There are many gifts that I received during the past year, although it took Christmas Day to articulate what they are. I did my obligatory shopping this year and bought presents for others, wrapped them, and placed them underneath the tree. During that scurrying around, I thought about the various gifts that I got this year that may be a bit more intangible and hard to wrap up and put underneath a tree. But that scurrying around and thinking about gifts helped to crystallize my thinking about a number of very important gifts.
The first Gift: An Appreciation of Water in our Area
The first gift happened earlier in the year. My Dad was staying with us for a while during January through March. His mobility has changed so instead of taking walks or riding our bikes, we took drives around my area. My Dad lives over 2 hours away and has spent a few days here and there over the past in our area, but never three whole months. During our almost daily drives, we were able to watch a number of things unfold.
Many of our favorites spots during our drives was close to water. We have Lake Winnebago, Lake Buttes des Morts, and the Fox River in our area. Early on during our drives, my Dad commented about the amount of water in our area. So, we not only explored these places while my Dad was staying with us, but I also continued this new tradition during the rest of the year. The gift that my Dad gave me was an appreciation of the water and the historic significance in our area.
So, here is a little more detail with photos on that first gift: An Appreciation of Water in our Area
One of the fascinations during our winter drives was the sturgeon fishing on lake Winnebago. Here are a couple of the fishing shanties and the Christmas trees that the local ice fishing club would use to indicate the safe areas on this waterway. If you really look closely, you can see the shanties on the right that are quite a distance from the shanties in the foreground.
We drove to Kimberly Point when the weather was getting a bit warmer. There was a combination of open water in the foreground and a host of fishing shanties on the ice in the background. My Dad was surprised at the number of shanties given the warmer temperatures.
Bringing the fishing shanties in. There was a long warm spell and one of the winter events in the southern part of the State had cars go through the ice. The local fishing club was helping to remove ice shanties from the melting ice on Lake Winnebago. In the foreground, you can see the standing water.
I stopped the car to get this shot of the light between the lights. Dad pointed it out and fortunately I was able to capture this ephemeral moment.
The Second Gift: An Appreciation for Beauty
This gift was prompted by several workshops that happened during the first half of the year. The first workshop was my photography workshop in Lunenburg with Andre Gallant. It was my birthday week and I flew into Halifax and was pampered by my stay at the Prince George Hotel. I was impressed with the beauty of the lobby, the friendliness of the staff, and the delicious clam chowder that I had as my birthday dinner. This set the scene for my couple of days in Halifax before the photo workshop. The tulips were blooming in the public gardens, the wharf was bustling with people during the day yet strangely quiet in the early morning, and people were friendly. So, I became open minded to the beauty of Halifax and Nova Scotia even before I got to my workshop.
I've been to this particular workshop a couple of times. I love the Lunenburg area and Andre's workshops are always inspiring. When I looked at his photographs that he shared with us during the workshop, I appreciated the exquisite beauty and simplicity of his photos. I also realized that his photographic expression is not the same as my photographic expression. I believe my photographic expression is my view of what is beautiful in the moment as I realize that beauty in my senses. And, my photos are a special visual capture of that moment even though they can not totally capture many of the nuances of the experience.
Photos Related to An Appreciation for Beauty
One of the places that I felt most alive during the workshop is when I was greeting the sun in the Blue Rocks area. Blue Rocks is about a 15 minute drive from Lunenburg and is a small port area. Fishermen go out from here in the early morning.
This particular morning was fairly foggy. When I first got up, I contemplated just rolling over and going back to bed. Instead I quickly showered and drove the 15 minutes in dense fog questioning my sanity during the entire drive and wondering if I would make a wrong turn since I could barely see the road ahead of me.
I parked the car and started walking. There was an unusual and cool light that was shining on the rocks which made them appear bluer than I remember from past experiences along this same area. My gift that day was discovering the overwhelming beauty of the Blue Rocks, which in past years I just didn't fully see. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of the Rocks against the seaweed and the tide was just beginning to recede. I was awe-struck by the beauty of the blue rocks. And now I spend more time going back to places and seeing with new eyes. Nature doesn't seem to disappoint since there are many times that I've seen things that I never noticed before.
