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: Simplicity

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

“Three Rules of Work: out of clutter, find simplicity; from discord, find harmony; in the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~ Confucius

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it; there ain’t nothing to it. Einstein said we could never understand it all.” ~ James Taylor

Patti is perfectly appropriate in her challenge theme this week, Simplicity. Stay home, wash your hands, spend time by yourself. May we all grow wiser, more grateful, and more compassionate during this break from “normalcy”. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Chaos

Perhaps presciently, Ann-Christine chose the theme of CHAOS for this week’s Photo Challenge even before the pandemic was declared.  

What an interesting word – indeed, an interesting concept. I suspect that only human beings, with their big brains and their social biology, even experience chaos. I imagine chaos to be attributed to a situation that evokes a kind of fear, but on a more complex level than a fear for one’s basic survival. 

Social chaos, for example.

Probably most of us have experienced the confusing disorder of emotions and associations that might be described as social chaos. Where do I fit in? How do I connect? Do my feelings mesh with anyone else’s? These thoughts can be quite unsettling to me, but I don’t imagine spiders or starfish or blue jays dealing with that kind of survival anxiety.

Some humans believe that we have a superior gift for bringing order out of chaos. I look at homeowners blowing those untidy leaves off of their driveway in the fall, and I wonder if they imagine they are making the world more orderly while forgetting that our suburban consumption creates chaotic waste in much greater proportions.  

 

If chaos provokes a kind of fear or discomfort, then each of us probably has a different threshold of tolerance for it. And each of us can probably reset that threshold with a bit of work. How comfortable can you become with disorder, ambiguity, or uncertainty? I have to admit that I found parenting to be a great exercise in adaptation to chaos. There were plenty of times that I wasn’t in control of the situation, but I survived, and I certainly learned a lot…and I actually enjoyed it. 

There is plenty to learn in the present climate of global chaos in the human family. There are certainly many questions with unknown answers. There is confusion and ambiguity and anxiety about how we fit together, how we feel, and how we ought to act. And this is going on at a very high level of cognitive function. It is a situation that is created in our big brains. 

At the same time, in the world outside our big brains, Nature is functioning as usual. Organisms emerge, populations respond, life and death dance together in fascinating rhythm. I find this incredibly peaceful, a perfect antidote to chaos. Breathing in the assurance of Nature’s presence, I am strengthened for the work of being a human. It’s not easy work. We have a lot of responsibility. But the first responsibility is being aware of who we are as a species. May we be humble. May we be kind to every being on the Tree of Life. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbols of My Father

Reposting from July 10, 2015; my dad died 10 years ago on March 19:

Today is my father’s birthday.  He’s been dead for 5 years, but his influence on my life has been incredibly profound.  I look through my photos and recognize him in symbolic images that point to something he represented in my life.  Representation is a well-developed part of human culture.  We use it in language, art, religion, philosophy, identity and so many other ways.  The real challenge we ‘civilized’ folk have is to strip away representations and come face-to-face with actual entities.  My father was highly educated and an educator himself.  His facility with symbol was quite advanced: he was a mathematician and a writer and combined those skills in his career as a Technical Writer.  I am grateful for the symbols I still see that remind me of his life, his personality, his love. 

My photos are valuable symbols to me.  Especially when I can’t access the actual things they represent.  GWHII RIP 2I miss you, Dad.  Rest in peace.

Symbol

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Reflections

“Use reflective surfaces to create an artistic echo of a scene…” 

Mirror, mirror on the wall…why is it I blog at all?
I started this blog when I began my 50th year of life. That was in August of 2011. I had just moved to Wisconsin to live with Steve. I was widowed three and a half years. I had a lot to process and a lot to learn.

I am now facing another transition: leaving Wisconsin and Steve to live in Oregon, closer to three of my four adult children, my  mother, and my three siblings. I have a lot to process and a lot to learn.

I learn by reflecting on what I’ve seen.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

I am making this cross-country move because I have learned again what I always knew to be my Truth: that I belong most importantly in my Family – my family of origin and the family that my late husband and I loved into being. 

 

“Art is not a reflection of reality, it is the reality of a reflection.”
Jean-Luc Godard

Writing in this blog, storing photographs and memories, was a way to plant the seeds of realization. In my words and pictures, I remind myself who I truly am and see who I am becoming.

“There is one art of which man should be master, the art of reflection.”
― Samuel Taylor Coleridge

All my artistic echoes have origins in my mother and repercussions in my children. Being so distant from their heartbeats just doesn’t make sense. I need to hear the rhythm of our art, our lives, in order to keep dancing. 

“What we do now echoes in eternity.”
― Marcus Aurelius


May the love we create in our family be reflected in the world. I believe we all have the responsibility and the capability to make this a more loving, peaceful, beautiful place.

Thank you, Miriam, for hosting this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.  

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Change Your Perspective

“I believe everyone should have a broad picture of how the universe operates and our place in it. It is a basic human desire. And it also puts our worries in perspective.” ― Stephen Hawking

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” ― Steven Wright

“Distance lends enchantment to the view.” ― Mark Twain

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is — infinite.” ― William Blake

“Look at everything as though you are seeing it either for the first or last time, then your time on earth will be filled with glory.” ― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Thank you, Patti, for challenging us this week to change our perspective as we photograph our subjects and for reminding us that Ansel Adams said,

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Treasure Hunt

Today’s photo challenge from Tina is sort of a laundry list of prompts which includes:

  • Challenge Items: Sunrise and/or sunset, Something cold and/or hot, a bird, a dog, a funny sign, a bicycle, a seascape and/or mountain landscape, a rainbow, a church, a musical instrument, a boat, a plane, a waterfall
  • Extra Credit Items:  An expressive portrait of one or more people, a very unusual place, knitting or sewing, a fish, an animal you don’t normally see, a bucket, a hammer, a street performer, a double rainbow, multiple challenge items in a single image. 

Tina’s choice photos illustrate these beautifully, as usual.

Well, let’s see what’s in my Treasure Chest.

Gotta admit I treasure the photo above. It’s my son and his dog on the coast of Oregon, where I’ll be moving at the end of June. So, it’s an expressive portrait of my son at a seascape/mountain landscape with a dog. Do I get extra credit?

How about the picture above for a sunset over a mountain landscape? 

Expressive portrait with a musical instrument? 

Double rainbow. Check. 

Very cold waterfall. Check.

My favorite church photo.

And my favorite bird photo.

I do enjoy the treasures I have in my photo files. Thanks, Tina, for sending me on this hunt!