Well, we just had the election and I am sitting here staring into space.   I was up most of the night with my eyeballs glued to the election maps until Bill came in and dragged me to bed.  I’m struggling now to feel better but I would say it’s not about feeling better - it’s about what I can offer.  I’m reluctant to say anything about this.  I feel enough has been said, so much has been said, and said so well that we didn’t hear what others were saying.  It is possible that this election was lost not in the last few months, but over the many years.  It is possible that once this got started, nothing could stop it from happening.

That said, I think it might help someone, myself at least, if I tell you a story. 

A few weeks ago, I was laying in a meadow, looking up through my camera at some milkweed.  The seeds were gently moving in a soft breeze, such fine little things, so easily moved by almost nothing.  They were holding on to their “mother ship” by the finest thread, and I thought perhaps the breeze would be enough to release them.  I thought I might get a nice picture of a seed floating in the sky.  I waited and waited and nothing ever happened. 

There is nothing like laying under a milkweed plant to make me feel like a child again, because of all that soft magic inside of a rough little pod.  And something happened while I was waiting.  I realized that those seeds would fly, maybe in an hour, maybe in a week, and that there was plenty of time for it to happen.  Without saying that nature has feelings, it was as if she had patience.  And I knew that those seeds would fly and they’d land somewhere, and if they didn’t grow, some other seeds would, and so it would continue.  So again, without making it human, as if they were our feelings, I would say there was faith in that, in the biggest way possible, that nature runs on what we would call faith in the future.

Despite what we might think, I would say that nature is bigger than we are.  We are not her masters but her children.  And nature has carried the human race through many terrible things.  

If this has taught me anything, it’s that campaign funding, endorsements, experience, planning, dignity, values, religion, predictions and truth do not elect the President.  People elect the President.  Mr. Trump does not have a mandate, but he certainly has our attention.  There are lots of things that we can do, not to win or lose as Republicans or Democrats, but to find out how to fix what I believe was behind the Donald Trump movement.  People wanted a government that would do something about their problems, in a way that they could trust.   I was so mad because it was the Republicans who prevented that from happening, and there they were, winning the election.  But I don’t think the Republicans have won the election.  Because Mr. Trump doesn’t necessarily have an allegiance to them.

I have just watched Secretary Clinton and President Obama’s speeches.  I’m sorry we didn’t have an environment that could accurately portray what these people were doing on our behalf.  Or that provided an objective way to evaluate their actions.  Or could see how difficult it was to do their jobs in the world as it actually is.  Or could do what President Obama wanted to do, which was to work together.  But we strained at gnats for Secretary Clinton and missed camels for Mr. Trump.  Even so, Secretary Clinton and President Obama are determined to help Mr. Trump succeed in order to keep us safe and to unify our nation.  They said that Mr. Trump deserves for us to give him a chance and have our support and our open minds, a courtesy that was not extended to them.  President Obama and Secretary Clinton just showed us what they were made of.  I think they are magnificent.

I want to add to that, a comment that was made to me, just now, that I think is important to mention.  My niece said a friend of hers was so upset at the thought that Secretary Clinton might win the election that he broke out in hives and had an asthma attack.  He is a very intelligent, good person who has made it his business to know about politics.  I can't discount his point of view.  I don't understand it now, but I do need to understand.  She also told me that because she lives in a small town and is getting herself through nursing school and is struggling financially, that she is closer to life the way that people actually have to live.  She says that she knows plenty of people who are kind, who are smart, who are not racist, who are not against women, not against gay people, and they voted for Trump, in spite of his behavior, because they realize that they can't get by working what they could get if they were on welfare, because they don't see any way for themselves as working people to have a future for their families.  I said, "But Hillary would have done something about that."  She said, "Not with things the way they are."

I used up my good milkweed pictures but I’ve been saving these river pictures for you.  I took them last fall, before we knew that Bill had cancer.  Things have certainly come a long way since then, and much has come from the most difficult circumstance in our lives.  We are doing lots of healthy things that we would not have otherwise done.  It has been said that people never make important changes in their lives when they’re in a good mood.  Well, we wanted a change and now we've got it.  This is a chance to show what we are made of.  So let's go to the source of whatever helps us the most.  Let's be calm and smart about this, but let's work on it.  For my part, in case you were wondering, I stand for every person, regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual preference or national origin.  And in the last five minutes, I've learned that I need to stand for every person, no matter how they voted.  I think that embracing differences has never been more important than it is right now.  And I will keep dragging nature into every picture and every blog post, because that's what gives me hope.  Let's see how we can turn this into something good.

There is always more to a river than we can see at any given moment, and more to where it can take us.   I've been grieving for what has happened in this election.  I also know that there is a way forward.  Because a river always flows in that direction.

PS.  Just so you know, the big Facebook button below will bring you to my photography Facebook page.  I have a nice little wave video there and a link to my eBooks and am figuring out what else to put on it.  Then the little share button at the bottom of this page will give you access to your social media options, if you want to share this blog with your friends.

Half Dipper River

This is the Half Dipper River, at Eiheiji, Fukui Prefecture, Japan, taken when I was there many years ago, just when we were beginning to live on Block Island, way before I became a photographer.  Lucky I had a camera with me.

