The Bumblebee’s Visit

spiderwort and bumblebee
spiderwort and bumblebee
The Bumblebee’s Visit

As quickly as that, Bumblebee had tucked their bits of gold dust into her pollen baskets and flown on to the next flower to eat and thereby gather more. Sisters Virginia and Anna Tradescantia were satisfied that their mission in this life had been accomplished during their single day of existence. As the day warmed, and their petals closed forever, and Bumblebee had visited their cousins, all knew that they had played a small but critical role in the turning of the planet and life on Earth.

~~~

“The Bumblee’s Visit,” flash fiction for today inspired by one of the many photos I took this morning. The bee moved too quickly and I couldn’t catch it on the flowers, but this photo of it flying away told me this story. Really, I have to start sharing these photos I take everyday and the stories they tell me!

The flower is a native, Tradescantia Virginiana, also called spiderwort, and widow’s tears. The plant looks like knee-height, weedy grass, the blue-purple flowers grow in clusters, but only one or two bloom from that cluster each day, and they are only open until the day grows warm or the sun reaches where they grow. Then they close, and the next day more flowers open.

Please look up pollen baskets and read all about them. Trust me, they are fascinating!


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Stories for the Season

Winter, pastel, 12 x 24, 1998 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Winter, pastel, 12 x 24, 1998 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Winter, pastel, 12 x 24, 1998 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

The holiday season brings with it memories even as we make new ones. Even if we don’t celebrate Christmas or any other holiday that occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, we still usually encounter more people in each day in our family life, jobs, shopping, even virtually, and those encounters can create memories too.

Here are three stories, each of a different kind, a little memory, a little communal experience, a little magic, inspired by or happening during the holiday season, often in places you’d never expect.

 

The Faded Napkin

I have a white cotton napkin with a woven pattern of broken stripes like dotted lines in pink, blue, green, yellow and violet . The colors are faded now and it’s spotted with stains I can’t remove, but each of those stains is a memory as bright and clear as the colors once were of a series of special Christmas dinners. Read more…

The Faded Napkin

 

Let There Be Peace on Earth

On a dark, misty, not-quite-raining Sunday afternoon just before Christmas, I walked across an uneven, wet parking lot toward Dollar Tree, my mission: three or four pairs of 2.75 or 3.0 reading glasses that I could leave around the house or carry with me as need be since I was recently finding myself unable to read smaller text. I’d probably also pick up some other one-dollar-doodads that I really didn’t need. Read more…

Sunset-14
Let There Be Peace on Earth

 

The Christmas Moon

Several years ago I was driving home on a Christmas night, traveling along a dark two-lane road in a somewhat rural area that was familiar and fairly close to home. As dusk fell the light dusting of snow around me was tending to violet and the perfectly clear blue sky above me was also shading to violet in the east. As I turned a bend in the road I met with surprise a big bright and creamy full moon that had risen above the uneven line of pine and deciduous trees nearly silhouetted against the sky on the horizon. I smiled at the pure beauty of the scene and as I drove along, the moon seemed to follow me on my left. Read more…

ChristmasMoon
The Christmas Moon

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Winter Solstice Presentation: The Light in the Darkness

solstice sunset
solstice sunset
The solstice sunset December 21, 2016

I was honored to give a presentation in November about the solstice as part of a program with The Frick Pittsburgh, the organization that manages the Frick family mansion and museum in Pittsburgh. I’ve been waiting for a good opportunity to bring that presentation to you, and the Winter Solstice seemed like a good day to do that.

I have my friend Lisa DiGioia Nutini of Mexico Lindo for suggesting me to the person planning the event. The whole program was to be on three consecutive Thursday evenings in November and December, and each evening had three presenters. When I talked to the planner she mentioned “solstice traditions” so I wasn’t sure if I fit the bill because I don’t really have any traditions, though I have written about the solstice and the seasonal darkness a number of times. But my descriptions and brief snippets along with mention of artwork and photography sounded intriguing to the planner and provided a variety she wanted, not rituals, but recognition and celebration of the event. So I put together a narrative with paintings, photos and an essay you may have read here before.

You can watch the whole Zoom presentation, “Winter Tales”, here. My portion of the presentation begins at 22:10, but the presenters before and after me were very interesting too.

Or you can scroll down and read my presentation below.

