Self-Portrait with Fife #photoaday #project365

Day 23:  Self-Portrait with Fife

23 of 365. Our Daily Challenge prompt — Whistle.

My first thought on the whistle photo was to do a tea kettle, but a lot of people in the group and doing tea kettles, and many of the photographs are much better than I could do. I haven’t seen any other fifes, most likely because it isn’t exactly a whistle, but it’s close enough if you know how to play it.

Photo Extra: The Snack of Champions

The Snack of Champions

I posted my picture of the day for my 365 project earlier, but it didn’t fit today’s prompt from my Flickr group, so I had to do something else as well.

The prompt is “Sticky.” What I have here is a Triscuit with cream cheese and pepper jelly. It’s pretty sticky, especially since I went heavy on the jelly.

These prompts really are a challenge. I get a new prompt each morning for a photo to take that day. I have no idea ahead of time what it will be, and I’ve been trying to stick to the spirit of the group and finish each prompt on the day it is posted.

Sticky didn’t sound too difficult to me today, but the problem is I want to do something no one else has done. Today I thought of sticky notes first. That would have been easy. I have tons of them in my office. But by the time I did my job for a few hours and checked to see what other people had posted, the group pool was full of photos of sticky notes.

I thought of glue. There were pictures of that.

I thought of syrup. There were pictures of that.

I thought of jelly hand prints on a glass door, but I wasn’t willing to put my hands in jelly, and I’m always afraid to ask to borrow a child on a Friday night. There’s no telling when their parents will take them back if you pick them up on Friday after work.

So I went with a variation of jelly I didn’t think anyone else would do — pepper jelly on a cracker. It might not be terribly original, but I haven’t seen another one like it in the pool yet (jelly-covered fingers crossed).

To Kill a Sunrise #photoaday #project365

Day 21:  To Kill a Sunrise

21 of 365.

I had this grand plan this morning. I was going to go to work extra early and knock a bunch of tasks out of the way before I went to cover another instructor’s classes for the day. I got up. I got myself together. I left my house. But then there was this awesome sunrise, which I haven’t seen very many of in my lifetime.

I couldn’t help it. Instead of going straight at the first intersection like I usually do to head to work, I turned right and drove until I found a place to turn off the road and park. That just happened to be the Lincoln Plaza medical center. I pulled into the back of their empty parking lot, and snapped away at the beautiful morning.

I did get to work in time to go to the class I was covering. Some of the students came in late. If they had only known to say “but there was this awesome sunrise,” I would have totally understood.

On Ivy Street #photoaday #project365

Day 20: On Ivy Street

20 of 365. Our Daily Challenge prompt — Things that start with I. Holga-ish effect applied on

This is another building in Ellisville. They seem to be showing up as often as cats in my daily photo project. That’s because I’m at least within a few blocks of my office through the primary daylight hours every day. I might take off walking, but I don’t go far.

I’ve been thinking that my Flickr group that provides these photo prompts was sort of like photography kindergarten. It’s more than just social sharing of images. It offers some gentle and very basic education as well. Today, however, when I saw that the prompt was “Things that start with I,” it occurred to me that kindergarten is probably more advanced that this. The kindergartners in my family covered all of their letters last year in preschool. I’m in photography preschool, and I’m very happy there. I’m not sure I want to move up next year.

Life in the Shadows (or Accident in Sepia) #photoaday #project365

Day 18: Life in the Shadows

18 of 365. Our Daily Challenge prompt — Side View.

This is the side of a building in Ellisville, Mississippi. It’s in sepia because I forgot that my camera was set to the picture mode monochrome with a sepia filter effect. I just picked it up and snapped, and this is what I got. The building is red. Because of the harsh light hitting it this afternoon, though, it looks better in sepia.

Today was uninspired. I worked. I walked downtown at the worst time of day to try to find something I could take a picture of from the side. I worked some more. I came home and sat staring at nothing, which is why I didn’t have time to put any extra effort into my photo a day project. I was busy staring at nothing.

I did find out after I came home, though, that the Bank of Ellisville was robbed at gun point today. I was about a block away from the bank when I took this picture. I didn’t see anything. I don’t have anyone who looks like a bank robber in my photographs. Too bad. If I’d snapped a shot of a bank robbery, that might have put a little inspiration in my day.

That said, I’m glad no one was hurt in the robbery, and I wish for calm nerves and a peaceful night’s sleep to the bank employees.

Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller

3 of 52 in my 2011 book blogging challenge.

If I’d known Hand Wash Cold was a book about a woman’s decision to become a Zen Buddhist priest and meditation teacher, I probably would have overlooked it. I’m interested in learning about Zen, but that description just wouldn’t have grabbed me. Luckily, I didn’t read that description of this book (or any description evidently) before I picked it up. I was free to love it without preconceptions, and I did.

This is a book about a woman’s decision to become a Zen Buddhist priest, but it’s more about the simple truths of living an ordinary life. It’s also impressively well-written. Karen Maezen Miller has a strong and compelling voice.

She wields that voice through a series of endearing anecdotes about her relationships with her family–her parents, her daughter, her first husband and then her second husband–and through those reflections we learn that life is laundry.

The basic lessons of Hand Wash Cold are that we find peace and meaning in taking care of the simple daily chores required to live in the world, in appreciating and tending to our immediate environments, and in cultivating our relationships just as we would our gardens.

I particularly enjoyed an anecdote in which she talks about struggling so hard to drive her daughter to a top-notch preschool so that she would have a chance to make it into top-notch schools all the way to Harvard, and then one day her daughter said, “Where are my friends?” The child didn’t have friends to play with at home because she went to school in an area that wasn’t convenient to get to from their home. That’s when Miller realized that her daughter’s relationships and her sense of belonging in her own community were more important than whatever perceived academic advantage she might find in the more competitive schools. The daughter was enrolled in a public kindergarten near their house.

That story I can appreciate. I’m not sure the competitive track is all it is cracked up to be. I’m ready for the simple life. That’s how I found this book. I went into the Kindle store on Amazon and searched “simplifying life” and ended up downloading this mainly because I recognized the title. I had seen it previously when one of my friends gave it a high rating on Goodreads.

Maybe a Kindle download is not supposed to be part of the narrative for simplification, but it is in my narrative.

Regardless, I’m glad I found this book, and I’m glad I read it. It’s easy reading, and there is no advice in it so profound that you’ve never read it before somewhere else, but it is still a wise and comforting read.

I finished it thinking it was easy for someone who lives in California with a Japanese garden tended by a team of professionals to talk about appreciating what’s right around you instead of wanting so much to be somewhere else. I wondered if I could find that kind of satisfaction in my plain little yard gone brown for the winter.

I walked outside to think about it and saw this.

Light in January

That’s a start at least.

If you need to turn things down a notch and make peace with your own anxieties, read Hand Wash Cold. It’s as good as a hot cup of chocolate on a lazy afternoon.

A Touch of Mint #photoaday #project365

Day 17:  A Touch of Mint

17 of 365. For the Our Daily Challenge prompt — topless without people.

I, for one, was relieved that they added “without people” to the prompt.

This was my first attempt at shooting in the full manual mode on the camera. I should have started with that. I understood more about the relationship between aperture, shutter, iso, and white balance after a round of shots in manual than I have after reading a stack of explanations about it all.

I’m happy enough with this shot, but it makes me wish I had a better way to control lighting. There are reflections on the teapot. Those are partly from an overhead light and partly from a window. I needed something more diffused. Clearly I need a studio setup. Since that isn’t likely to happen in this decade, it’s back to the books. I have some home-crafted photog tricks to learn.