We were walking around the small town of Munising, Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan and I came upon this scene. The memorial acts as a mirror, reflecting the man’s image as he does the careful work of placing another name on the long list of soldiers who served to defend democracy and keep us safe – who now only live on in the memories of those who knew them and on this piece of stone.
I have thought about this image a lot, wondering to what extent we all are reflections in this memorial of people who loved country and chose to defend it with their hard work and possibly their lives. This is an especially important contemplation at this point in our country’s history when so many who love our country and what it stands for are blinded by lies and hate into believing in a way of fight for it that is actually threatening the democracy that is the very core of our governmental system.
In response to the Week-end Challenge of “Mirror.“
Early last week I stepped out on my front porch before the sun was up over the trees of the hedgerow and I felt late summer. The air was cool and dry on my skin and I heard the silence of the morning that seems to come when summer has spent most of her energy and nature is slowing down. I smiled because I welcome this slowing down but it lasted only that one day – then we went into a stretch of the dog-days of August with high heat and humidity.
I’ve noticed that my garden is also starting to take on the late summer look. My attention has shifted from fighting weeds to dead-heading in the hopes that the plants, mainly daisies, will send out some more buds. There is still a lot of color with black-eyed susans, echinacea, zinnias, a few late-blooming day lilies, a bright pink hibiscus, and a few other flowers of various colors sprinkled in. I like what I’m seeing in my garden but I am also thinking about some changes I want to make for next year.
I came across the photo below taken nine years ago and I smiled because I love the goose neck that is featured center front. I believe that was its last year because I realized that it was spreading way to fast and I dug it all out. Well almost – it is still growing in the daisies. And every time I find a plant I think I might let it settle in my garden because I love it so much, and then I remember how fast it takes over – so I pull it out. It will be back next year.
As I look at this photo I realize that the only plant that is still growing (with my consent) in this area is the daisy. The shrubs have been removed, and the cat mint (purple) was transplanted when the stone walls were rebuilt a few years ago. And the lilies are struggling in other places, they just aren’t happy in my garden soil. During the past 14 years my garden has been evolving; and my life seems to be on the same trajectory. Neither me nor my garden are what we used to be.
I know that the aging process involved losses and a lot of change; I developed courses on aging. A life-span development course I developed and taught helped students learn that every phase of life involves some loses that are replaced by new ways of being in our world. Each phase of life has developmental tasks that need to be accomplished in order to be physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy. As we transition from phase to phase some familiar and comfortable ways of being are either taken away or we let go of them. These are frequently treasured privileges, what we have thus far built our identities on. As we approach the end of each phase we need to recognize what we need to give up, what we no longer have, what is no longer useful and then to have the courage to step into an unknown future and learn new ways of thinking and behaving. Have you noticed that what happens to one person in a family or friendship community, impacts the other people, frequently with overlapping demands for developmental change? A fun example to think about is how the developmental tasks of adolescents mesh with the developmental tasks of parents.
Jim and I (and most of our friends) are transitioning into old age. We have retired from paid employment with a mixed bag of sorrows and joys. I miss the status it brought me and the joy of meaningful work that was recognized by colleagues. Jim was overjoyed to leave a job that had become difficult for him to do while maintaining his integrity. He took a part-time job that brought him great joy – can’t wait to get to work joy. He had to leave that so we could spend winters in Florida and travel while spending summers in Michigan. Both of us have been robbed of energy through chronic health issues and normal aging. At core we are struggling to know who we are now that we have moved beyond being productive in our culturally salient way of making money. We both like to help people, but are struggling to know how to help others when we have just about enough energy to take care of ourselves. What seems to have surprised me most is that I am struggling to know how my religious faith can be relevant in my old age. I am in the middle of working through this and will share my doubts, my struggles and new insights in another post.
I’m not sure what the downtown farmers’ market is doing but the small stands I have check out haven’t been doing much – farmers are saying that the alternating weeks of really hot temps with really cool weather along with too much rain early and then not enough, has messed with the growing season.
Our daughter, Sharon, is visiting this week and brought boxes of jars and lids with the hopes of doing some canning. Mostly she wanted to make sweet pickle relish and we found some cukes at a small market. That canning was completed early this week and is already packed in the back of her car.
My rhubarb has done well this year and she was eager to can some rhubarb sauce and jam. From the sounds coming from the kitchen, I believe the second batch is about to come out of the canner.
She pickled some cabbage that is so good on sandwiches or as a small side and I kept a jar for us. Isn’t the rhubarb jam a beautiful color. I like it with hummus and crackers, although she brought up a couple of dozen jelly jars of canned figs that is also really good with hummus. Figs don’t grow in Michigan.
I saved the best summer vibe for last. The Blueberry Hill couple have returned to their sales spot outside the meat market up the road. This week they had blueberries, sweet Michigan cherries, and peaches. The blueberries were gone by the time I reached the counter (7:15 am) but we are enjoying the cherries and the peaches are about ripe. We were able to get blueberries at the market yesterday morning so I think I will cut up some peaches, add some blueberries, and have a bowl with our lunch.
