Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Old and New

 

 

Newton B. Drury, National Park Service Director, 1940-1951:

“The American way of life consists of something that goes greatly beyond the mere obtaining of
necessities of existence. If it means anything, it means that America presents to its citizens an opportunity to grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically. The National Park System and the work of the National Park Service constitute one of the Federal Government’s important contributions to that opportunity. Together they make it possible for all Americans–millions of them at first-hand–to enjoy unspoiled the great scenic places of the Nation…. The National Park System also provides, through areas that are significant in history and prehistory, a physical as well as spiritual linking of present-day Americans with the past of their country.”

This morning, the Lens Artists challenge is hosted by Amy, who asks us to share our interpretation of Old and New.

I sit here, as a writer, as a citizen, as a mother, as a human, with so many heightened emotions and anxieties and questions. The snapshot of where we are in history in the year 2020 is extremely perplexing. At the same time, ancient realities endure. The sun comes up, plants grow, mountains stand. And we homo sapiens, perhaps uniquely on the Tree of Life, have the opportunity and the responsibility to make meaning of Old and New and “grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically” in response to life as we see it.

I think that the National Parks present fitting illustrations of this endeavor to make meaning, to interpret, the realities around us. 

Wind Cave National Park (above) in South Dakota protects a vast area of caves and surface features that is stunning and mysterious. Imagine the relationship of ancient peoples to this powerful place. The Spirit breath coming from this opening in the Earth was understood to be creative and holy. Years of scientific exploration and analysis have not diminished that understanding. New interpretation does not erase the Old beliefs. Each drop of mineral-laden water inside still contributes to the process of creating formations of awe-inspiring beauty.

Dinosaur National Monument (above), on the border between Colorado and Utah, provides a very literal illustration of Old and New. The rock quarry containing “a dinosaur log jam”, as our guide described it, is now encased in a modern Visitor Center that protects and displays in situ more than 1,500 fossilized dinosaur bones from the late Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago. 

I am impressed by the way that the National Park Systems serves to respect and protect the Old and precious natural features of this country. Embracing that responsibility seems supremely wise to me. I am not impressed by Newness that disrespects and destroys ancient things, ways, and means.

And yes, I worked as an historic interpreter at a state museum, and I do have a personal preference for Old things over New.

When weighing the merits of Old and New concepts, I think that “respect and protect” is a good rule of thumb. Respect and protect LIFE, especially that life that is most vulnerable. This is an Old concept that deserves to be reNEWed – moment by moment. 

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: 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.