Reflections – Friday, July 22, 2016

Carol A. Hand

It wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning yesterday when I finally called it a day. I had checked the National Weather site before shutting down my computer. I noticed the long line of “red” storms (indicating “severe”) racing toward Duluth from the west. It’s been a common occurrence this year, so I climbed upstairs to bed unconcerned.

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Photo: Duluth, June 19, 2016 (photographer, Jnana Hand)

Just an hour later, I was awakened by thunder booming and rain pounding on the roof. I turned over and fell back asleep.

By the time I awoke a few hours later, it was sunny and peaceful. Just a few birch and willow branches marked the storm’s passing, something I’m accustomed to on this windy side of town. I picked up the branches and went back to editing another chapter and then wrote yesterday’s blog post. It wasn’t until I received an email from my daughter who’s travelling out west that I realized the magnitude of the storm. In other sections of the city, crews were already busy working to clean up the devastation from the hurricane-strength winds that spared my neighborhood.

A metaphor for the times in which we live. The storms may hit with little warning. Sometimes we’re spared, and other times not. Some things are beyond our control.

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Moon Light Breaking Through, July 18, 2016

But what I do find heartening is the ability of people to come together in times of crisis to help each other. It underscores a truth we often overlook – people are basically good, as Sam Cook points out in his essay about Duluth neighbors coming together.

It’s something I see every day in the blogging community. It’s something we help each other remember with every story and photo we share.

Thank you all for building global connections and documenting truth, hope and beauty in the world despite the dark storms that rage around us.

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Reflections – Thursday, July 21, 2016

Carol A. Hand

Day ten, the final day of the WordPress photography course I’ve been taking.

Architecture — Go Monochrome

There are a lot of interesting historic buildings and upscale homes in my city, even in my neighborhood. I have often wished that I had time and a camera with me to take photos. This assignment was my chance!

But I’ve learned how much lighting matters from this course. By the time I travel, even in my neighborhood, the light will not be ideal. In fact, it will be glaring on this intensely sunny day when an “excessive heat warning” has been issued. (That means it will be a humid 90-plus F, or 32 C. Not hot compared to most places, but in this northern clime it raises concerns.)

Anticipating less than ideal conditions, I took some shots of my house and neighborhood yesterday evening. “How boring,” I thought, “but at least I know a little about the history of these buildings.” This morning, I realized how much history matters when I consider architecture.

Mansions built by railroad, shipping, banker, and timber barons. Churches built with gold and silver at the expense of millions murdered and enslaved. Yes, the buildings may be physically beautiful. But I see them as monuments of hubris built in the context of oppression, poverty and starvation of many. With no negative judgment of the artists who envisioned majesty and beauty and craftspeople who gave their visions life, I can’t ignore the stench and stain of the exploitive and brutal histories of many architectural wonders.

So today, my lens is focused on what is close and ordinary, the house where I live now and the building across the street. I only know pieces of their histories, but it’s enough to know that they aren’t monuments to exploitation and hubris.

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My home.

I bought my home in October 2011 from Ingrid, a widow who was then 91. She lived here most of her life. The home was built by her father, a Swedish American. It’s where she and her husband raised their two daughters. Her father used materials he could afford, but his creation has so far stood the tests of time and weather.

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I think the little shed in the front yard was built later by Ingrid’s husband. Their shared Swedish ancestry remained important to them. Ingrid told me that what I refer to as a “garden shed” replicates a building they saw on a trip to Sweden. To Ingrid, it was a workshop for one of her daughters who was a stained-glass artist. It carries the poignant memories of a beloved daughter who died young.

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This is the front of the house when I bought it.

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This is what it looks like now. I do like the way “grayscale” hides some of the work that still needs to be done.

