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.

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

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.

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.

 

 

 

Monochrome Moments

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #70: Monochrome

…we’re inviting you to explore the world of monochrome–which includes black and white and sepia, as well as different shades of one color.

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Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.

Elizabeth Bowen

 

It’s November.

As I watch the brilliant reds and oranges of fall fade outside my window, a distinctive monochrome emerges.

acorns

Crunchy acorns under my feet during a chilly afternoon walk…signal we’re halfway through Autumn. A hint of what’s to come.

However…

There’s nothing quite like crackling river ice…to confirm the reality of winter.

river ice
As I try to wait patiently for the return of color next spring.

wall leaf

Photo a Week: Sun and Water

Nancy Merrill’s Photo a Week Challenge: Sun and Water

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO (OR TWO OR THREE) THAT FEATURES THE SUN AND WATER TOGETHER.

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Bring me the sunset in a cup.

Emily Dickinson

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sun plus Water = Sunset

This photo was taken from the deck of a cruise ship off the coast of Bermuda, where my husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary a while back.

It was unbelievably breathtaking to be surrounded by ocean water as the sun went down.

A complete immersion experience.

 

Resilience

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #64: Resilience

There is a catch to this week’s challenge: I don’t want you to use the word itself, but to illustrate what resilience means to you.

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It is not true that life is one damn thing after another — it’s one damn thing over and over.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

Please be careful!  I hold my breath.

I don’t speak  because he can’t hear me…outside two stories beneath my dining room window.

I can see him walking his lively little black dog. Across the grassy area between my building and the road. Painstakingly. Slowly. Steadily. In the snow. In the rain. Blistering heat.  The dog needs her walks.

In one hand he grips a long retractable leash. The other a sturdy cane and plastic poop bags. His body, bent over, lurches to the side as he walks, his left leg immobile in a metal brace. With each slow step of his right foot, he drags the other leg along. At what looks like an impossibly treacherous angle.

Step. Drag. Step. Drag.

Periodically he stops, balances on the cane and reaches down with the green plastic bag. His pup patiently waits, tail wagging…clearly used to the routine.

My neighbor has not always been like this. I met him when we moved into this over-55 community 3 years ago…and he is several decades over 55. All I know is he suffered a brain aneurysm maybe 10 years ago. Lost the use of his left leg. If he falls – and he does – he can rarely get up by himself. Add leukemia to the mix.

However…

He drives. Goes to the grocery store. Once back home, he transfers full shopping bags to a cart. Pushes it to the elevator in the garage. Slowly. Steadily.

He attends condo meetings. Cookouts. Pizza parties. He and his wife traveled to Europe last winter. Back in the day they skied on a regular basis.

He just does what he has to do. Offers of help waved off. Always a smile.

It looks so damn hard to be him.

But he keeps on keepin’ on in ways I can’t even imagine.

 

side yard copy

Magical

Inspired by Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #63: Magical

 

Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.

Nora Roberts

 

During two visits to Vermont’s Shelburne Museum this summer, I kept gravitating back to this pond. One of many beautiful spots on the 45 acre campus. I’d walk by and then double back as the light shifted throughout the day. I took photo after photo, each shot just a bit different from the one before.

At one point, as if out of nowhere, a family of ducks glided across…and then…disappeared.

Magical.

magical pond

 
A few years ago I felt the pull to another favorite place…the ocean’s edge…late afternoon. In November when the beach was nearly deserted. The sun sinking.

I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time.

Magical.

hampton beach magic

 

Recovery

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #61: Recovery 

What does it mean to recover? What would full recovery look like, and is there such a thing? Recover from what?

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Everything else you grow out of, but you never recover from childhood.

Beryl Bainbridge

 

Time to come in for dinner! 

Whoops.

It became kind of a family joke when I was a kid – that I often ended up needing stitches on Thanksgiving…or Easter. Usually a holiday with visiting grandparents. More than once.

I’m not sure how many times it actually happened, but as I recall I’d be sent outside to play while the turkey was roasting. In my dressy clothes and patent leather shoes, I’d start running around like usual…climbing the monkey bars…swinging on the swings…riding my bike. Jump roping. Inevitably, without my “play shoes” on, I’d slip and fall. Many times on the cement patio or out in the street. Back then, we played in the street. Kickball. Baseball.

Before long there was blood everywhere…a huge gash on my chin, forehead or knee. At the same time the turkey was just about ready to carve.

I’d ruin the rest of the day as someone would have to take me to the Emergency Room – or the pediatrician’s office…who would be called in on a holiday (this was the 1950’s & ’60s…and they did that then) to stitch me up.

I obviously healed and recovered from the consequences of my holiday mishaps. The stitches were eventually removed. The scars faded, but remain….

I was branded for the duration of my childhood. My fearlessness and budding athleticism were not what a girl should be. My mother enrolled me in the “Junior Miss Club” when I was about 10…where I was supposed to learn how to be more ladylike. It met weekly after school and included practice walking with a book on my head. The goal was to keep it there. Boring as sin and to this day I am mystified at why that was a desirable skill. Ballet was almost as frustrating. Too slow and regimented. Baton twirling lessons were a disaster.

Girls who liked to play outside and get dirty and collect bees in jars and play baseball in the street were not “normal” girls. We were called tomboys. And grew up to prefer jeans to dresses. My poor mother desperately wanted me to be a normal daughter. She never got what she wanted, despite her heroic efforts. Which continued through my high school years.

Nobody has a perfect childhood. Nobody.

However, I have to believe some sort of recovery is possible…

Depending on the scars…

And how fast they heal.

dress on bike 1959