A Week Full of Surprises

Odd, the things that one does, and doesn’t, expect in the course of daily life. So seldom do the actual happenings of that life match up exactly with the expectations. I find that, quite often, the mismatches work in my favor; life is almost always so much better and more colorful than I expect it to be.

Earlier this week, I was admiring the red yucca out in front of our house that had its first blooming season this year, and it presented me with a couple of pods simply crammed with ripe seeds. I’d no idea that those plants could be grown from seed, but apparently—albeit very, very slowly—it’s true. Maybe I’ll just have to give it a try, to reward the plant for being so effusive in its performance at such a tender age. If plants have feelings, the yucca deserves a cheery surprise, too.Photo: Red Yucca Seeds

Yesterday at supper, my husband looked out the window and saw a tiny bit of movement at the far end of the backyard.Photo: I Spy with My Little Eye

It was a different garden worker than the man who usually comes by with his crew to care for our lawn. A sweet, long-eared wild grass trimmer happily snipping away at the greenery without a seeming care in the world other than to pop up from time to time to listen more closely to the birds whistling overhead. So I did that, too, all the while checking to see if that little creature was still doing such dedicated gardening. Too charming to let the time pass without giving him full respect.Photo: Our Little Lawnmower

Today was no different in being, well, different.

After dropping off my spouse at work for a longish day of auditions, I headed out to do some much-needed shopping to replenish the larder. As I got into my car between stops, I looked across a vast suburban parking lot to see this uniquely Texan vision: an equine parade streaming down the road between lot sections to the main street, one mounted cowboy in the lead pausing to signal the automotive traffic out there to slow down so the stagecoach could pass through. All very matter-of-fact and unhurried, yet not quite what I would have assumed was about to happen as I went about my grocery rounds for the day.

Nor was the sequel anything I would have imagined until it happened. I finished the last grocery stop at a store across town from home and was loading the car when a lady asked me for directions. I believe it’s as obvious to all of you as to everyone who has ever spent time in my real-world company that I am possibly the worst person to be giving any other person directions from anywhere to anywhere else. But the place she wanted to go turned out to be pretty much around the corner from my neighborhood, and during our short conversation, I found her engaging and interesting.

Photo: Surprise Bouquet

Life is always bringing me surprise bouquets…

Rather than try to tell her how to get there, I just told her I was heading her way and she should follow me. She got that. I liked her right away. So I said, Come on by my place for a glass of iced tea or sparkling water, and then I’ll explain the short remaining route to your destination. And so she did, and we did, and I did. I had no inkling, when I got up this morning, that I’d watch a stagecoach pass by in the middle of my shopping, let alone that I’d meet an interesting person who, as it transpired, has all sorts of intriguing life history and shared interests, along with a whole lot of new stories and ideas to interest and inspire me. It was certainly an amazing day.

I wonder what’ll happen tomorrow!

Photo: Stagecoach a-Comin'

If nothing else interesting arises, maybe I’ll have to go over and see if I can catch the stagecoach somewhere…

Just Press this Button and Be Amazed!

I’ve told you that I am enamored of digital photography. How could a person who loves taking pictures—but is too confused by the functions and uses of a ‘real’ camera, and far too lazy to do anything like the intensive study required to become skilled with said functions and uses, let alone learn how to process photos afterward—how could I not love digital cameras and photo processing?

One of the bonuses of the ability to revise and improve my photos digitally is the element of surprise that comes when I’ve taken very dark photos (at night or in poorly lit places), open up what looks like an entirely black image in one of my favorite editing programs, brighten it and change the contrast, and voila! there’s that thing I was looking at and had entirely forgotten by then. Sometimes the photo turns out to be something I had no idea I’d shot, too, but even those pictures can be interesting in their own ways.Photo: Gnats 1

Take this particular black rectangle from our recent time in Prague. I knew I’d taken photos on a couple of evenings when we were out and about with our compatriots, but couldn’t necessarily say exactly what the subject of them had been. A little tweaking brought the memory out of the dark.Photo: Element of Surprise 1

Gnats! There was a flurry of gnats flitting around a lamppost and making a tiny but lovely little display of sparkling fireworks, and when I took the photos I had no clue whether they would actually show anything at all, given the intensity of the surrounding darkness. But my hopes were rewarded, if not with a magnificent set of photos, at least with a welcome memory of that beautiful evening that even a clueless picture-taker like me could enjoy.Photo: Element of Surprise 2

Color Me Surprised

digital illustration

Big News, Everybody! Read all about it!

