Tag Archives: muse

One Little Word 2019

Like so many others, I gave up New Year’s resolutions years ago.  I know myself well enough to know that good intentions will likely not change my behavior over the long haul.  Of course I want to eat better, exercise more, and be a kinder, more thoughtful person.  But resolutions have never gotten me there.

I few years back I became intrigued with the idea of a word guiding my year.  Choosing that word can be challenging.  I ponder a variety of ideas, trying hard not to pick a word just because others are choosing it.  I often read an array of blog posts, paying close attention to the rationale guiding the word choice, at the same time thinking about my personal goals and intentions for the new calendar year.

Here are my past words:

2014: Play

2015: Explore

2016: Expand

2017: Possibility

2018: Stretch

I notice that I seldom select my word as the year turns.  I seem to need time to mull it over–to come off the whirl of the holidays before deciding on my direction for the new year.  And this year is no different.  I’ve tried on some different words, considered revisiting some from previous years, but it wasn’t until today that I felt the pull of a word for this year.

I know myself well enough to know that I need a word that not only guides but also inspires, one that pushes me beyond what I would do without a muse word.  When I look over the past 5 years of word selections, it was my first word: play, that moved my life forward.  Play reminded me to step beyond my work responsibilities and take time out to enjoy life.  It reminded me to dig in the sand, to laugh with my family, to try things I’d never done before.

So for 2019 I’m asking make to guide me.  As I walked along the beach today, make kept finding a place in my mind.  Make time for exploration and play.  Make minutes count, appreciate all that comes my way.  Be creative, make writing, make art, make a difference. Make healthy choices and make the most of possibilities that present themselves.

I’ll be making an effort to be present and enjoy all that comes my way.

egret on a railing

What One Little Word will guide you this year?

Weekly Photo Challenge: #findjoy

When I get up each day and make my way into the world, I find myself looking for scenes and images that speak to me.  Sometimes I take ten photos and one “works,” the others lacking in something that makes them special.  Sometimes I take one photo, seemingly a throwaway, and it sings, bringing me joy and helping me frame my day.  I was reminded by a blogger/photographer that I follow, Joy over at Joyfully Green, that photography can be a way to find joy and peace in our turbulent world.

I walk this path frequently, it is familiar yet ever-changing.  This week’s weather has brought lots of clouds our way–this day my attention was drawn to the clouds that seemed to be sitting on the horizon line.  I was having trouble getting a shot that captured that sense of the low-lying clouds.  This seagull caught my eye…and helped me frame the cloud formations as well.


Some days my photo opportunities are related to the errands I need to run.  I noticed the moon the other evening as I got back into my car in the Trader Joe’s parking lot.  And when I didn’t love the photo, I set to playing around with some apps to see if I could produce a different  effect.  I like the monochromatic effect and the way it helps bring focus to the moon peeking through the tree branches.


Another beach walk brought the light to my attention.  I think my favorite time of day for photos is the time before sunset when the sun seems to kiss faces and highlight waves.  Again, clouds were my muse allowing me to capture the color and light like a watercolor painting.


Sometimes it’s that one shot that calls my name.  I stopped on my way home the other afternoon and was drawn to the silhouetted trees framing the ocean and sky in the background.


Rainy days as a teacher means the kids are cooped up inside all day long…no recess time, nowhere to go to eat their snacks or lunch.  The classroom becomes a space for playing and eating as well as learning…blurring the boundaries and offering fewer outlets for youthful energy.  It was a relief to have no rain on Friday so the kids could get out and RUN! I love the way the ponytail is flying back in this image, hinting at the action and the joy in releasing energy taking place in this still photo.


I’m sure our plants are always confused here in southern California.  It’s hot, it’s cold, it’s dry, then it rains…  The tree in my front yard recently burst into tender green new leaves…in December!  And the trees outside my office at UCSD were raining down fall colors with the raindrops earlier this week, adding some liveliness to an otherwise dreary and gray day.


And when I look closely, I can find joy and beauty in the dry, dead blossom clinging to the orchid in my kitchen window.  There is so much inspiration around us if we just take the time to look and pay attention to details.


