Autumn Zinnias

via Daily Prompt: Gratitude

So fellow travelers, today’s blog prompt from WordPress is Gratitude.

With a forecast for heavy winds, rain and plummeting temps I knew the flowers still lingering in my garden were better cut and brought inside to enjoy than left to the elements.

 

 

Gratitude today

Is gathering zinnias

So late in autumn

 

 It’s a rare treat to even have flowers so late in the season.

The zinnias greeted me cheerfully on my kitchen table this morning as wind and rain sent leaves scattering all through the yard. One last breath of summer to be grateful for.

 

 

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.



Zen Moment : Milkweed

via Daily Prompt: Surreal

So fellow travelers, the WordPress blog prompt for today is the word “surreal.”

 

One experience from a few days ago immediately came to mind, as did several images I’ve captured recently. There is something about the way light can transform an ordinary object, like a milkweed plant so it generates an ethereal feeling in which significant messages are embedded

The change of seasons

Continuity of life

Illumination of hidden hopes

all these contained in the tiniest of seeds

Given the choice between a surrealistic ride in an ambulance where the future morphs into to blurry question mark or the surrealism of sunlit milkweed casting seeds of hope I’m going with the milkweed

Life’s too short not to bet on hope.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Zen Moment: Park Bench

So fellow travelers, warm weather continues to linger and I’ll take it in as long as I can.

Yesterday a passing front left behind dramatic clouds, promising photo ops worth the drive to the other end of the lakefront park where Delilah and I often walk. It’s not far, but that end of the park is often more crowded and I usually prefer the quiet trails closer to my house. They are a go to spot for sorting through a challenging day’s residual impacts.

Delilah was delighted to have some new critter dens to explore while I stood in awe of the gallery which greeted my senses. The lake and sky had outdone themselves in creating canvases of light.

The smell of autumn leaves filled the air, a light breeze brushed my face. Laughter echoed from the playground where many families had gathered. Is there any sound more joyful than the sound of kids laughing? It lifted my heart which is carrying concerns for several friends facing life challenges.

Walking towards the lake I spied a bench where I could sit to watch the sun paint the sky with golden light as I sent some positive thoughts to my friends. This morning as I looked through the images from our walk I found one with that bench and this haiku with an extra line emerged from the memory of the moment.

 

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Park bench in my mind

you meet me here and we sit

in silent laughter

with the setting sun

 

Friendship is a treasure beyond worldly rewards. Like the golden gift of a beautiful sunset it’s value is beyond measure.

 Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Zen Moment : Secret Smile

So fellow travelers, it’s that time of year when darkness begins to encroach on both ends of my day.

Now sunrise kisses the sky just as I am headed in to work. A few days ago, I caught sight of the last faint sliver of the waning 4th quarter moon. Just a wisp of light, a smile fading quickly in the glare of daylight, a symbol of hidden joy. Hidden perhaps by the harsh glare of day’s demanding realities but known now to me, a secret tucked into my awareness to reach for when my own smile fades.

Night gives way to day

Crescent moon’s ghost of a smile

Joy’s hidden secret


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Postscript: The moment also reminded me of another smile I found on my #Spiritof60 Road Trip. You can read about that in the post at this link .

Life in Black and White

So fellow travelers, there is a challenge trending on social media called Seven days in B&W. Here are the guidelines, which we use as the header for each post:

Seven days. Seven B & W photos of my life. No people. No explanation.  

Post and Challenge someone new each day.

A collection of some of my daily life in B&W photos

The admins of an on-line creative forum posted a similar challenge adapting the theme from daily life to #ordinaryextraordinary. Those guidelines read as follows:

*Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to post one black and white photograph per day here that represents the extraordinary in your ordinary, everyday life. Look for these things, smile at them, shoot and post with *one sentence* telling us why what you shot is extraordinary to you.

Creative challenges spark my interest and jump start my brain by giving me a focal point. A challenge like this encourages me to experience the world around me from a different perspective. Framing common elements of my day in just the right light so they make an impact when rendered in black and white as well as finding deeper meaning in ordinary components of my life has unveiled a rich array of  treasures whose value I now appreciate more fully.

Some of my images from the #ordinaryextraordinary challenge*

I’m also quite certain I would not have had the fortitude to stand up and speak my truth in the Me too campaign without this gift of uncovering extraordinary beauty in my daily experience. The B&W challenges gave me some solid touchstones. Because I was already  committed to those challenges and dedicated to continuing the process, the images I found became trail markers back to normalcy. The mere existence of  joy woven into my every day life helped me find my way back after diving deep into long silent emotions.

