81 Years – Today

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Fields of Home 1

Fields of Home 1

Fields of Home 2

Fields of Home 2

Hay Bale - Fields

Hay Bale – Fields

The Road Home

The Road Home

The following blessing is something that’s opened-out and extended back recollection of my father and his shaping, steadfast hand. It’s his birthday, today … and these words – John O’Donohue’s words, ‘For a Father’ – recall him to me.

“The longer we live,
The more of your presence
We find, laid down,
Weave upon weave
Within our lives.

The quiet constancy of your gentleness
Drew no attention to itself,
Yet filled our home
With a climate of kindness
Where each mind felt free
To seek its own direction.

As the fields of distance
Opened inside childhood,
Your presence was a sheltering tree
Where our fledgling hearts could rest.

The earth seemed to trust your hands
As they tilled the soil, put in the seed,
Gathered together the lonely stones.

Something in you loved to inquire
In the neighborhood of air,
Searching its transparent rooms
For the fallen glances of God.

The warmth and wonder of your prayer
Opened our eyes to glimpse
The subtle ones who
Are eternally there.

Whenever, silently, in off moments,
The beauty of the whole thing overcame you,
You would gaze quietly out upon us,
The look from your eyes
Like a kiss alighting on skin.

There are many things
We could have said,
But words never wanted
To name them;
And perhaps a world
That is quietly sensed
Across the air
In another’s heart
Becomes the inner companion
To one’s own unknown.” (‘For a Father’ in ‘Homecomings,’ To Bless the Space Between Us, John O’Donohue)

Listening to – U2’s ‘Kite’.

Quote to Inspire – “The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.” Susan Meiselas

A Good Squeeze Out of Life & Entering Death

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Final Resting Place

Final Resting Place

Skaha Lake - Beach Rentals - Penticton BC 1

Skaha Lake – Beach Rentals – Penticton BC 1

Skaha Lake - Beach Rentals - Penticton BC 2

Skaha Lake – Beach Rentals – Penticton BC 2

Skaha Lake - Penticton BC - 1

Skaha Lake – Penticton BC – 1

Skaha Lake - Penticton BC - 2

Skaha Lake – Penticton BC – 2

A Blessing – Entering Death

For Ivan, who took an enormous, enjoyable squeeze out of Life … a blessing from many to accompany your passing. Ivan passed away in Penticton, BC last week at the age of 74 leaving behind many good friends and family. The words are that of John O’Donohue but the sentiment and blessing contained within them are shared and offered by many.

I pray that you will have the blessing
Of being consoled and sure about your death.

May you know in your soul
There is no need to be afraid.

When your time comes, may you have
Every blessing and strength you need.

May there be a beautiful welcome for you
In the home you are going to.

You are not going somewhere strange,
Merely back to the home you have never left.

May you live with compassion
And transfigure everything
Negative within and about you.

When you come to die,
May it be after a long life.

May you be tranquil
Among those who care for you.

May your going be sheltered
And your welcome assured.

May your soul smile
In the embrace
Of your Anam Cara (that radiant source of wisdom, that link between the human and the divine).

~ Entering Death, To Bless the Space Between Us (A Book of Blessings), John O’Donohue

Rapture – Drinking in the Sun’s Heat

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Early morning, time to cross-off items from my ‘did-I-do-it’ list, time to muster to the morning’s endeavor – planting Saskatoon bushes in our backyard. I gather shovel, axe, wheel barrow and raise my eyes to gaze upon a dragonfly sunning itself, drinking in sun’s early morning heat. The dragonfly doesn’t move.  Rapturous in sun’s warmth, it allows me time to retrieve my camera, attach macro lens and gather images. When I move to look down the fence board to the dragonfly from above, the dragonfly having had enough parts company, flying off. This intriguing moment with camera and subject was one that recalls and reinforces the joy of discovery and pursuit within photography. Taking the moment further I photographed ripening raspberries in still life.

Listening to – The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again, the Donnie Darko version of Tears for Fears’ Mad World, The Who’s Boris the Spider, Walter Trout’s Blues for the Modern Daze, Shawn Colvin’s American Jerusalem, I Don’t Know You and The Neon Lights of the Saints.

