Thrive…

Life has evolved to thrive in environments that are extreme only by our limited human standards: in the boiling battery acid of Yellowstone hot springs, in the cracks of permanent ice sheets, in the cooling waters of nuclear reactors, miles beneath the Earth’s crust, in pure salt crystals, and inside the rocks of the dry valleys of Antarctica. –Jill Tarter

My hubby and I visited a cute garden shop today and while waiting for him to complete his transaction, I explored the grounds–checked out the various fountains, marveled at the ice patterns formed in what was once flowing water. I was drawn to a fountain pouring water into a heart-shaped basin and was so pleased to find goldfish surviving and thriving in the frigid water.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere…

Ice Story: Too Cold! Too Cold!

Too Cold, Too Cold!

I grew up and spent more than half my life in the Deep, Deep South–in New Orleans–where the west bank of the Mississippi River meets rock. So when the temperature gauge reads 8 degrees, there’s no question about it. I plan to stay indoors until Sir Sun shows Jack Frost who’s boss. But life isn’t always convenient, and sometimes we have to do what we have to do.

I braved the coldest temperatures I’ve had to deal with in my life–minus 5°F (with wind chill factor) when dropping my son off at school yesterday. Gasp!

“What? There is school?!”

That was my reaction when I woke up yesterday and found no notification of cancellation–or at least a delayed start to the school day. I guess it says a lot about my relationship with “extremely cold” weather that I seriously expected schools to be closed because of the single digit temperatures. I was tempted to let my son stay home–warm and cozy by the fireplace–but, like responsible parents, we sent him to school.

After drop-off, with multiple layers and thick, bulky coats on all, a trip to Walmart for thermals gave me this gift of ice. [Click an image for a closer look]

My first shots of the year. iPhone pics. Meh.

Unfortunately, I ignored the inner prompting to grab my camera when we were heading out the door. Of course, the “real” camera would have required more fidgeting with settings and more time in the ice cold temps, so I’ll accept these–my only evidence that I went outdoors and survived way below freezing temperatures.

Kudos [and thanks] to the Walmart team member for leaving the sprinklers on! 😉

An “African” Christmas Party

“Gateway to Africa Tree”

Every year the university at which I teach hosts an elaborate “themed” Christmas party. Faculty, staff, and administrators dress according to theme, compete for prizes in some cases (like the ugliest sweater contest one year and the talent competition another year). Photo booths, craft stations, excellent music, door prizes, food, and “the envelope” that reveals our Christmas bonus are “staples” of the event. This year there was even a massage station and a cash bonus in addition to our regular bonus!

The team that coordinates the event always does an extraordinary job transforming the university’s skating rink into an amazing reflection of the theme, but this year’s theme, “Gateway to Africa” ousted my former favorite, “New York, New York.” I was thoroughly thrilled when I entered the party yesterday because I love African art and textiles.

Take a look at what I managed to capture [click an image for a closer look]:

The tree was decorated with African flags, fabric, masks, and ornaments in the shape of the continent:

The displays featured African clothing, art, baskets, and other items.

Everything was beautiful!

For faculty, the party marks the beginning of the holiday break. We submit grades on Monday, party Tuesday, and then recuperate from Fall Semester and rest up for January.

And so winter vacation begins…

Divided: Photos Caught During Conversation

As I was “flicking” through photos on my phone, I realized that all of the photos I captured with my phone this week were shot while I was in conversation with others…

An abandoned home while chatting with my hubby during our morning drive:

“Abandoned on 53”

An expiring dragonfly while one of my students was sharing a profound spiritual experience:

“Glassine Wings”

My favorite image of the week–wires and lines while chatting with the same student and a colleague after grabbing lunch:

“Angles”

The pretty butterfly, part of the Christmas decor adorning the banister outside my office as a conversation with another student was ending.

“Pearls and Lace”

I was fully tuned in to each conversation when these images literally grabbed my attention, but I imagine it must be (at least) slightly annoying to have a conversation with someone who pauses or slows her step during conversations to take a shot at something that catches her eye. So “thank you” to everyone who accepts me and my camera (or iPhone) and understands that those pauses to consider the little things provide necessary balance for an often too busy life.

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.

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!