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SOLC Day 27: Exploring the Ordinary

As someone who takes and posts at least one photo a day…and has for years now, being under a stay at home order has been challenging. So in the spirit of making the best of a bad situation, I’m working to make myself pay attention to the ordinary, to find the interesting and beautiful in what I see around my house and in the neighborhood.

Walking to the mailbox has been a highlight of my days now. An opportunity to get out of the house and into the fresh air. Our mailbox is down the street, enough of a walk to feel like a break. There’s a house near the mailboxes that really has extraordinary landscaping. Fruit trees laden with citrus, colorful flowers, and lush, deep purple lavender.

I knelt low, deciding I wanted to capture that intensity of purple and in that moment I came face-to-face with with busy little pollinators! Bees hard at work. I took a few shots, hoping I had captured those buzzing beauties.

You can judge the result. (This is an unedited iPhone photo)

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I’m having to recalibrate my photographic eye–looking for interesting photo opportunities in the most ordinary of settings. But it feels like a good stretch–something may help me extend my photo skills and improve the breadth of my photography range as I explore the ordinary.

What are you photographing these days while you are stuck at home?

Finding my Spirit Animal

I think I’ve found my spirit animal, my patronus (to borrow from Harry Potter).  This is not the same as saying here is my favorite animal or here is the animal I identify with, this is the animal that keeps finding me and when it does, it brings me energy and calm, power and focus.  

Long walks along the beach have become a norm for me.  At first I started walking for a reason to take pretty photos.  But the more I walk, the more I need to walk and the more I want to walk.  I walk to burn off calories, to engage my muscles, and to breathe. I walk to think, to reflect, and to problem solve.  I walk to notice, to engage with the world, and to write. I most often walk on my way home from work, but I also walk on weekends, on vacations, and sometimes right before the sun sets.

Seagulls are a staple of my walks on the beach.  These birds are the ever-present, iconic bird of the beach.  They gather on the shore, they swoop and soar overhead, they keep a sharp eye on things…especially those snacks people think they have tucked carefully away for after their ocean dip.  Pelicans are a regular sighting as well. These bombardiers fly in perfect formation, shifting leaders as they speed along the coastline.  If you watch carefully, you may spot one over the head of the surfers waiting for the perfect wave as it waits and then suddenly drops, snapping up a fish in its huge pouch-like bill.  And there are the sandpiper category of birds (curlews, avocets, plovers) that love the low tide feeding opportunities. They are much shyer than the seagulls and much more fun to watch as they run up and back with the waves.  And I take lots of photos of all these birds, trying to creep up close without causing them to fly off.

But back to that patronus, the spirit animal.  Some people have always known their spirit animal.  For my husband, the bear is his kindred spirit. He takes comfort and energy from seeing bears and identifies with their fierceness, their lumbering ways, the way they protect their young, and their general good looks.  I have never considered that I might even have a spirit animal until lately. I think I started to make some connections about the possibility of animal totems when I read a post by a virtual friend, Molly Hogan over at Nix the Comfort Zone where she talked about the significance of some Baltimore oriole sightings outside her window.  When I read about Molly’s oriole, I immediately thought about the snowy egret sightings I had experienced–and the joy each sighting brought.  I’d been writing about egrets and photographing egrets without considering any connections I might have to them.

egret in the surf

I often come across these beautiful birds at low tide and spend lots of time watching their bright yellow feet stomp the murky water to bring fish and other food possibilities out of hiding.  I learned to creep close without disturbing the birds, clicking my camera lens trying to get a perfect shot. And lately, the birds seem to be finding me. Just recently egrets have appeared at unexpected spots along my beach walk, and we’ve hung out together on the edge of the surf.  Each sighting brings a sense of calm and intense pleasure, a camaraderie and comfort that comes from being with those you care about and who care about you.

egret close with ruffeld feathersegret looking

And then, as I started writing this earlier this week I came across an art print a CLMOOC friend had sent me a while back while I was looking for a container of sea glass I have on display in my house…a print of a heron.  I stopped and snapped a photo of it, remembering that when I had looked up animal totems on the internet that heron and egret were defined together.

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Later in the afternoon I headed out for my usual beach walk.  I was feeling good already, the sun was shining (something that can be a bit iffy in these parts in June), I found a parking place not too far away, and I was ready to stretch my legs and breathe deeply.  As usual my camera was strapped around my neck, ready for whatever shot presented itself. As I reached the mile mark along my walk I considered turning back, but decided since the day was so beautiful and the tide was cooperative I would continue on a bit further.  I am so glad I did…just at about the point I had planned to turn around I noticed the familiar shape in the surf. But wait, it wasn’t white. As I walked closer and watched carefully I could see that it was a great blue heron hanging out in the surf! I have never seen a heron on any of my beach walks, but there it was!  

heron in the surfheron flying

The coincidence seems too great to be a random sighting.  I am certain these birds are bringing me messages of calm and support.  They are certainly bringing me strength and inspiration and an incredible jolt of joy.  So I am claiming the egret and heron as my spirit animals, patronus if you will, there to call on in times of need.  

So now I am wondering, do we each have a spirit animal, an animal totem representing our strengths and bringing us power and focus?  Is there more to the heron/egret than I have yet discovered?  I’d love to hear about your experience with your patronus!

 

This is Just to Say…

Today’s poetry inspiration came from Williams’ poem of apology, This is Just to Say.  In addition to studying the original, we also read some of the poems written by 6th graders in the book also titled This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman.

Students had fun playing around with their own poems of apology.  Here’s a couple composed by the third graders in my class to give you a taste:

Dear Romeo,

I’m sorry I have to whip you sometimes

Also, I might tire you out sometimes,

but you’re always a handsome horse

lovable, huggable, gentle, and soft

Oh how I love your long mane

drifting in the sky

when we canter across the field

Love,

Tyler

I gave them a whole 7 minutes of writing time!  It’s conference week, so students are on a minimum day schedule…and time is short!

I’m sorry Kai for poking you.

Sorry, I really didn’t think it through.

Although we had fun doing it, I’m sorry Kai for poking you.

Cody

And one more student poem, this one inspired by yesterday’s Red Wheelbarrow.

The Thread

 

So much depends on

a brand new jacket

and a loose thread

 

Pulling

into bits and pieces

 

until it is

one loose

and wiggly line

 

Lauryn

I found myself returning to the topic I explore in my first two poems.  Today’s was written to that same egret I featured before–but from a slightly different angle.

This is Just to Say, My Friend

 

I have stalked you

my lens focused close

waiting for your head to turn

your neck to arch.

 

You seem so peaceful

and focused as you

stare out at the blue horizon

scanning for danger

or maybe appreciating the view.

 

I’m sorry for any disturbance

I cause with my close looking

and the click of the shutter.

 

I just can’t resist your elegant neck

and charming yellow feet!

 

Douillard 2018

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Maybe, dear reader, you’ll try your own poem of apology today!

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.