This is why art and creativity matter. When society fractures at rates beyond comprehension we scramble to hold on to something, anything, familiar. Creative processes can teach us how to shift perspective to see our lives from different vantage points. Creative expression gives form to feelings we cannot bear to carry within ourselves any longer. It helps us face the unthinkable acts of our inhumanity to each other and embrace the hope we can change the immutable.

So challenge yourselves. What are the extraordinary elements of  your daily life?  Go find them and see them reborn in the clear contrast of  mindful awareness. Maybe take a photo or two and share them. Who knows what ripples of inspiration you may create.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready .

*Note: The #ordinaryextraordinary challenge  can be found on Facebook, under The Crazy Ones  page . It runs through October 22nd.

 

Me too

So fellow travelers, this is a post I never thought I would find it’s voice, let alone speak openly in the stark light of day.

The “me, too” movement trending on social media seeks to shed light on the pervasive nature of sexual harassment and assault. People who have experienced it put “Me too,” as their status. Some share stories, others simply post the words. It’s growing exponentially, gaining momentum making it clear sexual intimidation, harassment and assault are so widespread it’s profoundly distressing.

And like the thousands of women and a cadre of men who have found the courage to speak up, I took a deep breath and posted “Me too,” as well.  One sleepless night of wrestling with a memory buried deep in the past convinced me I no longer wanted it festering in my psyche.  As soon as I hit “share” a geyser of emotions tossed me against the wall of reality. When I figuratively came to, I sensed a stream of words trying to be heard.  I wrote them down, sharing them here essentially as they came~

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Like sleepless hours of too many nights the memory comes again jolting to consciousness awakened by the storm of anguished cries  an unwelcome stab from scars ripped open trust betrayed blame mislaid shamed into acceptance of unspeakable submission now revealed and writhing pitifully in daylight spoken so let the fire of truth cauterize the wounds bleeding no more fists unclenched freeing hands to hold each other hearts beat loud a unified call to wholeness.

I’ve felt disconnected from myself all day, as if suffering from an emotional concussion. Gradually after taking down the stream of consciousness “poem, I found my way back to center. Writing helps me make sense of things I find otherwise incomprehensible. Given my experience did not involve violence, I am staggered by the resiliency of assault survivors. I have no answers for the plague of reprehensible behavior the “Me too” campaign has revealed.  There is only a desperate prediction this awareness must render the behavior completely beyond any level of social acceptance.

And, if nothing else, if you are one who also can say “Me too,” know this

We too stand with you.

Walk gently on the path my friends and know you do not make this journey alone.

Sinking In

So fellow travelers, one of the things I value highly from being part of a creative community are the moments when one person’s contribution generates another work.  We call it the ripple effect.  Jackie Campbell,  a friend and fellow haiku writer (she posts one almost daily in her thoughtful blog) shared a story with a photo that caught my attention right away.

JackiesDock

Photo courtesy of Jackie Campbell

The image matched a haiku I wrote a few months ago but had not posted  because I had yet to capture an image to match the words.

Tide rises waves come
Hold fast to the shore my friend
Light and love are near

Most of my haikus are created out of the experience embedded in an image I capture, so the visuals usually preceed the words.  This haiku came out of some challenges another friend was experiencing. When I composed it, I sent her a copy on a hand decorated card and kept the original words in my blog drafts waiting to snap the right photo to go with it. Then this morning while wrestling with another post that felt heavy and awkward, I came across Jackie’s candid story and photo. Often when I feel I’ve hit creative quicksand, I will take a break and scroll through my WordPress Reader’s feed or check in on Instagram if only to lift my mood. Most of the time savoring the creativity of others not only raises my spirits, it sparks my own process and I get back into the flow of writing, just as Jackie’s piece gave me the boost I needed today.

Jackie’s honesty about feeling daunted by the process of learning to “get out of manual” mode when using her camera reminded me of how easy it is to doubt our ability to acquire new skills, particularly when technology is a component of the tools we are using. I’ve had my digital slr camera for several years now and there are still settings I have not ventured to experiment with. In fact on my last trip to the Pacific Northwest I chose to leave that camera behind and rely on my phone for photos. With trips planned to two national parks, it was an almost unthinkable choice, one made only because I know I will return to those those parks again in the next few years.