So there we were in our business suits, drinking green tea around a conference table in an office building in Tokyo.  We had presented our business cards, which we gave and received ceremoniously, with two hands and a little bow.  We had placed them neatly next to our papers so that we could continue to admire them.  Our colleagues were very kind to speak to us in English, but when I happened to mention that I was going to study at Eiheiji, the founding Soto Zen monastery in Japan, they burst into Japanese, clucked in concerned voices and with grave nods in my direction, concluded with, “Ohhhhh, Eiheiji.”

Eiheiji, I learned, had a reputation for being difficult.  I had already been studying Zen for about five years, so I knew about the practice, but other than that and my friends’ concern, I really didn’t know what to expect.  So with some trepidation, I boarded a train in Tokyo.  It carried me across Japan to Kyoto.  After a few side trips, I intended to head north from there on a less travelled route to Fukui City and then on an even less travelled route to the monastery. 

I could watch out the window and see mountains with startling steep sides, and all the buildings crammed into the valleys.  I could see modern buildings and older buildings that had been cobbled together after the war.  I could see beautiful, tall, old cedars, and fog rolling in from the Sea of Japan, and cranes flying, following the course of the rivers. I could see children in their uniforms playing organized games after school.  Everything was neat, so carefully tended. Despite the fact that I was looking at the underbellies of towns as we passed, as often happens on trains, I did not see one scrap of paper or a beer can or any other example of anyone’s careless disregard for the entire length of the journey, which was about 400 miles. 

There were ladies who boarded the trains at every stop.  They competed to see who could make the nicest meals in wonderful bamboo boxes, lined with banana leaves and filled with rice and seaweed and pickles and seafood.  I bought one of the boxes, and when I attempted to open the soy sauce, which was in a plastic container that looked like a little fish, and I twisted the top, it squirted all over my section of the train compartment.  The Japanese folks around me courteously pretended not to notice as I got down on my hands and knees on that spotless train to clean up the mess I had made.

Other than that, things went well until I got off the main line running from Tokyo to Kyoto.  From that point on, there was no “Romanji”, the Roman-style writing that we use in the west.  All the signs were in Kanji or Hiragana, the customary forms of calligraphic writing in Japan.   I had no idea where to go.  Not a single clue.  I was as helpless and lost as a toddler. 

Inada-san, the president of the company with whom I was working, had told me that all children in Japan studied English.  He had advised me to find a young girl, about 12 years old, and ask her to help me.   I went from one child to another, saying, “Do you speak English?”  Many were too shy to answer, but one said, “arrito” (a little).  She gave directions, and I would go as far as I could, which in some cases was only a few hundred feet, and then I would find another young friend.

Here is a cedar building at Eiheiji.

That is how I made my way, by degrees, to Eiheiji.  I walked through the town, which was full of shops that sold Buddhist tourist items.  I walked up the hill, pulling my suitcase.  And the first thing I saw was the roof of a temple poking up from behind some cedars.  There was a wooden lotus blossom at the peak of the roof.  It had been painted gold, and was precisely positioned so that it caught the morning rays of the sun.  I thought, “Somebody really considered that building, exactly where to put that flower.”  I walked through the gate and what opened before me was a landscape full of many buildings, some centuries old, built into the side of a mountain.  Streams of water were coming down, guided through channels that ran along the equally old stone steps and pathways that connected the buildings.  The buildings themselves had been built out of cedar, and they had been finished, not with any kind of varnish, but with a special technique of scraping and pressing that sealed the grain of the wood.  As a result, some of the buildings were still red, like new cedar, having not yet gone silver with age.

There was a river running along the edge of the monastery.  It is called the “Half Dipper River”, and this what I want to tell you.  Eihei Dogen, came from China to Japan in the 1300’s, and founded Eiheiji.  The story was, he used to go to the river to drink the water, but he’d only drink half of what was in his dipper.  He always put half of it back.  

I like that very much.  I like everything about it.  I like it that he went to the river and took what he needed.  And I like that he didn’t keep all that was in his dipper.  Perhaps it was his way of saying how he wanted to live his life, knowing that the river would always be there, that he didn’t have to hold on to anything, didn’t have to be afraid.

Dogen had come from another country.  He was breaking ground, settling in, getting organized, schmoozing dignitaries, sourcing heat and money and food, building buildings, writing, teaching students.  I have a book of translations of some of his lectures.  It’s eight hundred pages long.  So I don’t think that he just sat there, being wise.  So I hope that the story is true, that he actually did have time to get to the river, to get what he needed, to build his life and his place from the nourishment from the river.  I think he did, because I think that’s how many beautiful and enduring things can happen.  And Eiheiji is beautiful.  And it’s lasted 600 years.

Here’s what I know.  Everything that means anything to me - my sight, my mind, my hands, my cameras, the time I have, the beauty, the light, the breath I take while I’m taking my pictures, my friends, each of you, my husband, our family - every single one of these things is given, given every second, given like a river.

