Advice

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled by Roni Delmonico

One day at a time… sometimes, even one breath at a time. How often have I heard those words, or spoken them to another? They apply to all kinds of situations, but in my own life, never more so than this past year. Both my father and my father in law have been diagnosed with illnesses that simply won’t get better with time. And most recently, my little dog visited the vet with a cough and left with a congestive heart failure diagnosis that likely means we have no more than 6 months to a year left with her. I am learning on a different scale these days… what it truly means to live one day at a time. And to let tomorrow take care of itself. The autumn days of our lives hold a different kind of beauty. A slower, softer, more deliberate kind of beauty. The kind that sits close to the heart, and wrings every last bit of joy and life out of what remains.

I know there are those of you in my life who are living one breath at a time, just as I am. And this one… this one breath, filled with life… is still beautiful in all its melancholy.

Love deeply. Tomorrow is never promised.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:33-34

Our Truest Work of Art by Roni Delmonico

A year ago, our deck had a table, 8 chairs, an umbrella, a loveseat, two chairs with ottomans, a grill, tons of flowers and a lot of clutter.  No one ever used it except for the chipmunks and squirrels who eventually stole all the stuffing out of the cushions.  This year, we finally had time to refinish the deck, and when I went to put all that stuff back, I ended up saying... you know what?  No.  Just no.  Let's put two rocking chairs out there, leave the grill and maybe a few other folding chaises and simplify our lives.  Now.. we use it every single day.

I've been reading a lot lately...  gleaning nuggets of wisdom from others instead of trying to impart some wisdom of my own.  It's a nice change.  Sometimes as creators, I think we spend so much time trying to say, produce, be something interesting, that I think we can lose sight of the fact that it's important to just be quiet and listen to something interesting ourselves from time to time.  That is one of the things I loved best about Google+ and really miss... all the opportunities to listen to people with very different viewpoints and ideas from my own.

I have the deepest respect for photographer, David duChemin.  He and Chris Orwig have probably been the biggest, most significant influences on my photographic vision in the last four years.  David wrote a post a few months ago that I thought was really brave and truly thought provoking.  I think it probably speaks into the heart of more creatives than any of us might admit.  Things look so shiny and pretty from the outside sometimes, don't they?  

I love what he said here: If you bought it and don’t need it, sell it. Clear it out and don’t fill the space with something new. Tame the appetite. Learn to say no to yourself – or rather, learn to say yes to a bigger thing: a debt-free, clutter-free life that affords you the freedom to do what you want to do... A simpler life, with less consumption, is more sustainable on many levels, including your finances.  I really feel that on a gut level and it's where I'm at right now. The desire to live a simpler life, to be debt free, to get rid of the clutter and all the "stuff" I don't need is at the top of my list of priorities.  

I never noticed with all that clutter on the deck, how beautiful the light is, dappled through the trees and playing with the shadows on the floor.  I can't tell you how many times I bruised my thigh on my way to the grill on the corner of that sharp table nobody ever used.  It takes some hard knocks to get through to my hard head sometimes... but all that floor space, my little white flip flops, some cheerful little flowers, a comfy wooden rocking chair and a few wise words from David duChemin are all it took this weekend.  Well, that and a few purple bruises, here and there.  Do guys dig scars like chicks do?;-)

To my core I believe that our lives can be lived boldly, intentionally, and as our truest work of art. I believe we are all capable of living extraordinary lives; that people like Gandhi, Picasso, or Mother Teresa, were ordinary people who chose to be fully themselves and play by their own rules. I believe that we are all creative and that if our lives are our first, and most intentional, act of creation, then the principles of creativity can teach us to be not only bolder creatives but bolder human beings. - David duChemin

I do too, David.  With every fiber of my being... I surely do.

Food For Thought by Roni Delmonico

I love Saturday mornings.  In our house, they are generally very relaxed and pajama clad, with none of the rush to get out the door that happens on other days.  I often use the time to catch up on blogs and read articles of interest that I bookmarked but didn't have time for during the week, while eating breakfast.  I've absorbed some truly wonderful soul food while feeding the body that way.  Something I read this morning, got an OH HELL YEAH! from me so I thought I'd share an excerpt here in case it resonates and so I can find it again easily when I need a good kick in the butt.;-)  

"...if you want to see what you are truly made of, or just how far you can go and what you are truly capable of  - forget the hack. Commit to the daily pressure that compels infinitesimal progress over time. Wake up before dawn and apply yourself in silent anonymity. Practice your craft in whatever shape or form that may be.. late into the evening with relentless rigor. Embrace the fear. Let go of perfection. Allow yourself to fail. Welcome the obstacles. Forget the results. Give yourself over to your passion with every fiber of who you are. And live out the rest of your days trying to do better.

