Photo Walk: First Day of Autumn Sightings

I’ve been craving time with my camera, so yesterday I arrived at work 30 minutes before conferences with students were scheduled to begin and took a brief walk–camera and iPhone in tow. As expected, there weren’t many signs of autumn, but the walk provided a refreshing start to my day and a clear mind as I headed into the weekend.

My campus walks always start with the trees. The oaks did not disappoint with their gnarly trunks and roots. The fungus attracted my attention here.

Notice the resting ent?

I wonder how he got here from Middle Earth. Or is he a tree troll?

The Dogwoods have so many interesting transformations throughout the year. I’ll have to make a point of charting the changes one year. They’re showing signs of autumn.

Of course, the evergreen deserves admiration all year long.

It wouldn’t be the first day of autumn in Alabama without butterflies and pink.

It’s about to take flight…

A morning walk requires a squirrel.

A couple of bonus photos shot earlier in the week: One provides proof of autumn.

And a tree I encounter (almost) every time I take a campus walk. There’s so much to love and study.

As I’m reviewing these photos, I’m thinking about my older brother, Dennis–a photographer–and feeling a strong connection to him through our mutual love for nature photography. I’m praying him through a medical crisis and sending hugs and deepest love from the Deep South to the West Coast. I love you, big brother!

Time Out and Bad Solar Eclipse Photos

This is extraordinary that humankind has figured out that we live on a big sphere, orbiting another sphere, with a smaller sphere orbiting us, and once in a while, these things line up and we experience totality. –Bill Nye, August 21, 2017

Yes, this is yet another eclipse post.

I looked forward to the eclipse and enjoyed every second of it, not simply because of the amazing spectacle it was but because for once, it seemed, we found something else to talk about. The steady diet of social challenge, politics, and White House shenanigans we’re fed in the USA was interrupted for many glorious hours of focus on the solar eclipse.

A time out we needed.

Like many businesses and schools in the area, the University and K-12 campuses (where I work) shut down for a couple of hours and watched the moon pass between the sun and the earth. Students celebrated a break from classes (Many profs and teachers did too, but shhh…we won’t tell). Families interrupted a busy Monday schedule to enjoy the eclipse together. The University provided snowballs and ice cream to keep us cool in the 91 degree heat.

I did not prepare adequately and completely forgot my solar filter. I was not willing to risk my camera sensor, so I attempted to take pics of the eclipse with my iPhone. Major fail!

These are really bad photos, but I figured, something is better than nothing.

This photo surprised me. It reveals just how powerful the sun is.

Eclipse What?

The sun was about 95% covered at this point (We experienced 97% coverage in Northern Alabama). It is amazing how much light escaped through that sliver. Notice the strange hue of the sky?  I’m not sure you can see it, but the sky was “bluer” before the eclipse.

Watching everyone marvel at the eclipse was just as enjoyable as the eclipse itself.  My son:

My not-so-little one enjoying the eclipse.

I might get in trouble for the next picture, but my colleague’s wife, Jewel, was so engrossed in the eclipse that she didn’t hear my greeting. This is her “punishment” for “ignoring” me.

A “Jewel” enjoying the eclipse.

I think two hours in the heat affected my thinking. It never crossed my mind to photograph the shadows, but thankfully, my friend Meli did! I love the crescent moon-shaped shadows cast by the eclipse! [Click an image for a closer look].

Many people have shared many words of wisdom about the eclipse. There are indeed some profound and valuable lessons, but the eclipse simply provided me with a break–a time out from all the little things that irk and frustrate and a moment to focus on something much grander.

NOTE: Thanks to Dr. Tiffany, one of my former students–now a molecular biologist–for the Bill Nye quote.

Kindness Matters. Period.

We wrap up our seven days of kindness posts with the postcard I crafted for Louise Gale’s Global heART Swap.  And we end where we began.

Kindness matters.

“Kindness Matters. Period.”

However, Jewel’s song was not the inspiration for the postcard. Instead, I was inspired by the many, many expressions of kindess I’ve witnessed either directly or indirectly and the powerful impact(s) they have made.

