“Autumn wins you best by this its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.”― Robert Browning
Last week’s Photo Challenge was all about Autumn color, the beautiful garb of aging, death and decay. How appropriate that Tina chooses for this week’s challenge the idea of how dilapidated, vintage, older things that have “seen better days” capture the photographer’s eye as things of loveliness and interest.
“The love of old things is a way of respecting time.” ― Wu Ming-Yi
“Of all the footprints, that of the elephant is supreme. Similarly, of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme.” ― Gautama Buddha
The more I study the beauty of aging and death, the more I am drawn into the transformation of cells and matter. Consider that Life is marked by change, that change is the continuation of Life in new forms. Below is a photo of a petrified tree stump in the Flourissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado, illustrating the change from vegetable into mineral.
Is it any wonder we photographers are fascinated by the visual evidence of the dance of Life and Time? As humans, we are definitely a part of this process. As humans, we take our experience and create Art to celebrate it.
Blue ‘Shroom, I saw you standing alone…. It’s a lactarius indigo edible mushroom. The latex or milk that oozes from it turns from blue or blue/gray to green when it is cut open. I’ve only seen this one.
And what’s wrong with this picture?
Boys in shorts, green grass and blooming flowers, and…snow on the ground? Okay, I’m kidding. That’s not snow. It’s flower petals from the tree overhead.
What about these? Anything ODD about this place?
Yeah. It’s all weird. I don’t get humans. I’m sticking to Nature Photography. 😉
I found an essay called “The Body and The Earth” by Wendell Berry in The Unsettling of America published in 1977. It is an extremely articulate and broad analysis of that “spherical network” that moves fluidly from agriculture, to Shakespeare and suicide, to sexual differences and divisions, and more. Here is an excerpt from the beginning which describes the mythic human dilemma:
“Until modern times, we focused a great deal of the best of our thought upon such rituals of return to the human condition. “Seeking enlightenment or the Promised Land or the way home, a man would go or be forced to go into the wilderness, measure himself against the Creation, recognize finally his true place within it, and thus be saved both from pride and from despair.
“Seeing himself as a tiny member of a world he cannot comprehend or master or in any final sense possess, he cannot possibly think of himself as a god.
“And by the same token, since he shares in, depends upon, and is graced by all of which he is a part, neither can he become a fiend; he cannot descend into the final despair of destructiveness.
“Returning from the wilderness, he becomes a restorer of order, a preserver. He sees the truth, recognizes his true heir, honors his forebears and his heritage, and gives his blessing to his successors. He embodies the passing of human time, living and dying within the human limits of grief and joy.”
Human limits. Humility. Our struggles, our desires, our wants, our hopes and feelings of elation are not the stuff to tilt the planet. There is a rightness outside of our sphere. I like to remember that perspective each time I encounter the “world wide web” of hype and OMG! and products and extracting resources and cruelty and pettiness.
This photo challenge is one of those too-easy ones. What photographer doesn’t have a picture of his/her family? So, how do I do it uniquely? Well, the simple answer is that every family is unique, so any photo of my particular family will be unique. Having already stretched my little gray cells in composing another post this morning(Model Behavior), I’m going to take a pretty direct route on this one. “My family” could be my family of origin or the one that I built and raised. In this case, though, I’m going to show you 3 generations of my family. Three women, to be more specific. Three brown-eyed eldest daughters. Three highly intelligent, brown-eyed eldest daughters. Three creative, well-educated, highly intelligent, brown-eyed eldest daughters…who can cook and knit and make music and converse about practically anything under the sun. Their accomplishments and credentials are staggering. I am in awe of them. And very proud. May I present: my sister Sarah, my mother, and my daughter Susan. Sarah’s got a Master’s degree in Anthropology and Museum studies. My mother has an undergrad degree in English from Radcliffe (now merged with Harvard) and a Master’s in church music (or nearly…not sure if she completed that). My daughter has a Master’s degree in Linguistics. They are voracious readers and always have been. I listen to threads of shared knowledge dance and weave through their conversations, and I marvel at the connections that bridge the generations. And I realize that even if they weren’t related by blood, they would be related by the experience and consciousness of their humanity. And THAT is something that makes us all…..FAMILY.
