Category Archives: Present

The Tipping Point

We are right in the middle of a soft, spring rain.  There’s no thunder, no lightning; only a soft sprinkling of water drops pinging off the still-bare branches and the glass windows of my home.  It’s been raining since late last night and the ground is now dark and moist, giving way to the push of the heel as my shoes try to gingerly walk atop it.  I hurry the dogs to take care of their business, worried that my hair will turn to frizz if they take too long.

Despite the gentle rain, the birds are flocking to the feeders this morning.  (Apparently, there’s no sleeping in when free food is at hand.)  Tonight we will set our clocks ahead an hour for Daylight Savings Time even though nobody can ever remember why it is we still do this.  It’s so silly, really, that it should take an act of congress to end this ridiculous tradition.  The birds have never reset their clocks and they seem to be getting along just fine.

The first of the blossoming trees began to show their stuff this week.  I noticed a Saucer Magnolia tree and an overgrown Pussy Willow bush both making their initial push to explode in the prolonged and deepening sunshine this week.  Temperatures rose into the 60’s and 70’s and stayed there; a sure sign that everything on this portion of our planet will be awakening to spring’s call for an incredible floor show and the participants will be all too happy to show us what they’ve got.  The Forsythia and Quince bushes, Bradford Pear and Flowering Crabapple trees, daffodils and crocuses will get things rolling.  Then the lilac bushes, Dogwood trees, and tulips will crowd them out, taking first place in the second act of spring.  In my mind, I imagine heaven being spring and autumn all at once: everything in bloom, everything showing its best and brightest colors, every day starting and finishing at the perfect temperature.  And then, as we lay our heads down to rest, it will rain exactly like it’s raining this morning – gently, leisurely, without force or fear.

It won’t be long and the grass will need to be mowed, the garden soil turned, the lawn furniture returned to the shady side of the deck.  There are many afternoons ahead where I will sit outside, cold drink in hand, spying on my avian friends as they come down from the surrounding trees for a nut-based treat.

We all make choices in life; these choices are mine: to breath in every moment, to see it for what it is, to experience it and remember it and let it soak into who I am.  Spring’s tipping point happened last night while I was sleeping and today I wait for the rain to stop and the show to begin.

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Every Moment, New

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Our life is full of fresh starts.  Some we look forward to with anticipation and hope for our future; others we reluctantly slog towards, knowing things will never be the same.

Some we plan for; others we are dragged towards.

But all fresh starts have one thing in common: they hold within them the impetus for change.  And it’s okay to look back on those crossroad moments and reflect on whether reality met up with our hopes and dreams – or not.  But when we stay in that same place too long – when we turn away from the next fresh start because the last one left us too scarred to move on – that is when we lose our way in life.

Every year, for eons and eons, life on earth has followed a set-in-stone pattern in which spring follows winter; summer follows spring; autumn follows summer; and winter follows autumn.  It is the cycle of this planet and the cycle of our lives.  We start out new, we grow and flourish, we begin the descent, and then we die.  For some, this cycle takes mere moments; for others – decades.  We do not get to choose how long the circle of life will last but we do get to choose how to live each moment within the journey that makes up our lifetime.

You can spend it planning and scheming, contemplating and worrying, reflecting and remembering – or you can let go and let each moment be exactly what it is supposed to be.

Pick up that foot that is holding you in your past.  Pull Back the foot that is dragging you into your future.  Set them both down here, now.   Plant your feet beneath you and let them be your anchor.  Don’t worry that you won’t get to where you’re going; you will.  Watch where life will take you.  Be open to the changes as they come…

Because every moment can be new; every moment a fresh start.

All Quiet on the Home Front

It’s been a very quiet weekend around my home – exactly what I needed, actually.  I’m still putting away all the items from my mom’s life that I took from my parents’ home (e.g. jewelry, cook books, etc.).  Little by little, I have integrated the things that were once hers in with the items that have always been mine.  They will now coexist with the things I have from those other family members who have passed on – my grandmother’s metronome that sat atop her piano; my grandfather’s pepper mill – he loved fresh cracked pepper; dishes that belonged to my great grandmother, Julia.  My cabinets and shelves are full of mementos from lives now gone.

I spent the morning updating my living will, Last Will & Testament, and my Power of Attorney.  After watching what we went through with my mother I wanted everything to be in place when my time came.  I named my sister as the person in charge of making all my medical decisions because she has the best grasp on when to say “enough” out of all my family members.  She was the first to realize (after me) that we were only prolonging the inevitable with my mom.  When you’ve tried everything you can think of, it’s time to let go.  She gets that – so she gets to be my voice when I can no longer speak.

As part of the process, I allocated some of my possessions to friends and family.  It’s daunting to give away your things – to think about who would want the things you consider so special that you’d rather not live without them.  I was stumped on who to give my camera equipment to as nobody else in my family would really want it.  Truth is, it will be so out of date by the time someone gets their hands on it it probably won’t matter much.  It’s hard to believe it will be meaningless to everyone else when I consider it to be the most precious thing I own.

I’ve always known in my heart that things are just “things” – that the house could burn down or the tornado could sweep through – and you have to be able to let it all go and move on.  But, now that I’m older, I see where people can become attached to their possessions.  I realized that the first time I raised that camera to my eye.  It would be like taking off my left hand at this point – something I would never be able to fully comprehend how to live without…but I’d make adjustments and find a way, I’m sure.