Many of us are familiar with the Ian McClaren’s quote (often attributed to Plato), “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We read this so much that it has descended into the realm of cliche. We no longer “hear” the import of the words, but the reality is that most, if not all, of us are coping with something tragic, challenging, or traumatic.

We convince ourselves that we can do nothing to help, that our small efforts don’t and won’t make much difference, but they really do and will. Our acts of kindness may change someone’s mood from desperate to hopeful and may even make the difference between life and death.

So…

Extend a little kindness in whatever form it needs to take for the situation–smile at strangers, wish someone a nice day, drive with courtesy, pay it forward, forgive, agree to disagree, or walk away. During the particular interaction with you–no matter how brief–an individual may be dealing with something that is much heavier, much more trying, so give that person a momentary break from his or her madness.

Kindness matters. Period.

Just in case you’ve missed any of the earlier posts, they’re listed below for your convenience.

Have a kind week!

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?

Following Wasps and Finding Hearts

I was sitting in my backyard an hour ago, clearing the clutter of the day from my mind, trying to feel human again–talking to God, listening for His voice, affirming His promise of peace.

As I was lost in thought, a wasp flew by and I absent-mindedly followed its path to a log I found interesting enough to photograph. As I poised to take the shot, the wasp changed its course and led me to this beautiful gift.

“Found Heart”

A found heart! The second one for the day!

My day started with a found heart my penfriend Christine posted on Instagram this morning.

Christine’s “Found Heart”

The hearts are reminders that no matter how utterly mired in the muck of life we find ourselves, love is the fundamental principle, the basis from which we should operate and the truth we must walk in. It is the thing we must cling to in the face of all the stuff tossed our way. It is what keeps us okay–sane and whole.

In the crazy rush of doing and getting it is easy to forget love, so I wish to remind you as I must remind myself from time to time:  You are indeed loved.  Be sure to take some time each day to bask in this knowledge and let it fill you to overflowing.

Hugs and hearts…

Love, Lines, and Angles: Finding Beauty in Ordinary Places

My friend Cy doesn’t consider herself a photographer; however, she has a knack for evoking strong feelings with the ordinary things she photographs with her phone camera. She always remarks that she’s learning a lot about photography from me, but I am learning so much from her.

I’ve been attempting to “train” my eye to see things differently and find art in ordinary things. So, while my camera and I have been having a wonderful time watching spring unfold, I’ve also been making a point of photographing some of the mundane things I encounter in my everyday life, things to which I usually pay little attention.

A couple of weeks ago I focused on lines. They were everywhere–in my office, in the air, on the ground, on my student’s back.   Even though my camera was often mere inches away, I captured the photos below with my iPhone because usually the ordinary is most striking when I’m not expecting it and when I’m not attempting to “force” it.

I noticed the power lines on my walk down the driveway to the mailbox one afternoon. I was struck by the awe and power they represent–power to give life and to take it.

Power and Respect.

The dandelion was beneath them, hoping for some attention, before all the “wishes” blew away.

“Dande-Lines”

A sleek bike was resting in the hallway mere feet away from my (work) office. It was a gift waiting for me to return from a brief walk on campus.  The lines on the floor were not to be ignored either.

“Circles, Lines, and Angles”

The table, chair, and railing lines caught my eye while I was having lunch with a friend, reminding me of all the ways we work to stay connected. The empty chair (for me) represented a friend who could not join us for lunch that day.  

“Lines of Communication.”

Finally, my student’s thought-provoking tattoo.  The words “reflect God’s love” are written in Arabic with the sun and rays providing the visual message.  There’s an intriguing story that goes along with this tattoo, but the lines–the rays–grabbed my attention.

“Reflect God’s Love”

There’s simply so much beauty in the ordinary. Sometimes, it takes adjusting one’s angle or purview just a little, but it’s there. Always.  

Have you found beauty in the everyday things that meet your eyes?

