Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Exposure

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
Helen Keller

“I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.” – Igor Stravinsky

I find that photographic terms morph in my mind to concepts. Being exposed and captured in the Raw is a very vulnerable state. But in the kind hands of an Artist, that’s how beauty can be shared.

Thank you, Sofia, for opening up the possibilities, for inviting the dark as well as the bright, for acknowledging that neither is “right”.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Opposites

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― John Steinbeck

“You couldn’t have strength without weakness, you couldn’t have light without dark, you couldn’t have love without loss”
― Jodi Picoult

“Any life expands and flowers only through division and contradiction.” ― Hermann Hesse

Opposition, it seems to me, is a relationship where there are many similarities and a few striking differences. You wouldn’t say that the opposite of a lemon is an airplane. You might say its opposite is an orange – they are similar except that a lemon is more sour and an orange can be sweet. A mirror image is almost exactly the same, except that everything is reversed. So maybe, if you are distressed by getting the opposite of what you want in life, you can narrow your focus down to one or two factors that are making the outcome contrary. Then, you can see that your life, by and large, is quite satisfactory – a reason for joy, in fact!

Thanks to our Challenger this week, Tina of Travels and Trifles, for an excellent theme and inspiring photos!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Simple/Complex

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
― Confucius

“I never knew anybody . . . who found life simple. I think a life or a time looks simple when you leave out the details.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

“Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience — to appreciate the fact that life is complex.”
― M. Scott Peck

 “You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you’ve got.” ― Toni Morrison

Congratulations to Sofia, our host this week, for choosing a challenge that is truly inspiring and rich. The challenge is about Minimalism and Maximalism, and in Art, this spectrum can reflect a tension not only in mood and atmosphere, but in history and philosophy as well. Sofia notes, “The Baroque period is probably one of the best examples of excessive decoration and a sense of awe. Money and power were demonstrated by increasingly outrageous works of art…”

Where are your tastes and sympathies right now? Does your brain and body long for the peaceful simplicity of minimal overload and distraction? Or are you celebrating the elaborate interconnectedness and biodiversity of all that we call Life?

I have to admit that I swing back and forth constantly. And maybe that is what evolved human brains do best. Using our abilities to change perspective, focusing in and zooming out with ease, allows us to gather information and make decisions like no other animal on Earth. We inhabit a variety of experiences and notice the differences, and then we get the opportunity to choose how to approach our next interaction. I don’t think there is a “correct” choice, but there is much to be learned about the benefits or tragedies resulting from how we’ve chosen to look at the world. I definitely rely on the opportunity to change my vision when I feel that it is not serving me or others.

I look forward to seeing how other Lens-Artists have interpreted this excellent challenge!

Earth Day 2022

“Earth teach me stillness, as the grasses are stilled with light…

Earth teach me suffering, as old stones suffer with memory…

Earth teach me caring, as parents who secure their young…

Earth teach me courage, as the tree which stands all alone…

Earth teach me limitation, as the ant which crawls on the ground..

Earth teach me freedom, as the eagle which soars in the sky…

Earth teach me resignation, as the leaves which die in the fall…

Earth teach me regeneration, as the seed which rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself, as melted snow forgets its life…

Earth teach me to remember kindness, as dry fields weep with rain.”

from the Ute people of North America, in “Singing the Living Tradition”

The international observance of Earth Day is for me the most important holiday on the calendar. I can’t imagine anything more important, or anything that makes as much a difference to everything that lives, as planet Earth. I am still working on how to make this day Holy. I want to marvel at, record, and lovingly share as many memories as I can. I want to be physically active outdoors. I want to help mitigate some of the damage that humans have done. And I want to invite, encourage, and implore everyone to join in the celebration and protection of our lives’ Host. We are all interconnected, living expressions of Earth-ness, alongside everything else on the home crust. What an amazing community to belong to!
This year, I’ve added a new page to my blog celebrating Oregon as my home Place. Please take a look! https://scillagrace.com/oregon-outdoors/

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Close and Closer

“Let each dawn find us courageous, brought closer, heeding the lights before the fight is over.” ― Amanda Gorman

This photo challenge is about moving closer to the subject and letting it fill the frame. There is something in this exercise that resembles the challenge of intimacy. The fear is – what if I find something up close that I didn’t expect? That I can’t control? That I don’t like? And what if I do find something I get very fond of…and then have to move away? Or it moves away…and dies?

My first subject is my sister-in-law’s Pomeranian dog, Kimahri. This little guy is an absolute charmer. He looks like a Teddy Bear and lives his life in the adoring arms of a human. But his health is not robust, for many reasons. He’s as small as a little baby, but he’s actually rather aged.

“Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.” ― Saint Augustine

Two weekends ago, my housemate noticed a cat by the side of our dead-end country road, drenched by the rain and terribly skinny. We guess that she was dumped by her previous owner as she was obviously an indoor cat and very affectionate. Yesterday, they had to put her to sleep due to congestive heart failure. I feel like my housemate braved the pain of getting closer and did the right thing. She works as a social worker in hospice care, and this pandemic has been exhaustingly difficult for her, but she still choses to move in closer and be a caring person. I very much admire that.

“With consistency, we become one step closer to our dreams, while witnessing small victories on the way!”
― Purvi Raniga

My next subject is some mushrooms growing on the side of a tree. Getting closer up to the face of death and decay is a scary prospect. And yet, you might be amazed at the beauty there. I am reminded of caring for my mother during her hospice journey alongside my two sisters. The intimacy of that precious time brought us all closer together and seemed like an eternal and mystical experience.

Thanks to Patti for hosting this week’s challenge and daring us to get close and closer.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Serene

“Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.” ― Pema Chödrön

“Being able to lighten up is the key to feeling at home with your body, mind, and emotions, to feeling worthy to live on this planet.” ― Pema Chödrön

“Clarity and decisiveness come from the willingness to slow down, to listen and look at what’s happening.” ― Pema Chödrön

“…The truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” ― Pema Chödrön

“Precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go … are not something that we have to gain, but something that we could bring out, cultivate, rediscover in ourselves.” ― Pema Chödrön

“We sow the seeds of our future hell or happiness by the way we open or close our minds right now.” ― Pema Chödrön

I have been on a journey of mindfulness for more than a decade now as a way to metabolize the trauma of my husband’s death. One of the first books that I turned to was When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times by Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. The path to a peaceful life in my skin, in my mind, in my situation began with opening my eyes and seeing things exactly as they are…without telling a story or making a judgment about them. Photography is a beautiful art for exploring ways of seeing. While looking for a subject, framing a shot, and editing a shot, you can realize how perception and reality converge and depart. This exploration is about curiosity and courage, the same qualities that help you on your journey toward mindfulness and serenity.
I’ve chosen quotes from Pema Chödrön and photographs I took a few days ago -while walking down my driveway to get the mail – to illustrate SERENE for this week’s challenge. I was compelled to take along my camera because the sun was penetrating the fog in a way that made me think how unique and particular and impermanent that moment of elemental juxtaposition was. The environment around me changes visibly quite quickly here in the temporal rainforest of Oregon. Rain, vegetation, animals – everything is living and dynamic. As am I. Breathing deeply as I walked, step by step, through this reality, I became mindful of the serenity of simply being with things as they are. This is what I want to share, with a smile.
Thank you, Patti, for choosing a very worthy theme for this week! Click HERE to view her post and her invitation to participate.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Follow Your Bliss

“The way to find out about your happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you really are happy — not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self-analysis. What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what I call ‘following your bliss’.” ― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

On Thursday, I headed out with my camera and a friend and spent four hours walking a forest trail through the William Finley Wildlife Refuge. I was surprised that so much time passed! I was also surprised that the rain never got heavy enough to make me think of heading back to the car. In the temporal rain forest of Oregon, there is so much to see, such tiny worlds of biodiversity everywhere that I find contentment in just keeping my eyes open and letting beauty wash in!

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
― Confucious

“We have to look deeply at things in order to see. When a swimmer enjoys the clear water of the river, he or she should also be able to be the river.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”― Albert Einstein

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive…”
― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

My new Oregon home is the perfect place to immerse myself in the beauty of being alive; of seeing Life all around me; of connecting my body, mind, and soul to the ongoing experience of living – from spore to plant to decomposing matter and back to spore. In the face of global instability on every level from climate change to species extinction to social structures, it is bliss and contentment to turn away from fear and toward Nature, and to feel again the circle of Love that is Life.

Many thanks to our guest host for this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge, Lindy Low LeCoq. I am so glad she got her inspiration from one of my favorite authors and thinkers and invited us into bliss! If you would like to participate, click on her name above and follow her lead.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Natural Light

“Wake! For the Sun, who scatter’d into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav’n,
and strikes The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light”
― Omar Khayyám

Our eternal message of hope is that dawn will come.― Martin Luther King, Jr.

