Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Empty Nest - Revisited

Last evening I sat, along with a group of women....all of us a friends living room for a chat. The main topic was the 'empty nest', and so, wine glasses in hand we talked about surviving it. Thriving in it. Looking beyond the enormous gaping hole left in our kids wake.  Those of us who've been there for awhile had a few suggestions and stories to share with the others. For a few the transition was fresh; for others it is impending within the next year or two.

When our youngest was getting ready to head off to college (or should I say I was attempting to get ready for him to head off to college.....mentally he had been out the door for months), I said to Marc, "This isn't fair. No one tells you about this part when you're excitedly planning for a baby." 

Until just before each of them left......I hadn't given much thought to them actually...... (gulp) leaving. As it should be, I think, but as with an earthquake......some level of preparedness might have been nice. To paraphrase a cliche, 'When one door closes, another swings wide open whether you like it or not'.......and I know that personally I had a choice: To either be overwhelmed by that gaping hole, or to take full advantage of its enormous opportunities.

A freshly emptied nest is what prompted me to begin this blog in the first place. It gave me an organized way to process and deal with my thoughts, feelings and experiences. A healthy way to miss my boys. It was a chance to express myself and explore my interests. Posting became something I looked forward to, the very best part of which was the thought of sharing parts of this transition with others. 

Fall is here. Many 'nests' have recently emptied. Many know it will be happening within the next couple of years. So with the conversations of last evening in mind,  for the next few Wednesdays I'll be re-sharing some of my posts about the empty nest, beginning with the first one and taking it forward from there. I hope that they somehow make a difference, no matter what transitions are taking place in your life. Click below for a link to the first:


I will have separate posts about other topics as well.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.

Warmly, Margaret

Friday, September 21, 2012

One of Those Places....

You know how sometimes you have a special place? Somewhere you end up and just know when you're there, it's the one place on earth you should be at that moment? A place that provides you with memories and something to look forward to? Your mind clears. You are suspended in time. You soak it in because you understand it will be awhile until you return. I suspect most people have a place like this.

It's kind of difficult to describe to someone you feel about a certain place and why. I'm guessing this is because what makes it 'that place' is a unique combination of experiences that are yours alone: a portion of earth that has the uncanny ability to evoke thoughts that relate to the big picture of the rest of your life. Your connection to it feels instinctive, visceral, emotional. It is peaceful. I will tell you that I have a few such places.

Last week we took some friends to Glacier National Park. On my birthday we drove the Going-To-The-Sun Highway to Logan Pass and hiked up to the Hidden Lake overlook......exactly where I wanted to be on that day. We marveled at this road carved out of a mountain side and some of the historical decisions that allowed it to be built....the brave men and women who built it and now, continually restore it. We pointed out ancient layers of stone pushed into jagged mountain peaks, Bird Woman Falls and glaciers that may not last much longer. We noticed the cheerful, historic fleet of red buses, gulped breathes of thin alpine air, and ate the traditional (well...our tradition , at least!) peanut butter and jam sandwiches at the top.

Three of them had never been here before and one, not since he was very young. Along the way, I realized, I was looking at familiar surroundings with different eyes. We had not yet driven the road in September. On the way up I noticed colors beginning to turn and a few leaves floating on the breezes. Rivers, streams and lakes were at their low points exposing rocks and sand and fallen trees I had never seen before. Brooks and waterfalls didn't rush with as much force and animation as they do during summer's snow melt; they tumbled, quietly and differently. Up top, mountain goats weren't as numerous, but you could still tell the youngsters from the mamas. End of the summer wildflowers were fading and going to seed, and the grasses and other ground cover changing to orange and gold and straw.

I was aware that I was seeing through different eyes for another reason. It struck me for a moment that I really wanted our friends to like this place, too. To see and understand why I love it so much that I return at least once a year. I allowed this thought to float around in my head, but only briefly and then I made it leave. We each own our individual experiences. The most I could ask for is that we were able to show them a good day. That we enjoyed the fact that they shared one of our favorite experiences with us.

I typically don't post photos of myself here on this blog, but since this was taken on my birthday, I thought it was an OK idea!

Wishing you a wonderful fall week ahead!

Warmly, Margaret

Friday, September 7, 2012


Nighttime temperatures are dropping. Soon fog will hover over the fern and rhododendron, and intermingle with the many hundreds of maple leaves as the sun comes up over the back yard. Yellow buses rumble on the street above at predictable early morning and late afternoon intervals. Knitting season and baking season are in the offing. We are rushing to complete outdoor projects; to make sure they get wrapped up before the weather turns cold and gray and damp. Plans for those inside the house are beginning in earnest.

Slowly, my days are changing. I am both inching toward a new season and anchored by seasons past, standing upon what has come before. Steadfast roots that have taken my lifetime and the lifetimes of generations past to grow, hold me up. They push me to look forward; to head into a new era that is both the same and different.  There is a lot of movement around me,  just as there is almost every September......sometimes unpredictable...... and I am settling into the latest iteration of what is my life. It is impossible that the two be independent from one another.

