Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Be Still 52 - Week 52

I felt like I needed to have a finale for Be Still 52, a year long class on still life photography that I took with Kim Klassen. I was looking forward to the last post and the last week's exercise. The post came with a beautiful photo, a thank you, and a goodbye from Kim, but no exercise. I was disappointed. I felt a little let down. So, I decided to do my own finish. I chose to create a few still life images with sea shells, since that's how I began a year ago. The first picture I posted for the class is the one above. I don't know that I can adequately describe what I have learned this year. This class was a big step outside of my comfort zone. I am not a still life photographer unless it is a still life in nature. I struggled the first few weeks. I just could not create those beautiful soft images like everyone else.  My heart had to be in it and it wasn't until I began to create with the things I love; bits and pieces of nature. That's when I relaxed, breathed, and found peace while setting up and photographing my simple arrangements. 

The shell above is one that I picked up when our family vacationed on Dauphin Island, Alabama last summer. I was captured by it's imperfections. The sand? Along with the shells I did bring home a container full of sand! 

Playing with the shells and sand brought back such wonderful memories of the best vacation I've ever had. I loved the beauty and sound of the ocean and I loved the week spent with my family!

I enjoyed the early morning walks along the beach; the sun coming up, my bare feet in the sand, and my little red bucket filled with shells. Oh, how I long to return. Maybe someday!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Sundries - Edition 59

"...time can be slowed if you live deliberately.
If you stop and watch sunsets.
If you spend time sitting on porches listening to the woods.
If you give in to the reality of the seasons."
~ Thomas Christopher Greene

Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer Colors

The air is hot and humid outside, but that doesn't stop the flowers from blooming. They seem quite happy in the heat. Me, I'm sitting in my corner of the couch where I have my books, magazines, computer and other "stuff" I enjoy surrounding me. From here I can look out the window and see summer's brilliant colors.

I took a couple of galvanized tubs, bought some potting soil and some garden soil and two packets of Zinnia seeds. Why Zinnias? They're easy to grow, require little care, don't mind the heat as long as they are watered, and have such happy colors! 

Zinnias grow tall and stand up so proudly in the breeze.  Mine did grow tall, but they have the tiniest blossoms. The largest is only about an inch and a half across. Who knows maybe I bought miniature Zinnias!  If there even is such a thing! Regardless of their size, they delight me with their bright summer colors.

Zinnia's remind me of my grandmother. I remember a row of Zinnias planted at the edge of her garden. I see Zinnias and I think of child-like joy, playfulness, and delight. I think of hot summer days playing and giggling with cousins. I think of vases overflowing with flowers sitting on the dining room table. I think of family and love.

"Flowers are happy things."
~ P. G. Wodehouse

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Sundries - Edition 58

"A good father
is one of the most
and yet one of the
most valuable assets
in our society."
~ Billy Graham

Friday, June 19, 2015

Just Me And My Camera

I woke up early full of anticipation for what the day would bring. You see, I had a free day. A day I could spend with my camera. A day away from worries and concerns. To make my day perfect I only needed two things: moving water and solitude.

I had a little difficulty deciding where to go. There's lots of water around; ponds, creeks, lakes and the Arkansas River, but those didn't appeal to me. I wanted moving water AND quietness. I happened to remember the creek where my dad and I had lunch a few weeks ago. It's such a pretty little area that's part of Hot Springs National Park.

Although it's a camp ground it was quiet with very few people around. I figured everyone must have been out sightseeing before it got too hot. There was one strange lady who rode her bike and sang very loudly in what I believe was German. Thankfully she had a pretty good voice and passed by quickly! The only other human noise was the giggles of a few children wading and splashing in the creek. The giggles of playing children always make me happy, so that didn't bother me at all. 

It didn't take me long to pull off my shoes and do a little wading myself.

Walking beside the creek I came to this arched concrete bridge built between 1936 and 1937. I've driven across this bridge many times and didn't know what a beautiful bridge was underneath me.

Of course, anytime you have a blank space someone wants to fill it up. At least the graffiti is done with chalky rocks and not spray paint.

After a relaxing stroll along the creek I was ready to rest and have a snack while I listened to the gurgling water, the wind whispering through the trees, the many birds, and the occasional tree frog. Absolute bliss!

Sufficiently rested I decided to follow one of the trails in the area. This one was the shortest only .8 of a mile. It may have been fairly short, but it was up the mountainside. Up, Up, Up the mountainside!  Not a bad uphill, but strenuous enough for me. The bright side, when I headed back it was all downhill!  

It was a warm day with high humidity and you probably know by now that I don't tolerate heat very well. Somehow the heat in the woods with a breeze blowing and my camera in my hand isn't quite as bad. I almost turned around a couple of times. I couldn't tell how far I had gone and it was pretty warm. I kept saying I'd go just around the next corner. Finally, I'd had enough and decided to stop at a clearing I saw in front of me and head back down. When I walked into the clearing this little rest area awaited me!  I had made it and I had a cool place to rest before heading back down.

My  day was good; just what I needed.
I headed home feeling tired, but oh, so much more relaxed.

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into the trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn."
~ John Muir

It's not Autumn, but the rest of this quote perfectly describes my day.

Monday, June 15, 2015

June Delights

It seems other than Sunday Sundries, I've abandoned this little corner. Life has changed once again. My mother came home from rehab ten days ago. The transition was not easy for her or us. There were things to buy, medications to have refilled, remodeling to allow for her wheelchair, groceries to buy, meals to cook, and schedules to set up. She has some brain damage from the stroke, short-term memory loss especially, so I was going to her house four times a day to give her medications and take her vital signs. Thankfully, it's in walking distance. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, this was a very rough week. There was very little time to even thing about picking up my camera and I missed it. I missed the time outside just wandering.

Knowing that this month of June would be hard and because it's my birth month, I challenged myself to find something delightful each day. I didn't always take pictures, but I wrote them in my journal each night.

I wanted to share the first fifteen days with you. It is a wonderful reminder that even in tough times, there's joy to be found.

Day 1 - strawberry, vanilla, and caramel colored mushrooms

Day 2 - seeing an old barn when traveling with my dad

Day 3 - highways lined with Queen Anne's Lace

Day 4 - a video my daughter posted on Facebook

Day 5 - new grocery carts at Walmart (it doesn't take much to make me happy)

Day 6 - cool refreshing snow cone

Day 7 - leaf with perfect bands of color: brown, tan, and green

Day 8 - dainty white hosta blooms

Day 9  - four delights today . . . eating my first wild blackberry of the season . . . Aaron and Isaac bringing me a delicious birthday cupcake . . . dinner with Mr. H . . . the Dickinsons singing Happy Birthday to me on the phone 

Day 10 - making a wrong turn and seing a small yard crammed with summer flowers

Day 11 - finding three feathers

Day 12 - a mimosa tree full of pink blooms

Day 13 - eating breakfast outside . . . cool and breezy

Day 14 - the coolest shopping cart ever!

Day 15 - a deer in our pasture . . . as long as I've lived here we've never seen a deer in our pasture

These little daily delights have kept me positive and smiling. I'm looking forward to what the next fifteen days brings!

"If you smile when no one else is around,
you really mean it."
~ Andy Rooney

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Sundries - Edition 57

"Tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breaths!"
~ William Wordsworth

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday Sundries - Edition 56

When God pushes you to the edge,
trust Him fully.
Either He will catch you
or he will teach you how to fly
                          ~author unknown

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Just Me And My Dad

"I want to go home."  How many times in our lives have we said that simple sentence? My dad, he says it all the time. Going home to many with Alzheimer's disease is wanting to return to their childhood home. Dad wants to go home to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he was born and raised. I had the chance to take him one day this week and he was thrilled.

The first stop we had to make was at Antioch Cemetery where my dad's parents and brother are buried. It's a small cemetery next to the Old Union Primitive Baptist Church. The church itself has family connections. My great-grandmother attended school in this one room schoolhouse/church. I don't know when the building was built, but my great-grandmother was born in 1879 so it had to have been built in the late 1870's to early 1880's. One other pretty cool thing I learned while researching the church and cemetery is that my great-grandmother's middle name was Kathryn. My name is spelled differently and I wasn't named after her, but I still like the fact that we have the same name.

The church doors are always unlocked, so after parking my dad in a lawn chair with a snack I went inside for some pictures. The interior is painted a soft green. The only furniture is the pews, pulpit, and an old upright piano. As I pulled back the dust cover and opened the little door that led to the piano workings, I wondered how many times these hammers have struck the strings.

I wondered how many songs have been played on this old piano while worshipping our Lord. The red songbooks that were scattered around the pews were called "The Good Old Songs; The cream of the old music" It was compiled by Elder C. H. Cayce with a copyright date of 1914. I picked up a hymnal and if fell open to the song "Happy Day."  That's a good title for this day with my dad.

