Category Archives: writing

There’s a First Time for Everything

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On Monday, my mother called me to ask if I wanted to ride down to Bennett’s Point with her. She wanted to check on the place down there and cut the grass. She hadn’t been in a month or so and wasn’t sure my brother had been recently. After I rearranged some plans for Wednesday, I told her I’d go. As usual, I packed the necessities, including my camera gear. My gear IS a necessity!

We arrived at our destination only to discover that water was standing in the front yard and the back  yard. There would be no grass-cutting Tuesday afternoon!

We did go “sightseeing” Wednesday afternoon. We took Highway 17 toward Beaufort, drove through town on Carteret Street, crossed the drawbridge to Lady Island, circled around through Port Royal and headed back toward “home.” The camera was in the back seat the whole time.

This may be the first time I made the trip to Bennett’s Point without taking the camera out of the bag. There are NO pictures of the trip.

There are memories.

My mother is 83 years old. She is still in excellent health. SHE did the driving!

We talked. We remembered Daddy, who passed away three years ago this coming August.

We “solved” the problems of the world.

These latter things are not unusual. Because we lived way out in the sticks, I did not have a clutch of friends my age to hang out with. It was just me, my sister (who is eleven months my junior), and my brother (five years younger), and my parents and my granddaddy on my father’s side. Daddy worked out of town on construction sites for the M. B. Kahn construction company out of Columbia, so we spent our time with him on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturdays were “farm” days—working with him in the garden or the hay field. Gosh, I’ve hauled enough square hay bales to fill several barns! On Sunday, after church, we played, usually riding the horses all over Richland and Newberry Counties where Daddy owned land. Those rides often took us past the Counts place, and we would have to stop and visit with Mr. Pid, Ernest, and Willie Counts. Mr. Pid was elderly, and it delighted him for Floyd and his young’uns to ride up to see him. But Mama was more than a parent; she was also our friend and our confidante.  I never understood those girls I met in college who proclaimed loudly (usually after long, heated phone calls on the pay phone in the dorm hallway) that they hated their mother. Seriously?

Mama is still my friend and my confidante. She is my rock.

So, even though I did not get any pictures of this trip, no physical record of the road trip, I have the memories. Perhaps we’ll get another chance to go back together, just the two of us, and do more sightseeing and rambling to see what this glorious state of South Carolina is all about. And maybe there will be a second trip with no photographs. That’s okay. There are memories. There are precious times.

There will be no regrets.

When “Something” Is Missing

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I’m sure you know the feeling.  Something is missing, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Life is busy—job, family, chores, errands. . . . The list is endless. But still, “something” is missing.

For me, it’s been creating things. Oh sure, I’m creating lesson plans and activities for my classes all day long, but that’s for other people, and not for me. I come home in the evening, and I do knit or crochet while I’m supposedly watching TV. That is creating something. I’m working on the last square of the blanket I’m knitting (I miscounted—made only nineteen when I needed twenty!).  I’ll start putting the border rows around the last four squares and joining them to finish the blanket. So far, it looks like it’s going to be HUGE! But even though, the knitting has been relaxing, it didn’t fulfill the thing that’s empty.

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This week at the Academy, we started the two week “mini-mester” during the electives period (third period, from 10:00 to 10:48 a.m.). I offered to teach a photography class. I’m not sure how much photography students are learning, but we are doing some shooting. I take my “big girl camera” out with me; the students are using their phones. I send them out with a very loosely structured assignment—find a unique way to photograph things; look for lines and shapes; photograph color. . . . Nothing too technical, but something fun. Monday was a washout—it rained all day (hard, heavy rains!). Wednesday was beautiful! We went to the Tent market near the school. Oh, the color and textures! And the hibiscus! Or should it be hibisci? The employees had just watered the flowers and plants, and there were water droplets everywhere. The cantaloupe presented its roadmap to me, and the tomatoes were beautifully red. On Friday, we walked the Main Street area. I set myself the task of focusing on lines and repetition. I forced myself to look. One of the students said that it was hard for her to be inspired by “assignments,” that she needed to go out and be “inspired.” She reminded me of Christine Valters Paintner’s ideas from Eyes of the Heart, to be ready to receive images while walking with the camera.

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I think I know what has been missing: my camera and using my photographic eye. I have not been looking at the world, or as Paintner says, gazing at the world with soft eyes. I have not been allowing myself to receive images.

This year has been a “first year teacher” experience for me—returning to a secondary classroom full time in a new school after six years away. I have been in a state of overwhelm. The result has been that I have made time for receiving images with the camera, for taking the time to play with them in Photoshop to (try to) create art. I know that this has to become a priority in the future. This week has allowed me to get behind the camera and be an artist again. I don’t feel quite so “empty” this morning.

Now, I need to work on finding time to write regularly!

Making Changes

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Time passes.

Things change.

I’ve changed.

And I’m making changes on my website and blog.

I have trouble with consistency in publishing here in this space. I’m working on that, though. Teresa Robinson introduced me to an interesting book, called Refuse to Choose. The author defines a group of people known as Scanners, folks who have a wide range of interests, multiple projects (including reading) going on all at once, and a tendency to drop a project before it’s completed. I don’t know how many of those I have around the house—along with books I haven’t finished and the like.  I think I am a Scanner.

I started my Scanner Daybook last night. Of course, at 9:00 in the evening, there was no way I was making a run to WalMart to buy an unlined, hard cover sketch book to use for my Daybook, so I pulled out a new, unused composition book. I keep a steady supply of those on hand. I have multiple composition books for different things, and none of them are filled up (except the ones that I use for my morning Bible devotions and prayer journals).

I’m working, too, on simplifying things here in this space, decluttering it as it were. This will be a site under construction for a while as I sort things out.

Breaking Free of Photography Ruts

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I noticed when I looked through my Lightroom catalog that I take an awful lot of floral images. Even as I think about my Picture Spring project, flowers, trees, plants all appear, and they look about the same. I do play with some in Photoshop, adding textures and other effects, but still, there is that rut I’m in when it comes to subjects. So, it’s time to break out of the rut and see what else I can do.

Anne McKinnell offers this tip as a way to break out of a rut: Explore other art forms. Read, listen to music, visit a museum, watch a movie or go see a play. In other words, sometimes, we have to “feed the muse.” Julia Cameron says much the same thing in her various books on creativity. She recommends weekly “artist’s dates” when we simply go somewhere or do something that feeds the soul.

Both McKinnell and Bethany of {Beth}-adilly Photography recommend studying other artists’ work as well. We can pull out those photography books sitting on our shelves and pour over them. As we do this, we can make lists of the subjects that they work with, the lighting, the post-processing techniques, and other treatments. It is a form of feeding our muse.

The Artist's Way: 25th Anniversary Edition by [Cameron, Julia]

Another Digital Photography School author, Mike Newton, recommends getting out of our comfort zones—physically. He suggests going somewhere completely new. I am a “nature” photographer, and my friend Mary would say that I do floral photography very well. But sometimes I get bored with the same old-same old. (Perhaps I need to take the advise of a poet and figure out thirteen ways to photography a flower as he did writing about a crow!) I do not do street photography very well, and I don’t do a lot of architectural photography even though I love the textures and shapes and designs of old buildings. Changing locations, going somewhere completely new, can force us to be more creative in our photography.

In addition, Newton suggests learning a new technique or style. Related to this is learning a new piece of equipment, something I wrote about earlier this week.

Laura Sullivan says that we can put the camera away for a bit. Taking a break from something allows the brain to rest a bit. It also forces us to see the world. Contemplative photography practices like those suggested by Kim Manley Ort in her book Adventures in Seeing help develop the eye as well. I know that since I started a contemplative photography practice, I see the world differently and notice more even when I don’t have the camera with me.

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Valerie Jardin offers some additional suggestions:  join a photography club or meetup group. See what others are photographing and how they work. She also recommends experimenting with new equipment. I confess that I rarely use the camera on my smart phone. And I sometimes forget I have that phone and camera with me the majority of the time. “Phone-ography” is very different from photography with a DSLR or even some of the advanced point-and-shoot cameras. You can also rent equipment to try for quite reasonable rates. And another suggestion she makes is to create a photography bucket list of things you want to photograph as well as to create a list of things you’ve never tried to photograph.

The writers for SmugMug offer the suggestion of shooting a theme: the color yellow, for example; or feet, or hands. My friend Mary does something similar. Last year, she used leaves as her theme, and this year she is using textures of trees. I’m working on the theme of “by the waters.”

I have a couple of books that I use sometimes when I need inspiration to get out of my rut. One that I recommend is The Photographer’s Play Book by Jason Fulford. If you want photographic examples of the exercises and suggestions, don’t look for them. It’s all text. The point is for you the photographer to interpret the exercise in your own way. Sometimes, our imaginations just need a swift kick to get us motivated.

Every artist, whether a painter, sculptor, musician, or writer goes through these dry spells and ruts. Most of the time, it passes. Finding other ways to express creativity helps as well. I find that when I’m in the groove with photography, my writing falls into a rut; when the writing inspiration strikes, then photography dims. Another tip is to show up for the work. Sometimes, just having a camera near by is enough.

It’s Friday!

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I think I will wrap up this week with a “Currently” entry. I use the Happy Planner for my day-to-day planning and scheduling. I have other planners and journals as well—one for school to keep track of lessons, meetings, classes, and the like; another for a more detailed bullet journal; and a third to keep track of my steps toward business. I like the Happy Planner that I’m using because it has a “Currently” list at the beginning of each month.

So, CURRENTLY, I am. . .

Reading: I just finished Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering. It is the fifth in the Drew Farthering detective series. I enjoyed it, and it kept me guessing until I could stand it no longer, and I peeked at the end. Even though I discovered the solution to the mystery, there was one twist I didn’t expect.

I’m also reading several books on business planning: The Right Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee; The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonoma Bean, in particular. I’m also reading parts of The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon by Julia Cameron and others, as well as two books by Eric Maisel: Life Purpose Boot Camp and Become a Creativity Coach Now! These books are informing my decisions regarding my becoming my own boss.

And of course, there are a few Regency romances in the mix—too many to name.

Planning: Sometimes I think the question is what am I NOT planning? Of course there is the business planning (more later). But the big thing I am planning for May is a dinner to honor Sherry and my son Aaron with close friends and family who were unable to attend their wedding. I may be an introvert at heart, but I do enjoy being with family (for small doses!).

Watching: I am not a Netflix or Hulu binge watcher (unless my older son is home), but I have several shows that I do watch routinely when I can: Elementary, a modern take on the Sherlock Holmes character; NCIS, NCIS LA, and NCIS New Orleans; Bull, and  Dancing with the Stars. I have just started watching Grey’s Anatomy this season, and it is becoming a regular. Criminal Minds is also on my list. I will be glad when the mystery of who is framing Spenser Reed is completely solved. (Wednesday night’s episode went a LONG way in answering the question!) I’m not sure I like the dark turn that Spenser Reed’s character is taking. I liked the boyish, naïve Reed!

Drinking: Blenheim’s Hot Ginger Ale. It is made right here in South Carolina, and it is the best. After drinking this ginger ale, all other ginger ales taste like a “drink of water,” as my father would say about things that were wet but relatively tasteless. During the last couple of weeks, I’ve had bronchitis and sinusitis, and Blenheim’s was one of the few things I could taste.

Loving: I have a rather eclectic taste in music, but lately, I am really loving the music of the duo Marion Hill. They are featured on some commercial singing their song “Down.” I like the jazz feel to their music. I made a Marion Hill channel on Pandora.

There isn’t a category for this, but I am enjoying playing the piano again, but I am having to do some serious practice! I have been asked to play for a wedding in December. I figure if I start learning the music now, by December, I will be comfortable with it. I am so proud of my Betsy Ross spinet made in the 1930s by the Lester Piano Company, now out of business. When I received it as a gift from some dear friends who attend my church, I had it tuned. The tuner was amazed that it was in such good condition! There are a few worn pads, which cause some “clicking.” But you know, it gives the piano some character. (You can see the keyboard in the banner image above!)

I would love to know what is currently in your lives!

Monday is for

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Sharing art—at least this Monday is all about sharing art. I’ve been recovering from full-on wedding mode. While being the mother of the groom may not have the same “trials and tribulations” as being mother of the bride (I wouldn’t know; I’m a MOB, mother of boys), there are all kinds of stresses—getting the right dress and shoes (sheesh! My sister and sister-in-law are tyrants when it comes to the right shoes! They didn’t like my “comfortable” choice) and planning the rehearsal dinner. Never mind that the rehearsal and wedding fall right in the middle of the April mod at Remington College, where I teach part-time. Add to the stress, the director of education for the Columbia Campus asked me to sub in three days a week for the first two weeks! And then, on top of everything else, I get hit with bronchitis and sinusitis.  Everything came to a screeching halt. Imagine the sound of train wheels on railroad tracks as the engineer and brakeman try to stop the train “on a dime.”

Creating and making art has been the last thing on my mind.

But, I am in create mode, sort of (still trying to get through the day without coughing). I made some images last week of the spring wild flowers (aka weeds), and on Sunday, I worked on transforming them with Photoshop using textures, overlays, and other techniques. Ever since Kim Klassen introduced me to using textures, I have been in love with the way they can enhance the mood or even transform the mood. And then came Denise Love of Two L’il Owls (beautiful textures and other design elements) and Sebastian Michaels’s Photoshop Artistry class (I keep repeating the first two modules over and over; I still have worked through the one on vectors!), and a host of other photographic artists. I keep learning more and more tools to use.

This is a long-winded introduction to the reveal of the creations from Sunday’s work.  Monday is for sharing art.

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I love the various graphic elements that come from the Graphics Fairy website. Many of them are free, and the monthly subscription is reasonable, less than $10.00 a month. The downloads are incredible. And the downloads from Ephemera’s Vintage Garden are so beautiful. In the top image, I used a cabinet card cover that was intended to be used as a junk journal cover, layered it with a photograph of a trumpet vine growing in the crepe myrtle tree in the backyard, a postcard from a collection of ephemera and design elements from Denice Love and Two Lil Owls in a bundle put out by Design Cuts, and some textures to blend everything together.

In the second image, I did a web search for a vintage postcard that had a vertical orientation rather than a traditional horizontal one, and I didn’t find what I was looking for. I did find a page of script that I liked. I used the script as an overlay over the image of the wildflower (I don’t know what it is), used a soft brush to mask out the script over the flower, applied a Denise Love texture and a custom gradient to unify the elements.

One of my business goals is to create products from my photography to sell, and I am practicing and working on the artistic elements. Another goal is develop a series of images for a gallery showing.  I think I am on the way. There is a lot of learning to be done.

Today, think about how you can share your creative pursuits. You don’t have to be a photographer, an artist, a writer, a musician to be creative. Your everyday life is “art.” When you cook and substitute allspice for the nutmeg the recipe calls for, put those fresh flowers you bought from Publix in a vase, arrange that rocking chair your mother made in just the right spot at just the right angle, you are being creative. And more importantly, share your creations with others.

Words and Wednesdays

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I’ve had an “itch” to write recently—well, more than recently. I’ve been writing since I was in high school. I remember giving my high school English teacher a short story I had written. She liked it. My college English profs told me that I thought—and wrote—well. One even asked me in front of the class how I had learned to write. I was between my junior and senior year in high school taking a second-year college level British lit course from Beowulf to the beginning of the nineteenth century, using the ubiquitous Norton Anthology of British Literature, Volume 1, with the famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth I on the cover.

I don’t know when I fell in love with words, with reading. Mama says it was from birth. She read to me and to my sister all the time, often falling asleep herself before I did. She grew desperate and tried everything to read me to sleep: the “begats” from the Bible, dictionary definitions, and even encyclopedias. I would wake her to “finish the story.” The love of words has never worn off.

I am in a writer’s group on Facebook, and one of our regular rhythms is Wednesday Words That Work. I think about the words that work. I am not a good memorizer, but I remember things that I have read and heard that resonate with me:  Tennyson’s short poem “The Eagle,” “He clasps the crag with crooked hands. . . . “; the scene at the end of Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes” when the lovers slip through the quiet halls of the castle as if in a dream; the “unquiet slumbers” of Cathy and Heathcliff at the end of Wuthering Heights; even the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice and the reminder that every young lady needs a husband (not much has changed in the last two hundred years!) I could probably go on for a long time remembering the words that worked for me.

The words that work for me are those that I visualize. As a teacher, I have taken all kinds of learning styles inventories, and the results are remarkably similar: I am a visual learner. It is not surprising, then, that I am also drawn to photography and other visual arts. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but a phrase or two of well-chosen words can inspire a thousand pictures as well. While I devour Regency romances by the dozens (finishing one this afternoon, probably), I will forget about these novels quite quickly. The novels and books I remember are the ones that use words to create vivid pictures and scenes as I read.

As I write, I think about the poetry, too, that has been inspired by art. (There is a fancy name for that kind of literature): Browning’s “My Last Duchess” ( which may or may not have been inspired by real people or real paintings—with Browning, who knows?); “Musee des Beaux Arts,” and quite a few others.

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Pictures, words, images.  Stay tuned for more about an online course I am writing.

In the meantime, please enjoy this new-to-me blog, Words and Images by Cynthia which combines words and images. I have gotten lost in Cynthia’s writing and photography. I found her through another interesting and inspiring website, The Creativity Portal.