Sea Blue Lens


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Memories, Dreams, & Reflections 2013

When I participated in Memories, Dreams, & Reflections at the end of 2012, I had been in California for seven months. This November, after a year and a half away, I returned to Maine — yes, to stay, as far as I know. Needless to say, this has been an eventful year. It’s not easy to sum up a year in a couple dozen photos, but I recently reread last year’s post and enjoyed revisiting those photographic memories so much that it seems worth doing again.

Without further ado, here’s my year in review:

1. Me!

DSC_2481Over My Shoulder

Sometimes life presents hard choices. The biggest accomplishment I achieved this year was moving back to Maine. It was a difficult and painful decision, and not only for me, but it feels right and I’m glad I made it happen. Can you believe I gave up this view?

2. I Love You

IMG_1270Hangin’ Out with My Boys 49/365

While I was in California, I got to visit with my son and his son. This is one of my favorite photos of that trip — and of the year.

3. Still Laughing…

DSC_2904Bunny Hop

DSC_3479The Creatures Are Stirring 96/365

These both make me laugh. I couldn’t decide so you get to choose! I told the story of the squirrel here if you’d like to see more.

4. Winter Wonderland

DSC_0265-2Snow Birds

DSC_0214Red Barn

These are from last January and February. Snow does fall in southern California. The difference is that it will be gone in a few hours, while here in Maine it will most likely be a few weeks. Notice I didn’t say “months” — I’m choosing to be optimistic.

5. Birthday

P1030590On the Trail

On my sister’s birthday last spring, we went out to eat and then, at her special request, went for a walk in Placerita Canyon. It was a perfect day to be out for a bit of exercise in a beautiful natural setting, which was exactly what she wanted. Happy Birthday, Sis!

6. Friends

P1040177Boy Fun

Unlike his grandmother, my grandson is the opposite of shy, instantly making friends wherever he goes. He and another little boy had both brought a few matchbox cars with them to the park. It took about 30 seconds for them to connect and begin digging holes and building roads together in the sand.

7. I Was Inspired… 

New DayNew Day

My home in southern California was in an amazing setting, which inspired me to take what I think might be some of my best photos ever. I entered this one in a contest for a community fund-raising calendar. I was proud that it was selected for the month of August — and stunned that it was also chosen for the cover!

Maine is a place of great natural beauty which can easily be taken for granted. I’m hoping that seeing it again with my “new eyes” will result in fresh images from my camera.

8. Spring Fever

IMG_0697Desert Lilacs

I was overwhelmed by the sight and scent of a lilac farm last spring, right in the small town where I lived. I grew up in California and Nevada and never saw lilacs until I moved to the east coast. It was such an unexpected delight to discover them in Acton, California!

9. Travel or Vacation

P1040097Bart’s Books

My sister and I finally got to visit Ojai! I’ve wanted to go there for years, specifically to go to the famous Bart’s Books, a huge open air used bookstore. It was wonderful — room after outdoor room filled with every kind of book you could imagine. You can buy a book even when the store is closed. There are bookshelves built into the exterior wall (which is more of a fence than a wall) and a box on the door to drop payment into. Here’s a shot of just a small part of the inside:

P1040098Where To Start?

It was hard to drag ourselves away, and we both had an armload of treasures when we finally left.

10. Summer Days

DSC_2477Dang, It’s Warm Out

He’s not singing. You know it’s hot when even the roadrunner is panting for relief.

11. A Day In My Life

IMG_1986Tools of the Trade

Well, it’s not really my trade. But it is a big part of my daily life: taking photos, working with them in Lightroom, and posting them to my blog or my 365 group on Flickr. I will be looking for real work soon, so this is likely to be a very different picture next year. <Sigh.>

12. All Smiles

IMG_1276Together

Don’t you just love iPhone selfies? No, me neither. This is awful. But it’s my grandson and me, together. And that’s pretty wonderful.

13. Autumn Harvest

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You know Mermaid Girl here had to love this fall display in front of our favorite tea house! It seemed as if it must have been put there specifically to welcome me back to Maine.

14. Family or Home

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The first thing I do after a move, of course, is to make the bed. But after that, the first room I put in order here was the living room, to give both body and spirit a place of rest and refuge amidst the chaos of unpacking and organizing the rest of the house. The beautiful fireplace is really the icing on the cake for me.

