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The Roads Less Traveled

I live in an environmental sponge. My county, and the adjoining 3 counties each have more than 25 percent of their lands under water year round. Only part of that is lakes and rivers; the balance are bogs, marshes, backwaters, peat lands, and flood plains. By mid-summer, the grasses, shrubs, and trees have overgrown the soggy areas. During normal years, when late fall hunting season rolls around the lands revert to vegetation trampled by hunting boots, blaze orange or camo, and gun fire. The top moisture has either dried up, or frozen.

With December snows a hush falls, temperatures drop, road crews barely manage to keep anything open. The wetlands will remain this way, sleeping, flooding with temperature increases. Gravel or potted, badly kept roads, little traveled become off limits. Only the hardy, very poor, or long settled families live down these quiet roads. GPS misdirects, a road atlas and a compass is still needed. For me a road atlas, magnifying glass and bifocals are necessities.The biggest problem is no paved shoulders on these roads. Each side is deeply ditched to allow for water to run off. A slide off means a long way for a tow truck, assuming the cell service gets through at all. Parking in the middle of the road and praying no other vehicle comes along is my best mode. I’ve learned photography in sniper mode – shoot and run.

In open flat landscapes there are rare opportunities to catch lovely shadows, long horizons, or OMG contrasts. My fibromyalgia, and my advancing age, make me a poor candidate for sneaking out and driving long distances for the off chance on a good sunrise or sunset lighting shot. I’m up past 1 am every night and rarely sleep past 7:30. It would seem to leave a lot of time, but most of that is spent in what is known among fibro patients as brain fog. I also have ADD and anxiety. When I do remember what I’m doing, I’m either anxious I’ll screw it up or trying to get three or four things corrected before it all goes blank again. My goal of being the Grandma Moses of photography probably isn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, I’m still here at the end of my road … a few miles from John Muir’s Fountain Lake, and forty five minutes of really crappy road from Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Shack.

My muses’ Eph and Muriel were with me this week during the fog. I love shooting in the fog. We don’t get much of it here, even with the wet environment. It takes a special combo of snow, followed by warm, then a layer of cold damp with no wind. On those days even if all I could do was crawl, I’d be up to my waist in chilly water shooting behind my home in the wetland down below. I didn’t have to do that. Here’s what I managed to get driving down roads less traveled in a three county area. Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by the Road Less Paved.

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Changing in Public or How to Feel Naked Covered in Cameras

I’ve been struggling with change for several months. This is the year I gave myself the challenge to push beyond my normal range and find new directions for my photography. My muses, Eph n’ Murial, are never in agreement about the direction I should take. Murial, the traditionalist, is a woman of subtle landscapes and poofy flower sets.

Old Eph, bless his iron heart, must have been a biker dude in one of his former incarnations. He’s into boldness, taking changes, kicking things up, and making me nervous with glowing eyes and billowing beard. (That’s what I imagine he looks like, one elbow digging into my right shoulder.)

Here’s a few samples of the bipolar treatment I’ve been dealing with from these two the past month. I’m a changed person for this year’s challenge. I just don’t know if I’m complete, half-fast, spinning my f-stops, or stuck naked in the middle somewhere. I’m open to anyone’s feedback.

At this time, I feel like Grandma Moses spirit bonded with my seeking heroine, Andrew Wyeth’s, Christina’s World.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

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OMG – I’m officially a senior citizen or Live long enough this happens

My mentor!

It took less than thirty seconds to realize I was now a senior citizen. Not that I didn’t already know that my birthday had put me into that category. Renewing my driver’s license this August and looking at my new seven-year mug shot firmly drove that home.

Each visit to my doctor’s office requires the explanation that I’m not paying my bill with Medicare part D. My husband’s younger than me by several years, still working, and I’m covered by his employer’s medical insurance plan. The law states they can’t throw me out of their coverage because of age. One added benefit of having married a younger man. I’m more Miss Kitty at 100 than cougar.

Last summer I reunited with a Ohio cousin I hadn’t seen since I was eleven. We met at the house of a third cousin who hadn’t seen the Ohio one since she five or so. Our paternal grandmothers’ were very close sisters, but the families drifted apart sometime after my grandfather died in 1956. That would have been shortly after the three families had last visited.

While looking through the old photo’s we had each brought, stories exchanges, genetic similarities, and attempts to trace our ancestors, my long lost Ohio cousin looked at me and said I resembled my mother. That was the aching proof that my youth was gone forever. For the majority of my life, I’d resembled my father. Until he’d reached his late sixties, my father was tall, lean and physically fit with a youthful face younger than his years. When he did age, it seemed to happen overnight.

My mother already appeared to be old by the age of thirty. I only remember her laughing once during her lifetime and there are no photos of her smiling. Until now, the only part of me I inherited from her was her over-sized, Belgian-French nose, which is a direct genetic link to my material grandfather. I’ve since been told by distant cousins that the ‘nose’ did appear in other branches of the family, but in mine it only landed, like a piece of Mount Rushmore, in the middle of my face.

I grew up with dad’s sorta roundish baby face, plump lips (before they were stylish), and a body built along the lines of a couple of six foot long 2″x 4″s nailed together. I was also thin before that was fashionable. I guess I was years ahead of the curve, or the ‘curve’ was years ahead of fashionable me!

When I was in my thirties I was turned away from bars with an legitimate drivers license. In my mid-forties people were still asking what college was I going to. Applying for jobs (back in day when it was still required to put your age on your application), I would be turned down for lying about my age. I’ve had a couple of friends, one who was a few years younger than me, that were asked numerous time if they were my mother (ouch).

