Some days you just have to laugh — and maybe stick out your tongue if you think it will help!
Imagine that this is the front of a greeting card. What would you write on the inside?
Some days you just have to laugh — and maybe stick out your tongue if you think it will help!
Imagine that this is the front of a greeting card. What would you write on the inside?
For those of you who are Americans, have a great Independence Day.
In my part of the country, the only fireworks we will be enjoying are photographs. Due to the drought, there are burn bans and emergency orders against fireworks and any sort of burning. I don’t like the noise, so I won’t really miss them this evening. Still, it seems odd to have an Independence Day celebrations without fireworks and sparklers.
For those of you readers who are not Americans, have a great Wednesday.
It can be difficult to do something for 30 days in a row. “Life” intervenes. Routines are difficult to establish, even more difficult to break. Does this mean that I have given up on my February experiment? Of course not! I have, however, fallen a bit behind. As I wrote here, I decided for February to follow Good’s 30 Days of Good Citizenship Challenge. You can see the challenges on this page. I will be updating the page with links to posts related to the challenges.
The first task was to Learn the History of My Neighborhood. Immediately, I thought of an old map we have. When we walked through the house for the first time, the owners had a framed copy of the map of our county, drawn around 1870. We had asked for it in the bid; they would not let us have it. They did, however, make a photocopy of the map and gave it to us at closing. I never framed it, but do pull it out from time to time. I have never quite identified exactly where our home is, but I know the general area and find it interesting to look at, to see the family names on the map that are now familiar place names of streets and neighborhoods.
As part of this first task, I looked at my neighborhood on WalkScore.com. My neighborhood scored a 34. I would call this “total suckage for walking”. When I input my specific address in the walk calculater, the rating was 12. I would call this “screwed if you don’t have a car”. My car was in the shop that day and I didn’t need WalkScore to tell me this. Regardless, I did walk to the nearest grocery store. It is a little more than a mile away, which is certainly a walkable distance. But, there are no sidewalks. Walking up my street, I became aware of how infrequently people drive the speed limit. Even in the middle of the day, in a neighborhood where there isn’t much activity or heavy traffic, walking is not ideal. Crossing a 4-lane divided highway is necessary to get to the store. In both directions, I didn’t make it all the way across before the light turned red. There were no WALK signs. I wasn’t even sure if the cars turning right on the red were aware that I was there. Walking to the store was invigorating and made me realize how much more walking I could do if I didn’t rely on a car for such short trips. Yet, sidewalks and crosswalks are things that you don’t miss until you have to use them, and they make such short trips much more practical and safe.
I also realized, when looking at the map, that the cemetery a mile down the road has a name. The same surname is listed several times on the 1870 map, although I can’t find the cemetery which has burials dating back to the early 1800. I found a listing on the internet of the 28 grave sites. Several of them have stories. One woman interred in the 1930’s has descendants — four generations later — who remain convinced that she was murdered by her husband.
A third realization about my neighborhood was how much litter there was. For years, we have fought litter in the drainage ditch that runs along our property next to the road. I’ve always made the assumption because we are on a corner — probably the most traffic in the neighborhood because it intersects with a busy road — and because the lot is wooded with the house barely visible from the street, that people felt that they could throw trash out the window without anyone noticing. This may be true and the fast food bags, the soda and beer cans, and other odds and ends suggest that it is viewed by many as a dumping place. I realized, though, that people don’t have to have the blind created by the trees to toss things out car windows. On my walk, I saw cigaret packs, bags, junk mail flyers, cans, bottles, banana peels, and even a baby’s diaper. At one point I thought I should have brought a bag with me, but I realized that it would have been so full, I would not have been able to carry my groceries home. One or two items scattered about go mostly unnoticed by car passengers. Walking for three blocks up my street, however, was an eye-opener.
Task 3 was to Learn the Names of Your Elected Officials. For this task, I didn’t need to do anything. I know my Congressman and my Senators — and I know that I would prefer that someone else be in each of these offices. My husband and I joke that if one of us misses an election, there will only be 50% turnout for our party. That is a slight exaggeration, but we do live in an area that is strongly Republican. What I didn’t know but discovered as I was looking at party statistics, is that our precinct has changed as of Jan 1. I wonder if I will have a new polling place. I could have walked to the old one, but it is now in a different precinct.
If you don’t know your State or Federal congressional districts, or your local school district, you can find that information on this website. All you need is a street address.
Task 7 was Get a Library Card. I did this a few months ago, and I posted about it here. I sometimes get discouraged that the library has more videos and CD’s than books, but it is still a wonderful place. I haven’t been in the library since August when every computer (about 30 at my branch) wasn’t in use. The library is one of the best civic deals around.
Task 8, Help Someone Today, and Task 12, Register to Volunteer are also two tasks that I easily accomplished. I tutor each week at a nearby elementary school, helping a 9-year-old boy with his reading. He really doesn’t need reading assistance; what he needs is individual attention. Yesterday, I brought my camera and we took a few pictures out of the window. Since it was sleeting, going outdoors was not an option. Then, together we wrote a story about the playground. I didn’t want to get up yesterday morning, a cold and snowy day, to drive to the school, and for a moment wished that the school had called a snow-delay, but once I got there, I realized how much fun I have each week when I spend one short hour there.
