Wearing Different Hats

Urban Wildlife?

I didn’t see any bunnies, but my own were in the forefront of my mind when I spotted this sign nailed to a tree along the Burke Gilman trail in Fremont. I had just come from a meeting with Robby and his college counselor. I was thinking, as I walked along the trail, how easily everything else that I was busy with today had receded. There was no place I’d have rather been than right there, sitting in that counselor’s office discussing the programs and merits of colleges from Colorado and Montana to others closer to home. Continue reading

Reflections on Connections

Editing swimming shots for the college swim team website

It was that kind of day. I spent a chunk of it glued to this screen, along with running up and down the stairs to the laundry room to wash sheets, to the kitchen to make food for a kid and do dishes, and to the car to deliver kids to school and ski stuff to kids, all between tasks at my desk.

Photography today requires a lot of time in front of a computer. That’s probably the area in which I find the biggest challenges. There’s the part where I’m out there in the world, interacting and acting… the physical, more obviously creative part, and then there’s this other part, the sitting part. Some photographers love it, and are amazingly skilled in what they can do with photographic images. I can’t say I dislike it, its just more challenging for me to sit still, and I consider myself a baby in the technology part. For people my age, its a new skill, but some are more technologically savvy than others. All of my younger years were film years, and then there was the hiatus when the kids were little, and I only shot film even though digital was fast becoming the coolest new thing. I couldn’t stand it, so I think I only shot on special occasions or vacations. There were no digital slr’s, and it drove me crazy that the image you thought you were capturing was not the image that you got. So what do you photograph on a day when you are basically parked in front of a computer? Me, parked. I considered, for a moment, driving over to my friend’s house and photographing her. She was sharpening pencils and cleaning out the drawer they live in. She filled half the garbage can with felt tip pens that no longer worked. Instead we decided to make a break for it when neither of us would be missed and met for dinner – without my camera. I considered bringing it when I went to pick up four 13 year-olds at the ski bus drop off, but I couldn’t figure out how to shoot at the same time as carry two pairs of skis and a pair of boots. Another opportunity missed. So instead, its me, glued to the screen, editing swimming shots from last weekend. The coach was anxious to get them. I realized why when I looked at the Athletic portion of the school web site and realized that “Swimming and Diving” was the only sport without a photo gallery link.

I came across the following quote this morning on Phil Borges facebook page:

Women work 2/3 of the worlds working hours. Most labor that sustains life is done by women and universally accorded low status and no pay. ~ Phil Borges

I find it interesting that at this moment in time there is a great deal of attention being paid to the exploitation of women and girls in the developing world. It is amazing to see the progress being made all over the world in awareness about this subject. Personally, I think it is through this new awareness, that women and girls all over the world will come to see their own value and the value in the role of the stay-at-home mom of the developed world. Because, and this is my personal opinion, on a fundamental level, we are doing the same thing. We are tending the hearth and caring for the children. I think that women in the developed world are playing a key part in raising awareness about the plight of women and girls in the developing world because they feel the kinship between them. Because of the way that communications are in the world today, we see the faces and life circumstances of these women. In my comfortable home in Seattle, I know that the biggest difference between a woman who walks miles every day to have enough water for her children and me is circumstances. This awareness make me grateful, but in some way, it allows me to see more clearly that what I do is valuable and that even though no one is going to pay me a penny to do it, it is the most important work. It is the work of sustaining life and the more I am able to value who I am and what I do in the world, the better I am able to support and authentically champion the cause of the exploited and impoverished women and children in other parts of the world. In a nutshell, the more empowered I am as a woman and in the role I have chosen, the more power I have to help empower others.

A Sign in the Sky

Rainbow over Greenlake

So many ideas crowded my mind earlier today for what I was going to write tonight that I didn’t know which one to go with. That’s been decided though, because they’ve all vanished for the moment and I’ve committed to myself that I will no longer do that stay up and write thing.  I know I’ve said that before, but I’m going to write it again. If I look at it written in black and white in front of me, its hard to weasel my way out of.  So the following is the condensed version of what’s on the top of my brain or tip of my tongue:

I have an all day class once a month. After arriving home last night, getting kids off this morning, and running off to class, I may have used up the resources I had that would fuel a lot of in depth reflection on my weekend in California and my return home. What became clear over my three day visit with my daughter, is that we have arrived at a point in time where our relationship is being renegotiated. Its not necessarily a comfortable moment, and will require some adjusting for both of us. Visiting on her turf was an experiment that brought with it a whole set of unexpected challenges and growing pains. The new form our relationship will take has yet to be determined. I see now that the work we did over the past several years to keep the doors of communication open was not just for maintaining peace during the high school years.  That work laid the foundation for the adult-adult relationship that we ushered into being this weekend.