I can't promise that you will succeed in the way our culture inappropriately defines the term. But I can absolutely guarantee that you will become deeply acquainted with who you truly are. You will touch and exude passion. And discover what it means to be truly alive.  In my opinion, this is the legit definition of success. And the essence of greatness.  Because the seat of genuine value, beauty and satisfaction lies in the experience of getting there."   - Rich Roll

You can read the entire article here.  

Memories and Kindness Remain by Roni Delmonico

As the mother of three teenage sons, it isn't very often that I get to do many girlie things. Usually we watch movies where things are getting blown to pieces and we play video games where cars are racing around tracks (or in my case.. smashing into walls).  We eat meat and talk loud and joke about "guy" things and I am always laughing and physically tired at the end of a day. I grew up with lots of brothers so it's a world I know and feel most comfortable with.  It's an even bigger blessing being the mother of boys, than it was being a sister to them... especially mine.  

But once in awhile, I get to do something really special with the women in my extended family and I can imagine what it's like to be the mother of a daughter. I think I would have liked that. I'm working on a photography project for my sister in law and going through the photographs I took that day, I found myself lingering over one of them.  The day was really so special.  That lovely woman up there is my mother in law. She's such a classy, strong, beautiful woman.  I've known her since 1986 and I've grown to deeply respect her over the last three decades of my life.  We had her daughter's bridal shower out in my backyard and I had spent weeks going to second hand stores and gathering up all the china teacups I could find, to make these special little favors for the women to take home with them. Everything was tinged with pink because that is her favorite color and I was in my girlie glory.:) We ended up with a perfect sunny day and my hydrangeas were in full bloom all around the tent.  I've been out there in the garden a lot lately and these beautiful memories wash over me in sounds, scents, and vivid mental pictures I've stored up in my heart.  Recalling them now is a way of being kind to myself, I suppose.  Many gifts went home with her that day, but the memories remain with me... forever.

Simple Things by Roni Delmonico

Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.
— Hippocrates

Today, I started my day soaking up the early morning sunshine and listening to a guided visualization that put me in a beautiful, positive frame of mind.  Now, I find a whole day has gone by and I'm sitting here with candles glowing and lightning sizzling across a dark night sky.  It's so lovely. 

There really is a lot we can do to change our lives for the better.  Simple things that promote health in body, mind and spirit.  I never realized just how profound an effect the things I put into my mouth and my mind can have on the health... on the healing of my body.  I am learning. 

Some helpful websites:  

Mind, Body, Green 

This Rawsome Vegan Life

Dr. Mark Hyman

Tonight, I made a salad full of so many wonderful things.  I really didn't think the kids would eat it but they ended up asking for seconds and then thirds.  It was such a nice dinner and we felt energized afterward, not lethargic and sleepy.  My son shared a beautiful piece of music with me and we listened to it together during dinner.  Simple things...  such a gift.

Big sigh.* 

Your Ultimate Power by Roni Delmonico

I'm kinda nuts about the gift of one flower.  I think it originated in the grubby little hands of my oldest son, who always seemed to delight in pulling them out one at a time, with the hairy roots dropping clods of dirt on my floor as he presented his gift with an innocent smile. Eventually, I taught him that those flowers are best left in the ground where they can continue to flourish, but his heart was in such a sweet place, and I chose my words carefully so I wouldn't crush that spirit of giving in him. To this day, he knows how to give the simplest gifts, with the most profound impact. When I am practicing visualization, imagining the best in myself and in those around me, I often end up surrounded by flowers and my children. Beauty and innocence. Kind intentions and simplicity.  I believe firmly in the power of simple words. Words can heal.  Words can tear down and destroy.  Words will repair or words will unhinge. Never, ever is this more true, then when you are alone, when no one else is in the room... and you are using them on yourself.  If I could give you one gift this weekend, if I could give myself one too... it would be this: words of love, words of healing, kindness, joy, faith, peace, patience, gentleness, self control, forgiveness, and hope... for yourself most of all.  And you know what?.. I can.

So I do.  

Choose them wisely.

