Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: AT HOME

“Is this home?
Is this where I should learn to be happy?
Never dreamed
That a home could be dark and cold.
I was told
Every day in my childhood:
Even when we grow old
‘Home will be where the heart is’ –
Never were words so true.
My heart’s far, far away;
Home is too.”

April in Wisconsin is mating season for wild turkeys. And it still snows periodically. Looks like November, but it isn’t.

Amy picks a perfect topic for this week’s Photo Challenge, one that has been foremost on my mind lately — Home.

In November 2017, I moved into a rental house on 56 acres of Nature Preserve in Wisconsin with my partner, Steve, and the inventory of his online book business. 

My kids senior portraits from High School reside on the bottom shelf of my grandmother’s Welsh dresser, along with other “artifacts” from Steve’s collection.

Three of my adult children then moved from Chicago to Oregon. They had grown up in Illinois where we had a home in the suburbs before my husband died. We each had a tough time transitioning from that stable place, that nuclear family center, to our own individual lives and partnerships. Through it all, we have maintained our loving bond and our sense of belonging to each other. 

Finally, a year before the Coronavirus became news, I decided to separate from Steve and began planning a cross-country move to be closer to my kids.

I am deeply engaged in the process of establishing HOME for myself. I think the first step is finding clarity in its definition. If home is where the heart is, my home is with my family, with the children my husband and I loved into being. My heart is always with them. This is not an easy time to be a young adult. I want to be able to support them in their journeys toward maturity and purpose in this troubled world. 

I had planned an April vacation with my oldest child, who lives here in Madison, to visit the rest of the family in Oregon. Those travel plans got cancelled. We have been using social technology to share thoughts, pictures, videos, and “Game Night” instead.

The faces I miss seeing in real life.

“Is this home?
Am I here for a day or forever?
Shut away
From the world until who-knows-when.
Oh, but then
As my life has been altered once
It can change again.
Build higher walls around me,
Change every lock and key.
Nothing lasts;
Nothing holds all of me.
My heart’s far, far away,
Home and free!”
~ ‘Home’ from Beauty and the Beast, lyrics by Tim Rice

The driveway and our front yard are both expansive, for sure.

I probably have no legitimate reason for feeling stuck during this lockdown. I have plenty of room to move around. But my brain had been set on change, and the change is on hold. I have more time to focus on the status quo.

Steve plays the philosopher host.

I am still in this house with Steve. We are best friends, both helping each other as much as we can to learn who we are and where we truly belong. We both want happiness, for ourselves and for each other. We have lived together for 12 years and had amazing adventures. We have looked deeply at our hearts and discerned, without blame, that we find spiritual wholeness in different places.

That place of spiritual wholeness — I think that is home.

How do you know your Home?

 

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: Going Back

“There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed.
Some forever, not for better;
Some have gone but some remain.”
~ ‘In My Life’ by The Beatles

During this time of staying “Safer At Home”, I have begun a photo project converting snapshots in my family albums to digital files so that I can share them online with my loved ones, most of whom live on the West Coast while I live in Wisconsin. Scanning these precious images, I keep returning to a very special vacation spot that has been in the family for four generations.

We call it simply The Cottage. It’s a beach house built on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan some time in the 1940s by my father’s parents. My father first brought my mother there when they were courting as college students at Harvard/Radcliffe in the mid 1950s. I spent long weekends and extended weeks there in the summers while I was growing up. Here are some images from the party we had for my third birthday.

I last visited The Cottage with my mother, my sister and brother, my husband, and my four children in 2007, following my oldest daughter’s college graduation. 

To me, The Cottage will always be about the feeling of summer freedom. Walking right out the front door onto the beach at any time, free to explore the sand, the water, the endless horizon, the numerous bits of driftwood and stone, I felt that my life was my own to create. We built sand castles, buried each other up to our chins in sand, jumped waves, collected “glassies”, scared seagulls, threw balls and Frisbees, and lit campfires. I wanted my children to have that same freedom.

We also challenged ourselves to bigger adventures, like canoeing down the White River and riding over the huge dunes, and treated ourselves to local summer pleasures, like root beer and ice cream. 

Freedom and fun are the summer hopes of many children. In the present climate, these are threatened. But these are not frivolous dreams, these are the experiences that demand and build real growth. The ability to make choices and the motivation to make choices for joy must be modeled for the next generations. Limiting choices to staying insular, to keeping things as they are out of fear, is a dangerous example to give our children.

I fervently wish for this global pandemic to teach us the moral lessons we need to learn about continuing exploration and adaptation while treating all living things with compassion and wisdom. May each of you be safe and healthy while you look forward to freedom and fun.

Thank you, John, for hosting this week’s challenge and inviting us to go back into our travels, to remember fondly and to learn.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Simplicity

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

“Three Rules of Work: out of clutter, find simplicity; from discord, find harmony; in the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” ~ Albert Einstein

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

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it; there ain’t nothing to it. Einstein said we could never understand it all.” ~ James Taylor

Patti is perfectly appropriate in her challenge theme this week, Simplicity. Stay home, wash your hands, spend time by yourself. May we all grow wiser, more grateful, and more compassionate during this break from “normalcy”. 

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.  

