Friday, June 30, 2017

Awareness

June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month as well as my birthday month.  Special occasions both challenge and inspire me to create a unique image to mark the occasion.  A friend’s beautiful garden filled with lavender provided the perfect subject.  The flowering herb is purple, the color associated with Alzheimer’s awareness, and according to flowermeaning.com, it represents “refinement, grace and elegance.”  There could be no finer way to describe my mother.




To me, this image of one stem of lavender enveloped by others is akin to my experience on this journey as a child of one with Alzheimer’s.  There are many facing the same illness as I am so often reminded when crossing paths with friends and when entering into conversations with people I meet.  While the experience for each of us is different, we are all supported by those in our midst, and in spite of drought and weeds, we persevere.  When we choose to look around the garden, there is beauty.  It can be seen when the person living with dementia has a good day, when we receive the kindness of a friend, when we laugh instead of crying, and when we pause to put life in perspective.  As the days move beyond this month with a special focus on a difficult disease, I give thanks for the continued support of those doing medical research, for those providing respite for family members, for the care partners who do heavy lifting every single day and for the many other flowers around my mother and others with Alzheimer’s.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Wood You Notice

Ever thought about the tree that produces gorgeous flowers?  While the blooms are fleeting, the tree is soaking up water and sunshine throughout the year, and presenting us with marvelous seasonal fashion.  Just think of all of the outfits - with leaves, with barren branches, with buds, with flowers, with green leaves, with golden leaves, and more!


What about the tree that produced the wood for the furniture on which you are sitting?  Just as the careful hands of a gardener allow plants to flourish for the eye to savor, the hands of skilled craftsmen turn the gifts of a tree into family heirlooms.



My camera and I recently spent time with Thomas Moser.  He is an artist, a craftsman, and a gentle giant in the furniture realm.  Because of his leadership and vision, he has built an incredible team in his furniture workshop in Maine.  To experience a place of gratitude for the beautiful wood being used, with a spirit of pride in the quality of work being done, and compassion for those with whom they work was something with which I am certain the trees are pleased.


Our natural resources are precious.  Care for them.  Appreciate them, and celebrate the thoughtful use of them.  Next time you play a round at Augusta National, make sure and check out this gorgeous tree.  It’s fairly easy to find as it is along the fairway of hole #2 - the “Pink Dogwood Hole!”

Where shall my camera and I go next?  Do tell!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mothers Day



What flower shall I photograph to add to Flowers for Mom for Mother’s Day?  Is there a certain flower that you associate with your mother?



As I build this photo series, there are many days on which I feel called to create something unique to mark an occasion.  May 4th is one such day.  It is the birthday shared by my husband and youngest daughter.  In a garden nurtured by a dear friend I call the Flower Fairy, I found sweet woodruff and ajuga growing side by side.  To me, the delicate white flower is like my daughter, and the tall purple flower, my husband.  They are each wonderfully unique, growing together and making the world a better place as they bloom.



My mother’s birthday in March posed a photo challenge.  While walking with friends we passed many classic spring flowers showing their colors, but I was not feeling inspired to claim any of them as “the” flower of the day to celebrate March 11th.  Then I found it on an incredible tree I had never seen before.  Thanks to a handy app, my friend identified it as a royal empress tree - the perfect flower for my mother’s birthday!  Thank you to those who shared your own flower photos on her birthday via social media, e-mail and text.  Mom was delighted as we looked at them all.




Many things become more beautiful when shared.  Flowers are one such thing.  In celebration of mothers, the Jackson Hospital Foundation is giving people the opportunity to make a gift to support their healthcare work in honor or memory of mothers.  In so doing, an image specially selected for the honoree from my Flowers for Mom series will be hung in a sun kissed walkway that connects two of the hospital towers.  For my mother, I find this to be a perfect way to recognize her on Mother’s Day.  May the images honoring her Alzheimer’s journey be a cause to “smell the roses” for many individuals in years to come.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Humans Being

Music by the composer Steve Reich is a favorite of mine when processing photos, as it tickles my brain with unique sounds, fascinating instrumentation, and no discernible harmony or melody.  Reich has been on the forefront of American music and is known as a founder of the minimalism movement along with Philip Glass and Terry Riley.  I recently had the opportunity to hear a concert he curated at Carnegie Hall that featured the JACK Quartet and Bang on a Can All-Stars.  It was one of a series of concerts designed to celebrate three generations of new music composers.  Experiencing the music and listening to the discussion by the composers that followed reminded me of the importance of the exploration of the arts and how they are a testament to our times.

As you pause to notice something beautiful each and every day, I challenge you to engage in various art forms be it music, theatre, poetry, visual art, or some other creative expression that speaks to you.  In so doing, reflect on what they mean to you as a human being.  

It is easy to place art in a category of unnecessary fluff, but as I have learned through my “Flowers for Mom” exercise of pausing to photograph a flower every day in honor of an Alzheimer’s journey, we must live as humans being, not merely humans doing.  The arts help us do exactly that.

As Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney who was a sculptor, art collector, and founder of the Whitney Museum once said, “Art is an ascending or descending scale, the spirit of its joy reaches us in unexpected ways.”  Include the arts in your life by engaging in them, supporting them and celebrating new work being done to document our unique time in history.


What will you pause to experience today?   Dew on the bloom of a strawberry plant, a drawing by a child, music that makes your heart sing, a live performance, or something else?  Go on about life as a human being and celebrate it.  My mother would certainly tell you to do exactly that.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Family Stories

When I first told my brother about my “Flowers for Mom” series, he shared that whenever he sees Queen Anne’s Lace he thinks of Mom.  Clearly I do too because it was the very first flower I photographed for the series!  Above is the first shot of Queen Anne’s Lace paired with a faded bloom in the same location two months later.  As evidenced in the incredible responses to these flower photographs, people associate flowers with special people and events, and these flowers are resonating with them in lovely, unique ways.  This series is rich with stories tied to specific images, and I hope you enjoy these.
My father is my greatest source of flowers, and it has been a joy to learn names of plants from him and to open the door to see him holding a cup full of flowers he found in bloom at Jasmine Hill Gardens, a place he has long loved and nurtured.  It has been an unexpected gift to talk of flowers in addition to how Mom is doing that day.  On both counts, some are more beautiful than others.  As you enjoy the flowers from the Christmas cactus and bromeliad delivered by Dad, imagine my kitchen table serving as my “studio” for the photo shoots!

I had never heard of pearl bush before Dad delivered a cutting to me.  Something about the flower triggered memories of my maternal grandmother, so I pulled out an old dress of hers that she would have worn with pearls, to serve as the background.
In honor of my wedding anniversary on October 2nd, I photographed two calla lilies, the flower I carried down the aisle 23 years prior.  With becoming wonderful young women, in their honor I photographed pink kalanchoes.  The message for which I was aiming when setting up the shot was “Dearest daughters, walk towards the light - there are people ahead of you, beside you and behind you.”
The discipline of taking a photograph of a flower a day provides me and those around me with a moment to pause and think of Mom and her Alzheimer’s journey.  Some have more patience for the photographic exercise than others.  As you can guess, an energetic 12 year old nephew has less patience.  I was with him one afternoon when we stopped by his house to pick up his tennis racket.  While there, my goal was to take a photograph in his yard where my sister works so hard to nurture her plants.  After about ten frames of a hydrangea in its muted fall tone, he asked if I was finished.  As only an aunt can retort, I said, “Greatness takes time!”
At the rate of a new photo every day, I have lots of stories, but will stop for now and let you make up your own story for the photo above while I dream of a book one day in which I can tell you more.  Opportunities to share through my “Flowers for Mom” are taking root with one example here from the Teepa Snow Online Dementia Journal.  I remain passionate about people enjoying the great outdoors, and hope you will check out my photographs on the the shirts for the new Red Hills Clothing line that donates a portion of the proceeds to benefit Tall Timbers, stewards of wildlife and wildlands.

In closing I leave you with the flower my eldest and a group of friends selected on a day when I sent them into a flower shop to pick my flower for the day.  When back in the dorm room shooting in my daughter’s window, I remarked that the flower was purple.  My daughter responded, “Of course, purple is the Alzheimer’s color!”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Amazing Grace

Just as flowers need water, light and fertile soil to flourish, we too need the right mix of support to grow.  On this Camera Journey, many rays of sunshine combined with gentle rain and miracle grow keep me going.  What began as a simple idea - take a photograph of a flower every single day in honor of my mother - has turned into quite a project!  Finding the flower is the first step, but then getting a good shot is another thing entirely.  Just yesterday it was after 150 frames that I decided I had worked every possible angle of a tulip tree, and that surely within the batch there would be one image worthy of selection for the day.


This gift to my mother has actually become a gift to me, and there are no better words to describe my experience than “amazing grace.”  The American folk tune by that name links to the unique opportunity given to me by the San Francisco based, Del Sol Quartet.  I was asked to use music as inspiration for my photography through a collaboration with their Soundings 4.2 project.  Del Sol will be performing Crossings, a work composed by Ben Johnston, which is comprised of two separate string quartets joined in the middle with obligatory silence.  Johnston describes the music as “a transformation/journey from one leaf of a diptych to the other, from one rim of a canyon to the other, from one quartet to another.”  Keeping with his transformation theme is my budding series of photographs, Flowers for Mom - my artistic response to the treacherous journey from one life to another as I face my mother’s days with Alzheimer’s.  I remain amazed that this opportunity to pair my art with music presented itself at this very time with a most fitting musical composition.


The second quartet of this Crossings piece titled The Ascent, is rooted in the Amazing Grace tune.  It sounds familiar, yet unlike the tune as we know it just as living with Alzheimer’s has remnants of what is known with the added variable of new feelings and new struggles.  Click here  for more details on the collaboration, and click here to check out a video of the talented Del Sol Quartet introducing Ben Johnston’s string quartets.  You can even see them rehearsing a few of those familiar Amazing Grace notes.


This Soundings project allows participants to explore a piece of music that is unfamiliar and challenging.  Del Sol will first perform Crossings without introduction, and then pause to discuss the work with the audience.  At that time I will explain my artistic response to the music and share details about my flowers hanging around the space.  On the second playing, my flower images will be projected on the wall, and because of the conversation and addition of a visual component, the audience will have an opportunity to more deeply experience and understand the composer’s work. 


Join us on February 2nd to experience this Soundings collaboration in person, or via live stream on Facebook as I celebrate the six month mark of Flowers for Mom.  Thank you to the visionary Del Sol Quartet for inviting me to join them as they skillfully play this challenging work of music and allow the audience to reflect on a journey from the tip of one leaf to another.


Keep those calls, texts, e-mails and flower deliveries coming to make sure I have a new flower on which to focus each and every day as my mother smiles and enjoys the gifts of love, care and compassion that surround her.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Budding

Have you noticed how many weeds put forth flowers, how dying flowers are rich in color, or how bugs on flowers are fascinating to watch?

Since the second of August I have taken a photograph of a flower every single day, and in doing so have begun to notice and appreciate those very things.  This budding new series is called “Flowers for Mom” and is my artistic response to being the daughter of one with Alzheimer’s.  There are days of feeling lost in the weeds, of grieving over what is no longer blooming, and of being bothered by pesky problems.  Even so, when I pause and pay attention, what I see are new buds showing promise, beautiful flowers to be enjoyed exactly as they are, and butterflies pollinating the garden to ensure future blooms.




I have given myself rules for this series.  All photos are horizontal and shot with the same lens.  Only one image can be added to the collection each day, and I cannot store up photos to count towards future days.  Digital cameras know the date when images were created, so even though I have some great B roll photos, I have to choose only one.  To give you a sense of this part of my challenge, below are some that did not make the cut!

When I began this Camera Journey challenge it was summertime and flowers were abundant.  My concern was that finding a flower a day in the fall would be increasingly difficult, yet each day naturally leads me to new beauty to be appreciated whether it be a fading bloom, a single stem in an arrangement, a vegetable garden blossom, or a roadside wildflower.  Winter approaches and I expect my assignment will be increasingly difficult, so feel free to send messages to alert me of blooming opportunities.

When caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, flowers remind us that we can discover beauty in the most unexpected ways.  May we choose to celebrate the good days and know that as the seasons change we can continue to find hope and cherish the flowers just as they are.