Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Symmetry

noun: symmetry

1. the quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or around an axis. “this series has a line of symmetry through its center”

I would venture that exact symmetry is static and not very interesting. To me, it’s the juxtaposition of similar things or balanced things that are in fact different that is most interesting. 

I think that Nature in balance is the highest example of beauty, and its type of symmetry is not architectural and mathematic except on a very cellular level. When you look at the big picture, that precision is subdued. When humans step in, they tend to force that uniformity in a way that often destroys Nature’s beauty. (If I had a photographic example of agricultural monocultures and row housing, I’d insert it here.)

 

Tomorrow is International Daughters’ Day. My three daughters are an example of symmetry in harmony, concordance and coordination. They undoubtedly share some exact cellular similarities, and in a macro view, you can spot both the resemblance and the difference in them. And they really get along well together. 

Enough structure and balance that is absolutely similar with a generous diversity that keeps the thing dynamic, not static – I think that’s a great model. For lots of things. 

Thanks to Patti for hosting this week’s challenge. Visit her post to see some beautiful architectural examples of symmetry. And happy International Daughters’ Day tomorrow!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Inspiration

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes

Back in 2012, I participated in a WordPress Photo Challenge that asked what inspires me to blog. Here is my response. I am still inspired by all these things: caring for family (now it’s my mother who is in hospice with lung cancer), Nature (it still demands my maturity every day, especially with climate change dangers tangibly around me), grieving my husband’s death and caring for our children (which prompted me to move to Oregon to be near them), compassion for Life and our common suffering (spiritual lessons of positive and negative space inspire me every day), and education (there is always so much to learn). 

Today, in response to Tina’s challenge for the Lens-Artists this week, I revisit these inspirations.

Caregiving

“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”
― Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

Nature

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
― Maya Angelou

My children

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Compassion for Life

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
― Vincent Van Gogh

Education 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
― Socrates

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Negative Space

Amy, our Lens-Artists host this week, writes:

This week we will explore negative space in photography. Negative space is the area around the main subject of your photograph. This space is empty or unoccupied. Spencer Cox at Photography Life explains, ”Photos with high amounts of negative space are: empty, subdued, peaceful, calm, and isolated”.

If you’re familiar with this blog, you can imagine that I had all sorts of philosophical associations with the words “negative space”. Here I am in California, giving hospice care to my mother with lung cancer while the West Coast is on fire. Two of my children and their spouses live in Oregon, where I moved at the beginning of August, leaving Wisconsin. If you read the news, you know there is a lot of scary stuff going on in all of these places, a lot of “negative” energy.

However, now I know that “negative space” can just be the background that allows you to focus on a particular subject. Re-framing the shot, allowing the busy-ness surrounding the essential element to blur, highlights its unique and important features.

Empty, subdued, peaceful, calm and isolated.

So, maybe all of the disasters of 2020 are just the “negative space” that will allow us as humans to focus on what it supremely important about life on this planet. And what do you think that is? 

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A Labor of Love

“People all over the world honor their workers in a variety of ways. In the U.S., we honor those who labor by setting aside the first Monday of September as Labor Day. But world-wide, people pour themselves into their work — paid or unpaid — with commitment, ingenuity, and a sincere desire to make a difference. For them, work has become more than just work. It has become a LABOR OF LOVE.”
Rusha Sams, Oh the Places We See 

This week’s Lens-Artists photo theme is timely and beautifully illustrated and described by the guest host, Rusha Sams

Along with my two sisters, I am committing myself for the weekend and for the indefinite future to the care of my mother, who is now in hospice at home with lung cancer. I just arrived in town yesterday and am adjusting to the situation both physically and emotionally. So far, my proudest contribution is that I made her laugh. While raising her hospital bed, I said, “Second floor, ladies’ lingerie…” – an oldie that she used herself many times in the elevator at the senior living home she left last year. 

