Lens-Artists Challenge: What a Treat!

Trick or Treat? It’s all in the attitude. An attitude of gratitude can turn your perception around completely. 

“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.” — Tecumseh

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” — Voltaire 

Today, I am most appreciative of being able to spend the last two months caring for my mother in hospice. She died on Thursday evening, quickly, peacefully, willingly and with the promise to “haunt us”, a comment she delivered in the last week with a twinkle in her eye. What a treat to have been able to move cross-country in pandemic conditions and to find myself unemployed and free to be at her side when her illness became apparent. Those circumstances might seem upsettingly tricky, but truly, I wouldn’t have missed these last weeks by her side for anything on earth. My mother was a widely acknowledged treasure!

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Learning how to work with your thoughts and receive the pleasures that are all around us is a great trick, one that contributes to wisdom and health. 

“Stressed is desserts spelled backwards.” — Unknown

May all your sorrows become sweetness in the joy of being! 


Thanks to Tina for hosting this challenge and sharing her amazing wild animal photos! I am so grateful that there are still some wild places left on the planet, and so concerned about their destruction. I recommend the documentary David Attenborough: A Life on This Planet (Netflix) as an excellent narrative on this issue, with hopeful solutions. 

 

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: Communication

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky

Author Terry Tempest Williams spoke at the Madison Public Library a couple of years ago. I eagerly listened to her tell stories of her creative process and her life as an environmental activist. As an advocate for Nature, she is a voice in the political arena, speaking and writing for a crucial entity that has no verbal communication of its own. Often her advocacy comes down to what she calls “Difficult Dinner Parties” where she engages with leaders of various types in discussions of how their actions and policies affect the environment. 

In today’s political climate, there could be many reasons why hosting a “Difficult Dinner Party” might be advantageous for coming to understand a different point of view from friends, colleagues, even loved ones. Unfortunately, due to the threat of coronavirus, getting together for dinner isn’t an option in many cases.

Consequently, communication in a convivial setting has been hampered. To me, that’s a sad thing. I think it’s a morale-buster. Maybe it’s not the biggest problem we face in these difficult times, but I sure do miss a good dinner party — the preparation, the anticipation, the conversation, the communication of shared food, shared words, shared ideas, shared affection.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
― Fred Rogers

How many different cultures have a ritual of gathering together at table to confer? Conference tables still occupy the high-rise offices of the most sophisticated enterprises. Maybe they only serve water and coffee, but the origin seems the same to me. 

“Communication is truth; communication is happiness. To share is our duty; to go down boldly and bring to light those hidden thoughts which are the most diseased; to conceal nothing; to pretend nothing; if we are ignorant to say so; if we love our friends to let them know it.”
― Virginia Woolf

Here’s hoping that around the globe, we will be able to return to conversation around the table, that we will create safe and hospitable places and times to communicate directly and honestly, that we will come together to build bonds of understanding and friendship.

Thanks to our guest host for this week’s challenge theme, a horse named Biasini. I’m sure you’ll want to follow the link to learn more about that!

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!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pick a Word

Comfortable

Growing

Tangled

Untangled

Crowded

Spacious

Exuberant

Lethargic

For this week’s Photo Challenge, Ann-Christine gives us a list of words to illustrate. I threw in a couple of antonyms as well, just for fun. Join Lens-Artists and play along!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Everyday Objectives

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ― Annie Dillard

I moved to Oregon from Wisconsin in order to be closer to my adult children, in order to spend more time with them, in order to make the special occasion of a family gathering into a more frequent habit – not to make it less special, but to make it more accessible. 

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday, we celebrated my birthday and a host of other August birthdays in our extended circle of family and friends. There were 15 people on the Zoom call with six of us present at my new place. 

If every day you see people you love who love you back, if every day you have food to eat, then I should think that each of your days would give you occasion to be grateful. 

“In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”
― Lao Tzu

Still life is still life. I am grateful for food and tools and objects of beauty. I am amazed at how these things can be used to create meaning and purpose and alleviate suffering. My heart is mindful of many who are suffering in the pandemic, the wildfires, the process of aging, the loneliness of separation. I wish them comfort; I send them love. 

Special thanks to Patti, our host for this week’s challenge