Serenity despite the din

blogIMG_0038A calm harbor such as this one ignites a spark of inspiration. At least, for me. 

If you are a regular follower of Mama’s Empty Nest, you probably notice this photo looks familiar.  Last week, on Wordless Wednesday, I shared the same view only from a different angle.

And that’s when Faith, Love, Soul, a kind reader/fellow blogger’s comment provided a little spark that flamed into a fire of inspiration for this post. She let me know the photo gave her a sense of peacefulness and calm. 

Serenity, you might say.  And those were exactly the feelings invoked in me as well from that picture and the one above. 

My human eye spied the photo op first and it appealed to me so much I had to try to capture it with my camera.  For an amateur and hobbyist photographer like me, when a photo op turns out exactly how your eye saw it, it makes you happy.  

But there is more to those pictures than meets the eye.

Peaceful. Calm. Serene. Tranquil. All words to describe the scenic harbor and hopefully, the way gazing at this image makes you feel.

But the scene behind that photo was anything but quiet and placid or peaceful and serene.

I took the photo during Papa’s and my vacation back in June.  We traveled northward to a couple of New England states, one being Massachusetts.

After touring Boston in excessive heat and blistering temperatures, we decided to cut that visit short and head out for uncharted territory, meaning places that were not on our original itinerary.

One of those spots was Plymouth, Massachusetts, where history tells us the Pilgrims first stepped foot into the New World after their arduous sea-faring journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

We found Plymouth quaint and lovely while we meandered through its streets to find the Pilgrim landing spot. When we located the area, it wasn’t exactly how we pictured it.

Congested, not with scads of tourists but with construction workers and vehicles surrounding this historical site on that weekday, it was anything but calm.  

Apparently, the base upon which Plymouth Rock rests had deteriorated and was in a vast state of disrepair. So workmen were in the process of pouring concrete around the famed boulder to form a new base.

blogIMG_0035.jpgPlymouth Rock itself was encased in plastic coverings to protect it, so what we viewed turned out to be an industrious construction site with all the deafening noise accompanying it.

Looking outward from where the Rock was housed proved to be a beautifully peaceful and calm harbor as shown in my first photo. 

But behind the spot where I stood to photograph the harbor, an overwhelming scene of hectic activity with workers, tourists, and policemen directing traffic, construction cones everywhere blocking paths, and the loud din of machinery, cement and dump trucks existed.

Stark contrast, that’s for certain.  What you see doesn’t always tell the entire story, does it?  I’m fairly sure that when you viewed my pictures, you never imagined all the chaos going on behind them. 

And that reminds me of life.  Sometimes it’s just full of turmoil and strife everywhere we turn.  So much noise and confusion that it quickly becomes overwhelming. Not at all how we pictured it to be — you know, calm, peaceful, serene.

But we can attain that sense of serenity even amid the commotion around us. It’s found when we seek the heart of God.

There’s an old hymn that explains it:

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
Refrain:
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

 

Peacefulness right in the middle of disarray.  Calmness in the center of pandemonium. Serenity inside of confusing bedlam.

All we have to do is call out to the Savior.

He gives us safe harbor from any storm. And within that safe harbor lies peace.

“He who has faith has… an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well – even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly.” ~ B. C. Forbes

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Texture that sticks

blogIMG_0566A photograph. It’s a reflection of a subject with form and substance but the image itself is flat. A printed picture doesn’t have three-dimensional form like its subject, although it does have size. 

A photograph really doesn’t possess physical  texture though except on its surface be it glossy or matte finish. A photo can show you texture, but the picture itself just isn’t tactile; you can’t feel any textures. 

Take my photo above for instance.  You can see the upholstery of a chair has texture if you peer closely enough. Your eyes tell your brain that visually there are ridges and indentations in the fabric. But you can’t physically feel that texture with your own two hands and fingers.

This week’s photo challenge theme is textures, and since I’m not a very astute artsy kind of person, I’ve struggled with writing some worthwhile thoughts to accompany the photo I think personifies the challenge theme. 

Oh, I could dig back among the dusty corners of my mind, back — way back — to my days of being a college English major, and bring forth some literary definition of textures as in a composite of prose/poetry elements or an identifying quality of a story’s characters.

