Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In the blink of an eye

A photograph taken on an outing to Miners Marsh in Kentville shows how one minute youre swimming along enjoying life, and in a split second catastrophe can strike.
There are moments in our lives when everything changes. No matter who we are, or what we do, we all have experiences that change our lives in a heartbeat. One moment everything is normal, and in the blink of an eye our world has been turned upside down.

I was photographing some birds at the Miner's Marsh in Kentville a while back, and had my camera trained on a black bird walking along the water's edge. In a flash that must have been just a split second, the bird reached into the water and grabbed a small fish. It happened so quickly that I missed the action while looking through my camera lens, and only captured the result - the bird with the fish in it's beak. One minute you're swimming along enjoying life, and in a split second catastrophe can strike.

Maybe it's a cancer diagnosis, or a car accident, or a death in the family. There are endless situations that can pack a wallop that drops us to our knees when we least expect it.


A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting on the swing of our backyard deck and thinking about how lucky I was. I often think about how lucky I am, so that's no big surprise. However, that particular week was not one of my best. I was alone on the swing with only my dogs for company while my husband was in the hospital after surviving a major stroke. At that particular moment, I was feeling lucky and blessed because just a few days before he was completely paralyzed on the left side of his body. But a couple of days can make a huge difference, and after his brain recovered from the shock he became more and more mobile. 

While I was sitting on that swing and trying to process all the changes, I was contemplating life with some new challenges instead of facing a future with a completely dependent person. And that's why I felt fortunate instead of filled with despair.

I am no stranger to strokes and the devastation they can cause. My father had a severe stroke when I was just 21. He was told he would never walk again, but he worked hard and was released from the hospital after one year. He lived a fulfilled life for another 16 years and accomplished many wonderful things.

In a very broad generalization that I am prone to concluding now and then, I have noticed that there tends to be two types of people. We've all heard of the "glass half full" versus "glass half empty" example of how different people can be presented with the same situation and come away with totally a different perception of things. I truly believe that attitude can make a huge difference. 

Don't get me wrong. Since that awful day in late June, I have had times of terrible grief and feelings of complete helplessness. There have been moments when my sadness has been so great that it was a physical thing, squeezing my heart and stealing my breath. I have had periods of self doubt so overwhelming that I didn't think I could cope with the future ahead. I didn't think I would have the patience or ability to do what I needed to do, or be who I needed to be.

But I continue to give thanks for the blessings in my life. I am thankful that we were in the emergency department when the stroke occurred, and my husband received the absolute best and quickest care possible. I am thankful for the doctors and nursing staff, the therapists and team of people working hard every day to ensure whatever possible progress is made. I am thankful for our family and friends who have made my time at home alone more possible to bear. I am thankful for the strength of my husband, who has been determined to prove he can do whatever he is told is not possible.

So in these post-stroke weeks, I have given a lot of thought to the priorities in my life. Some of the dreams that seemed important to me before, now become a lot less significant. Some of my "to do's" have dropped by the wayside. Now, some of the "major accomplishments" I wanted to achieve don't seem to matter anymore. At this moment, somehow it seems more important to be kind, to be generous, and to enjoy friends and family, rather than achieving goals that really dont matter in the grand scheme of things.

I am thankful for this chance to continue to share my life with the most important person in my world. It will be a different life than we had planned, but I have a partner to travel that path with me, and things might have been very, very different.

During our weeks at the hospital, a nurse asked my husband "Is this your wife?", he replied "She's not just my wife. She's my everything." And that is truly something wonderful to focus on during our challenges ahead.

published in the South Shore Breaker - July 19, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Church Going of a Different Variety

A recent trip to St. Matthew's United Church in Halifax to listen to the Lunch Bunch community choir sent me down the memory lane of visits to various church conversions.
I was in downtown Halifax listening to a lovely choir singing a couple of weeks ago. As I sat there, I gazed around enjoying the sights as well as the sounds. There is something lovely about century old churches, almost as if they absorb the feelings of generations of people and then pass them on to every visitor.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

South Shore Stories

a cozy corner from inside The Port Grocer in Port Medway
Being involved with a hobby, any hobby, can be a fulfilling pastime. Sometimes frustrating, when we're trying to learn a new technique. And very rewarding, when something we are trying to create comes to fruition. Whether you sketch, paint, hook, knit, crochet, garden, sail, show cars,or whatever, it all takes patience to learn a craft and a willingness to try new things in order to succeed.

