An Abecedarius Award!

I have been given another award! *smiles like a 6 year old*  Many thanks to Sally from Lens and Pens for this honor!

This one looks rather fun: it’s called the Awesome Blog Content award and comes with a kind of game to play.  I get to go through the alphabet and choose a word or phrase that describes me.  Ready, Campers?!  Here goes:

A – Appreciation and Awareness

B – Bio-luminescent

C – Cheerful

D – Discovery World

E – Elephants!

F – Fantasy

G – Galasso (duh!)

H – Heigho (possibly obscure to those who don’t know me well…)

I – Intelligent

J – Jim

K – Kappa (as in Phi Beta)

L – Love, love, love

M – Music

N – Nurturing

O – Old World Wisconsin

P – Priscilla (again, duh!)

Q – QI

R – Renewal

S – Sincere

T – Truth

U – Universal

V – Vulnerable

W – Widow

X – Extraordinary

Y – Young at heart

Z – Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Now, instead of nominating other bloggers for this award, what I’m going to do is link you to my favorite post of this morning.  Into the Bardo, A Blogazine features a post about a discussion of language and play which I found very interesting reading.  Check it out!

Anyone else who reads this and wants to do the ABC word association game in a post, just for fun, can consider themselves awarded!  Go ahead, post the logo…it’s like sewing another patch on your Girl Scout sash!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Companion

I spent the last 8 hours in the delightful company of my firstborn child.  We spent the day making paper roses out of pages of an old copy of The Lord of the Rings for her wedding bouquet, trying out hair-dos for the wedding, and talking heart to heart. I am so grateful that the years we’ve spent together have produced two women who have grown to be great friends.  You can read all kinds of opinions about whether your children are supposed to be your friends, but in the final analysis, if you both live to be adults at the same time, you can have a friendship that is richer, deeper, closer than any you can imagine.  My daughter was born when I was 22, and in many ways, we grew up together.  We read together, learned together, laughed together, cried together, explored different roles and ages and stages in each others’ company and discovered that we really like each other.  We’ve always been very honest and good communicators.  So, I sincerely want to say,

“Susan, thank you for being my companion for 28 years (so far)!  I love you very much.”Companion

Shine On!

One of my followers has awarded me with the Shine On! Award, so I am gratefully acknowledging this compliment with an extra post this week.  The Soul Driven Mind strikes me as a very earnest blog by a man who seems to walk the intersection of hard core systems like the Air Force and IT while keeping his head outdoors or on Mars.  I applaud him for challenging himself to widen and deepen his vision, to keep in touch with his natural, creative self and to let that place speak freely and inform him on a regular basis.  Whether that routinely clashes with his profession, I’m not sure, but I can imagine it would sometime.  I wish him great courage and fortitude in his quest and the ability to make the tough choices with joy!

I am to state 7 things about myself, so here’s what comes off the top of my head:

1) I am currently very excited about my oldest daughter’s wedding next month, and by excited, I mean a little out of my depth and emotionally charged in many ways.  If her dad were still alive, the social roles would be much easier to figure out, and I would be guided and shielded by his very confident, extroverted personality.  As it is, I am forging a new path on my own, not always predictable.  I cry, feeling sad and angry that he’s not present.  I put my own quirky self out there, vulnerable and honest, and wonder if that will be acceptable and satisfying to myself and my family.  But these are people whom I deeply love, and to give myself, however frightening that may be, is the best I have to offer.  So, it’s pretty thrilling all around!

2) I am hatching a huge creative project.  I just bought a 5 subject notebook at Walgreen’s yesterday, and I plan to fill it with all kinds of brainstorming notes.  I don’t want to reveal just yet what it’s about, but it’s an embryo that gives me a secret glow.

3) I ordered a dress from India to wear to the wedding.  It’s waiting at the Post Office for me to pick it up.  Does every woman have fantasies about being radiant for some occasion and fears about being merely ordinary?  What is the Middle Way of beauty?  Seeing myself as lovely and alive and sacred but no higher than any other creature on the planet, I suppose, even the graceful little mosquitoes who may show up at this outdoor event!

4) I love the smell of Wisconsin in the summer: that humid, earthy, rain-soaked fragrance of Girl Scout camp makes me feel like I’m 8 years old again.

5) I love children’s books, and I looked very much like Sal in Robert McCloskey’s books “One Morning in Maine” and “Blueberries for Sal”.  Bobbed blond hair swept to the side in a barrette, jeans with an elastic waistband at the back, sneakers, sweatshirt.  Pictures of pre-school me growing up in Massachusetts are an uncanny likeness of her. 