Finding the Light in the Darkness

painting of woods in snow
Dusk in the Woods, pastel, 30 x 32, 2006 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I am a self-employed artist and writer, part of me a commercial artist and professional writer with a regular slate of customers, and the other part a fine artist and creative writer with customers who are anyone with whom I can share my inspirations.

Those inspirations are derived entirely from the world around me. The tagline of my website is, “The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Celebrating the art in everyday life,” be that medium visual or literary, 2D, 3D, poetry or prose, or some combination thereof.

I find winter very inspiring, including the darkness. I hear people all around me dreading the short days and long, dark nights, well before they even arrive, and complaining that it’s all gray and brown. When the longest nights are here, the waiting begins for the days when it’s light again when you leave work, at least.

But I like settling into the early darkness of late autumn; it’s good for concentration and focus, and a respite from my crazy racing around from my garden to my daily work to photographing each wildflower as it blooms and the autumn leaves as they put on their show. I love the wide open windows of summer, but when I close them and put on socks for the first time I feel an innate sense of security that I am safe and warm inside my house, ready for whatever the cold and dark will bring.

Through my art I have found that the darkness really isn’t completely dark, nor are the days without color. Even a tiny amount of light will find its way to highlight details you’d otherwise miss, our neighbors decorate their houses with garlands and lights, and the woods and fields and even our back yards are full of bright red rose hips and burnished copper oak leaves, blue jays and cardinals, and shades of violet and vivid blue in snow shadows. My eye is drawn to contrast and color, and I find a lot of that in winter light.

And so that search for the light in the darkness becomes my annual solstice celebration.

solstice sunset
“Solstice”, pastel, 6 x 6, 2003 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

On a winter afternoon nearly 20 years ago, I was inspired by the early sunset on the winter solstice and ran off to chase it.

The moment when the sun stands still,
as it seemed to at this frigid, snow-covered
winter dusk,
spruces standing dignified sentinel
to the moment
of transition.

This painting is indeed from the Winter Solstice in 2003. As the sun began to set on a zero-degree day with a foot or more of snow the light was so beautiful that I took off in my car with my camera and art supplies. At the top of the hill the gentle pink and coral tones of the sunset melded with the blue of dusk on the field of unbroken snow at the old Christmas tree farm, one of my favorite spots. It was too cold to draw outside since I can’t wear gloves and would soon be dropping my pastels in the snow, so I positioned my car on a convenient side road and sketched this in my front seat. As it does sometimes, the sun seemed to hang in the trees just before it disappeared: solstice, “sun-stand-still”.

It’s just a little thing, 6″ x 6″, one of my favorites, especially now that the place is gone to development. It became the inspiration for an exhibit I hosted in 2004, “Winter White”.

collage of winter paintings
Collage of paintings from Winter White.

I love winter so much, and found I had so much winter artwork already, I decided to do a show featuring the season, with snow and without. From bright blue skies to brilliant fluttering chestnut leaves, shiny red rose hips to olive green moss, brilliant and warm sunlight angling deep indoors, winter is a very colorful time of year. In 2004 I presented “Winter White” 42 small studies, illuminated by the stark light of winter in pastel, watercolor, pencil, and pen and ink from the trails to the backyard to interiors completed en plein air.

And I didn’t stop with that exhibit, either. The painting we began with, “Dusk in the Woods” was a very large painting from a few years later, and while I’ve sold most of what was included in the original “Winter White” exhibit I’ve painted enough since then to have another exhibit with just as many paintings.

I carry my camera with me everywhere to capture those images in all seasons. Sometimes they become paintings, but often the photos tell the story best.

Oh
The Light in the Darkness

As the winter solstice nears, bearing with it the shortest day of the year and the longest period of darkness, I find that analogous to my memories of years past when I thought it was the darkness I’d remember, not the light. During the days leading up to the winter solstice when the daylight is less and less, each day shorter, and each day is often overcast and filled with winter storms, some very old part of our brain senses imminent danger. But by a miracle the light returns and we celebrate.

In these darkening days it’s easy to curse the darkness and miss the delicate beauty only found at this time. In 2014 I took my walk to Main Street for errands and found a wonderland one heavy, dark, overcast day in a place I had thought so familiar. I called it my “gray day walk” as a shorthand for those moments of exploration when time stood still for me, unexpected on a busy afternoon.

