mountains

Staying in Focus: What do You See?

IMG_3237_1

On my visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I bought a T-shirt printed with a lovely picture of the mountains, and this quote beneath it:

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. –Henry David Thoreau.

What a simple way to convey such a profound truth. One person may look at a mountain and see beauty, another strength or wilderness. One person may see the mountain as a challenge to be climbed, while the person standing next to him can find delight in just gazing up at a lofty peak covered with snow. When you pause to look at a mountain, what do you see? Or, as so many of us, do you merely cast a passing glance?

This quote can be applied to far more than the mountains on my T-shirt.. To really see something for its intrinsic value requires effort, unlike looking, which is merely casting one’s eyes in a certain direction. Truly seeing something requires attention, concentration and open-mindedness.  Allowing oneself to push away other distractions and really see is an eye-opening experience, one that can be as wondrous as it is,  at times, uncomfortable.

For example, take a homeless person. A casual look and one might think what a loser, look how dirty she is, why he doesn’t get a job? But take a minute to really see the person beneath the grime and beyond the frayed clothing. A person who may have been a mother, a soldier, or perhaps a young person orphaned and alone. Each of these people have a story, each one at one time had a family, but sadly ended up in these dire circumstances, perhaps due to mental illness, a broken marriage, or abuse in the home.  To really see them can be unsettling, and our inclination is to move along, neither looking at nor really seeing them at all. I think the reason we are so uncomfortable is they remind us that the same could happen to us. Life gives us no guarantees, but to become aware, to have compassion, requires seeing the world around us, the beauty , the challenge,  and the tragic circumstances many people experience and perhaps finding ways to help.

Another example to consider is looking at someone staggering out of a bar. Just another drunk, you may think. But many things can cause someone to turn to alcohol to numb their pain – a failing marriage, losing a job, being given a diagnosis of terminal illness. Perhaps this person is caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s and just needed to escape for a while. Not a good choice in any circumstance, but maybe compassion will show on your face if you try to see the truth behind the behavior, rather than the disapproval that appears from a mere  judgmental look.

Really seeing what is unfolding around us can be both uplifting and upsetting, but in the long run we can become more aware, more compassionate people.

Rather than just skimming along the surface of life,  we should all take the plunge and explore the truth behind Thoreau’s words –what matters is not what you look at, it’s what you see. And what you choose to see will impact the world and how the world sees you.

 

Advertisements

Staying in Focus: Singing the Blues

We have just returned from a wonderful week in the Blue Ridge Mountains. If nothing else, the photos I took this week certainly explain why they are named  the Blue Ridge  mountains:IMG_3615 IMG_3608 IMG_3609 IMG_3490 IMG_3493 IMG_3503IMG_3469 IMG_3476 IMG_3477

The following poems were written in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the first in 1997 and the second on this visit in 2014.

The  mountains gather round me

endless folds of smoky blue

and the sun ignites

the crystal drops

of early morning dew;

wisps of misty water vapor

wreathe a distant mountain peak

and I sense a deep connection

with the spirit that I seek;

in the mountains

in the places

of the wild and the free

are the answers to the questions

that so often elude me

so I come for grace and comfort

and I come for sweet release

my spirit needs the mountains

here I find my inner peace.

 

 

when the mountains beckon

I know that I must go

to the places where the

land is lifts up,

and crystal waters flow ;

where what I see brings peace to me

and I at  last can find

a haven where, most easily

I can rest my weary mind.

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Frame of Mind/The Colors of My Mood

 

Daily Prompt:

If you could paint your current mood onto a canvas, what would that painting look like? What would it depict?

My canvas would be covered with a swirl of interacting color, reds and oranges depicting stress and concern, blues and greens for those moments of peaceful serenity (scarce as they may be at present ). I try to focus on the blues and greens, hoping to expand them, but the red and orange seep from the corner trying to overcome what little peace I can enjoy.

My life is a constant swirl of these colors lately. Carried along with the red and orange is stress, concern for those family members and friends suffering from various illnesses, my anxiety increased as both my son and his ex-wife  are out of work at the same time, with 2 young children to support. The blues and greens float like ribbons in the air, a lovely gathering of those same people on the Fourth of July, a wonderful weeklong visit with my mom, dinner with friends, planning Christmas crafts and celebrating my son’s birthday on the 10.th

. Anxiety is a sticky-wicket. I play a game on my computer called Candy Crush Saga. On some of the levels, as I try to complete my task, a column of chocolate begins to grow, eventually covering everything in its path, and unless I fight it back, it immobilizes me.

