Saturday, January 26, 2013

I got a problem

“I should have stopped it down”, was the first thought that ran through my head when I woke up this morning.  No, it wasn’t a reaction to my dreams, but to my activity last night before I went to bed.  Last night there was a full moon, the first clear one since I got my new camera, so I set up my gear on my front walk and took unsuccessful pictures of the moon.  I knew I could not get the same results I get with the digital super zoom on my older camera, but I thought I could surely get something better than the pictures of the glowing sphere or white dot I ended up capturing.  If I had stopped down the aperture I would have had different results.

This morning’s “Eureka!” moment drives home the fear I’ve had lately that there is something wrong with me.  I think I have been infected with an idiopathic bug that has infiltrated my brain instilling mind control.  I no longer see things in fluid motion, but in short still-frames governed by the rule of thirds.  I came to this realization last night around dusk as I exited the interstate near Hattiesburg’s convention center and saw the full-moon framed perfectly over a grouping of huge American flags flapping in the breeze. *click*  I had no camera nor free hands so I took pictures with my mind, taking note of each vantage point as I passed.  *click* *click* *click*

I should have realized my illness on a recent birthday trip to New Orleans.  Standing outside of the Hotel Monteleone and looking in at the fashionable people sitting around the carousel bar I suddenly went colorblind and could only see in monochrome.  *click*  Men and women holding wine glasses were veiled in low light emitted from the incandescent bulbs of the carousel and framed in the tall arched windows of the historic hotel. *click*

My vision then changed to black and white as I watched a horse and buggy emerge from dense fog, backlit by the headlights of the car behind it.  *click*  The driver was wearing a tall hat and holding a whip, all silhouetted against the fog. *click* 

And last night, after taking too many overexposed pictures of the moon, I dreamed I was framing shots of whatever it was I was dreaming about.  So when I woke up this morning it is understandable my first thought was of an f/stop.

In the photojournalism class I took in college I learned the technical aspects of apertures and shutter speeds, but that was a lifetime ago.  It’s hard for me to remember what I wore to work on Monday, let alone technical jargon I don’t use every day.  So I’ve been studying.  I’ve been reading and asking questions.  Me!  I don’t study.  I rarely even read directions, and now I find myself doing research on how to take pictures in adverse light and adjusting white balance.  This is crazy talk.

I would feel differently if it were something I really wanted to do, but I am not a photographer nor do I care to be one.  My oldest friend and travelling partner IS a photographer.  She knows how to capture essence.  I know how to take snapshots.  She can pull out the soul of her subject and put it on display for all to see.  I can take pictures of birds. She can put a RAW file through Adobe Lightroom and come out with a 24” x 36” canvas suitable for framing.  I can adjust saturation and brightness in Windows.  So why am I wasting my time?

Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like it is a waste of time, and trust me I know how to waste time.  The logged time on my Sudoku app reminds me daily of how much time I am capable of wasting.  If I’m studying lenses and light at least I am studying.  Sitting in my backyard with my camera aimed at the bird feeder and a shutter release cable in my hand has to be better than lying on my couch watching QVC. And cheaper.

It is not my intention to make a career out of photography; that is not something I even have a desire to do.  However, anytime I can learn to do something new and do it to my own personal satisfaction I am one step closer to living a contented life.  And that has to be a good thing for everyone around me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

From weather to feathers

January.  I’ve always liked the look of the word; the way the “n” and the “u” curve down and up again is relaxing.  It’s also my birth month as well as my husband’s, his mother, my mother, my sister, my cousin, several friends and a special friend dearly departed.  It is a month that urges new beginnings and encourages a healthier lifestyle, yet it sabotages my diet with the seemingly endless supply of birthday cakes.

January is not the best month of the year for weather on my sliver of the earth.  There can be long stretches of damp and gray days that alternate between heavy downpours and light misty rain.  Temperatures can range from the coldest days of the year to the warmest days of the winter season.  But somewhere tucked into the month there will be a few days like none other.  These are the days that will fool you into thinking spring has arrived only to then be crushed when the damp and cold return by nightfall.

If you live in the south you know the kind of day of which I speak.  There will be a stretch of the cold and gray, but one day you wake up and a glimpse of heaven greets you at door.  The sky is cornflower blue and the golden yellow sun is shining brightly.  The deep green of the pines that go unnoticed in the summer and fall serve as a vivid backdrop to the ashen bare limbs of the deciduous. 

The air is cool, but a jacket is not required.  The breeze is soft and whispers teasing sweet nothings about gardens and seeds, trying to fool me into thinking it is time to get planting.  But I know better.  I know that this glorious day is only a respite to show me what the future will bring; a metaphor for dreary times in general.  It’s as if God is telling me “Hold on, you can make it.  There will be better days ahead”.

Even the grayest days in January can hold a special treasure.  If you look and listen you can’t help but notice the birds.  The scarlet feathers of the cardinals pop against the umber and ochre shades of the withered grass and dried leaves still clinging to their branches.  The bird feeders out my back window sway with activity of the manic chickadees with their black caps who flit down just long enough to grab one seed and then return to their upper perch.  The small gray tufted titmice linger just a little longer, and the goldfinch flocks cover the thistle seed socks set out just for them.  The goldfinches eat their share of the sunflower seeds as well, and are not disturbed by the much larger cardinals who vie for their positions or the red-bellied woodpeckers who tilt the feeder to their favor.

