Monthly Archives: May 2016

Watch Them Soar

I can watch them for hours as they coast on the air currents high above my head. They seem to play with each other…follow the leader, tag, red rover red rover won’t you come over… Some arrange themselves in perfect formation, vees of aerodynamic perfection performing intricate maneuvers in mid flight. Others fly solo, seemingly free from the attachments of family or community.

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Birds are hard to photograph.  Maybe that’s the draw for me.  They don’t sit still and the slightest movement sends them to the sky.  They seem spare and compact, unlimited by the constraints of time and space.

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”

Robert Lynd

Birds require patience and silence.  I have to sharpen my senses, still my heart, and settle into the landscape to have a chance to watch them in action.  And when I pay close attention I learn a lot about the unique qualities of the birds I am watching–and maybe something about myself too.

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Watching birds is a lot like teaching.  The most important part of my work is getting to know my students.  I have to recognize the subtleties of their behavior, knowing when to let them grapple productively and when to step in and offer support–a place to perch until their wings are ready for the next flight.  I have to remember to be still and let the learning come rather than force my pace. Patience and silence are important here too.

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Like students, birds often seek cover, blending in with their surroundings rather than risk standing out in the open, exposed and vulnerable.  But when the space is safe enough and if you listen carefully, you’ll hear their song.  And with time you recognize those voices, even when you don’t see them.

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When the light is right for a mirror-perfect reflection, I realize that I love birds in the wild but resist the idea of caging these creatures. Yeah, they’re easier to get close to and photograph in a cage–but something essential is missing.

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But mostly, birds and students give me hope.

In the words of Emily Dickenson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Watching birds reminds me to expand my self-imposed limits and to give my dreams flight–to take to the metaphorical skies and soar.  And that’s what I want for my students too.  Their lives are awash in possibility. I hope that my small breath under their wings helps lift them to pursue their interests and passions.

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So they can soar.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One

When I’m out taking pictures I tend to depend on two cameras–either my trusty and ever-present iPhone 6s or my mirrorless Sony a6000.  And although I have more than one lens for that Sony, I mostly use my 16-55mm lens.  So on Sunday, I broke out of my usual and put my zoom lens on as we headed out onto the beach for a walk.

I noticed right away that I was looking at things differently.  The change in focal length meant that I had to look into the distance for my subject.  As I walked down the ramp from the parking lot, this kite caught my eye.  I was able to zoom in on the single image…a butterfly on a string!

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And sometimes it’s just about timing.  I looked up and this seagull flew right into my line of sight.  Just one bird on the edge of the frame.

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Later on my walk, I spied this pink bucket sitting solo.  There was something about this bucket, alone that had me zoom in and focus.

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But as I looked at this week’s photos, I realized that I didn’t need my zoom lens to focus on one.  As we stopped by the botanic gardens to enjoy the sunny afternoon, I found myself mesmerized by this swallowtail butterfly.  It’s hard to take pictures of butterflies. In my experience, they seem to want to fly away as I am trying to get them into focus.  But this guy seemed to want to pose.  He let me come closer and closer as I snapped away–so I could see the intricacies of his wings as he sipped nectar.

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Geoff and I decided to visit a new outlet mall on Saturday evening–one some distance away from home.  As sunset grew close, we grabbed a coffee and headed to a nearby beach.  He walked the rocks, searching for sea glass and picking up trash and I snapped photos of the sunset.  Here I captured a single lifeguard tower silhouetted in the setting sun.

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And Tuesday’s foray away from the most traveled path took me to the Mt. Soledad park.  There’s a veteran’s memorial, a controversial cross, and amazingly breathtaking views of the coast and the city.  I noticed this one American flag fluttering against the puffy white clouds.

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So…what one subject will you capture in your photo(s) this week?

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

Head out with your camera and look for one…and capture it in a photo (or two or three…).  What one will you choose?

