Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A Quiet Moment

“Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself.” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

Patti’s challenge this morning is to capture on camera a quiet moment. 

“All of our great traditions – religious, contemplative and artistic- say that you must a learn how to be alone and have a relationship with silence. It is difficult, but it can start with just the tiniest quiet moment.” ~ David Whyte

I am spending a quiet weekend taking care of my friends’ dogs in their home while they are away. Like me, they don’t own a TV, they are musicians, and they love walking in nature. Walking their dogs is a pleasure. 

Their dogs are very mellow in the daytime and rather vigilant at night. Nocturnal animals in the backyard bring them out of a seemingly sound sleep and propel them downstairs, barking. This is the first time I’ve shared a bed with dogs overnight. Hence, I’m enjoying a very quiet next day to catch up on my rest and take notes on how to enjoy silence and solitude. 

“In the quiet moments of your day, what do you think and do? When you are with your Self and no one else, how does life proceed for you? Who are you when you are alone? Self-creation is a Holy Experience. It is sacred. It is you, deciding Who You Are.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

May your quiet moments bring you the joy of Self-creation.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: One Single Flower

“When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.”
Amanda McBroom

Last week, we Lens-Artists were on the long and winding road. This week, hosted by Cee, we are in search of One Single Flower

In the first verse of the song The Rose (quoted above) there is the line, “I say love, it is a flower…”

 

“May our heart’s garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.”― Thich Nhat Hanh

What other flowers grow in your garden? 

The Lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the Lotus produces the most beautiful flower.

“Practice until you see yourself in the cruelest person on Earth, in the child starving, in the political prisoner. Continue until you recognize yourself in everyone in the supermarket, on the street corner, in a concentration camp, on a leaf, in a dewdrop. Meditate until you see yourself in a speck of dust in a distant galaxy. See and listen with the whole of your being. If you are fully present, the rain of Dharma will water the deepest seeds in your consciousness, and tomorrow, while you are washing the dishes or looking at the blue sky, that seed will spring forth, and love and understanding will appear as a beautiful flower.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: The Long and Winding Road

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep  moving forward.”

― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Congratulations to the Lens-Artists on their 100th week of photo challenges and for building an artistic community that reflects vision and awareness!

I have not participated in all 100 of the challenges; I joined in at week #13. This week, Tina is our host, and she puts together a beautiful and moving post incorporating the theme and thoughts surrounding current world events. Her inspiration is spot on.

We live in challenging times. The struggle to move forward despite grave difficulties threatening survival is a real one. Whenever I am feeling the need to get emotionally grounded for the journey, I head outside for natural inspiration. This afternoon, as I walked the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, I noticed all the biodiversity of a summer woodland scene and the competition for sunlight. There were millions of maple seeds that had sprouted and created a blanket of living green on the forest floor. 

I realized that very few of those delicate sprouts would become seedlings and that even fewer would grow to maturity. Survival and survival strategies are complex and interrelated among all species. And yet each organism is hardwired to try to survive…somehow.

Looking at the teeming abundance of green in a June woodland, you have to respect that Life seeks to survive. I think of myself as a Biophile. I love Life. I think is it beautiful, interesting, awesome, and sacred. 

A humble respect for Life is paramount to the health of our Planet and to civilization. The peril of the arrogant human practice of willfully extinguishing Life is realized in a million different examples throughout history. Life has plenty of healthy self-regulating systems already in place. A much more useful human practice is kindness, wonder, and love. 

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We certainly have a long way to go on the road toward a reality of unarmed truth and unconditional love. Best to strap on our hiking boots and take steps. 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Delicate Colors

Ann-Christine, our challenge host this week, is inspired by “the soft glory of spring nature in my part of the world”. She lives in Sweden, a country I’ve never visited but with which I feel a kind of kindred knowledge as a resident of a northern state – Wisconsin. After a long winter, there is nothing more repeatedly astonishing as the bursting forth of delicate spring color. The leaves here are growing larger each day but have that yellow brilliance that will soon mellow into a sturdier green. Now, they accent a blue sky with a light-filled tenderness that is truly inspiring.

Here in my front yard, the apple trees and crabapple trees have finally burst into blossom. Their colors are so delicate that the midday sun gives them a rather harsh brilliance.

They are much more ethereal in the mist of a spring rain.

In my photographs, I often get a thrill from a good pop of color. I get a much deeper sense of awe from the soft color that I sometimes catch without really knowing how.

I guess the trick to this kind of soft color outside is indirect sunlight and moist air. One of the shots in the gallery above was actually taken indoors. The fern was in a conservatory greenhouse exhibit.

