Yesterday I drove to Chicago and back to see a friend. I drove through the usual mess of road construction and major traffic snarls. The closer I got to the Loop, the more bogged down the traffic got. As I sat (at a standstill) I glanced at the cement median. Along several cracks in the concrete, I noticed grass and wild flowers growing. Not just growing — thriving.
I considered taking a photo but I couldn’t reach my camera safely. (So I found some similar photos on Flickr. See gallery below.)
I thought about how sometimes we feel like those weeds and flowers. Hanging on by a few fragile roots, in the middle of a hot unforgiving place, with just a tiny fragment of space, little or no resources — but still finding a way to not only survive but to actually bloom.
That trite saying “bloom where you are planted” has truth. I’ve had to move more times than I have wanted. Each time, the process of leave-taking then starting over commences: the good-byes, the leave-taking, then being the outsider, mustering the bravada to carry on, and finally searching for the new “normal.”
I got my first teaching job in the summer of 1985. It was in a tiny town just east of Urbana, IL. The band room was surrounded by a tar and chip parking lot. As I prepared for the first marching band rehearsals, I was pleasantly surprised to see some lovely pink lilies pop up out of the tiny seam between the building and the pavement. My mom told me they were Resurrection Lilies. I later discovered other names for them: Magic Lilies, Surprise Lilies, Naked Ladies, lycorissquamigera, and Amaryllidaceae.
They pop up out of no where (or seem to), bloom and then whither away all in a week or so. Each year I taught there (four, to be exact), I looked forward to seeing those lilies.
Image via Flickr CC, by Shihmei Barger
Image via Flickr CC, by Shihmei Barger
Beauty finds a way. Life finds a way. Always.
Image via Flickr CC, by Mickey_Liaw
Image via Flickr CC, by A Syn.
Image via Flickr CC, by Nita Hart
Image via Flickr by Robert Nunnally, CC license
Image via Flickr CC, by Nancy Phillips
Then today, I saw this posted on a friend’s Facebook wall.
From earth I flow, seaward I go,
Refreshing the world on my way.
My duty done, my guerdon* won,
I rise on celestial ray.
Drink, weary traveler, in the Land,
And on thy journey fare
‘Tis sent by God’s all giving hand.
And stored by human care.
*Guerdon is an archaic word meaning reward or recompense.
I enjoy looking through Flickr photos. I peruse the “Explore” recent photos category as often as I can clicking on all my favorites so I can look at them again in the future. Many of the images are sometimes ho-hum and very predictable, but I usually see something that inspires me greatly. Recently I found a whole series of images “em ha” uploaded as Public Domain items. I’m sharing my favorites here. The wildflower photos are mine, though. (TTQ)
Do you ever see something out of the corner of your eye and think — “Oh! That would make a great photo!”
This seems to happen to me frequently. But I hardly ever do anything about it, and I regret that.
Last spring, on my drive to school I spied three red tulips that were growing in a very obscure place beneath a tangle of on/off ramps. Each day as I drove the tight right-turn of the clover leaf going under a multi-lane Interstate highway and off ramp to emerge going in my chosen direction on the Interstate I just drove under, I would see the flash of red off to my left. Each day I thought, “Bloom where you are planted. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”
How did tulips get planted in this desolate, neglected, non-landscaped area of highway underpass undergrowth? Did someone throw a few tulips out of their car window one day and they happened to land in a protected and fertile enough spot? I plant bulbs in my flower beds nearly every fall, and each fall, many of them are eaten by squirrels (or other varmints).
Red Tulips. Images by James Petts via Flickr CC.
Red tulips. Image by cranberries via Flickr CC.
Each day, I thought “I should stop to take a picture of those tulips before they stop blooming.” Each day I would tell myself I didn’t have time and that there was no safe place to pull over and stop. Needless to say, there is no photograph because I never stopped. But the image has stayed with me.
Another image that I regret not stopping to document happened last fall near my school. I was with my college-aged son in the car going shopping for school necessaries when we was on break. It must have been Thanksgiving weekend because what we saw were people putting a large inflatable Santa sleigh (complete with reindeer) on top of a ranch style house. The funny part was that there were two legs sticking out from under the sleigh part, toes down. It looked like Santa had accidentally landed on someone and squished them flat. Who knows what that person was doing on the roof while Santa was trying to land, but that is beside the point. We discussed stopping but didn’t.
I WISH I had taken a few seconds to stop and take a quick photo. My son and I both laughed at the sight of those legs; at first we thought the legs were not real but were an intentional part of the scenario they were erecting. As we drove away I had the chorus of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” running through my head.
