Quotes Challenge Day 3: Ride the Horse

Photo by my son, Vaughan M.

Behind one pain, there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it. 

The final quote for the three-day challenge comes from one of my favorite books, Simone Schwarz-Bart’s Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle (published as The Bridge of Beyond in English). I feel I must provide a little context–without giving away too much of the plot, of course.

In Part 2 of the novel, Télumée, the primary character, is so profoundly grieved by her husband’s desertion that she sits on a stone in her grandmother’s backyard for several weeks, speechless and unmovable, reduced to a shade of her former self. Her trauma is understandable. After being obviously head-over-heels in love with her since they were children, Elie, her husband, suddenly and inexplicably becomes cruel and abusive and kicks her out of the house in favor of another woman. The events of her life become incongruous with the reality she’s crafted and the people she and her husband are and Télumée is so broken by this unfathomable turn of events that she “loses her mind” and can no longer function.

Télumée eventually “rises,” nurtured by her community and the steady wisdom of Toussine, her grandmother –“Queen without a Name”–who had suffered and survived many griefs herself.  I’m convinced it is the words Toussine instills at an earlier point in the novel that compels her to get up:

Behind one pain, there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it.

As suddenly as she falls apart, Télumée stands up to live a life different from the one she originally imagined–one that is authentic and communal and necessary.

I have always loved this quote. When I first read it, I put the book down to pause and consider it for a while. And still, several reads later, I am blown away by the tenacity Toussine suggests we must conjure up to survive wild waves of pain and sorrow–the grit it takes to position ourselves so that deep sorrow doesn’t shape our lives, define us, or guide us and the creative prowess it takes to use that sorrow to re-plot the direction of our lives.

Sometimes when the crises come one right after another and literally knock us off our feet, it seems easier to just lie down and wallow in sadness and misery. There can be healing in (temporarily) shutting down, in resting, but at some point we (have to) decide whether we will ride the horse–our circumstances–or let the horse ride us.

There is way more to say about this quote and way, way, way more to say about The Bridge of Beyond. I hope you’ll pick it up and read it. I also hope that when life becomes too much, you’ll choose to ride.

Today’s nominees are [see a previous post for rules]:

Have a restful, fun, and safe weekend!

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Note about the photo: The photo above was shot by my son when he was eight-years-old. He is quite the photographer. I’m working on getting him to share more of his work. #proudmom

 

Color Harmony: Can There Be Harmony on One Side of the Wheel?

Icy cold temperatures kept me indoors quite a bit over the last few weeks, and since I’d rather explore and experiment with my camera outdoors, I delayed work on Dogwood’s Week 3 prompt when I looked at the forecast and saw that this week promises warmer weather.

I managed to complete the Week 2 prompt more than a week ago. Somewhat.

The prompt, “Color Harmony,” under the “composition” category, called for photographers to:

Get out your color wheel. Do opposites attract? Can there be harmony with opposite colors? Does the Hulk wear purple pants? Mix warm and cool colors.

I had a number of things working against me. The weather (rainy and/or cold), meetings, and the beginning of a new semester conspired to limit my time and energy for photographic creativity. Here’s what I managed:

[Shot with my Canon].  I like the silhouette of the the house and trees in this photo of the sunset sky as the evening clouds began to roll in, but I’m not pleased with the composition.  At the moment of the shot, I was focused on the sky and getting out of the cold! I should have changed my position a bit to get the right balance. Few things can compete with the beauty of a naturally painted sky–and this one offers a nice blend of pink to orange to yellow masking the blue day sky.

I snapped this one on my iPhone while racing through Walmart. I’m not a fan of fake flowers, but the pink and purple “silk” flowers on display drew my attention. Why? Pink and purple, of course! I edited the photo because I couldn’t tolerate the fact that they were so obviously fake.  Now, they have a reason to look “unreal.”  The conundrum here was trying to determine if the photo captures “warm” and “cool” colors. Purple and pink are straddlers. The pink feels a bit warmer than cool to me; the purple a bit cooler than warm. What do you think?

Lastly, another one snapped on my phone. These are my mom’s forever sunflowers. I forgive them for being fake because they are so realistic that many people think they’re the real thing. Furthermore, I accept sunflowers in all forms.  😉

Do they meet the challenge? I’m not convinced there were enough opposite or warm and cool colors to create interest.

I’ll keep working on “color harmony”–when the weather warms a bit.


Week 1: Vision: Looking Ahead

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!

 

Oops!

I failed.

As a recovering perfectionist, failure can wreak havoc on my psyche. I have to coach myself away from negative feelings that start in the pit of my stomach and that, if left unchecked, work their way into my mind and set up shop.

And here’s the thing. It’s not even a “real” failure. I simply missed posting a microblog yesterday. Not because I forgot. Not because I had nothing to talk about, but simply because I was feeling other feelings and couldn’t shake those feelings enough to pull up my blog and write.

I crawled into bed much too early, thinking I could nap away the feelings. I opened my eyes every now and then to check the time, hoping I’d have enough of some other feeling to post something before Monday became Tuesday. Anything.

I last looked at the clock at 11:20 p.m. and thought…there’s still enough Monday left.  Then, I slipped into a deep, deep sleep.

I chided myself about it all day.

