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.

 

 

“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]

 

“Such Grace…One Autumnal Face”

"Red Maple"

Captured Today: “Red Maple”

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”

~John Donne~

"Red Maple"

Close-up: “Red Maple”

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!

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

Autumn’s Appeal: Photo Postcards

I’m not sure where autumn is hanging out, but it certainly hasn’t made its way to Northern Alabama.  I’m finally seeing a little color in the leaves, but I’m still seeing way too much green for November.

Back in September, I’d had high hopes for the usually brilliant autumn, so I set up a postcard swap to celebrate the season.  By the time the swap deadline loomed, autumn was still pretty scarce in this part of the USA, so to uphold my end of the swap, I had to send my partner an older photo.

I shot this photo late last autumn.  I don’t even remember the circumstances, but as I was scrolling through photos, I was drawn to the burgundy leaves.  I also like how this photo looks “right” no matter which way I turn it.  🙂

Autumn's Sympathy

Autumn’s Appeal

Fortunately, I can always count on my swap-bot friends to deliver.  My penfriend Beckra, shared her “experiment” with photographing through a rainy window with gratitude for autumn colors on rainy grey days.

Rainy Autumn Day by Beckra

“Rainy-Day Autumn” by Beckra

This photo is so gorgeously abstract!  This shot actually inspired an edit of one of my own photos for another autumn swap (I’ll share that in a few days).

As I was decluttering my desk two days ago, I found a photo Beckra captured last autumn.

“Luminous Autumn”

Doesn’t this one look like a painting?  I appreciate how Beckra captured the multicolored awesomeness of autumn in both photos.

I was finally able to get a bit of this year’s autumn about a week ago when we visited the Nashville Zoo to celebrate the birthday of one of my little one’s friends.  I found these beautiful leaves as we were exiting the zoo.

Tri-Color Autumn

Finally Autumn!

The zoo was decked out with pumpkins, mums, and other fall decor, but none could compete with the artistry of Nature being herself.

Until next time…

Nature Photo Challenge: An Old Friend

"An Old Friend," (Original), September, 2015

“An Old Friend,” (Original), September, 2015, iPhone 5

I continue the “Nature Photo Challenge” with a photo of a tree I see almost daily during the work week.  There are many beautiful trees in my work environment at varying stages of life.  This one is near my building, just outside the side door.  I behold its changing beauty each time I step outdoors for a much needed breather.  I almost can’t help snapping a shot with my phone before returning to my office.

The weather and years have aged it gracefully.

"An Old Friend," September, 2015

“An Old Friend,” September, 2015, iPhone 5 (Altered in Snapseed and Photos/Mac)

Jan’s Tree: Pause for Sanity

Jan's Tree: My Colleague and I were "considering the trees" on our short walk to a meeting.  Jan noticed this one and we paused to consider it.

Jan’s Tree: A couple of days ago, Jan–a colleague–and I were “considering the trees” on our short walk to a meeting. She noticed this one and we paused to reflect on its beauty and the cloud-play beyond it.

I have been “considering the trees” a lot lately.  I have had little time to “just be,” so this has been a key part of maintaining my sanity.  On the drive home, while walking a bit on campus, or running an errand, I have just been taking note of trees. These unplanned pauses with nature have helped me exhale and shake off the stress at various points of the day.

Jan's Tree: Origina/No Filter

Jan’s Tree: Original/No Filter/iPhone Photo

Thank God for the trees!

Tree Therapy (Autumn Leaves)

Thanks to life and all the madness it’s tossed my way, I’ve been needing quite a bit of tree therapy lately. Thanks to all the amazing tree photographs shared on Flickr and Google+, my sanity is no longer threatened.

That reminds me…About a month ago, in a Monte Sano blog post, I promised a follow-up post that focused on the autumn leaves of Monte Sano. As I was looking through my photos I discovered a lot of other beautiful leaves that I captured over the last several weeks, and what better way to say “Happy Winter” than to take a look back at autumn. (No shame here. I am partial to autumn).

This beauty greeted a whole congregation of church folk as we exited service one November afternoon.

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I wasn’t the only one struck by this magnificence. Many paused to capture photos of the two trees. Take a closer look:

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This one (above) was shot while looking up and standing between the two trees. Just take a deep breath and enjoy those brilliant colors mingling.

Here’s an even closer look at the leaves of the tree on the left:

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I want to live in those leaves!

Here are some tree/leaf shots taken while sitting on a “float” with my son’s saddle club while riding through a Veteran’s Day parade. I’m loving the lens flare on the first image. [Click an image for a closer look].

And here are the leaves of Monte Sano–still green, yellowing, golden, bright orange, deep red, and bronze…

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May the gorgeous colors of autumn carry you through the browns, grays, and snowy whites of winter!

Consider the Trees

Lately, I’ve been wound up too tightly with deadlines and decisions and the general cares of life. With the names and faces of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin swarming in my head. With trying to sift through all the protests and media noise for what is meaningful and relevant and for what (if anything) pushes us toward change and acceptance. Worrying about the vilification of good-guy police officers like my brother whose ethics sometimes make him a little unpopular with some others.  Grieving with the mothers who lost their children and who are left to wonder why their children did not matter. Grappling with what all of this means for my beautiful brown child.

Walking with this level of angst is maddening and crippling. Makes it difficult to see the good and the beautiful.

A few days ago, a good friend-colleague and I talked some of this over during a brief lunch before heading to another event on campus. As we talked and walked, I studied our environment, particularly the trees. I remarked that I am practicing developing my eye, looking for the shot but resisting the urge to take it. When “lo and behold” this gorgeous image struck me!

"Be Still," Photo by Me!

“Be Still,” Photo by Me!

“How can people pass this way,” I asked, “and not stop and consider the message of the trees?” In response to my query, we made up a lighthearted poem about trees swaying in the breeze. But inside, I was contemplating the wisdom they impart–all stillness and calm, unshaken by storms. Made healthier and  more beautiful by pruning. Firmly rooted in the knowledge that their Creator manages all things well.

The tree held no answers and did little to lessen the anxiety, but it showed me how to be during this turbulent period. Firmly rooted. Still. Calm. Unshaken.