This little lake reminds me of the duck pond in South Orange, New Jersey town where I spent my second decade. Ten years during which most of my travel was by foot. Passing the Pond was part of the trek to school, to dance class, to the community pool. I rarely looked up, paused or even really saw the pond — unless it was frozen and ice skating was allowed.
Now, nearly four decades beyond, I’m back to walking by what I call a pond, the locals call a lake. But this time I take stock, take a photo and lay the imprint of the new over the old and am happy with the result.
The streets in Frederick are quiet during these stay home/stay healthy days. As I normally walk early, quiet streets are just par for the regular course.
But benches, oh, the benches — they call to me. For a photo? For a foreground to spring blooms that are really the show? Or am I curious about doing something tinged with the thinnest salty rim of forbidden: sitting down in public. This bench basked in the earliest morning sun, just after the light cleared the horizon. I imagined sitting there, enveloped by the light from top to bottom, back to front.
Then thought the better of it. For who would like to wake up on a Monday with a stranger sitting directly in front of their house (or across the street, or next door)?
It’s not my natural inclination to sit on benches in the park or along the creek. Walks are single purpose: get out and get back. I’ll glance around, maybe look a little more closely at a reflection, pay attention to safety, check the minute changes to the scenery and save images to my phone for later use.
Sitting, lingering in a spot to gaze off into the middle distance is reserved for the beach, never for home. Home is the place to pay homage to the schedule, the beach is the place to shed it. Yet, in this stay-home time, schedule feels like a frivolous word. Oh, I make up one in the morning, follow along a bit haphazardly through the day, dancing along to the faint tune in the back of my head “why does it matter, tomorrow will be the same.”
I go out for walks — shortened to respect the demand to stay home — and feel tempted to pause, to sit. Even as I know when the stay home time is lifted, I’ll be more inclined to visit friends, walk with them, sit in their homes or places of business in communion with the relief of being out. Being about.
For now though, the benches call out a siren song to pause. I hope I’m still listening when the time comes to sit down and look around.
Choosing something to do/make/see for the 2020 #100dayproject loomed over my head for weeks, smirking at my dithering and subsequent inaction. In 2019 I took 100 photos with my “big” camera instead of the smartphone permanently attached to my hand.
It was fun, but taking photos again seemed like a cop out to creativity. And with the current state of the at-home world, taking photos inside doesn’t have the same appeal. I go for short walks to maintain sanity, but it’s not the kind of meander where you can stand and ponder a view for a while.
Then I thought about this space, how empty it is, how I pick it up and drop it down at the slightest whiff of Eau de Work. Time to apply a habit to it.
Tomorrow starts the #100day project. For the next 100 days I’ll post a photo and words. We’ll see where we’re at on July 15.
A wander through town as the gift of light and blue sky release everything held closely during days of gloom and rain. Shoulders, tight after weeks of the insistent demand to get out of the weather fast, unfurl cautiously. Details, always present, shine through light and shadow.
Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one’s sensations.
Or in this case, photographing nature.
From a morning walk back in town. the perfect reflection of my self-assessment of the week past. For every vivid moment of clarity, opening to the universe and my part in the whole, I see messy piles of half-formed blooms, spent leaves and a little bit of human-generated debris. All surrounded by still water.
I planned to crop the photo and just show the perfect blossoms. The far more honest choice is to share the whole.
This weekend, the task is to clear out the dead weight that no longer serves, to strip down the piles and aerate that water. Get the current flowing one more time.
I ran across a reference to Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses twice in the space of a couple of days last month. First in Austin Kleon’s blog (do you read it? If you don’t, gift yourself the time to do so) and then in a second place — which I promptly forgot to write down.
I might not pay attention to everything, but nudges like that set me off on a search, sure, once again, that this is a clue order. Or clean closets.
Barely beyond the title page, I stopped reading, charmed by a word that made sense, and yet I’d never used:
1. to submerge; engulf. 2. to overcome utterly; overwhelm
Negative connotations drag at the more conventional, contemporary overwhelm. But Ackerman, in describing Helen Keller’s finely attuned senses of smell, taste and touch, said:
She wrote at length about the whelm of life’s aromas, tastes, touches, feelings, which she explored with the voluptuousness of a courtesan. Despite her handicaps, she was more robustly alive than many people of her generation.
I choose whelm as a guide word, a talisman on this blog journey. Time to give myself permission to find the things that make me feel curious and alive. And dive deep.
Newcomers to town were never quite sure what to make of The Dipper, a boat moored in the parking lot of the convenience store/seaweed sake shop.
The long time locals laughed when someone, astonished at the sight that somehow they missed when they took the spot two spaces over, asked “why isn’t it on the water?”
“Well, now,” said Mr. McPherson-O’Toole of the Lower Bay Road O’Tooles (not to be confused with the McPherson’s of Upper Bay Road) from his perch by the seawall. “Well now,” for any opening uttered twice captured attention quicker than a whistle, “why would you be needing water when there’s adventure behind every door?”
“Adventure?” the newcomer inevitably asked.
“Adventure,” came the firm reply.
Newcomers always felt they’d exhausted the adventure in their souls by the time they arrived in a new place. Most simply couldn’t face anything else new without absolute guarantees of safety and a good grocery store, and invariably they stood and looked at the boat (2 minutes 43 second was the average time) then turned away, muttering about another day.
But this evening, Hannah Applewood and her younger brother Harry, who’d napped most of the ride here and were simply full of the need for adventure, looked at the boat, each other, the boat, Mr. McPherson-O’Toole, the boat and then their parents.
