“The more one can disengage from one’s own self-centered myopia, the more the world, in all its glory, rushes in to fill the gap. Gratitude creates a space in which nothing is not welcome: the fog, the hummingbirds, the blue sea and the sails….
“In the I Ching, when a line of the oracle reaches its most extreme, expansive state, it swings back, like a pendulum, into its own opposite…. It seems possible to me that our culture of speed and confusion, busyness and overwhelm, has reached just such a state, and that the time has come for the quick double-flip of transformation, from greed to gratitude, from isolation and depression to community and calm.“
“We are grateful for the frontline workers who have never stopped showing up over these long and confusing months, making sure our food is harvested and shipped, keeping our grocery stores stocked, picking up our trash, and keeping our cities and towns safe.
“We are grateful for the health care workers who put in long shifts and isolate themselves from their loved ones, the nurses who comfort and help people say one last goodbye, and the doctors who fight for every breath.
“We are grateful for the educators who learned to teach in virtual classrooms almost overnight, who did extra work to reach families without technology, or who took late-night phone calls from parents on the verge of tears.
“We are grateful for the parents who have carried their families through the chaos, working or searching for a job, navigating childcare and remote learning.
“We are grateful for the researchers and scientists who have spent this year learning everything they can to understand how to fight this pandemic and working tirelessly to find a vaccine and therapeutics.
“We are grateful for the American spirit that does not cower in the face of crisis and hardships but instead comes together to lift up one another. All those who lost jobs but not heart, who donated to food banks or asked their neighbors, What can I do? How can I help?
“We’re grateful for everyone who reminded us that we are bigger than the challenges we face.“
“I put the camera away. I needed to rein in my thoughts before I could hope to accomplish anything. I sat in the shade of an old pinyon pine and closed my eyes and breathed in the sweetness of its sap. I waited a few moments until the calmness of the place, soft and persistent, began to circulate within me…. Words and ideas appeared in my mind and I wrote them down, starting with this: ‘Preoccupation is the enemy of inspiration.'”
“For a long time I attributed such healing powers to writing but did not quite experience them in photography. This changed … when I began to practice photography as a contemplative pursuit, by which I mean that I began to place the creative process — the thinking and doing — above what anecdotal images, good or bad, may result. I take my time; I consider; I imagine; I operate my tools without the use of automated shortcuts; I appreciate the tactile feel of the controls, the way the image in my viewfinder morphs in subtle increments as I make small adjustments to settings and composition; I stop to savor the sensations of chill or warmth on my skin and the scents and sounds of my surroundings; I identify birds and flowers and butterflies and rocks around me, and make mental notes to look up unfamiliar ones. It takes time and attention, not only toward making an image but also away from other, lesser things. I realized that the solace I always found in writing was not about writing, but about the writing process, which by its nature imposes such contemplation. And, once realized, I learned that solace could also be found in other things, if practiced with the same mindset.”
Most Americans, I believe, have typically experienced the lame duck period between presidential administrations as something relatively benign — a transition of about two months where handoffs occur between the outgoing and incoming teams, largely unnoticed as we move deeper into fall and winter around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. But 2020 insists on ramming home the message that nothing is normal anymore. We get to witness the tragicomedy of a presidential campaign that won’t let go while the administration seems to have gone on break, only to spend its time in courtrooms where most of its cases fail and giving press conferences where “elite lawyers” drip with conspiracy theories, and, apparently, spray-on hair that can’t handle camera lights. Ah, well, such are the raspy, waning days of the Trump presidential family — not deserving that much of my attention since they will, without a doubt, be evicted in January 2021 — with their stunts becoming fodder for historians, sociologists, and psychologists of the future. Buh-bye!
If you would like to look forward instead of back, you can learn more about how President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and their teams are preparing to assume office in January, on their dedicated web site at Biden-Harris Transition, where the news page is frequently updated.
I told a friend of mine a few weeks before the election — as it looked more and more like Georgia would support the Biden-Harris ticket — that if that happened, I was going to deck my house out in blue lights for the Christmas holiday, as a way of personally recognizing the flip and win. Well, here they are — 2,500 wee blue lights — ready and patiently waiting to be unboxed, stretched out, and festooned (!!) among the tree branches, along the windows, and atop various pieces of living room and dining room furniture.
Christmas decorating turns into quite a project (I usually do a little project plan (not really! (ok, really!!))) that commences around Thanksgiving and never quite finishes completely; and I’m considering leaving the bluely-decorated tree standing until the presidential inauguration. We’ll see about that part; while the lifelike tree in all its actual lifelessness can certainly stay up that long, I may get a little weary of it blotting out my living room window by the first of January or so.
I went hunting for some fall scenes to photograph early last week … but weirdly, there still wasn’t that much color to see. It’s so different from last year, when the whole city just glowed yellow, red, and orange even before Halloween; yet with nighttime/daytime temperatures in the 50- to 80-degree range, leaves are just falling without changing color. Last year’s color extravaganza — created by a couple of deep-freeze days in early October — seems like it’s not going to be repeated this year, but I’ll keep trying. 🙂
Below, finally, are the last few galleries of the summer lily series of photos — the first of which is a before and after version of one of the images. Thanks for taking a look!
“To know what has come before is to be armed against despair. If the men and women of the past, with all their flaws and limitations and ambitions and appetites, could press on through ignorance and superstition, racism and sexism, selfishness and greed, to create a freer, stronger nation, then perhaps we, too, can right wrongs and take another step toward that most enchanting and elusive of destinations: a more perfect Union.