On recent trips I have felt burdened by the bigger camera and noticed most of the photos I like best were ones I captured with my phone. This trip I felt more present in the adventures I had, letting the experience really sink in without the requirement (admittedly self imposed) of capturing it “on film.” There were only a handful of moments when I missed the capabilities of my dslr and the depth of experience I gained by being present without it were well worth the trade off of less impressive shots taken by phone.

20170826_120556.jpgMt Olympus from Hurricane Ridge in Olypmic Natl Park.                                                         One of the moments I missed my dslr and extra lenses.

The fear we have of not creating work that is “good” enough, not getting it “right” comes from self imposed expectations. We just don’t give ourselves the benefit of making mistakes which are after all how we learn to do things better. Our expectations and tendency to compare ourselves to others not only in creative endeavors, but in many, too many, areas of life, fabricate quagmires of doubt. This is why I am grateful for the creative community I am part of.  Encouragement, advice and even an inspirational challenge from time to time (more on that in an upcoming post) are lifelines along a sometimes rocky journey to creative growth and deeper self expression.  We may not always walk side by side, but we are never truly alone. It’s a blessing beyond any measure of perfection.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

Bridges and Walls

So fellow travelers, one day last week I had some time to enjoy a rare morning walk in the little Upstate NY village I live near.

The trees have been a bit shy about changing into their autumn colors this year. September was so hot and dry it seems most leaves simply curled up and dropped. It’s as if they were saying “We give up. We’re just too tired to get through the change this year.” My lawn crunches as if I am walking on broken glass, dark green rafts float across my pond, trees rattle like old bones in the afternoon breeze. As much as I love summer for all the adventures it brings, Autumn is my favorite season. Finding a pop of color by the bridge in the village gave my heavy heart a much needed lift.

Just as I lifted my phone to capture the image, gulls burst into flight over the river. I stopped to take in their raucous energy as they swirled in wild circles, laughing cries echoing over the water. Gratefully I let their apparent joy, ease the heartache of current events. So much sorrow, so much loss, so much violence and anger, so much judgement and blame and most of all, not enough listening.

Those feelings weighed heavily on me as I drove to an even smaller village further “up”state to spend a weekend with several good friends. We met originally in an on-line creative group which eventually began gathering at several annual events giving people who attended a chance to meet and get to know each other. The experiences generated both wonderful connections and, as often happens when communities grow larger, some challenging dynamics. Some of those dynamics seem to resurface once in a while in ways many of us find confusing. Our gathering of friends pondered some of these challenges during our time together this weekend.

When people are hurt, shamed, excluded or ridiculed by others the pain leaves a wound which can linger for years. When we are hurt by someone we trust, we yearn for the violators to acknowledge the pain they have caused, we want to hear them accept responsibility, offer a sincere apology and even promise not to hurt others.

Occasionally this does happen, though only in circumstances where the hurt is a result of a genuine misunderstanding, Most of the time the cycle of betrayal and hurt result from actions of people whose behaviors reflect internal issues they are either unaware of or are unwilling to resolve. So most people are left trying to deal with unresolved pain. “Walk away, move on,” people are told over and over without being offered an answer as to how one does that.

Art with a message found in a little garden 

The topic of bullying and toxic relationships comes up frequently when you work at a high school and being on a special ed teaching team it’s something we encounter all the time. At a workshop during one of the professional development sessions our school district holds each year, one of the facilitators presented the empowering work of author Kari Kampakis.  Kari teaches young people that everyone in our life serves a purpose and has something to teach us. When it comes to the way we are treated by others, some people teach us about the kind of people we want to be and others show us who we do not want to be.

We tend to create bridges connecting us to the people in the first category and build walls to protect us from the latter people, but Kari talks about “leaning into” the feelings from hurtful experiences. By this she means being aware of what they did to make us feel the way we did; was it their words, the tone of voice, their actions and what specific actions affected us? Then, take what we know and promise we will learn from their mistakes. “Make specific pledges,” she encourages kids, “Say ‘I will make sure others feel included,’ ‘I will listen when other’s are struggling and comfort but not try to fix them,’  ‘I will not expect more acceptance than I myself can give.’ “

Walls protect but they also confine and we can easily become trapped. When we allow the hurtful actions of others to teach us specific ways of how we can treat others with more kindness and compassion, we reclaim control over our experience because chances are the perpetrator is unlikely to change and the apology we seek will never come. Instead of constantly reliving the hurt, we draw strength from healing pain, take responsibility for our feelings and turn anger into positive action. Consciously choosing to judge less and learn more empowers us to walk away, move forward and get on with our own journey. Bridges, not walls aid that journey.

Here’s to walking bridges over no longer troubled waters

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.