Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reflecting back...

It seems to be human nature to reflect back on the year as it draws to a close.  All the media outlets do their part, all the newspapers and news shows and magazines.  There are lists that run down the celebs that have passed, the bits of human tragedy that happened, the few accomplishments we managed to achieve in the past year.  Of course, I read them and make my same ol’ remarks that I hadn’t realized that so and so had died, what a shame this happened…you know the drill.  But down deep inside, I have to question why we always seem to emphasize the negative side. It often leaves me feeling restless, empty and wondering. 

There is a poem by Wendell Berry that I often think about when I’m in this kind of mood.  I think that it is a good year-end poem for me.  It’s called 
“The Peace of Wild Things.”

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Some peaceful thoughts as this year comes to an end...


Monday, December 27, 2010

Timing is Everything…

In photography, as in life, timing is everything.  My timing was a bit off these last few days as some bug came and got me on Christmas night and sent me to bed with an upset stomach and the shivers.  Fortunately, it only lasted the typical 24 hours or so and I am back up and around.  But I was very disappointed.  Christmas night has traditionally been our family game night when everyone takes great delight in watching me lose. This year the game was “Guesstimation.”  As nice as it is to see the family happy, this year I was unable to participate.

Well, I’m “a day late and a dollar short” and “better late than never” more times than not.  My timing is often off when it comes to photography as it is in life.  That’s why most of my better photos are of things that stand still and are willing to wait for me.  But I’ve gotten lucky a few times and here are some of those…

The Peanut Thief

Bronson Arroyo

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

“Let me cover you…”

Very early this morning on the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, there was a total lunar eclipse of the full moon making it the darkest night in some 400 years.  I didn’t intend to get up to witness this piece of lunar history but something pulled my pagan soul awake around 3:00 this morning.  Maybe it was the knowledge of this happening that lay in the back of my head, but most likely it was the taillight of Greg’s truck as he headed down the driveway to get to a more open area so he could actually see the full sky. 

He needn’t have bothered since there was a cloud curtain that kept the moon shrouded.  But there was something about just being awake while it was happening that seemed to strengthen my acceptance that winter is finally here.

Unlike many people that I know, I’m not one who complains about winter.  I try to accept it as part of the ebb and flow of the year even as I admit to not being quite so stoic about the heat of summer.  Now plants and animals that need it are getting a long rest as the days begin to lengthen…a much-needed rest.

When I finally forced myself out of bed this morning, I saw that there was a light snow falling – our first of the season.  Welcome, Winter!

"On the first day of winter,
the earth awakens to the cold touch of itself.
Snow knows no other recourse except
this falling, this sudden letting go
over the small gnomed bushes, all the emptying trees.
Snow puts beauty back into the withered and malnourished,
into the death-wish of nature and the deliberate way
winter insists on nothing less than deference.
waiting all its life, snow says, "Let me cover you."
-   Laura Lush, The First Day of Winter

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Last week, my husband Greg and I took a short trip up north to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where we spent a couple of nights.  I can’t even imagine how many times we have passed Portsmouth on the highway often remarking that we need to stop there one of these days.  So when we discovered that we had a free night’s stay in a hotel chain that we frequent, after searching around for places within easy driving distance, we settled on Portsmouth, New Hampshire. 

Portsmouth sits near the mouth of the Piscataqua River that divides New Hampshire and Maine.  A small city of about 21,000, it has a thriving commercial district with many interesting stores and restaurants.  We decided that we waited too long to discover this beautiful town and are hoping to return…soon. 

So here is a little of our trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire…

The Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion
Christmas Shopping on Congress Street

Along Congress Street, Portsmouth


Friday, December 17, 2010

Every Green Tree…

Martin Luther said, “For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” 

We had a closing on the refinancing for our house today.  That’s a good thing.  We will save a fair bit of money.  But as we were signing the three-inch plus stack of papers, I found myself wanting to apologize to the trees that sacrificed themselves for our finances. 

We, as a species, use too much paper and so too many trees.  We all know that.  In this household, we have tried to be conscious about the amount of paper we use and to recycle and reuse as much as possible, but we still use too much.  I want to take a moment and pause in particular at this time of year when holiday cards and Christmas wrap start to become so important in my (our) world to renew my commitment to be better and to praise the glory of every green tree…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crying over spilt coffee…

Seems like it’s going to be one of those days… I just spilled my coffee.  Fortunately for me, it wasn’t particularly hot (something I would normally complain about) and I spilled it almost totally on a pair of jeans that should have gone into the laundry yesterday anyhow.  So basically, no harm was done, except that I am short one coffee.

I have been fighting a creativity block lately.  And I don’t think that the act of spilling coffee is going to help unblock it.  But as I was sending my wet jeans down the laundry chute, it occurred to me that I am nothing without my coffee.  OK, so that is a bit on the dramatic side, but I do really love that first, second, third cup of coffee every day.  I like them well enough that I have taken quite a few photos of coffee. I will post some of those today.

Photographer and humorist Flash Rosenberg put it this way:  “I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee.”  I think I will go get another cup of coffee and toast her words of wisdom! And on my way to the kitchen, I will bestow a little pat of sympathy on our very relaxed and snoring pug who can’t make coffee…no thumbs, you know.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

By an Unnoticed Breeze…

We have two old oak trees that stand at the end of our driveway.  It’s really an understatement for me to say that I love those trees.  I have taken many photos of them as I consider them works of art. 

