The blueing of the berry

I’ve got nothing particularly poignant to write about this image.  It isn’t exactly evocative.  I just liked that only one blueberry in the bunch had started to turn and it seemed like a good chance to play with the macro setting on the camera.  It was the “golden hour,” though I think a little more light might have made the shot a bit more vibrant.

Different berry, same bush.  Note that the very tips of the other berries are blueing.  Even though it was taken at the same time as the other picture, the flash went off when I took this one.  Not sure if I like the color better or not.  It is, however, equally uninspiring as the first shot.  I just haven’t had a chance to make any kind of excursion to find some more worthy photography subjects.


Sources of Fiction: Exercise 1: Write a scene of a story from your own glimpse of a group of people.

I decided to go to istockphoto and find a photograph of a group of people to complete this exercise – if you’d like to view the image, you can find it here:


Pulling her pink wrap tighter with her good hand, Effie grimaced.  The still very tender scar tissue covering her neck and chin – nearly matching the shade of the pashmina – felt raw as the scarf slide across the skin.  Despite the oppressive heat, Effie, like all of her female companions, was covered in long sleeves and a full length skirt, neck to foot.  But only Effie looked boney and gaunt through her thick wool sweater and skirt.

The fire had ravaged her body and mind.  While her body was slowly healing, her mind seemed only to grow darker and deeper in fear.  Her demeanor grew more fearsome and dismal with each passing night, as she relived the accident in her dreams.  Worse, each night her dreams grew more complicated and intense; keeping her prisoner in the burning building longer each time.  In the real fire, she’d managed, after a short time that felt unending, to remove enough rubble to pass out of the building through a shattered window.  In her dreams the pile of rubble grew, the window shrank, and some nights, it was not broken or not there at all.  Most nights, her only escape from the fire was by waking, breathless and soaked in her own sweat, stifling a scream into her pillow.

Effie was growing anxious as they walked slowly down the road.  Being with the family made her less conspicuous, but she kept her head down and silently prayed that no one would stop them nonetheless.  As some point as they had walked, the oldest boy, Amjad, had found a scuffed, ratty looking soccer ball and dribbled it as they went along.  While he was pretty skilled at handling the ball, it was a bit misshapen, so it got away from him occasionally and he’d chase after it, slowing their progress.  Effie dared not reprimand him in front of his mother, instead looking to Aviza with pleading stares – the only times she would look up from her feet.

“Effie.  We’ll be there soon.  Stop worrying.  I know Amjad is bothering you, but I must let him play.  He has so few years before he will have to be man.”  Aviza said slowly for Effie’s benefit, smiling wistfully as they watched Amjad again chase the disfigured ball across the dirt road, his red striped linen shirt flapping as he ran.  A construction worker stopped it and gave it a good boot back towards him.  Amjad caught it on his instep, popped it up to his left knee, then his right, before dropping back down to the dirt and dribbling back to the family.  The construction worker gave a whistle before turning back to his machine.

“I look like that ball.  People are going to notice me.  We must get there soon.  Being out in day light is too risky.”  Effie replied in a halting mix of Iranian and her own tongue.  “I need –” Effie was cut-off by a white man approaching the group with a camera.  He spoke to Aviza, quietly with a European accent that Effie couldn’t place, gesturing to his camera.  Aviza glanced at Effie only briefly, but long enough for Effie to register the look of concern and uncertainty on Aviza’s face.  Looking back at the man, Aviza nodded slightly, adjusted her blue head scarf and called to her children to gather near.

Aviza’s daughter, Tahereh, held the baby, posing and smiling politely for the photographer, while Aviza stopped the boys from their impromptu game of chase around the group.  Effie was too timid to protest, fearing that she would draw further unwanted attention.  At the last moment she pretended to hear a noise behind them and turned before the photographer could snap a picture of her.  The last thing she needed was for her image to be printed in a newspaper or magazines.  Not only was she embarrassed of her newly disfigured appearance, but she was deathly afraid of being recognized.

She couldn’t fully understand his poor attempt at Iranian, since she spoke so little herself, but she gather that the photographer was a journalist of some sort.  Definitely not someone she wanted to be around for too long.  She heard him grumble when he realized the boys had begun chasing each other again and that she’d turned around before he got his shot off, but fortunately the baby began to protest and squirm, so the family politely demurred from any further photographs and continued on their way.



Developing the habit

Today the post man delivered my “like new” copy of Josip Novakovich’s Fiction Writer’s Workshop (2nd Ed. © 2008) from  It’s basically an instructive text with guided exercises for fiction writing, much like that which might be discussed and assigned in a writing class or workshop, with suggestions to self-critique the results (since I will be without peers, classmates  or an instructor to help with that aspect).

I realize that I need to do two things as I chase down (at this point, it’s probably more like I am still just sniffing out) my dream to write and publish a novel: 1) practice, practice, practice, and 2) develop a habit of writing regularly.  So, I plan to make a concerted effort to sit down a couple of nights a week for at least 30 minutes at a time, and tackle the exercises, posting the results here.