6)  The last movie I watched was “A Wedding”, the Robert Altman film starring Carol Burnett, Desi Arnaz, Jr., Mia Farrow, etc.  A comedy without a laugh track, satirical and ambiguous.  We don’t have TV and don’t feel interested in the movies that are being made these days, but there are lots of good films in the archives to provide social commentary and philosophical and psychological fodder for conversation and introspection.  Taking on weddings and family dysfunctions seemed like a good project for this week. 🙂

7) I love good food.  I went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and bought a pint box of Sugar Snap Peas.  They are so fresh and sweet, all raw and fertile, that I wish it were summer all year so that I could enjoy them more frequently.  But then, I suppose, I would stop paying attention.  The habitual way of putting calories into my mouth is so uninteresting.  I like focusing on something unusual and life-giving.  The last meal I really regretted was a Culver’s butter burger basket.  So much grease!  Never again….

This last part is always the most difficult for me.  I’m supposed to nominate 15 other blogs for this award and link to them and notify them of the award requirements.  First of all, I don’t follow very many blogs because I simply haven’t the time to read them.  The ones I do follow, I’ve already given awards to (if they even accept them).  I also refuse to tell anyone that there’s a requirement for receiving an award.  My appreciation is offered without obligations attached.  That said, I will share the new blogs that I’ve been following:

Jeff Sinon Photography: Nature Through The Lens

Steve McCurry’s Blog (you know the guy who photographed that iconic Afgan woman with the haunting eyes for the cover of National Geographic?  Yup, the same man.)

Into the Bardo: A Blogazine (I’ve actually been added as a contributor to this one, and all the contributors are people whose work I would recommend.)

I hope the short list doesn’t disappoint anyone.  Thank you for contributing to the expressive community of artists, thinkers, and humans that make this blogosphere so interesting and worthwhile!  I am pleased to be among you!

Weekly Photo Challenge: The World Through Your Eyes

This week’s photo challenge was a tough one for me.  The “assignment” was to show “a visual interpretation of one’s vision. A story, captured in a frame.”  This seems to me to be something close to photojournalism.  I think black and white.  I think action, or a reference to action.  I look through my portfolio, and most of what I have is nature portraiture and still life.  The world through my eyes would seem posed, maybe even inert.  Hmmm.  This IS a challenge.  In order to capture a story, I would have to show more of a scene, not just a subject.  The backdrop, the context.  That would probably mean I have to be more ready with my camera, “quicker on the draw”, so to speak.  I will keep that in mind.  Tomorrow, I go to my daughter’s Bridal Shower, and I intend to bring my camera.  Maybe I can practice this assignment in that setting.  For now, I will give you my best approximation at photojournalism, taken last October on our adventure to “Metaphorical Maine” (which actually turned out to be Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio).  Here ’tis:

My vision

Honoring My Father (Reblog)

George William Heigho II — born July 10, 1933, died March 19, 2010.

Today I want to honor my dad and tell you about how I eventually gave him something in return for all he’d given me.

My dad was the most influential person in my life until I was married.  He was the obvious authority in the family, very strict and powerful.  His power was sometimes expressed in angry outbursts like a deep bellow, more often in calculated punishments encased in logical rationalizations.  I knew he was to be obeyed.  I also knew he could be playful.  He loved to build with wooden blocks or sand.  Elaborate structures would spread across the living room floor or the cottage beach front, and my dad would be lying on his side adding finishing touches long after I’d lost interest.  He taught me verse after verse of silly songs with the most scholarly look on his face.  He took photographs with his Leica and set up slide shows with a projector and tripod screen after dinner when I really begged him.  He often grew frustrated with the mechanics of those contraptions, but I would wait hopefully that the show would go on forever.  It was magic to see myself and my family from my dad’s perspective.  He was such a mystery to me.  I thought he was God for a long time.  He certainly seemed smart enough to be.  He was a very devout Episcopalian, Harvard-educated, a professor and a technical writer for IBM.  He was an introvert, and loved the outdoors.  When he retired, he would go off for long hikes in the California hills by himself.  He also loved fine dining, opera, ballet, and museums.  He took us to fabulously educational places — Jamaica, Cozumel, Hawaii, and the National Parks.  He kept the dining room bookcase stacked with reference works and told us that it was unnecessary to argue in conversation over facts.

Camping in Alaska the summer after his senior year in High School: 1951.

