Monthly Archives: June 2015

Learning Season

Officially I guess you can call this the off season for many teachers, the time when schools close for the year, graduations happen, grades are posted, and vacations scheduled.  But there is no off season for learning.

In my few days between closing my elementary classroom and beginning a fast-paced four weeks facilitating our SDAWP Summer Invitational Institute, I have taken some time for myself (most notably, a morning lounging in bed well past my usual 5:30am wake up time)…and for some off season learning.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time driving the freeways between San Diego and Los Angeles over the last week, experiencing the traffic flow (or lack of flow), talking with people who live in the LA area, and spending time exploring this rich and varied place.  In some places driving great distances is the norm.  I have cousins in Washington state who think nothing of jumping in the car and driving for hours across the state to have lunch with a friend or relative and then head back home.  And then there are people in my own community who resist a drive south of the racetrack because they don’t want to deal with the traffic that is common on the nearby freeway interchange.

As I planned a trip to the LA area to visit my son this week, we brainstormed interesting things to do and places to take photos…and there are many.  I carefully planned my own commute to try to avoid morning rush hour (or is that hours?), and found myself thinking about the factors that essentially wall people in their communities…and traffic and transportation are definitely some of them.  With the luxury of a car, I can go places without scoping out bus stops or worrying if someone peed on the seat of the train (had a conversation about this with a lovely young woman who had to buy a new outfit at the conference I was attending because of this issue). But honestly, I’m not so sure just how far I would travel if I had to deal with this kind of gridlock daily.

As we headed out toward Malibu to explore the coastline, my son explained that he tries not to go more than 15 miles from where he lives (and sometimes that 15 miles can easily take an hour to traverse), that it just takes too much time and effort. And there really is no off season for traffic in LA.  But he’s a good son and humors his mom, and we did work to time our trip to avoid the peak traffic times.

Not too many miles from the urban centers of LA are long stretches of beautiful beaches and magnificent canyons.  I love the character of piers–it seems that each has its own personality. And in the gray overcast that if typical coastal SoCal June gloom, we met up with these seagulls who posed perfectly for my shot.


They’ve learned that most people are more interested in taking photos than in bothering them, letting us get quite close.  One of the things I hate most about the coastal grays of May and June is the way it washes all the colors out of the surroundings.  But looking down below the pier, I was able to see the turquoises, greens and blues of the water.


And some miles further north we found Matador beach, a place with huge rocks that jut out of the sand.  Gray weather doesn’t deter determined beach goers–there were plenty of people at the beach.  The tide was fairly high and people were tucked into openings along the cliff face watching children race the waves in hallways carved from rock.


In one of the openings sat a couple of lobster traps washed up on the shore.  I leaned in close with my macro lens to capture some of the complexities of the trap…and very nearly drenched my shoes with the wave that snuck up.  Luckily, I had a graceful moment and lifted my foot just before the wave broke…and still got the shot!


Rather than finding the freeway to get back, we headed down a canyon with majestic views of the hillsides.  In spite of the drought, you can see that we’ve had some recent rains.


And I love the way that urban flowers (some might call them weeds), find cracks in the asphalt to grow and blossom.


And like the urban flowers, humans also find ways to grow and blossom.  LA has a variety of unique communities and many many walls painted with murals, colorful artwork that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit.


And if you look closely you can find the beauty in the ordinary–the shadows cast on old brick buildings, the way the light plays in the treetops as the sun begins to dip…


And if I had been able to stay late enough, I would have seen these chandeliers lit as they hung from the old oak tree…but there is something beautiful and interesting about seeing them in silhouette on among the longest of days this year.


It’s hard to believe that I have lived most of my life in Southern California and only recently begun to explore Los Angeles.  You don’t have to go far to travel to new heights and experiences…mostly what you need to fresh eyes, and it doesn’t hurt to have a camera handy!  I love that there is no off season for learning…it’s a daily adventure!

(And #CLMOOC starts today…more ways to learn and play!  Feel free to join in the fun.)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebrate

This last week of the school year has been a whirlwind of activity.  An end of the year musical production, complete with cookies made by a beloved member of our community that reflected some of our classroom learning (like making mobiles) and also the unique qualities of our local community–like the Cardiff Kook (a public piece of art in our place),


added to our celebration of learning.  Our students sang and danced and described many things we learned this year with their families as appreciative audiences,


Celebration is definitely the word of the week!  And in the middle of the all of this end of the school year celebrating came the DML conference in Los Angeles and the opportunity to share insights learned from our Intersections work on field trips.  Yet another celebration…and lots of hours on the freeways between here and LA.


From the 19th floor I had an interesting view of the city below…and on Thursday looked up from the ground level and found these folks rappelling down the side of the hotel!  (A celebration of conquering addiction)


I celebrated the sunset in the city on Thursday…and then got up before dawn on Friday to share the last day of school with my students back at school.