This is January.  Weather and feathers.  My earthen sliver sleeps yet teems with life. Anything is possible. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Meetings and departings

I met my husband, Lee, at Thomley’s Christmas tree farm in December 1983.  He was my sister’s (the middle child), neighbor, and she had been scheming to introduce us for months.  Lee worked at the tree farm, so she used the excuse of picking out a Christmas tree to finally make it happen.

I can remember exactly what I was wearing that day.  It was a blue button-down oxford shirt and denim overalls.  Earlier that day at school I was bored and I had made a long chain out of colored plastic paper clips and hung it around my neck. Yes, I was a little nerdy, which is probably why my sister took it into her own hands to find me a boyfriend.

When we got to the farm my sister and I walked through the acres of evergreens until we picked out the perfect one, and then we found Lee and asked him to go cut it for us.  We piled in the cab of the farm’s resident 1952 blue Chevrolet truck and headed out to get the tree.  My sister positioned me to sit in the middle, next to Lee.  Me, being the way I was, tried to make myself as small as possible so our bodies would not touch.  How embarrassing that would have been for me to touch a boy I did not even know.

Lee pulled up to the tree, and we all got out of the truck and he cut it for us.  He and my sister chatted about school and his girlfriend and he paid me no attention whatsoever.  Except, that is, to ask me why in the world I was wearing paper clips around my neck.  I’m sure I turned every shade of red and tried to make myself even smaller for the ride back to the shop to pay for the tree.  He swears he does not remember that day.  Oh, did you catch the part about the girlfriend?  My sister must have been really desperate for me.

I was not to see Lee again for five months during which time I assume he and his girlfriend parted ways.  That was when my sister and her co-worker, who just happened to be his mother, conspired to set us up on a blind date (read: forced him).  Our relationship for the next few years had high points, low points and sometimes no points.  

Three years later when we were both students at USM he convinced me to take the same chemistry class he was taking.  That fall we spent the majority of every Tuesday and Thursday morning in class and the next off period talking and building a friendship.  When Christmas rolled around he asked me to come out and visit him at the tree farm where he was working again.  

I drove up to the shop at the farm and Mr. Thomley, the owner, came out to meet me.  This made me terribly uncomfortable.  I did not do well with strangers, especially older ones.  I was afraid I might get Lee in trouble for visiting him at work, so it was with much trepidation I told Mr. Thomley I was there to see Lee.  He smiled, and with a twinkle in his eye he told me Lee was inside eating, but to wait right there, don’t go anywhere, and went in to get him.  He seemed very determined and amused, like he had a secret. 

Mr. Thomley and Lee maintained a friendship for all the years I have known my husband.  Sadly, the twinkle of that determined and amused man faded yesterday after a lengthy illness.  He will be laid to rest in a few days, and though he hasn’t said it I know my husband feels the harsh sting of losing a good friend.  

Mr. Thomley’s Santa Forest has been a part of Christmas traditions to hundreds of people, and that will be his legacy.  But I will always think of him as the amused man with a secret who wanted me to wait for my destiny.  As for me, his farm will remain in my heart as the place I wore paperclips around my neck and met my husband, even if my husband has blocked that nerdy girl from his memory.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lift the lid, there may be treasure inside

Time capsules are hidden around my house disguised as boxes of personal treasures, a hope chest of forgotten contents, and journals full of thoughts, feelings, and angst of a girl between the ages of 14 and 21.  One such trove of personal treasure is a small, lidded porcelain box my sister, the pesky one, gave me when I was very young.  It wasn’t something a little girl would typically want, but I guess she understood I was not a typical little girl.   

There is nothing extraordinary about the box, and it was not new when she gave it to me.  I kept it on my dresser when I still lived in my parents’ house and I used it as a depository for things I found here and there and felt needed to be kept safe. Somehow I've managed to keep the box intact and with me all of these years. 

I noticed it in my book cabinet when I was putting Christmas decorations away a few days ago.  I see it every time I open the book cabinet, but I can't even remember the last time I looked insided.  Curiosity got the best of me so I removed the scalloped lid with the three chipped, pink roses and took inventory.

  •          Two plastic rosaries, one glow-in-dark white, and the other white                   with seed pearl beads
  •          Four bottle caps, one Barq’s root beer and three RC Cola, all with cork       linings
  •          One pearl souvenir charm bracelet with the letters spelling out San              Francisco, each letter dotted with a rhinestone
  •          One gold charm bracelet with three silhouette charms of boys’ heads          and a cowboy boot charm dotted with a turquoise stone
  •          One miniature two-dollar bill
  •          Various coins of foreign currencies
  •          Several pennies flattened on railroad tracks
  •          One commemorative Bicentennial silver dollar, worth one dollar
  •          Several wheat pennies, worth several cents
  •          One crystal of unknown origin
  •          Two glass marbles
  •          One 25 cent postage stamp
  •          Two unmatched earrings I am sure did not belong to me
  •          A chipped piece from one of the roses on the box's lid
  •          One rust colored molded plastic ring in the shape of an owl’s                        head

Most of these items make no sense to me whatsoever.  I understand the rosaries and the coins; I always stash away old or unusual coins.  But the things that puzzle me the most are the gold charm bracelet which obviously belonged to a mother of three boys, and the plastic ring.  

I have no recollection of how or why these treasures made it into the box, nor do I understand why I’ve kept them all these years.  Nevertheless, there is a certain sense of security in knowing they remain safe under the pink chipped roses.

I’ve decided to open all of my time capsules, one at a time, and take inventory of my life.  Maybe the treasures hidden within will penetrate the cobwebs of my memory and reveal something to me I thought I’d lost.   I don't know what that may be, but I’m sure I’ll know it when I see it.  Or read it.