Monday, September 28, 2009

When Everything Comes Together

When a one line email arrives in the middle of the night, point your nose into the breeze and take in the winds of change.

You may be too tired to grasp all that the email portends at the time, but stick it in your wallet like a Chinese fortune. I promise you will look at it later and marvel at the accuracy of its prediction.

Three months ago, Aimee sent me an email (not an actual cookie, though that would have been good too) with this message.

That was all it said except for the inclusion of a link to this.

I've been carrying around a camera since the late 70's. I still remember my very first one. It was a cheapo 110 that Santa brought me to take pictures on my upcoming trip to Disney World (a huge gift from grandmother). I was nine. All of the pictures from that trip are off-center because the viewfinder wasn't lined up with the lens. I can still smell the scent of the burned out flash bar.

The 110 was followed by a series of point and shoot film cameras, an SLR, a couple of digital point and shoots and finally two years ago a digital SLR. I thought everyone owned a camera of some sort or another. It wasn't until I posted a bunch of old photos on Facebook recently (much to the chagrin of many friends) that I realized my assumption was wrong.

You'd think after all of those cameras I'd know a thing or two about photography. But I didn't. Not really. I knew that I liked to capture moments. I was ecstatic when a photo actually came out sort of the way I imagined it would. But I'll let you in on a secret: it was all just a matter of statistics. If you shoot enough, you're bound to end up with one or two you love. Despite a desire to take a photography class, I still hadn't gotten around to it.

Over the past year or two, I'd been lurking around blogs with beautiful photography. I actually wound up the nerve to ask Yvonne and Aimee for a few pointers. Yvonne pointed me to this book (which I bought immediately--she said it changed her photography completely) and Aimee provided me with constant encouragement--that is until she sent me that link.

I knew of Me Ra through reputation. I knew other bloggers spoke her name in hushed tones. The workshop seemed like a bit of an investment, but photography was really becoming a hobby, so I signed up for the workshop.

And then I freaked out!

I was going to sit in a room with this amazing photographer and 19 other women who knew about aperature and f-stop and shutter speed and probably the Pythagorean Theorem--some of them even had their own photography businesses!

What the f*ck was I thinking?! I was going to embarrass myself.

Last weekend arrived, and the moment I met Me Ra my fears disappeared. I believe it's impossible to be around that smile, around her light and not feel inspired.

Yes she taught us how to leave the automatic settings behind and shoot entirely in manual (ENTIRELY IN MANUAL! You can do it too!), but that was such a small part of our weekend workshop. The very first note I took had nothing to do with photography at all.

"Anytime you can speak in front of people about what you do, the better."

And my second:

"What you have is enough."

Yes Me Ra is a published writer and an incredible photographer, but she is so much more. Me Ra was put on this planet to inspire women. Her artistic talents are just the tools she uses to speak to our hearts.
"Step back from your images and see what your soul is trying to tell you."

I've had a copy of The Artist's Way on my shelf for 15 years. I don't know that I've ever gotten further than the Table of Contents. That was until Me Ra started our workshop reflecting on a quote she pulled out of her well-worn copy.

I smiled as I looked at the book laying on the table in front of her. The cover was faded, the binding floppy and a rainbow of sticky notes adorned pages like ceremonial feathers. It reminded me of my copy of Let's Go Europe that still sits proudly on my shelf almost 20 years after that great trip.

My copy of The Artist's Way is no longer on the shelf but now sitting next to my computer where I can easily grab it when I can steal a few minutes to be inspired. I was so euphoric after the workshop I was mad when I had to return to work the next day. All I wanted to do was take advantage of the light outside, play with my photos in my free trial of Lightroom and spend the rest of my time reading and continuing on my path to creativity.

Oh yeah, I have a family and a job and house and...and...

But you know what? It's okay. Because last week I came across this post by Leo Babauta.

"Holding ourselves back is often considered a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s the best thing we can do, if we want changes to last. When we start a new change, often we are full of enthusiasm. But then we go all out and use up all of that enthusiasm, and run out of motivation or energy or get distracted by something else. But when you hold yourself back, you build up enthusiasm and keep it going for much longer..."

How did he know I needed to read this?

I'm the queen of charging full-steam ahead and burning out just as fast. I don't want to do it this time though. All this confluence of events and ideas and skills and encouragement, it needs to be treated differently. I know this moment is special.

I am full of anticipation with what will come. I am already seeing changes.

As of tonight, I'm not sure what my soul is trying to say through the images yet, but I'm liking what they are whispering.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Inspired

I had an incredible weekend. So much so, I'm still letting it wash over me before I even begin to think about what it all means.

In the meantime, I hope this gives you some inspiration to look at the world through the lens of gratitude.

