Ponder this:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

There is nothing that you can't do.

"I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can't do."
That's what Ted Kennedy told his twelve-year-old son during Ted Junior's first winter with an artificial leg.

My father was born in 1913. I remember him telling me about the morning he tried to jump out of bed and collapsed: his twelve-year-old legs felt like useless sticks. Poliomyelitis.
His grandmother tied one end of a rope around her waist and tied the other end around his waist.
And she walked him around the yard.
And walked him around the yard.
And walked him around the yard.
Day after day after day.
Until he could walk again on his own.
In 1925 if you gave up on a farm boy with polio, you consigned him to a life as a wheelchair-bound dependent.

I imagine Rose Kennedy, who raised the man who told his son, "There is nothing that you can't do," was much like my Irish great-grandmother, who herself suffered from crippling arthritis. One must try simply because not trying is not among the options.
It is simply Going On.
Desperation becomes determination.

It is a bad hen that does not scratch for itself.
Is olc an chearc nach scríobann di féin.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'm on Weekend Time

During the workweek I almost never know what day it is. I never know what month it is, either. If I write a check I always start out dating it for April.
Or December. It takes a second for me to think through what the actual date might be. Blotter-size desk calendars, heavily detailed with handwritten notations, are my friends. I don't think that's a failure of my synapses. I think it is that my life changes not at all, day after day, week after week, month after month.
Most of the time I like it that way. Most mornings as I dig out my car and office keys and throw my purse strap onto my shoulder, I bid farewell to the dogs, "Mommy's going to work now. As always." It does seem as if I'm always going to work.

But oh! how I love the arrivals home every afternoon, and the Friday night feeling of an endless weekend. It's a mini-version of eight-year-old me when school let out for the infinite stretch of sunny summer days. From 4:30pm on Fridays until 10:00pm on Sundays, I am acutely aware of the exact location of my existence in my Weekend Time. Every free hour is a vacation, to be filled with as much or (usually) as little as possible. I like the Saturday routine of bedchanging, and laundry-doing, and grocery shopping, followed by reading and napping.

Today I have a 10:45 appointment for a haircut. My hair is short, and a basic fluff style. Today I'm not sure I have enough hair to justify giving up forty-five minutes of my time for that. But you know how it goes: Today the hair is just fine and in two days I would be lamenting my having skipped the haircut.
That obligation will get me out of the house and once I'm on the road I'll buy the glue I need to hem the floorcloth I made last weekend.

That floorcloth class was a tough thing. Not the class itself, but the rousing myself to use not including travel time! four hours of my Sunday for something other than being At Home. I had fun once I got under way, and I'm glad my friend BonBon did not allow me a single moment of "Oh . . . I don't know..." Now I have the finishing part of the floorcloth to do, and I'd better start today or it will remain draped over the back of that Windsor chair "drying" for the rest of my life.

I wonder what genetic difference exists between me and women who exclaim with joy about getting out of the house: "Oh I love taking classes. It gets me out of the house!" What world do those women live in that they have the psychic necessity to be busy and doing all the time? I think (flattering myself) that I take in a lot of sensory input all the time. I don't need the distraction of instruction or new experiences to feel my life.

Less flattering is the notion that I really can't process a lot of new stuff in short periods of time. Grabbing hold of today's date is tough enough for me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Stills: The Open Road

For Sunday Stills: The Open Road
This is possibly my favorite among all the shots of last fall's foliage. I had big plans for stopping on the interstate and getting images of the fields sloping up the distant hills . . . so dramatic and yet so peaceful. I didn't do that, though. I went to the archives instead.

Click on the link, above, and see others' Open Roads.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

No quitter

Weekend Wordsmith offers "Quit" as a prompt this week.

