Rest. Reflect. Reset.

I lived all week for this moment, for this period of contemplation and rest.

We run ourselves ragged by going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny, but all aspects of our health require that we pause, that we tune out all the noise and allow ourselves to repair from the daily wear and tear of the week past.

For the next several hours, I am pausing to…rest, reflect, and reset.  Maybe, you’d like to join me.

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.

“We Need a Little Silence”

We have had far too much tossed at us the last several days–natural disasters, the escalating rhetoric on race in the U.S., the criticism of peaceful protest while validating violent protest, the invalidation of one the most basic rights of U.S. citizenry, dangerous political venom spewing from heads of state. In response to all of this, Larry K, one of my former students, wrote in the middle of a semi-lengthy Facebook post–

The world needs a little silence.

I feel this need with every fiber of my being as I am struggling to navigate the chaos.

We are assaulted with a barrage of traditional media and social media commentary all day long and we are not filtering and processing. This leaves us burdened. And weary. And (maybe) cowering in a corner.

In my writing courses, I tell my students that whenever we read an article, a social media post, a work of fiction–anything–we are entering a conversation, and with all conversations we must hear/listen, ask questions, respond, and add to the conversation. Conversations should be healthy and productive and should lead to growth in some way, no matter how small. The problem lately is that there’s been a lot of noise but little listening. We’re all talking at the same time and few are hearing the unspoken. And we’re just becoming more and more angry and frustrated. We’re screaming at each other. And the earth is mad and screaming too–through hurricanes, earthquakes , wildfires, and everything else.

We “need a little silence,” Larry says, “like when you’re angry at your mate and you just retreat to your corner.”

We do. We need to walk away from the fight. Retreat–in both senses of the word.

I urge you to take care of your mind and spirit and tune out the noise, regroup, and take strategic steps to filter what is unnecessary, what is not beneficial to your soul.

Photography: Finding Love Notes, Naturally

I’ve been “finding hearts” a lot this summer–when I look up, when I look down, when I’m simply enjoying my surroundings. Here’s a sampling of the hearts I “found” and photographed this summer.

❤ ❤ ❤

After seven years of faithful (and perhaps too much) shooting, my camera died on me late one April afternoon while I was shooting Magnolia blossoms. I was heartbroken. One of my good friends offered to purchase a new camera for me in return for a small favor. I would have done the favor anyway, so I resisted until I read a quote about not denying others the gift of giving to us. It finally convinced me to allow her to bless me in this way.  (And yes, I have amazing friends).

The camera arrived on a quiet Thursday afternoon. I unpacked it, took a shot of it straight out of the box with my phone, then stepped outside to give it a test run. The sun was a bit too much for my eyes, so I decided to shoot the heart I “found” a few months ago–I had to cast my gaze downward, which wasn’t as harsh on my eyes.

But what did I see when my eyes adjusted to the brightness of outdoors? Another heart! The heart affirmed my acceptance of the gift (because “truth be told,” I still had a problem with accepting it).

“Affirmation,” June 2017

❤ ❤ ❤

While my guys and I were walking through Ditto Landing a recent Saturday afternoon, my little one pointed out the heart (below) carved into the pavement–a natural symbol of the love embodied in our little family.

“Etched in Stone,” July 2017

I found a second heart during our walk, but I’m saving that one for another post. 😉

❤ ❤ ❤

My neighbor’s mini sunflower “patch” has been my happy place over the last few weeks. As I fretted over one thing or another one morning, I decided to visit them (again). This sunflower was a double reminder to turn my worries over to God and embrace His all-encompassing love, which will carry me through my difficulties.

“First Visit,” July 2017

❤ ❤ ❤

Just a few days ago, as I was again attempting to declutter and destash, I ran across an envelope filled with “found hearts” I received for a swap some time ago. The sender, Kelly (aka Mugsie), also loves found hearts and she sent several of her original photographs. [Click an image for a closer look]

 

Kelly finds hearts everywhere. If this small collection doesn’t convince you, take a look at her “naturally found hearts” site where you’ll find many more.

