From Camp to Kites

A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away. 

Eudora Welty

~~~

This post inspired by two challenges this week…

Lens-Artists Challenge #115: Inspiration

We look forward to seeing your thoughts and images on what inspires YOU.

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #113: How It All Started

…think back to those moments that changed your life. No need to use the prompt; just demonstrate how “it” started.

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I was only 10 years old when I got my first camera. And fell in love with photography. I don’t remember the circumstances of who gave me the camera or why. I just thought it was cool (or as we used to say back then…”Keen!”…”Sharp!”) and I’ve never been without one since.

My first attempts at photography – with a Kodak Brownie camera and black & white film – manifested as square blurry images of trees, lean-tos, and other 10 year olds at Girl Scout camp. Hard to believe that a week of rustic living became a defining moment in my life as a photographer, but I guess it did. This despite my most vivid memory being the latrines (just plywood for seats, people – I mean seriously?) and how I dreaded making the trip to That Building (no pictures, sorry).

It was also where I discovered (after the film was developed) that when I held the camera on the lean-to railing the blurring disappeared…

Over time, I slowly improved at steadying the camera and moved on to capturing my younger siblings when they least expected it. As the years went by I became the family photo historian by default. Even more so when I advanced to color film! Very exciting.

My friends knew I would always show up with a camera as the unofficial keeper of the memories. Even at a young age I became acutely aware of how quickly life – and people – could change. It became very important – for me at least – to preserve what I could. I do remember feeling all of that. Which kind of astounds me now.

Oh…and it was fun.

I was 14 ½ when my 4th and youngest sibling was born and he became a willing subject for photography practice. Never mind that he was exceedingly cute and followed me around constantly. I was “in charge” of him most of the time so taking pictures was easy.

The photographs I took at college and summer jobs are best left off the internet, but they are definitely treasured keepsakes.

I graduated to a Canon SLR camera shortly after I got married and burst onto the taking-pictures-of-my-children-at-every-milestone-possible scene. They were my inspiration for decades and have appeared in many blog posts, so I will restrain myself from adding them in here. Same goes for my grandson, who is now 4 and very comfortable getting his picture taken as a child of the smartphone generation.

However, now (accompanied by a Canon DSLR camera) I am also inspired by the ordinary…what’s outside my window…down the path into the woods…winding around that chain link fence. The mesmerizing waves at the beach. I am constantly looking up and down and to the side…not in as much of a hurry as I used to be.

The best photo moment – for me – still springs from the unexpected…no matter what (or who) the subject happens to be.

Last week I was able to return – after several months of Covid restrictions – to walk along the water’s edge at Hampton Beach. The tourist season is over. Crowds are gone. The parking rules have been relaxed. I couldn’t resist the trip on such a beautiful…sunny…blue sky windy day. Even with a mask on, it was worth it.

As I made my way across the sand to walk back along the street, I spotted something bright in the sky.

Off came the lens cover.

It wasn’t the surf or the rocks or what usually fascinates me about the beach.

I had to get a closer shot.

I set the camera on what I call Grandson Mode or Freezing the Action Mode.

And I was off…

Hampton Beach, NH

And…by the way…it is still fun.

The Last Day

Four years ago next month, my husband and I moved for the first time in 36 years. We emptied our beloved home of…well…everything. Lots of “stuff” as I generally referred to it all. It actually took many years to get to the point where we could pack up and move. Little by little, carload by carload. I unearthed boxes and bags of long held treasures that needed new homes – which in this case meant antique shops, Craig’s List, Goodwill, the Salvation Army and a few garage sales (not my favorite thing as everyone haggles over the smallest items which quickly becomes tiresome).

I have written about the downsizing process when I started this blog. It was a slog, but I remained fixed on the goal: Simplify our lives and reduce stress. Unforeseen “things” had been happening for a number of years. Health issues mostly. I knew that our priorities had to shift…requiring change. Major change. Not one to wait for a crisis, I went into planning mode. It evolved into a long term plan which took place over about five years.

We finally found a new place to live that we could afford. A condominium where we would have less work to do. All on one level to reduce the risk of falling as we got older. Near my husband’s job. It is a beautiful place – certainly not perfect – with its own challenges as we discovered, but the right decision in the long run.

So, packing up in 2016, we prepared for the future…again. To make life easier for our “golden years.” An empty nest would bring new and hopefully exciting opportunities for our next chapter.

But nothing really prepared me for the very last day. That day in October 2016 when the house was finally…completely…unoccupied.

Empty of all that was us. Our family.

I was alone that last day. It was a sunny breezy fall afternoon as I made the last rounds – the final check to make sure all the closets and cabinets were empty. The holes in the walls patched and painted…erasing all evidence of the photographs that had hung there for years. Marking holidays and birthdays and sports and graduations proudly displayed down halls and around corners. We were a well documented family. Mostly because of my obsession with freezing time with a 35mm Canon.

So of course that’s what I did that last day – I took pictures with my (digital) Canon – of all the rooms in our (still ours until the following day) home. Which had grown from 4 rooms and 1 bathroom in 1980 to 7 rooms and 2 bathrooms in 2016.

I had a moment though as I stood in the original living room space that last day. Remembering through tears the very first time we had occupied it…filled with packing boxes and hand-me-down odd pieces of furniture one cloudy April day in 1980.

It was just my husband and me – so young still – in our twenties.

The first thing we did was hook up the turntable and speakers, snaking the wires between all the unpacked stuff. We found Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in a box of records and dropped the needle on “Our House.”

We sang and celebrated the beginning of what would be a grand adventure.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Unoccupied

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #111: stuff happens

An All Too Brief Pandemic Pause

 

on the road

What a sight it was a week ago Friday.

Six hours of driving (almost) nonstop. Highways to city streets to country roads. Following the GPS lady’s directions – every minute bringing us closer to our CovidCation. The weather was beautiful – almost too good to be true.

Faster and faster we drove (well I did…my husband’s foot is not as leaden as mine).

We were out-running a virus after all.

Get my lunch out of the backseat please! The car was packed with 2 coolers, 2 suitcases and laundry baskets full of necessities. My gluten free toaster in one of them. As we learned bringing our kids to college, laundry baskets work out well for car trips…as they can nest when they’re empty for the trip home.

It occurred to me that travel by car meant I could bring Full Size Bottles of whatever I wanted. So I did.

My laptop and our cameras…carefully packed. We remembered the tripod for a group photo. Paw Patrol bubbles (but of course). Decks of cards. Guitar.

We arrived at the lake house in the Pocono Mountains around 6:30 pm.

Within a minute a short blonde 4 year old came running out…Grandma! And somehow he was up in my arms with his arms wrapped around my neck, legs encircling my waist. I don’t know how I picked him up but I must have. The first full on leap into my arms hug since February. Far too long.

After that, my daughter and I shared a good long hug. Face to face for the first time in 6 months. Then hugs for my son-in-law, my son and his girlfriend. We had tested and quarantined and stayed safe. Carefully planned and orchestrated.

All those hugs felt so good.

Of course we were joined by the two family dogs: Lutra and Taco (who have been featured in this blog before). They enjoyed themselves immensely as well.

We were in our own little bubble.

bubbles

A four day pause from virus fears.

firepit

What a sight to see.

No masks.

No social distancing…except from the family swimming across the lake.
(Grandma which one is the dada and which one is the mama? Grandma I think the bigger one is the dada….)

ducks

It was glorious.

