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Staying in Focus: A Happy Beginning

Christmas truly arrived for us this year on January 1st. That’s when our grandkids arrived to celebrate with us.  They had just returned from a trip to Colorado, and had lots of exciting new experiences to share with us. Here are a few photos that captured the  fun!

 

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Staying in Focus: I’m Back! (I Think)

I can’t believe my last post was in August, and here it is October already.  We didn’t travel  this summer, or do much of anything, really. I lacked inspiration.  Then we had some family matters to work through.  My 93 year old mom suffered through a second round of Shingles and required  our help in getting her to doctor’s appointments, and weekly visits to help keep up with her household chores.

On the positive side, we had a lovely visit with Bill’s sister Pat, husband Rick and son Matt. They brought us a grandfather clock , which had been a gift given to their mother from their father just months before she passed away. Before his untimely death this past March, he had expressed the wish that someone in the family would take the clock. We had a space for it, and everyone agreed that it looked like it had always been there. During their stay we browsed the bookstore, looked at new houses in the area, and sampled the fare of local eateries.

Our 40th anniversary was September 4th. We finally found a few free days last week to get away to the mountains to relax and de-stress, and celebrate 40 years together. I took some nice pictures of Echo Lake. The trees were just beginning to trade their overall green color  for splashes of color like crimson, umber, sienna, red-orange and yellow.

So I’m back, I think. We are about to start my favorite season, and it is a busy one. I am preparing for our Moving Day Event – A walk for Parkinson’s disease . Pat’s  Patrol (my team) will number at least 17 this year. And I am proud to announce that we have achieved  our team goal of $720.00 raised for the National Parkinson Foundation. This will be followed by Halloween,  Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas, with buying gifts, wrapping, decorating, cooking, and visiting. with family and friends

So, I’ll try to keep up with posting (I wouldn’t mind a little snow this year. I love taking snow pictures!)

Here are some photos of Echo Lake:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 101: Day 14: Scale and Observation

This was a fun exercise. In a travel photography course I’ve taken, the teacher suggested we bring something small to slip unobtrusively into the photo, to connect the pictures. I took the idea a step further and invited my “frog”, Marley, on our cruise around the British Isles. Here is Marley scaled with the Atlantic Ocean in the background, and Marley and my husband, Bill, resting after a long day of touring Glasgow, Scotland. It was easier to make Marley look small in scale.

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I took these photos of Marley today:

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Photo 101: Day 6: Connection

Humans are social beings. We find ourselves compelled to form communities – make connections with other people. These connections may be small –  a connection with a group of friends, a family gathering on Thanksgiving, a book group, a gardening club or a class reunion. We can make connections with larger groups, as well – other societies, cultures and countries. We have access to a world community through the Internet. With it, we have the world at our fingertips.

In this age of technology we can form connections over the Internet, have conversations with people we have not met in person. It was  a little harder, in my day, to keep long distance connections thriving. I have a pen pal with whom I have been connected with since grammar school. She lives in Argentina and I live in the USA, and we have never (yet) met in person. We began by writing letters, and now it is much easier to keep in touch through e-mail. The internet allows us to connect with others who share common interests like photography, poetry and blogging. There are a myriad of support sites. I belong to one for Parkinson’s disease. I can connect with others dealing with the same challenges I have. It is comforting to know I do not fight alone. The compassion and support on this site is amazing. Connections make us feel needed, valued and loved. We must cherish them and nurture them.

I returned to my “picture room” today  (see day 1) and took two photos of picture collages that demonstrate my two” grounding” connections. The connections that keep me grounded and involved in life, that bring me happiness and joy. The first is a wreath collage I made of my childhood family – grandparents, parents and siblings. The second is  a family tree of my own family – husband, sons and grandchildren. These are my most precious connections, the ones I can depend on without question.

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My First Connection

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My Family Tree

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: A First Glimpse of Copenhagen

Well, we have returned from broadening our horizons, this year, in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Germany. We had a wonderful time, and learned a lot about the history and culture of the people living there, sampled their cultural cuisines and visited the capitals of each country, as well as taking excursions out into the countryside.

This trip further convinced me of my findings on previous visits to  England, France, Ireland and Scotland and that is that although they may celebrate different holidays, have different customs and political systems, different architectural styles in their buildings, homes and apartment and different languages, people are just people wherever you go. They are busy with their careers and families, they look forward to the weekends, with plans to shop, go to a park, launch their sailboat or go to an amusement park like the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is where our adventure began, on the good cruise ship, the ms Eurodam. IMG_5994

But before we can board the cruise ship, we have to fly the not so friendly skies, in an airplane. We are, of course flying coach. I love how they make you walk past the first class seats where the flight attendants are tucking the people in and singing lullabies to them. Next, we trundle past business class, where they at least acknowledge that people have legs and finally into coach, or economy class, where we are packed together like a roll of peppermints.

