Rebirth





My copies arrived on Monday.  Kindred Issue Six is a beautiful issue!  

I am thrilled and honored to have my essay, The Porch Light Is On, and an accompanying photograph, included in this issue's theme of rebirth.

I can't wait to find the perfect spot to sit down with a cup of tea and be inspired by all the other writing and photos.  I hope that you will join me!

So Many Ways To Tell A Story




I have been thinking a lot recently about telling stories. Specifically, how many methods there are to tell them.

I tell mine through essays and blog posts.  Sometimes I try to let the photographs do the telling, with a few sentences for support.




I am hoping at the end of the summer to have a year's worth of photos capturing the seasons to make a photo book for myself.  Having discovered the self-caring qualities of self-portraiture, I would love to capture this evolution in a different book.



But since the fall, scrapbooking keeps whispering to me. I'm realizing that I want a method that combines text and images in a way that goes beyond the vertical and scrolling of a blog page.  Beyond the limited text that can be incorporated into a photo book. 

I want to use this sophisticated form of scrapbooking as way to journal. 

A different voice emerges from each medium, so why can't the story of a trip, for example, be told in a blog post, a photo book, and then again on a scrapbook page? 

The only real problem is how many hours there are in any given day to thoughtfully express ourselves in words, images, and scraps of handmade paper.  Far too few, in my opinion.





Finding Myself In The Closet





Last month I took a self-portraiture class, and I found that I responded to some of the prompts by reaching into my closet and dressing up. 

I wasn't trying to play a character, if anything I was allowing myself to be more me. 

I reached for two coats that I never wear because I'm not sure how to wear them, but I thought they would look pretty in photographs.

The funny thing is, that once I wore them around at home, I felt so comfortable in them.  Perhaps it's because they brought out a part of myself I wanted to express. They captured a delight I rarely allow myself to feel with clothing.

I tend to go for the daily "uniform" that serves as the backbone of my wardrobe. 





The green alpaca coat in the first photo, I knit a number of years ago.  I wrote about that process at the time, and also mentioned why I don't wear it more often on my "about" page.

The velvet coat was a gift from Mr. Savory one Christmas.  I have never worn it, not being sure if it was an indoor garment or an outer layer, but when I put it on with jeans, it clicked.  It felt elegant but not fancy, and it was fun to twirl around in on a frigid winter day. 

I hope I experiment like this more often.  The class offered me a comfortable environment to come out and play.  Life can't be all parkas and black wool overcoats!

Toadstool Village





Yesterday, as I left the house with Harry and Charlie for their afternoon walk, we ran into our next door neighbor who commented on our mushroom garden.

I looked over to where she was gesturing and gasped. 




Overnight a toadstool village sprang up from the previous day's heavy rain!



 
I felt so grateful because I likely would have missed it in the front corner of our yard.  These mushroom were a perfect subject for a photo prompt on texture.




 It was one of those moments of synchronicity where everything fits together and gets delivered to your door. 

Getting Comfortable





The self-portrait above was a response to a photo prompt.  

The funny thing is that it wasn't until I spent a considerable amount of time setting the self-timer on my camera placed at the end of the table and running back to my chair and posing, that I realized that I had missed the point entirely.

The context of the prompt was a seasonal one: to include a few details giving clues to autumn.  To make yourself comfortable, say on the couch or in an armchair, with a mug of tea and a bowl of popcorn.  Think about what texture and camera angles can convey...Now, popcorn may not be my quintessential autumnal snack, but no matter, it could be an apple, apple pie, a cider donut.

I seized on the get comfortable part and tried to be natural about it.  I log very little couch time, and never by day.  Occasionally, on a weekend, I grab an hour with a glass of wine and a book if Mr. Savory is cooking dinner.

But up there in that photo is me in my spot at the kitchen table.  I suppose it is where I am most comfortable, not necessarily physically, but creatively.  And while that capture was posed, it looks completely natural and familiar to me.  I habitually sit right there, with my Moleskine, clutching my coffee.

This prompt got me thinking about being comfortable.  Somehow, through culture or being a list-maker, I've taken to equating being comfortable with laziness or relaxation.  What you do in your down time.

But really, they are not the same thing.  Being comfortable can be making sure you are not hot or cold, hungry or thirsty to the point of distraction.  It can mean wearing clothes that make you feel confident or support your activity for the day, not tight or baggy, nor shoes that give you blisters.

It can mean preparing food that nourishes you in the season, and consuming enough but not so much that your stomach hurts.  

