Thursday, April 30, 2015

Being in the Moment

End of the Day, Town Landing, Falmouth, Maine

Spring in our house always feels jam-packed.  The to-do lists are long, the days fly by, and suddenly, after winter's long semi-hibernation, I wish I only needed about two hours of sleep a night.  There just aren't enough hours in a day for us to do the work that pays the bills plus do the million and one house projects that somehow feel most urgent in spring plus keep up with the classes I'm taking, plus get my own writing projects done, plus see friends and family plus workout daily plus cook meals plus--and most pressing and exciting for me--work in the garden.

Just Before Dusk, Congress Square, Portland, Maine

I'm grateful for my iPhone camera, because it reminds me in the midst of all of these tasks and commitments (so many of which I love) to pause and breathe and just take note of what's around me.  My word for the year is "see," and I live in a part of the world where so much of what there is to see is beautiful.  But I see what's not beautiful, too, and I believe that's just as important.    

Early Morning on Moulton Street, Portland, Maine
So many of us feel rushed and stressed these days more than ever.  I think that as much as we love them, our technologies--our phones and laptops and various other gadgets and devices--play a big part in this stress and in this feeling of never being able to truly shut down, rest, retreat.  It's up to us to take charge and use this incredible technology for our own benefit--to determine how we use it rather than letting it gradually take over.  So, I love to use my phone to take photos of simple, quiet moments.  I share some, but many more I just keep for myself to enjoy.  I also make sure that when I go for walks or out to eat I don't always bring my phone with me.  Sometimes it's best to just be in the moment, no need to record it.  I don't need a photo of every pretty latte I drink or every gorgeous rose I see.  That makes the photos I do take all the more precious to me.

I'd love to know what you do to slow down and relax.  What helps you rest and recharge?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ordinary Objects and the Poetry of Salvage

Last weekend I climbed through many, many trailers of salvaged architectural bits and bobs, old stoves, rusted pieces of ceiling tin, faded signs, and corroded hinges to find a treasure in the rain.  My sweatshirt was soaked through and my boots were caked with mud as I climbed the rickety steps to the next-to-last trailer in the salvage yard.  I squinted into the gloom, took a few half-hearted steps across the sloping metal floor.  Nothing.  I didn't see a single object that sang to me in the way really special things do when you're on a treasure hunt.  I was just about to turn to head back out into the downpour when my magpie eye caught sight of a soft glint in the shadows on a shelf over my head.  I couldn't tell what it was, but I threw caution--and my fear of tetanus--to the wind and just reached up to grab whatever it was.

Well, it turned out to be the frame that you see in the photo above.  A Victorian beauty, completely intact, with wonderfully worn gilding on its inner edge.  That had been the glint I'd seen.  I had to make it mine.  I cradled it in my arms and went in search of the salvage yard owner.  It turns out he had just placed the frame on that shelf earlier in the afternoon.  When I say "placed," I don't mean displayed.  It was just sort of lying there on the top shelf, nearly out of sight in one trailer out of several that were packed to the gills with jars of springs, boxes of brackets, and bins of rake handles.  

When the owner offered to sell me the frame for the little bit of cash I had in my pocket, I knew two things immediately: 1) I will buy more treasures from him, and 2) this frame was going to be important for me, for my photos, for the vision I have of where I want my work to go.

I believe in the stories that beautifully made things can tell us--in the texture of history, the poetry of ordinary objects.  That is one of the aspects of still life photography that appeals to me most. This photo is the first in what I hope will be a series of photos featuring my newly found treasure.  I believe this old frame will help me dream up countless stories in the weeks and months to come.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

April Rains--A Garden Update

The April rains have come, and with them the green and red buds on the trees.  Out in the garden we've had crocuses--then snow--then then more rain and even more crocuses, sprinkled with some snowdrops.  We have raked and tidied the beds, made way for the grape hyacinths, the buds of which are tinged with purple at their edges.  The tulips are midway up, as are the daffodils and fritillaria.  The lady's mantle are everywhere, pushing up their tiny pleated fans through the soil, and the pulmonaria are showing off their polka-dotted leaves.  I've even caught sight of the first secret frills of red where the bleeding hearts grow at the edge of the woodland border.  Out along the edges, the shrub border is filling with color--the red twig dogwoods and the Hakuroo-Nishiki willow are scarlet red, covered with buds.  I'm thrilled to see that all the hard cutting and pruning I've done on the lilacs these last two years is paying off.  They are looking stronger than ever--and they are loaded with buds.  

Chores for the coming couple of weeks include dividing some of the day lilies and spreading the three yards of compost that we're having delivered this weekend.  No bed will be left out.  Everyone will get a top dressing to start the growing season with a bang.  I'll also be starting many, many flower seedlings for the new cutting garden I'm planning to grow in one of the raised beds this year.  And then there are the dahlias.  They will be emerging from their winter sleep down in the cellar.  I'll chit them out until the soil is warm enough to put them in.  For the past couple of seasons I've mixed them in with other plantings, letting them grow with all the other flowers.  This year I think they may get their own bed.  We shall see.

Spring came late here in the Maine this year, but now that it's here, every plant seems to be rushing to put on a show.  I am relishing these cool days, especially the ones when the sun puts in an appearance.  It's too cool yet for the mosquitos, so we can just be out there in the mud, spreading grass seeds, trimming limbs, and dreaming up new garden plans.  I hope your spring is shaping into a beautiful one. If you garden, I'd love to hear what is blooming right now and what you're up to in your garden.  More soon--plus pictures of the early spring garden!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spring is like a perhaps hand

Spring is like a perhaps hand

E. E. Cummings, 1894 - 1962


Spring is like a perhaps hand 
(which comes carefully 
out of Nowhere)arranging 
a window,into which people look(while 
people stare
arranging and changing placing 
carefully there a strange 
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps 
Hand in a window 
(carefully to 
and fro moving New and 
Old things,while 
people stare carefully 
moving a perhaps 
fraction of flower here placing 
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.