Sunday, November 8, 2009


I h
ave been on vacation this past week. We went to Boston, I went to a Cezanne exhibit with my mother, and we chose new carpet for our second floor. I really should be upstairs getting rid of all our junk so that the carpet can be installed cleanly and easily. The woodwork has to be scraped and painted, the closets emptied, excess furniture removed...and yet, I've been sitting here refining the photos I took this morning at the lake. My husband and our dog joined me and we took a different path with different views. It's a gorgeous day. I just had to work with those photos to catch the colors accurately and post them before cleaning, and before the other posts of Boston and Cezanne. The questions for the day are how do you make the distinction between procrastinations and priorities? And then, the follow up question, does that distinction matter? I'm going to go with a 'no' on that, but I'm open to alternative views, and I do believe that as this is my vacation, I don't have to make those decisions today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, unconditional friendship....these all sound so appealing. And yet, I've been trying to get some inspiration around those concepts from my lake-photo excursions and I cannot. The weather has not been ideal; the lake has been lowered three feet for dredging and maintenance; the fall season got off to a freezing start...I didn't find what I was looking for, conditions were everywhere.

I was thinking about what unconditional means because my painting friends and I are going to do a group show and I was trying to think of a unifying theme and 'unconditional' kept popping into my head. This is because when we paint together, it's so freeing. We're supportive and loving, and we eat and chat and work and there's a sense of belonging and acceptance that is fuel for getting through other pieces of our life where this free condition does not seem to exist. And yet, we do offer advice and support to each oth
er on our drawings and our lives. It's just that it's non-judgmental.

But it's non-judgmental because it doesn't have to be. We've been together so long, over 30 years, that we have worked into this relationship. We've created our own safety zone. We have created our own ideal conditions.

The major forces in our lives -- love, honor,
respect, attraction -- all manifest themselves in some conditional way. Initial attractions -- with your friends, your job, your spouse, your town, your house, your kids, whatever -- usually seem ideal and they are spontaneous, so they have no time, no conditions. Over time however, conditions arise. That initial attraction is a powerful force that keeps you interested, but then the real relationship begins. There are points that seem perfect, points that make you question your initial attraction, and points that just exist because they are part of the trajectory path. However, the immense power of those major life forces -- love, honor, respect, attraction -- will build up over time and bring us to a higher level that has the depth of time, knowledge and experience. And at that point, you transcend conditions.

Conditions are of course transitory. They don't last forever. So I believe I have actually been inspired by my lake visits. I've been learning to appreci
ate the condition whatever it is, as a manifestation of underlying forces.

I have been reading Emerson this year, and I found a passage (from an essay on The Method of Nature) where I believe he's commenting on this same phenomenon.

"But let me discriminate what is precious herein. There is in each of these works an act of invention, an intellectual step, or short series of steps taken; that act or step is the spiritual act; all the rest is mere repetition of the same a thousand times."
What I'm calling "life forces" are Emerson's "the precious herein." The only dispute I'd have with Emerson on this subject is that the rest is not "mere repetition". We need the conditions, the repetitions, to be able to perceive the spiritual. And when we do we transcend them to exist in the pleasurable state of the unconditional.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Crisp light, crisp weather, crisp photos. The definition of crisp is brisk; sharp; clear; decided; lively; pithy; sparkling. That was the weather today, and I'm choosing that for the tone of the week. I'm not going to examine it too cl
osely, just live it and enjoy it.

September Table

Last Sunday was rainy, but actually really nice. Clare, Rene, and Sara came over and we painted out on the patio and my daughter joined us to draw too. The fine mist of the rain was pretty, and we were actually happy to be confined to close to the house where we could eat and talk. We grabbed flowers I had around the house, Clare's hat and champagne bottle, and we were set. It was a great day.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Space in Between

The pictures I took last night were about literally, seeing things in a different light. The moon was out, and standing at certain points on the bank you could see the reflection of the moon. Chasing the reflection to find the best one was an encompassing game for awhile. The one I posted here is my favorite because the moon and it's reflection are symmetrically positioned in the photo. That reveals the theme for this September evening's excursion and illustrates what I've been contemplating for the past couple of weeks. In the moon photo, the scene is in between the subject matter that caught my attention. The moon and the reflection are the highlights, but the lake makes the reflection possible. The highlights of life happen in context.

The next scene, the swans through the trees, really struck me as I was walking around. It might not come through perfectly here, but the swans framed by the trees at twilight were very different than the same scene during the day. I've noticed that view quite a few times and even taken some photos, but none ever quite worked well. This photo is all about context, the relationship between the colors, shapes and textures are what works for me. It's every thing together, there's not a clear focal point, but I think it's intriguing anyway. My takeaway inspiration is that in addition to sticking with practices that serve you (I was not going to stop last night, but I was following my own advice from my last post) make sure you note the possibilities that a different light brings to the same perspective. A different light doesn't change the context as much as a different perspective does, but sometimes, the ease of a more nuanced shift makes a more graceful transition to deeper understanding.

