All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
–Winter Trees, William Carlos Williams
Day 322

Day 322

People ask him what he wants to be. They ask about his field of study and what he will major in. They ask these questions with a straight face, as though he might actually know the answers. And he smiles and often replies in expected ways. But we know the real story. College is the in-between place we've sent him to finish growing up. And while his education is about advancing his intelligence, broadening his horizons, and unsettling his mind - he is not nearly as focused on the kind of degree he will receive as the kind of man he will become.

Every time he returns home, I see signs of maturity, like little buds sprouting from the branches of a tree. He is in the spring of life and learning to accept himself.

Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it. –Simone de Beauvoir
Day 320

Day 320

Phones are prohibited. Email is outlawed. There is no agenda.

The purpose of this space is escape. Reading, thinking, and napping are encouraged. Mugs of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate are permitted, as is the occasional cookie.  There is always a blanket or quilt available for cozy covering.

The schedule for use is not set in stone, but mostly on afternoons, I wind up here, on the loveseat beneath the window in our bedroom, where the golden winter light angles across the pages of my favorite book.

Without great solitude no serious work is possible. –Pablo Picasso
Day 319

Day 319

I was reminded that when we offer what we love to the world, when we risk making ourselves visible, we have the opportunity to authentically connect with people. We have the privilege of inviting them to connect with themselves. And whether anyone likes what we have to share or not, taking this kind of risk brings us closer to ourselves. – Sage Cohen

I’ve been saving this quote from Sage Cohen. I printed it out and carried it in my pocket, stopping to read it throughout the day, hoping it might settle in bone-deep. I love her words and this notion of what we make as an invitation to connect, not only together but within. The risk of making this kind of picture, an old truck with December’s Christmas tree loaded in the bed waiting for disposal, brings me closer to myself. As I drive about town, taking care of small errands, I see Christmas come down and pass on.

In the simple and predictable rhythm of the seasons there is sadness and joy in both the coming and going. I find this observation deeply comforting.

Day 318

Day 318

The routines of home are comforting. The more slowly I linger, the more I notice. A steaming pot of split pea soup simmers on the stove, and everything is waiting for me.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
David Whyte
Day 317

Day 317

When times are difficult, I tend to isolate myself. There have been times in my life when I barely wanted to leave the house and had to force myself to interact with people.

Maybe we all have times like this, when we think it might be healing to retreat, and often times this is so. But rest and respite can turn into hiding. And the more we hide, the harder it becomes to face those realities, which are, after all, inescapable.

From Derek Siver’s notes on When Things Fall Apart

We use all kinds of ways to escape. All addictions stem from the moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, so we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain, so we don’t have to feel the full impact of the pain that arises when we cannot manipulate the situation to make us come out looking fine.

What photography has given me is a way of being okay with the uncertainties, hurts and feelings. I process my emotions through the pictures I take and the words I share.

I can show my work without fear or need for acceptance simply because of this practice, both an act and an activity. And in doing so, I find my circle of friends and supporters.

I think the trick is finding people that love and understand your work without you having to explain yourself or being compared and letting everybody else go. Our need for acceptance can make us invisible in this world. –Johnny Patience

And who wants to be invisible?

Day 316

Day 316

I recall a line from Rick Bragg’s My Southern Journey. When asked why he writes the stories of his home, he replies, “Because I want to make sure someone does.”

In her newsletter, Nicole Gulotta shares the same sentiment in a slightly different way.

We create what we believe to be possible, what we know in our heart must be told. That is our burden and our blessing, it seems, to be the keepers of stories, words, insights, and lessons that have nowhere to go but billowing out of us.

And so it is for writers and photographers and storytellers of all sorts.

What calls me to rekindle a craft of my childhood?

I remember learning to crochet as a child, maybe 7 or 8 years-old. Our babysitter, Brenda Church, taught me. I worked diligently chaining stitches and double stitches to make blankets for my dolls. I worked the hook and yarn with more tension than needed; the stiches were so tight and tiny I could barely pull the hook through. The finished blankets were misshapen, but I was still proud.

I find myself circling back to the crafts and activities of my childhood. This time, wiser and more sure of myself, the yarn slides across the needle, yarn-over, pull through, yarn-over, pull through. The first two flower-shaped coasters are not quite right, a little misshapen, again. I persevere because this is worth doing, worth knowing, worth making.

There is something to be said for healing the wounds of our childhood in this way, reliving and relearning in the light of wisdom and maturity.

Sitting in the big green upholstered chair, feet tucked under my bottom, I soaked in her scent. All Herbal Essence shampoo and Pond's cold creme. She leaned in, wrapping her arms around me, guiding my stitches. Already feeling the need to perform in order to have and hold onto love, every stitch felt like a step toward security.