The Path Not Taken

Sometimes I find myself in a rut–stuck in the mud, sinking lower and lower so that it seems that all I see are shoe tops.  Instead of appreciating the beauty around me, I get mired in the minutia of everyday–dishes and laundry, report cards and meetings, and traffic!

When I’m in that rut I don’t always see the possibilities.  I find myself traveling the same paths, butting up against the same barriers…and even thinking the same not-so-inspiring thoughts!

And I know that I am lucky.  I enjoy my work–most of the time–and all it entails.  My students are a source of energy, my colleagues keep me learning and growing, and the end of the school year means my work will change–adding variety and new stimulation to the mix.  But…there’s that rut…and at this time of the year lots of others are in it too.

Yesterday, after a long work day I was heading to a planning meeting with some colleagues.  And instead of the provocative thinking I knew I would experience when I got there, my mind was on the traffic and the frustration of the snail’s pace I would experience as I got on the freeway.

So I ventured out in another direction.  There was some traffic as I set off, but as I crossed the intersection that could have taken me to the freeway, I headed into the hills. The road was narrow and steep as it curved through neighborhoods with breathtaking views.  As I reached the top I pulled off into a park–well known in these parts.  A place I had been before, but never think to visit.  It’s off the usual path, less direct, with a lower speed limit.

And this path not taken led me to wonder and inspiration…and jubilation!

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I was treated to amazing views of my city.  I could look north to La Jolla shores and the Scripps pier, east toward the mountains and the communities between.  As I looked south I saw the iconic structures of our downtown and the bays and ocean that frame it.

I felt like I could touch the clouds from this place on the hill.  And in spite of the clouds I could see forever in all directions.  The sky was clear and the sun peeked through, brightening my outlook and my attitude.

I don’t have to stay in the rut, mired by routine and overwhelmed by the demands of the end of the school year.  But I do have to find the spaces of inspiration, make time for moments of vacation and renewal even when time is in short supply.

This is one of those lessons that I need to remind myself of over and over again.  It’s easy to stay in the rut, to do the same thing, travel the same roads, talk to the same people, see the same sights.  I’m already thinking about other ways I can shake up my ordinary and pull myself out of the rut…the view is so much better here!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Here

Exotic photo shoots just don’t happen very often for me.  Most of the time I take pictures here…right where I am.  And most days the only camera at my fingertips is my phone, so I take it out and look for something interesting or just ordinary and snap away.

On Monday when I stopped to check the mail on my way home from work, the magnolia blossoms caught my eye.  In particular, I was drawn to this one that seemed to be unraveling–well past the prime of the bloom.  I pulled out my camera and captured this.

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Light traffic on Tuesday meant that I arrived for an appointment with plenty of time to spare.  So I headed to the beach nearby to take in a breath of two of salty air.  Right here I found a secret pathway down to the beach.  I love the way the ocean peeks through.

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But right here I also found an abandoned mylar balloon.  These things are simply too common on our beaches.  I picked this one up and placed it in the trash.

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This week has been beyond busy with too many meetings, too much to do, and Open House!  (I love Open House–the perfect celebration of learning, but it definitely involves a push to get ready and to help students be ready too!)  With a few minutes to spare before I needed to get back to school for Open House last night, I stopped by the beach (you might notice a theme here).  I didn’t have enough time for a walk…but I did have enough time to stack up some rocks and watch the waves roll in.  Sometimes balance means taking available minutes here and there to let my mind wander and refresh my perspective.

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My students got some of those minutes today.  Our third graders had won extra PE by averaging the greatest number of laps at our school jog-a-thon, so here they are enjoying the parachute with our PE teacher.

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And right here, outside the classroom door, the monarchs are back!  The butterflies we saw last week obviously laid some eggs and now the caterpillars are munching away on the milkweed. This is a favorite place for students to stop and study the caterpillars in action.  No chrysalis yet…

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So, what’s happening in your here this week?  Where’s your go-to “here” for a mental break, for a moment of relaxation, to enjoy the moment?

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

So here you go…find here with your camera and give us a glimpse!  I can’t wait to see what you find.