And that’s a wrap

blogIMG_91863I’m not always a fan of black and white photos, although I can see beauty in them. 

Perhaps I’m just a color-a-holic, I need my fix of color to make things really come alive for me. Maybe it’s because a large portion of family photos in my possession were taken with black and white film.

Family pictures in color didn’t appear until the early 1960’s in my collection. Even though color film existed, I think it was expensive to purchase and also to have processed.

When I look back at those old family pictures, I find myself wondering what color was my mom’s dress in that one or was that new car my dad is proudly standing beside silver or blue? I would like to have seen what my mother-in-law’s hair color was when she was younger because all of my memories of her are with gray hair.

Color would just make those photos come alive for me, I think. But instead, I must imagine the colors when I view the pictures.

And that’s probably why I don’t often choose to share photos in black and white unless they are for nostalgic purposes.  But today, I have to put my preference for color photos aside. Because today – at last! – I am completing the very last challenge in the Developing Your Eye workshop that I missed last summer. 

Day 10 is the end. A wrap. And that day’s theme was architecture, but the directive was to photograph the subject in black and white.

And if you know me really well or have read my blog for long, you’ll understand that phrase – black and white – dials up song lyrics in my brain (of course). A popular group in the 1970’s, Three Dog Night, performed a song entitled “Black and White.”

The music and its lyrics are playing in my head right now:

The world is black, the world is white
It turns by day and then by night
A child is black, a child is white
Together they grow to see the light
To see the light.

And those old song lyrics speak to me today to remind me that color doesn’t matter, at least on people’s skin.  Regardless of our color, we are all human, all brothers and sisters, all inhabitants of this earth and for our future generations’ sake, we need to see the light of living together in peaceful harmony. A wishful thought perhaps, but I believe it’s what we are called to do. 

As much as some folks seem to think, the world isn’t just divided into black and white.  No, there are different hues and shades and a myriad of ways of looking at an issue. Not just one way or another. Not polar opposites. Not my way or the highway. There’s an entire spectrum of varying colors in between that we need to consider to see the full picture. 

I think I found varying colors in a photo I snapped entirely for this photography theme. Even though I wasn’t actively involved in the workshop when it was being promoted, the themes were still mulling around in my mind and occasionally a picture just presented itself to me for a certain theme.

The picture I’ve showcased here is one I captured on a cold, clear January day during a visit to our nearby city. It screamed architecture to me for obvious reasons. I mean, just look at this building. And it made one gorgeous color photograph with a gorgeous blue sky backdrop.

But the directive for this theme was to capture architecture in black and white – monochrome – because that can create one very dramatic photo. The instructions were to “look for architectural elements that translate into black and white: sharp lines, patterns, defined shapes, large surface areas, and a mix of very light and very dark colors.”

I think I was successful. And I’m glad I was successful in completing the photography course, even if it was several months later. But my biggest hope? To continue viewing my world as a mix of colors and being grateful for it.

“Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves.” ~ Julia Morgan (1872-1957) American architect

King of the hill

blogIMG_8315When you were a kid, did you ever play the game, King of the Hill?

If you’re not familiar with this rough and tumble playground game, let me enlighten you. The object is to be the one person who is able to say atop a “hill,” whether it be an actual mound of dirt or just a large pile of objects. In order to stay atop, you need to be strong and be capable of warding off those who try to push or shove you off the hill.

That game was always just a bit too physical for me. I didn’t particularly like getting pushed or shoved around (still don’t), and I was a scrawny little kid who just couldn’t fend for myself enough to keep a kingdom long. I was much happier playing hopscotch or jumping rope on the school playground than being in a shoving free for all.

King of the Hill.  In addition to being a childhood game, it’s also a metaphor for being the winner of any kind of competition or activity where you actually displace the previous winner.

Although I can be just as competitive as the next guy, I’m not exactly a king of the hill kind of person.  To me, it just seems like being a bully, or at least a pushy enough person to get your way, even when it comes to a physical altercation. Not my idea of winning. 

But you can be a king of the hill in other ways. You can experience those mountain top feelings by achieving your goals.  Or finally finishing something you always wanted to do. Reaching a new plateau in your personal life, your travels, or even in your faith can be one of those king of the hill moments.

