Friday, February 12, 2016

Writing Photographs #3 Artistic Red

Katy made her own red film for this one (dogwood52 photo challenge, Artistic:Red)

My Relationship with Red

We have a lot of red hair in our Ulster Scots/German family.  Strawberry blonde, auburn, red. Growing up, it garnered not just a little antagonism from our peers...and others.  Neighbors would call out to us, "Something's burning...And I think it's you-oooo!"  We had friends who raided other's gardens and we got lumped into the blame: "I hope you and your little red-headed friends had fun eating my watermelon!"

And naturally, the requisite freckles came with the package.  I was very stoic as a youngster, believing that if I acted as though I didn't care, people would get tired of taunting me and leave me alone.  That didn't really work all the time. I never complained about having red hair and freckles, and as a matter of fact I remember my father telling me, when I was very young, that if I ate black-eyed peas, the number of freckles on my skin would proliferate.  I believed him. People also said they were angel kisses.  I wanted to believe them all, because at three and four years old, who knew freckles were going to be so much trouble down the road?  Although, my daughter knew when it came time for her to experience it.  She came home from first grade one day and said, "Someone made fun of my freckles today.  I knew this was going to come up!"

When I was a teenager, a family friend brought a magazine to me, with a picture of a very pretty young woman who had just won a Freckles Beauty Contest, and the friend said to me, "See, Penny.  Freckles can be pretty!"  The thing that got me about that was that I had never mentioned to her or very likely anyone else that I was displeased about having freckles and red hair.  I don't think I ever really was.  I just really hated the teasing.  I thought her saying that to me said more about what she thought about my red hair and freckles than what I did.

My father's nickname was "Cherry," having been given that name in the army.  It was actually more than a nickname because that's what everyone called him all the time.  Friends, neighbors and relations, all, and it didn't seem feminine to me.  Somehow, being a man named Cherry seems a little jarring today.  Like you wouldn't give your son a fruit name, (but we had a teacher who named her daughter "Peaches."  For real.)

And then my younger sister was born and our parents hadn't been able to decide upon a name, so at the last minute to have something to put on the birth certificate, she was named, "Cherrie."  She has red hair. Over the years, people would tell me they remembered my name by associating it with my copper-colored hair.  Neither my sister nor I was named a red-headed name because we had red hair. Just happy coinkidinks! I was the first-born daughter and given the name my mother had chosen from a favorite childhood story that she had carried around all her life and eventually given to me.

My kid brother had the cutest red curls.  He was born in 1976, a time when it was pretty cool for little boys to have longish hair.  He was not quite three when he asked me, "Penny, what's my hair doing?" It took me a minute to realize he was trying to remember the word, "curly." thinking that when we talked about his curly red hair, he understood that as an action. "It's curly, Michael." (You beautiful blue-eyed, red-haired little cherub!)  When he got older, his name changed as a matter of course to "Red."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Writing Photographs #2 Traditional Landscape

Katy's Traditional Landscape entry for the #dogwood52 photo challenge.

I thought it would be clever of me to write a landscape from a contrasting season to her Antelope Island, Utah winter, but sometimes I just go with obvious over clever.

When I lived in Alaska and traveled the state for business, my first winter there I made a trip to Valdez, Alaska.  This almost-300 square foot city (of which 55 square feet are water) lies at the head of a deep fjord in the Prince William Sound. Some people travel to Valdez by ferry across from Homer or Seward, but I drove.  I was already driving from Anchorage north to Glennallen and Copper Center via the Alaska Highway.  I was reaching out, introducing and delivering low vision services in surrounding village and rural locations.  In a place called Kenny Lake lived a woman who worked as an Alzheimer's care consultant, who helped guide me to places of most need.  Well, not really just most need, but any need, as we often took very long drives just to visit one person.

All of my time in Alaska was like living a dream, and traveling with this wonderfully joyful woman made me laugh til the tears rolled.  Every trip!  So, it's quite fortunate that she was my traveling companion through the heavily glaciated Chugach Mountains during the first snow of the year wherein we broke all snow records in the whole state of Alaska, had a flat just outside of town with sketchy service on our flip phones, got snowed in for an extra day and I fell on the ice getting groceries.

