Soaring Like a Mountain Eagle

Eagle’s Wings: Photo captured at Brechtel Park in Algiers (Westbank New Orleans, Louisiana), 2011

…and there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar. –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

There Came a Wind: An Artist’s Interpretation of Emily Dickinson’s Poem 1593

As usual during summer break, I’ve been taking some time to declutter our home. In one day, I cleared several crates of stuff and found a number of treasures. One such treasure was a beautiful piece of art one of my students completed many, many, many years ago for a literature class.

Response to Emily Dickinson, Poem 1593 by Z. Lott

Students typically have difficulty reading poetry. Gasp! I’m convinced they create a mental block when they hear the word “poetry.” To decrease the pressure and to help them realize their capacity for understanding and interpreting poetry, I have students craft a creative response to a poem.  Students can write another poem, compose a song, create an art piece, etc. in response to a poetic work (from a list of “approved” poems). Through the exercise, students typically learn they understand more than they think and develop confidence to complete the other poetry assignments.

My student chose Poem 1593 by Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite American poets.

There came a Wind like a Bugle –
It quivered through the Grass
And a Green Chill upon the Heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the Windows and the Doors
As from an Emerald Ghost –
The Doom’s electric Moccasin
The very instant passed –
On a strange Mob of panting Trees
And Fences fled away
And Rivers where the Houses ran
Those looked that lived – that Day –
The Bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told –
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the World!

The picture does the visual work of the poem. Do you see it?

I like the message of Dickinson’s poem. Whether literal or figurative, storms come. Storms wreak havoc and destruction. Storms go. The world remains. Life is righted again…eventually.

Exactly (almost) three years ago, I “discovered” another student’s artistic rendering of a poem and blogged about it. You can see it here: “The Lamb, The Tyger, and the Lion.”

Enjoy!

Close…Closer…Closest

Don’t be misled by the title–I won’t be giving a lesson on comparatives and superlatives today. 😀

Have you ever shot a photograph that thrilled you?  There’s nothing super spectacular about the photo or the scene even, but shooting it gave you all the “good feels?”

That’s how I feel about a few photos I captured with my iPhone late last week.

Mimosa: Close

I’m not sure why this tree claims my attention. There’s something about the combination of pink and green.  Or maybe it’s the fine wisps that form the featherlike blossoms.

I first noticed the trees several years ago in New Orleans, but I only saw them when I was on the road.  The same thing happened here in Northern Alabama.  I never saw them in a place I could or wanted to stop. . . until last week.

I finally found an opportunity to get up close and personal with the tree when I dropped by my son’s school last week. I glanced up and there was the tree sitting behind the building up a hill!

You know what happened next…

Mimosa: Closer

Now, I see these trees practically everywhere I turn, and my heart does a happy dance whenever I see them.

Mimosa: Closest

To be honest, I’m not even certain what this tree is called.  I read conflicting information about it.  A plant identification app on my phone matched my photo with the Albizia julibrissin, but another website identified the tree as Calliandra surinamensis. The University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions site agreed with the app (Go Gators!).

The tree is commonly called a “mimosa” tree and is native to eastern and southwestern Asia, but flourishes (almost) anywhere it’s planted.  According to UF’s Gardening Solutions site, the mimosa tree is considered an invasive tree and is not recommended for gardening.  The plant that it was mistaken for, Calliandra surinamensis, bears similar blossoms, but is more suited for home gardening.

I’ll continue to appreciate this beautiful tree “from a distance,” photograph them when I can, and play around with the photos in  a few apps. 😉

 

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Have you photographed anything recently that simply thrilled you?

Photo Magic: Exploiting the Possibilities

I’ve been playing around with photos more than usual lately, altering them in PhotoShop and iPhone apps.  I love putting them through multiple processes just to see what evolves.  My selections for Liberate Your Art 2017 came out of such photo-play.

The postcards I sent began as a purple orchid and a pink coneflower.  Both were captured at the New Orleans Botanical Garden in late January–a blog post for another time.

Here’s the orchid–original and altered.

Purple Orchid, Original New Orleans Botanical Gardens, 2017

Magical Orchid, 2017

The orchids were protected in an enclosed, temperature-controlled space. However, the coneflower survived outdoors despite the winter weather.  It offered one of the few glimpses of color in the Garden that cold January afternoon.

“Coneflower,” Original, New Orleans Botanical Gardens, January 2017

I “transformed” the coneflower in many ways and couldn’t decide which to choose for LYA, so I decided to have all of them printed as postcards.  I selected randomly for the swap.  Here’s a peek at 10 of the 15 edits.