Just this past week I was driving on a road that goes behind the garage area of a nearby car dealership. There are always a lot of cars parked along this not-very-busy-dead-end-road; some new cars for the dealer, some cars for their repair shop; and I presume some of the cars of the dealership employees. I noticed a long black sedan type of car. Sticking out of the closed trunk was one skeleton arm and hand. It was totally creepy looking (and fake, I might add!). Again, I considered stopping but didn’t have a camera with me (not even my phone camera). Consequently — no photo.
On a trip to Indiana driving at highway speed on US 30 between Valpo and Warsaw (which must be in contention for the US most boring highway) my eye caught a beautiful scene as it flashed by in an instant. There was an old red well-used barn, a field of sunflowers in full bloom, a blue sky with puffy white clouds and the whole thing was framed in green leafy trees. You guessed it: I didn’t stop.
Remember the NYC pizza rat? Well, I had a pizza squirrel one day in my backyard. The squirrel had pretty much a whole slice of pizza and somehow managed to carry it across our backyard, up a tree trunk and then hop to the top of the fence with it. The squirrel paused then looked at me with an accusatory glare as if to say, “This is MY pizza. Keep your hands OFF!” I wondered where he had found a whole slice of pizza and how he managed to carry it while running and climbing. I wondered if eating the pizza would make the squirrel sick. I wished I had my camera so I could catch a photo (or video!) of the pizza-toting squirrel. Alas, the only image I have of this scenario is in my mind.
Am I the only one who has these photographic regrets?
Does this happen to anyone else?
I’ve been interested in my family history since I did a project long ago in elementary school.
I gathered as much information as I could from my living family, but it was not very comprehensive and didn’t go very far back. I liked knowing how long my ancestors had lived in certain areas of Indiana. I liked knowing the names and connections of family members who lived many, many years before I was born.
Late last summer a friend introduced me to Find a Grave. (Thanks, Janet!)
It is a website that helps any interested person “find, record and present final disposition information from around the world as a virtual cemetery experience.” In other words, you can find the burial location of dead relatives. If a photo of the tombstone is not available, there is a method to request a photo (a cadre of willing volunteers provide this wonderful service). The best part is this is all FREE!
You have the ability collect your relatives into a Virtual Cemetery so you can find them easily in the future. Volunteers photograph whole cemeteries and create “memorials” (pages with family connections, tombstone information and photos if available, and obituary information). Family members can leave virtual flowers and messages. If you are within 4 generations of a person you can request that the memorial page for your relative be transferred to you so you can control what is posted. It is quite an elaborate community!
When my friend told me she had gotten involved in this website she warned me that it was “addictive.” Yeah, right — I thought.
But, it is.
I discovered that I enjoy solving the mysteries of birth and death dates, marriage licenses, names of children, and figuring how the various branches of our family tree grew. I couldn’t imagine that sorting out these tangles would interesting but it is!
Another site that I’m using in my research is familysearch.org.
Here, it is possible to quickly and easily locate sources that help clarify connections and family relationships. It is amazing to see electronic versions of actual documents — census records, birth/marriage/death certificates, emigration records, draft registrations, and more. You search for the records in a massive database, then you can attach them as sources for specific relatives.
I quickly learned to be very careful in choosing my sources and in checking dates and locations. As incredible as it sounds, in more than one instance I had more than one couple with identical names and years of birth in the same county married in the same year — but they had divergent records (burial places, children, etc.) that didn’t quite match up.
It is like a scavenger hunt to find sources to verify each child, each marriage, each set of parents — and it all leads backwards and forwards through time. I particularly enjoy finding out which generation made the voyage across the Atlantic to get to America.
I might have found a connection between my husband’s mothers ancestors possibly marrying a distant relation of mine in my maternal grandmother’s branches. I haven’t found proof but some of the facts I’ve uncovered seem to point to this scenario.
There is a family story that claims we have a relative that was close to Cyrus Hall McCormick (the inventor of the reaper). My husband’s family has a story that some of his relatives traveled with the ill-fated Donner party. (Obviously they must have survived the ordeal). I can find evidence to support neither of these claims at this point, and believe me I’ve tried.
Using these two websites, I discovered a cemetery within just a few miles of my in-law’s house where a dozen of my ancestors (all of whom I had no idea even existed before I started this research) are buried. My maternal grandfather’s grandfather had several brothers and sisters and these are the folks that are in that cemetery.
One mystery I unraveled involved John Schwob, Katherine Schwob, Leopold Reuf and Adelheid Schwob. I knew John was married to Mary Miller. I couldn’t figure out how Adelheid fit into the Schwob picture. I didn’t have her anywhere on my list but all the other Schwobs in that cemetery had already been established as my relatives. John and Mary were Katherine Schwob’s parents. Adelheid had been married to Friedrich Reuf and their son was Leopold. Mary Miller died and so did Friedrich Reuf. Katherine Schwob married Leopold Reuf. They are both buried in this cemetery. John Schwob then married Adelheid Reuf and she became Adelheid Schwob.