I think it's time for me to take a seat in my living room, on the couch or in that armchair we picked up by the curb and had new springs put in.  When it's daylight.  Thirty minutes to read or knit.

 A few years ago, Olivia and I took needlework outings, where we went to our local yarn store and sat upstairs in their comfy seating area.  I brought my knitting and she her needlepoint.  I commented one day to the shop owner how I never knit at home during the day, only on the couch in the evenings.  She understood and said, "I know, that guilty pleasure, right?"

Maybe October is my month to explore getting comfortable.  Tease apart the notion that it means I'm a slouch. I'll be back later, in a new pose, with my camera and a snack.


The Signs Tell You





A short walk from our Cape May rental house is a tiny community garden lushly planted and curated with a mulched pathway.  Those who tend have kindly offered guides to what is planted.  It is a shady retreat from the relentlessly sunny sidewalks along Madison Avenue.



 I am rather taken with the signs.  They are charming yet helpful indicators of what one might find along the way.  

Right now, today, I wish for my own little metaphorical garden to have such signage.  Brightly colored ones amidst the greenery that would show me the way, with arrows pointing to which photography or writing class is right for me at present.  Which cookbooks I might learn most from.  What direction to take my dog training.

How bold am I now in regards to wading through my grief?

 


Every day recently, a writer, photographer, blogger, I follow, links to a class or course being offered.  Soon!  Registration is open!  I have spent considerable time checking each one out.  Each teacher offers inspiration or new sets of skills to learn.  Most are e-courses, available through a series of clicks with credit card at the ready.  Some are highly interactive, some are self-paced and more solitary, with support available.  The two that nailed me in between the eyes are in real time and place, on separate weekends, mornings only, six-plus hours away...

Do I want to sign myself up for something that offers to take me way deep, or do I want to stay closer to the surface and learn in comfort?  Do I want to be immersed, consumed, or is it best to make sure I have ample space for a little of everything?

I could and desperately want to ask you your opinion.  What do you think I should choose?  But most likely, you would say it depends, it depends on what you want, what you are looking for.  All the choices look promising, don't they?










Squares





 Just fooling around.




Making a few photos square.




Sometimes it's inspiring to look at things in a different way.




It doesn't feel like being inside a box if this is actually an outside the box way of seeing for me.

Light




I am enjoying the longer days since gaining an hour this week.  It's surprising how such a small shift in the grand scheme of a day can seem so disorienting.



Yesterday morning after bringing Olivia to school, I took advantage of the later sunrise and stepped out for a photo walk near 8:30.  I've been lamenting not being more adventurous in the mornings, but it's not easy to muster the motivation to walk about in the early morning cold.





Thanks for sharing the late winter light of my neighborhood!

Vintage



Holga


On Saturday afternoon I walked up the street to one of my favorite local spots.  It seemed like the perfect place to snap a few for our 52 Photos Project theme, Vintage.


Dusk

Perhaps I was trying too hard to fit the theme, but my photos fell a bit flat to me.  Not normally one for using effects much, as I favor working on my basic skills, I had some fun in Picmonkey. 


Orton
Yester-Color

I must browse the Philadelphia Salvage every couple weeks, and I have yet to make a purchase.  One day, I hope I will find an item that is just right for our old house!




Looking For Color






On Friday I was ready to go in search of some color.





 

I hope you are finding some brightness, too, wherever you may be this long weekend.

Right Here and Right Now





So our next photo prompt is about embracing and recognizing how each moment is a new one. It's a place we've never been, it's something we've never tried ... it's about attempting ~ beginning ~ savoring the right here and now.



Yesterday I took myself to a loose interpretation of "a place I've never been", which was the other side of the wetlands at The Morris Arboretum.  I can't say there was too much on that other side that worked out photographically speaking, especially since it was Noon by the time I arrived.



But the sun was warming, and I meandered over to the more interesting side after a spell.  While walking, I pushed myself to ask if I would want to make this a place for a year-long project.



I'm hovering over a "no" to that idea as what I realized is that for me recording a place through the seasons may be too scientific.  I dug down to the core of what sparks the thrill for me, and I came up with adventure and discovery.  

The unknown is what drives me; the combination of possibility and probability.  Knowing each time I set off with my camera around my neck, I will probably return with something pleasing or at least acceptable, even though I have no idea what it will be. Yet there is the possibility I will come home disappointed with nothing to show for my time and exertion. 

