Slip me some skin

By Catherine Keefe

Skin is the sole
thin veil between
where I stop
and you begin

baby

This sole thin skin is all
that keeps me
from melting into you

Slip me some –
Give me some –
You are under
my skin.

Be soft today.

My grandchild’s face is the inspiration for Day #3 of The August Break photography challenge prompt, “Skin.” Follow #augustbreak15 on Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr for more images.

~ Catherine

 

 

“…out of doors is made up of air…”

gulls By Catherine Keefe

“…and a painting is always a flat surface, a painting has no air, the air is replaced by a flat surface and anything in a painting that imitates air is illustration and not art.” Gertrude Stein was rather firm in her opinion about the artistic effort of rendering air in her book, Paris France.  What bravado then, for me to attempt to photograph “air,” the Day 2 prompt for The August Break.

But then, I always like a challenge. I try the seemingly impossible in photography, “capture air,” or in writing when I take on Helen of Troy’s persona in my poetry manuscript.  Undertaking the difficult thing is the call of an artist. Gertrude Stein also wrote, “One of the pleasantest things those of us who write or paint do is to have the daily miracle. It does come.”

We seek that exhilarating moment when we capture the flash of life as art in momentary perfection. Usually the daily miracle comes by showing up and paying attention.

What you can’t see in my image of California Gulls on Laguna Beach is the little boy, just out of left frame, running down the beach in bright red trunks, flapping his arms in agitation at this flock that moments earlier descended on his towel and pilfered his bag of Cheetos. As the boy began running, I pulled out my camera to focus on the gulls.

Every day gives up its sparks if we show up to pay attention. One certain miracle of a summer Sunday is having enough time to spend outside. Put down your device, and go outside now! Chase birds, or chase your daily miracle. Chase your dream, or your lover, or your child.

Breathe.

Gulp great mouthfuls of air.

You are alive.
~Catherine

ps. If you want to hear one sound of California summer, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology California Gull Call audio here. For more “Air” images search #augustbreak2015 on Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr.

I could give a fig

figs

By Catherine Keefe

Breakfast.

California figs.

Figs are technically flowers, not fruit.

I eat flowers for breakfast.

California grows 90% of the world’s figs. This year there was enough water to grow these delicacies. Endangered by drought? Maybe. But today, there are figs. Rejoice!

And read a morsel of fig poetry by the indominatable Edna St. Vincent Millay.

First Fig
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

For more “Breakfast” images, check out The August Break, 2015 project inspired by Susannah Conway, a photographer we greatly admire over here at Backyard Sisters.  You can follow the month-long photo challenge to “Live inside each moment,” by checking #augustbreak2015 on Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr.

Happy August! ~Catherine

Images Out a Window

northern california coast, big surRiding shotgun on a cross-country car trip provides the opportunity for being a witness to  a lot of scenery. I will ride with my camera on my lap gazing out the window when something will strike me. Depending on your time limits and companions’ patience, your chances of pulling over and taking a shot may be limited. I quickly learned, yelling “pull over so I can get a shot of that ____,” too many times will result in a loud groan response. Other times it’s just not feasible to pull over. So, instead of forcing another stop on begrudging backseat passengers or passing up on some of the shots I wanted, I will roll down the window and make them on the fly.

field of sunflowersIt’s not easy and many times they don’t turn out, so if it’s a subject I care strongly about capturing I will insist on pulling over. But, to me it’s worth taking that shot for the memory of a trip and re-visiting the road when at home.

hay rolls in fieldsThe novelty of the open spaces and rolling fields of the interior of the country inspires a sense of wonder in this shore girl.

farm house in fieldThese picturesque fields seem to go on forever.

rolling corn fields AmericaWhen we do stop and explore an area further, a through-a-window shooting opportunity can still be present.

South Dakota Chief Crazy Horse MonumentThe Chief Crazy Horse monument visit was such an opportunity for me. The statue of the Chief inside the museum with the view of the mountain project outside, through a nicely cleaned window, grabbed my imagination.

When shooting out the window of a moving car, a fast shutter speed is required to capture the scene without getting camera blur from the movement of the car. Steadying your camera against either your body or on the edge of the open window helps as well. The key thing is to have your camera in your lap and ready to go.

Always glad to be on the road,

~ Susan

Mardis Gras – Hoorah

By Susan Greene
It’s March and that means a not only a new month but a new literary theme to investigate here at backyard sisters. Imagery is our term of exploration this month. Photography is imagery – thank-you Catherine. Since today is Mardis Gras, I decided to make some images of items associated with this day’s merrymaking.