Replace the word chocolate with the word anxiety and watch the orange and reds become a maelström, seeking to overwhelm my blues and greens.

 

 

IMG_3203

Serenity

IMG_3197

Anxiety

 

 

 

I try, however, to push the red and oranges back, diminish them with meditation, with looking forward to an upcoming weekend stay with our friends, Kathi and Don in a mountain cabin in Asheville, NC, followed by meeting Bill’s family near Asheville and travelling to South Carolina to visit Bill’s brother, Bob and sister-in-law Jill, in their new home in Traveler’s Rest, SC. I’ve always felt more at peace in the mountains than anywhere else. Right now, I need a mountain fix. Maybe I won’t have the chance to take a sunrise picture over the ocean waters this year, but one in the mountains would do just fine.

mountains

when pressures of life build to a peak

some people find solace in shorelines and sea

but it’s often the higher ground that I seek

for it’s always been mountains for me

I stand on a ridge at the top of the world

from worry and care I am free

I sing in the sun with my spirit unfurled

for it’s always been mountains for me.

Staying in Focus:Daily Prompt: Good Time

 Daily Prompt:Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?

IMG_8549 IMG_8563

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/daily-prompt-good-time/

a path of gold from the sun to me You have to see this place!

IMG_8485 IMG_8578

I awaken just before sunrise, after a good night’s sleep free of the crazy, Technicolor dreams induced by my medications. I get out of bed, quietly tiptoe across the room, and peek out between the drapes. The sun has just cleared the horizon and the beautiful hues of pink and orange sunrise dance across the waters toward my feet. As I take pictures of the beautiful scene, I enjoy total silence – no one would believe thousands of people surround me. As the sunrises, it reveals mountains covered with snow, their lofty peaks shrouded in mists. Small icebergs float by, jewels of aquamarine. Slightly ahead and off to the right, I am treated to the breaching of a humpback whale.

The day that has just begun will be filled with amazing scenery, more whale watching, maybe exploring a coastal town, say Juneau  or Sitka, followed by a delicious dinner, an evening’s entertainment, maybe some trivia in one of lounges. The sun is unwilling to set in this Land of the Midnight Sun and we are reluctant to stop for the day because this is an imaginary day and tomorrow reality returns.

I am reminded of a scene in the movie Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray, trapped in time and made to repeat Groundhog Day again and again recalls a far better day in his past life and says,  “… that was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I have that day to live over and over…”

I try, on special days like these, to be present, in the moment, but as hard as I try, the day slips away, leaving only memories. I look at the pictures I have taken on such special days, and think to myself, was I really there?  Why didn’t I pay more attention? But I can close my eye and remember all the beautiful places I’ve seen and one of the most beautiful is Alaska. As I hold to the adage, “Think Big!” I could think of nothing bigger or more  beautiful, than spending my imaginary day in Alaska.  The following is  a poem I wrote following my visit to Alaska in 2012.

This one is a sestina.  It has 6 verses and each sentence of each verse must end in one of six words.  I chose; Alaska, glaciers, aquamarine, paradise, mountains, whales.  In each verse these words move around according to a preset form.  It ends with a tercet (3 lines) and in each of those lines are two of the six words. It is a form of poetry that uses repetition.

And Did I Mention the Water is Aquamarine?

a pristine wilderness, wild and untamed,  a place called Alaska

a land of bears and  bald eagles;  graced with icy glaciers

and did I mention the water is aquamarine?

