ARAMBULA-REYNA MOTHER/CHILD || Cambria, CA || Even back in her early 20s — years, or nearly a decade even before becoming Mama to Izel and then Sebastián — this lady epitomized motherlyness in everything she did. Back when we were college roommates and I came home with newborn Isaac a bit confused on what to do with him (my years of rigorous babysitting somehow failing when real duty called), a young, childless Carmen was there, wearing my baby against her body for hours on end, burning incense or candles and singing to him from within her perfectly cozy, perfectly tidy, storage-shed-turned-detached-backyard-bedroom, which was thoughtfully decorated with table lamps glowing soft orange; colorful, Mexican tapestries; and statuettes of round-stomached, full-breasted goddesses. Being a mother came easy to Carmen.

I hadn't seen her and her boys since last year when my sister and I photographed Sebastián as a newborn. I'd also never set foot in this stunning place that's now become emblazoned in my mind since arriving back home from its abalone shell-strewn beach. And so then of course I'd never taken photos here, taken photos of them here, or anyone for that matter. I'd also never shot a full session in the tiny, little radius we had to work within, just steps outside the front door of Carmen's parents' new, second home. The landscape (although particularly beautiful after months of rain) was evenly lit and predictable, allowing for every measure of quiet, passionate, mother-and-son connection to speak for itself along a morning stroll against a blanket of green and gray.

To me these pictures encapsulate what it means to be a mother of two sons about a decade apart in age. How Carmen meets each boy at the distinctly different stage of life he's in, acknowledging and addressing his needs uniquely. What connectedness to Mom means at age ten and at one. And what — particularly for Izel, the older one — it looks like to experiment with independence. There's also the boys' growing brotherly bond, and for all three of them, a brand new beautiful connection to place . . . both of which are bound only to intensify as the years unfold and as they and the rest of their immediate and extended family lay deeper roots in these bluffs overlooking the sea.