Peony Love – Let Me Count the Ways

peony bud

Here I Come

An important exercise on perspective that I often give in my workshops is to spend time observing a subject and then take a minimum of 24 frames, the idea being that there are an infinite number of ways of seeing something.

Some possibilities we can’t see until we start, but if we stick with it, moving past the point of boredom, we will find something new.

At this time of year in my part of the world, there are many pictures online of flowers blooming. How many ways can there be to photograph a flower? This post was inspired by Anne McKinnell (How to Photograph Flowers), who was in turn inspired by Alex Wild (One Flower 16 Ways)

I decided to photograph a single peony flower in at least 16 ways. I started last week when I photographed the bud that you see above. It was the one in my peony bushes that I knew would bloom first. Then, I was out of town for four days and came back to find the bushes in full bloom. That first peony bloom was already past its peak.
peony lit up

peony perspectives
I’ve been having some trouble with my camera recently, and when I went out to photograph the flower, I couldn’t change the aperture. This limitation forced me to move around more. Finally, I gave up on my camera and got my iPhone. At one point, I used the slow shutter app on the phone.
peony wind-blown
The photographs, when seen together, do show the many different ways we can show a single subject.
peony partial

peony from above

I hope you’ll try this with your favourite flower.

Thankful for Aging

rust, aging
Today is my birthday, a milestone one I might add. If you read my blog, you know that I’ve been writing and thinking lately about how to live the third act of life, commonly known as retirement.

As I enter this third act, my mantra moving forward comes from a fabulous book by Ashton Applewhite, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto for Aging.

There are even more ways of getting from 60 to 90 as there are of getting from 30 to 60.

Often, aging is thought of as a time of diminishing abilities and possibilities. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, our bodies and minds are aging and the likelihood of physical and mental ailments increases, but we and society also add unfounded limitations.

This is not about acting young or even aging well. It’s about realizing that aging has its benefits too, no matter what life throws at us, and that we’re capable of so much more than we can imagine.

I don’t want to limit myself due to a failure of imagination.

Six years ago, I took a leap and started creating and facilitating online workshops in contemplative living through photography, thanks mainly to Tara Sophia Mohr and her Playing Big program. Since that time, I’ve learned a ton about writing and teaching, my photography has improved and deepened, and I’ve met so many amazing people from around the world, who’ve enriched my life in so many ways.

Moving forward, I’ll continue taking one step at a time, see what each day brings, and respond accordingly. This is, after all, the contemplative way.

Here are a few other favourite quotes from the book.

You are never too old, and it’s never too late.

Your life does change as you get older. You get into what’s important and what’s not.

The sooner aging is stripped of reflexive dread, the better equipped we are to benefit from the countless ways in which it can enrich us.

Applewhite’s mission is to shine a light on ageist propaganda that degrades and limits those of a certain age. She says that, no matter what our age, we need to become older people in training. Unlike other prejudices, we’re all going to be old someday – if we’re lucky!

I’m noticing where ageism shows up in me, for example, telling someone they look pretty good for their age or not wearing or doing something because it’s not “age-appropriate.”

If you’re in you’re third act, how has aging enriched you? If you’re not there yet, how are you becoming an older person in training?

Read: Retiring Retirement and Why Care about 85 when you’re 25?

Saturday Blues

blueYou know how some of the smallest and most unexpected moments remain indelible in your memory? Ten years ago, I was at an environmental conference and someone read the excerpt below from a book by Rebecca Solnit called A Field Guid to Getting Lost. Read it slowly and take it in.

The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue edge of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.

The language was so beautiful and the thoughts so magical that I never forgot them. After returning home, I immediately bought the book.

This past weekend I learned that Krista Tippett’s latest interview on the On Being podcast was with Rebecca Solnit. I went out for a walk early Saturday morning, before the heat of the day was in full force, specifically to listen to the interview. Highly recommended.

During that walk, I took the photograph above. It wasn’t until I got home and was processing photos on my computer that I connected it to the “blue” piece. The unconscious works in mysterious ways.

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