our ship slowly starts passage into the fjord, a slim slice of paradise

we pass the silent sentinels,  the mighty mountains,

a sudden disturbance in the water;  we are in the company of whales

we spy a spout of steam,  a telltale sign, we watch for the whales

in summer, they come to feed on small fish off the coast of Alaska

fresh water runs in rivers from the melting snows of the mountains

slowly they move, ages old, ever changing,  grinding rock and ice, the glaciers

glow on a rare sunny day in July. We are thankful to be here in such a paradise

enchanted,  we watch the sunlight sparkle on waters of aquamarine

this is a color rarely seen – a translucent version of aquamarine

so pretty when it swirls, and suddenly,  there appear two killer whales

azure skies, the brilliant sun, running waters, crystal ice, this is my paradise

and a dream come true – long have I waited to come to Alaska

to see blue ice glowing in the fissures of the glaciers

and marvel at the snow- capped peaks of lofty, rugged  mountains

beaches are fine, but take me to the mountains

especially those that surround waters of aquamarine

crack! the sound echoes, as  ice splits from the glaciers

in the gold of the setting sun, the breach of a whale

I’ll forever remember the unrestrained beauty –Alaska

has all the facets of a true paradise

I walk in the beauty of this wilderness paradise

where wisps of fog conceal the tops of the mountains,

the leaves strung with pearls of morning dew.  Of Alaska,

I’ll always remember that incredible shade of aquamarine

and that sound in the night – the exhaling  breath of a whale

and those blue icebergs sailing by,  spawned by the glaciers

despite their age, there is a fragile beauty in the glaciers,

which is woven in the fabric of this natural paradise

I can hear it calling to me in the singing of the whales

as it  echoes through the canyons of the waiting mountains

and reflects in the waters of aquamarine

it’s a song of the wilderness,  – the song of Alaska

I came in search of whales, and the snow-capped mountains,

which rise in silhouette above the glacier icefields, in a paradise,

a dream taken form in aquamarine – Alaska.

Staying in Focus: DailyPrompt: Happy, Happy

Daily Prompt:

What does “happiness” look like to you?


My family makes me happy. Without the love from my mother, sister and brother, their spouses and children, my husband and two sons and my two beautiful grandchildren, I could not be happy.

My friends make me happy – a day’s outing, vacationing together, exchanging letters and email, and sharing good times together – these are the moments in my life I associate with happiness.

But I have had two totally happy moments in my life. moments when what I was experiencing eclipsed everything else, and I stood immersed in the feelings of happiness and joy, oblivious to everything else.

Photo04_2 - Copy - Copy

The first occurred at the top of a lofty mountain peak in Jasper, Alberta. Canada. We had taken a lift up the side of the mountain, and my parents decided to sit and enjoy the view over a cup of coffee. My sister and I decided to climb to the peak of the mountain. We reached the top just as the sun was beginning to drop in the sky.  To the west, the sun set the sky on fire, rays of golden light reaching out toward us’ to the east, clouds diffused the radiance to a gentle glow. The scene just blew me away. I felt a part of something larger, something above and beyond my understanding, a feeling that touched my very soul.  I don’t know if you have ever experienced such a moment, but for me, that moment was pure happiness.IMG_0001_edited-1

Sunrise off the coast of Alaska

Sunrise off the coast of Alaska

a path of gold from the sun to me
a path of gold from the sun to me

a path of gold from the sun to me

The second occurred two summers ago on our first cruise to Alaska.  I woke up just as the sun was making its appearance in the Land of the Midnight Sun.  As I watched the sun grew brighter, rising in the sky and chasing away the shadows of night. I grabbed my camera and caught the sun as it painted a path of gold across the water. In that moment, it was just me and the sun and the ocean and once again that veil of pure contentment settled on my shoulders, and my spirit filled with happiness and joy. We would go on to enjoy the pristine beauty of Alaska, the waterfalls and icebergs,  and even  encounter humpback whales, but it was that moment of my first sunrise at sea  and that sunset  atop a mountain in Jasper, Alberta that I will that I will hold close forever, and remember  as my moments of pure happiness and joy.

My poems:

Summit

standing on the summit

of a mountain way up high,

where only rocks and boulders

rise to meet the mighty sky,

to the west the sun is sinking

and it sets the sky ablaze,

to the east the rolling clouds

diffuse the colors to a haze,

and all the myriad problems

that so often trouble me.

Are forgotten as I witness

nature’s awesome majesty.