Mardis Gras masksMardis Gras means fat Tuesday in French and is traditionally the day before Ash Wednesday. Many use it as a day to “live it up” before the somber season of Lent. The city of New Orleans, Louisiana is known for its Mardis Gras festivities – parades, parties and balls are all celebrated and have been since the early 1700’s.

Mardi Gras maskMasks are worn by many to all of these celebrations.

Mardis Gras maskThe wearing of masks as a part of the celebration is believed to be rooted in ritual. In the beginning they allowed the wearers from all classes to mingle and join in the revelry free of societal constraints. This anonymity undoubtedly is a contributing factor in the raucous behavior so often associated with Mardi Gras.

Mardis Gras maskStrings of colorful beads are also identified with the festivities.

Mardi Gras beads in flightThey are tossed from the floats to the cheering crowds lining the parade routes.

tossing Mardi Gras beadsThe spectators jostling to catch as many as possible.

Mardi Gras beads in air The king cake is another of the Mardi Gras traditions.

king cakeTraditionally, it is a ring of braided dough filled with a cinnamon and sugar filling, although now other fillings are used as well. A tiny plastic baby is  baked into the cake.  It is frosted and covered with colorful sugars of the Mardi Gras colors – green, purple and gold. Tradition has it that the person who receives the piece of cake with the baby in it is asked to host the next king cake party – which are held regularly throughout the Mardi Gras season or Carnival, which runs from January 6th,or Epiphany, to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Having never been to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras, I can’t speak of these things from experience but would like to one day. I won’t let that stop me from joining in spirit.  If you would like to read further about Mardi Gras and its history, traditions and activities, this site is a treasure trove of information.

In true Mardi Gras fashion, live it up, for tomorrow we fast.

~ Susan

Self portraits on a path to voice

By Susan Greene

As I was pondering our theme of voice this month, I came across this self portrait of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

It’s not often I turn the lens on myself. So I decided to give it a go. The photo of Cartier-Bresson captured my eye with his use of three different views of himself and his involvement both working and pausing to look out the window. My kitchen window is the same sort of set-up for me. I have spent countless hours standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window while washing dishes or twirling around doing the kitchen dance of food prep, throwing dirty dishes in the sink and washing fruits and vegetables while preparing and cleaning up meals. For many years, I was the privileged observer of my children’s games and make-believe worlds. As they grew and ventured from our immediate backyard – their backyards expanding into the larger world, I started noticing the sometimes quiet other times flurried rhythm of the birds, trees and flowers in the yard.

self portrait in window

Thinking of the backyard days of my children triggered thoughts of my own backyard days and the pure joy of playing outside. It has been quite awhile since I have done that.

self portrait backyard activityFor a time, I was transported to the backyard play of my youth, able to tap into the carefree times of romping in the backyard. The difficulty of running back and forth from inside the house to the outside counting down the seconds to shutter release trying to capture a jump at just the right moment then back in to check the result was a small price to pay.

In the Accidental Creative, author and speaker Todd Henry poses “ten questions that will help you find your voice.” One of the ten: as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  I think we can benefit from re-examining our younger selves to clarify our future selves and hopefully this will lead us to creative outlets for expressing our voices.

~ Susan

A one, and a two…

By Susan Greene

It has been called the “universal language of mankind” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, attributed with beginning where words leave off by Heinrich Heine and having “charms to soothe the savage breast” by William Congreve.  Music is powerful and musical instruments are beautiful tools for expression.

cello The gorgeous woods and metals formed into beautiful shapes which will produce enchanting sounds are works of art in themselves.

french hornSome are huge, I don’t know if the Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro, CA qualifies as an official musical instrument but I like to think it does. This symbol of friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea sits in a pagoda overlooking the Los Angeles harbor and Pacific Ocean.

Korean Friendship Bell, San Pedro CAA wooden log hanging next to it is used to strike it. Four times a year it is unchained and used to ring the bell, to learn when click here. I haven’t heard the bell yet but would like to and am going to make an effort to get there on one of these ringing occasions this year.

Other musical instruments are smaller and more portable.

percussion instrumentsMany a kindergartner has begun a love of music with these percussion instruments.

percussion instrumentsAs an early oatmeal box drummer turned piano player and student of the cello, I have found music provides many opportunities. From an avenue for sharing your voice with others to exercising your mind, especially should you take up an instrument later in life. It is a good challenge for your brain.

conga drums being playedIn this story on public radio about French percussionist, Christine Salem, from the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, she shares how her music allows her an outlet for expressing herself which she wasn’t always able to do.

Music, whether listening or playing, has been associated with many health benefits in the body and mind. From helping us de-stress to boosting our moods and our pace when exercising, there are many well-documented positives to taking in a note or two.

turntable, record playerSo in this week of Valentine’s Day, I leave you with these words from William Shakespeare, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

~ Susan