes look like.

March, April and May brought endless coffee and lunch dates, day trips to Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids and Detroit, shoots on Lake Michigan, an Instagram Meetup, lavender lattes and Korean food, yoga classes and self-portraits, moments bonding deeper with my family and my dog and my friends, a new job that I love for the vibe and the people and the fact that I get to serve awesome food and joy all day, moments remembering Korea and the freedom that living abroad brought, lists of summer goals and trip planning. 

Regardless of where I'll be in one month, three months, twelve months, this is all I really know: to strive for balance. To find a balance between intention and free-spiritedness. To seek mind and body well being (which sometimes means a little taming and planning). And to sometimes let go of a little control to make space for that sweet wildness.

And to focus more on how my life feels rather than how it looks. Because it doesn't matter what it looks like on the outside, what others think I should be doing, but what my day-to-day spirit is telling me. If my routines bring me more peace and joy rather than anxiety and uneasiness, then things are good. Life is in balance.

Let's all try that. Let's all focus on purpose and spontaneity and let's all live with the intention of treating our minds and our bodies right.

Fast and slow paced. Stillness and movement. Patio drinks and yoga classes. Knowing and mystery. Wild and tame.

What balance are you striving for lately? 

island hopping in indonesia by Shelby Robinson

It’s taken me awhile to write this and to finish editing all of my photographs from January and February. I think it could have something to do with the fact that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so things take me ages. Or maybe that I changed the way that I edit photos (I finally, finally made the switch from Photoshop to Lightroom, holy efficiency!) so I was nervous to share those changes. Or it could also be that it was a little bit hard to look back at these photos.

Anyways, most of this was written a week after I came home. Edits made today at the B in Michigan (as per usual).

I’m sitting here on the ground, my travel journal in front of me, with all of its contents ~ dried flowers, banana leaves, airplane stubs, etc ~ sprawled out every which way.

I’ve got so much to say, that I don’t know what to say at all.

I’ve got so many emotions, stories, thoughts, experiences I want to share, write down, remember forever.

I’ve got this twinge of anxiety that if I don’t write everything down exactly as it happened, it will be lost.

But, I’ve got equal parts peace in knowing that my journey is already ingrained in my heart forever.

I’ll start with a small story.


“Oh my gosh it’s so good to be on this plane,” you said with a hand full of Pringles and your laptop on the tray in front of you.

“I know. Can you believe it? A whole year. We did it.”

I was silent most of the flight.

It felt surreal. I was actually leaving, after finishing a full year of teaching in Munsan, South Korea.

This flight, the next chapter, was one of those monumental moments that was on my mind all year. One of those distant dates that I thought would never come. The event had so many emotions tagged to it: joy, peace, relief. Sometimes I thought I’d never make it.

And I guess I’m a little guilty of that. I always have been. Of looking towards the future and wishing, hoping, dreaming for something newer and more exciting. When I really should be cultivating that same joy and peace and bliss right here. Right now.

I was sitting next to the girl who quickly became my best friend during those 12 months we spent together. I was sitting next to this amazing, strong, hilarious girl who not only knew me better than most people, but who literally went through the exact same thing that I just through: chaos, highs, lows, low-lows, adventure, etc.

There’s always an overwhelming comfort in her presence.

“Sae, I don’t think I’ve cried in probably four months. Isn’t that weird?” I asked while staring out into the clouds.

“Even on your birthday? Or near Christmas?”

My mind wandered for the remainder of the flight: memories with this girl, memories of home, the trials of the year, the bliss that was to come.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and it was time for her to leave Indonesia for California. I had a permanent pit in my stomach at the thought of traveling alone for the next four weeks.

The day before she left, Sarah wrote the most eloquent, precious note in my journal, encouraging strength and the courage to live my truth over the next few weeks.

My heart was so heavy the day she left.

But her confidence in me instilled the same confidence in myself: I traveled and experienced and met people with ease. I swear my heart expanded with each sunrise, each new friend, each smiling face, each ride through the mountains.

Like that morning in Amed, when I woke up and saw the mountains to my left, the bursting tropical trees at my back, the sea and sand under my toes, the sunshine in my face. As I took in all of creation, I was absolutely overwhelmed by all of the goodness, I began to cry real, actual tears - tears I hadn't really felt in months. It hit me harder in this moment than any other moment in my life: that we are a part of this. Part of this glorious, perfect, beautiful place we call home.

And from that day forward there wasn’t a day that went by that I wasn’t overcome with gratitude. Gratitude for the change in my mood. Gratitude for the small joys in front of me each day. For the ability to come back to nature and all of creation which ultimately brought me back to myself. It was like something inside of me was released. I shed all the layers of sadness I held within me in Korea. All of the walls I built to numb and protect myself were destroyed. I was free. Free to laugh, to cry, to feel.

I was no longer numb to my emotions. And it was a beautiful thing. 

Things I want to remember forever n ever: the afternoon we were chased by monkeys at the Uluwatu temple, the waves that lulled us to sleep, our Dutch friends and our spontaneous beerz and games on the Gilis, late-night swims on Lombok, that cheap pizza n wine place in Ubud, the sunrise at the top of Mount Batur (and the kinder volcano monkeys), the Balinese family that took me in and made me dinner and treated me like their own, every single amazing traveler I met on the road.

Honestly, I'm just so freaking grateful for the little bout of traveling I got to do post-Korea. Grateful for its profound healing it brought me physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually... I could read and re-read and share and thumb through picture after picture just because I'm so in love with the memories and with what it means to be a part of all of this.

Endless n endless thanks to all the pals I met, even if for a few days, a day, a few hours. You left a small little imprint on my heart and I think of you often. Endless thanks to Indonesia for being such a lovely, blissful, freaking photogenic place.

I'll see you soon, for real.