Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Suck It Up

 "Suck it up and travel. You won't born here to work and  pay taxes. You were put here to be part of a vast organism to explore and create. Stop putting it off."  ~Jason Mraz

From May through mid November, I operate an Airbnb hosting business at my 800-square-foot cottage in Charlestown Rhode Island. During that time, I happily move myself and sweet Carla out to my one-room garage apartment/studio where I host a few dozen couples and solo travelers who make my home their home-away-from-home for three nights or more. The money that I make during those four months makes up the bulk of my annual income. Those monies, along with a monthly social security check and a draw from some long-held investments sustain me. I tuck away the Airbnb money in order to travel the remaining months of the year. 

At 67 years old, I live, literally, and work, to pay for, to support the jaunts that I gleefully get to take the rest of the year. From one-day workshops to abandoned mill, hospitals and homesteads, to longer stays such as Hazel Meredith‘s Barns and Back Roads 3-day workshop in Tennessee, these outings are the lifeblood of my creative life. I schedule at least one adventure a month, sometimes two, and these outings give me something to look forward to. 

My point in telling you all this is to hopefully encourage you, to spur you, to convince you to get out there, to behold the wonders of this world. I have taken two solo cross-country trips in my life, and both adventures changed me. I came back braver, stronger, more creative and at home in my own skin. and more in love with life itself.  If you’re waiting for more money, more time, a partner, retirement, I beg you to not wait. Set your course, your compass, and get out there. It doesn’t take much. Cut back if you have to. Give up cable. Shop smarter for your groceries. Eliminate unnecessary spending. If you want it as badly as I do, you won't miss these small concessions. 

Recently, my dear friend and fellow muse, Janice Pospisil, turned me on to this awesome virtual way to travel around the globe. While it’s a far cry from the real deal, it’s a start, and maybe, just maybe it’ll get your blood and juices flowing and thinking about sucking it up and traveling. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

What We See


"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." ~ John Lubbock

I use this Lubbock quote often, and I wholeheartedly believe it is at the root of all manifestation. What are you giving your attention to? Do you expect miracles, or do you assume they happen to everyone else, never you?

I seek love, not the romantic kind, rather the kind that is found in grocery store lines, on the highways, daily on Facebook and in social media. I do not watch the news, I do not seek out the gore and desperate tidings online or in the newspapers. I will scroll right past your post if you're whining again about your cheating husband. I am not blind either; I know such miseries exist. I simply choose to focus on the things, the experiences, the happenings, that I wish to see more of. Generosity. Abundance. Kindness. 

I once dated (literally, once) a man who kept a machete under the seat on the passenger's side of his truck. I'd been groping around for my misplaced cellphone when I came upon it.

"Why do you have a machete in your truck?" I asked.
"Just in case," he answered.
"In case of what?" I pressed.
"In case someone tries to mess with me," he countered.

I had just returned from my first solo cross country road trip---9000 miles in 30 days---and not once did anyone mess with me, not at the pumps, not checking into my rooms for the night, not on the long, sometimes barren and desolate highways. I went out into the world expecting safety, seeking connection, deliriously in love with life, and not once did calamity visit me. Perhaps there are two types of people in the world: people who look for, and generally find, trouble, and people who have faith and hail mankind as benevolent.

Maybe one day, someone, something, will prove my theory wrong, but in the meantime, I'll go on believing in love because when I lead with that, all things are possible. Try it. If I'm wrong, I'll refund your misery.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

A Sense of Place

Did you know that in addition to our five senses, we have a sixth? It is the sense of place, an internal compass and map made by memory and spatial perception together. If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are.

I have a friend with a broken heart. My friend is not struggling through a breakup or a divorce or a death in his family, rather he is heartbroken over the loss of his home. For decades, this man poured his heart, soul, and talents into reconstructing one of the most magical cottages in coastal New England. I know because I had the privilege of spending a few weeks there every summer when I lived in Providence.  The architectural details in this cottage are unique and museum quality. From hand-carved wall sconces to smooth gliding pocket doors to intricate moldings, this artisan supplied his vision and breathtaking talent. While working on the cottage, my friend and his family occupied the sprawling, turn-of-the-century home on the same property. What I didn't know at the time was that this place he called home was actually owned by his wife's family, and when they decided to sell, he was uprooted. Hence his broken heart.  

My friend's circumstance got me thinking about relationships, especially the relationships we all have to (and with) place, and how the loss of a home can bring about a heart-wrenching sense of displacement and dislocation. Chances are, you've inhabited more than one place in your lifetime; I know I have. I have lived the life of a gypsy, relocating every seven years or so. From the rambling farmhouse I raised my three children in, to a ski lodge in the mountains, to a Soho-style condo in a chic Rhode Island town, to my humble 800-square foot cottage, I have loved, I have inhabited deeply, the energy between all those four walls. I've poured my self into each of these dwellings, and each departure has left me a little tender-hearted. My brother, on the other hand, has only known one place for nearly forty years. When he and his wife married, they began their life in an apartment, but soon moved into a new colonial high up on a rural hill. As his wife lays in a medically-induced Covid coma, I can only imagine the thoughts running through his head around home, this place where they have lived, loved, and raised their only child, my nephew.  

As we embark on a new year of discoveries, look around. Take a moment to soak in, to see, to appreciate your sense of place. Give thanks for the minutes, the hours, the days, weeks and years that you get to be alive in this place that is shaping you, making you who you are, even when you're not looking. And then, if you have a minute, listen to Miranda Lambert's song, The House That Built Me.(  

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Review. Reflect. Rejoice.