So this is what I remember when I think of this story.  I can care for my life.   I can have what I need.  I can do my work.  I can make things.  I can give.  I have a river.  I stand alone in nothing. 

I play this little game in my head, sometimes.  I think of the rain, and the dark earth absorbing what it needs and sending the rest of it onward.  I think of all the streams and rivers, of the oceans and all of the waves tumbling on every shore.  I think of all that energy, all of that motion, never ending - the moisture and the blood flow and the heartbeat of the world.  And then I think of a little spot at the fish hatchery, just one little spot, where a little stream bends around and in that bend is a log and the water comes up from under that log and it boils the surface.  I remember the water was boiling at that spot in the early spring when I took its picture and also boiling in the summer when I took its picture again.  Something in that stream gets through to me.  I can feel it running right now. 

When I need to know what I can rely on, what runs through and nourishes our lives, Bill’s and mine, I think of that little stream running.  I like to know and feel it in my body, to feel that it’s always there, because that’s what I can use, and that’s how often I need it.

I didn't put my river in because I've already done that, a few times in this blog.  But this is my friend Lisa's excellent river.  Her father used to bring her here when she was a little girl.  She and her husband now have a camp nearby. 

Big Picture

I took this picture at Patchaug Forest from very far away.  I was surprised to see how the watery light bounced up onto their yellow bellies. 

I borrowed a giant super telephoto lens from Canon Professional Services again this year.  I waited for what I thought would be the best time, like it was this time last year.  I was very excited.  I have been enjoying the way that photography has been letting me see so much more about animals.  I wanted to see the looks on their faces and find things about them that I didn’t even know. 

I went to the fish hatchery.  If you saw my blog last year, you’ll remember  there were eagles, and ducks and heron and turtles.  But, this time?  Nothing.  It was like an abandoned city.  It was like there had been a war.   I went the next day.  There was one heron in one pond.  There were none in the trees where they always wait, sometimes by the dozen. I finally went to Patchaug and found a few turtles.

One blue heron in the shade.

Then I went to the island, hoping for great white egrets and swans.  But it was hot on the mainland and the island was socked in with fog…fog so thick I could stand on the beach and not see the ocean.  Fog like I’ve never seen.  Fog for four days, and still counting.  I went out again and again at all different times and all over the island, hoping to catch moments where I could see something.  I got an occasional shot, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. 

Have you ever wondered what fog looks like when you take its picture with an $11,000 lens?   Now you know.  This is a picture of North Light, taken looking over the water, from the parking lot at the end of Corn Neck Road. 

This was taken near Beach Road, when the fog had cleared a little.  This small egret is there all the time and is used to people.  But he saw me with the lens and his head snapped up so fast, like, "Who are you and what is that thing you are pointing?!"

I had to send the lens back yesterday.  I never got the pictures I had imagined.  And because of the way the program works – the loans are actually equipment evaluation loans, you only get to try each piece of equipment one time - I’ll never be able to borrow that particular lens again. 

That lens was so tightly, smoothly made.  It could focus so fast and reach to such a distance.  It was made with a fluorite lens element (made out of super expensive man-made crystal) and other high tech "ultra low dispersion optical glass".  That means that light didn’t break apart into its prismatic colors when it passed through.  That means there was no distortion.  That lens was a wonder.  My father, an engineer who worked in the aircraft industry, would have gone crazy over that lens.

But there is a balance to strike between the power of your equipment and what it takes to use it.  If a bird suddenly flies for example, you’ve got to lift your camera.  When you’re using extreme magnification, there’s a lot of space in which to find one bird.  You’ve got to get that bird in the view-finder and track it as it flies and keep it in focus.  You can do it, but it’s not easy. 

Sometimes it’s good to not to try so hard.  You can get good pictures that way too, because it's unpredictable anyway, and when your chance comes,  you'll have your lens with you, the one that you can realistically carry where ever you go.

Getting close is wonderful.  Wonderful.   I’m going to keep on striving to get the look in those eyes, or perfect wings of birds in flight, to the best of my ability, with the best tools I can afford.  But equipment isn't everything.   The picture is also about the whole situation, the whole context.  It’s even about you, the one behind the camera, being out there in it, because it’s where you meet the world and it meets you.  It’s about what you choose from all the myriad things in your field of vision, it's what the picture makes you feel and understand in that very moment. 





I was at the fish hatchery, having not gotten all my amazing bird pictures, and the dogs and I went deeper into the forest.  We sat by the bank of a stream.  The spring-swollen current was hitting a log, pushing under, coming up and boiling the surface.  There was something that I couldn't see happening under the water, maybe stones on the bottom and smaller branches that vibrated in the current, because the water was coming up all complicated to where it looked like sound vibrations.  And that thrumming surface was  reflecting the new green leaves and many naked branches and the old blue sky above.  Something about it connected, told me about all the things that are always happening all together all the time, and I felt that they would always keep on happening.  That current is still running, for example.  That water is dancing.  Now. 