Jasper, Canada

1975

Sunrise , Sunset at Sea

 

I watch the sun rise

light vanquishes the darkness

and color returns

 

the calm sea reflects

ribbons of orange and pink

I stand mesmerized

 

as the sun rises

it paints a path of gold light

for me to follow

 

as the sun lowers

bands of dark purple and blue

bruise the evening sky

 

rays of pale sunlight

reach out across the water

the sun bids farewell

 

I watch the sun set

the shades of night seep in

the sky veiled in gray

 

the calm sea darkens

a weary sun now at rest

color fades to black

                              pc ‘2012

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap: Alaska

Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap:

Of all the places I have been to, the place I would return to in a heartbeat is Alaska. The untamed wilderness has always calledIMG_8549whale2 to me, mountains and glaciers and  waters of aquamarine.  I counted more bald eagles in one day in Juneau than I had counted  in all  the years of my life combined. But, most especially, it was where a dream of mine came true. It was in Alaska where I had my first encounter with the humpback whales. I have admired these huge denizens of the sea for years, and have supported my adopted whale, Ivory, for twenty years. Alaska is also the place where I experienced my first sunrise at sea. It was a profound experience, watching the sun rise and push back the shadow of night, the golden light spilling over the water , dancing a path of light from the sun to me.  The following are two poems, one a haiku entitled Sunrise,Sunset at Sea and one a sestina, And Did I Mention the Water is Aquamarine?

a path of gold from the sun to me

a path of gold from the sun to me

Sunrise , Sunset at Sea

 

we watch the sun rise
light vanquishes the darkness
and color returns

the calm sea reflects
ribbons of orange and pink
we stand mesmerized

 

 

as the sun rises
it paints a path of gold light
for us to follow
 

as the sun lowers
bands of dark purple and blue
bruise the evening sky

 rays of pale sunlight
reach out across the water
the sun bids farewell

we watch the sun set
the shades of night seep in
the sky veiled in gray

the calm sea darkens
a weary sun now at rest
color fades to black

the green waters stirred by the ship's passage

the green waters stirred by the ship’s passage

                              pc ‘2012

 

 (in a sestina, each sentence in the six paragraphs must end in six chosen words: Alaska, glaciers, aquamarine, paradise, mountains, whales. In each verse these words move around in a preset form. The sestina ends in a tercet and in each of those lines are two of the six chosen words)

 

 

And Did I Mention the Water is Aquamarine?

a pristine wilderness, wild and untamed,  a place called Alaska
a land of bears and  bald eagles;  graced with icy glaciers
and did I mention the water is aquamarine?
our ship slowly starts passage into the fjord, a slim slice of paradise
we pass the silent sentinels,  the mighty mountains,
a disturbance in the water;  we are in the company of whales


we spy a spout of steam,  a telltale sign, we watch for the whales
in summer, they come to feed on small fish off the coast of Alaska
fresh water runs in rivers from the melting snows of the mountains
slowly they move, ages old, ever-changing, grinding rock and ice, the glaciers
glow on a rare sunny day in July. We are thankful to be here in such a paradise
enchanted,  we watch the sunlight sparkle on waters of aquamarine

this is a color rarely seen – a translucent version of aquamarine
so pretty when it swirls, and suddenly,  there appear two killer whales
azure skies, the brilliant sun, running waters, crystal ice, this is my paradise
and a dream come true – long have I waited to come to Alaska
to see blue ice glowing in the fissures of the glaciers
and marvel at the snow capped peaks of lofty, rugged  mountains

beaches are fine, but take me to the mountains
especially those that surround waters of aquamarine
crack! the sound echoes, as  ice splits from the glaciers
in the gold of the setting sun, the breach of a whale
I’’ll forever remember the unrestrained beauty –Alaska
has all the facets of a true paradise

I walk in the beauty of this wilderness paradise
where wisps of fog conceal the tops of the mountains,
the leaves strung with pearls of morning dew.  Of Alaska,
I’ll always remember that incredible shade of aquamarine
and that sound in the night – the exhaling  breath of a whale
and those blue icebergs sailing by,  spawned by the glaciers

despite their age, there is a fragile beauty in the glaciers,
which is woven in the fabric of this natural paradise
I can hear it calling to me in the singing of the whales
as it  echoes through the canyons of the waiting mountains
and reflects in the waters of aquamarine
it’s a song of the wilderness,  – the song of Alaska

I came in search of whales, and the snow-capped mountains,
which rise in silhouette above the glacier ice fields, in a paradise,
a dream taken form in aquamarine – Alaska.