Telling our stories is not a show of self-importance or even the creation of legacy . . . it is instead an expression of our humanness, as much as breathing in and out.

Day 314

Day 314

I am joining my friends Sarah of Paisley Rain Boots and Lee of Sea Blue Lens for Scene & Story, a monthly link-up of photographs and words meant to be shared. Make time to visit these story-tellers for inspiration and encouragement.

I awoke this morning to the first snowfall of the season – fluffy white flakes blowing sideways off tall pine trees. And instead of lingering slowly and allowing myself the luxury of the stillness of a snow day, I jumped out of bed, feeling the pressure to take the perfect picture.

But once I ventured outdoors the cold brisk air and the crunch of snow beneath feet settled my spirit. I took a few pictures in my own yard and marveled at how much I have changed.

Good now is better than “best” never.  Phillip Gary Smith
Day 313

Day 313

The first half of this yearlong project seemed to be mostly about learning to see.

To see differently.
To see with less judgment or criteria.
To see all things with appreciation.
To see darkness as well as light.
To find and trust my own vision.

As I come into the homestretch, this project seems to be more and more about effort. It takes effort to carry a camera everywhere. There is a level of determination and motivation needed to stop making dinner, to drop everything and pick up the camera, simply because the scene touches my heart. I am deeply immersed in my most meaningful work when this happens – as though I have been presented a gift. Not to open it would be a shame, a kind of sadness that comes from missed opportunity.

This is my calling.

I am reminded of something my oldest son once said. I was voicing my self-doubt, wondering how I might ever distinguish myself among so many talented photographers. I lamented, “Anyone can take these kinds of pictures.” My son calmly replied, “But not everyone will. “ He was right.

Day 312

Day 312

An unseasonably warm day before the cold blast of winter headed our way.

Walking along the street, with my camera in hand, magic happens.

Making pictures with only what grace gives me, it almost takes my breath away, this endless sea of emotion.

And there are some pictures that will stay in my heart forever.

Day 310

Day 310

At the start of each year, I feel overwhelmed with the onslaught of self-books and articles, complicated organizational systems and calendars, and never-ending goal setting.

I saw these words on a very cool letterpress card from sapling press. Funny and true.

Dear New Year’s Resolution,

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Sincerely,
January 2nd

I think this is why I’m enjoying Christina Greve’s 7 Things To Do in 2017 To Improve Your Creative Life so much. There are only 7 things on the list, and they are guidelines rather than specific tasks to be accomplished.

Number three on the list, Learn and practice a new creative skill, style or tool.

If you want to be good at something you must practice. If you wish to be the best you must practice a whole lot. You can´t become a great photographer by spending time on Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook looking at other people’s photos.
You must set time aside to explore, investigate and experiment to learn something new. As a photographer there´s so much to learn, so many skills to master – it can be overwhelming and frustrating at times.
To help yourself succeed, plan to learn a few new skills this year – but never try to do it all at once. One step at a time is the best way to go. And don´t put pressure on yourself to perform in any specific way, or imitate someone else work – just play and have fun and see how much better you will become.

I stopped to take a picture of trees with bare branches against the sunset sky of blue-orange in the shopping center parking lot. But something more interesting caught my attention. These guys were skateboarding in the road, over the speed bump. Clearly not permitted, and I guess not very smart, but they sure were having fun. I asked permission to take a few photos. The shutter speed wasn’t quite fast enough for sharpness and stop-action at night, but not bad for a first try. I’m planning to practice, learn, improve.

Day 309

Day 309

I’m keeping it simple this year.

Enjoying 7 Things To Do In 2017 To Improve Your Creative Life from Christina Greve.

First up, Slow down and invite calmness into your life.

The first step in slowing down and making more stress free time for yourself is to start saying NO. Say no to all unwanted stuff. Stop pleasing everybody but yourself and practice to say the word “no” out loud.
Yes, there´s a risk of becoming unpopular, and disappointing people – but remember that this is your life and if you wish to be happy, you must not live it on other people’s terms. Follow your own agenda in a calm rhythm with plenty of room to relax and do what you love. Say no to a hectic lifestyle.
Day 308

Day 308

I tend to over-think things. I analyze, prepare and plan. It’s hard for me to trust my instincts.

I love making resolutions and goals, aiming and striving to be better, do more, and improve in some way. And while these are traits that might serve me well, they are also my downfall. Sure it feels good to tick an item off the list, but it also leaves me in a state of never good enough.

I’ve given up on setting goals for the New Year and chosen a word of the year instead.

