A to Z Blogging Challenge

House

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. I’ve fallen behind but haven’t given up! If you want to join me, just add a comment naming something you like and something you don’t like that begin with the letter H.

Also, trying to do Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday (late for this also). Here’s the prompt: Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “a picture from wherever.” When you sit down to write your post, find a picture, whether in a magazine, newspaper, or even product packaging. Write whatever thought or emotion the picture provokes. 


I’m such a rule-breaker. I didn’t find a picture in a magazine, newspaper, or wherever. My first thought, probably because of writing about my roots yesterday, was this picture of the house where I grew up.

circa 1967, hand-tinted by my sister

I found the photo, not where I thought it would be but close. I showed it to my daughter, Mary.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“It’s this house,” she said. Clearly she didn’t hold the deep affection for it that I have.

“But look — there’s the front porch! And the side porch,” I pointed out. “They’re both gone now.”

“There’s still sort of a side porch,” she said.

And she’s right. The side porch in the photo is gone and has been replaced with a room we call the sun porch. I can still remember the year we went to the state fair and my mother dragged my father over to the display of modular-type rooms that could be added to the house. The next year, the side porch was torn down and the sun porch was installed.

The front porch has been long gone. I still remember the hammock that had been hung there and my father telling us ghost stories out there on summer nights.

The house faces west and my parents used to always go sit on the front porch after dinner with coffee (instant — yuck!) and watch the sun sink over Grasslands hill.

I love the house. It holds so many happy memories for me.


Here’s a photo of a house I drive by when I’m going to Syracuse. It’s on a back road, and I’ve watched its slow demise. When I saw that it had fallen, I stopped to take a picture.

When I would drive past it with Mary, she would often say, “I would love to explore that house.”

There’s something intriguing about abandoned houses.

I took the picture to send to Mary. A missed opportunity to explore.

I don’t know that I like abandoned houses. I certainly don’t like the wreckage of a house. It’s sad. I can’t help but wonder who holds the memories of the happy times that may have happened in that house.


Scottish Gaelic:
Is toil leam dachaigh mo leanabachd. I like my childhood home.
Cha toil leam long-bhriseadh taighe. I don’t like the wreckage of a house.


How about you? What’s something you like that begins with H? What’s something you don’t like?

family · photography

Sunset – Sunrise

Last night, I picked Mary up at 8:30. She had to work late because of induction weekend. Everywhere in Cooperstown, it’s all hands on deck.

On the way home, I kept saying, “Look at that sunset!” It was red and orange and gorgeous.

She dutifully looked and agreed.

Then I said it again.

Lather-rinse-repeat.

When we pulled in the driveway, I said, “I can’t stand it. I have to take a picture of it.”

“Sunset photograph number four-thousand-six-hundred-and-fifty-three,” Mary said. She knows me well.

I snapped this shot on my phone.

“Dang,” I said. “The colors are never right.”

“You can focus it, you know,” Mary told me.

No, I didn’t know.

She took my phone/camera, pointed it at the sunset, tapped the screen on the sunset itself, and took this picture.

Yes, that was closer to the colors. Still not the same as being there — but definitely closer.

This morning the sunrise was ridiculous. I couldn’t stop looking at it.

“I can’t stand it,” I said to myself. “I have to take a picture.”

In my head I heard, Sunrise photo number five-thousand-four-hundred-and-sixty-two. Someone somewhere was laughing at me.

First shot:

Not terribly exciting.

I tried the Mary-technique and tapped the screen, focusing on the colors of the sunrise.

So much better.

Thank you, Mary.

Sometimes it’s possible to teach an old person a new trick.

family · Life

Good-bye, Odyssey

Bud said that he woke up in the middle of the night wondering if it was the right decision.

I reminded him all the reasons why — the catalytic converter, the exhaust system, the timing belt, the short circuits in the electrical system.

Still, our Honda Odyssey had taken us many miles — well over 200,000. Many trips to Florida, to South Carolina, to North Carolina, to Washington, DC, as well as the hundreds, maybe over a thousand trips between Cooperstown and Greene.

It’s almost as old as Laurel.

It has served us well.

When Philip was a little boy and we traded in one of our cars, he drew sad faces in the dirt on the windows. Laurel did the same last night with the Odyssey. My bookend children think the same.

