Impressionistic Photography

November 28, 2015

Foggy morning, Columbia River

Foggy morning, Columbia River

I’m finding it fun to experiment more with my photos, taking time to make a beautiful impression from some of my duds, those photos that I would ordinarily consider too blurry to keep.  I use an app called Photoshop Express to edit my images — crop, tint, color saturation.  I try to create more expressive, subjective, abstract images.  I am pleased with the painterly quality of the resulting photos.  Don’t you agree that they are beautiful?

This is a more natural view of the Columbia River, the morning after Thanksgiving, as the early morning fog was dissipating.

This is a more natural view of the Columbia River, the morning after Thanksgiving, as the early morning fog was dissipating.

This is a more impressionistic take on the same view.

This is a more impressionistic take on the same view.




As much as I yearn to find time to paint, I still love to take photos.  And it feels very satisfying to push myself in new ways with my photography.  Experimenting makes me feel alive.  I don’t think I will ever set aside my camera for my paintbrushes.  I want time to play around with both.


Gladness in the Flames

November 27, 2015

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world.”
— Jack Gilbert, poet

Poinsettia, sometimes called Mexican flame leaf

Poinsettia, sometimes called Mexican flame leaf

Poinsettias at Swansons Nursery, Seattle

Poinsettias at Swansons Nursery, Seattle




“Give only if you have something you must give; give only if you are someone for whom giving is its own reward.”
— Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Gratitude garland

Gratitude garland

“When the gift I give to the other is integrated to my own nature, when it comes from a place of organic reality within me, it will renew itself — and me — even as I give it away.”
— Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

I do believe that some of the best gifts are gifts of yourself, your time, your attention, your unique talents and skills.  But I like the added refinement that Palmer offers, namely, to be attuned to whether your giving depletes you or renews you.  Sometimes when you given all you’ve got, to the point of exhaustion, that still feels good because you have the satisfaction of a job well done with no regrets for holding back.  But if you are feeling burned out, then I think it is time to question whether you should keep giving what is depleting you, sometimes to the point of illness.  Maybe there is a healthier way to give or help.

One thing we all can give to each other is our attention.  This is something I need to and want to work on.  I would like to become a better listener.  For me, that means starting from a point of stillness.  Really stopping.  And then listening with absorption, with eye contact, face to face, heart to heart.  Attuned to the feelings behind what is being said, rather than the factual content.  Listening more and talking less.  What a gift that would be!


Gratitude for This Life

November 24, 2015

November morning, Green Lake

November morning, Green Lake

The release of Oliver Sacks’ new book, Gratitude, is perfectly timed for Thanksgiving this year.  In these essays, Sacks — who died in August at the age of 82 — reflects on his life and accomplishments in light of his terminal cancer diagnosis.

He mentions some regrets:  “I am sorry I have wasted (and still waste) so much time; I am sorry to be as agonizingly shy at eighty as I was at twenty; I am sorry that I speak no languages but my own mother tongue and that I have not traveled or experienced other cultures as widely as I should have done.”

Sacks reminds me that our latter years are a gift.  He looks upon old age “as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.”  He says, “One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty.”

The urgencies of these latter years are sharpened by their being finite.  “It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me.  I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.”

“. . . I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.”

“There is no time for anything inessential.”

But above all, Sacks’ heart was full of thanksgiving:  “I cannot pretend I am without fear.  But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.  I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written.  I have had an intercourse with the world, and the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

Let us all celebrate Thanksgiving in the spirit of gratitude this year.



November sky at dawn

November sky at dawn

A new day dawns.  What is the most important thing I need to do today?

I have been thinking lately about my yearning to paint and my ongoing failure to make this happen.  Once again, I need to re-commit to making art a higher priority in my life.

So often I find just the right advice I need in the book I happen to be reading.  Yesterday I reread Ted Orland’s The View from the Studio Door:  How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World, and I was inspired by these quotes:

“Art is mostly a product of hard work. . . . it’s more important to be productive than to be creative.”

He says that to be an artist “means finding a way to live your life so that you can engage again and again the things you care about the most.”

“. . . to make your own place in the world, you’ll probably need to create a life in which working on your art becomes a natural part of your everyday life. . . . There’s no predicting how any individual life will play out, but there is a guiding principle for reaching the best of possible outcomes: stay at work on the things that are really important to you, and you will reach your potential as an artist.”


Regard the Raindrops!

November 19, 2015

Raindrops on scarlet smokebush leaf

Raindrops on scarlet smokebush leaf


Void in Form
by Ikkyu, fifteenth century Zen master, from Crow with No Mouth

When, just as they are,
White dewdrops gather
On scarlet maple leaves,
Regard the scarlet beads!


Raindrops on green leaf

Raindrops on green leaf

What’s with all the surveys?  It seems like I cannot make a move these days without a follow up in the mailbox or in my email asking for feedback about my recent encounter.  A doctor’s visit, an online order, a coffee purchase at Starbucks.  On the rare occasion of me buying something from I was asked to fill out a customer service survey about my ordering experience, and then another request to rate the item I purchased.

Enough already!

Who fills out these surveys?  I suppose it is the same people who “like” things on Facebook.  (Oh, oh.  I hope I haven’t offended my readers who “like” my blog posts!  I actually do get a kick out of seeing the likes strung like beads at the bottom of my posts.)

I suspect companies ask for this kind of feedback so they can advertise how wonderful they are (96 percent rate us five stars!!).  Not so that they can improve how they do business.  Or else they are compiling data that they can sell to others who want to target their marketing.

The creepy thing about these surveys is the feeling of Big Brother watching and monitoring everything I do.

“As daily becomes more obvious, our every online move is shadowed.  Information of all sorts is harvested and sifted and used to build our user profiles, profiles that map our purchasing behavior, our declared subject interests and other aesthetic preferences.”
–Sven Birkerts, Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age

Maybe if we all stopped filling out these surveys, they would stop.



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