Breathing Room

This day was one of my favorite in both aspect and attitude. The weather was just right, not too hot, not too cool. (Yes, I am a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to temperature). I met my fitness friends at 7am for a brisk four-mile-walk. Then we shared a healthy breakfast at Eileen’s Café – scrambled eggs, fresh pico de gallo, avocado, and pepper jack cheese accompanied by smooth and creamy breves. Have you ever tried a breve? Espresso with velvety steamed half-and-half. With no guilt or worry, we shared a raspberry scone, and each bite was a delight.

Then on to the Farmer’s Market to visit my favorite vendors. The market is a great meeting place with stops for “hi, how are you doing?” and hugs and petting dogs and sampling homemade pies. More fresh strawberries, red rock cabbage microgreens, and Thai basil go into my market bag.

There is time for an extra cup of coffee and conversation with my friend Diana as we sit outside in front of Hyperion Espresso. And the talk is uplifting and real and deep.

With the day open before me like a clean sheet of paper, I take my camera for a walk as it becomes the pencil that writes my feelings and records my observations. This intersection between documenting and experiencing is my happy place. Meander. Flâneur.  

There are things I notice and record . . .  like the swirl of the cream in my cup, the cascade of white teardrops on the hydrangea hedge, the tendrils of cabbage shoots, the fluffy plumes of the smoke tree, the swift and certain hands of the farmer-at-work, the letter A above the mail slot, and the gate to home . . . these are the makings of my perfect day.

Days like this one used to be rare. There was always something to do that seemed urgent, some place to be, a schedule to follow, an agenda, a deadline. I see now that many of these restrictions were arbitrary and meaningless, and even worse, self-imposed.

“What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.” –John Updike

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Just when I think I can't stand another rainy day, the sun shows up and warms me from the outside in, and I remind myself how far I have come.

“The sun shows up every morning, no matter how bad you've been the night before. It shines without judgment. It never withholds. It warms the sinners, the saints, the druggies, the cheerleadersthe saved and the heathens alike. You can hide from the sun, but it won't take you personally. It´ll never, ever punish you for hiding. You can stay in the dark for years or decades, and when you finally step outside, it´ll be there.” – Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior

Market Days

In the midst of the busyness of the Farmers Market – where shoppers fill baskets with eggs and honey and fresh produce, dogs meet and greet, kids sample berries, and vendors conduct the business of the day – there is stillness, too.

Farmers carefully arrange produce and flowers into still life scenes from simple to spectacular. Nestled alongside cardboard flats and crates and cups of early morning coffee, there are pictures begging to be taken.

Quiet views of color and shape and texture, line and form.

Whether in shadow or light, there is no effort to polish or perfect, only a display of natural and unprocessed beauty. What they make is all the more beautiful because this undertaking is not easy; this process of growing and harvesting and selling at the market is a life’s work.

Shopping in this place brings me closer to the earth, healthier in body and spirit, richer in relationships, and happier than shopping in a grocery store.

Shades of Green

The world is all shades of green after days of steady rain with stanzas of sunshine.

The air smells like sweet honeysuckle.

We are wearing matching mother-son outfits. Well, sneakers at least.

There is fried chicken for lunch. With cornbread and green beans and sweet tea. After all, this is the day of the Fried Chicken Festival in Gordonsville.

Strolling along streets with names like Baker and King and Market and Main, it seems summer is here already, beckoning us from the porch swing.

Splendid Strawberries

"You just have to live and life will give you pictures." –Henri Cartier

Strawberries are at their peak at local farms.  Despite the sultry morning, we headed to Braehead Farm to pick berries. We sampled our way through the field, trying each variety – Sweet Ann, Chandler, Sweet Charlie and Benicia.

Fresh berries, warm from the sunshine, juice dripping and running down our arms. 

Beads of sweat curling my hair beneath my straw hat.

Shopping at the Farm Market for just-picked asparagus and rhubarb.

Sweet cream and berries for dessert tonight.

Savoring the pictures life gives me today.

A Southern Craftsman

I value quality over quantity. I have a deep appreciation for all things handcrafted and homegrown. I see wholesomeness and integrity in things made with conscious and careful effort. I try to support local farmers, artists, and makers of all sorts wherever and whenever I can.

So it should come as no surprise that I chose David Rathbone of Saw & Mitre in Virginia Beach to frame my photographs for my upcoming exhibit, Where Inspiration Lives. I will take my turn as Artist in the Library for the month of July where I will showcase pictures from in and around Fredericksburg. This is my home, my place, and surely where inspiration lives.

David designs and builds exquisite frames. He is a passionate and accomplished photographer and understands that quality frames deepen the value and experience of a photograph. He cares about what he makes and grows his business with the courage of his convictions.

“More to the point is that it’s risky to put yourself out there with any kind of art. Whether you’re wood working, taking photographs, or making music. We all feel self-doubt, that little voice in your head that says you’re not good enough. I have it, and I’m guessing you have it, too. But if it’s something worth doing then you have to open yourself to the risk.” –David Rathbone

And I would argue that self-doubt is an integral part of the artistic process. Only through self-doubt can we arrive at well-founded confidence.

