Coffee Chat

Ever since I started getting into photography, (aside from my periods of infatuation with the iPhone and my Harinezumi) I’ve almost exclusively used only one lens: a 35mm on the D300. It’s pretty versatile, and while it has its limits, it could do most of what I needed it to, and I liked the challenge of working within limitations: it pushed me to focus on composition, lighting, framing, depth of field, etc., all within a short range of parameters, and still try to find a decent shot.

No matter what surprises life in Thailand threw at me.

Or what delights.

I stretched the parameters as near and as far as I could go, given my (amateur) abilities.

And refused to blame my tools. (ahem, mostly)

This weekend, it occurred to me there’s another way to stretch and grow. So I decided, this year, I will switch to using a 17-50mm lens, a wide angle lens, which allows more room for play, more space, and more subjects…and also more chance for distortion, weirdness, and error.

Weird can be good though. And sometimes errors are happy ones.

There will be growing pains – not the least of which, learning to adjust to the physical size of a longer lens so I don’t whack innocent bystanders upside the head when I go around town, like I did to that poor woman just yesterday.

As I ponder this, the metaphor is not lost on me: there is growth when you learn to shoot life with a wider lens.

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In other news: Dot’s mother gave birth to a whole new litter of puppies (again). The puppies are starting to wander about the neighborhood, and this morning, one stumbled, lost and terrified, into our yard (why do all the neighborhood dogs find their way to our house??). The poor critter was yowling, and Dot’s mom, instead of coming to get him, ran away and left him behind. We tried to get him back to his mother and siblings, but he sure can run fast and hide, so we don’t know if they ever did get reunited. There sure was a whole lot of yipping and howling though – and cute, fuzzy puppies! – and I think Toby feared I would push for another adoption. But no, there is plenty of drama at the Keller household; there’s no need to beg for more.

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Also linking up with Communal Global and Just Write

A Coffee Chat

My dog lays down on the long edge of the couch, maintaining a vigilant watch against the treachery and villainy of such perilous things as passing mothers with children, gardeners, and the occasional bird hopping down our front path in search of seeds. I can hear my father in the kitchen, thunk-thunk-thunk-swipe, chopping papayas and mangos for his and my mother’s oatmeal, while she pads around upstairs getting dressed for the day. They will leave for the U.S. again soon, and these sounds which have become routine will soon be replaced with silence. My nails tick along across the keys. The aroma of coffee is in the air, though I only catch a whiff through an allergy-stuffed nose. Toby works quietly in his office, coming out from time to time to share news about the new camera that was announced that he’ll need to buy or the crazy-funny thing he just read online.

These are the sounds and sights and smells of my mornings.

Tibetan singing bowl I got Toby for Christmas – sold to me by a really lovely Nepali guy who makes me want to visit Nepal.

The sounds are tranquil, a stark contrast against the cacophony pulsing in my head. I’ve undergone an inner roller coaster in the space of a week, in the space of a day.

Inspiration–>impatience–>self-doubt–>despair–>grim resolve to keep doing.

Fake it ’til you make it, right? Pretend you know what you’re doing in the hopes that one day you actually will – such is the life of any creative, or so I’m told. I’m still in the faking it part, so I’ll keep you posted on the rest.

The dog has given up her post and come to sleep beside me. I use her small weight to warm my feet because puppies are more comforting than socks. Today I will work and tell myself that it’s okay if what I write is bollocks because it’s better to write bollocks than not write at all, just as I will go out to do yoga in the evening because it’s a fucking amazing feeling to strap my mat over my shoulder and ride my motorbike through lotus fields and rice paddies to get into town to do yoga in Thailand, and that’s way better than not doing yoga at all.

In the face of self-doubt, do.

In the act of doing, the emptiness gets filled with light.

*     *     *

In other news: My mom & I got facials at a fancy spa this weekend (which was AMAZING, by the way, and when they got to the part where they put a honey mask on my face, I really just wanted to stick out my tongue and lick the honey). An hour-long facial using all-natural and organic ingredients such as honey, cucumber, and tomato for $45, and I spent a good portion of the time trying not to laugh out loud at myself for paying people to rub me in the face with vegetables.

My skin was really soft and glowy afterward. I brought makeup to reapply and didn’t even need it.

Also, please note: I’m switching up my blog schedule just a tiny bit. I’m moving my Coffee Chat posts (otherwise known as “slice of life/keeping the family updated” posts) to Mondays. My Books to Savor posts, which are normally on Fridays, will now be on Wednesdays and I’m expanding them to include posts on anything else I like or find interesting and want to share with you all. Thursdays will still be Bigger Picture Moments – finding the big things in small moments and living life with intention. And on Fridays, you can still find me at Bigger Picture Blogs, hosting Reading Circles – reading for the sake of writing. Don’t forget: if you want to join in our virtual book club meeting set for Jan. 31 vote on the read you’d like best and RSVP by Wednesday!