“To do so requires innumerable acts of citizenship and of private grace. It will require, as it has in the past, the witness and the bravery of reformers who hold no office and who have no traditional power but who yearn for a better, fairer way of life. And it will also require, I believe, a president of the United States with a temperamental disposition to speak to the country’s hopes rather than to its fears.”
We’re almost to the end of the summery lily photos, at which point I’ll finally concede that summer is over and start my autumn color hunt — especially since the calendar is telling me it’s November 11 and that’s a pretty accurate sign of fall. See: conceding is easy; you just gotta respect the facts!
If you’ve ever wondered why the season between summer and winter has two names, here’s a fun article that explains how that came about. The word “fall” — as it turns out — actually has something to do with what leaves do this time of year. Who knew?
Below are a some deep red lilies from my Oakland Cemetery photoshoots; they are, I think, tiger lily variants. The first gallery is a before-and-after image of one of the photos, stylized as I described previously (see Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)) — but in this case I left a bit of extra green left intact in the background. Select either image to view them in a slideshow if you would like to see larger versions to compare.
“Picture the most beautiful mountain you know or know of or can imagine, one whose form speaks personally to you. As you focus on the image or the feeling of the mountain in your mind’s eye, notice its overall shape, the lofty peak, the base rooted in the rock of the earth’s crust, the steep or gently sloping sides. Note as well how massive it is, how unmoving, how beautiful whether seen from afar or up close….
“Perhaps your mountain has snow at the top and trees on the lower slopes. Perhaps it has one prominent peak, perhaps a series of peaks or a high plateau. However it appears, just sit and breathe with the image of this mountain, observing it, noting its qualities….
“Now, as well you know, throughout the day as the sun travels the sky, the mountain just sits. Light and shadow and colors are changing virtually moment to moment in the mountain’s adamantine stillness. Even the untrained eye can see changes by the hour…. As the light changes, as night follows day and day night, the mountain just sits, simply being itself. It remains still as the seasons flow into one another and as the weather changes moment by moment and day by day….
“Calmness abiding all change.”
Since tomorrow is Election Day here in the United States — and it may have some … shall we say … volatility to it — I picked out a quotation of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” variety for this post, instead of one about lilies or flowers. The quote is extracted from a meditation exercise in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book — and while I don’t practice meditation, I’m fairly well read on mindfulness and present-moment awareness as psychological concepts. Short version: exercises like this — along with many immersive nature or creative activities — can help center you as a living being in a moment of time, linking you to a nearly endless experience of light, color, sound, and calm breathing … rather than whatever chaotic, noisy, ratty-ass crap is going on around you. So if you get tense watching election coverage tomorrow … just imagine your mountain, instead.
Below are a few more lily photo galleries, the first of which is a before-and-after image of one of the photos, stylized as I described previously (see Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)). We are approaching the end of this series just as colder weather — including a few frosty nights — has made its way into Atlanta, and finally I’m starting to see some autumn yellows and oranges brushing the leaves nearby. Big photoshoots planned! So stay tuned!
“The common honeybees, gone wild in this sweet wilderness, gather tons of honey into the hollows of the trees and rocks, clambering eagerly through bramble and hucklebloom, shaking the clustered bells of the generous manzanita, now humming aloft among polleny willows and firs, now down on the ashy ground among small gilias and buttercups, and anon plunging into banks of snowy cherry and buckthorn….
“They consider the lilies and roll into them, pushing their blunt polleny faces against them like babies on their mother’s bosom; and fondly, too, with eternal love does Mother Nature clasp her small bee-babies and suckle them, multitudes at once, on her warm Shasta breast. Besides the common honeybee there are many others here, fine, burly, mossy fellows, such as were nourished on the mountains many a flowery century before the advent of the domestic species — bumblebees, mason-bees, carpenter-bees, and leaf-cutters. Butterflies, too, and moths of every size and pattern; some wide-winged like bats, flapping slowly and sailing in easy curves; others like small flying violets shaking about loosely in short zigzag flights close to the flowers, feasting in plenty night and day.”
In the last four of my summer lily posts — starting with this one — I’ll be showcasing galleries where I took a lot of creative license with the original images and tried to transform them in new ways. When I took these photos, the lilies were blooming abundantly — with many of the blossoms in large clumps making it difficult to isolate just one, two, or even three of the blooms without also including many that were not yet opened, along with more of the background than I wanted. Here’s an example of what I mean: a fine looking Swamp Lily variation with way too much busy-ness beyond the foreground of the photo.
Whereas I often use Lightroom brushes to carefully trace around image elements to eliminate the background, for these images I tried to use the brush tools like paintbrushes by first turning the entire image black then using a sweeping motion with the mouse to selectively remove the black mask. This is probably something that physically or mechanically would work better with a tablet and stylus; but I did manage it quite well after getting used to some awkward arcing or sweeping mouse movements, then zooming in to add or remove additional black masking wherever I got carried away.
Here are a couple of before-and-after views showing one batch of lilies where I removed much of the background as well as many of the blooms that hadn’t opened yet or faced away from my camera. The first view features the new “image compare” block WordPress recently introduced (see WordPress.com instructions or Jetpack/self-hosted site instructions); the second view shows the before and after versions as a slideshow (click the first image to enlarge).
Here are the final images — first, this peppermint-candy-looking lily, followed by different angles of the Swamp Lily.