Sea Blue Lens


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Scene & Story, Chapter 3: November 2016

I will admit that November is not my favorite month. In November all those glorious autumn leaves fade and fall. The landscape’s palette turns from brilliant red, orange, and gold to drab gray and brown. Even the sky is gray. Rain soaks those fallen leaves and begins the process of turning them into mulch and humus to nourish future growth. Days grow shorter. The clock gets turned back and, where I live in southern Maine, sunset arrives about four o’clock. This November has felt especially dark. There’s no denying that winter is coming.

Last LeafLast Leaf

Even so, November can still surprise and delight. I chose this photo to represent November because for me it sums up the contradictions of the month. It was a dreary, overcast day. The overnight rain had stopped but was still dripping from every twig. Suddenly, into the reflection of gloomy gray sky and leafless branches, sailed a single yellow leaf, moving quickly with the current. One spot of bright gold, shiny as a new coin, a flash of light in the darkness. Swirling out of sight in a moment, but lingering in heart and mind, a spark of unexpected joy.

November, I might just love you after all.

Please visit my friend Sarah at Paisley Rain Boots for her November Scene and Story.


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A Lift and a Laugh

Our neighborhood supermarket is all decked out for Christmas. I popped in to pick up a few things after my fitness class this morning and I saw this:

img_1635Prettiest Poinsettia Ever

And then…this!

img_1636Ho, Ho, Ho!

I’ve never seen anything like it and was rather blown away. I wonder whose idea it was, who designed it, and who built it. A special team from the bottling company? A band of elves, perhaps? I’m picturing them standing on each other’s shoulders to reach the top, passing those cases up, up, up. I wish I could have been there to watch!

But I have a hunch that Santa still prefers milk with his cookies. That’s what he’ll find at our house, anyway.


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Soul Food

Like everyone else I know, I’ve been grieving the results of Tuesday’s election. This post will have nothing to say about that, because I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been expressed by others…many others. This post is about what I did yesterday afternoon to distract and soothe myself.

I picked up my camera and I went for a walk.

fallen leafFallen Leaf

I followed the Saco Riverwalk, which begins just a few blocks from my apartment. To get there, I had to pass the covered bridge to the little park next door, where I paused to take the photo above.

fernNext I found this delicate fern growing out of a crack in the wall of a railroad overpass.

pathWhen I got to the river walk, the path was so leaf-strewn that it was barely visible. It’s narrow and slopes steeply down to the river’s edge, so I kept my eyes on where I was placing my feet.

daisy-boulderI came across a few wildflowers still blooming. This large, round boulder is a puzzle — it looks completely out of place atop the angular granite riverbank. I wondered how it got here.

rose hipsRosa Multiflora is a terribly invasive plant, and there’s a lot of it in this area. But it is beautiful! It’s covered in tiny white flowers in the summer and masses of small red hips in the fall and winter. I’ve read that they are edible, but I’ve never tried it.

twigsMany trees have already shed their leaves. You’d think those ones at the very tips of the branches would have been the first to go, but they are hanging on tenaciously.

benchA favorite resting place. I love this view to the neighboring town across the river.

birchesThis clump of birches is one of my favorite places to take selfies. Yes, I did get my phone out of my pocket and snapped a few. Not very successfully, though – it’s a windy spot, and I couldn’t keep my hair out of my face!

bare birchesAnd here are the tops of those birches. This makes me think of spatter painting.

oak leavesThere’s not much red left, so I was especially pleased to spot these oak leaves.

dsc_0989The river widens into a little bay here and the path curves left to follow it around.

bittersweetWith apologies to my friends who have to pay florists exorbitant prices for a bit of bittersweet — this stuff is everywhere.

wall of goldAnd here the trail swings back to the right…

power easement…to follow this power line easement.

chickadeeI don’t know what those tall, auburn-colored plants alongside the trail are, but they were filled with the rustling and twittering of small birds. I saw many chickadees, busy doing whatever chickadees do in the fall, calling out their cheery little “chickadee-dee-dee.” (This image is greatly cropped, since I didn’t have my tele lens with me.)