I have never quit a job, as in, "Sayonara, I'm outta here!" When I was waiting on tables I fantasized a lot about doing that. I figured there would come the one day that I would be overloaded with tables full of impatient people and working with a slow cook, and I would just go into the kitchen, take off my apron, put my order pad on the make table and say, "G'bye," and go out and get into my car and go home. I didn't do that though. My departure from that work was sudden but unsatisfying. I broke my ankle in the middle of the night and called in disabled for six months. At the end of the recovery period, I was too weak and slow to resume waitressing.

I'd like to quit the photography class. I'm tired of using only the Manual option: it takes me so long to focus and get the exposure right . . . and all I want to do is take pictures. I feel as if I have the nuts and bolts in place now and just need practice. But I won't stop going; one of these days I will have an aha moment and it all will fall into place. And at the end of the class I get a book telling me how to make a living at photography and will be able to retire and simply wander around the countryside taking beautiful and inspiring photographs for which buyers will pay hundreds of dollars.

I would have liked to quit hiking home a few weeks ago, when I was on the everlasting uphill to home. If I had, likely I'd still be sitting by the side of the road waiting for rescue.

That's the problem with quitting. There's always the next thing that happens. Or not. If I quit, I'm just stopped. Perhaps without a job, without further knowledge that is readily available to me, sitting by the side of my life.

I think that I don't know how to quit.

Except for the drinking. That wasn't quitting anyway.
That was beginning.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Twenty-nine years...!

Today was Husband's and my 29th wedding anniversary. I have now been married as long as I was single.

We have been poor and within one month of foreclosure of our home when it finally sold. We have had money and have spent months at a time in sunny warm spots in the middle of winter. We took care of my mother in her final illness. We've taken care of each other during illness and following injuries and surgeries.

We split up twice. The first time lasted for two weeks during the first year of our marriage, when Husband was working all the hours there were and I felt neglected. The second time, four years ago, lasted for three weeks and got me sober. Both times I thought we were through, done, over, kaput. Both times we were drawn back together by . . . what? What makes people stay married for years and years? Love? Mutual dependence? The comfort of the familiar? We didn't have children, so it wasn't staying together for the sake of the kids.

Today we had lunch at a gorgeous old hotel and came home and napped separately. When I woke up he was on the tractor mowing along the length of the driveway. I took some of his shirts out of the dryer while they were still good and damp so they'd hang smoothly while they dried. We admired the way the fields look now that they've been cut and baled, and the way the freshly-mown lawn blends into the field stubble. We laughed wryly about the Country Poodles out hunting mice who'd expired during the haying. "They're so proud! They're catching dead mice!"

When we were first together we had long conversations about how this thing between us was a separate entity, larger than the sum of the two of us.
I guess it still is. I guess it's a marriage.

...to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse,
for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish;
from this day forward until death do us part.

Sunday Stills: Clouds

The Sunday Stills challenge for this week: Clouds

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons evrywhere...

Check the links to others' blogs for more clouds.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Holding hands behind the barn

One of my photo classmates, all of fourteen years old, is an inspiration to me in the way he sees, and photographs, mundane objects. Yesterday afternoon I went touring the yard in search of uninteresting things that I might make interesting.

For example, one oak leaf blown by the wind and caught between the barn wall and the downspout...

Then I saw this beauty.

Northern walking sticks apparently like to eat oak leaves. I wonder if this guy was working his way up the wall overnight toward that old dried out leaf. Walking sticks are nocturnal and just hang around during the day; maybe he'd been caught by the dawn in his mission and would resume his travels later in the day.
He couldn't have picked a place less easy for him to camouflage himself. In my Googling around, I've assured myself that it's a male . . . the females are fatter.

I have never seen one this big (look at his frog legs!), and I could probably count on my fingers all the walking sticks I have seen in my life.

We held hands for just a moment . . .

. . . and I went on my way.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Stills Elements

For Sunday Stills "Elements"

According to my reading, three of the five elements are...

Water . . .

Earth . . .

and . . . Void.

The last two, Fire and Wind, eluded my efforts this week.
Other contributors did better; click here to check out their links at Sunday Stills.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Flow of life

Nearly three weeks ago I went to my first photography class. LM, my instructor, is soft-spoken and calm, an accomplished photographer eager to share his considerable experience. He is a kind man, a good interpreter of camera-speak, and he is an artist. He has shared stories of his deep satisfaction in capturing a particular vision, and the pleasure of seeing his portrait subjects weep with joy at their images.

At the first class he exacted our promise to use only the manual setting so that we would learn how to adjust the ISO, shutterspeed and F-stops. "I want you to get to know your camera," he said, "Anybody can get a nice picture on 'automatic,' but I want you to be able to make pictures look the way you want them to look, to open up your creativity." Flashbulbs of happiness sparked in my brain, and before the second class I'd moved a little way toward that goal.

At the second class, our "waterfall" field trip postponed by downpour, and with a third student joining us in his studio, we explored the difference that simply adjusting the ISO can make, and then we added incremental adjustments to the shutterspeed. Slowly, slowly, click by click, complete darkness began to yield the faintest of images.

There are black and white sneakers in this picture:

Last week the weather allowed our waterfall trip, to begin learning technique. I had been thinking all week about how I'd adjust everything to capture water droplets cast into the air. On the drive to the site, LM told us that wanted us to try for a flowing, silky effect in the falling water, rather than the airborne spray. Oh.

It turned out that my camera's aperture can be set only as high as 8, not small enough to make the water appear smooth and silky. LM lent me his camera to see if I could get that effect, and I could, with the aperture set at 19, far far beyond my equipment's capability. (Next week he'll give me those pictures on a cd.)
I don't much care for the silky water, although I would no doubt like it better if I could do it at will. It's good to know how to achieve that effect, even if I need a borrowed camera. Of the total now of four students in our class, I am at the low-budget end of photographic equipment. I know, as LM reminds me often, it isn't the camera, it's the eye behind it, but I was disappointed.

I have always liked the Moment more than the Process. I like the split-second, the natural moment that happens now! and never again. My memories are snapshots rather than a slow pan through my personal history. As my life flows on, though, I begin to see that everything I learn has larger applications.
Maybe Life need not be a series of jittery images, but rather a continuum, a silky ribbon flowing over rocks.

Maybe my photography class is not simply about taking pictures.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sunday Stills: Fences

The thing about tramping around taking pictures of fences is that I was photographing people's private property. I'm very appreciative of my neighbors' cordiality.

V and her husband live in a wonderful Greek Revival farmhouse over on the other side of the top of this hill. For a long time, their house was The House Where Nobody Lived. Every week for a year or more, Husband and I would drive by on the way to work and notice improvements: fences were repaired, new fencing installed, the barns got painted, and the house came back from the dead . . . but there was never anybody around.

They actually have been living there for several years now, but it wasn't until a foggy early Saturday morning, when I explained why I was walking up and down their fencerows taking pictures, that I made their acquaintance. V came out on the porch with her hands covered in cinnamon bun dough to chat briefly with me about some other great fences I might include.

Good people not to think I was a madwoman, or at least to refrain from saying as much.

I love this one....

A beam of sunshine breaking through the mist to spotlight part of the pasture fence...

The sheep greeted me loudly and watched curiously for a few minutes, and then returned to the business of breakfast.
How peaceful to listen to sheep grazing while I fiddled with the camera!

Down the road, a labyrinth of pristine paddock fencing...

Fences aren't always made of wood or metal or stone;
these little trees will grow into an impervious green wall.

A pretty antique fence serving as a garden accent...

A property line marker made of cement cylinders...

This one won't keep anything in or out, but it is a poetic stanza of fencing...

A fence corraling some lush greenery...

A little final resting place for beloved pets...

Many, many more fences I could have included had I better managed my time. I wish I'd gotten the snake rail fence, and the stonewall with the white picket fence on top. Another time.

Check out others' links at Sunday Stills to see more pictures of fences of every description.