Saturday, July 28, 2007

What to do? What to do? What to do?

I'm in a bit of a pickle. You see, when I was on vacation in June, on that perfectly blissful sailboat in the delightfully blissful Adriatic Sea, moored in a perfectly and delightfully blissful little cove, I shattered the whole darn scene by tumbling down the stairs into the cabin from the deck, which, since I had my camera in my hand, resulted in a shattered lens. I loved that lens. I couldn't bear to part with it until Friday. Just like Humpty Dumpty, no one could put it back together again, and I had to accept that. The lens was a Nikon 24-85 mm f2.8-4.0, which if you don't know, let me tell you is a workhorse of a lens, a mid-range zoom lens that is ideal for landscape and portraits. Not only that, but the slow aperture allowed me to take low-light photos without considering a flash, thus matching my personal eye and my photographic interests and abilities perfectly. We were a team, that lens and I.

I've had a camera in my hand since I was 16. At least one. And as I got older, I started collecting them as my abilities and also my paycheck grew. Right now, I have two film SLRs, two point-and-shoots and one Digital SLR. I also have a stable of lenses for the film and digital SLRs. For film cameras, I am loyal to the Minolta. I first tested digital with a Canon PowerShot A510 which is a fun little camera with a lot of power packed into its size. With marginal editing skills, I can play with photos from that camera and am pleased with what I have. Thursday's photo is from that little point-and-shoot and Sunday's photo will be as well. But for more serious photos, with good color saturation, white balance, edge clarity, and enough pixels to enlarge, photos that don't need anymore surgery beyond a bit of cropping, you have to get out of the point-and-shoot category. I upgraded last year to the digital SLR, the Nikon D70.

Here's where the dilemma comes in. On Friday, I did the very dangerous action of walking into my favorite photography store, Camera Co Op. They are located three blocks from where I live and I drive by the store at least once a day, each time willing myself to continue driving past. I have thought of asking them to put a cot in the back so I can sleep there at night among all the cameras and lenses, guard them for free just to be in their presence. When I walked in the store Friday, I had in mind to replace my shattered lens. Trouble is, I'd bought it used and they only had new. For $999.00. (I hate that kind of pricing as if it is so much less than $1000.00.) I held the new lens in my hand, touched the cold of its body, and gazed at it lovingly. I think I even dropped a bit of drool on it. And then, just to inflict more pain upon myself, I put it on my camera and looked through it. And that was a sad moment for me. A very sad moment. Seems that when I tumbled down the stairs of the sailboat and destroyed my lens, I also damaged my camera pretty seriously. Serious as in the shutter is stuck. Which renders the camera about as good as a car with no wheels. Oh yeah, I can turn it on but I can go nowhere with it.

And then I looked up. Past the man who was helping me, just behind him to the display of new digital cameras of all sorts and sizes, all snugly wrapped and tucked in their boxes, waiting for someone to take them home and give them life. Each box seemed to be hopeful. Would that someone be me? Not Friday it wasn't. But I had to look and I had to hold and I had to ask a million questions about each one. And I had to ask about the costs. Then they had to pick me up from the floor because not only did I want a thousand dollar - minus four quarters - lens, but after much holding and questioning and comparing and caressing, now wanted a brand new out-of-the box Nikon D2X. And the D2X makes the price of the lens pocket change. The folks at Nikon keep improving on perfection and it's frightening. I love my D70, love it. But this baby, this charming little darling has an improved everything.

Still, for that kind of money, and for all the improvements made, Nikon has not made it perfect. Only Canon has the perfect digital camera. What I mean by that, and you'll have to forgive me here because it's technical which can also be called boring if you're not into cameras, is that the D2Xs has a 1.5x focal length multiplier. As a matter of fact, all digital cameras are off this way (except that Canon, which I'll tell you about in a second). While it can be useful if you shoot with telephoto lenses, which I often but don't always do -- because a 200mm lens ends up with an equivalent field of view of a 300mm lens--it also limits the camera's wide-angle capabilities, because a 16mm lens ends up with an equivalent field of view of a 24mm lens. Got that? Canon's EOS 5D offers full-frame sensors, so essentially what you see is what the camera sees and most importantly, how it processes your shot. But it's a Canon, darn it. I'm a Nikon girl.

