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My Lens

Filtering by Category: Writers

First Light

Roni Delmonico

It was early and the light was just beginning to dance on the water but the birds had already started their cheerful wake up call and I got up to stoke the fire. A flock of geese flew overhead, honking and carrying on as if it was high noon. The mist was rising in silver columns from the surface of the lake and the air was rich with the scent of pines. I could hear the lone call of a loon somewhere in the distance and I climbed back into the sleeping bag, reaching for her. She was already awake.  There was another couple in the tent next to us and their muffled laughter made us both grin, the memory of last night still fresh on our minds. I smelled the bacon frying and could practically taste the hot coffee, fingers of scent drifting toward me… tempting. I was hungry, but not enough to let go of this moment just yet.  Two years was a long time… too long.  Breakfast could wait another two minutes. She smiled at me without a word… relaxed and content to speak her heart right now, only through her eyes. She always knew. This was my idea of luxury. I'd been coming here since I was a boy and this campground felt as much a home to me as the place I'd grown up.  There couldn't have been a better place to start over with her.

I flopped onto my back and let my mind wander.  Isabel liked being alone. It never made her feel lonely or afraid, like it did, some women. She told me a story once  about how when she was a girl, her parents had given her a small rock tumbler for Christmas and she was fascinated by how simply rolling the jagged rocks around and letting them crash against each other, could wear all the rough edges away and create something cool and clean and entirely different. She would keep the smooth stones in her pocket and run her fingers over their silky surface and it felt like a wonderful secret. She told me that being a loner and being with other people was a lot like that to her. When she was with others, she would collide against them and their ideas and perspectives and she felt it changed her in so many wonderful ways. But when she was alone and the tossing had stopped, she could wander peacefully in the stream bed of her own ideas, turning each one over and over in her mind, like a beautiful smooth stone, polished to a glassy sheen by time and tumbling. For Isabel, it was the best kind of magic.

I had always understood that on a deep level. Hell, I felt the same way. How two lifelong loners had somehow formed such a strong bond of connection was beyond me but I loved it. I would sit up on the porch, in one of the two rocking chairs she had picked up for the cottage and watch her wander, wondering at where she had gone off to, in that mind of hers. She enjoyed being by herself as much as she enjoyed being with the people she loved. When I could not find her in the house, I would often find her down on the sand, smiling to herself as she collected rocks and seashells by the dozen. Our home was littered with her treasures. She was a tidy person, but she liked to surround herself with anything and everything that reminded her of the ocean and I would often find bits and pieces scattered in the most unlikely places. The walls were also covered with scenes of our lives together; seaside, mountains and woods, painted in both soft pastels and earthy hues that always meshed together in harmony somehow. That was my girl. She worked so hard to take dark and light, shadow and detail, void and form…and merge them all together into a complimentary symphony of color and light. I found it enchanting. It was as much a part of her nature as simply breathing and it was so different from my own that I often found myself standing at a comfortable distance, watching in wonder. 

I recalled vividly when I had first started calling her Sunshine. She was a midnight owl and I was a morning person. She hated getting up early and would moan and groan and pull the covers over her head when I would tease and push and try to get her out of bed for an early morning run with me. I had finally given up in exasperation and had taken instead, to heading into town to my favorite diner for coffee after my run, while waiting for her to wake up. That first time I had gone, I had let the screen door slam behind me and thinking I was irritated with her, she had sprung out of bed and ran out onto the porch in her pajamas, but she was too late. I never even saw her. When I had come home with her favorite salt encrusted bagels in a brown paper bag, I'd found her sitting on a chair out back in the rain, legs drawn up under her chin, hair sticking up in all directions and tears streaming down her face. I got down on my knees in front of her and wrapped her up in my arms, distressed that something was bothering her enough to make her cry and at a total loss for what could have happened in the mere hour I’d been gone. When she told me what was wrong, I burst out laughing, assuring her that I was much tougher than she might think, and if she was trying to make me angry, she would have to work a lot harder than that. The smile she gave me when she realized I wasn't mad, made it seem as if someone had rolled the clouds back instantly and spattered my heart with sunshine instead of rain. Isabel beamed at me. "That's better, Sunshine," I had responded. 

“Why are you smiling?” she asked, her fingertips grazing the stubble on my cheek, tenderly, bringing me back to the present.  I knew she didn’t really need me to answer that.

Rolling over on my side, I propped myself up on my elbow facing her and took her hand in my own, bringing it to my lips.  It was cold and I warmed it gently between my own.  Moving a little closer, I folded her into me.  She lay down on my chest, as if I had just seen her yesterday, and I closed my eyes, understanding intimately in that moment, that home was a person… not a place.