With It, An Eternity... by Roni Delmonico

It’s essential to listen to the messages from your heart. These messages are your soul’s desire. They communicate to you what you are meant to be doing at any given time in your life. If you don’t follow these messages, you will inevitably be straying from your life’s path.
— Jon Gabriel

I've never been much for a traditional office.  I have one, but I don't spend a lot of time there, unless I need my main computer for photo and video editing.  I've finally completed my zen space at home and it is where I choose to be for the bulk of my day.  It is where I go to meditate, to create, to think, to design, to read and listen to music, to be still, to cultivate gratefulness, to dream, and to commune with nature.  The sun travels from east to west as the day meanders across the river, leaving trails of sparkling diamonds in new patterns for me every day.  The old oak trees stand like sentinels on all sides and their leaves whisper and sway in a dance I can feel inside of me.  I really really love these things.  I finally found the table I want for this space too.. a long wooden one that will expand to seat ten people for holidays, extended family dinners, photography related workshops, classes and projects and all the things I like to surround myself with, to help me work and play more effectively. Someone approached me again recently about offering a workshop for beginners or those struggling with pulling their cameras out of Automatic mode.  I feel like I now have a space that will accommodate that in the near future.  I'm behind on my goals by about six months to a year I think, but these months (and the coming ones) are an important healing time for me, and what's the rush after all?  Each day in itself brings with it, an eternity... 

But it isn't just the things I am surrounded by in here that bring me peace and this quiet feeling of tranquility.  It is the echo of people who have been in this space with me.  And it is the echo of those who have yet to be in this space with me.  People I know personally and many I don't.  People I love, people I have invited into my heart and life, whether for only a brief time, or with more permanence, on the computer, or beside me in the rocking chairs.  My friend gave that tiny little zen garden up top to me for my birthday. It has little pits of sand that everyone seems to enjoy diving into (we are such tactile creatures it is lovely being invited to touch, isn't it?).  Four bright candles glow in it whenever I am in here and I smile and breathe deeply every time I look at it. Trust, acceptance, love, kindness... it reminds me of the blessings of true friendship. 

There is a lot going on in my mind, body and heart these days.  For the longest time, I kept trying to drag myself away from sharing what is personally going on behind my eyes, and just remaining detached and professional, removed and at arm's length, only letting you see one layer.. the top shallow one.  That is never going to work for me because it goes directly against my nature.  I am a highly emotive empath... and it is that very aspect of my personality that makes it so important NOT to do that.  

So why the heck am I blogging about this on my photography website?  Because trying to live creatively when your mind and body are out of balance is like trying to drive a car that ran out of gas about six miles ago.  Don't ask me how I know.;-)  

Sometimes, I just make it way too complicated, when it's really very simple.

Wrestling Some Big Ass Crocs by Roni Delmonico

I am learning to meditate.  I have to be honest and say.. when I first began, it was every bit as not pretty as that scene in Eat Pray Love when all Julia Roberts can think about is how to decorate her meditation room.  I get that.  Mine was lavender and pink, with sheer white curtains blowing in the gardenia and plumeria scented breeze and there may have been a little squirrel in there trying to distract me.:)  SQUIRREL!

But listen to me.  I believe in this.  I believe that healing begins in the mind.  That mind is stronger than medicine.  That what my mind thinks about who and what I am, has a great deal to do with the way I behave and interact with the world around me, and even more importantly, with myself.  I'm changing.  From the inside out.  And I'm up to 3 minutes. SCORE!  Why do we work so hard to train the body, and then completely ignore the soul?

Decorating within... I am.  WHILE wrestling some big ass crocs.  Hmm, take THAT... negative energy!

Teachable Moments by Roni Delmonico

A few months ago, in my quest to eat healthier, I purchased a Vitamix blender.  It was outlandishly expensive but I justified the purchase because I actually use my blender often and this one can pulverize just about anything you throw into it and turn it into a healthy smoothie. This morning, I found a recipe for a mango dressing I wanted to try, but it only called for a small number of ingredients.  I thought, no problem, I'll just take the lid off and tamp it gently until it's all smooth.  Simple.. no problem, right? Yeah.. you know where this is going. But, let me just preface the next paragraph by saying that the thing sounds like someone is trying to land a jet plane in my kitchen when it's turned on full blast. And the tiny amount of ingredients I dropped in there didn't quite make it up to the blade line.  Mmmhmmm.

To my credit, I did have the lid on when I started it up.  But when it wasn't going well.. I thought I could carefully take the lid off and use that nifty tamping arm that came with the blender, to mush it around a little gently and coax the blades to pick it up and run with it from there.  It really only took a nanosecond to realize that was a bad idea.  I quickly shut it off, but not before I launched mango, balsamic vinegar, and a few other choice and colorful ingredients all over everything in its vicinity - my kitchen ceiling, walls, cabinets, all down the front of my shirt, on my face, and might as well make a hair conditioner out of it while we're at it.  To my husband's credit, when he walked out of the shower and found me standing there, wielding a shattered tamping arm, covered in my healthy breakfast ingredients, mango dripping down the side of my face.. he did not laugh.  He just blinked and said.. "I think we can buy a new tamping arm for that."  Ok, then he might have laughed.

