Once in awhile, I take a photograph that makes me feel as if I have accidentally intruded on someone's private thoughts. But perhaps this time... it is he, who found himself in the midst of mine. It is and will forever be, my favorite movie of all time. James Garner passed away this week, and this is just my way of paying tribute to what I consider to be one of his finest roles. Godspeed, dear man.
It's beautiful what you did.
There is a scene at the end of the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty where Walter asks Sean who is sitting on top of a mountain waiting for a chance to get just one shot of a beautiful snow leopard in the wild... when he's gonna take the shot. He responds...
I have thought of that one scene maybe more than any other scene from a movie in a really long time. I knew I had a shot of a snow leopard in my library and I went looking for it today, lingering over it for some time. How often do I just accept things, without conviction of the heart? How many other things in my life am I doing or allowing simply because they are easy, convenient, or entertaining... accepting when I should be questioning?
For me, these days... those are some pretty important questions and as I stared at this photograph, I think I realized it's time for me to figure out how I alone.. would answer them.
Writers don't often talk about how much we like when you interact on our posts... fearing it will seem too needy and vulnerable, I suppose. But isn't that the point of sharing? To reach out to the universe and say... Here I am, I have something to say. Please hear me and respond? Otherwise, I could be simply writing in my journal, closing it up, putting it in my nightstand and calling it a day. I value your comments and interaction so much. Those of you who take the time, are a treasure to me as a public writer. Some of you have taken to sending private messages rather than commenting publicly and that's ok too. You know how deeply I understand that, after the events of the past year and a half of my life. (For those of you new to my website, for a large part of 2013, we dealt with the aftermath of an online hacker who disrupted our personal and financial lives and my emotional life for the better part of a year). I can't tell you how many times I have sat right here at my computer where I do the bulk of my work, smiling at your humor, leaning into your tenderness, listening to your incredibly intelligent thoughts, accepting your best advice, looking at your beautiful photographs, reading your encouraging notes, and sometimes...depending on your massively strong shoulders. There are some of you who have journeyed with me more than five years now. I have laughed, cried and bled with you and that emotional support is beyond priceless to me.
Opening up my heart and mind, along with my art out into the cyber world opens the door to some measure of risk and criticism too. But it is a risk I am still willing to take, albeit these days on a much smaller and quieter scale that works best for me. (I read this week somewhere that it is best to put your own oxygen mask on first before attempting to help others with theirs. Truth!) I believe we change each other just by bumping up against each other and you can't really do that unless you put yourself out there, right? I am constantly amazed by the shades of beauty I see in all of you.. whether you are communicating with me publicly or choosing to reach out through more private channels. So often I sit here at this computer and listen to your hearts that spill out through your pictures and words and think wow.. I never really thought of it that way... It doesn't really matter if you're an artist who has 25,000 followers or one who has 50. You share bits and pieces of your own lives with me that make me smile, shed tears, and feel connected, whether you have a big online presence or a small one. That is such a beautiful, beautiful thing for which I will never find adequate words of appreciation. I benefit so much from recognizing the value in our different perspectives.
Most of you know by now that I am a photographer and writer who loves all things artistic. Those pursuits require long hours of shooting with repetitive motion using heavy camera equipment and then even longer hours editing at the computer. Toward the end of 2012, I began to struggle with some deeper health issues after decades of crappy eating habits (arthritis and the pre stages of type 2 diabetes). All of that crashed down on me in early 2013, manifesting as chronic pain, weight gain, and pretty serious depression I had trouble admitting even to myself. Cap that off with surgery and a long hard winter and my body, mind and spirit were at an all time low, yet I was still trying to operate my online life as if everything was fine and it was business as usual. After a particularly painful falling out with a friend and potential business partner, I withdrew from nearly everything and everyone that had previously given me joy and closed in on myself for quite awhile. I didn't recognize it at the time, but it was probably my "rock bottom." At some point I realized that I had two choices... drown... or swim like hell for all I was worth. It didn't happen overnight, by any means, but I started small.. treading water until I finally made up my mind to swim.
Though we are all so different from each other ... deliciously different, I think we can find comfort and commonality simply by walking with each other for awhile and listening. We can't always do that in person but we can surely do that via whatever channels work best for us. This little corner, is mine for now... and I am so grateful for those of you who regularly tune in and interact with me. That has come to mean a whole lot to me. I've felt the sting of both judgement and criticism in the past, but I learned that so often, the things that bother me most in others... are the areas where I most need work myself.
So often I think we feel change isn't real change unless it is massive and moves mountains. But I loved this quote so much and it has been my mantra for many months now. "Commit to the daily pressure that compels infinitesimal progress over time." When you're 20, you feel invincible. When you're approaching 50 and beyond, you begin to recognize that your physical, mental and spiritual health require long term commitment and is something to be protected and nurtured, if you want to continue to live an active, loving, purpose driven, abundantly joy filled life. My health is bound pretty tightly to my creativity and I am making infinitesimal progress over time. Thank you, for spending some of your valuable time here with me.