And, sadly, I'm rough on things. I don't mean to be. I really try not to be. But the truth is that I am. I've busted two lenses and destroyed four cameras in the past 15 years. That's a lot of money but if I were to own the Nikon2Xs or the Cannon EOS 5D, and so much as scratched it, I'd collapse in tears like a child with a dropped ice cream cone. And I might never get up. Or, I'd never take them anywhere, which doesn't make much sense.

So, out of the store I walked. Empty handed, but with a wallet still in tact and possessing the ability to buy groceries and put gas in my car.

Like much of what is on this site, by working through this issue in words, I've come up with my answer. I'm going to troll ebay for a used Nikon 24-85 mm, and in the meantime get my D70 fixed. Me being me, I'm wonder what I'm going to do with all that money I just saved.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Silly ol' bear

That silly old bear, that magical, loveable guy, he crosses generations. He switches our places, make me older than she, makes me remember her when she was me.

I crawl into bed with her, cuddle up beside her. The air around her feels cool and light. I pick up the book and it's then that she recognizes me. Her eyes widen, her face smiles. She knows I'm about to take her to the Hundred Acre Woods, that I'm about to breathe life and color into her room as I crack open the book. The love for Winnie the Poor is one we share.

I read out loud to her. I become the animation and the voice. Of Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin, even sad old Eeyore. I shift from the words on the page to her cinnamon eyes and back. I exaggerate my tone, push color into the words, give voice to the Hundred Acre Woods.

Her eyes are fixed on me, her mind in the story, her face eager and happy.

Yesterday, we went up the stairs and down and decided our favorite spot was halfway. Yesterday we built Eeyore a new home since he was the only one who did not have one. Yesterday, Piglet had very cold toes, from the snow. Yesterday it was Pooh's birthday too, and we went to his party and gave him honey.

Yesterday, we were Mother and Daughter, only she was me, and I her. And the birthday I had was one we shared with each other, and a very special cast of characters.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

July 25th

I read this poem this morning and want to share it with you. I quite like it, and since it's my birthday, I'm going to put it out here for you. I hope you like it too.

Poem: "Starfish" by Eleanor Lerman

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life's way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won't give you smart or brave,
so you'll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Life = My ass kicked

What a day. What a life. I'm not at all sure how it got to be like this, how this Monday exploded like it did, how it seems to me that the kindling and the lighter fluid and the matches were all there and I walked through the scene with a lit cigarette.

Today I started the process for a restraining order on my sister's behalf.

Today I talked a justifiably irate nephew out of doing something he'd regret (on my sister's behalf).

Today I cancelled a work trip because I am not at all sure how to leave, or how to be there.

Today I got a phone call from a friend who believes I betrayed her. And, you know what? I might have done so. But, to be fair, I believed in what I was doing. I'll sleep with that tonight, but I will question myself, to be sure.

There are some days when it's easier not to care.

Today I heard three harsh accusations. One true and two cruel. Today someone aimed, maliciously aimed. And landed.

Still, I can't spin over why words were said, I have to focus on what I recognized; I have to own the true one. I am relieved in so many ways by hearing it out loud.

There is nothing in my life that I'm not questioning at the moment. Not a single thing. But what I question most is me.

What I don't question at all is that I have a lot of work to do.

Oh, and its a hollow feelin
when it comes down to dealin friends
It never ends
The Eagles (obviously)

Friday, July 20, 2007

One in a million, she wrote

In my mailbox today, a birthday card from a friend I've known since my junior year in high school, a woman who is one of two who have known me for what I refer to as all my life. I don't see her as often as I would like to, or really very often at all. Sadly, it takes weddings and funerals to get us together now. If I had my way, I'd see her every day, just like we used to. You know, in the halls, in the parking lot, making plans for skipping 5th period, or making plans for the weekend, wearing red and white, supporting our school and figuring out whose fake ID would pass at what bar.

