Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pick a Park

“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Wallace Stegner, 1983

For this week’s photo challenge, Ann-Christine invites us to pick our own theme. I am pleased to show my enthusiasm for the National Park system here in the United States and choose “Pick a Park” as my theme. I have visited many of them across the nation, from Acadia National Park in Maine when I was a preschooler to Pinnacles National Park in California, which was designated a National Park rather than a National Monument in January 2013, the year before I visited. I have also visited a number of other nationally preserved sites – monuments, shores, riverways, caves…but not battlefields. I have participated in citizen science finding fossils at Badlands National Park; gone spelunking at Mammoth Cave, Carlsbad Caverns, and Wind Cave; witnessed geothermal activity at Yellowstone and Hawaii Volcanoes; rode a horse through Bryce Canyon; sailed around the Apostle Islands; camped in the Canyon of the Ancients; picnicked at Capital Reefs; hiked around the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains; and taken pictures at all those sites. And that’s just a small sampling of ways to interact with these astonishing Earth displays. Perhaps you may be planning a visit to one of our Parks yourself to do an activity I’ve never even tried!

“The American way of life consists of something that goes greatly beyond the mere obtaining of the 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.”
Newton B. Drury, NPS Director, 1940-1951

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A Change of Scenery

Spring Beauty

“The snow has not yet left the earth, but spring is already asking to enter your heart. If you have ever recovered from a serious illness, you will be familiar with the blessed state when you are in a delicious state of anticipation, and are liable to smile without any obvious reason. Evidently that is what nature is experiencing just now.” ― Anton Chekhov

The Vernal Equinox is here, announcing the first day of Spring! A change of scenery is about to unfold all around you, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. What have you seen so far? Crocuses? Daffodils? Forsythia?  

Have you sighted returning migratory birds like red-winged blackbirds, cranes, geese, robins? Have you witnessed any courtship rituals?

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Have you started any Spring projects yet? Cleaning, planting, or otherwise loving a change of scenery into being? 

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.”
― John Muir

It won’t be long now before the Earth shows on parade the joyful resilience of Life that we have come to know in the depths of our souls as HOPE. 

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

It has certainly been a long, strange, and anxious year. I welcome a change of scenery from the dreary outlook of fear, manifest in so many ways on so many levels. There is much to be learned from the long, dark time that we’ve been through, much to be brought into the sunlight and witnessed with new eyes and a new resolve. May we all do the work of Spring in our lives and enjoy the change of scenery that New Life brings!

 

Many thanks to Beth of Wandering Dawgs for hosting this Lens-Artists challenge and welcoming a Change of Scenery into our week!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Special Moments

“It only takes a moment
To be loved
A whole life long”
― Jerry Herman (from Hello, Dolly!)

Since moving to Oregon from Wisconsin last summer, I have had numerous “Pinch me!” moments when I can’t believe the everyday beauty of this place. I live in a studio apartment over the garage of a big house in a forest in the foothills of the Coastal Range. Travelling into town, I pass orchards and wineries and tree farms. My mailbox is .6 miles away. The creek is a few hundred feet downhill. It is quiet, secluded, wild in places, ever-changing, and constantly stunning. 

“The moments of happiness –
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning
Restores the experience in a different form
Beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness.
The past experience revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations.”
― T. S. Eliot (from Cats)

I often find myself in a moment of profound awareness of the beauty of my surroundings here. I have dreamed of living near mountains ever since I was 10 years old and traveled from the flatlands of Chicago to Colorado to visit my cousins. I was so envious of the views from their home and their proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park. I lived in California for 15 years, but always in a heavily populated area. Here, the mountains are forested and human dwellings are few and far between. It’s peaceful. It’s slow. It’s quiet.

“Let the moment go
Don’t forget it for a moment though

Just remembering you’ve had an ‘and’
When you’re back to ‘or’
Makes the ‘or’ mean more
Than it did before
Now I understand
And it’s time to leave the woods”
― Stephen Sondheim (from Into the Woods)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Natural Light

“Wake! For the Sun, who scatter’d into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav’n,
and strikes The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light”
― Omar Khayyám

Our eternal message of hope is that dawn will come.― Martin Luther King, Jr.

“And when the dawn comes creeping in,
Cautiously I shall raise
Myself to watch the daylight win.”
― D.H. Lawrence

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”― Henry David Thoreau

“Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”
― Annie Dillard

“There is nothing more musical than a sunset. He who feels what he sees will find no more beautiful example of development in all that book which, alas, musicians read but too little – the book of Nature.”
― Claude Debussy

Natural Light, the Sun, traces an arc in the sky each day, reminding us of how perspective changes with the passage of time. In every 24 hours, we witness hope, newness, growth, diminishment, and rest. That pattern is extended in a widening scope throughout history. It was my intention to choose words from writers who have observed and experienced the place of human beings in that cycle. Their voices mark the awareness of our longing to take our rightful place under the Sun, to know the wonder and beauty of living in dignity and in harmony with all things in Nature.