I want to make sure I tell you that I didn't see all of this detail at the time.  I didn't know it looked like a map of a landscape, a range of mountains, the trunk of a tree.  I couldn't take particular delight as I do now, in the way that nature seems to repeat the same patterns from different materials, over and over.  I simply couldn't process fast enough an image I took at 1/1000th of a second.  (I had to show it to you the long way to make it big enough for you to see.  You might want to hold it sideways, to see how the river was flowing left to right.) 

I just saw the boiling, roiling water, the colors more merged together, but I did feel something about it.  For a second, I felt like I was part of it, or that it was part of me.   I think that is something I will remember from now on.  So photography can be like that, the chance to bounce off the surface of that, to notice that, stay with that, take a picture of that, learn from that, and then to see it after, in ways the human eye can't normally see, to see it new, to take a moment, to feel what is actually going on in this world.

So much of photography is for me, about being available for what ever happens. I couldn’t change the weather and couldn’t make the birds come, not even to their regular places. I was upset about the fog,  but then I had to laugh at myself for holding on so tightly to what was out of my control.  Maybe a good thing is not so hard to find.  Maybe I don't always need special birds or special weather or special equipment.  Maybe it’s under my nose.  It is.  I think so.  At the end of it all, I had some pictures that were new and unexpected and I learned  and now I am very pleased.

Well, if life gives you fog, you can make foggy pictures.  I liked how the cormorants lined up in formation.  They only did so, west of the Boat Basin dock where I was standing.  There were none on the corresponding piers on the east side of the dock.  That soft grey smudge on the horizon is Champlin's Marina.  These piers will anchor the floating docks that I'm sure are going in any day now, and soon they'll be a few more boats, oh, like a hundred more boats in this marina.  That is, if the fog lets up.

PS.  At 7:15 this morning, the National Weather Service cancelled their dense fog advisory.  At 7:16 they put it back in place.

PPS.   The more I work with wildlife, the more I feel I should leave them alone.  Their lives are hard enough.  It's one thing to take pictures of birds whose natural habitat includes people.  It's another when they are nesting or forced out of their natural range, like snowy owls.    If you chase them around, you could actually help them starve to death.  I had some great white egrets in sight yesterday, and I took a few pictures, but they flew to another spot and I knew it was because of me.  So I stopped.   I just have to wait for my moments.  A lens with big reach will help, and I'm looking into cheaper alternatives now.

PPPS.  No offense to myself, but I got a little dizzy looking at that river picture, especially up and down like that.  I had to rest my eyes on the last picture.

PPPPS.  I did see blue heron in some of the other ponds and rivers.  I saw them in pairs at the far ends of hidden places.  So they are not gone, just moving out.  Maybe they have to be more careful now, because of the eagles.  I saw one, flying at speed, staying low, threading it's way through the narrow spaces above a small stream, twisting and turning like those big birds in the movie, "Avatar".  A wonderful sight.  Impossible to get a picture with that big lens.




A Good Person

This is a picture from Patchaug.  The man's house in this story is to the right of this picture, out of the frame, and the waterfalls are behind me.

I went to Patchaug State Forest on the way to work on the boat this week.  I went in the back way.  There was a big marsh with many birds, and two waterfalls, and bridges over the falls. There was a parking lot next to a little cottage.  The cottage was modest but nicely kept. There were signs of careful attention, and of the particular French Canadian esthetic that came with the workers who once filled the textile mills in Eastern Connecticut.  Everything was clean and freshly painted.  Every leaf and blade of grass was in its place.   There was a lighthouse, about five feet tall, with pilings and real dock lines neatly wrapped around them.  On the pilings were wooden pelicans.  There was a black metal eagle over the garage, and four large concrete lions were sitting on their haunches, guarding the sidewalk that led to the front door.

I got out of the car and I thought that Wilson and Molly would stay with me, so I was organizing my cameras and lenses.  I looked up in time to see the dogs scampering straight to the man’s front door.  He was there with his little grand-daughter.  I hurried toward the dogs, but the man called out, “Don’t worry!  Don’t worry.”  I knew I was in the wrong, but the man’s kindness made me more willing to admit it.  I said, “I should have been paying closer attention.”  He said, “They’re wonderful.  This one is older isn’t he?”  I said, “You have a beautiful spot here.  You’re very kind about the dogs.”  To aerate the point, Wilson chose that moment to pee on the man’s perfect shrubs.  I said, “I’m sorry.”  He said, “They have to do that, you know.”

So I left the man, liking him so much that I wanted to buy the house next door or buy him a house on Block Island so that I could have him for a neighbor, and I thought about the times when it is very important to fight for something and times when it is not important at all.

I have never gotten a bird landing quite from this perspective.  I didn't realize how the feathers in his chest spread out and flatten to slow him down.

I went off to see the birds, and I love the earliest days of spring, when the birds are full of electric energy.  I saw this big guy coming in for a carrier landing. 

I liked the simplicity of this one, especially the little grasses, the texture on the bird's wings and their reflections in the water.

I used my telephoto and got a few more pictures of birds, but then I decided to use my close-up lens, because there were these leaves.   I love these also, these remnants that have stayed through a brutal winter, getting thinner and more transparent, but still holding on.   All this fragile strength, all this staying to the very end with the light coming through, all the beautiful ways in which the beating they have taken has changed them, this is what I wanted to show you.

