2013 Cherry Blossoms in a Square

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Well Done, Proud Young Citizen

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Last week I spent a lovely late afternoon with two friends at a local coffee shop.  It was one of those special moments when we were not pressed for time, savored our time together and delved into discussing ideas about how we could better inform ourselves in the fast changing world of the internet and social media.  

One friend, a native Californian, said “I have something that I want to share with you.”

She gave me a copy of her mother’s elementary school diploma.  In beautiful flowing penmanship, it acknowledged her graduation from the Elementary School of Hester District in Santa Clara County in January 1924.  California had been a State for only 74 years.  She said, “Look at the back.”  There I found California’s treasure.  It said: 

A Message from the People of California

Dear Young Citizen:

Today when you receive this diploma of graduation, I want you to imagine that a hand is reaching out to you from the State Capital in Sacramento, to clasp your own and wish you well; imagine also a voice, sincere and ernest, – the voice of the people of California, saying to you in this moment of joy –”Well done, proud young citizen.  You deserve our praise and congratulation and gladly so we give them.  Go forth upon the next lap of your journey, carrying with you this diploma as evidence that you have reached the first milestone on the road to success.  And may your heart pulse strong with hope throughout your journey to the land which the poet calls the ‘Land of the Heart’s Desire.’”

Success — what a wonderful word it is!  It represents what all men and women have toiled and striven for since the beginning.  And you are no exception, — you are also working to attain success.  And so I would say a word to you concerning the future.  The words on this diploma do not mean that you are educated.  They mean that  you have mastered certain tools of knowledge like reading, writing, arithmetic, history and geography.  These tools will be of little value to you unless you use them.  The best way to employ them for the next few years is in study at the high school where you may take a course that will fit you for the work you want to do. Use well in further study these tools you have mastered and you will become educated.  It will be worth all the effort you put into the task. California advises you to continue your study and offers you all the advantages of the high school without money and without price.

In the name of the people of California, I express my ernest hope — that you continue your studies and thus make easier your journey toward the Land of Heart’s Desire.

Sincerely yours,

Will Elwood

Superintendent of Public Instruction

So inspiring.  I felt goose bumps when I first read it, and they return every time I read it again.  I imagine a 12 year old girl receiving her diploma and what those words must have meant to her.  What a boost to her self-worth and self-esteem.  Her entire state acknowledged her important role as a fellow citizen, was impressed with her accomplishment, wanted her to succeed, guided her on how to achieve an education, and encouraged her to pursue her dreams to Yeats’ Land Of Heart’s Desire.  

In 1924, the back of a diploma carried a quiet message of praise and encouragement to a fellow young citizen full of hope.  Nearly ninety years later, it is a quiet message of inspiration that speaks volumes to this lifelong learner on a journey in the Land of Heart’s Desire.

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A Photo with Reservations

A few weeks ago I found myself somewhat bored with photographing only my surrounding neighborhood. I live in Northern Virginia near Washington D.C.  Fifty years ago, Great Falls was a dairy farming center.  Today, the dairy farms have surrendered to subdivisions and elegant mansions.

Only a few miles from my house is Great Falls National Park. It borders the Potomac River.  I explore it often and document its beauty.  It is peaceful and lovely and wild.  In walking its many trails, I consider it my fitness center.  At $20 for an annual unlimited use pass, it is a bargain.  But this time of year, I was tiring of the browns and faded greens of winter’s landscape.

The falls at Great Falls National Park

I decided to head west towards Virginia’s Blue Ridge where, I am told, the real Virginia can be found.  I went to Purcellville, a small town with two main streets, filled with shops, small restaurants and a fabulous old style hardware store.  Parking in the lot across from the railroad station was free.

On a crisp sunny winter day, I tried to get my photographic juices flowing, but it wasn’t happening.  This happens sometimes.  The architecture wasn’t special.  My eye was not in gear to see that day.  I was struggling.  As I was walking to the town’s intersection, I was struck by the American Flag on the American Legion Hall.  Unlike the one dimensional flags that are often painted flat on the side of barn, this one had life.  It was blowing in the breeze, yet permanently applied to the aluminum siding.  The artist signed his work.  This American pride underscores many small communities whose sons and daughters are overseas in multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I recorded its sunlit beauty.

American Legion Mural

On Main Street, I was struck by a small house that had two yellow, white-rope-wrapped bullets at the entrance to the walk, a bright white anchor in its yard, and two American flags hanging from its porch.  It was a gun shop. I smiled when I saw it.  It was a photograph.  I shot the scene. This is the real Virginia where many folks own guns, enjoy shooting at firing ranges, engage in hunting and also own guns for protection.

Purcellville Gun Shop

It is also the real Virginia where the American Legion Hall with a gorgeous flag mural is centrally located in the downtown.  It is the real Virginia where an old fashioned hardware store with lots of drawers and cubbies housing the needed tools, gadgets and equipment for rural pursuits, provides a hub where friends meet, talk and catch up with one another.

With the tragedy at New Town, CT, I am uncomfortable that this photograph of a small town gun shop in rural Virginia may take on a different meaning to many.  I have reservations about sharing this photograph. I have taken thousands of photos and it is the only photo I have taken where I feel this way.  It is interesting to me that I feel this way.  I am wondering if I will press “Publish” or if I will wimp out and delete it.

Having lived on a farm in a small town, I like this photograph.  It recalls memories of a gentler, kinder time when we weren’t divided.  I often find myself looking at this photograph and see a symbol of life in a small rural town, one of hundreds of thousands of small towns in America.

