Saturday, September 21, 2013

Through My Lens

A few months ago when I signed up for a photography course on Hornby Island with Illuminate Photo Education ( I had one goal, to learn to use my digital camera off the 'automatic' setting.  Aside from the camera part of things Hornby Island is a place I love.  I have many fond memories of spending time there with my own family and our Nanny and Papa when we were all a bit younger.  Still, as with any new experience, I was a bit nervous.  I worried about my camera not being 'enough'.  I worried a bit about who I might be rooming with.  I worried a bit about not knowing 'enough' about photography.  I always worry a bit when I head out into the world on my own.

As I settled in that first day I was looking forward to meeting everyone.  It reminded me of my junior high years on the first day of school.  You knew everything was going to be okay but still you were a bit nervous.  I was anxious to get the first information session under my belt so I could relax about not being 'left in the dust' by those with more knowledge and experience.  Those first hurdles are important ones when you embark on a new experience and they often set the tone for the remainder of the experience.

On that very first evening I learned one new thing about myself.  I love pathways.  As you can see in the two photos above, things that lead to other things catch my eye.  I did not learn this on my own.  I learned this from someone else who was looking at my pictures. I hadn't, and wouldn't have noticed this pattern  myself.  I was a bit surprised to see that many, many of my photos from that first day had that very same perspective.  It was a great reminder to me that sharing a bit of yourself, in this case, through photos may teach you things about yourself that you didn't know before. 

The instructors in this course, Karen McKinnon ( and Boomer Jerritt ( spent time on the personal aspect of photography as well as the technical aspect.  We, as a group, all wondered if my penchant for pathways reflected where I was in life.  Having retired a year ago, I must say that I have spent considerable time contemplating where life will take me.  This personal aspect of photography really appeals to me.

As we all headed out to the beach that first day it was so interesting to see how each of us found our niche.  Some people shot high, some low, some faced towards the open ocean, some back towards the beach.  Some contemplated a shot for many moments while others clicked away.  Some waded right out into the water, some shied away from the slippery, seaweed covered rocks.  Each of us found our own path in our own way in our own time and each of us made beautiful pictures that were all our own.  And this was only Day 1!  As we viewed each others' shots later that evening the group really began to come together.  As diverse as we were we shared a common passion.  In a few short hours we were comfortable enough to trust each other and that first night tears were shed and laughter filled the room.  The journey had begun.
For me, this is what new experiences are all about.  They take me out of my comfort zone, emotionally, socially, and intellectually.  While there is some initial discomfort the rewards in the end for all of us included new friendships, new insights, new knowledge and new or renewed passion.  The best part of this course was that we were truly all students and instructors and this made the experience that much richer.  Kudos to Karen and Boomer for creating a safe, nurturing environment for this all to happen in!
I loved my time on Hornby but I was ready to head home after the four days.  For me, one of the best parts of new experiences is sharing them with my husband.  I was so excited to show him my pictures and talk to him about the people I met and the things I had learned, about photography and about myself.
For all of you out there contemplating stepping out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend it!  Your life will be richer for having stretched yourself!  To end - one of my favourite pictures from the week:



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Stories of Our Lives

One of my favourite movies is Out Of Africa and one of my favourite scenes from that movie is when Robert Redford's character challenges Meryl Streep's character to tell a story.  She tells him that when she tells stories to her nieces and nephews they must always provide the first line.

Robert Redford begins:  "There was a wandering Chinese named Chang Wan…and a girl named Shirley."Meryl Streep picks it up:  "who spoke perfect Chinese which she learned from her missionary parents.  Chang Wan lived alone in a room on Formosa Street above the Blue Lantern, and he sat at his window and in his poor, listening heart strange echoes of his home country…"

The art of story-telling is a gift.  While not many of us have Meryl Streep's character's gift we all have a story to tell.  Quite often these days those stories take the form of blogging.  There are many random blogs I read as I come across them on Facebook or on the internet as I go about my daily on-line activities.  There are also several blogs that I follow regularly.  I follow them because they tell me the stories of peoples' lives, people that I care about and people that I know through work or family. 

I'm always curious about this need to write, this need to share the story that is within you, quite often the story of your own life and experiences.  There are many people I know who do not feel this need.  They are happy enough to keep their stories to themselves and sometimes don't even understand those of us who do write.  So why do I write?  As my friend Rebecca describes it,  "I toss [an idea] back and forth and throw it at the wall like cooked spaghetti to see if it sticks. If it does, then I write about it."  A lot of my writing is done late at night (notice the time).  Usually I've gone to bed and then an idea creeps into my head and I just can't seem to get it out of my head until I've 'written' it down.  Then I can sleep.  Sometimes those ideas are memories of the good old days and sometimes those ideas are things that I've read about or heard about and I need to write to process my own thoughts or opinions on those topics.  Quite often I write about my family, to share my thoughts and feelings with them and also to act as a bit of a diary/journal for them to look back on later in life.  I know that some of what I have written has been read and re-read by my family.  I know I often wish my own relatives, especially those no longer with us, had written more. 