Thank you, Amy (The World Is A Book), for inviting us to reflect Natural Light in this Challenge.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Soft

“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?” ― Romeo

“Whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. What is soft is strong.”
― Lao Tzu

“Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft.” ― Pericles

“When you are old and gray and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.” ― William Butler Yeats

Thank you, Ann-Christine, for inviting us to interpret the word ‘soft’ for this week’s challenge. In the midst of a really hard time, globally, it’s nice to remember the softness that inspires and relaxes us. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: It’s A Small World

We have a guest host for today’s Lens-Artist challenge – Anne Sandler – and she just taught me the difference between macro, micro, and close up photography. Since I only have one lens, my choices for today’s challenge are all simple close-up shots.

 

I do have to date myself and say that I remember learning to sing the Disney song in elementary school chorus. Later, when I lived in California, I visited Disneyland and took the Small World ride. Favorite verse: “There is just one moon and one golden sun, and a smile means friendship to everyone. Though the oceans are wide and the mountains divide, it’s a small world after all.” That is totally from memory. Didn’t even Google the lyrics. I have to admit that it took me years to realize I had an automatic close-up setting on my Canon Rebel T3i. What a wonder…so much easier!Still, I’d like to treat myself to a macro lens and learn more about that 1:1 ratio. I cropped the image above to get the extreme close-up I wanted…those tender little “hairs”. I really enjoy how photography has helped me to see things in detail with my own eyeballs. I am always fascinated by what my eyes can do almost instantaneously. My photos are never as breath-taking as what I see with my very own lenses. I love really getting in there with my nose up to the subject. Especially when it’s truffle cheese!There are worlds in a droplet……and communities atop a flower. How fun to study them and learn appreciation and affection for them!

 

And then, how right to take responsibility for protecting them. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Images of 2020

Tina, this week’s host of the Lens-Artists, challenges us with a “Favorite Images of the Year” post for 2020. Here is my calendar of memories: 

January FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

This year was on of tumultuous change for me, as I’m sure it was for many people around the globe. I appreciate the weekly Lens-Artists photo challenge for providing a constant throughout the year. Every Saturday, no matter where I was, I knew that I would spend time doing something creative to connect me with a section of humanity.

Thank you, my followers, for helping me feel visible in a year of isolation and strangeness. You have moved from Wisconsin to Oregon to California and back to Oregon with me. You read about my mother’s illness and death, and you celebrated my reunions with my children and siblings. Thank you for your ‘likes’ and your comments; they’ve meant a lot to me this year.

I am very much looking forward to the possibilities this new year presents. May it bring us all growth, joy, and peace as we practice loving ourselves and the others who share this marvelous planet. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: The Letter ‘A’

Patti, today’s Challenge host, writes:

In this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #126:  An Alphabet Challenge–Subjects That Begin with the Letter A, we invite you share images that feature a subject that starts with the letter A. You can also include signs and graffiti with the letter A. For an added challenge, capture an image that illustrates a concept with the letter A, such as alone, abstract, or afraid.

As a “bio-phile” and nature photographer, here are some wonderful subjects whose names begin with ‘a’ — arachnid, apple, Arboretum, atmosphere.

And some concepts: adoration……abundance……active.

Hoping your week is A-Okay! 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: California Picks

 

“There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.”
— Edward Abbey

For this week’s photo challenge, Tina invites us each to pick our own theme. Having just returned from three months in California journeying with my family of origin through my mother’s hospice care and death, I have new photos to share and a complex perspective.

A jewel in the sparkling allure of California to me is my siblings who live there. I reconnected with them in an intense situation and discovered that they are exceptional human beings…and they really do like me, after all!Our days together were full of the poignant joys of life: memories, change, and resilience. We hiked the mountains, beaches, and urban green spaces to keep a grounded perspective. The natural surroundings in California are breathtaking, but the impact of humans is often completely overwhelming. While I was there, record-breaking temperatures, catastrophic wildfires, and the Covid-19 virus often prohibited us from leaving the confines of our protective shelters. How ironic that the things that make California a popular place to live also create the populations that make California unlivable. Finding a sustainable balance is the never-ending challenge here.

“It was a splendid population – for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home – you never find that sort of people among pioneers – you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this day – and when she projects a new surprise the grave world smiles as usual and says, “Well, that is California all over.”
― Mark Twain

How to live gracefully on this planet, in a human body, with all the complex interactions going on all around me, continues to be the challenge that I strive to meet. Grace is an attitude of balance and mercy, I think…but I’m still pondering it. 

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!