June 29, 2008

This afternoon included a visit with one of the elderly residents I had grown especially close to during my time as a social worker. As he showed me some of his old photographs, he noted that the photo on this card was of his 1st cousin Arthur. Then he asked me if I recognized his face. While I looked more closely–and with decidedly more curiosity–Mr. Bradley continued: “You know the ‘don’t squeeze the Charmin’ guy in those old commercials?” I nodded, impressing myself with my rare media-knowledgeability. “That was him,” he said. Eyes widening, I could think of nothing more sophisticated to say than Whoa–how cool!,” which still seems sufficiently eloquent to me.
As Mr. Bradley happens to be one of the most honorable, kind-hearted men I know, I am quite certain that this is the truth. But for the sake of you all who do not know him, I shall try to do some sleuthing, for the sake of official verification . . .

under the sea [?]

June 27, 2008

This week has been another camp adventure, including my first attempt at having the students do a mural. We opted for an “Under the Sea” theme, rounded out when one other goofy counselor and I regaled [tormented?] them all with a dramatic rendition of “Part of your world” . . . and yes, if you are wondering, I am afraid I must admit to knowing the song word for word! But back to the mural: it all went, er, swimmingly? The inspired youngsters undertook such creative feats as Octopi, Mermaids, Jellyfish, and . . . Spongebob Squarepants?!?

I was so stunned to actually hear a live voice answering that I stumbled over my words until she interrupted to kindly request that I “get to the point” of the phone call. But I had grown so accustomed to wrong numbers and undeliverable email addresses that, as I dialed one last number yesterday, I had almost forgotten what I was going to ask. Once I had sufficiently collected myself, however, we determined that, though she did not remember it until I described the circumstances, this Doctor was indeed that little girl writing a letter to an admired author. She even told me that she still had some of Ms. Estes’ books in her house, while still not remembering writing the letter. But eventually, she did recollect that school visit. And she confirmed the dates. By the time I hung up the phone, she was eagerly plugging me for more details about any other children whom she might remember from her school days, about the details of her own letter, about information I had found about the school itself . . .
I smiled for the rest of the day about it, excited that soon now, this doctor will have a photocopy of her almost-forgotten letter, forever proving the power of inspiration in the lives of children.

. . . where I intended to come for Mass this morning. But I’m afraid I had chosen it for rather shallow reasons, in that I was simply charmed by its external appearance. So it is probably poetic justice that I did not make it in time for the 8:00 am service. Instead, I took this photo and then continued on to the gallery that was next on my day’s agenda. Yesterday I had met the owner of a gallery, and had promised her I would come to visit her place today. It turns out that while I was there with her, learning how to weave on her loom, another visitor arrived. This gentleman was the producer of a local news station, and had come to interview her about her vision for the business, and for the arts. She did her interview and then asked if he could interview me as well, as she thought my “story” was an interesting one. He did–had me sing as well. So there is, I suppose, the slight chance that I will show up here on the local news :-)

The weather today did not cooperate with an outdoor photo, there being severe thunderstorms throughout the region. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to see this faux version of my recent obsession when it arrived for our celebrations. As you can see, it was “Open House Day,” which meant that businesses throughout the state opened their doors with special festivities in celebration of the arts. At this particular establishment, that meant student and professional art work displayed throughout the house, plus some of the artists here to accompany their works. I, in turn, got to play “resident artist,” as I was working on some sketches for my upcoming lecture at the university. So I camped out of the floor with my canvas, feeling slightly sheepish about my amateur work as I examined the impressive local works that surrounded me, Nonetheless, it was a successful day of artistic celebration, with an impressive turnout of folks eager to brave the elements in support of local culture.

So I’m still smitten with those wildflowers, especially when they are framed by a sun setting over the hills . . . can you blame me?

flowers and findings

June 12, 2008

The sun is setting on my first full day of research at a special children’s literature collection. Thanks to a research grant, I was able to travel out here for a week to complete my project and then to present my findings for a university committee. It is solitary work and so inherently rather lonely–but I cannot complain. Especially when these wildflowers greet me from outside the window of my rustic room :-)
My day’s work ended with a delightful discovery: while reading through “fanmail” that well known authors have received over the years, I came upon one that made me pause with curiosity. In 1958 a young adolescent wrote that she had been inspired by this particular author’s visit to her school. Apparently the speaker told of how her stories were in large part inspired by her real-life experiences, both actual and those she read about in books. So this child wrote that she wanted to become a doctor when she grew up. And since hearing the author’s talk, she had been “keeping her ears open” each time she had a doctor’s visit: even going early so as to learn more. In addition, she was asking her mother for books about doctors and about the medical profession, which she had been avidly reading.
When I pondered this letter, I could not help but ask myself, So did she become a doctor? If so, that is quite a tribute to the influence we can have on others–especially on children–as we go about our own daily work . . .
So I did a bit of internet searching, and, lo and behold, I came across the child’s exact name, listed as an “infectious disease physician,” prominent, and published, in her field. I also found an email address. So what do you think I did? Why, of course, I sent her an email, quoting the letter I had found, and asking if she was that same scribe of a child. We shall see what I find out . . . ;-)

It was my first stint as a wedding photographer. And it was a challenge, to be sure–but an immensely rewarding one. One of the aspects that struck me the most about it all, about my role in it, was the importance of simply being there . . . of keeping my “eyes,” both the real and the photographic varieties, wide open to the moments: the expected moments, of course [all 576 of them!]. But most significantly, in my opinion, to the unexpected moments. Like this one. A veil waiting to be donned. Alongside the wine glass used when the bride needed to calm herself from a pre-ceremony breakdown. And a pink toothbrush . . . because everyone needs a pink toothbrush handy, wedding days notwithstanding :-)

a shady tree

June 6, 2008

I had my students explain their artwork to the rest of the class this morning: expecting more shyness in response, I was pleasantly surprised to see how unabashedly expressive and proud many of my young artists ended up being. And you must imagine the word “artiste” being said with a flagrantly exaggerated French accent, as that is what I used in class :-)
Riley, for instance, gestured broadly towards his canvas as I held it up for all to see: “This is my tree,” he began. “And there is the sun. The tree is holding up her branches, see–she’s shading her eyes from the sun, ’cause she’s hot.”
It was, incidentally, quite a hot day today . . . and the campers had just been happily romping in the creek before coming into art class.

home findings

June 2, 2008

Strange the things you miss in your own backyard . . . or front yard, as the case may be. Here I am, back in my “home town” again, and today I make a discovery: after photographing fruit trees in the Caribbean, I find a brimming one here in my own yard that I hadn’t realized was anywhere close to actually bearing fruit. I think it might be a peach tree but stay tuned . . . I’ll keep you posted with confirmation :-)