My first question is, how many more seats can you pack into an airplane and still leave your customers the ability to walk off the plane at the end of the voyage? And my second question is, why have seats that recline if doing so puts the person sitting behind you squashed for 8 hours between your reclined seatback and his upright one?

This happens to my husband a few minutes into the flight. Sleeping Beauty, and I use that term lightly, must have downed a handful of valium or something prior to boarding the plane.  Just as my husband is handed his dinner tray, she flips her seatback into total recline, pushing his dinner into his lap, and there she remains for the remainder of the flight, sound asleep. My husband is about 6 feet tall, and I see the panic in his eyes at the thought of being squished in like that for 7 hours. So we manage to trade places, so he can at least feel a measure of freedom by sitting on the aisle.

The time slowly passes and we finally hobble out of plane. We arrive in the baggage claim section just as I hear my name called out.  It is the Holland America representative, and after some totally confused and contradicting instructions, we find ourselves on a bus, with our baggage stowed beneath us, the recipients of a free tour of Copenhagen (thank you, Holland America), to keep us busy until it was time to board ship. So here is our first glimpse of Copenhagen. IMG_4887IMG_4842IMG_4870

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Staying in Focus:Re-springing Your Step/Mountain Weekend

Daily Prompt: Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?

 

The last experience I had that left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated occurred last summer, when my husband and I and our friends, Kathi and Don, spent a weekend at the Cabins of Willow Winds in Asheville, NC.IMG_3539

Although last summer was not exceedingly hot or humid at home, the weather the weekend we were in Asheville was absolutely wonderful. We were worried because the forecast was for rain, but all we had was a brief shower one afternoon. It was in the evening that we really noticed the difference. The cabin had floor to ceiling windows, which we cranked open, and the most delightful breeze of cool mountain air flowed in, carrying with it the sounds of nocturnal creatures, insects and frogs and the like. Those sounds brought back memories of the summers of my childhood spent in a cabin near a lake. There, I would be lulled to sleep by the nighttime chorus of frogs and katydids.

We took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, climbed up to the visitor center atop Mount MitchelIMG_3526l and ate lunch at the restaurant there, the wall of windows providing a spectacular view.IMG_3527IMG_3478 IMG_3481 IMG_3388 - Copy - Copy IMG_3392 IMG_3426 IMG_3435 IMG_3437 - Copy IMG_3448 IMG_3456 IMG_3471

We went on a ghost tour, and walked through the botanical gardens. IMG_3542Kathi and Don tried their hand at fishing in a pond on the premises of the cabin and we made our dinners in the cabin. Last year was an especially tense one with family illnesses and other stresses, but those three days in Asheville stand out as a small oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation.IMG_3600 There’s something about mountains that have always had that effect on IMG_3586me.

Blue Ridge

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 feel 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 problems

that quite often trouble me

so I come for grace and comfort

and I come for sweet release

my spirit seeks the mountains

here I find my inner peace

-pc 97

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

When 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’03

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: New Dawn

Daily Prompt: How often do you get to (or have to) be awake for sunrise? Tell us about what happened the last time you were up so early (or late…).

Sunrise Revisited

Those who have followed my blogs for a while now, know how much I love to photograph sunrises and sunsets. This may be a bit repetitive, but it was fun putting all the best in one blog. My photos often inspire my poetry. The first sunset photo was taken of the harbor at Wrightsville Beach with an old style 35mm Canon Rebel G camera back in 1998:

Harbor Sunset

liquid drops of sunlight sparkle in the bay,

and reflect a sky awash in sunset hue,

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Harbor Sunset

the trees along the shoreline form a silhouette in gray,

and the clouds amass in shades of dusky blue.

suspended for a moment between darkness and the day,

I pause to fill my senses and renew,

and with deep appreciation I continue on my way

as the sunset in the harbor fades from view.

My next favorite encounter with the sun over water was while on a cruise off the coast of Alaska. I just happened to awaken about 4AM, and saw the faintest light peeking out behind the curtain. I stood there and watched as the sun slowly cleared the sky of the dark shadows of night and let spill in the colors of  a magnificent sunrise. Later that day, the sunset was more the play of light upon the water and not color that captures the eye. These were taken with my digital Canon Rebel xsi.  This experience inspired the following Haiku poem:

Sunrise , Sunset at Sea (Haiku)

we watch the sun rise
light vanquishes the darkness                                 IMG_8448 IMG_8592
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

 

 

Last summer I took this photo off the coast of Scotland:

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The rays of sunlight  spilled  from the clouds like rain:

 

on a sea of inspiration

cruising round the British Isles

with sailboats as companions

tacking toward the setting sun…

and in coves,  ships find safe harbor

as the captains in their  cabins

dream of voyages  to come…

the sun bids clouds to gather

as rays of gold rain gently down

and  illuminate the sea;  for a

a sunset over Scotland forms

a memory not forgotten

easily.

