When No One Is Watching

"When people say something changed their life, I think they usually mean, upon deeper examination, that something has revealed their imagination. A door we didn't know existed, or always thought was locked, suddenly swings open. Old ambitions, which we were too timid or thought we were too unqualified to realize, are gathered up and reconsidered. A talent judged too small is reevaluated." –Phylilis Theroux, The Journal Keeper

Photography was, for me, born out of a strong need to figure out what was happening to me. And any competence I display is a gift, far exceeding my actual skill. Photography changed my life and I have a sense that my best pictures lay ahead of me.

On Poetry and Photography

"Wonder and beauty is all around you, you can find it in the most unexpected places. Be alert to the small and simple things in your daily surroundings, you can use them in a poetic way and transform the mundane into the magical. It’s one of the powers a photographer has: to make visible the beauty in things that are sometimes too close to recognize it. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but by using the camera you are able to emphasize and share that beauty with the world. Small gestures can become great metaphors." ~ Maarten Rots

As we sipped smooth rich chocolate shakes in front of Carl's Frozen Custard, I watched the people and finally the skies as the sun set and storms began to brew. And just like that the eagle and the hawk began their dance of swoops and swirls — traveling in tandem, then darting apart, as though playing some game of chase born of instinct and nature. The show went on for several minutes as I pointed my camera skyward, pressed the shutter and prayed.

Occasionally friends will ask where I find the quotes for coming to my senses. I am an avid reader and I have curated a list of blogs and newsletters that inform, educate, and inspire me.

One of my favorite photographers, Kim Manley Ort author of Contemplative Living Through Photography shares a regular newsletter that helps me to see the world in new ways. I came across today's thoughtful quote on poetry and photography by way of Kim's most recent newsletter in honor of National Poetry Month. To learn more about the interplay of photography and poetry, read this article that Kim referenced, Poetry and Photography: How Rainer Maria Rilke Is Relevant To Being A Photographer.

From Experience

There are a few recipes, for favorite dishes, I wish I had asked my mother to teach me to prepare. She didn’t write down instructions for things like bread pudding or rice and raisins or collard greens, corn pudding, or fresh peas and potatoes. These were family favorites that she made by familiarity and intuition. There are days I crave these comfort foods the way I long for her words of reassurance. Now these secrets are forgotten or locked away in places I cannot reach.

I’ve learned my lesson. I am blessed to have a mother-in-law, Alice, who is a role model. She’s kind, supportive, and compassionate – and has treated me like a daughter for my entire married life. At the center of her home is a long table, long enough to hold the 14 members of our family (and one more on the way). Family gatherings and meals are a priority for her and she has fed our family so many times I lost count long ago.

We all have our favorite meals, but everyone agrees – Alice makes the best crab cakes. And so, I set out to learn her method, and make homemade crab cakes for dinner this weekend. I called Alice to ask for the help, and she readily shared the recipe, straight from the back of the Old Bay seasoning can.

By the next morning she sent an email my way.

I want to add to my crab cake story.  I mix everything except the crab meat together with a fork, and then fold in the crab meat.  That way the crab meat still remains in some lumps.  Then I refrigerate for about an hour before forming the cakes.  It holds together better then.   I learned this from experience.

Old enough now to appreciate the wisdom that comes with age and aware of the value of experience, I enjoy learning in this way – as recipes and life lessons are passed down from one generation to the next.

The crab cakes turned out just fine, a close second to Alice’s. Coming up . . .  I’m going to learn to make Alice’s lemon meringue pie!

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Coming Full Circle

In the midst of simplifying and de-cluttering our life and our home, I spent a spring afternoon sorting through frames of family photographs. I set out to pull some of my favorite pictures from their frames, those that had faded or turned an odd shade of violet, to scan and restore. Behind the picture in front, the one on display, I found there were several forgotten photographs.

This photograph was from a trip our family made to Yellowstone National Park in 2005. My son Jacob was only 8 years old in this picture. He will turn 20 this month, and I am struck by how much of the man was revealed in the boy. All these years later, the film photograph is a testament to how I see him – all wonder and wander.

I took thousands of digital photographs over the last year alone, and yet I’d sacrifice them all for this one picture.

Somewhere along the line, I got caught up in the technical aspects of making and processing pictures, trying so hard to make them perfect. Side-tracked by rules and trends and “likes,” I lost sight of what pictures really mean to me, why they matter so darn much.

I’m coming full circle, back to film and pictures to hold.

An Uneasy Conversation

Just finished a book that will stay with me for a long while – one of those exquisite pieces of prose that shapes the way I think and puts into words those feelings I struggle to express clearly.

Actually she had not changed. She just got tired of pretending to be what she was not . . .  
The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are.
What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interests instead of gender?
–Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

These Days

Believe in yourself. There is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.
–Christian D. Larson

I'm still feeling my way back to this space, and rather than set goals or expectations, I prefer to be still and open, waiting and seeing.

In the meantime, I'm spending my time exploring new ways.

Healthy eating.  Working my way through the book, Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter and making some worthwhile changes in our diet. I haven't had a single headache for an entire month, and I've taken off about 10 pounds! Feeling great.

Mindfulness. I'm taking an 8-week course, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

Fitness. I'm training for a 25 mile bike ride, the Cap2Cap, with my Fitness Friends. Twenty-five miles might not sound like far, and it's a pretty nice ride on a road bike, but on a hybrid like I ride, it's really a workout!

I've been a little less social - not nearly as quick to answer an email, write a letter, or make a phone call - and all the quiet is growing on me. I think I had forgotten how to be alone and I find the quiet soothing these days.

Heart-to-Heart

From David Whyte's Questions That Have No Right To Go Away

What can I be wholehearted about?

So many of us aren't sure what we're meant to do. We wonder if we're simply doing what others are doing because we feel we don't have enough ideas or even enough strength of our own . . .

What do I care most about—in my vocation, in my family life, in my heart and mind? This is a conversation that we all must have with ourselves at every stage of our lives, a conversation that we so often don't want to have. We will get to it, we say, when the kids are grown, when there is enough money in the bank, when we are retired, perhaps when we are dead; it will be easier then. But we need to ask it now: What can I be wholehearted about now?

Catching Up

I’m still not really sure what makes a photograph good. Is it okay that the sky is blown out to white? What depth of field will best convey the serenity of this pond near the cemetery? Is there a better point of view?

But that won’t stop me. I’m crazy about the parade of cattails along the pond’s edge and the soft color palette of winter-turning-spring. I take pictures for one simple reason: love.

I keep trying to catch up to the picture just ahead of me in my mind . . .  and before me along the pond.

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Know your place

It’s all about knowing your place, it seems, about knowing what you need and what you can do without. It’s all about knowing what it takes to live your life.
I think, too, of the cliché I’ve heard so many times before. “Bloom where you’re planted,” the posters of the sixties told us. But appealing as this sounds, it isn’t how things work.
The buttonbush growing by the spring-fed pool, the purple eryngo thriving in the arid field–each blooms because it has the things it needs. Each flourishes because its place is right.
–Susan Hanson, Icons of Loss and Grace: Moments from the Natural World, 2004
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