Category Archives: clmooc

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

As I fly through the air, heading back home, I imagine all of those Southwest Airlines lines crisscrossing the US map. I know I am on one of the routes, detouring south into Texas, before landing me at home in a few hours.

With lines on my mind, my array of photos taken while in Washington, DC also revealed lines. It’s impossible to miss the razor sharp edges of the Washington Monument rising into the deep blue sky. The iconic lines remind me that this is a place filled with history—both proud and shameful—and the seat of our nation’s government.

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It was exciting to be walking the floors of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Thursday amidst the scurry and hustle of the impending health care vote. We found ourselves greeted graciously by most of our local representatives’ aides, interested to hear about the work we do at our writing project to support local teachers and kids. Stairs and hallways curve and extend, a maze of lines leading (hopefully) to legislation that improves lives.

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The Capitol building, finally without its parallel lines of scaffolding, represents the government at work—and that we, as constituents, must exercise our democratic rights and let those who represent us know what we need and want from our government.

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When I travel, I find it hard not to cram every spare minute with outings. So after a long day on the hill, we headed out to the tidal basin in search of cherry blossoms. The day was cool and crisp, but sunny. Perfect for our long walk. I admire the resilience of these delicate buds. The snow and cold slowed them down last week—and there was evidence of some damage here and there, but for the most part, the trees were dressed in their best pinks and whites. The lines of the branches create an interesting view of the columns of the Jefferson Monument right across the basin.

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The long walk back brought us through the Mall and the busloads of kids from all over heading to museums in their matching sweatshirts. Lines of silver sent us on a detour into a sculpture garden where those lines led to a silver tree reaching crooked branches into the sky.

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And had us contemplate this pyramid like piece that seems flat on one side, but on the other side the shadows created lines of light and dark giving the structure texture and dimension.

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A break between meetings the next day sent us scurrying in search of the organic lines of a giant blue chicken. Lucky for us, the National Gallery of Art is an easy walk from the hotel where we stayed…and we spied the chicken from the street. It almost feels criminal to spend only a short time in a huge museum…but the chicken was enough for me. Why does someone sculpt a giant blue chicken? Maybe in the words of my friend’s refrigerator magnet,

“I look forward to the day when a chicken can cross the road without having her motives questioned.”

e3bcca14-be4a-4cb9-844e-4dded5b32ec2A quick trip to the gift shop led us to sparkling lights beckoning to the other National Gallery of Art building. We had no time for visiting, but we did ride the straight lines of the moving sidewalk as I took photos of the lines of lights twinkling all around.

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So, where have lines led you this week? A children’s book in the museum reminded me that lines are straight and curved, thick and thin, parallel and intersecting… (I might need to buy this one for my grandsons!) It also had me thinking about all the different ways I might consider lines, from those carefully planned in architecture to those organic lines that bend with the wind and curve toward the sun.

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

Uncover the lines in your life this week, what will you find?

A Tiny Celebration of Writing

I aspire to a daily writing practice, following my thoughts where they lead, planting seeds of ideas that may produce something more at a later date, documenting life’s everyday events—both ordinary and extraordinary. Many days I fail to write, excusing myself mostly because the practice is not firmly established enough to be a habit that I no longer have to prioritize. But sometimes I get the opportunity to write in the course of my day…a treat that reminds me of my intention.

Last week as part of some work bringing National Writing Project (NWP) teachers and science museums together to consider ways they might partner to support students and teachers, I wrote. On my table a hotel coffee cup contained some small shells and a couple of hand lenses. We were invited to examine a shell, sketch, and write.

Here’s my beginning thinking—the result of taking about five minutes to sketch and write.

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Layers of ridges that wrap the diameter and also extend along the length give the surface a spiky texture that I can feel as I roll the shell between my fingers.

Spiraling up from a tiny sharp tip, an opening is revealed on one side of the widest part. Although I’ve seen a version of this shell many times, I don’t know who lives there or what it is called.

I imagine a tiny snail carrying its home on its back, washed with the tides without a permanent resting place. Perhaps these creatures are the original Tiny House Nation, secure, bringing their homes—intricately assembled for efficiency and functionality—with them wherever they roam.

I’m reminded again of the importance of establishing this daily practice, even if in tiny spurts—one I regularly espouse for my students and teachers I work with. Can I spare five minutes a day for writing? Of course, everyone has five minutes somewhere. Why don’t I write for five minutes every day? There are a million excuses—among them, the fear that I will need not five minutes but an hour once I get started.

So today I’ve written another five minutes or more, moving this small piece from my notebook to my blog and adding a bit of context. I hope this is a catalyst for reestablishing that daily writing habit, even if for only five minutes a day. Today I will celebrate the tiny start and be reminded that small starts are betting than not starting at all.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extreme

Just when it seems that one day is pretty much like the other, an outlier comes along.  In the case of my week, it started with the superbloom in the desert–an opportunity to hike in Borrego Springs–just a couple of hours from where I live.  Our wet winter has resulted in extreme beauty (and extreme crowds) in the desert right now.

