Happy Mothers’ Day to….Me!

For many years, Mothers’ Day was a day of conflicting emotions for me. I had a powerful longing for recognition and appreciation that often was unfulfilled in some way, and I also had the accompanying guilt that maybe I didn’t deserve the rewards I hoped for in the first place. There were nagging doubts about whether I was doing a good job. There was also the burden of identity involved. I became a mom at 22, right out of college, and still had a lot of unresolved questions about who I wanted to be in the world. I relied on my husband to bolster my neurotic ego and assure me that I was exceeding expectations doing a job that was valuable and appreciated. He did a great job at that for many years, and for that, I will always be grateful.

I still long for appreciation around Mothers’ Day, even though my kids have all flown the nest years ago. I spent 12 years at home concentrating on doing my best at that one job and the next 12 years trying to do my best at that job plus another one outside the home. Now, I know that I did just fine. My kids tell me that, and I believe them. But my co-parent, my late husband, is not around to remind me in loving detail of the specifics….and I miss that. So this year, I decided to give myself the gift of cherishing myself as a Mother.

My chosen medium for cherishing, looking long and lovingly at something, has always been photography. I have taken countless photos of my kids and my husband — intimate, spontaneous, ordinary as well as posed. I wish someone had recorded my image with that kind of generous eye.

Well, it turns out someone did. Not exactly someONE, several someones. Whether with their own camera or with mine and my instruction (I used an AE-1 manual for 30 years), I have managed to gain a collection. I went through my albums and digitally scanned 48 images this morning.  Now, should my memory fail me in the coming years, I have photographic reminders that I did snuggle, feed, play with, teach, comfort, listen to, attend to, and applaud my four children year after year after year.

I have had a happy motherhood. I don’t need my husband to tell me that. I don’t even need my children to tell me that, although I’m really glad they do. I am owning my happy motherhood myself this year. I think it’s a great gift!

Here is a gallery from my collection as proof:

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Garden

Tom Paxton wrote the song “Whose Garden Was This?” for the first Earth Day in 1970. John Denver released an album that same year, named for the song, which he covered.

Whose garden was this? It must have been lovely
Did it have flowers? I’ve seen pictures of flowers
And I’d love to have smelled one

Tell me again, I need to know
The forests had trees, the meadows were green
The oceans were blue, and birds really flew
Can you swear that was true?

Whose river was this? You say it ran freely
Blue was its color, I’ve seen blue in some pictures
And I’d love to have been there

Tell me again, I need to know
The forests had trees, the meadows were green
The oceans were blue, and birds really flew
Can you swear that was true?

Those who imagine the Earth as a garden, as opposed to a wilderness, consider humans to be the primary architects of plant communities and responsible for their creation and maintenance. In this Anthropocene Era, human impact dominates the landscape, and the soil serves our needs – for food, for resources, for beauty, for creativity. It’s important to remember, though, that one of our needs is to have a healthy planet, one that will be resilient to our mistakes, our greed, our hubris. There is always a need for observation and humility, an imperative that we learn from autonomous ecosystems.

Whose garden was this? It must have been lovely
Did it have flowers? I’ve seen pictures of flowers
And I’d love to have smelled one..

Thank you to AMY for this week’s challenge theme, and Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow to all you blogging Moms (like me)!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Focus on the Details

I want to thank the Lens-Artists team – Patti, Amy, Tina, and Ann-Christine – for giving me the opportunity to host last week’s challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed Getting to Know (those of) You who participated and learning so much about things, places, people, and cultures that I never knew before.

This week, Patti is challenging us to Focus on the Details. A few days ago, I went out to wander in the sunshine down at the creek just down the hill. On the way, I found a wild iris.

In a few moments, I noticed another detail about this flower.

Down by the creek, sipping water from the rocks, I found several little butterflies with bright lilac wings. When they landed, they folded their wings together, hiding the bright color. They were no bigger than my thumbnail. When I look at my photo, I also notice that their antennae are striped. Nature’s details never cease to amaze me!

