Friday, July 1, 2011

Obsession


Obsession must be essential to living on this planet.  It has shaped every significant action, for evil or good since the very beginning.  What if Eve had never tasted the fruit in the garden?  What if the tower of Babel was never built?  If the Wise Men had never walked across the desert to find Jesus?  If the crowd had never been bent on crucifying Christ?  What if Luther had decided to keep his 95 Theses to himself?  What if Beethoven had submitted to his deafness and never written his Ninth Symphony?  What if Wilberforce stopped fighting for slave freedom?  And what if Lincoln had decided too many people had died, and made  an early truce to end the Civil War?  What if Jerusalem were unimportant?  

And how in the world would people find mates?  If we're made in God's image, we must be made to be obsessed.  After all, he spoke everything into being in seven days.  I think that obsession is what gives us the stamina, drive and will to do what under ordinary circumstances might seem mad.  In the end, it is obsession that compels us, changes us, and alters life as we know it.  It creates beauty and complete darkness.  Just as we look back on the history of humanity to understand how the world has come to its present state, we can also look upon our own lives.  If we are to look back on the obsessions we have ridden through in life, we can begin to create a true portrait of ourselves and how we have come to to be who we are today.  

I am intrigued by the idea of thinking about the things I have been obsessed with on a sort of a time line, and I thought I'd do a short exercise to see a window into who I am.  I think it illustrates how my younger interests blossomed into those of my more mature years.  What sort of a portrait does your time line paint?  

*****

My Timeline of Obsessions

Early Childhood:  

Making crafts entirely from things on hand
Having the perfect "Heart Family" barbie car and family
Barbie and the Rockers
Renegade gardening
Shel Silverstein
Trolls
New Kids on the Block
Wanting to be the popular girl on "Kids Incorporated"
Making anything from the "Make and Do" book series
Reading every Babysitter's club book possible. 
Playing outside without the apartment security guards finding us
Spelling very well
jellys shoes
The perfect diorama
Any Tiffany or Phil Collins song
Becoming a pianist
Dollhouse miniatures, FIMO
Baggy shirts and stretch pants
Making sculptures with foil.
Crystal Lewis
trying really long term science projects (rusting nails and biodegrading garbage bags)

Upper School Years

Alanis Morisette
Archaeology
visiting Art Museums
Those Chinese shoes you can buy in chinatown
Converse shoes and those cute white tennies you could buy in Germany
MacGyver
Foreign Language Speech Contests
German music (Die Doofen)
Being in plays or musicals (Sound of Music,  The Stolen Prince)
Writing Poetry, journals
Sketchbooks
Attempting quilt design
Watercolors
Volleyball
Tennis
Figuring out how to get to wear a bikini
Various Boys:  Jimmy, Keith, Frank, John, and others whose names escape me.
Walking up or down our valley road alone
Creating banners on "BannerMania"
Speaking German
Running around Kapiolani Park
Writing well
Helping people with disabilities
Creating pottery, especially hands
Creating images in the dark room 
Art with pastels, charcoal
Infrared film and manual photography
Genetic Engineering
Hawaiian Sovereignty
Kaethe Kollwitz' art
Maus I, Maus II, Elie Wiesel's "Night"
Gustav Klimt
Spanish
Hiking
Spanish
Emily Dickinson
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Metal art in Jewelry
The Lord's Prayer in different languages
recycling and being generally environmentally conscious

tori amos and sarah mclachlan
Mary Cassatt
Germany and europe in general
getting into college and becoming an occupational therapist
They Might Be Giants
Music from Musicals and Disney movies

College

Fall Leaves
Bjork
Ella, Louis, Sarah...anything jazz.
Art History
those pesto bagels, toasted, with butter, parmesan cheese and marinara sauce
cultural events--live music, dance.
Writing poetry, journals and writing in general.
Grande Raspberry Mochas
the Bible
lists of things i loved
hydrangeas
hours long philosophical conversations, especially religion related
Unbearable Lightness of Being
Kerouac
Life Drawing
Ceramics
Weird sculptures
Boys: Todd, that guy with the cool tape player that could stop at each track, that guy who was a runner,  that guy who was on prozac and loved to ski, that guy named Brandon I met when on break from the first year of college, then married.