Since December, I have been looking for a project.  I've made a list of ideas, starting on some and crossing out others. I seem to want to be part of a story, and recording a tree through the seasons, well, I'm not sure, yet, if I can fit into that specific story.    



I've begun doing breakfast diptychs, a before and after sort of story, not every morning, but, when my meal is different than the day before and the light on the table is sufficient.  It serves a purpose some days of focusing me into my thoughts and feelings.



A couple days ago, I began an up/down diptych at sunset.  My feet and something beyond the horizon line.  If it doesn't stick, I'll let it go, but no harm in trying these ideas out.  I rather like capturing the near-beginning and end of daylight, knowing that a tale of a day unfolded in-between. 



I have one story, however, that I desperately want to tell.  It's the story of me and my pups.  I have been studying the map of hiking trails of our Wissahickon valley and considering trying to hike the main trails with my "boys" over the year and photograph our journey.  Really, it's the story of friendship: between them, between us, and the sharing of an activity and place that if I had a tail, I'd be wagging, too.

So, the place I have never been turns out to be the unknown story within.  The leaning towards telling it free-form yet toying with controls and variables.

The right here and right now is simply nothing more than a moment's new idea.  



Shaping





The other day I was writing about an experience in my journal, describing how I responded at a family gathering when asked what I've been up to, how I've been spending my time.  I felt that I replied with more confidence than in the past, yet I struggled.  I gave myself a "B-" for my performance.

I was struggling to be true to myself and to explain to some extended family my time spent blogging, photographing, baking, training Charlie.  In the past I would have said, "oh, I don't know, I do this and that and the time before Olivia's school pick-up passes quickly."  I would have laughed and shrugged as a way of saying this conversation is over.

What I wrote in my journal is what I wished I had said:  "I write, I photograph, I bake, I take care of my dogs and Olivia, and through these pursuits I wander through my days trying to find meaning, hoping and striving to make connections."



When I answered my relatives, I wanted to account for the loss.  I wanted to say, have you forgotten it's only been a year and a half?  I needed to say that everything I put out into the world has Aaron in it.

The phrase, "wander through my days" startled me.  I understand it, I know why I do it, and yet it worries me.

It is simply where I am emotionally and have been since Aaron left.  I need a wide open space to explore creatively.  Write, photograph, bake, garden, paper craft.  A little structure is good, too much and I can't think or feel. I actively browse for meaning.




I need, however, to be shaping my finds.  Ever so gently.  Straight lines scare me right now, but I need a few for structure and support.  A few big trees in the meadow to lean my back against and take rest in the shade. Put up support beams in my house.

I tend to let myself wander until I am out of time, and then I look at the to-do list and declare myself a screw-up who needs a rigid schedule. A few weeks of a schedule and I remember how I dislike straight lines, and I break.

Wandering, exploring can be rich, but eventually a path (a curving one) needs to emerge and that's where I find myself presently.  I am going to give Susannah's workbook a try and see if it can provide some of that shaping I seek.  "Shaping" is my word for 2013, as in "yeah, it's really starting to take shape."

I hope that by next December this is how I will answer anyone who asks.






The Skies Above





I stayed close to home this week, looking up through the trees from our valley.  I'd wished I was perched atop a mountain or standing on a shore.  In lieu of capturing the big open sky, I walked in my yard at sunset and twilight, and I found the near-winter sky in various shades of blue.

Funny how our cameras nudge us to grab our parkas, call our dogs, and head out in near darkness, when we would normally at that hour never leave the warmth of our cozy kitchens.



These prompts challenge me to look further, deeper.  To go out at times when I would by habit be in.  To try capturing in situations I would otherwise find unsuitable.



Even if I'm still learning and fumbling, I know I am thinking and seeing differently.  Recently, it has been after submitting my finds, that I have relaxed and considered trying that candlelit scene again, how it might not truly be so hard after all.  And just last evening, my sky photos chosen, I walked across to my neighbor's house to help Olivia feed their cat, and looking out from their hill, I noticed how much more sky could be seen from their front yard.

Right across the street offered a completely different view of the heavens. 


Illuminate




Light from an electronic device can create a dramatic photo. Most of us own at least one electronic gadget! Practice this illumination technique and share what you capture here on Wednesday. Alternate light sources: candle light, low lamp light, fireplace, or string lights.  From 52 Photos Project


I am woefully inexperienced taking photos by candlelight. Without my beloved sunlight to illuminate, I felt challenged using an alternate light source. 