~~~

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #109: What a Sight
Ragtag Daily Prompt: Pause
SixWordSaturday

To listen or not to listen

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #107: listen

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Breaking News! – more bad stuff happening everywhere!

Well, technically, that’s NOT what is announced nightly from my television. But it might as well be…as an earnest news anchor rattles off the News Headlines Of The Day when the show begins. She leaves the one bright spot – a friendly citizen delivering food to a neighbor or making someone smile – for the last 5 minutes of the broadcast. Saving the feel-good news for the end.

So…I ask myself…why do I listen at all? To the TV reports. To news radio. I jokingly (but not really joking) reply…well maybe there will be a cure! a solution! a miracle! Either that’s a sign of my foolish hopefulness or unfortunate naivety. I guess I want to know what’s (mostly) going on. It’s the continuous not knowing that I find so hard to live with.

So I turn on the news and try to pick up on what positives I can. There must be something hidden between the lines to hold on to. If I pay close attention.

However…what would I rather listen to?

The sound of waves hitting the beach. It’s predictable and calming and I don’t have to pay close attention.

This video of Hampton Beach, NH is from last year. Now, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is next to impossible to access the beach in person. Too many people. Not enough parking.

I could listen to this all day.

 

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

The Next Chapter

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #104: Next Chapter

The focus this week is: next chapter. The implications may be personal, or strike a broader chord.

~~~

book chapter

It is not often that I read a book and stop, grab a pencil (usually a pencil because writing in permanent ink feels just plain wrong) and underline…or trace a vertical line on either side of a Paragraph That Resonates. Resonate was a favorite writing group word when we’d politely critique fellow writers’ first drafts.

Does this resonate with you, the reader? If it does, why? 

One such book on my shelf – which made the cut when we downsized to a condo – had to do with chapters. In fact I bought it the year before we moved, but didn’t read it until 2017 – a few months after settling into our Next Chapter. It definitely resonated.

I rarely buy books anymore. No room. In fact this one is a hardcover…a rarity as well.

The book?

The Third Chapter – Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 years after 50, by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. A Professor of Education at Harvard University, Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot is also a sociologist and the author of 11 books.* She was in her 60s when she wrote The Third Chapter, which was published in 2009.

What a title! Who writes about older people and aging with such genuine interest and positivity? I mean…”passion, risk and adventure” don’t generally get mentioned in the same sentence with the over 50 crowd.

She writes with eloquence and detail in an immensely readable account of her 2 years of interviews with 40 American women and men who fit in this age group (50-75). People who changed their lives on purpose and with purpose. She tells the stories of how they got to where they are now – at a stage of life previously ignored or minimized for its potential and significance in our culture.

She had me at Introduction: Facing the Mirror where she begins discussing the process she went through in formulating the idea for this book…wanting to focus on…

…moments when we manage to resist the signs of burnout, make peace with the old/new mirror image, and refuse to be preoccupied with our chronic laments about aging or our sadness about our vanishing youth….

Ah yes. THAT mirror.

And then..

Many of the men and women I interviewed spoke passionately and longingly about how the Third Chapter is a time when they have finally been able to face the deep injuries of their childhoods — assaults that they have ignored, repressed, or fled from for most of their lives….

The stories she shares weave life experiences with an academic slant that I appreciate. She admits her subjects were actually able to embark on these new adventures because they were financially secure and had the means to make the choices they made. But this does not minimize the significance of their achievements.

What it did for me was bring into focus the alternate possibilities that might be out there – far different than what my mother’s generation saw for themselves. At least as far as I knew…from observing my own mother’s experience and struggling world view during her “third chapter.”

Even though I realize I wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of the more adventurous subjects interviewed (this blog has been my biggest adventure so far), it was inspiring nonetheless. There is also validation in seeing how someone steps outside the box of what aging has always looked like.

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This attempt at a book review is mostly meant to whet your appetite for this remarkable book. My “next chapter” continues to be a work in progress – especially these days. However…passion, risk and adventure?…still intriguing goals.

*Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is an author, educator, researcher, and public intellectual.  She has pioneered an innovative social science method called “portraiture,” written eleven books, serves on numerous professional and scholarly boards and committees, and has received 30 honorary degrees.  A MacArthur Prize-winning sociologist, she is the first African-American woman in Harvard University’s history to have an endowed professorship named in her honor.

You just might find…

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #103: theme song

Let’s have a little fun this week, discovering our current theme song. Post a video, lyrics, or write your own.

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A “theme song” – let’s call it my pandemic theme song – has been looping through my mind ever since COVID-19 erupted in the United States back in March.

The chorus from You Can’t Always Get What You Want by (who else) The Rolling Stones popped into my head almost immediately.

It also happens to be embroidered on a large 14″ x 18″ patch of denim. Which is framed and hangs on the wall next to my desk where I write every day.

Whenever I look up, there it is in glorious shades of pink and purple. A good friend of mine from high school made it for me in 1972. She was kind of a hippy back then and is now a cloistered nun. A story I touched upon last year.

abby patch2

 

I mean, seriously, it does make perfect sense.  You can’t always get what you want…most of us learn that fairly early in life if we’re lucky…and I often feel comforted by this timeless bit of wisdom. The Stones immortalized it, but it is actually true…duh.

I try to keep this nugget of humble logic in mind…as I wake up each morning…open my eyes…and remember. It’s not a dream. The world is still under siege. We are still waiting for “normal.”

The Stones did a wonderful virtual Zoom rendition of this tune on April 18th, 2020 for the “One World: Together At Home” concert in support of the World Health Organization. How fascinating that – out of all the songs they’ve recorded – this one was chosen for such a monumental moment in history. It makes perfect sense to me.

I may desperately want to see my family and friends in person…but I am still grateful I am not stuck in a long line of cars waiting for food. Or worrying I may lose my home or business. The financial impact on my family of 2 is not nearly as severe as it is for so many others.

Even though the April 18th performance doesn’t include the opening verses sung by the London Bach Choir, I highly recommend it.
(Bonus: you’ll get to see Charlie Watts playing air drums)

 

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she was gonna meet her connection
At her feet was her footloose man

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you might find
You get what you need

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse”

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find
You get what you need

I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
And man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda
My favorite flavor, cherry red
I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy
Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “dead”
I said to him

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need

You get what you need, yeah, oh baby

I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well, I could tell by her blood-stained hands

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need, oh yeah

by, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger
Released in 1969 on the album Let It Bleed

Covid Push

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #101: Decisions

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dark clouds

I’m done two weeks from tomorrow!

My friend of over 30 years called a few days ago with the news. She had made the decision to “retire” after 35+ years from her job in outpatient healthcare at a physician’s office owned by a local hospital. I put quotation marks with retire because her decision was made out of desperation. It was not made easily. It wasn’t what she had planned.

It’s the Covid push.

I had not heard the term before, but she mentioned it as an afterthought. We’d had many conversations over the last few months about the challenges she endured at work. The powers that be prioritized her schedule to include in-person visits throughout the entire pandemic. She has been terrified. At high risk herself, she was also counseling high risk patients. One after the other…when tele-health video visits would easily have sufficed.

Let’s remember, however, that insurance companies reimburse health care providers the most for in-person patient visits. Then there’s tele-health video…and the lowest reimbursement? Telephone counseling. It’s all about the money…don’t get me started.

My friend is an excellent practitioner and educator. Caring, thorough and the ultimate professional. She is also hoping to be around for her adult daughters and grandchildren for many more years to come.

It’s just not worth it anymore. I can’t do it.

I had never heard those words from her before. But there they were. Her husband, a teacher with the same risk factors, had been teaching at a public high school. He also “retired.”

They scrambled to restructure finances and find other health care options. But for the first time in many months, I heard relief in her voice.

The decision had…finally…been made.

Lens-Artists Challenge: One Single Flower

Lens-Artists Challenge #101: One Single Flower

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: One Single Flower

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #100: Pause (...long enough to quiet the noise…)