Also linking up with Just Write & Communal Global

Words

 
Heather doesn’t normally give us a prompt, but this week she did.
This post is in response to the prompt “Words.”
(Hey, I did write ‘em.) :)

A Crosswind

An open landscape stretches out to the horizon line, the simple planes of view marred only by a crossroads and no signs. On an otherwise still day, a sudden shift in the air and temperature marks change, a disturbance, a sign to perk up one’s ears and pay attention because we cannot count on continuity.

I notice a tree beside me is bending with the gale. Dust fills my nose, desiccating the airways. Loose pebbles and debris clatter across the road, propelled by the force. I hug my jacket tighter.

I feel cold, though it is not cold.

And yet, I ignore the gale. One foot steadfast in front of the other, I push forward on the same trajectory. I follow the path I’m on, though I know the path of least resistance lies another way.

I keep marching towards the horizon beyond the horizon line – towards the secrets I know are there but just can’t see. I know new vistas are waiting.

I do not make that left turn. I keep going forward, because something tells me that the harder path is the higher path, and sometimes you learn more by staying than by leaving.

 

On Recalling A Spotless Mind

There’s something I’ve been mulling over ever since my husband first brought it up. He mentioned an article he read that said we might now have the power to erase specific memories – great for getting rid of the traumatic ones, but I wonder about the rest. It turns out our memories aren’t the coherent images we think they are. They don’t reside in our brain waiting to be accessed. Instead, memories result from chemical and protein connections in our brain. We rebuild them each time we recall them, and every time we think of them we rebuild them a little differently, changing the underlying circuitry every time.

This is why witness testimony is so problematic. This is why a year after 9-11, people remember being in an entirely different place when it happened than they said they were just after the event.

This makes me think about the ethics involved. Do we make our memories, or do they make us? Aren’t we all at least a little bit shaped by not only our experiences, but how we remember them? If we take that memory away…what does it do to who we are?

And then it makes me think about the fact that we’re erasing bits of truth out of our mind anyway. That our memories aren’t exactly the factual representations we like to think we are. I itch to write a story about this, to process in my own mind what this looks like and does…but I don’t know how to write anything that isn’t Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

But the question I can’t seem to escape is this: What if every time you remembered your most cherished memory, a little piece of it changed, until what you remember is no longer the memory at all, but just a fiction constructed by your brain?

What if your most important memories, by virtue of being so important, eventually became lies?

* The article was in Wired. If you’re interested to find out more, you can read it here.

Thunk-thunk Goes the Sound of Joy

Breathing in and out, I calm my body. I smell the salt of sweat born of tropical heat, and make a conscious effort to match the rhythm of my movements to the beat of my inhalations.

Thunk, thunk, thunk.

I stretch upwards and swing my knee, then body, with dancer-like control, down into a low pigeon pose. Breathing in, I straighten my spine, breathing out, I fold forward, touching my nose to my knee.

Ga-THUNK, ga-thunk, ga-thunk.

I ignore the din of the rubber ball and pretend not to notice the press of little paws up the back of my leg as I count for a minute’s hold. When the minute is up, I rise out of my fold…

…and get stuck under the little furry body standing over my leg.

Thunkity, thunk-thunk goes the black rubber ball.

“I know you don’t understand this, baby girl, but mama can’t play with you just now. Give me 5 more minutes, okay Dottles?”

Baby girl does not get it.

I lay down and move into a side stretch, and there she is, lying down alongside my back. I switch to upward-facing dog and all 23 pounds of my upward-facing dog plops down on my legs. I try happy baby pose, and thunk! she drops the rubber ball on my crotch. (Given its predictability, I mighta’ had that one coming.)

I give up, trying desperately to finish in one last restful pose, and there is Dot nudging the ball in my hands, up my side, between my legs, and over my chest until finally I can’t help it.

I laugh out loud, in a great big belly laugh. Then I get up and go toss her the ball.

I might not have gotten my shavasana, but it’s sure hard not to find joy in life when there’s a little cuddly buddy trying to get you to play.

Join in at Heather’s!

Just Write: Bruises

I check for bruises. I run my fingers over the flesh, feeling for softness, for weight, for weakness, for resistance. I look for the place that gives under the gentle pressure; I watch for the telltale yellowing or brown. But my mind is on other things. The exploration is more ritual than studied operation; a habit wherein I can lose myself, as I fondle the Fujis and manhandle the Galas.

I discard the sad and the sour, the aged and all those too green, keeping only what will last or reveal itself in perfect time. I act like I know what I’m doing, as if I can do more than hazard a guess at the character inside.

I like the weight of the bag in my hand, and yet I reach for one more. It has a pretty scarlet and lime color, but a little too much give. It is probably too soft, too done, and even a little too small. I put it back and turn to leave, but as I rest it upon the others, it slips and rolls off, falling with a muted thud on the floor. I pick it up and run my thumb over the new bruise. I reach to put it back on the pile, hesitate, then slip it into my bag.