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On our drive to the desert, we have to go over the mountains and past a lake.  It was unusual to spot a huge patch of fog, isolated to a particular place, far from the coast as we neared Lake Henshaw.  Something about the temperature differences resulted in this extreme condition…and we had to pull to the side of the road to capture its beauty.

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Once in the desert, in addition to the plethora of flowers we also found ourselves with extreme access to big horned sheep.  We watched them frolic over the rocky hillsides with their small and cute babies, blending into the environment.  I felt lucky to spot these three in the distance, framed by the ocotillo and the clear blue sky.

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A trip to Philadelphia midweek had me dealing with a different kind of extreme…once I finally secured a flight since mine was canceled!  I left the warming temperatures on the west coast to head into the chill of the east.  Although the snow had stopped, it was piled high making walking a bit like an obstacle course.  I spied these tulips…triggered by warm temps the previous week…trying to make their way in the snowy ground.

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The Rodin sculpture garden was beautiful, framed in white with the sun shining bright in the thirty degree day.

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I noticed the ice on The Thinker, with the sun shining through its crystalline structure.  I kept thinking about the juxtaposition of fire and ice (and Robert Frost)–and my own experience with hiking in the 90 degree desert on Sunday and walking in the thirty degree snow on Thursday!

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But this guy really captures extreme for me as he disrobed on the lawn near the Franklin Institute for a little cold weather sunbathing.  (I was in a thick, bulky jacket, a woolen scarf, and layers of clothes complete with boots–feeling the chill as I walked.)  Extreme sunbathing, for sure!

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So what extreme have you experienced this week?  Extreme beauty? Extreme weather? Extreme outrage, happiness, or sadness?

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

Grab your camera and find whatever kind of extreme is lurking in your life this week!  Take it in whatever direction the extreme leads you…and be sure to share.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

As the sun has come out, so have the colors.  The combination of a wet winter and some spring-like temps have plants growing and flowers blooming.  I noticed these native beauties near the beach the other day peeking around the railings near the parking lot.  With their vivid yellow color, they are almost like tiny suns on a stem!

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Later in the week, from my walk along the shore, I noticed this house on the hill.  Now I walk this stretch regularly, so the house is not a new sight, but I was drawn both by the seagull sitting on the rooftop and by the tones of green displayed on the cliff.  If you look in the foreground you can see prickly pear cactus in abundance.  Just wait til they begin to bloom!

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Sometimes the color I find on the beach is less desirable.  I came across this beautiful blue bottle in the surf, washed up or left on the beach.  As part the efforts of the #litterati (a group of people who post photos of trash they pick up and dispose of), I snapped this shot before picking up the bottle.

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Blue is not an unusual color on the beach.  I notice lots of blues there in both the sky and the water, like this shot with the sun coming through the cloudy skies.

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And this one of the waves curling and crashing in the hazy afternoon sun.

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And then there are the colors of a sunset, this one with some pelicans flying through.  In this case enhanced by a filter that took ordinary beauty and intensified the colors into these brilliant yellows and oranges.  I’m always surprised by how certain images are transformed by a filter (like this one) while others are not.

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So, take a look around.  What colors are you seeing this week?  Are they bright and vibrant, or subdued and muted?  You might consider capturing hues of a single color or maybe you’ll try to capture all the colors of the rainbow.

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

Turn your camera on the color around you, and share what you find with us!  What color is most prevalent in your place, or is it the absence of color that you are noticing?  I’m looking forward to your color this week!

Over My Shoulder

It’s there, a constant, even when I can’t see it, hanging out over my shoulder.  It follows me around as it changes form, exerts its influences on the tides, and even becomes invisible.

As our students learn more about the solar system and space, I realize how little I really know about these things myself.  Of course I know the names of the planets and some basic information about them.  I know that the sun is our star and that our solar system is heliocentric.  I know that scientists continually update their own understandings about space and its celestial inhabitants…that Pluto has been demoted and a new solar system was recently discovered.

But honestly, it’s the moon that fascinated me.  I love that it appears large and low, orange like a pumpkin at some times of the year.  I’m fascinated by that Cheshire cat smile that greets me on a dark, clear night. And I can’t resist those slender crescents that seem to wink into view in the warm, short nights of summer.  I constantly wonder at its presence during the day…and today was one such day.

I looked up during my walk this afternoon, the sky was particularly blue as the sun shone brightly.  This is really the first warm day we’ve had in a while.  Tucked under the large palm, there it sat…not as bright as in the dark of night, but noticeable all the same.

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I’ve struggled to photograph the moon effectively at night, but during the day, I’ve had a bit more luck.  But that doesn’t mean I will stop trying to take a portrait of this friend of mine.  I like knowing the moon is right over my shoulder, a constant companion I can depend on, even when I can’t see it and even when I can’t photograph it.  It’s there, and that’s enough.