Lens-Artists Challenge: Winter

Lens-Artists Challenge#107: Winter

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand, and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

Edith Sitwell

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Winter brings back the cold. Reliable get-out-the-thick-sweaters cold. Gotta put on a coat before stepping outside cold. Hats and gloves cold.

Most of the time, however, this season of cold shows off…with spectacular displays of snow. My favorite time is right after a snowfall…while it is still fresh and new.

snow maple

Before the city plows started piling it up at the end of our driveway…

snowplow

That’s how I remember winter days back when we owned a house with a driveway and a walkway and a deck. Where the oh-so-beautiful snow couldn’t remain where nature dropped it. When we had to shovel and snowblow and move it out of the way.

snow deck

Color exploded in the sky our last Christmas at the house where we lived for over 36 years.

sunset69
December 2015

Along with Christmas comes a gathering together of family. Complete with holiday lights and decorations.

Winter also brings about changes at the beach – the sand is groomed into hills to guard against storm surges. At least that’s what the hippy guy from town told me – who I crossed paths with the day I took this picture.

winter beach
Hampton Beach, NH – January 2020

A January walk in the woods isn’t totally devoid of color…if you look closely…

winter berries

And last…but not least…in my growing family winter always meant…
…are you ready for some basketball? 

Both of my children played for their high school teams and enjoyed it immensely. As did my husband and I…watching and enthusiastically cheering in the comfort of a heated gym.

Box Out! 🏀 Defense! 🏀 Go Team! 🏀

Looking forward to the other side

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Rachel Carson

from the back fence

Behind one sturdy fence lies a river
Rising and falling with every tide
Each day the moon is relied on
Nature carrying us along for the ride

I took a break from a long walk in our local park recently and took a seat…alone…on the memorial bench we had donated to honor my in-laws. My view was interrupted by the metal fence separating me from the river beyond. But I knew what was there.

Bordering trees and plant life often double as reflections on the water’s surface. River banks are exposed when the tide is low and disappear when the tide is high. There is something strangely calming and comforting about this. The predictable pull of the moon. An ebb and flow of the changing seasons and time of day.

Nature at its finest with a lesson at its core.

It was hot as blazes the day I took this photo. What did I expect for July? Exactly what happens every July.

I hold out hope upon hope that a predictable life will return someday.