I stopped by Michelle’s blog at The Green Study, because the other day I managed to find an unexpected four minutes glued together that weren’t jammed with must-do things and there’s nothing I like better than wandering around the inspiring nooks and crannies of my friends’ homes in the interwebs. I just went there for the great reading and brain-jolting goodness that seems to be forever hovering at Michelle’s fingertips, and as I went through the post at hand I was busy enjoying the anticipation she created in me to visit some other blogs she described along the way. That’s how I’ve found nearly as many good blogs to read and follow as I have through connecting with commenters on my own blog: looking at others’ suggestions and finding new ideas and interests and friendly ‘study groups’ and kaffeeklatsches of endless variety in so many unexpected lanes and forests and classrooms everywhere.

I certainly wasn’t expecting to meet myself there. But thanks to her open door policy, there I was in black and white. I hope I at least had my fly zipped and the lettuce brushed out of my teeth when I appeared in The Green Study. In any event, I am delighted to flounce further [farther? I’m unclear about whether the applications of these two cousin words differs from ‘earth’ grammar when met in the binary world…] around in cyberspace and explore yet more new worlds. You, on the other hand, if you haven’t already met Michelle, should pop by her place and have a look around as well. I never come away from there without some new and piquant angle from which to view my reality, and the fact that she can make me collect and inspect such intriguing items with such a perfect brew of intelligence, outrage, insight, hilarity and compassion means I can promise you won’t be sorry for going there either.

Meanwhile, she has encouraged me to shine a little light on a few other bloggers I’ve perhaps neglected to introduce to you here before or at least recently. Herewith, in no particular order—starting, appropriately enough, with Random Rose.

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Random Rose’s Blog: http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/17201311/ —This lovely Rose brings everything around her into bloom with intuitive artworks and magical prose and poetry. I sensed sisterhood the minute I stepped into her blog space, yet never find her the least bit predictable, so it’s always a joy to pop in and see what’s new in her garden.

Meticulous Mick: http://meticulousmick.wordpress.com —A day spent with John in Ireland is a holiday, no matter what he’s up to at the moment: chasing The Hound, his hilariously handsome companion, over hill and dale or exploring the everyday beauties of the nearby towns and parks or musing, gently, on what is important in life.

Dreams to Reality! http://afsheenanjum.wordpress.com —My instant-little-sister Afsheen blogs family affections, artful crafts, inspirational contemplation, and numerous other forms of happiness that prove her education, her Muslim roots and great upbringing give her a heartfelt appreciation for what binds all of us together in joy and love.

Belsbror: http://belsbror.wordpress.com —Another contemplative fellow, Bror Blogger has a heart for what inspires, a mind for contemplating what can make us better, and an eye for inviting imagery that makes me want to visit and linger at his place.

My Life as an Artist (2): http://jcrhumming.wordpress.com —Janet’s sumptuously dainty (yes, that’s possible; just go and see!) artwork is blended skillfully with tales of fact and fiction, and some fact, like the stories of her idyllic former home in Wales, almost too pretty and charming not to be fiction, too.

David Emeron: Sonnets: http://davidemeron.com —Don’t be deceived by the title and subject of this blog; David’s sonnets are full of more widely varied and deeply felt content than many less vehicle-focused authors ever dream up in their worldly wanderings. His beautifully realized sonnets each (and in their pairings) evoke endless musing.

Shivaay Delights: http://shivaaydelights.wordpress.com —Her blog is a marvelously warm place where the beautiful Dimple shares recipes and stories from her Indian heritage and family love, making me feel very welcome and very, very hungry every time.

