Monthly Archives: April 2015

Staying Afloat

I love my job. And yet, I still need time off to refresh and recharge…to stay afloat amid the demands of the work I love. Sometimes I am tempted to use my time off to catch up on the work details that build up in the course of my daily work life or to tackle those cleaning and organizing projects that take so much time. But this week, I mostly spent time exploring, enjoying…and not too much else.

And for this week staying afloat meant climbing the California Tower with my sister and looking out over the beautiful city where I live. The tower, that has been closed to the public for most of my life, offers 360 degrees views…to the ocean, to the mountains, and more. And because of the unique flight path in San Diego, I was watching planes descend right over the city skyline.

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We also met up with this mallard duck couple enjoying a private swim in the small garden fountain. The morning light in this unedited photo seems to emphasize the beauty of the ducks and the surrounding fountain and gardens.

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We found these overturned boats and flowers near the place where Geoff and I lived many years ago, right after we first got married. In the background you can see the boats that are afloat and the brilliant blue of Mission Bay.

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And as much as I love this place I live, getting away helps me to unwind and push work into the background. So afloat, high in the air (is that a stretch of the word afloat?), we journeyed up the coast to San Francisco. This is one of those places I have been to many times, but sometimes forget to “see” it. As we headed out of the city to a destination further north, we took the time to stop and appreciate the towering icon that is known as the Golden Gate Bridge.

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I love San Diego beaches…but northern California beaches are a different breed. These are rough and wild…and in the springtime, adorned with beautiful wildflowers. As we stood looking off the cliff near the Point Cabrillo lighthouse, we watched an osprey soar toward us with a fish gripped in his talons. We heard about the migrating whales another couple had just seen, and watched this squirrel nibble near the edge of the cliff.

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A highlight of our trip was a visit with my son and daughter-in-law. They treated us to a hike up a local mountain…Mt. Diablo. As we drove the curving mountain roads, dodging intrepid bicyclists, my son told us about this peak’s unique qualities—including unobstructed views for miles around. Our day wasn’t crystal clear, but the views were breathtaking!

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And all too quickly, our trip must end. As we drove back to the airport for our trip home, I caught another glimpse of beautiful San Francisco and its golden gate…from the Bay Bridge. And with a bit of editing on my iphone photo, you can see what my eyes noticed as we said goodbye.

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I’m wishing for one more day…to wash clothes, pick up some groceries, and maybe catch a nap. But alas, I will be back at work tomorrow…loving every minute and squeezing those essential chores into the creases of my day, and I think that’s where they belong anyway.

Finding Focus

Sometimes life is so busy, it seems to go by in a blur.  Images are out of focus and it’s hard to see with any clarity.  But mostly, when things get busy, I forget to take care of what matters most–my relationships with the people I love.

My one little word this year is explore.  And as the year has progressed, I have discovered that explore means more than journeying outside and exploring the world around me.  It also means exploring my interactions with others, the limits of my physical strength, and how I use my time outside of my work responsibilities.

Hiking in the mountains Saturday with my hubby offered me time and space to breathe deeply (even at 8000 feet of elevation!), spend time together away from chores and other work, and to appreciate the beauty of the natural world.

I took many pictures, but the ones I will highlight here are those that include both a sharp image and a blur–thanks to my macro lens.

The drought means that things are dry, even high in the mountains.  And while we saw a few lingering patches of snow, it’s clear that water is scarce.  But the manzanita was in bloom with its beautiful red wood and pinkish-purple blossoms.

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I’m not sure what these little pods are that caught my eye hanging from the tree I passed.  Small and green and fuzzy looking.

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This plant seemed to have found a water source…with some green buds visible.  If you look closely, you’ll notice a hair caught on the bud while the background is a blur.

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These dry little thistly plants look like weeds…and I love that you can see the blur of the forest behind the crispness of the dry looking plant.

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And here, the mountains are in evidence behind these dry branches.

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It’s easy to get lost in the blur of the hectic pace of everyday life, yet these images remind me that we can decide where to place the focus if we choose.  Life’s too short not to take time to explore…and figure out what is important.  Sometimes the blur is the perfect backdrop, the broad overview, the hustle and the bustle.  And other times we need to focus on what matters most and appreciate what is right in front of us!

