Angling for Answers

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If you buzz regularly by my blog you may have noticed my proclivity for ridiculous angling in attempting to get photographs of ephemera that catches my fancy.

I teeter in heels up snow-covered rocks to catch sunset.  I wriggle in less than pristine spring dirt to point my lens up at a blase butterfly.  Just last night I swayed on a rapidly disappearing rock jetty as the tide crashed in and seagulls screamed and swooped at me. It was like a scene out of The Birds, but I got my shot.


An unusual angle on a familiar scene can tell a story, and give hints about the events and moods behind it.

My children and I recently attended their sister’s commencement and related festivities. Thousands upon thousands of people were on hand snapping pictures on cameras and tablets and phones–in so far as black and orange umbrellas could shield the electronics.

I’ve picked out some different angles on the celebration: the view from inside my rain poncho at commencement, some of my progeny to my right as they clapped for an award recipient in my daughter’s department, and the steel paw of her school’s mascot.

I paused there in front of a sculpture my husband had never seen, on a campus where there were so any things he never saw, and added my own salt tears to the mix, wishing he could have lived to see this, every part of this, the steam punk paw beneath my feet, our astoundingly accomplished daughter and her supportive sister and brothers, the never-ending rain.

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Flying Lessons

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Fledgling Bluejay (c) 2015

It’s fledgling season.

Fledge, as a transitive verb, means: “(1)  To rear until ready for flight or independent activity; (2)  To furnish with feathers.”

Tiny birds burst out of bushes at fender level, lifting by milliseconds out of oncoming cars’ paths.  Parental sentries warily scan their nests’ peripheries, screeching and swooping if a squirrel bounds too close to their young ones.

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Baby Quail (c) 2015

Where hatchlings cluster in the delicate days before fully testing their wings one can already see a hierarchy in place, more assertive newborns pecking at their recalcitrant siblings and even sweeping them aside as they venture toward the margins of the zone where their parents perch to guard them.

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Perching Guard (c) 2015

I am, technically speaking,  a grownup.  I assuredly am my children’s only surviving parent, and some of them occupy the chronological ground between childhood and adulthood.  Yet I am taking most of the lessons.  That fledgling bluejay perched indefinitely on the wooden fence ledge, glancing beseechingly back over his shoulder as if to ask whether he really is expected to let go and explore alone beyond the garden that is his home base?  Really?  Is this a good idea?  That’s me.

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While I have found comfort in returning to my original work, my children have ventured without fear into new places, figuratively and literally–from making new friendships to mapping out intricate proofs and gathering data across the globe to mathematically model the spread of infectious diseases.  How proud their father would be.

Perhaps they have been furnished with that other thing with feathers– the one “[t[hat perches in the soul,” that “sings the tune without the words,/And never stops at all.”

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Waves of Inspiration

I am besotted by waves.

Waves of color at sunrise and sunset, undulating curves imprinted upon salt marsh grasses by since-stilled winds.  Rainbow glass swirled into peaks and valleys.  Frozen waves of sun-gilded snow. Sky art formed by colorful canvas spun by wind into billowing swells.

After a winter that wasn’t after all without end, a first wave of flowers came in crocus form: dazzling white, lavender, and bright yellow.  Almost as quickly as they sprouted they were gone, replaced by a blitz of daffodils, followed by swaths of lipstick sunset tulips.

Suddenly it is August, and every few days it seems a new platoon of flora cycles through. Delightfully descriptive “curly fries” Hosta plants wave in a light wind.  Today is a riot of pastel hydrangea and sturdy day lilies, their gracefully ruffled petals edged in a sea-foam of sunlight and shadow.

I don’t know what it is about waves.

A wave tickled my heel as I faltered in reading a poem about a turtle to my children a year after their father died.  The next year, just after a seashell of his ashes wafted into the ocean in Dublin, a gentle wave deposited at my bare toes a patch of seaweed in his trademark green, framed around a distinct heart-shaped space.

Perhaps inspiration comes from waves’ movement and light and soothing rhythm, like a heartbeat or a summer bird’s song.

“This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.”  Wrote Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  His seafarers yearned for waves to bring them home again.

Maybe it is not only the waves themselves which call me, but the hope of what they might one day return.



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Ready for My Close-Up

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Just going about business.  Serene.  Opaque black matte eyes seeming oblivious to the steamy post-storm riot of summer color.

Out of the frame, underneath those magnificent wings, is the spectacle of yours truly getting the close-up, whispering (Please stay right there, just a few more seconds), wriggling backwards on the pollen-ridden ground with two cameras in hand. I’m wearing one of the daughter-hand-me-downs known among my friends as “Steph’s cute little dresses.”  Lady-like?  Not so much.

And I could swear this dazzling creature is looking askance at me.  The intricacy of detail I can get with the swoosh of a camera button gives me a false sense of connection.  Of course he is uninterested in me.  But I am wildly interested in everything in the shot: the stained-glass underside of his wings, his perfectly symmetrical grasp of the flowers, the softly swooping cilia trailing down the leaf’s stem.

Sometimes we are drawn to the close-up and sometimes we do everything we can to keep our distance.

Grief, close up, occupies its own ceaselessly swirling vortex, and can make people keep their distance.  But the intimate inside view yields its own insights and power, and even strange beauty at times.

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