Photo-A-Day: Away

Photo-A-DayLike my still life with passport, Freire, and Boal? Tomorrow I’m leaving the States for almost a week in Brazil and I don’t anticipate blogging much. It’s a work trip with some really fun colleagues and with a little time for sight-seeing. I don’t think I’ll be near the protests. But I will be near some waterfalls.

Today, like this whole week, like this whole month, has been a whirlwind and I am exhausted. So, I’m not going to say much. I arranged this silly little still life because these two thinkers–Freire and Boal–really interest me. (I’m fortunate that some of the work I do actually involves their methods.) With all the stress and headache of getting ready to leave the country whizzing around me, I wanted to take a moment–a very brief, half-conscious moment–to acknowledge some of the possible meanings around this trip.

Let me put it another way: I’m going to spend my time on the 9-hour flight writing, thinking, and reflecting on how to put of Freire and Boal’s ideas into practice in my life.

When I return, I promise lots of pictures. Stay tuned. And, thank you, as always.

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Photo-A-Day: Yesterday

Photo-A-DayThis photo is not from today; it’s not from yesterday. It’s from March 2011 in Chittenden, Vermont. This photo is meant to mark yesterday’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.

There’s a lot left to do in this world. Separation, injustice, and discrimination still happen in American society. The battle for marriage equality is not the only battle.

And it’s a very important battle for me.

We’re married in Vermont but live in Ohio. It’s still unclear–and probably will be for some time–what federal benefits we are now entitled to as a result of DOMA’s demise. In a way, it seems like the court’s ruling only exacerbated the patchwork of “marriages” strung throughout the country. Scalia acknowledged as much in his dissent, recognizing that it’s only a matter of time before the proverbial other shoe drops and all states must recognize same-sex marriages.

I’m grateful and in awe of how quickly public opinion has shifted on this issue. I wish there was a way to bottle this momentum so that every cause could experience such a sea change.

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Photo-A-Day: Stretched Thin

Photo-A-DayYep. Look at it this way: at least it’s not wine glasses or beer bottles. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that–just like there’s nothing wrong with all these stained and drained coffee mugs.

It’s been one of those weeks. I seem to be having a lot of them lately. So many moments and milestones to recount. Prufrock and I celebrated the 10th anniversary of his adoption last week, and some good friends got married. My partner left this morning for her last summer at grad school, and I’m about to leave for a work trip to Brazil. In between all of this, I’ve been juggling lots of random work projects from all the random jobs I work. Whew. I am stretched thin. And I’m grateful to be able to sit down and write this post tonight.Photo-A-Day

And I’m grateful for a moment like this one. I took this second photo on the summer solstice during the rehearsal dinner for our friends’ wedding. Andrea and I wandered away from the party and went strolling down this path. We caught a deer snacking on some grass and watched breathless as it hoped through the vegetation to hide from us. We watched the sun slip behind the trees and the wild raspberries and switch grass change color in the fading light. Yes, it’s been hectic lately, but we did have this moment. And it felt very full.

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Photo-a-Day: Tigress

Photo-A-DayHello, everyone! My apologies (again) for missing a couple of days. I feel like every minute of my time has been scheduled this week. Fortunately, the hectic-ness is winding down.

One of the things on my schedule was volunteering. In theory, I think volunteering is a great idea. In practice, my experience isn’t always that great. Sometimes I feel like I’m not really “doing” anything as a volunteer. In high school, I volunteered at a hospital and I filled up ice pitchers. That ice is important, I know, but I really didn’t have much contact with the patients and, honestly, didn’t feel like I was really making an impact. My volunteering history has been a bit sketchy since then.

Enter the SPCA. You know I love dogs. And by volunteering with the SPCA, I can have a direct impact. I work right with the dogs–playing with them–and in so doing, the dogs are getting exercised and socialized. Both of which make them more adoptable. The SPCA shelter in my neighborhood is so overbooked and understaffed that dogs get out of the cages about once a week. (A dedicated group of volunteers is trying to change that so that each dog gets out once a day.)

I’ve been assigned two cages, and it’s my job to make sure that the pups in those cages get outside. Tigress is one of my dogs. She is a sweetheart. Sadly, she’s been at the SPCA for almost a year. Imagine if you were in a cage all day, every day, surrounded by the sounds and smells of really stressed out animals. You go outside for about 20 minutes a week. It’s heartbreaking.

