What’s in front of us…

Not paying attention keeps us in an endless cycle of wanting. We move on to the next thing because we aren’t really taking in what we already have…

Sharon Salzberg

When I made my first “Books and Blooms” image, I didn’t have any specific goal in mind. I didn’t even know it was going to be a series. I just intuitively put several things together that I love and value and started to take pictures of them. I began with the appearance of blooms in my garden and will continue as long as I have them.

Now that a few months have passed, I have been given a deeper appreciation of what I have gained from this series. It really has to do with making the time to pay attention to what I already have. The flowers, the books, the pitcher collection…it has been a way to tap into the  beauty and details of all of them. The lines, the shapes, the colours, the words, the feelings, the messages…I look, I look again, I look more deeply…I see something new and different. I am filled up and feel complete.

Sharon Salzberg, one of my favourite dharma teachers, has noted that “inattention creates an escalating need for stimulation.” And I find that so true for me. When I’m not really taking in what is right in front of me, I tend to search for something more, for something different.

And social media is right there to offer it up to me. It is so easy to be entranced and distracted by the amazing and inspiring images I see on a daily basis. And while I will always seek to have my eyes opened to the world around me and to new ways of seeing and knowing through different social media platforms, I also want to really live in and appreciate my own world.

So while I don’t plan to give up social media entirely, I have cut down the time I spend on it so that I can focus in on my here and now, where I have plenty to explore and much to learn.

Photography is still my vehicle for slowing down and paying attention, and I love being part of the large community of kindred spirits out there who feel the way I do about it.  My participation in that will not change.

But as for “not taking in what we already have,” Books and Blooms has proven to be a great antidote to that, and also a guide to a new way of going forward.

 

 

 

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Water lilies…

It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.

Claude Monet

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Tulips, tulips, tulips…

A few days ago, with the temperature soaring in the high twenties, I stopped by the  Canadian Tulip Festival at Dow’s Lake for a few hours with a good friend.

I’ve lived in and around Ottawa (Canada’s capital city) for more than 30 years and I’ve always eagerly awaited this vibrant festival and the wide swaths of colour that adorn the city for weeks while the 1 million tulips are in bloom.

2017 is the 65th anniversary of the festival — one of the largest events of its kind in the world — and this year it coincides with Canada’s 150th birthday. The festival celebrates Ottawa’s official flower as a symbol of international friendship and peace.

As well as tulip displays, the festival also includes music performances, speakers and exhibits of international cuisine as well as fireworks.

In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa to thank Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War. The festival started as a way to showcase this wonderful gift.

The tulips — over 300,000 of them planted by the lake alone — were incredibly diverse in colour and appearance, so much so that some did not even look like tulips. A special feature this year is the Canada 150 tulip bred to look like the Canadian flag.

The people out enjoying the tulip displays were enthusiastic, light-hearted and equally diverse. As well as Ottawans, more than a half a million visitors are drawn to the festival every year. Almost everyone was snapping pictures of the tulips and having their pictures taken among the tulips. It was a joy to behold.

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How to eat a poem…

heirloom tomatoes

Don’t be polite.
Bite in.

 

Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
may run down your chin.

 

It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.
You do not need a knife or fork or spoon or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

 

For there is no core

or stem

or rind

or pit

or seed

or skin

to throw away.

 

 

Eve Merriam

 

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What I’m loving right now…

cantaloupe jam

I love that Labour Day weekend is here and I don’t have to go back to school. Not that I didn’t love school — I was a good student and I loved learning — but elementary and high school were way too regimented for my free spirit. CEGEP and university were where I really soared.

I love that I can continue learning and discovering and creating and practising skills so many years later, but now at my own pace and free of the pressure of judgement and comparison. This time is truly a gift.

Melon jam

Nothing pleases me as much as a new recipe to try…a new taste combination…something I have never thought of before. This week it was melon jam, inspired by a crop of cantaloupe that we couldn’t eat fast enough. The colour is sublime, but I wish I could give you all a taste too!

Rebecca Solnit On being a “bad Buddhist” … “Buddhism is your guiding star, not the planet you live on necessarily every day.”

Kim Manley Ort on Pivotal Photos I read this and immediately related to what Kim described as a “pivotal” photo. They’re “the ones that made me see my life, photography, and even myself differently. They’re not necessarily the best, but they sent me in a new direction.” If you want to understand more about your photography and yourself, go through your images … I think your “pivotal photos” will jump out at you. Some of my pivotal images

Thank you…

I want to sincerely thank all those who took time to comment on my recent attempts at poetry, with so much encouragement. A kind reader said she found my poem “thought-provoking and relatable” which made me very happy, although a bit surprised, since I was hoping it might be…

 

 

 

 

Every gardener knows…

tomato

Heirloom tomatoes — Black Krim variety

…Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen: reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always, for every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting, after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.
Marge Piercy

 

I’m taking a bit of a blogging and social media break this August and enjoying the remaining summer and fruits of our labours. Thank you so much for dropping in to visit. 

Be open…

doorwayWhen it comes to advice on photography, there is no shortage out there — and in the hopes of improving my photography, I’ve read and watched a tremendous amount of it. You too?

But one piece of advice — from the incomparable photographer Jay Maisel, who I’ve mentioned before (see some great quotes here) — has always resonated with me, and so tends to rest there in my unconscious every time I go out into the world with my camera.

Be open. 

That’s it, that’s all.

Don’t go out looking for something specific to shoot — be receptive and willing to let that something come to you.

This is what happened to me recently when I was visiting a friend, who has, with her partner, created a magical garden in a minuscule space in the city.

The garden is as much vertical as it is horizontal, with climbing vines everywhere, producing amazing veggies and flowers throughout the growing season.

At this time of year, the arbour drips with concord grapes and the musky rich smell is intoxicating as you enter the gate.

grapes

I had in my mind that I wanted to capture the whole thing with my camera, and I busily set about shooting this view and that view. I took pictures of squashes, jalapeño peppers, nicotiana, cosmos, morning glory vines and much more… It was all truly lovely.

cosmos heart leavessq

I was losing the light so I noticed myself moving very quickly, not wanting to miss anything. But I had this feeling that I wasn’t connecting enough to this beautiful space. My preconceived notions were getting in the way.

How many times does that happen to me — to you?

So I deliberately slowed down and let the expectations go. I walked through the garden again at a slower pace, really taking in what was there. I tried to stop looking for the view I thought I should be capturing and just left myself open.

That’s when I saw the seedheads on the dill. I hadn’t noticed them at all before — they were brown and blended into the background   — kinda of mousy — not showy at all. I had been more fixated on the brighter colours and bolder shapes.

magical seedheadsrgb

But, this time they captured me. Their delicate, intricate beauty became evident when I paid them the attention they deserved.

And they turned out to be magical, even luminescent, in the fading light of the garden.

As well as a great reminder of some of the best advice ever.

seedhead