Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: California Picks

 

“There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.”
— Edward Abbey

For this week’s photo challenge, Tina invites us each to pick our own theme. Having just returned from three months in California journeying with my family of origin through my mother’s hospice care and death, I have new photos to share and a complex perspective.

A jewel in the sparkling allure of California to me is my siblings who live there. I reconnected with them in an intense situation and discovered that they are exceptional human beings…and they really do like me, after all!Our days together were full of the poignant joys of life: memories, change, and resilience. We hiked the mountains, beaches, and urban green spaces to keep a grounded perspective. The natural surroundings in California are breathtaking, but the impact of humans is often completely overwhelming. While I was there, record-breaking temperatures, catastrophic wildfires, and the Covid-19 virus often prohibited us from leaving the confines of our protective shelters. How ironic that the things that make California a popular place to live also create the populations that make California unlivable. Finding a sustainable balance is the never-ending challenge here.

“It was a splendid population – for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home – you never find that sort of people among pioneers – you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this day – and when she projects a new surprise the grave world smiles as usual and says, “Well, that is California all over.”
― Mark Twain

How to live gracefully on this planet, in a human body, with all the complex interactions going on all around me, continues to be the challenge that I strive to meet. Grace is an attitude of balance and mercy, I think…but I’m still pondering it. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Now and Then

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” — Roald Dahl

Some recent nonsense…

And some nonsense from ‘then’…

My family has gone through some very painful and pivotal changes during the pandemic. However, we all manage to make each other laugh even in the midst of difficult times. Yesterday, eleven of us gathered to lay my mother in the earth to join my father, my husband, and my sister. We were outdoors and masked. Our next gathering will be a Zoom call for Thanksgiving. I’m confident that there will be some nonsense and laughter again. 

Thanks to Amy for hosting this week’s challenge and giving us occasion to reflect on the differences and similarities between Now and Then. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Found in the Neighborhood

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you!
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?”
– Fred McFeely Rogers

On October 22, I took a walk out the front door of the house in California where I lived in as a high school student. It’s a neighborhood that I haven’t seen much of in 40 years, and it’s pretty exotic to me. It’s changed a lot from what I remember. Some of the changes are quite jarring: new streets, new buildings, new power lines, fewer trees, and formerly pristine mountain slopes dotted with new construction. There are a lot of new neighborhood sights to get used to.

As I headed up into the foothills, I found wilder neighbors. Black-tailed deer are not quite what I’m used to. In Wisconsin, where I lived for the past 9 years, it’s white-tailed deer that you see everywhere.

When I got to the top of the hill, I looked back down into the valley and saw this view of Santa Clara County, with the tall buildings of downtown San Jose in the distance. There are close to two million people living down there!

This is actually the 33rd wealthiest town in the nation. There are a lot of people with high-end tech jobs, high-end tech toys, and high-end recreational hobbies. Heading back down the hill into town, I went past the church where I was married, where my sister, my husband, and my father are buried in the garden Columbarium. As it turned out, my mother passed away in her apartment down the street from the church that very evening. Her ashes will be buried in the garden on Friday. 

So what is a neighborhood, and who is my neighbor?

We all share the same air, the same water, the same soil, the same sunshine. Whether we feel seen, known, memorialized or not, we live and die here in proximity with every other Earthling, human and otherwise. We are all in relationship with each other. We are neighbors. As such, we should treat one another with kindness and care, check in, and keep in touch. It’s just neighborly.

Thank you to Ann-Christine, who is our host this week for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow

“There’s got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let’s keep on looking for the light…”
– Maureen McGovern

“Here comes the sun, do, dun, do, do
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right
Little darling, the smile’s returning to their faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here…”
– George Harrison

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day…”
– Jimmy Cliff

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a day that I could give you
I’d give to you the day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way…”
– John Denver

I am feeling more sunshiny this morning than I have in a loooooong time! Our life-giving Star may be 93 million miles away, but it is the constant in my life that never fails. Civilizations disappoint; human systems are always flawed, but the Solar System is going to be supporting life for a good while yet. And sometimes, I feel like even human beings might be rising to the challenge of being bright and warm!

“Good day sunshine
Good day sunshine
Good day sunshine
I need to laugh, and when the sun is out
I’ve got something I can laugh about
I feel good, in a special way
I’m in love and it’s a sunny day…”
– Paul McCartney

Special thank to Ana, our Lens-Artists guest host for this week’s Challenge. She picked the perfect theme!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Focus on the Subject

Patti writes: “In this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #121:  Focus on the Subject, we invite you show us an image that uses leading lines, patterns, color, contrast, selective focus, freezing the action, doorways or arches, or the eyes of humans or animals to draw our attention to the subject.” 

Leading lines:Patterns:Color:Contrast:Selective Focus:Freezing the Action:Doorways or arches:The eyes: Moon the cat is the perfect subject to deliver a message of Happy Halloween and Blue Moon. I also wish those who celebrate All Saints and All Souls beautiful holy-days. Be safe, be well, be optimistic as the Earth revolves slowly… 

Lens-Artists Challenge: What a Treat!

Trick or Treat? It’s all in the attitude. An attitude of gratitude can turn your perception around completely. 

“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.” — Tecumseh

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” — Voltaire 

Today, I am most appreciative of being able to spend the last two months caring for my mother in hospice. She died on Thursday evening, quickly, peacefully, willingly and with the promise to “haunt us”, a comment she delivered in the last week with a twinkle in her eye. What a treat to have been able to move cross-country in pandemic conditions and to find myself unemployed and free to be at her side when her illness became apparent. Those circumstances might seem upsettingly tricky, but truly, I wouldn’t have missed these last weeks by her side for anything on earth. My mother was a widely acknowledged treasure!