-pc 2013

Finally, one needn’t be at sea to enjoy a summer sunset. A s the Fourth of July was winding down, my  mother looked out the window and saw this lovely sunset. I took these photos off my back porch:

 

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My favorite chair in my favorite room looks out at the sun rising over the neighboring houses. Until my husband retired, I was up

before dawn and able to catch the sun rising more often . Now I fall back asleep in between my first meds of the day at 6:00 AM and the next bunch at 7:30AM.But each sunrise is so special, heralding the gifts it brings light, warmth, life, and another beautiful day to enjoy, we should not miss it or take it for granted.  As Ke, says to Tuck, in my book, Escape from Mount Sanctuary, upon seeing the sun for the first time, “In all my imaginings, Tuck, never could I have envisioned a world of such glory.” “For certain, Ke, it is a world beyond imaginings.” The awe in his voice matched mine. We stood together then, hand in hand, on the precipice of our new wold. We were spellbound by the beauty before us, and humbled by a grand design we could not even begin to understand.*

If I had not been up early to catch the sunrise after a  rare southern snowfall, I would have missed taking this sunrise photo, my most unusual yet. My garden globe was situated perfectly to catch the sunrise after the storm.

As the characters in my book learn during their journey, we inhabit a beautiful planet, one t hat welcomes the day with the rising sun, and it calls us to rest as it sets.

To read more of Escape from Mount Sanctuary, it is available in print and Kindle editions at:

http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Sanctuary-Imagine-discover/dp/1499353707/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409335777&sr=1-1&keywords=escape+from+mount+sanctuary

Staying In Focus: Weekly Writing Challenge: Build Your Own: Envision

 

Daily Post:Weekly Writing Challenge: Build You Own:  Choose  a place:  scenic countryside

Choose a first line:  In my dreams I envision a place.

 

During my cruise around the British Isles last year we took bus rides out into the countryside of Ireland, Scotland and England. These photos and your prompts come together in the following poem:

 

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Envision

In my dreams I envision a place

A village nestled in the countryside

Far removed from the rush about pace

Of everyday life.

I sit in my garden, sipping my tea

And the villagers nod as they pass

Some stop by to chat with me

On happenings, this and that

The summer days are slow and warm

The sheep graze on the hill

And if this was the place where I was born

I know I’d be there still.

– pc 2014

A recent daily prompt was to imagine building a  magic tunnel. Where would it lead to? I didn’t finish it because  the appliances in my house, specifically the air conditioner and the freezer both bit the dust on the same day and thre us for a loop. The topic, however, meshed nicely with the  writing challenge.

Of Hedgerows and Tea

Another outcome of my cruise around the British Isles last summer is that  I know exactly where my tunnel will lead. It will lead directly to a small English village located in the pastoral countryside, but not too far from London. This quiet little village will be my refuge from the complications and stresses of everyday life. It will be where I go to rest, to write, to find my muse and refuel my imagination. Once this is achieved, having London nearby will provide for cultural and leisure activities. It’s not far from South Hampton where the magic cruise ships await to whisk us off to see the world.

I plan to have many good years there, but the inevitable will eventually happen and my cottage in the village will become my final.refuge. As I grow older my capabilities will decrease as the PD robs me of movement and other things too scary to contemplate at this point in my life.  So I will spend my remaining days in the garden, sipping tea and finding joy in just being.

However, as we have allowed for the possibility of a magic tunnel, the door  to  a cure for PD is open, we have all the money we need to live comfortably in our cottage , to take cruises whenever we are bitten by the travel bug, and we will live well past 100 healthy years. Now that is my kind of magic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Memory on the Menu

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Daily Prompt:  Which good memories are better – the recent vivid ones or those that time has covered in a sweet haze?

 

I think memories, like fine wine, are better remembered aged and not recently bottled. There is a certain nostalgia to aged memories that brings a poignant element new memories lack. An old memory settles like a warm blanket draped over your shoulders, that warm fuzzy feeling we often yearn for. They whisk us away to  a far off place, at once distant, yet at times seeming like yesterday.

When I look at pictures like these, I am there, growing up in the 1950s and 60s. To paraphrase  a line  from the movie, “While You Were Sleeping,” “I just don’t remember it being that( black and white).”  It does look like the world had discovered color by 1976 , when we got married.

People often groan when someone hauls out the photos of their last cruise, but a conversation beginning with the words “Remember when…” has an entirely different reaction. When we gather together on holidays, we often tell guests the funny stories of our lives, and laughter fills the room.

Our memories define who we were and who we are. The old memories provide a framework and the new experiences, fresh memories, fill in the frame and will  one day be old memories, too. And we will say, “Remember when we took that  cruise…
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