“Please sir,” Hannah turned back to the older man to ask, “how do you start the adventure?”
“Oh now, Hannah,” said her mother, “we just need to get dinner and then settled in the house. We don’t have time for anything new.”
“But can’t I just know?” She asked. Inspired, she added, “It’s gathering research, for future important decisions and adventures.”
Knowing Hannah very well, Mrs. Hester Applewood looked directly in her eyes and said, “Just one. No run on sentences, no parenthetical additions. You have 14 words to ask your question.” This, she was sure, would lessen the time in the parking lot.
Hannah looked at the boat, then the sky, then at Harry. They nodded in unison and turned to Mr. McPherson-O’Toole.
“Please sir, what kind of adventures and how do we start?” She’d left one word off in case she needed to say Yes or No.
“Simple as can be, young lady,” answered Mr. McPherson-O’Toole. “You pick a door: Red for excitement, yellow for happiness, blue for calm and green for growth.”
“Thanks!” shouted Hannah, happy to know something new.
“But,” warned Mr. McPherson-O’Toole, “that all can change on the fifth night of the waning moon!”
Hannah had used up her words. She had so many questions and she could feel Harry quivering with his own right next to her. Darn the word restriction! Mom sure knew how to get her to go along.
But she and Harry would be back to find out more. For research and important information in order to make sound decisions.
I wonder if I told the full truth yesterday when I wrote about not revisiting my photos. Part of the equation is not dwelling on the past, that’s definite. But maybe I also don’t look because it would mean I have to decide what to do with over 11,000 images in my Google Photos folder. OK, OK. It’s 12K but some are also designs I made for social media accounts I maintain for work.
I share 1 out of every 20-30 photos I take on social media — with a personal limit of 3 in 24 hours. (That happens about once a year.) Honestly, I could share 10 a day and not even make a dent in the stock. Some are good, some are getting better.
Perhaps I’m overwhelmed: with that many photos how do I truly examine each one? Even with the nifty sorting and facial recognition at my disposal? Great. Now there’s one more thing to sort and conquer along with the tote bags and boxes.
The last three years, I made photo calendars as Christmas gifts. Every single recipient loved them. Some started noting on Instagram which photo they wanted to see in the next calendar. I’ve considered mailing people and asking which category of calendar they’d like: landscape, seascape, downtown Frederick, flowers. But then I tuck the idea away in a trusty tote bag and put it in the closet.
The universe may have other ideas. In the last 24 hours one pal asked what I’d charge if she bought a calendar to give as her own gift. Another pal said Frederick post cards are nowhere to be found, my photos would fill that void.
More ideas. This time, I wrote them down and kept the paper out in the open to hold myself accountable.
Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the discomfort of putting myself forward, mock up some calendars and post cards. Approach some local shops. Figure out a place to sell things on line. Step back and see what else I’m supposed to do.
Most of the long drive home Tuesday was under skies of brilliant blue. All that changed about 90 miles from our front door when the clouds lowered and threatened. The unyielding sign we were back in the winter space, I suppose.
Once home we faced the up-and-down, in-and-out monotony of unloading the cars, stowing the vacation gear, sorting the clean and dirty laundry. All the things we performed with fresh enthusiasm three weeks ago were mundane, weary actions.
In my office space, I surveyed the room. Never neat enough, never cleared enough. (A reflection of self-talk? Maybe.) Mainly it reflects hoarded dreams and hopes and color. All the times I was sure I found the magic key to life falling into place.
Front and center were the bags. The pretty, utilitarian and spacious totes in which I pack up everything I may “need” when away from this space. This hidey-hole.
A quick inventory of the bags showed I never really unpack. Stowed inside are the items I was sure I needed in Ireland in April, in New York in June, for surgery days (how would I exactly see a notebook on eye surgery day?) in August and for the beach. Items that silently accused me of not living up to their potential.
A longer look revealed things I’ve never truly unpacked since moving here four years ago. Pictures waiting to find space on the wall lean against bookshelves. Candles waiting for a light line shelves and drawers. I see piles of the notebooks I knew — just knew — would magically compel me to sit down and fill them in artistic, poetic ways. Tote bags full of things I could forget once they were in a closet, out of sight.
That is the key: I tend to pack up memories of places in totes behind closed closet doors. My personal survival mode for moving over the years was to firmly shut the door on memories, looking ahead to the next steps instead of mourning the things left behind. Is that a reason for never truly unpacking? Because once I do, the chances of moving again are greater?
I don’t even look look back at photos of places because I refuse to give way to yearning to be back there.
I unpacked one tote and found three books I planned to read, and didn’t. Two yarn projects I planned to knit or crochet and didn’t. Six notebooks to match the mood of writing for a given day. In retrospect, I get having several lip colors in a bag for mood/dress, but six notebooks? Who exactly am I kidding?
That ready, willing fool waiting to be kidded on the universal level is, apparently, me.
Looking around the space I felt tired instead of embraced. How much do I have to shift the things already here to accommodate the things I brought back? (Fortunately, those things this time were small, specific and already well used.) How much still needs to be shifted from moves and trips and sudden, magpie-drawn-by-the-shiny need? Maybe I should have written NEED which is how the magpie brain works.
I wrote the other day that re-opening myself to posting here meant I need to show up. To tell the story in small bits of narrative. Clearing, cleaning this office space is now part of the whole narrative. Peeling back the thoughts and putting them in this space is important for a clear head. Parsing the tote bags, unpacking the boxes is important for an open heart.
For both, I need to take it in small consistent steps.
So I’ll start without the clearest of plans except to show up.