15. Celebrate!

IMG_1502Gift of Flight

It’s not often you get a day like this one in mid-November in Maine. It was sunny and so warm that I dropped my unpacking and headed for the beach to celebrate my Maine homecoming. Watching these graceful birds soar and dive in and out of the waves made me feel like flying myself.

16. Let’s Do It Again…

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In November four of us went to the tea house in Limerick, Maine. While we waited for our lunch to be served, we amused ourselves by simultaneously taking photos of each other with our cell phones. Good friends, good food, good fun = good times. I’m looking forward to doing it again soon.

17. I Miss You

IMG_0747The Mighty Hunters

These are two of my sister and brother-in-law’s three dogs. They love to chase the ground squirrels, who often take refuge in the wisteria. The dogs can’t reach them there, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to bark them down. These silly girls were a big part of my everyday world in California, and I miss them. It goes without saying that they aren’t the only ones I miss.

18. Beautiful

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It snowed like crazy on my birthday, but the next day looked like this. Pretty nice present, huh?

19. Dress Up

IMG_1802. . . And No Place To Go

My daughter unaccountably loves Hello Kitty. Here she is trying on the latest in HK pajamas. In public, in JC Penney’s sleepwear department. A man walking by thought she was a manikin and was quite startled when she moved and spoke. I tried to suggest that she might be too old for Hello Kitty pj’s, but she responded that if that were the case, they wouldn’t make them in her size. I guess she’s got a point.

20. Macro

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I took several photos of these pretty little purple and yellow flowers, and I almost deleted this one because the flowers were out of focus. Then I noticed the fascinating seedhead, which I hadn’t even seen at the time. A bit of cropping produced this, my favorite image of the shoot.

21. Holidays

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I bought this little figurine for my son’s first Christmas, and have put it out every year since, even those years when I haven’t done any other decorating at all. It was 45 years old this Christmas. I can’t figure out how that could be possible.

22. My Favorite

mooncradleEmbrace

How do you choose one favorite image from over 6,000 photographs? I picked this one because it reminds me of the effort I put into learning something I’d wanted to do for years — photographing the full moon and incorporating it into other images. I wrote about it back in June. I remember how good it felt to challenge myself and achieve that goal!

23. Don’t Ever Change

IMG_1889-2Timeless

It’s hard to put into words what this photograph represents for me. Maine is not my native environment, but there is something about it that reaches into the deepest parts of my soul. The changing seasons, the trees, the light, even the architecture somehow just feel right to me. This is a photo of the neighbor’s garage — just a snapshot, really. But I love the delicate tracery of the bare trees, the simple lines of the roof, the decorative cupola reaching for the sky, and that late afternoon sunlight casting long glowing shadows across the cold clean snow. My love for this place never changes, only grows.

24. Just Because…So There!

IMG_1942Solitude. Silence. Serenity.

25. Hopes and Dreams

P1030830Promises to Keep

I thought I’d close with an antidote to all those cold snowy images, with a look back to summer’s warmth, a reminder that it will come again. There are many uncertainties ahead as I think about the year to come. I’m not facing them with anxiety, but looking forward to seeing the possibilities unfold. I want to explore, to be willing to try new things, to say “Yes!” to prospects that might be scary or challenging. To send my roots deep, turn my face to the sun, and grow.

May we all have a happy, healthy, creative, and prosperous New Year!

I’m joining the Memories, Dreams, & Reflections 2013 linkup at Ramblings and Photos. Ashley, thank you for once again hosting this thought-provoking retrospective of the year in photos.


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Photo-Heart Connection: September 2013

DSC_2483-2Edge of the World

It’s funny how often my Photo-Heart Connection image turns out to be one that I took at the very beginning of the month. I just finished the first month of my 365 project, so I took a lot of photographs this month, and there were quite a few that I liked a lot. But when I reviewed the month, this image, taken September 1, was the one that had the most meaning for me.

That’s me sitting there — you probably knew that already — perched on the edge of the driveway, posed in front of the view that I see from my front window every day. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The layered mountains with their ever-changing light and shadow, the wide-open sky, the rural character of the neighborhood, the horses down below peacefully enjoying their breakfast.

My mind also fills in all the things you can’t see here: the mountains that wrap the rest of the way around us, the birds, the bunnies, even the lizards and snakes and coyotes, oh my! Then there’s the cottage, perfect for my needs, everything I could desire. A charming small community. My sister and brother-in-law, their friends and extended family, all the kindest, most generous people you could imagine.

