Tag Archives: Photopiece

pay attention?

blue bird on desert agave with blue sky

This morning as I was taking a walk I saw this desert agave (century plant) in bloom. I stopped to take a picture of it (with my iPhone) and just then this blue bird landed on the branch. Obviously, it’s not a shot I could have planned!

Part of what I love about photography is that it helps me to focus (metaphorically–the camera does the literal stuff all on its own) and to pay attention.

When I first began to take ‘photo walks’–heading out with my camera and the intention only of wandering and seeing what I might see, not worrying about wasting film (yes, this was in the days of film, and yes, the idea of wasting film on random shots and then having to pay to develop it was definitely something to overcome) I was amazed at how much enjoyment I got out of these simple excursions. That was over ten years ago.

In that time I’ve taken a lot more photos, taught workshops and classes in photography (one of my favorites is definitely photopiece, a great experience started by my friend Leanna Creel) and tried to continue to refine my capacity to be mindful, to pay attention, having fun with photography, but also ‘practicing’ it, as in a ‘spiritual practice’ that helps me to be aware and awake to the beauty of the world around me.

Lent, the season leading up to Easter, is typically practiced by some sort of act of ‘penitence’ or giving up, doing without–some way of emptying ourselves of ‘self’ so that we can make room for God, goes the tradition.  I wonder if Lent might also be a season for being intentional about paying attention–of taking time to ’empty ourselves’ of busyness or excess ‘noise’ in our lives so that we open up space to be aware and present?



Happy Birthday to me! (are we there yet?)

I’m not sure if you can get more self-promoting than sending out a group email to Happy Birthday yourself, but there it is! 😉

I happen to be spending my 37th Birthday (which I think is the official entrance into ‘late 30’s’ a category I’m not thrilled about. 36 can definitely still be mid-thirties, but 37 has tipped the scales toward 40) in San Jose at the Presbyterian General Assembly (GA). I think that makes up for any jealousy other travel experiences in my life might incur! The good thing about spending my birthday at GA is that at least I don’t feel old…I’ve still got at least a couple of decades before I approach the average age in the Presbyterian church!

I’m here as a freelance reporter for The Presbyterian Outlook  and mainly following the work of the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee which is dealing with the war in Iraq as well as the Israeli/Palestinian situation. So, as committees go, it’s actually a pretty interesting one to be a part of (of which to be a part) and at least with the Israeli/Palestinian topic, one in which I’ve got some personal exposure as well.

On Sunday I went to a lunch where one of the speakers told a story in which the punch line was basically “Don’t keep asking if we’re there yet—we’re nomads, for crying out loud!” I think I may have to appropriate that for my own life…I keep wondering when I will be ‘there yet’ and keep realizing that, at least for now, this random nomadic life seems to actually be what I am ‘called’ to. I know that people say that life is more about the journey than the destination, but somehow I keep thinking that if I could only find the destination, then I’d be set.  “We’re nomads, for crying out loud!”

In other news, I’ve posted new pictures from a recent trip to Europe that I took to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day. She was in Amsterdam, I just showed up at the hotel—thankfully, she was glad! (and also thankfully Continental had a frequent flier ticket available with a two week notice.)

I also have pictures from the recent Photopiece class that I taught in La Mision, Mexico. Over the course of six weekends I taught photography (along with Marty Harriman, whose parents were friends with my grandma in Mexico as well as my parents) to a small group of local teenage girls.  As the culmination of the class we exhibited the work at the annual Memorial Day Fiesta in La Mision. Their work can be seen here and is really quite phenomenal. I have really been enjoying teaching photopiece in LA, Ecuador and now Mexico. I’ve got an offer to teach it at a deaf school in Gaza, but for the moment that seems a bit difficult to pull off. It’s really an amazing way to help teenagers gain a sense of their own dignity and that they have a view of the world that is worth sharing, if they can learn how to communicate it visually. The work from the Ecuador Photopiece class was just exhibited at Princeton Seminary and it was really amazing to see how it impacted those who saw it.

It’s late and I have a long day of committee meeting sitting tomorrow, so I hope this finds you well and that the summer will allow for some rest, relaxation, or vacation!

Running, preaching, gardening and rain

It’s a good thing that I can type with my hands and not my legs (probably for many reasons) because I can tell you that after doing a long run today my legs are stiff, sore, and as Tommy says, just plain “weared out.” Aside from the post-run tiredness, in other marathon news I have been truly overwhelmed by the amazing support from so many of you (for the rest, there’s still time…just kidding, I mean, there is still time, but kidding about the pushy salesperson part) and I am happy to say that I have reached the $2500 point! Not only does that mean that the Labrecque Foundation gets that much more money to help research and hopefully cure lung cancer, but it also means I don’t have to take up a side job as a street preacher with a collection jar in front of me.

