For the first 50 years of my life, my perfectionist self mistakenly believed it was all about knowing more, getting it right, planning, attempting to prevent bad things from happening, and keeping all of my chicks in a row. It took me this long to discover that the JOURNEY is all that matters. This quote from Gilda Radner sums it all up:

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

You Are Absolutely Forbidden to Drive

My sister and I had a conversation recently about fear.  Both being in our 50's, we looked back on the role that fear has taken in our lives.  As children, we were both pretty fearful of new experiences - so much that we allowed fear to prevent us from trying new things.  I remember having a very small electric organ that I got for Christmas one year.  I played songs on that organ constantly and loved it.  I felt I had so much talent, yet there was no way in hell I would ever take piano lessons.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of failure.  Fear.

We have both led successful lives even as we struggled to overcome our fears.  And we both agreed we have made much progress.  But will we ever rid ourselves completely of this nasty friend?  Probably not.  We wonder, though, how different our lives might have been without it.

I just finished reading (listening to) a wonderful book by the author of "Eat, Pray, Love", Elizabeth Gilbert. This book, "Big Magic", addresses the subject of "creative living beyond fear".  As I was listening,  I was naturally thinking of myself and photography,  but I couldn't help but think about the young people I know who are embarking on creative careers - Ali, Hali, Lyndsay, Jon, Annie and all of those young musicians I have met at her school.

As I made my way through its pages, written with honesty, wisdom, humor, and insight, I came to believe it is a valuable read for anyone.

We all have fears.  Some more than others. And we all have fears that often affect the choices we make - no matter how much we wish they didn't.

And no matter how stupid we know they are.

Here are a few excerpts for "Big Magic" that really hit home with me (really the entire book hit home with me).
The first is a letter that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote to her fear.  Even though she is addressing fear as related to creativity,  it's easy to generalize.

"Dearest Fear:  Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together.  I understand you'll be joining us, because you always do.  I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously.  Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I'm about to do anything interesting - and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused.  And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring.  There is plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are a part of this family and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still - your suggestions will never be followed.  You're allowed to have a seat and you're allowed to have a voice, but you're not allowed to have a vote.  You're not allowed to touch the road maps; you're not allowed to suggest detours; you're not allowed to fiddle with the temperature.  Dude, you're not even allowed to touch the radio.  But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive."

"It isn't always comfortable or easy - carrying your fear around with you on your great and ambitious road trip, I mean - but it's always worth it, because if you can't learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you'll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting.

And that would be a pity, because your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you're still here.  I know that's what you want for yourself, because that's what I want for myself too.
It's what we all want.
And you have treasures hidden within you - extraordinary treasures - and so do I, and so does everyone around us.  And bringing those treasure to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small."

I loved listening to the audiobook because it is narrated by Elizabeth Gilbert.  She is not only a talented writer, but also a fabulous speaker and storyteller!  Also note,  the Deep, Dark Fears comics are NOT from the book.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Do What You Love and Do It Often

This is not meant to be boastful,
but I am reasonably good at a lot of things.

I love the challenge of learning something new.
I'm persistent.
I'm meticulous.
I'm patient.

If something intrigues me, I will go the distance
until I figure out how to do it
or until I understand it.

It is at that point that I often lose interest.
The initial thrill is gone.
I move on.

Photography is the only thing that has been a constant.
I guess I would call it my passion.
I couldn't imagine my life without my camera.

If I'm feeling worried or restless,  I often grab my camera and go outside, not knowing what I will end up focusing on.

Do you know how long it took me to get a clear, close-up picture of a busy ant?
I was laying on the ground with my macro lens, trying to hold it steady and prepare for the moment when the ant crawled out of the crack in the rock.

I love this shot I took after a downpour the other day!  Macro lens again, on a tripod,  focused on the chrome part of the car door handle.  The green and pink color was my shirt.  There were MANY mediocre attempts that day of water droplets on many other things,  but this was the winner.

This is the sunset over Rockville, CT last week.  I was walking the dogs after dinner and noticed some dramatic clouds in the sky.  Vance was waiting to go for ice cream with me, but I made him drive to the tower in Rockville for a few pictures before dessert.  Wow!

Sometimes I overlook shots until I look back a few months later.  This was taken in the spring when I was out one night shooting sunset pictures.  The color was gone, but I saw the moon and one twinkling star in the sky.

I calmed myself last week by shooting bees on flowers for over an hour.  I kept only a handful of images.  I think bees are definitely busier than ants, flitting from one flower to the next in seconds.

It was so exciting to capture this picture of a bee in flight last spring!

Taking pictures while kayaking is especially challenging due to the movement of the boat.  Somehow I managed to get this shot of the inside of a yellow pond lily with two teeny flies on the petal! 

On the same kayaking trip,  I spent quite a while trying to capture this fluffy seed drifting on the surface of the water.

Water also opens up the possibility of reflections.  This heron was definitely keeping an eye on me as I glided closer!

I paddled through a sea of lily pads to get to the right side of these lovely lilies to capture their reflection.

Crystal Lake had never looked so beautiful as it did at sunrise this spring morning.  I had to lay down on the dock to get close to the water to get this breathtaking reflection of the sky in the lake.  Look at that water line!