❤ ❤ ❤

It’s always a pleasure finding hearts when I’m out and about and it thrills me to share the hearts with friends and family. The photos serve well–in quick “thinking about you” notes, as “love posts,” and even as Liberate Your Art selections. The hearts “appear” when I need them most and reassure me that my world is okay.

What about you? Do you “find” hearts? Or is there some other symbol you “find” or look for when you need a particular message?

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!

Dreaming Art: Liberate Your Art Side Swaps

As in years past, I did a little side-swapping after the Liberate Your Art blog hop.  April and May are pretty crazy-busy around here, so I don’t check my post office box as frequently as I should.  When I finally checked, there was a mailbox full of postcards waiting and I jumped for joy when I saw the collection of art.

Here’s a quick look at nine of the ten postcards.

The first postcard came from my faithful postcard pal, Christine B. I met Christine via LYA 2016, but our friendship has grown via Love Notes, which she introduced to me last spring.

“Thistles,” photo by Christine B.

Christine captured this photo in England. She writes that the thistles remind her of “spires” and provides the etymology of the word: Spires–Derived from Old English, spir, meaning a sprout, shoot or a stalk of grass.

Lisa C. sent a great big “howdy” from Texas with her “Dream” photo:

She shot this image as a storm was coming in and later “photoshopped” the tree into the photograph.  I love cloud formations and the unique shapes they make.

You can find more of Lisa’s nature photography on her blog, Chasing the Sun.

I’ve swapped with Sherry H. for the past few rounds of LYA. She sent her mixed media “mountain bird” with greetings from Amook Island (Alaska):

Mixed media art by Sherry H., Amook Island Creations

She printed a simple but inspiring message on back:

Conceive. Believe. Achieve.

Sheila D., with whom I’ve also swapped almost every year I participated in LYA, sent a beautiful watercolor of blues, greens, and purples–a field of purple wildflowers (yay!):

“Wildflowers,” Watercolor by Sheila D.

Sheila encourages, “Keep sharing your art with the world!”  You can see more of Sheila’s watercolors on her blog:  Sheila’s Corner Studio.

Suzette R. sent a textured yellow rose:

“In the Thicket of Things,” Photo by Suzette R.

She shared a quote:

Surely a star danced in Heaven on the day you were born. –Flavia

An interaction with Suzette a few months ago led to the creation of Karle’s Wings. [Thanks, Suzette!]. You can find out more about Suzette and take a look at more of her beautiful photos on her blog, Notes from the Road.

Pat M. of Serendipity shared a gorgeous mixed media magnolia on canvas.

“Magnolia,” mixed media by Pat M.

This piece began as a photo to which Pat added paper for texture and then oil painted.  This is definitely a technique I will try this summer. She also shares a quote:

To be an artist is to believe in life.  –Henry Moore

My “neighbor,” Patsy (PJ) from Tennessee, shared an interesting painting:

“Painting in a Book,” by Pasty L. (PJ)

The painting was completed in an altered photography book using acrylic paint and oil pastels.  The colors come from the original photos on the page.

Janice D. creates beautiful and inspiring mixed media pieces, some of which have a prominent place on one of my inspiration walls. She shared her “Dreamer.”

“Dreamer” by Janice D.

And writes:

Never let it be said that to DREAM is a waste of one’s time, for DREAMS are our realities waiting.  In DREAMS we plant the seeds of our future.

Finally, Christine sent a second card–a sweet reproduction of one of her fabric cards.  I shared an original fabric card in an earlier post.

“Fabric Hearts,” reproduction of a handmade fabric card made by Christine B.

Christine sent the card with a wish that it will “fill [me] with love.”  This card is one of my favorites–I have a thing for hearts, like I have a thing for purple and sunflowers–so it’s headed for an inspiration wall.

I have one more postcard to share, but I’m saving that one for another day–maybe, tomorrow.

For now…thanks ladies, for the beautiful artwork that brightens my journals, my walls, and my days.

If you missed the postcards I received through the regular swap, you can find them here:  Experiment, Create, Play, and Liberate.

Ciao!

