Life in the Spectrum – Nature Photography vs. Travel Anxiety

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

black skimmer - IG

It’s no secret that I don’t do well when I have to travel solo. Despite my issues, my company is located out of state, so solo travel lands on my calendar multiple times a year. In order to redirect my nervous energy this past week, I opted for a series of random after workday adventures. A couple of those days included the coolest of activities. Happy hour? Chillin’ with my team at the bars? Dancing the night away?

snowy egret seafood - IG with logoOooooh nooooo. Think cooler. Much much cooler. That’s right.

Nature. Photography.

Aaaaaah yes. Haters gonna hate, but I couldn’t stop the unmitigated badassness that came with lugging around a lens so ridiculous that it made my forearms ache to hold it. As an added bonus, I was able to respond to inquiries from curious passersby who repeatedly asked, “Do you get incredible photos with that camera?” with my sly response of “It’s a hit and miss given that my limited camera knowledge is derived from the patient people at Canon customer support and Google.”

landing - IG

I told you. Mad. Skills. My anxiety faded away as my native nerdiness returned to the forefront. But it made me happy, and it did calm me down. I send heartfelt thank yous to the many California locals who suggested several beautiful places for capturing lovely nature shots and to those who pointed me in the right direction once I arrived.

seal in la jolla - IGKindness is so very powerful. We often don’t realize that the people around us are struggling deeply, and the smallest of benevolent gestures can mean more than we could ever know.

As is the norm, I actually had a wonderful week. Despite a few questionable moments (to be discussed later), I survived relatively unscathed. And now I’m home once more. Back to Texas. Back to my people.

Back to me.

osprey - IG

Big hugs to you all!  Jo

*My instagram ID is @texasbirdnerd for any other nature photo nerds. Find me so I can see your pics, too. Those always make me smile.  🙂

acorn woodpeckers - IG

***I would love to know what you do to take down the stress level when you are feeling overwhelmed. Feel free to tag your relevant posts in the comments, but keep in mind that this is a family show. Please keep it G / PG rated. Sorry, but I don’t need to read any of your PG-13 and above ideas.  😉

A Place in the World Away From It All

place2

One mile over. It’s such a small distance, but it might as well be a million miles away. We moved here to get away from the standard suburban neighborhood. We had great neighbors, but we were in need of more space so we could scream at our kids in peace and quiet. We were so close that we could hear conversations happening on the other side of the fence while we were inside our home. From the back of our home, we looked across a pond at a dozen other homes. There was no sense of privacy if you weren’t hidden behind closed shades. I could never allow the girls to run free on the weekend mornings whenever I had a few precious minutes to sit quietly on the back patio while drinking my coffee (and when I say the girls, I’m not referring to my daughters). We needed more elbow room, and we were desperate for trees.

place3

So we moved a mere mile down the road. In case word has not gotten out, allow me to be the first to tell you that trees are immeasurably awesome. If you have them, keep them, and if you don’t, put some in if you can. Why in the world builders and developers continue to mow them down is truly beyond me. Perhaps our friends are all closet tree-huggers, but we have yet to have anyone comment about how terrible it must be to have our view mucked up by all that nature.

Although we have lived here for several months now, I still find myself in awe of it. I have never been surrounded by so much green. There is life everywhere I look, and I feel like I’m breathing it all in (but don’t worry – I take Zyrtec as needed).

place6

I lie in bed at night and watch fireflies flickering around our yard. Over the past month, I have seen more colorful birds behind my home than I have ever seen in my life. We see owls in the trees in the evenings and hear their calls at night. And when a storm rolls in and the wind blows through the leaves, the sound is magical.

owl house

Life continues to have its ups and downs, but the setting inherently leads us to moments of calm in the chaos. We can’t help but encourage nature to come even closer. We have set up so many birdhouses that we are contemplating implementing some kind of aviary taxation system to help us pay for them. I’m afraid to run the numbers, but I’m fairly confident that our funds going toward bird food purchases are about to lap those designated for our people food purchases. Not that my husband would complain, but I’m still thankful that I handle the bills.

birdhouse

place5

We have played with hummingbirds, spent time adding raised garden boxes, planted vines and flowers, and set up impromptu extra beds in our room so we can watch the lightning storms brighten the sky through the silhouette of the trees together. Even my hydrangeas do better here. This may seem trivial, but those who have also led countless hydrangeas to their death will appreciate that gardening miracle. Life thrives here despite my questionable botanical track record.