I can’t show this in a picture but I want you to know that these narrow leaves were trembling, almost vibrating in the breeze.

And then I got interested in the waterfall.  It was yellowy brown from all the tannins, from decaying leaves in the water.  I take so many pictures of the ocean, and I’m not used to water this color.  I considered making black and white pictures, but then I thought, “This is the clear, clean color of a living system.   How can I think that’s not good?”  In any case, I thought it would be interesting… I never get this close to crashing water, not with my camera in my hand.  Here was my chance to see what was happening right inside.  I set the shutter speed to 1/2500th of a second, just to see what that would do, and then I switched to much longer exposures. 

Here's the waterfall, looking across the marsh to the forest.  Those two legs are part of the bridge.

Here's a close up, with me just inches from the water.  The shutter speed is 1/2500th of a second.

This shutter speed is 1/15th of a second.

I realize that living next to the state forest the way he does, that man must get a lot of people, right there next to his yard.  Some of them might not be watching their dogs the way they should, and some of them might leave litter, or misbehave in other ways, and it would be reasonable to expect the he would have gotten a perfectly justifiable attitude about it by now.  He could have put “no trespassing” signs all over the place.  But he didn’t.  Not at all.  In fact, I get the feeling he enjoyed seeing us. 

I’m still thinking about him, because he made me see how it was in this particular case, how it can be when someone decides they can just relax about something.   I took a nice picture from across the pond, with the light on the water, and his yard and his lions and his pretty house.  I thought I’d print it for him and drop it off some time, to thank him.

My beautiful trouble makers.

Waiting and Friends and Wonders

This is my friend Lisa's picture.  We've been friends for 35 years. 

I was walking with Wilson and Molly, my golden retrievers.  I started at Andy’s Way and since it was low tide I was able to get through the inner ponds and all the way around to Bean Point.  I went out in the wind and freezing rain because I had seen swans flying and I wanted to see if they would fly by again the next day.

Wilson started to limp.  He sat down and didn’t want to take another step. I knew I couldn’t carry him.   I was trying to rig a harness, first using my orange hunting vest and then my coat and my camera strap but then what would I do with my camera?   Then I thought if we went together through the water maybe that would hold him up but my boots were leaking and I thought a long walk through water that cold would be unwise. 

My cell phone rang.  I had taken my gloves off to rig the harness.   My hands were frozen and I couldn’t get to the phone in time.  It was my mother.  I called back and the line was busy.  I put it in my pocket and it rang again.  I missed it.  I called and the line was busy again.  I called.  I called again.  She picked up.  I said, “What!?”  My mother is hard of hearing.  She said, “What?”  I said, “WHAT!!”  She said, “I was coughing all day when I went to play bridge.  Do you think I’m contagious?”  I said, “I can’t talk now.”

Molly wanted to play with Wilson.  She kept dodging in, nipping at his legs.  I said, “No!” And she kept on until I really yelled at her.  Then she went off at a distance, throwing pieces of ice in the air and playing with those instead.  And I slowly got Wilson back, bending to support him, my big camera knocking against him, coaxing him and fending off Molly.   When I got to the jeep it was so cold that the hatch wouldn’t stay open and I braced it with my back while I put my camera away, carefully brushing off the sand it had acquired when I was stooping for Wilson.  Then I boosted Molly and lifted Wilson into the car.  And then I turned the heater on.  Ahh.  I called my mother who had been worrying.  I apologized to Mom and to Molly.  I talked to my sister who was still with Mom in Florida and leaving the next day to go back to Colorado.

I have written that every time I exert myself the world comes to meet me with so many wonderful pictures.  Well.  I would like to amend that statement, as follows:  Sometimes the pictures don’t come out the way I want.  Sometimes I don’t know what to do.  It was like that all through the fall.

So many things were happening to people we loved.  My sister’s husband died.  There were other big medical events in the family and with friends, and then there were other issues.  I felt like Bill and I were at the center of a storm where everything was whirling around and I was leaving the island because of something huge and then returning to place for a moment of unnatural calm, and then leaving again for something else.

Some of what was happening touched events from the past.  In some ways, I was reliving those times, so whenever I sat down to write, the only things I could think of were things that I wouldn’t say because of the impact that might have on others.  And if I wouldn’t say what was most true for me, what I felt and was living most deeply, then I found I couldn’t say anything.  Even more than that, when I went out with my camera, which has never failed to produce more pictures than I could count, I was suddenly finding nothing.  I was used to going out, and finding eagles fighting with osprey, turtles mating in the pond, waves crashing, birds flashing and weaving in the brilliant, sparkling light.  Now there was nothing.  Nothing at the fish hatchery.  Nothing on Block Island.  There was nothing for me to notice, nothing I was drawn to, nothing in me and nothing out there either. 

I thought that was amazing.  Folks who read my blog kindly wrote to find out if I was still alive, and I kept saying I thought I would write again soon, but weeks went by.  Other than that, I knew that something was going on.  I knew that photography had helped me heal from the very things I was reliving.  I knew it brought me to beauty and abundance and connection when I had needed it the most.  I knew it helped me to my own separate life and to my voice and to my sight and to my own center.  I knew that was enough.  I knew that everything I loved about photography was in there somewhere.  I knew it was reorganizing itself inside of me.  And I knew I was tired.  I didn’t even want to fight with it and everything in the writing and the photography went inward and quiet and down. 

For a month or so, I had a passionate desire to build a camper trailer.  It was a relentless pursuit, not unlike the great snowy owl obsession of 2014.  After that I sanded the boat.  After that I cleaned closets and organized our papers and started early (this is not like me), to work on taxes.  In between, I ran to my family. And of course there were always meals and the house and our other work.  So it’s not like I had nothing to do.  And meantime, I had questions.  Like, once you know something, like all the knobs and fiddles and fine tunings involved in taking pictures, and once you live in a place and take pictures of the same things over and over again for years, what is left to find?

I know about surfers in Hawaii who decided the waves were getting too big and that it was time to go to shore.  Even as they had made up their minds about it, they found that their bodies had decided to go in the opposite direction.  They found themselves paddling out to sea with all their might.  There wasn’t a reason.  They didn’t know anything that would make them do this, but they found it was not in their control.  And then they saw on the horizon, a dim line that clarified the closer it came, until it revealed itself as a monster wave, and two more came, even bigger than that.  They barely made it over the curling crests of those waves.  If they had been closer to shore they would have been killed in the impact zone.

I have always loved that story, because I think it’s about how we just know things sometimes, how it’s important to follow instinct.   Photography and writing have been very helpful to me that way – to go out to take pictures not knowing, or to start with a blank page and start to try to say something, like I’m doing right now, and watching the words slowly work themselves out onto the page, or even as an act of faith, when an instinct says it’s time to stop doing so much, to let things float, to wait. 


This is a picture, that with Lisa's permission I made out of the top edge of her beautiful picture. 

I talked with friends and family about it.  Everyone was patient and kind.  I finally wrote what I wouldn't write in public and read it to my cousin Liz, and we both cried, God bless her.  Then I talked to my friend Karen, who said the wisest things about how things morph and change and then she said that after many years of her own journey, she was taking up her painting again.  Then I talked to my friend Lisa who said she would like me to print for her, one of her river pictures.  I said, "I want you to have it really big.  I want you to know how that feels.  It will be good for your development."  And so I did that and in the process, I duplicated the edges of the image to make a canvas "gallery wrap".  That's where you make a mirror image so that you have something to roll around the stretcher bars.  I saw what happened when I did that and then I called Lisa, completely beside myself. 

I cropped and played with it all day, and printed it on three kinds of paper.  It made me happy in every possible way.  I knew what the river meant to Lisa and what it meant when she discovered the integrity of vision in her photography.  I was so happy to have something that was partly me and partly my friend, and to see it was like the thread of conversations with Lisa and with others, that have woven through many years when we have been helps and mirrors for each other.  I knew that this picture came in part out of nature, where it was just itself with nothing extra, and that part was contrived by yours truly, where I made patterns and meanings out of patterns, which is what people do.  I love this thing, what happens when people meet nature, when we take something given and make something human.  I love how that can happen in photography. 

I feel right now I’ve had my rest and that it’s time to start moving again.  I know the only way to know is to do it, to take myself outside again with my camera.  It’s time to take myself to all the same places, and maybe to some new places as well.  (I think that was what the camper trailer was about, which I didn’t build (yet), by the way).  I want to let my feet go where they want to go and to trust, because my feet have always wandered and blundered me into the most amazing places.

That’s been my way of picture taking, anyway, to go around, and follow what I find.  It’s trickier now that I know more about it, because it’s easy to go out with a recipe and do what I already know, and get I’ve already gotten a thousand times.  If I want to follow a formula I might as well stay home and finish our taxes.  And I know that wonder could be out there waiting.  And I would rather have that.

I don’t know what will happen but I know what I want to do now.  I want to put on some clothes that are very warm and very dry.  I want to go outside and remain in a place and let time go by.  I want Wilson and Molly to stay with me, and watch their noses lift together as they smell the wind.  I want to remember that that’s their way of knowing the world, like photography has been mine.  I want to be like them in the way they are so mesmerized, in the way that they give themselves to it and love it so much, in the way that for them, the wind is always new.  I want to see light inside the water, but I also want to look at the places in darkness where astounding colors come through.  I want to see patterns, and when I take my pictures home I want to play with them and see what might be hidden.  I want to tell myself that the connection is more important than the picture; that I just want to be out there in it.

This is the one  where I could see what was natural and what was human made.  I was happy because they were both so beautiful.

I want to print the same pictures over and over on all kinds of paper and see how big a difference little changes can make.  (And this is thanks to my friend Marybeth, who is wonderful photographer and a great lover of photographic paper.)  I want to go back through my thousands of pictures and see what I’ve forgotten. I have recently discovered that the size of a picture is very important.   Sometimes I want to make small pictures that are like icons, like words you can own and hold in your hands.  And sometimes I want them to be very big, so big for example, that when I spread one big canvas wave picture out on a bed, my little nephew joyfully tried to jump inside it.

I want to experiment because I know the power of sight to call directly to instinct.  I want to spend more time with each picture, learning what it has to tell me.  I want to go down and get closer to what I know is running underneath in nature, in my friends and in me; something yearning forward, rich and intimate, complex, unpredictable, perfect, unnamable, difficult, unbreakable, unstoppable and alive.

Here is a close up of the top right hand corner.

Falling Water

My friend's husband died unexpectedly, just a short time ago.  And yesterday, we travelled to see my other friend Lisa, and together we made a ceremony. Lisa, who led, was impeccable, just as I knew she would be.  And my friend put things into a fire - family photographs and a letter and tools for her husband's craft.  And she put a picture their daughter had painted into the fire.  And socks to keep his feet warm.  And his baseball cap - although she commented that in his current condition he might have more hair and not need it so much. And then she spoke to him about their lives together, about their children and grandchildren, about all the things he did well, and about everything she hoped for him now.  It was difficult for her to put her daughter’s painting into the fire and also difficult to put in the baseball cap because it smelled like him.  She said other things and I don’t want to say too much about the things that were just for her and her husband.  But I will tell you what I thought as she was speaking: “This is how you love someone.”

Then we walked down the hill and into the state park where there are many waterfalls.  And we went down and down to the bottom of all the waterfalls and then we had a ceremony for ourselves.  Each of us put something into the water and said our requests for our lives and the lives of those we love.  It didn’t take long.  I would be surprised if any of us spoke for more than a minute.  I think that was good.  We were so done with any need for sounding articulate or for trying to make something happen.  We were simple and honest and when that was accomplished, we didn’t need anything more. 

We went back this morning and I took pictures.  My friend took pictures also, and you might like to know that when she got off the trail a little bit, and got a little bit lost and deep in the woods, she found a baseball cap. 

The first picture I ever took was of a waterfall.  I took it up in Nova Scotia, during the summer between the third and fourth grade, with my father’s camera.  The water that was in that picture has got to be somewhere.  I know it’s still water.  I know it has gone around and around.  Maybe some little molecule was even in these pictures.  The things we put into the water yesterday have already passed from one river to another.  They may be in the Connecticut River already, or even in Long Island Sound.  

I watched how Lisa was with my friend and I tried to learn.  Because Lisa knows because she also lost a husband years ago.  We hoped for small things…whatever my friend wanted… a little rest or a change of scene or some nourishment for a journey that is going to take some time.  And meantime, we like to think of the smoke rising and the water falling, carrying our memories and wishes.  And the wind is blowing in all directions.  And the water itself is carried.

Energy Management

Water falling in Savoy, Mass, near Lisa and Bill's cabin. 

I am busy right now.  We move out of the house for summer rental on June 8th.  Because it’s a maritime environment, every wall, ceiling, and floor is washed, and all the bedding and slipcovers, and then both offices are converted to bedrooms, everything of ours in the kitchen, and in bureaus and cabinets is squashed into lock out closets.  All the stuff that in my impeccable system of housekeeping has been piled in corners and left to breed and multiply through the winter has to be decompiled and dealt with.  There is an electrician coming today and we’re standing by for the itinerant appliance repair person who comes from the mainland and whose time is more difficult to get than let’s say, the Pope's. 

In addition to that, this is the narrow window of time for many much loved people to come and see us.  There were four people here last weekend.  There are six people here right now.  There are more coming the day these folks leave, and then two more and those may overlap with two more, in which case our neighbor will kindly allow us to house the overflow, and then there will be four more people over Memorial Day weekend and then we have two weeks until we move out. 

Not much effort.  A lot of force and power.

Oh yes, and then all my pictures have to be planned and made and matted and framed at least for the beginning of the summer art season.  The Gallery opens on the 23rd of May and the building has to be finished (Becca, Eileen and I have been painting, and Jerry has been doing construction) and there are innumerable meetings and many, many details. 

How am I going to get this done?

My Dad’s father used to make his own shoes and tools.  He worked pressing clothes during the day and worked on his farm in the evening.  There was economic necessity but there was also an ideological component.  There was something morally wrong in not doing everything yourself, unless you had children, and in that case it was definitely wrong if they were not doing everything with you.)   My father used to take copper, coat it with two-part epoxy and wrap it with electrical tape.  (My father loved two-part epoxy.  Everything in our childhood seemed to involve two-part epoxy.  Or duct tape, preferably smuggled out of work.)  That is how he made his own wire for the boat and I remember holding it for him by the hour so he could wrap it.  This, instead of going to the hardware store and buying some.  We were not “parasites” - lazy, privileged people who didn’t even know how to make our own wire.  We were self-sufficient people living in America, a free and democratic country where everyone was equal.  (The boat would be ready in August or possibly September.) 