Ahh, the tastes of summer. Did you notice my reader and cup of coffee – they also bring joy to my summer days in my three-season room. And by spending some joyful time canning in the kitchen, we will experience the vibes of summer throughout the coming colder months.
Naples Botanical Garden in Florida in 2014, just five years after it opened. Waterlilies and other water plants have since been placed in this pond so it is more difficult to get a reflection without “noise.”
What a perfect topic because our life has been consumed by double vision for almost a year. Jim’s double vision is improving very slowly with the low dose of steroids the neuro-ophthalmologist prescribed. The double vision was very disruptive to his daily living and exhausting. He is a much happier man now that more of his day is spent with seeing just one of everything and is able to keep busy with household tasks. He is once again feeling useful as he is able to do the things that bring joy to our lives and keeps things running smoothly.
His improved functioning has freed up my energy for thinking about photography and I have a lot of photos taken in Florida that capture this idea of double vision. I have gone to the Naples Botanical Garden at least once a week during the winter season for the past 13 years and their water lily collection has grown impressively through their hosting of the new water lily competition each summer. I go early in the morning, usually before a breeze is rippling the water in the ponds and this provides me with wonderful doubles.
After the fact, as I meander through my files of photographs, I find that I always stop to study my favorite reflection photos. The photo above on the right isn’t the most beautiful capture, but it sure intrigues me. There is a breeze rippling the water and you can see the reflections on green pedals that were covering the bud. Is that not a reflection of a reflection?
I especially enjoy when photos of reflections make me a bit disoriented. My favorites were obtained in trips into the Everglades of Florida. In the Bald Cypress stands along the Loop Road in January and February the water scenes are quite monochromatic.
Early spring reflections in the Everglades elicit very different emotion within me.
When I was post-processing the following photo I couldn’t decide the best orientation. What do you think?
Oh my, what do I treasure. I spent some time looking around the house and there are lots of items purchased in foreign countries that could be treasures, but on the other hand they are just items. I really enjoy both of our residences; but are they treasures? I have gotten great pleasure from my garden and get lots of compliments on it, but once again it doesn’t feel like a treasure. When it gets to be too much work I will turn it into something else and I won’t grieve because it will be a relief. I love my family and friends and they bring me so much pleasure but when I think of them as a treasure, it almost sounds like they are objects I possess. I also get a lot of joy through using my sewing machine and my cameras, but they seem to be objects that somehow lead to a greater treasure. As you can see, I’ve put a lot of thought into this Lens-Artist Challenge: Treasures.
Then it occurred to me that all of these things were once treasures to me but I seem to be changing as I am aging. I believe my greatest treasure in life is my memory.
Our campers could be listed as treasures; we have had six or seven. This year Jim isn’t putting the tires on our current one because we decided we wouldn’t go on any trips because of the price of gas. Last night during supper we talked about all the beautiful, interesting places we have been with a camper in tow. We talk about experiences with our kids and the other kids that sometimes went along. In memory mode we can also laugh about all the “oh shit” moments that we got into and had to figure out how to get out of. These memories are our shared treasures that make our relationship a treasure.
I have found so much pleasure working in my flower garden this year – maybe because others have done the heavy work and I’ve done the planning and planting. Now that’s a collaboration to treasure. After ten years I seem to be reworking my garden design as it seems to be growing out of it’s previous plan. Did I hear someone say, “Wow, she had a garden plan all worked out.” My plan was not on paper nor based on a wealth of plant knowledge. I followed the trial and error plan – reading lots of books (that suggested I draw a layout) and relying on what I could find in local garden centers.
This year, however, I found a surprise treasure while working in my garden. I found a connection to my grandmother who also loved to garden. This is my Polish grandmother who I know loved me but the relationship was hard to maintain because we had a language barrier. I felt her spirit with me this summer as I gardened, thinking that she would approve of my work and would have loved to get her hands dirty along with me.
The only objects that I really treasure are my books. I learn best through reading so I have books on gardening/landscaping, photography, travel, quilting, faith development, and professional books. All of these books shaped who I am and will continue to guide me into new life experiences. I believe even the fiction I read impacts who I am. I continue to cull my books and of course buy new ones that indicates that I am a work in progress as I approach 80. As my dear colleague, Margret, used to say, “God isn’t finished with me yet.”
I also treasure relationships with family and friends but don’t do well with photographing people and feel uncomfortable posting the photos on public media. Besides that would require another whole post. They do, however, fit into the treasures that make me who I am, along with my nature and social environments. Maybe the big-picture treasure that interconnects all, is that I treasure who I am, who I am becoming, and the life I have been able to live, am currently living, and look forward to in the future – with all it’s ups and down.