On the animal front, we spent several weeks trying to decipher the various tracks we would find each morning in our yard. This was especially surprising given that the tracks were inside our enclosed fence. Ultimately we turned in our Indian guide badges and bought a game cam (best $50 I spent EVER).

game cam2

game cam1

The pics above are from two separate evenings. The other one hundred plus evenings that the game cam has been in place has revealed even more animal species, and that did not include the wild hogs, deer, bobcats, or snakes (bleh) that have been seen here, too. We have since further enclosed our formerly thought to be enclosed but not as enclosed as we initially believed fence. While we still find tracks regularly in our yard, I now point the game cam outside of our fence line to the adjacent thicket of trees. I need to believe that the wild kingdom within our fence has slowed a bit and refuse to acknowledge the reality that we definitely still have a serious nocturnal zoo living in our yard.

As a side note, I would like to mention that I have discovered that raccoons and armadillos are the jerks of the nocturnal animal world. Thanks to Ranger Rick, all of my bird feeders have to be placed five hundred feet off the ground or very literally chained to their branches. If you are in need of large carabiners, don’t bother going to Amazon. I already bought their entire stock. In addition, we now have to put huge stones around all new plants to keep the leprosy kings from digging them up (Nine-banded armadillos are carriers of leprosy and are native to our area. These cootie factories with claws have been wreaking havoc in our yard every night as visions of sugar plums dance in our heads). Are these cute from a distance? Yes! Are they about to become a hat and a weird kitchy Texas-themed lamp? Even bigger yes! But once we move past the jerk animals of the night drama, it still fascinates me to know that they are so close at all times.

kids and hummingbirds.jpg

That’s just how it is here. We are minutes from our previous home, but we are light years from our previous life there. I feel infinitely blessed here, and it makes me want to talk to people about the wonders that they could see if they would leave or replant a few native trees and bushes. Maybe our little plot of magic will inspire someone around us to invite the wilderness back into their yard, too.

Image result for lorax unless

On that note, I will leave you with the final words of a book I have adored since my childhood. We read it to our own children now, and the words feel more important than ever before.

“Catch! calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
It’s a Truffula Seed.
It’s the last one of all!
You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Place in the World

Take a Moment to Observe the Beauty and Embrace the Magic Around You

painted bunting

These painted buntings seem surreal to me yet they spent several days over the past week transforming our backyard into a wonderland. They are little feathered miracles that lift my worries and make my heart smile.

So many of us live and breathe by our endless schedules. Our lists of activities go on and on, and we often forget to take a few moments to observe the beauty in the world around us.

Birds. Wildflowers. Clouds. Our children.

All are in plain sight yet we fail to notice them.

I’ve had another long day of my own and am finally finishing up today’s work at this ridiculously late hour once more. Although I am in dire need of a few solid hours of sleep, I wanted to take a brief moment to celebrate the beauty that has blessed my life this week.

I feel tremendous gratitude for the innumerable gifts that fill my world and move around me at all times. I am pausing to remind myself of the importance of reserving a few minutes of each day to simply be. To look around. To breathe in the wonder. To embrace the magic. I pray that you can do the same.

Miracles surround us always. We just have to remember to notice them.

Love, light and magic to all of you.  Joanna

Observe

Moving the Dream of a Child from Impossible to Unlikely to Reality

 

cardinal

The photos in this post were taken by my daughter who is still in elementary school. She’s a spectacular soul with such talent.

My daughter sees magic in every corner of her world and recreates those details in her countless creations. Drawings, figurines, fairy gardens, and, most recently, photographs. She sits for hours as she takes pictures of animals, interesting interactions, scenery, and anything else that she deems to be beautiful or unique. Unfortunately she gives a rather wide berth to her perception of these terms, so we are literally left with hundreds or thousands (yes – thousands) of files to review at the end of her daily shoots. As a bonus she firmly believes that almost all of those pictures are portfolio quality images.

They are not, and, sadly for her, I am significantly less reticent about deleting tons of them. I am attempting to teach her to be more discerning about what is and isn’t true quality work, but I am also a very busy mom / wife / employee who has other crapola on her plate. Consequently my daughter has managed to significantly outpace my file cleanup efforts. My sincere apologies go out in advance to each of you as she will be using up all of the internet shortly if this pace continues.

2018-05-02 hummingbird1.jpgNevertheless she has managed to capture some beautiful images. Although she is still so young, her raw talent reveals itself with every new creation. She just has that something that can’t be taught or learned. It’s woven into her soul.