There’s something about aging that seems to hit innocently from the young. Mine was the first time the bag boy at the grocer called me mam.  Possibly he was simply raised to have good manners, but I hadn’t been told in a couple of years, “no, you don’t look that old!”. Time was creeping up.

A few years ago I attended a photographers weekend getaway. It was the second year in a row I’d gone. The previous year I’d had a terrific time, lot’s of laughter, new friends to make, great photography. The second event seemed to drag on forever. Their was a lot less laughter, the weather sucked, people were not inclined to friendships, and the photographs were terrible.

One of the weekend organizers took candid shots of the breakaway groups during sessions and I saw myself in a couple of them. I was so shocked at how much I’d aged, how much time I’d spent trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear that I gave it all up. It would be the last time in my life I’d waste time trying to ‘look my best’. Since looking at those two photos I’ve only bothered to wear makeup once or twice a year. Now my hair is almost always in a ponytail. I’ve given up trying to battle gravity, genetics, and things that need fixing but aren’t in the budget.

Yesterday, a Tuesday, I drove north forty-five minutes to another town to shop for groceries.  Our normal shopping town had a very nice, high quality, meat, fish market and deli. Unfortunately it closed a few weeks ago. The next town north supplied some of his products so it became the logical place to replace some of the lost products. One of the disadvantages of rural living, nothing is convenient.

Wearing very old, worn hiking boots, over-sized wool socks with the tops slouched down, black leggings and a hooked parka left over from the days I was 45 pounds heavier, I grabbed a shopping cart and entered the store. I’m currently in my Buddy Holly stage of life. Trying to find glasses that look good on my lopsided face is a zero return so I’ve opted for plain black frames that darken in bright light. Of course, they never lighten either, so I figure wrinkles and bags under my eyes are pretty well hidden most of time. I recently cut my own bangs, and I’ve cut them crooked. Trying to correct the problem made it worse. Oh well, at my age, what does it matter. I had to untangle my pony tale from the snap on the back collar of my coat so most likely it looked like half a dozen dogs have just come from greeting one another in the park.

My husband wants me to wear a sign pinned to my back while shopping that reads, ‘medicated for your When I get oldown protection’. I tend to get frustrated with the people that park in the middle of narrow isles and ignore oncoming traffic. At least early on a Tuesday afternoon, there weren’t any children playing gotta have, gimme this, where did momma go, or the family of seven all shopping using one cart with separate check-outs in line. It actually was pretty simple. I actually laughed at the bellowing cow mooing over the store speakers in the product section as I entered. Why the cow moos in produce and not meats I’ll never understand. Is it related to manure, makes fertilizers, which grows healthy produce? Doubt it.

Shopping done and ready to check out I’m actually directed by a young man to a empty isle. I think this is a first for me. There’s even get a second person bagging my purchases. This is service. The cow is still mooing in produce. I’m telling the young man how pleased I’m am with my shopping experience and the wide variety of products they had available, that it will help with my love of Hungarian cooking. He explained his school trip to Austria last year. The first day they served his class Austrian food and he loved it. He was looking forward to experiencing more European cuisine. The second day he sat down to dinner and they were served chicken nuggets and french fries. The remainder of the class trip all they got to eat was American cafeteria  meals. He was so disappointed. Probably the only trip he’ll make in his life and he’ll only have one memorable meal.

As my grocery bill  totaled I noticed a credit popped up on the bottom of the screen. He tore off the receipt and handed it me. “Have a nice day,” I said to him and walked to my car. After placing the bags in the trunk I opened my wallet to look at the receipt and figure out what the credit was for. My regular grocery store states, “Amount saved today” – this read, “Senior Discount 5%”. OMG – I’d been caught in public, not even asked, blatantly exposed,  the best days are behind me, I qualify without asking … I’m over the hill!

Wikipedia defines Senior citizen as: It is used in general usage instead of traditional terms such as old personold-age pensioner, or elderly as a courtesy and to signify continuing relevance of and respect for this population group as “citizens” of society, of senior rank.

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Anxiety, life’s surprises, and remembering to exhale

I suffer from Intention Deficit Disorder. The best of plans fall short, come off half-baked, or if successful, the credit always goes to someone else.  After the bottom fell out of the fortieth rebuild on my life a few years ago, I’ve been figuratively sitting in the last row of the theater watching life pass by. Sighing a lot, I’ve noticed a nasal whistle-like sound as I exhale. I was born into a stress filled life and have never been able to shake it.

I wake to a belly tightened by adrenaline and force myself to inhale. Anxiety causes difficulty breathing. Most times I’m not aware I’m holding my breath as if I were trying to slow the forward forces of life while I figure out my next do-over. My last ‘life’ ship took ten years to build and sank with several irreplaceable portions within four short months.

After a five-year dry land existence. I’m building a new ship. Most likely. this one will always be a leaky work in progress. Perhaps I’m just feeling time running short.  I’ve lost competitive and marketable skills.  Creatively and financially when something goes kaput it’s a long time before a replacement comes along. The strength to move obstacles just doesn’t exist.

As change creeps in, time heals, even if the scars remain. I’m gradually learning it’s necessary to inhale and exhale even during times of tension. A boat will break its bonds if kept tight at all times.  Line allowed to give against the pressure of the water will keep the boat in place.

I stood in the rain on a rural highway bridge over the Fox River in Marquette County, Wisconsin. My husband waited patiently in the car while the property owner looked on (I told him I envied his bit of heaven).  I took a few pics with my pocket camera. When I processed the wetlands photos this one left me breathless.  Please leave a few words and let me know, did you inhale or exhale?

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/daily-prompt-safety/