Internet news gives me a stomach ache. I just feel sick after browsing through photos and videos and stories about cruelty, stupidity, fear, and all kinds of petty, human activity. I really appreciate bloggers and others who post genuine evidence of our more noble capabilities. Although, sometimes this is attributed to “angels among us” or some non-human inspiration. Is kindness not a human trait? Justice? Wisdom? What do we gain by hesitating to credit people for exhibiting these admirable qualities and then splashing our media with all the “awkward” examples we can fit on a screen? Bleh…I just feel like I’ve been gorging on rancid movie popcorn. Humans plugged into more and more machinery, morphing into robo-sapiens, give me the same sour taste.
Please, somebody show me a living mensch! A human being, acting gracefully. Are there so few left? Browsing through my photo file, I realize that only a handful of pictures actually contain people. Is it because I find beauty in nature and form and so rarely in mankind?
Here’s one I did uncover. I took this shot last March. It shows a retired thespian giving a presentation to school kids on the process of making maple sugar one hundred years ago. He’s describing hand made tools, telling the story as if he were remembering his boyhood. He peppers his talk with jokes to make the kids laugh and pay attention. He is a teacher of old ways, engaging with new minds, passing on a respect for trees. He’s not doing it for remuneration or applause, he’s doing it because it’s important to him. And I think he’s a good example. Can you show me others? My stomach will thank you!
Still learning basics on my new Canon Rebel T3i. Yesterday, I went out for a walk. Here are some things I found:
This last photo I’ve titled “Up and to the right”. Like the graph of increasing complication showing that line going “up and to the right”. Speaking of which, I am now using Canon’s EOS photo processing software…a whole lotta new tools to learn how to use. Sometimes, I just want to rebel and go back to stick drawings in the dirt. Maybe my Rebel will remind me of that. Makes me think of one of my favorite movies: The Gods Must Be Crazy. Seriously, how did we get so incredibly technical in our tools and so dull at human interaction? Grocery store clerk yesterday seemed to look right through me as she asked me if I wanted help bagging up my purchases. For contrast: I found a privately owned gas station in my town where the owner hopped out of the office to pump my gas for me. “Stop by again; I’ll take good care of you,” he said. Price was 4 cents less per gallon than the Mobil station 2 blocks down. Let’s not turn into robots, even if computers can take good pictures.
The world is gearing up for another Olympic Games. National pride, sportsmanship, individual performance, athleticism, courage, and victory will be concepts that will get much press in the near future, I suspect. I like to push out the boundaries of concepts and see how they all interconnect and create a bigger picture. In this arena, I’m going to put all of those issues under one large banner: humanity. The Olympics give us an opportunity to look at humanity, albeit through a particular lens, and witness ourselves. What do we have in common? What are the responses available to us in certain circumstances? How do role models give us a glimpse into the possibilities we carry in ourselves? When I was growing up in the 70s, I would glue myself to the TV and soak in all those “up close and personal” stories. I found them fascinating and inspiring. Now that I have lived to be (almost) 50, I have lived some stories of my own that have taught me about being human. One of those is the story of watching my husband die of diabetes.
Human beings experience suffering; that’s one thing we all have in common. We can learn information and we can gain understanding and compassion by looking into that suffering and asking questions. What is causing this suffering? How does it feel? How can I help? The Galasso family looked into diabetes for the first time in 1991, when Jim was diagnosed. After he died in 2008, my oldest, Susan, came up with a way that we could help those who suffer from it. She organized the first Team Galasso and walked with 2 of her siblings in a fund-raiser event in Urbana, IL sponsored by the American Diabetes Association. The next year, she moved to Madison and Steve and I walked with her. Last year, the entire family gathered in Madison (including Susan’s fiance, Andy) to continue the effort. This year, the walk is being held on Jim’s birthday, August 26. How fitting is that?!
Team Galasso 2011
I invite you all to participate in this Team effort by making a donation to the ADA via my sponsor page here. I also invite you to spend some time considering your part in Team Humanity, asking your own questions about being human, about suffering, about living in a body. Who do you want to be? How do you want to live? What will your life model and inspire? My youngest daughter got her first tattoo a few months ago. She chose a typewriter font over her left shoulder, above her heart, to illustrate one of her dad’s most memorable maxims: “Pain is inevitable; misery is optional.” I am honored to be part of this team, this family of humanity. I want to acknowledge and include every member and recognize that each one is trying to work out the answers to those questions, even though there are destructive results in the process. I’ve had mine, you’ve had yours. We can learn and do better. I believe that. Thank you for your participation!