Thursday, November 29, 2012

Journeys and Paths

I've been struggling a bit in the last few days with my grief. Understandable, I know. But, still.
It's just hard. A student asked me today if I was ready for Christmas. How do I answer that? 

And yet, there is much light and joy on my path.

Most days, the light and joy tend to outweigh the darkness. For that, I am grateful.

But for some unexplainable reason, I feel called not to deny the darkness.

“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”
-Annie Dillard
BTW, in case anyone is curious, this tree with lights is the base photo for the "life is a sacred path" thang. All the work to the photo was done on my phone. I "inverted" it and did a couple of other things, then turned it on its side and added the words. I really like the way the tree turned out on the "thang."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blue Skies

 (This is my contribution to Gallery 32, of the 52 Photos Project, The Skies Above. I've missed the last two rounds. My time just got away from me.)

I was on a trail in the Kisatchie National Forest when I took this photo with my phone. It is spread across seven parishes. I visited the Fullerton Mill Pond area, where I walked a half mile trail the first day and then went back to walk a one and a half mile trail.

I'm very brave in some ways but I am also a big fat chicken in some ways. The first day I was there, my husband and my uncle were with me. I wasn't sure where the place was and my uncle came along to guide the way. He and my husband were talking and I told them I was going to walk a bit of the trail. They knew I'd come to take pictures. They waited and visited while I walked. I was not too nervous that day. But on the next day I went all by myself. It was kind of like meditating. At first my mind went all kinds of crazy thinking about things that could happen (though most of them were highly unlikely)! I thought about black bears, snakes, axe murderers and cannibals (just kidding about the cannibals!). Finally, about 20 or 30 minutes into the trail, my mind settled and I got into looking for things to photograph.

The pine trees, a few birds, some gnats and one me. That was all that I saw on the trail that day. It was fun!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving When It's Hard

I love Anne Lamott's work. She has a new book out, "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers." In an interview for NPR, she said this about the thanks:

On the second prayer, Thanks: 
"Thanks is the prayer of relief that help was on the way. ... It can be [the] pettiest, dumbest thing, but it could also be that you get the phone call that the diagnosis was much, much, much better than you had been fearing. ... The full prayer, and its entirety, is: Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. But for reasons of brevity, I just refer to it as Thanks. "It's amazement and relief that you caught a break; that your family caught a break; that you didn't have any reason to believe that things were really going to be OK, and then they were and you just can't help but say thank you."
It's a distillation of what she's written, I know, and by no means a complete treatise, but still, my breath caught when I read this passage because I asked myself what happens when you've lost a son (or a daughter, or a mother or father, or a spouse--all of us have lost someone or something important, I know). Or what happens when the diagnosis is not such a great one and you find yourself facing the end of your life way sooner than you expected?

I don't know what my son's future might have held. What I know right now, today, is that it's tough not having him around and I miss him a lot. I can say "thanks" for the time I had to love him and to be around him and to have him love us. I've certainly said "help" many times in the past year or so.

And really, now that it is coming up on a year since we lost him, I can almost say "Wow" with a quiet sense of reverence. I have survived but it is a tough road to walk.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Turtle, Lily Pads and Birds

A turtle with a pyramid shaped shell sunning himself on a lot.
The lily pads were huge! I was fascinated with the way the water droplets rolled around on the leaves. This one was about a quarter of the leaf. It look like a ginko leaf.
 Some were green and some were this rusty brown looking color.
 I believe this is a male Anhinga.
This would be the female Anhinga. You can tell because she is wearing a "mink stole."
Blue heron.
I know I was told what kind of bird this was but I've forgotten what it is.
I played around and did some odd editing on this one but I do like it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Photos from my first ever kayak trip are posted below. I've never been much of a water person. I love being around it but not so much in it and the idea of getting squished into such a tight boat sitting so low on the water sort of made me nervous. But you know, things that have happened recently have opened me up a bit and I find myself more willing to do things that make me nervous. Besides, I was going with a long-time friend who knows the water well. I reminded her that my parents (whom she knows and loves) would never forgive her if she let me drown!

