Weekly Photo Challenge & Photography 101: Triumphs Converging

Yesterday was a wonderful day, a triumph of change, of many changes coming together.  Thanksgiving is Steve’s favorite holiday, and what’s not to love?  Fall colors, harvest time, lots of great food, a crisp chill in the air, wood smoke, and an all-pervading sense of gratitude for the process of life. 

triumph 2We’ve hosted Steve’s family for dinner at our place for the past 4 years.  “Our Place”, however, is not just a home.  It’s an online book business, which means that our inventory is stored under the same roof.  That roof was replaced this year, bringing inches of old cedar pieces and dust down on top of our piles of books.  It was a mess.  The clean up and resorting was enormous.  But Thanksgiving was the deadline: we wanted to host as usual.  Piles of books, CDs, video tapes and packing materials carpeted all the rooms and stairwells in the house.  We literally had to pick our way through for months.  Steve took infinite trips up the narrow, steep stairs to the attic, laden with heavy boxes and stacks.  But yesterday was a triumph!  The place was clean, the table glistened, the food was colorfully delicious, and everyone had a great time.  And Steve got to put his feet up and read aloud in Italian.

triumphWe are really getting good at team work.  The next triumphant convergence will occur tomorrow, when we get together with all my children and their ‘significant otters’ for a holiday which we call ‘Galassoween’.  Five couples, two generations and as many various lifestyles merge to create a feast of conversation and edible togetherness.  And it will take place in the house that my daughter and her fiance have rebuilt. (see this post, “Harvesting Hope”)  I’m looking forward to it!  (but first, I have a lot of dishes to wash…)

triumph 3

 

Photography 101: Double

Happy Thanksgiving!  I am doubly thankful for you, the blogging community.  Thank you for your visits and thank you for hosting me when I visit.  It’s been great fun and great learning doing this project.  There are (at least) twice as many wonders in this world to see than I imagine.  I am grateful to be opened and broadened and expanded by your lives and your art.  Thank You, Thank You!!

double

Photography 101: Edge

When I first saw Michelle’s photo of Angkor Wat, I immediately thought of this shot I took in New Mexico at the ruins of a settler’s ranch:

edgeWe recently saw a glorious Korean film called “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring” in English.  It takes place mostly in a monk’s floating temple.  Inside his humble place, he has a shrine and a place to sleep.  The “bedroom” is set apart by a doorway, but there are no walls.  Still, every time he retires, he stands up and goes through the doorway.  It would take him two crawling motions to go from his knees before the Buddha statue to his bedroll on the floor, but he never does that.  The door is a reminder, a discipline, a practice, I’m sure.  It represents some kind of edge or divider, and yet, all is One inside as the open space prevails.  I like how this ruin recaptured that feeling.  We put up our boundaries, but they are mere illusions.  Or perhaps delusions.  Edges are not the Truth of the world, but we cling to them nevertheless.  They give our organized Western minds that compartmentalism that makes us feel secure and in control.  The hazard there is that when the compartments are breached, we feel that something is “wrong”, and we become anxious…needlessly.   Learning to be at peace with being open is a practice I’m following lately. 

In case that’s too philosophical for you, I’ll give you some more literal illustrations:

Photography 101: Glass

Glass. 

Half full, half empty.  Worn and washed up on the beach. 

“Land Ho!”  “Pass me the glass! No, not that one, the telescope!” 

Through a glass, darkly.  Nose to the pane.  The ceiling.  Don’t throw stones.

Cool and transparent, insulating, sparkly…glass is all around.  I look through it all day long, even when I’m outside and have for years.  I remember leaving the optometrist’s showroom with my first pair of glasses on.  I looked up to the foothills and saw leaves on the trees up there.  Suddenly, there was depth and contrast in the distance.  It was a miracle.  The first time I looked through a microscope was a miracle, too.  I imagine indigenous people finding obsidian and cutting their fingers on it, rejoicing.  What stuff! 

I feel my life getting dull.  I’ve been working hard at the book-selling business, rather repetitively.  I need to wake up to the scintillating delight of life.  This is a perfect visual reminder!

Photography 101: Treasure

Treasure: what is it?  I’ve worked at museums long enough to know what an artifact is.  Usually, it’s an object that you find or dig up.  It can tell you about the environment, what kinds of things lived there, what they did and when.  Paleontologists like to say that archaeologists study garbage, stuff people throw away, while they study bones and fossils.

Some artifacts get handed down from one generation to another instead of being thrown away.  There is a sense of value in the thing itself.  It’s special to someone in some way.  It carries attachment, and those attachments are preserved along with the object.

So, maybe ‘treasure’ is really about our attachment, the things we want to hold on to.  Many times those things are ephemeral: feelings, living beings, pleasant moments in time.  We know they will not endure, so often we transfer their significance to objects that may last a bit longer. 

And, of course, this is just what we’re doing when we take photographs, isn’t it?  But what is it that we actually treasure?  Life and love.  How do you preserve that kind of treasure?  You can’t, really.  What you can do is be absolutely present while it is within your grasp.  Celebrate it, bring yourself to it, flow with it.  Enjoy it, with all your heart. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular

Straight lines are man-made, and they are all around us. 

If you’ve followed my blog or know me at all, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I see myself as a Nature Girl.  I don’t do Man-Made stuff if at all possible; I don’t seek it out, I don’t photograph it, I don’t buy it.  But of course, that’s a delusion, really.  I live in a house built with right angles, and I sell books which are usually rectangular.  I am surrounded; I had best make peace with angles.  Sharp, rigid, dogmatic angles.  Plumb-lines and cages. 

* peace *

(Wow, I can be judgmental.) Okay, horizons and vanishing points, inclines and steps.  I don’t know if I will ever call them “beautiful”, but I can see that they are useful and interesting. 

I glance out my window and see feathery frost, reminding me that snowflakes and crystals are made of straight angles.  And my ego is made up of attachments and aversions. 

* peace *

Photography 101: Landscape

This is my passion.  Landscapes – wide open spaces, gently rolling hills, big sky.  When I was a little girl, my family went on outings to places like the Morton Arboretum.  We would follow a walking path and come upon an open field of dandelions or daffodils, and I simply couldn’t contain myself.  I would take off running, cartwheeling, spinning and singing….like Julie Andrews in the opening shots of “The Sound of Music”.  Freedom and joy as big as all outdoors is the feeling that landscapes give me.  I have met a few expert landscape photographers on the blog scene.  They go above and beyond (literally) to get spectacular shots.  I am not likely to be up at 3am to climb a snowy peak.  I take my camera where I’m going and shoot the scenes that present themselves.  I am still picking up techniques for making those shots more compelling.  One is to have something really interesting in the foreground:

the myth of nothingOr to put a person in it for perspective:

Storm in Western Oklahoma

It’s more challenging to get depth and interest in a scene without those things.  Of course, equipment plays a part.  I don’t use a tripod; I don’t have a special lens.  I end up with more flat, snapshot-type scenes.  They’re missing a bit of drama, I suppose.  Something to work on.