This blog post is dedicated to all the care-givers who labor in love to give support, succor, comfort, life-saving intervention, and all other forms of ongoing assistance to humans of every age and stage of life. I am appreciative, impressed, and inspired as I witness the process of caring change the lives of people I know intimately. In my own family, I picture loved ones involved in labors of childcare, massage, elder care, estate care, feeding, clothing, housing, and so many other acts as well as in the gracious receiving of care. I’ve seen and experienced the transformation of family relationships in the give-and-take of caring. A task done in love transcends the merely useful dimension and becomes a life-giving act for both initiator and recipient.

May your labors spread love both inwardly and outwardly, enriching your own life as you enrich others’ lives. Namaste!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pick a Word

Comfortable

Growing

Tangled

Untangled

Crowded

Spacious

Exuberant

Lethargic

For this week’s Photo Challenge, Ann-Christine gives us a list of words to illustrate. I threw in a couple of antonyms as well, just for fun. Join Lens-Artists and play along!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Everyday Objectives

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ― Annie Dillard

I moved to Oregon from Wisconsin in order to be closer to my adult children, in order to spend more time with them, in order to make the special occasion of a family gathering into a more frequent habit – not to make it less special, but to make it more accessible. 

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday, we celebrated my birthday and a host of other August birthdays in our extended circle of family and friends. There were 15 people on the Zoom call with six of us present at my new place. 

If every day you see people you love who love you back, if every day you have food to eat, then I should think that each of your days would give you occasion to be grateful. 

“In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”
― Lao Tzu

Still life is still life. I am grateful for food and tools and objects of beauty. I am amazed at how these things can be used to create meaning and purpose and alleviate suffering. My heart is mindful of many who are suffering in the pandemic, the wildfires, the process of aging, the loneliness of separation. I wish them comfort; I send them love. 

Special thanks to Patti, our host for this week’s challenge

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Creativity in the Time of Covid

Creativity. Creation. Creators.

Growing up, I was taught that I was called into being by a Creator and that I had the ability and the responsibility to become a co-creator. It seemed like a very daunting future. What was I to create? What could I offer the world?

I started with trying to discover what I might be good at. I majored in Music/Voice Performance in college, and I married my High School sweetheart in my senior year. By graduation, I was pregnant. I had a talent for producing children, turns out. I had four children by the time I was 28.

I met a celibate priest and author, Rev. Martin Smith, at a church event. He spoke of how people would always wonder at his sacrifice of creativity and fatherhood. He assured them that while he was not making babies, he was making meaning.

“Making meaning” became a phrase that stuck with me. When I was 30, I began to write poetry. I self-published a book of poems and parables and sold 50 copies in our church bookstore.

When I turned 50, I bought myself a digital camera and started blogging. I had been using the Canon AE-1 that my high school sweetheart and late husband had bought me as a teenager to develop a photographer’s eye. Having the ability to see the frames instantly fed my appetite to produce images.

All this time, though, I wasn’t sure if I was really “good” at creating anything. I felt like I dabbled. I thought that I might not have earned that co-creator status that I was supposedly destined for.

During “the Time of Covid”, I clicked through a lot of psychology videos while sorting out some major life transitions. That is how I came across the very affirming words of Brené  Brown, who maintains that we are inherently creative and that shame is the major obstacle to our living out that creative purpose. She and Scott Barry Kaufman (co-author of Wired to Create) did a podcast in which she shares this quote from one of her books:

“Unused creativity is not benign. It metastisizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, shame.” -Brené Brown

Wow. So, on top of all the grief and rage of “the time of Covid”, not using your creativity will cause another layer of unhealthy detriment to your soul.

Must. Create.

I had re-entered the community theater scene last year after 14 years. I was in a musical last summer and a production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” in February. In March, I played Irish fiddle (badly – having first picked up the violin only two years ago) in an improv comedy act, but the last performance, on St. Patrick’s Day, was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Via the magic of Zoom and Discord, I have been able to connect with folks to do reader’s theater versions of plays by Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Thornton Wilder, and others. I do voices – English accents, Russian accents, old people, young people, men, women, and storms.

I started trying to learn to speak Spanish yesterday. My youngest daughter is teaching herself Russian. Together we are also addressing income insecurity and racism and politics in our precious face-to-face discussions. For me, making meaning in this “time of Covid” and after a cross-country move is about affirming life, affirming values, creating community, and living wholeheartedly into an uncertain future while braving the vulnerability and shame that always hovers around my humanity.