It’s finally Spring, though, and what I really want to do is just get outdoors into the sun and put my feet up!

Wishing you all health, safety, and ease this weekend. 🙂 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pastimes

I am so happy to join my blogger friend Sue (Mac’s Girl) in her photo challenge! We share the experience of living in the Chicagoland area and became WordPress colleagues several years ago.  We have visited many of the same nature areas and museums.

For this challenge, Sue invites photos of pastimes or hobbies.

Yes, I collected stamps for a while as a child. I was a Girl Scout and learned skills like embroidery and knitting. I never spent a lot of time doing crafts (I generally don’t have the patience), but when I worked as a costumed interpreter at Old World Wisconsin, crafting was part of the job. It helped pass the time between guest visits, and it helped create artifact replicas that could be used by that living history museum.

Back in the 19th century, spinning and weaving and sewing wouldn’t really be pastimes or crafts, they would be necessary activities.

Home economics has changed dramatically with technology, but these basic skills represent sustainable living, in my view, and I’d be glad to see them passed down for future generations. 

My favorite pastime, however, is jigsaw puzzling. My grandmother owned several Pastime Puzzles, the kind made of wood and intricately designed. They contained iconic shapes like apples and hats and wheelbarrows and hearts along with curly “gazintas” – the piece that “goes in ta” the others. 

Growing up, my family would work together on these beautiful puzzles while a fire roared in the fireplace, staving off the winter chill and the Christmas vacation boredom.

I later discovered that this passion for puzzling could become a cottage industry. When I was a partner in Scholar & Poet Books, we bought over 300 cardboard jigsaw puzzles at a church rummage sale, put them together to ensure that they weren’t missing pieces, photographed them, and sold them on our e-Bay store.

I couldn’t begin to calculate the number of hours we spent together talking and assembling these puzzles, sometimes late into the night. Our biggest one was 3000 pieces. We developed a kind of system that played to our strengths. Steve was the “sky expert”. He was adept at matching shape and didn’t mind that all the pieces were the same color. I was the “detail expert”. I looked at what was visible on the piece and how the colors and objects made up the whole picture. I was also the “sorter”. I would pour out a few handfuls of pieces into a shallow box lid and find the edge pieces. I would use 8″x10″ box lids and stack them so that they didn’t take up too much room on the dining room table while still displaying the pieces in a single layer. Once the framed edge was in place, we’d fill in the rest, consolidating box lids as they emptied out. Eventually, we’d get down to sorting the almost indistinguishable ones by shape – the two-knobbed, the 3-knobbed, etc. We made up names for the standard shapes like H-pieces and “spadey-feet”. We didn’t come across very many with “gazintas” unless they were puzzles of a certain vintage.

During these hours of sorting and assembling, we would talk over all sorts of subjects and ideas. Often, we’d listen to music together as well. We don’t own a TV, so this was our evening and weekend entertainment, especially when the Wisconsin weather was dreary or harsh. I imagine that pastimes were developed just to create such intimate time in a household. I hope that one grace that emerges from these quarantine times is that more people leave screens behind and develop the ability to spend quality time creating something intimate and sustaining, face to face. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Cropping

For this week’s Lens-Artists’ challenge, Patti schools us on cropping images. This is a challenge of technique, and she suggests that cropping can be used to:

1. Simplify the shot by getting rid of distractions.

2. Improve the shot by focusing on the best part of the composition.

3. Change the meaning of the image by emphasizing certain aspects.

4. Create an abstract.

My first reaction to this challenge was a sort of disappointment. So many of the recent challenge themes have been very emotional: Home…Distance…Going Back. Creating those posts was therapeutic for me. How do I take this technique and use it to allow myself the emotional therapy I need this morning? (And yes, I need emotionally therapeutic activity this morning!!)

So, that’s a challenge.

Here’s a photo I took in November when I was out on a solo walk at a wildlife refuge nearby:What was I feeling that afternoon as I strolled through the refuge, alone with my thoughts?

I remember that I was looking for the familiar solace of a natural view, something focused on the journey forward, with hope in the distance. I also remember that I was feeling quite alone. Then again, in creating this composition, it might make all the difference just to pay attention to the present situation, to the path I am walking right now, and take the next few steps in full awareness of where I am. Perhaps what I really meant to convey in this photograph all along was the complete picture: the backstory, the now, and the not-yet. They all exist simultaneously.

I find this a very interesting exercise…but not the most compelling image.
Maybe this one?