THE LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

I have had far worse days. Overwhelmed by the demands of commercial work as my customers and I prepared for the holidays along with merchandise orders and custom portraits and my own preparations for ending the year and beginning the next as a small business, I left the house at 4:00 p.m. destined for the post office and bank just before they closed.

Though I had walked this half mile route from my home to Main Street for years, I had lately been driving, using the need to save time or the awkwardness of a pile of packages as an excuse for wasting gas and a chance at exercise and fresh air. The day was hardly inspiring—five days prior to the winter solstice the days were frighteningly short, sunset less than an hour away, and in a series of heavy dark days typical of this area in late autumn and early winter, dense pasty clouds hanging low overhead and so dark it had felt like dusk at noon, and now some of the street lights on Main Street were already alight. I nearly always take photos on these walks, and while I laid the strap of my camera bag over my shoulder I was glad that, for once, I would probably not find anything to photograph and take time from my day in conditions like these.

Traffic was heavy so I took my route under the bridge, next to the creek where traffic noises faded and birds sang, a trickling sound as water flowed smoothly past over the rocks in the shallow waterway. And in the dim and fading light a world so familiar at first appeared dark and nearly colorless until my eyes adjusted to the light and found such wonders among the wildflowers along the way, standing upright though dried and every shade of brown and tan and umber I found fantastical birds, abstract sculptures, amazing complex patters among the dried flower heads, exposed and broken seed pods, leaves clinging curled to stems.

dry evening primrose pods
Winter Lilies

I could not stop for the post office and bank both closed at 4:30, so I walked as fast as I could with my camera bag on one shoulder and a large canvas bag of packages on the other so that I could amble back through this wonderland on my way back to my neighborhood. The light was so dim then, as the time approached sunset within minutes, that I had to set the ISO of my camera on 800 to get anything but vague images floating in sepia darkness, even with all my settings to admit as much light as possible.

These plants had sprung up from seeds tossed here on the wind and water, carried by birds and people walking past, sprouted in spring, housed birds and insects in summer, borne their flowers in summer and fall. I had walked among them many times with my camera and sketchpad, I knew where each stood, when they bloomed, their botanical names and history, I looked for them each year and anticipated the best times to compose the images I visualized, but this was a gift in its unfamiliarity.

Now, after several frosts, autumn storms and snow, the weak parts had been stripped away and the strongest parts of them were burnished by adversity and stood dignified in the dimness, with just enough sheen to highlight their most interesting shapes, textures and combined patterns.

The background now, rather than the usual details of other plants and flowers, was darkness, the more perfect to silhouette each delicate construction as if in a gallery featuring the finest art.

queen anne's lace flower dried
The Empire Shriveled

Milkweed pods became flocks of fantastical birds, or individual exotic species clinging to stems. Tightly curled dried flowers or clusters of puffy seeds set loose, sere and twisted leaves and flowers of another time. Even the holiday decorations in a shop front, capturing the blue from the late afternoon light with highlights from the store within echoed the shapes and patterns of the natural forms outdoors, as the raindrops that would soon fall.

I arrived home with dirty shoes from walking in mud, and dirty knees from kneeling in wet grass, bits of leaves and stems and seeds flocked with frills to carry them on the wind on my skirt and jacket, in my hair, on my bags, souvenirs of a timeless magic, both in letting go of the time of day, and letting go of time altogether for that period. I only let go and rejoined the day because it was too dark to photograph any longer.

I am grateful to this gift of creative vision that releases me from everyday cares for just a short time, exercises those aesthetic senses and relaxes the overused worry lines, and gives me these wonderful gifts of images to share, just for noticing the inspiration was there.

There is always something new to learn about the things we think we know well. Never forget that when the light seems dim there is much to be seen with the heart, and when adversity has taken away the quick and obvious beauty, the strongest parts remain, dignified in their naked and twisted strength.

locust thorns
Armor

I hope you enjoyed this presentation, whether you listened or read.


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How Many

abstract pastel sketch
abstract pastel sketch
Opression

It wasn’t just the four officers it took to arrest a non-resisting African American man and three of them to lie him down on the concrete and all kneel on him and handcuff him, it wasn’t just the 8 minutes and 46 seconds Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck on the pavement in the heat with crowds around openly taking videos of the scene and pointing out to him that the man needed help and was dying, it wasn’t just that he told other officers who showed concern that this was how Floyd should be handled, it wasn’t just his lack of reaction to Floyd’s audible pleas for help, it was the expression on Chauvin’s face through it all that tells the underlying story.

