A Last Nearby Song: Ending Autumn with Haiku

“Native Awareness.” Photo by Gale D. (grstamping on swap-bot)

I just completed the novel The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault. It’s the kind of read one can finish in one sitting, but it took me a couple of days because I read slowly while waiting in the carpool line or just before falling asleep. The book is based on the Zen concept of ensō. It feels a lot like Kafka, whose absurdist works I love, but it also feels like haiku, which is a prominent feature of the novel.

And that might be the reason I returned to my favorite book of haiku and have been reading haiku all week. However, [Kobayashi] Issa’s poem, which I didn’t see in the collection, is worthy of the last day of autumn:

evening cicada–
a last nearby song
to autumn

Gale D’s photos are brilliant reminders of the best of the season and an appropriate end to the autumn posts for the week. The photos were sent for an “A Thousand Words” group swap. The top photo was shot in Mattawa, Canada. The photo below in Orillia.

“Drive by in Orillia.” Photo by Gale D. (grstamping on swap-bot)

Somehow, the novel set in Canada, the Japanese haiku, and photos captured in Canada come together and make perfect sense for the last day of autumn–in my mind at least. 😉

Red Roses, Yellow Roses, and a Little Slice of Paradise

Recently–as in two months ago–my friend Kemi shared with me photos of the beautiful roses her husband gave her for their 21st anniversary.

That reminded me! I hadn’t hosted a “roses” photography swap in quite some time. In fact, it had been four years since I hosted the “One Perfect Rose” swap on swap-bot . We were overdue for another one–especially since I’ve been making progress on photographing roses. So…I set up the swap in the “A Thousand Words” group.

The goal of the swap was to send a photo that captured the sentiment of Dorothy Parker’s poem, “One Perfect Rose,” and write a note about a gift the sender desires from his or her significant other–instead of roses.

Diane W (Midteacher), my partner whose work you’ve seen here on the blog before, sent photos of her beautiful hybrid tea roses.

Hybrid Tea Rose, or Tahitian Sunset, Photo by Diane W. aka Midteacher

According to Midteacher, the Hybrid Tea Rose, dubbed “Tahitian Sunset,” is also described as a “little slice of paradise.” She fell in love with the roses while working at a local nursery to help pay for her wedding. A resourceful bride-to-be, she purchased the rose bush and had her florist make her wedding bouquet and other floral arrangements. She even worked extra shifts to make sure she’d have enough of the gorgeous tea roses.

“A Little Slice of Paradise,” Photo by Diane W. aka Midteacher

Midteacher snaps photos of the blooms every year and shares that the buds are much more colorful than the full blooms. In her usual impressive way, she crafted the photos into inspiration for my walls and journals.

I fretted considerably over which roses to send to my partner–raindrops on roses? white roses? pink roses? red roses? Roses I shot in New Orleans last winter? Roses I shot in Huntsville last spring? I can barely remember what I actually sent her since I looked through so many before making my decision. But I’ll save my photographs for another day.

Let’s give these beauties our full attention today.

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

Purple Reign: Loving the Purple Journal

I have often wondered what happens to the photographs I send into the world. Diane (aka Midteacher), one of my photog pals in the A Thousand Words group on swap-bot, takes the guess work out of it for the photos I send to her.  She often lets me know that she has included or plans to include my photos in her various art or mixed media journals.  When I sent her this year’s “love post,” she shared that it was going to be added to her Purple Journal. Yes, her purple journal!

Alistair posing with the purple journal page featuring my 2017 “love post.” Photo by Diane (Midteacher)

Take a look at detail!

Close-up of the “love post” in Diane’s Purple Journal–Photo by Diane (Midteacher)

View the full post here: Playing in the Purple Journal.

I’m delighted that Diane found a beautiful use for the photo, but I’m sharing her post because she shares how she transformed the simple photo into a beautiful journal page. [She’s even running a contest for naming her purple journal.  Help her name her journal and you could be the winner of a purple 8×10 mixed media piece].

I’ve always been intrigued and inspired by Diane’s work. My seeing how she crafted this page gives me the creative courage to give mixed media work a try.

You can see more of Diane’s work on her blog, A Focused Journey: Finding a Focus on the Other Side of Fifty, or you can check out some of my earlier posts which feature her photos:

I’ll be sharing more of Diane’s work within the next week or two.  Until then, enjoy the reign of purple!

 

Discovering Spring in a Pretty Purple Pansy

Although we’ve had consistently warmer temperatures for the last week or so, spring has not actually sprung here in Northern Alabama.  I’ve been waiting a bit impatiently for the blossoms to fully appear, but it seems the temperamental winter we’ve had has made our early spring less brilliant than usual.

