Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Touch Of Autumn

An enchanted world is one that speaks to the soul, to the mysterious depths of the heart and imagination where we find value, love, and union with the world around us"
Thomas More

"Photography is a universal language capable of communicating to wide audience. But photography also is a very personal affair. No two of us approach it exactly the same way. You bring to bear your own personal experiences and influences every time you push the camera's shutter-release button"
Peter Ensenberger
Director of photography for Arizona Highways Magazine for 25 years
From the book: Composing Photos

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Vermillion Cliffs at sunset

Colorado Color

Ridgway marks the northern entrance of the scenic San Juan Skyway.
 The Skyway, one of the All-American Roads in the U.S., winds through unmatched scenery — a photographer’s dream. Located in the picturesque Uncompahgre Valley and surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks of the Cimarronand San Juan Mountains, Ridgway is the “Gateway to the San Juans.”
This “gateway” position was recognized over 100 years ago when the Rio Grande Southern established Ridgway as a railhead center servicing the nearby mining towns of Ouray and Telluride. The town was named for railroad superintendent Robert M. Ridgway who established the town in 1891.
I was happy to spend 4 days photographing the magnificent Fall colors in Colorado
this season.

The Cabin

My mother and my grandmother and I  were sitting on the porch of a cabin in the woods. The cabin reminded me of our trips to Sequoia National Park when I was a kid.

The air was fresh and a crisp breeze would start to chill until the forest canopy would let a ray of sunshine down to warm us back up. The light played in the beautiful forest branches and the leaf strewn floor.

 The sunlight would hit my mother's face and she almost glowed, I was struck by how incredibly beautiful and radiant she looked. My grandmother sitting to my right, my mother to my left. I hadn't seen my grandmother in years and just sitting next to her again, I could feel her love for me. It was a palpable sensation and one I'd missed for all those years. The three of us again, I missed those days and everything about us. 

My mother and grandmother were both very strong women. Both had Masters degrees in Education and notable careers as educators for many years. When we were together, we laughed a lot.  My grandmother was a great storyteller. When they flanked and converged on me, it was a force not unlike an "El Nina" on the California coast.  A setup to set me straight.

My mother was telling me. "You have to be ok with this and you will go on with your life"  and I said to her. 

"No. I'm not ok with this"

 I argued my point like a well-prepared defense attorney. This was not in the cards. At no time in my life had I ever possibly conceived of such events. Too much had already happened and this was just more than I could handle and I knew it. 

The answer is no and I'm not giving in. 

This argument went on for some time. I was prepared to be right. My grandmother would just look at me like she always did, prepared to let me fall all over myself.  Historically, I followed my own path, often a path full of resistance, mistakes and lessons learned in the fallout. 

I remember doing everything I could to belabor my point because I wanted this argument to drag out. I sensed that time was fading and I wanted to waste it. I wanted every last minute I could steal in this place with these women. I was transparent to them. They knew what I was doing. I knew it was ending. 

My mother sitting to my left, finally turned to me with a look like she saw right through me and said in all seriousness  "I can't stay here much longer Val, you will have to be ok with this".

 My grandmother looked at me and I knew they were leaving, my mother would have the final word as she always had. Then they were gone. 

She had died weeks before and my grandmother had died several years before. This conversation took place in a dream after my mother died.  Distinctly real in every sense, down to being able to actually feel the warmth of the sun and the mild breeze.   My mother and grandmother had come to say, Good-bye. 

My mother knew she left too soon. She knew she left me when I needed her and knew my life could hang precariously in the balance.   She came back only once shortly after this to speak directly to me again with words that changed the course of my life forever.  Three little words that brought light into a world that was starting to dim again.   A life, she saved not long after her own had ended. She gave me the wonderful, incredible life and the direction I have today. In some ways, it had been in the cards all along. 

This time of the year, the anniversary of my mother's death is often sad.  I retreat silently inward, I alienate people and then I move past it.   I try not to revel in it too long and each year it seems a bit easier.  I miss her beyond expression.  I try to live my life to make her proud of me. I try to honor her memory by living my life to the fullest. Not living in fear-based moments but in one of discovery and celebration of a wonderful life.  I've come a long way from being the motherless daughter with a chip on her shoulder.  Time did heal much, but I'm still not ok with it. 

Someday, my mother, grandmother and I will be back on that porch on a sun kissed morning laughing about this story and our fleeting worldly existence. Then they'll probably critique my grammar. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dark Days Of Autumn Rain

Down a shady shimmering sleepy road in the early hours of a quaint little town in Southern Utah, I traveled. Small rustic cabins and coffee shops with a bohemian feel set among the brilliant golds and rose colored leaves of a full blown Fall colored dream, add a back drop of 300 foot sandstone bluffs.  Perfect weather and as I drove, I noticed the leaves were starting to fall yet the wind played with them a bit before they landed. I was thinking that, if you could "see" music, this would be an incredible romantic soundtrack and this is my life.

Having seen the sign for "espresso" I pulled over to a cozy little establishment. Armed with fresh brewed coffee and a still warm, homemade pumpkin muffin I set back on the road. Off into the melodic landscape with an incredible sense of freedom. A new adventure awaited, the Fall colors of Colorado and I had 5 days that I could call my own and had never seen Colorado.

As I  drove through the Southern Utah backroads, the candy colored leaves kicked up and   swirled all around my wind.  This was a of those moments that you become intensely aware of your surroundings, you're moment in time and your heart, the here and now. Alive and present right now.  One of those moments where you sense you're own destiny. I felt warm and happy and so lucky for this ....freedom.  I felt the love and smile of my mother. I was conscious of my own "smile" back.

I'm a reluctant city girl. I see the city as grey and uninviting. A constant reminder that I could be somewhere exploring...something incredible. I often wear my hiking shoes to work.  I drive to work four days a week in the dark of the early morning hours, past strip bars and street people showering in the sprinklers.  Concrete under my feet and the colors my eyes are drawn too are graffiti murals and endless mindless banners and signage for things I care nothing about.  For me, the city is a sickness that I constantly plan my escape from.

This trip changed my thinking,  I've decided to leave the city and leave the city, I will.  It may take months, it may take years but I will leave.  And I will find a place that inspires that sense of warmth and well being.

I passed thru a little farming town, not sure what the name was.  Green and manicured land that went on forever...flower boxes and windmills. Cows and horses leisurely grazing. I saw a dog sitting next to a dog house watching my car drive by and wind was waving the fresh laundered clothing hanging on a wire. 

 This isn't someone else's world, this isn't someone else's dream, this isn't someone else's song. This is my world and I choose the colors. I'm taking grey out of my palette, however long it takes..

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere,
and sometimes in the middle of nowhere,
 you find yourself."

My time in Monument Valley was exceptional and left me wanting to explore it even more.I was fortunate enough to get there three times this Summer and got some amazing light, color and clouds as backdrops to beautiful buttes and spires and dramatic monsoon skies.

There is something interesting about Monument Valley that's almost beyond perception and beyond words really. I've thought often about it. Driving away from it a few weeks ago, the lonely highways always make for a time of reflection and so I pondered ... the source of the energy that is felt in the area, the history, the geology, reverent ancient land. 

The imprint of humanity and the generations that felt this area to be sacred I believe are still lovingly palpable as a sense of spirit and love. That aside from the incredible beauty.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Finding Inspiration

"I think that the ideal space must contain elements of magic,
serenity, sorcery and mystery."

"Fall in love.

I didn’t say “be loved”. 
That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone.

Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. 
It is hard work – the only kind of work that I find palatable.