Just across the street, there’s a different architectural view, an apartment building that opened in 1972 to provide affordable housing for elders 62 and older. It was built in an era when there was some government funding to construct housing for people with lower incomes. Clearly, utilitarian functionality and accessibility underscore its design. It’s not a testament to wealth amassed at the expense of taxpayers. But it does provide safe and affordable housing for some of my dear friends.

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I’m sad to end this photography course. It’s given me an enjoyable opportunity to learn something new and experiment with perspective, a welcome respite from editing a book manuscript. But I’ve just gotten feedback from one of my reviewers. It’s worth continuing. So if my WP visits are sporadic again, that’s why. I only have 300 more pages of editing to go!

I want to thank all of you for following me on this journey. I appreciate your feedback, encouragement and support.

Acknowledgement:

I want to extend a special thank you to Bob at Palliser Pass for his thoughtful comments on an earlier post.

“Hi Carol, loved the poem and photos. He sure looks like a good dog and why shouldn’t he demand respect. Been enjoying your photos. If you don’t mind I will share my observation. You are a documentary photographer, you want to share and tell a story with the photograph. I consider myself the same kind of photographer. The story or showing is more important than anything else. Keep up the good work. Bob”

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Bob. You helped me realize I do use photographs to tell a story. Your words inspired me to tell this one.:-)

I encourage you all to visit Bob’s site. He’s a gifted photographer and storyteller.

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Reflections – Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Carol A. Hand

Photography Day Nine: “A Pop of Color” – Incorporate Color

The directions for today’s photo emphasized focusing on simple lines and one color against a neutral background. Yet when I set out to capture images, the ones that caught my eye reminded me of a poem I wrote some time ago, especially the last verse.

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Let’s paint this world together
In colors bold and bright

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In colors of hope and kindness

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In colors of peace and light.

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Reflections – Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Carol A. Hand

The privileged language of different disciplines never ceases to fascinate me. Today’s photography challenge is “Treasure – Zoom In.” In other words, a “Macro” shot. I remember when I first started visiting photography blogs. I was puzzled by the label “macro” applied to close-up pictures of tiny things. When I saw that label, I was expecting expansive seascapes or sweeping landscape vistas, not a flower or a tiny insect.

In the type of social work I practiced, I was known as a “macro practitioner” – someone who focuses on community organizing, organizational change, or political advocacy. I didn’t focus in on individual “clients.” I looked at the bigger picture, the contextual forces that influence life circumstances and choices for many.

Macro photography does fascinate me, but I’ve had little success trying to capture tiny beings in photos. By the time I focus, they’re usually long gone. Or my hands shake. Or the breeze blows before the photo clicks. I’m left with many interesting abstract blurs. Thank goodness for digital cameras.

Last year, I did get a shot or two of a bee or a butterfly.

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But this year, bees and butterflies are noticeably and alarmingly absent. Even the bumble bees that made their presence known earlier in the spring are rare.

This is where the two disciplines of macro practice interface. I remember reading that the state of Wisconsin was going to be spraying for gypsy moths. One of the areas being sprayed is less than five miles away, just across the St. Louis River to the east.

“Residents of 21 central and western Wisconsin counties can expect to hear and see loud, low-flying planes as early as sunrise, depending on weather conditions, starting in May. Small, yellow planes will be spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars. These invasive pests defoliate trees during their caterpillar stage, causing stress and potentially tree death.” (Wisconsin DNR)

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Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (edited to add Duluth, MN)

Perhaps it’s just an unlucky coincidence. I don’t claim to be an expert in the science of the chemicals that are being sprayed from “small yellow planes.” I only know that last year, many kinds of bees and butterflies filled the air and feasted on the flowers in my garden.

This year, pollinators are a rare sight here.

As a once long ago biology major who wanted to be an ecologist before science welcomed women, I am certain there are many other solutions that could save both trees and pollinators. As a retired social work macro practitioner, my educated guess is that other options won’t be implemented until there’s a perceived financial profit for petro-chemical producers and logging companies.

For today, the best I can do is “zoom in” on flowers.