“Okay, so where’s she going with this?” you may be wondering. I’ve been asking myself that question for months. The answer is, I’m leaving. Moving back to Maine.

It wasn’t an easy decision (understatement of the decade) and I still ask myself sometimes if I’m crazy.

There is so much that is good here, so much that is beautiful, and I’m more grateful than I can say to have been able to explore and share it for the past year and a half. But my deepest heart is longing for rain, for trees, ferns, moss, and most of all, the sea. I fell head over heels in love with Maine the first time I set foot there. It somehow felt like home, like “me,” in a way no other place ever had. For twelve years it was home, and it’s calling me back now.

I had to come here, to try this, to know if it was right for me. I’ve learned a lot. I love this place, and I know I want to come here again — to visit. But I also know I have to go back, to where I’ve learned I need to be. There’s a lot of work to do to make it happen, and a lot of uncertainty at the other end. I’ll be leaving here the first week in November, returning to Maine just in time for winter.

I probably am a little crazy after all.

And that’s my Photo-Heart Connection for September. You can click HERE for this month’s linkup at Kat Eye Studio. Thanks to Kat for hosting this monthly practice and linkup!


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Turn, Turn, Turn

This song keeps running through my head: To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and a time for every purpose under Heaven. My favorite season has just begun. Fall always makes me feel a bit melancholy, yet excited and happy about the changes and new beginnings that always seem to hum in the air at this time of year.

DSC_2849 misty morningMisty Morning  21/365

The last day of summer dawned cloudy and cool, with fog veiling the mountains. By mid-morning it had burned off, leaving a clear blue sky and a sun already shifting to the south. The air is cooler but the light itself seems to have a warmer, more golden quality even at midday.

DSC_2772 blackbirdWatcher

A few flora are flourishing despite the drought:

IMG_1104 yellow daisiesYellow Spiny Daisy

DSC_2833 purple astersMystery Aster

California Buckwheat 23-365California Buckwheat 23/365

Fauna are frolicking in the cooler weather:

DSC_2805 NiñaKickin’ It Up

DSC_2904 bunny hopThe Bunny Hop

Fall visitors are coming back:

DSC_2894 Nutall'sWoodpeckers and Finches and Sparrows, Oh My!

I’ve seen male and female Nuttall’s Woodpeckers here before, but only one at a time. I was really excited to spot this pair in our Charlie Brown tree on the first day of fall.

DSC_2887 WC sparrowRight on Cue

This little guy, the first of the season, showed up the same day, just hours after I said to my daughter, “I hope the White-Crowned Sparrows come back soon.” They winter over here but leave in spring to spend the summer elsewhere — probably somewhere cooler, if they are at all sensible. I haven’t seen one since April. I don’t know why I like them so much. They sing the same few notes over and over, but it always makes me smile to hear it.

And last but not least, the apples have been harvested. We had plenty of help:

DSC_2446 apple birds

DSC_2565 bunny apple

DSC_2656 squirrel apple

But we did manage to salvage a few for ourselves.

DSC_2867 apple basketLast of the Harvest  22/365

At the beginning of September I began a 365 project, my first, with a small group of online friends. It has so far truly been a gift of grace, keeping my interest in photography up even while other concerns are occupying much of my thoughts and time. I thought I might feel intimidated by the group, whose work I already knew and admired, but instead I’m loving it! I’m being inspired and uplifted every day by their photography, while learning to look wider and go deeper with my own. I can’t think of a better new beginning for this fall.


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Third Thursday and SHS 5.19.13

It’s a twofer! I decided to combine the Third Thursday Challenge , a monthly linkup at How to Feather an Empty Nest, with this week’s Scavenger Hunt Sunday. I recently bought a new lens, a Nikon 35mm f1.8, but up til now have not used it very much. I’ve been wanting to get better acquainted with it, so for my Third Thursday Challenge, I decided to take on the scavenger hunt using only that lens. My goal was to create images that would work with no (or minimal) cropping or other post-processing.

I couldn’t miss this week’s Scavenger Hunt, since the list was sponsored by my dear friend Susan (Happy No Ears). The target items for the hunt were Three, Hand(s), Fence, Cuddly, and Sign.

Three:

Berry BowlPerfection

First they posed for me. Then I ate them. They were just as good as they look.

