Photography brings abundance into my life.

As I take pictures every day, I gather more and more evidence that there is a limitless supply of inspiration and richness in the world.

The more pictures I take, the less “fear of missing the shot” I experience. Photography fulfills my longings. It opens my spirit to divine abundance.

Day 210

Day 210

“In art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we are asked to endure, we who are children of God by adoption and grace.”   –Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
Day 209

Day 209

If there was a job with the title, “famers’ market photographer,” I would be the first in line to apply.

The farmers’ market is like a barometer for the vibrancy of a community. It’s a great place to study light, composition, perspective, color, texture, shape and pattern.

But beyond those foundations of photography, it’s a place to practice portraiture. I am especially drawn to those portraits that reveal the subject in an indirect manner – glimpses of hands at work, clothing, tools, and vehicles.

This view into the back of the farmer’s truck, begins to tell the story of the man who rose early, before sunrise, traveled from Westmoreland County to Fredericksburg, set up his market booth, and invited the whole wide community to share in his abundance.   

Day 208

Day 208

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this daily practice has been the emergence of consistency within my work. In particular, I see color – hues and tones – as a theme that creates a flow when the images are presented together. At first, this wasn't intentional, it just sort of evolved. Now I often choose a consistent color palette to pull together a body of work that conforms to my vision.

Day 207

Day 207

Is the subject of the photograph the cat?

I'm not a cat person. Without a daily dose of allergy medicine I can't be around cats without sneezing and hives, so I'm not naturally drawn to photograph them. I am trying to place within the photograph the true subjects of the image – the elements of home, soft cushions, rustic chair, kitchen table, warm light – a place of comfort and safety, a kind of sanctuary, for those we love, be they people or pets.

Day 205

Day 205

There are days when the measure of success is simple. Did I get dinner on the table?

Most days I’d rather be taking pictures than cooking. And some days I just need to combine the two. We’ve been experimenting with Relay Foods, a healthy online grocery store. I browse the meal plans and recipes, click on my choice, and my cart is filled with all of the things needed to make the recipe. I can adjust the order a bit, so if I already have ginger or scallions on hand, I can remove them from the order. I pick-up the groceries at Hurkamp Park downtown and Relay Foods sends the recipes by email for the meal plans of the week.

So far, so good. Today we made Bacon, Kale and Tomato Pasta Salad and Sweet Chili Wings. Both recipes were easy to make, delicious and healthful.

Dave did not like that we had to take pictures of the food before we we could eat, so this will not be a frequent feature of my daily photo practice.

Day 200

Day 200

I have a fondness for unfinished works of art. Strolling through artist workshops, I am often most intrigued by works in progress because they give me a glimpse into the artist’s creative process. I love to read snippets of writing – the beginnings of poems and first drafts of my son’s essays. I’ve rescued lone quilt blocks meant for greater things.

When I come across an unfinished work in a thrift shop, I wonder if the work was left undone due to fate or circumstance.

I wonder if the artist became frustrated with the result or perhaps, as with the despair I feel over the last pages of a really good book, he just couldn’t bear to finish.

Or maybe the art is enhanced by its incompleteness. Unfinished works can still be masterpieces.

I picked up this small unfinished painting and these portrait postcards at a quirky little shop in a heap of odds and ends. And on the back of the postcard, there was this message . . . about love and acceptance.

Aren’t we all works in progress? As we live our lives, we are shaped by our experiences, colored by the people we meet and the things we share. The years go by, and we have a clearer picture of who we are gazing backward, looking forward. We are lovely though incomplete, which is, perhaps, our beauty.
Day 199

Day 199

On the evenings when Dave works his part-time job at the local YMCA, I get lost in my own kind of work.

I walked around McDuff Park in southern Stafford County. The park is like its own little community with a dog park, playground, fields for various sports, picnic areas, walking trails and scenic views overlooking the Rappahannock.

Now that school is back in session, youth sports are in full swing, too. Kids scurried across fields running and kicking, blocking and tackling, or swinging a bat. And for every kid practicing, there were families in tow. Parents tired from long days at work still making time to show up, to support, and to coach.

As daylight faded, the field lights came on, shimmering against the dusky sky.  

There is a kind of magic and music to these almost fall evenings.  

Day 198

Day 198

This is our son, the older one, who does not care to have his photograph taken. Still, I took a few pictures just because seeing his face makes me happy, and I want to remember this day.  

Zach is amazing, so much a grown man and yet just enough little boy. He has an important job solving the computer and technological problems of a major university, and still he finds time for the things that make him happy. He has always had an uncanny ability to put together and take things apart, to solve problems and puzzles, and to make it all look easy.

During our visit, he showed off his Lego creations, a Volkswagen Beetle and a huge Ghost Buster conglomeration and his favorite video games. Then he assembled an IKEA table, swapping out one style of legs for another, without any instructions!

He calls us everyday on his way home from work just to say Hi and share his day with us.

And we realize how blessed we are to have this fine man as our son.

You know how you just have to touch your child, sometimes? How you drink him in with your eyes and you could stare at him for hours and you marvel at how dear and impossibly perfect he is?
— Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread
Day 197

Day 197

In my efforts to encourage my friend Vanessa in her daily writing, a Fierce Practice, I wrote this little message to her.

