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 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: 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!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Inspiration

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes

Back in 2012, I participated in a WordPress Photo Challenge that asked what inspires me to blog. Here is my response. I am still inspired by all these things: caring for family (now it’s my mother who is in hospice with lung cancer), Nature (it still demands my maturity every day, especially with climate change dangers tangibly around me), grieving my husband’s death and caring for our children (which prompted me to move to Oregon to be near them), compassion for Life and our common suffering (spiritual lessons of positive and negative space inspire me every day), and education (there is always so much to learn). 

Today, in response to Tina’s challenge for the Lens-Artists this week, I revisit these inspirations.

Caregiving

“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”
― Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

Nature

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
― Maya Angelou

My children

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Compassion for Life

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
― Vincent Van Gogh

Education 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
― Socrates

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Negative Space

Amy, our Lens-Artists host this week, writes:

This week we will explore negative space in photography. Negative space is the area around the main subject of your photograph. This space is empty or unoccupied. Spencer Cox at Photography Life explains, ”Photos with high amounts of negative space are: empty, subdued, peaceful, calm, and isolated”.

If you’re familiar with this blog, you can imagine that I had all sorts of philosophical associations with the words “negative space”. Here I am in California, giving hospice care to my mother with lung cancer while the West Coast is on fire. Two of my children and their spouses live in Oregon, where I moved at the beginning of August, leaving Wisconsin. If you read the news, you know there is a lot of scary stuff going on in all of these places, a lot of “negative” energy.

However, now I know that “negative space” can just be the background that allows you to focus on a particular subject. Re-framing the shot, allowing the busy-ness surrounding the essential element to blur, highlights its unique and important features.

Empty, subdued, peaceful, calm and isolated.

So, maybe all of the disasters of 2020 are just the “negative space” that will allow us as humans to focus on what it supremely important about life on this planet. And what do you think that is? 

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A Labor of Love

“People all over the world honor their workers in a variety of ways. In the U.S., we honor those who labor by setting aside the first Monday of September as Labor Day. But world-wide, people pour themselves into their work — paid or unpaid — with commitment, ingenuity, and a sincere desire to make a difference. For them, work has become more than just work. It has become a LABOR OF LOVE.”
Rusha Sams, Oh the Places We See 

This week’s Lens-Artists photo theme is timely and beautifully illustrated and described by the guest host, Rusha Sams

Along with my two sisters, I am committing myself for the weekend and for the indefinite future to the care of my mother, who is now in hospice at home with lung cancer. I just arrived in town yesterday and am adjusting to the situation both physically and emotionally. So far, my proudest contribution is that I made her laugh. While raising her hospital bed, I said, “Second floor, ladies’ lingerie…” – an oldie that she used herself many times in the elevator at the senior living home she left last year. 

This blog post is dedicated to all the care-givers who labor in love to give support, succor, comfort, life-saving intervention, and all other forms of ongoing assistance to humans of every age and stage of life. I am appreciative, impressed, and inspired as I witness the process of caring change the lives of people I know intimately. In my own family, I picture loved ones involved in labors of childcare, massage, elder care, estate care, feeding, clothing, housing, and so many other acts as well as in the gracious receiving of care. I’ve seen and experienced the transformation of family relationships in the give-and-take of caring. A task done in love transcends the merely useful dimension and becomes a life-giving act for both initiator and recipient.

May your labors spread love both inwardly and outwardly, enriching your own life as you enrich others’ lives. Namaste!