So I tried to do everything myself, with a certain righteous strain, as if my personal worth or even my right to be on the planet could be measured by how overworked I was.  But over the years I have learned that it feels so much better and we actually do a much better job when we ask for help.  So Gabby (God bless her and keep her) and her folks (ditto) have been cleaning, and Nick (ditto) has been working in the yard, and Becca (ditto) is going to help me paint, and Larry (ditto) is coming to do some construction and Bob, another photography friend, is helping with broken screens and wobbly furniture, simply out of the greatness of his heart (ditto, ditto).  As a result, we are in better shape right now than we have often been three days before we move.  So I have help.  I have plenty of help.  What a concept.

This has left me with time, I wouldn’t say with an abundance of time but with enough time to work on my pictures.  This has also changed through the years.  Going out and about with a camera around my neck is part of my life now.  It’s just what I do.  The side effect of doing this is pictures.  So now, there are so many pictures and I have to choose. And once I choose I have to make them up.  There are papers and inks and the size and shape of each picture, and matching mats and frames and glass or plexi.  Controlling all that is a little like doing taxes.  It’s easy to get lost in the weeds.   So I am taking the time to develop a master plan.

In winter, on Great Salt Pond, it's a little less busy than it's about to get immediately.

Among other things in my former corporate life, I used to be responsible for “performance management” in my company.  I used to think a lot about this… how to get a whole bunch of people marching quickly and efficiently in a planned and measured direction.  I would go to conferences about this.  I would run home and make up forms and manuals and training and incentive programs.  I found the conferences a little upsetting.   People were paid a lot of money to get all worked up about performance management concepts.  I thought that there was too much about going faster and more cheaply and too little about what we were doing and why we were doing it. I remember one time coming home and saying that these systems would have been very useful to Adolf Hitler, that great performance manager. 

(I happened to be in a doctor’s office and I picked up an article in Time magazine about suicide prevention.  The article said it would be so much better if the people who were at the point of suicide could be reached closer to the beginning of the downward spiral, rather than waiting for them to make a call from the emergency phone on the bridge.  They said it would be much more cost effective for the whole system if they could find a way to do that.  I thought, “cost effective?” It just killed me how automatically that was written, how deeply that has been driven into our cultural water table.  Upon reflection, I thought maybe this was social worker lingo… from people who were used to having to justify what they do to the people who pay for their programs.  I know that game, sneaking human values into corporate language, but I imagine a world where the undisputed bottom line includes the value of being alive.)

I used to measure life, especially at this time of year, in terms of “Things to Do.”  I would make a list and try to get through it as quickly as possible.   But now, because of help, I have the pure luxury of stepping back a little.

And here we were in March a few years ago, everything about to burst out.

I’m thinking about the context in which I work:  Where are my tools… what is my way of being organized?   I’m thinking about my energy:  Do I need to step back or rest for one minute right now… do I need to say “no” to something?   What feels good about working?  I’m thinking about my purpose.  Why am I doing this?  What is precious?  

I’m older.  I can’t blast myself out of a canon and do two weeks of work in two days.  (Plus, that requires cramming a lot of stuff into my closets and my closets are already full of other stuff.)  Plus, the things I want to do now require consistent effort and emerging, clarifying purpose over an extended period of time.  So I need to keep working on context… tools and places and practices that will carry me along.  And also, this is something… I used to work as if it was the product that mattered… not what it took out of me to make it.  Now I matter more - my life matters more.

I used to go around with my hair on fire as if I was always in a life or death situation.  Well animals are in a life or death situation and they rest whenever they can.  (Great White Egret on Great Salt Pond.)

I want my pictures to fit together.  When people come to see my part of the gallery, I want the whole thing…the wall, the bin, the book, the portfolio to give a coherent experience. There are the pictures for now and then I will have my show in the fall, and that will be a different experience.  My niece Elizabeth is going to help me with the matting and framing (she is very good at this) and that will leave me time to do one thing that I never seem to get time to do, figure out how to market my book and if I’m going to do any advertising.  I will.  See, that’s the difference between having help and not having help.  I will have time to do this.  I’m often working right now, from five in the morning until ten o’clock at night.  (I had to tell you.  I’m still my father’s daughter.)  But it’s fine.  I came in from the studio the other night.  Bill said, “How was the commute?”  (I used to drive three hours a day.)  I said, “Oh, it was terrible… you know, weeds in the path and everything.”  

There is a Navajo saying.  “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  I am learning who can be trusted and I’m asking for advice and help.  I am spending time on the context and process and purpose of working and I feel that my life matters as much as the output itself.

Yesterday I cleaned the house, prepared bedrooms, made dinner, took the dogs for a walk, wrote some stuff for the gallery, welcomed guests, took a few pictures, moved all my matting and framing materials, ordered more materials, paid bills, printed pictures, talked to a friend and photography client and to the electrician and the appliance repair person, and locked myself out of the car… and the funny thing is… I never felt like I was working.  I basically felt like I was doing what I wanted to do.  Why do I want to do this?  For my life.  For the lives of other people.  I'm not alone.  We're in this together.

It’s five o’clock in the morning right now.  The sun will be coming up soon.  It’s orange and red and purple across the north and east horizon.  The water is glowing blue and silver through a tangle of newly budding trees and bushes.  And I’m not getting up to take its picture.  I’m enjoying it very much in any case.  And Bill is up and making coffee.  Coffee.  Very nice.

North LIght