This is a first in my year of pictures. The words came before the photograph.

My friend, Miss Polly, sent me this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver about the blackberries of August. I printed it out and carried it in my pocket for days, as though keeping it near my skin it would somehow seep inside, infusing me with sunshine and helping me to decide where I should go.

And it did.

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.
— Mary Oliver, "August"
Day 178

Day 178

Caution. Honeybees at work.

On working with bees –

"Working with bees will remind you how important it is to move in life with care and intention; approach the task with openness and flexibility. You may go into your hive with a plan, but always be attentive to the energy that the bees give off, reading each situation and adjusting whenever necessary to understand all the ways the bees communicate." – A Wilder Life

Sounds like good advice for bees . . . and humans, too.

Day 177

Day 177

On Day 169, I said my favorite summer breakfast is whole milk yogurt, fresh cherries, and a handful of almonds and a cup of French press coffee with lots of half and half. 

Only now I've changed the cherries to peaches. Breakfast just keeps getting better.

Day 176

Day 176

When you go out to enjoy nature, leave
all expectations behind. Be
spontaneous. Look at everything with
equal curiosity. Go to the woods for the
sheer enjoyment of experiencing
anything. Then everything will be a
source of wonder and enjoyment.

–Tom Brown, Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth

Day 175

Day 175

I have a greater perspective as a result of this place in my life, sandwiched between caring for an aging parent and launching a teenager to adulthood.

I see the difficulties of mothering from all sides. I remember my frustration with my mother, my rebellion, and the anguish we inflicted upon one another. Now I find myself in her place . . . on the receiving end of a child desperately trying to separate and declare a life of his own. We're taking Jacob back to William & Mary today, ready to begin his second year of college.

With kindness, I understand that my mother did her best, better than I gave her credit for. She was the first person in this world to hold me. She put her wishes and her dreams into a future for me before I could see I could see it myself. She made room for my needs before her own.  And I hope that my son will someday see that the same is true for me.  

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
— Naomi Shihab Nye
Day 174

Day 174

There is no question that this daily photo thing stretches me to my limits so that I grow and flourish. It was hot and humid today and all of the things on the to-do list felt like work. I wanted to visit the Olde Towne Butcher shop in downtown Fredericksburg for a pound of the Applewood smoked uncured bacon, which cooks up crisp and lean. I brought the camera along, just in case.

By happenstance, the young woman working behind the counter asked about my camera.  I learned that she is a photographer, too and is studying to earn her degree in Studio Art at the University of Mary Washington. It’s fun to talk art with a like-minded individual. I was so engrossed in our conversation that I almost forgot about making a picture for today.

But then I felt the familiar desire to record the moment – the good and sweet smile of this artistic young person.

Day 173

Day 173

Out of the stillness of a humid afternoon, I see the clouds begin to roll in as if coming to a boil. I hear rumbling. A summer storm is on its way. Suddenly there is a wash of rain mixed with hail.

I know there are those who are fearful of summer storms and rightly so. But my memories of summer storms are mostly good. As kids, when the wind picked up so that the leaves on the trees turned inside out, we were let loose, too. We ran to the yard and spun around and around as if trying to keep up with the swirl of wind until dizziness won out. When thunder boomed we huddled together and when lightning took out the power, we shoved candles into soda bottles and played by candle light. We watched the waves of the river crash along the shore in front of our house and despite the pounding rain, we felt safe and secure.

Day 172

Day 172

The oppressive heat kept us inside most of the day, and the confinement left me restless. I needed to get out. I persuaded Dave to take me for an evening ride with the promise of pizza and ice cream. We headed to Colonial Beach, where I hoped to catch a few pictures of the sunset on the Potomac River.

We sat on one of the benches along the tiny boardwalk where the breeze finally made the temperature tolerable and watched as daylight faded. My son had taken some gorgeous pictures just the night before, brilliant blues streaked with bright yellow and orange, but tonight the sky was painted with swaths of cotton candy pinks and blues.

I walked along the shore in quiet reverie, pressing the shutter with care. I took a few frames with the layers of water and sky. And a few more with old wharf pilings silhouetted against the horizon. And then a beautiful young girl walked into the frame. I watched as she gently nudged a jelly fish from the shore back into the water as if trying to set it free. I held up my camera and waved. She walked slowly along the beach, taking in the evening as though savoring every drop of summer. She had that rare ability to know she was being photographed and not care – no pretense, no guard, and no worry.

There was something about her innocence and tenderness . . . humbling me to see in this way.

Day 170

Day 170

Though this daily photography practice is a personal journey, personal does not have to mean solitary, hidden or isolated. I am humbled to belong to a community of kind and creative souls who often make time to send their thoughts to me. I’m sharing a few excerpts of the messages I receive from the merry band of friends I’ve collected along the way. Please know this . . . if you write to me . . .  to tell your story, to share your heart, to laugh or cry, to seek encouragement or to rail against your struggles, I will write back. I am already your friend.

