White-Winged Crossbills Being Wild Way Up in a Pine Tree

I found them at the rotunda nestled in a large stand of pine trees (Ella Sharp Park in Jackson, Michigan). They were at the top of the trees where the cones were. The female has a dirty yellow color.

Fai Chan

A lot of things are coming together in my life – seem like coincidences but maybe not. As I was thinking about the Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: Wildlife Close to Home, I thought about going back into files and finding wildlife photos from my drives through the Florida Everglades (close to my home there), or maybe looking for those wildlife photos I took in my Michigan back yard. Obviously I wasn’t enthused enough to do it.

Jim and I were watching the birds at the birdfeeders one day and he started talking about Crossbills and wondered if they ever come to feeders. He didn’t do any research because he knew who to ask – our card playing buddy Fia Chan who is a bird photographer extraordinaire. We played cards with Fia this week and Jim asked him about the bird and Fia had a photo on his cell phone along with an interesting story about how he took the photograph. He said they are very small birds and he needed his really, really, really long lens. He indicated that they are three or four inches long and the pine trees were huge 50 years ago when I took our kids sledding at the rotunda.

Several time over the many years that we have known the Chans I have suggested that he start a blog focused primarily on birding and bird photography. Every time he said no, he didn’t have the time and was concerned about his writing. This week when we were playing cards and Fia was my partner I suggested it again and told him I would edit his writing or even be a ghost writer. He smiled big and took me up on the offer. His writing is good, he can do it and he is smart – with lots of information to share about technique, bird characteristics and environment. He sent me an e-mail with more photos of the White-winged Crossbill and wrote this paragraph:

I thank you for offering to help me create and maintain a blog of bird pictures.  After 12 years, I am slowly losing interest in taking bird pictures.  Maybe I am getting lazy as I grow older.  I somehow have to rekindle my earlier enthusiasm and Jean (his wife) is going to help me. We are thinking of going to the Sault to look for overwintering snowy owls, pine grosbeaks, etc., boreal birds earlier next year.  We also are planning to go to Iowa to shoot bald eagles in mid-February. Fai Chan, November, 2022

I seem to be in the same spot as Fai. I just don’t seem to have the energy to go out and take photos even though I’ve seen hundreds of interesting potentials to explore with a camera as we traveled around our dot on the map. I also haven’t had to energy or enthusiasm to do many posts during the past year or so – and it seems to be getting worst. Maybe Fia and I can help each other regain our excitement and passion for going out to find new subjects to capture with our lenses. And I decided this morning that introducing you to Fia Chan and his wonderful bird photographs would be a good entry for this week’s challenge.

Fai and his wife have traveled long distances to find birds he would like to photograph for his massive collection. He has enough outstanding photographs to last him a lifetime, but I am sure once he starts he will want some new ones to show you and they will be out in the field again.

Thank you, Fai, for introducing us to the wildlife that is so high up in the pine trees that we would never have found them. When Fai starts posting I will make sure to provide a link so you can welcome him into our blogging community.

A Year Has Passed

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We mark time; in hours, in days, weeks, months, years, and (if we are fortunate to be old enough) in decades. We mark anniversaries of important events – birth, death, marriage, divorce, moving, arriving, leaving, doing. The important events of my life have helped me know who I am, not so much because they happened but because I made sense of the events and how they impacted on me with the passing of time.

I am ready to celebrate and reflect on the passing of another segment of time. It has been one year since I began blogging. I started blogging as a means to an end – I wanted to publish a book I was writing. It didn’t take me long to realize that I enjoy blogging a whole lot more than I enjoy writing for publication. Then hubby bought me a DSLR camera and there was no turning back. I had the challenge of learning how to use the camera, an instant audience for my photographs, and lots of support from my new blogging buddies. Wow – how much more could a woman ask for? (Okay, a new lens too.)

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A year has passed, and a very good year it has been. I was thinking about this as I was having my coffee on my purple porch swing this morning. I have learned a lot and wear the title of “Blogger” with pride.