Hand(s):

AaronAaron

My daughter made this doll for me with her own hands a number of years ago. Using no model except her imagination, she sculpted his head, hands, and feet from porcelain clay, which she then fired in her own kiln. She sewed the body from scraps of fabric and dressed him in a preemie-sized outfit, and gave him to me for Christmas. His realism amazed me then and still does, all the more because she has no children and, really, no experience with babies. I call him my third grandchild.

Fence:

Old FenceOld Fence

New FenceNew Fence

I couldn’t decide, so you get both.

Cuddly:

Pink ThrowThat Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

I have no babies or pets, and I’m mad at the oh-so-cute cottontails this week for eating my portulaca, so I’m not going to feature them! I love cuddling up on the couch with my soft, cozy mohair throw, so that will have to do.

Sign:

WelcomeCome On By

Friends are always welcome. Stop on by if you’re ever in the neighborhood!

Results of My Challenge:  The strawberries, both fences, and the pink throw are full-frame. The baby doll was cropped slightly to remove a distraction from one corner. I cropped the welcome sign image quite a bit, since I decided after the fact that I preferred a tighter view. There are a fence and shrub in the way that prevent me from framing this exact view without cropping.

This experiment took me back to my early, pre-zoom days of photography, when all I had was a fixed-focal-length “normal” lens for my SLR. I enjoyed “zooming with my feet” to frame these images as I wanted them, though I confess that I often found myself trying to zoom the lens just from habit.

There was one moment when I really wished for my telephoto zoom:

Visitor farSOOC (straight out of the camera)

But I got what I wanted anyway, thanks to the magic of cropping in Lightroom:

Morning visitorMorning Visitor

Many thanks to Brenda at How to Feather an Empty Nest for the Third Thursday Challenge that encourages me to prod  myself out of my comfort zone. And thanks to Ashley at Ramblings and Photos for the always entertaining Scavenger Hunt Sunday linkup.


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Windsday Walk and Click

DSC_0806Please Please Please Stop Blowing!

OK, I admit I didn’t get far for Walk and Click Wednesday this week. The weather has been chilly and the wind has been blasting for most of the past couple of weeks. It’s the kind of wind where small trees in large pots get blown right over and your patio chairs go missing. They might — if you’re lucky — be found later up against the neighbor’s fence. But in between gales I did take a stroll or two around the yard to see what was blooming.

The first stop was the apple tree outside my bedroom window. The sweet scent filled the whole back yard and there were so many bees at work that it sounded like the tree had a motor running.

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Next, the Lady Banks’ Rose. Each flower is barely an inch across, but the mass of them is amazing. They have only a slight fragrance, which in this case may be a good thing.

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There are several pots arrayed beneath the roses. These little Paludosum Daisies reseed themselves and come up every year. They’re one of my sister’s favorites and she gets excited when she sees their first tiny leaves popping up around the yard in the spring. The tiny purple flower sharing the pot is filaree, one of my favorite “weeds” — I think it’s as pretty as the daisies.

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We were all excited to see the grape hyacinth. The bulbs were planted so long ago that no one quite remembers where they came from, and this is the first time they have bloomed.

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Rosemary is a plant that does well here. It’s heat and drought tolerant and, best of all, the rabbits don’t like it! We have many varieties around the yard. They bloom in different shades of blue, but they all smell wonderful.

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This hot pink Autumn Sage is a lovely contrast to the blue rosemary. Unfortunately, the bunnies think this is delicious. I keep a cage around it, but removed it for the photo.

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My French Lavender has been blooming almost continuously since I got it last fall. The rabbits won’t eat it, but they sometimes nip off a few branches and leave them lying underneath it. Maybe each new generation has to try it for itself? Mother Rabbit: Leave that alone, you won’t like it. Baby Rabbit (trying it anyway): Ptooey! You’re right, Mama, it’s yucky.

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And have you ever seen a lavender flower really close up? They are surprisingly intricate.

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The Mexican Poppy shrub in the corner of the front yard has just begun to bloom. I love their texture. They look like crushed tissue paper, and they fade sort of like old tissue paper, too.

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The California poppies were started from a six-pack of seedlings from the nursery a few years ago. They’ve seeded themselves over a large part of the yard and spread farther every year. The rabbits don’t bother them and their cheerful orange faces are always a welcome sight.

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There’s even more, but that’s probably enough for now. Wind or no wind, I know I’m fortunate to have warmth and flowers when my friends back east are still waiting for snow to melt. I hope you enjoyed our little garden tour.

