"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

New Year’s Day 2024: Happy New Year!

From “Creativity, Success, and Personality” in The Interior Landscape: The Landscape on Both Sides of the Camera by Guy Tal:

“Creativity is most rewarding not as something to practice ad hoc when making a photograph but as a general attitude toward life. A creative attitude may lead to the experience of flow, to occasional grand discoveries and meaningful breakthroughs, which is not the case when you follow familiar (convergent) recipes and templates aiming to produce predictable, preconceived outcomes. Put another way, the rewards of prioritizing creativity over success are ongoing and sustained. They grow cumulatively over time and may on occasion yield immense and unexpected rewards, even the possibility of enriching your life with new meaning.”

From “The Passing of the Year” by E. E. Cummings in Complete Poems, 1904-1962, edited by George J. Firmage:

The world outside is dark; my fire burns low;
All’s quiet, save the ticking of the clock
And rustling of the ruddy coals, that flock
Together, hot and red, to gleam and glow.
The sad old year is near his overthrow,
And all the world is waiting for the shock
That frees the new year from his dungeon lock. —
So the tense earth lies waiting in her snow.

Old year, I grieve that we should part so soon, —
The coals burn dully in the wavering light;
All sounds of joy to me seem out of tune, —
The tying embers creep from red to white,
They die. Clocks strike. Up leaps the great, glad moon!
Out peal the bells! Old year, — dear year, — good night!

From “Iseult la Belle” by Henry Reed in Henry Reed: Collected Poems, edited by Jon Stallworthy:

Though I drop back into oblivion, though I retreat
Into the soft, hoarse chant of the past, the unsoaring, dull
And songless harmony behind the screen of stone,
I do not age.
But I come, in whatever season, like a new year,
In such a vision as the open gates reveal
As you saunter into a courtyard, or enter a city,
And inside the city you carry another city,
Inside delight, delight.
And it seems you have borne me always, the love within you,
Under the ice of winter, hidden in darkness.
Winter on winter, frozen and unrevealing….

To flower in a sudden moment, the bloom held high towards heaven,
Steady in the glowing air the white and gleaming calyx.
Lightness of heart.


Well another year has bit the dust! If you’re reading this, you’re alive — and perhaps, like Iseult la Belle, you do not age!

For this post I had planned on writing a retrospective of 2023’s Christmas Project to describe some of my techniques and a few things I learned along the way — but, instead, I ended out un-decorating and de-glittering over the weekend to start the new year fresh and with a (reasonably) clean house. So I’ll still likely do the retro — but later this week or later than that. Stay tuned!

The first quotation up-top is from a book I just bought: The Interior Landscape: The Landscape on Both Sides of the Camera by Guy Tal. Like all of his books, this one explores the relationships between photography and creativity in incomparable ways, and would be an excellent addition to any photographer’s or artist’s library. I’m just starting the it, so — more on that later!

I chose the two poems above because they seemed to well-represent the transition between years: the first one a bit darkly, perhaps; the second one with flashes of delight. I often choose white flowers for a New Year’s post — and those I’ve included below were some I had taken in mid-December, after a couple of days of subfreezing temperatures. The first five are my favorites because of the desiccated leaves in the background or at the frame edges, leaves that gave off a rich orange/brown glow on a cloudy day and are actually leaves of lilies I had photographed previously. Old and new together: old lily leaves and new, white asters.

Thanks for taking a look!

And Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

From “Merry Christmas, Everyone!” in Christmas Poems, Stories, and Carols:

In the rush of the merry morning,
     When the red burns through the gray,
And the wintry world lies waiting
     For the glory of the day,
Then we hear a fitful rushing
     Just without, upon the stair,
See two white phantoms coming,
     Catch the gleam of sunny hair.

Rosy feet upon the threshold,
     Eager faces peeping through,
With the first red ray of sunshine
     Chanting cherubs come in view;
Mistletoe and gleaming holly,
     Symbols of a blessed day,
In their chubby hands they carry,
     Streaming all along the way.

Well we know them, never weary
     Of their innocent surprise;
Waiting, watching, listening always
     With full hearts and tender eyes,
While our little household angels,
     White and golden in the sun.
Greet us with the sweet old welcome —

     “Merry Christmas, everyone!”

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Below I’ve accumulated all the photo galleries from this year’s “Days to Christmas” series. Click the links above each gallery if you would like to see the original posts and the quotations or poems I selected to go with them. 

Thanks for taking a look … and: 

Merry Christmas!!!!

Ten Days to Christmas: Peace

Nine Days to Christmas: Silver and Gold

Eight Days to Christmas: Red and Green

Seven Days to Christmas: When Nature Does the Decorating

Six Days to Christmas: Angels (and Gnomes and Elves) Among Us

Five Days to Christmas: Tiny Baubles, Glittery Bits

Four Days to Christmas: Winter Solstice (in Silver and Blue)

Three Days to Christmas: The Return of the Light

Two Days to Christmas: Toys on Parade

One Day to Christmas: It’s Christmas Eve!

One Day to Christmas: It’s Christmas Eve!