1. I learned a little more about who I am and what I like to do. I discovered I like to tell stories and like to illustrate my stories with my photographs. I also learned that I like to share my experiences and my reflections on life, especially life with a chronic illness and aging body. My writing has led to healing and growth and acceptance of retirement. Blogging is an important element in how I have found meaning in this season of my life.

2. I learned I can touch people’s lives through blogging. This is important because I have always wanted to be a teacher, a supporter, one who encourages in some form or shape. My most rewarding posts are those where I have touched the lives of others. Although I don’t always feel like I know how I have gotten here or where I am going or how to get through, some of you have told me I am an inspiration. This feels good. Maybe I just have the courage to share my bumpy ride with you and this gives you the courage you need for your bumpy ride. It feels really good when I see that someone thinks my posts are interesting enough that they decide to “follow” my blog in order to see more.

3. I have enjoyed being a part of the blogging community. This surprises me because I have never been a joiner of organizations. But I did join the blogging community and quickly learned that I like being “liked” – from the very beginning I felt affirmed every time you clicked the “like” button. I also am serious about my responsibility for showing you that your work is interesting by “liking” your posts. Maybe high school would have been a bit easier for me if we would have had “like” buttons and used them to affirm each other. We were so afraid and oh so vulnerable to not being “liked.” How different I am in my late 60’s when I deliberately look for new blogs that are interesting and I want to follow without a care as to whether they will find me interesting.

4. Most important, however, has been the communication that has gone on between us. Your blogs have touched me so many times – I have cried with you and laughed with you. You have entertained me, inspired me and helped me remember what is important. I have gotten to know you and let you know me through our comments to each other. Your comments in my posts have made me more whole, more confident, made me more of who I am meant to be. I have also enjoyed adding my “two cents” to your posts (except my Canadian friends won’t take them) when you have moved me. So many of you have been placed on that list labelled “FRIENDS” – real friends, not the superficial Facebook kind of friends. We have, together, put forth the extra effort through words and smiles that form connections that are meaningful.

5. I am amazed at all the worldly places I visit through your posts. You have invited me to see your part of the world and hear about your day, from far away to right next door. You inspired me to post about “my dot on the map.” I thought my part of the world was very common, until I realized I was interested in the world you find common. The varied ways you have shared your lives has helped me to see my life in a new light. And all photographers know that light is one of the essential elements of a good image.

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Fashion show by Anna in St. Petersburg Russia.

6. Blogging has formed connections in ways I never dreamed possible. I have been amazed at how people have found me. Several months after I posted a photo from Nova Scotia, someone left a comment that I had taken the photo from their front yard. I posted a corner of a front porch in Escanaba Michigan and someone commented “That’s my house” after coming across my post while doing a search on Blaney Park. My post on whale watching was found by the owner of the company that took us out to North Point, Nova Scotia and a link ended up on a tourist information website. When I started blogging stories and photographs from my travels, I knew I had to be respectful of people’s lives and culture but I never dreamed that anyone would really find me in this way. I feel busted!

Sunset from Nova Scotia

Sunset from Nova Scotia

Thank you so much for coming along on this year-long journey. It has been great fun and I look forward to another year of posting my photos and my thoughts. I also look forward to seeing and reading all the interesting things you have to share. I am amazed at your talent.

The photos in this post are ones I used in my early posts and seemed to generate the most interest from readers. I hope you don’t mind my wandering down my photo-memory lane.

Magnolias for Isobel

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Isobel, who lives in London and writes her blog Isobelandcat, just experienced the death of her mother. It is so hard losing a mother – even when she has lived a very long and full life or when it is a blessing because of disease.

My mother died about 5 years ago after a long, slow, painful bout of pancreatic cancer. Over months I watched her waste away. She lived in Florida and I lived in Michigan so I couldn’t see her often. I went a few times during the summer when I didn’t have to teach. But with my fibromyalgia I couldn’t go often enough or stay long enough – the travel and the stress took its toll on my body. When I would leave their house for the airport, when I was alone in the car, I would sob.

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She died in March when I had a teaching load. I wanted to be with her, I wanted to stroke her face, hold her hand, whisper loving things in her ear. I was so thankful her husband loved her and was lovingly caring for her with the help of Hospice but I also resented him. He was doing what I wanted to do.