The swamp is a beautiful place and being able to quietly float around amongst the trees and the moss seeing the beauty so closely was a serene experience. Well, we did chatter a bit and squeal a time or two but there were moments of awed silence and appreciation for the wonder of nature. I'd love to go back sometime.
This was sunset. We had finished our trip but we were sitting in the kayaks near the landing watching the sun set.
There is a lot of gray in the swamp this time of year. The moss and the trees can look rather dull. The cypress trees do have a reddish-pink tinge to them under the bark and there are a few trees that have the orange fall-colored leaves. I pumped up the color on this one. It might almost be over-done but there is some brilliance out there in the swamp.
This ominous abandoned houseboat was one of the first things we saw as we paddled away from the landing and headed toward the closed in nooks and crannies of the swamp.
Here is one of "cuts" through the swamp. We could have paddled to the end of this and we would have been in a more open area of the lake. We went on through though.
This is some of what we saw. This is not a road! The golden brown stuff is floating on top of the water. We were waiting here for the sun to peek out and light up the trees a bit. It never really came out. I had to help things out in my editing software. We sat here for several minutes waiting and taking in the beautiful peacefulness of the day. It was at this point in the trip that I started looking around and thinking, "I don't know where solid ground is."

We had seen an alligator a few minutes earlier sunning himself on a log. We were talking a bit and he slipped into the water. You can't see through this stuff so I was a little skiddish. There were some small logs and tree trunks in the water. It was a bit jarring to hit those things because you didn't know what you were running into at first, coulda been an alligator!
The cypress trees and the moss is another beautiful part of the swamp. I love seeing their gnarled trunks.

These are two of the odder shaped trunks we saw yesterday. They were located side by side. One looks like a woman with a big rear end wearing an evening gown with a low cut back. The other one looks like a man wearing bell-bottomed disco pants!
This was one of my favorite sights of the day. I like the reflection too. My friend and I wondered how stable this tree was. It was pretty tall. We paddled on before we were tempted to bump it with a paddle or the kayak to see what would happen. We decided our families would be sad to hear that we had been hit by a falling tree in the swamp and our bodies had been eaten by alligators!
We were coming around a bend and I shot this one rather quickly. I like the way it turned out.
This is one of the lily pads. This one is brown and rusted looking. There were plenty of green ones too. The water drops rolled around like mercury on the lily pads. I was fascinated with the water droplets but I didn't get many good shots of them. If I go again some day I might spend more time trying to get good shots.
This is a turtle we saw. He had a pyramid shaped shell. We don't know if this was some sort of deformation or if this is a certain type of turtle. He didn't stay too long on the branch letting us take his picture before he slipped off into the water.

Okay, probably this is enough for one post! Maybe tomorrow I'll post a few of the bird photos I got.

I'm sure not a water girl but I had fun yesterday. My friend did most of the paddling so I was able to concentrate on taking pictures and not "tumping" over the boat! Oh, and watching to make sure no alligators reared their heads to try and get us (I've watched too much "Swamp People" TV)! Toward the end she gave me the paddle so I could see how easy it was to paddle. Paddling was as much fun as being paddled around! I learned to back up and turn around. I struggled with keeping on a straight path and stopping. I hope to get the chance to practice some more sometime.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Lemons, Kumquats and Cracks Under my Feet

(and various other important things)

Random things about today:

A year ago today was the day I had my colon cancer surgery.

Today makes eleven months since my son's passing.

Today is my son's best friend's birthday.
Today begins the year anniversary of the month (and year) that radically changed my life.
(And I don't think I am exaggerating a single bit when I say that.)

I was holding back tears this morning when all these little tidbits started coming together and as I texted his friend to wish him the happiest of birthdays. It is no coincidence the Rilke quote came to my attention yesterday: "Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final."

I'm okay, really. For the most part. But my senses are heightened and my emotions are tender. I have to feel these things and I have to write about them in whatever way I can (even when it doesn't totally makes sense, even when the old me would have died before I allowed myself to be this vulnerable in this place). It's important, almost urgent.

I do not hurt all the time. Really, most of the time, I am at peace. But sometimes the gravity of what all happened in the last few months of last year weigh so heavily on me. 

Sometimes it feels like I'm watching a movie and I already know how it's going to end and my whole self tenses up and mourns in anticipation of what is coming. But it's true: I've already lived it. And I am surviving and learning to live with the knowledge of my loss. For that I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Holding, Gallery 29

I hold the tension between beauty and terror-
the feeling that I am going to fall over the edge into the pit,
the fear that I want to jump from the ledge.

(And what of the brokenness of that crack?
Will my foundation hold?)
And then I spy

the exquisite beauty that is in fallen leaves
and dropping acorns of fall,
and oh, the rusty color of the saw's biting edge.

(Yes, I must keep going.
No feeling is final.)

(My contribution to Gallery 29 of the 52 Photos Project, "Holding")

Thursday, November 01, 2012


The theme for Gallery 28 of the 52 Photos Project is "celebration." This is something I created as I remembered the good news that my colonoscopy results were clear which is most definitely an occasion for celebration!