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I hope the future will give me other options to practice macro skills as an amateur photographer. Sadly, I know skilled and experienced social justice macro practitioners will have too many opportunities to apply their craft in the years to come.

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Reflections II – Monday, July 18, 2016

Carol A. Hand

Photography: Big – A Point of View

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You may think of me as cute and tiny
Not even as tall as your knee
But I assure you size is relative
I’m as big as I want to be

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Next to an ant, I’m a giant
Though not so next to a tree
But a word of warning, I bite
Disrespect me, and you’ll surely see

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My bite is bigger than my bark
Because cute isn’t taken seriously
But if you treat me with big dog respect
I promise to love you deliriously

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Reflections – Monday, July 18, 2016

Carol A. Hand

“Solitude” – Photography Day 6

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Layers of Solitude (Silkscreen Print, by Hsing Hua Chang)

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Solitude and Sanctuary

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Wistful Solitude – Memories of Other Times (WORD Picture Tools “grayscale”)

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Reflections – Sunday, July 17, 2016

Carol A. Hand

Photography Day Five: “Connect.” Many years ago, I discovered a fascinating device. I was among the twelve people who gathered in my Reiki practitioner’s home for a workshop on healing. At one point, she asked us to sit in a circle on the living room floor.

Our Reiki instructor, Carrie, held up a small glass tube and said, “This will demonstrate the power of human connection.

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(Canon Power Shot A560 camera)

I want you all to join hands with the person sitting next to you, except for you two,” Carrie said pointing at me and the young woman to my right. “I want you each to hold the end of the stick that’s closest to you.” When all the others in the circle joined hands, we touched the opposite ends of the tube. As we did, the circle complete,  the stick lit up and buzzed.

Then Carrie pointed to the young man seated across the circle from us. “Let go of your partner’s hand.” When he did, the stick grew dark and silent. The stream of energy needed to light the tube requires an unbroken connection to glow.

For those who doubt the fact that we all carry energy within us and pass it on to all those whom we touch, this stick proves otherwise.”

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(Canon Power Shot A560 camera)

My neighbors and their friends graciously agreed to let me photograph them holding the energy stick. They had never heard of it before and were curious. They learned, as I have throughout the years, connecting with others in celebration can be fun…

The energy stick does work with only one person holding both ends, but it’s a challenge to photograph the results. (I had to click the photo below with my chin.)

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(Sony Cyber-shot camera)

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Note: For anyone interested, this version of the energy stick was created by Steve Spangler for Be Amazing Toys, Salt Lake City, UT.

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Reflections – Saturday, July 16, 2016

Carol A. Hand

Yesterday’s topic for photography raised conflicting emotions for me. I needed more time to sort out my thoughts and feelings.

Bliss – “perfect happiness, great joy.”

In a world where violence often rules and millions suffer, I feel deep sorrow and guilt – an undercurrent even when I experience moments of contentment and joy on ordinary days. I realize I have only known bliss in my dreams or imagination. I wonder. As an empath who awakens to the reality of the world as it is today, how could it be otherwise?

How can I express this meaning of “bliss” through a photographic image? I thought of the connections that bind us together, reminding me of a dreamcatcher.

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A gift made by a dear friend (Northern Cheyenne)

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A gift from my brother when he was rediscovering his heritage

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An antique earring…

Imagine the web of life. Each of us is a tiny bead at the intersection of the threads that connect us to others. Each unique and irreplaceable, perhaps feeling alone when we forget that we are an essential part of a larger universe. At those moments when we realize our connection to others, we know we are part of something more powerful and mysterious than we can fully understand or articulate.

I’m reminded of molecules, atoms joined together that are transformed into something totally new, like water. Two distinct gases (oxygen and hydrogen) joined together into something we often take for granted. But it really is a miraculous process to consider.

