Sea Blue Lens


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Winter’s Arrived

It felt like winter finally arrived on Friday, when we got almost ten inches of snow.

IMG_8804Snow Day Afternoon

One of the rules at my apartment building is that we must move our vehicles out of the parking lot by 8 a.m. on the day after a snowstorm, so the lot can be plowed. Saturday morning dawned: it was 7 degrees at 7 a.m. I filled my travel mug with hot coffee and headed out at 7:30 to do some shopping while I waited for the all-clear to go back into the lot.

The sky was blue, every twig was white, the air was crystalline. Do I want to spend this glorious morning at Walmart? No, I do not. Change of plan — let’s take the scenic route instead.

First, Laurel Hill. Is it strange that I love hanging out at this cemetery? It is always so beautiful and peaceful there, no matter the season. Yesterday was no exception. The only sounds were a faint hum from distant traffic, and the songs of a few birds who sounded as happy to be out as I was.

IMG_8810Into the Light

IMG_8816Where Daffodils Bloom

You may remember seeing photos of this view in the springtime, when thousands of blooming daffodils tumble down the hill almost to the water’s edge. The snowy hillside and icy river were just as stunning a sight.

IMG_8825Luminous

IMG_8820Etchings

RTFT7905Victorian Lace

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The angel-messenger waved goodbye as I drove on to see what was happening at the beach.

First, to Camp Ellis. Even after fifteen winters in Maine, I’m still enough of a California girl that a snow-covered beach feels like a very unnatural natural phenomenon. But isn’t it pretty?

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And on to Ocean Park, my favorite beach for walking. I was not the first, but I did have the beach to myself.

IMG_8849All Mine

ECZW0145Treasure Hunting

GHGC4871Sky Dancing

FCCB3981Up “The Creek”

PATD9302Sea Wall

EGUZ1585Blocked

The pathway to my “secret beach” was inaccessible, so I circled back to my car and that mug of coffee. By that time my fingers and toes were numb and the warmth of a store didn’t sound like such a bad idea. Off to do those errands!

Side note: While I wasn’t paying attention, WordPress has gone and changed everything, and I don’t like it one bit! It looks like they’ve tried to simplify things, but to me it feels more complicated than before. I can’t see half of what I’m doing, categories and tags have moved to the opposite side of the screen, and my sidebar has disappeared completely from the posting window. It’s much harder to format photos the way I want them. I feel like I’m starting from scratch with a completely new blog host. I’ll get used to it, but meanwhile, I’m not happy. And to think, I’ve been telling everyone lately how much I’ve always enjoyed blogging on WordPress…. Okay, rant over. Sorry about that!

 


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My Year in Pictures: 2015

I recently completed a 365 project (my second), and it’s been one of my favorite activities over the past year. In November of 2014 I downloaded an app called Project 365 Pro onto my iPhone. I take/choose one photo every day, which the app puts into a calendar format. It’s been fun, and on many days over the past year has been my saving grace. It’s the fact that it is so casual, so not serious, that makes it so therapeutic.

No matter my mood — happy or sad, energetic or tired, optimistic or discouraged — I remember I need a photo for my calendar. So I go outside and take a walk, or look around the house with fresh eyes, and find something to photograph. The activity itself is refreshing, and there’s something I find very satisfying about the small accomplishment of filling that day’s calendar square with an image. Other things might have gone wrong, but at least I did that!

At the end of each month, I’ve saved the calendar page and shared it on Facebook. And now I have a brief visual diary of the past year. Each image is a reminder of something that happened, or that I did or saw. And there’s a record of me as part of my own life, too, since I’ve included at least one self-portrait each month.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen these already. But here it is, my year collected in one place. It’s not necessarily Art, it’s just life.

2015-01

2015-02

2015-03

2015-04

2015-05

2015-06

2015-07

2015-08

2015-09

2015-10

2015-11

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I learned about the Project 365 Pro app from the lovely Carol Hart after seeing her post her own months of photos on Facebook. There are a number of similar apps, some with more features, available for iPhone and probably for Android phones, too. I like this one for its simplicity and ease of use.

Scrolling through all of these months, I’m shocked at how fast each one has gone by, how quickly one season rolls into the next. It reminds me that I want to be present in my life every day, no matter what that day may bring. I’m starting my new calendar right now  — with a new selfie for the New Year.

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Someone in a Facebook group I’m a member of referred to 2016 as “Sweet Sixteen.” I love that thought! I wish you all a happy, healthy, fulfilling, sweet new year!


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Summer Miscellany

A few random images of the summer just past, and random thoughts on the season to come….