I sat down this week and made a list of all the photography workshops I attended this year. I included the excursions that I took myself on--alone--without other photographers. The overall results surprised me. In 2021, I managed to photograph nearly two dozen locations, from an abandoned 1929 hotel in upstate New York, to a rural field of rocking horses in Massachusetts, to country barns and winding back roads in Tennessee. Why am I telling you this? 2020 and 2021 have been years of great isolation for many of us. Our hearts are heavy. Some of us have lost loved ones, jobs, health, friendships. In short, it's been a time of great transition. The one thing that has held and kept me steady is my art. The one thing I have been uncompromising on is getting out (sometimes just in my own backyard), with my camera, and doing the one thing I can control: my creative life

So I am asking you, I am imploring you to consider this question: what do you love to do? (Not who do you love; there's a big difference.)  What is the one pursuit, the one passion, that without, you simply wouldn't feel whole? Perhaps it's writing poetry, songwriting, painting, photography, design, culinary arts. If you don't know the answer, take out a piece of paper, or your journal, and allow the answers to come. We are all gifted, but some of us never open our package.

(Perhaps consider joining me in 2022 for one of my creativity courses. See link below.) 

As we tiptoe lightly into 2022, I am grateful for the opportunity to review, reflect, and rejoice in my God-given talents.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Good Eye

When my son played Little League youth baseball, I'd often hear the other parents shout, "good eye!"  when he wisely chose not to swing at a bad pitch. I receive similar praise as a photographer when I capture an image that resonates with my audience. Whenever I receive this compliment, I am reminded just how true this statement is. Since birth, I have only had one good eye

Born with an ocular coloboma in my left eye, I depend solely on my right eye for my sense of sight. According to Wikipedia, "a coloboma is a hole in one of the structures of the eye, such as the iris, retina, choroid, or optic disc. The hole is present from birth and can be caused when a gap called the choroid fissure, fails to close up completely before a child is born." 

My coloboma is hour-glass shaped, and every now and then I'll meet a stranger who will point, peer deeper and exclaim, "Oh, my God; your eye!!!" Sometimes I'll play along and feign surprise, but more often than not, I'll smile and fill them in on the nature of the malady. I am acutely aware, each and every time I pick up my camera, that I am blessed to have that one good eye. I don't sit around lamenting the eye I never had use of. Instead I protect the good eye by wearing safety glasses when doing yard work or any activity that could compromise my sight. 

I throw up a silent prayer each time I venture out with my camera, aware of how fortunate I am. As I sat in the ophthalmologist's office for my annual eye exam last week, I was reminded just how blessed I am to have that one good eye

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Weather Warnings

I listened in horror earlier this week as my cycling coach told our class about the recent loss of her Subaru, and almost her life. It happened on her way to the gym in the early morning hours while the wet and windy remnants of Hurricane Ida were being felt here in southern Rhode Island. My coach took the exit off the highway and made her way down the main street and took a right towards our facility. It was darker than usual because the power had gone out and along with it, the street lights overhead. Without warning, she began floating, flood water began to fill her car, and then the unspeakable---the car shut off. Unable to roll down her windows, and with the water rushing in, it was a miracle that a police officer appeared out of nowhere and helped her open her car door where she then stood in hip-deep flood waters

I took a driver's education course decades ago. At that time, they didn't teach us about climate change, global warning, flash flooding, or the dangers of intense weather. They should now!! That education could save a life, which is what I am endeavoring to do here. So to my adult children, friends and family, near and far, please pay attention. Don't venture out in uncertain conditions, and if you do, please don't take chances with the power of water, even if you drive a big SUV. My coach could easily have drowned in her vehicle that morning. Blessedly, all she lost was her car.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Less is More

When I checked in at the ticket counter this morning for the 9am ferry to Monhegan Island, 12 miles off the coast of Maine, the woman who handed me my roundtrip tickets inquired about my luggage. I explained that I only had the backpack, and that most of the stuff in it was camera equipment and I wished to keep it with me for safekeeping. 

"Wow!" she exclaimed. "You're here for the whole weekend and that's your only bag? I'm impressed!"

"Yup," I beamed with pride. 

"I've seen overnighters come with steamer trunks," she laughed.

I thought long and hard about what and how to pack for these 2-1/2 days on a pedestrian-only island. I started by paring down the contents of my camera bag, choosing my lenses and accessories carefully. In my roller suitcase, I packed a pair of jeans, sandals, four tops, toiletries, my beloved laptop, journal and a novel. 

However, I grew concerned reading some of the literature describing the crossing and the island terrain. The word "hills" came up several times. Intuitively, I knew flip-flops weren't going to cut it, so I purchased an inexpensive pair of yellow Topsider sneakers at my local consignment shop. I had time and opportunity on Friday night to consider my options as I was staying in a quaint cottage about a mile from the parking area. Did I really want to drag my roller suitcase behind me from the parking lot to the dock and then from the dock to my Airbnb? 

I decided to splay out the contents of the roller bag on one of the double beds in the cabin, and in doing so, I opted to consolidate. Ever-present in my mind was the burning question: "How much do I really need this item?

So, in addition to my two camera bodies and 1/2-dozen interchangeable lenses, here's what I selected: my laptop, my hotspot, my charging cables, my journal, my comb, my toothbrush/paste, meds, one sleeveless top and a lightweight hoodie. I left behind the current book I've almost finished reading, shampoo, a pair of jeans, flip-flops and all the extra tops.

Was the pack on my back heavier? Well, yeah, because I added my laptop to the mix, but I'm grateful that my minimalism kicked in, allowing me to lighten my load on this very hilly island paradise.