Those oaks rain acorns down in the late summer and fall and in high winds drop small branches all over our drive.  When I’m feeling particularly fatalistic I wonder how long it will be before one of their more impressive branches drops blocking us in…or out.

Who knows how old those mighty oaks are?  But, their lives are finite, just like ours.  And the loss of a major branch may just herald the coming end of the tree’s long life.  It’s a sobering thought for me.  But just like people, the oak has a way of dealing with its mortality.

Thomas Carlyle said it best.  “When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with its fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pond Reflections…

We count ourselves among the luckiest people around to be able to live within easy walking distance of a pond (or what those of us from southern Ohio would call a lake).  It isn’t a very large pond by central Massachusetts standards and it’s not particularly deep, but we who live around it enjoy in our own ways. Some fish, some swim, some water-ski.  I like to just look at it.

The pond is different in every season and it changes from day to day so it is always interesting to look at.  I have found that it is often ruffled and wavy during the day and usually calms down in the evening.  So when I find it still and mirror-like during the day, I like to take advantage and get down there with my camera.

I love the quiet stillness of the smooth water.  It is somehow reassuring to me that even though the world is full of war and other man-made horrors, the water can be calm and smooth reflecting back the splendor of the nature that surrounds it. 

Standing and looking at the water, I think of the words of John Muir, "Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own.  Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Higher Education...

Around this time last year, Greg and I traveled around with our son Evan to look at the universities he was considering for his Master’s Degree.  I have to say this about college campus tours - we enjoy the heck out of them.

There was the plain pleasure of getting to travel and spend time with our son, but there was really more to it than that.  I felt a great urge at each campus we visited to submit transcripts myself…although for what purpose, I can’t imagine. And besides who the heck knows where my transcripts might be anyhow?  Most likely, they are buried deep down in some box somewhere…After all, I went to college before the advent of computers.

We visited four places:  University of Rhode Island, Syracuse University, University at Albany (SUNY) and Rutgers University because those are most of the schools in this area that offer a Masters in Library Science.  Each campus has a unique character and I loved photographing them.  Unfortunately, it was raining so hard the day we were at Rutgers, I was afraid for my camera and didn’t get any usable photos of the campus.  That is something I regret.  But I did manage a photo of the rain.

Evan ended up at Syracuse University and I ended up thinking what a plum job it would be just being able to travel around the country to take photos of college campuses.

Raining at Rutgers

The Hall of Languages, Syracuse University
Inside the SU Library

Syracuse University
University of Rhode Island
University at Albany

Inside the library at University at Albany

Sunday, December 5, 2010

“There is much beauty here…”

Urban decay is defined as “a process by which a city or part of a city falls in to a state of disrepair.  Signs of urban decay include population loss, housing stock deterioration and increases in crime.”*

Rainer Maria Rilke said, “There is much beauty here, because everywhere there is much beauty.” 

The challenge is to find beauty in urban ruin.  Is there beauty in empty, boarded-up buildings, signs of poverty and ruin?  Is an abandoned and deteriorated area even a suitable photo subject? 

I think that Rilke is right.  There is beauty in urban decay as it speaks to the human condition and to the struggles we deal with perpetually.  I like to think of what these places once were…the lives and dreams that stood in them and passed through them.  And I like to think that maybe someday they may be reclaimed because resilience is definitely beautiful.


 Hardwick, Massachusetts
Albany, New York

Dayton, Ohio

Ware, Massachusetts

Friday, December 3, 2010

Got Graffiti?

Graffiti evokes strong feelings in people. Many feel that it is solely an act of vandalism and has no intrinsic value and many feel that it is art and an important form of self-expression. I do not condone vandalism but I find graffiti very interesting. What makes a person feel compelled to “tag” things in a seemingly random fashion? Is it gang-related or simply self-expression gone large?

The great photographer Alfred Stieglitz stated, “The goal of art was the vital expression of self.”  If what Mr. Stieglitz said is correct, then it follows that graffiti is art.

I have a small collection of graffiti in my photo files almost none of which are the large colorful displays one sees on train cars and city walls.  What attracts me are the simple words. Sometimes it is the pure angst.  A graffiti I found in Valencia, Spain says, “Estoy solo y solo estoy” (“I am alone and alone am I”).  One I found in Barre, Vermont simply asks, “got grief?”  Sometimes, it’s the na├»ve hope that moves me, like a couple found in Northampton, Massachusetts:  “Let us love us” and “Let’s recreate the world.”  Or just the plain randomness of “Wear a red hat I will too” makes me just wonder why.

Here is some of my graffiti collection…

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Thousand and Thirty-two words…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I don’t disagree, but once in a while, every thousandth or so photo I take (that I decide not to send to the little garbage pail in my computer) needs a little something to help it along.  Maybe I like the image, but it just doesn’t “say” anything to me.  So I add six or ten or thirty-two words to make it feel just right.


Here are the words:

“Coffee falls into the stomach. Ideas begin to move. Things remembered arrive at full gallop.  The shafts of wit start up like sharp shooters. Similes arise.  The paper is covered with ink….”  Honore de Balzac

“Research tells us that 14 out of every 10 individuals likes chocolate.”  Sandra Boynton

“I base my fashion sense on what doesn’t itch.” Gilda Radner

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain…”  Henry Longsworth Longfellow