August 19, 2016
August 18, 2016
August 17, 2016
“And oh, the cry of the seagulls! Have you ever heard it? Can you remember?”
— C. S. Lewis
One memorable part of my day trip to Rialto Beach was that I got many great photographs of seagulls in flight. They were feeding in the surf, right at the edge the water, and they were swooping past at eye level. So here are the results of my photo frenzy capturing the freedom of flight:
August 15, 2016
“Some of my favorite definitions of wealth include the number of sunsets the family sees each year.”
— Mary Pipher, The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families
On two of my evenings at Nature Bridge, I took the time to walk to the Lake Crescent Lodge to watch the sunset. These moments, and my early mornings on the dock waiting for sunrise, most closely approached what I expected from the retreat — time to settle, sit still, and quiet my thoughts, and rediscover my groundedness in the world.
While painting was my personal focus for these days away, I was very happy with the photographs I took, too. I got so many good ones.
It was perhaps a bit jarring for my colleagues on retreat to see me on my iPad so frequently, but I use this technology to help me manage my photographing work. I took over 300 photos while I was at Nature Bridge, and I have learned that it is overwhelming to edit and caption so many photos at the end of a trip. So I use my iPad as a handy tool to upload, edit, and caption my photos in small batches as I go along. So for me, this was not a retreat from the tentacles of technology. But I can see why people might wonder why I was on my computer so frequently when I was surrounded by all the natural beauty of Olympic National Park. Perhaps watching me made visible all the time and effort, hidden from viewers, that I put into my photography and this blog.
One of my new friends asked me how much time I spend on the computer every day. I suppose I am a bit embarrassed and a bit defensive about how much time I do find myself looking into a screen. More time than I care to admit. But I don’t have a cell phone, so I am not tethered in quite the same way as millions of other people. I don’t have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest accounts. But I do depend on my iPad for email and for uploading and editing photos. So, yes, I am on the computer a lot.
She also asked me why I take so many photos. Well, that’s a good question, too. I take photos because I love to photograph! I think I am good at it. It gives me pleasure to share my images with readers of my blog. But most important, I suppose, is that — like drawing and painting — when I look with a photographer’s eye, I see more attentively, and that gives me a deeper appreciation for the world.
These words of Frederick Franck about drawing, apply for me to photography as well:
“SEEING/DRAWING is not a self-indulgence, a ‘pleasant hobby,’ but a discipline of awareness, of UNWAVERING ATTENTION to a world which is fully alive. It is not the pursuit of happiness, but stopping the pursuit and experiencing the awareness, the happiness, of being ALL THERE.”
— The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation
While being on retreat did not turn out to be as contemplative an experience as I had expected, I do appreciate being prompted to think about the choices I am making to spend time with my camera or paintbrush. It’s always good to look at habits and decide whether to continue and recommit, go deeper (to the exclusion of other activities), or let go and find new pursuits. I’m still committed.
August 14, 2016
During my childhood and youth, I never went to summer camp. I could imagine what it was like though, from reading books. My week at Nature Bridge finally gave me — in my sixth decade — a personal, first-hand taste of summer camp! In fact, several youth groups shared the campus with us. Unlike them, my time was not taken with group outings and pre-planned activities. My time was pretty much my own.
I am an early riser, and I truly enjoyed my quiet moments on the dock watching the sun rise. Little waves lapped and the dock creaked. Swallows dove and swooped over the water. I sat with my cup of coffee and marveled at the abstract, undulating colors and reflections on the lake’s surface.
Wouldn’t these watery images make a great abstract painting?
The sky had lightened considerably by the time the sun finally peeked over the surrounding mountains. As it rose, it highlighted the tips of the trees and rock outcroppings on the opposite shore.
Baby swallows alighted on the dock rails. A rabbit sat still in high alert. A deer and her twin fawns nibbled the grass by the cottages. The day was coming alive. And then it was time for breakfast.
By the second day, I found this perfect spot for painting in an empty classroom above the dining hall. I am a bit chagrined to admit that I prefer painting from my photographs rather than in the field. For one thing, it is always awkward to cart painting supplies in the outdoors. And I find painting outside overwhelming. My eyes see too much — in my direct vision, and in my peripheral vision. I am constantly distracted. And everything keeps moving! When I photograph, I frame the view and limit all these competing elements. So when I paint from one of my photographs, I can narrow my focus to just what is is the frame.
Using my photos as a starting point, I attempted to paint my impressions of the lush forests in the area.
August 13, 2016
I just returned from five days at the Nature Bridge conference center in Olympic National Park near Lake Crescent where I joined 12 other women on retreat. As check-in was at 3:00 p.m. on Monday and I left after breakfast on Friday, we had just three full days there — not really long enough for me to completely relax and rejuvenate — but still a true vacation from my city life.
The definition of a retreat is “an act of moving back or withdrawing,” especially from what is difficult, dangerous or disagreeable. Or it can be a withdrawal for contemplation and meditation. I found my experience at Nature Bridge way too stimulating for that. There were all these interesting and wise women to meet and be friendly with. The immediate surroundings offered walking trails and swimming. Every day a few of the group took off on day trips to the ocean beaches, longer hiking trails on the other side of the lake, or other destinations on the peninsula. The choices!
“The time for it is always with us though we say I do not have that kind of time. The kind of time I have is not for this but for that. I wish I had that kind of time. But if you had that kind of time — would you do it? Would you give it a try?”
— Lynda Barry, What It Is
This retreat was a chance for me to have the time for “it,” and I decided that my “it” would be devoting myself to painting. It was hard to stay focused on the goal with so many appealing alternatives. The lovely thing about these days was that all meals were provided and I did not have to spend one minute thinking about the state of my cupboards, meal planning, or cooking. We met as a group at breakfast and dinner, but other than that, our time was completely self-directed.
And although I did manage to make a painting each of the five days, I found I did not create as many as I had expected. The free days were a gift, but somehow the hours disappeared far too quickly. For me, this was a revealing taste of what life might be like in retirement. I think I will have to develop a rhythm and structure to my days — with a regular few hours sitting down with my paints — in order to settle my mind and feel some sense of growth and satisfaction. I never did find this kind of rhythm at Nature Bridge.
The first afternoon I walked the “Moments in Time” loop trail through a stand of old growth forest. And I made my first painting there. This Western Red Cedar was completely burned out at the bottom, but still managed to live, with green on its upper branches.
I am still transitioning back to city life, but I will share more of my Nature Bridge experience in the next few days. Stay tuned!