leaf carpetAt the top of the hill, more trees and so many leaves! I sat down in the middle of these for a while, just inhaling their delicious spicy scent. The river walk has turned away from the river now, and is circling back toward town.

yellow leavesFrom here, there’s just a glimpse of the water. The tide was out so the water level was very low. (The Saco River rises and falls with the ocean tides all the way to the center of town.)

red leafOne more surprise: a single scarlet leaf on a bright golden maple tree.

trail's endAnd that brings us to the trail’s end. Those steps on the left lead up to a small parking area, where I begin my zigzag path along the neighborhood streets and sidewalks toward home.

On the way home, I looked up and saw this:

crisscross cloudsCrisscross Clouds

And an hour or so later, the day’s final gift:

sunset viewFrom My Window

I needed that, so very much. I hope it has lifted you up a little bit, too.


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Scene & Story, Chapter 2: October 2016

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have already seen the image I chose for this month.

Signal FlareSignal Flare

I took this photo on the same day as my hike on the Saco Heath. I was driving home and was only two blocks from my door when I saw this flaming red vine out of the corner of my eye. I drove on home and parked the car, then ran back to frame and shoot the photo. I called it “Signal Flare” for its brilliant color, a sure sign that autumn was truly under way.

Okay, New England fall, colored leaves, pretty picture, and all that. But there’s a reason this photo is meaningful to me.

It was only early October. Virginia Creeper is one of the first plants to show its fall color and I knew there would be so much more to come. I’d already been out with my camera for a good three hours, since around sunrise, and hadn’t had breakfast or even coffee. I was tired and hungry. Surely this could wait? At least until after breakfast…and that coffee!

Better yet, how about tomorrow? (I am an excellent procrastinator.)

But somehow this felt urgent. I needed this photograph, and it couldn’t wait. I didn’t even go in the house first; I just hurried back and got my shot. And guess what? Overnight the rain came, the wind blew, and by the next morning, that vine was stripped bare. I’m so thankful that I captured it when I had the chance.

The older I get, the more conscious I become that tomorrow is a hope, not a promise. This photo is my own personal Signal Flare, a prompt not just to “seize the day” — I’d already done that — but to seize the moment when it presents itself. It may not be there later.

I know myself well enough to know that I won’t always succeed at this. I’m grateful for this image that reminds me to be present, to listen to the quiet voice of my own intuition, and to recognize and receive such fleeting gifts before they slip away.

Be sure to visit Paisley Rain Boots for Sarah’s October Scene & Story.

If you’d like to post your own “Scene & Story,” you’re more than welcome, and we’d love to know about it. We hadn’t planned on a formal linkup, but if you feel like joining in, you could leave a link to your post in the comments.


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Muted Brilliance

Where I grew up, fall was welcomed for its cooler temperatures, but there was no spectacular visual display to mark the changing season. In those “long-ago” days, grocery stores sold pumpkins to carve for Halloween, but there weren’t the festive displays that are found everywhere now. Trees? Well, their leaves just turned brown and fell off. I didn’t know anything different. I’d seen pictures of New England autumns, but they were no more real to me than fairy tales.

Now I make my home in New England — and sometimes I do feel like I’m living in a fairy tale. The fall colors are so brilliant that it’s almost a relief when the leaves finally come down, leaving a more peaceful, monochromatic landscape.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all that color. It still amazes me every year, and I run around trying to photograph it all. But once in a while comes a day of fog and misty rain that transforms and softens the colorful world around me.

dsc_0889Rain on River

dsc_0893Wet Paint

img_3875Crystal Beads

img_1586Refreshed

dsc_0898Blue Dawn

dsc_0896

Fog

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

~ Carl Sandburg


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A Hike on the Heath

I woke up early Saturday morning, too early. I got back into bed and closed my eyes, hoping for another hour or so of sleep. There was really no reason to get up. Except…there’s a place I’ve been thinking about visiting, and I had a sudden urge to do it NOW. So I got up again, got dressed, grabbed a jacket and my camera, and headed out the door.