Sad face, broken heart, bird poop (right to left)

We’re trading in the Odyssey. It makes us sad.

Sad

We’re getting a new car. It makes us happy.

Happy

I told a friend that we get a new car every twelve years or so, whether we need one or not.

We need one.

It was the right decision.

 

Cooperstown · photography

Lakefront Park

I clearly remember that morning.

I had tossed and turned all night. My thoughts were a twisting turning knot of turmoil.

Before dawn, I left the house and drove to the lake.

Water soothes me.

If I lived near the ocean, I’m sure I would have been at the beach, digging my toes into the sand. Instead, I was at Lakefront Park in Cooperstown, walking in dew-laden grass, looking out into the heavy fog that rested on the lake.

As the invisible sun rose and lent a little light, I took a few pictures. The lush green of summer was accentuated by the grayness of the fog.

The fog obscured the distance, but it helped me appreciate what was closest to me.

I haven’t forgotten that lesson.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

November

“Did I do anything for your last birthday?” I asked Laurel this morning.

I honestly couldn’t remember. Laurel’s birthday and my mother’s deathday were too close together.

“Uh-huh,” she answered. “You made rice.”

Not really sure that will win me any parenting awards. Rice. In the microwave.

But it is one of her favorites.

November was a blur.

“Did I buy you any presents?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she answered. “Pajamas.”

At least it wasn’t socks and underwear.

Wait — maybe I got her those, too, and she was too polite to tell me.

I remember so little of that month.

Did we celebrate Thanksgiving? Did I make the turkey?

What did I do for the 30 days that November hath?

I looked through the pictures on my computer for clues.

Here is the story they told:

On the day my mother died, I noticed the sunset. IMG_7769 (1)

My sister and I helped my father.

Donabeth, Dad, and me

On Laurel’s birthday, I went for a walk.

The stone bridge

I made the previously mentioned rice — and some chicken to go with it. Broccoli, too, but it didn’t make the photo.

Birthday dinner

The kids played cards (probably while I was making rice).IMG_0340

And all through November, life continued.

Family gathered.

Jacob, Henry, Laurel

We played games.

Family games

I sat at the Columbarium.

The Columbarium

Laurel swam.

Swimming

I noticed a sunrise.

Sunrise

And I’m pretty sure we had Thanksgiving.IMG_7874

 

 

swimming

Swimming Posters

I loved the idea of reenacting a piece of art for this week’s photo challenge: Life Imitates Art

But what to do?

I asked Laurel if she would sit on my lap and put her hand on my cheek, like a Mary Cassatt painting, but she said no. It probably would have looked kind of strange anyway. She may be my baby, but she’s taller than me now.

So — swimming. I decided to ask my swimmers to recreate some swimming posters.

This one — Michael Phelps doing streamline — I just wanted them to see. Streamline is such a foundational skill. We work on it from Day 1 of swim season — and still, about half look nothing like this, hand over hand, squeezing the head.

Michael Phelps — Streamline

I stood on the balcony and took pictures of each swimmer leaving the wall in streamline. For you photo-geeks, all I have is a little Sony Cyber-shot that I bought on sale at Target for $59. I guess you get in clarity what you pay for.

DSC05572 (1)
Streamline

Still, it was a great learning experience for the kids. I showed each one the picture I had taken of them and we talked about how they could make their streamlines even better.

For fun, at the end of practice, we tried to recreate another swim poster.

I pulled our little Kodak PlaySport out of retirement (it can take underwater photographs), charged it up, and prayed that it would work.  Laurel was the photographer as each one of my swimmers did a cannonball off the diving board. This was the best shot.

Cannonball!
Cannonball!

Or this one.

Cannonball!!
Cannonball!!

So — thank you Daily Post for the photo challenge. I may not be much of a photographer, but this was fun.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Vulture

V is for Vulture.

We’re getting to the end of this alphabet challenge and I’m starting to feel punchy. I thought about posting my picture taken at Laity Lodge of a turkey vulture and then accompanying it with vulture jokes.

But when I started looking up vulture jokes, they all sounded so familiar. It’s not that we sit around telling vulture jokes here, so I wondered if I had already written about them. Sure enough, yes, I had, in “Vultures (and a box full of Buechner).” If you’re interested in vulture jokes, you’ll have to go there.