But my literary study days are long gone, and that kind of analyzing just never was my cup of tea. Honestly, I really wasn’t a typical English major, one to sit around and dissect and discuss a work of literature for its archetypal images or symbolic meanings.

Perhaps I’ve always been too much of a realist, too literal, which is probably why I ended up as a working journalist for a time. Just give me the facts and I’ll weave them into a story. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.

So why did I major in English anyway? Because I loved words. I loved to write. I loved to read. And I loved grammar. Unlike many of my peers, I loved the very structure of English. I enjoyed diagramming sentences because it was logical and made perfect sense to me.

Matter of fact,  a college class solely on structures of English was one of the courses I aced with flying colors along with all of my public speaking ones.

Writing and speaking. Those were my strong points – my make-up, my constitution, my textures if you will  – and they still are to this day.

I try to utilize those skills in whatever I do. For several years, I developed and presented educational programs in public and private school classrooms for a non-profit organization.

Using my tendency for dramatic flair in story-telling — probably why I wanted to be an actress when I was a young girl —  I could always tell when I attracted those easily distracted teen-aged students’ attention.  I worked hard to give them vital information about making healthy choices while entertaining them with a lively story. 

I surely didn’t want to come across as flat or one-dimensional in that endeavor back then. And I still don’t want that as I tell different stories in my blog posts now.

No, I want to have substance, structure, composition.  So I’m claiming this to be my texture: I’m a pretty decent story teller – either written or orally – who just so happens to be capable of logically putting sentences together.

That’s my story when it comes to textures. And I’m sticking to it.

“A good story, just like a good sentence, does more than one job at once. That’s what literature is: a story that does more than tell a story, a story that manages to reflect in some way the multilayered texture of life itself.” ~  Karen Thompson Walker 

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Yes, I can

blogIMG_9914Unlike that old Rolling Stones song, I really CAN get satisfaction.

And that just happens to be the weekly photo challenge theme: satisfaction.

Satisfaction comes in many forms and can be the result of hard work and sacrifice.

It can be the completion of a task that has hovered over you for so long that you feel utter relief at finally finishing it.

It can come from a winning season at sports.

Or a day off just resting and relaxing.

Or maybe it’s a family gathering where there is much love and good food to boot.

It can be physical, mental, emotional, or even spiritual.

Satisfaction doesn’t even have to embody success; it can develop from putting forth effort in trying. Satisfaction can result in just a job well done to the best of your ability.

When I think of satisfaction, a young blogging friend of mine comes to my mind. She is working hard towards a goal, both physically and mentally, and satisfaction for her is a series of small steps.  One step at a time.

Successful or not, she steadily moves towards her purpose, her ambition. And each step must give her satisfaction – not to stop but to continue her quest.

For me, I’m not one to want a lot. I’m happy and content with life. I’m pretty well satisfied.

I’m not in search of fame or fortune. I don’t write this blog for recognition or to make a name for myself, which is why I keep it pretty anonymous. I just want to bless and encourage others on my journey.

So many aspects of this life on earth give me satisfaction. My faith. My family. My home in the country.

Even little things like keeping weeds at bay around the shrubs and flower gardens.  Seeing the sweet smiles on my adorable grand-daughters’ faces. A blue sky and sunshine-filled balmy day. A fresh snowfall.

And don’t laugh, but office supplies make me happy.

All things satisfying in my book.

But there is something else that fills up my satisfaction bin. Capturing a photograph that I truly love with my trusty camera.   

When I see a perfect photo with my eyes and the image that I find, straight out of my camera with no editing, demonstrates exactly how I saw it and imagined how it would turn out, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

It doesn’t happen all the time. As a strictly amateur and not all that knowledgeable photographer, I’m often disappointed when a shot doesn’t manifest like I hoped it would.

But oh, the joy,  the satisfaction when it does!

“He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing.” ~ Epicurus

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Usual? I think not.

blogIMG_0311As soon as I read this week’s photo challenge theme – unusual you know what happened? An old Tom Jones song from the year 1965 popped into my head.