Or it just might be that feeling of being in love like the old Carpenters’ song from the 1970’s:

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around
Your love’s put me at the top of the world.

This week’s photo challenge theme is ‘atop.’ And as usual, my mind starts to wander over a myriad of thoughts about that word.

I haven’t been atop that many high places. I’ve taken plenty of trips by airplane, so in essence I’ve been atop in terms of altitude. And I’ve been to the top of a few high spots like Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and east of the Mississippi River, in North Carolina at 6,683 feet.

I’ve even visited one of the highest towns in the United States. Silverton, Colorado in the San Juan Mountain range of the Rocky Mountains, has an elevation of 9,308 feet, although it’s not the tallest spot in the Rockies.

I’ve climbed the steps to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty but didn’t make it to the top of her crown. Several times I’ve enjoyed the magnificent view of our fair city Pittsburgh both during the day and at night from atop Mount Washington, which isn’t really a mountain but a steep hill.

Still the view is amazing atop. And isn’t that the thing about being atop a mountain or a hill or a wonderful feeling? It’s amazing.

My oldest daughter and son-in-law made a week-long trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa a couple years ago. The journey up the mountain through several climate zones wasn’t easy and the altitude at 19,341 feet was a bit disorienting but the few minutes they were able to bask in the surrounding view at daybreak from atop the summit of that mountain was unforgettable.

Since then, they’ve made a bucket list to visit the highest point in every state of the United States. So far, I think they’ve completed 13 of those. For them, it’s a goal worthy of achieving. That feeling of reaching and accomplishing that which you set out to do.

It’s a King of the Hill kind of moment.

And that makes me consider what makes me feel like I’m king of the hill? Often times, it’s an experience I encounter as I worship my God or read His Word. Other times, I feel like the king of the hill when I’m happily surrounded by my family and loved ones. Or when I encounter something new and exciting, visit someplace I’ve never been before.

Simple things, really. But those are the things that make me feel atop of the world. How about you?

“Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere. Climb the mountain just a little bit to test that it’s a mountain. From the top of the mountain, you cannot see the mountain.” ~ Frank Herbert


Pop of color

blogIMG_8591 (2)This week as winter shows itself one more time before giving it up for springtime, it seems appropriate to share my version of Developing Your Eye Day 9’s photography theme – “pop of color.”

The vista outside my window is devoid of color today as snow still covers the earth. Shades of black, brown, and gray punctuate the horizon around my home.

But soon – very soon we hope – color will pop up everywhere we look and the glorious season of rebirth, Spring, will arrive.

But until then, this photo I shot one summer late afternoon when a lovely butterfly deviated from its usual hang-out on our large butterfly bush and landed on the floor of our backyard deck will provide just that pop of color we need.

Color makes us smile especially after a steady diet of the dormancy of winter. Color rejuvenates us and makes us want to crawl out of our cold season of hibernation and burst forth into sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Color is one of God’s lovely creations. And I, for one, am most thankful for it.

“Colors are the smiles of nature.” ~Leigh Hunt


Spring sky, winter earth

blogIMG_9499Glorious sun beams brightened the morning, radiating the bluest of skies, and causing the earth to simply shine.  Looking upwards, you would swear it was spring with the sky so azure and pure white fluffy clouds floating above.

But a view of the landscape revealed something entirely different. Winter was having its last hurrah.  

March snows are like that here in my homestead land. Several inches of crystalline snowflakes can fall quickly and blanket the earth in a hurry.  March snows are usually heavy and wet making them cling to trees and bushes like it was their last hope, which I guess it is.

If you stepped outside my door to gaze at the scenery, you might imagine that you had just traveled through the wardrobe into the land of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia.

It’s beautiful. Winter haters bemoan it. “Why can’t it be spring? It’s March, for heaven’s sake! I’m so sick of snow,” they whine. 

But I’m not a winter hater. I love the pristine look of freshly fallen snow, even in March. I enjoy donning my winter coat and boots one more time to step outside, view the beauty of it all, and attempt to capture some of that exquisiteness with my camera.

And on a day like last Friday, it was pure bliss.  It snowed during the night, so I awakened to a pristine snow-covered world. One look outside my window, and I knew I had to venture outside before it disappeared.