But, you don’t have to volunteer to help someone. Doing something as simple as letting someone else go first at a stop sign, saying a sincere “Thank you for your time.” to someone at the store or on the phone, or smiling at the toll booth operator and telling him to “Stay warm.” are ways to brighten someone’s day, which helps us all. It’s so simple to do, but like any routine, if you don’t do it all the time, you may have to think about doing it. Try it; brightening someone’s day is a good place to start to help others. It may take a wee bit of energy, but it doesn’t take much time.
This week’s Photo Friday Challenge was “Handsome”. This is the type of challenge that initially frustrates me. I immediately thought “portrait of handsome man”, which would be problematic for me as I don’t typically shoot portraits. I have a great photo of my son, taken two years ago, in which he looks, in my opinion, very handsome. He dislikes the photo because he is unshaven, and he thinks he looks like he has a double-chin. I wouldn’t post at anyway, because it is a rule that we have that I won’t do that. My next thought was that I could post a picture of a Handsome Cab, but then I remembered that it is HANSOM CAB, not HANDSOME Cab, and I’m not nearby any place that would have such a vehicle.
And then, this story landed in my lap in the most unexpected place: my aunt’s funeral: My cousin gave the eulogy. He reminded us of how his late father would come home each evening and, smiling, announce “Handsome’s home.” This was quite the joke with his kids as they grew older. Several years ago my aunt, coming out of anesthesia, asked a nurse, in the silliest of ways: “Am I beautiful?” This was repeated to her later, after the drugs wore off. It, too, was a joke with her children. The nicknames “Handsome” and “Beautiful” stuck with them for the rest of their lives. It was a beautiful memory for my cousin to share about his parents, who were lovely and loving people who lived long, happy lives that touched many people.
My aunt loved birds. As I was thinking about her and this story, I thought of this photograph that I took earlier in the week of two Canadian Geese, sitting quietly on a small island in a pond. I had been taking pictures of the water when I realized the birds were there. Canadian geese mate for life. These two seem like a content couple, happy to be blending into the background. My aunt and uncle were just two normal people. In a crowd, you might not notice them. To each other, though, they were Handsome and Beautiful. In honor of my aunt & uncle, I name the geese in this photo Handsome & Beautiful. My aunt would like that I think — and would likely have something quite witty to say about a goose being named after her!
On a completely different emotional note, here is my bliss list, in no particular order, for this week. See links to others’ lists here. Thanks, Liv Lane for sponsoring this.
1. Having the time to take long walks this week.
2. Hearing the frost melt in the woods.
3. Getting such wonderful feedback from visitors to my blog on my photographs.
4. Spending time with family. (Son home from college this weekend = smiles.)
5. Sharing laughs and fond memories with extended family. There are always more laughs than tears at funerals in my family. I think that it should be that way.
Here are the rules:
3. Maximum 1000 words in length. (Because, you know, “A picture is worth….“)
Note: No skill is needed for this, other than the ability to count to 1000. Or allow software to count for you. Or just estimate.
4. Post on your blog and include a link to this post no later than 11:59 pm (EST) Friday, Feb 17. That gives you about 346 hours (plus/minus a few extra minutes depending on when you read this) to get this done.
5. Add your link to the the link list below. Same deadline applies (11:59pm EST 17-Feb-12; or 4:59 GMT 18Feb-12 if that makes it easier for you!) ***
Be sure to link directly to the post, not your main blog page. This will make it easier for others to read your work.
6. Have fun!****
* Original means it’s your work! If you plagiarize, you’ll be banned.
** This can be poetry, fiction, drama, memoir (if you are the “owner” of said vehicle, or just want to pretend that you are).
*** This is my first time using one of this kind of link tool. If you are a wordpress.com user and have a better suggestion for next time I do this, please let me know. I picked this because it looked the simplest to use and it was the right price (free!) for my freshman effort at something like this.
**** If it isn’t fun, why are you doing this?
Judging: (because it is, after all, a contest)
1. All judging will be done by me. I reserve the right to get input from others in the case of a tie. These other(s) will be those who have not submitted a piece to be judged. They will also be those who I can impel to assist me, such as husband, son, or best friend. None of them blog.
2. All judging is final. At least it will be final once I publish the name of the winner. No telling how many times I may change my mind before the final decision. And by “no telling” I mean that I will NOT reveal how indecisive I may or may not be. See #1 with regards to any “tie”.
3. I will announce the winner around Feb. 24. If there will be a delay in announcing, I’ll post revised date. (See #1 w/r/t ties.)
Prizes: (Keep in mind that I’m an unemployed and struggling writer…)
1. The honor of winning the first ever Four Deer Oak writing contest.
2. A shout-out here about how great your story is and a link to your blog.
3. A print of one of the Lost Car photos (may substitute a print of any other photograph on this blog to which I own the copyright).
