Bug Off

After my mother’s passing, there was a void with wide expanses of time and nothing to do. I knew I spent a fair amount of time visiting her and managing her affairs, but what I hadn’t taken into account was how much of my head and heart were occupied by her in one way or another — worrying over her, feeling guilty and sometimes resentful, loving and anticipating, preparing to let go.

And if I am honest, caring for my mother was a socially acceptable answer to the question, “What are you doing these days?”

In my mind, there lives a list of shoulds, especially now that she’s gone. I should get a job. I should volunteer. I should exercise more. I should take a class.

I resist the urge to fill the time with distractions. It’s hard.

I wonder if I listen to every voice but my own.

But I am done with busy, and I am reclaiming my happiness with new definitions of success. I am a photographer who takes pleasure in making pictures without worrying about the market or an “audience” most of the time.

But sharing my work is an important part of the creative process. I ask myself why. Do I seek validation for my work? Of course the answer is yes, and this need is deeply intertwined with my upbringing. Can I reassure myself? Is external validation a need or simply a want? I am coming to terms with the fact that there will always be people who do not like my work.

And yet, I still make pictures. This practice does not simply fill the time; it is about trying to see the world and moving through the world with an intention of honest existence. I rejoice in my steady daily practice.

With the sharing of my photographs, there comes conversation and connection and community.

One of my favorite communities, Don’t Take Pictures, presents an online exhibition, Bug Off, on view August 21 — November 19. I’m proud to be a part of the exhibition. I’m sharing the photos I considered for submission. And if you visit the gallery, you’ll see which photograph was accepted.

Spiders in the shed, ants at a picnic, and butterflies in the garden. Love them or hate them, insects are an important part of our world. Using lenses as microscopes, this call presents photographers as entomologists. Whether photographed for study or décor, preserved in amber, captive in a jar, or smashed on the windshield, for this online exhibition, Don’t Take Pictures presents photographs of insects, bugs, and arachnids.

Butterfly in the Forrest

Still life with Dragonfly

Wasp Nest

Polyphemus Moth

artful inspiration

Broken Butterfly

I can’t say enough good things about Don’t Take Pictures and the magazine’s editor, Kat Kiernan. You can read Kat’s thoughts on Living and Sustaining a Creative Life. And you can view her poignant photograph, Hairpins, online or in person at Candela Gallery in Richmond, Virginia.

Congratulations, Kat. I am grateful for the inspiration and education and the art you bring into my life.

the little red barn

“One place understood helps us understand all places better” — Eudora Welty

In Southern Maryland, we pulled over in the lane reserved for the horse and buggy driven by the Amish family so I could take this picture. I’m usually drawn to old dilapidated barns, ones with peeling paint and sagging roofs. But this shiny new red barn, set against a sea of green grass, beckoned.

Every day I fall more in love with where I am right now.

my state of mind

I thought I’d find relief in my mother’s passing. After all, dementia is no picnic. And though there is some degree of that, there is also a deep down sadness and longing. I am mourning the mother of my childhood and memories of her are everywhere. I try not to think too hard or too long, but there is a kind of certainty about death that brings the frailty of life to the forefront where it cannot be denied.

Alongside the loss, there are questions I must answer. Ones about what I want for this season of my life.

I am finding great comfort in poetry these days, especially the wonderful book, poemcrazy, by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.

Susan writes about the center of the house in Chapter 14.

It can be easier to write about the center of our houses than the center of ourselves, yet the process can take us to the same place.

In the center of the house, . . .

I see stacks of mail awaiting response, my favorite photo books with tangled gardens, my journal, the Sunday paintings that make the living room feel like a portrait gallery.

I hear the clothes on the line, flapping in the summer’s morning breeze.

I smell the fresh peaches ripening on the kitchen table, the sage at the window sill.

I taste the little cherry tomatoes, warmed by the sun. I eat one or two every time I pass the bowl and when I bite into them juice runs down my chin. I wipe my face with the back of my hand and I am a kid again.

I feel the rhythm of the day carry me along to the library, the market, the bank . . . everywhere but Memory Lane. No need to stop there now as Mom is gone. The to-do list feels strangely empty.