My father was not skilled in communicating about emotions.  He was a very private person.  Raising four daughters through their teenaged years must have driven him somewhat mad.  Tears, insecurities, enthusiasms and the fodder of our adolescent dreams seemed to mystify him.  He would help me with my Trigonometry homework instead.

Playing with my dad, 1971.

I married a man of whom my father absolutely approved.  He walked me down the aisle quite proudly.  He feted my family and our guests at 4 baptisms when his grandchildren were born.  I finally felt that I had succeeded in gaining his blessing and trust.  Gradually, I began to work through the  more difficult aspects of our relationship.  He scared my young children with his style of discipline.  I asked him to refrain and allow me to do it my way.   He disowned my older sister for her choice of religion.  For 20 years, that was a subject delicately opened and re-opened during my visits.  I realized that there was still so much about this central figure in my life that I did not understand at all.

Grandpa George

In 2001, after the World Trade Center towers fell, I felt a great urgency to know my father better.  I walked into a Christian bookstore and picked up a book called Always Daddy’s Girl: Understanding Your Father’s Impact on Who You Are by H. Norman Wright.  One of the chapters contained a Father Interview that listed dozens of questions aimed at bringing out the father’s life history and the meaning he assigned to those events.  I decided to ask my father if he would answer some of these questions for me, by e-mail (since he lived more than 2,000 miles away).   Being a writer, this was not a difficult proposition for him to accept.  He decided how to break up the questions into his own groupings and sometimes re-phrase them completely to be more specific and understandable and dove in, essentially writing his own memoirs.   I was amazed, fascinated, deeply touched and profoundly grateful at the correspondence I received.  I printed each one and kept them.  So did my mother.  When I called on the telephone, each time he mentioned how grateful he was for my suggestion.  He and my mother shared many hours reminiscing and putting together the connections of events and feelings of years and years of his life.   On the phone, his repeated thanks began to be a bit eerie.  Gradually, he developed more symptoms of dementia.  His final years were spent in that wordless country we later identified as Alzheimer’s disease.

I could never have known at the time that the e-mails we exchanged would be the last record of my dad’s memory.  To have it preserved is a gift that is priceless to the entire family.  I finally learned something about the many deep wounds of his childhood, the interior life of his character development, his perception of my sister’s death at the age of 20 and his responsibility in the lives of his children.   My father is no longer “perfect”, “smart”, “strict” or any other concept or adjective that I could assign him.  He is simply the man, my father.  I accept him completely and love and respect him more holistically than I did when I knew him as a child.  That is the gift I want to give everyone.

I will close with this photo, taken in the summer of 2008 when my youngest daughter and I visited my father at the nursing home.  I had been widowed 6 months, had not yet met Steve, and was anticipating my father’s imminent passing.  My frozen smile and averted eyes are fascinating to me.  That I feel I must face a camera and record an image is somehow rational and irrational at the same time.  To honor life honestly is a difficult assignment.  I press on.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves


How many internet “news” headlines associate that word with female celebrities on the red carpet?  SOOOooo not my style of subject.

The curve ball?  The cosmic 2 by 4 upside the head?  Ah, yes.  That experience is one with which I am familiar.  I appreciate a good twist of fate/destiny/plot/philosophy.  I’ve been reading a 1917 copy of Best Russian Short Stories compiled by Thomas Seltzer.  Intense!  Revolutionary!  Profound!  I recommend The Shades, A Phantasy by Korolenko:  Socrates investigating the justice of religion, and for lighter fare, How a Muzhik Fed Two Officials by Saltykov: like Mark Twain satire, only Russian.

Visually, curves are naturally graceful.  Is there anything in nature that is completely straight?  I’ve thought about that several times, and the closest thing I can come up with is a pine needle.  Any other ideas out there?

So, here are some curves from my photo files:

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

I must be sharing some head space with Cheri at Word Press.  I’ve been thinking about ephemerals as I photographed the woodland wildflowers a few weeks ago.  An entire hillside was covered in trout lily, and I was excited at the prospect of seeing them all bloom at once.  I went back two weeks later to discover that I’d missed it. 

Fleeting.  Short life cycles.  Tomorrow is the 35th anniversary of the first time I kissed my husband.  He died at the age of 47.  “It’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years that counts.”  That quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, and my sister-in-law read it at Jim’s memorial.  Living, sentient beings change over time, rapidly or slowly doesn’t matter.  We are all impermanent.  Is that an aberration?  Or is that just the way it is?  Rage or accept as you will, the wheel turns, the cycle moves.

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