Tag Archives: photography

Reflections on Writing: #whyiwrite

Each year on October 20th people from all over are invited to write, to share their writing, and to consider the prompt: #whyiwrite.  I appreciate a National Day on Writing, a day to celebrate this often unexamined practice that most of us engage in daily.  Sometimes we are confused by the word writing, considering only the writing that appears in bookstores, in magazines, or in prestigious online spaces as “real” writing.

Whatever writing we do is real.  But fear can keep us from getting those words out of our heads and onto a page.  I often find myself writing as I walk, starting a narrative or poem in my head, sparked by something I noticed, overheard, observed.  These words are easily lost, blown into the sea breeze if I don’t make a conscious effort to remember long enough to get them written or somehow recorded for later writing and elaboration.

I find that my words take flight when I turn off that internal censor.  When I stop worrying about writing the perfect essay, saying the “just right” thing that will dazzle and impress someone else.

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But why do I write?  I started blogging to hold myself accountable to regular writing.  But all I write isn’t reflected in this public space.  This space, though, offers me the opportunity to connect, to reflect on my writing, teaching, photography, and life in general.  It lets me start small as I wonder and wander through the ideas in my mind.

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A writing project meeting yesterday led us to a new room on campus, where this quote was prominent on the walls.  I don’t know that it is perfectly true for me, but I like the sentiment. That risk-taking matters.  Sometimes we have to approach an old problem in a new way to figure out a solution.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot when it comes to teaching.  There’s so much talk about how kids are different these days, how they struggle to pay attention (often blamed on our screen-centered society), and how we need to prepare them for jobs that don’t yet exist.  Most of these comments are posed as problems, difficulties to overcome instead of aspirations to reach for.  Why would we teach students today the same content in the same ways as we taught that class ten years ago?  Why is curriculum more similar to than different from what it was when I was a child oh-so-many year ago?  Is this student problem really a teaching problem (or a structures around teaching problem)?  It might just be an assessment problem, since the content that is tested is certainly prioritized in our schools!

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That ever-moving target can sometimes make us all feel like failures.  We keep reaching for THE solution, instead of enjoying each wave as we ride it.  Watching surfers from the San Clemente pier yesterday reminds me of the importance of patience, playfulness, and persistence.  (And those same traits might just apply to the photographer as well!)  I’m sure each surfer out there in the cool, salty water in the slant of light on a late fall afternoon was in search of the perfect wave, the great ride, the most fun…  What I loved as I watched was noticing the surfers spot potential waves, start and stop–sometimes bailing out of a waves at the last possible moment; lining themselves up to catch the upcoming wave–paddling, turning, jockeying with other surfers for position; playing with waves that turned out to be less than–swan-diving backwards out of the ride.  I’m reminded that there is learning and joy in the process, not just the end product. How do we help students (and teachers and parents and the public) see the learning that happens in the trying rather than in the exam or “final product?”

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So why do I write?  I write to play with words and ideas.  I write to problem-solve, to follow a line of thinking to a place where I can grapple with it.  I write to pay attention to the world around me, to inhale the joy and exhale the heaviness.  And I persist in writing even when it feels too hard, too time consuming, too frustrating, too messy.  Writing matters, each one of us has to find all the reasons why for ourselves (we just may need a little nudge from our friends, teachers, lovers, mentors).  Thanks for the nudge National Day on Writing!

Now it’s your turn, why do you write?

 

Considering the Clouds: A Feldgang

It wouldn’t be summer without taking some time to participate in a CLMOOC invitation.  And who could resist an opportunity to engage in a feldgang?  (Yeah, it’s not an everyday term for me either, as I understand it, it’s about paying attention to something you might not otherwise notice.)

Yesterday was the end of an intensive 14-day period of work for me.  When Geoff got home from work, we headed out for a quick dinner and what I hoped would be a view of the sunset at the beach…a mini celebration.  But it was evident, from quite a distance, that a huge wall of clouds would prevent the sunset I was hoping for.

But…the wall was extraordinary.  It was thick and defined.  Not that ordinary gray blanket that obscures the sun that we so often associate with the marine layer in these parts.  The cloud wall did impact the sun and the light…and created a game of peek-a-boo with the sun and the sentinel palm tree that stands guard over my favorite beach.

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The surf was more cooperative than the sky.  Surfers were enjoying the larger than usual waves, showing off their expertise as they whipped and glided and ducked through the barrels formed by the curve of water.  As I snapped photos of the surfers in action, I also noticed the way the clouds and sun above them filtered the light, and depending on the angle changed the color of the water.  With the sun over my shoulder, blues and turquoises peeked through.