I wanted to be with her but no one could predict when she would die. I couldn’t take a lot of time off because someone else would have had to cover my classes. They said it could be a few day and it could be longer – and then the funeral. Her husband and his family said it was better that I wasn’t there at the end – but my mother and I knew each other from before I was born. I had a right to be there. I should have been there. I still miss her, but I haven’t been able to get over the deep regret that I wasn’t able to nurture her as she left this life. I think she would have liked me to be there.

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Isobel wrote about her experience as she watched her mother slip away over months, weeks, days, hours. She shared her journey with a style of writing that is elegant, honest, and graceful. I understood her journey because I had very similar feelings, very similar needs. She was able to love her mother out of this life and into what her mother’s faith assured her would be a better eternity.

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Emotionally I walked with Isobel. I think reading about her experience, how she was doing what I had wanted to do for my mother, helped me to vicariously nurture my mother in her time of dying. I am feeling some peace – and I know what I need to do to heal this wound. I do that kind of healing when I am alone.

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Thank you, Isobel, for being honest and for sharing your journey so beautifully. You are one classy lady and I am very glad I have had the pleasure of your company as we have gotten to know each other through our blogging. These flowers are for you in your time of grief and to honor your mother’s life.

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If you would like to read about Isobel’s journey, you can click here. I’m feeling a little uneasy posting this link but blogs are, of course, public. Even so, my urge is to ask you to please be respectful – isn’t blogging a strange experience.

Can You Tell Me Who I Am?

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Sherry Galey did a post where she shows the results of some post-editing on a photo, showing the before and after. I commented that I liked the result – that she had made it look like her. I don’t know Sherry well at all, but I have started to get a feel for who she is through following her blog. Sherry and I exchanged comments and it got me thinking.

I have heard people say that when someone says something about another person it says more about the speaker than the person being talked about. Is the same true for our posts. I do some posts that are about me – where I deliberately tell you about my experiences and my thoughts, my struggles and my triumphs, my pains and my joys. I always feel a bit of anxiety when I click that publish button when I do these posts. I question whether I want to tell you that much about me. If I let you see the real me, what will you do with it?

Do all of my other posts reflect who I am as well? I have chosen to follow a lot of photography blogs because this is an old interest that is freshly budding in me. And I like to post my photography and usually a few lines, a story, to go with it. I didn’t know I liked to tell stories until my doctor mentioned that he always likes to hear my stories. I didn’t think I was telling stories – I was just telling him about my fun experiences.

Maybe what we post tells people a whole lot about who we are. The brilliant people behind the scenes at Word Press are continually helping us think about how to set up our blog in a way that represents who we are and what we want to accomplish. In the same way, what we post not only presents what interests us, but also how we make sense of the world. We tell people how we make meaning of what we hear and see and think, and it is meaning-making that defines us.

All writers know that the written word represents the writer’s interpretation of his/her world. So my stories are telling you how I see the world. Does not our photographs do the same? Before the age of photography, paintings were commissioned to present reality, to record history. Now photography is used to record these same types of reality. Did not the discipline of science teach us that we can be objective – removed so that the scientist only records what is objective – not our subjective?

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More recent thinking brings objectivity into question. Our photos can never be the totally objective portrayal of reality. By the time we post them, we have already imposed our subjective choice of what to photograph and how we frame it. I do some post-editing – even as I tell myself that I am only attempting to make the photograph more true to what I really see. Chew on that one for a few minutes. I might change color a little bit, or clarity, light, dark, shadows, and of course focus of interest with cropping. I tell myself that I am correcting errors from camera processing or from my lack of skill in getting correct settings. Am I also not imposing my beliefs about what reality should look like? If I am doing this, then I am telling you how I see the world (or want to see the world) as much as I am showing you how my lens sees the world. I am showing you me, one world image at a time.