My dad doesn't really understand my need to photograph things. When I stopped in the middle of a bridge and took a picture of the creek below he was really quite confused. I was safe about stopping. On the eight miles we drove after we turned off the main highway we didn't see a single car. It's pretty isolated out there. After I'd taken pictures of the church, the cemetery, and the creek, he wasn't too surprised when I pulled over and took a few pictures of an old barn. None of the pictures turned out very good. The day was overcast and dark and I had other camera issues. Mainly, I pulled out my big camera, started to take a picture, and there on the back was the flashing words "NO CARD!"  Frustrating!  When will I ever learn to check my camera before I leave!  I did have my point and shoot camera with me, but honestly, it's just about worn out and doesn't take great pictures anymore.  At least I have pictures to go with the memory of "going home" even if they are dark and grainy!

There used to be an old fire tower on the mountain in the distance. All the teenagers, including my mom and dad used to picnic up there and climb the tower. My great-grandmother's land was on the other side of the mountain.

There are certain rituals that one must keep when you have Alzheimer's. Every time dad goes to Hot Springs he wants to picnic at Gulpha Gorge which is part of Hot Springs National Park. The park is in the deep canyon between Hot Springs Mountain and Indian Mountain  which is rich in history and legends. Once such legend tells of an old Indian Chief who had been in poor health and had come to the Valley of the Vapors for relief from his affliction.  The Valley of the Vapors is what is know today as Hot Springs National Park. As the name implies the springs in Hot Springs are just that, HOT springs. The water flowing out of the springs is about 143 degrees. Anyway, back to the story. The hot springs didn't help him and that night his illness became more severe causing acute pain. His daughter led him to another valley in search of cool water. After drinking this cool water, which by the way is high in calcium, he fell asleep and woke cured of his illness. He renamed his daughter Chewaukla, which means "Sleepy Water" and the springs were known thereafter as Chewaukla Springs.

Our next adventure was to drive up Hot Springs Mountain to the tower. The tower is 216 feet high. I had to laugh. I think we made history as the fastest people to go up the tower, walk around the observation deck, and descend. Dad walked around the observation deck one time and said "I guess we've seen all we need to see."

I remember as a child we'd go up the mountain and climb a 165 foot steel structure. I mean climb, as there was no elevator. I can still remember my shaking knees. Dad and I were thankful that there is an elevator in the newer tower.

Image result for rix tower hot springs ar
(postcard of the mountain tower found on the internet)

On a clear day you're supposed to be able to see for 140 miles. Considering my eyes and the cloudy day, I didn't see near that far! Do you see the clearing right in the center of the upper portion of the picture below? That's the Hot Springs airport. My mother and her family lived just a little east of the airport.

We have a fun day and make some good memories. I was saddened that my dad is beginning to lose some of his memories of Hot Springs. Several times he questioned my route because he couldn't remember how to get from one place to another. Oh, and if you want to know, I know where all the bathrooms are between here and there!  You have to take your time when you're traveling with the elderly. 

Thanks for going along with me on this little trip down memory lane! 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Be Still 52 - Week 51

I don't know where this week went. I can't believe it's time to post another exercise of Be Still 52. This week's exercise was movement. Not capturing movement, but creating movement in our photos. We were to create a still life that caused the eye to move through the picture. 

I created a little scene with beads flowing out of a bottle and strings of beads in the background. It worked. Your eyes followed the trail of beads to the focus point and then follows the blurred beads out of the photo.  I must have arranged this ten ways and took many pictures and never really found one that made me happy. So I scraped the idea of setting up a still life and headed outdoors to see if I could find one.

I like this one better. Your eyes focus on the rose and then drift out of the picture following the blurred stems in the background. I'm not crazy about the mess of stems in the lower left corner. They seems to confuse the eyes a little. The rose in this picture is from my mom's yard. My mom took cuttings from my grandmother's rose bushes and began her own. These little roses smell like a rose should!

The last two were taken along the road I walk. You can't seem to go wrong with dandelions and I can't seem to quit taking pictures of them. I wish there were more light on them, but we've pretty much had nothing but gray cloudy skies for weeks.

I was never really satisfied with the pictures for this exercise. Maybe, when things slow down around here I will try this one again. 

Tomorrow we get our last exercise.
I wonder what it will be.