And then one of my second grade students insisted on a cake “made with love” (not one from Costco) for our class party…staying up until 10pm to pour her love and effort into, a tribute to her passion for learning and appreciation for our learning community.


I headed back to LA Friday afternoon (with way too many others bringing the freeway to a standstill–iconic LA traffic) for two sessions today.  I ended the day celebrating the beginning of the CLMOOC next week…a wonderful, creative, provocative, stimulating opportunity for making and learning with folks from all over the world.  (I encourage you to sign up…even if you only want to take a peek!)  We played a making game with folks from the DML conference, rolling dice to determine words to represent with an image (or a collage in my case).


So what are you celebrating this week?  The days lasting longer?  Sleeping in?  The bounty of your garden?  Finishing the book you’ve wanted to read for a while?

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 #celebration for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What’s worth a bit of celebration in your life this week?  I look forward to seeing celebration through your lens!

The Vibrance of Walking

There is something about putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward, heading somewhere–even if the destination isn’t clear.  I’ve really only learned to appreciate walking in the last few years…before that it was simply a way to get from one place to another rather than an activity in itself.

As I read Brainpickings today, this piece about walking and wanderlust caught my attention.  Rebecca Solnit wrote a book called Wanderlust: A History of Walking…and though I haven’t read the book, this quote caught my attention:

Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.

And for me, walking is a way of paying attention.  Paying attention to my thoughts and feelings and to the world around me.  That “nothing” of walking works as production for me.  It generates creativity, increases my energy and problem solving, and generally increases the vibrance of my daily life.

Walking some dusty urban trails in our downtown park yesterday, I was struck by these vivid desert flowers.  They’ve taken advantage of the rains in May and blooms are in evidence.



Up hills and down, following the twists and turns of the trails I noticed the dryness and imagined what the brush would look like in August.  But for now, a carpet of color explodes calling to the bees and other pollinators…and reminding me to notice and appreciate beauty in unlikely spaces, beyond the park’s groomed landscapes and curated exhibits.  Geoff and I were noticing the differences in the yellow flowers…and naming the ones we have come to know, natives (like me) to this dry and wondrous place.


And in the formal park, we walked by many beautiful blooms.  This hibiscus caught my eye–not only because it is vivid and beautiful, but because of the way the stamen cast a shadow onto the petals.  It would have been easy to walk by, but because I was walking with no particular destination, I took the time to lean down and look closely–finding something wondrous!


Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.


The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making. And so one aspect of the history of walking is the history of thinking made concrete — for the motions of the mind cannot be traced, but those of the feet can.

Today’s landscape for walking was quite different as I headed out in the early morning light, beckoned by the low tide and time pressures.  There was a stillness beneath the rhythmic roar of the waves, quieting the shouts of work that needs doing and responsibilities to deal with, creating space for thought…and no thought.


And while I find my peace though the lens of my camera, Geoff finds his in his call to pick up litter in this beautiful place.  There are plenty of plastic straws, baggies, and food wrappers…and the occasional vibrant red ball left behind, bounced onto the shore by the waves.  We are both engaged in our art, in the rhythms of our body, and in the vibrance of the walk.


Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Way

This week I’m taking my inspiration from the Daily Post weekly photo challenge.  One of the things I love most about photography is that it helps me pay attention to all I see…not necessarily at my destination (physical, mental, or emotional), but all along the way.

I happened to be down near Old Town the other day…and stopped for a few minutes at Presidio Park.  Apparently it is a destination of choice for prom photos…there were lots of teenagers dressed in fancy attire.  It was fun to watch them, but I focused my camera on the historic building and the lighting instead of photographing the kids.


And there is nothing like an old window to inspire an attempt at a window selfie.  It’s certainly not spectacular in the selfie category…but the window is interesting.


And anyone who reads my blog knows how much I love a great walk on the beach.  In spite of no sunshine in sight, there are always interesting things to see on a beach walk.  I’m always trying a new angle on a pier shot…this one tries to get under and over at the same time.


I take lots of photos of seagulls and other seabirds.  I love the way the brilliant blue of the pier railing helps focus attention on the seagull…who was quite patient as I took a few shots.


Last night was our annual outing with the third graders in our class.  We took them rock climbing–it’s such fun to watch them challenge themselves higher and higher up the walls of the climbing gym.  Even the most reticent climbers find their confidence…and beam as they do a little better on each trial.  Afterwards we headed to a burger joint nearby for a shared dinner.  Our students were fascinated by the pool table as they waited for their burgers…and I couldn’t resist playing around with this shot using the app Waterlogue to capture their curiosity and camaraderie.  Learning isn’t confined to the classroom for these kids!

Preset Style = Bold Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Heavy Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = High Contrast Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Blurry Water Bleed = Average Brush = Fine Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Medium Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Medium Options Faces = Enhance Faces

So what do capture with your camera as you’re on the way to somewhere else?  What catches your eye before you reach your destination?

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 #ontheway for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Keep your eyes peeled for interesting things to photograph as your are on your way to your destination.  I can’t wait to see what you find through your lens!