A few minutes later, I was alone in the small dirt parking lot at Saco Heath — but not for long. Another vehicle pulled in as I was getting out of my car and a man got out, a large coffee in a disposable cup in his hand. We walked along the woodland trail together for a short way, chatting about the beautiful morning. Then he excused himself to “set a pace,” and took off down the path with long strides, leaving me and my camera in happy solitude.

dsc_0708Ferns glowed in the dim woods.

dsc_0711Sunlight brushed just the treetops.

dsc_0721A graceful fungus thoughtfully placed itself exactly at my eye level.

The heath is a unique geographic feature that is interesting and beautiful any time of year. And as I emerged from the woods onto the boardwalk at the edge of the heath, the sight took my breath away.

dsc_0737The heath glowed in the rising sun and ground fog lingered among the trees.

dsc_0728Every web, twig, and blade of grass was covered in silvery dew, backlit by the sun.

dsc_0750I’ve never seen the cottongrass in such abundance before.

dsc_0766The farther I went, the more magical the light became. It was like wandering into a fairyland.

dsc_0788At the opposite side of the heath, the path enters another wood. It was brighter now.

dsc_0774Two tiny strands of web at the tip of a pine needle were beaded with the minutest drops of water.

dsc_0810Streaks of sunlight picked out details on the ground.

dsc_0816A stray beam spotlighted a branch of golden leaves.

The walk back under full sun had a very different look and feel.

dsc_0840The bordering woods displayed a wall of bright color.

dsc_0847But the path through them still looked dark and mysterious.

dsc_0848Leaves sprinkled the boardwalk like confetti.

img_4083And the ferns in their festive autumn garb gently waved goodbye.

I didn’t miss that extra hour of sleep one little bit.

 


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Scene & Story, Chapter 1: September 2016

Scene & Story is a new project my friend Sarah (Paisley Rain Boots) and I dreamed up last week, in hopes of stimulating our photography and writing. She wrote about our idea and how it came about in this post. Basically, it’s the practice of reviewing our previous month’s photographs, choosing one that speaks strongly to us, and writing a blog post about it. It’s reminiscent of the old Photo-Heart Connection linkup that we both loved and miss.

The photograph I chose from September is not my favorite image, nor even the one that calls most directly to my heart and soul. That would have been the woman on the foggy beach from my last post. Since I didn’t want to use that one again, I turned to runner-up number one, a photo that speaks to me for both positive and negative reasons.

dsc_0504-2Serenity

I love the colors, the reflections, that hazy moon, the tranquility of the scene and the moment. The best thing about my apartment is that it backs onto a river. All I have to do is go out the door, down the stairs, and walk a few steps to see the view above, which I love at any time and any season. Sunset often fills sky and water with exquisite colors and textures.

There are lots of stories here. The old brick mill buildings are finding new life as condos, businesses, and artists’ studios. The railroad bridge is traversed day and night by both freight trains and the Amtrak Downeaster. That huge industrial stack on the right is all that’s left of a former trash incineration facility that was the bane of the communities on both sides of the river.

On this particular evening, I noticed the changing light through my window and went outside with my camera. It was a perfect end-of-summer evening, and the not-quite-half moon was following the sun towards the horizon. I took several photos, then just sat on the granite blocks edging the river, soaking in the peace that I always find in nature, especially by the water. I am so grateful to have this right here, right now.

So…what’s the negative? Looking through my September photos made me think about how close to home I stay most of the time. My river view is beautiful and photogenic, and so is my little park next door. It’s so easy, so comfortable to stay home, to stroll around the familiar neighborhood, to photograph the same subjects over and over. But there is so much more out there and I want to explore it!

This morning, inspired already by this new project, I did just that. But that’s a story for another day.

Be sure to visit Paisley Rain Boots for Sarah’s September Scene & Story.

If you’d like to post your own “Scene & Story,” you’re more than welcome, and we’d love to know about it. We hadn’t planned on a formal linkup, but if you feel like joining in, you could leave a link to your post in the comments.