Married and Mommyhood

Paper Making
Card Making
Dinner in the Freezer (freezing dinners for the future)
U Pick Farms
Jazz, swing, big band music
writing "baby dreams,"other poems and writing in general.
writing to record stories for family history, esp. Christmas letters and mommy journal
swimming
eating no high fructose corn syrup and eating simply, organic foods
musubi, manapua, and french dip sandwiches. also dark chocolate.
Grande Raspberry Mochas (still)
Spinning
Dyeing, Natural dyeing
Fiber goats, milk goats
Entering things in fairs 
biofuels
canning
Owl City songs
photographing kids in the tulips each year
country music
Creating a baby quilt for each of our children
hawaiian music
barefoot running
huarache sandals, earth shoes, born shoes, chacos
God
hiking
home schooling
Latin and Greek Root words
dehydrating
diaper sewing
Knitting
Felting
Long walks
Rachel Carson books, the sea in general
Mother Earth News and Countryside Magazine and self sufficiency in general
Rick Steves
Ruth Stout's No Work Gardening
Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing
Infant Potty Learning
Hawaiian history
Lewis and Clark, pacific nw. history

Crochet
Incans, Mayans, Aztecs
the arctic and antarctic
native plants and wild plants, their uses
Gardening
Photography up close
child portrait photography
blogging 
facebook
gardening
dog training
photo editing and lenses
researching medical conditions (mine or those of loved ones), most recently bursitis and ganglions
homemade anything, esp. laundry detergent and refried beans
mother earth news easy bread 
dave ramsey
running especially in nature and on the dike in Warm Beach
making lists



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rediscovering the Photograph: Dancing Mushrooms and Poppies, Baby Spiders and Magnifying Glasses



I know this about myself.  Maybe you're the same way.  I am very intensely obsessed with something until the next wonderful thing comes along.  I have not been writing lately because I have been rediscovering photography.   I've always avoided moving to the next level in that realm because I'm intimidated by the techy mumbo jumbo you have to learn.  Usually, I feel I must have a purpose when I do something.  Images documenting family events, outings and kids growing all play important family history roles.  My writing helps me to think things through, and thus makes me a happy mom and wife.  Extra photo taking didn't seem to fit anywhere.



Shortly after we visited  the tulip fields this year, I decided I had no choice but to learn more.  I had become frustrated with myself, knowing the images could have been better.  I am drawn to beauty, like a bumblebee to a blossom, and I know it when I see it.  What I had been creating in images captured only just a glimmer of the wonder around me.


Therefore, it was commitment time.  Instead of being embarrassed to ask questions, I read a little so I could know what to ask.  The camera manuals were unearthed and made for some sleepy bed time reading.  I learned important things, especially that you should be careful not to poke yourself in the eye when adjusting the viewfinder.  I also learned things that actually helped me, like how to set spot metering, so the thing you're focusing on has the best lighting.  And mainly, I played.


Since last November, I've been shooting in RAW format.  The image sensor in the camera records all the data, instead of just hanging onto certain parts, as in a JPG format.  Even though I was just using Picasa for simple editing, I could see a big difference in the control this gave me over my images.  In April, at the Tulips, I decided I needed to make photos in manual mode, so that i could really learn how all the controls work.  You get to control how long the shutter stays open, or how wide it is to let in the light, or what speed of virtual film you're using.  It's all about learning how to bend the light that's always bouncing off of everything.  This way, what you see with your God-designed perfect lenses, (your eyes), will be clearly translated into a photographic image.


I have been thinking about the word "photograph"and its roots, because we've been studying the Latin and Greek English root words all year.  "Photos" means light, and "graph" means to write or to draw.  When you are composing a photograph, you are coaxing the light into drawing an image of what you see.  I have been very interested in getting extra close to the objects I'm capturing because I want to portray this concept.  When you keep a very shallow depth of field, by leaving your aperture wide open, the surrounding areas become very painterly.  I have purchased some inexpensive close-up filters that are essentially little magnifying glasses.  They allow you to see more clearly the world right in your flower beds, while changing it just enough to allow a sense of mystery.



To be able to create beautiful art in this way is very meaningful to me as a busy mother and wife, and I have discovered that photography has grown a new and important purpose in my life.  It is asking me to be slow and still.  It is requiring that I be patient and that I think about the world around me.  It is giving me a purpose to spend hours outside with the children, allowing them to show me things I should see.  It is fulfilling my innate need to create, but also inspiring ever greater awe for the design of the natural world.  I cannot ever fully see or understand everything in it, but photography is allowing me to understand that I can always see something new.  These new things may be plants or insects, but they might also be the bright thoughts that roll out of my childrens' minds as we explore together.  I do not doubt that this fascination will soon end, but its reminder is clear.  This is a wonderful world, and we need to notice it in whatever way inspires us best.