“It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone, it’s not unusual to have fun with anyone…It’s not unusual to go out at any time…It’s not unusual, to be mad with anyone, it’s not unusual, to be sad with anyone…”

Of course, Jones was singing about being in love, which is not unusual.  Happens pretty often to us human beings. So what is unusual? More than we think.

I’m venturing on a different route here today. Usually, I showcase a photo that personifies the photo challenge and I expound on that theme with one story or thought centered on the subject.

But instead, I’m compiling some unusual events I’ve noticed in totally random order in list form.  So here’s my catalogue of uncommon or rare happenings lately:

  1. Respect for law enforcement. Several months ago when a good bit of verbal bashing of law enforcement officers was publicized in social media and on the news, I witnessed something which stayed in my mind ever since. At a very busy restaurant, our family waited patiently to be seated. The queue of folks giving their names to the hostess just kept getting longer and longer. The restaurant doors opened and in walked two uniformed state policemen, obviously on a dinner break. I watched with interest as the hostess called a couple who had been waiting longer than us for an open table.  Instead of following the hostess, they walked over to the officers and offered the policemen their table. What a kind and respectful thing to do. And how often does that happen I wonder? Unusual, I think.

 

  1. Kindly concern for a stranger. I have a strange skin issue happening; I seem to be losing pigment. As a very fair-skinned person, I’ve always been subject to sunburns easily unless I use sunscreen. Now, I’m even more fair-skinned with the loss of melanin, yet despite the fact that my skin turns very red and looks burned if I’ve been exposed to the sun without protection, it doesn’t hurt and my skin doesn’t peel away as in the past. Instead, the redness just fades away. While on our second day of vacation in the
    blogIMG_0039

    Me looking more like a lobster than this guy!

    blistering heat and sunshine, I forgot my sunscreen. By the third day, I was definitely doing a lobster impression based on the color of my skin, even though I had sunscreen applied by that point. A considerate stranger approached me and asked me if I was alright and did I need some sunscreen because as she stated, “I don’t know if you realize it, but you’re getting very red.” I thanked her kindly, told her I did have sunscreen on, and that I truly was just fine. Random act of kindness? Surely. Unusual, I think. 

 

  1. Loving in-laws. Recently, we enjoyed a visit from my sister and brother-in-law who live out west. On one of their last evenings with us, they invited us to join them, our other sister and brother-in-law, and a couple who have been their long-time friends for dinner at a local eatery. We enjoyed lively conversation and started talking about our parents. As always, we sisters reminisce often about our folks because we are a close family and miss our deceased parents so much. A wistful look passed across my western brother-in-law’s face for a moment as he commented, “They were the most wonderful in-laws a person could ever ask for.” They truly meant the world to him. What a tribute to the kind of people my parents were. And how many folks could and would say that about their own in-laws? Unusual, I think.

 

  1. Thickly Settled. On yet another vacation day, Papa and I were traveling through Massachusetts and stopped at a quaint little town. We missed a turn, so we found a side street in which to turn around. I noticed a street sign reading “Thickly Settled” causing me to pull out my camera. Perplexed by the wording, we assumed that thickly settled meant a densely populated area, but that neighborhood didn’t fit the description to us. The streets of Boston – now those were thickly settled. After we came hblogIMG_0031 (2)ome and shared this unusual sign’s photo with other family members as well as the one that said “Speed Hump” (our signs caution us that there is a speed bump), I conducted a bit of research about why those signs are worded in that fashion. According to the Massachusetts driver’s manual, “a ‘thickly settled’ district is an area where houses or other buildings are located, on average, less than 200 feet apart.” The significance though is an unposted speed limit – 30 mph – exists in those areas, so if you exceed that, it’s considered unreasonable and improper, and you will end up with a speeding ticket. So how would tourists know that I wonder? Should we consider that a speed trap? Unusual, I think.

 

  1. Foxy neighbors. Papa enjoyed some lobster for his birthday dinner while we were in Connecticut on our vacation. We ate a simple meal one evening, sitting outside with a view of the waterfront directly in front of us. While driving back to our hotel in Mystic, we passed through a picturesque village on qblogIMG_0241 (2)uiet neighborhood streets. Quite suddenly, Papa applied the brakes and exclaimed, “Look!” Two foxes were cavorting and playing right in the middle of someone’s yard. And it was a ‘thickly settled’ area too. I managed to snap a quick photo of one of the daring critters. It’s not often you see foxes so close to human houses. What does the fox say? Unusual, I think.

