Vision: Looking Ahead

I’m working on being more intentional about improving my photography skills this year, so I’m participating in Dogwood Photography’s 52 Week Photography Challenge 2018. I considered the challenge last year, but wanted to start fresh–at the beginning of the year. So this year, I’m “all in.” I think.

The goal of the challenge is to encourage photographers to push themselves in various ways. Each week we are presented with a prompt that falls under one of five categories–vision, composition, technical, creative, or wild card.

The Week 1 prompt, “Vision: Look Ahead,” falls under the “vision” category, which

is designed to push you to go beyond sight, to insight; to take inspiration and make it a reality. Vision exists in your imagination and is revealed your photographs; expressing something otherwise invisible. Developing a vision for your work is showing to others what you see in your mind’s eye.

The brief description for the prompt reads, “New year. New beginnings. New you. Look ahead. Interpret as you wish.”

Initially, I considered a straight road or path, but felt no connection to the idea. That is certainly not how I’m approaching 2018. The path I’m taking is not straight or sure. I may even have to find another path. I’m not even sure it I’m on a path!

I received some news a few days ago that underscored this reality, so when I was playing around and shooting “ice” last week, the patterns formed in the ice of one frozen fountain in particular provided the material I needed to illustrate my feelings as I consider–or envision–2018.

Ice Vision: Original (No Editing)

I know the ways in which I’d like to grow this year, but for me it’s not a “straight shoot” to December 31, 2018 and all will be well. It doesn’t involve checking a series of things off the to-do list, or taking one step forward right after another on my way to achieving goals.

Nothing is clear at the moment, but I expect to find grooves and curves and dips, and of course areas that are impenetrable (without the proper tools), along with some smooth areas. I also expect to take a few steps backward or to retrace my steps occasionally.

For now, though, I’m stuck or “frozen in place”and incapable of doing anything until I unravel some of my thoughts and figure out how to begin.

Growth is a meandering process, but with time and work, it is inevitable, just like it’s inevitable that the ice will melt–eventually, with the right amount of heat.

[^^^ An edit and some macro views–click an image to get a closer look]

I’m looking forward to the challenge and will often–if not always–share my photo responses to the prompts here on Pics and Posts.

Have a happy week!

 

Walking in Amazing Grace…

This is what grace does […]. Grace gives us the faith to be utterly assured of what we cannot see […]. It connects us to the invisible One in an eternal love relationship that fills us with joy we have never known before and gives us rest of heart that we would have thought impossible. And that grace is still rescuing us…  –Paul David Tripp (emphasis mine)

“Amazing Grace” is a powerful hymn. Whether I’m singing along with a congregation, singing alone, or simply reading the words, the lyrics always move me to tears.

When I watched and listened to my beautiful colleague, Julie Moore Foster, and her equally beautiful daughter soulfully sing “Amazing Grace” this morning, I was stunned into meditative silence.

Even before I reached the end, which presented a short montage of Julie’s oldest daughter’s life, I knew their singing of this song was not “just singing” but a powerful story of God’s work in the soul–His amazing grace.

They lost Témar at the beginning of 2015, a loss they walk with every day.  I “knew” Témar briefly; she was enrolled in my British Literature class her last semester of college, the semester I lost my sister. Two years later, I bonded with Hannah, the daughter featured alongside Julie in the video below, over our mutual loss of sisters.  A question in my Shakespeare course led to an intense discussion of disappointment, loss, and coping with the “most difficult” challenges of life–a moving experience that I might have the courage to share another day.

I know what it is to be saved by God’s grace, not just from sin and the ravages of this world, but rescued from the deep, murky pit of grief and despair that can suffocate and rob a life of meaning and joy. But when my mother, Julie, any mother–indeed any parent–can stand upright and sane in this messed up space where parents have to bury their children, I see clear evidence of God’s grace walking and talking among us.

Notes on the song/video: “Amazing Grace” arranged by Kelvin Wooten, Wayne Bucknor, and Julie Moore Foster. Direction and videography by William Jenkins. Audio production by WoodaWorx Productions, Inc. The song is part of Julie Moore Foster’s first album, Soul Songs. To find out more see: Soul Songs Project.

Thrive…

Life has evolved to thrive in environments that are extreme only by our limited human standards: in the boiling battery acid of Yellowstone hot springs, in the cracks of permanent ice sheets, in the cooling waters of nuclear reactors, miles beneath the Earth’s crust, in pure salt crystals, and inside the rocks of the dry valleys of Antarctica. –Jill Tarter

My hubby and I visited a cute garden shop today and while waiting for him to complete his transaction, I explored the grounds–checked out the various fountains, marveled at the ice patterns formed in what was once flowing water. I was drawn to a fountain pouring water into a heart-shaped basin and was so pleased to find goldfish surviving and thriving in the frigid water.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere…

Ice Story: Too Cold! Too Cold!