It has definitely been a year of re-examination and of challenging everything I've ever been taught in school, in church and in books and in dismissing what insults my soul. And it continues to be my prayer that beyond my words, the silent lines are the ones that speak the loudest.
Until I visited Wai‘anapanapa Beach, I never considered that heaven might be painted black.:)
It's all in the details. Truly. We are all tasked...to make them worthy.
I think maybe I'll dispense with the usual Independence Day post this morning. While I do enjoy fireworks, barbecues and the patriotic waving of our American flag, there will be plenty of time for that later this afternoon. Right now, I prefer to reflect on something sweet and simple.
Every July these little beauties start popping out all over the place, blooming prolifically beside spiky hot pink thistle flowers and elegant Queen Anne's Lace by the side of the road. I never have to go far to find them. Their bright blue colors wink cheerfully at me if I'm walking and blur into a multicolored watercolor painting with the wildflowers who keep their company if I'm driving on by. I have found them alongside our busiest highways, and I've found them nestled quietly amid the wild grasses up at the lake. I stopped yesterday to pick a stem... loathe to do it, as experience has taught me that the clock starts ticking the minute I make that choice. It will not last the hour.. so time is of the essence. More will grow in its place, but it seems somehow sad, that plucking it from its home shortens its lifespan so dramatically. Still, I do not relish getting run over by a car on the highway, so in the battle between head and heart, the head wins this time.
I photograph them carefully from several angles, because for me... a flower image is only worth sharing if you can somehow capture a bit of its soul. I was thinking as I spent time with this one yesterday, that she had a lot to say. From one angle she looked as if she was dancing. From another, weeping. I found her reaching skyward, as though being drenched in the sun drew from her mouth, the loveliest song... and bringing her inside, somehow froze that moment forever. Through it all, she maintained her softness... right until the very end, when she closed up each petal and bid me goodbye.
Hans Christian Andersen said, "Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower." On this Independence Day, I am so thankful to be basking in all three.
This morning I wandered down to the water's edge all by myself before everyone woke up. It was about 5:30 am and it was so quiet, I could hear the whir of the hummingbird's wings as she came to drink from her favorite red flowers. I brought a blanket with me and I snuggled into the bench, watching the mist curl over the water in tiny tornadoes, swirling and dipping, dancing with the sun as she rose up over the trees with a cheerful wave. Another beautiful Saturday morning... in a long stretch of them. Mother Nature sure seems to be asking forgiveness for her winter tantrums.:) I am happy to grant it.
How do I begin to express gratitude for this place? To live my life in a way that says thank you thoroughly enough? Are these images doing that feeling justice? Do my words? All things I ponder in these early hours of the morning. I have come to treasure this time for so many reasons. When people are still sleeping, animals come out of hiding, they run and sing freely with abandon and they act in ways that are so much more natural than I see when they are motivated by getting out of our way. I can hear God's voice and I can hear my own. And occasionally, something truly magical happens.
Way off in the distance I saw something making its way across the river from bank to bank, hidden in the mist. It was far enough away that I couldn't make out what it was, but it was moving faster than any species of duck I usually see crossing the water there so I lifted the binoculars to my eyes, mildly curious. I nearly squealed when I saw that it was a doe, silently gliding through the water, legs pumping like one of Santa's reindeer, swimming through the mist effortlessly as if she did this every day. I held my breath until she made it to the other side, astonished at her bravery.
Amelia Earhart once said,
“Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace,
The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things;
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear the sound of wings.”
Sometimes peace is found in the most unlikely of places too.
Four years ago, I started a journey having no real idea where it would take me. All I knew, was that my camera suddenly gave voice to the creative, artistic, deeply emotive side of me that had lain dormant since I was a small child. It allowed me to communicate feelings I hadn't known how to speak before. It sent me to my knees, eye level with my subject so that I might gain a clearer perspective, and then it laid me flat on my belly for two reasons: First, to slow me down to stillness by getting me off my feet, and second, to keep me from stepping on or over things I might have otherwise missed. It taught me to look up, instead of always looking down, to look behind me as well as forward. It helped me to recognize and truly value the smallest part of a whole, as the priceless and precious thing that it is. It reminded me to be humble, to cry as well as I laugh, to strive for personal excellence, and to be grateful, most especially for the little, everyday, ordinary moments in life. And it has, without a doubt, built a bridge of connection between myself and others I might not ever have had the pleasure of meeting.
I love this quote:
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both. - Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand
I take a lot of pride in the projects I select, from beginning to end. Whether I am working on a portfolio, a wedding album, a blog post, a novel, a pet portrait, a printing job, a digital painting or an entire art show... it all feels like play to me. That is the one requirement I have for myself as an artist. I am careful in the selection of work I take on, because if it feels like all work and no play, it strips out the joy and I'm just not interested in doing that.