We’re not the only ones experiencing a delayed spring.

I received a postcard today from my photog pal, Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot, for an A Thousand Words group swap, “Early Spring Photo Postcard.”  She writes that it is still “clearly winter in Michigan.  The freezing cold and bitter wind hasn’t let up.”  As a result, she had to find a little spring at a local nursery’s “Spring Expo.”

Purple Pansy by Diane W.(Midteacher on swap-bot)

Of course, I’m pretty pleased with this gorgeous purple pansy. Not only is the pansy beautiful but the presentation is stunning, so I’m grateful Diane was forced to find spring in another way [Sorry, Diane].  She writes that the pansy was popular among the attendees and she “enjoyed watching everyone’s faces light up when they saw” the pansy. I wish she’d seen my face light up when I retrieved her postcard after work today!

How appropriate that Diane accented the flower with the word “discover.” I’ve been looking for strong evidence of spring (beyond temperature) for a week now!

Now, I have to figure out which inspiration wall needs this purple pansy most–the one at home or the one at work???

Has spring sprung yet in your region?

Love Inspired: Loyal Birds and “Fowl” Words

For a recent “Love Inspired” swap for the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot Gale D., my partner, went birds and feathers on me.  The goal of the swap was to pair a love quote with an appropriate photo.

Gale settled on a quote from  A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh:

Some people care too much.  I think it’s called love.

Gale does a lot of bird photography, so she sent me two of her favorite photos.

The first, a pair of Mute Swans:

“Mute Swans” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

According to Gale’s note, the Mute Swans “stay together forever. It saves time and energy, and they produce more cygnets this way.  They make a great team.”

I found some interesting tidbits about Mute Swans on Cornell University’s All About Birds Site.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mute Swans are not native to North America
  • The swans pretty much mate for life, but will find another mate if a partner dies
  • Their reputation for monogamy along with their white plumage has helped establish them as a symbol of love in many cultures
  • The Mute Swan is the “star” of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling
  • The swans are pretty aggressive (so give them lots of space)
  • The oldest known Mute Swan is 26 years, 9 months old

Gale also sent a pair of Canada Geese and their goslings.

“Canada Geese,” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

Gale wrote that she loves Canada Geese, but although they adapt around humans well, she hasn’t had much opportunities to get close to the geese.  Ironically, she lives in Canada.  This particular photo was shot in a cemetery pond.

There are a LOT of Canada Geese on the university campus where I work.  She’d have no problem getting up close and personal with them. During early fall, they pretty much rule the campus, even stopping traffic at times.  That can be annoying, but it is a pretty glorious sight to see them take flight in formation.

During the second year of their lives Canada Geese find a mate, and like Mute Swans, they are monogamous and mate for life.

It truly is inspiring to find such “faithfulness” and “loyalty” in the animal kingdom.  We often think so little of them, but we have so much to learn from them.

Abandoned…

While traveling around Northern Alabama, I encounter many abandoned buildings–homes, businesses, barns.  Some of the buildings obviously lack love and care, and passersby watch them slowly fall to pieces. It seems time stands still for some other buildings since there are no visible signs of neglect (other than overgrown grass and bushes).

I often wonder why these buildings are empty and alone and what stories they have to tell.  This intrigue led me to create an “Abandoned” swap in the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.  It was for this swap that Midteacher sent the package I received yesterday.

She sent several photos of two abandoned buildings.

"Abandoned Building" by DBW aka Midteacher

“Abandoned Building” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr with canvas overlay.

This is a building Midteacher passed on her way home [from work].  She loved how it was falling apart.  In her note she wrote that “the roof caved in from last winter’s heavy snow and then, sadly, it was torn down this summer.”

Here’s another slightly different view:

Abandoned Building

“Abandoned Building” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

Here’s an old barn found on her friend’s property:

"Old Barn" by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

“Old Barn” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

And here’s a view of the silo:

"Silo" by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

“Silo” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

I sent SilverD, my “send to” partner, a notecard featuring an older photo and a building we pass three times a week, but finally stopped to photograph a month or two ago.

"Abandoned on a Corner"

“Abandoned on a Corner”

SilverD thinks the building was an old store or saloon. It also looks like a home with many additions. I’m not sure.

Here’s the altered photo in black and white:

"Abandoned on a Corner"

“Abandoned on a Corner”

Its neighbor is also abandoned.

"Abandoned's Neighbor"

“Abandoned’s Neighbor”

Though perhaps not as abandoned.

I have a whole collection of “abandoned buildings” buried on my computer. Perhaps, when life slows down a little, I’ll take the time to pull a few and share them.  Maybe, by then, I will know some of the stories. 😉

Until next time…