I've always been the kind of mom that looks for teachable moments with my kids.  So what was the teachable moment for me here?  Well.. it was readily apparent to me how quickly you can make a dumb decision if you don't take the time to think it through carefully. That boundaries are there for a reason, usually because if you cross them, you're gonna end up getting hurt or at the very least, it's gonna get messy. (Keep the lid on!)  That sometimes laughter is a better choice than anger when you find yourself face to face with someone who made a dumb decision.:)  And that mango smells good in my hair but balsamic vinegar.. meh, not so much.

Life is an amazing journey made up of many tiny teachable moments.  I spend so much of it not paying attention sometimes in the rush to do what, exactly?  I look forward to warmer weather, where I can sit down by the river again in the sunshine but, I think this year, I'll do that more often without my camera or my cell phone.. just thinking. Listening.  Remembering.  So I don't miss a thing. 

Out Of The Dirt And Into The Sunlight by Roni Delmonico

There are some people in this world who are not only willing, but brave enough to say what needs to be said firmly and with perfect honesty that is also kind. They are very rare. I treasure those people. They are more concerned with helping me grow, even though it may not feel like it at the time, than they are in my personal comfort level (or theirs, for that matter) and they are worth their weight in gold.  I do not underestimate the value in this. 

I had such an encounter recently with Bryan Hutchinson of Positive Writer and I really want to thank him.  I asked him for a critique of my blog and he was generous and sensitive with his time and advice. When I was finished thrashing around about it, and I was finally quiet in spirit ... I actually felt the light dawning.  I hope he won't mind me quoting him again because it's so worth sharing.  Here is a portion of his critique:

"It’s important to maintain a theme for your blog... and provide valuable information / stories within that topic.  From time to time you can step out, but you want to maintain what your blog is about. Make sure it is clearly defined....within your particular niche...  make sure you are deeply passionate about the topic. For most people it’s usually something they’ve been involved in for a long time and have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. If you want your blog to be your random musings, that’s okay too, but you won’t attract an audience past friends and family."

I am so grateful for my friends and family.  Without them, it would be impossible to do what I do with as much freedom and emotional support as I am able to do it.  They are my biggest and best support system and they are the ones who never give up on me, even when I am tempted to give up on myself.  But there is some wonderful wisdom in his words and, if it is your desire to grow your blog, then it is a message well worth heeding. It is so important to me to be an artist (and truly.. a person) who is growing and not one who is stagnant.  This turned out to be another one of those lessons that hurt when I was in the midst of it, but pushed me forward and upward and sent me sailing right out of the mud and back into the sunlight. Numbers have never been particularly important to me, but connection is. This blog is where I sing my heartsong. And that song is not only what drives me creatively... it is what nourishes me personally and fills up my days with poetry, music and light.

I am many things... sometimes contradictory things.  But for the purposes of this blog and this website, I am a photographer who is especially fluent in the poetic and lyrical language of flowers. How cool is that?  This website is my garden!  It took me forever to figure that out, strange as that may seem given my body of work. Sometimes, the simplest answers are right under my nose but I am so busy looking beyond that and chasing who I think I am supposed to be, instead of resting in who I am.... that I miss it.  

I hope if Bryan Hutchinson ever needs a flower photograph... he'll know just who to call. 

Best Job In The Universe by Roni Delmonico

I remember laying on a chaise lounge in the sand on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay and thinking, man... that dude's got the best job in the universe.  We've had an especially difficult winter in Central and Upstate New York and I've been dreaming about warmer climates and the lazy days of summer quite a bit.  Instead, I took advantage of the warmth indoors this past week, to get things updated and refreshed around here.  If you're interested in reading further, you'll find an archive of all my past blog posts in the sidebar.

I think it's such a privilege to be able to work at something I love.  I ran across a terrific blog post today with a wonderful message.  You can read it here: The Size of Your Canvas. Sometimes weird strategies and constraints are what make for better productivity and creativity. And then, it's time for a mental vacation.:)

I want somebody to be the feelings all over my face...
— Scotty Emerick

Live Into The Answer by Roni Delmonico

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

I could give you no advice but this: to go into yourself and to explore the depths where your life wells forth."

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Fight Your Way Through by Roni Delmonico

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. 

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through. - Ira Glass