Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Looking Around

"To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has it's head up it's own ass- seeing things in such a darkly and narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one."

Getting read to move has caused me, to a certain extent, to do exactly this. The phrase "I'm too old for this comes to mind" as we box things up. I've discarded yet more books, but there are many - probably too many - that I can't let go. So they will be moved to the new place, and probably to the NEXT new place. I have put several of my books into a book swapping website and found instant interest. That will give me more points so I can get yet more books. Meanwhile, I am continuing to read "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott and marveling. Why didn't I read this before?  I ask myself. I've had it sitting on a shelf for years while I wasted too much time on Facebook trying to have a "discussion" that will ultimately go nowhere, or watched a political show on television that ultimately set my teeth on edge. 

I've wondered on and off why I've become so engrossed in photography. I think I've found the answer. As a kid I was always interested in what was going on around me. I still am. Some people think of that as being nosy. Seeing two people sitting and talking and hearing snatches of their conversation get me thinking about what it would be like to be a part of that conversation or makes me glad I'm NOT a part of it. When I hear an interesting conversation, I long to be a part of it. Interesting conversations are few and far between. Getting interested in photography has made me interested in faces and movement and more. I see the world in a different way - in a way more like the kid I was. 

I walked back and forth to school four times a day. It was nearly a mile. We had to go home for lunch if we lived less than a mile because my Catholic school was so crowded and lacked lunch facilities. This was the baby boom time. Our classes were large, our world view was narrow. We had just "won the war" as my parents liked to say. Looking back, it wasn't so long after World War II, but it seemed like a million years before. 

I was a loner kid who didn't have a lot of friends, so I often walked by myself. Looking back, that wasn't a bad thing. It made me look around and see since I wasn't engrossed in conversation that would, most likely, be quickly forgotten. There are few things that I remember, but I do remember this: the smell of spring and walking home on a windy day at lunch time and feeling the wind trying to pick me up. It was a little frightening but also exhilarating. Would I be blown away?

And what exactly does spring smell like? I may have mentioned that to someone and got ridiculed. I do remember keeping things like that to myself. It seemed as if talking about the things around you - the smells, the sights - made you seem a bit weird. Well, that's fine. I've come to terms with THAT! 

Some of my questions annoyed my parents because they were unanswerable. I always wanted to know why people lied, why they said the things they said. My Dad used to tell stories about his childhood that made me laugh. My mother mostly talked about how poor they were although she had a few stories that evoked the time. One of them is about homogenized milk. They didn't have that when she was growing up. The milk would be delivered with the cream on the top. Her brothers would grab a bottle and drink the cream which would make my grandmother really mad. On a cold morning the cream would be partially frozen. What a treat! 

Am I the only person who occasionally buys a container of heavy cream and sneaks a little bit to drink. It's such a luxurious feeling. 

The world is full of beautiful and not so beautiful sights, smells and textures of all kinds that both attract and repel. However, even the ones that repel can also attract. A fence with barbed wire, a graffiti covered wall, a street full of empty buildings, flowers, mountains, water, great food, movement of all kinds and more are there for all of us to enjoy. 

Then there are those moments in time that evoke a memory for me: a little girl getting her nails done at a street festival & geese making their way through a crowd enjoying a day of fiddlers. 

What the world needs now is less navel gazing and more looking around and seeing, in my opinion. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Yesterday was Fat Tuesday. I took out my "collection" of dollar store masks and did a few photography projects. All the talk of bundling up and taking pictures is great until I actually do it. It's making being a "snowbird" look more and more tempting. 

A photographer I follow on Facebook has been showcasing his photos of women in masks in Venice. They are really beautiful and most have this look. Women wear this during carnevale in Venice along with beautiful costumes. 

With these masks, everyone is "beautiful" in exactly the same way. When the woman removes the mask to a stranger, will the stranger be disappointed. Will she see the letdown in the stranger's eyes? Or will the stranger say that she is even more beautiful than her mask? The cliche that we all wear a mask is, of course, one we hear over and over. 

The Venetian masks are also, in their own way, art pieces as well. So it could be just the opportunity to wear something that is a bit of art for a day or two that makes these masks so popular. 

In the USA, masks are normally worn only on Halloween except for places that celebrate Mardi Gras. American masks are generally funny or scary. Political masks are popular during election year. Will there be lots of Trump masks for Halloween this year since it's an election year? Bank robbers like masks. Some like to use Halloween masks to frighten their victims. How many Donald Trump bank robberies will happen this year? 

