Going Pro

I have decided to become a professional photographer so I can better develop my blog/magazine; it seems like a natural progression to enhance my words by adding photos. Even though my phone’s camera works very well, it is not satisfying my artistic vision, especially when it comes to taking pictures of wildlife and nature.

I see stories everywhere I go, some that I would dearly love to unravel through the eye of my lens, and the words of my interpretation.

The idea of leaving for the day with my camera-bag slung over my shoulder, to wander the forests, rivers, fields, and trails of all the beautiful places I love to visit; sounds like an adventurous dream to me. I would also enjoy taking photos of old buildings, gardens, design ideas, and to capture candid snapshots of daily life.

Just yesterday while on my neighborhood walk, an elder man was carefully making his way up the street, pushing a small shopping cart with a few grocery bags. Appearing out of nowhere, several miles in any direction from a store, there he was walking right past me. Dressed in winter-wear from head to toe, elegant in his movements, he seemed to step out of a scene from another place in time. He had stopped to fuss with his bags, and as I drew near we both smiled and greeted one another. I was filled with curiosity and wanted to ask him so many questions, like…was walking to the grocery store something he did often… how much further did he have to go…does he have a wife waiting at home ready to help unpack their supplies…or did he live alone with his cat…how pray tell, has he been holding up during these difficult times?!

Note* Any photos I take of random people are from a distance, and do not show their face out of respect for the individual’s privacy, unless I otherwise have their permission to do something more formal.

Luckily for him I was feeling quiet and asked none of these things, although most people are charmed by my friendliness, and usually responsive to my chattiness — I was too comfortable in my solitude to say anything beyond hello. Understandingly, by his age he has lived through the after-effects of the Great Depression and several wars. Perhaps this is why I perceived a certain easy-going-travel-weariness that enveloped him like a cloud. Having already endured so much, his suffering through a pandemic, insurrection, domestic terrorists, combined with political corruption, was nothing more than a regular day in his life. In my imaginings, (because at the end of the day that’s all I had, having no real idea who he is or how he thinks) I admired his savoir faire attitude. Maybe in the future I will be the same way, unmoved by outside chaos, and no longer surprised by the fall of man.

You can’t say *savoir faire* and not also be reminded of this!

I consider myself a visual storyteller, teacher, and inspirational writer, so I think adding photography to my repertoire is the next step. It’s hard not to be intimidated by the cost of a good camera, not to mention needing to buy a new computer that is able to handle editing programs crucial to my expanding career.

I am trying to justify spending such an exorbitant amount of money while I am currently unemployed and living off of prayers. It would be a gigantic leap of faith to believe I could become skilled in something so technical. I am an artist, so hopefully photography will come easy for me. Although I am able to self-learn, I will most likely have to take a few classes, and maybe find myself a willing mentor.

Either way, I believe it’s never too late to begin something new. I have been lost in the land of despair for so long it feels good to be inspired again with my writing and now perfecting my use of photos/videos.

When I lived in Southern California, for several years as a young adult I lived within feet of the boardwalk in Mission Beach. This was back in the early 80’s, I didn’t know it then, but those were my glory years. Too bad they were also filled with so much angst, but I still had some of the happiest and most memorable times of my life there.

My daughter and I went home to San Diego to visit my family in 2018, and it was such a joy to revisit my youth.

Back then, being a little more daring than I am now, I would get up every morning and walk to the boardwalk, coffee in one hand and roller skates in the other. Outfitted in my beach girl uniform; mini skirt, bikini, favorite Grateful Dead t-shirt, my Sony walk-man and headphones, I would lace up my skates, put on my music and fly down the boardwalk. I averaged about 60 miles a week, and would skate both day and night. I loved those times and smile in my memories to see myself navigating around bicyclists, surfer boys, scantily clad girls, skate boarders, and a myriad of other fine characters….especially because I wasn’t the greatest at stopping or going over curbs. It’s a miracle I survived.

Me, probably around 22 years young, when I lived at the beach. Thank you to my friend Russel for taking this photo!

