I can’t find the first photo album filled with my childhood, the one with the drawing of the mid-60s mod girl with the long auburn bouffant hair high at the crown that falls into a gently swooping curve just below her shoulders and the big eyes with sweeping lashes and the hot pink paisley A-line mini-dress with the banded empire waist and the knee-high, high-heeled boots.  My mother gave it to me some months after Christmas because, in her diligent way of buying gifts throughout the year to be ready for celebrations, she’d put it away and forgotten about it, or had forgotten where she’d hidden it in a bid to keep me and my brother from being able to find the closeted gifts we would carefully unwrap and rewrap before she got from work or before she and dad got home from date nights. 

When she did find it, she presented it to me, unwrapped, on a sunny day out on the front sidewalk as we got ready to drive the mica-beige station wagon to our new house.  That’s one sure way to find lost treasures: wait until moving day.

She didn’t often misplace treasures; this was a rarity.  I still can see her sheepish smile as she handed the unwrapped album to me.  A gift given out of season.  

Its pictures were three to a page, vertically.  When I’d stuffed it full, the center photo in the first page was a cut-to-fit Polaroid of my brother and me in our bathing suits washing our grandmother's car.

You wouldn't think with this vivid memory I'd want the album or its contents, but it seems that I do, still.  Maybe only because I’ve misplaced it.

What is it about memories that we think aren't good enough, that  we think we have to have the tangible object to provide supporting documentation to fill in for the elusiveness of memories. 

I fear that without the photo I might forget the little details, as if I need the photo to remember the smell of the water as it washed away the hot dust that clung to the golden-brown panels of the boat-of-a-car grandma drove around town to the bank, The Mercantile, and the Albertson’s,  and up onto the interstate that carved its way in tandem with the railroad tracks between the city and my mother’s family’s small town sprung from the rocky mountainside, and carried her safely to her teaching job in New Mexico every August and back again when the earth tilted its forehead toward the sun and my brother and I started dreaming of summer vacations where time moved more slowly.  It did; my mother swore to it.                                  

As if forgetting the details means I’ll too soon forget the larger scenes of summer, childhood pursuits, the family members now gone, buried in small boxes that perch under the dust on cemetery markers when no rain has come, or atop shelves in empty houses, gathering dust to dust, ashes to ashes, until sunlight picks up a glint from the lake’s surface and sends its spear into the window and, in the stillness, a spirit blows across a cedarwood box, sending dust motes high to dance like glitter.

 

 

Rules aren't real

A friend participating in the black&white photo fun challenge going around Facebook recently posted a picture of her toddler in the bathtub.  One of the "rules" of the challenge is that photos not have people in them.  My friend focused on a bath bombe sitting on the edge of the tub, with the back of her daughter's shampooed head out of focus.  Social media being what it is, someone had to point out that she'd included a person in her picture.  Egads!  A rule-breaker!

The Hub invited me to join the challenge a few days later and, rules be damned, I didn't bother to post 'the rules' nor the hashtags with each photo.  (And if you think about it, posting the short 'rules' blurb that says "no explanations" is itself kind of explanation, isn't it? I am amused.) The challenge is arbitrary; the rules aren't real.  There aren't any challenge police (even my friend's friend who chided her has no authority whatsoever), any more than in any other area of life where we too often worry "what will other people think?"  

I lost much of my others-care filter on a milestone birthday a few years back, and I've lost a whole lot more of it since my father died.  How many years have I spent worrying what others think?  Too many.

So I thanked the husband for inviting me to the challenge and set about seeing the world in black & white.  Instead of trying to make a stunning, artful image, I used the opportunity to capture whatever was on my mind each day.  It's been surprisingly helpful in continuing to process my grief, as were the many images I took in the week following dad's death.

There just might be more images to come. 

And yes, color has crept into my last two pictures.  I'm a big fan of color, not so much b&w, so letting color show up in my images is as inevitable as my refusal to follow 'the rules'.

On being stuck in the middle

I felt stuck in the middle of a situation today so I slipped out for a quick walk  to try to clear my head and get some perspective back.  There was a sharp bite to the air but a fast pace softened it. 

I caught these two shots while I was out: 

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This leaf had drifted its way to the ground but landed in a place where it was both trapped and supported by the very crevice that held it captive. I felt trapped in the situation but a breather told me here might be more possibilities than my irrational thinking at the time was letting me see.

 

 

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The serrated edges of a crisp, dry, cold leaf echoed the sharp edges in the air.

 

 

 

 

I didn't come to any great awakenings but the walk was refreshing and introduced me to a couple of those things that make you go hmm...

Feel free to share your own observations or 'things that make you go hmm...' in the comments.  

The never ending story

It's a never ending story for me: managing all that I get myself into.  Summer class, intense 8-week fall class, etc.  You know the drill.  But once a thankfully long while something comes along that trumps all else, like my father's death a couple of weeks ago.  

While meeting with family and beginning to process our loss, everything went on hold except for the photo ops that appeared right in front of me.  This time last year, I did the same - grabbed the photo ops that gave me a little respite by taking the camera for a walk in solitude.  This year, I had only the iPhone, it was too cold to spend much time outside, and I didn't have a ton of time alone (which was probably good), but I grabbed pictures everywhere I could, very often from the passenger seat.  

A few friends on FB liked them, so I'm shifting them over here, too.  

Nudging the neurons

The summer semester ended on July 30th, and I'm free now.  Sort of.  My fall class starts in a few weeks but for now, in this in-between space, I'm turning my focus and time toward my MLA capstone, which begins with the spring 2018 semester, and the long list of prep work I've made for myself.  On that list: establish better habits for writing.  

These little 6-word story invitations are, even in their tiny way, a good exercise.  They require economy, which requires thinking outside box to imply a full story behind such a short string of words.  It's a small commitment, coming up with six words, and once I've come up with one string, I'm tempted to come up with a second, and so on, at least until I have to get up and do the laundry or something.  

Nudge those neurons and see what you can come up with.  Feel free to share here but a share on the 6-word story site would be even better.  If you're going to write the words, then why not put them out into the world where they belong?

If you'd rather stay here where people know you, then how about using this image? 

A publication!

I was happy to receive The Soap Box, Vol. II, in which my poem Hoarfrost on Cattails appears.  (Inspired by the photo I took here.)

I haven't had anything published for a few years.  Publication is like the lottery: you gotta' play to win.  And I haven't been playing.  I go through brief spurts when I submit a poem or two then I stop because life doesn't stop while I'm writing poetry, meaning nothing else gets done.  Even life sustaining things like grocery shopping, laundry, bill paying.

The piece published here was one that spontaneously combusted during one of my layovers in Minneapolis last fall.  I'd tried to force it onto the page during my flight, only to be overtaken by a very powerful desire to nap, so I put it away and didn't get it out again until I was waiting at my net gate.  Then, bammo, there it was!  I fired up the laptop, banged the keyboard into oblivion, and now my (albeit imperfect) words are on a printed page with a related sketch facing it.  (I didn't do the sketch.  A fabulous artist named Darya Rakitine did the sketch.  I can't draw.  At all.  Like barely even a doodle in a textbook.)

My gratitude to The Soap Box for publishing it and adding a drawing, and to my creative online friends who allowed my poem to be the one that got submitted from the group of poems we created together.  

Cheers to small journals!