I Think I Can

Roni Delmonico

Author's note: I've never given up on these two characters in my head. John and Isabel have continued to live and breathe for me in beautiful new ways daily, for many years.  I'm about a hundred pages in now and it is my desire that their story will be complete by October of 2014. I'm taking some time this summer to really work on making that happen. Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't... you're right."  Amen, brutha! Here is a short excerpt from All Who Wander, written from John's perspective. I do hope you enjoy it.   - Roni Delmonico

October 1985

Isabel had been slamming around for the better part of an hour and I was losing patience. She has always had a passionate streak and although it takes a lot to make her angry, when she was, I definitely knew it. I anticipated that she would be upset by the news, but I hadn't expected a reaction quite this volatile. I’ve underestimated her feelings about my absence more often than I care to admit. I’m not used to emotional connections that make me this important in the life of another human being. It isn’t unwelcome but it is entirely foreign. It is an unfortunate aspect of my job that I can be called away at a moment's notice and it cannot be avoided. She is well aware of this, but doesn't always accept it gracefully. My feelings about that and for her are what prompted my early retirement and the purchase of our small cottage out in the middle of nowhere. She felt this sleepy little town would be the ideal place for us to disappear into anonymity after my career as a Navy SEAL. I've never had the heart to tell her.. there is no such perfect place. Not in my world, and therefore.. not in hers.  We would both learn this the hard way... some time later.
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“Damn it all, John. You promised! You said we were done with this!”

Isabel marched into the bedroom and slammed the door with a rather well practiced hand. I stood on the other side of it with my forehead against the wood, taking deep breaths and forcing my own anger into submission.  For the life of me, I didn't understand why she was making such a big deal out of it. At most, I would only be gone for a week. I can still hear her words, clear as a bell.  She was a master at commanding them.

“It's the principle of it, John… I took you at your word! I never know exactly where you are or when you're coming back or IF you’ll even come back at all!  It isn’t safe! You don’t know what that’s like for me!” she shouted from the other side of the door. You. said. we. were. done. I knew she was mad. She was gritting her teeth and spitting out her words in clipped syllables. Never a good sign. Slamming doors was an act of defiance she wielded skillfully, knowing how much I hated it.

My growing frustration wasn't going to help matters and I was determined to keep a tight reign on my own emotions. I could hear her crying and entertained the idea briefly of pulling the door off its hinges, dismissing the thought as quickly as it had come. She is strong and she will fight her way through this, I thought in exasperation. We’ve been separated before and she came to terms with it eventually. 

“I hate doing it to you even one more time, but this will be the last, I swear, Bella!” I tried again. “Please come out of there.”  She sat leaning heavily against the other side of the door scowling in silence, stubbornly refusing to respond.

I waited without a word, and when she didn't come out, I ran a hand through my hair, grabbed the keys to the Harley and peeled out of the driveway in a desperate attempt to avoid saying something I would later regret. I made a quick stop at the local gas station to make a telephone call.  It wasn’t until much later, that she would learn I had called her brother.

There was only one bar within a 50 mile radius and I headed in that direction without hesitation. I was driving too fast but the speed of the bike somehow slowed my pulse and I exploded into the parking lot, gravel spraying. I found Drew's pickup truck already parked in the spot beneath the blinking tavern sign next to The Duck Inn. In spite of myself, I had to laugh. Isabel hated the quirky name and the sign was an even worse offense.  Her brother was hell on wheels, but we had known each other since high school and I was used to it. He was loyal to a fault and he was one of my best friends. He wasn't always an easy man to deal with but we understood each other in spite of our differences and, if there was one thing I was certain of, it was this: Drew loved Isabel and would be there to support her, and I really needed to talk to him about this.

I stood at the counter and ordered a beer, then pulled up a stool next to him. We sat in awkward silence, staring at the hockey game on the large screen tv at the back of the room for several minutes without really paying attention.

“You're leaving again, aren't you?” Drew said without looking at me. “Where to this time?”  The muscles in his jaw tensed and he clenched his fist tighter around the bottle right before giving in to the urge to slam it down on the counter where I was sitting. “You know, I will never understand why she bothers to put up with this!” he hissed.

The bartender threw his towel over his shoulder and moved to stand in front of us, with a warning look. I held up my hand and fixed my eyes on him briefly. My years of training had taught me well and I managed to keep from striking back, doing my best to diffuse the situation before it escalated out of control. I’d had plenty of experience keeping my cool in the midst of a crisis, and though I was growing rather tired of it… it had always served me well in dealing with my brother in law.

