Tag Archives: walking

What Would You Hold?

During our first Make Cycle of the  SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute, we are each answering the question, “What would you hold?”  The make requires that we represent the answer to that questions with a photo of something precious held in our hands.

After too much thought and second guessing, here is my photo.

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I’m sure that a photo of me holding my camera isn’t surprising to many of you.  But I want to press beyond the camera as a tool to make pretty pictures.  It isn’t the camera itself that is precious.  In fact, sometimes it isn’t even my camera that I use for photography…sometimes my phone works just as well (or even better).  But the camera represents a practice that I value.  Taking photos encourages me to slow down, to pay attention, to notice the value and beauty in the ordinary…and it gets me writing.

I try to get out with my camera every day: walking, breathing deeply, letting my thoughts roam.  With my feet moving and under the influence of fresh air, I can let my worries float away and use my senses to tune into the world outside of my head.  I seldom take photos of people, instead I try to capture moments that capture my attention.  (The exception would be the many photos I take of my grandsons–none of which I post on social media to protect their privacy.)  I often find that the photos I take become metaphors to express ideas I am thinking about.

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With my camera I get low, checking out the vantage from the bug’s perspective.  I find myself thinking about times when teaching and mothering and living feels like pushing the world up a very steep hill.  Images of mythology fill my head and the strains and stresses of the day unkink, letting those tight muscles that run across my shoulders begin to relax.

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Out on the playground with my students I get to bring my passions to my students.  Photography also helps my students look in new ways, and like it does for me, that looking generates ideas and language for writing.  This photo was an example of looking for natural frames for photos–a composition technique I wanted my students to explore.

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With camera in hand, I learn…and sometimes I mourn.  Regular walks on the beach bring the realities of environmental damage front and center.  I see the daily human impact, the excesses of our disposable lifestyle, and get up close and personal with death and destruction. I am forced to pay attention to the lessons nature is teaching and encouraged to learn more as I walk with the rhythms of the tides and the seasons, appreciating the beauty and noticing the destruction.

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And I see the power of small children making a difference.  Little efforts, like teaching students to compost their leftovers from lunch will help them make the world a better place. (My students thought this photo was gross–but when I explained what it represented to me, they found it more interesting.)

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My camera also lets me celebrate life’s pleasures and express my gratitude.  My husband is an amazing cook and nurturer.  Some days result in food that doubles as works of art!

Mostly, though my camera helps me make space in my life.  Space for observation, space for an exploration of the senses, space for listening and learning, and space for making and creativity.  It gets me outside and keeps me moving.  It helps me connect with others–in person and online.  It reminds me to play, to take action, and to appreciate all that life has to offer.

 

A Rainy Day Walk: SOLC 2019 Day 6

 

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After the school day ended

and my flock of third graders scurried out the door

taking flight

to this activity and that

I alight on my usual perch

and descend

to the beach

for my rainy day walk

Raindrops and salty sea mist

run rivers down my face

as I breathe in and out

matching inhales with strides

dodging (sometimes unsuccessfully)

pools of sea water

Further down the beach

I find another flock

and they squawk welcome

then like my third graders

scurry and stretch their wings

flying into a rainy afternoon

©Kim Douillard

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In Search of Light: SOLC Day 3

I heard the warning on the morning news show, yesterday’s rains caused urban runoff and increased bacteria count in our ocean waters.  Stay out of the water.  We still headed off to the beach for a low tide walk…in our tennies.

The clouds were heavier than I expected with no rain in today’s forecast–and much darker too.  We actually felt misty drizzle as we first got into the car.  But the beach was beautiful: low tides, gentle breezes, and yes, some people in the water!  Beach people are interesting and they come in all forms.  There are walkers and beach combers like Geoff, scanning the shore for bits of glass and interesting marine tidbits and picking up the many plastics that litter the beach.  There are surfers who seem to never heed warnings about the water.  And there are swimmers and waders, teenaged football throwers, the guy with the metal detector, the fishers knee deep in the waves as they cast.  But for me, my eyes search the beach for that perfect picture.

Gray skies make photo taking more challenging.  Colors fade away, making things look flat.  I’m no expert with camera settings, so I depend on my own framing and the serendipity of light and shadow to create interesting images.  I try to pay attention to changes in light…and always find myself drawn to shore birds.

As I wandered down the beach,  I spied a whimbrel (I think) out for a snack.  I crept close, snapping photos as I went.  But I also took a few long shots, noticing a break in the clouds and the white of the foamy wave tops creating a bright spot as a backdrop for the bird. Experts might call my photo overexposed, but there is something I like about this burst of light and the tiny bird visible in the expanse of the wide open beach.

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Gray skies and high bacteria count didn’t keep me home and it certainly didn’t keep this little guy out of the water!  I got to stretch my legs and my camera skills to snap at least a few photos that were interesting.  And I got to enjoy the beach along with all the other beach people today.