Quotes to Inspire – (1) “Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” – Diane Arbus; and, (2) “If I were just curious, it would be very hard to say to someone, ‘I want to come to your house and have you talk to me and tell me the story of your life.’ I mean people are going to say, ‘You’re crazy.’ Plus they’re going to keep mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that much attention and that’s a reasonable kind of attention to be paid.” – Diane Arbus – remarks made in class, 1971, Diane Arbus : An Aperture Monograph by Diane Arbus, Stan Grossfeld (3) “Beauty is the illumination of your soul.” – John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Past Old to Abundant New

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A homestead, a memory anchor, reminds of former times; its past informs our present.  Any of us can look at what is, what we now have and what we now do from the perspective of what was, what we haven’t had and what used to be done.  With realization, shift and tweak the historical becomes present. One attribute associated with progress is that current effort expended in the practice of living is reduced from former effort yielding smaller result. Transition to better practice comes through good understanding of the past. Such learning is usually associated with overcoming mistakes as well as obstacles. John O’Donohue, a former priest, talks of this process in conversion. For him, one’s walk is only possible by being faithful to one’s mistakes, those points of learning that forward you in your walk.

Similar practice is found in jazz as musicians work to add variation to melody and theme. They hear what works. They hear what does not work. While what does not work, the dissonant note or chord, points to what does work, often jazz players incorporate dissonance into music’s landscape; dissonance is heard and grappled with, creating yearning toward primary melody. The variation becomes one among many that takes the listener’s ear through landscape of the piece returning to primary melody alone.  Jacque Loussier works skillfully with Satie’s Gymnopedies Gnossiennes in creating such variations. Dave Brubeck does the same in all of his work; reminiscence here is drawn to those Saturday nights with my father working through Brubeck on his Heintzman grand piano in vertical form.  Songs included Blue Rondo a la Turk, Bru’s Boogie Woogie and Take Five, all the masterful, ingenious work of Dave Brubeck.

What was and what is, what works and what hasn’t are outcomes found in a Life richly lived.  Mistakes are a part of life; the poignant thing, here, is to let mistakes remain at play within us and to let them inform next action.  Here, in today’s photograph, a third rendering of the Donnelly homestead juxtaposes old homestead against abundant farm operation. I hadn’t thought of it until today, that in the visual memorial that this homestead is, it is in itself a wisdom text, something with story that informs us presently and it does so in the same way a photograph’s narrative will (if we let it).

Listening to – From Don Henley’s Inside Job songs standing out are Annabel, Inside Job, Goodbye to a River (in which he seems to forecast the recession) and For My Wedding; Jesse Cook has been at play with Vertigo, Red and Byzantium Underground from his album Vertigo; as well, Martyn Joseph’s live album, Don’t Talk about Love, has been on my mind with songs like Liberal Backslider, The Good in Me is Dead and Have an Angel Walk with Her.

Quote to Inspire – “For me the printing process is part of the magic of photography. It’s that magic that can be exciting, disappointing, rewarding and frustrating all in the same few moments in the darkroom.” – John Sexton

Imagination’s Possibility

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I am posting in a rush. Away from computer and the ability to post photos, the next few days will see me hunting for a new vehicle (truck, SUV or car) in central Alberta. The photographs I present, here, are from the solo photowalk from a few posts back – a circuit on top and through Edmonton’s river valley – there’s the Fifth Street Bridge, two photos of the High Level bridge northeast walkway entrance and then photos of the stairway leading from the Grandin park down to the Royal Glenora skating rink – where Alberta’s Olympic hopefuls train.

A current review of John O’Donohue’s work on imagination and beauty has surfaced intriguing thoughts about our subjective world, our subtle life and the curious role imagination plays in accessing and realizing all we are and can be; perhaps these are key ideas for sorting Life through, well.

“Where do all your unlived lives dwell? Go back to [your] threshold moments and see what you didn’t choose; consider what might have happened [there]. Unchosen, unlived lives continue to live themselves out secretly in accompaniment with us …. [It is important to note that] the way that we [can be] viewed is infinitely more subtle and sophisticated and complex than the one-hit look of the human eye [that others see us with]. The only way that you can come in touch with your other [unchosen, unlived] lives is through the power of the imagination because … your imagination is always interested in what’s left out; it’s interested always in the other side of the question; it’s interested in depth and roundness. The most important question for any human [to ask] is ‘how do ‘you’ see yourself?’ Who do ‘you’ think ‘you’ are? And, what do ‘you’ think is going on in ‘you’? You cannot see that with your superficial mind.You can only sense that with your imagination.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty – The Divine Embrace, a Greenbelt lecture.