This is my attempt to “get over it” and to stop beating myself for what can’t be undone. I enjoy blogging—it has been a safe space for the last five (plus) years and I don’t want to associate negative feelings with my blog.  So, I’m shaking those feelings by expressing them and by reminding myself—that “if at first I don’t succeed” at blogging every Monday for 52 weeks straight, then I can “try, try again” next year if I choose.

More importantly, I am allowing space for my own “humanness” and acknowledging that reconciling those other feelings was far more important than a blog post at that moment.

NaBloPoMo 2017: To Blog or Not to Blog? [Black and White Photo Challenge]

I spent the last few days trying to decide if I should participate in Na(tional) Blo(g) Po(st) Mo(nth) this year. I found no information about NaBloPoMo 2017–not even from Blogher, which normally hosts and offers prompts and support for participants–so I decided NaBloPoMo would be a no-go for me this year.

The blog goddesses had other plans.

Just a few moments ago, I received a message that someone added me to the NaBloPoMo support group on Facebook, so here I am…with an almost last minute post for the first day…because I can’t miss day one.

Have you seen the seven-day black and white photo challenge on Facebook? The challenge is simple: Someone tags you to post a black and white photo daily for seven days. You must tag a different person every day. There can be no people in the photos and there can be no explanation. Easy-peasy, right?

My brother, Dennis, tagged me, so of course, I had to do it. I completed the challenge yesterday, so I’m sharing the photos here with “brief explanation” (since I suppose the rules do not apply to blogs).  [With the exception of “The Birds,” the photos were shot with my iPhone].

Day 1:

Day 1: Look Toward the Light

I captured “Look Toward the Light” as I was leaving work one day, weary and ready for bed. The clouds were dark with promise of rain, but the sun burst forth and gave me the energy I needed to get through the evening.

Day 2:

Day 2: “Bearer of the Keys”

While waiting in the carpool line for my son to get out of school, my eyes locked on my favorite keyring. I bought the keyring almost two decades ago in England (which has the cutest teddy bear items). This bear has been carrying my keys ever since.

Day 3:

Day 3: “Out to Lunch”

The Instagram page “I Have This Thing with Bikes” (which features amazing bicycle photos from all over the world) has me hooked on photographing bikes whenever I see them. I caught this one on the way to pick up lunch from the Market on campus. Its owner was obviously “out to lunch” too.

Day 4:

Day 4: The Other Love

This camera and I are still getting to know each other. The shot is the result of my waiting for a program to end. I placed the camera on a chair next to me and we sat quietly studying each other.

Day 5:

Day 5: Love You Always

This is the top of a box filled with goodies from Aleta, one of my besties. She loves giving gifts and she takes so much care with presentation. Her signature style involves enclosing gifts in decorative boxes that can be used for storage and/or display.

Day 6:

Day 6: The Strength of an Elephant

This little baby elephant is part of my little one’s elephant collection. The day I shot the photo, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and weak–my to-do list was exceptionally long and I was not feeling well. The elephant reminded me:

You were born into this life because you are strong enough to live it.

Day 7:

Day 7: The Birds

I stepped out of  my office yesterday to take a quick walk and get some fresh air. What I encountered felt like a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. There were hundreds of birds on the lawn a few feet away. When someone walked near the birds, they (all) took flight in a seemingly single move. The photos show they were not as uniform in movement as they appeared, even from a slight distance. But the sound of hundreds of birds suddenly moving “in unison” was a bit unnerving. After watching the birds for a few minutes and capturing a few photos, I decided to take cover in the safety of my office, just in case the birds had other ideas.

This is a fun challenge. If someone tags you, go for it. It’s a nice distraction from the everyday normal.

First day done, 29 more to go. Eek! Let’s see if we’ll make it to the end this year.

“Escape” to the Front Porch

A few days ago, the guys and I left home to hit one of the many nature trails in the area. As usual, I had my camera out ready to capture abandoned homes and scenes from rural life along the way. A couple of minutes into the drive, the gorgeous remains of a tree commanded our attention. I was ready to jump out of the car and snap a shot of the tree, when my hubby said, “I think this is your colleague’s home.” We weren’t sure. As we looked toward the house, which was set some distance from the road, we noticed a couple sitting on the porch. We couldn’t make out the faces, but I thought I recognized the SUV sitting in the driveway. We took our chances and drove up to say hello and ask permission to capture a few shots–even if we were wrong.

It was them! But the biggest surprise was the amazing view right outside their front door.

“Living the Pond Life”

The pond, built by my colleague’s husband, is beautiful and reminds me why I love living outside the city and in a place where a front yard can be a pond. It is well-maintained and serves as home to a lot of marine life–fish, turtles, and the occasional unwelcome water moccasin.

Back in May I accepted Books & Coffee’s challenge to share escape photos within our own cities and towns. I have to make good on my promise to share some of my (far too many) “happy place” photos, but what better way to “escape” life than by simply stepping outside one’s front door? I can’t claim my colleague’s home as my happy place, but it did provide the happy during our brief visit.

It’s clear that my colleague’s husband designed the pond to provide a bit of peace and beauty away from the daily hustle and bustle.  Water–in almost any form–has such a calming effect. Even though it was an unplanned stop along the way, visiting my colleague’s pond just about negated my desire for a nature walk.

As for the tree, I almost forgot about it, but I managed to snap a couple before we drove away. The knots and grooves give the tree such striking appeal! [Click an image for a closer view].

Don’t you think so?

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!