The Ancient Eavesdropper: http://tylerpedersen02.wordpress.com —Besides being in awe of the enormous quantity of Tyler’s output in photographs, prose and poetry, I am always amazed to find that not only does he do all of that stuff well, he has apparently got several other parallel lives of work, love and play that are equally artful and impressive.

A Holistic Journey: http://holisticwayfarer.com —Diana’s deep compassion and endlessly patient dives into the central topics of our humanity and our ability to expand humanity’s horizons keep me coming back for more and lead me to think about things in ways I’d not yet explored about how I fit into the universe and whether there’s anything I can do to make that more meaningful.

The Vibes: http://thevibes.me —Far more than simply managing, as if this weren’t enough,  to be a top-shelf graphic artist and insightful traveler, Mark is also a music aficionado and expert, thoughtful critic, garden enthusiast, cat wrangler and all-around delightful guy.

Curls and Carrots: http://shannaward.com —If it isn’t enough to gaze upon her duo of exceedingly adorable children (and it is, trust me) or to learn some of the heartfelt history of modern Judaism at the elbow of a gifted sharer (and that’s true here, too), then go over for big helpings of fantastic cookery in Shanna’s inviting kitchen.

DreamPrayAct: http://dreamprayact.com —A Methodist minister who challenges us to shape our mortality with humane graces, Mark uses his gently persistent voice to advocate for justice, hope and peace, individually and between us all.

Blue Jelly Beans: http://bluejellybeans.wordpress.com —The beautiful Giovanna shares cultural and personal history, all cooked into magnificent recipes in both English and Spanish that make me want to eat them all day long, no matter what the language.

Photo Maestro: http://photomaestro.wordpress.com —Specializing in, but far from limited to, location photography, Rhys has a gift for capturing the ephemeral Moment that makes each place, each person and each subject in his work uniquely appealing.

Journey into Poetry: http://journeyintopoetry.wordpress.com—Sharing Christine’s journey isn’t merely poetic, though that is pleasurable and insightful enough indeed, but it’s also a journey alongside the gracious, thoughtful and good-humored Christine, who embraces a life-affirming and open-handed hospitality with great intentionality.

Vultureşti: http://atdoru.wordpress.com —Doru reminds me with every post how universal are some qualities of human existence. I am immersed in the stories implied in the human-interest photos, the sense of history contained in details of buildings and hidden alleyways, and the attractions of minute details of frost and bloom.

Hot, Cheap & Easy: http://hotcheapeasy.com —Like the gorgeous recipes she posts, Natalia is certainly Hot, but the cheap and easy aspects she adds on to her cookery make it particularly useful and appealing to study and imitate her ways in the kitchen. Add on a great sense of history and sense of humor, and you’re in a great place ‘over there’.

Earthquake Boy: http://earthquakeboy.wordpress.com —David has a seriously keen eye for fantastic subjects and the skills to make them into photographic art, but it’s often his clever titles that take them over the top to truly outstanding levels.

The London Flower Lover: http://thelondonflowerlover.wordpress.com/about/ —The deep-hearted Team at TLFL brings thoughtful grace to exploring the immense impact that something as seemingly simple and relatively small as a flower, or a bouquet of them, can have. Their musings and artful arrangements never fail to remind me to think about how something as seemingly simple and relatively small as an individual person can have immense impact by being equally thoughtful and kind.

Spiderpaw’s Blog: http://spiderpaw.wordpress.com —I’m particularly in awe of the way Lionel uses the character of light and patterns sharpened by contrasting values to create enormous depth and richness in his views of what might otherwise be missed in the local and personal landscape of home and hometown.

Veggiewhatnow: http://veggiewhatnow.wordpress.com —If you’re a vegetarian, great, you won’t have any excuse for being bored or limited by what you can make under the tutelage of this delightful blogger. But if you’re a meatatarian of any kind, go on over to discover that you don’t have any excuse for avoiding vegetable deliciousness either!