Linking with Lissa’s Walk and Click Wednesday.
laf Custom Designs


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Lilac Love

IMG_0718

For Walk and Click Wednesday this week, my sister and I paid a visit to Kilcoyne Lilac Farm right here in Acton. Imagine six acres of blooming lilacs, surrounded by beautiful mountains under a wide blue sky. Imagine 73 perfect degrees and a gentle spring breeze. Imagine inhaling the fragrance of lilacs until you think your lungs will burst. Come along as we park beside the road and walk in.

IMG_0691Traffic Alert

This sign greets visitors entering the driveway.

IMG_0692Home Sweet Nest

As we arrived, I saw a small bird fly out of this nest tucked under a porch roof.

IMG_0717Almost Too Much

The sight and scent of so many lilacs was almost overwhelming . . . but in the most delightful way.

IMG_0698I’m In Love

IMG_0697Mountain View

There were lilacs of every conceivable color.

IMG_0706Baby Blue

IMG_0702Pure White

IMG_0694Deep Purple

IMG_0719Palest Lavender

I’ve never seen lilacs like this one before. I love these frothy, curly petals.

IMG_0711Neigh-bor

This old boy seemed to be enjoying his leisure just beyond the lilacs.

IMG_0716Reluctance

All good things must come to an end. Senses filled to overflowing, we headed back toward the exit. But not without stopping by the shed to buy a bouquet to take home, to savor the scent of this day a while longer.

DSC_0614Keepsake

What a memorable walk this was, and what a wonderful discovery! In all the years I lived in Nevada and California, I only knew of lilacs from having read about them. When I moved to the eastern US in the mid-1990’s, I fell in love with them at first sight — and smell. I’d never have guessed they could grow in the high desert of Southern California. I’m happy to know that I can experience their heady joy here and now, and in every spring to come.

PS – All these images, except for the last one, were taken with my iPhone. When my sister and I left the house, we intended to grab some lunch and go shopping, so I didn’t take my camera. Stopping to smell the lilacs was a spur-of-the-moment impulse. We never did get to the stores, and we weren’t sorry at all.

Linking with Walk and Click Wednesdays, with many thanks to Lissa for hosting. I look forward to it more each week. Come on over and join the fun!


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So Long, Chickadee

There will be lilacs!

There will be lilacs!

It’s official, spring has sprung. But my walk this week has me thinking back to last fall.

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Scout

In my bird book, I noted my first sighting of a Mountain Chickadee on September 19, 2012. At first there was just one, but soon we had small flocks in residence, hanging out with the house finches and white crowned sparrows.

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Mind If I Join You?

Then I began hearing an odd little tapping noise. What on earth? Oh, I see! A chickadee would pluck a hard, round seed pod (they are actually tiny cones) off the big arborvita at the corner of the house, carry it to a crape myrtle or pine branch, and hold it between his feet while pecking it open with his beak, tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.  Over the next few weeks, they stripped every seed off that tree. Only then did they join the other birds at the feeders.

One day I caught a glimpse of a bird I couldn’t identify. It looked a lot like a chickadee, but its beak was twice as long. A day or so later, I spotted another one, got a better look at it, and had to laugh–it wasn’t another species, it was just one of my little chickadees with a sunflower seed in his beak. Unlike the house finches, who crack and eat the seeds right at the feeder, the chickadees carry away one seed at a time, again finding a branch on which to peck it open.

They’re rather gregarious little birds, often chattering and scolding from a nearby branch as I sat on my patio or cleaned and refilled the bird bath. But my picture-taking efforts were frustrating. I couldn’t get very close with the camera, and they move quicker than I can aim and focus. I’ve taken dozens of images and deleted most of them.

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Please, stop wiggling!

A few days ago, I was walking around the yard with my camera, taking photos of the spring buds and blossoms that are beginning to appear, when a chickadee alighted on a branch right next to me. He watched me turn and raise the camera, and sat quietly while I took eight precious, perfect shots.

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Then — gone.

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Two days later, they were ALL gone. Every. Single. One.

God speed and fare thee well, my little friends. Thank you for your gracious parting gift. I hope to see you again come fall!

I’m linking with Lissa for Walk and Click Wednesday. This was a short walk–I didn’t even get out of my own front yard. I haven’t forgotten that I promised to take you the rest of the way home from the mail box . . . the long way . . . so we’ll do that next week.
laf Custom Designs