On the Ground and in the Air

For most the year I walk on the beach in bare feet.  Calloused skin against the warm sand and cool water, alerting my senses from the bottom up.  My feet feel the changing contours of the reef, sometimes sinking deep into soft sand, conjuring quicksand, shifting my balance, reminding me to pay attention.  Other times I carefully pick my way across piles of stones, some smooth and rounded while others pick and poke at the soft skin of my arches, pulling my attention downward where I notice shells, seaweed, and bits of colored glass glinting in the sun. Walking barefoot on the beach grounds me, literally pulling me to the ground, my feet a conduit between the earth and the sky.

And the sky calls me to look upward.  Shadows catch my eye as birds fly overhead, wheeling and gliding, soaring and floating.  I’ve learned to recognize the calls of seagulls and terns…and more recently the voice of ospreys.  Today, with my feet firmly on the wet sand, ospreys played above me.  These magnificent birds are fast, large and graceful…and today a pair seemed to be engaged in an intricate dance.  Watching this performance in the sky, I noticed two more osprey on the periphery.

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In the last week I have seen six ospreys and a hawk (you can read about my earlier sightings here).  So why have these powerful birds of prey become so prominent in my life?  The more I read about osprey–both as a bird and as a spirit animal, I am starting to see some messages coming my way.  Here is a small sampling:

In this case the osprey symbolism is asking you if you are feeling a little out of your comfort zone. In other words, the changes in you and around you have been a bit overwhelming of late. Thus osprey meaning is here to let you know that you can put your head under the emotional water and still survive. Stop worrying about what other people think. Like the lizard, it’s only your ego that thinks they will notice anything in the first place.

Alternatively, osprey symbolism may be reminding you to appreciate other peoples boundaries. Also, in doing so, make sure your boundaries are clear enough so that others can respect you. This bird also connects you to all aspects of Solar Worship. Therefore it’s appearance in your life emphasizes the value and healing power of the sun.

The hawk is also a close relative of this bird of prey, and in this association, these two birds share the job of being a messenger. Thus, this raptor also warns you to stay alert because crucial information is pending.

So, as I stay grounded with my bare feet on the wet sand, I will also push forward, taking some risks and staying open and alert to new information.  And in the meantime, I am reveling in these new-found friends, enjoying their beauty and fierceness, their fidelity (they mate for life) and clear vision.  What messages have been coming your way lately?  And who is the messenger?

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#whyiwrite: October 20, 2018

I should probably title this post, All the Reasons I Don’t Write, instead of using the National Day on Writing hashtag #whyiwrite.  But instead of enumerating a list of excuses, I will use this occasion as an opportunity to write.

I’ve established a regular walking practice.  I’ve learned to carry my walking shoes (and my flip flops) with me in my car, leaving me ready for unexpected opportunities–and no excuses for not walking because I don’t have the right shoes.  My camera is also a motivator for my walking–I love to take those daily photos and walking gets me to interesting locations where I find the fodder for my photography habit.

My writing practice fares better when I have an external expectation keeping me on track.  I wrote and posted daily during the month of April when my students and I took on a 30-day poetry challenge.  And I posted weekly photography challenges for years when the iAnthology was my audience.  So now, I know I need to create some reasons for establishing a regular writing practice–one that takes me beyond the more work-related writing that always happens–you know, the lesson plans, the emails, the proposals and reports.

So I will begin today with some thoughts about birds.  If you’ve visited here before, you have probably noticed my obsessions with egrets, including the post I wrote about the egret being my spirit animal.  But yesterday and today, it was a different kind of bird that was called to my attention.

Birds of prey are difficult to photograph–and even to get a close look at without a camera.  They tend to soar high above our heads, their sharp eyes on the lookout for prey.  Yesterday I spied a hawk perched on a sign along the beach-side cliff.  It sat, overseeing the beach and was not at all bothered by me approaching from below to photograph.  Somehow it seemed appropriate that the sign it was perched on said, “Pack Your Trash!”  While I’m not entirely sure, I’m thinking it’s either a red tailed hawk or a red shouldered hawk.  I thought at first it might have been an osprey–I’ve seen them before in this area, but this was clearly a hawk of some sort.

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And today, not far from this same spot along the cliffside, I noticed a man looking intently high up on the cliff.  When I looked up, he drew my attention to the large bird of prey sitting on some bare branches above us.  I knew immediately that it was an osprey (I had done a bit of research when I got home yesterday).  He pointed out the fish beneath the bird, which he had been watching for a bit.  I stood under the branch, trying to capture a photo of this beautiful bird.  Other people came by, commenting on the beauty of this elegant sea eagle.

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I found myself thinking about this coincidence of spotting two birds of prey on my walks on two consecutive days.  When I watch egrets, I think of their patience, their calm and regal manner as they stand knee-deep in the ocean water.  They seem solitary–in great contrast to the seagulls and smaller shore birds that ofter hang out in groups, running with the tide.  When I think of birds of prey, I think of fierceness and independence.  They seem to take control of their environment, taking the long view of the resources below.  They are brutal and efficient, moving sharply as they take their prey, gripping firmly with sharp talons and sharper beaks.