Amazing Pictures by Michael Taggart: http://amazingpicturesblog.com —Clearly I have a soft spot for fabulous photography. But Michael, along with the other photobloggers I admire, has a gift for bringing us far more than mere photos. Even when he’s showing us SOOC kinds of images he’s got a terrific eye, but I’m especially drawn to his inventively processed story images, which really are Amazing.

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And that, my dear reading friends, is what I love about blogging in general. Each of us, though we may share some personal roots or points of view, explores our existence in truly distinctive ways that become art and inspiration. And at the same time, these unique voices and ways of expressing ourselves show over and over how much we really have in common, and that fills me with both hope and happiness.

Thanks again, Michelle, for reminding me of it so often and so powerfully.

Sometimes I Surprise Myself

I catch a glimpse of myself in a window or mirror as I pass, and I am astonished to realize that the person I see is Me. It’s not so much that I’m horrified or amused by my rapid slide into aging’s odd forms of pseudo-disguise, by my generally slovenly dishevelment after rigorous housecleaning or gardening, or by my bizarre thoughtlessness about what I left the house wearing (though any of those might conceivably play a role from time to time); mostly, it’s just that I don’t really think that much in general about what I look like and so it always catches me very slightly off guard. My spouse tells me he finds me attractive, and that’s all I care much about, as my appearance goes, short of anyone finding me visually repellant, and thus far, no one has admitted that one to me.photo montageFortunately, the same spouse who is stuck looking at me more than any other person has also acted as my barber and general appropriate-dress consultant for the last eighteen years or so, so if he doesn’t like what he sees, he’s free to recommend a different outfit or cut my hair in a new way. This last summer’s road trip, while it didn’t make it impossible to cut my hair, made it inconvenient enough that we decided to just experiment with growing it out longer than two or three weeks’ worth as has been the norm for all these years. It was mostly just a laziness-motivated decision on my part, but after a couple of extra weeks I started to like the idea of just seeing how my hair grew out after having been so uniformly short for a couple of decades.photo montageTurns out, there’s some slight wave to my hair, an unexpected–ahem–turn after the last number of years having had pretty much straight hair, short as it was. I kind of like that what white hairs I have show up better with the slightly longer look too–an accent I like much better than my naturally bland brownette color. Hey, maybe the streaks of white will further highlight my pasty-pale complexion. Ha! Not for nothing that my Thai college roommate and her friends from home called me Princess Snow White!

I decided to celebrate my new/old (wink-wink) look by trying my hand at jewelry assembly last week, and concocted a necklace out of jewelry findings and parts plus a couple of items I already had among my collected miniature sculptural found-object goodies. While I’m obviously a neophyte at the whole practice of concocting jewelry, I was rather pleased with my little semi-Steampunk necklace, perhaps the more so because the first person who saw me wearing it the first time I did so was very complimentary. Given all of the new bits of image-tweaking, and having been asked by a couple of friends to update my Gravatar now that I have a tad more hair to show, it seems apropos to get around to it. In another slightly surprising event, I managed to take a photo in which my eyes remained open, I did not decapitate my self-portrait or get my usual wildly wiggly motion blur, and most amazingly of all, I don’t mind the picture terribly much. So here we go. Never know what I’ll surprise myself with next.photo

Car Crash Bad

I almost crashed the car. While I make no claims of being an outstandingly skillful driver, I do credit myself with being a pretty sensible, legal and even careful one. But I’m not infallible, either. I’m just very glad I happen to be lucky, too.

So my close call was just that, a close call. It would have been my own fault as well, because although I did wait and look all directions and not see any cars coming my way since the one that was was behind something bigger the whole time I scanned that direction, it jolly well was there and it was moving rather quickly. Possibly even faster than was strictly appropriate in that stretch, but I was still the driver that started to turn left at the light directly in front of that oncoming car. Our respective guardian angels were evidently working overtime, because both the other driver and I were able to brake and steer out of the situation fairly swiftly.