“Coneflower Magic,” 2017, Collage Made with PicsArt

Even though I struggled (as usual) with selecting photos for LYA, I chose these not because they represent my best work but because I had so much fun with them.  Since so many things have been so serious and heavy this year, I wanted to share lighthearted images.

A photograph can be naturally beautiful, flawless even, but there’s still something liberating about exploiting the possibilities of it.

Photo Walk: Praying with Trees

I had to take a walk today.  I had to get out of my office and soak in the sun and rid myself of some of the ugliness that had been clawing at my soul.

The last few weeks have been bad. Not because everything has gone wrong and life has been topsy-turvy, but in soul-killing ways.  I’ve been dealing with too many people who simply aren’t nice and it was making me physically tired.  Like, I-want-to-sleep-to-not-deal-with-people tired.

The “everydayness” of the pettiness and meanness and slights were taking a toll.  No matter how well I let things “roll off my back,” when the assaults are hard, fast, and consistent, tiny slights feel like boulders. They aren’t so easy to roll away.  They just sort of pile up and impede my ability to “move on” or not take things “to heart.”

I found it difficult to shake the mood that was gripping me and dragging me to a dark, dark place. I had to do something, so I “escaped” for a bit.

I didn’t take my camera. I didn’t plan to take photos.  (I had my phone with me out of habit and for security).  I just needed to walk and talk with God for a moment. I needed him to “right” my perspective and reset my mood.  I needed him to expel from my spirit the foulness that was intent on sullying my soul.

After a few steps,  I looked up.

The trees were communing and basking in the warmth of this so-called winter and playing against the clear blue sky.

I paused.

I took a deep, cleansing breath.

I listened.

I allowed God’s Spirit to bathe me and exorcise the yuckiness.

And fill me with good things–things that are lovely, pure, right, and true.

I’m light and airy and my gratitude is floating in the wind, dancing with the trees.

 

 

“Walk to the Cross”

"Cross" @ Burritt on the Mountain

74-Foot Cross @ Burritt on the Mountain, Monte Sano, Huntsville, Alabama

I lied.  Not intentionally, of course.  When I wrote “Autumn Has Flowers Too” would be my last blog post this year featuring autumn photos, I had no idea that my family and I would walk the nature trail at Burritt on the Mountain this week.  I expected the weather to turn really cold and shake what was left of autumn off the trees, but imagine my surprise when we reached the park and found lots of color!

Our goal today, as always, was to reach the very large cross.  The 74-foot cross (with a 31-foot crossbeam) is an impressive site. It was built in 1963, “a racially integrated and ecumenical effort during complicated times, symbolizing a city balanced by a symbol of peace and faith”  (Paige Minds the Gap).

"Cross" @ Burritt on the Mountain

The Cross @ Burritt on the Mountain weighs about 38 tons.

In the past, we visited Burritt during the winter months, after the trees lost their leaves, so it was nice to experience the trail and the cross in the golden glow of autumn.

As usual, I captured many photos, but I’ll just leave a “few” for you to enjoy.  “Few” is relative, right? [Click an image for a closer look]

 

“Such Grace…One Autumnal Face”

"Red Maple"

Captured Today: “Red Maple”

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”

~John Donne~

"Red Maple"

Close-up: “Red Maple”

(Monochrome) Photo Play: Water, Light, and Fairies

I’m baaaaack with another monochrome photos post.  I can hardly believe the last monochrome post, “Animals in Monochrome,” was in January. I didn’t realize how much time had gone by.

I attempted a “Water in Monochrome” swap earlier in the year, but there were no takers, so I was pleased as punch when my penfriend Beckra joined the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot and joined the swap when I “re-created” it in September.  She had been experimenting with shooting water in black and white, so the swap was perfect for her.

Beckra shared two photos which exhibit her photographic interactions with water and light.  Both photos were shot at her happy place, the creek at Woolly Hollow State Park.

“Writing on the Water,” Creek at Woolly Hollow State Park, by Rebecca R. (swap-bot: Beckra)

This first photo was captured “close, close, close-up” while wading and crouching in the creek. Beckra writes that it “seems like the light is writing on the water in a kind of cursive.”  Interestingly, it also looks like a fire dance.

For the second photo, she had been trying to capture the “starlike glints” on the water and was pleased to find this photo did not disappoint.

“Starry Creek,” Creek at Woolly Hollow State Park, by Rebecca R. (swap-bot: Beckra)

Although the next photo was not part of the swap, it is a “water in black and white” photo and it completes a perfect trilogy of abstract water photos.