Chauvin looks relaxed and unafraid of either the man beneath his knee or all the bystanders who are watching and openly videotaping. George Floyd was at that point unable to resist even if he’d wanted to, and Chauvin knew that no matter what happened, even with all those witnesses, he wasn’t going to get into any trouble, and he frankly looks annoyed. In any case, he’s not worried about going home that night and there would be no repercussions against him for what he was doing. That makes it pretty clear that this had happened before and that the system supported the white police officer, and not the African American citizen, based on prior experience.

Don’t forget that expression on Chauvin’s face. As we watch the ensuing protests and even riots following this public murder, remember that’s the expression African Americans have been facing from white people since they were brought here in chains 400 years ago. Centuries of time and a bloody civil war 150 years ago have made no difference. In my life of nearly 60 years, the African Americans of my generation and the generations following have been able to make no progress in living as equal citizens of this country.

Even I see that expression on white faces when I try to point out all the ways African Americans are openly excluded from everyday life in this country whether their heritage derives from emancipated slaves after the Civil War or their ancestors or they themselves emigrated from other countries around the world with predominantly black populations. We’ve never cleaned the contamination of racism from our country, and in fact a population of citizens have worked hard to keep it in place by way of redlining neighborhoods, gerrymandering voting populations and placement of polling places and outlining school districts, and employers who can always find a reason not to hire an African American person. Lately they’ve even been demonstrating publicly for the right to do these things.

That’s what makes the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis more than just his murder, and why riots have broken out all over the country. That’s what shows it’s a symptom of something much bigger, the bump on the skin that connects to the cancer filling the body, the cancer of police killing African American men and otherwise arresting African American citizens in general, at a much higher rate than whites as they are represented in the population, and continued social segregation though that very segregation is illegal. [1] [2] [3]

In February a white man and his son packed their shotguns into their pickup and ran to chase the escaped slave who left his own plantation to go running through white society in Brunswick, GA, and they caught up with him and shot and killed him. That’s just what the death of Ahmaud Arbery sounded like to me from the first I’d heard of it, even before the video, even before I saw the photos of Gregory and Travis McMichael. The incident itself was painful enough to watch, and consider how easy it would be to turn the story against Arbery who couldn’t defend himself, especially hearing the reason for chasing him—he’d been seen going into a house under construction and poking around, and the McMichaels claimed there had been thefts in the neighborhood. Easy as pie, that one, proved correct when the news was released that the Brunswick District Attorney had looked at the case and said there was nothing to see there and no one should be arrested, and even as he recused himself from the case a month later for personal connections he again advised that there should be no arrests. Seventy-four days after Arbery’s death the McMichaels were finally arrested and the case investigation has escalated to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. That was three weeks ago. People are still understandably angry about how it was handled. [4]

In Louisville, KY undercover agents stormed into the apartment of Breonna Taylor because their suspect in a narcotics investigation occasionally received mail at her apartment. Her boyfriend awoke and shot at the strangers who’d broken in, and the officers returned fire with eight bullets into Breonna, killing her. There is back and forth now about whether or not they announced themselves before they broke the door down, but in reality the suspect had already been arrested. [5]

And at least birdwatcher Christian Cooper didn’t die when a white woman called police on him when he asked her to put her dog on a leash, as rules in the section of Central Park, known for birding, require. Amy Cooper (no relation) actually threatened him with the phone call saying she would call the police and tell them an African American man was threatening her life. He videotaped her as she did so. Both were gone by the time police arrived but Christian Cooper’s posting of the video went viral and Amy Cooper was ultimately fired from her job and gave the dog in question back to the rescue. But how often in the past has a woman saying an African American man was acting inappropriately toward her caused his death? [6]

Those examples are just three other cases that made the news in the past three months, ones that are being remembered in demonstrations in those cities, and other cases that actually made the news locally or nationally around the country over the past few years. And just the act of existing while black, with police called by white people who find African Americans suspicious as they do just about any everyday thing, while jokes can always be made, is a constant flow of threats during everyday life.