4. An awesome certificate indicating that you are the winner!
5. One book of your choice valued at no more than $15.00. If you live outside of N. America, and shipping is an issue, we’ll work something out.)
Philosophy begins in wonder ~ Plato
Sponges grow in the ocean. That just kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn’t happen. ~ Steven Wright
It was still dark outside when my alarm sounded this morning. Usually, when on vacation, I don’t use the alarm unless I have a plane to catch. Today, though, I wanted to catch the full moon setting, the low tide, and sunrise, just before 7 am.
The sky was just beginning to lighten when I walked out on the beach, wondering if my fleece jacket would be warm enough. The moon was glowing in the northwestern sky, looking like a giant Japanese lantern hanging over Sanibel. In Colonial America, the January moon was called the Winter Moon; the Cherokees called it the Cold Moon; the Celts, the Quiet Moon; and the English referred to it as the Wolf Moon. On a subtropical beach, just before a warm winter day, only the Celts seemed to have captured this particular January moon.
I turned towards the south and headed towards the shoreline. The tide would still be moving out for another 20 minutes. The shorebirds had positioned themselves at the very edge of the water; the little squeaky sandpipers running when a wave reached back towards the sand; the larger terns merely lifting one webbed foot as if they couldn’t be bothered. Some of the more industrious birds bobbed for fish or cracked open shells. The less energetic ones merely lowered their heads into the surf, as if they had already had their fill at the morning tidepool buffet.
As I walked gently through the blubbery sand, I looked at all of the creatures left behind by the retreating waves. I don’t know how they survive, or even if. Are the ones that are exposed by the tide the ones who are living their last moments? Or will they be rescued when the tide pushes back towards the beach, the water trying to reclaim its rightful inheritance and dominion over the planet? I am witness to the struggle near my feet: a starfish has left tracks in the sand; a whelk seems destined for someone’s shell collection — why I think would anyone want one of these? how out-of-place would it be sitting on a shelf or in a basket, bereft of sand and salt and the smell of the sea? — when the shell’s inhabitant extends itself out. A quiet wave washes in and removes more sand from beneath the shell. The mollusk continues to show itself. Suddenly I realize that it is righting itself, repositioning in order to burrow further down into the wet sand. I turn it over with my foot to look at it once again, but immediately feel guilty for doing so. I pick it up and loft it towards the sea. You’ll live to swim another day I think, and then wonder, noticing that the beach is beginning to be populated with walkers and bikers, if I said the words aloud. Later, when reading about the sea creatures I photographed, I learned that the word whelk may have come from the Proto-Indo-European root for “turn or revolve”. It is as fitting, I decide, as calling them gastropods, the larger classification of this sea snail. I wonder about that word too, and the very idea of a “stomach-foot”: is it the ultimate in efficient design to have one appendix to capture your prey, to eat and to move?
I didn’t wander too far down the beach before the sun started to rise. I now had more light to shoot, but the bright, rising sun, still low on the horizon brings other photographic challenges. I turned to head the other direction. Although I knew the time of moonset, it surprised me that the moon had retreated so quickly. I see a few more interesting creatures, mostly sea anemones and heart cockles. I click away, happy that the sun is bouncing off of the pearly nacre, in awe of what marvelous mysteries the sea has deposited at my feet this morning.
Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself. ~Annie Leibovitz
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. ~ William Shakespeare
what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east,
About a year ago, after random sightings of unusual things on my way to work — a flock of turkeys in a suburban front yard, for instance — I began to think that there should be some blog/twitter feed/tumblr-like thing similar to “The S*** So & So Says”, except for spottings of wonderous things. I know how to be snarky — I used to take pride in being able to have the most succinct cutting retort — but at this point in my life, I prefer to NOT be that way; it takes too much energy. Instead, why not focus on those odd things that are probably right in front of your eyes all the time, but only on occasion truly seen for the amazing creations that they are. Besides, experiencing something of beauty is so much more fun that dishing out snark.
That was before I started blogging again. I had thought about calling it “By The Side of the Road”. But, I never did anything about that. What I did do, though, was to try to be more aware of things that I passed everyday — while still keeping my eyes on traffic if driving! And, the rewards have been great, even if only measured by number of smiles.
The more I photograph, the more I think I’m becoming attuned to finding the unusual. Maybe it has nothing to do with the camera but has every thing to do with being open to finding something that will amaze and delight you. Today, when I was on a walk — without my camera — I came across the most remarkable thing: I’m not sure what it is — a seed pod of some sort? I’ve walked this part of the greenway for 4 out of the last 5 days, but never noticed this. This morning, the deep maroon color jumped out at me from about 10 feet away, contrasting with the light wheat-colored grasses, the dark brown trunks of the ash trees, and the beige, green and white bark of the birches. I immediately left the trail to investigate.
This shot was taken with my just-a-step-beyond-rotary-dial camera phone. It isn’t obvious from this photo, but this purple pod was in the middle of a thorny stem. It is as is a stem grew upward, developed a seed pod, then continued growing out the other side and down towards the ground. I will have to walk back this with with a camera in the future.
What have you seen today that amazed, delighted, caused wonderment, made you smile?