So, for this week, take a look around, snap some picture that bring you joy.  You might find it in the petals of a dying flower or the beauty of a sunset.  Or you might notice an interesting pattern of light and shadow or the smile of a stranger.  Maybe you take joy in preparing food or folding clothes for your family…snap a few shots and see what you notice.

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

Head out with your camera with joy as your muse…what will you find to share with the rest of us?



One Little Word 2017: Possibility

I’ve never been a resolution maker.  The idea of changing my life by making pronouncements on January 1st just never appealed to me…and I know me, sticking to “rules,” even those I make, doesn’t seem likely over the course of a year.  But when I heard about the idea of one little word a few years ago, I was intrigued.  The concept of choosing a word as a muse, as inspiration and aspiration seemed like a perfect idea.

In 2014 I chose the word playand let it guide my year.  And play I did.  I took some time for reflection on my word before choosing a new word here.  In 2015 my word was explore.  Explore helped me take play to a new level.  It had me searching for new experiences and seeking out new places.  I know that I surprised my husband with my willingness to do things he didn’t think I would do–and I know I surprised myself as I faced fears and branched out in new ways.  By fall of 2015 I learned that 2016 would be a year of change for me and my family as we welcomed new family members–babies!  I selected expand for 2016, going beyond the literal meaning of adding family members.  I knew that I would need to expand my horizons and perspectives in addition to embracing my new role as grandma to three baby boys!

Learning the power that one word can have on my life over the course of the year raises the stakes on choosing a new word.  I often wait a few weeks into the new year to make my selection; pondering, trying on, discarding.  I like to see others’ choices and read their thinking as another window into the selection process.  This year has been the same.  I’ve been reading the choices of others, reflecting on my past choices and considering potential words for 2017.  And even though it’s only the second of January, I feel convinced that I’ve found my word.

I’ve been looking for a word to help me push beyond my usual boundaries, to see past barriers–perceived or real–that limit my thinking.  I want this year to be about possibilities.  Possibilities like dandelion seeds, taking root where they land and thriving in unexpected places.


I want possibility to encourage me to be kind and curious, strong and creative.  To reach out to others and seek new collaborations with possibility as a signpost.


I want possibility to frame my thinking and take me to new understandings…and new actions.  I want to keep growing, personally and professionally, going beyond the usual and predictable and maybe even comfortable paths I have already traveled.


I look forward to a year with possibility as my muse, a reminder to branch out, consider alternative solutions, blaze new trails, and push myself and my thinking.  I want possibility to help me build stronger relationships with family and friends and create better learning opportunities for my students.  I look forward to the possibilities that photography offers as I explore my world, familiar and beyond.

Right now, the possibilities seem endless.




I am definitely drawn to photograph some images over and over again.  Anyone who reads my blog regularly will recognize the beach where I walk regularly.  There is an endless supply of seagulls, surfers, sunsets, hang gliders, and more.  And I am drawn to photograph them again and again, trying new angles, different light, close ups and vistas.  But is the beach my muse?

Yesterday after a long and busy week keeping me mostly indoors and mostly away from my camera, I just felt the urge to go outside and take some photos.  I was exhausted, my brain full after finishing our first full week in the SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute AND still trying to keep up with and participate in the CLMOOC, and yet I could feel my camera calling.

My husband was in the kitchen performing his culinary magic, the cats lounging nearby (never wanting him beyond their line of sight), so I grabbed my camera and heading into the backyard.

I noticed the lavender first.  It’s not growing as well as I would like, but that didn’t stop me from learning in to get close to this beauty.


I love playing with macro, the way the lens focuses in on the near and blurs out the background. The afternoon sun allowed the vibrance of the greens and purples to come through.  As I looked down I noticed a succulent in a pot that I hadn’t paid any attention to before.  I got low–on my knees–and tucked in under the scented geraniums to get close enough.  I’m remembering that succulents use those small leaves to conserve water, a great adaptation for an environment like this one where water is scarce…and water restrictions are limiting our elective watering too.


