Sunday 27 January 2019

Shaking with joy...shaking with grief...

Very sadly, the Pulitzer-Prize winning American poet, Mary Oliver, died recently (1935-2019). I give thanks for the many wonderful poems that she has left behind.

You can listen to Krista Tippett’s enchanted 2015 interview with Mary Oliver here.

And here are excerpts from some of my favourite Mary Oliver poems, accompanied by photographs.

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.

to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

...If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?

...I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
         love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

...Tell me, what is your plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Thank you, Mary Oliver. Rest in peace.

All poems taken from Devotions/The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.
 (Penguin Press, 2017)


Sunday 20 January 2019

Glorious Glanmore House!

“Sometime the best hiding place is the one in plain sight.”
- Stephenie Meyer, Novelist

It takes me less than ten minutes to walk from our home to Glanmore House, Belleville’s National Historic Site (link) on Bridge Street East. 

Despite having lived in the Bay of Quinte area on and off for decaades, I am embarrassed to say that, until recently, I had never visited Glanmore House. I had driven by it hundreds of times, and my dear friend Lindi is a passionate Glanmore House volunteer and advocate. (You can find Lindi’s delightful blog about heritage architecture, “ancestral roofs”, here.) Yet somehow – mostly through benign neglect – I had just never gotten around to checking it out for myself. 

Glanmore House was hidden in plain sight for me.

Talk about missing a treasure!

All that changed two weeks ago when I finally decided to break my inertia by hauling myself and my camera over to Glanmore House for a visit. 

And what a fine place it is! Sumptuous and superbly curated, it is a celebration of Victorian and Edwardian sensibilities, not to mention a test of the staff who have to dust all those beautiful bits and pieces on display – those many, many ostentatious, gaudy, fabulous. bizarre, lovingly preserved bits and pieces! My goodness, but wealthy Victorians DID love their collections! 

The house, built in the ornate Second Empire style, was built in 1882-1883 for the wealthy Belleville banker, John Philpot Curran Phillips, and his family. Four generations of the family lived in the house until 1971, when the City of Belleville purchased it to become a museum. Fully restored to its original grandeur, it is a time traveller’s delight. Its dedicated staff and volunteers keep it filled with energy and delights. Kudos to all involved. 

I approve of my tax money supporting such a treasure. 

Please don’t ignore it for as long as I did. 

A technical note about the photos below: I have recently switched from JPEG photos to RAW photos, giving me much larger files to play with. I have also begun using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC software to edit photos. For those not familiar with the process, it is the equivalent of little boys' switching from short pants to long pants. It’s all a little daunting and I’m on a steep learning curve, but it was clearly time to up my game. So, up it, I did.

I hope you enjoy the resulting photos.

Saturday 12 January 2019

The Textures of Life...

“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, 
all the texture around it...
I always want to see the third dimension of something...
I want to come alive with the object.”

- Andrew Wyeth, Artist (1917-2009)

For the second time recently, I’m returning to the American artist Andrew Wyeth for inspiration. One of the elements of Wyeth’s paintings that I admire most is his use of earthy texture to convey a tactile sense of reality. This grittiness reinforces Wyeth’s narratives and draws me into his paintings. I experience the fecund earth, the dried leaves, the peeled paint – even the pungent aroma of hounds. Wyeth’s paintings are powerfully multi-sensory and evocative.

It is that evocative quality that I strive to reflect in my photos – a literal sense of place, complete with smells, sounds, tastes, and textures. For me, a photograph is never ‘just’ a visual experience; it runs the gamut of our senses and has more than one portal to our souls. 

With that thought as context, I offer you the following images, all made within the last month. With the exception of the sculptured case of my external computer drive, the photos come from Prince Edward County, mostly from a Sunday afternoon visit to Point Petre with Bill. For me, these photos have a multi-sensory quality to them. 

I hope you enjoy them - at whatever level appeals to you!

Point Petre #1

Point Petre #2

Point Petre #3

Point Petre #4

Point Petre #5

Top of External Computer Drive

Painted Seat, Carbon Art and Design, Picton

Wood Panel Outside Carbon Art and Design, Picton

Silhouette, House of Falconer Art Studio, Picton

Point Petre #6
Bill standing by his favourite tree.

Sunday 6 January 2019

Home Alone

“I believe I know the only cure, which is to make one’s center of life inside of one’s self, not selfishly or excludingly, but with a kind of unassailable serenity – to decorate one’s inner house so richly that one is content there, glad to welcome anyone who wants to come and stay, but happy all the same when one is inevitably alone.”
- Edith Wharton,
American novelist, 1862-1937
Quoted in Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World
by Michael Harris (Doubleday Canada, 2017)

Returning to a theme...

Needing time by myself – and enjoying time by myself – is important in my life. This preference makes me an introvert, although not everyone agrees with that analysis. For me, time alone is when my battery recharges.

My late husband – himself a world-class introvert – maintained that there had to be “spaces in our togetherness”. That philosophy helped sustain our relationship for 29 years. 

Our times apart enriched our times together.

And it continues to be a sustaining theme in my marriage with dear Bill. For instance, as I write this blog post [Thursday], Bill is teaching in Peterborough. I have the house to myself, with the exception of the dogs and cat. And I love it. I have several writing and photography projects to work on, and I set my own schedule. I keep contact with other humans to a minimum. 

I am alone, but I am not lonely.

What makes this isolation rich and fertile is that Bill will be home this evening. And I relish being together with him again. As I said, our times apart enrich our times together. 

Bill is teaching in Ottawa next week for three days, and I’m plotting what I’ll do in his absence. And I’m already looking forward to welcoming him home.

This pattern of solitude began when I was 7-years-old. I missed a year of school because of rheumatic fever, during which I spent many hours by myself. My days consisted of reading, sleeping, playing, and watching television (exotic in rural Ontario in the early 1950s). 

I learned to generate my own happiness. I became my own best friend, developing the inner resources to engage with the world by myself. 

It’s not that I actively shunned the company of others. It’s simply that I preferred my own company. 

Along the way, I’ve developed extroversion skills – meeting people, chatting them up, engaging with the wider world. One skill that I soon learned about navigating the ‘outside world’ was asking people personal questions. Because, of course, most people like talking about themselves. And it took the focus off me, thank goodness, giving me a solid place to stand on socially. 

However, too much extroverting makes me nervous and drains me. Cue the diplomatic exit...

Psychologists refer to this as being a ‘situational extrovert’. As long as I have a role – questioner, teacher, director, speaker, workshop leader, photographer – I am just fine in public. Without a role, however, I often feel socially awkward. I simply want to disappear. 

One of the things I love about photography is that I do it mostly by myself. Heaven! 

And so, while Bill has been away this week and the weather has been cold and grey, I’ve made photos inside our home. What a treat! The images are nothing exotic, but they are fun. I hope you enjoy looking at them. 

Meanwhile, I’ll get ready to welcome Bill back from Ottawa next week...