From “Reindeer Rap” by Sue Cowling in Christmas Poems, compiled by Paul Cookson and illustrated by Sarah Nayler:

Well, it’s Christmas Eve,
December 24th,
And we’re on our way down
From the far, far north.
We got Santa in the sleigh
With a load of Christmas cheer,
We’ll deliver the presents
Santa’s worked on all year,
So if you think you hear a noise
When you’re tucked up in bed,
A sorta scritch-scritch-scratching
Up above your head,
If you hear somebody tapping
Way up there on your roof
It’ll just be the pawing
Of a reindeer hoof!

We’ll be rapping on the rooftop,
We’ll be rapping on the floor,
We’ll be rapping on the window,
We’ll be rapping on the door!

It’s no problem towing Santa
Through the dark and snowy skies
But when he’s drinking sherry wine
And eating all those mince pies
We get bored and lonely
And we wanna let him know
There’s still a job to do —

Hey, man, we really gotta go!
No offence to all you people,
Just a word in your ear —
Maybe you could leave some carrots
For his cool REIN-DEER!
We’ll be rapping on the rooftop,
We’ll be rapping on the floor,
We’ll be rapping on the window,
We’ll be rapping on the DOOR!

Two Days to Christmas: Toys on Parade

From “For the Children or the Grown-Ups?” (author unknown) in Christmas Poems, selected by David Stanford Burr:

‘Tis the week before Christmas and every night
     As soon as the children are snuggled up tight
And have sleepily murmured their wishes and prayers,
     Such fun as goes on in the parlour downstairs!
For Father, Big Brother, and Grandfather too,
     Start in with great vigour their youth to renew.
The grown-ups are having great fun — all is well;
     And they play till it’s long past their hour for bed.

They try to solve puzzles and each one enjoys
     The magical thrill of mechanical toys,
Even Mother must play with a doll that can talk,
     And if you assist it, it’s able to walk.
It’s really no matter if paint may be scratched,
     Or a cogwheel, a nut, or a bolt gets detached;
The grown-ups are having great fun — all is well;
     The children don’t know it, and Santa won’t tell.

From “Sly Santa Claus” by Mrs. C. S. Stone in Christmas Poems, selected by David Stanford Burr:

All the house was asleep,
     And the fire burning low,
When, from far up the chimney,
     Came down a “Ho! ho!”
And a little, round man,
     With a terrible scratching,
Dropped into the room
     With a wink that was catching.
Yes, down he came, bumping,
And thumping, and jumping,
     And picking himself up without sign of a bruise….

“Ho! ho! What is this?
     Why, they all are asleep!
But their stockings are up,
     And my presents will keep!
So, in with the candies,
     The books, and the toys;
All the goodies I have
     For the good girls and boys.
I’ll ram them, and jam them,
And slam them, and cram them;
     All the stockings will hold while the tired
          youngsters snooze.”

All the while his round shoulders
     Kept ducking and ducking;
And his little, fat fingers
     Kept tucking and tucking;
Until every stocking
     Bulged out, on the wall,
As if it were bursting,
     And ready to fall.
And then, all at once,
     With a whisk and a whistle,
And twisting himself
     Like a tough bit of gristle,
He bounced up again,
     Like the down of a thistle,
          And nothing was left but the prints of his shoes.

Three Days to Christmas: The Return of the Light

From The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards:

“On March 31, 1880, thousands of people gathered in Wabash, Indiana, the first American municipality to be lit by electric lights. Bands played, guns fired salutes, and then the lights sprang to life. A hush fell over the crowd. Some people groaned and fell to their knees.

“They’d moved from dark to light, and no amount of jaded neon expectations more than a century later, can completely obscure, even for us, the wonder of that vigil. For we, too, whether consciously or subliminally, even in the midst of our wildly wired lives, keep that same vigil each year at the winter solstice.

“Solstice: from the Latin sol stetit meaning sun stood still. For six days in the northern hemisphere’s December, the sun ceases its southerly crawl on the horizon and appears to rise and set in almost the same spot. The ancients watched this quiet drama with drawn breath. Would the sun begin to move again? Would the light grow anew on the great wheel of life? Would life itself continue?

“A few millennia and several hundred generations later, our own deepest questions, though not so literal as those of our ancestors, are nonetheless profound…. At the moment of winter solstice, we stand at the brink of external and internal change….

“Now, at the winter solstice, we ask ourselves: What are the private and shared natures of our inner and outer boundaries? What is our place in the great cycle? What are the actions and restraints required of us? Since time out of mind humans have marked the externally vital crossing from dark to light….

“Though we now light our world with bulbs and take for granted not only the external day but often even our food, we still make of the return of the sun’s light a joyful metaphor for social and personal renewal.”

From The Puffin Book of Christmas Poems by Wes Magee:

Carols drift across the night
Holly gleams by candlelight
Roaring fire, a spooky tale
Ice and snow and wind and hail
Santa seen in High Street store
Television… more and more
Mince pies, turkey, glass of wine
Acting your own pantomime
Socks hung up. It’s Christmas time!

From “Christmas Lights” in Christmas: A Short History from Solstice to Santa by Andy Thomas:

“Christmas tree lightbulbs have been around since the 1880s, replacing the somewhat dangerous tradition of clipped-on candles, but as cheaper and better electrical lights became available to the American public, not only did trees but entire houses start to illuminate December nights. The world would soon follow suit — the occasionally garish results of which are seen each year. And yet, within them, the seasonal message of light in the darkness remains, and, done tastefully, these displays can be magical.”