The sun shone warmly on my face while a frosty breeze cooled it immediately and blew my hair all around on my hatless head.  I zipped up my jacket, pulled on my gloves, and raised the camera to my eye.

A last taste of winter with a touch of spring greeted me. Blue skies above pierced by sunbeams demonstrated the promise of spring while the earth was covered with a few inches of frosty flakes of snow telling me winter wasn’t quite ready to let go yet.  

I enjoyed the quietness of fresh snow punctuated only by the sound of birds singing in the trees. A blend of seasons. I found it lovely.

I tried to capture it as best I could because soon it will all be gone.  The warmth of heralding spring will melt it just as the last few days of warmer temperatures kept the snow from adhering to the concrete roadways and my front sidewalk.

Spring will have its way and push winter off the calendar to wait until the end of the year to return.  Crystal blue skies will prevail occasionally disrupted by rain clouds when spring storms appear. 

The newly sprouted crocuses, now dusted with snow, will fade and daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths will replace them. The forsythia bush will burst forth in brilliant yellow song-like blooms, the lilac will explode in lavender aroma, and our trees will flaunt their budding branches. Sunny faced dandelions will pop their heads up amidst the greening blades of grass.

A vivid, vibrant change will occur as surely as I produce the words to write this blog post, but not until this new snow storm threat passes this week. And I will be ready to welcome a new season because experiencing all four seasons is what I love about this place where I live – this empty nest in my corner of the world.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ~ Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) – first female writer published in American colonies



Treasured thoughts



You know that old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” Truth be told, huh? Items I consider valuable might be something you would toss into the garbage bin with no hesitation.

Treasure is Day 8’s theme in the Developing Your Eye photography workshop, which I’m determined to complete. That word – treasure – stirs up some recollections which swirl to the surface of my memory pond.  

The photography directive to zoom in with your camera on something you consider a treasure prompted me to hone in on my grandma’s glasses sitting atop my well-worn Bible – both items treasures to me. While doing so, my thoughts zoomed in right along with these remembrances.

When our children were very young and we lived in the Midwest, our family dentist had a treasure chest in his office.  Each time my little ones visited him for a check-up, they got to open that cardboard box resembling a treasure chest and choose a little trinket from it.

Oh, the excitement of it all! Well, that and a trip to the nearby TCBY frozen yogurt store with the coupons he always gave us made it going to the dentist fun for them.

For our oldest daughter’s birthday one year, we had a treasure hunt at our house for her and her friends. Clues led those little girls from place to place until, with squeals of delight, they finally found the treasure chest and opened it to find birthday party goody bags full of fun stuff and candies.

That treasure chest was actually a large, beautiful tin box that military friends of ours had sent us from Germany one year chock full of goodies and chocolate candies for Christmas. Getting packages delivered to your doorstep always seems like a treasure, at least to me.   

Adults aren’t much different than children when it comes to our treasures – the things that make us squeal with delight. They might include material things like an accumulation of wealth or expensive jewelry studded with the finest gems. Or you may think your fancy car is your treasure or your lovely home.

Or possibly, you consider items that just can’t be replaced as your treasures. We have a few of those caches here around Mama’s Empty Nest.  Personal possessions that once belonged to our parents and grandparents, while of no great monetary worth, are treasured keepsakes because of their sentimental value.

I need to sit down someday and make a list of all of those mementos so that my children know who they once belonged to.  Of course, they may not consider those items to be treasures because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so folks say.

Many years ago when we lived in the Pacific Northwest, one of my friends and I decided to start attending estate sales.  As we walked through homes of dearly departed folks perusing their former possessions in hopes of finding our own treasure, I often had a sense of sadness.  Not because I knew the deceased but because I imagined that the person had once treasured some of those items marked for sale and now those revered things were on the liquidate quickly list.

Treasures no more.

One of my estate sale finds was a lovely, well-aged, pale green porcelain teapot with a music box inside its base that played “Tea for Two.”  It still sits among my teapot collection and when I take it off the shelf to clean it, I sometimes wonder about its previous owner, what kind of person she was, and whether the teapot was a special gift from someone she once loved.