Back to the card.

It's not the card itself but it's what she wrote. I read it and I read it again. And then I sat down in the chair and I cried. Not tears of sadness but tears of connection. That she reached out and told me she loved me, it landed. I felt loved.

She wrote: I hope you have a happy birthday. I hear that (nephew) is living with you now. I admire you, your strength, your courage and your will. I'm always rooting for you and will always be there if you need me. Best wishes, my friend! You are one in a million.

It's not the same, typing it out here, but in her familiar handwriting, and in her forethought to get me a card, not to mention to actually put it in the mail, and in her caring about me and loving me, she touched me with that warm light of friendship.

It is some kind of wonderful when someone who has known you so long and so well tells you that you are admirable. Seriously, how great is she? How wonderful a friend to remember my birthday and to write those words?

So many years ago, I must have done a few things right because I managed to get her in my life.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Just because my birthday is next week

I am moving offices today. It's not an upward or downward move, just a move that puts my office closer to the people I work with most often.

On the phone with a friend just now, we were talking about the move and my planning to stay up here late tonight and get settled. She asked me if I had any help and I told her that I can take care of it.

Then she says, Get some minions to help you move. After all, you're almost middle-aged.

And I don't know how or why but the line went suddenly dead. It couldn't be that I hung up on her. No, it couldn't be that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

One-sided solace

Sometimes you look at the green on the other side of the fence. You sigh as you take inventory, decide maybe it is better where you are but it sure looks good over there. Maybe you have someone you're running out of patience with, or maybe you're just hanging onto the safety that is found in familiar. Maybe it's your lover, or your nephew. Who knows, maybe you're just tired.

Doesn't matter. Sometimes your father is gone, your mother fading. Sometimes someone steps on your toes, or follows you too close. Sometimes your own shadow makes you itch. Sometimes the IRS sends you a demand notice. Sometimes you push the law to your favor. Or maybe you have a family member in a car wreck. And you sit and wait for news, any news.

Sometimes a friend reaches out. Sometimes a friend freaks out.

Sometimes you're the one that's the nuisance.

Sometimes it's a little less, a little more. Than what you want. Sometimes you get the right message at the wrong moment. Sometimes you should just sit on your hands and be patient, maybe keep your mouth shut. Sometimes it's too much.

Sometimes it is enough, the right message and the right moment, who you are, where you are. But knowing you, you'll want something different.

Sometimes your life, it splashes, swirls, seeps, soaks, drips, and rolls in waves that you try to catch and hold onto without getting wet.

Sometimes you sit in a room and discuss your mother, your father, the details of your parents' lives, the estate, the house, the furniture, taxes, trusts, percentages, divisions, accounts and trustees. The details are necessary and business-like, but by nature emotional. You look up at the bookshelf across the room and focus on a tiny book, four gold letters up the spine, the word, Trees. You stare at that word until the letters break from the binding and branch outwards, reaching past the other books, rapidly growing and stretching gold across the other titles, and roots too become visible, stretching down the shelves. All golden. You glance around you while the word Tree turns into a tree and grows across the bookshelf and walls. Does anyone else notice this golden tree growing in the living room? You don't dare ask that out loud.

You might think this vision is a sign. Trees, nature, your father, your mother, golden, the roots, the growth. This is life and it's okay. Or maybe it's a coincidence, your eyes locking on that particular book, your mind playing with the word. You cannot make up your mind but you know what you believe.

Sometimes you're nothing more than a dreamer, twisting this world to meld into your perfectly figured shapes of meaning and comprehension.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

To the sides of my bed

To one side, the reading:


To the other side, the images:


Two consistent things in my life: Words and photography

Friday, July 13, 2007

My back

I have a certain friend. She's in my court, on my side, in my stable, however you want to phrase it, but she's there. She is. Right. Beside. Me.