Tigress is good dog; there’s no reason not to adopt her. What tugs on my heartstrings even more is that she looks just like Scout, who is also from a shelter.

When I came home from volunteering today, Scout wouldn’t have anything to do with me. She sniffed me and backed away. Even though I’ve showered and changed clothes, she still won’t engage with me. The shelter smell of stressed out animals must be stuck to me, and it’s certainly stuck to her. She remembers what it was like.

Someone once said to me that dogs remember everything we humans do to them. Which is why a rescue will flinch when you go to pet them because they remember being hit. It’s also why a rescue will kiss you and cuddle with you because they remember that you are safe.

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Photo-A-Day: Success

Photo-A-DayThis isn’t what it looks like. I did not splurge at Whole Foods on several bottles of kombucha, the ancient Eastern elixir. Nope. This is my kombucha, made from my baby. It’s been two weeks since I concocted my first batch, and it’s been brewing away in a dark cabinet. This afternoon, I tasted it, and it’s ready.

I bottled my brew in old glass bottles from Whole Foods. Yeah, I know–not the most exciting picture today. Also, not a very father-y picture, either. (Although, “brewing” does bespeak dad.)

What else can I say? I’m really excited about my ability to make things. I had been worried that kombucha was hard and messy to make. Absolutely not the case. It’s easy…and any leftover culture (that you don’t want to keep for your next batch) can be used in the garden. I get the sense that home-brewed kombucha is more potent than store-bought.

Tonight I’m preparing a new batch of kombucha–this one with green tea. (The first batch was made with English Breakfast.) We’ll see in two weeks how it tastes. I’m also starting a new sourdough loaf tonight–the first one was good, but needed more salt.

Ok, this is a pretty boring post as I’ve spent most of the day preparing for a week of intense meetings. Hope you all had a great Father’s Day.

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Photo-a-Day: Gorge

Photo-A-Day I’m back, after a brief hiatus. We took a quick trip to Red River Gorge, in the Kentucky wilderness. To make up for not being able to post the past couple of days, I offer you two photos.

The first one is of one of the funnest things on the planet: playing fetch with the dogs in the water. We’ve got Prufrock, the whiter one in the back, and Scout, the darker one in the front. And, yes, that’s a very dirty me, fixing to throw their stick. Pruf was quite a swimmer in his youth, but now that he’s about 11 and a half, his skills have declined. Instead of a full-throttle paddle in pursuit of a stick, he’s more likely now to bound through the water for a few steps, stop, sigh, and look at me with a pathetic expression that conveys something like, “I can’t find the stick, please throw another.” And we repeat the cycle.

Scout is scared of everything, including swimming, and, just between you and me, she has a fraction of Pruf’s intellect. Sometimes, she’ll bring a stick back to me if the water is shallow enough. Otherwise, she can’t quite figure out the whole swimming thing. I coaxed her a long a bit on this trip and actually got her to dog paddle. In true Scout fashion, of course, her dog paddle didn’t look like any other dog paddle I’d ever seen. She moved like an otter, twisting through the water.

A quick look through my photo library reveals that I have numerous versions of this same photo–in this exact same watering hole–from various years. You can never have enough photos of being in the water with the dogs.

The second photo isn’t a sunset; it’s something almost better. The light at sunset. The way the pinks and yellows stretch across the sky and illuminate something as mundane as a pine cone gives dusk such an energy. Things in the Eastern part of the sky seem to light up as the sun casts its parting rays across the horizon. It’s just beautiful.

So, here are some pine cones.

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Photo-a-Day: Driving Sunset

Photo-A-DayOk, part of the motivation behind this “photo-a-day” project is to carve out a bit of mindfulness during my day, to do something deliberate. Take the photo, and write about it in a deliberate, intentional, mindful way, thereby achieving a moment of consciousness.

Well, it doesn’t always happen that way, as evidenced by yesterday’s/today’s post. Last night, at about 9:15, I’m driving home from a meeting when I realize that, dammit, I have yet to take my photo for the day. Naturally, I decide to try to take pictures of the fading sunset while I’m driving. This is not my proudest moment of mindfulness. And then I didn’t even get a chance to post the photo.

Sometimes we rush through our intentions, which makes me wonder, is the point of this project to be truly awake and conscious when I take the photo or is the point to just snap a damn photo every day?

Speaking of which, I’m on my way back out of town this afternoon. I’ll be in a rural area with no internet access, so I won’t be posting for a couple of days. But I’ll be sure to have some beautiful photos. Stay tuned!