Creativity in the Time of Covid is essential for all of us. It is a practice for our individual mental health and the health of our shared humanity. We need to see ourselves as beings called to make meaning together and hard-wired to connect around our vulnerability. We are navigating in treacherous, uncertain waters. If we can make ourselves into a human life raft, we might just stay afloat. 

Thank you, Tina, for inspiring creativity and self-reflection with this challenge, and for the very kind “shout out” to my previous post, Under the Sun.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Under the Sun

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiates 1:9

The Sun, our home star, energizes the life of our planet from 93 million miles away. It has been doing that day in and day out for a very long time. When my perspective of change is tied to my own lifespan, it is easy to feel tossed about in dramatic arcs. To feel the peaceful constancy of the Universe, I need only to look up from my life.

While there is nothing new under the sun, there is more than enough that is new to me. If I ask around, though, I may find connections to the processes that continually have influence here and learn from them. That, I believe, is where wisdom is found. King Solomon might have been thinking about that when he set down the thought which opens this post. 

“Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.”

― Hafiz

May you discover joy under the Sun and spread love generously, beginning with yourself! 

Thanks to Amy for the inspiration for today’s challenge!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Sanctuary

Home is where the heart is
No matter how the heart lives
Inside your heart where love is
That’s where you’ve got to make yourself
At home” – Sally Fingerett

On the first day of this month, I moved into a new home, a quiet sanctuary surrounded by tall evergreens nestled in the foothills of the Willamette valley in Oregon. My four children were all on hand to help me move my belongings upstairs into the studio apartment above the garage.

“Between every two pines, there is a doorway to a new world.” – John Muir

This is actually the first time that I have lived by myself with a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and dining room that I share with no one else. The residents of the main house generously share the laundry room, patio, and garden with me.

“A home is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

But sanctuary is more than just a place to be. It is also the shelter of connection and hospitality. My daughter-in-law hosted a welcome picnic for me on the shores of Fern Ridge Lake. 

And so I begin the process of “coming home to a place I’ve never been before”, and settling into the sanctuary of being myself, connected but independent. 

“Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” – Hermann Hesse

Moving cross-country during a pandemic is an enterprise riddled with uncertainty. There is no way to predict the outcome of any encounter along the way. I figure that the best practice is to exercise reasonable precautions, be kind and courteous, ask questions politely, and be grateful for what the Universe offers. My anxieties have been offset by unprecedented delights. I am surrounded by beauty and acts of loving care. I wish these blessings on all travelers on this globally historic journey.

Thank you to Lens-Artists challenge host Xenia for inspiring this post with a timely theme. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Winter

White-Eyes

In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird
with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us
he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last…

The cycle of seasons in the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge has come around to Winter. I have spent all my winters living in the northern hemisphere, the last nine of them being in Wisconsin. I have heard residents remark on how the winters have gotten milder in general, with less snow.  

I have, however, heard a new term since moving to Wisconsin that I don’t remember from my childhood: the polar vortex. There were two occasions in two different years that this term came up. What it meant to us was that temperatures hit -20 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime, not factoring in wind chill. During that first polar vortex, my housemate was working as a Postal Service carrier. He was walking around delivering mail in those temperatures. He found it absolutely thrilling to be able to do it and revel in the superlative extremes of Nature.   

I marvel at the robust character of animals who over-winter in this climate – deer, cardinals, field mice, and all the rest who tough it out. I learned another term while volunteering at a local Nature Center. In the ‘sub-nivean zone’ beneath the snow, small rodents make trails to their burrows, accessing stores of food. Imagine all that activity going on under inches of frozen precipitation! Then imagine all the humans that complain about a dusting that makes their morning commute more inconvenient.

I appreciate the way Winter teaches me to accept what is and live in the moment. If it’s cold, it’s cold. You have to deal with it. Complaining and wishing do not make the Earth move closer to the Sun. Only Time can relieve you of Winter, so you might as well slow down and enjoy it.  

Our host for today’s challenge is Ann-Christine, who lives in Sweden. Her photo story shows that there are numerous ways to enjoy the beauty of Winter.