Hi Vanessa,
I would argue that it is precisely these times, when we feel that our showing up is somewhat superficial and really a kind of halfway effort, that are necessary for the long run. Not every day provides a revelation, and on these days it is our challenge to dig deep, to look hard, and to examine. Sometimes we come up short. There have been days on my picture taking journey when I've pointed the camera at the ceiling, my foot, a spoon - really anything, and called it done - skimming along the surface when looking seemed too hard.

Your showing up is a profound legacy.

And she absolutely made my day when she responded.

Oh Donna!
Your email just made me laugh out loud. Literally.

I know this feeling, and the way you have translated it into words is so precise and also hilarious. Hope you share one of those foot photos one day.

And glad to know I am not alone.
Lots of hugs,

The point of all this was brought home by Henry Lohmeyer in his recent comments on truth and photography.

I needed my life to be lived without shame, vulnerable and truthful. I’ve not been perfect, far from it, but with photography, it’s served as a beacon that guides me each day.

This is so in my life and it must be so in the photographs I make. How do I keep my work truthful? How do I find beauty in those broken truths?

For me, I simply took photos of, not ones I went looking for, but rather those ones that were right in front of me.

Not exciting, but they were my life and they were honest. And, in that, they were precious to me.

I often, maybe you too, catch myself asking that harsh question, “Are my photos any good?” We must remind ourselves that that is not what is important. The only question we should be asking ourselves is...

Are the photos I'm making reflecting my truths and leading me closer to my own voice?

Day 196

Day 196

I’ve been paying close attention to what makes me happy and making time to do those things. I’m canceling things that I’m not excited about. If I keep putting something off, I ask myself why. Is it worth pushing through to get it done or might I just let it go?

We scheduled a break to slow down. Meandering down Route 17, we made our way to Yorktown, where we stayed in The Duke of York, a locally owned hotel overlooking the river. We sat along the water’s edge, waiting to see the double-spring-span bridge open for ships to pass between Yorktown and Gloucester Point. We watched the Coast Guard in-training and walked along the shore, wading in the river. We enjoyed fresh crab cakes at the Water Street Grille and talked about our plans for this time in our lives.

Day 195

Day 195

Saturday. Farmer’s Market.

I stood watching the farmer patiently and carefully moving grape tomatoes from a big crate into tiny turquoise berry baskets. His hands moved swiftly, and he worked with single-minded intention. I took this picture because I cannot resist images of hands at work.

With the click of the shutter, he took notice of me and looked up. I complimented him on the beautiful ripe tomatoes. I thought they looked like little jewels but I didn’t say this part. I asked to take pictures and he nodded yes. He held his hand behind the baskets as if to present them to me, showing them off. Then he arranged the baskets in a row and stood back for me to photograph them. I fired off a few frames to acknowledge the fine show and thank him for his effort.

But I already had this one picture that I needed – the one that tells the story of the deep pride and joy that comes with creative work.

Day 194

Day 194

Because there was a beautiful old Ford blue truck parked along the drive to La Luna Antiques in Rochelle, I stopped to take a picture and then ventured inside. The shop was filled with some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever laid eyes on – clearly a curated collection built upon the aesthetics of someone with a deep appreciation for making beauty.

Meeting Karen, one of the owners, was the highlight of my day. The minute I met her I knew there was something special about her, a soul-deep tenderness. And I knew that this would come through in a photograph. I asked to take her picture, and she graciously agreed.

When I sent the photographs to her in a message, she replied with insight and kindness. And I read the message over and again, wondering if I might be worthy of such a gift.

Do you know the poem by Gallway Kinnell, "St. Francis and the Sow"? I won't be surprised if you do, but if you don't, I won't be surprised if you love it. There's a line in it, something like: 'sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing it's loveliness'. You do that.

I think it's difficult for women at this age--50s and beyond--for so many reasons--to find our beauty. All we can see is what has gone. This is a longer conversation.

Photography may be the most mysterious of all the arts. It is easier to understand how making art with just your hand and a brush and paint will result in something very personal. But it amazes me how, with the same apparatus, and even with the same subject, photographers manage to create such utterly personal work. When I look at your photographs, the world--it's most everyday views--are reanimated. You reteach each thing it's loveliness. You did that for me. The mirror is a little less of an enemy because of the way you saw me. Thank you.

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;   
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;   
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch 
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow 
began remembering all down her thick length,   
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,   
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine 
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering 
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
–Galway Kinnell, Saint Francis and the Sow
Day 193

Day 193

I had almost forgotten how much I love babies.

For many years I followed what I considered to be tenants of good living. I tried my best. I went over and above. I took the admonition, “it’s better to give than to receive,” to heart. And this was all well and good until I could no longer muster the energy to keep up. The resulting stress and fatigue led to resentment. Because I was so uncomfortable setting boundaries for my time, I burned out on jobs, volunteer work, and people, leaving a trail of wounded feelings and abandoned pursuits in my wake.

I taught preschoolers on Sunday mornings in our community church for 10 years, and by the end I hated it. Not the children, but the never-ending work that I felt I just had to do. For years after, I hesitated to interact with children for fear that once again my helping nature would take over and I’d end up agreeing to more caretaking. I couldn’t look at babies without feeling like a failure – giving up something, or in this case some little ones, I loved because I couldn’t find a balance.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to sweet little Ginger Estelle for reminding me that I can share my heart without giving all of myself away.  

Day 192

Day 192