A split second’s difference, and our cars could have been demolished, our selves injured or even killed. That accident being technically my fault would have been utterly irrelevant outside of legal terms and in practical terms: both of our lives stood a hair’s-breadth from being forever altered, not to mention the effects on all of the life-dominoes that would inevitably be downed or redirected by that incident. All because of a single mote’s difference.digital collageAnd we two, and all of those around us at the intersection, in the following second or two regrouped and continued just as though nothing had happened at all, if perhaps with a dash of adrenaline pumping.

Isn’t that the way that we live every day, every moment, though? Whether through wickedness or stupidity we go astray, or merely by happenstance or sheer momentary bad luck, we are at risk every instant we’re alive. As a person who copes with exaggerated anxiety (thankfully, mine is treatable), I could easily find excuse in that for any amount of paranoia and become anything from a perpetual pessimist to an emotionally crippled hermit. But besides being impractical, that’s a hideously unappealing plan for existence.

My solution is to keep working on my vigilance as far as paying attention to the details in day-to-day life, hoping that others are doing the same and we’re all generally watching out for each other, too, and assuming that my good luck, guardian angels and/or serendipitous circumstances will always tip in my favor. Beyond that, knowing that I can’t control any such things, I know it’s best to just turn off the switch, to let go. I even like to think I can be on the lookout for more excuses to be delighted with life and let the accidents be ones of tripping over unexpected joys. There’s far too much fine and happy stuff in the mix that should not be missed or wasted.

Life, that’s Good.photo

Were My Eyes Red!

I think I had a deer-in-the-headlights moment on a recent morning. When I went to wash my hands and looked up into the mirror, a bizarre monster was looking back at me and I froze. I stared uncomprehendingly, quite unable to make sense of the world for a moment, what glared back at me from the looking-glass was a creature with the strangest pair of burgundy wine-colored eyes I’d ever seen.

digital image from a photo

BOO! [artist’s rendition of conjunctival googly eye]

A quick assessment–possibly including a bit of arm-waving to see if the monster waved back at me in perfect sync or, rather, in reply to my advances–convinced me that I was looking at myself after all. An inexplicably unrecognizable self, but mine all the same.

I wasn’t in pain. There was no horrible itching, no creepy gunk running down my face. None of my limbs seemed to have detached themselves from my torso. I could feel no symptoms of anything untoward at all, and had awakened feeling perfectly dandy, with no sense of impending doom whatsoever.

As it transpired, the red-eyed madness was evidently a friendly reminder that I’d slept the night on a hotel pillow unlike mine. Perhaps the pillow’s stuffing or even, I suppose, the detergent with which the bed linens were laundered, bestowed upon my freakish new beauty by the agency of an allergic spasm of hyper-chromatic hilarity.

The really surprising thing about this whole episode is the series of alarms it set off in recognition that I often, well, don’t recognize the perfectly obvious in front of me until its moment has already passed. Ah yes, those many times when I’ve sat talking with a person and not realized until later just whose presence I’d taken for granted–whether an acquaintance I’d not recognized thanks to my prosopagnosia, a celebrity I’d not recognized by failing to connect name or title or other clues, or any other person I’d not fully appreciated in the moment. It’s a pity we are sometimes so blind to who or what is right in front of us that we don’t recognize how fantastic our lives really are, and how much richer for the company we keep.

If I need further periodic reminders, I hope the great people who are around me will kindly give me the needed nudge. So very much kinder and cheerier a nudge than, say, the appearance of an alien in the mirror. And lest I have failed to make it clear to you, this is also my time to say Thank You and express my appreciation to all of you good people who do give me the time of day, regardless of my thick-headedness or my bleary red eyes.

graphite drawing

Oh deer, what can the matter be?

Closed/Open

Windows and doors

Are metaphors—

But also real

Gateways.

So: are Yours?photoHow open to change?

How closed in fear?

Do you throw them wide

When a friend

Comes near?photoYou can bar the way

And lock out

All storms—

But have you

Barred Chance in all

Its forms?photoAre your windows sealed

To stop the rain

So tightly that

No light can gainphotoEntry anymore?

Is your door of steel

Holding off

New joys

For fear you’d feel?photoThrow open the sash!

Swing wide the door!

Adventure is what

This life is for.photo