Wednesday, February 27, 2013

sweethearts from way back

But they're moving a little slower now.  The whole framework of their lives was and still is mill work. Growing up in the rural south, they certainly have lived a very different life than mine. 

They are a sweet older couple and they shared youthful memories with me of waking early each day to take care of a large list of chores before heading off to school, and how he raced off to his job in the local mill when classes ended and worked until it was time to head home for sleep. She headed home after school to take care of the household, for her millworker parents would arrive home exhausted late in the evening. 

Each earned their high school diplomas; though the husband took a bit longer to reach this goal because of a work injury at the mill. His hand got caught in a machine and his fingers were crushed and broken.  He missed what was supposed to be his last day of high school because he was in the hospital. Consequently he wasn’t there for final exams, received failing grades and had to repeat his senior year, a penalty that still frustrates him to this day.  She consoles him as he recounts this story and repeats just how proud she is of him that he stuck with it and got his diploma because many others did not. 

After graduation it was mainly “public work”, as they called it, which involved many more years in the mills and working “production”.  Their lives were all about making goods and keeping those machines running.  They talked of the pride in the craftsmanship among the millworkers back in the day, each and every item being inspected to make sure that it was perfect before shipping but also about the devastating effects of an unfortunate change of focus by the “boss man” to one of profits and greed rather than quality and how that resulted ultimately in the loss of the mills when the companies all moved away or shut down.

These two were sweethearts “from way back” and fondly spoke of the days of their early marriage and of the hard times they faced, beds loaded down heavily with quilts, stacked so high that it was hard to move – protection from the cold and wind, made evident by the swaying curtains covering the loose window panes. Of tricks that made food go farther and just how good a can of tomato soup tastes when you’re really hungry. They talked of gardening, frugal living, neighbors, family and the familiar poverty they all faced.  They reminisced with fondness and talked about how the youth of today are really missing out on some important life lessons because life is so very different now,  and they’re worried that kids are coming out of school without learning a vocation. “Computers are good and all, but people need to know how to work with their hands!” And they spoke about life in such gentle terms and with such gratitude for the littlest things, including the tiny, sweet oranges that they’d brought with them for lunch that day.  They seem to live still in those memories.

I however, can’t help but think of James Taylor’s The Millworker.  Have a listen: 

Monday, February 25, 2013

what would you be doing today?

What would you be doing today:
        if you weren’t afraid?
        if money wasn’t a consideration?
When you were a kid:
        what did you want to be when you grew up?
Who is the one person from your past:
        that you would like to reconnect with?
Where is the one place:
        you’ve always wanted to visit?
        where you’ve always wanted to live?
What is the one thing:
        you’ve always wanted to say to your mother?
        you’ve always wanted to say to your father?
What is the one thing:
        you want to apologize for?
What is the one skill:
        you’ve always wanted to learn?
What is that one:
        far reaching dream of yours?
This is your one life – right now.
What’s stopping you?

Friday, February 22, 2013

a life re-focused

There are times in all of our lives when, for good or for bad, we face big changes.  This could be due to a marriage, the birth of a new baby, a move to another city or state, graduation from college, the loss of a job, an empty nest, a divorce, the death of a loved one.  Change can be excruciating for many folks but why not take the opportunity during a major life shift, to begin again?  It’s the perfect opportunity to tackle that dream that you’ve always had but never dared to attempt before.  When we come to that inevitable day, when we wake up in the morning and know that we’re facing a new phase of our lives, it’s best not to rush headlong into something new or to escape into a mindless distraction.  First, give yourself permission to recover, recuperate and recharge.  If you need to be sad for a little while then go ahead and be sad…for a little while.  Give yourself adequate time to say good-bye to yesterday before moving ahead.  Reflect on the past but don’t allow yourself to get stuck there.  It’s okay to remember but it’s also okay to move on to your next great adventure.  Now is the perfect time to reconsider your priorities and revisit your dreams.  You’ve got a blank slate!  What is it that you’ve always wanted to do, if you only had the time?  Now is the time to clean out the cobwebs, put your home in order, make a plan, gather up whatever it is you need and take that first step.  No doubt, it can be scary and people with good intentions will try to advise you every which way, but stay true to yourself.  


Wednesday, February 20, 2013


As kids in school we were constantly being chided by our teachers to “stop daydreaming and pay attention!”  Maybe there is a time and a place but isn’t daydreaming a good thing?  Letting the mind wander gives us a chance to escape for a brief time during periods of stress or anxiety, it lets us follow a creative path and has the possibility to lead us to fresh new inspiration, and daydreaming gives us the chance to try out big new ideas and see where they may take you.  I think we owe it to ourselves to do a little daydreaming.  Make some time, take a quiet walk and see where your creative mind takes you.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

a beautiful snowfall

We had a beautiful snowfall on Sunday.  Thick fluffy flakes that began at first light and continued on until long past dark.  The ground was still warm from our unseasonably warm week so the snow did not accumulate once it hit the ground, but the show that Mother Nature gave us all day long was magnificent.

The pine needles transformed into a winter-time fireworks display!

Last fall’s weeds because encrusted with “diamonds”...

...and I was suddenly glad that we never got around to finishing our yard work.

The snow set a backdrop that made even ordinary yard plantings a thing of beauty.

So many birds were making a joyous noise.  I realized that I was hearing a conversation from one side of the yard to the other between a female Towhee... 

...and her mate.

I came upon this peaceful sight and took a moment to enjoy the quiet.

Every view was transformed into a beautiful painting for everyone that slowed down enough to take in the view.  The whole day was a rare gift.

Friday, February 15, 2013

family harmony

I think I can safely say I was destined to be a musician from the beginning. 