And there comes a time when it's important to share our skills with other people.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Pond-ering Several Homes

Backyard ponds are a benefit to frogs, dragonflies, butterflies, and birds, to name a few, and also create opportunities to improve photography skills.
I spent a few days last week harvesting one of Nova Scotias best crops, a never ending supply of rocks. I was digging a hole for a small backyard pond and Mother Nature threw me a challenge or two. Admittedly, it would have taken me a lot less time to dig a few years ago. It's amazing how age seems to creep up on you and then hit you with a wallop.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A variety of hermits

I created this water mosaic with photos from our walk on Stoney Island Beach. These were taken with my point and shoot, an experiment to see if it's worth taking the time to create a larger mosaic with higher quality photos.
It is my belief that even non birder people can appreciate a lovely bird song. Last year, I often heard tweeting of a non technological variety coming from the forest behind our house, but I wasnt familiar with the song and I could never spot the bird. I recorded it one evening and then posted the sound on facebook, receiving immediate responses that the mysterious crooner was a hermit thrush.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Time for a re-boot

There is no need to travel to other destinations for wildlife or landscape photography. Every day life can supply endless opportunities, if we take the time to look. Double Crested Cormorants along the LaHave River.
My disappointment at being turned down for a photographic experience I had applied for recently was quickly tempered by inspiration I received in the same batch of emails. I subscribe to a popular photographers newsletters, and the advice wasnt directed at just me, but it felt like she was talking to me nonetheless:

"I want to encourage you, no matter what negative thoughts you have going on in your mind, to do the thing you feel you cannot.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Single Minded Focus

When driving around without a specific goal for photographs, sometimes its difficult to get enthused and its best to pick something to concentrate on. Bridges was a theme for me on a recent road trip.
I am often lost in my own little world. Im not sure if its escapism, or hyper focus, or what it should be referred to. Its not unusual for me to be there in body, but not in mind.

For instance, my husband and I can be driving somewhere and hell point something along the way that I missed. Ive heard the phrase "How could you not see that?" more times than I could count.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Non Bucket List Events

a small herd of deer crossed the road without my dogs noticing...they were busy sniffing something exciting on the ground
Ill start this column with a warning: the following content may contain elements that are unrelated and not suitable for organized minds. Rambling words ahead.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Choices

A group of double crested cormorants along the flooded St. Johns River in New Brunswick were a perfect photographic subject for me and my newly discovered joy of monochromatic type images.
I'm not a fan of old country music, but there are some classics that I really enjoy and sing along at full throttle, putting my heart into the words. George Jones had some real tear jerkers, including "He Stopped Loving Her Today". But one of my favourites from George was "Choices". I've had choices since the day that I was born...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

On the Road Again

Sometimes size does matter. Without a specialty lens, my moose would have been a small speck in the landscape, instead of an up close and personal image.
I know some people who have had a really tough time adjusting to retirement. They find their days long, and miss the structure of their old work life. My husband was worried that I would miss my business after it sold, but no. Not me. When I retired, I never looked back.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bird-Brained

An early morning photo shoot of local osprey was ruined by forgetting to reset my camera settings. The images were all three photo compilations due to my camera being set to take multiple exposures.
I had an interesting morning recently, in which I discovered that bird-brained can have two quite different meanings. In my meandering way, I will tell you a bit about both my experiences.

Every morning, without fail, I am awakened by two impatient dogs who want to get started with their day. I cant be irritated with them, even if they decide its time to get going while I am still in a sound slumber, because they are just so deliriously happy that it tends to rub off on me. Okay, its time to get up and start the day. This involves letting them out, letting them in, feeding them, getting the coffee ready, feeding the cat and cleaning her box, getting the paper, and on it goes. When I finally get to relax with my coffee, I usually take a look at our backyard birds.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When there's no turning back

A postcard from Lake Ainslie sent back to Ontario by my mother in 1967, during my first trip to Nova Scotia.
Do you ever wonder what could have been? If you had made a different choice, or followed a different path? If you stayed put instead of moving on? Or if you said yes instead of no to a new life challenge?