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My dog, Gracie, turns 11 tomorrow.  I don’t know where all the years have gone but I kiss her head every night and I thank God she’s been here with me through the last decade.  She and Petee not only keep me company in an otherwise empty home, they have taught me so much about myself.  I see the best of who I can be – and the worst – in their eyes.  I try to do right by them and to love them as unconditionally as they love me.  I don’t always deserve their love and affection, but I always take it in, nonetheless.

Gracie sleeps on an afghan that my mother crocheted for my bed years ago.  (At some point I changed my color scheme and the afghan became the dog blanket.)  Some would think that was a terrible thing to do with a keepsake from my mom but she would have loved it.  She loved her dogs like she loved all of us kids.  She was especially fond of Grace and always looked forward to coming over to see her.

I know the dogs don’t know why I am bringing new items into the house and I doubt they can comprehend why I’ve been crying more than usual but I know we will all get through this time of grief.  It still hasn’t fully sank in that my mom is gone but I look at her wedding ring that now sits in my jewelry box and I know that its true.  Possessions can be a blessing or a curse in this day and age; I try to only hold on to the ones I see as blessings.

 

 

True Beauty

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I’ve been photographing the world around me for the past nine years (not counting the year before that where I spent endless hours learning how to use a digital camera and how to compose and expose an image properly.)  I used to practice every day and felt incomplete if the camera wasn’t weighing heavy against the back of my neck (kind of like how some people feel when they take their wedding ring off to do a special project, then forget to put it right back on again.)  I still look at my camera as one of my dearest friends; it’s been with me through so much and has always pointed me towards new discoveries about myself.

I was probably five years into photography when I started to put together a portfolio of my favorite images and I noticed a pattern emerging: I had an overabundance of single-item images.  One leaf, one tree, one bird, one flower – the pattern was unmistakable.  I was a single person taking images of single items.  Hmm…

Yesterday several of us were looking through some old family images and someone pointed out that I am overly critical of myself in photographs.  I’ve always been that way – seeing the flaws that others miss (or never mention.)  I think almost all of us are this way.  We hear ourselves on a taped message and immediately say, “That doesn’t sound like me!” Then everyone else laughs and says, “Oh yes it does.  That sounds exactly like you.”  We tend to hear and see ourselves differently than how others see and hear us.

But photographs taken by a particular photographer over the course of time never lie.  We see the world in a particular way and, if patterns are searched out, we can tell someone’s work if we know it well enough without ever having to read the name below the print.  You would never confuse a Monet with a Van Gogh, right?  As an artist, we are unique in how we see the world and how we express it to others.  Speaking for myself, I tend to lean towards those single-subject images, with clean backgrounds and simple presentations.  When you see one of my photographs next to the others you will see some variations, but many of them will have all the same attributes because I am expressing who I am through this medium and who I am is largely unchanged over time.

The more I’ve learned about photography the more critical I’ve become of photographs – both mine and those of other artists.  I look at them with a detailed eye and try to learn from each one – what could have been done better?  Lower angle?  Different direction?  Light at a different time of day?  But, in the end, it doesn’t keep me from loving that flawed photograph.  If anything, it’s taught me that true beauty doesn’t lie in perfection; it lies, instead, inside the lack of it.  I may not love what I look like in photographs but I love how I see the world through them.  For me, that’s where the beauty of who I am truly lies.  And in my photographs of the world around me I always see the very best version of myself because that is where I am more “me” than anywhere else in this world.

Put a camera in my hand and watch me be me.  I guarantee you’ll never see that same smile in an old family Polaroid.

The 56th

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Today is my 56th birthday. It is also the first birthday I will celebrate without my mom; she died four days ago. And, yes, I am sad, but I don’t think I’ve really started grieving for her yet. I’m still in the “What the hell happened?” stage as far as she is concerned. I’m also in the “When will this ever end?” stage of grief for my younger brother, who we lost to brain cancer 14 months ago. Technically speaking, I still have another four months of grieving for him, so I guess my grief for mom will need to take a number. (Sorry, mom, I guess it’s a good thing you didn’t mind waiting in line.)

I keep thinking about the appointment I need to make for my yearly physical. The doctor always asks, “Anything changed in your life since the last time you were here?” How exactly does one come out and say, “Why, yes. Remember how last year I told you my brother had just died? Well, now it seems my mother has died as well.” Do they immediately hand you a prescription for anti-depressants or do you still have to answer some questions first?

(I guess I’ll find out in a couple of weeks.)

In the meantime, my remaining siblings and I have been pitching in to help dad declutter and “de-feminize” his home. We’ve already removed countless boxes of mom’s clothing, jewelry, romance novels, and quilting supplies. All that’s really left to do is take down all the Precious Moments statues, decorative bottles, quilted wall hangings, and various bunny rabbit tchotchkes. Apparently, 58 years of looking at all mom’s knickknacks was enough; he’s ready to leave pastel colors behind, convert the sewing room into a reading library, and begin this new stage in his life. I really can’t say that I blame him. My mom was good at many things but room decorating was not really her forte.

What she was really good at was making people feel loved. She counted several of our long-time friends as her “stray” children and always made time to invite you in, listen to your current life predicament, and feed you a good, hearty meal. My mom liked being a mom more than anything else in this world.

The sun is finally up. I guess it’s time to get on with today’s activities: feeding the dogs, setting out some bird food for my feathered backyard friends to feast on, and then digging up something for my own breakfast before I head out for a walk. It would be right about now mom would have called me up, told me how cold and snowy it was the day I was born, and then recounted once again how she dreamed I was born with brown hair instead of the red I really came into the world wearing, which left her accusing many a fine upstanding nun of baby swapping at the Catholic hospital I was delivered in.

I’m really going to miss those calls.