I pay in cash and carry the bag home. In the kitchen, I place all the apples in a basket, careful to place the last one where it won’t get further bruised. I tell myself I’ll pick that one up first, to eat before it goes to waste. But the truth is, I avoid it until it is the last apple in the basket, too soft and too done to eat anymore. And there is only an echo of regret by the time I finally throw it away.

This free write was done in response to the prompt “Write about picking fruit” from Judy Reeves’ A Writer’s Book of Days.

Need to write? Then just write and join in at Heather’s!

Imagine You Are Thirteen Again

Imagine you are thirteen years old again. Do you remember what that was like? Do you remember how you dressed, who your friends were, what boys you liked? Do you remember what your biggest hope was? Your biggest fear?

Now imagine you’re a thirteen-year-old girl and you live someplace where girls don’t dream about John Cusack or Zack from Saved by the Bell. You don’t dream about becoming Prom Queen or Valedictorian. You might hope that boy you like will notice you – that is, if you hope at all – but mostly, you’re worried about your father who has no stable income, your mother who is sick and can’t afford a doctor, your belly that is undernourished, or the fact that you are thirteen and simply cannot afford to go to school anymore. If you can’t go to school, you have to work to support the family.

So you try to find a job, but you are too young to work anywhere highly visible or even remotely respectable. You have no experience, and only a minimum of education.

So a neighbor, your uncle, a friend of your aunt, an old teacher tells you about a job in the big city. Or overseas. You could be a waitress in a hotel, a bar, a nice restaurant. It’s far from home, but they assure you that you will make more money than you can plausibly imagine. You can feed your family. You can get your mother to a doctor. You can get your entire family out of poverty. You can afford to finish school – hell, even go to college if you want. They tell you this.

It sounds too good to be true. You don’t believe them.

“It’s true,” they insist. “My niece did it. My cousin is there right now. Look, they sent me all these fine things: the beautiful necklace, the nice stereo system, the pretty shoes I always wear. My cousin, she wears nothing but Prada. The real thing. I tell you, you can get out of here and make so much money.”

“Is it safe?” you wonder.

“Of course, it is safe! Do you think I would tell you to go if it weren’t? My cousin, she’ll watch after you. She’ll make sure you’re okay and let us know if you have any trouble. You can always come back if you don’t like it. What’s to lose?”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course! Don’t you trust me?”

And because it is your uncle, your aunt, your neighbor, your friend, ultimately you do trust. Because you are thirteen and you’ve known them all your life.

They introduce you to someone else. You get in a van, still telling yourself you can leave at any time. Other girls are there. They seem friendly and happy too. You drive away from your family, full of hope and only a little afraid. When you arrive in the big city, you are amazed by what you see, they treat you to a makeover, and you feel so very grown up.

They take you to where you will work. You think you’ll have some time to rest, but you find out you start right away. But it’s only when they ask if you’ve ever had sex before that you begin to have an inkling that something is wrong.

Then it is too late to scream, though you try. You’ve already been sold.

Trafficked. Modern-day slavery: this is how it happens.

This free write happened because sometimes I just can’t keep silent about what I work with, and the things that are done to children.
 

Join in the free writes at Heather’s!

A word left unspoken…

…is a terrible thing to waste.

…is a blessing in disguise.

…is a waste of time, a thought repeated in your head until you have no space or minutes for new thoughts.

It’s a burden.

It’s our safe zone of moral superiority. Our comeback to which the other can never retort.

It fills you up and eats away.

…it’s sometimes exactly what you need.

…is 335 days a week long.

…is felt stronger than it might have been heard.

…torments you for as long as your attention span.

…can make you feel more real.

Sometimes we only know we exist because we feel the weight of the secrets we carry.

 

This post was written in response to Judy Reeves’ prompt, “a word left unspoken,”
from her book, A Writer’s Book of Days
Join in with Just Write at Heather’s!

Play

He sat splay-legged on the wooden floor, amongst the pell-mell of scattered markers and paper scraps, lost in his own daydream world. He sat by himself, his back turned towards me, but seeing him there, my breath caught in my throat, and my mind snapped a picture to remember.

He was playing.

He danced his little dragon in the air, his shoulders rigid with the wonder and fascination at this creation he had made with his own two hands.

I had just shown the kids how to make little Chinese dragon puppets. At the beginning, I had to show this little 8-year-old how to color. He watched me filling in the spaces with a marker, himself too daunted to put his own pen to paper. I worried he would never finish his, he was so busy looking at mine, terrified of doing something wrong. There are no wrong answers, I wanted to say, but too often I’ve seen disbelief in their eyes. So instead, I gave him time and whispers of encouragement. When the other kids left, he began to color in earnest.

And then he finished. This child, for whom imagination was a forgotten story, for whom fear is a constant houseguest, and for whom pride and creation are foreign concepts, this child was playing with a beautiful dragon he had made.

With his own two hands.

My breath got caught in my throat.

He stole my voice for a moment, and I thought I might give mine if it meant he’d find his.

Did he see? It was there all the time, just waiting to be understood.

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