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Photo-a-Day: Sweet Ride

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Photo Credit: Andrea L. Rotter

First of all, please accept my apologies for being away from the photo-a-day project. It’s more like photo-a-week. I was traveling for work and then visiting some family. Time got away from me.

To make up for my negligence, today I offer you two photos. My partner has gotten into this project, so she snapped these two pics with her phone on her way home from a meeting this afternoon.

I wish I could have seen this with my own eyes. This looks like one sweet ride. In the first photo, you’ll notice that this enterprising young man has jury-rigged an easy chair to his bike. In the second photo, you’ll see that his dog is riding in the easy chair. Now, that’s the way to do it.

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Photo Credit: Andrea L. Rotter

This is what I love about cities: people doing it their way. Even in a seemingly ho-hum place like Cincinnati, there are sights like this–an easy chair, a bike, and a dog, all together. Sometimes I wish to live my life out in nature, way out, in a desolate, open place. But I know I would miss things like this.

I appreciate how much ingenuity this “dog seat” must have required. It’s also a helpful reminder to work with what we have at hand. And always remember the dog.

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Photo-A-Day: Tower

20130606-221210.jpgI’m tired tonight, so I’ll be brief. I’m in New York leading a training, and this happened to be my view out my classroom window. Seeing something like this, Freedom Tower, up close is a lot to take in, for a number of reasons. New York City itself is always a lot to take in.

When I was cropping this picture, I noticed the window washer guy. I didn’t see him when I took the picture. Just like with my first photo-a-day post, I am reminded of Stieglitz. My favorite photograph of his is “Spring Showers” (sorry, I’m using an iPad app to post this and I can’t figure out how to copy a link to the image in here).

The photo shows a crooked little tree and a man in the background sweeping the street clean during a light rain. This was a cropped image. Georgia O’Keeffe kept the original as part of “Waste Basket Collection.” After Stieglitz would print photos and discard the ones he wasn’t going to use, O’Keefe would sneak into the darkroom and empty out the wastebasket, keeping Stieglitz’s cast-offs (The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale has the wastebasket collection, and because I worked there as a student, I got to see the original print of this image.)

So, the original “Spring Showers” is a huge image. The poor little street cleaner is just a blur in the corner. When Stieglitz saw the print, he decided to reframe/resize the image so that the tree and street sweeper were the focal point and cropped out the rest. Artistic choice is so powerful and fascinating.

Makes me want to crop this photo to show just the window washer.

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Photo-a-Day: All the Other Pictures

20130605-222139.jpgAs promised from yesterday, here’s a photo of some newly planted petunias in the garden. It’s hard to believe that at 7:30 this morning I was in Cincinnati planting flowers and now I’m in Manhattan, around the corner from the 9/11 Memorial.

From the vantage point of 7:30am, this was a good photo to take. But throughout my day today, I had pangs of wanting a different image to capture my day. Not so much because these petunias are inadequate–no. Instead, I felt like I saw so much today. There was so much to depict and record. There’s a lot to take in in this world.

My flight was delayed, and as I sat at the gate waiting, I got to watch a team of police officers test their K-9 bomb sniffing dogs. It was amazing to watch these beautiful, slouchy German Shepherds work. They loved to work, following their handlers’ commands. Watching animal and human work together in that seemed very moving to me, in spit of the bizarre circumstances (training an animal to sniff out a bomb). One dog in particular–an almost-all-black shepherd–would get so excited to find the “bomb” (a squeaky toy) that he would prance in circles with the toy in his mouth, clearly delighted in himself.

On my flight, there was a girl who had severe scarring. That isn’t quite the way to say it. I’m not quite sure what happened to her. My best guess is that she was in some sort of accident and was severely burned. She had patches of hair on her head, almost no nose. I think one of her arms ended in a round, blotchy stump. Something horrendous and horrific and painful had happened to her. And yet she was very much a kid, maybe 10 years old. She’d look out the window, saying, “Mom, Mom, look at this!” She was a child.

I smiled as I walked past their row while boarding the plane. I was trying to find that delicate balance acknowledging and ignoring. In our culture, we are so programmed to not stare at people who look “different” that I think sometimes we just ignoring them and their humanity. I don’t know what the “right thing” to do is. I made eye contact quickly and smiled and kept moving.

Obviously, I wasn’t going to take a picture of this injured girl or of the officers testing their dogs. So, the petunias stand.

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