Sunday, March 25, 2018

Adventures of a Wanderer

Last fall, unhindered for the first time in my life, I made the most of my days. I tried to get out at least once a week for an adventure, and at long last did an overnight solo adventure. I revisited all my favorite places; how had a year gone by since I had last seen them. I also discovered some hidden gems.

Then last November happened. My mom collapsed from an aortic dissection, had emergency surgery and spent a month in the hospital and rehab. When I was in the midst of it, I was sure that I would never be able return to my adventurous life.

Eventually though, the fog cleared and everything returned to a new normal.

One good thing that came out of that time was the conversations I had with my dad as I drove him back and forth to the hospital to visit mom. After the initial recounting of details of how it all happened, we settled into conversations about his growing up years, and about his parents and grandparents. I had always known that my great-grandparents had lived a lot of places, but I didn't know that it was all my great-grandpa's idea. He would start a business, run it for a few years and then sell it, move someplace else, and start a new business, repeating the cycle over and over again. He even earned the nickname "the German gypsy". This was a glimpse into my soul.

Spring is here. I am still mostly unhindered, except for the cell phone that is always tucked into a pocket. Let's go explore some of my favorite places...

I hope that everyone has a joy-filled Easter next week. I will see you in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Pour Some Sugar On

This may be the one and only time you see me say I was hoping for snow this week. Especially, since it is March and everybody is ready to be done with winter, including me. But last week found me doing a run and gun through a favorite historic homestead and walking park, looking for my daily 365 photograph.  I had about an half hour to kill before I had to pick up Findley, so I thought I would do a quick walk through of the house and barn areas. That is when I saw the metal sap collection buckets. It had snowed with snow squall force that morning and the maple trees and buckets had a heavy blanket of white on them.

I grabbed my daily shot, but knew I wanted to come back when I had more time and my tripod. I also wanted to continue practicing my Compelling Frame photography course lessons.

I have become quite attached to my tripod. I know most of you photographers are saying, "But I hate carrying my tripod, I want to be free to move around." There is certainly truth to that, but I have learned that I also want to be free to slow down and improve my game. A tripod makes me slow down, and honestly my "vision" is so much better when I use it.

Monday morning I got my wish. It wasn't a heavy blanket of white, but it was enough to give a thin coating to the layers of fallen maple leaves, and provide the backdrop I needed for my adventure.

I grew up surrounded by maple trees. When my dad retired he decided to tap those trees and begin making maple syrup. As if his beekeeping hobby, and tenacity for cutting wood for his wood stove weren't enough to keep him busy already. He built his own sugar shack, and would be out there at all hours of the day and night boiling down that sap.

On the average it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Interesting article on maple syrup making here. The average sap collection period can last anywhere from four to six weeks. There were abundant years and there were lean years, but as my dad approached his 70's, I think he had had enough of the lean years. He sold the equipment, and turned the Sugar Shack into another storage shed.

During January and our Whole 30 adventure, we had to give up ALL sugar. It is amazing when you start reading labels on the food at the grocery store how many items have sugar. Here we are mid-March and I still read labels. Now, if I purchase items with sugar, I try to make sure it is either organic cane sugar, or more preferably natural sugars like honey and maple syrup. Locally sourced natural sugars are the best, since my dad still keeps his bees I get my honey from him, and I buy my maple syrup at the farmers market.

I spent a satisfyingly slow hour photographing sap buckets, snowy trees, and the sugar shack. Before I returned to my car to warm up my frozen feet, I made a little detour down a snow covered wooden walkway.

My initial run and gun turned into a substantial exploration.  I throughly enjoy having my creative/adventure days early in the week.

In Other News...

My friend Cathy H. made a comment on my blog last week that resonated so deeply with me, "Sometimes I feel just holding the camera and pushing the shutter button brings me more joy than seeing the photo I took!"  I held that sentence in my heart this week. All it really takes is that first press to get rolling again, the results are not the important part. 

I returned to filming this past week, squeezing in moments when I could. Working on something a little outside my comfort zone, it won't be perfect the first time, but the learning and improving is in the doing.

The kitchen flooring has been ordered. We have found pendant lights for above the peninsula, and they have been ordered. Next step is to contact the electrician to install. More painting ahead this week, coating everything in lovely, neutral Alabaster.

I finished listening to A Gentleman in Moscow this week. I love listening to books while I am in the car and when walking. It is amazing how much you can listen to just running errands around town. I give the book 4-1/2 stars.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Simple Truths

"Creativity embeds knowledge so that it can become practice. We move what we're learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands. We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration -- it is how we fold our experiences into our being. Over the course of my career, the question I've been asked more than any other is, "How do I take what I'm learning about myself and actually change how I'm living?"...after lots of research and interviewing hundreds of creatives, I've come to believe that creativity is the mechanism that allows learning to seep into our being and become practice."                                                                          ~Brene Brown

Simple truth: When I feel stressed or overwhelmed in my everyday life, I seek solitude and calm in my creative life.

For the last two weeks, I have been feeling a little overwhelmed. My kitchen has been in chaos. The choices for countertops and backsplash have gone so smoothly, but we are faltering in our flooring and lighting selections. Lighting is difficult to envision. Certain fixtures look tempting when hanging amongst hundreds of others in the store, but by itself in my unfinished kitchen, held up by my husband's hand above the peninsula, I am less sure if that is THE right one. There has been plenty of buying and returning in the last couple of weeks.