And unless it’s investigated, the case is forgotten, and the incident, the person killed and their memory are buried together, but not by those left behind who know there was no justice and have little hope there will be in the future. That constant trauma of violent loss and the fear that you could be next would fill anyone with rage and reaction when they see it happen again, and again, and again. The protesters out there have repeatedly said they don’t condone vandalism and destruction, and neither do I, but bearing the pain and trauma of all the deaths, all the injustice, all the restraints society puts on African Americans, why not burn it all down and start over? Why preserve what’s there, metaphorically at least, when in African American neighborhoods—and why are there still African American neighborhoods?—it’s still separate and unequal, and after centuries and lots of hard work by African Americans and white people alike there is no hope that will ever change?

I don’t judge my safety on the race of the person before me. If I saw Ahmaud Arbery running down the street we’d probably nod and smile at each other as we passed. If I saw the McMichaels in their pickup with their guns, I’d get my mace in my hand and look for the nearest safe place to run if I needed to.

And I have a lot of freedom, freedom that we all deserve, because of my race. When I’m out trapping feral cats and poking around in an alley and looking into back yards at night with a flashlight, when the police are called they always accept my explanation that I’m trapping cats, and there are no threats, no arrest just to check on me, no harassment. And when I decide to walk down the middle of a street looking up at the sky to watch the hawk, or walk along the trail through the woods singing at the top of my voice, or act otherwise erratic—or, as they say it when you’re white, eccentric—no one calls the police on me. I have this freedom that everyone should have, to be whoever we are and be given the benefit of the doubt when we explain what we’re doing.

I can’t breathe officer
don’t kill me

they gon’ kill me man

come on man

I cannot breathe

I cannot breathe

they gon’ kill me

they gon kill me

I can’t breathe

I can’t breathe

please sir

please

please

please I can’t breathe

George Floyd’s last words transcribed from the video [7]

I’ve tried to look back in history and find the point where it went wrong, to go back there and start again. But there is no point where African Americans ever had equality in this country, no matter what laws had been passed, and no time when death at the hands of authorities wasn’t common. Let’s just try to burn down the social structure that keeps people oppressed, let’s really just incinerate it and toss the ashes out into space so there’s nothing left.

And it’s not enough for each of us to “not be racist” or “not discriminate”. We have to call out those who do, and have a strong argument on hand to prove it. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. frequently mentioned the importance of speaking out for justice, and the injustice of staying silent, and the importance of nonviolence.

The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of the good people.~The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ed. Clayborne Carson, 2001, Chapter 18 [8]

I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.~Sermon: “Where Do We Go From Here?” [9]

I have felt a fundamental change coming for some time, years, months, days. For better or worse, I think it’s here.

References

[1] https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/un-report-on-racial-disparities/

[2] https://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/

[3] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/police-killings-lynchings-capital-punishment_b_8462778

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Ahmaud_Arbery

[5] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/breonna-taylor-kenneth-walker-911-call-police-shooting/

[6] https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/27/us/amy-cooper-central-park-call-police-trnd/index.html

[7] https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/george_floyd_loc/?slideshow

[8] https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/chapter-18-birmingham-campaign

[9] https://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2017/08/martin-luther-king-jrs-where-do-we-go-from-here-sermon-50-years-later.html


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Grateful

blue-eyed mary
blue-eyed mary
A clearing in the woods filled with blue-eyed mary.

I’ve passed this spot on a back road each spring for years. Looking down into a valley coursed by a winding stream I see what looks like a bluish haze just above the ground among the trees and in an open clearing, on both sides of the stream and reaching up the sides of the little valley, extending at least the length of a football field. I know the haze is a population of wildflowers. Wildflowers always call me to come and meet them, see their little faces and study their leaves, learn about their habits and habitats. No visit is complete without a full course of photos from every angle to document them, and to share the beauty that called me to that place.

blue-eyed mary
Seen from the road.

Even though I take this road intentionally to look at all the things I’ve found interesting and photographed from afar, each year I’ve found a reason not to stop and explore this little valley on foot, to see the details in that blue haze and interpret them to share in my own way.

Usually I’m on my way somewhere else and because I’m always late the reason is a lack of time. This can’t be explored in just a few minutes and a photo or two. This needs a walk down a hill and across a stream, and all around where the flowers grow, even walking partway up the other side of the valley. And once I start, I don’t know when to stop. I can’t be trusted to be aware of time.