Itwo eagles
the Sawyer glacier

humpback whales humpback whales

IMG_8550

Staying in Focus: From Fog to Reflections

I’ve learned that the essence of photography is light. Most likely it is the essence of everything, but this fact is most relevant in taking photos of reflection,especially nature scenes involving, light, water and wind[. To get a special combination of light and a calm wind, so that the surface of the water is like a mirror is the trick to getting a good reflection.  It takes patience but it does pay off.  However, a slight ripple in the water can bring about interesting results. When looking through the lens of the camera, look for interesting lines,  forms and shapes rather than a concrete object  Often the golden hours — the time just before sunset or at sunrise, when the light is soft on the water is a good time to get striking photos. Catch the wisps of fog as they dissipate  Sitting by a mirrored lake, especially in early morning, as a new day dawns, can be a great time for self-reflection as well. A time to just be with yourself and take stock of things. Clear away the fog, so to speak.

A few years back, my husband Bill and I visited Connemara, the family home of Carl Sandburg.  We were able to tour the home,  walk the wooded paths around the lake, and follow  a trail through the woods to a stony knoll where he wrote the poem, “The Fog”.  How I admire the way he used imagery to describe the fog so succinctly: Talk about inspiration!  After our walk we sat gazing at the lake, letting go of stress and relaxing into the lazy sunshine of  a summer afternoon .

Fog (by Carl Sandburg)

The fog comes
on little cat feet
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

A while later we experienced heavy fog as we crossed the mountains of Tennessee. Here is my humble attempt at capturing the image:

the fog, summoned by unseen hand, rises from the treetops
in wisps of ghostly gray
and melts into the waiting sky.

These two poems came out of that reflection/inspiration moment on our visit to Connemara.

Path along the lake at Connemara, home of Carl Sandburg

Rambles

Beneath the leafy canopy
we stroll one summer’s day
We pause along the woodland path
and watch the shadows play
As sunlight filters through the trees
and gentle breezes kiss my face
We know we’ve found  a refuge here: a woodland home, a sacred   place.                                                                                                  

Reflections on the lake at Connemara

Still Waters

The placid waters of the lake
reflect the leaves of green
my thoughts lie calm, like waters still
my spirit is serene
I let fly loose the tension then
let go the stress and pain

and in my mind and in my soul
I am at peace again.

Here are some of my favorite reflection photos:

A watercolor effect, I like the contrast of the water and the tree branches. See what  a little ripple can do?

                                 
These two were taken at the same lake at different seasons.  The sky was crystal clear in the autumn one, and the lake reflects the beauty of that translucent blue.                           
 
  
Later in Autumn, different lake, still pretty.
 

Focus on: Majestic Mountains

                    

                    mountains                                                      when the pressures of life build to a peak                                                        some people find solace in shorelines and sea                                                        but it’s often the higher ground that I seek                                                         for it’s always been mountains for me

                                                       I stand on a ridge at the top of the world
                                                       from worry and care I am free
                                                       I sing in the sun with my spirit unfurled – 
                                                       it will always be mountains for me                                                      
                                                                                           pc 2003 

One of the things I looked most forward to on our cruise to Alaska was to see the mountains, snow-capped or not, It has been many years since I was among the mountains I love –The Rockies, the Grand Teton, the Sierra Nevada and I have had to reconcile myself to  the mountains here in the southeast.  The Blue Ridge mountains are pretty and I enjoy going out to visit them , but nothing tops those lofty heights of the younger mountains, thrusting their peaks high above the treeline, often still snuggled beneath their snowy blankets deep into summer.

And Alaska did not disappoint. We were excited to see the mountains from the ship as we explored the Inner Passage and a strip of land called Tracy Arm.  This was the most scenic part of the cruise for me and as I  wrote in my journal that evening, “I cannot begin to capture in words the breathtaking beauty that surrounded us today as we explored the Tracy Arm.  The vast panorama of the mountains as the ship slid by them through waters of a green I’ve never seen before was such a delight, my senses were overwhelmed by the vista before me.”

The mountains were snow-capped, with rivers of icy water flowing down their sides to form waterfalls which cascaded into the brilliant green waters of the ocean.  The sun came out (unusual, the crew later told us, as it is often cloudy there) and made the green sea sparkle as the light played across the surface of the water.We saw the South Sawyer glacier, which  I will write about tomorrow .  But for now, perhaps my  photographs have captured what my words cannot express. Enjoy.

the green waters stirred by the ship’s passage

water runs from top of a  mountain and forms a waterfall,which spills into the ocean

our first glimpse of the mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mountains capped in ice and snow
sing the waters as they flow
round jagged rock and stony walls
to form the frothy waterfalls
that spill into the ocean green
crystal waters so serene they sparkle in the bright sunlight
Alaska is a pure delight!
pc 2012