When you study communication, you learn that there are high-context and low-context cultures. High-context cultures are about the group. The group has a high level of common experience and so less words are necessary, because much of the meaning is implied. Low-context cultures require more explicit communication. Our northeastern American metropolitan culture is generally low context, and you can say generally that you'd find more high-context communication in eastern cultures. However, that's way too simplistic, because if you look at sub-groups as cultures (and you can) you find that they are everywhere. Your workplace likely has a high-context element that values in-group knowledge. Your family can be high-context, the more shared experience you have, the less you may have to express verbally to communicate. High- or low- contexts are neutral. One is not better than the other. It is helpful to communication though, to be aware of which style you use routinely, and assess if it's working for all involved. Switching styles, is like seeing things in a different light. Not too different, but maybe enough to gracefully move to more effective understanding.

My mother and I talk about this all the time. We are definitely low-context people. We'll say everything that we think about. We also have felt for some time that we need to watch it and just stop talking once in awhile. I've found that really useful. And so my high-context partner -- nature -- the peaceful lake that wouldn't hear me if I was talking anyway, has taught me the value of listening over time, and being aware of what's communicated between the lines.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Our everyday routines are the practice of life. And everywhere I've turned over the past week, I've received the message loud and clear that the small moments and day to day routines of life layer on top of each other like different pieces of artisan glass and when you look back through those layers they have a depth and beauty that is as important as any momentous occasion or achievement, and you see the shape and form of your life.

The practice of going to the lake for inspiration is one that I realize I have to stick with, even when I don't think I have the time, even when I think there's nothing notable there to see, I should go.
At this time, in this season, as I've mentioned for the last few posts, there is not striking beauty at the lake. I still love it though. And I am still always fascinated by something I find or see every time I go. The initial attraction to inspect the log and it's happenings was fun, but making a practice of visiting there over time I've learned things I would not have known just by driving by and stopping only when I felt like it.

There was road work being done on my usual route to work, and the lake was not on the detour route and so I fell out of the habit of stopping for inspiration for the day. The photo above was the first after all those weeks and it represents the contentment that the regular practice of observing nature can bring. Or maybe it's a reminder of the joy to be found in everyday activities.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Summer's End

I have been meaning to write about Pompton Day, but to be truthful, my pictures weren't that good. It's hard to capture that spirit in one photo. All along the lake there are booths and you can throw cream pies at people you know or dunk a teacher in a water tank or race a rubber duck off the dock. Mostly, you run into people you know and haven't seen for awhile, and for those of us who have raised our families here, there are a lot of memories. To me, summer ends on Pompton Day with our fair along the lake and our fireworks at night (they get better every year). So here, in tribute to the actual last day of summer are my photos from Pompton Day 09.

The dock above was inspired and partially paid for by an elementary school Earth Day project that my friend Theresa spearheaded. That might not be the same dock at this point, but I think about how it originally got there every time I see it. The plaque below commemorates the event and I had never noticed it until this Pompton Day, 9 years later. Memories run deep in this lake community, and so thank you to all the people who have improved that park over the years.

And finally, the last photo is not spectacular, but just the view of the back of the tents along the road from the lake. Goodbye to Summer!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Summer Moments

o just 'be' in the moment is something that a good number of people have come to value. I value it, and I try to live it everywhere, independent of situations or surroundings. But I find that the reality is there are some places, where you're known, where you're comfortable, where all your little imperfections don't matter, and really where all your much larger imperfections and regrets don't matter either, that not only permit you to just be, but actually remind you how to do it.

Friday, August 28, 2009


We've had an unbelievably rainy summer this year. It's raining again today in fact. I don't mind it. But I have to say, it does make the sunny days stand out as bright and special. Yesterday I was in New York with my daughter visiting a friend of a friend who is an architect for a huge realty firm. We were at the top of one of the city's fabulous towers with tremendous 360 degree views and the gorgeous day made it even more spectacular. We had lunch in one of the city's airy atriums. Then of course we went shopping. Small stores and my favorite -- Macy's. It was a memorable day.

Coming home, I went over to the lake to capture the light that was so gorgeous and I take back everything I've said about end-of-August muckiness. There were gorgeous views everywhere and so now instead of seeing the overgrowth, I see abundance. For me, I realize that a bright perspective leads to positive thinking and expansive interpretations of events. Then, because everything's cylical we come right back to perspective. Brightness influences a cyclical upward perspective spiral that leads to seeing abundance rather than disorganized mess, and challenging situations become beginnings or opportunity doors rather than endings or dead-end walls.

