gaby esensten photography

Melissa // Portrait Session

I had the immense fortune of meeting Mama Mel in Sayulita and staying at the home she shares with my friend Sarita. Melissa is from Canada and found her way to Sayulita as many seem to: she visited, fell in love, went back home, then took a chance by buying her one-way ticket back. I was lucky to experience her Kundalini Yoga class at Paraiso Yoga and gain wisdom from her in conversation.

On my last evening in Sayulita, Melissa invited me to go on a journey with her to the cemetery to give offerings and then to the intimate beach, Playa de los Muertos. We happened to be present for a funeral of a man who had died on the highway while riding his horse. The horse died as well. There was a large brass band playing music, men on horses and his family embracing in a circle near the grave. It was a true celebration of life, a cathartic expression of grief and love.

These pictures of Melissa are my attempts at capturing sacredness of ceremony that celebrates both death and life. Honoring the ones who came before us and made us who we are and celebrating our amazing opportunity to exist and thrive on this earth. Thank you Mama Mel for letting me experience this ritual with you and I hope these photos bring you much joy. ❤️

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