The procrastinator in me is taking a bit longer than 21 days to complete the Challenge, but I see it as an opportunity to consciously think about gratitude for even longer. I know I am seeing the world differently through this practice.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Did I Mention I Knit?

Yeah. Not really. But I'm trying to learn.

I picked up this incredible self-striping yarn in April.

And in less than a week I had this (My model complained that it's too hot. Perfect for cold days I say.). Nobody told me how addictive this knitting is.

For my next trick, I went online and ordered scads of bright colored cotton yarn to attempt a log cabin blanket.

I chose my youngest to be the recipient of my first blanket thinking he'd be less likely to notice any flaws. Little did I know I'd create a task master. G*d forbid I sit down and do nothing. All I hear is "Mom why aren't you knitting? You need to be knitting my blanket." I apologize now to his future spouse.

The end of the blanket is near and the fantastic folks over at Try Handmade hipped me to a newish fiber store not far from my office/house (remind me to call Erika when I need to be bailed out of debtors prison).

Well at Fibre Space I found this beautiful wool. I have deluded challenged myself to knit a sweater out of it.

Stop laughing. At least my goodies all came in this adorable reusable bag.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Work Here is Done

Though winded from my happy dance, I wanted to be sure to record for posterity the conversation my son and I just had in the car.

Mr. Cool 8th Grader: Mom! I love history this year. It's not really history. It's civics. We're talking about government and politics and stuff.

Me: I loved civics.

(I was a political science major you know)

MC8G: We talked about the President's speech today.

Me: Really?

(thinking he's referring to the President's speech to the students)

MC8G: Yeah. That guy who yelled out...what an idiot. I mean he's the President. You have to respect the office, ya know. It's okay to think bad things, but you can't always say them. He's going to get it.

Me: See why I've been telling you that about not always having to comment on ev-ery thing? Did you know that Congressman's likely opponent in the next election raised over $350k in the last 24 hours? All for that one little sentence he yelled.

(Pause while MC8G scarfs down the rest of his burrito.)

MC8G: You know, if there weren't men in this world there probably wouldn't be any wars. That's just my two cents on it.

Me: (Trying to concentrate above the sounds of angels singing in my ears) What makes you say that?

MC8G: I don't know it's complicated.

Me: Is it because you think women wouldn't start wars?

MC8G: Yeah. They probably wouldn't solve problems that way.

Me: Well not all men want to solve problems that way.

MC8G: Oh I know. Some people have to fight. It's their job.

Me: Yes. If you're in the military you have to follow orders. That is your job. War isn't always wrong, but sometimes we do get in wars we probably don't have to.

MC8G: Why can't we just be like Australia and kick back with our kangaroos? They just hang out. They don't bother anyone.

Me: Well sometimes they join in.

MC8G: But most the time they're hanging out on the porch petting their kangaroos. That's what we should be like.

I'd like to believe this is all due to my incredible parenting, but HE CAME UP WITH THESE IDEAS ON HIS OWN PEOPLE!

This is the same child who shaved off most of his eyebrows in first grade because he thought they were getting too long.

I think I should probably quit here while I'm ahead.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Enjoying the Sameness

It wasn't the first time I slept on the main floor at my aunt and uncle's house.

The house has been the location of family gatherings for long before I was around. My aunt and uncle inherited it from my great-grandfather. We think he bought it from his father. We don't really know how long it's been there, that's just as far back as anyone living knows the story.

It isn't a big house, though it does have three bedrooms, so when the family gets together--usually at Easter--you sleep wherever you can find space. Since most of my life I have been part of the youngest generation that usually meant I camped on the floor.

Last week, I woke up on the couch after a restless night's sleep. I needed to get up and start getting ready, but I just lay there taking in the sounds and smells that were both familiar and comforting.

The smell of coffee brewing. The sounds of voices catching up over breakfast. Silverware clinking on dishes. Footsteps padding on the wood floor. No sound is too harsh. Each is round and just a bit muted by the lifetime of possessions that fill the house.

I can taste the Rice Chex and creamy milk that I'm going to eat. There are always Rice Chex in my aunt's cupboard.

I'll be greeted by the "adults." I'll be called "sleepy head" and I'll give them the same smile I have since I was teenager (the yep I love to sleep smile).

I know exactly what the next thirty minutes will entail and yet I lay still soaking it all in for just a few minutes more, because I know this is the last time I'll enjoy the routine.

For after breakfast, we'll be showering and dressing and getting in the car to head to my aunt's funeral. This will be the last family gathering in the house. Everyone has moved away--moved on. The house will be sold.

It's time to get up now, and it's okay. I will have those sounds and smells in my head forever, and for that I am grateful.