When we get to the other side.

~~~

BeckyB JulySquares: Perspectives
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Back of things
SixWordSaturday
V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #105: Quotation

Lens Artists Challenge: Summer

Lens Artists Challenge #104: Summer

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“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” – Cynthia Ozick

Up until 2020, summer was a fairly predictable time of year. I could plan trips and get togethers with friends and family…without a second thought. Including return visits to favorite summer festivals and fairs.

I painfully realize now how much I took all of that for granted…thinking oh we can come back next summer…when the 2019 schedule got crowded. This summer…it’s all cancelled.

I actually look forward to the seasonal chore of storing away sweaters, hats and mittens. And then dragging out the “summer clothes” from a high closet shelf. Pulling out shorts, T-shirts and sandals. Ready For Summer.

Well, I can still switch the clothes around…but that’s about it.

However…thinking back on life “before”…

During my earlier days of parenthood, summer always included extra family time together with my children. Camera always in hand.

Nothing fancy. Sometimes just day trips…

summer93 copy
York Wild Animal Kingdom, Maine 1993

For over 20 years we established a family tradition. A week away…to connect and just enjoy each other. Most vacations were only a 90 minute drive to a special place on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. The last 2 were cross country on the California coast.

summer2000 copy
San Diego, California 2000

Fast forward about 17 years…and summer included the next generation…

beach summer
Hampton Beach, NH 2017

During the 36+ years we lived in a house with a yard, we delighted in beds of flowers that exploded into life every summer.

One of our favorites: black eyed susans…

black eyed susans
We have continued one summertime activity through the years, despite moving to a condo and emptying the nest. Picking fresh blueberries! They are amazing when eaten within hours (or days) of being picked.

One of our neighbors, where we used to live, let us pick from his carefully tended bushes. Now we visit a local farm that has a “pick your own” field of blueberry bushes. Fortunately you can still do this during a pandemic by following the posted rules: Wear a Mask and Social Distance.

No Problem.

Here is this week’s harvest…

blueberries
Fresh New Hampshire Blueberries

They taste just like summer.

Patience

sky

 

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #97: risk-reward

Using the the prompt words is not required, as long as you demonstrate the concept of risk-reward.

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And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.

Erica Jong

 

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve navigated more than enough life changes in the last few months. (And that doesn’t even begin to address a one-more-thing aggravation that WordPress is up to tomorrow…June 1st…when the powers-that-be change the editing format whether we like it or not…)

On the much more important front…

Everything…now…is about being careful. Staying safe. To reduce your risk of catching the virus. 

I get it. I really do. I struggle with health issues. I am a living breathing high risk demographic.

Vigilance is required. There is no relaxing since every action involves weighing the risk to your health. And the health of any person nearby…or at least within a 6 foot radius.

I know I am not alone.

Every action triggers a question…
Do I wear the mask in the car?
Do I wear the mask down the empty hall and one flight of stairs to get the mail?
Do I wear it into the garage where everyone parks?
If I don’t wear it everywhere, will I breathe in a virus particle and not know it?
Have I already done it and will it make me sick?
Now what…?

And that isn’t even the complete list of questions that ricochet in my mind when I am out in public. When encountering other grocery shoppers in the one way aisles…what is wrong with these people who aren’t wearing masks? Do they really not care about the risk to themselves…or anybody nearby?

Trying to make an informed decision about even the simplest activity becomes increasingly exhausting. Nobody in charge seems to really know what is going on. Critical thinking can grind to a halt at a moment’s notice.

I used to be a risk taker. To a point. At least I thought so. I climbed trees. Crawled across a roof. Jumped my bike over curbs. I hitchhiked. Smoked cigarettes until my late twenties. If you think about it, every action you take involves a risk of some kind. Perhaps we just adapt.

But this is different. This pandemic. I am older and supposedly wiser. They say you get more afraid of risk as you age. Whoever “they” are don’t realize that many of “us” are much younger in our heads. So there is still a bit of a risk taker inside me shouting I don’t like it ONE BIT that I can’t jump (well more like walk carefully) on a plane to go see my kids and grandson…or share a table with a group of friends at lunch…or walk on the beach.

The clock is ticking. I’m wearing a mask, keeping my distance and not getting any younger. I don’t have much more patience to be patient.

The rewards are far too precious.

Morning Moments

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #87: Morning

What do mornings mean to you?

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My soul never thinks of beginning to wake up for other people till lunch-time, and never does so completely till it has been taken out of doors and aired in the sunshine. Who can begin conventional amiability the first thing in the morning? It is the hour of savage instincts and natural tendencies

Countess Van Arnim

Amen!

There’s a reason I have no photographs of sunrises. I am still asleep – or not yet fully conscious – that early in the day. My mornings need to evolve. I shift into fully awake mode after drinking an oversize mug of coffee. Plus finishing breakfast and the morning newspaper’s mix of news…both happy and not.

Empty nest retirement definitely has its pluses.

When I was growing up, however, my weekdays began at high speed. School day mornings…a blur…

Get Ready For School Hurry Up You’ll Miss The Bus! Finish your breakfast! Come Back You Forgot Your Lunch! Hurry! The Bus Is Coming! The Bus Is Coming!

Childhood weekends – thankfully – were a different story…

Early on a Saturday morning…the year I was 9: my 7 ½ year old sister, 6 year old brother and I would tiptoe down the hall of our small ranch style home. Careful not to disturb our sleeping parents.

If our 2+ year old baby sister was awake and willing to be quiet, she joined us.

SHHHHH!

A carpeted hallway covered the short distance from our bedrooms to the living/dining room. After just a few quick trips we had gathered all the toys we needed. Since the black & white television was in my parents’ room at the time, we were on our own to entertain ourselves.