IMG_1789From Stackpole Bridge

As I begin writing this, it is Labor Day in the United States, and for me this holiday has always marked my personal end-of-summer. Here in Maine, the three-day holiday weekends of Memorial Day near the end of May and Labor Day at the beginning of September bookend our “official” summer tourist season.

IMG_3961Summer Rain

While I’m reluctant to see summer go, I do love fall. The crowds are gone and there are a couple of months of warm sunny days and cool nights to enjoy before winter descends…and of course there are the glorious leaves to look forward to.

IMG_4436Between Cities

When I was growing up, school used to start — always — on the Tuesday after Labor Day. Though school days are (thankfully) a distant memory, September still feels like a time of new beginnings. Maybe it’s just old habit, or maybe there really is something in the air that triggers the urge to clean things out, get my “nest” in order, and embark upon self-improvement projects.

IMG_4059Johanna’s Garden

One thing I’ve been wanting to do for a long time is blog more regularly. I began this blog four years ago as a photo journal for an online photography course I was taking. Without the class to hold me accountable, and to “tell me” what to photograph and write about, I haven’t really known what its purpose was/is.  But I do like having a place to share some of my photographs (which otherwise just sit in my computer) and I enjoy writing about them. I also treasure the friendships I have with people I’ve met online here, many dating back to that first “Find Your Eye” class.

IMG_3948Summer Sky: Scarborough Marsh

Last week I pledged to one of those friends — and to myself — a commitment to publish at least one post a week during the months of September and October. After that, we’ll see! I feel that I need the structure and discipline. I also need to do something with all these photos I keep on taking, or what’s the point? I hope by the end of October to have found a purpose and direction for the blog. Perhaps it will just be my own personal photo journal, pretty much as it has been all along. Perhaps I’ll discover that I really don’t want to keep doing it at all.

IMG_4504At the Farmers Market

So…come along, if you’d like, on my journey of random exploration. Welcome!

IMG_5334Season’s End

And welcome to you, too, Beautiful Autumn!


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What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part III

My sister keeps asking me if I’ve finished the last post about our summer vacation yet. Um, no. Why not? I don’t know. I thought this would be the easy one. Anyway, here goes!

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On the Sunday after the second family reunion, we visited Independence, Missouri, with two of our cousins. We planned on touring the Harry Truman home, but there would be a 3-hour wait until it started, so we went looking for something to do in the meantime. Cousin D had heard about a restaurant he wanted to try, but it was closed. We found a local cafe that seemed to be doing a brisk business, usually a good sign, so we stopped for lunch. I indulged in chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, which was comfort food at its best. I’d like to show you a picture, but I’m afraid I didn’t even think to photograph any food on this trip. I was too busy eating.

We still had a couple of hours on our hands, so we drove around some beautiful, tree-lined streets, admiring stately old homes set back on lush green lawns. Eventually we found ourselves at the Bingham-Waggoner Estate, whose sign proclaimed, “Voted the Best Historic Home Tour in the Midwest.” Well, how could we pass that up? As it turned out, it was the only home tour we took in the Midwest, but I’d say its reputation as “the best” was well deserved.

You’ll soon see why I’ve had so much trouble with this post. I took way too many photographs, and had a terrible time trying to decide which ones to leave out because I want to show you everything! Here are some of my favorites:

IMG_3775The Neverending Porch: It wraps all the way around the house

The estate is named for its best-known residents. The original six-room house was built in 1852 by John Lewis. George Caleb Bingham, a well-known artist, politician and military man, lived there from 1864 to 1870. The final residents were the Waggoner family, who made their fortune milling flour. They bought the house in 1879 and occupied it until the death of the last member of the family in 1976. From 1895 to 1900, the house was enlarged to 26 rooms. The home has been beautifully restored to its turn-of-the-century glory mostly with original furnishings owned by the Waggoners.

IMG_3783The Parlor

IMG_3778The Study

One of the most wonderful things about this place is that you are allowed to TOUCH things! You can sit on the furniture, play the piano, get as close as you want to everything. It was amazing!

Music RoomMusic Room

The intricately inlaid piano bench is not original to the house, but is an example of “prison art” of the era. The beautiful Eastlake-style organ is also not a Waggoner family piece, but perfectly fits the period and spirit of the home.

IMG_3794Dining Room

This room is so elegant, with an African mahogany table that can seat up to 20 for dinner. The built-in china cabinet contains original family silver. If you’d like to have a dinner party here, you can rent the room!

IMG_3795Many chandeliers in the home are fitted for both gas and electricity

Kitchen triptychKitchen: All the Modern Conveniences

IMG_3814A Gentleman’s Necessities

A bathroom on the second floor was outfitted with this convenient shaving stand in addition to a toilet, marble sink, and surprisingly modern-looking tub with tiled shower, circa 1900.