I continued to wander, aiming my lens at whatever caught my eye.  I unlatched the gate and headed toward the front yard.  There are usually dandelions there–much to my husband’s chagrin…and my delight.  I noticed this yellow bloom.


and then later, played with the image with the sketch app.


And this later stage dandelion, with most of its seeds blown away caught my eye.  I found myself thinking about wishes and how we often make wishes on a dandelion puff just before we blow the seeds away.  Do those wishes take root or do they float away beyond our reach?


I like the idea that there are still a few wishes left hanging here…and posted this on a friend’s Facebook page to send her birthday wishes last night.  Later, I played with Waterlogue, a watercolor app just to see what effect it might have.

Preset Style = “It's Technical” Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = Technical Pen Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = High Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = Normal Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Minimal Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Wide Paper = Graph Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

But as I continue to think about this idea of muse, I find myself rejecting the idea that the dandelion is the muse.  I do and have taken plenty of dandelion photos.  But I think that the muse, for me, is the camera itself.

With a camera in my hand, my senses are heightened.  I notice my surroundings–with my eyes and my ears…all my senses seem to fire.  And even when I don’t capture an amazing photo, I feel like I see more, hear more, am more present in the moment.

And, as I seek an interesting photo, I find myself looking beyond the beautiful.  Those golden sunset moments are pretty reliable…and I think I will never tire of them, but I am also seeking images that make me think, that help me see beyond the surface and find the beauty in what I might have dismissed as ugly, disposable, a nuisance…


which reminds me as an educator and a human being that we all need to look past the obvious, make a connection and get under the surface to see what we haven’t noticed before.  This dandelion plant caught my eye and drew me into the dry remnants of the puff, the lone seed hanging on, the bud getting ready to reveal the brilliant yellow flower that doesn’t even hint at becoming a puffy seed ball.  It would be easy to yank this week out and toss it into the green waste (and my husband might when he heads out to mow the lawn), but I’m glad I got to lean in, look closely and discover some of the wonders I might have otherwise missed.

I feel lucky to have my camera as my muse…and even without looking through my lens, it’s teaching me to pay attention, look closely, and connect to better understand myself and my world…and better yet, give me insights into the experiences of others as well.  I may not walk in the shoes of the people I encounter, but by listening carefully, looking closely, and opening my heart, I can do my part to be inclusive, accepting, and strive to understand beyond my own experiences.

How does your muse influence you?

Follow Your Muse: February’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Sometimes I notice that I need to study my subject carefully through my photography.  I find myself taking photo after photo as I work to capture the mood, the personality, the intricacies of what I am photographing.

Last week, it was seagulls that served as my muse.  I worked to capture them in flight, up close, from behind…fascinated by their movement, their expressions, their antics.

Today it was a ladybug who happened to catch my eye as I knelt to study an interesting plant.  It climbed around and around…seemingly playing hide and seek with my camera lens!

Sometimes it’s light…at night.  Trying to figure out how to frame the glow, capture the shine, or the way light plays with dark.

So your #sdawpphotovoices challenge for February is to find your muse and study it carefully.  You might take a number of shots of your subject or follow you subject over a series of days.  Here are some possible prompts to help you find a focus:

Week 1:  (February 1-7)   Place

Week 2:  (February 8-14)  Nature

Week 3:  (February 15-21)  Light and shadow

Week 4:  (February 22-28)  Composition

So spend February following your muse.  Let your eye wander, and then settle on that subject that captures your attention and spend some time with it.  Try shooting from different angles, up close and further away, from below and above.  Pick a single photo to post or create a gallery of your efforts.  Post a photo or gallery each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts. If you would like to expand your exploration, write the story that the photo tells, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, or make a video or slideshow. You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

Take some time to be inspired by that ladybug, your furry friend, the buildings you pass each day as you head to work…   You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can post your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it–or make up your own prompt for the day or the week! You get to make your own rules…and find your own muse.  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

Head out in search of that muse…and follow it for a while.  What will you learn by following your muse…and letting others see it through your lens?