And entertain we did.

The Barbies – (with friend Midge) – strutted around straight legged showing off their tiny don’t-step-on-them-with-your-bare-feet shoes and stretchy outfits. Ken made an appearance, but usually as an afterthought. My sister’s pink Barbie car transported B&K in a circular route under the dining room table…often without their clothes on. Sometimes Ken’s arm was removed and inserted in his torso backwards. Creativity on the loose. I’ll admit those adventures were mostly my idea. My sister loved Barbie like crazy, but I was quickly bored. Hence the unusual Saturday morning escapades. Which we all considered quite clever and hysterical.

My brother brought to the excitement an assortment of small green plastic army men, a GI Joe and an array of stuffed animals – many based on cartoon characters. Yogi Bear. Huckleberry Hound. Barney Rubble. Bugs Bunny – with a string…which when pulled…gave voice to What’s Up Doc?

Despite the differences in size and species, plush bunnies & bears interacted with dolls without a single problem. In whispers and hushed tones. Barbie to Yogi: Where’s the pic-a-nic basket?. Bugs to Ken: Got any carrots?. And so on.

Miraculously the 3 (or 4) of us played seamlessly together during those early childhood mornings. We didn’t argue. Or poke each other. We took turns. It was quite remarkable. And unusual.

Our common goal: Don’t wake up mommy and daddy! 

Those Saturday hours with my sisters and brother are precious in memory. They represent moments of our best times together.

Reality and its rivalries shifted back to normal when my parents woke up. And the day started for real.

Until the next weekend…when the crowd gathered once again.

saturday morning 1963
Saturday Morning – circa 1963

Two years later…

The most extraordinary thing about writing is that when you’ve struck the right vein, tiredness goes. It must be an effort, thinking wrong.

Virginia Woolf

 

window desk
Desk View
February 26, 2020

Two years ago today I started posting on oneletterup.com. At first I just “practiced” and kept the blog private, as I built up courage to go public 2 months later on April 15. I began with my adventures in moving. The empty nest. Stories from childhood.

I had always been a “writer” since I first took pencil to paper in a diary at the age of 9. I put the word writer in quotes because I was in awe of real writers who crafted stories that transported me to exciting places. Writers of actual books! How could I call myself a writer too? A real writer. I could not possibly be in that league.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help myself. I wrote letters. Cards. Notes. I kept journals. I took a writing class in college. Joined local writing groups. Attended a week long writing symposium at a university in 2007. I wrote story after story about my children’s childhood moments. When the details were fresh in my mind…I couldn’t help it…I just had to record the sweet magic I witnessed. I put together memory books and stories for family. In the 1990s I submitted stories to magazines. A few held on to them…we’ll see if we have a need for this…but ultimately no publication.

There was never enough time to make writing a top priority. Without feeling guilty that there were more important things I should be doing.

Until my husband and I moved from our house to this condo. Until my children were grown and independent. Until I retired from my consultant job in dietetics.

Until I had a room of my own.

Two years ago, I took the plunge and thought…why not? After all, I wasn’t getting any younger…or healthier.

A blog would be a place to write what I wanted. Try to ignore the inner critic. And see what happens.

I discovered the creative fun of writing challenges, photography challenges…and what has turned out to be the best part…

…Meeting and interacting with other bloggers. It is like being in a virtual writing (and photography!) group. I’ve learned so much from all of you.

My mission in February 2018 was to start writing and not look back.

So far…mission accomplished!

A big thank you to all my blogging friends for your support and encouragement,
one letter Up
(aka Andrea 🙂)

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V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #85: Mission

Fandango’s Friday Flashback: February 14

Inspired by Fandango’s Friday Flashback: February 14

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of you earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? …Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

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This post is from February 14, 2019 in response to the photo a day challenge (which is the same this year: Hearts ) and Ragtag Daily Prompt: Intimate.

And, after all, it was Valentine’s Day.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Love and Hearts and Grandparents

 

If we have someone who loves us — I don’t mean who indulges us, but who loves us enough to be on our side — then it’s easier to grow resilience, to grow belief in self, to grow self-esteem. And it’s self-esteem that allows a person to stand up.

Maya Angelou

 

from Grammy 1966

valentine's card 1967038
from Great Grandma 1967

I have much to be grateful for in my life. The love of family is at the top of the list. As a child…and then as an adult…I was well loved by my grandparents. Held up. Cherished. Accepted.

All four of my grandparents – and my one living great grandparent – took the time to write to me. Personal letters. Postcards. Valentines. Birthday cards….
I heard from them on a regular basis…knowing I was important in their lives. And not forgotten, even though we lived miles apart.

Treasured pages of handwritten news, stories, questions about my life and plans for the future….
Offering encouragement and understanding
And unconditional love.

 

Photo a day challenge – Hearts

RDP – Intimate

 

No Worries

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #79: subtraction

This week think about what you might subtract from your life to free up energy – emotionally, physically, or psychologically. Naturally, creative discretion is yours – this doesn’t need to be a personal subtraction; global issues work too.

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drawers

 

Surely the consolation prize of age is in finding out how few things are worth worrying over, and how many things that we once desired, we don’t want any more.

Dorothy Dix

 

A noble cause it is…

To subtract the worry
The wildest of imaginings
Endless admittedly useless
Exercises of the mind.

Avoiding…

The treadmill to nowhere
Leaving one sweaty
Breathless
Exhausted
Back at the beginning.

No Worries! they admonish.

Not so fast.

I’d like to know…
Where it’s that easy.

I’ll just keep working…
To carefully tuck away
One worry at a time.

So far so good.

Already I am lighter.

Fandango’s Friday Flashback: January 3

This post inspired by Fandango’s Friday Flashback – January 3

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember?..Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