IMG_3811Child’s Room with Hand-crafted Doll House

IMG_3810Doll’s Trunk

IMG_3820Upstairs Sitting Room

If I recall correctly, those are portraits of the original Mr. and Mrs. Waggoner on the wall.

IMG_3824Sewing Room

IMG_3823Steamer “Trunk”

According to our tour guide, this rather massive piece of furniture would be packed up and taken along when the family traveled to Europe by ship. Even empty it must weigh a ton! My back was aching in sympathy for the long-dead servants who would’ve had to manipulate this thing down the stairs and onto a wagon or truck.

IMG_3829Master Bedroom

Every room in the house has its own unique, hand-painted border above the picture rail. Each one was appropriate to the occupant or use of the room, and each was beautifully executed.

IMG_3826Lady’s Lavatory

IMG_3827Dressing Table

IMG_3825Nightcap, Anyone?

IMG_3837Servant’s Room

The large attic space on the third floor was given over to servants’ quarters and play space for the children. It was probably cozy in the wintertime, but it was uncomfortably hot in July.

IMG_3833Quiet Corner

There are a dozen of these beautiful dormers in the attic. The little doors open to storage space between them that was interconnected. Apparently crawling around and popping in and out of the doors was a favorite pastime of the children in the house.

There’s no reputation of the house being haunted, but I have to admit I had a startling experience in the little room above. I took a couple of steps farther into the room, intent on that lovely chair, and glimpsed this out of the corner of my eye:

IMG_3834-3Spirit of Play

I admit my stomach gave a quick jolt in the few seconds until my mind realized it was a mannikin! I don’t know if someone with a sense of humor put it there on purpose, or if it had just been forgotten there. I don’t think anyone else on the tour even saw it.

IMG_3841And that was it, the tour was over and so was our vacation.

You can probably see why we didn’t make it back in time for the Truman house tour, and also why we didn’t really regret it. Those are my cousins walking toward the sunlight, as I called out the eternal chant of the photographer: “You guys go on ahead, I’ll catch up!” We were all tired, happy, and ready to call it a day.

The next day, my sister and I were on our respective airplanes, heading in opposite directions for home and our everyday lives.

IMG_3869Almost Home

IMG_3503The Two of Us

This one’s for you, Sis. It was the adventure of a lifetime. I’m so glad we got to do it together.

My thanks again to all of our lovely cousins (and Aunt Lori!), who so graciously hosted us and never for a minute let us feel like we were strangers. You made us feel like we’re part of the family. More than that, you made us know we’re part of the family. Love and hugs to you all!


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What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part II

IMG_3859On the Road: Christopher S. Bond Bridge, Kansas City, Missouri

After five days in Nebraska, my sister and I reluctantly bade farewell to our new-found family, climbed into our rental car, and headed back to Missouri to attend a second family reunion, this time with some of Dad’s paternal family. They hold a “cousins reunion” every year on the Fourth of July, and had welcomed us to come if ever we could. This was the year! July 4th was exactly a week after the Nebraska reunion, and the location less than four hours away by car. It was an opportunity not to be missed.

IMG_3526Kansas City Skyline

As we unpacked and began to relax in our hotel room, suddenly both our cell phones began making unfamiliar, urgent noises. Then sirens began going off outside. Seriously? A tornado warning? Uncertain about what to do, since neither Maine nor California is prone to tornadoes, we went downstairs and joined the small crowd in the lobby. A few people were clearly very frightened, but most seemed calm and many crowded around the front entrance to watch the weather. Within moments the power had gone out, the wind picked up, and sheets of rain were blowing first one way then the other across the parking lot.

IMG_3545-1Tornado Watch

A tornado (or two) actually did touch down in nearby Lee’s Summit, tearing off roofing and air conditioners at a shopping center, tipping over a semi and flattening a huge striped tent where fireworks were being sold near the high school. At the hotel, everyone went back to their rooms when the sirens stopped, the power came back on in an hour or so, and we were treated to a spectacular sunset display as the storm clouds broke up.

IMG_3558-2After the Storm

The next day we went to our cousin’s lakeside home. It’s just the kind of place I love — a smallish stone cottage that’s grown over the years — porches enclosed, deck added, and so on — with the original structure and details still visible. Its position on a hillside above the lake gives a bit of a treehouse feeling, along with a lovely water view. It’s compact, comfortable, and charming, and it accommodates a surprising number of people.