One day last year I did have the time and my DSLR camera, but it was just before the diagnosis of my need for a hip replacement and stepping out of my car at the top of that slope I knew there was no way I could walk down without falling, or crawling. Crawling on gravel and bits of coal is not without its nicks and scrapes. I’ve done it. So I looked, and moved on.

blue-eyed mary
What I saw from the road.

This year I took the time. I’d run to the trail as the mist rose on a spring morning just to photograph what was there, and was on my way back home. I intentionally turned up that road taking a different way home than the usual, scanning the little valley for whatever it had to offer. I saw smaller colonies of these flowers, but remembered much more in other areas, then, finally, there it was. And conveniently a place to safely pull over and park on this two-lane back road and a sort of road down and into the area from off-road vehicles. I had no excuse.

blue-eyed mary
Perhaps the fog is still here.

LIttle wildflower-filled valleys like these are like timeless wonderlands. Scrappy slender trees mix with mature trees, fallen trunks tangle with wild grapevines and Virginia creeper vine, and the performance is set for wave after wave of blooming spectacles here and there in its own unique floodplain culture.

blue-eyed mary
Along the stream.

I waded the stream and came to my closeup of the flowers that at first looked like violas, but I identified as blue-eyed mary, four petals, two top in white and two bottom in blue, occasionally violet or deep pink.

blue-eyed mary
Closeup.

The sky was still overcast from the fog, but as I walked along the road and among the flowers, deciding on good vantage points and snapping photos here and there, the sun broke through the clouds and bands of bright and shadow moved over the little valley, illuminating the young leaves.

blue-eyed mary
Like mist among the trees.

But how to capture the full effect of the display? If I had had a bit of a ladder or a rock or stump to stand on I may have been able to capture it better, but the photo at the top captures the extent of it best. And the photo below captures the density.

blue-eyed mary
A field full.

Grateful

I am grateful for my new hip, remembering last year, considering the prospect of never being able to explore a wildflower field again, and having the time to take this year.

I am grateful for my new old car, without which I hadn’t been able to go anywhere earlier this year.

I am grateful for the equipment to capture this place in a way that I uniquely visualize.

I am grateful that there are such things in this world as this precious little valley and all its beauty.

I am grateful that I can share this, and that others see the beauty in it too.

I am grateful to all those who helped me arrive at this place over the past two years and more.

I have many, many other things to be grateful for, but as I walked my steps around this place, these were my thoughts.


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Healing, Now and For the Future

Periwinkle Party

Today is the six-month anniversary of my hip replacement surgery. I have long been back on my feet, but still working my in-home physical therapy for strengthening and flexibility all over, which is not a bad thing for someone my age and work needs: sitting or standing for hours on end. I am grateful for this surgery. I really didn’t think I’d regain all my personal ability and strength after the surgery, I’ve always been active and flexible, still climbing trees and tying myself into knots to get a good position to photograph one of my cats from an interesting angle. But I have, and it’s like a new life after two years of debility, a great thing to be celebrating here at the beginning of spring.

The world has changed dramatically in these past six months. The day I went into surgery, October 3, 2019, the temperature was 85 degrees and overnight was a record 65 degrees, and I had barely slept for the heat and worrying about the unknowns of my surgery and recovery, and wishing this crazy weather would just stop already. As I recovered ability more quickly than I thought, I looked forward to just about this point in time because, while full healing really takes a year or more, by this point I’d be able to clean up my garden (in the photo) and start planting, ride my bike to the grocery store, clear away the housekeeping mess from two years of inability to move and carry things, even vacuum the floor, pack up my car and go to some of my first vendor events and start replacing my income once again.

I will do many of those things, but I think with where we are today, facing the unknown of what this pandemic will do to the things we’ve always done and the ways we’ve always done them, I have changed my goals from returning to the way things were for me to working with the way things are, and getting ready for the changes to come. I still have sustaining income to replace. I need a car and a furnace, and a long list of things that I need to do to my house, but realistic expectations are what work best in uncertainty. It’s like the state of my garden right now—the structure is there underneath the two-year overgrowth of neglect, and I’ll be able to clear things away and get a garden started again, but I’ll likely never have the mature, productive vegetable haven I had. Instead, I’ll have what I need for today, and next year, which will be different from my beloved garden developed over decades; it will be more of what I need, less of what I want, and in reality that’s what made my older garden so successful.

