Sea Blue Lens


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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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Spring Break and Be Still Week 48

Apparently I’ve been on a blogging break for the past few weeks. It wasn’t intentional; it just seems to have turned out that way. It’s not that I haven’t been taking photographs, or even sharing them — just not on my blog. For example, I participated in Susannah Conway’s April Love 2015, but my responses to those daily prompts were posted in the April Love 2015 Facebook group.

Also in April, I took Vivienne McMasters’ new Double Exposure Love class, which was so much fun! Those got posted to Instagram. Here’s a sampling:

DoubleExposures-1

This is one of my favorites:

IMG_0727Double Vision

These were all created on my iPhone or iPad using the Diana Photo app. Some of them were paired randomly by the app, and some were pairings I chose. Vivienne showed us other ways to make double exposures using PicMonkey and Photoshop, but I’ve been having so much fun with Diana Photo that I haven’t tried them yet.

Be Still – 52

I also took a break during April — again, not deliberately — from Be Still 52. I have a few lessons to catch up on, but I did get this week’s done. Our assignment was a still life featuring two or three things: coffee or tea, change, from above. I remembered some coins I brought home from my last trip to England and decided to use them to create a travel theme.

DSC_9166Keepsakes

This image includes a few photos I took in London on my first trip to England. Yes, that is Her Majesty, and yes, I really was that close to her. It was pure chance and stunning good luck that put me in the right place at the right time on my last day before flying home.

IMG_1212Travel Planning

Plotting how I can get back to spend those coins!

DSC_9168Travel Dreams

I dream of returning to England some day, but at this point it seems likely to remain only a dream. Still, I have wonderful memories and some pretty amazing photos to back them up. And, thank goodness, I can still have scones and tea right here at home…and there’s one more season of Downton Abbey to look forward to!

[Be Still notes: The first image was processed with kk_hazydazy Lightroom preset. The second was just cropped a bit and some vignetting added in Lightroom. The last was processed with Kim’s Pastelhaze preset. I did try some of the darker, more dramatic presets with these photos but didn’t care for the results.]


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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

IMG_1417Balancing Act

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

IMG_1658With Thankful Heart 89/365

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…

IMG_1662A Snapshot of Modern Life 90/365

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

DSC_3688Shadow Play 107/365

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

DSC_2832What Comes After 20/365

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

IMG_1858Angel Baby 113/365

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.