In the past, I worked to make dreams and visions of what could be a reality by creating projects to raise awareness and reweave a sense of community. Sometimes, for fleeting moments, the projects worked. And then, they dissolved in the light of day.

Now, most of my dreams and imaginings aren’t blissful – they’re constrained by the context of a different reality. I’m not sure that I would survive very long in this body otherwise. But moments of blissful possibilities still do come. Now, I try to keep those possibilities alive by spending time writing and gardening, and sharing with those who come into my relatively reclusive life, especially my grandchildren.

For me, it’s the closest I can come to bliss until our connections to each other and the earth are remembered and strengthened.

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(Photos shot with a Canon Power Shot A560. It’s a more complicated camera than my Sony Cyber-shot, but this WP course provides me with an opportunity and the motivation to learn something new.)

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Reflections – Thursday, July 14, 2016

Carol A. Hand

“Water” is the focus for today’s photography course assignment. Although the St. Louis River is less than a mile away, and the shore of Lake Superior just a short drive or bus ride, the likelihood of scattered showers inspired me to stick closer to home. (I was caught in the rain yesterday when I was photographing streets.)

I could always do this assignment another day, but showers are predicted for tomorrow, too. I decided it was best to find an alternative. Then, I guiltily remembered a “water” task I delayed despite my granddaughter’s frequent reminders this year.

“Ahma, can we set up the fountain today? Please?”

I had planned to build some type of stand for the fountain first. But today, I realized that is not likely to happen any time soon. So before the showers that still look imminent arrived, I finally set it up.

It wasn’t the easiest subject to photograph. Figuring out what would work best required at least 75 shots. Most ended up in the trash. These are the photos that survived.

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Of course, the fountain has a story.

On the many trips my granddaughter and I made to the nearby garden center over the years, she always headed to the water fountain display first so she could play. (She still does.) When she showed me this fountain two years ago, we laughed. The symbolism of “hands” has obvious significance for our family. (It’s our last name.) How could I turn down her exuberant request to buy it?

I love my granddaughter’s choice – open hands presenting flowing, life-giving water. I’m grateful for this chance to share this story today, along with the life, love, and laughter this simple water fountain symbolizes.

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Photography – Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Carol A. Hand

I have to admit, I wasn’t able to take very interesting photos related to today’s topic: “Street” – Establishing Shots. Time and weather limited choices to my immediate neighborhood, but I did learn something about the importance of perspective and light. I also became more aware of the varied nature of my neighborhood.

Duluth, Minnesota is a long narrow city nestled between Lake Superior and St. Louis River on one side and a steep hillside on the other. The vista one block from my house is that of a busy avenue – the major artery for lengthwise city traffic on my side of town (the “west” side).  It’s a street one typically travels to get somewhere else.

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Grand Avenue (3rd Street)

In case you’re curious about the sign on the left side in the photo above …

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The sign post for the church often changes messages. Although I have often been tempted to take photos, I have never had my camera with me. But today, I did.

My street, West 4th, is only a few blocks long bordered on one end by an elementary school and on the other, by the high school. The street is often filled with children on their way to and from school or the nearby playground. Today, it was noticeably empty.

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West 4th Street facing east toward the high school

The alley behind the house did have more activity, but I felt as though it would be invading people’s privacy to include their photos without their permission. So this is the best I could do today.

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I found myself tempted to label this “An Alley of Strangers.” It’s surprising how few people I have been able to meet in my four and a half years here. (Horizontal with zoom lens)

This is the same alley from a slightly different vantage point (Vertical with a wide lens)

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These are not exciting pictures, but I’m not sure I would have learned as much about photography if they had been like those in an earlier post of street views. The contrasts between wide and zoom lenses, the variability of light due to very slight shifts in my vantage point and the changing weather, and vertical/horizontal camera shots all captured incredibly different perspectives and evoked very different feelings.

(Photos taken with Sony Cyber-shot camera. The only processing involved the rotation of vertical shots.)

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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