It’s important to know choosing a word for the year doesn’t negate your specific hopes and dreams. Instead, it supports them by allowing yourself space to grow, change, and make adjustments along the way. –Nicole Gulotta

By the wonder of the synchronicity, three beautiful blog posts arrived in my Inbox, and they all resonated with me, where I am at this place in time, pointing in the same direction.

Ten Simple Ways to Say No by Courtney Carver of Be More With Less

I will not say YES when my heart says NO.

Yes, No, and What Really Matters by Sage Cohen

Every YES anchors our deepest commitments and greatest goals. And every NO frees up more resources to fulfill them.

No. My Magical Word for 2017 by Laurie Wagner

Sometimes I say yes, and then an hour later I realize I meant no. Note to self: Don’t be afraid to change my mind. I’m not a flake, it’s just that my internal listening after 56-years of not listening so well is a little fuzzy.
It turns out that getting people mad at me doesn’t kill me.

I hesitate to choose the word No as my word of the year, a word that is so clearly negative.

There are beautiful choices like Abundance, Connect, Listen and Open. And these are things I desire as well. It’s just that I’ve learned I can’t have it all. I can’t keep everyone happy. I can’t avoid negative feelings. And saying No may well be the magic word that opens the gate to all of those other wonderful words.

I am starting today, New Year’s Day. By saying NO to restrictive diets and labeling foods as good or bad, I make room for ice cream as a treat. So far, this is working out great!

Day 307

Day 307

Making pictures is what I do. A small thing, but something I have done for most of this year. More than a diary this is a collection of small celebrations, something to find pleasure in, something to enrich my everyday life, to have fun with.

Along the way, I’ve learned that a photograph is more than a set of instructions for ISO, aperture and shutter speed. More than something to look at. These pages are like the margins around the picture, where I share notes about the situation or place, my feelings about the subjects, and lessons I’ve learned.

Sharing my ideas, stories, and observations here is like having a conversation with others who like photography. This is less considered then it might sound. At first the conversation was one-sided, but this journal has evolved, quite organically, into a place for give-and-take.

As I make my way toward Day 365, I wonder whether this is a project, a year's worth of pictures, or a practice, something that will become a part of my daily life going forward.

Day 306

Day 306

I was churlish and snippy toward him. Nothing he did was right. I think this is not because of anything he did or said, but because I do not listen to my own body’s signals. I wait too long to eat till hunger overtakes me. I make myself do work that could wait. I expect too much. I make myself busy as though trying to earn some sort of merit badge.

And so we go out to the library, and I get lost in books and music. Just like that I am put in my place.

I pick up the book, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, and on the first page I read this:

come on, sweetheart
let’s adore one another
before there is no more
of you and me.
–RUMI

Walking out the library doors, he leans over and says, “I’ll carry your books home from school.”

And my heart melts.

Day 305

Day 305

Scribbled on the back of the handcrafted envelope from Miss Polly’s latest letter to me –

"Are you familiar with Doubletake magazine? No longer in existence, but awesome nonetheless. If you ever see back issues at the thrift shop or the like: Delve!"

If Miss Polly recommends something, I follow the trail. Experience has shown me that she often leads me to really good reading.

I enjoyed this article online, How Lyrics Work by Carly Simon from Doubletake magazine. Again and again, I am struck by the overlap and sameness in different forms of creativity. Carly Simon’s thoughts on writing lyrics apply just as well to making photographs.

My best songs are the ones that are closest to the moment of writing them, as well as singing them. When words work with a singer’s affirming voice, a song is born that can last, that will be played year after year on the radio. I don’t often write a singable melody, because I am hard on myself. I’m the only one who can complain to the composer! The mistakes I’ve made have largely been ones where I get carried away with how "interesting" I can be. Not wanting to bore myself or repeat myself or duplicate anybody, ever, I get into the human predicament of wishing to set myself apart by being "different." Often it diminishes me, because I don’t write a melody that everybody can sing, and as a result no one gets to hear it anyway.
I am continually asking myself, "Who is my audience?" If I am writing only to please myself, then why bother to record a song and then try to sell the recording? I think there needs to be a balance between writer and audience. A kind of compromise, a complicity, a nod and a wink. My best songs have an inherent, tacit understanding of this compromise–like the yellow line down the middle of a country road: you don’t watch it, but you know it’s there.

My best photographs come from a place of understanding and appreciation.

Day 304

Day 304

I sit inside the coffee shop and watch the people on the other side of the window. I marvel at how relaxed they seem, as though they might be boycotting busyness. They sit outside on this chilly day because they have pets who are not, of course, allowed inside. They chat amiably, staying warm with mugs of hot coffee in hand and furry friends on their laps.

I pay attention to the whisper of my own feelings, and I realize how good it feels to be un-busy enough to notice and appreciate these small details.

Day 303

Day 303