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Always We Begin Again

Last week we took a break to the beach in South Carolina’s low country.  A lovely piece of the south where the atmosphere is peaceful and serene and the folks are gracious and kind.  Every morning I woke early and ventured to the beach for the morning light show, my favorite time of day.

Capturing the early morning skies and their reflection in the water is a changing scene of colors and intensity.  It always gets my photographic juices flowing.

Each day, the sky is different, the ocean is different, the air is different, affected by the wind, the humidity, and the clouds.  Each morning is new and promising.  The sea birds always arrive to greet the new day. They soar back and forth over the waves.  Their calls are carried on the breezes. They always leave when the sun’s glow rises well above the horizon.

The photos of my morning safaris tell the story.  Like the sun’s rise, our life, each day, is new, different, and holds waiting promises.  

Always we begin again.

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The Year of Acceptance

Like so many others, I passed on setting New Year’s resolutions years ago in favor of choosing a word or, in my case, multiple words or phrases to set my desires for the year.  My years had themes such as 2010 – seeking my heart’s desire; 2011 – live, really live fully, creatively, abundantly; and 2012 – stop.savor.simplify.  For 2013, I am down to a single word that describes my desire for the year, ACCEPTANCE.  It is a word that found me and it feels right.

In my bones, I sense that 2013 will be a year for introspection that requires surrender to the rinsing that I am anticipating, and even seeking. 

As I enter 2013 in the gray goopy days of January, I consider these questions:

What do I want to FEEL? – Inspired

What do I want to DO? – Explore options to come to closure in some aspects of my life and discover openings in other areas.

What do I want to HAVE? – An inner acceptance of my life, the “what is” in my life.  I want to have come through the process of surrender to emerge in the light.  I want to have a rich and renewed spiritual life.

What do I want to BE? – Energized, and discovering direction for my journey.

This past week I participated in a vision board exercise centered on my 2013 watch word at our local Starbuck’s that has a conference room where two-hour meetings can be held.  Two facilitators and four women together with lots of magazines, scissors, construction paper, markers and glue sticks filled the space. Ninety minutes later — Presto! – my 2013 vision board was created.  

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Now, perched in my workspace, it speaks to me.

The right side of the board focuses on photography and my love affair with light.  I want to grow as a photographer and explore the endless possibilities of capturing light. 

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The left side reminds me of my joy in capturing and sharing stories.  This is an area that I want to develop and refine.  On a professional level, my intention is focused on my personal history business, LifeStoryCatcher.  

On a personal level, my intention is to avoid isolation and be of service. The open statement, “This is the year I will” reminds me to be open and explore.  The sharing of our stories is a gift from the heart which softens my own heart.  In surrendering to acceptance, I rely on a strong tribe of vibrant women where we share our stories and give each other strength and encouragement. 

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The vision board’s center focuses on the process of acceptance.  I expect that this will be  a messy process and, at times, I will feel like a dirt bike rider covered with dirt and grit.  Accept it “as it happens.” Learn and grow.  Like children rolling down a hillside, engage without fear and with no holding back. 

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Prepare and do the work. Prime the pump.  Ensure the front tire is on my “vehicle.”  Don’t take myself too seriously.  Remember to lighten up. 

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Unplug from the daily intrusion from facebook, computers, and television.  Reach higher than I can touch. Reduce consumption. Accept what I have. It is enough. Be amazed by nature and the changing world outside.  Accept the beauty that is around me. Rest among the flowers.

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The board is only a quarter inch thick, and yet, the images provide profound depth and a foundation for me to move forward into a year of Acceptance.  It speaks to me. The Year of Acceptance has been a long time coming.  Now is the time to do the work and see where it leads me.  As in past years, I am optimistic as I start down the path … one step at a time.

Peace on the Journey.

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Hello World

Welcome to LifeStoryCatcher.  First Posts, like meeting blind dates, can be awkward.  Often they are something that will be laughed about later.  And so it is with me.  I feel awkward, even a little tentative about putting this out there to whom, I do not know.  Someday, I am sure I will reflect on this and laugh, and I hope you will be chuckling right along with me.

This reminds me of one of my first jobs when I was an instructor for a government training institute.  On my first day of teaching in front of 60 adults who had many more years of technical experience than I had, I presented a 3-hour session on industrial toxicology.  This may sound heavy, but I loved the topic!  My supervisor was in the back of the room for the entire presentation.  Afterwards, he came up to me and said, “Ruth, that was a great job.  However, it was the first time I saw someone talk for three hours without moving their lips!”  We both roared with laughter.  I did outgrow my stiffness, and found I loved teaching adults. To this day, it was one of my favorite jobs and one of the best places to work.  We worked hard and played hard.  I loved it.

Today, Spring has arrived early in the mid-Atlantic region.  Shaking off the winter chill, the earth is racing forward at breakneck speed, like children charging forward on the soccer field, to burst open into the bright colors and sweet perfumes of spring.  This year the daffodils, forsythia, cherry blossoms and bluebells have all peaked with glorious blooms.  The timing is ripe to breathe life into LifeStoryCatcher.  I am excited to start sharing the stories, musings and observations of my life.  My life is a life in transition.  I have left the career world and entered the world where every night is Friday night and every morning is Saturday morning.  That is how I describe retirement.  Every day is exciting due to the unforeseen adventures that come my way.   I hope you will join me.  Adventures are richer when they are shared.  Thanks for stopping by.

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