From the Shadows…Into the Light

I did not come to photography looking for magic. I came looking for a way to speak my pain. In the process of finding images to portray my darkness, I passed through the shadows into light. Now, I am one of photography’s many lovers, devoted to the art of seeing and revealing. […] There’s something holy about this work, something healing about this search for light. Like the pilgrim’s journey, it’s heaven all the way.

–Jan Phillips, God Is at Eye Level

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

–Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”

Through a casual Facebook post featuring some of her favorite books, my pen friend Connie F, introduced me to Jan Phillip’s book, God Is at Eye Level [Thanks, Connie!]. With Amazon [birthday] gift card in hand [Thanks, Tee!], I ordered the book and two others on creative and contemplative photography. 

The photograph of the wilted sunflower is the result of an exercise in God Is at Eye Level that invites readers to use an entire [pretend] 24-exposure roll of film to explore one strong emotion. It is my attempt to capture the tension between the darkness that walks with me as I deal with grief and trauma and the light I feel I need to project.  

But I am learning, day by day, there is value in darkness, particularly if we are using it to move toward Light.

In the quote above, Phillips underscores the usefulness of darkness, its role in our creativity and healing. Darkness is a “gift,” a necessary part of process; therefore, it’s critical that we face the darkness, wrestle with it, deal, so that we might emerge whole, or maybe not as fractured. Running away from it—creating some inauthentic happy place—only imprisons us. The operative word is emerge. Eventually, we “pass through” darkness and into the fullness of Light.

Heartwounds | #WordlessWednesday

I left my final class of the day saddened by comments made by one of the students. In our discussion about how two films define love, forgiveness, redemption, hope, and freedom, she spewed venom about love in a way that shocked most of the other students.

Sometimes it’s easier for a wounded individual to speak from anger than it is to confront deep pain, but, as an English professor, it’s not my place to “psychoanalyze” her or any other student. It is my “job,” however, to help her develop sound intellectual traits. But, because of her wound, she could not see the shortsightedness of her thinking.

I thought about my student this evening as I was reading through Anointed to Fly, a poetry collection by Dr. Gloria Wade Gayles. The words of “Heartwounds” [below] seemed to leap off the page. With incredible insight, the poem describes the  persistent ache of a woman who [once] loved.  I thought about my student as I read the poem.

“Heartwounds”
Gloria Wade Gayles, Anointed to Fly

Some men have not learned that heartwounds
as deep as a woman’s need for love
do not respond to phoney curatives
of roses, sweetened words and
make-up passion in scented rooms.

They do not heal themselves
with the passing of time
which erases time only
but not pain and the memory
of pain.

Let untreated
heartwounds become
sores
scabs
scars
ugly reminders of flawed love.

Some men believe
women were born
to endure
to understand
to forgive
to be irrational in all things.

It is that way,
they tell us,
with the pull of the moon.

They will not learn
perhaps cannot learn
that a woman’s heart
damaged by multiple wounds
beats faintly

and then

not
at
all


I’m sorry this isn’t a happy poem, and that this #WordlessWednesday is kind of wordy. You can skip the poem and just look at the pretty picture if you wish. I’ve been practicing photographing roses, so you’ll see another rose photo soon.

Just Because | A Packet of Flowers

Earlier today, I read Our Little Red House’s “spring’s hello to fall” post and that reminded me that I have had flower photographs by Rift Vegan sitting in my WP media library since September. The flowers, photographed from May to August, are from her garden and her various excursions in and around Eugene, Oregon.

Here’s the set:

Forget Me Nots. Photo by Rift V.

Peace. Hybrid Tea Rose. Photo by Rift V.

The Peace Rose was captured at Owen Rose Garden where Rift enjoys walking along the Riverbank Path. The Peace Rose, made famous by the U.S. Postage stamp, is her favorite to photograph.

Lady Beetle on Love-in-a-mist. Photo by Rift V.

Rift reports that the Love-in-a-mist flower self-seeds better than the sunflowers in her garden.

Wild Geranium? Photo by Rift V.

Rift doesn’t know what type of flower this is, but she thinks it is a type of wild geranium. The bright green center and the deeply colored “veins” are fascinating [Is that what all the lines are called?].

Columbia Lilies. Photo by Rift V.

According to Rift, Columbia Lilies are often mistaken for Tiger Lilies, the garden flower from Asia. These were found in the middle of the forest in the Pacific Northwest.

The flowers are becoming rare, Rift says, because people dig them up to plant in their own gardens–where they don’t do well. :-/ This makes the flower more enjoyable when she sees them in their natural environment.

Sunflowers. Photo by Rift V.

I used this sunflower for my first day of autumn post. It is one of three types of sunflowers that grow in her garden. The blossoms of this stunning dark rusty flower are only about eight inches across. All the birds snubbed the seeds from this particular type of sunflower, but she couldn’t vouch for the seeds–since she didn’t taste them either. 🙂

Rift, who is in the A Thousand Words group on swap-bot, sent the photographs “just because.” Isn’t that the best reason to send and receive flowers?

30 Days of Creative Joy!

My artist friend Sheila invited me to participate in a 30-day Creative Challenge for the month of September. With the beginning of the academic year and a million other demands on my time, of course I couldn’t resist. I needed motivation to take a few moments for creative joy each day.

Throughout the month, I doodled, drew, photographed, wrote poetry and prose and worked on two major creative projects. Here are some of the “little things” from this month’s moments of creative joy.

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I “created” a whole lot more than this. I drew or doodled something almost daily [especially sunflowers], but I sent some with letters and notes and didn’t get around to scanning others. The photographs [on my camera] were a bit too overwhelming to tackle after a long and busy Monday, so I took the lazy way out and went with photos shot with my phone.

Not surprisingly, flowers dominated, and I was also a little obsessed with clouds. But did you notice the two bears I drew? I was determined to draw a bear yesterday. My not-so-little one gave me some pointers [he’s really good!], so I think I’ll continue working on bears next month.

That’s it for now. Sleep calls.

If you’d like to check out more art created this month, check out the 30 Days Creative Gathering group on Facebook. The artists are a-maz-ing!

Have [creative] joy!

Optimism and Joy | #WordlessWednesday

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

 “Don’t Hesitate | Swan: Poems and Prose Poems | Mary Oliver
After taking a couple of “mental health” days, I returned to work yesterday and found a huge bunch of cheerful mums from my colleagues sitting in my office. The flowers brightened my spirits and made it easier to get through the day. I did not expect to meet such “sudden and unexpected” joy, but I grasped it without hesitation.

I read somewhere that mums symbolize “optimism and joy.” I like how that phrase honors the moment I’m in while at the same time reaching toward what can be and what will be.
Note: The top photo was shot with my Canon; the bottom two shot with my phone. I had so much fun experimenting with camera settings. I captured way more than three photos, but I’m exercising restraint. 😀

The End of the Rainbow with Patti LaBelle | #WordlessWednesday

I’m not sure if you can tell from the photo above, but we saw the end of a rainbow! I’ve seen many rainbows, but I’ve never seen the end of one. My guys and I were so excited that while en route to an open house at my son’s school, we pulled over to capture a shot. It was far more brilliant when we first noticed it, but by the time I grabbed my camera out the trunk, the rainbow had begun to fade.

Who knew that the rainbow ended on the university campus at which I work? And there wasn’t even a pot of gold!

Well, at least we can enjoy the amazing vocal range of Patti LaBelle in [not one but] two “out of this world” performances of “Over the Rainbow”–a 1989 performance at the Apollo Theatre in New York City and a 2014 performance at the White House for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I can’t choose, so I’m leaving you with both.

Until next time…