There's a path I'm walking now, a path that is rocky for me. Rocky and emotional. Rocky and unstable. Rocky and slippery. I can't see my next step for all the damn rocks.

She can see, and she tells me. She warns me, Watch out for that rock. And right after I tell her that there is no rock, I trip over its presence.

Tonight I sat beside her and scratched her back. She's that kind of friend, the kind that touches your heart and mind and breaks the barrier so that you find yourself holding hands or hugging or crying, or scratching her back.

Tonight, just about that friendship. Just about that good.

There's a phrase or a saying, whatever, but it's about your back being covered. As if in battle, or maybe love. You are safe. She has your back. Or you're scratching hers.

That's this friend.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Taking the long way home

Leaving work, I glance at the freeway and can't find the heart to join the jam of cars heading nowhere fast. Instead, I take a road that will take longer to get home but will be more pleasing, a road that winds its way through Houston and, as it is, my life.

I take the road that carries me past the stadium where I spent high school Saturday nights at football games, dressed in red and white, braided hair, stolen beer in my purse, supporting my team, relishing my innocence and clinging to my need to belong.

It's a road that takes me past the neighborhood pool where I first jumped from a high dive, a pool where I spent countless summer days and must have driven my mother around the bend with Watch me Mom, watch this, when I did nothing more than jump from the side of the pool and yet required a look from her face that radiated, You are the most amazing child ever.

I believed her.

I still do.

I drive a road that takes me past the first house I lived in. I turn down the street and pull up to the house. I see Christmas through the windows, I see Santa Claus. I glance through the front windows and into the back yard. I see Fourth of July celebrations. I see my father coming home from work and a young me jumping up to hug him and snuggling into the cold air-conditioning lingering on his shirt collar. I see him placing his hat in the hall closet. I notice the tall Magnolia and remember when it was planted. I see my mother consoling me when I sobbed at the bay window, watching my brother and sister walking to school, devastated I could not do the same.

I see my Grandmothers there. I see myself learning to read.

I reach out for them, for me, but we are gone.

Driving on, I stop to visit Mom. She's small, frail, voiceless. I'm losing her. She reminds me of lace. Beautiful and delicate. Timeless. She sleeps. I place my fingers on her face, gently caress her cheek, kiss her forehead. She has no idea, but I know. It's enough, because it has to be.

I drive on.

I drive the bend and pass the neighborhood we next moved to, pass the three lakes that were our secret. I roll down the windows and smell the musty, wet air of the water. I recall breaking the rules and riding my pony into the water. I recall not blinking when told I did not belong there.

I remember the sign, No horses allowed, and I remember why it was erected.

I remember being a bit of a rebel in my youth. I remember wanting to belong but being selective nonetheless. I remember backing out of Girl Scouts, explaining to my very disappointed parents that I would rather be alone and riding my pony after school than make a purse from an empty milk jug.

I drive on, passing the country club where I attended day camp for four summers, and Mom played tennis for many many years. The club where I danced with my father at parties, shared brunches in celebration of Mom, or Easter, and shared family dinners on many Wednesday nights in my past.

This road, it takes me past the stables where I boarded my horse, the stables I spent six years of my life almost daily, in my love affair with all things equine, and along the way discovered boys and forged a friendship I carry to this day. The stables and the horse that put my parents in deep debt in hopes I would not follow my sister's footsteps.

Good decision on their part. I found my own path.

Eventually, the road takes me to my home. I turn the key and pause. My heart is filled with the best of yesterday, the knowledge of my mother's peaceful slumber, and not an ounce of stress from too long sitting in traffic.

I have learned that when you slowly lose a parent, your vision looks back more often than foreword. I have learned to accept the view. It's like light on water.

You were there

Three dreams I had about you last night.

It's an odd feeling I have today, those dreams are running around my head as if they really happened, as if I'm recalling a memory. And when I think about them, as I've been doing for the most part of the morning, I cannot help but smile.