That’s the thing about treasures.  They have stories to tell, but far too often those stories are lost or not remembered by the next generation. (Which again is why I do need to record some of those stories about my family treasures in written word.) 

So many of the “treasures” in my home that I cherish would be inconsequential to you. You might even shake your head and wonder why I consider such things as treasures. If my children or grandchildren don’t desire to keep them, these items will most likely be purchased by a sale seeker, donated to a charity organization’s thrift store, or discarded to a dumpster someday.

Treasures no more. I accept that fact because, as I said, my idea of a treasure may not be the same as yours.

But when I think of treasures, I also reflect on things I cherish that aren’t necessarily concrete. Memories of loved ones now gone, time spent with my family and especially my adorable grandchildren, heart happy conversations with dear friends, meaningful and thought-provoking moments in worship. Those are treasures as well.

The Bible tells me, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34)

That truth causes me to place what I consider treasures in perspective. Where should my heart’s focus be placed? On material wealth, possessions, my time-honored family heirlooms, myself? Absolutely not.

Earthly treasures never satisfy that longing in our heart for something more. Something to fulfill our deepest need. Something that fills our cup until it runs over. Possessions only make us happy for a moment then lose their appeal.

What I treasure most is something eternal. Something that is even hard to explain sometimes. Something magnificent and more loving than I can even imagine yet powerful and majestic to inspire awe to the maximum. Something that fills empty holes in my heart like no earthly treasures can ever fill.

His name is Jesus.

“You must keep all earthy treasures out of your heart, and let Christ be your treasure, and let Him have your heart.” ~ Charles Spurgeon


Not just any road

blogimg_1512-2I’ve always been a fan of New Englander Robert Frost’s poetry.  

A coffee table book, entitled Robert Frost: A Tribute to the Source, rests on our living room book shelf. The book chronicles biographical text about the poet interspersed with Frost poems and photographs depicting rural life to accompany them.  

So when I realized this week’s photo challenge theme was “the road taken,” my mind immediately went to a Frost poem – “The Road Not Taken.”

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” ~ Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Yes, I know. The word not, as in the road not taken, is not in the photo theme, but bear with me and I’ll explain where my mind is going with this one.

The road taken. Most folks stick to the road most traveled. We do it when we want to get from point A to point B quickly. Often we choose to travel the road that everyone else takes because well….everyone else is doing it.

The road taken. But sometimes, especially if we want to be individualists, the road we take is actually the road that everyone else does not take. That path that is less traveled by. The way some might even reject.

The road taken. That thoroughfare – that road taken – might be one that few use for their journey. The one off the beaten trail. See what I mean? The road taken can also become that road not taken, the lane that Frost wrote about in his poem so many years ago.

When two avenues present themselves to us on our journey of life, which one should we choose? The road taken? Do we follow the masses and become just one of the many, a lost face in the crowd blindly following everyone else?  Or do we announce our individuality by braving it alone on an alternate route? That other road taken?

Often when we choose the other road, we are rewarded with sights we’ve never seen before.  Papa and I experience that when traveling by car and we decide to take a less direct route to get where we’re going. We marvel at surprises that pop up along the way and I’ve asked him to stop the car many times so I can jump out and capture a picture.

But other times when we choose that alternative route, it leads us to disappointment and frustration. I’m remembering a day trip Papa and I took last summer when we chose to travel by blue highways and it took us forever to get to our destination and the journey was regretful. 

The road taken. It can be a defining moment in life, that’s for certain.

For me, the road taken is actually the road not taken. I take that road not because I dwell on negativity or because I want to stand out from the crowd, but instead because my choice is one not taken by all, and it is indeed a path that many reject.

The road taken. It’s not an easy one, this road I’ve chosen.  Often it has turns and twists along the way and difficult obstacles to encounter. And many times I have to ask for help to muster through hurdles that impede my way. But this course, this road taken, has led me on my journey of faith in the right direction, keeping me from getting lost along the way, and it has proven to be a steadfast path. 

The road taken. The way I’ve chosen is to follow a Savior whose name is Jesus.  He leads me on the road I’ve taken, and even though that path may be the one less traveled by, in my life it has made all the difference.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ~ Lewis Carroll