But I have a something, too. It’s called being her mother, and I worry. I’ve yet to meet an artist who said to me, “I got into art because I knew that it would be an easy way to pay the bills.” I don’t need my kids to become millionaires. (Now I’m not going to lie to you. It wouldn’t suck to have a millionaire kid, but that’s not in my wheelhouse of “mom to kid teaching skills” just yet.) My goal is for my children to live in a way that will keep them generally happy and financially sound.

So I am trying once more to teach my girl how to safely leverage off of the world of technology. I posted a couple of her new photos to her blog and am looking forward to seeing a collaborative blogging effort with another brilliant young friend of hers. My dream is for our children to be able to shine by becoming the people they clearly were meant to be and executing the talents that are inherently their own. Maybe blogging will help open doors for her at an earlier point in the process.

2018-05-02 hummingbird2I want to believe that her path will forever remain clear and that she will always find her way. I want to trust without question that her unusual and beautiful perceptions and creations will invite endless wonderful opportunities into her life. I pray that these are her realities and that my involvement is more of a kindness than a necessity. But just in case, it never hurts to get a head start, and there’s no sense in wasting good internet while it’s still around.  😉

***Photo credits and tons of love go to dragondaydream.com.  Never stop making the world more beautiful my talented darling. You belong among the wildflowers, but I’m so very thankful that you are here with me instead. I love you to the moon and back bunny rabbit.

2018-05-02 rose-breasted grosbeak1

Unlikely

Living Outside of the Lines When You Don’t Blend In

bunting

I just want to be normal.

My heart aches deeply whenever I hear my son say this. I understand this feeling more than he can fathom. I faced the same struggles at his age, and speaking honestly, I often still do.

So many of us dream of blending in. Of feeling accepted. Of being another regular face in the crowd.

Instead we become fluent in the nuance of the dismissive body language of others. We try to join the herd only to find that we are met with annoyed looks, caustic comments, or the cold shoulder. We feign strength and indifference on the surface, but we are aching and crumbling on the inside.

Why don’t they like us? What are we doing wrong? What can I do to change myself?

Well I have a few suggestions that I believe hold merit:

  1. Refrain from acting like a jerk in return.
  2. Use deodorant, brush your teeth, and shower every now and then.
  3. Don’t change a damn thing.

If other people treat you with tremendous unkindness, it speaks to the faults in their character, not yours. No one races to buy a book or jumps on the internet to search for a story about someone normal. We don’t clamor for more movies about the bland life. The world is not changed by people who live life inside the lines.

The people who shake things up are anything but average. They are the unathletic types. The nerds. The misfits. The weirdos. The losers. They are made to feel less than because they don’t fit the mold.

People who are secure in themselves don’t need to step on someone else to build self worth. Never allow others to make you feel small because they can’t see their own value. Your light will always shine even when another tries to keep you in their shadow. Their ugliness does not detract from your beauty nor does their unkindness reflect on your truth.

We are better because of our differences, not in spite of them. We each have unique roles to play, and the divine colors we bring to our part in the scene are not there by chance. You my precious darling are so far beyond the standard. You were never meant to blend in, and no matter how hard you may try, you never will. You are spectacular, you are miraculous, and you are a world changer.

Own your beauty and your uniqueness. Forget trying to blend in, tell the status quo where to stick it, and embrace life outside of the lines. You never have to run with the herd. You were made to soar!

Love and light always – Joanna

This post is dedicated to all of the incredible misfits of the world, especially the ones who call me Mom.

painted bunting

***For the bird nerds in training (like me), the beauty in this photo is a painted bunting. The solid blue birds in the top picture are indigo buntings. I was beyond thrilled to see these stunning birds outside my window last weekend.  🙂

Lines

Inspiration in Focus

aIMG_0346

Inspiration often presents itself when I least expect it. Having the ability to capture a unique moment in a photograph can kickstart writing creativity while also potentially adding a little visual swag to a post.

I have found myself in a multitude of photo-worthy situations since moving to our new home a few months ago. Unfortunately I must have left my camera’s ability to focus at the old house as I no could no longer snap a quality shot. The incessant appearance of blurry unusable pictures sent me into a creative tailspin as my irritation heightened.

I looked into repair but was told that I might as well replace it given the cost. Consequently my artsiest of children became the proud owner of an art-generating machine and instantly began to work that fuzzy angle like the creative boss she is.