 

We are all making choices constantly in our lives. Small choices, like what to have for breakfast. Or big life choices, such as changing jobs or changing life styles. It's all the constant decisions that we face that can sometimes become overwhelming.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stretching our abilities

"Eye of the Beholder" - my image for the South Shore Stories exhibit at the Margaret Hennigar Library, Bridgewater during the month of May
Learning any type of craft is good for the mind, and can be a lifelong learning journey. For me, a love of photography started early. I'm not sure whether I loved it more for the documentation process or to help cover up my shyness. For years, the only photos I took were what I would call documentary, chronicling life with my family and friends. Looking back, I think one reason I did this was to help with my memory, which has always been bad. 

When I was in my late teens, I was talking with my friends and reminiscing about early high school. They were laughing about something that happened and I didn't remember even being there. No, there were no drugs or alcohol involved. Forty years later,

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Reality versus illusion

If you are of a certain age, you may remember the advertisements with the tag line "does she, or doesnt she?", referring to hair colour. For the record, I dont, and am naturally "silver". It amazes me that young women purposely dye their hair grey. Does that mean I am fashionable? I doubt it.
 
These days, sometimes its difficult to tell if something is real or manufactured.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Repetition Doesn't Mean Boring

Going back to the same location time and time again can lead to a series of interesting images with quite different results. Timing is everything – a few hours after this photo was taken, the hay rows were gone.
Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the result to change? Of course, doing the same thing countless times without variation leads to the same conclusion, even if we continue to hope for something different.

As so often happens to me these days, my mind goes back into the past and remembers long forgotten details. Many years ago, when we purchased our first computer we had one of those frustrating experiences that new technology often brings. Back then, setting up a new computer was a lot more complicated than it is now. We painstakingly followed the instructions and had no success. Over and over, line by line,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Dichotomy of Life


cover photo from the portfolio I created for my application to NSCAD University
I am thrilled. I am scared. I am ready.

Recently, I had to write a one page essay and those were the words I ended with. Those words could be applied to any kind of new challenge in our lives, don't you think?  No matter what new activity or project or life experience, I believe that a lot of people would agree to having mixed feelings. 

Excitement about the opportunity. Wow, I can't believe this is happening to me! 

Fear about the unknown. I don't know all the answers or if I can do this!

Ready to try. I might be ready to dive in, or sometimes drag my feet, but I'm willing to give it a go.

Not many things are all good, or all bad. Usually joy and frustration go together

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hummer of a painting

In this internet age, people are introduced into our lives in unexpected ways. I "met" Helen a few months ago when she stumbled across my blog while researching the high tides in Nova Scotia. We corresponded many times and she seems like a kindred spirit.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How does your garden grow?


On a cold winter day, fun can be had by photographing flowers taken from a bouquet of roses. Well, it was actually a bouquet of carnations but my husband thought he bought me roses.
One day in January, my husband arrived home with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. Once I picked myself up from the floor, I asked what the occasion was. He knows I like flowers, he said, so he bought me some. Twenty five years together, and I dont need all the fingers on one hand to count the number of times I received a bouquet of flowers from him. Not on our anniversary. Not on Valentines Day. Never. So, miracles do happen.

Friday, February 17, 2017

obsessions

We all have our little obsessions. My current obsession with photography is playing with photos and combinations, namely feathers and birds. I don't think I have it quite right yet, but the root of my idea is to create images that use feathers to represent trees. Here's what I have so far (keep in mind that I am just learning how to combine multiple photos into one image). 

Same feather and bird images as above, but with an photo of ice used as the background
 


I'm trying to create a feeling of release and/or freedom. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Anticipation - It's Worth The Wait (snowy owls)


Female Snowy Owl visits the lighthouse
Unlike our local owl populations that are nocturnal, snowy owls hunt during the day and prefer rodents. They prefer open land with tall perches.
If you are a certain age, you may remember the ketchup commercials from the 1970s that play the song "Anticipation" in the background. An announcer ends the commercials with the words "the taste thats worth the wait". 
 