On my way back up the driveway, I stopped to look closely at the treetops. In this case, the top of this Douglas fir was only about four feet off the ground. It may grow to be 250 feet tall one day, with a diameter of 5-6 feet, if it’s allowed to stand for a couple of hundred years.

Details and complexity in Nature and in Life are often overwhelming and incomprehensible. When I slow down to fully appreciate them, I feel humbled and awestruck. I marvel that we are all composed of the same material, the star stuff that fills the galaxies. What a privilege to look, to open our eyes and our hearts to the fine craft of our planet and to see ourselves there, too.

“Look deep into nature, and then
you will understand everything better.”
Albert Einstein

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #145: Getting to Know You

“To acquire knowledge, one must study;
but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”
― Marilyn vos Savant

It is a great honor to be your host for this Lens-Artists Photo Challenge and to be part of a community of observers. Thank you for visiting my blog and getting to know me. I look forward to getting to know you, too!

The artist’s gaze, the photographer’s eye, when cast on a subject begins a relationship. That relationship can grow into a deep affection and a profound wisdom. It is that aspect of relating to your subject that I invite you to explore in this challenge.

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.” ― Brené Brown

I am a very visual person, as you might be also, and consider observation to be the first tool in my learning kit. To look carefully, curiously, enthusiastically, enduringly, and lovingly at something changes me. I begin to feel connected to that subject. I develop an affection that fuels further and deeper observation and understanding.

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins as in art with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language. ” Aldo Leopold

My journey from Nature-observer to Nature-lover to Conservationist to Earth advocate is the story of how my eyes opened my spirit to a deeper wisdom about the world in which we all live. I celebrated International Earth Day on  April 22 with others around the globe who are deeply in love with our planet and concerned for her health and welfare. As I’ve gotten to know Earth better, I have grown in relationship to her and in my understanding of the factors impacting her. The photos I’ve chosen to illustrate the development of this relationship start with a monarch butterfly caterpillar on a milkweed plant in a restored prairie and progress to a field of coneflowers hosting a swallowtail butterfly and other pollinators. I took all of these pictures while I was working at a conservation foundation and learning about the interconnection between plants, animals, soils, landscapes, and the humans who cultivate, steward, and extract those resources.

My invitation to you is to present a “Getting To Know You” post showing your relationship with a subject you’ve photographed. The subject could be a Person, a Place, a Culture, an Object…anything that has captured your attention, won your affection and taught you a thing or two.

In your post, include a link to my original post and use the Lens-Artists tag so that everyone can find your post in the WP Reader.  We hope you join us and share what you know and love!

Next week, Patti will be hosting Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #146 on Saturday, May 1, so please be sure to visit her site and joint us then, too. Her theme will be “Focusing on the Details”. 

Thank you for spending a little time to get to know me and these butterflies in their natural habitat. I again want to thank the Lens-Artists hosts – Patti, Amy, Tina, and Ann-Christine – for inviting me to host this week’s challenge. It is an honor and a joy to be a Lens Artist!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Taking Flight

“If I had wings no one would ask me should I fly
The bird sings, no one asks why.
I can see in myself wings as I feel them
If you see something else, keep your thoughts to yourself,
I’ll fly free then.”

This song immediately popped into mind at the thought of this week’s challenge theme. I sang it at Girl Scout camp in the 1970s and just now learned its origin. It was a Peter, Paul & Mary release written by Rev. Gary Davis. It brings back to mind my youthful yearning to discover my identity and live authentically.
Flight it’s about doing what you were made to do, lifting off and reaching the heights, soaring, gliding, traveling and lighting down with a changed perspective from your experience.
Of course, it takes a long time to build up to Flight.

The pursuit of flight begins with the pursuit of basic needs. Imagine a caterpillar’s day, relentlessly munching on a single food source. Or a baby bird, all mouth and little patience, straining its spindly neck toward its parents. So many roadblocks can prohibit flight long before wings even appear: insufficient food, aggressive predators, absent care-givers, catastrophic accidents. It’s a miracle any living being ever takes off at all!

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

“How can you ask if I’m happy going my way?
You might as well ask a child at play!
There’s no need to discuss or understand me
I won’t ask of myself to become something else
I’ll just be me!”