I'll be heading out for a few days in the Rocky Mountains next week and am hoping to be able to make a post, but if I can't.....I'll be in touch at some point during the following one. Please be sure to check back!

Have a wonderful week ahead!

Warmly, Margaret

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fun Stuff

Recently, I opened an email from the instructors of a workshop I'll be attending next month. It will be several days of shooting photos on the Oregon Coast for which I am hugely excited: The light playing off of sand and sea. The thought of capturing quiet, moody scenes; of telling a story in tones of blue and tan. Of instructing my camera to record the monochromatic drama of a foggy morning on the shore or the noisy colors of a seaside town.
All of the above make my heart beat just a bit faster, so when I saw that the subject line of this email read 'fun stuff', I thought 'Yep, it will be.....Can't wait". I scrolled through the message and found that there were a couple of assignments for participants to turn in beforehand. Cool! I love assignments. Love learning. 
The first one asked that we return a collection of 25 or so favorite images we had taken so they would be able to consider ways to work individually with each of us before we all meet up in Oregon. They wanted to find out what kinds of images we like to shoot and be able to identify themes within our work. Sounds good. I was pretty sure I could come up with these and set about placing a few, that to my eyes anyway, were "good" into a desktop file. Turns out, this was a bit more difficult than I thought it would be: 
'I really love this one.....but what will they think? This image speaks to me, but have I made it clear why? I put a lot of thought into this photograph.....but will they understand what it meant to me? Are any of these even......GOOD'??

The second assignment asked the opposite: The request was for a collection of 'misses'; in other words, images we've taken that for whatever reason simply didn't work out. Whaaatt?? My first thought was to politely shoot back a response letting them know I don't normally show people those. That if it was more difficult than I thought it would be to pull together some of my more decent images to show, then sharing any misses might be kind of too personal and embarrassing and.......Oh Geez.....cringe-worthy.

Of course, the reason for this second assignment is that there is just as much to be learned from figuring out what doesn't work as in finding out what does. That pin-pointing the reasons for a miss can translate into more successful and productive time behind the lens. This is perfectly logical. It makes perfect sense. As part of the workshop these two professionals were offering to look at my work from all angles and give me a few pointers so that I might become a better photographer. But still, it meant showing a couple of people who I aspire to be like just a little.......who maybe in some small way I would like to impress with my skills.......some of my worst artistic choices in the form of digital disasters. Why couldn't they simply want look at work I think is good (or even OK) and take it from there?

Years ago, the first time I had a piece of writing critiqued by an entire classroom full of writers, I was a such a nervous wreck I could hardly pay attention to the discussion. After class I quietly collected a manila envelope containing the 30 or so copies of my story marked up with my classmates comments and suggestions, took it home and stuck it, unopened, inside the cupboard above my desk. And even though I had participated with honest effort in this exercise by reading, reviewing and writing constructive criticism and comments on the stories of the others in the class, it still took me a month or more to open it up and read my own. And when I did, I learned a whole lot.

After a couple of days I concluded (correctly) that hesitating to participate in this way made me somewhat of a hypocrite. Me.......the person who constantly encourages my kids and anyone else who will listen to scoot out of their own personal comfort zone and make the time and effort to pursue whatever it is they're most interested in........was having a difficult time thinking about doing just that. It made me feel I would be choosing to expose my soft underbelly, and I was reacting like a big chicken. And yet I know it's a necessary part of the process. An important part of the journey.

I think that sometimes in my hurry to learn, my rush to get where I want to be, I am tempted to hop, skip and jump over the small steps. Fortunately, I've been able to figure out that as unsettling as those steps may be, it is even more precarious and difficult to travel backward in order to figure out what I may have missed. I've learned that following a passion (at the risk of utilizing a very overworked phrase) isn't always about becoming GOOD, or even aspiring to BE GOOD, at what ever said passion might be. And it's not AT ALL about being validated, and CERTAINLY SHOULDN'T have anything to do with expecting praise. The truth is that in doing something you enjoy over and over again, one cannot help but become better at it. And in photography the rewards are this: With repetition and in paying close attention to results (whether they be awe-inspiring or astoundingly miserable) one inches ever closer to expressing the thoughts, stories and pictures created in ones imagination within the confines of a visible image.

So I twitched, grumbled and cringed my way through a recent catalog of photographs, stopping to pay attention only to the ones previously deemed worthy of the desktop trashcan. I decided which unfortunate clicks of the shutter I should include in the file labeled Assignment #2 and sent them off, together with Assignment #1.

I don't particularly love to look at my failures and showing them to anyone else is something I like even less. But it makes a difference, and giving them due attention is just as important in the growth process as enjoying the feeling I get with something that 'worked'.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend! I'm going berry picking tomorrow!

Warmly, Margaret
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