IMG_3584Bird’s Eye View

There I met three first cousins with whom I share a grandfather, along with their children and grandchildren, our cousins once and twice removed. Many others were cousins to each other through their mother’s family, so not related to my sister and me by blood, but they welcomed us anyway. Everyone was curious and wanted to hear our story — how we were connected and how we found each other.

I suppose most families have a “skeleton in the closet.” Our father’s skeleton, the one that haunted him all his life, was the fact that he was illegitimate. It was apparently not much of a secret that my grandmother Grace was already pregnant when she married. Her husband raised Dad as his own son, and Dad thought of him as his real father though he knew from an early age it wasn’t really so. Grace was not a happy woman and blamed Dad for her “Sad & sorry predicament.” This was no doubt one of the issues that caused him to run away in his early teens.

WeddingPortrait-Grace_babyLeft: Grace’s wedding portrait. Right: Grace and the baby who became my daddy

Grace, whose fiancé was away serving in the Army, went to work as housekeeper for a man whose wife had died leaving him with five young children. He was handsome, she was pretty. I suspect both of them were lonely, and the inevitable happened. No one knows the precise details of what followed, but when Grace’s sweetheart came home he chose to marry her knowing she was carrying another man’s child.

Obviously, an illegitimate child could be a fairly large skeleton in its biological father’s closet, also, especially if he were a man with a significant position in the community. After our Nebraska family found us, I dove into Ancestry.com myself. I followed clues in some notes Dad had left and was able to identify his father. The pieces fit together perfectly.

grandfathers-childrenGrandfather and his children, about the time Grace knew them

I connected with the family through Ancestry.com, and their own research verified mine. They have been gracious and accepting ever since learning of our existence, which did come as a surprise to them. The cousins we met on this memorable 4th of July are the children of the youngest boy in the photo above.

Our Independence Day gathering was climaxed by going out on our cousin’s pontoon boat to watch fireworks from the water.

IMG_3661Dockside Sunset

IMG_3679Fireworks Flotilla

IMG_3697Waiting for Darkness

FireworksCelebrating in Red, White, and Blue

It was the perfect ending to such a momentous day.

I grew up with no knowledge of my father’s family at all. Meeting and getting to know — in person! — literally dozens of extended family members has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. I hope that somehow Dad does know we’ve found his family, and how happy his family is that we did. They’re wonderful people, on both sides — warm, open-hearted, intelligent, talented, and funny. I wish we could have known them sooner, and oh, how I wish he could have known them. I believe he’d have loved them as much as we do.

We had one more day in Missouri before flying home, and two of our cousins took us to explore the city of Independence, where we toured a beautiful historic estate. That’s going to need its very own post.


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What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part I

IMG_3170Adventure Awaits

You may remember the post called Man of Mystery that I published last September for Be Still – 52; the assignment was to create a “family portrait” in still life. The subject I chose was my father, and I shared a bit of his story, how he had run away from home at age 14 or 15, during the Great Depression, cutting all ties with his past. This summer, 21 years after his death, I connected with that past in person for the very first time.

IMG_3215-2Green Fields and Big Sky

My sister flew from California and I from Maine to Kansas City, Missouri, and from there we drove northwest to Wahoo, Nebraska, to attend the first of two different family reunions being held one week and 250 miles apart.

DowntownDowntown Wahoo

Dad grew up in a series of small towns around Lincoln, Nebraska, and many family members still live in the area. Our first reunion (or “union,” as my sister joked, since it would be our first time to meet them) was with this family, descendents of our grandmother Grace — who, of course, we never knew.

First Meeting: At the Wigwam Cafe

It was an emotional time for all of us, as our cousins told us of how their parents, Dad’s sister and brother, never stopped looking for him. They would check phone directories when they traveled, and knock on strangers’ doors if they saw a mailbox with the same name on it, always hoping to find their missing brother. They had no way of knowing that Dad was no longer using the name they knew him by. And Dad never even knew he had a brother, born after he left home. It pleases us all to picture the three of them together now, maybe drinking a beer, talking and laughing about how they helped us all find each other.

It was Pat, a genealogist friend of our cousin Mike, who heard the story from him and took on the challenge of trying to find his “missing uncle.” She connected the dots through Ancestry.com and determined that our father Charles might be Mike’s long-lost Uncle Carl. Some email exchanges and Q&A’s followed, and the link was confirmed. We met Pat on this trip, too, and though she’s not related by blood, she is definitely part of our family now!

IMG_3227Getting To Know You . . . .

One of the most exciting things for us has been seeing photographs of our father as a child for the first time ever. A young cousin recently discovered two photo albums belonging to Grandma Gracie and brought them to the reunion. It seems almost miraculous that they exist, since all the old family pictures were thought to have been destroyed years ago in a house fire. In fact, some of the photographs are charred along the edges.