We took a road trip to Virginia Beach to pick up the prints, finding them safely nestled behind museum quality matting within frames made from the finest American lumber. David greeted us warmly and gave us a tour of his workshop. He clearly seeks to develop a relationship with his clients and is committed to service.

We left with an appreciation for the fact that art is more about feeling than seeing.

I’ll share photos of the framed prints and more on the exhibit in July, but for now, here’s David and a few images from our trip to the beach. 

On Mother's Day and Having Children

"When I think about why people have children, I realize how little it should have to do with the future. If, before any children are conceived, we knew that our reward for raising them would be perhaps several phone calls a month, a very occasional visit, and the sense of having once been important in their lives, we might not do it. But if we realize that the rewards are given during the raising, we will calculate the cost differently. My children have taught me more than I taught them, given me more joy than I have given them, and their being present or even much aware of me now does not alter this." –Phyllis Theroux, The Journal Keeper – A Memoir

We spent a rainy afternoon at my mother-in-law’s home, bringing a simple supper of chicken wings and coleslaw and salad to share. This is our way of thanking her for the many years she fed us, both in body and spirit. Our son, Jacob, home from college for summer, joined us. We know we are of little interest to him, with our old people talk of aches and pains, relatives he has never met, the weather and the high cost of everything these days. He might not relate to the stories, but he is imbued with the sense of this place. I can see it filling him up and shining through his every pore. There are little pieces of him all around the family table, and he is effervescent.

Happy Mother’s Day.

It's the Real Thing

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." ~John Lubbock

There is for each of us a way of seeing that brings us into the present. To experience the world in this way is effortless as all natural things are, and yet arduous in that adhering to our vision is sometimes out of step with the rest of the world. To see the world only as others see it is to deny our true nature, serving only to destroy our sense of wholeness and integrity.

And so it was, on this rainy morning, when simply because the camera rode along on the seat beside me, that I saw what I was looking for. Color in the midst of clouds, pattern and shape in the shadows, and shimmering light on the dark pavement.

What the world wants to see. It's the real thing.

Savor a Basket of Strawberries

buy less.
reuse more.
mend something.
write a story.
listen to someone else's story.
help tell the story of someone who can't tell their own.
savor a basket of strawberries one by one.
buy another basket and gift to a stranger.
dye an old tablecloth.
host a dinner cooked from food waste.
plant wildflowers to attract more bees.
find a body of water. watch it with intent.
dig a hole and inspect the soil; we are nothing without it.
be thankful for being wherever you are.
take time to be alone.
take time to be with friends.
take time to be with strangers.
celebrate the good.
challenge the bad.

use your voice.
–from @comestiblejournal, Instagram

The Journal Keeper

As so often happens, the right things find their way to the right person at the right time. I came across The Journal Keeper, A Memoir by Phyllis Theroux in a nearby thrift store. I was drawn to the cover, a photograph of a wingback chair, finely upholstered in a jewel-toned red jacquard fabric, situated on a green lawn amidst dappled light with a white picket fence in the background and a table alongside stacked with books. I felt an immediate connection to this ordinary scene in an uncommon setting. I picked up the book, read a few entries and knew this book was worth my time.

It was only after I returned to the car and inspected the book that I discovered two surprises. First, the book was signed by the author and addressed to Miriam Green "with affection." I am grateful to Miriam Green for donating her book so that I might find it. And I'd like to think that Phyllis Theroux would not take offense that her book was given away; that she might view this act of sharing as a supreme compliment whereby another reader might be affected by her words. The second surprise came as I read the book jacket more carefully. Phyllis Theroux lives and works just down the road from me in Ashland, Virginia.  Oh wait, one more surprise. Back at home I did a quick internet search and located Phyllis' website, Nightwriters, where I found an endearing video, The Making of a Book Cover. The video documents Phyllis traipsing all over downtown Ashland with her wingback chair in tow, searching for the perfect background to photograph the chair. She took the picture for her the cover of her own book, bringing her vision to life!

As I turned the pages in the Journal, I found myself thinking of Phyllis as a friend. I related to her loving role as her mother’s caretaker, to her struggles for financial security, to her fears and self-doubt, and most of all to her pursuit of creative passion.

Fear makes us take time-consuming detours around the thing we are afraid of. It is possible to live one’s entire life this way, not going toward what we desire, avoiding what we cannot find the courage to confront. Every new apprehension is a new link in the chain of fears. –Phyllis Theroux

And I think I might like to keep a journal as Phyllis says. . . “as a way of taking your thoughts and fears and subduing them, like pining butterflies to a wax tablet, so you can examine them more closely.”

Into Nature

As often as possible, we escape to nature - the lush marshes, the tangled banks of the river and the fields and woods beyond. We hike and gather and study with keen interest. This devotion to the outdoors isn’t just to stay active; it’s about loving the land. On warm evenings at the river, we walk the shore in search of shark’s teeth. In the nearby marsh, a single beaver swims circles surveying his work. And the city melts into country green.