(This would be like my husband’s mother marrying my dad!)
As confusing as all that sounds, add to the mix misspelled names, errors in birth years, and generally inaccurate cemetery records in that particular cemetery — and you can get a sense of the tangle of mysteries that had to be solved.
Many of my roots are clear back to the late 1700s or early 1800s. Some lines go much further back — to the early 1500s and a few back to the 1100s. I’m leary of the accuracy of these lines that far back, but it is fun to look at the names and follow the trail. One line lists Edward IV, King of England as an ancestor of my husband’s paternal Grandmother’s family.
You can’t say I didn’t warn you. Beware! This hobby can be VERY addictive.
“Gjon Mili,” LIFE noted, “who would rather photograph dancing than almost anything else in the world, recently trained his high-speed camera on the nimble feet and lithe body of MGM’s brilliant dancing star Gene Kelly.” What’s wonderful about Mili’s work in these pictures—made, it’s worth stressing, seven decades ago—is the technical brilliance and economy that he brings to bear on Kelly’s explosive artistry.
Another transporting series of photographs from long ago and also far away — is this set of scenes from Jackie Kennedy’s visit to India in March of 1962 taken by Art Rickety for LIFE magazine. What a wonderful smile she had! Her timeless sense of style is evident: the pearls, simply elegant dresses, and grace.
Every once in a while I hear or see an interview that immediately draws my attention and holds it. Often the topic might be something I know very little about or may be about something obscure or something I am not at all interested in — but the person speaking about it is SO passionate that I can’t help but care!
I heard Carlos Santana in an interview such as this one evening on PBS. He made quite an impression on me. He speaks with such insight and obvious passion about his music — about life — about screaming charisma and conviction.
(African Music) It pitches your whole existence into a state of joy that can’t be bought. (It has) intensity of spirit and joy.
Real musicians remind the listener of a forgotten song inside them. And when you hear that forgotten song, you know, you get chills, you get tears, you dance, and you don’t even know why,
Music is to glorify the light in you.
I give a chance to give voice to the invisible ones.
Victory is won already, you know? And the only enemy is fear. (They) talked about that a lot. You transform fear with your supreme joy, you know? (Commenting on what he learned from Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu).
I’m also intrigued by non-famous passionate people. I enjoy hearing them talk about their work.
An interview I saw on a PBS Newshour last fall completely bowled me over. This woman’s passion for knowledge and for exploration nearly burst through the TV screen. I wish every child could have a science teacher like Carolyn Porco, the leader of the Cassini imaging team at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
Read more about the mission and see more photos here.
See? I got pulled into the vortex! These images are absolutely stunning and amazing. Check out more of NASA’s space images here.
Speaking of ordinary people who are extraordinary:
If you have never heard this young woman speak, please consider watching at least part of this video.
Pakistani school girl Malala Yousafzai, 16, rose to international fame when she was shot in the head last October for speaking out against the Taliban’s ban on girl’s education. Malala made a remarkable recovery, becoming the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. Margaret Warner talks to Yousafzai about her mission. —PBS Newshour.
I always enjoy hearing about the “behind the scenes” people — the people in the trenches — the people slogging through some tedious, long, possibly dangerous or nearly hopeless project. I found this story, featuring the work of National Geographic photographers who happen to be women, intriguing not only because of their obvious passion for their work and for this project but for their insights and the resulting art.
I come to the conclusion that passionate people make the best art. They make the best music, the best photographs, the best books. They also make pretty terrific teachers, scientists, and well — people in general.
Many of my friends know that I am “hooked” on Antique Archaeology, a TV show featuring Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe. These two guys drive around the country in a white van, looking for “rusty gold” (i.e. what most people would call “junk”) to buy and sell. I love the show because they are passionate about what they do. They are passionate about preserving history and historical objects. They meet interesting and passionate people who care about the same things. Who knew people could get so excited about rusty old signs and dirty old motorcycles? I’m drawn to the LOVE they have for what they do, and to the respect they have for each other, for the items they buy and sell, and for the people with whom they deal.
Another show I admit being “hooked” on is Project Runway. It is one of those “someone gets cut from the group every week” shows. The premise is fashion designers working on tight deadlines and tight budgets to create fashion forward and on trend garments which meet specific parameters set by the show’s producers and hosts. The fashions are judged and then the worst and best designs are chosen. “One day you are in, the next day you are out” is Heidi Klum’s famous line from the show. The mentor for the designers is Tim Gunn. He is passionate about his job and about helping each of the designers bring the best out of themselves. The designers are (mostly) passionate about what they do and about what they are creating. When people care and have a lot at stake, tempers can flare and drama can occur. But wonderful things can happen as well! Often kind, wonderful, beautiful moments come about in the midst of all the stress and self-doubt.