Masks aren't just face coverings. The faces that we portray to the public portray our emotions: either the ones that are real or the ones that we want the public to know. Some people are better at this than others. 

One of my photo challenges this week was a self portrait. I did two - one of my sitting in a chair reading and one that was just a quick mobile shot of me in a feathered mask I got at a local dollar store. 

I intentionally did a close up that showed only the upper part of my face. It looks kind of spooky and definitely strange. Who is that? Or WHAT is that? I tried to keep all emotion out of my eyes. 

The masks we wear every day are necessary. Having our emotions playing so readily on our faces every day would be uncomfortable for everyone. Once in a while the masks do slip. Then come the consequences. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What's Developing?

Continuing My Love Affair With Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

This morning I read the chapter called Polaroids. Why Polaroids? Because when you're writing you don't know what's going to develop. She uses an article she was writing about the Special Olympics. As things were winding down, she was hungry and tired and ready to get something to eat. Then she noticed a young woman making her way to the finish line. She said she was making her way painfully and slowly to the finish line. Oh, please, hurry up, she thought. The young woman made it over the finish line. She said the look on her face was amazing. A tall black man showed her a picture of him with some of his friends. He was very proud of his accomplishments. It's a great story. 

It got me thinking about Polaroids. I don't have any wonderful stories such as this one. I DO have one of the new instant cameras (see picture above) that takes tiny pictures. I don't use it often, but it's cute and kind of fun to use. It's fun watching the picture develop. A few years ago we were in Philadelphia's Chinatown. A young couple asked my husband to take their picture with their Fujifilm Instant Camera. I was intrigued and have used it a few times. I think I'm going to use it a bit more often. 

It got me thinking about Polaroids. That was the hot camera back in the day. People loved the idea of an instant picture. If you were visiting friends, you could have an instant momento. They were cheap. It still isn't. But, it's fun. The colors fade in the old ones - aka the "vintage" look that younger people love so much. 

I have some family photos that include Polaroids. I remember taking the pictures and waiting for them to develop in my hand. You had to be careful not to smear them. Now some artists actually try to smear them to get an artistic look.

 So today I took a picture and watched it develop. And I remembered the feeling I got the first time I saw a picture develop in my hand. It's a little bit of magic. Yes, I know it's science, but it's still magic. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

School Lunches

I've been reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. If you're not familiar with it, it's all about writing. It's a collection of things she has shared with her writing classes. I'm reading one chapter at a time. So it's going to take me about a month or so to get through it. The latest one, School Lunches, made me laugh. She talks about picking s short subject when you're stuck. Well, I'm not particularly stuck, but I thought it would be fun. 

The photo above is my elementary school, St. Matthew's. I took that picture several years ago. It's fitting that it was a cold, gray day when I took this picture. When I was in elementary school I walked back and forth four times a day. There were days when it was just so cold and ugly, I really didn't want to go home for lunch, especially since I was going home to an empty house. 

We were expected to go home for lunch unless you lived more than a mile away. We lived just within that mile. One day I convinced my parents to write a note to ask that I stay for lunch. I don't know why or how it happened. I just remember doing it. So that day, I had a lunchbox and thermos. I thought it would be great. It was a cold, nasty day. 

We didn't have a lunchroom. Nor were we allowed to eat in our classrooms. The "lunchroom" was the basement of the school. It had been designed for a kindergarten, but apparently the school decided to abandon the idea of a kindergarten. They used it as a lunchroom. There were no hot lunches. There were no soda machines. There was just a nun telling everyone to eat and be quiet. What a big disappointment. It was a cold and ugly room with cinderblock walls and high windows that kept out most of the already limited light. Everything was beige. There were no posters, no color. Well, there was a crucifix of course. Ugh! 

I'm sure I sat with some of my classmates. Nobody was allowed to talk. We couldn't go outside either because it was pouring. The worse part? It was a Friday, a day for no meat. I had a tuna salad sandwich. No lettuce. The tuna salad was wet and soaked the bread which was the nasty white bread that my parents favored at the time. (Ah, the miracle of sliced bread. Yuck!) 

Was I disappointed! After that I walked back and forth to school. Thinking back, I realize now that I had some definite ideas about food. They didn't involve soggy bread! So it was back and forth four times a day again. Somehow it was ok. After that going home and letting myself into the house wasn't so bad. At least I could watch television and not have a nun bitching at me - for a little over an hour!