The Beauty of the Soul is Eternal

Honoring the life of Maddie Vail…

What a gift, to have been able to get to know Maddie in the process of creating beauty through my photographic work over the years. We formed a special connection during the time we spent together shooting and en route to outdoor locations throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island...   Hauling our heavy satchels, laden with dresses, jewels, styling accoutrements and photographic equipment through streams, rocks, swimming pools, ocean edges and deep forest paths...seeking out just the right spot...  

Maddie was an exceptional beauty; inside and out.  She was a deep river of a young woman… wise beyond her years; intelligent, witty, funny, opinionated, intuitive, creative, fair-minded, compassionate, fiercely loyal…and she wore her deep and abiding love for her family on her sleeve... 

My life is truly so much richer for having known her…  Simple-yet-heartwarming memories/vignettes have been trickling through for days...

• When we got lunch at The Market, her favorite was always the spicy noodles (and orangina)…

• We had to make sure we brought lots of warm layering on shoots because she got cold so easily, even at the beach in the middle of summer…and yet, to her credit, she donned a burgundy sleeveless silk gown (for Conscious Clothing) in freshly fallen snow in February and we shot between bouts of teeth chattering, warm furs, and laughter...  Maddie knew how to show up…

• To my initial dismay and then chuckles, she gave the finger to a crowd of onlookers, who were taking in her brilliant beauty, while we shot on the windy ocean cliffs at the Beavertail Light… (she didn't like too much attention)

• Heartfelt conversations during our travels about what matters most in life and coping with struggle...

• More laughter as we rushed to patch together the beadwork on an antique dress, with duct tape and hidden safety pins to secure just the right fit, before the sun disappeared into the horizon… 

What an ocean of memories for those of us who have been touched by her presence...

I encouraged Maddie to be herself when we worked together, conscious not to cramp the glorious scene of her, keen to capture all the myriad nuances, the essence of her…which yielded a treasure trove of raw, authentic, deep beauty.

My heart aches with loss. I hold her dear family so close in this time of deep sorrow, and I celebrate her life.  I celebrate all of her.

Maddie, thank you for the rich experience of you.  I always saw you and loved you. 

Perhaps I will always be waiting for the latch to click open on the driveway gate, see you walking towards the door, and hear your voice, "Hey Heather, how's it going?" But for now, it is I that will carry your heart.

The Beauty of the Soul is Eternal  (for Maddie)

your way
down the
aisle of life;

at once
a girl-child
and woman;

a radiant potion
of thunder
and silk,


leaving an
indelible trace
in our hearts…

your beauty
yet not
fully in bloom...

and now you
in the heavens,

and show
us your
brilliant face
once more;

the fragrant rose
in summer,

the laughter
of children

a burning orange
and lavender

the whir of
the hummingbird’s

the kindness
of a stranger,

the salty spray of
the surf
at Napatree…

I have only
to look and listen,

and I will
find you…

sacred thread words & image © Heather Rhodes at  Studio Petronella
model: maddie