Monday, 19 March 2018

contentment



Recently I have been tossing around this concept called aging and have had some interesting dialogue with myself.  In no particular order, I will wander through some of these conversations.

Yesterday I entered Uplands park from Lansdowne, walking slowly to a stand of rust-coloured bushes that I love to photograph. I chose my marker on the main path so I wouldn't be turned around and get lost when I decided to return to my car.

I had my gum boots on because it is particularly swampy there. 

I searched for different ways I could capture the magic of these bushes, with their flowering stalks, now rust brown. Yes, I had my camera, but it was my eyes that caressed the landscape, resting first on one small area and then another before seeing the wholeness.

I can only explain the openness and peace I felt by saying, as I whispered to myself then, that I believe I had never before felt such absolute and total immersion in the earth.  That I had never before been as happy as I was at that moment.  Even as I said this yesterday, it seemed a remarkable thought and yet, a full day later, I again see these plants shimmering beneath my eyelids.



A few days ago a friend and I were discussing the difficulty an acquaintance has been experiencing since she turned seventy. Tears and depression. The woman was struggling with an imaginary plateau. Maybe she was lonely. Or disappointed.

Since I am fromtheothersideofseventy, I feel I can talk with some authority!

When I turned 70, I remember thinking, well, I won't be a marine biologist this time around.  At the same time I was aware of the 70+ year olds still working and creative, writing, making art, composing, conducting, making policy, holding important government positions, inventing and running marathons. Julia Child was still cooking, writing and doing television in her 80s.

I was determined that the age I had reached was not the plateau as the geographical definition states: "a state of little or no change.."

plateau | Definition of plateau in US English by Oxford Dictionaries

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/plateau

Definition of plateau in US English - an area of relatively level high ground., a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.

















I live a life that I am grateful for. A loving husband who supports my creative growth and understands my occasional storms. Daughters and son-in-laws and grandkids who are dear to me. A sister who shares my early memories. Friends who listen. A beautiful home in a Canadian city overflowing with natural beauty. My garden. Enough money so we can live comfortably and with funds to help others who are having a tough time. Good health. Contentment.

And, a camera that has helped me see and feel more deeply than ever before.


I believe there is a ratio between contentment and the acceptance of the accumulating years.  A correlation between contentment and longevity.





I have just listened to a Ted talk by Robert Waldinger.  He is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running studies of adult life ever done. The Study tracked the lives of two groups of men for over 75 years to understand what brings happiness and how happiness affects our lives.

https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness

This study, begun in 1938, has found that quality relationships with family, friends and community keep us happier, and lead to a more fulfilling and longer life than those people who experience loneliness. As well, these findings show that quality relationships keep our brain functioning better while loneliness is toxic to brain health.

       Not money.  Not fame.  Not work.  Relationships.






So, I guess I will bring a short skirt with me when I go to Cuba in May. No black tights like I wear here, because it will be very hot there. So, if what I have written above is mostly true, and with my  growing-older-and-it's-fine-attitude, it shouldn't be such a big deal to show my sun and liver spotted legs to a bunch of strangers. Right? 

 hmmmm...

                       click on any photograph to see the larger image



Sunday, 28 January 2018

hidden in plain view


I haven't written for almost two months, succumbing to the chaos I see in much of the world. Silenced by the pain. The tears I can't dry. The children I can't comfort. The lies I can't erase.




As I live in comfort in a home I own, in a country that supports my health and well-being, I often feel overwhelmed by the inequality and inhumanity I see around me and listen to on the radio.  I haven't watched network news since my children were infants, when I didn't want them to be seeing and hearing the violence and anger that appeared on the television newscasts.


It was a lullaby in comparison to what people are exposed to now.

I remind myself again and again that while racism, anger and brutality exist, so too does inclusiveness and love. So too does kindness.  Today & tomorrow and in every day that follows, it is up to each one of us to tip the scales towards goodness.  Towards gentleness and decency. Towards tolerance.


While I make donations to agencies and to local initiatives and volunteer where I can be of service, ultimately it is my camera that, once again, is my ally and companion in this scale-tipping practice.

I have been exploring a very small area near Cattle Point for several months. If it's not raining, I bring my camera and look once more at the grasses and the bent and beautiful stands of Gary oak. These trees, growing on First Nations land, appear like a grouping of spirits, ancestors looking over land & ocean.
  
Protectors.



      November's setting sun burnished the earth and bark
       and the few remaining clusters of leaves on these trees.








The dancing glow is less vibrant now, shimmering where my camera tries to focus.






My picture-taking becomes less about capturing an image and more about immersing myself into the image itself.




Being one with the glow and with the silent power of the trees,
                 my heart opens.



            In a single moment I feel hope, hidden in plain view.




To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man's life. -- T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)






















Wednesday, 6 December 2017

there is no such thing as a coincidence





Yesterday, at 10 o'cock, there was a knock at my front door.  Sheets from the dryer still in my arms, I opened it to see a spry-looking man with a grizzly beard, more grey than black.  He asked if there was anything that needed doing in the garden, telling me that he needed $31 as his sleeping bag and cart had been stolen.

I asked him to come into the back garden where we could have a look.  Pulling on my gum boots, I showed him areas that needed raking.  When I pointed to the small pile under a Japanese maple, he questioned me, wondering if I needed to leave them there as a winter mulch, protecting the plants under them.

Ah...he was a gardener!


We walked around, pointing out plants that needed cutting back, and then I left Dale with pruners, a rake and some oversized plastic bags.

He refused my offer of coffee or tea, with a shake of his head. He was here to work, he implied.

1 1/4 hours later he again knocked on the door and I paid him for the excellent job he had done.

Dale had walked all the way to my doorstep at a perfect time.

Perfect because as I struggle with a bone spur and severe arthritis in my right thumb, I can't use my pruners and have been looking helplessly at my unkempt gardens.

Perfect for another reason too.  As a member of Avodah, the social action group at Congregation Emanu-El, I have been active in a drive to purchase and distribute underwear to those who are less fortunate, our vulnerable friends in Victoria.  In our Underwear Challenge, we have been asking for donations to match or exceed Avodah's $500 contribution.

The dark and rainy season is upon us and clothing essentials are needed now more than ever.  Avodah has begun distributing underwear to the following:  *Out of the Rain youth sleeping at the synagogue, *Sandy Merriman House, *Peers, *the Women’s Transition House, *Anawim House, *the Dandelion Society, *Quadra Village Community Centre and *First Metropolitan shelter. 

As Brian and I were returning home from a drop-off at the office of the Women's Transition House, we stopped at a traffic light bordering Oak Bay. In front of our Lexus was a new Audi, to the left a Mercedes, and a shiny BMW pulled up behind us.  I looked on-line to see what the top luxury car brands were and, in addition to the list,  I read this:

  • More expensive and exclusive than mainstream models, luxury cars are about wants rather than needs, and about image rather than utility. ... 

The economic disparity and the injustice of it screamed in my head. How is it that some of us have landed on the okay-side-of-things while others are confined to the hardship place.  Some of us are lucky, some of us less so.  Some of us caring while others, with the same financial security, don't give a shit.  Many governments fattening the pockets of the super-rich, while shutting their eyes to the great needs of  people living at the edge of poverty and to those who have tumbled over this edge.

Meeting Dale yesterday placed a real person in front of me.  I was no longer buying and distributing underwear to "people in need".

This essential clothing was being given to individual men and women, to people as diverse and as complex as I am.



It is people's right to have the essentials of health-care, food, shelter and warm clothing.

While I really do know this, it never hurts to be slammed again with the truth!

Stella, our 8 year old granddaughter, interviewed me 2 days ago for her classroom assignment.  Her final question was: "What advice can you give me?"


My answer was:  #1. be kind  #2. follow your dreams and put everything you have into the journey and  #3. listen -  People have so much to share, if you truly listen to them.







                  If you want to help with the Underwear Challenge, please let me know





BREAKING NEWS
The mystery buyer who bid $450 million for Leonardo da Vinci’s "Salvator Mundi" is a little-known Saudi prince and friend of the heir apparent
Wednesday, December 6, 2017 6:21 PM EST




Wednesday, 13 September 2017

like the imprint of a bird in the sky



"Good and bad, happy and sad, all thoughts vanish into emptiness, like the imprint of a bird in the sky."
                              -- The Sadhana of Mahamudra


 I have been feeling weighed down and squeezed as if by a too tight girdle.  I have been getting things done, but only just, and without enthusiasm.

My hostas need repotting, my garden needs attention, there are small piles of stuff around our house that need sorting and perhaps discarding.  I still have many hundreds of new photographs on the computer that need editing. And a book to read for book club.

Most of these things would be fun at another time.

This lethargy started when one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with liver cancer.  Just like that, she was told it was incurable. Just like that she texted me with the news, on her way back to the Cowichan Valley from the Victoria hospital. She wouldn't come and sit in our garden that day.

She was 6 years younger than me.


Every day something reminds me of J...the Sweet Autumn clematis that is just beginning to bloom reminds me when she housesat for us and the clematis tumbled over the deck and all around her as she sat reading...the grasses in my garden that I never remember the name of, asking her dozens of times to remind me...walking along Willow's Beach gathering seeds from hollyhocks and storing them in all our various pockets to keep the colours separate. Personal conversations about our lives while sitting in our living room.

While I know that she is no longer living, I still expect her to visit, to phone or to text. To knit me another pair of fabulous socks. To eat chicken soup at our dining room table.

J's passing propelled me to immediately visit another special friend in Steveston.  Sheila was on vacation, a perfect time to grab some time together. We walked along the dykes and took a few small day trips,  just being together and cherishing our love for each other.





It is J's cancer and Sheila's company that made me realize that I primarily want joy and nourishment and love in my life and that I needed to discard those things that were not providing this- small day to day chores not withstanding.

As if from a revelation outside of myself, I realized that our beautiful ocean- front suite at Seaview had become a burden.  I realized that our original idea to move there as we aged was unrealistic and that the responsibilities there had begun to outweigh the pleasure. We listed it for sale almost immediately.

http://tours.imagemaker360.com/Viewer/63.asp?id=155388&Referer=&referefull=idx=1

When we purchased our suite in 2013, Seaview Apts became my palette and my canvas.

Creating a contemporary space from a 1951 apartment was a challenge and great fun. From the designing to the actuality, from the choosing of a magnificent piece of quartzite to the simple furnishings to the display of art, it was an artistic experience.

Outside, Brian and I worked together in the overgrown tangle of neglected garden beds to create beautiful new spaces. The gardens began to enhance the beautiful location.





I believe that the places we make reflect who we are.





Through this endeavour, my creative self once again blossomed. Purchasing at Seaview had been a most generous error.*

My immersion into photography began.


We have just returned from a short holiday in Tofino- my place of quiet and peacefulness. While being there hasn't erased my sorrow or appreciably lessened my sense of carrying a heavy load, it has, however, allowed my seeing afresh the magnificence and sanctity and the fragility of the world.






As I walked on the beach, amidst the ever-changing tides, it allowed me to see more clearly that life is a series of changes.  Rumi said that  "All disquiet springs from a search for quiet. And so the best way to cultivate inner peace is to learn to love the way everything keeps changing."   I often forget this.  Tofino helps me remember.


   please click on the photographs to get full-size images


*Isabel Archer’s observation in Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady that “one should never regret a generous error”














from Brian Andreas
Story People

Sunday, 2 July 2017

joy




My photography show, quiet devotion: PHOTOGRAPHS, is still on display in my studio/gallery. People can visit and view these new images by arranging a time with me (jsaundersritchie@shaw.ca)

My studio is surrounded by our exuberant summer garden. Inside, it is quiet and the works hanging only increase this silent peacefulness.  There are no hums from my aging refrigerator, no pings announcing new emails and, best of all, there is the absence of vehicle noise. Several times a day I sit quietly with my photographs, not so much seeing them, but rather feeling them.


For a number of years I tried in vain to adopt a sitting meditation practice. I was part of an intensive Mindfulness class, based on the teachings of Jon Kabat -Zinn, and I actually enrolled for a second time, trying again to sit silent and still. No, my body and mind were not playing!

I have found my own meditation practice: photography.

At this time of year, I may simply remain in our garden with my camera. In the early morning, my collection of various hostas, their containers grouped together in the shade, gather me into their leaves' textures and shapes.




If the irrigation system has been on that morning, the multitude of droplets sit waiting.


Mid-day, I have become fascinated by the shocking near-white areas the sun creates and the contrasting black shadows.





Recent evenings have shown me the pale purple flowers that are beginning to appear.

An hour passes quickly. No thoughts. No itches that used to plague me at mindfulness classes.

Some of the fun for this summer photography show was how it came together. As Tofino is my very favourite place to be, these ocean and sand photographs became the early foundation for "quiet devotion".

The cacti were a surprising addition.Visiting my friend Margo in Tucson this winter, I photographed magnificent cacti every day. Morning and evening. How could the spines work with the serene sand-scapes?


As I printed more images, the consistency of my colour palette was remarkable. This created, I believe, a flow and mood, even as the images' subjects diverged.






Besides sharing a similar palette, the repetitive patterns of both subjects emerged. The show became stronger and I believe, more interesting, by this unplanned direction.

The Southwest and the West Coast became partners.








                     My "silence series" added still another layer to the show.



I have been receiving newsletters from David duChemin for about 2 years. It was only today that I found that he has a website. This site says that David "is a world & humanitarian assignment photographer, best-selling author, digital publisher, and international workshop leader.... Based in Victoria, Canada, when he’s home...."

(Another amazing Canadian. I can't find him on Canada411 and, for all I know, he lives down the street from me!)

It was on his website that I noticed a photographer's manifesto. In this treatise duChemin says "I do what I do to see the world differently and to show others what I see and feel." And, he concludes, "I believe photography opens my eyes to a deeper life, one that recognizes moments and lives them deeper for being present in them." I have often voiced these same thoughts, both in earlier blog posts and when I try to describe to friends my deep connection to my photographs.

Friends say that I have "an amazing eye".

I see it more as having a heart connection to the small gems that surround us. The treasures that are so often overlooked or considered unimportant.