“May Moontrail” by Rebecca R. (swap-bot: Beckra)

Beckra sent this one at the beginning of summer break, a moon trail on the lake. She followed the bright moon to the water and was able to capture this reflection, a beautiful “luxury of the summer.”

The guys and I found different places to experience nature and we were overjoyed to find some hangouts near or on water.  Being a Westbank NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) girl, I feel a little lost sometimes not having the Mississippi River down the street from me.

I sent four photos, two from summer and two older photos because I am sort of proud of the monochrome renderings.

Wheeler Lake in Black and White

Wheeler Lake in Black and White, iPhone Photo, 2016

This photo is from Wheeler Lake, which is located between Rogersville and Huntsville in Northern Alabama. The lake was formed by a dam along the Tennessee River. Although part of a popular tourist spot, we were among very, very few people in the area we explored.

Here’s another favorite shot from Wheeler Lake park:

Wheeler Lake Park, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016

“Where Fairies Play,” Wheeler Lake Park, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016

Although flawed, this one was fun to work with because I had to remove a HUGE orange garbage can from the shot.  For some reason, it reminds me of a place where fairies play.  I think I read one too many medieval romances last month.

Ditto Landing marina, described as “Huntsville, Alabama’s gateway to the Tennessee River,” is my new favorite spot.  We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the area and are looking forward to returning soon. You can learn the history of Ditto Landing and see gorgeous pics on the website.

The “Closed Bridge” photo featured in Friday’s post was from Ditto Landing. Here’s the original photo.

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Original

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Original

And a favorite edit:

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, edited in Snapseed

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, edited in Snapseed

Here’s another one of my favorite photos from Ditto Landing–a nice balance between air, trees, water, and land.  There’s so much more to explore I can’t wait to go back.

“Balance and Order,” Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016

As mentioned, I also sent two older photos: a sepia photo of from “The Fly” at Audubon Park, featured earlier this year in one of the nature photo challenge blog posts, and a photo of waves crashing against the rocks (was it mountains?) in Maui.  Although I “heart” the original photo, I couldn’t resist the purple.

The Purple Wave, Maui

That’s it for now.  Until next time…I’ll be riding the purple wave…

Autumn’s Appeal: Photo Postcards

I’m not sure where autumn is hanging out, but it certainly hasn’t made its way to Northern Alabama.  I’m finally seeing a little color in the leaves, but I’m still seeing way too much green for November.

Back in September, I’d had high hopes for the usually brilliant autumn, so I set up a postcard swap to celebrate the season.  By the time the swap deadline loomed, autumn was still pretty scarce in this part of the USA, so to uphold my end of the swap, I had to send my partner an older photo.

I shot this photo late last autumn.  I don’t even remember the circumstances, but as I was scrolling through photos, I was drawn to the burgundy leaves.  I also like how this photo looks “right” no matter which way I turn it.  🙂

Autumn's Sympathy

Autumn’s Appeal

Fortunately, I can always count on my swap-bot friends to deliver.  My penfriend Beckra, shared her “experiment” with photographing through a rainy window with gratitude for autumn colors on rainy grey days.

Rainy Autumn Day by Beckra

“Rainy-Day Autumn” by Beckra

This photo is so gorgeously abstract!  This shot actually inspired an edit of one of my own photos for another autumn swap (I’ll share that in a few days).

As I was decluttering my desk two days ago, I found a photo Beckra captured last autumn.

“Luminous Autumn”

Doesn’t this one look like a painting?  I appreciate how Beckra captured the multicolored awesomeness of autumn in both photos.

I was finally able to get a bit of this year’s autumn about a week ago when we visited the Nashville Zoo to celebrate the birthday of one of my little one’s friends.  I found these beautiful leaves as we were exiting the zoo.

Tri-Color Autumn

Finally Autumn!

The zoo was decked out with pumpkins, mums, and other fall decor, but none could compete with the artistry of Nature being herself.

Until next time…

They Gave Me Butterflies!

As part of my Mother’s Day gift this year, my hubby and son planted zinnia seeds outside my home office window, so I can enjoy the flowers even when I’m indoors.  I’ve watched the buds open and multiply brilliantly over the last few weeks.  A couple of days ago, I noticed butterflies hovering around the blossoms. Today, I stepped outdoors to snap a few shots of the zinnias, and the butterflies were everywhere, gracefully fluttering from flower to flower while I attempted to capture them in their best poses. They lightened my mood and made my heart smile.

This picture (post-processed) captures my mood after today's encounter with the butterflies.

This post-processed image captures my mood after today’s encounter with the butterflies.

My guys gave me flowers. They also gave me butterflies.