My Dad played the baritone uke and often sang folks songs to us kids around the dinner table.  My sibs and I learned the magic of harmony through his Peter, Paul and Mary albums, as well as The Brothers Four, Kingston Trio and others and we all joined in.  When Dad was at work I would pick up his uke and figure out how to make chords and then how to put chords together to mimic those songs.  Over time, our playing and harmonizing progressed and Dad picked up a guitar to accompany our evening song-fest.  I rounded out the instrumentation on his old baritone uke.  We moved into songs by The New Seekers, The Monkees, early Beatles and other pop groups, even composing some songs of our own.

My Dad's uke.

Still image from Hanna Barbera's "Treasure of El Kabong".
During a rare visit, my west coast uncle brought his guitar along with him and our sing-a-long was bigger than ever.  He decided I needed a guitar of my own and bought me a yellow, plastic guitar with a magnificent sunburst on its front.  I translated my knowledge of the uke and quickly figured out how to play that guitar.  A couple of my brothers decided that they also wanted to play and they too quickly taught themselves how to play and soon we were all sharing the instruments and singing our young hearts out.  As it happened, rambunctious boys will be rambunctious boys and during a bout of wild rough-housing one brother decided to “El Kabong” my youngest brother and that was the end of my yellow plastic guitar.

Not fretting for a moment (pun intended) I gathered up my babysitting money, convinced my parents to drive me to the music shop in the next town and I purchased a real wood guitar.  It was glorious!   From then on, music and harmonizing has been an important constant in my life.  I’ve since moved on from that first beautiful guitar, but those early days have never left me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

finding beauty on a grey day

So many grey days we seem to be having this season!  This feels unusually off-kilter for the “sunny south.”  It’s not that I don’t appreciate that we need the rain, but more and more, these dreary days seem to affect my mood and deplete me somehow as I get older.  My father-in-law, a man who spent many years at sea, just thrives on these grey, foggy days.  He finds an energy when the mist rolls in that I definitely lack.  I kind of marvel at this trait.

Some time ago I read about a young woman that was struggling with depression. I was so impressed by her story of how she guided her way back into a better emotional place.  Her personal prescription was to grab her camera and set herself the task of finding one beautiful thing each day to photograph.  No matter what her mood or what the weather, she made sure that she set her sights on finding that one beautiful shot.  One day at a time, one shot at a time, she found her way.

So on this dreary, grey day I grabbed my camera and went looking for something beautiful.

Monday, February 11, 2013

the year of the snake

Yesterday marked the beginning of the Chinese New Year and 2013 is officially the year of the snake.  Like the snake, it’s a time marked by a shedding of the skin (figuratively) and thus a time of personal transformation, renewal, growth, rejuvenation.  This year we can enjoy a renewal of old friendships, the blossoming of new friendships, a new creative path, a new direction.  Happy New Year!

Friday, February 8, 2013

changing your perspective

For me, one of the best things about a vacation is that sudden energy I get on the drive home, the pull to make a change in my life, my home, my routine.  It doesn’t have to be an extended get-a-way that brings on this creative urge.  A day trip, a visit to a museum, a walk in the woods, even exploring a great new restaurant or going to hear live music all can lead to a desire for some kind of renewal.  It’s all in changing my perspective.

Now, some people can achieve a change in perspective through quiet meditation, but you don’t have to be as agile (or as brave) as this guy in order to see things differently.

It can be as easy as this:  just look UP!

The advantage of having a camera with you is that you can use your zoom to see what many other street-level people cannot.  Look what I found at the very top of this beautiful old building.  On this particular day I decided I was going to look up for my shots and was rewarded with this find.  I bet hundreds of people walk by this nine-story building every day and don’t even know that this beautiful stonework is above them.

“Somewhere there's music - How near, how far

Somewhere there's heaven - Its where you are

The darkest night would shine  - If you would come to me soon

Until you will, how still my heart - How high the moon”  
(Nancy Hamilton/Morgan Lewis)

So decide that one day soon, you’ll give yourself time to change your perspective.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot and you don’t have to go far.  “It’s where you are.”

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

i've just seen a face

I’ve just seen a face I can’t forget the time or place where we just met...

She’s just the girl for me and I want all the world to see we’ve met.
Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm...

Had it been another day I might have looked the other way...

...and I’d have never been aware, but as it is I’ll dream of her tonight.    
La, di, di, da di di...

Falling, yes I am falling, and she keeps calling me, back again...

I have never known the likes of this, I’ve been alone and I have missed things...

...and kept out of sight, for other girls were never quite like this.
La, di, di, da di di...

Falling, yes I am falling, and she keeps calling me back again.

Credit to Lennon/McCartney for the lyrics.  Photos by Bev

Monday, February 4, 2013

any road will take you there

Sometimes, when you turn down a road you’ve never traveled you are rewarded. I’m glad I had my camera with me to capture the scene. Reminds me of the Lewis Carroll/George Harrison line: "If you don't know where you're going then any road will take you there."

Friday, February 1, 2013

capturing little moments

Starbucks, first thing in the morning, is a really interesting microcosm. Regulars include the retired gentlemen who gather with the young techie entrepreneurs and enjoy rousing discussions, there are the young kids who play wildly imaginative games and never seem to be bored, there are the overly-tired college students who drag themselves directly from bed and sit hunched over in little groups, the unemployed who go through the motions of a job search with no luck but still maintain optimism, and the women who gather because they enjoy the connection they have with each other. There are also the haggard, rushed employed folks who race into the drive-through and don’t think twice about hurling curses and wagging their middle digits at other drivers in their path. It’s a great place to sit and capture little moments.