More simply, the day was beautiful, and here are some lake photos that are bright reminders of what is really always around us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I have to comment on my last posting on being outstanding. I woke up in the morning determined to identify what's been bugging me; wrote the Outstanding post; then stopped at the lake on the way to work to find my 'outstanding' photo. Guess what? No photo available, really none that I could see. However, I had an outstanding conversation with a gentleman I talk to at the lake once in awhile, one of my fellow lake-observer-photographers, and he told me if I had been 10 minutes earlier I would have had some spectacular shots of the swans in the lily pads. So the conversation was outstanding but no photos.

I stopped back between work and home, and I could see some shots, but my battery was dead. I took the ones that I posted here and in "Outstanding" by shutting the camera off and on and snapping quickly with the last of the juice. I couldn't double-ck the settings though, and while I thought I was shooting in 'chrome' for saturated color, I really had it on black and white. I think these photos would have been great in color, so I was disappointed that they were grayscale, but, I'm posting them anyway, because they are interesting to me anyway.

I believe though, that since I couldn't find that 'oustanding' photo I was looking for, there is a further part of this message I'm meant to see. I believe that it is that you have to really be prepared to be outstanding. I needed to show up on time in the morning and make sure I charge my camera battery. My accidental black and white studies are interesting gifts to have received, but there's a balance between execution and planning that deserves attention.

So I can't say that I find any of these black and white's outstanding, but I have to give it time. I thought the photo that I took of the brown edges of the lake was ugly, but now it's one of my favorites, and I have another from that day as the desktop background of my computer. So, I'm going to plan better, but I'm open to the idea of receiving my best execution in any circumstance.


I've recognized the idea that was struggling to come to the surface. Though the entire lake is often a breathtaking vista, there are seasons, cycles, occassions where some areas of it are not. While I have some obligation as a citizen of this town to make sure that we pay attention to maintenance, upkeep and improvement, I don't have to focus on the things that are wrong. I can acknowledge the condition, but spend more time with what is pleasing to me. Maybe it's a type of natural selection. What you pay attention to becomes your reality. Thoughts become things. It's OK to focus on the outstanding.

That sentence is a paraphrase of one of my father's favorite life lessons: "It's OK to be outstanding." He meant a lot of different things by that, and I thought I knew what he meant, but I was always uncomfortable because I wondered what happened if you weren't outstanding. The thing is, by definition, you can always be outstanding. He did not say be perfect, he did not say make sure others recognize you're outstanding, he said be outstanding. And that can be accomplished every day, and you can recognize it in others every day. So here are today's postings of what I found to be outstanding aspects of Pompton Lake on August 25, 2009. And thanks Dad.

Monday, August 24, 2009


The lake is just cycling through the seasons. It was really unfair to call it less than beautiful in my last post. I just prefer less gunk at the edges, but that's a preference, not a fact. There is a very moist, green-lavender-brown-tinge of gold that reflects the weather we've had the past few months. The edges are trimmed back, but they're pruned not broken, and everything will be healthier and cleaner because of it. We're just cycling through another season together. And it has an overripe beauty of its own.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I don't like edges and I don't know why. They're sharp, and that seems dangerous. They define separation and I'm more comfortable with continuity. They are finite and I like to think about the infinite. And yet there they are, everywhere.

I've been focusing on the weeds that grow by the lake, first to think about the ground to stabilize my vertigo, and then to consider beauty in something that many find a nuisance. But now, the town has cut them all back. They are no longer a transitional wide sort of gradual entrance to the lake. They are now chopped and brown. They have edges. They are the edge. Even my stretches of imagination can't make them beautiful.

I can walk around to other parts of the lake and find frame-able, pretty scenes, but at the spot that I've been examining, there is just a brown edge. And it's been so rainy and hot that the lake also has overgrowth that's pretty ugly. I look back at earlier lake photos I've posted here, and really, they're prettier. So, I've found that when ideas like this nag at me, there's some message I need to hear, and usually through blogging here, I can find it.

Not this time though. I think I'd be forcing the issue if I take a guess right now, so I'm posting the concept and we'll see what develops in the followups.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Once again we met and painted and gabbed. My drawing contribution is at the end here because I didn't finish. However, in my own defense, I arrived two hours late. We talk and eat before we paint (and during too I'd have to say) but I didn't get the necessary amount of talk in before drawing, so I was a chatterbox and not an artist. But, the perfection of this day for me, was just being present, though I believe I did get some great photographs. (To be posted at a later date.)