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Learning how to work with your thoughts and receive the pleasures that are all around us is a great trick, one that contributes to wisdom and health. 

“Stressed is desserts spelled backwards.” — Unknown

May all your sorrows become sweetness in the joy of being! 


Thanks to Tina for hosting this challenge and sharing her amazing wild animal photos! I am so grateful that there are still some wild places left on the planet, and so concerned about their destruction. I recommend the documentary David Attenborough: A Life on This Planet (Netflix) as an excellent narrative on this issue, with hopeful solutions. 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Hideaway

We do not retreat from reality, we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves… By dipping them in myth we see them more clearly. — C. S. Lewis

How do you prefer to take in and process new information about the world? Do you seek out facts, stories, or experiences? Probably you find yourself using a combination of these avenues into reality. And then, perhaps, you find a quiet place to sort through them. 

I know a place where no one ever goes;
There’s peace and quiet, beauty and repose.
It’s hidden in a valley, beside a mountain stream,
And lying there beside the stream, I find that I can dream
Only of things of beauty to the eye:
snow-peaked mountains tow’ring to the sky.
Now I know that God has made this place for me.
— a song I learned at Girl Scout camp long ago

My brother was grilling on the back porch last night. While the aroma of smoke penetrated my thoughts, my daughter’s boyfriend asked me, “When was the last time you were camping?”

Two years ago.

I miss that kind of hideaway opportunity. The simple reality of sky, water, earth, and fire helps me see all the storylines that I have crafted about life in a much clearer light. What is essential floats to the surface and becomes like the reflection of heaven. What is clunky and artificial sinks like dead weight in the silt bottom.

We are looking for happiness and running after it in such a way that creates anger, fear and discrimination. So when you attend a retreat, you have a chance to look at the deep roots of this pollution of the collective energy that is unwholesome. — Thich Nhat Hahn

Retreats, hideaways, sanctuaries — safe places for reflection, introspection, and soul work — are important to cultivate. They can be far away, across oceans of distance or as close as the inside of your own eyelids. 

 Take care of yourselves, friends. From the inside out.
Thank you, Ann-Christine, for sharing your beautiful glass greenhouse space in this challenge.

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Communication

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky

Author Terry Tempest Williams spoke at the Madison Public Library a couple of years ago. I eagerly listened to her tell stories of her creative process and her life as an environmental activist. As an advocate for Nature, she is a voice in the political arena, speaking and writing for a crucial entity that has no verbal communication of its own. Often her advocacy comes down to what she calls “Difficult Dinner Parties” where she engages with leaders of various types in discussions of how their actions and policies affect the environment. 

In today’s political climate, there could be many reasons why hosting a “Difficult Dinner Party” might be advantageous for coming to understand a different point of view from friends, colleagues, even loved ones. Unfortunately, due to the threat of coronavirus, getting together for dinner isn’t an option in many cases.

Consequently, communication in a convivial setting has been hampered. To me, that’s a sad thing. I think it’s a morale-buster. Maybe it’s not the biggest problem we face in these difficult times, but I sure do miss a good dinner party — the preparation, the anticipation, the conversation, the communication of shared food, shared words, shared ideas, shared affection.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
― Fred Rogers

How many different cultures have a ritual of gathering together at table to confer? Conference tables still occupy the high-rise offices of the most sophisticated enterprises. Maybe they only serve water and coffee, but the origin seems the same to me. 

“Communication is truth; communication is happiness. To share is our duty; to go down boldly and bring to light those hidden thoughts which are the most diseased; to conceal nothing; to pretend nothing; if we are ignorant to say so; if we love our friends to let them know it.”
― Virginia Woolf

Here’s hoping that around the globe, we will be able to return to conversation around the table, that we will create safe and hospitable places and times to communicate directly and honestly, that we will come together to build bonds of understanding and friendship.

Thanks to our guest host for this week’s challenge theme, a horse named Biasini. I’m sure you’ll want to follow the link to learn more about that!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A Photo Walk

Well, the sun’s not so hot in the sky today
And you know I can see summertime slipping on away.
A few more geese are gone, a few more leaves turning red,
But the grass is as soft as a feather in a featherbed.
So I’ll be king and you’ll be queen, our kingdom’s gonna be this little patch of green.
Won’t you lie down here right now in this September grass?
Won’t you lie down with me now, September grass. (James Taylor)

My first photo walk with my new digital camera, a present I bought myself for my 50th birthday, was in September of 2012. I was living in Wisconsin then, and Autumn was just beginning to show its colors. I went to Lapham Peak State Park to try to capture some of the crisp scenery. The observation tower looks out over the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. I’ve been up that tower in every season, but Fall is my favorite.

Down below the tower, milkweed beetles clustered on the pods, adding more warm color to the Fall palette.

Do you see those ants dancing on a blade of grass?
Do you know what I know? That’s you and me, baby.
We’re so small and the world’s so vast, we found each other down in the grass.
Won’t you lie down here right now in this September grass?
Won’t you lie down with me now, September grass.

The greatest triumph of the day, however, was the moment when we startled three sandhill cranes who took to the sky just a few yards away. I whipped out my new camera with no time to adjust the settings and snapped two shots. I was absolutely thrilled with the results!

Revisiting this beautiful Fall walk in Wisconsin is just the thing to lift my spirits. At the moment, I am in California caring for my mom in hospice. The temperature is in the high 90s, and the air quality is very unhealthy due to the wildfires in the wine country northeast of here. Walking outside is not recommended. Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to take a Photo Walk in my mind’s eye. It helps to remind me to look up!

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!