Lens-Artist Weekly Photo Challenge: Magical Light

“Light! More light!” – last words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Was Goethe, the celebrated poet and scientist and author of The Theory of Colors, crying out his final request in an effort to quench his thirst for enlightenment of the mind, the soul, or the eye? Or all three?
I am sure they are all interconnected.
Coincidentally, his deathbed wish became the motto of Lawrence University in Wisconsin, where I sent my oldest child to college. 

Three things converged earlier this week to illustrate to me the power of light and its affect on my soul.

First, on Sunday, we switched our clocks back from Daylight Savings Time. The sun slips further away from the Northern Hemisphere, and daylight hours are noticeably diminished. Nights fall early, and mornings are dark.

On Tuesday, the U.S. had midterm elections. An ominous gloom has settled and hung over this country since our last election. I am anxious for my children, the planet, and the future. I feel the grip of darkness in my soul.

I suspect that I am susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. I feel physically drained, deeply depressed, cold and vulnerable. Cloudy, dark days bring questions of personal survival to my mind. And then, Thursday night, temperatures dropped and the first snow fell. 

Fortunately, the next morning I was scheduled to volunteer in a Nature Center class of fourth graders. I drove carefully through the falling snow, noticing changes all around. The minute I arrived in the parking lot, I saw a small child lifting her face to the sky with her tongue out, hoping to catch a falling flake. Her face was lit with joy.

Light from the souls of the children flooded my day. Snow angels, snowball target practice, a hike through the woods to the river, and the emergence of a distant but brilliant sun made my mood by the late morning sparkle. There is magic in light, in warmth, in proximity to the energy of our home star, the Sun. The magic brings life to every living thing. I am aware of its sustenance and my dependence on it. And I give thanks for it every day. Thanks, also, to Amy for inviting us to share the magic with this Photo Challenge! 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transition

Moving a 20.5 lb turkey, already cooked, from my house to my son’s house 116 miles away.  Hoping the bird doesn’t suffer too much in transition.  I’m too involved in this project to post new photos, so here’s one of the bird we dined on last night ‘a deux’ – a pheasant courtesy my boss and his bird dog, Bhodi.

thanksgiving dinnerMay your attitude of gratitude bring you joy, today and every day!

Transition

80 Years in 8 Days – Day 2: 10 Family Foods

10 Family Foods.  10 Fabulously Festive Family Foods!  (Ah, ah, ah…*thunder and lightening*)

Is this a Muppet Count-down?  No, not really.  This is Day #2 of my mother’s birthday present.  Yesterday’s post introduced the project and 10 Background Bits of my mother’s life.  Today being Christmas Day, I want to tell you about my mother’s culinary talents.  This is a day that we would spend feasting and in high spirits.  Christmas Eve Mass having been accomplished and Mom’s choir commitment completed, she’d turn her attention to Christmas dinner.  There’s so much I could write about, but I’ll keep it down to 10 things, and I’ll limit them to things that I have actually made myself.  Except for this first item…

1) Fruitcake —  You may shudder, but wait!  My mother’s fruitcake is a triumph of dark, rum-and-brandy-soaked cake popping with candied fruits and savory nuts.  The recipe is from Julia Child herself.  Mom used to make it weeks ahead of Christmas in a huge, plastic tub (which later served as an infant bathtub for my baby brother), wrap it in cheesecloth, douse it with brandy and let it age.  A dozen foil-wrapped parcels went out to the most appreciative friends and neighbors.  Now my sister Sarah makes it, and if I’ve been good, I may get one in the mail this year, too.  I have NEVER attempted this on my own.  I doubt I could live up to the legacy. 

2) Roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and gravy from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook —  Fannie and I have become good friends, and though my original copy is pretty trashed, I am partner to a bookseller and have a few new editions at my fingertips.  Yes, I can make this…and have!

photo by Steve

photo by Steve

3) Cran-orange relish —  The recipe is on a postcard my mother sent to me when I moved back to the Midwest from California.  It simply says, “1 bag cranberries, 2 navel oranges, 1 cup sugar.  Grind and enjoy!”  I should mention that I’m still using Grandma Marion’s food grinder from the 1940s.  I’ll probably keep using it until that worn out cord and plug start a fire.

pecan pie & cran orange relish

4) Pecan pie (and mince pie) —  Again, from Fannie Farmer. 

5) Lobster — When we lived in Massachusetts where I was born, Mom learned how to cook a live lobster.  I didn’t end up cooking the first one on my own until we were living in California, and I was in college.  My fiance Jim drove home from the fish market with the live lobster on his shoulder just to freak out passing motorists.  I showed him how to hypnotize the lobster by holding it head down and stroking its tail.  When it was limp, dropping it into the pot of boiling water (don’t forget a bit of Vermouth!) was a cinch. 

6) Roast leg of lamb —  Make slits in the outside and insert slivers of garlic cloves before putting it in the oven.  I like rosemary and gravy more than mint sauce with it.  I have a picture of myself one Christmas with a Lambchop puppet on my arm; we’re both looking aghast at the serving platter. 

We can’t feast like Christmas all year long, so here are some samples of every day fare. 

7) Soup —  My mother kept a stock pot in her ‘fridge all week.  On Wednesdays, when she’d be going out to choir practice, she’d make a batch of soup from leftovers and stock that we could eat ‘whenever’ and clean up without her supervision.  To this day, she makes soup every week for the Food Pantry.  Steve and I have dubbed her “Our Lady Of Perpetual Soup”. 

8) Chili —  The family recipe is pretty mild.  Steve adds Tabasco and cheese and oyster crackers, and if I let him really indulge his Milwaukee roots, I’ll serve it on spaghetti noodles.  Texas folk, please avert your eyes!

9) Chicken and rice —  Basic dinner memories: the smell of onions and mushrooms sauteing in butter as the sun goes down.  Add the chicken, rice and liquid to the same pot.  Season with your favorite flavor combinations.

10) Brownies —  Not from a box! Made by melting Baker’s chocolate and butter on a double boiler and adding it to the creamed butter and sugar. Then add the eggs and the flour and dry ingredients.  Memorable mishaps: pouring hot, melted butter and chocolate into the creamed butter and sugar AFTER having added the eggs and watching bits of cooked scrambled eggs emerge.  And my sister putting in half a cup of baking SODA instead of half a TEASPOON of baking POWDER.  The brown, bubbly stuff spilling out of the pan and all over the oven resembled lava!  Cool! 

Tomorrow, for St. Stephen’s Day, 10 Musical Memories…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone, But Not Forgotten

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Gone, But Not Forgotten.”

Well, this is an obvious one.  After all, I am a widow.  How can I forget the love of my life, my one and only husband, the father of my four children and the man who bought me my first Canon (an AE-1 for Christmas when I was 17)?  I am in a wonderful relationship now with a new partner, Steve, and he’s featured in many of my posts.  But Jim is my first love, the man who was beside me for 30 years, from the time I was 15.  So much of my adult formation took place in those years, even though profound change has happened since.  Shortly after Jim died, I became an empty-nester, I sold our home, and I stopped practicing evangelical Christianity.  Gone are my ‘suburban mom’ characteristics…the van, the mortgage, the disposable income, the salaried position with a Christian company in my home town, the prayer groups and Bible studies, the daily involvement with my kids.  My life is definitely different.  I am much more independent and self-reliant now.  But I haven’t forgotten how well loved I was, how dedicated Jim was to taking care of me.  As his best friend said at his memorial service, he was a Prince of a man.  And he was definitely Charming. 

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: 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.