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A River Runs Through It

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

The Wisconsin River runs through Rocky Arbor State Park

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

The Green River flows through the Dinosaur National Monument campground

“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.”
― David Brower

Gunnison River, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Heraclitus

Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, Michigan

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” Khalil Gibran

The Green River, Kentucky

“Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River, where Paradise lay. Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking. Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.”
― John Prine

Wyalusing State Park, where the Mississippi and the Wisconsin Rivers meet

What does Nature teach us when we stand beside a river, ever flowing, ever changing, where life and death coexist in a dynamic dance?
Pay attention. We are one with the river. We can accept its flow. We can steer toward the depths. We do not conquer it. 

Thank you, Amy, for inviting us to contemplate and visualize rivers. They are great teachers. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Chaos

Perhaps presciently, Ann-Christine chose the theme of CHAOS for this week’s Photo Challenge even before the pandemic was declared.  

What an interesting word – indeed, an interesting concept. I suspect that only human beings, with their big brains and their social biology, even experience chaos. I imagine chaos to be attributed to a situation that evokes a kind of fear, but on a more complex level than a fear for one’s basic survival. 

Social chaos, for example.

Probably most of us have experienced the confusing disorder of emotions and associations that might be described as social chaos. Where do I fit in? How do I connect? Do my feelings mesh with anyone else’s? These thoughts can be quite unsettling to me, but I don’t imagine spiders or starfish or blue jays dealing with that kind of survival anxiety.

Some humans believe that we have a superior gift for bringing order out of chaos. I look at homeowners blowing those untidy leaves off of their driveway in the fall, and I wonder if they imagine they are making the world more orderly while forgetting that our suburban consumption creates chaotic waste in much greater proportions.  

 

If chaos provokes a kind of fear or discomfort, then each of us probably has a different threshold of tolerance for it. And each of us can probably reset that threshold with a bit of work. How comfortable can you become with disorder, ambiguity, or uncertainty? I have to admit that I found parenting to be a great exercise in adaptation to chaos. There were plenty of times that I wasn’t in control of the situation, but I survived, and I certainly learned a lot…and I actually enjoyed it. 

There is plenty to learn in the present climate of global chaos in the human family. There are certainly many questions with unknown answers. There is confusion and ambiguity and anxiety about how we fit together, how we feel, and how we ought to act. And this is going on at a very high level of cognitive function. It is a situation that is created in our big brains. 

At the same time, in the world outside our big brains, Nature is functioning as usual. Organisms emerge, populations respond, life and death dance together in fascinating rhythm. I find this incredibly peaceful, a perfect antidote to chaos. Breathing in the assurance of Nature’s presence, I am strengthened for the work of being a human. It’s not easy work. We have a lot of responsibility. But the first responsibility is being aware of who we are as a species. May we be humble. May we be kind to every being on the Tree of Life. 

Happy Centennial + 8, Girl Scouts of America!

On March 12, 1912, Juliette Low founded the Girl Scouts of America with a troop of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia.   I became a Brownie Girl Scout on Jan. 21, 1970.  My mother was already a leader with one of my older sisters’ troops.  I stayed in Scouting through my senior year of High School, and then became a Daisy and Brownie leader when my youngest girls were in kindergarten and first grade.  Here is proof of my dedication to this fine organization: my fifth grade school picture.

School picture day just happened to be the same day that I had a meeting after school.  We were encouraged to wear our uniforms to meetings.  So, because I was an obedient child and followed the rules, I have this historic photo to prove that I was a bona fide Girl Scout at the age of 10.  I found it pretty embarrassing at the time, though, to be the only child in uniform for the class composite photo.  Ah well, there’s a nerd in every class.  Oh, this photo also supports the story I told about visiting Hawaii and being mistaken for a boy.  One could also have mistaken me for a chipmunk.

What was great about Girl Scouts?  Camping.  Singing silly songs.  Downhill skiing.  Climbing to the top of the Statue of Liberty in my uniform and platform shoes.  Sneaking out of my tent in the full moonlight and posing as a statue along a State Park road.  Skinny dipping.  Roasting marshmallows.  Learning a whole bunch of useful skills, like swimming and first aid.  Meeting other girls from all over the country at a national event and feeling accepted.  Gaining confidence in my capacity to learn and be responsible.

What will I always retain from Girl Scouts?  My love of the outdoors.  My ability to build a fire.  My enthusiasm for hiking up a mountain in the hot sun. My desire to be helpful and do good deeds.  Here’s proof from this decade:

Team Galasso at the Diabetes fund-raiser

So, Girl Scouts, how about a chorus of the old song:

Girl Scouts together that is our song
Winding the old trails, rocky and long
Learning our motto, living our creed
Girl Scouts together in every good deed.

Happy Birthday, Girls!!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbols of My Father

Reposting from July 10, 2015; my dad died 10 years ago on March 19:

Today is my father’s birthday.  He’s been dead for 5 years, but his influence on my life has been incredibly profound.  I look through my photos and recognize him in symbolic images that point to something he represented in my life.  Representation is a well-developed part of human culture.  We use it in language, art, religion, philosophy, identity and so many other ways.  The real challenge we ‘civilized’ folk have is to strip away representations and come face-to-face with actual entities.  My father was highly educated and an educator himself.  His facility with symbol was quite advanced: he was a mathematician and a writer and combined those skills in his career as a Technical Writer.  I am grateful for the symbols I still see that remind me of his life, his personality, his love. 

My photos are valuable symbols to me.  Especially when I can’t access the actual things they represent.  GWHII RIP 2I miss you, Dad.  Rest in peace.

Symbol