Yet, this week the practice alone was enough to inspire. 

I lit a scented candle by day on my kitchen counter and kept it burning while I wrote, baked, photographed and organized.  It warmed me and kept a sort of company; a fragile, yet noticeable presence each time I walked or worked nearby.

At dinnertime, I lit a tall, elegant taper on our kitchen table. I turned off all the lights and tried to capture a small family scene illuminated by candle and then wondered if a bit of electric light, comfortably set, was cheating.  


In the background, unbeknownst to me, the process of merely observing a word worked it's charms.

Olivia commented one evening on how she liked having the candle at dinner, how she thought it was cozy, and Mr. Savory agreed.  The last time we lit a candle at dinner regularly, she was probably a toddler.  Maybe the routine lasted into Aaron's babyhood, I can't quite recall.  But I do remember that once his problems set in, and dinnertime was the beginning of his toughest hour of the day, when he could no longer share our food, I stopped lighting an evening candle.  

Candlelight to me represents celebration, quiet, centering, romance.  Why light a candle when often, despite a beautifully cooked meal, we were eating with one child in discomfort, perhaps even pain?

This week as I cleared off my desk and organized my writing studio with my candle glowing nearby, constantly coming across sweet little items relating to Aaron or file folders of school and medical paperwork causing me to stop and cry, the process glimmered all around me, undetected. Perhaps because the lighting of a candle in memorial usually takes place in a house of worship, this aspect of my flame eluded me.

My pathway was lit through the routine of practice, through the busying myself in the purpose of believing in my creativity, through the unsettling of items that have sat too long.  I could not see this type of illumination but I know I held it.

The candles stay.

Creativity Calls





Every six months or so, I seem to have a need to put myself on a schedule.  Mostly, I think, it is an attempt to control my creative pursuits, marginalize them, in order to make time for the to-do list tasks and caring for my family.

I seem to never be fully on top of those, some I think of only at the wrong times, and then there are the tasks that I simply dread--phone calls to people I would rather not deal with, situations I cannot resolve, plans I am conflicted about.  I don't forget about these, I just avoid them until they become heavy, enormous and weigh me down with anxiety.



The hours while Olivia is at school pass quickly, and there is also the grief, the elephant in the room, that takes up considerable space and energy.  It's not yet been a year and a half.  What am I thinking, even worrying about schedules?   In my mind and heart I still have two to take care of.

The schedules I try out for a few weeks now and then don't stick.  They are too restrictive and I can't help but keep writing, or photographing the light as it falls just so on my kitchen table. Then I look up at the clock, gasp, grab my tote bags and run off to the Co-Op.



This week it began to dawn on me that I am chafing against imposed limitations, that I am bursting beyond my schedule.  I want to write, photograph, bake, play in the garden, arrange color all day long. This part of me is screaming to be taken seriously. 

On one level, this is about time management both creative and personal.  However, it is also about  the guilt I feel for the hours I spend writing or reading for an e-course.  The photo outing I took I consider a luxury, as I think of Mr. Savory at work.



I'm at a bit of an impasse currently, wrestling, even as I write this.  A few solutions have come to mind in the past days as I've read about time management and gained a few tips from interviews with "successful people".

I've read about Eat That Frog, and gave it a try this week.  What a relief!  I contacted a few people that I've been meaning to reach out to for a long time, and confronted some tasks that I was worrying about.

The premise of "Eat That Frog", originating from Mark Twain, is that you start your work day with the hardest, most dreaded, the likeliest item on your list to be procrastinated on, and do it first.  The rest of the day will seem easier and there will be a sense of accomplishment no matter what direction the remainder of the day takes. You can even set up what you need for your frog the night before so you are ready in the morning. 

I write after eating breakfast, but having picked out my frog to confront afterwards, is a good strategy for me that feels satisfying but not overwhelming.

When I put some questions out to my blogging mates about how they address their creativity time, one responded that for personal health reasons, she lets the creativity flow and doesn't hold back.  The word, flow, has run through me since.

For now, taking myself seriously means to keep writing and growing creatively. It means taking care of my family, enjoying each other, and gulping down a daily frog. 

Let it flow. 











Everything is Changing




Everything is changing, and I don't just mean the season. 

I refer to something subtle that begins internally until it can no longer be held inside.  A certain power, the acquiring of tools.

It started last Winter when encouraged by an online photography course, I left the safety of my kitchen and walked around my neighborhood, photographing.  I was incredibly self-conscious for months to come, but I kept doing it more and more often.