Four Generations l-r: My great-great-grandparents, grandmother Grace, my dad, and my great-grandmother

Following the reunion, we were able to spend more time with some of our new family. Pie and coffee, lots of conversation, and more photos were shared around the table. It was amazing how comfortable we all felt right from the start. There was a connection that felt very natural, not at all like meeting strangers for the first time.

On the last day, one of our cousins and our aunt drove us around the area. It was fascinating to see where our father had spent his boyhood. The Midwest is a part of the country that was new to my sister and me, and we thought it very beautiful. My sister, who lives in a desert-like part of drought-stricken California, was in awe of the lush greenery and abundant growth everywhere. We saw:

IMG_3285Quiet, Tree-lined Neighborhoods

IMG_3365Country Roads

IMG_3361Wildflower-bordered Fields

IMG_3387Old Bridges

IMG_3334Old Barns

GreenwoodDepotMuseumGreenwood Depot Museum

We visited the small town of Greenwood, where Dad lived for a while as a boy. The first thing we saw was this tiny museum, but sadly it was closed that day.

IMG_3433Public School

Across the street from the museum is this disused old school with a For Sale sign next to the cracked walkway. Dad might actually have attended this school.

IMG_3442 copyFarmers Co-op

We saw a lot of these. This one was up the street a couple of blocks from the old Public School.

cemeterycollagePaying Our Respects

We visited several cemeteries to see and photograph the graves of family members who are no longer with us, though not all of these photos are of our own family’s resting places. I have always found cemeteries to be peaceful, pleasant places to visit, and I am often touched by the ways people memorialize their loved ones.

IMG_3258-2Sea of Corn

I’ll close this chapter with an image that’s typical of so many views we saw from the roads and highways in Nebraska. I really don’t have words to express how it feels to have this connection to my father’s family, something my sister and I never imagined would happen. It is amazing to have this rich heritage of people and place. I’m so grateful to Pat for finding us and to the family for embracing us. I want to come back, to have more time, to be able to walk and explore more deeply.

Stay tuned, as my sister and I pack our bags and hit the road to our next destination and family reunion #2.


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Still-life in Motion – Week 51

This week’s Be Still – 52 lesson was about creating a sense of movement in a still life — in other words, how to keep the viewer’s eye moving around within the photograph.

I’ve recently been inspired by Kim’s “Table and Chair” series to begin a similar series of my own featuring my antique maple writing desk and very old, mended Windsor chair. For this still life setup I added an armful of lilacs cut from the hedge at my daughter’s place and an assortment of treasures from that wonderful old house.

DSC_9362-2Workspace

 My starting point, illuminated by late afternoon sunlight from my southwest facing window.  It’s a good thing I wasn’t really trying to concentrate on reading or writing. The scent of those lilacs was more than a little distracting. It was all I could do to keep my mind on my camera.

DSC_9363-2Moodswing

This little book is titled, in full, The Ladies’ and Gentlemens’ Letter-Writer, and Guide to Polite Behavior, Containing Also, Moral and Instructive Aphorisms, for Daily Use. It was published in Boston and does not have a copyright date, but the sample letters printed within it all bear the date of 1859, leading me to think it must have been published in or near that year. It is smaller than you might think from the photos, only 3-1/2 by 5-3/8 inches by about 1/2 inch thick, but packed full of oh-so-useful advice.

DSC_9360-2Guide to Politeness

The section the book is open to reads “Rules for Polite Behavior for Ladies and Gentlemen, with Instructions for Dress. Also, Brief Rules for Daily Use.” There follows a long essay on “American Etiquette” which covers clothing, personal grooming, table manners, conversation, etc. The “Brief Rules” include such advice as “Avoid egotism” and “Avoid rude expressions.” It’s quaint and utterly fascinating. All I can conclude is that society in the mid-nineteenth century was much more polite than today’s is. But oh, so many rules! While I’d love to see more civility in civilization, I don’t think I’d want to be as regimented as the culture of that day was.

DSC_9373-2Shadows

 Kim’s Shadows preset really made magic happen with this one.

DSC_9372-2Resting My Eyes

It’s interesting how some presets just seem made for certain images. I’ve tried Kim’s kk_BeStill preset on quite a few photos before, but didn’t care for it. When I applied it to this one it just popped — it was exactly what I wanted before I even knew I wanted it!

DSC_9338-2Nocturne

Still one of my favorite presets — kk_Moody-ish. I liked this image but it felt a little flat straight from the camera. Now I love it!

My own eye finds movement in these images. I’ll be interested to see if yours does, too.

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