I thought I was walking on snow, but there was ice under there.  My feet shot forward and up, right out from under me.  I landed on my seat first, then the back of my head, which bounced me back up into a sitting postion.  My first thought was that I was surely going to have a headache and be sore in a myriad of other places tomorrow.  But, it never happened. I didn't even hurt much at all after about 10 minutes.

We had much assistance and support from the locals, who, like people in most small towns I've been in, were so friendly and not bothered by bothersome circumstances.

I was so happy to be snowed in.  That was one of the perks, actually, of my job.  In addition to traveling, I could also be at the mercy of Mother Nature who allowed me extra time to see and do things I had never experienced before.  Our hotel was right on the harbor, and this was the first time I had ever seen snowfall in a port city.  It was alluring and magical.

I think I could be happy living in Valdez.  For more than just the landscape there.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Writing Photographs #1 Myself

This is my daughter's self-portrait.  She's involved in a photography challenge, submitting a photo a week for 52 weeks.  When I saw the list of assignments, it sparked a little wistfulness in me.  One of my old dreams was to be a photographer, and I do still really enjoy taking and looking at pictures.  I find now, though, that my enjoyment comes as much from seeing the thing I took a picture of in the picture, as from appreciating the art of photography.  I've since lost interest in the task of taking really good, creative photos.  Just don't anyone take away my smartphone.

Other people do a much better job of capturing the Blood Moon, or the stark black and white eagle on a snowy branch, or the swirling green and magenta Northern Lights.  Maybe Facebook and Instagram are guilty of perpetuating a glut of photos, saturating the collective senses of the masses, and it's only really, really good or unusual ones that stand out anymore.  So, I tip my hat.  I'm not a photographer. And other people are.

I still have some creative hankering knocking around in my head, though.  That's one reason I started this blog in the first place.  I don't fancy that I'm a special snowflake of a writer, but I have found that, whether anyone else does or not, I really like to read what I've enjoyed writing.  

I have been an avid reader most of my life and when I was in college, I was inspired by certain writers.  Then one day I read a book that made me almost give up writing.  If someone could produce something this stirring, so raw and artfully written, why would I even bother to write anything at all?  It was that good, and it doesn't even matter what book it was by which author, because that experience was all about me, about how it distilled in my own mind.  I've since got over that idea.  I want to write.  I don't want to "be a writer," I just really like to use words. 

Maybe I don't pursue photography because almost anyone these days can take better pictures than I do.  But I know for sure, I'm not going to find anyone on Facebook or Instagram who can write about me and my head the way I can.  

Lately, I've not been doing that so much, but an idea came to me as I thought about this 52-photo challenge.  Maybe it will be interesting to write the assignments as my daughter snaps them.  Not describe the photos she's taking, but write something alongside.  For example, the first assignment was to do a self-portrait.  Writing a self-portrait could be interesting, right?  It could be evocative, not to mention indulgent.  I just thought at the time that turning this challenge into assignments for my blog would be a decent outlet for me, my mind and our friendship with words.

Thinking about all the qualities and characteristics that make a good self-portrait made my head fight with me a little bit.  Too much self-ness.  Too much vulnerability.  Too many avenues to travel.  And to think that someone, anyone, else would give even a cursory nod in the direction of my writing esoterically about myself is at least a little vain.   

So, here it is.  This explanation of an exercise in self-portrait writing, is my self portrait for this first assignment.  Well.  That's convenient.  The three categories in the challenge are "PORTRAIT," "ARTISTIC" and "LANDSCAPE," and have their own sub-assignments, as it were; traditional landscape or zoomed in landscape, or head shot portraits, or artistic red.  This is hash-tagged on social media as "dogwood52."  Dogwood is the photography studio who first issued the challenge.  I prefer this type of challenge to throwing a bucket of cold water on my head.

Leaving the work of taking real photographs to my photographer daughter who does a better job at it than many, here's a picture I took of some leaves in a puddle.  It's pretty because leaves in rain are pretty.