Breathe.

I think all the professors, teachers, and students in the USA groaned collectively this morning. No one wants to face Monday after having five to nine days off. Plus, for many of us, Monday begins the intense madness of final papers, final exams, and final grades.

Ugh! The thought of what this week brings makes many of us want to run for cover. But we can’t. We just have to jump in and keep doing until it’s all done.

So breathe…

My Impressionist “Painting” of the Tennessee River at Ditto Landing, Northern Alabama ūüôā

….knowing on the other side of the madness…four glorious weeks of winter break.

Slaying Dragons and Painting Dreams

I captured the image (above) a week or so ago when my hubby, son, and I were exploring downtown. The chair is colorful and worthy of photographing, but I was drawn to the quote.

I dream my painting and then paint my dream. ¬†–Van Gogh

It is perfectly aligned with where my head is at the moment–planning and working toward a few goals.

A few days before encountering the chair, one of my besties and I decided to work toward completing our top three goals and report our progress to each other every week. By the beginning of week one, I was ready to slay in a serious way. By the end, I was whining inwardly that I’d made zero¬†progress on any of my goals.

Thanks to Thanksgiving Break, I’ve had a moment or two of clarity and I’ve concluded that ‚Äúgoal slay‚ÄĚ is as much about slaying the dragons that stand in our way as it is about actually achieving our goals: Dragons of time. Dragons of demands. Dragons of habit. Dragons of neglect. Dragons of doubt and fear.

The reality–life is busy and full, so we often have little time to squeeze in a new thing, goal, activity, even person. We’ve developed some patterns and routines that must change. Even our perceived good habits have to change if we are to accomplish our goals. What’s more daunting? We must sharpen our swords on our own imagined dragons before we can slay the really scary ones.

So although I’ve not checked any of the boxes directly leading to any of my goals, I’ve made significant progress on the process. I have well-defined goals and a solid plan to slay some dragons. That’s something…isn’t it?

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.

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.

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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

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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. ūüėČ

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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

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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.

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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?

“Escape” to the Front Porch

A few days ago, the guys and I left home to hit one of the many nature trails in the area. As usual, I had my camera out ready to capture abandoned homes and scenes from rural life along the way. A couple of minutes into the drive, the gorgeous remains of a tree commanded our attention. I was ready to jump out of the car and snap a shot of the tree, when my hubby said, “I think this is your colleague’s home.” We weren’t sure. As we looked toward the house, which was set some distance from the road, we noticed a couple sitting on the porch. We couldn’t make out the faces, but I thought I recognized the SUV sitting in the driveway. We took our chances and drove up to say hello and ask permission to capture a few shots–even if we were wrong.

It was them! But the biggest surprise was the amazing view right outside their front door.

“Living the Pond Life”

The pond, built by my colleague’s husband, is beautiful and reminds me why I love living outside the city and in a place where a front yard can be a pond. It is well-maintained and serves as home to a lot of marine life–fish, turtles, and the occasional unwelcome water moccasin.

Back in May I accepted Books & Coffee’s¬†challenge to share escape photos within our own cities and towns. I have to make good on my promise to share some of my (far too many) “happy place” photos, but what better way to “escape” life than by simply stepping outside one’s front door?¬†I can’t claim my colleague’s home as my happy place, but it did provide the happy during our brief visit.

It’s clear that my colleague’s husband designed the pond to provide a bit of peace and beauty away from the daily hustle and bustle. ¬†Water–in almost any form–has such a calming effect.¬†Even though it was an unplanned stop along the way, visiting my colleague’s pond just about negated my desire for a nature walk.

As for the tree, I almost forgot about it, but I managed to snap a couple before we drove away. The knots and grooves give the tree such striking appeal! [Click an image for a closer view].

Don’t you think so?

Close…Closer…Closest

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

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. ūüėČ

 

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Have you photographed anything recently that simply thrilled you?

Microblog Mondays: He Restores My Soul

My little one is sick for the fourth time this season, so when I woke up this morning, worried and stressed, I¬†needed a simple and familiar scripture to start the¬†day. I opened the Bible App and the “Verse of the Day” provided the first few verses of Psalm 23–just what I needed to help the little one get through the day.

“He Leads Me Beside Peaceful Streams,” Wheeler Lake, Huntsville, Alabama.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
Psalm 23:1-3a NLT

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“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]

 

(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…