That left me to I consult the magical world of Google in search of a replacement and immediately became overwhelmed. Being one who refers to the dials on the camera as “these thingies right here” and the buttons as “those doodads on that side,” I was clearly in need of a device that could compliment and possibly improve on my own my unique photographic approach. If I had to describe it, I would say that my style draws heavily on a total lack of skill combined with a penchant for taking photos with hands so unsteady that they seem to be driving down a road comprised of boulders.

As I already owned a couple of decent Canon lenses, it made sense to start there. I contacted camera stores for feedback and was ultimately pointed to the Canon ESO ADD. It seemed like a poor marketing approach on Canon’s part to call it an A-D-D, but it also felt like a comically divine sign that it was right up my alley. I post frequently about my own struggles with ADD and felt like it would be ironic to have a camera that was dealing with the same label. Of course it became exponentially funnier when I went to pick the camera up and saw that the name was actually 80D – not ADD.

Regardless of the name, I immediately found myself smitten with the camera. My photos are far from perfect, but the overall quality has improved. In addition, I have taken more time to learn about a few more elements of photography to be able to speak with greater confidence about the aforementioned thingies and doodads whenever I have to contact Canon customer service. That doesn’t mean that I use those dials and buttons correctly on any level, but I feel cooler and that’s the most important part.

I’m thankful that the renewed focus in my camera equipment appears to have renewed my inner focus as well. Please be warned that you are about to be assaulted with inspiration in the form of countless bird photos, home and decor images, step by step walkthroughs of DIY madness, and other miscellaneous subjects. Apologies in advance if the relevance seems unclear, but the good news is that the photos shouldn’t be. 😉

Joanna

***Please note that I’m not saying that my photos are particularly good or that the pics included in this post are my favorites. I just love the camera relative to what I was working with previously. 🙂
aIMG_0818

A Prolific Bird and Mirror of Self

aIMG_0879

The hummingbird migration is in full swing in Texas, but in our own yard, it is more akin to an invasion. They race from flower to flower and feeder to feeder throughout the day as they weave in and out of the trees like water rushing through stones. Their high pitch squabbles can be heard from every direction of the yard. We catch them hovering in front of our windows and look for their return whenever they dart away leaving only a hint of their frenetic magic in their wake.

aIMG_0951

The migration goes by in a flash, and I can’t resist taking a short break in the evening to photograph these breath-taking beauties from my bedroom window. To my endless amusement, the birds seem equally intrigued with me. They readily park themselves inches away from the glass and observe me in return as they pose happily for the camera. Maybe they sense our shared delirious approach to life, or perhaps they, too, just want to quiet the noise for a few brief moments. It is also highly likely that they are contemplating pulling a Hitchcock move with me if I continue to refuse to buy more feeders. I may never know, but I prefer the idea of their finding an affinity with a kindred wild spirit.

aIMG_1755

Even if these little birds don’t recognize our similarities, the parallels are striking to me. Racing madly from task to task only to realize that the activity list never appears to get any shorter. Getting my feathers ruffled unnecessarily by those around me who happen to invade my space. Perpetually finding myself in search of more sugar. Clearly these birds and I have been taking notes from the same Questionable Life Choices manual.

Although I see much of myself mirrored in these avian maniacs, we do appear to have a few notable differences. For example I am doubtful that they frequently catch themselves working until 2, 3 or 4 in the morning to get the job done. I, on the other hand, have been in that position multiple times this week alone. With that said it only feels fair for me to disclose that I have yet to use my arms to fly hundreds of miles across country on multiple occasions throughout this year, so the birds appear to have bested me in the extreme modes of travel category. We also diverge in the whole “bird” / “human” distinction, but clearly the working hours and arm flap vs. plane mode of travel are the key disparities.

But differences aside, I still see so much of myself mirrored in their madness. Their uniqueness. Their ferocity. I can’t help but smile when I see them in action, but there is also something indescribably calming about watching them at rest. It’s just so unexpected and their beauty truly shines when they reflect that momentary stillness.

Sitting for a moment. Taking a few breaths. Finding the calm inside the chaos. And when it’s time again, diving into the hustle of life again.

Perhaps that’s the real lesson they are sharing and that’s the moment I should seek to mirror. I imagine that we could all use a little more of that in our lives.

Take a moment and take a breath. Find the quiet in the noise. And when you are truly ready, spread those wings once more.

Love and light always. Joanna

aIMG_1629

aIMG_1997

*All written and photographic works are the sole property of yours truly and written permission must be obtained for their use. Please respect copyright laws, and more importantly, please respect the laws of not behaving like a bonehead.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: