in which i learn the difference between ‘blur’ and ‘out of focus’

me with granddaughter alice, by jim hester

It is an undeniably sweet picture.  When I first saw it on my husband’s camera, I felt a small twinge that (it seems) manifested as a sigh, or catch of my breath; something easily (and apparently) interpreted as disappointment. 

In fact, it was surprise. I had not anticipated the image being so … out of focus. My husband is a masterful photographer, winner of awards and seller of his prints at art shows. He prides himself on his artistry, whether the subject be landscape, tight leaf shot or portrait. So I had some context for my initial, um, surprise.

This was a parting shot of myself with my newest grand-child, Alice. She and her family had spent the Thanksgiving holiday with us and our hosting daughter. At the time of this photo, her family was saying its goodbyes in preparation for their return drive to points south. A precious moment, captured.

When I expressed my surprise at the unfocused nature of this shot – especially in comparison with the quite clear pictures taken before and after – my husband patiently explained to me the intentional artistry involved in creating a ‘blurred’ shot in which the camera moves slowly to create a soft brush-stroke effect. If it were simply out of focus, he said, edges would be unclear and the whole would be unidentifiable.

As always, I am grateful for his artistic eye and for the intention with which he creates his chosen art form. It IS a beautifully watercolor-like image and one I shall cherish. In fact, the longer I look at it, the more it invokes two of my favorite mother-child artists: Mary Cassatt and Pablo Picasso … Yes, my husband is a figure artist with his lens.  And he has captured, in this BLURRED still life, the essence of a weekend filled with love and loving moments, each one crystal clear; though, in toto, they collage into something of a blur.

 

 

poem coming in October

 

the Aurorean has once again accepted one of my poems for publication, this one to appear in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue. Recently, a friend of mine asked why I don’t post my poems here. Why not, indeed? The simple answer is: you never know when you might want to seek publication. For many journals, a blog posting constitutes publication which would make it off-limits for them.

But AFTER something has been accepted? Well, why not? Please enjoy the following two-part poem which is near and dear to my heart on so many levels. I’d love to hear what you have to say after reading it. Where do you feel it? Does it transport you to your own memories of apples in one form or another?

Fruit Tasting of Earth and Song

I.
The first apple I truly tasted was a marvelous
late-season Macoun from Hans’ orchards, his trees
loved into abundance with old-world wisdom
and song. Oh, he tended the earth

reverent in support of its best instincts, vigilant
against pest and pestilence, inviting us in to weep for joy
at the first crisp crunch of each perfect fruit, its juice dribbling
down my chin after exploding onto my child’s cheek,

each precious drop a tang of dirt and time, seasoned
patience and the humility of a master, his works of art
coaxed from the land by his patient hand with weathered grace
of age and timing, feeding our greed with gratitude.

II.
When I hear ‘apple’ my thoughts bypass the tart pleasure
of the first fall bite through taut red skin to the smooth firm flesh
within, its juicy tang squeezing my cheeks

bypass the smooth deep rose of applesauce hand-turned and divided
into flat pints frozen against dark days’ yearning for fresh fall pairings

bypass even the requisite dumplings, coffeecakes and pies of all kinds
that bake away those first fall days. No, my thoughts turn to long

blossom-laden boughs of spring, my Dad cheerily filling my childhood home
with armloads of pink and white sweetness, their intoxicating promise

of a few short days and several long months the open-and-close
of a full season bookended by the twin joys of this single tree. After all
these decades, I cannot say which feeds me more – blossom, or fruit.

profuse gratitude

gratitude - williamarthurwardI have resisted my impulse to combine several days’ worth of one-word WP Daily Prompts into a single post, opting instead to focus my profuse gratitude for an ER physician into this single post.

Dr. Singh is an Emergency Room physician in a hospital south of Boston. It happened that my youngest had been having a remarkably rough sequence of events following an innocent cat bite…

Well, revise that: if you know about cat bites, you know they are anything but innocent. The string of unfortunate events is a shaggy dog story of its own. What brought her to the ER was the result of treatment, and plenty scary. Here, I want to focus on the extreme professionalism, compassion, and cut-to-the-chase sensitivity of this particular physician. He observed the late hour – the distraught parents – the millennial putting on her brave face – the boyfriend with overnight bag in tow – the month-long medical record of interventions and their impact – and, avoiding platitudes, unnecessary overviews or demeaning talking-down, simply addressed us as the concerned and aware people we are.

In turn, I was feeling especially vulnerable on his behalf. Although this was Boston, well-known for its cultural diversity, tolerance and inclusion – all my growing-up years I knew Boston as the ‘melting pot of the nation’ – it was also the first-year anniversary of this country’s most divisive, uninclusive, intolerant period in our modern history. All I could think, as I watched and listened to this soft-spoken man with extreme expertise and learning, as he looked at each of us with searching dark brown eyes between his black turban and thick black beard, was how grateful I was for him. It was only later I realized how grateful I was on his behalf that he is in Boston; and simultaneously, how outraged I felt at the daily confrontations with uncertainty and bias he must face as he goes about his work. After 30 years of dedicated medical practice and doubtless thousands of well-treated patients, he deserves better.

I want to acknowledge his presence at my daughter’s bedside the other evening; and thank him for giving us information, confidence and a caring experience that I will never forget.

journey to peace

JOURNEY TO PEACE

Hope is not a strategy
but a way of living,
letting loose what lives within
into a wanting world

a way of living rising
from roots planted
in the soil of love, twisting
outward to bear lessons

from all those years
of unfurling and return,
the unknown entered
in trust blessed

by seasons of rest
and ripening, their light
illuminating the one
thing that matters –

trust in our instincts
as nature’s creatures
sending peace ahead
of every breath.

swb

With thanks to sister-blogger and supportive reader Philippa Rees for her recent comment in which she shared a phrase that inspired this post:

The mighty tree is alive with its roots deep in you…
Let what it sees guide you.

I spent the better part of yesterday – and it was the better part, I can assure you! – creating the collage and afterward, the poem. Thank you, Philippa, for the encouragement from afar that resonated so deeply within.

at the new year

woman gazing outward, swb, 2018

This year started off dragging a long bag of the last with it. I have been slow to drop it behind me. Especially when the bag included a veritable stream of rejections received the first week of this year for pieces sent with high hopes in the second half of 2017.

I needed to regroup. Hence, for instance, the uploading of a new sub-page under ‘Creative Endeavors’ (collage).

But the new year brings with it lovely surprises, as well. Such as hearing from a favorite poet that you have been accepted into her 2018 Poetry Intensive Workshop. Yep, you read that right! Marge Piercy  — who only wants ’12 serious poets’ to work with in her coveted workshop —  chose me as one of them.

The new year is looking brighter already. Perhaps it’s time to start that collection from my recent trip to Portugal; to polish up some of my earlier attempts at more public (political) pieces; to sort through accumulated poem drafts and consolidate, trash or face-lift the old … and generally, to remember that rejection is not a statement of whether or not one ‘should’ write. It’s just a goad to keep on doing so.

As Marge writes in the final stanza of her powerful ‘At the New Moon’ from “The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme,” Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1999:

Let the half day festival of the new moon
remind us how to retreat and grow strong, how to
reflect and learn, how to push our bellies forward,
how to roll and turn and pull the tides up, up
when we need them, how to come back each time
we look dead, making a new season shine.