Words Have Power

Words have power.  They can hurt…and they can heal.

Our students have been learning about our local history.  They’ve studied the lives of the first settlers, learned about the homestead act, and are fascinated by the stories of those who lived here before us.  And they’ve taken these stories and invented their own playground game.  They call it history.  Essentially, they role-play the lives of these early settlers–some playing the adults, others the children.  (Our school is a part of that history–one of the early schools of the area)

But at lunch recess today, it all went wrong.  Things got rough, and mean words and hurtful actions happened.  We got a heads-up from one of the playground monitors, and expected to see tears as we headed out to our students.  But things were surprisingly calm…until we started to walk back to the classroom.  As the story unfolded, we got a glimpse at both our students’ creativity and imagination…and the escalation of energy, excitement, with some poor choices sprinkled on top of it all.  It became clear that this was not a scuffle between two students, it was a result of good intention, poor choices, swelling anger, and overreaction.

So instead of the plan we had in mind for the afternoon, we decided to address this incident with the entire class…to help our classroom community grow and hopefully give students more tools to use to resolve their own problems.

After talking through the pain and frustration and hearing a variety of perspectives, my teaching partner Margit pulled out a book she had bought a few weeks ago…one we were saving for a time when it seemed useful…and she began to read.  Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus tells the story of Gandhi’s grandson and his feelings of anger…and of not living up to his grandfather’s reputation and expectations.  The ultimate message is that anger is a normal emotion that we all experience–it’s how we deal with it that matters.  Gandhi explains to his grandson that anger is like electricity.  It can split a living tree in two.  Or, he explains, it can be channeled and transformed.  A switch can be flipped and it can shed light like a lamp.  We can all work to use our anger instead of letting anger use us.

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We talked about the difference between being a bystander–one who stands by and sees things escalating and chooses to do nothing.  Or we can be upstanders, people who make a positive difference and think about how they can help.  People who notice when things are escalating and make an effort to change the dynamic.  For our young students, that might mean summoning an adult or using kind, calm language to help their classmates remember to pay attention to the choices they are making.

Our students took some time to breathe out the pain of the negative lunch interaction and breathe in some warm light…and turned to a partner to talk about what they learned from Arun Gandhi’s story of his grandfather.  One student asked me, before heading out for afternoon recess, if they could still play the history game or if it was now off limits.  I responded by reminding that the game itself wasn’t bad…and that I believed they could play the game as long as they remembered what had gone wrong before, and made different choices.

Our students are wonderful.  They are inquisitive, imaginative, and caring.  And they are kids. They get excited, wound up…and sometimes they make choices that get them into trouble. The words we use as adults are powerful too.  We can use them to punish or we can use them teach.

As we sent our students off for spring break today, I could feel the caring and the healing in our community.  We all learned today.  Words hurt…and words healed…and we all learned.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Light and Shadow

I notice light…the way it washes over images, bringing vibrance to colors and highlighting details. And I notice shadow, spaces between light and color that create texture and definition. I love the interplay of the two…and the challenge of capturing what my eyes see through my camera lens.

I came home today to my tulip plant opening in the light of the late afternoon shining through the window. The yellow blossom seems to bring the spirit of spring right into the house.

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Last week when I was back east, I was mesmerized by the shadow of bare tree limbs.  Spring wasn’t much in evidence, but the beauty of nature in all its shadow was.  I love the way that looking up into the tree branches creates images of lace.

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And when I looked up inside the the train station in Baltimore, I noticed light playing with the intricate stained glass ceiling.  My photo doesn’t begin to capture the beauty of the glass and the light!

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Earlier this week at the San Dieguito Heritage Museum my students and i entered this Native American kiicha made of willow branches and wetland reeds.  Looking up I noticed the way the light played with the shadows inside.

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And after school today I treated myself to a short walk on the beach–this is the beginning of my spring break–a much needed week off to gather energy and inspiration for the rest of the school year.  It was warm today…and spring breakers were out in full force.  I noticed the kites flying above the lifeguard tower and the way the sun created silhouettes in the distance.

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So, whether you are on spring break or yours is long over, take some time this week to notice light and shadow.  What time of day does the light catch your eye?  What do the shadows reveal?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #lightandshadow for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So go into the light and explore the shadows in your life.  I can’t wait to experience light and shadow through your lens!