Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Striped and Checked

“You want what now?” asked Miss Plaid…

Stripes?…

And Checks? Do you mean personal checks?”

Okay, since you asked, Ann-Christine, here are a few:

 

Thanks for a fun challenge this week, all about looking for patterns in line! 

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: Cherished Moments

“The secret of life
Is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it,
There ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got
To the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride…

The secret of love
Is in opening up your heart.
It’s okay to feel afraid,
But don’t let that stand in your way.
‘Cause anyone knows
That love is the only road.
And since we’re only here for a while,
Might as well show some style.
Give us a smile...

Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down, gliding down,
Try not to try too hard,
It’s just a lovely ride…

Now the thing about time
Is that time isn’t really real.
It’s just your point of view,
How does it feel for you?
Einstein said he
Could never understand it all.
Planets spinning through space,
The smile upon your face,
Welcome to the human race.

Some kind of lovely ride.” ― James Taylor

Amy, the Lens-Artists host this week, invites us to “share some of the precious moments we have had, before or during the pandemic”. These images are favorites of mine, as is the James Taylor song. In my days alone of late, I have often returned to the pictures and music etched in my mind. I am grateful to have a rich array and a powerful memory. 

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: Found in the Neighborhood

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you!
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?”
– Fred McFeely Rogers

On October 22, I took a walk out the front door of the house in California where I lived in as a high school student. It’s a neighborhood that I haven’t seen much of in 40 years, and it’s pretty exotic to me. It’s changed a lot from what I remember. Some of the changes are quite jarring: new streets, new buildings, new power lines, fewer trees, and formerly pristine mountain slopes dotted with new construction. There are a lot of new neighborhood sights to get used to.

As I headed up into the foothills, I found wilder neighbors. Black-tailed deer are not quite what I’m used to. In Wisconsin, where I lived for the past 9 years, it’s white-tailed deer that you see everywhere.

When I got to the top of the hill, I looked back down into the valley and saw this view of Santa Clara County, with the tall buildings of downtown San Jose in the distance. There are close to two million people living down there!

This is actually the 33rd wealthiest town in the nation. There are a lot of people with high-end tech jobs, high-end tech toys, and high-end recreational hobbies. Heading back down the hill into town, I went past the church where I was married, where my sister, my husband, and my father are buried in the garden Columbarium. As it turned out, my mother passed away in her apartment down the street from the church that very evening. Her ashes will be buried in the garden on Friday. 

So what is a neighborhood, and who is my neighbor?

We all share the same air, the same water, the same soil, the same sunshine. Whether we feel seen, known, memorialized or not, we live and die here in proximity with every other Earthling, human and otherwise. We are all in relationship with each other. We are neighbors. As such, we should treat one another with kindness and care, check in, and keep in touch. It’s just neighborly.

Thank you to Ann-Christine, who is our host this week for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. 

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!

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