To this day I can feel the sunshine, cool wind in my hair, and the sound of Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Eagles, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, and all of my favorite bands blasting in my ears. Never have I felt so free!

On quieter nights, I would walk along the boardwalk with the Pacific Ocean to one side, and the wealthy beach front owners, or those who could afford summer rentals, on the other. I loved looking in the windows (not in a creepy way) but to catch casual glimpses of people going about their daily lives. I have always been fascinated by the mysteriousness of how others live, which is one of the reasons why I like to write.

If you have ever lived at a beach in Southern California, you would know that most people tend to enjoy a life of celebration, especially on the weekends. I would see versions of this playing out everywhere, some functions private and small, others grandiose, with families and people of all ages and backgrounds. Often we would find ourselves pushing our way through a sudden crowd of keg drinking party goers spilling out onto the boardwalk, dancing to some live band tucked tightly into a corner patio. Obviously we didn’t have cell phones back then so I never really had a camera handy. Too busy making memories, but I wish I would have taken more photos.

I looked up, “How to be a Professional Photographer” which was slightly discouraging. The first thing I read was that since we all carry a phone with a built in camera, almost everyone has illusions of being a photographer. This sort of brought me down a peg or two, as I know I have an incredible amount of information to learn, but I am determined to begin my journey either way.

Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t the most creative of roller skaters. Some people could literally dance circles around me, many could skate backwards, and leap over curbs with such dexterity I would be in total awe.

Here is a local legend, filmed on the exact same boardwalk I spent years on. I love what he has to say, this video is totally worth watching.

Nonetheless, I had the most wonderful time being the best I could be. I understand there will always be amazing photographers better than me, most who have studied for years, with experiences and equipment I may never have, but I won’t let this prevent me from following my dream.

I will do it my way, and on my roller skates!

In Professional Peace, Raven

These are actually my daughter’s skates, hers are much more modern. Back in my day the stopper was in the back, which always made me feel like I was going to fall over backwards. Never did I wear a helmet, that absolutely did not go with my California beach girl outfit!

The Cardinal

Here in New England we are having a 48-hour mini-storm, complete with ice, sleet and snow. I recently discovered that walking on icy roads, though adventurous, is not always the best idea (see my previous post for my most recent perilous expedition). So, here I am now staying inside enjoying my hibernation. With my guardian-polar-bear-dog Skadi on mostly high alert, and my cozy wood stove, I am safe and warm.

A day in the life of Skadi, a snowstorm, and a couch

The weather is always interesting, which is one of the reasons why I love living out here. Several days ago it had warmed up to a balmy 43 degrees which turned the snow to slush and melted all of my beautiful window icicles. Everything is frozen again, but for a brief time I smelled the coming of Spring. Last night it was back down to a seasonal 19 degrees. Brrrrrrr!

Frozen-slippery-cold outside, and our firewood is almost all gone, but I still love Winter.

Several days before the storm while I was taking my walk, I found myself deep in thought; haunted reflections of my past and stressful concerns for my future ambushed all focus and I was unable to think of anything else. Immersed in a labyrinth of contemplation, I walked like I was asleep, my gaze turned inward, oblivious to everything around me.

Step, step, step…the sound of my feet hypnotized me as they hit the rough pavement.

Step, step, step…”You are going deeper and deeper, deeper and deeper” they sang

Step, step, step… I was a captive to my thoughts, unable to escape the spirals of my mind; remembering, pondering, questioning, worrying, thinking, thinking, thinking.

Step, step, step… side-tracked from one corridor to the next, I explored all the reasons why.

Step, step, step…searching hidden corners I considered every possibility.

Step, step, step…my mind is filled with corridors, spirals, and corners.

Step, step, step…I no longer remembered what I had originally been thinking about in the first place.

Step, step, step…sometimes it’s exhausting being in my head.

Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

Out of nowhere, a beautiful streak of red cardinal flew swiftly across my path and into the trees, startling me from the deep caverns of myself and back into the vibrant presence of my surroundings. He, with his brilliant red plumage, darted by so fast that I didn’t even have a chance to formally greet him.

Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

Females are a tan color, with an orange beak, while males are red, with a matching red beak.

If you are curious, or maybe a little superstitious like myself, you may already know that cardinals foretell good luck, most likely because seeing them is always a cheerful sight. Some people believe when meeting up with a cardinal, they are being visited from someone dear who has passed away. Because cardinals mate for life, with both recognized as caring parents, they are natural representatives for love and devotion, two of my favorite values. These loyal cardinals are also known for their lively songs, sometimes performing duets with a list of over a dozen romantic hits.

All of these fun facts rose quickly to the surface of my memories, but the main tidings I understood from this delightful messenger’s sudden appearance were unmistakably clear:

“Stop thinking, stop trying to make sense of everything, let go of needing answers, accept uncertainty, move forward, and don’t look back.”

In that fleeting speck of time, I did exactly that. I stopped thinking.

You may consider this to be a small thing, but I have been working towards this moment for years. Today a line was drawn in the snow, and the bright flash of my red-feathered friend ushered me unceremoniously over to the other side. To stop thinking means to remove the well-worn bookmark, creased and tattered from constant use, out from the recesses of my history book. I am ready to turn the page and begin the manuscript for my newest chapter.

Leaving the labyrinth of my mind means liberation from my past, with a new hope for the future.

*See if you can find the camouflaged snowman*

And so unchained at last from the endless loop of my thoughts, I was free to enjoy the rest of my walk, this time completely aware of my surroundings (which is actually a much safer way to travel) and awake to whatever came next…

…which, strangely enough, happened to be several versions of snow-people, my loud talking crow friends, and a somewhat muddy white chicken crossing the road.

A lot can happen on a 3 mile walk!

It’s a little blurry, but here it is!

Citizens of the snow

Here are a few of my crow-friends, eating the roasted-unsalted peanuts I brought for them as a treat.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

I have no answer for you, I told you, I stopped thinking.

In Winter Peace, Raven

Winter Wonderland

Cozy in my bed, I woke up this morning to read the weather report stating we would be getting 3-5 inches of snow starting at 11 a.m. Many of you must know by now that taking my daily walk is very important to me, not just for my health, but also for my emotional well-being. Because of severe weather this year I have already missed eight days, breaking my walking streak. Reluctantly, I forced myself to leave my nest of fluffy blankets to take my exercise early, even before my tea and morning oatmeal. I figured I might end up with a little snowtime, but it sounded like fun to me.

Feeling adventurous and a little proud of myself for being such a maverick to walk in the snow, off I went.

Bundled from head to toe wearing my new ivory fleece pants (after all, how dirty can one get in the snow), my thrift-store find of the century, a hooded, black, faux fur coat, my gray scarf and gloves, my black beanie covered in white dog fur, and the best snow boots ever, in black of course….. I am only now realizing how fashionably coordinated I was. Considering my usual pandemic wardrobe has been the vibe of an eclectic unemployed wandering-forest-river-hippie, this was an unexpected feat.

It was only 10:15 when I left my driveway. Apparently the weather report was off by 45 minutes as there was already snow drifting down at a steady rate. The roads were covered in some areas, looking like yards of white satin ribbon, and everything sparkled in a magical-fairy-land kind of way.

Growing up in Southern California, the weather was mostly the same. Here in New England I have completely embraced the seasons, and winter is no exception, especially when it means there will be less people out. I don’t mean to sound like a walking snob, but I have been taking my daily jaunts around the lake for about 10 years now, and it used to be that I was the only one around for miles. Even on beautiful days, it was just me, the bunnies and the crows, it was a wonderful life!

Everything has changed since the pandemic, and I find myself sharing scattered bits of walking time with people of all ages, some with dogs, some alone, some with family or friends. Since we don’t have sidewalks in my neighborhood, we use the street instead. With only a few cars now and then it’s quite safe, plus there’s extra room for social distancing when necessary.

Aren’t these two couples so cute, holding hands and walking together.