The Third Gift: A Long Autumn
I was fooled this year. When I first started photographing fall colors in September, I thought it was going to be a very quick experience. It seemed like the leaves were already falling off of the trees early. I went out often because I wanted to capture a little fall color in our area before we took a family trip to Colorado and Utah. I fully expected the color to be gone when we returned in mid-October. But I was wrong. The color was just starting to unfold. What I observed this year different from other years is that there were waves of color....first the birch would change color and lose their leaves. Then slowly, the maples would turn yellow each day a slightly different shade of yellow. Then they would slowly fall off of the trees and create a golden ground cover that would provide even a different look to the fall. Finally the reds. The reds of the ornamental trees in our area were especially glorious this year and they tended to stay on the trees for a long period of time and slowly, slowly fall to the ground. Finally, the oaks would turn color and show off their color for days until a very nasty windstorm caused almost all of the oak leaves to fall.
Photos Associated with the Gift of a Long Autumn
Early Autumn along the Newberry River Trail fairly close to my house.
Reds by Lutz Park taken using Multiple Exposure
Plamann Park at the Height of Color with leaves in the canopy and quite a few have fallen.
Along the fence at the Harbor near Stockbridge.
Ornamental Reds at Memorial Park
The Fourth Gift: Photos taken with the Hiking Club
Occasionally this year I've had the pleasure or hiking with our churches hiking group. Most of these events were in the late summer and fall of this year. The longest hike was the day after the election, where I hiked 15 miles and saw much beauty and peace along the Wiowash trail. Some of these hikes were more like walks or special events, but still involved taking many steps. I appreciated the wide variety of the experiences.
It's great to hike with folks; rather reminds me of travelers of long ago like in the Canterbury Tales or along the Camino. I appreciate the variety of experiences that we had during these hikes while visiting some places that I usually don't frequent, and some of the different photos that I was able to capture.
Photos Taken during the Fourth Gift: The Hiking Club
Long walk on Wiowash trail, the day after the election. This is a walk along a conventional recreational trail that spans for over 20 miles. I picked up the trail in Medina, which was the wrong meeting point, but that became an incentive for me to hike even longer that day. I hiked from 9 to about 3 and covered 15 flat miles.
Surfing in Sheboygan on Lake Michigan in November. This was on one of our hiking excursions. We were treated to seeing surfers on a very cold day in Wisconsin, but the surf was up. We were wearing many layers, including down, and were inspired by these hardy souls in wet suits.
SuperMoon. We walked from our cars to Kimberly Point and took a number of shots of the moon. We were treated to a beautiful moon as well as a gorgeous sunset. I was positioned for the moon shot and only captured the sunset in my mind's eye.
The fifth Gift: Appreciating The Beauty of the Moment Wherever I am
At times this is the hardest gift to appreciate: accepting what is right in front of me and appreciating the beauty right there. Sometimes, the beauty just overwhelms you, like when I was in Colorado along the Million Dollar Highway at the peak of color. There, I had to drink in the beauty because it was overwhelming. It took a while for me to appreciate it. But often, the beauty isn't apparent and you just have to keep looking until you see it. Sometimes it can just be how the light unfolds in that very moment and the specialness is that only you have seen this moment. These are the quiet special times when light and shadows can play a special dance. Now, I try to stop whatever I am doing and just look with a heightened visual awareness. Plus, I try to have a few more of my senses aware of my surroundings.
The light showing through the red leaf while hiking at Hartman Creek State Park. I had to stoop down and then point my camera up to capture the backlighting.
I was walking near the Lawrence Academy and noticed that there was a curb that was barely visible amidst the yellow leaves.
I don't know if the owner intentionally put up this white bed frame as an way to decorate the exterior of the home. But the white bed frame, the red vines, and the red siding all caught my eye during one of my walks in the Appleton area.
I had my long lens on my camera and noticed the odd angle that this woodpecker was at in our backyard. (I also have some conventional shots of this colorful character)
My husband was buying fish in Bandon Oregon and he was taking a while. I stepped outside and saw this beautiful light on the Coquille River Lighthouse. It had been raining quite a bit on this trip, so unexpected light especially at the golden hour wasn't something that I was anticipating. I only had my P&S with me so I quickly grabbed the shot. Just a few moments later, the light faded. There literally was no chance for me to grab my DSLR from my car.
A rainy and unpleasant day in Canada. Glad that I brought a lot of rain gear with me, just in case. I took one last walk along the pier of the summer camp where we were staying and this beautiful sunset exploded in front of our eyes. I took the plastic bag off my bag, grabbed my camera, and watched a very colorful display.
And on that same trip, sunrise the next day!
So, I have received many gifts this year and I hope that these gifts will see me into 2017 and even further discoveries.