The early morning light makes any scene sooo much better!

I was driving around town with my camera when I got this picture of my favorite barn!  The plants you see in the foreground are the mums they sell every year in the fall.

I felt kinda bad intruding on these newborns in the nest, but they were impossible to resist.

The momma kept a watchful eye on me from afar.

These are the same babies the day before the nest was empty.

Lastly,  this little songbird was chattering very loudly as it perched on my garden fence!

I LOVE photography.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Big Lesson from a Tiny Thing

Everyone has seen one of these.  

If you've seen one, you've seen thousands.

During my morning walk,  I've been noticing teeny tiny acorns - many of them - on the sidewalk under a lot of the oak trees.

Every day as I walked, I would remember to wear shorts with pockets so I could collect them.  Everyone loves tiny versions of things!  (I plan to make felted acorns with the caps.)

As I continued to collect them, I wanted to know why.
Why are they so little?

After doing some searching online,
I came up with the answer.

Have you ever made a change in your life
and then see something that is a "sign"
that validates your choice or decision? 
It may spur you to continue on the path you've chosen
or just give you a sense of peace
that you are doing the right thing?

That's what these tiny acorns did for me.

I discovered the reason for their size (or lack of size).

According to Dr. Francis Gouin, whose column "The Plant Doctor is In" appears in the Bay Weekly in Annapolis, Maryland,

"Its flowers have produced more acorns than the tree can carry. Thus the tree is thinning its acorn population. Heavy acorn production does not happen often. However, this spring there was a heavy pollen release and ideal conditions for flowers to be pollinated. When the tree produces too many acorns, it thins itself so that the remaining acorns will grow larger. In horticultural terminology it is called pre-drop."

I found this fascinating because over the summer,
I too have put on more weight than my body
is comfortable with.
I have been attempting
to rid myself of the excess weight
that is not good for me.

I wish it was as easy as dropping some premature acorns,
but it needs to be done for my health and happiness.

In about a month and a half,  I have walked and biked
and kept a detailed food log.
I am now feeling much better after dropping 11 pounds.
I have few more to go,
but I feel good about reaching my goal. 

We live in a world of excess.
Our homes are filled with so much stuff
we don't really need anymore.
Our closets are filled with clothes
that are never worn
and things that no longer
have a purpose in our lives.

So in addition to shedding excess body weight,
I've been making many trips
to Goodwill and Big Brothers & Sisters.
And I've been making some easy money
selling things on Craigslist.

This has been the common theme in my life lately.

We are weighed down by so many things.
It feels so good to have less.

But the oak tree knew it all along.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I Had a Hard Time Sleeping Last Night

My sleep was very restless last night.
You know what it's like -
 when you have something important to do the next day 
 and you don't want to oversleep
so you

Then I woke up really early and was wide awake.

That's how my day began.

Only I don't have anything at all going on today.
Adam does.
Today is his first day teaching.
Eleventh grade American History.
In the Bronx.

Instead of staying in bed, 
fighting to go back to sleep for another hour,  
I got up, put on my shorts and t-shirt, grabbed my camera,
and headed to a spot in a nearby neighborhood
to watch the sun come up.

I have no doubt that Adam will be a fabulous teacher.  
He has the intelligence and the work ethic.
Most of all, he has the heart.

He knows the kind of teacher he DOESN'T want to be.
He has a vision of the kind of teacher he wants to be. 

He loves the subject he's teaching,
but more than that, he cares about the kids.
He understands that there may be so much more
going on in their lives besides his history class.

And that sometimes the best opportunities for teaching happen
outside of the classroom. 

He has a willingness to reflect on why things went the way they did - both on the good days and the bad days.   He has enough ego 
to survive the hard days and enough humility to remember 
it's not about him.  He will learn from the kids as much (if not more)
than they will learn from him.

As I write this,  Adam's first school day is coming to an end.
His dad and I can't wait to hear about how it went.
Just as we love hearing stories of Kerry's days as a nurse,
we look forward to following Adam's development as a teacher.

As I was taking the next picture,  I was thinking of the birds
as Adam's students.  Watching the teacher attentively,
trying to get an idea of the
kind of teacher he will be.

Little do they know,  he will be much more than
they could ever imagine!

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Want the Real Thing or Nothing At All

So often when something is amazing you will find copies of it - knockoffs, generics, fakes.

Sometimes they are acceptable substitutes.

More often than not,  we reject the imitations.

We yearn for something better. 

We just want "the real thing".

I discovered today that this is true of the animal kingdom as well.

This is a cat toy that can be seen on the floor of our house.
I always wondered how people come up with ideas for cat toys.
Do they just stick a bunch of feathers on something to make it alluring to felines?

This morning, as I was headed to the basement to change a load of laundry, I discovered another cat toy on the landing.
It was smaller than the one above.  I didn't remember buying it.

I picked it up and came to the realization this was no "fake".
It was, indeed, the real thing.

I haven't found any evidence of a slaughter inside my house,
so I assume this toy was "made" outside and brought inside
as a toy.

Sorry Maddie.

Please keep these playthings outside.