And because I never seem to know when to stop…a few last thoughts and quotes to leave with you:
Many charismatic and passionate (and famous) people spring to mind: Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, Jacques Cousteau, Jane Goodall, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Not many of these people would leap to mind as “passionate artists” but they all share a passion for their chosen life’s work — and for humanity. Maybe each of these folks will get their own blog post about this topic some time in the future! We shall see.
Jacque Cousteau nearly convinced me to become a marine biologist!
It was a black film canister, rattling around the bottom of an old Naturalizer shoebox labeled “photos.” I opened it, wondering if it was a roll of unused film. Instead, I found a twist of white tissue paper wrapped around tightly rolled black-and-white negatives. I held them up to the light. At first I saw…legs.
Then, people with bicycles.
Wait, that looks like the Monument to the People’s Heroes. Is that Tiananmen Square? With banners?
Next, a white form rising above a crowd, holding…a torch?
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune!
As fair thou art, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt with the sun;
I will luve thee still my dear,
When the sands of life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.
I was walking from Princeton University to Westminster Choir College shortly after a brief summer rain. I couldn’t resist taking photographs of some lovely roses as I strolled along the sidewalk. The poem popped into my head as I was cropping the photos. I realize my roses are not red, but the poem insisted on being included in this post.
*poem by Robert Burns
poem by Elizabeth Bishop, photos via Flickr Creative Commons
I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!
There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.
sonnet by Elizabeth Bishop
I believe I understand what Elizabeth is describing with her words. Early in my teen years, I discovered that music was a calming force for me. Not that I always felt or feel calm when I play, but that the act of playing (of creating music) brings me to a calmer state of being.
Is it because my mind stops turning inward or spinning in worried circles? I focus on the notes and the feel of the keys, the pattern of the chords and melodies — and there is only music. Is it the physicality of the hand/eye coordination or the wavelengths of sound going through my eardrums into my brain that does it? Or is it the “Zen”ness of the playing, the feeling of letting myself slip away until I only see and hear and feel the music?
There is healing, of rest, of flow (hence the imagery of water), of stillness, of floating. Quiet Breath.
I don’t know why it works this way for me, but it truly does.
These are but a few of the many reasons why I will always be in need of music.
I have to admit something. More than one somethings, actually.
I would love to open my Tromp Queen page some day to find that one of my posts is featured as FRESHLY PRESSED. This unspoken (and most likely unreachable) goal has been in my head ever since I first noticed the Freshly Pressed area here in WordPress land. I’ve written some pretty deeply personal posts — as well as some humorous, some insightful, some crafty — hey, why not me? (I so humbly ask of myself).
I also post photos on Flickr occasionally. I would love to find one day that one of my photographs is featured as an EXPLORE image. (Go to Flickr.com, click the Explore then on the drop down menu choose Recent Photos.) Hundreds are featured each and every day, why not one of mine? (I so humbly think to myself). People tell me they really like my photography, that I have a “good eye” — surely it could happen some day, right?
I’m a musician, too. A professional pianist, in fact. I don’t like to admit it even to myself but — I do not like to miss even one single note when I play. If I’m not perfect, it is hard to let go of that one
(or — gasp — more than one)
error. I know the journey and the process are supposed to be the most important, but deep down inside I want each and every performance to be stellar: perfectly beautiful in every way. How’s that for putting pressure on yourself?
How does one balance these incredibly unrealistic expectations?
I tend to rely on my old favorites of denial and avoidance.
I make it more difficult on myself by not even admitting that I truly have these hidden goals. How can I be disappointed if I never admit to having such desires? Denial. Works nearly every time.
Avoidance? Don’t post. Don’t tag. Don’t upload photos. There. No chance of being disappointed if you don’t try.
Then I hear the voice of my sensible self reminding me of the JOY I experience of just making music, of taking photographs of things that interest/inspire/awe me, and of writing/organizing my thoughts whether anyone hears/sees/reads any of them or not.
I recently read a journal that I was required to keep as part of my student teaching training semester (30 years ago now!). My supervising teacher told me to always keep high expectations, to never give up, to make the students work to reach my expectations. She said (this was referring to middle school choir students) that you have to PULL it out of them. Be strong. Make your voice heard.
Thankfully, these are the words that I carry in my heart. I don’t give in to the desire to lower my expectations but I don’t let perfectionism rule my life. I will not worry about whether or not I’ve reached my goals. I’ll just keep puttering along — working and dreaming — singing and playing.
Access to use all these wonderful Getty images?
I chose this image of the Yosemite Valley because seeing this specific view literally took my breath away. Then, when I could breathe again my eyes got teary. It is one of THE MOST beautiful natural vistas I have ever seen. I could have stood there for hours. I felt awed by the spectacular and extravagant beauty of this world. Yes, I’m a Christian — but I don’t see how anyone could look at this place and not feel the presence of the Divine.