I know the best way to navigate uncertainty. I got to and through my surgery and recovery with the help of a safety net and many friends generous with time and skills, and I’ve started my economic recovery with the generosity of many others who shared my story and have purchased art and merchandise to help replace income I clearly won’t get without vendor events. I know the power of helping each other, and the best way to get through this time of uncertainty and change is—virtually at the moment—hand in hand, supporting each other in both individual and common needs. We all have needs, and we can all help another with their needs at the same time. We fit together like puzzle pieces, and imagine the complexity of an 8 billion-piece puzzle that is all of us on this blue globe, floating through space.

I’m back on the earth and looking forward to tackling that garden over this coming weekend of beautiful sun and spring weather. I hope you have great plans too!

February 2020 Personal Creative Challenge, Day 27: Winter Bouquet

dried wildflowers with snow
dried wildflowers with snow
Winter Bouquet

My daily photo today unexpectedly inspired some verse. It just began writing itself in my head so I thought I’d bring it here and work on it.

When I share my daily photos I typically write something about it, often just a mundane note of what or where it is, an identification of a wildflower or butterfly, or sometimes just a thought; sometimes an extended thought that becomes an essay or a poem. I go where it leads me.

Here is the original version:

In late summer, in the fullness of plenty,
I filled my arms with your brilliant yellow and warm green,
followed by bees besotted with your gentle scent,
burying my face into your softness, thinking of beds made of your flowers;
today in the cold, punishing wind, the swirling snow,
all decorations weathered away,
I could see your naked strength holding your essence outright,
catching snowflakes,
with faith in spring.

I had intended to talk about the spareness and simplicity of the scene, a pure little moment, but my mind went to the flowers and identified them as goldenrod and one of our native wild sunflowers, likely jerusalem artichokes. That made me remember what those plants look like in late summer when they begin to bloom most heavily, how I love to see them, their volume of stems and leaves and flowers, their light fragrance and the hum of hungry bees, and the contrast with what is left behind, the essentials, swaying in winter wind, catching snowflakes, holding onto those seeds of the future until spring.

I knew the words weren’t quite what I wanted, but getting the thought down was important. I had to move on with my day and wanted to let it sit for a while, then come back to it. So here I am. And here is an edit, though there may be more.

In the heat of late summer,
in the fullness of plenty,
I filled my arms with your brilliant yellow and tender green
amid the hum of bees besotted with your gentle scent,
buried my face in your softness, thinking of beds made of your flowers;
today in the cold, punishing wind, the swirling snow,
all ornament weathered away,
I could see your naked strength as you held your essence in your outstretched hands,
catching snowflakes,
with faith in spring.

It became a sort of love poem too, with an intimacy in the imagery. But isn’t that what nature is all about?

I think that’s good for now..

I began this year with a pledge to myself and my art: To be certain I won’t let ideas pass me by I’m setting myself up for a personal painting challenge in February, similar to the painting challenges I’ve participated in in past years. I aspire (but don’t expect) to create a painting or sketch every day in the month, to be posted on my blog each day.

This is my work from Day 27. See other creative efforts in this and other creative challenges on the page Creative Challenges on www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net.


Read more:   Essays   ♦  Short Stories  ♦  Poetry

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

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Friendship Friday.

The Blush That Rise

Softish glow

The blush that rise at end of a winter’s day
to meet the early falling darkness,
shine like roses of June
among tracings of trees,
light our hearth fire,
cast each other
in warm tones
of familiar
devotion.

poem © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Draft composed for this week’s prompt “blush”.

I began this year with a pledge to myself and my art: To be certain I won’t let ideas pass me by I’m setting myself up for a personal painting challenge in February, similar to the painting challenges I’ve participated in in past years. I aspire (but don’t expect) to create a painting or sketch every day in the month, to be posted on my blog each day.

This is my work from Day 17. See other creative efforts in this and other creative challenges on the page Creative Challenges on www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net


Read more:   Essays   ♦  Short Stories  ♦  Poetry

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

SUPPORT MY WRITING

Visit my PATREON page.

 

 

One Chance to Be

crocus buds
crocus buds
One Chance to Be

Cycle turning biology undeniable
tender green pushes through
soil hard and frozen,
offers budding violet hope
as bitter storm roars in,
opens to adversity
hesitate, hide, wait, unthought
for only one chance to…be.