Listening to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s the Great Gatsby, a first listen to an unabridged recording following a first reading of the novel. Jimmy Gatz, Daisy and Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker, Mr. Wilson and his wife – there’s much there about settling into lives as men and women, husbands and wives. It also contains an element of the modern, self-made man, the man of the times, a Dale Carnegie man able to win friends and influence people. This narrative is a historical complement to Martin Scorsese’s current Atlantic City narrative, a mini-series about Nucky Thompson, Jimmy Dohmarty, Al Capone et al in Boardwalk Empire, now in season 2.

Much of the day has been listening to Sirius Satellite Radio – the Coffee House, BBC World Service, B.B. King’s Bluesville; Ryan Adams has a new song, Chains of Love, that I’ll be checking into.

Quote to Inspire – “The more you photograph, the more you realize what can and what can’t be photographed. You just have to keep doing it.” – Eliot Porter

Those Who Go Before Us …

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Cemeteries, for most people, are places of foreboding – we understand that we too shall end-up, here. Beyond the fact that we usually find ourselves at cemeteries on the other side of saying goodbye to loved ones and good friends, cemeteries also point us to the consideration of the life we are living. At our life’s end, we may be more in a state of regret having conformed our lives to the expectations of others, failing fully to step up and into the Life that is truly ours. On the other hand, on our death bed, it would certainly be something to smile, roguishly, and to own to others that we’d certainly taken ‘a good squeeze out of life.’ My wife’s friend from church, Herman Peters, passed away a week or two ago and his funeral and eulogy embraced his feisty, roguish approach to Life and seeing it through well. Herman’s eulogist, throughout his eulogy, would often lean over and look at Herman within his casket and ask, “Do you think it would be okay if I tell them about the time we did…?”  Wow!  What a way to go! Good schtuff, Herman – thank you to who you have been to all others and the friend and elder you’ve been to my wife. John O’Donohue and his Greenbelt lecture on the Imagination have been much on my mind as I’ve considered this photograph, tonight.

Listening to Pierce Pettis sing Love Will Always Find Its Way from his album,Everything Matters; other good, good songs include Neutral Ground and Just Like Jim Brown (She is History).

Quote to Inspire – “No place is boring, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film.” – Robert Adams, Darkroom & Creative Camera Techniques, May 1995

Rocky Lane - Cemetery Headstones

To See What’s There

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I’ve been out for a 6K walk around town tonight.  It is -35C and I’ve listened to a lecture given by John O’Donohue on Imagination. After the walk, I recalled this vehicle in the High Level industrial park, a vehicle that I’ve known about but never photographed, a 1960 Mercury M 100 long box pickup truck. It’s been on my mind for the better part of a year. I’ve never photographed it because the landscape or situation it is set in seems bleak and uninteresting.  Perhaps such context draws out beauty from the vehicle’s lines and shape or perhaps through time one acclimates to beauty, form and style.

In taking this photograph, I’m using a Canon 75-300 mm telephoto zoom lens and quite literally taking the photograph to see what is there … a rusting relic awaiting restoration when time and circumstance allow.  In terms of integrity the M 100 looks more complete and useable than not.  The photograph also demonstrates the compression that happens with a telephoto zoom as you shoot more flatly toward the subject – the distance from the first snow drift to the truck is 100 m and the posts in front of the truck are actually about 6-10 feet in front of it.

Quote to Inspire – “The duty of privilege is absolute integrity; the duty of privilege is integrity to ourselves, to our possibilities and to live to the full the life that we’d love and to animate and realize everything because the time is so short and it will be soon gone.” ~ John O’Donohue

Listening to Crash into Me from Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Live At Radio City and as fretted on my Martin Backpacker.

1960 Mercury M 100 Long Box Pickup

Alexandra Falls – Scale

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Within a photograph appreciation for proportion is found by relating a known object to something recognizable in the photograph – scale is established within such comparison. Here, the summer photograph of the Alexandra Falls contains a person standing on top of the west edge of the falls. In comparison with yesterday’s ice-filled Alexandra Falls, the person in the summer photograph provides a basis from which to consider the actual size of the ice pile collecting below the falls, in the gorge.

Listening to Rondo-Allegro, a Mozart Clarinet and Oboe Quartet (music that organizes and shapes the mind – one of my father’s contributions to our growing up).

Quote to Inspire “Sometimes you need to take a little holiday away from yourself – negativity; and call off the Rottweiler’s of analysis and accusation and give yourself a free space; and say for the next week I will give myself a free break and do nothing against myself until my old sense of myself builds up – be courteous to yourself.” ~ John O’Donohue, Divine Beauty – The Invisible Embrace, a Greenbelt lecture

Summer - Alexandra Falls (proportion by comparison to known object ... the person)

1940 Plymouth – Deanz Garage

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Dean who owns Deanz Garage is a Mopar man.  Despite working on the Mercury Meteor and helping me establish interest in restoring a 1969 Pontiac Parisienne, his restorations photobook is Mopar as are most of the vehicles in his yard – his Plymouth Roadrunner, his friend’s Plymouth Valiant, the 1940 Plymouth (for sale) and a mid-sixties Fargo pickup-van cross-over (also for sale).  Meeting Dean and being able to photograph these vehicles was a treat and I appreciate the camaraderie he extends to all car buffs, including me – thank you, Sir!

With my photographs of the vehicles in his yard, here, I’m surprised I got the photos I did.  Being three days from home and family, with little good sleep during my travels I was itching to begin the journey homeward when the opportunity confronting me was that of spending time in southern Alberta working toward good photographs. My plan for the day following the workshop was more global than specific.  I knew that my next broad step would be a four-hour return drive to Edmonton. Without planning for what was possible in southern Alberta, before hand, travel toward Edmonton was the only next step I was focusing on. What I am coming to understand is that my practice needs to develop to more than having my camera with me wherever I am. The upside, though, is that I have a taste for the visual flavour of this area and know I would like to return to photograph these sights.

Listening to Shine by David Gray (an alternate tuning on my L’Arrivee L-03 guitar … a resonant and dissonant chording).

Quote to Inspire – “Landscape is the firstborn of creation. It was here hundreds of millions of years before the flowers, the animals, or the people appeared … In the human face, the anonymity of the universe becomes intimate … The hidden, secret warmth of creation comes to expression here.” ~ John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Thank you, thank you to all bloggers, thinkers, photographers and image-viewers for your encouragement, goodwill and comments.  Good, good schtuff!!

Images from the Journey Home

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On Monday, January 2, 2012, my daughter and I drove from Edmonton and returned to High Level, concluding our Christmas visit with family. Opportunities for photographs were available throughout the drive; and, as with any travel that combines photography with moving towards a destination the choice to stop and investigate possible shots always presents the trade-off of time lost moving toward your destination. You can move directly there and be assured of an arrival time. Or, you can look around laterally at, toward or within the places you are traveling through and investigate them through the lens of your camera. A friend who paints from Cornerbrook, Newfoundland has recommended taking as many as three days to make this 800 km journey and to stop frequently and as needed to take-in all that the landscape offers. For me, while on the south side of Valleyview, I chose to note the possibilities and to this end I’m grateful for my daughter who was able to write down possible subjects, their location and information about quality and direction of light. On the north side of Valleyview, I began to feel more at ease with stopping and taking my Canon 60D out. The images gathered are of an old homestead near Donnelly, two older trucks on a farm near Nampa and then images captured on the south hill leading into Peace River – the road’s S-curve winding along the hill and a western exposure of the Peace River.

Quotes to Inspire (I’ve been working my way through a few of John O’Donohue’s Greenbelt lectures and have looked round the web for quotes):

  • “Inspiration is always a surprising visitor.” ― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
  • “I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.” ― John O’Donohue
  • “One of the deepest longings of the human soul is to be seen.” ― John O’Donohue
  • “Beauty is the illumination of your soul.” ― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
  • “The duty of privilege is absolute integrity” ― John O’Donohue

Listening to Lay My Burden Down by Alison Krauss from the movie Get Low; Jerry Douglas adds Dobro to much of the soundtrack (I enjoy this movie – there’s much of ‘life’ in it).