Gentle, constructive criticism is welcomed, albeit a bit hesitantly.  Be kind, cruel world – I’m tentatively foraying into the world of fiction writing and haven’t built up a thick skin yet with respect to my writing.  (I still don’t even let my husband read my writing!)  Encouragement is, of course, always appreciated – supportive words regarding my effort to discipline myself to stick with the plan are particularly valued!

If this works as I hope, then this just might be the best $2.50 (plus shipping) I have ever invested!

Thank you, Ma’am…

Recently, I have found myself more and more frequently addressed as “Ma’am” by salespersons, waitstaff, etc.  While I am glad to know that there are still polite individuals in this world, I am not exactly flattered that these people think I fall into the “old enough to be called “Ma’am” category.  I think the question of whether or not you should refer to someone as Ma’am is the like asking a woman if she’s pregnant.  You don’t do it unless you know the answer is yes.

I don’t feel older than late 20’s.  According to the calendar, I’m mid-thirties.  By the mirror, I am probably some where in between.  So, when did I become old enough to be called “ma’am?”

I don’t mind being in my thirties.  After all, I earned them.  But, of course, I do miss some of the care-free days of my “misspent youth.”  (“Misspent” being a matter of perspective, since I was a pretty responsible and level-headed young adult.)  There’s just something about the 18-25 years: your first real job, taking spur of the moment vacations, all-nighters with friends, all-nighters at work,  parties for no reason, shopping sprees, your first new car – no one even considering calling you “ma’am.”

I know that the relationships and career I have and enjoy now are from the seeds I planted in my young adult years.  And, no, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  Now I find myself in that unique stage of life where I am paying off my education while saving for my daughter’s – which apparently coincides with the time when people start calling you “ma’am.”  For now, when I hear that word, it is it bit jarring and it takes me off guard.  I almost reflexively say, “who me?” as I look to see if there’s an old lady behind me.

Since this isn’t really a topic that has much depth to it, I guess I will call it quits here.  Besides, my back and knees are stiffening up; I need to go get some ice and Bengay cream.

Update – Mind-Keybaord disconnect: a solution!

I had previously lamented about the loss of ideas that percolate while I am driving before I get to a computer or even paper to get them down. So, I’ve been considering getting a voice recorder to keep handy in the car. The hubs suggested finding a free app for the phone and viola, I found a decent freebie! So, the experiment will begin this week! Gotta love technology

Blog Writer’s Block

Only three posts in and I’ve already hit writer’s block.  I thought I’d get farther, though I can’t say I am surprised.  As I mentioned previously, I was never a “Dear Diary…” kind of girl.  Sure, I had a number of diaries throughout my childhood – plain, decorative, locking, and the kind with the elastic band around it – I am fairly certain such is a rite of passage for pre-pubescent girls.  While I am pretty sure I remember starting each of them, none ever got filled.  It was a habit that I never was able to cultivate.

I enjoy writing, and love talking about myself, so it seems like keeping a diary is a natural fit.  But, I have found through the years, that adding a habit to my daily routine is something I find difficult – particular when it’s a habit that has no perceptible, immediate benefit.   (Sorry Mr. Dentist, daily flossing just keeps eluding me.)  So, the fact that my blogging has already waned comes as no great shock.  It doesn’t help that no one is reading (thanks, stat tracking), so I’ve got no one to account to but myself – and frankly, I let myself slide on a great many things when no one else has expectations.

So why the lapse in blogging (or writing in my diary as a kid)?  Well the aforementioned lack of immediate response or tangible benefit are true.  But still, so much of the process and the end result (a written piece that I wrote and can read and re-read) should be appealing enough.  Laziness?  Apathy?  Is it really writer’s block?  Do I actually have nothing to say?  Banish the thought, since that will put quite a damper on my secret dream of becoming a published author.

I can confess, that while I’ve been anemic in my blogging, I have put some effort into my story writing.  Since my story is one taking place in a completely fictitious land, I took the time to draw a map, two actually, of the land where the story unfolds – in color, no less.  It helped refine the story a bit, visually working out where things needed to be, what things just didn’t fit, what things were missing.  The maps also pointed out the black gaping holes in the story – stretches of nothing on paper that begged for some topographical reflection of the fictional happenings.  I imagine that the maps will be living documents until the meat of the story is down, but for the most part they seem to reflect what my mind’s eye sees.  I am no artist, nor a cartographer, but I think they came out decent enough for my purposes.

So, while I am not actually, physically writing, I am mentally working out bits and parts of the story.  Is that a cop out?  Does that qualify as writing, or is it a form of denial of writer’s block?  Really, I think its laziness – an inability to cultivate the good habit of sitting down at regular intervals for set periods of time to write.  And that is something I’ve never been able to do since the days of my blank little locked diaries.  But it is something I am just going to have to do.  A habit I had hoped to establish by blogging.