I had forgotten that post because, at the time I wrote it, I was in a fog of grief regarding my brother’s death. There are a lot of things I don’t remember from that period.

But Frederick Buechner now occupies a significant chunk of shelf space and I like that.

The other day Andrew Peterson, my original inspiration for a vulture post this go-round, posted a picture of a t-shirt that said “Beek-ner“. The photo was captioned, “A gift from the Buechner Institute at King University. Educating non-Buechner fans one t-shirt at a time.”

Although, really, vultures have nothing to do with Andrew Peterson or Frederick Buechner.

I’m sure you’re scratching your head over this nonsense.

Welcome to my world — a jumble of thoughts and weird associations that I am forever picking through to try to make sense of things.

So back to vultures. And Laity Lodge.

I went on a hike there. We looked over a bluff. The view was spectacular.

IMG_6129And a turkey vulture seemed suspended over the canyon.

Like on a wild stringless mobile hanging over the world, moving on unseen currents, without ever seeming to have to use its broad extended wings.

Andrew Peterson’s song “Nothing to Say” is about a time when he is struck speechless by the beauty of Arizona.  He sings,

I see the eagles swim the canyon sea
Creation yawns in front of me
Oh, Lord, I never felt so small

Maybe he was watching turkey vultures.  They really are quite spectacular.

I see the vultures swim the canyon sea…

They just don’t sound as spectacular. In a song.

But they can be beautiful.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Threshold

T is for Threshold.

Since I had been to Laity Lodge the previous year, I knew where to head as soon as I arrived.  A place called Threshold.

Last year I spent a lot of time inside Threshold. I sat on the cold stone seat.Laity Lodge 109I looked up.Laity Lodge 106This year, when I went in, I found myself looking out.Aviary Photo_130721970378283428I sat outside and looked in.Aviary Photo_130721969521386900I went early in the morning, before dawn, and looked at it in the dim light.DSC03870I tried to take pictures of the sky, which was clear and blue-black and star-studded, or star-spangled, or star-strewn. You get the idea. But all my star pictures look like this.DSC03888I think I need a fancier camera.

Or not.

Because the memory of those stars is etched in my mind.

I spent a few feeble minutes trying to take a picture, but I spent hours, literally hours, sitting on a chunk of limestone and looking up at the twinkling luminaries of the night.

“Why do stars twinkle?” Laurel asked the other day.

“So we can sing songs about them,” I told her.

She was looking for the scientific explanation and read to me from her science notebook.

The stars twinkle because the air over our heads is turbulent and as it blows past, it distorts the incoming light from the stars making them appear to slightly shift position and brightness level in seconds…

I think they twinkle for the songs.

Especially in a Texas sky.

Over a castle.

 

A to Z Blogging Challenge · Faith

Magnificent

M is for multiple things.

DSC03827
Welcome to Monticello, now synonymous with broken buses

Like MonticelloThat’s where the bus broke down. It’s so easy to mentally go back to those broken down places.

But M is also for Moving  On.  It may be easy to go back, but it’s also important to move on.

M is for Mirrors, because reflection is important.

Frio River from the balcony
Frio River from the balcony

M is for Meals, each one a sumptuous feast at Laity Lodge. More than the food, though, is the sharing of stories that happens over a meal — telling the tales of broken down buses or lives, and finding peace and acceptance even when the whole story is told.

Dining at Laity (photo by Kristen Peterson)
Dining at Laity (photo by Kristen Peterson)

M is for the Moon.  Its light is merely a reflection of the sun’s light. I don’t want to be corny about it, but my friends also reflect the Son’s light for me, and that’s very precious. Because sometimes the night is dark, and the only light we can see is a reflected one.

The moon at Laity Lodge
The moon at Laity Lodge

And M is for each Moment and the Miracle of living life — because each breath we take should no more amazing than that first breath from the womb.

Each blade of grass, each rock piled on rock, each bird at the feeder, each tear, each friend, each mountain, each sunset, each lift-off, each landing, each ( fill-in-the-blank ) — they are all miracles.

We lives a series of miracles most of which escape our notice.

Life is rich. Magnificent, in fact, when we choose to embrace it.

And Magnificent also begins with M.