Do I have something to learn from birds of prey right now?  Is this a call to be more decisive, to be more fierce and determined?  I know these beautiful birds have me thinking…and writing.

I know that I write to think, to better understand myself and the world around me.  I write to reflect and to express, to slow down and pay attention.  On this National Day on Writing I renew my commitment to daily writing…and to more frequent posting here.  How will you celebrate the National Day on Writing?  Why do you write?

Afternoon Walk: Day 24

I’m a pretty faithful beach walker, often logging miles several days a week out on the shore.  Today, I decided to take an urban walk, exploring a path not far from home.  The first half mile was a pretty steep climb–my device registered it as 19 floors!  I crossed a bridge and headed off a dirt pathway were I had views of the city below.

On my return trip I got the downhill portion of the walk and felt my heart in my throat when I nearly stepped on a snake!  But it did inspire today’s poem.

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Skinny Snake

 

Late afternoon

as the sun heads west

is the perfect time

for a walk.

 

The birds chatted

conversing

with squirrels and lizards,

the whitewashed fence

a perfect porch.

 

Drought-stricken trees

strick a pose against

the baby blue April sky.

 

My feet carried me

across the miles

the dirt, the gravel, the leaves

back to the asphalt

where I crossed paths

with skinny snake,

also walking.

 

We froze

in our tracks

scared still

by the sight of the other

until the breeze whispered

and we parted ways.

 

Douillard 2018

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And a few poems about poetry written by my students.  It’s such fun to watch their poetry skills grow over the course of the month!

Poetry is Many Things

 

Poetry is a magical treasure of words

in many different forms

hidden away in a jungle
where the birds sing their songs of inspiration

warming the spark in you that makes
you look at the poems in the clear diamonds on leaves.

 

Bryce

I love when a line in a poem catches me by surprise…

Poetry Is

Poetry is ideas floating onto a blank piece of paper

and rivers of words rush onto a page.

Powerful words stick out

like a Ferris wheel at the crowded fair.

Onomatopoeia brings poems to life

and similes crash like waves in the ocean.

After all the commotion

a poem is born.

Koa

And when you can feel emotion…

Poetry Is

Poetry is like the last rays of sun on a sunset

it leaves with beauty and sadness at the same time

poetry is like a song that sings forever

and when you forget

it will always whisper back.

Avi

And one more…

Poetry is…

Poetry flows in my mind like the ocean

Softy and gentle like a breeze

Fragrant like a rose

paints a picture in my mind

When I hear poetry it sounds like nature

When I start a poem it tastes ripe and fresh

Poetry is a feeling in your heart

Cody

Enjoy your walk through some poetry today!

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ugly

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so they say. I would argue that if you look closely and with openness, there is beauty to be found all around us. I enjoy bringing cut flowers into my home, brightening up our living space with a bit of nature’s beauty. But these beauties don’t last long, their petals begin to dry and droop, reminding me of the finiteness of life. But I am also reminded that what some call ugly can also be beautiful. I spent some time trying to capture the beauty in the wilting sunflowers in a vase on my dining room table. With the afternoon sun shining on them, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the deep colors and dry curly edges.  There is something beautiful about this ugly.

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Beach walks are spectacular this time of year.  It’s still cool and the crowds are small.  I noticed this balloon at the water’s edge from a distance, and upon closer look, I could tell it was once a baseball balloon, likely for a child’s party.  There’s nothing beautiful about plastics in our ocean, but there is beauty to be found in this #litterati photo documenting this trash (which I picked up and disposed of properly).

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Recess duty gives me the opportunity to watch students playing on the playground and to observe my surroundings.  Not long ago white roses were in bloom on these bushes that are near the play structure.  But on Thursday, I noticed the blooms were gone, but the empty stems remained.  Ugly at first glance, but interesting when you get a bit closer.

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These strange little spiky balls hang from trees not far from the house.  I think the tree is a type of maple and I assume these balls are seed pods.  I often find them on the ground, so it was fun to look up and see them hanging from the tree.

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Our higher than normal rainfall this winter resulted in a spectacular wildflower bloom.  But now that the rain is gone and the weather is warming, they are starting to dry out and lose that springtime beauty.  A walk near the train tracks had me shooting the dying blooms with the Self Realization Fellowship (we call it and the neighboring beach, Swamis) in the background.

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A long weekend watching our twin grandsons is a pure treat!  (Who can resist the sweet faces and activities of 15 month old boys!?!)  It also offers opportunities for new sights!  This old house is visible from a walking trail not far from modern suburban homes…it seems so out of place here!  I would expect to find it in a much more rural area.

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And they grow their weeds large here!  I started to notice dandelion puffballs about the size of my fist!  I couldn’t get close enough for a great photo of the ball, but I think you can get an idea of the size from the remaining husk.

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So, this is your week to take a look at ugly and figure out what makes it interesting (or beautiful) to you.  You might find your inspiration in nature, in your home, or out and about in your community.  Maybe it will inspire some action (as in the #litterati example), or at the least raise your awareness about what is around you.

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

Head out with your camera…and snap those bits of ugly.  What interesting photos will you find to share with us?