Day 168

Day 168

about Day 92, my mother

I feel like I know you because of how you have exquisitely shared through the written word yourself and then your photos also but today's post just spoke to my soul.  I too had a parent that suffered from dementia and you have been able to describe what I never could to others.  So much of your life story sounds like mine and I will pray for you and your Mother has you continue down this path.

about Day 130, tomatoes on the window sill

Your picture, this morning, brings so much sun and joy in my heart! These lovely tomatoes waiting to be completely red behind the window symbolize so brightly a sunny and quiet and slow summertime... but also the expected reward of eating a ripened, juicy and tasty tomato... and also that patience always ends with a gift...

about Day 154, roasted cherry tomatoes

Your post this morning completely reminded me of the paintings of Mary Pratt, who I love. Are you familiar with her work? (Added bonus: I love roasted grape tomatoes!)

about Day 155, moon at sunrise

Ah the small..... The size we are against the world.... And my favourite moon phase.... A crescent the hook that holds hope and the changeable all together....And all alone in the vast blue!

about Day 157, portrait of a friend

Oh, I love this series SO DANG MUCH, Donna! The words and the pictures together—such gorgeous vulnerability.

about Day 158, space to create

Well, you are channeling me in this post.  I have no where to put art supplies or to do my art but somehow I still create.  I bet I have more pictures saved of art rooms on Pinterest than anyone in the world.

about Day 159, ride at the fair

I had to share this one after seeing your blog post from the fair. My husband, David, tells wonderful stories about his Uncle Dick, a wild one that once drove a car full of little kids 100mph so they could see what it felt like! David claims he was standing up in the front seat. He also once drove a motorcycle cross country to Hollywood with dreams of becoming a movie star.  Anyhoo, he once took David to an amusement park at the beach and they rode that stand-up ride in your photo. It was called the 'Hell Hole'. Now, whenever I use our salad spinner, that's what he calls it.

Not that I didn't enjoy the prayer part of the blog,
just sayin'

about Day 163, cantaloupe on the kitchen counter

I am not a big fan of cantaloupe but love how it is arranged on your counter and your thoughts.  Big grin back at you

about Day 160, dog waiting patiently

I first wanted to say that I loved your shot and words from yesterday, and it almost gave me chills, I had just read a quote a few hours before that was exactly along those lines:

"I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung." –Rabindranath Tagore

I am thinking about this nonstop since I read it. Am I holding myself back from what I am meant to do because I never feel ready enough, prepared enough, confident enough?

about Day 166, front porch view

I guess my photos are about to take on more of my personal thinking. . . Kind of like your porch!  And I love how you have left that notion to your viewers to sort out.  A hard step but a good one. One I suspect you have been angling for since you started this 365 project.

I stood there for a long while, staring at this not uncommon view. I took exactly this one picture with my film camera and walked away, and when the picture was developed I simply loved it for all its expression.

I'm borrowing a sentiment from my friend Vanessa Jean and her Fierce Practice

I share this photo with you because, for some reason, it shows you who I am more than anything I could think about writing.

Day 166

Day 166

My friend Miss Polly sent me a thoughtful card with a lovely illustration of a little girl on a swing, her legs extended as if to pump back-and-forth to make the swing go higher and higher. The caption was a single and simple phrase – to discover her generous nature.

This sweet image reminded of the delightful times when I am my truest self, playful and lighthearted. Much of life, it seems to me, is about discovering our nature. In a way that makes perfect sense, that discovery often happens in nature – walking through the forest, wading at the water’s edge, picking apples in the orchard, or gazing at the stars of the summer sky.

Day 165

Day 165

On this summer evening, there was a lilting breeze, perfect for a walkabout. I headed down to the City Docks to take in the view. There is always an assortment of characters at this gathering place along the river. Fisherman casting lines, couples holding hands and sneaking kisses. Workers relaxing after a day’s hard labor, children playing, and kayakers skimming along the water’s surface with Zen-like movement and meditation.

A young man named Nebal asked about my camera, and we enjoyed a lively conversation about photography.

An older gentleman joined in the discussion. I was instantly drawn to his weathered face.

“Are you a professional?” he asked.

“No, this is my hobby. I’m an amateur,” I replied.

“How long have you been at it? Taking pictures, I mean.”

“Oh, about ten years or so, I suppose.”

“Ten years! You should be a pro by now!”

I cracked up laughing, because he did have a point.

Hoping to salvage my dignity and garner a little respect, I quipped back.

“Well, my definition of amateur is one that makes no money. Still, I’m a good photographer.”

Now it was his turn to laugh.

With rapport established, I cautiously asked, “Okay to take your picture?”

Taking a long drag from his cigarette, he stared me down.
“I was wondering when you’d ask. What took you so long?”

A few snaps, a handshake, and a promise to bring the pictures back to the City Docks for George, and I was on my way.

I can give up needing to know the answer before I ask the question.

Day 164

Day 164

In an interview on Lumu, Johnny Patience gave an interesting response to the prompt for pearls of wisdom for fellow photographers-to-be. His answer was simple and clear.

Shoot from the heart, not from the hip.

In a way, he answered something I’ve been wrestling with for some time – a kind of question of the ethics of photography and where the line might fall between telling a story and exploiting the subject.

To not shoot from the hip, I must attach a certain reverence to the gift of a picture, for seeing in this way, and for the happenstance that brings the photograph and I together in one place.

Shooting from the heart requires that I experience the moment I press the shutter with gratitude and respect and awe to the little altars everywhere.  

Day 162

Day 162

"The river is a good model. It doesn’t own the water that rushes by, yet it couldn’t be in more intimate relationship to it, as the force of what moves through shapes it. It is the same with everything we love. In truth, there is no point to holding on to the deepest things that matter, for they have already shaped us . . . Often the most useful gift we can give ourselves is to lay our lives open like a river." –Mark Nepo
Day 161

Day 161