Apparently starting good habits is just as hard as stopping bad ones!

Shooting Perfection

Apologies now, since I already feel that this post is going to unravel in a few directions.    The main subject is photography.  Subtopics: Photography as a Creative Outlet; Photography and my Perfectionist side; and, Observation versus Participation.  Stick with me, I may have a point in here somewhere…

I’ve moved on from my little Kodak point and shoot.  It served me well, and I’m keeping it around “just in case.”  However, I envy other people who have this brilliant photos of their children and vacations, and I wanted the same.  So, saving all the money I received for Christmas and my birthday, I splurged on an Olympus 620.  It’s a great camera; I am happy with the purchase.  But I now find I not only  need to learn the language and rules of photography, but also the tools, tricks and gizmos of the camera.  Nonetheless, I’ve played a bit with it and have managed to wrangle a few nice pictures of my daughter out of it.  I imagine it can only get easier.

Olympus E 620

I can definitely see myself enjoying photography as a regular hobby.  First, it’s “easy.”  Point-click-shoot.  Obviously, there’s much more to adjusting for lighting and correctly composing a shot, but even an absolutely terrible photographer can luck out with a great shot now and then.  Second, as far as a photography as a creative outlet – it’s near instant gratification.  God bless digital imaging!  No waiting for film (double bonus – no buying film, and you can just print only those images you want).  If someone closed their eyes, or a stranger walks into the shot, you know right away – shoot it again!  This aspect so compliments my impatience, it practically rewards it.  Third, it’s a limitless activity.  Take pictures when you want, where you want.

As far as creativity, I tend not to think too far out of the box.  I like symmetry and clean lines.  I think and process information in outline format – both on paper and in my head.  I’m a left-brained righty and it shows.  Photography is a good fit for me – it lets me manipulate the image enough that I feel like I am being creative without feeling pressured to come up with unique and usual ideas to do so.  As I learn more about the process, I may find myself becoming less in-the-box and willing to experiment.  Who knows, maybe taking up this hobby will spark my creative light and help improve my other creative outlet – writing.

About my writing.  I am certainly not doing it enough or well.  I am stymied with ideas that don’t go anyway.  Something which may be limiting my ability to access any vast internal creativity is my perfectionism.  Creation is messy.  I prefer order, organization, straight lines and complimentary colors.  When taking pictures, I am always looking for that perfect shot.  The picture that so perfectly captures the person or moment that it seems unreal – as though it were staged for a print ad or TV show.  But life never happens that way – there are strangers in the background, stains on shirts, unruly strands of hair, cars parked on picturesque streets.

So I often find myself “staging” and manipulating images before I even look through the lens.  But at some point, doesn’t the manipulation starts to make the image a lie.  It isn’t a perfect capture of the moment; its me remaking the moment, turning it into something I want to be.  As they say, perception is reality.  So by molding the image into what I see as perfection, doesn’t it make it so?  Is this what photography is about?  The photographer decides what is in the frame, and what isn’t.

Sometimes what is missing can say so much more about the image than that which appears in within its borders.  Which leads me to my last thought on the subject.  One thing that I never capture in my images, is me.  I can’t both view and be in the scene.  Yes, yes, remotes, I know.  But, I can’t see me in the image as I view it (at least not until the picture is taken) and philosophically, once I am in it, it is no longer the same scene – you can’t step in the same river twice, right?  So, it has occurred to me, that in my quest of the perfect  picture – of my daughter playing in that dappled light, that breath taking vista, of the celebrating revelers – I am taking myself out of these moments.  I can’t both help my daughter blow out candles and capture her doing it.  (Unless, of course I stage the photo later.  Note to self for the 2nd birthday…)  But, if I am not taking the pictures, I can’t be sure that I will as reliably preserve these memories in my mind’s eye as I would on my external drive.

The choice I am left with is Observer or Participant.  As I take pictures, I watch the scene I am missing unfold.  Even as I take part in the festivities, I am often torn out of them with the thought “Wait, stop!  I have to get a picture of this!”

This is why I think I love taking my daughter to the portrait studio – despite the ridiculous cost.  Having her pictures done is the event.  The staged setting and situations are the real moment.  Obviously, we don’t spend time in our day-to-day life lounging on an infinite background of cotton candy pink snuggling with fluffy white rabbits.  But for those 30 minutes, that was exactly what we were doing.  For those 30 minutes that was our life – staging photos.   So, the lie is the reality and since I am not the photographer, I get to participate.  While it doesn’t curb my desire for a creative outlet (I don’t get to dictate what poses or props to use) – it does temporarily satisfy my craving for that perfect picture (greatly enhanced by the portrait studio’s Photoshopping).  Yet it all feels like cheating.

Well, the mental diarrhea is out and it appears there was no point.  Dear Diary…