Thank you, Tina, for encouraging us to Take Flight and inviting us to join you in this Photo Challenge!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Colorful April

“April this year, not otherwise
Than April of a year ago
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
Dazzling mud and dingy snow;
Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

This morning in April, here in Oregon, there is frost on the ground, but the sun is shining brightly. I’ve spotted daffodils and tulips and crocuses and forsythia and trillium and trout lily and Western blue flag iris in bloom already this month. The predominant color around here, though, is Spring Green. Fescue fields cover vast expanses of farmland nearby, where Icelandic sheep, domestic sheep, horses, goats, and donkeys graze.

On the first day of April, the trails around the marsh at Finley Wildlife Refuge open for the season. They are closed during the winter to protect the migrating birds who are resting and nesting. The skies are full of long skeins of flocks from November through March. When I ventured over there a few days ago, I noticed a small population of ducks and geese, and one heron. I had only my Samsung Galaxy phone with me, but I took a few photos nevertheless.

“Spring is made of solid, fourteen-karat gratitude, the reward for the long wait. Every religious tradition from the northern hemisphere honors some form of April hallelujah, for this is the season of exquisite redemption, a slam-bang return to joy after a season of cold second thoughts.” ― Barbara Kingsolver

I have to add my gratitude for the gifts of flowers that I have received this month as well, displayed on my dining room table. (again, taken with my phone) They certainly illustrate a return to joy in my life!

Thank you to Amy at The World Is A Book for inviting us to share the theme of her beautifully colorful post. May we all experience that April “hallelujah” and new joy in our lives!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pick a Park

“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Wallace Stegner, 1983

For this week’s photo challenge, Ann-Christine invites us to pick our own theme. I am pleased to show my enthusiasm for the National Park system here in the United States and choose “Pick a Park” as my theme. I have visited many of them across the nation, from Acadia National Park in Maine when I was a preschooler to Pinnacles National Park in California, which was designated a National Park rather than a National Monument in January 2013, the year before I visited. I have also visited a number of other nationally preserved sites – monuments, shores, riverways, caves…but not battlefields. I have participated in citizen science finding fossils at Badlands National Park; gone spelunking at Mammoth Cave, Carlsbad Caverns, and Wind Cave; witnessed geothermal activity at Yellowstone and Hawaii Volcanoes; rode a horse through Bryce Canyon; sailed around the Apostle Islands; camped in the Canyon of the Ancients; picnicked at Capital Reefs; hiked around the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains; and taken pictures at all those sites. And that’s just a small sampling of ways to interact with these astonishing Earth displays. Perhaps you may be planning a visit to one of our Parks yourself to do an activity I’ve never even tried!

“The American way of life consists of something that goes greatly beyond the mere obtaining of the necessities of existence. If it means anything, it means that America presents to its citizens an opportunity to grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically. The National Park System and the work of the National Park Service constitute one of the Federal Government’s important contributions to that opportunity. Together they make it possible for all Americans–millions of them at first-hand–to enjoy unspoiled the great scenic places of the Nation…. The National Park System also provides, through areas that are significant in history and prehistory, a physical as well as spiritual linking of present-day Americans with the past of their country.”
Newton B. Drury, NPS Director, 1940-1951

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Geometry

“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” Pythagoras

What is the shortest distance between two points? What is the shortest distance between two people? What is the angle of intersection when you are happy? And when you are lonely?

“He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of a probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance”

― Dominic Miller, “The Shape of My Heart”

How do you build something structurally sound to house kindness, joy, courage, love, resilience? In a Universe of fact and feeling, of truth and spirit, how do you dwell in the spaces outlined by a complexity of ideas?

Aldo Leopold Shack

Geometry was my favorite subject my freshman year of High School. I liked my teacher; I liked that this kind of math was narrative. I was brand new to the school and to the state. In my 14-year-old brain, I was trying to figure out so much about how the world worked and how I fit in it. I was confused by many things, but I could follow geometry step-by-step and prove something. By the end of Freshman year, I had gained confidence and made some friends. ‘Geometry’, to me, will always symbolize a description of complexity in the cosmos that seems ordered and friendly, mysterious and vast, but approachable.