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With the sun in my face, sepia tones appeared.  The creamy white of the churning waves creating texture that my eyes could feel.

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Knowing that as the sun dipped lower, the clouds would block the sun’s light, we decided to stay long enough for the sun to be covered by the clouds…but not until official sunset.  I watched and waited and the sun lingered longer than expected.  Time enough to take some more shots of that favorite palm tree.  Even the pelican was enjoying the sky.

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While I didn’t get my celebratory sunset, I did get a chance to study the wall of clouds and notice all the ways it interacted with the sea, sky, palm tree, and sun.

What will choose to explore for your feldgang?

Into Negative Spaces

The paths we follow through life seem to be self-determined, crafted from deep thought and consideration.  Carefully groomed and plotted, they take use from where we are to the next destination.  We know where we are going and the most effective and efficient way to get there. Except when we don’t.

Negative space is art terminology that describes the spaces not filled in with color or design. They are the open spaces that often define those more deliberate lines, brushstrokes, carvings.

What happens when you lean into the negatives spaces?  When the spaces between become the path you follow?

I think about the ways that dandelions find the cracks in the walls, in the sidewalks, along the sides of the road, plant themselves deeply and blossom–spreading both their roots and their seeds to ensure that they thrive.

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I think about the blue that is visible through the openings in the clouds, where the sun seeps through and warms our shoulders and relaxes our minds.

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I spy the scented geraniums hiding between the spiky arms of the aloe vera, soft pink flowers intertwined with the sharp spines of the succulent.

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I notice the children who lay low, distinguishing themselves by the ways they blend in, quietly doing what they need to while others stand out, spreading their brilliant plumage like colorful peacocks.

But I know that these negative spaces are not negative, not less than, not inferior.  These are spaces waiting to be defined by the traveler, marked as the feet step on this road less traveled.  There are many paths that lead to fulfilling and successful lives…so why do so many insist that we all follow a single pre-determined path?

Let’s remember that sometimes the right path is the one that is yet to be discovered.

Temporary: NPM 2019 Day 30

30 poems in 30 days…poof, April is done.

Today’s poem was inspired by the art I saw carved in the sand on my walk today and the power of fleeting experiences.

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Temporary

 

Swoops and swirls

scratched in the sand

transform the expanses of low tide

into a canvas

 

The view from above

reveals a seascape

nautilus shells and giant kelp

dwarfing people who mill around

brushstrokes along the shoreline

 

Like voices spoken into the wind,

laughter shared between friends,

the magic is elusive

rising tides erase each mark

washing the canvas

into the sea

 

Though seemingly temporary

art experienced,

laughter shared,

words spoken

leave trails in our brains

and on our hearts

 

A canvas wiped clean

makes space

for reimagined creations

interactions with

space, time

sand and sea

 

Temporary

is time enough

to make a mark

 

©Douillard

Texture: NPM 2019 Day 27

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Impressions

My eyes trace the curves

filigree curlicues

etched

into what was once a smooth sheet

Blue peeks through

adding a pillow of soft

to the sculpted edges

Shadows cast on concrete

echo as sunlight

passes through

cooling the midday rays

Texture tap dances

on my heart

rhythms as reminders

that life takes place

in the spaces between

touch the raised surfaces

the dips and cutouts

the places we feel

leaving impressions

imprints

of life lived

©Douillard

 

Royal Terns: NPM 2019 Day 26

Though it’s still April, we’re already dealing with what will soon become May gray.  It’s that pervasive marine layer that characterizes spring and early summer here in Southern CA.  But we really can’t complain.  The weather is mild and the ocean always welcomes.

Today I noticed the royal terns hanging out on the beach.  Before I knew what they were, I called them Groucho Marx seagulls.  They have big dark eyebrows and a bright orange beak. Distinctive, distinguished, comical.

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Today poem is a Haiku…short and sweet.

Groucho Marx eyebrows

atop orange beak and white wings

shore birds entertain

©Douillard

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Lifeguard Towers: NPM 2019 Day 25

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Lifeguard Towers

 

They rest on their haunches

waiting out winter

tucked away

in suspended animation

until the warmth

of summer’s sun

(along with the the assist of a tractor or forklift)

entices them to water’s edge

 

Spring teases

with bright skies

swimmers tiptoe

into chilly seas

but the towers know better

and will wait

for the border of

May gray and June gloom

to make their way

to their perch

along the shore

©Douillard