As I was walking during lunch today with a few classmates, this rainbow appeared. Rainbows never cease to make my heart leap. They carry so many hopeful messages and interpretations, all offering us promises of brighter days ahead. When I look at this photo now, of the rainbow veiled by winter branches, I see hope for spring.  I also see it as a metaphor for this new relationship.  The vestiges of the old are still there, forming a structure, but that structure is from the past. We can choose to step in front of the winter branches and create something new, no longer obscured by the old structure and its baggage. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t step in front of those branches today or I would have fallen in the lake. And truth is, I can’t even try to create that new form alone or I will surely fall – in a lake of trouble!

Back Home

After the storm

The above photograph was taken across the main boulevard from the college campuses, looking towards the mountains. Remember, this is southern California! Today was a beautiful day and I was reminded of what a special place this is, and how lucky my daughter is to have found a college where she is so happy, and which suits her so well. Maybe next time I come visit, I will get to enjoy some of this glorious California sunshine. For now, I am back home to the familiar Seattle weather, and the rain here seems friendlier than the storm did there. The flooded paths and courtyards of that land which is accustomed to warmth and sunshine were littered with leaves and branches from tropical and semi-tropical plants and trees. Today, people were smiling and wearing their shorts again despite the chill that persisted in the air.  Home again, in a place accustomed to rain and grey skies, no one is wearing shorts, but they don’t seem cowed by the weather either.

Its late now and I’ve promised not to kill myself staying up late writing anymore, so I’m signing off. Tomorrow is a school morning and the usual routine: breakfast, lunches, and carpools…

Changing Expectations

Knitting in "Some Crust"

If you’d asked me what I expected to do while visiting Charlotte “at College” in southern California, the list would not have included sitting in a cafe for half the day while she swam and went to class… not because I would have expected to hang out with her during those times, but because I thought maybe I’d be out exploring with my camera, going for a run or a walk, maybe sitting by the pool in the sun, or reading on a bench somewhere.  The fact that it is about 42 degrees, that most of Los Angeles county is flooding because it has been pouring for five days straight, and that I arrived here half-sick, makes for another set of circumstances entirely. Apparently, I’m supposed to get some rest, and the Universe is making sure that I do so.  There’s not much to do indoors in a place that gets this much sunshine every year.  The college kids are cooped up in dorms where they aren’t used to hanging out, and getting a little stir-crazy.  They don’t know what to do when the weather’s like this either.  My solution, reading and writing at “Some Crust”, was as good as any, yet sitting there, just “being”, felt very odd and I can’t say that I was entirely comfortable. Ordinarily, I dream of having days like today, where no one and nothing is making any demands on me. It seems like it would be ideal. Yet, when given exactly that, it feels strange and like I’m doing something wrong. If I’m not doing, then who am I?  I sat and wrestled with this in my journal for a while, but when I found myself asking why I take photographs… “what is the point of that?” and I knew the answer, I decided that I had already gone through this too many times and closed my journal.  Introspection had gone too far. “Visual Poetry” took its place and I immersed myself in the wisdom of photographer/author Chris Orwig.  Soon I started thinking about what I could shoot on a day like today, when I didn’t even want to go outside.  I started looking around the cafe and the street outside with different eyes. An older couple asked if they could sit at the end of the large table next to where I was sitting. She started knitting.  There is a grace to the rhythm of knitting and I found myself watching her hands.  I asked her if I could photograph them, and that began a long conversation with the psychology professor and his wife. They live on an island not far from Seattle when not here teaching, so we had many physical touch points for our conversation. In that short interval, I was lifted from my own spinning thoughts, via knitting and my camera, to a vision of thousands of snow geese lifting as one from a field in the Skagit Valley, followed by another of bald eagles at their winter feeding grounds – one a memory that I shared, and one that was shared with me. Both gave me ideas for places to go that I haven’t been at all or for a long time – both close to home.

I’m currently writing this from my daughter’s dorm room sitting on her bed.  College campuses are special places.  They vibrate with positive, youthful energy and enthusiasm. There is guitar music, recorded music and laughter coming from behind doors. Walking around this school and sitting in the town, I am constantly impressed by the conversations I overhear.  These kids are going to change the world.