~~~

This post is from January 3, 2019 in response to V.J.’s Weekly Challenge.

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Quote of the Day…

Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you are aboard there is nothing you can do.

Golda Meir

Isn’t that the truth.
Even when I want to say…get me the hell off.

I am not ready for this yet.
For the irrelevance thrust on me.
Rendered invisible. Packed in behind the younger.
Respect once earned upended in the turbulence of senior discounts…
now that you’re 50…60…over 60….doors start to shut. Deaf ears abound.

Forgetting one too many things
Which 20 years ago went unnoticed.
Or commented on.
Not now.

Mask floating down. Got it.
Pulling the life vest cords. Got it.

I tell the younger kin I am not this old inside my head.
They nod. Eyes looking beyond. Already past me.
Uncomprehending…until it’s their aged faces staring back at them.
That’s what she meant.

There will be no mad dash for the exits.
Even in an emergency.
I’m on this ride for the duration. Wind. Rain. Thunder.
Wrinkles. Gray hair. Early dinners. Early to bed.
System slowdowns. Bumpy rides. Love and loss.

Dried up everything, but oozing with wisdom.
Experience.
And ideas. Just ask.
But they won’t.
Whatever.

The longer I’m on this stormy plane ride, the wiser I get.
Not my first rodeo.
So there.

2019…more transitions…
…the next leg on my Golden Years journey.
Seatbelt fastened and secure.
Building up those frequent flyer miles.
Wheels up.

plane window
This post inspired by: V.J.’s Weekly Challenge – Transition

A More Present New Year

At the end of the day, your relationships with the people in your life will be greater assets than any material things. Take time. Be present. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Vironika Tugaleva

 

Today is January 1st.

It’s also the time of year when resolutions are made…

A new year. A starting line for change…

The underlying message?

Who you are is just not good…enough.

Do more. Be more. Or…in some cases do less.
Stop eating so much. Stop smoking.
Save more money. Get more exercise.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Don’t get me wrong. These are all worthy causes and beneficial behavior changes. But they also pile on the guilt if…or when…you can’t push that plate of pie away. Or throw out those cigarettes. Or make it to the gym. You look in the mirror and just feel worse.

It’s also a lost opportunity to look at a bigger picture…

A resolution can be a serious committed decision. A pledge to work towards something truly worthwhile. That isn’t just skin deep. That actually lasts.

It can be a sharper focus on the people in our lives who have slipped to the back burner. The friend you haven’t spoken to in months or years. The neighbor you used to see out for walks. The distant relative who stopped sending holiday cards. The family member who stays hidden behind a wall of pain.

I believe that connections are what make us human. But they need our care and attention.

Another thought:  Texting technology has its place, but there is no substitute for the sound of a loving voice. Or the comfort of an in-person hug.

And…there is absolutely no substitute for an actual conversation complete with eye contact.

I see it all the time…a family sitting together at a restaurant. Everyone texting with eyes glued to their phones. A forever lost opportunity. It breaks my heart.

Take time.
Be present.
Pay attention.

3 chairs

There is too much to lose.