Guest Post: “Walks with Chandra”

The week promises “cruel and unusual punishment” with little time for fun, so my friend Cy volunteered to write a guest post for me. Here, she shares photos from a few of our photo walks.  She very thoughtfully stages photos for her Instagram feed, so maybe, we can convince her to write a post with some of her IG photos one day.  Maybe, we can convince her to start a blog too!

Thanks, Cy, for taking a little of the burden for me this week!

***   ***   ***

“Begin where you are with who you are. In order to go where you want to go creatively, you have to start somewhere.” Julia Cameron~ Walking In This World: The Practical Art of Creativity

Two years ago, I joined Instagram, became a planner addict, and started taking photos with my cell phone. These things happened because of my walks with Chandra. Our walks are not for exercise. They are art walks, the kind that inspire me to see a tree or a cloud as art. I am interrupting her blog to share some of the photos I’ve taken on my walks with her.

I’ve never considered myself a photographer, but I’ve taken some cool photos. Of course, Chandra’s photos show much more skill than mine, but I think my photos have improved because she has shared a bit of how to look at the landscape.  My photos have been shot with a Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6.

Image

“Light and Shadow,” Photo by Dr. Cy

This image (above) was taken after Chandra pointed out to me how the light and shadow played against the side of a building. We were taking photos of trees that day, but like a good teacher, she saw something more interesting and we changed course for a few moments.

Image

“Light and Shadow II,” Photo by Dr. Cy

This image (above) was taken on the same day, just a few feet away from image one. The same concept of light and shadow is emphasized.

Cloud

“A Walk in the Clouds,” Photo by Dr. Cy

Sometimes, we just take photos of the same thing over and over. One day we took photos of clouds only.

Image

“Tree in Bloom,” Photo by Dr.Cy

This image is of a blooming tree. Chandra had seen the tree the day before and we made a special trip to take photos of it the next day, but in less than 24 hours the tree had already lost some of its “blossom” fullness.

"Tree in Bloom," Photo by Dr. Cy

“Tree in Bloom,” Photo by Dr. Cy

Same tree, different perspective.

So, let me know what you think. Has Chandra been a good teacher?

Found! More Monochrome Photos

While I was looking through computer files yesterday, I stumbled upon photos from two monochrome swaps I was supposed to blog about way back in 2015! Yep. Last year’s “should-have-blogged” list is even longer than this year’s, but I have no plans to “catch-up” on those posts.

The photos below are from two swaps for the “A Thousand Words” group on Swap-bot: Clouds in Monochrome and Trees in Monochrome.  My partner for both swaps was Tynkerbelle aka Zoey Rayne aka Peppie Selders of Captured Adventures.  Since so much time has gone by, I don’t remember much (read: anything) about the photos, so I’ll just share them and hopefully you can figure out what I don’t remember.

This is my favorite photo of the bunch:

"The Horizon" by Zoey Rayne

“The Horizon” by Tynkerbelle aka Zoey Rayne aka Peppie

Zoey took a creative approach to the next photo–man-made clouds from a “factory.”  While growing up in Algiers–Westbank New Orleans–we could see the emissions from the factories in Chalmette, Louisiana which was across the Mississippi River.  As a really little kid, I always imagined that’s what clouds were made from.

"Man-made 'Clouds'" by Zoey Rayne

“Man-made ‘Clouds'” by Zoey Rayne aka Peppie

Now that I know better, I’m a bit suspicious about what those emissions did to our environment and our health. More than once, those companies had to fork over dollars to the residents because of mishaps that released dangerous toxins into the air.  Where’s Erin Brockovich when you need her?

And now, we turn from factories to trees.  Here’s an original tree photo:

“Zoey’s Tree,” Original, Photo by Tynkerbelle aka Zoey Rayne aka Peppie

And here’s the monochrome edit.

Tree in Monochrome by Zoey

“Zoey’s Tree in Red,” Photo by Tynkerbelle aka Zoey Rayne aka Peppie

I wish I knew more about these photos. Perhaps, there’s a note or letter somewhere that gives more details, but there’s no way I’m tackling the giant 2015 box of mail.  Not tonight.  Not anytime soon.  For now, let’s just enjoy the pretty.