~~~

 

purple iris

I find this to be a congruous set of challenges happening in the same week. In particular, V.J.’s subtext to the topic of Pause…about quieting the noise. There has been way too much noise for me lately – on a personal level – more than I can often handle and process like I did “before.” To focus during the day. To sleep at night.

At the same time, I recognize the need for information, education – and change. All the noise urgently and justifiably vies for our collective public attention simultaneously. Ignited by fear. Anger. Not being heard. Not being properly informed.

I have no answers for any of this. I am just one single person among millions who are worried, tired and anxious. Many have more concerns than I do. Many have less.

raindrop flower

Let’s try to get out of our own heads and pause. Take time to listen and hear and read what others have to say. With open minds. Whether it be the scientists with news about the pandemic and what to do next. Or our fellow citizens protesting for justice and racial equality. Or even the politicians who will shape policy – one way or the other. Let’s reflect. Reach within for empathy. And…again…listen.

And…make a commitment to get out and vote when the time comes.

What does this have to do with One Single Flower?

A mass of flowers draws my attention briefly. After a while they blend in together. In the relative quiet of the walking path.

But the single flower…the one tiny flower among many? That’s what stops me.

yellow flower

The one all alone “out standing in its field” as if to say Look at me! I’m important too!

lone daisy

The one single flower…making itself known.

 

No Words

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #98: No Words

This week’s focus is inspired by the events unfolding in the news, but is not limited in its scope. There is much in life that leaves us speechless – both tragic and awe-inspiring. This week, think about the moments that leave you searching for words. Responses can be written, photographic, artistic, or musical.

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The evening national news had just concluded. The entire broadcast consisted of live coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests happening around the country. Reporters conducted interviews with protestors, political figures and children struggling to understand what was happening.

The interviews that stood out for me the most were with African American mothers and fathers. I saw such profound fear in their eyes. Longstanding fear for their children’s safety – especially their sons – both young and grown. They voiced long held terrors…Will their sons return home for supper unharmed? Will they return after a run? Will they return at all? Or will they be targeted by a white member of the community or by the police just because they are black. Look what happened to George Floyd. And so many others – both male and female – like him.

Goodbye and be careful son…takes on a whole new urgency.

I turned off the TV and asked my husband:

What would it have been like if we had needed to worry about our son’s safety every time he left the house…because of the color of his skin? When he left to ride his bike. When we left him off to play basketball. Or baseball. When he drove the car to his friend’s house. Or to the mall to go shopping at Christmas. What if he got stopped in the car…or out in public…for any reason at all? What if?…

Because we did worry about his safety. About what we thought were the “usual” parental concerns. Accidents. Behavior. Illness. Choices.

But due to our privilege as white Americans, we didn’t – and we don’t – experience the searing ongoing daily unimaginable life and death worry about safety that African American parents have always lived with.

What would it have been like?

What would it still be like…?

My mind screeches to a halt. My eyes fill with tears.

I have no words.

waiting for bus 1996