I love the freedom of the wind in my face while sauntering down an open road. My only goal in life is to put one foot in front of the other, to keep on moving. Don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely happy for the house-couch-people who have discovered the joy of walking, especially when I see an elderly person slowly making their way up the very same hill I am soon to be striding.

I see this elder man and his companion often. It’s 24 outside *photo taken after original post, but I wanted to include them for their dedication!

I sincerely hope to encourage everyone to begin their own walking practice, but it’s always a gift when I have the streets to myself.

So there I was on this beautiful, snow stormy day, sashaying down my path with nary a soul in sight. I felt a little self righteous thinking I was the real walker of the neighborhood, the other wannabes were probably home in their pajamas, sitting by a fire with fluffy socks, drinking their coffee or something vanilla like that. Hah! I still got it I thought, as the cold bits of snow fell gently on my face, completely covering my coat. Protected and snug under my hood, in that moment I felt invigoratingly wonderful.

Just as I was heading into the first quarter of my 3 mile journey, my foot gave a tiny slip on the pretty snow. I regained my balance easily but realized I better be extra careful. Suddenly the white satin ribbon I chose to follow had a decidedly ominous glow shining from underneath the surface. Having the first of many second thoughts, I quickly altered my usual course and made the decision to avoid going down any hills just in case it became slippery.

A long and most assuredly slippery hill I chose not to take

When I arrived at the first beach; the lake was a vast sea of snow covered ice, in the distance I could hear the crows, but nothing more, no people, no cars, it was beautifully peaceful.

To leave the beach area I have to walk up a very steep hill, and no matter how many times I have done this, I am always a bit winded when I reach the top. I began my strenuous climb and immediately felt grateful I was going up and not down such an incline, imagine how disastrous that could be I was thinking, when suddenly all my jauntiness flew by the wayside as I hit the ground. One minute I was determinedly trudging up a hill, counting my blessings, and the next minute I was on my knees. Thankfully my gloves are thick, so it didn’t hurt too much. I innocently tried to stand up again on the sheet of ice, and promptly slipped. With zero purchase, I did what any sane person would do, I began inching my way, some might even call it crawling, to the side of the road and into a deep bank of snow so I could safely be vertical again. Finally, standing in over a foot of snow, I considered these new circumstances from my vastly altered perception. Somehow I had to miraculously make it to the top of the hill, walk another 2 miles through a winding, up-and-over kind of neighborhood, and arrive home without falling. I was lucky I landed like a cat the first time. Hopefully no one saw me from their drinking-coffee-by-their-fireside-view as I crawled across the road in my new ivory fleece pants, now covered in black icy asphalt.

I had no choice but to climb out of the snow bank, and continue my journey as carefully as I could. There was no one to call, I was on my own.

When I was a little child growing up in California, my dad would often get us up at 5 in the morning and take my siblings and I to the beach to go fishing. I would look for seashells, and eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches with my sticky hands. These are happy memories for me. Being so early it was usually cold, and we would have to wait a couple of hours until the sunrise. I have always loved words, even though I didn’t know how to use mine until much older, but still I remember standing with my bare feet in the chilly pacific ocean looking out into the darkness, and chanting a simple prayer-rhyme I made up, it went like this:

Sun, sun, sun of gold. Come on out because I am cold.

I would whisper this over and over until eventually the Sun would hear me and come out. It was foolproof and worked every time!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now years later, standing knee high in a snowbank, I quickly came up with a new prayer-rhyme to help get me home in one piece. I imagined I was wearing the special snow things you slip on to the bottom of your boots to provide more traction in icy conditions. The ones I meant to buy before winter. Anyway, it went like this:

Sticky shoes, standing tall. Keep me upright so I don’t fall.

And this is how I got home without falling; by repeating my prayer over and over, walking like a super cautious person who wants to grow old gracefully, one careful step at a time, avoiding the biggest hills, knowing when to keep to the middle of the road and when to zigzag myself into a snow drift.