This is Laker and he belonged to my pet sitter, Lissa Hirsh. She brought me a panoramic photograph she loves of him that is now beginning to fade and curl with the passing of time and asked if I could do something with it. Laker is gone now, which makes this image and its preservation even more important and I wanted to honor that.
I've been told repeatedly that print is dead, particularly for photographers, and that I should move away from it because everything is now web-based. I don't believe that and here's why. I've watched you cry when I have handed you something you can touch. I've seen you light up over a box of greeting cards or a finished, framed piece hanging on your wall. And honestly... these images that originate with you are the ones that mean the most of all.
Because I am not a traditional portrait, event or wedding photographer, it can sometimes be confusing to people who are new to my work, to understand what kind of jobs I'm interested in taking on. I hope this gives you a clearer picture of the projects I like to do. In the end, I'll let you decide... if I am working or playing.;-)
May spills color on me playfully, singing.. "Summer is coming, summer is coming!" And all I can do is laugh out loud and bathe in it, letting it paint my very soul. - Roni Delmonico
I heard the best quote yesterday on NPR. It said...
Laughter is the sign that you are not defeated.
Last night we had the most beautiful thunderstorms all night long. I've always loved them but there was a furry little critter vibrating beside me, shaking in fear with every crack. I wish I could instill my love for them into her so it wouldn't feel scary to her. Instead, I just fold her in and keep her close and help her to ride it out. As I listen to my kids get ready for school this morning, I recognize that this is one of the beauties of being connected to family. It's a safe place always... to ride out any storm.
We didn't get a lot of sleep last night, but I still find myself smiling. She wakes up like sunshine every morning, no matter how bad the night has been. I could learn a thing or two from that.:) She has her own gallery... did you know? It's right.... here. Good morning, Sunshine!
We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. Every day, God gives us the sun, and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Every day, we try to pretend that we haven't perceived that moment, that it doesn't exist, that today is the same as yesterday and will be the same as tomorrow. But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover that magic moment. It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane, like putting our front-door key in the lock; it may lie hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same to us. But that moment exists - a moment when all the power of the stars becomes a part of us and enables us to perform miracles. - Paulo Coelho
"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
Dare to dance, leave shame at home....
I see a hula girl with her face and arms raised to heaven in a dance of praise. :)
If you know me personally, you know how much I love words. I love reading them. I love writing them. I love it when they are given as a gift from the heart. I love how they somehow string together to touch hearts in books, in poetry in lyrics and letters. I treasure a love note, like some women treasure diamonds and gold. It's fascinating to me how words come together to create something out of nothing, how they can be understood or completely misunderstood based on interpretation and how their meaning can change with inflection, punctuation, and sometimes... an author's intention. Words are a craft. One I hone every day, in some form or another. They've been elusive lately. But I feel them coming back... and I tremble.
When I was a little girl, living in Southern California, I used to walk several city blocks in our neighborhood to a park, that had a library right beside it. I smile when I think of it now. The library was actually across a very busy main road and you got there by traveling on a covered footbridge, over the road from the park, and back down again to the other side. It was all concrete steps and chain link fencing but in my little girl mind, I was crossing a moat to get to the sweeping library with brocade drapes and books from floor to ceiling in a castle surrounded by a moat, and a beautiful rose garden. (someone plucked that scene from Beauty and the Beast right out of my head!) I loved that place. It was my favorite escape and I would wander for hours choosing stories to read, often plopping right down on the floor in front of a bookshelf with one, to sample it. And I trembled.
Vincent Van Gogh once said of William Shakespeare,
How beautiful Shakespeare is, who else is as mysterious as he is; his language and method are like a brush trembling with excitement and ecstasy.
I think that is just about one of the nicest ways of describing a writer's work, as I have ever heard. And I tremble.:)
Be still when you have nothing to say; but when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot.
D. H. Lawrence said it first, but I've repeated it maybe once or twice.;-) He was controversial, no doubt, but listen to what his friend Catherine Carswell had to say when summing up his life after his passing (Copied directly from Wikipedia)
"In the face of formidable initial disadvantages and life-long delicacy, poverty that lasted for three quarters of his life and hostility that survives his death, he did nothing that he did not really want to do, and all that he most wanted to do he did. He went all over the world, he owned a ranch, he lived in the most beautiful corners of Europe, and met whom he wanted to meet and told them that they were wrong and he was right. He painted and made things, and sang, and rode. He wrote something like three dozen books, of which even the worst page dances with life that could be mistaken for no other man's, while the best are admitted, even by those who hate him, to be unsurpassed. Without vices, with most human virtues, the husband of one wife, scrupulously honest, this estimable citizen yet managed to keep free from the shackles of civilization and the cant of literary cliques. He would have laughed lightly and cursed venomously in passing at the solemn owls—each one secretly chained by the leg—who now conduct his inquest. To do his work and lead his life in spite of them took some doing, but he did it, and long after they are forgotten, sensitive and innocent people—if any are left—will turn Lawrence's pages and will know from them what sort of a rare man Lawrence was."
That last sentence is profoundly worth chewing on.
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