“And when the dawn comes creeping in,
Cautiously I shall raise
Myself to watch the daylight win.”
― D.H. Lawrence

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”― Henry David Thoreau

“Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”
― Annie Dillard

“There is nothing more musical than a sunset. He who feels what he sees will find no more beautiful example of development in all that book which, alas, musicians read but too little – the book of Nature.”
― Claude Debussy

Natural Light, the Sun, traces an arc in the sky each day, reminding us of how perspective changes with the passage of time. In every 24 hours, we witness hope, newness, growth, diminishment, and rest. That pattern is extended in a widening scope throughout history. It was my intention to choose words from writers who have observed and experienced the place of human beings in that cycle. Their voices mark the awareness of our longing to take our rightful place under the Sun, to know the wonder and beauty of living in dignity and in harmony with all things in Nature.

Thank you, Amy (The World Is A Book), for inviting us to reflect Natural Light in this Challenge.

 

New Year’s Eve

Reblogged from 2011 and dedicated to my Mom, born this day in 1934 and transitioned from this life on October 22, 2020.

The social tradition in this country is to spend New Year’s Eve with the person who is most important to you, someone with whom you’d like to spend your future.  That first kiss of the New Year is supposed to impart good fortune for the year to come.  For many Americans, then, it’s off to parties to drink up and link up in an attempt to avoid the curse of loneliness for the rest of your life.

Yeah, well, I’ve never seen it quite like that.  You see, New Year’s Eve is also my mother’s birthday.  We always spent it at home, having a family celebration.  When I got married and moved out, my new nuclear family did the same thing.  We dressed up in prom gowns and tuxes (and sometimes like pirates) and danced in the living room, sipping champagne and listening to the weirdest music we had.  Kisses were passed between husbands and wives and fathers and daughters and mothers and sons and sometimes siblings.  Our future was with the family; our past was with the family.  The two were intertwined, and we liked it that way.  We watched the ball drop in NYC some years, and sometimes we just let the kids run outdoors with big spoons and pots and pans and make all the noise they liked at midnight.  One year, we were visiting Jim’s best friend’s family, and the kids had a silly string fight in the middle of the street that afternoon.  They made a huge mess.   Which makes me wonder: who cleans up the confetti after New Year’s Eve in NYC?  How much gets recycled?

New Year’s Eve 1992 or 1993?

Who do I want to be next year?  My future is rooted in my past and lived in the present.  I will always live with my family legacy coursing through my veins, pulsating in my brain.  I am my father & mother’s daughter, Jim’s wife, my kids’ mother, and that will stay with me year after year.  I am also a writer, a budding naturalist.  I hope to become a home economist & ecologist.  I want to keep on practicing awareness, appreciation, attitude and action.  Ultimately, the person with whom I will spend my future is…myself.  At the stroke of midnight, I’ll look myself in the eye and say, “You and me, kid!  It’s gonna be a great year!”  Hopefully, I won’t feel cross-eyed and alone when I do.  And I promise I’ll clean up after myself.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: The Holiday Season

When traditions meet transitions…

For most of my life, my Holiday Season was centered around traditions that originated in the Anglican community. We celebrated Advent, then Christmas, and finally Epiphany. For forty years, beginning when I was 7 years old, I sang in an Episcopal Church choir and spent a good portion of my Christmas break in rehearsal and in church. The birth of Jesus was the reason for the season, and I never told my children there was a Santa Claus. The first gift they unwrapped was always the wooden Christ figure for the creche, in a golden box marked “Unto Us”. These traditions were rich, comforting, and firm. I think they provided many benefits to my four young children. As the children grew, our family made Christmas about broader values. We supported needy families, donated to organizations that contributed to world causes, and gave gifts that were homemade or from sustainable sources. As my children became young adults, we approached our holiday traditions with hard questions about life and meaning and community. What is truly holy and valuable to us? How do we celebrate the divine spark in all of life? Perhaps the most poignant question became “What is our family now that Dad has died?” Transitions are the hallmark of growth. Things that are growing change; living things evolve. There are Universal transitions that are holy. December 21 is the Winter Solstice, when the Earth is furthest from the Sun and daylight is at its ebb. This year, Saturn and Jupiter will align on that day. And three of my children will be living in Oregon with me. The list of transitions our family has braved over the last year is weighty. It includes several moves, relationship changes, and my mother’s death. In the midst of all these changes, we remember and celebrate the thing that makes a Holy Season: the invitation to Love and the recognition of divine presence in every living thing.

I’m sure that for many people around the world, this will be a Holiday Season that seems very unusual, perhaps quite unsettling. I wish us all the Peace of knowing that transition and change is intrinsic to Life. May we reach out in holy Love and celebrate the divine presence in all living things, expressing our gratitude and committing to doing good.

Thank you, Ann-Christine, for hosting this week’s challenge