And when I add narrative, I am showing you me one sentence at a time. But that is a post I will leave to the writers.  I have shown you enough of me already – and I fear that showing you the depths of my thinking will bore you. For those of you who made it this far, I send you my deep gratitude. Now I think I’ll go back and read some of my previous posts to find out who I really am. A new take on reflecting on my belly button.

If you want to follow up on some of the WP tips on creating nice blogs here are some links I found useful:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/visualbranding/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/about-page-201-the-meat-grinder/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/aboutpage/

Starting Over

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Wake up Lazy Cat

I think I have to admit that I’m a lazy person. I haven’t always been like this – I worked really hard in my younger days. I accomplished a lot when I was working, building an academic program into a large, respected and accredited educational major. I, along with my wonderful husband, raised three children adults and I earned several university degrees while doing this. But now I feel lazy and this is tearing me apart and tearing me up.

I retired three years ago and life has changed a lot. As I wrote elsewhere, I didn’t want to retire but had to because of low energy and chronic pain, and I’ve come to terms with that. I am very happy being retired and don’t have any desire to work except for doing a little contract work here and there – and my desire for this is diminishing. I’m very selective. But I can’t shake the feeling that my life lacks meaning.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

This was a recent Goodreads’ quote of the day and it speaks to my discontent. The one that says, “What is the purpose of my life… now?” My faith in God has been central in my life for a long, long time and while I was working I looked to God for guidance – I still do. I believed that God’s purpose for my life was to give students a quality education, especially students who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get one and who want to make the world a better place. I looked to God to give me what I needed to make it through each day and to do right – I still look to God but I don’t know what to do that is good and useful and right. I still want to make the world a better place, but…

I had a conversation with friend Kerry, back when I was unhappy about having to retire and he was oh-so-ready. I explained that for me, doing so many of the things people like to do when they retire, like day trips and volunteering, were very difficult. If I had the energy to do those things, I would still be working. I have active days that are happy days but I have to plan on the following day being very quiet and, well, lazy.

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth. (Alan Wilson Watts)

I’ve been trying to redefine myself. I have thought about the lack of meaning in my life for close to a year now. I even thought about giving up and just accepting that life is just about living, nothing more. I had one of my eyeball-to-eyeball conversations with God and I think I heard that I am to enjoy life. Maybe I didn’t hear right – maybe it was just my own voice echoing this nonsense. I still believe I have a lot to give but I haven’t found a way to use those talents in a way that is compatible with how I have learned to live with my body and helps me feel useful. I know that I enjoy thinking, teaching, writing, photography, blogging – all things I have been doing. My interaction with all of you has brought me great joy – but can I find meaning? Is it enough to bring pleasure to people as I share my neighborhoods and travel experiences with you?

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I really have a lot of fun posting photography because it is popular and gets a lot of traffic, especially through the challenges that I participate in. I admit that it is rewarding to see the “likes” add up and to read your comments. I think, however, I need to balance this form of “instant gratification” with some posts that involve writing. I know a lot about the human experience. I have written a few posts on my experience with chronic pain and finding a new way of living – like this post. These posts receive fewer “likes” but also seem to touch those few of you more deeply.

I think I can find meaning in sharing my perspective on life’s joys and challenges as I am starting anew each day. I can draw on my professional wisdom to write about my todays that build on the best and worst of my past. I wrote previously that I remember my past but live each day as a new day. You know, that is what we do every day of our life. We start over, we start anew. And maybe, just maybe, what I have to say about my “new-day-built-upon-yesterdays” will resonate with what you have to say and we will build a dialogue. There, that feels good!

What about the lazy part? Well, this post has been bouncing around in my brain for a couple of weeks but I had been too lazy to put forth the effort to write it. Writing in a way that is clear and concise and engaging is really, really hard. But I am feeling really fulfilled now that I am putting the finishing touches on this post. God never told me life would be easy but maybe she was right – that I am just supposed to enjoy life at this phase of my life-cycle. This means that maybe I can make a difference through my blogging if I am willing to do the hard work that brings joy to my life. I can start over – while building on my yesterdays.

The “Daily Post Challenge – Starting Over” was what got me off my rear end to write this post. You can find out more about it and join the fun by clicking here.