“Listen to me. I am going whether you like it or not and she does not need this from you so pull it together.” I spat through gritted teeth, recognizing in that instant, where Isabel got it from. I spent twenty minutes explaining how four men representing the Palestine Libertion Front had hijacked the Achille Lauro and taken control of the ocean liner off the coast of Egypt. The terrorists had killed a disabled passenger and thrown his body overboard. They were now attempting to negotiate. Tensions were mounting and I had been called back in, much to Isabel's dismay. But I was leaving in less than two days and everyone had better just get a handle on it.

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I was accustomed to the humming of jet engines but on this particular morning it was really grating on my nerves. I had left my headphones behind in my haste to get to the airport on time and it was a long trip to Italy. I got the flight attendant's attention on the way to my seat and ordered my coffee black, asking her with a grin to dump some whiskey in for good measure. She was not amused.  Making my way down the aisle, I glanced at the numbers and tossed my carry on bag into the overhead compartment before landing with an irritated flop in my seat. It never ceased to amaze me how easily I slid back into the old routine. I was born to this… it was in my blood. The woman in the seat next to me was already snoring and I rolled my eyes in exasperation. There was an empty row behind me and I grabbed my bag and dared anyone to challenge the move. The flight attendant raised an eyebrow but when she saw the expression on my face, she didn’t argue with me. I have always had that effect on people. Most of the time I appreciate it but there are times when it only magnifies how solitary my life has become. I’m not approachable and that has never really bothered me. I don’t need anyone but her anyway. Leaning back in the seat, I closed my eyes, thinking of her. She had smiled at me bravely as I boarded the plane; a tired, weak attempt at supporting me. I felt like a heel and I meant it this time. I would not do this to her again. Drew was really angry with me, but I understood that because the guy actually cared about Isabel. He would get over it, just as his sister had. I had finished my beer and my explanation in under an hour, admonished Drew to look out for her while I was gone, and then I went home,  praying she was in a better mood. There was nothing else I could do.  It tore me apart to see the shadows beneath Isabel's eyes when I left her. She had come around eventually, as I knew she would. I had slipped back into the house quietly and picked up the guitar, taking it out to the porch, singing our song. The rain had been falling for hours by then… it just seemed appropriate somehow. She had finally come out of the bedroom, her eyes swollen and red and she sat next to me in her rocking chair, looking silently up at the stars for some time. I kept playing until her soft voice mingled with mine and my heart broke all over again at the sound. Close to midnight, I took her hand and led her inside. It had been a long night and all I wanted on this wretched morning, was to be left alone to think about it. 

The room smelled of peppermint tea and roses.. remnants of her attempts at self comfort after I’d stormed out earlier in the evening.  I usually brought it to her at night before bed, and she loved the routine of it all, but she hadn’t known if I’d be back that night so she had eventually made it on her own.  There were candles glowing on her nightstand and on the windowsill along my side of the bed. I was glad for it when I pulled her into my arms and felt her resolve melt away.  Tipping her face up to meet mine, I knew that if I searched my whole life, I would never find another pair of eyes that answered the questions within my own, so completely.  Bending softly to her, I felt the moment she yielded to me and it was at the same instant in which I did.  She described how it felt to me once, early in our relationship and then enjoyed how I squirmed in embarrassment, not yet understanding her need to put words to every experience, even those for which I felt there were none that even began to approach the way that I felt.  I turned in my seat, looking out the window at the luggage being loaded into the belly of the plane, sinking further into the memory of last night.  I savored kissing her… I could feel her wanting begin at her eyes and work its way throughout her body as the night wore on.  She preferred to linger and I was inclined to let her, more than ever last night.  Her small hands ran gently up and down my back as I tugged my shirt over my head slowly, breaking her gaze only briefly before dropping it on the floor.  She did the same, pressing herself gently to me, her skin like a flower, petals soft as silk.  I picked her up and laid her down on the bed in one fluid movement, and smoothing the hair back from her forehead, I whispered past the lump in my throat, “I’m sorry, Bella.  I know this is hard for you.”  She lifted her arms up over her head in surrender, her eyes, never leaving mine and I grasped them both in one hand, as she opened herself to me completely.  I could feel her heart fluttering against mine, and wished for all the world, that I could unzip myself, pull her in to the depths of me, zip it back up and keep her safe there forever.  Knowing that wasn’t possible, I braced myself above her, leaning as close to her mouth as I could get without touching her lips and exhaled softly, as she inhaled.  “One breath at a time, Bella, ” I spoke to her softly, wiping away her tears with the back of my hand.  We eventually fell asleep, still entwined, and I woke up a few hours later to the sound of waves and the pink light of dawn.  I watched her sleep, willing time to stop.  “Wake up, Pretty Eyes… we have to go now.  It’s time.”  She shrugged into the same clothes she had on yesterday and stood in the doorway, achingly disheveled, wearing her heart on her sleeve as she always did, the tiny hairs on her arm awash in the morning light streaming in through the window. I held her look for some time, memorizing her features and branding them on my heart.  She laid her hand over the wolf tattoo on my chest and I covered it with mine, squeezing gently in assurance.  