Over the last couple of years I have also followed other blogs.  I've enjoyed reading about my friend Rebecca's childhood, one so different from my own.  She is an eloquent writer and along with her stories I simply enjoy the language she uses and the pictures she paints with her words.  She analyzes and questions and reflects on her own experiences along with her interactions with the world around her.  I always feel better, more peaceful when I read Rebecca's blog.  This latest one is her conquest of the local mountain many of talk about scaling, but never actually do.  Rebecca did!(

I also really enjoy reading my sister-in-law's blog.  She has had a writer lurking within her for many years now and has just found the courage to share her stories with the world.  She has gone from nervous blogger to published author in a very short time.  Sherri's writing often does not leave me peaceful.  It challenges me and causes me to reflect and question my own beliefs and practices about the way I live my life.  I love this about her writing.  While I know that it has been difficult for her to share her journey I also know that while it stretches her as a person it also provides both her and her readers with the challenge to just be who they are meant to be in life.  She encourages herself and the rest of us to enjoy the process of becoming our authentic selves.  This is one of my favourites

My daughter Kelly writes a beautiful blog as well.  Since the birth of her daughter, Ava, last November Kelly's blogs have focussed on the beauty of motherhood.  She writes monthly letters to Ava sharing the ways Ava has changed and grown and touched the lives of those around her.  These blogs are a gift to me as well as to Ava.  Kelly is a passionate person and this is reflected in her writing, no matter what the topic.  Kelly publishes her blog but shares it only with family and close friends.

Our son Jason also started writing a blog a couple of years ago and aptly enough it is called, Better Late Than Never.  Jason is a gifted writer and it is so wonderful to read his thoughts and opinions on a number of topics.  As a Gramma, of course I love the ones he writes about his family, especially his amazing daughter Elizabeth.  However, Jason also has written stories of his city, his roots and his  later in life journey to becoming a teacher.  The Olympic spirit touched us all and Jason wrote this patriotic and emotional blog during the Vancouver Olympics.  I believe that Jason has a novel inside of him waiting to get out.  He has also written a thought-provoking screen-play that I hope to see played out one day.

The original blogger in our family, the one that inspired me to start blogging, is my daughter Christine.  Christine has always been great at setting life goals, short term and long term.  This is clear in her blog in both her writing and in the organization of it.  Christine's main goal, much like mine, was to simply rid her head of all the thoughts that were swirling around in there as she lay in bed trying to sleep.  Her blog reflects on everything from yoga to veganism (is that a word?) to politics to simpler life reflections.  Of course much of her recent writing involves her role as mother, wife, teacher, daughter, friend, and woman in general.  One of my favourite blogs of Christine's reflects on balance. . .

I also follow blogs on education.  While I am retired I am still very interested in the goings-on in the education system.  I have strong opinions on many aspects of education and have become even more opinionated now that my precious grandchildren are 'in the system'.   I like to stay current and informed and do this through the reading of blogs, many of them written by practicing teachers and administrators.  What I love about the blogs I read (Tia Henriksen, Chris Wejr, George Curous, Pete Jory) is the sense of community and passion that these educators have formed through on-line learning networks.  It is a lonely job filled with change and challenges and it's fun reading about how these people seem to be able to do it all with a smile on their faces and still find time for their families.  Kudos to all of them!

And, of course, one could simply not write about writing and blogging and story-telling without mentioning Chelsey and Andrew and Lilee-Jean.  As I ponder their triumphant and tragic journey I am so sad. And yet I am grateful that they chose to open their hearts and share their thoughts and feelings and experiences.  The impact that this family has had on  thousands of people is simply amazing.  Chelsey and Andrew chose to dance in the rain and they took Lilee along with them, or perhaps she took them along with her.  The phrase 'dancing in the rain' was around long before Lilee-Jean entered this world but before her, they were simply words.  I don't think a day will go by for those of us who were touched by this family that we won't be a little more aware, a little more loving, a little more grateful, a little more adventurous, a little more caring and perhaps even a little more willing to open our own hearts and share what's inside of them.  I don't think a day will go by that we don't truly understand what courage it takes to dance in the rain.