Speaking of preaching (talk about a segue), I preached to the choir again a few weeks back.  This is the same small, struggling church in Long Beach where I preached this summer and where there were more people in the choir than the congregation. This time the congregation had three times as many people as the choir! But unfortunately that’s just because the choir’s down to 5…  The text was the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) and though you can’t listen or read it (they don’t tape and I was practicing my ‘preaching without a manuscript’ skills) the question I posed to them was one of wondering if the priest and the Levite (if you don’t know who I am talking about sorry, you’ll have to read the story) did what was logical, practical and almost to be expected (what I might do?)…and if it was the Samaritan who did the unheard of act.  If he was the good guy in the story, what does that mean for us and our lives?

Speaking of life reminds me of the garden. The good news is that the lettuce is going strong as are what I am affectionately calling “the world’s largest cherry tomato bushes.” The bad news is, apparently the gardeners (the paid kind) thought the pumpkin and Crenshaw melon patches were just a bunch of dead leaves (which they were) and tore them out, leaves, melons, pumpkins and all…the worst was that one of the 3 “Thanksgiving” pumpkins was just starting to turn orange and look like we might actually get our pumpkin pie from our very own garden. Tommy (7) seemed to rebound better than the rest of us from the tragedy, though he also lost his ‘stick pile’ in the destruction.

Speaking of stick piles, actually, that one doesn’t work… Anyway, the other tidbit to share is that I have links to new photos. These are photos from the Ecuador Photo Project that I helped teach this August (you can see pictures of the students themselves, their work, and pictures from our ‘exhibit’ on the concrete soccer field) as well as the LA Photopiece that I helped to teach this summer (you can see pictures of their work). It has been really fun to be involved in both of these opportunities to combine my love of photography with a desire to spend time with students and help them find their ‘voice’ and realize that they have something to say to the world about their world. This Sunday is considered World Communion Sunday and Christian churches around the world will all be sharing in communion (Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, depending on your tradition) together. As part of that, four of the churches that participate in the Ecuador trip will all be displaying exhibits of the Ecuadorian students’ work, hung on clothes lines, with clothes pins. If you are anywhere near Branford or Hartford Connecticut, or Monson or Weymouth Massachusetts, you should go by and see! If you are somewhere else and you know of somewhere to show the work locally, let me know!

Oh, and not to be negligent on my weather reporting, we actually had rain in Southern California a few weeks back! The first of the season, and according to the rain gauge, 1.5 inches overnight!

Sqaush updates, preaching to the choir and other news…

Greetings from the garden,

I have to say I got many funny responses to my email about ‘manually’ pollinating the squash…

After all that effort with the Q-tip I found out from a community college herbs and vegetables class (definitely an email in its own right) that the problem was likely either too much water or not enough carbohydrates. Though I contemplated pouring some spaghetti in the pot, I tried the ‘less water’ approach first and it seems to have worked like a charm!  My mom did comment that this seemed like a lot more work than simply going to Trader Joe’s…

I’ve also been doing some gardening with Tommy (he’s 7) in his grandparents’ (Martha and Jack) backyard.  So far we’ve got an herb garden, some undocumented succulents (yes, there’s a story there), cherry tomatoes, peppers and even a pumpkin patch! Martha makes the best pumpkin pie in the world, so Tommy figured we should grow her some pumpkins to make it from.  He also wanted to put in a fountain and a fish pond, but I told him that might be out of the scope of our initial gardening phase. In the experimental section of the garden we’ve planted an avocado pit. I think we might have some guacamole in about four years, if we’re lucky.

When I can fit it in amongst all of the gardening I am actually doing quite a bit of freelance work these days…writing, photography, and websites as well as preaching two weeks in a row. The first week I preached to the choir—literally!  I think there were about 8 people in the choir and about 7 in the pews… It was actually wonderful getting to know the 15 of them!  The following week I preached to more of a traditional congregation, size-wise. There was one funny moment when the offering had been collected, the ushers were standing in the back, the organist was playing, and playing, and playing…and all of a sudden I realized that I was supposed to stand up and call the ushers back to the front for the prayer. I wonder how long we would have sat there? If you are interested in the sermon I preached, it is posted (in text form for now) and called “It’s a Crazy Story.” Honestly, it really is a crazy story.

Finally, I am getting ready to head to Ecuador tomorrow for my third “Adopta Una Familia” trip with Erica (seminary roommate) and a team of about 70 gringos. We will all be staying with Ecuadorian families and while they will all be doing hard manual labor (mostly construction) my job will be to photograph them sweating!  Actually, this year I will also be teaching a photography class to 10 teenagers from the barrio. It should be fun, and I can’t wait to share the pictures with you! It is a mini version of something called photopiece that I have been helping my friend Leanna to teach in downtown LA last fall and this summer.

Stay tuned for (hopefully, internet connection willing) photos and updates from Ecuador…