Simple truth: Because of this sense of feeling overwhelmed, I have been unable to do any filming for the past two weeks. The films I make require planning and storyboarding. This is something that comes fairly easily when my mind isn't overloaded with utilitarian decisions.

Simple Truth: Instead of filmmaking, it has been easier to grab my camera, jump in the car and go on a photo adventure. This leaves the planning and shot list to chance and happenstance, instead of placing the burden of more decisions on me.

Simple Truth: If I don't have an idea for this blog space by Thursday, there will be no blog post on Sunday. I work better being early instead of late.

Simple Truth: I am not afraid to try new things until I find something that works. In the spirit of trying something new, for the month of March, I am going to try and find my inspiration spark early in the week.

Sunday afternoon I sat down with my new book, Just Write One Thing Today - 365 Creative Prompts to Inspire You Every Day, flipping through the pages looking for inspiration. A couple caused small stirrings of interest, like: Flavors - Write down five of your favorite drinks, or Old Watch - Describe an old watch that has been covered in cobwebs in a box in the attic. Both of those could have been fun, but just not quite the right one. Finally on Day 280, I found the one that I couldn't stop thinking about: Evergreen Forest - Imagine you are in an evergreen forest. Describe the sights, smells, and sounds of your surroundings.

Monday morning, I loaded my tripod and camera into the car before the eight o'clock hour and set off for the Spruce Loop.

Simple Truth: I am a beach shooter, not a forest shooter. I love negative space. I had to work harder to find it in the tangle of trees.

Simple Truth: If you have made it to the end of this post and all you remember are serene, morning-lit pictures of an evergreen forest, that's alright. I take the photographs to share with you, but I write the words for me. I have taken what was in my head, used my hands, and moved it to my heart.

Do you have an evergreen forest where you could go for a walk this week?

In Other News...

For all my angst, the kitchen is actually coming along well. The countertops are in, and I LOVE them. The tile backsplash is up and I LOVE that too. The cabinets have been "refreshed" and look brand new again. Not bad for thirty year old cabinets. I spent Tuesday and Thursday painting over the Robin's Egg Blue the walls use to be. They are now a very neutral Alabaster. Outlet covers are still in the deciding stage. Flooring has been decided and I will get that ordered this week. The lighting saga continues...

Serendipitous moment at the grocery store this week. My path crossed with another blogging friend who I have never met before. She is @kateterhaar on Instagram. We have been friends for years on FaceBook and Instagram. She is originally from where I live, and happened to be in town for a conference and to visit with her sister. The chances of both of us being in the produce aisle at little past eight on a Friday morning are pretty slim. Meeting Kate felt like talking with an longtime friend.

Happy adventures this week my friends!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Washed Ashore

I am a great collector of photography challenge lists on Pinterest, and every time I discover a new writing prompt book I have to buy it and add it to my ever growing collection. What I have yet to find is a book or list that combines both a prompt for words to write and photographs to compose in one neat package.

Last week I bought this book after looking through a few pages and liking the prompts that were listed in it. I can tell that I haven't been writing much lately, because I am overusing words like beautiful, wonderful, fabulous, and joyful. As a creative who enjoys writing, I can do better than that. So I bought the book with the intention of getting back to a daily practice of fifteen minutes of wild writing. If you are wondering what wild writing is, you can read my post about it here. I am not good at too many long term sustained practices, but I am good at returning to practices such as wild writing, photograph class lessons and such.

The prompt I chose to write about on Tuesday was this one: Washed Ashore - Write down five objects that might be found washed up on the seashore lakeshore. I have spent enough time photographing at my local state park where a plethora of items wash up on the shore in any given season, to have a pretty good idea of five things I could write about. But...I am someone who would rather be out adventuring than sitting at my wintertime desk and thinking up found items to write about. I wanted to go out and find those five objects.

Since the tile guy was coming on Wednesday to put up my new kitchen backsplash, I figured that Wednesday would be a good morning to go to the beach and photograph washed ashore treasures. Once a level of trust has been established with your tradespeople, being in the house while they work is about as uncomfortable as sitting in your underwear watching paint dry. You don't want to talk to them, and they don't want to talk to you. That level of trust has been reached with my kitchen people, so I left Dave to cut and apply tile, while I went to the beach.

Tuesday, after I had written for fifteen minutes on Washed Ashore, and decided that I wanted to go to the beach and photograph the five items, I remembered David duChemin's photography class The Compelling Frame. The last time I worked on a lesson was December 10, 2017. This knowledge is easily obtained when you date your homework.

I had left off on Lesson Six - Perspective and Exploring POV. It wasn't that I didn't want to do the lesson. What I wanted to do was the lesson outside. In December, January and February it has been too snowy and cold to be outside for any period of time long enough to photograph objects from at least six different angles. Wednesday's forecast was partly cloudy and mid-40's. With the proper clothing and gear, I could easily spend an hour or more at the beach laying on the ground, shooting from above, from a distance and up close.

I have also learned to throw my expectations to the wind. What I want to find and what wants to find me are often two very different things. I am always blessed when I let things find me.

With some clever creative thinking I have been able to make my own exercise combining words and photographs in a refreshing new way.