 

  1. Scene from “The Birds.” And finally, one day as I composed blog posts at our home office desktop computer, I saw a flash of movement outside the window. I have to admit I was a tad startled at the sight on our front lawn. I couldn’t count, but it seemed like at least a couple hundred birds the size of robins had descended. I grabbed the camera, stepped out onto the porch and whoosh! They rose up into the air and I swear, I felt like I was in a scene from that scary Alfred Hitchcock movie in the 60’s – The Birds. Creepy and fascinating all at the same time. Would anyone believe me? Here’s the photo above to prove it. Unusual, I think.

So what unusual occurrences have you noticed in your world? They’re out there, you just have to be on the lookout – and if you’re anything like me, that’s usual.

“Today is a most unusual day, because we have never lived it before; we will never live it again; it is the only day we have.” ~ William Arthur Ward

©2017 mamasmeptynest.wordpress.com

 

Build me a bridge

blogIMG_9896When my children were young and sassy teens, they often recited a line to their siblings, whose noses got out of joint over some disagreement, and that saying always caused me to snicker to myself.

Cry me a river, build me a bridge, and get over it.

I laughed because that’s how I felt too. Get over it. There will always be some disparity, some disappointment, some dispute, some deviation from the easy path you wish you had.  But instead of crying your eyes out, you just have to build that bridge over troubled waters, buck up, and get over it.

I have to admit that when the good Lord handed out the quality of being merciful and empathetic, I may have skipped Sunday School that day.

But before you judge me too harshly for that, let me share that often the one I show the least mercy to is…myself. Far too often in life I’ve found myself self-admonishing to stop crying an ever-flowing river, commence bridge building, and get over those grievances that cause me anger and anguish.

But the difficult part about building bridges is this – it takes two sides. A one-sided bridge won’t get you anywhere, unless you fall off the abrupt edge and drop kerplunk into the river below. A real downer if you can’t swim.

And if the other side of the river bank just doesn’t cooperate and reach across the span of the abyss to meet you in the middle, well then, where are you? A bridge to nowhere.

Okay, sometimes I surprise myself with how my quirky mind works when I open my email inbox and find the current weekly photo challenge.  And this week’s theme – bridge – is no different. Bridge building came to my mind.

I didn’t have to search long or hard for a bridge photo in my cache. I have many because I live in an area with lots of bridges over creeks and rivers, several right here in and near my hometown and further down the river in the big city.

So just in case you happen to live where bridges are few and far between, let me bridge the gap for you with my pictures.  I vacillated back and forth while choosing which photo to use for this challenge, so I may share more bridge photos tomorrow on my Wordless Wednesday post.

Bridges. Papa and I crossed a lot of them on our recent vacation, particularly on our journey through New York’s Hudson River Valley, in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and on our way home traveling north of New York City.

On our first day of vacation we stopped along the Hudson River in New York state to see West Point Military Academy and toured its museum to satisfy my former Army man husband and history buff.

Afterwards, we crossed the Mid-Hudson Bridge to locate a spot where we could catch a nice view of the military academy from across the river and I could snap a few photos. By accident, we also found a small, shady, secluded park where we ate a quiet picnic lunch as we had the entire park to ourselves.

Driving back across the bridge again, we traveled northward to Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, which is a 19th century railroad bridge converted into the world’s longest elevated pedestrian park. That’s where I captured the photo above. 

So we not only traversed the Hudson by car, but we also crossed it on foot via that span from Poughkeepsie to Highland, NY, which is 1.28 miles in length one way. We encountered some beautiful views from that bridge and I was able to capture several nice pictures of the river and the vehicle bridge downriver from it.

Back and forth across bridges we journeyed. Easy peasy. Now if we could just transport ourselves over bridges with people as effortlessly as it is to drive or walk over steel and concrete bridges, maybe we could actually make progress.

“Don’t burn bridges. You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.” ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr., American author

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com