That’s my daughter and her pup…in Oregon…where I’ll be moving. This is what compels me, emotionally. I feel pulled forward on that leash.
Do you feel it?

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: All Wet

“A normal lake is knowable. A Great Lake can hold all the mysteries of an ocean, and then some.”
― Dan Egan, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” ― Henry David Thoreau

“A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.” William Wordsworth

When Tina invited me to delve into my photo archives for a look at something All Wet, I immediately thought of Lake Michigan.

This truly Great Lake is an old friend. I have visited its shores while living in Illinois and Wisconsin and while vacationing in Michigan and Indiana. I have been to the northernmost shore and the southernmost. It always impresses me with its size.

Four generations of my family have submerged themselves in its waters. I knew it as a playground when I was a little girl. I worked in a museum on its shores half a century later and came to know more of its power and importance. 

I find it unfathomable in every sense because there’s so much to know and imagine about its history, its living presence, and its intricate and moody details. I will leave you with a gallery of images to peak your curiosity. 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Morning

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”  – Marcus Aurelius

Thank you, Ann-Christine, for such a positive invitation in this week’s Photo Challenge, and for sharing your sunshiny morning amid new growth.

I have to admit that I’m struggling these days, and this morning, I lay in my flannel sheets, sinking into the Memory Foam mattress and wondering what reason I might have to get up. The sun was shining, though, and temperatures that had been below freezing every morning for a week were promised to rise to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the day.

Yesterday, I started doing a morning yoga routine with an online video. Last weekend, I had a hula hoop and a jump rope delivered to my house so that I could “play outside” like I used to when I was a kid. So, I started my day with a little exercise. I am normally a “morning person”. I like to get up and get going on some project and then slow down as the day progresses. I like big breakfasts. I like adventures. I like long views as I’m starting out. I love camping and waking up to the promise of an exciting day. 

“Silently the morning mist is lying on the water
Captive moonlight waiting for the dawn
Softly like a baby’s breath, a breeze begins to whisper
The sun is coming, quick you must be gone
Smiling like a superstar the morning comes in singing
The promise of another sunny day
And all the flowers open up to gather in the sunshine
I do believe that summer’s here to stay
Do you care what’s happening around you?
Do your senses know the changes when they come?
Can you see yourselves reflected in the season?
Can you understand the need to carry on?” ~ John Denver, “Summer” from Season Suite

In the present circumstances, it’s easy to feel stuck. I’m missing the trip I should be on right now. This morning, I was supposed to be waking up in a house with my four adult children, whom I haven’t seen for six months. My big plans are on hold. The cross-country move I’ve been planning for a year will have to be postponed for at least a month. 

However…the Universe is still unfolding, if not on my timeline, then on its own. New growth and new adventure will appear, new days will dawn, and I will rise up to meet them. 

That shadow on the rock is me taking a selfie with the rising sun behind me at Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.

Here’s to morning meditations with a new hike on the horizon! I believe I will have that experience again. Meanwhile, I will practice patience and gratitude. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Distance

“God is watching us…from a distance.” ― Julie Gold

Tina is our host for this week’s photo challenge, and she takes up an appropriate theme: Distance, using quotes from a song by Julie Gold. Tina mentions that Bette Midler made the song famous, but my favorite version was recorded by Nanci Griffith. She sings it like an activist, as a protest song. It puts the responsibility for wars, poverty, disease, and hunger squarely on us. When you look at planet Earth from a distance, you don’t see these things. They are human inventions. 

You may argue with me about disease being a human invention. My point is simply that a virus or a bacteria is another organism in Nature. The value judgment on it is our concept.

That being said, what I’m thinking about distance right now is that it’s difficult. Last night, through the technology of Zoom, I spent two hours with my kids, my sister, and my niece who live a couple of thousand miles away on the West Coast. Yesterday was my middle daughter’s birthday; today is my niece’s; tomorrow is my daughter-in-law’s. We were trying to celebrate our life connection while social distancing. My plane tickets for the West Coast must be converted to credit, and I will miss seeing them for an indefinite time.

Distance, however, is just distance. It is part of the perspective of life and allows us to understand connection and proximity. I am hoping that we learn many valuable things during this time. I am hoping that I learn to appreciate and accept distance even while I long for closeness.

Here is a gallery of photos of my “Safer At Home” housemate. We’ve always sought out open spaces. 

And here’s a gallery of my West Coast kids, to whom I’m working on getting closer. My plan is to move to Oregon at the end of June.

As you navigate the space of this interesting situation, may you be safe and well, holding close what you deem most dear while appreciating the vastness of this wonderful world.