I dont remember what I did last week, but I do remember commercials from forty years ago. I wonder what that says about me?

In any case, its true. Some things are worth the wait.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Use It Or Lose It - photographing eagles

crows and eagles in Sheffield Mills
"Use it or lose it" is a commonly used phrase that Ive heard many times over the years. I never gave much thought to the origins of the meaning, but it gets applied to my life on a frequent basis these days.

For decades the term has been used to describe the best way to deal with the issues that come with aging. If we keep exercising (or maybe for some of us, if we actually start exercising) then we keep in shape. Likewise, if we keep exercising our brain, we continue to think better. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Go Amuse Yourself

Do kids ever say they are bored these days? I'm not sure. Even young children seem to be online all the time, gaming, texting and whatever else. However, I imagine that most readers of this blog will remember the days when kids would say "I'm bored". And you all know what the answer from our parents was..."go find something to amuse yourself with".

For me, that usually meant reading or drawing. I did have three siblings, but they were much older than me. And I did have school friends, but they lived a fair distance from me and I wasn't able to get out and play with them as often as I would have liked. We lived on a busy street and although we all walked everywhere back then, most parents didn't want their kids walking by themselves to my home on one of the busiest streets in the city. 


The end result of all of this was that I became quite able to amuse myself with hobbies and imagination. I'm not sure whether I started out as an introvert, but I sure ended up that way.

Something interesting that I've noticed is that some of the same challenges apply as we age. We often have to find something to fill our time. I was a little shocked recently when it occurred to me that I have been retired for nine years now. Part of me wonders, where did the years go? And part of me is pleasantly surprised by the fact that I have been quite happily amusing myself for almost a decade.


I wasn't unhappy when I became an empty nester. And I certainly wasn't unhappy to sell my business and retire nine years ago. There are so many things to do! And never enough time to do them.

However, that is not to say that every day is a day of excitement and adventure. 


Some days I have to follow that old advice and find something to amuse myself with. One of the good things about being a photographer is that I have lots and lots of raw material to play with. Even bad photographs can turn into something interesting with a little bit of imagination and a tad of luck.

I am an anomaly in this age of selfie taking, but was tasked to take one for a photography challenge our club was assigned last summer. I had a vision in mind that I wanted to create, and took a trip to my local Frenchy's to find a skirt that would billow in the wind. I couldn't find what I was looking for, and had to settle for something different. Not quite my usual style, it was leopard patterned sheer with a small black slip. It made quite a statement. With my apologies to the original owner, I wasn't about to wear it until the moment I was ready to take the photograph. 


Even though this was a selfie exercise, my husband was willing to tag along so we headed to Hirtle's Beach with the dogs, camera, tripod, and outfit. I picked a spot and pulled my new to me skirt over my jeans and set up my camera on the timer mode. John held the dogs and watched me as I ran back and forth in my leopard skirt and tried to get two scarves to flutter in the wind. A lack of wind, incorrect exposure setting, a photo bombing dog, and the fact that I forgot to take off my Blundstone boots, all contributed to a set of selfie images that weren't quite the artistic vision I had in mind. 
The "before" photo - too dark, photo bombed by Riley, not enough wind, generally a bad photo!


I did manage to capture something similar to what I had in my mind's eye when we had a second excursion to Beach Meadows a few days later. No photo bombing dogs, and a better location suggested by my husband helped me achieve the look I was going for.

Now, what has that all got to do with where we started in this article? Well, on a recent snowy day with no tasks that needed to be done, I was finding something to amuse myself with. I was organizing all my images from last year and came across the photos from my selfie session. Since playing with photographs is a lot more interesting than digitally labeling and filing them, I picked one and started editing. The photo bombing dog got cropped. The clunky boots got cropped. I adjusted the exposure and decided to discard the colour. And then I played with a preset effect on some computer software. Voila, I had an image I was happy with, creating something out of an image I was going to discard.
The same photo with a bit of editing - I was going to discard the original photo, but I love it now!
I know not everyone is a photographer, and not everyone has the same luxury of time. But now and then we all get bored and need to amuse ourselves. And even a boring bit of organizing can turn into something interesting to focus on.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Blank Page

Published in The Chronicle Herald - Nova Scotian on January 16, 2017 and the South Shore Breaker on January 11, 2017
Facing a new year is a little like looking at an empty journal. Its exciting because its fresh and new, open to all possibilities and with the potential of greatness.