Too Cold, Too Cold!

I grew up and spent more than half my life in the Deep, Deep South–in New Orleans–where the west bank of the Mississippi River meets rock. So when the temperature gauge reads 8 degrees, there’s no question about it. I plan to stay indoors until Sir Sun shows Jack Frost who’s boss. But life isn’t always convenient, and sometimes we have to do what we have to do.

I braved the coldest temperatures I’ve had to deal with in my life–minus 5°F (with wind chill factor) when dropping my son off at school yesterday. Gasp!

“What? There is school?!”

That was my reaction when I woke up yesterday and found no notification of cancellation–or at least a delayed start to the school day. I guess it says a lot about my relationship with “extremely cold” weather that I seriously expected schools to be closed because of the single digit temperatures. I was tempted to let my son stay home–warm and cozy by the fireplace–but, like responsible parents, we sent him to school.

After drop-off, with multiple layers and thick, bulky coats on all, a trip to Walmart for thermals gave me this gift of ice. [Click an image for a closer look]

My first shots of the year. iPhone pics. Meh.

Unfortunately, I ignored the inner prompting to grab my camera when we were heading out the door. Of course, the “real” camera would have required more fidgeting with settings and more time in the ice cold temps, so I’ll accept these–my only evidence that I went outdoors and survived way below freezing temperatures.

Kudos [and thanks] to the Walmart team member for leaving the sprinklers on! 😉

Happy Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

“Freedom from Slavery.” This statue, celebrating the end of slavery, was gifted to Gorée Island as a symbol of friendship between Guadeloupe and Africa. Photo shot in 2004 with an Olympus Camedia, my first “real” digital camera. 🙂

Happy New Year! I realize today is January 1 and New Year’s greetings are resounding throughout the world. January 1 means a clean slate, a fresh start, a brand new year to get some things done and get some other things right.  In those various ventures, I “wish above all that you would prosper and be in good health” [3 John 2].

January 1 is significant for other reasons. Foremost in my mind is that on this date in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation put the United States of America on the road to truly becoming the “land of the free.” Of course, it was–and continues to be–a long, hard road to realizing what it means that “all [humans] are created equal” and are “endowed with certain inalienable rights.”

And yes, I’m aware there was an “earlier attempt” at issuing the Proclamation and that Lincoln’s signing of it had less to do with his concern about the plight of enslaved persons in the USA and more to do with using [newly] freed Blacks to help win the Civil War and thus save the Union. But here we are, 155 years later, with no sanctioned slavery–or owning of human chattel–in the USA.

Because I have little choice, I’ve been thinking a lot about race in the United States. More so, since an “innocent” post on my Facebook page a few months ago led to a  word-battle between one of my Euro-American friends and a couple of my African American friends. That “dialogue,” which I eventually shut down by closing comments on the post, underscored how little “mainstream” Americans know about African American life and history, but it also revealed how our thinking on all sides reduces the other to a “single story.”

One of the problems with race as a construct is that we think we know each other. We have ideas that black people are…red people are…white people are…brown people are…yellow people are…We believe we know what individuals are all about on first sight of skin tone. This hurts us as a [human] race inexplicably and explains for the most part why the world is in such shape.

When I was in graduate school, another student in the class told me that “African Americans should get their own culture” in response to my presentation of a project for a course on modern theory–a hypertext “rewriting” of James Joyces’ Ulysses that makes the book relatable to people of color. Imagine my chagrin when little more than a decade later I heard those words echoed in my own classroom–addressed to the African American students in my class–via teleconference with students from University of Colorado-Boulder.

That statement underscores not only how little these individuals know about African American contributions and influences but also how much as Americans we are told/taught/convinced that anything that’s white is American and everything else is subculture, subpar, and inessential to the American landscape and character.

So…I’ve made a decision about my blog for this year. In addition to getting caught up on the “to be blogged” list of 2017, continuing to do Microblog Mondays, and all the other snail mail and photography randomness, I’m going to post frequently on Black history, culture, life, and politics.

That starts with today…So if you didn’t know before, now you know…There’s a special reason why African Americans and all other Americans should celebrate January 1. In fact, I’m convinced this should be bigger than “the fourth of July.”

Happy Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation!