Archives for category: Flora and Fauna

It’s spring.

I have wonderful family and friends.

I am thankful.

DSC04736Salmonberry blossom at Fauntleroy Creek, Seattle.

 

DSC04835Peony. Seattle Chinese Garden.

DSC04998 (1)Dogwood from the neighborhood.

 

DSC05025Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA

DSC05044Skunk cabbage looking glamorous.
Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA

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DSC04444 (1)Neighborhood cherry blossoms.

DSC05031Pileated woodpecker at the Bloedel Reserve.
She flew from this tree to her nest, located in a hollow in a nearby tree.

My husband and I moved around a lot during the first several years of our marriage. We were married in 1990 and it was not until 2001 that we bought our first home in Seattle, which is the home in which we still live. This is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. and we don’t live an ostentatious life style. Consequently, our house is not fancy or stylish. But we love our 1950’s house and have worked to inject it with our own personal style, which is colorful and eclectic.

When we moved into the house, there were flower beds in the back. I spent the first year in the house weeding and seeing what kind of plants there were. There was a grassy front yard, bordered by two huge juniper shrubs. Juniper shrubs were commonly part of the landscaping for homes built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I imagine that they were cute back then. They get rather prickly and enormous over time. Also, they are really ugly, so ugly that the house had what my brother, a realtor, called, “No curb appeal.”  After we’d been in the house for about three years, John removed the shrubs and built a rock wall. The shrubs were weighed at the city dump for the composting program; a half ton of shrub. 1000 pounds of juniper, people!

I planted a rock garden. A year or two later, John removed the front lawn. I covered it in layers of newspaper and cardboard followed by four inches of beautiful black compost that I had delivered to my house, which I carried around the yard by the wheelbarrow full. I didn’t plant anything in the yard for a year to make sure that all of the grass and weed seeds under the paper barrier would not get exposed to light. The following years, I started a long project of putting in flowers, summer vegetables, shrubs, garden art, soaker hoses hooked to an automatic watering timer, and slate walkways.

After the front yard was “done”, I started work on the planting strip, the piece of grass between the sidewalk and the street. This land is owned by the city but the home owner is responsible for upkeep. The city encourages people to make the strip into a garden. We had already planted two trees there, which were given to us by the city as part of their Street Trees program. I got out my garden edger and started the long process of removing sod from the strip. I did it in pieces, removing a small square and filling it with compost and new soil. I planted beans there the first summer. After a year, it was all removed and planted. Right now, it is full of blooming tulips, which I have planted in wet fall weather, my garden gloves filling with cold muddy water.

Until my cancer diagnosis, I spent a great deal of time in my yard, weeding, pruning, and planting. Then I stopped working in my yard, for the most part. I had repeated surgeries that made it hard for my to use my arms and abdomen. I started exercising regularly, which meant less time for gardening and also another way to fulfill my need to spend time outdoors. I had trouble with fatigue. I had friends that came to help. Later, I decided to get rid of the little strip of grass on the left side of the house to open up more planting area. I got about half done with that project and lost steam. It is still unfinished, a year and a half later.

But after years of working out there several times a week during the summer and frequently during the rest of the year, I found out what happens when a yard doesn’t get such regular attention. It’s not pretty. It gets weedy and full of brown stuff. Some plants get out of control and propagate wildly. The rose bushes did not get pruned. One of them got as large as a Volkswagen. It was really overwhelming. I often found myself thinking, “My yard used to be so beautiful. It was so much easier to maintain. Now it is a mess.”

Last spring, I actually hired a landscape service to weed, prune, and mulch the front yard, which is where most of the flowers are. I couldn’t afford for them to work on my back yard, too. I figured that after they did the heavy work, I would be inspired to get back into the yard because it would not be so overwhelming. The landscapers did a great job and I didn’t end up doing anything out there.

This year, I found my yard overgrown once again and myself, once again, thinking, “My yard used to be so pretty. People used to take photos of the flowers in my yard. Sometimes cars would slow down to look at my yard.” I called the landscapers out again. It was not quite as big of a job this year and it made an enormous difference. And this year, unlike last year, I did gather some momentum. I weeded my raised vegetable containers, my husband turned over the soil, and I added compost, fertilizer, and new soil. I transplanted flowers to other containers because they were getting in the way of the vegetables. I replaced broken soaker hoses for the front yard as well as for the vegetable containers. I removed three years of old bean stalks and tomato plants from my two story metal growing cages.

Today, I went back to the yard. I planted lettuce and bok choi seeds in my vegetable containers. They are fast growing and should be finished by the time for planting summer vegetables, beans and tomatoes. I cleared the hair allium that had started out as about eight bulbs and spread into several hundred plants. Waaaaay too much allium. Clearing that out took a couple of hours, working around tree roots and plants I wanted to save. The number of little allium bulbs under the soil was unbelievable. (Hair allium is cool looking and it used to be a moderately expensive plant. My guess is that they are now being giving away at Home Depot check stands. They are worse than bluebells for “naturalizing”, a.k.a. taking over like a hostile alien race from another planet.) After I dug that out, I had to use a couple of bags of soil to replace what I’d removed. When I finished, my yard looked so nice, nicer than it has looked in years.

I came across a random photo of my front yard from my pre-cancer days. It shocked me. My yard looked terrible! Now the fact that I’d taken a photo tells me that it was probably a “before” photo taken for spring clean up. The yard always looks bad for part of the year. My surprise at the photo got me wondering how much I had exaggerated the state of my garden in comparison to the years prior to cancer. “My yard was so beautiful before cancer.”
In truth, it was better maintained in the past and that does make an aesthetic difference. But I think nostalgia and loss has nudged my memory to increase the contrast, closer to, “Before cancer everything was wonderful.”

Truly, there are a lot of losses than come with cancer, and they are losses to grieve and honor. But sometimes I think I may be too quick to interpret “before and after” in a negative way, when I am feeling discouraged, worried, or overwhelmed. I think this is natural for people to do, to think about significant aspects of life from the past with fewer shades of gray. I learned last year with my 30th high school reunion that perhaps my recollection of high school being terrible in certain respects, was not accurate. I suspect that friends who look back at high school with very strong positive feelings and memories, may be forgetting some of the bad aspects. And then of course, there is the whole lamentation of culture and young people, “Kids today…” “Society is going to Hell in a hand basket.” It can be easy to idealize the distant past. It is not clouded with immediacy of the present or the unknown of the future.

I don’t really know how much better or worse my yard is. After all, living things grow and die, regardless of whether we work the soil or not. Things change all around us.

What I do know for sure is that today I dug in the dirt and I had a marvelous time.

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My garden

My roses in 2012. They will start blooming again soon.

My roses in 2012. They will start blooming again soon.

Several months ago, my husband and I were in Fauntleroy Park, which is the closest woods near our house. As we walked down the path, he joked, “Oh scary! Someone could jump out of the bushes at us!” The comment hit me in all of the wrong ways, though this had nothing to do with him. I said to him, only half jokingly,”You’ve ruined my sanctuary!”

I have done a lot of grieving and healing in those particular woods. I have felt my heart rate lower and my spirits lift as I walk into the entrance. I have listened to the creeks, the birds, and the sounds of the rain and wind. I found a hummingbird nest in those woods and waited for the egg to hatch into a chick, whom I discovered had not made it, when I visited the woods last Mother’s Day. As I am often the only one in the park, those woods were a safe place to sit by the trees and the running water, and have a good cry. I have felt the reassuring softness of feathery mosses, watched the emergence of new growth from the forest floor, and sampled berries from bushes that connected me to my childhood, learning about native edibles from my mother, while walking in the woods that surrounded the home in which my parents still live. I have had experiences in those woods, seeing new growth, old growth, and decay, and felt connected to the worlds of living, dying, and dead at a deep spiritual level.

I had avoided going to those woods since the loss of the hummingbird chick and my husband’s ill timed remark. I would never have predicted that I would react that way but it did. Today, as I was ambling through my neighborhood on my daily walk, I decided to get back into the woods. I was greeted with the sound of running water, birds that sounded like they were auditioning for a part in The Jungle Book, the smell of skunk cabbage, and the deep pink of salmon berry blossoms. I saw two hummingbirds. I visited the spot where the hummingbird nest had been last year. It was gone, either blown off by the wind or removed by a hiker.

This week’s stressful mammogram generated another thread of fear, sadness, and gratitude to weave into my life. I am glad to be back in the woods.

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During one of my recent mind adventures, my memory took me back to the old 1960’s television show, The Flying Nun. It starred Sally Field as Sister Bertrille and took place at a convent on Puerto Rico. Due to her small size, the frequent winds, and her cornette (a particular style of nun hat), she could fly, hence the title of the show. After my mind took me to this show, my fingers took me to Wikipedia.

Sister Bertrille could be relied upon to solve any problem that came her way by her ability to catch a passing breeze and fly.

That sentence gave me a good chuckle and I thought, “How could the show’s writers sustain this premise?”

Plot 1: The convent eagerly awaits a visit from the Bishop. After an albatross makes off with the his miter, Sister Bertrille hitches a ride on a gust and saves the day by retrieving it.

Plot 2: Fire breaks out in the convent campanile. After accidentally breaking the tallest ladder in town, Sister Bertrille uses her flying power to reach the fire and put out the blaze.

Plot 3: A little girl’s kitten is stuck in a tree! The fire ladder is still broken. Sister Bertrille flies to the top and saves the day!

Plot 4: Run away kite!

See, not sustainable. Nonetheless, the series lasted two seasons. How did they do it? Also, how did her cornette stay on?

A fictional life needs substance to sustain itself. It can’t be utterly ridiculous.

A real life needs so much more.

Once upon a time, my blog was often humorous. Once upon a time, my blog was mostly about cancer. My blog has changed and my needs have evolved. My husband asked me yesterday, “Do you still think about cancer every day?” I told him, “yes” and I have thought about it every day since May 25th 2012. I mean this literally. Every day.

But thinking about cancer and being actively treated for cancer are different. I think back to what I needed to do during my active treatment and I can’t believe it. The extra work I had to cram into my schedule in order to take time off for surgeries, the number of surgeries, the telling people or not telling people about my health. The changing landscape of my body. The changing energy levels. The changing brain. The major unknowns about even the near future. One of the ways I dealt with the stress and fear with laughing at the ridiculousness of it. That is a coping strategy that is useful to me, it sustains me.

I think about sustainability and capacity a great deal. I want to be a healthy person. It is too easy for an active person such as myself to work too hard and to get my life out of balance.

But sometimes we just have to work really hard. Cancer treatment is one of those times. One of the hardest thing about this time as well as during other unpredictable and serious stressors in my life is that I don’t know how long I will have to work super hard in crisis mode. In the past, I used to tell myself that I would slow down once the stressor passed, for example, once I finished my Ph.D., once I got my career settled, once my daughter was older, once we bought a house, etc.

Those stressors never stop. Life is hard and complicated. Fortunately, I appear to be in good physical health and my mental health is strong. I have a safe place to live, a loving family, lots of friends, and a wonderful job. But it is easy to get caught up in moving too fast, worrying too much, and creating needless suffering for myself even in a life that in most respects is an embarrassment of riches.

As I’ve mentioned recently, right now I am focusing on having more fun with my husband. We do something, just the two of us, at least a couple of times a week. We went on a trip. We went to grown up prom. I have also started having more fun with my daughter. I think that the fact that I am more relaxed has had some positive impact on her among other things. Just last weekend she told me, ‘Mom, have you noticed that I am out of my “I hate my mom” teen phase?’ I have learned to accept these lavish gifts with understatement. “Hmm, I guess yes, I’ve noticed. Why do you think that is?” She replied, “I don’t know. I guess I just got older.”

I take these beautiful moments for what they are, moments. And they seem to be threading together into increased maturity. But her growth is not linear; it has peaks and valleys and plateaus. All of our lives are like this, even the most stable of us because there are so many aspects of life that are out of our control.

My family life is still full of unknowns. My husband and I still deal with major stressors and challenges both within our immediate family and in our extended family. We are part of what is called “the sandwich generation“. Sometimes I feel like we are the PB&J left on the bottom of a backpack for a week that ended up getting run over by the school bus.

Nonetheless, we are making time for fun. We have trips or fun visits planned for every month from May and September. My passport is being renewed as we speak. We will see two coasts, mountains, and two states. We’ll travel by planes, trains, and automobiles. We’ll be surrounded by friends, by cities, and by nature. And yes, friends, there will be photos, lots of them.

I am discovering that  I need to make time for peace and enjoyment. One of the least sustainable premises in real life is waiting for life to get easier.

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I am still getting my bearings from the move of my business. Yesterday was the first day and all went smoothly. I will write a post later with photos after I’ve done the finishing touches.

In the mean time, I thought I’d share a couple of my winter photos, taken in my neighborhood. This is the first winter that I’ve walked with a camera other than the one on my phone and it’s been nice to be able to take better quality photos. Perhaps some day I’ll even get a real, real camera!

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Mt. Rainier, to the southeast catching a bit of last night's sunset colors.

Mt. Rainier, to the southeast catching a bit of last night’s sunset colors.

 

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You may have heard that it rains a lot in Seattle. It does rain more than average, there’s no getting around it. But there are a lot of much rainier cities. We don’t even make the top 10 rainiest U.S. cities, by a long shot. The entire eastern seaboard of the U.S. gets more annual rainfall than Seattle. Here’s the deal, though. We get primarily light rain. And it’s spread over many many days. While a significant portion of the nation has the rainiest time of the year in the summer, we have our rainiest time in the winter. Here, up north, it’s really dark, too. Seattle knows how to pile on the dreary during winter.

But even in winter, there are beautiful days. Yesterday, Christmas Day, was one of them. My husband and I walked down to the beach. The wind was gentle and the sky was blue. I spent a good bit of the walk stripped down to a short sleeved t-shirt. Granted, I had a Lupron shot last month and the furnace usually kicks in about this time but still, I was walking on a Seattle beach during winter in a t-shirt. What a glorious day.

I happen to think that the contrast between how our city looks on a sunny day versus a cloudy or rainy day is one of the reasons that we have a reputation for being a wetter city than we actually are. It’s disappointing to visit Seattle after seeing all of the glorious photos of the mountains and the sea only to be drizzled upon. But I don’t visit here. I live here. I know that the sun will come out again and that I will see it.

People in my city, especially natives, such as myself, often remark that our part of the world would not be so beautiful without the rain. This is true. We have some of the most beautiful summer weather I have ever experienced. And there is so much sunlight with very long days. Without the rainy, dreary days, though we would not have the abundant greens, the trees, bushes, mosses, and lichens. Winter is a time when plants focus their energy below the ground. The rain is essential for root growth, the foundation of plant life. Without precipitation, there is no snow on the mountains. We are so lucky to live in a city bound by two snow-capped mountain ranges. The winter snow on our mountains is also our water supply for the dry months of the year.

We need the wet and dreary days for life. It’s not just that the bad weather makes us appreciate the sunny days more because of the contrast. We actually require it. I’ve been thinking of this a lot in terms of how it relates to life, in general. Are sadness, disappointment, grief, and other painful emotions and experiences necessary for life? More so, do they enhance our lives?

I don’t know. I am pretty sure that seeking out suffering is a bad idea. Let’s not look for trouble. And denying suffering in oneself or others is invalidating. I am working a lot on acceptance of the things in my life that weigh on me heavily on a daily basis and are sometimes terrifying. Okay, it’s not “things”, it’s a thing. The thing is parenting my 16 year-old brilliant fireball. A few weeks ago, I had an epiphany followed by some meaningful adjustments in my behavior.

I realized on a deep and visceral level that I can’t protect her from the world or from the consequences of poor judgements that she makes. I didn’t abdicate responsibility but I relinquished the fantasy of control. I am still as busy parenting as I’ve ever been but my efforts are less frenzied and whirling. This acceptance was also accompanied by deep sadness. But the sadness was grounding instead of frenetic and anxious. I’m not going to kid myself and announce that acceptance is my new permanent state of being. My state of being, especially as a parent, will continue fluctuate. But this is an important shift.

I don’t know the future so I really don’t know how to end this post. What I do know is that every sunny time is to be celebrated and that the dreariest times cannot be wished away. I am learning more and more not to manufacture suffering; why would I want more of that? I am learning more and more to accept this as how life should be simply because that’s the way life is.

Christmas at the beach.

Christmas at the beach.

I remember as a little girl looking through my mother’s photos of her family. I looked at her and said, “Mom, I am so sorry that you did not have color when you were growing up.” I assumed that the world was in black and white because that’s what the photos looked like. A world devoid of color other than black, white, and gray was less than. I expended all of my 5 year-old empathy skills in feeling the sadness of a world that really didn’t exist.

My husband and I share many interests, one of them is photography. When I met John, he did his own photo developing, in the bathroom of his apartment. He had taken black and white photos for many years. I was more of a Technicolor type person. I shot my photos with color film. This, my friends, was back in the day when people were enslaved to the choice of black and white vs. color. We took a five week long honeymoon to Italy and to Egypt. We both took about 2500 photos. My honeymoon was in color. John’s was in black and white. Both trips were amazing and beautiful.

With digital photography, things changed. Switching between color and black and white was accomplished in a single key stroke. Nonetheless, I found myself NEVER looking at my photos in black and white.

I don’t dislike black and white photography. My husband, whom I adore, has taken wonderful black and white photography. I love Imogen Cunningham, Alfred Stieiglitz, Ansel Adams, and Man Ray. I love their work. But I never saw the absence of color as being MY best way of showcasing the world.

I love color. I love blooming, buzzing, and confusing color. Bright and saturated hues that might scare ordinary mortals. That is what I am drawn to and I  would hope that this this reflects my blooming and vibrant personality.

Then it happened. I was CHALLENGED on FACEBOOK to showcase black and white photography by someone with whom I attended high school.

I love a good challenge and this was an interesting one But my first thought was, “No color, oh no.” But again, I love a good challenge s it was not hard to shift from my “oh no” in the space of about 5 seconds.

I love color, I really do. It is seductive. It’s just gloriously beautiful. But without it, there is an upsurge of form, light, shadow, and line.  I started looking at my photos stripped of color.

It was like discovering a new universe, a universe comprised of an even smaller collection of essentials.

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I am an extroverted person. I love color, I love sound, I love movement. But I am more than that. Life it more than the exclamation points, more than the aspects that are easily noted. My life has structure, line, and light. There is gravitas and a lot of it.

Sometimes I live life too much on the edges, on the flourishes. Then I get the message from life that it is time to strip away, to get back to basics.

I am listening.

I am seeing.

In 1956, my parents bought the 2 1/2 acres on which their house was built for $2,000.  My dad was laid off so they had time to look at property. But they were taking a chance because $2000 was all of the money they had. They were investing in their future. In 1965, they built a house on it for $20,000.  My mom told the builders that they couldn’t cut down any more trees then were necessary to build the foundation for the house. Despite the fact that she had four children and was pregnant with me, she visited the construction site and pointed to the different stands of trees, little islands of forest still standing in the front of their house. “You can’t cut that down, it’s a Douglas fir! You can’t cut this down! It’s a Western Hemlock”.

I grew up in this house in what was unincorporated King County, about 12 miles from Seattle. Even when I was in high school my friends’ parents would say, “You live out in the Boonies.” We had three close neighbors who had horses. One even had a training arena. Another family had a horse who was the national and Canadian champion (English riding style) for a couple of years running. There were also cows, goats, woodlands, and wetlands.

As Seattle has grown, more and more people have moved to the suburbs. Seattle has become a very expensive city in which to live. I actually live in the city proper. My neighborhood is not fancy. I live in a two story ranch style house from the 50’s. Nonetheless, I spotted two houses this summer valued at a million dollars each. I’m sure there are more.

The house and the surrounding woods are my parents’ home. It was my home for many years. It is also a quite valuable piece of real estate. When my dad was retiring, he and my mom visited an attorney to discuss their estate. I remember my dad coming home from that meeting, pretty happy. He and my mom had also made conservative but consistent investments in bonds and CD’s over the years. My dad was happy because he felt that he and my mom were secure financially for retirement.

My mom turns 80 on Saturday. My dad turns 82 exactly one month from Saturday. They live in the same house. For the last several months, there has been a huge “Notice of Development” sign right next to their driveway. The neighbors asked, “Did you sell your property?” They did not. However, my dad, who makes sure he attends the development meetings and looks at specifics noted that the map of the proposed development included a road that went RIGHT THROUGH THEIR PROPERTY.

Although the design was later modified, the developers still have a problem. Without a road through my parents’ property, the development would be located on a dead end street. My dad attended another meeting this week. The fire department was not happy with the idea of a housing development being located on a dead end street. That’s not very safe. What if they have to get somewhere and the street is blocked? The developers argued, pointing to my parents’ property on the map, “That property is going to be sold really soon.” And they even kept talking about my dad by name, not knowing who he was or that he was at the meeting.

I went shopping with my dad a few weeks ago to pick out an anniversary present for my mom. My parents are practical, no-nonsense people. My dad was getting ready to spend money so it was only natural that money was on his mind. He was also thinking back to the 60 years he’s been married to my mom and the family they created. He said to me, “I got a lot of money. Dead.”

I knew what he meant but I don’t really like to talk about my parents dying with my parents. So I said, “Yes, you have a lot of non-liquid assets. Your house and property are worth a lot of money.”

According to my mom’s blog, which she posted today, the developers were thinking that my parents were worth a lot dead, too. And he’d decided that they were elderly and that would either sell and move or just die. And they also assumed that in the event of their death, all six of us kids would sell to them.

These assumptions could bear out to be true; nobody knows the future. I hate that my parents are being treated like they are a foregone conclusion and that my parents’ end with be the solution to their dead end. I hate that the beautiful woods that has been there for a long long time is being planned for dissection and demolition. I would say that it feels like vultures circling but vultures can’t really help themselves. People can.

I don’t worry as much as I might about my parents. At the end of the meeting, my dad approached the lawyer for the city of Renton, who had actually argued with the developer saying, “For all we know, Joe MacKenzie is 26 years-old!”

Dad said, “”I’m  82 and may not live that much longer but I’m married to a long living Italian, whose Aunt lived to be 106!”

The woods behind my parents' place.

The woods behind my parents’ place.

My parent's antique physician's buggy. My dad built the building for it as well as a number of other buildings on the property.

My parent’s antique physician’s buggy. My dad built the building for it as well as a number of other buildings on the property.

“Are you ready to frolic?”

I overhead the question, spoken in a gentle male voice, from a nearby campsite. After I turned my head toward the source, I saw that a father had asked his young girl, who couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18 months old, this question. She said something about “froggie”. He father responded, “Yes, let’s have froggie go frolicking with us, too.”

Camping brings forth images of enjoying stately woods in solitude, like one’s own personal communion with God. Unless one is a backpacker, this is typically not the case.

I am on vacation, camping on Orcas Island, which is part of the San Juan Islands in northern Washington state. We are extremely close to British Columbia, Canada. The islands are only accessible by boat. Some of them are accessible by public transportation, that is, the Washington State Ferry System, which is the largest of its kind in the U.S. It takes a good part of the day to get up here and there are very few campgrounds. We are staying at one of two on Orcas Island, the other being a dozen sites on Obstruction Pass, which are “walk in” (camp equipment is hauled down a mile long trail to the campground) and cannot be reserved ahead of time.

I reserved our campsite eights months ago and even that far ahead, most of the spots were already taken. So, the campground is a busy place. It also happens to be located right on the main road. Now, Orcas Island is far less densely populated than say, Manhattan Island, but car traffic is heard from our little campsite in the woods. We have also had visitors.  A little dog named, “Nacho” has visited three times since he arrived yesterday, along with his family, who hung both a U.S. and a Seattle Seahawks flag outside of their tent. Earlier this week, we had a number of visits from a blond toddler with big brown eyes. He just observed with curiosity, whatever we were doing in the seconds until his father, a gentle and patient Israeli man, walked down to scoop him up and take him back.

Campgrounds are typically a home base for outings into the wild or at least the wilder. Nonetheless, communion with nature can even be found in a busy state campground. (Tip: In the U.S., National Park campgrounds tend to be prettier and more secluded than state campgrounds. However, state campgrounds often have showers.) In our few days here, I have seen the green mountain in back of Cascade Lake, visible from our campsite, the sun glistening on the water. The nights have been clear and dark. Two nights ago, I saw the constellations and the Milky Way.

I hear people complain a lot about car camping around here because of the people “spoiling” nature. And honestly, sometimes people can really be annoying in the woods. But to me, hearing a father asking his little girl if she’s “ready to frolic” is a most gentle gift.

This is the gift of the next generation learning how to love nature’s majesty and surprise.

And froggie gets to join them, too.

What could be more natural?

 

As you know, I love photography. I mostly take nature photography, but I also take photos of people. My people shots are usually informal but occasionally I try to take a good portrait. I have come to view the goals of nature and portrait photography differently. In portrait photography, the goal is usually to capture a human image that looks better than a person usually looks in day to day life. If you think about it, people have ever changing appearance due to our changing mode of dress, use of make-up, but even more importantly, we have muscles and our bodies, especially our facial features are in motion. When I’ve had my portrait done professionally, the photographer puts effort into getting me to hold my body in a particular way, tilt me head just so, look at the camera, and usually, to smile. Backdrops and lighting are used.

I think the goal of nature photography is to capture the subject as it ACTUALLY LOOKS. I have taken so many photos only to think, “That looked so much better in real life. Because I try to capture natural subjects as they actually look, I don’t typically rearrange the environment to make a better photo. Occasionally, I use a flash and on the rare occasion, I might move a twig out the way that’s blocking the shot. When I move a twig out the way, I actually feel like I’m cheating, I try to remove myself from the photo except for choosing what part of what is actually there is going to fill the frame.

In this way, I think of taking portraits as requiring being more of a participant in the photo and of taking natural shots as being more of an observer, standing back so as not to mar any of the natural beauty before me.

A common way that I try to take myself out of my flower photos is when my body casts a shadow on the flower. I will move to take the shot from another angle or occasionally, I duck my body down, keeping my arm raised and snap. The latter approach doesn’t work particularly well but if I can’t take the shot otherwise, I often give it a try.

A few days ago, I was taking close-ups of roses, something I love to do. Roses are not just beautiful from a distance. They are mesmerizing up close. The texture of the petals, some creamy, some satiny, some velvety. And their multi-petal form creates interesting light and shadow and well as patterns within their overall forms. It was mid-day and the sun was overhead. I leaned over to snap a photo and I saw my shadow. I was about to make some attempt to remove my shadow when I realized, looking down through the view screen on my camera that my shadow actually added interest to the rose. It looked like it belonged and it actually enhanced the beauty of the bloom by showing contrast of light and shadow.

I often write in this blog about how much healthier I am when I feel connected to nature. Every time, it fills me up a little more. Over time, I am more frequently able to carry a feeling of joyful serenity for a little longer.

Mindfulness sneaks up on me with gentle waves that ebb and flow but still manage to build a reservoir.

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