I felt liberated, and I fell in love with the exploration.  I suddenly had another way to tell a story; I had a new tool.

This doesn't mean I'm good at taking pictures, nor does it make me a photographer.  But a new tool to use opens up the world a bit.



I began walking down a new trail, one that did not loop back to my kitchen table.  Like having an affair (I imagine), I was swept away and didn't care about what I was leaving behind.

I was cooking, reading, baking, gardening just as much as ever, however, I had no interest in photographing any of it.  Most of the time I simply forgot.



I stopped reading food blogs as often, and pored over photography and creative personal blogs.  Yet, I kept on reading cookbooks and personal memoirs about food and gardening.

I'm now in the final week of an online blogging course, and I know for certain that I am not the same person I was since the day I first walked around the neighborhood with my camera.



Recently, I gained another tool, or at least a sharpened, pre-existing one.  I now touch a finger to my heart before I start writing a post.  During these weeks, on more than one occasion, I have sat up straighter, asked myself if I am tapping in to what I feel, deleted, and started over with a slightly different tone.

This doesn't mean I write well or even that I am a writer. Expertise takes a lifetime to develop.

I acknowledge, though, that I possess these tools.  I accept that at their most basic level, I know how to use them.  This is confidence I have never admitted to previously.  I have an internal power now, and for the moment, it is keeping me up at night!



I hope to come back with camera in hand to my kitchen table from time to time, but with different intent.

For once one has developed a mission statement, the whole perspective shifts.

Through photographs and stories, I want to share what I see and what I feel.  My aim is for my personal stories to be universal.

A Beauty All it's Own





In the decay lies beauty.
I invite you to look for it this week.

from 52 Photos Project 


In my neighborhood a brand new house is practically a fascination.  A newer house might be considered one built about sixty years ago.  Wooded areas and huge old trees give the landscape a rather wild, overgrown look.  This is not a neighborhood of evenly trimmed hedges and vast expanses of lawn.  Our "tree guy" lauds our mossy front yard where we cannot seem to grow much grass beneath the aged sugar maple.

Keeping ahead of the peeling, cracking, rusting, molding, rotting is a routine battle, particularly in the yard where weeds become trees while you take a beach holiday.

The fact that our "ancient" unruliness happens to also be within city limits adds another dimension to what unkempt might look like.

As long as I can admire the withering from afar, I find the possibility for a bit of history or a good story invigorating.  If dead blossoms meant someone had a vibrant garden this season, walking by makes me smile.



I stuck by my commitment to myself last evening to go out for a photo walk despite overcast skies.  I knew precisely where my first stop would be and knowing my subject was decay, I felt a little badly that I knew a good spot to source it.  



Since last Spring, I have walked by this "site" often on photography outings.  The car is always there against that fabulous peeling garage door, and in the Spring pink roses bloom around it.  I tried a few times to capture the effect without satisfaction, or to my frustration people were about, and I was ill at ease pointing my camera at the juxtaposition that may  belong to them.



I enjoyed my walk in search of the fading, however strange that sounds.  Given the losses I have had to reflect upon recently, it cleared my head and balanced me somehow to see that spent blossoms in a garden at this time of year is entirely where things should be.  Amongst them Mums enter and save us from disappointment.  

 The white peeling paint still holds interest in this first week of Autumn, even without the roses. But know that come January, a door in need of paint will match the bleakness everywhere, and I will turn away.  No one will be out then searching for the falling down, as it would feel despairing.  Instead we will be looking for warm colors in our bowls of steaming soup, or for a bright red winter berry poking out from a branch bent with snow.






Summer's Light


All Summer I have been inspired by that last hour of light before sunset.  I have loved my evening photography walks and will miss them as that hour falls now at dinnertime.  Sooner than I would like, it will encroach on the even busier time of day when dinner needs preparing and my desire to hear the tales of Olivia's school day take priority.

I might squeeze in a sunset walk now and then if Mr. Savory makes dinner on the weekend.  In a couple months, I will likely switch my photography outings to the hour after sunrise, and I expect to fall in love with that hour again as I did last Winter and Spring.

I hope you enjoy these photos and the glorious light found in these last few weeks of Summer.


Out For A Neighborhood Walk At Sunset

Cape May Doorway At Sunset

View From Our Cape May Patio At Sunset


Out For A Sunset Walk At Cape May Bird Sanctuary