But it can be a little intimidating too. Some of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create something wonderful and memorable. Bigger and better than last year. A new me, a new future, a new start towards surpassing past results.

We want to get in shape, lose weight, have big vacations, accomplish spectacular goals. Anything seems possible at the start of a new year.

But what if we looked at that blank page and decided that we don
t have to fill it with a story that climbs to the top of the New York Times best sellers list? What if we contented ourselves with a quiet read full of every day things and every day life?

In years past, I used to spend part of New Year
s Day writing my goals for the coming year. My husband could never understand this and wondered why I had to write things down, why I couldnt "just be". I'm starting to come around to his way of thinking. Maybe its my advancing years, or maybe its just that twenty five years with this man has got me thinking more like him. (oh, the horror).

Seriously, I
m not sure Ill ever totally stop my list making. Thats just part of who I am. A planner. A dreamer. A believer that sometimes writing things down can be the first step toward dreams coming true. On the other hand, a long list of "to dos" can become an anchor that weighs us down and holds us back from living in the moment. If we take lists too seriously, it can backfire and become de-motivating and disheartening if we dont accomplish our goals. If our lists are too demanding, they can set us up for failure and become a tool for our minds to reinforce a feeling that we just arent good enough.

If we lack self confidence, a long list of difficult goals could lead to more stress and less faith in our abilities. The key for me when making my own list is to keep it real, keep it light and manageable, and keep it personal. And you know what? I did make a list last New Year
s Day, but I have no idea where it went. My almost total lack of memory means that I dont know if I accomplished what I wanted to or not. I guess Ill mark that down as a success. My list obviously didnt give me any self imposed stress!
If you had told me at the beginning of last year that I would write and publish thirty five articles, I would have laughed at the crazy thought.
I do remember one of my goals was to create a photo book of my favourite images to commemorate the end of five years of drug therapy for cancer. Although we did celebrate five years of being considered cancer free, I didnt work on a book. Instead, I went down a totally different road and started writing a weekly column for this paper. If you had told me at the beginning of last year that I would write and publish thirty five articles, I would have laughed at the crazy thought. Its an example for me that no matter how much I plan, being open to what the world throws at me can bring me great satisfaction and personal growth. It can also bring trepidation and fear, but that can be a good thing in small doses. If we accomplish something that scares us a little, it can stretch us and boost our confidence.

Some people like to give themselves an annual challenge, and one of mine was to read 50 books each year. Then I thought that setting a goal to read a specific number of books made it seem too much like a chore to tick off my to do list. I thought maybe it was more important to read at no particular pace and no particular time. Some days I sit and read for hours, and some days I don
t get a chance. Since I am a list maker, I keep track of the books that I have finished and make a note of which authors I enjoyed. And I do try to alternate my need for familiar authors with stretching my mind to new authors and writing styles. The library is truly one of my favourite places.

A lot of photographers join daily challenges, but I have never jumped on that bandwagon. Well, I should be honest and say I did try it briefly in the past, but stopped fairly quickly. I find that having to take specific photographs doesn
t usually work with the way I like to capture images.

As I contemplate 2017, and look at the blank page that is my coming year, I wonder what it will bring. If I was to write a list for myself, what would I like to see happen?

Of course we will continue to day trip around Nova Scotia with our dogs, traveling the coastline and finding new beaches to explore. I hope to finally visit the Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct this year, and maybe capture an image of some seals. Another item on my photographic wish list is to find a snowy owl. 


At the top of my list will be - "Just Be" - and perhaps that will be the biggest challenge of all.
At the start of a new year, some of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make lists and set goals. bigger and better than last year. Perhaps more of us should try to “Just Be”.
Whatever your hopes and dreams are for the coming year, whether you write them down or keep them in your head, I hope this year brings you the things you truly need in life - good friendships, laughter and love. For those are truly good things for us to focus on.