And blush.

What I'm trying to figure out is how you knew which room I was in, and why you opened the door the way you did.

Maybe it was the text that got this started. Who knows? But I do hope to see you again tonight.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

She and I would like to thank him

Today is the birthday of E.B. White. You may know him as the author of Charlotte’s Web, or The Elements of Style, a book that was first introduced to me in high school English, and then on more than one required textbook list in my college days. That book is so consice and complete that I refer to it still today. I have a copy on my desk at home and a copy on my desk at work.

Charlotte’s Web was one of my favorite stories as a young girl. It still is today. My favorite though, from Mr. White et al, is The Trumpet of the Swan. That book stands a notch above Charlotte and my other two beloved childhood books, Misty of Chincoteague, and of course, Stormy, Misty’s Foal. All Newbery Medal winners.

The Trumpet of the Swan hooked me on reading. I felt protective over Louis, born without a voice, and I worried about him just as his father did, and I connected with the young boy, Sam, because I too wanted to help Louis through his handicap. The book was a page-turner of compassion and loyalty, of the triumph of positive thinking and hard work over hardship.

More important than getting wrapped up in the story was that I discovered in those pages a love of reading. I remember one line from the book still, Tonight I heard Louis's horn. My father heard it, too. The wind was right, and I could hear the notes of taps, just as darkness fell. There is nothing in all the world I like better than the trumpet of the swan. I remember how I felt when I read that line, how I heard a trumpet and could see the darkness. I remember being transported. And even though I hadn't once actually heard a Trumpeter Swan, I remember agreeing as I read those words, I too liked nothing better in the world than that sound.

I cried when I finished the book, unsure for a moment how to go on without Sam and Louis. My mother suggested that I didn't have to, that I could re-read the book. And so I did.

To this day, any time I hear a brass horn, I fondly recall a young goose named Louis with a chalkboard around his neck and perseverence in his heart, and a little girl named Alison who, through his story, fell in love with words and reading.

Thank you Mr. White.

Friday, July 06, 2007

This rain

This rain is constant. The sky churns from an ominous dark to an equally threatening gray and back again. Lightning pierces the horizon and thunder rumbles through the clouds. I know that way up there the sun is shining. But down here, it's rivers and streams rapidly flowing to the lowest spots, rushing their way into the gutters. It's slick streets and soggy land. It's moody and dark, this rain is, and very against my spending any time outside. Rain is the weather rebel, the playground bully who kicks sand in your plans by suddenly becoming interested in tetherball just as you're reaching for the rope. Yeah, that's rain. Stealing your plans, staying way longer than welcome, always demanding attention, making sure that everyone is talking about it. Even a good thing, a nourishing thing, a thing that other parts of the country need desperately, can be too much, can make itself no longer welcome, at least for a while. I've reached that point with this rain. I reached it five minutes ago. I want to play tetherball, dammit, and I don't appreciate the bully breaking into my plans.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Two things unchanging, one thing timeless

1. My luggage is still missing. Each time I contact the airline, I get a new bit of information that no one has taken it upon his or herself to inform me of during any of the seventy other times I've called. It's as if each time I call, I'm calling a different company.

2. It's been raining at least every day -- and maybe every night, I'm not sure since I'm sleeping then -- since I've been home. Not only is the ground soggy, the air is soggy.

That second bit has left me with ample time to organize my vacation photos. Below, Venice.

Venice on approach Pointe Panada Bar Mil Ven 144 St. Marks Reflective light Wooden boats Details Plaza Clock Tower Rain Doge's Palace
Doge's Palace & Basilica of St. Mark Subtle keep out message San Marco Clock Tower

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Redundant signage

I was looking over my vacation photos earlier today and when I came across one of the waiting area for the water taxi to take us to Venice, I noticed along the pedestrian ramp written in Italian and English the message "Thank you for choosing us."

Which is sort of funny since, on that side, they are the only ones.