I cannot explain to her this need to go when I am called upon, because I don’t always understand it myself. I can no more turn my back on it than I can stop breathing at will. This is my life, and accepting me, is accepting what I am called to do, no matter how painful it is for her. I had always been clear about that, and as I raced toward the Naval Air Station in Sicily, I hoped with everything in me that she would eventually come to make peace with it. Leaning back in my seat, I tried to focus on what was ahead, but all I could see was the woman I’d left behind, as she struggled to come to grips with all I had said to her. I played it over and over again in my mind, wondering if I could somehow have done it all differently. Fingering the small compass she had given me as she left the airport, I closed my eyes again in a useless attempt to erase the tears she tried to hide. "It's raining you," she sang into my tired thoughts. I found it rather ironic to hear the sound of it softly splatting against the window when we lifted off, into a murky gray sky, bound for Italy... as if in concert with my young wife.

Rock Solid Clarity

Roni Delmonico

Time is a lot of the things people say that God is. There’s always preexisting, and having no end. There’s the notion of being all powerful-because nothing can stand against time, can it? Not mountains, not armies. And time is, of course, all-healing. Give anything enough time, and everything is taken care of: all pain encompassed, all hardship erased, all loss subsumed. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Remember, man, that thou art dust; and unto dust thou shalt return. And if time is anything akin to God, I suppose that memory must be the devil.
— Diana Gabaldon, A Breath of Snow and Ashes

It isn't very often that I read an entire series of books, especially when it is difficult to classify their genre and each of the seven books in that series is more than 700 pages long.  But Diana Gabaldon says in the early days, when Outlander was just hitting the shelves twenty years ago and she was out at book signings if someone would ask her what sort of books she writes, she would tell them to pick up her novel, open it to any spot they chose and read three pages.  If they could put it down after that, she'd pay them a dollar.  She never lost a dime on that bet.:)  I love her gutsy confidence. She wrote Outlander, never intending it to see the light of day, but rather to practice and then decide later if writing fiction was something she really wanted to do. Twenty years later, she is still writing the series and that story she thought would only be a practice run has an enormous following. Historically accurate, romantic, adventurous, time travel, love, healing... I was captivated by every one of them. Even better, Starz picked up the rights to the first season of the series, which will chronicle Book One - Outlander, in about sixteen episodes.  I admire the craft of writing great fiction so much but her ability to keep her timelines straight across multi-levels while maintaining historical accuracy just blows my mind. It is not a series for the faint of heart. She explores some downright raw material that might offend some.

What a gift and a privilege it is to wake up every morning and put words to page.  I intend to remember that with rock solid clarity.

But just then, for that fraction of time, it seems as though all things are possible. You can look across the limitations of your own life, and see that they are really nothing. In that moment when time stops, it is as though you know you could undertake any venture, complete it and come back to yourself, to find the world unchanged, and everything just as you left it a moment before. And it’s as though knowing that everything is possible, suddenly nothing is necessary...
For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.
— Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

Out Of The Dirt And Into The Sunlight

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. 

Through Footless Halls Of Air

Roni Delmonico

Too often I am tempted to marry a favorite poem, passage or quote to my images without ever really knowing anything about its origin or the heart from where it came.  Lately, I've made it a point to learn a little about the life of the person behind the writing.  To dig into the story of their life... what drove them, what they found inspiring, what moved them. Maybe because I would want someone to do the same for me... should they find themselves touched by something I've written.

John Gillespie Magee Jr. was the oldest of four boys, born in the 1920's to missionaries in China. He developed his love for poetry while attending school in Britain and was highly influenced by the war poet, Rupert Brooke, for whom he later wrote a sonnet in tribute. Magee fell in love with the daughter of the headmaster at his school and she was the inspiration for much of his work. Though his love was unrequited, they remained friends for the rest of his life.  He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, trained on, and later flew.. the Spitfire.  It was during this time, that he wrote a sonnet I have always loved. He died tragically, at the young age of 19 in a mid air collision in which he struggled to open the canopy, and subsequently his parachute, before hitting the ground. He is most famous for this poem titled "High Flight," for which the first and last lines are inscribed on his gravestone at Holy Cross Cemetery in England.

Magee wrote "High Flight" on the back of a letter he sent to his parents.  Today, that original manuscript can be found in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. 

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things
you have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
high in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
my eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
where never lark, or even eagle flew
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
- John Gillespie Magee Jr.

"You're an interesting species. An interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you're not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other...."

Say It Hot

Roni Delmonico

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.