I’ve been working out this concept since the gray morning I saw the first flower color of this year—violet crocus buds. I ran out to photograph them and posted that on Instagram with a brief comment, but continued to think about it. Though the weather has been warm, an arctic cold front was headed our way with snow, winds and several days and nights of severe cold. Here was my original thought:

“Not concerned about incoming storm. Can’t wait to see them bloom!”

This happens each spring. The crocuses sprout and bud, later the crocuses do the same, and even later the tulips, and cold fronts come and go, frosty mornings, inches of snow, and yet they bloom and freeze and flowers open again, as if nothing had happened to them.

It’s not like they have much choice. They are literally rooted in place. They are on a biological schedule and really can’t choose to put things off, or tuck themselves back under the soil because freezing weather is on the way. They just do what they do, and somehow they survive despite brutal setbacks. Here they were, tiny delicate yet colorful little things, facing down a winter storm that humans were out racing around for toilet paper and milk in order to survive.

I knew a poem was in order even before the Instagram post. A couple of days later I shared the photo on my photo blog with the original draft of my thoughts.

Unconcerned about incoming storm,
hiding impossible,
crocus buds stand tall,
open leaves to adversity,
brighten world with color,
ready for one chance to…be.

And I liked that, but by writing it I discovered that my core point of inspiration with the crocus buds was that while the crocus might perish in the prolonged subfreezing temperatures, it was on a biological schedule of development and maturity with one purpose: to flower and produce the next generation. Hiding itself, protecting itself it would surely die, without light to continue developing it would stop, then start an irreversible decay. Going forward and dealing with what it was given was the best chance for it to . . . be.

Of course, these are my human thoughts, how brave the little crocus be to stand upright and present tender buds to the storm, we should all be that valiant. It doesn’t have a choice, we do, we could bundle up and stay inside in a real winter storm, as we metaphorically could when adversity comes our way, but we could also deal with it. We can take many chances at a goal, the crocus only has one chance, and is usually successful. So I tried to create that with different words.

Here is the poem again:

Cycle turning biology undeniable
tender green pushes through
soil hard and frozen,
offers budding violet hope
as bitter storm roars in,
opens to adversity
hesitate, hide, wait, unthought
for only one chance to…be.

Sometimes it’s interesting to see how it develops.

I began this year with a pledge to myself and my art: To be certain I won’t let ideas pass me by I’m setting myself up for a personal painting challenge in February, similar to the painting challenges I’ve participated in in past years. I aspire (but don’t expect) to create a painting or sketch every day in the month, to be posted on my blog each day.

This is my work from Day 15. See other creative efforts in this and other creative challenges on the page Creative Challenges on www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net


Read more:   Essays   ♦  Short Stories  ♦  Poetry

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

SUPPORT MY WRITING

Visit my PATREON page.

A Walk in Black and White Film

I loaded a roll of black and white film into my old Pentax K1000 and headed out to walk to the grocery store, bringing back images from around my neighborhood along with my groceries.

Though this is a photo essay I also describe the process and reason for taking my camera on mundane walks to find extraordinary things, including story and poetry ideas. In fact, there will be at least one story out of this walk, and it’s in there among the photos. I can’t wait to see where it starts and where it goes!

One of the reasons for using black and white film is that removing the distraction of color permits other interesting elements to shine and become the story, and using film slows me down, makes me think a little harder about using one more frame on this roll. When I’m out with my digital DSLR I just let go and photograph anything I darned well please, and I need to do that too, let go and just be part of the scene and record it as I feel it.

But sometimes, just as with writing, to get to the core of something, you need to slow down, tighten up and focus, search yourself and funnel down to exactly what it is you want to say. Going “old school” with black and white film in the old (but still beloved) Pentax K1000 is like writing your stuff on a tablet with your favorite writing implement: pencil, ballpoint pen, marker, fountain pen. I love my gel pen on a legal pad, but when a poem comes along any scrap of writable material and any writing implement will do for a draft.

So enjoy the photos and the essay on my photography blog, Today: A Walk in Black and White Film


Read more:   Essays   ♦  Short Stories  ♦  Poetry

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

SUPPORT MY WRITING

Visit my PATREON page.

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