Tag Archives: government

Weekly Photo Challenge: Small

I’ve been thinking small this week.  Not small as in narrow-minded or short-sighted, but appreciating smallness.  There’s the tiny hands of my newborn grandsons with their perfect miniature fingernails.  (I know, I’m obsessed with these new little people…I just can’t get enough of them!)


And then there’s the funky small Burbank airport where you walk out of your regular sized airplane outdoors onto the tarmac into an old fashioned small terminal building. And then discover that the baggage claim carousel is outdoors!


I’ve also been noticing all the small signs of spring–especially in my backyard.  I noticed the small plum tree beginning to bud and bloom.


And the lavender plant is beginning to flower.  I love when I lean in, I can see the tiny little flowers that make up the larger blossom.


Arriving in Washington, DC for the National Writing Project (NWP) Spring Meeting, I found myself thinking about how so often I think of myself as a small cog in the huge machine that is our government.  It’s easy to think that your voice isn’t important–that someone with a louder voice, a stronger opinion, or a bigger soapbox will take care of providing input to our legislators.  But as I walked down those long corridors of the House of Representatives, I realized that it is, in fact, small voices that matter. We can’t leave the government to the loud, to the privileged, to the moneyed.


Our government works best when we participate, even if it feels like my one small voice doesn’t matter.  Even monuments look small when you stand back and look from a distance.


But being here, in our nation’s capitol, I can see the ways that each small piece fits into the next–building strong, textured, and layered structures that endure.  In some ways I see that the elaborate and ornate architecture of this place is also a metaphor for the feat of social and political engineering that is our government.  And like our buildings, if we don’t care for them, pay attention to where they are wearing or have been neglected, government processes break down too.  It takes all of us–each a small part of the whole–to keep our elected officials true to their duties, to raise our small voices together so they can be heard over the fray of disillusionment and partisan politics and keep our country true to its beliefs and freedoms.


And like our capitol building, we have to expose the damage and build some scaffolds to reach out and make the improvements. I am reminded that my small voice matters.  I can’t sit out the election because I find it unpleasant or because it seems that decisions have already been made (yep–Californians seem so inconsequential in the primary process during presidential elections) and that my one vote doesn’t matter.


So…try thinking small this week…or at least looking small.  (I do realize that my small thinking turned into some big realizations!)  And remember that small is relative.  You might notice something tiny by using your macro lens…or something may simply seem small because it is dwarfed by distance or something even more monumental.

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

Take a look around and notice the small.  Share your small, however large, in a photo or two…maybe your small will result in some big new understandings!

A Day on the Hill

Representative government, a staple of our democracy, is something we often learn about in school…and yet seldom engage in beyond voting.  But for the last several years, through my interactions with the National Writing Project, I have had the opportunity to push myself to delve more deeply into the governing process as I visit the congressional representatives of our region to advocate for our organization by heading to Capitol Hill in Washington DC.  This means making appointments with our congress people, meeting with them to talk about the work we do locally, and often making a request that they sign onto a Dear Colleague letter or support a particular piece of legislation coming up for a vote.

And for the last few years, my friend and San Diego Area Writing Project colleague, Abby Robles, has been coming with me, setting up appointments, and helping to build relationships with the representatives and their staffs.

There’s something larger than life about this city.  Monuments loom large, bringing the history of our country into focus.  The streets teem with people…and when you are on Capitol Hill, most are in dark suits rushing here and there.  Armed sentries stand at attention and the entryway to all governmental buildings require passage through metal detectors.

Like hives, the houses of representatives buzz with groups of people in conversation.  Tiny elevators carry people from floor to floor of massive marble hallways, old fashioned clocks beep and wink indicating voting in progress.  Impossibly young interns man the phones, handle queries, and usher people in and out for appointments.  Each office is decorated with artifacts of “home,” the place the congressperson represents.

Last year Abby decided to make a movie about her trip to DC to show her students.  So we talked through her plan, scoped out potential shots, and considered how we could use our time in at the Capitol to tell a story.  With Abby as the star, I was pressed into service as cinematographer, filming pieces of our visit that she would stitch together into the movie.  It was great fun…and the movie was quite a hit!

And so this morning, Abby was eager to make a new movie for her students and we began talking as we walked to the Capitol for our meeting.  A conversation we have had before is about the word capitol with an “o” and how it is different from the word capital with an “a.”  This led us to the discussion of the multiple meanings of words…and what ultimately became the inspiration for the story Abby would create for her students.

I was studying carefully today, taking in Abby’s process as we thought about the different movie scenes and planned the shots.  I have tiptoed into some movie making…but have only used photos…no video at this point.  (Here is a movie I made a year ago) We had lots of fun with word play as we considered the many possibilities for words that had meaning in this place where our government lives. And as we shot each scene, we were thinking about what would come next…knowing that we would ask our representative, Scott Peters, to play a role in the video.  And what a great sport he was, not only agreeing to play along, but also adding his own twist to the plot, creating complexity and authenticity.

Making the movie kept our day lively, as each place we went became fodder for our thinking about multiple meaning words.  And by including the congressman in the movie, our conversation with him became more genuine.  We laughed, shared stories about our work and his, and engaged his staff in our video vision.  The making made us curious…about words, about this place, about angles and light and sound.  And it felt good to find a suitable end piece…and a crazy coda with Abby dancing on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Abby pieced the movie together…some during our lunch in the House of Representatives cafeteria…and the rest in the hotel bar as people came together to share the results of their day on the hill.  And here it is!  A lovely movie that reflects Abby’s thinking and her hard work…and I can’t wait to share it with my students too!

I think I’m ready to try a movie of my own.  I don’t think I will be starring in it…I don’t see myself as quite the actress that Abby is.  But I’m ready to try my hand at thinking through scenes, planning shots, and creating a story through the process.  Wish me luck!