Wabi-Sabi: My Liberate Your Art 2017 Reject

The Liberate Your Art 2017 (LYA) swap has begun! I received my first postcard a couple of days ago and I can hardly contain my excitement as I wait for the remaining cards to arrive.

Some people begin posting their cards on social media and “side-swapping” right away, but I usually wait till the LYA blog hop to post and begin sending extra cards.  I look forward to “the surprises” and want to see the postcards for the first time when they land in my mailbox.

It doesn’t hurt to share a postcard that didn’t make the cut.  Right?

As usual, I had a hard time deciding which cards to choose for the swap, so I had a lot of different cards printed. The design below was an early pick, but after seeing it printed as a postcard, I changed my mind.

“Wabi-Sabi: Beauty and Decay”

There’s nothing spectacular about the original photo, but I liked it when I shot it last August. I was a bit fatigued after being in meetings all day and stepped outside to escape for a moment. The flowers provided aesthetic relief after being trapped indoors.  They were showing signs of decay, but there was something in their beauty that caught my eye that rainy afternoon.

“Beauty and Decay,” iPhone Photo

I edited the photo a half dozen ways using the iColorama app. This was a favorite:

“Beauty and Decay,” Edited in iColorama

Wabi-sabi: a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.  [Definition from WordStuck].

The Japanese principle of wabi-sabi provided the perfect expression for what I was hoping to capture in the photo–beauty in imperfection.  After adding “wabi-sabi” to the photo, I sent the photo for a photo inspiration swap hosted for the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.

“Beauty and Decay,” Edited in iColorama

The final edit (first photo) was colorful and cheerful, and I appreciate that it did not mask the imperfections.

Considering the message of the design, it is a bit ironic that this one was not chosen for the swap.  No worries though.  It has made its way into at least two mailboxes and I have a few more in my stash to share. 😉

Have a fabulous week!

Happy Spring: Education Outdoors

The weather today was (and is) too gorgeous for indoors.  By afternoon, I couldn’t resist, so a couple of my students and I decided to take education outdoors.

English majors discussing issues they’re examining for their final projects.

How did you celebrate the first day of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere)?

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.

 

 

Autumn Has Flowers Too!

At the mention of spring, we imagine an explosion of blossoms in many, many colors. At the mention of autumn, we think of the changing of trees.  But autumn has flowers too, and that was the point of the photo postcard swap in which my penfriend Beckra and I participated.

On a walk in the woods, Beckra captured Ladies’ Tresses which is a kind of orchid.  She writes that it is “great that when autumn brings some relief from Arkansas heat, it also brings flowers. We call it a second spring.”

Ladies' Tresses, photo by Rebecca R. (aka Beckra)

“Second Spring.” Ladies’ Tresses, photo by Rebecca R. (aka Beckra)

She points out that in this photo the blooms have not fully unfurled.

When I was at the Nashville Zoo last month, there were flowers everywhere.  In addition to some “still flowering” rose bushes and hydrangeas, there were mums everywhere (I think they’re mums).

"Mums the Word"

“Mums the Word”

And there’s always, always something blooming on our beautiful campus. This caught my eye while I was having a very rare moment to chit-chat with my friend, Meli.

Campus Bloom, iPhone Photo

Campus Bloom, iPhone Photo

I was grateful to see some pink dancing with the oranges, yellows, and reds of autumn, but I decided on “typical” autumn colors for the swap.  I played around with a couple of photos in the iColorama app and ended it up with way too many versions, so my hubby and son helped me select some of the edits. From their selection, I sent three or four to Beckra. [Click an image for a closer look]

 

“Behind the Glass” was inspired by an autumn photo Beckra sent to me.  “Van Gogh” is my favorite of the set, probably because he’s my favorite Impressionist.  “Nautilus” and “Ray” tie for second.

The advantage of a late fall here in Northern Alabama is that everything is still so beautiful and brilliant, but I have a feeling that is going to change with the blink of an eye, so I’m pretty sure this is going to be my last autumn post for the year. Until next year, I’ll just enjoy this year’s photos. 😉