Thank you to Patti for this Challenge theme!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A Change of Scenery

Spring Beauty

“The snow has not yet left the earth, but spring is already asking to enter your heart. If you have ever recovered from a serious illness, you will be familiar with the blessed state when you are in a delicious state of anticipation, and are liable to smile without any obvious reason. Evidently that is what nature is experiencing just now.” ― Anton Chekhov

The Vernal Equinox is here, announcing the first day of Spring! A change of scenery is about to unfold all around you, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. What have you seen so far? Crocuses? Daffodils? Forsythia?  

Have you sighted returning migratory birds like red-winged blackbirds, cranes, geese, robins? Have you witnessed any courtship rituals?

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Have you started any Spring projects yet? Cleaning, planting, or otherwise loving a change of scenery into being? 

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.”
― John Muir

It won’t be long now before the Earth shows on parade the joyful resilience of Life that we have come to know in the depths of our souls as HOPE. 

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

It has certainly been a long, strange, and anxious year. I welcome a change of scenery from the dreary outlook of fear, manifest in so many ways on so many levels. There is much to be learned from the long, dark time that we’ve been through, much to be brought into the sunlight and witnessed with new eyes and a new resolve. May we all do the work of Spring in our lives and enjoy the change of scenery that New Life brings!

 

Many thanks to Beth of Wandering Dawgs for hosting this Lens-Artists challenge and welcoming a Change of Scenery into our week!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Special Moments

“It only takes a moment
To be loved
A whole life long”
― Jerry Herman (from Hello, Dolly!)

Since moving to Oregon from Wisconsin last summer, I have had numerous “Pinch me!” moments when I can’t believe the everyday beauty of this place. I live in a studio apartment over the garage of a big house in a forest in the foothills of the Coastal Range. Travelling into town, I pass orchards and wineries and tree farms. My mailbox is .6 miles away. The creek is a few hundred feet downhill. It is quiet, secluded, wild in places, ever-changing, and constantly stunning. 

“The moments of happiness –
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning
Restores the experience in a different form
Beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness.
The past experience revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations.”
― T. S. Eliot (from Cats)

I often find myself in a moment of profound awareness of the beauty of my surroundings here. I have dreamed of living near mountains ever since I was 10 years old and traveled from the flatlands of Chicago to Colorado to visit my cousins. I was so envious of the views from their home and their proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park. I lived in California for 15 years, but always in a heavily populated area. Here, the mountains are forested and human dwellings are few and far between. It’s peaceful. It’s slow. It’s quiet.

“Let the moment go
Don’t forget it for a moment though

Just remembering you’ve had an ‘and’
When you’re back to ‘or’
Makes the ‘or’ mean more
Than it did before
Now I understand
And it’s time to leave the woods”
― Stephen Sondheim (from Into the Woods)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Natural Light

“Wake! For the Sun, who scatter’d into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav’n,
and strikes The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light”
― Omar Khayyám

Our eternal message of hope is that dawn will come.― Martin Luther King, Jr.

“And when the dawn comes creeping in,
Cautiously I shall raise
Myself to watch the daylight win.”
― D.H. Lawrence

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”― Henry David Thoreau

“Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”
― Annie Dillard

“There is nothing more musical than a sunset. He who feels what he sees will find no more beautiful example of development in all that book which, alas, musicians read but too little – the book of Nature.”
― Claude Debussy

Natural Light, the Sun, traces an arc in the sky each day, reminding us of how perspective changes with the passage of time. In every 24 hours, we witness hope, newness, growth, diminishment, and rest. That pattern is extended in a widening scope throughout history. It was my intention to choose words from writers who have observed and experienced the place of human beings in that cycle. Their voices mark the awareness of our longing to take our rightful place under the Sun, to know the wonder and beauty of living in dignity and in harmony with all things in Nature.

Thank you, Amy (The World Is A Book), for inviting us to reflect Natural Light in this Challenge.