It was a fine and slippery line guessing exactly where to place my feet, but I made it, my prayer worked. Indeed, if you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, you are more than welcome to use it. Personally, I suggest buying yourself some winter bootie slip-ons, and maybe thinking twice before heading out into a snow storm.

I hear it’s real nice to be inside, sitting safe by the fire on a winter wonderland kind of day.

In Snowy Peace, Raven

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Watering My Plants

Today is watering-my-house-plants-day, which is something I do once a week when I know I will be home alone. It’s a dedicated time that I set aside specifically for their care. Tending to my plants has slowly evolved over the years from being a basic chore to a sacred ritual that I find very calming.

Being surrounded by my plants brings me such happiness; they are my ever flourishing reminders to the beauty of nature.

I believe creating rituals that are significant to you, will strengthen your ‘soul-er system,’ by opening up pathways between your body, mind, and heart. This holistic perspective will give you the clarity to live a life that is more genuine, purposeful, and truer to your inner convictions.

Traditionally, many rituals are practiced by performing a meaningful course of actions, with the intent to honor and/or connect with the divine. However, rituals don’t always have to be elaborate in order to be authentic: you can easily take a simple routine such as making your morning meal and turn it into a ceremony of gratitude, just by adding purpose and higher intention to your actions.

My leafy pals are my daily companions, each with a different personality, energy, and personal story. For instance, I found my giant Fern on the side of the road while on a walk last Summer. Another time while driving I saw a person about to place this full grown Spider plant on the curb. I quickly pulled over and they handed it right to me.

My large aloe, and pink geraniums were freely given to me by a generous gardener two summers ago. She carefully dug them up from the ground and I brought them home wrapped in a blanket, dirt and all. They are now potted so I can bring them outside during the warmth of summer, then back in for the cooler months.

These origin stories are only a small part of what I see as I water each one: they are also reminders of who I was when they first arrived and who I have now become in the present. Watching my plant friends evolve through the changing seasons has been a helpful way for me to measure my own personal growth.

Recently, my potted geraniums have begun flowering, which is amazing since we are in the coldest part of winter; they are very pretty against the backdrop of ice and snow.

Establishing rituals can support one’s belief in the divine, and manifest the possibility that we are part of something magnificent and holy. By our very actions we become active participants in beauty.

baby bay leaf tree and thyme

Watching my plants grow in size and seeing their newly sprouted leaves is so rewarding. Some of my favorite plants bloom throughout the year: delicate little whites, tubular fuchsias, purples, and rosy pinks, all blessings of joy to brighten my world; I have several heirloom varieties of scented geraniums: lemon, apricot, nutmeg, lime, and orange, along with my organic herbs: rosemary, oregano, and lavender, all delightfully fragrant and pleasing to the senses. I also have the added joy of caring for my friend’s Patchouli plant while she is away being a ‘traveling nurse hero’ during this pandemic.

patchouli plant

I find the ancient custom of rituals found in different religions and cultures to be fascinating, which is why I follow my own. I have learned in my quest for emotional healing that rituals can help reduce anxiety, just by the weight of comfort and stability they provide by performing familiar steps. Rituals offer up a sense of spiritual continuity which by its very nature is a reminder of peace.

My three eldest are trees, two Ficus, and a Norfolk Pine, all standing over 6 feet tall. We have known each other now for more than a decade. They have been my non-judgmental, supporting witnesses during significant times in my life, such as raising my children, divorce, financial struggles, romance, loss, and of course everything else woven in between.

Many leaves have since fallen, and dried branches broken off, yet we continue to thrive and reach for the sun.

I know my plants are happy to be here and I sincerely believe they love when I compliment and praise their beauty. I am also certain we have the same taste in music.

Prayer, walking, cleaning your house, building a fire, preparing meals, bathing, making a cup of tea, writing, exercise, art, gardening, can all be forms of rituals if you want them to be. The key is to stay mindfully focused, step by step, and to engage your entire self in the process; body, mind, heart and soul.

In Ritualistic Peace, May we Walk in Beauty, Raven

“A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life. I think ritual is terribly important.”

Joseph Campbell

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