Picture The Holidays - Day 27
The weather outside might be frightful (I wouldn't know because I live in Southern California), but even with winter's chill, fresh air is the best medicine. After shopping malls and gathering indoors so much this month, braving the elements, even just to snap a photo can be a perfect change of pace.
Shoot one of Mother Nature's gifts today. Something that boasts of the season and showcases the splendor of the great outdoors.
Grand-dog Crockett and I ventured to the back yard this morning to see what I could find for this prompt. These berries are from some sort of unidentified bush on the back of my property. With their blue hue and frosty leaves, they fit well with the fresh theme.
Before I go on, I just have to share a shot I took of Crockett the Wonderdog this morning. (By the way, he has many nicknames, including "Sir Licksalot") His favorite outdoor activity is hunting down the most impressive stick he can find and prancing around the yard to show it off. It doesn't get any more Crockett than this folks.
My son is home from New York, so my babysitting duties will soon be over. The processing is courtesy of Topaz Labs, which I did purchase with my Christmas money and intend to explore fully in the coming year.
Now, where were we? Oh yes, breathing fresh air. Today's prompt seemed be a good seque into a reflection on my 2011 word of the year - Open.
The inspiration for this word came from a song I heard while I was stuck trying to choose one. My previous year's word was "Balance" and frankly it could be my word every year since I never seem to acheive any semblance of it. But, I wanted something new.
The song was "Open Arms" by Gary Go, whom I had discovered in 2010 and was currently getting lots of airplay on my Pandora. I knew I was facing a devil of a year even before clock struck midnight and I was already overwhelmed. If I'd only known what else lay in store for me, I might have just crawled under MaMa's quilt and stayed there all year. I wouldn't have gotten away with it, but it is an enticing fantasy.
The lyrics resonated with me and provided encouragement as I faced the gauntlet I was about to run. Someone created a youtube video with the song and the lyrics, so rather than paste them here, I'll share with you the video so you can have the full experience of the music along with the lyrics (and spare myself any personal copyright infringement risk).
It's a great song, so if you have time to listen to it, you should. It will also explain a lot about the headspace I was in when I chose this word:
So, my initial intention was simply to remain open, and not resistant to whatever it was that life wanted to throw at me and receive it in faith that it would be all be OK even when it wasn't always alright. And, in my final assessment, it was...
This year wasn't easy, but I didn't receive anything I could not handle. (Although it did look doubtful at certain points, I must confess.)
The word Open has many other definitions and nuances, and with pun intended, I was open to all of them. Through the year I sought to remain open to all ideas, plans, opportunities, and possibilities. I stopped trying to foretell the future and lived more in the present moment, leaving the story open-ended in my mind as it were.
In the process, my resolve was tested in situations where I had to learn to let go and when to step aside and let things take their natural course. That didn't come easy for me either, especially since so much seemed at stake, but in the end the outcome was pretty much the same as it would have been anyway - a big lesson learned.
In spite of my determination to leave all things open, certain doors closed to me this year - paths that seemed promising came to dead ends. As disappointing as that was, it was the beginning of mapping out new paths and trying on new dreams.
This blog, in fact, was an exercise in being open to new things as well as open my life up in a way so as to be seen - to put my art, my life, and my thoughts out there for the world to see. That's actually a very scary thing and there have been many times when I felt a little more exposed than I liked.
None of this would have been possible if I had not made the choice to scale back in other areas of my life such as volunteer projects that had become way more than I'd bargained for, and other areas where perfectionism and simply just overcommitting were draining all my creative energy.
It was in striving to remain open to all things that I became acutely aware of my human limitations and the necessity of making choices, closing some doors, and narrowing my focus. Serendipitously, I received a short but powerful message from marketing guru, Seth Godin, regarding the more or less decision just the other day. He said:
"No one can maximize on every engagement, every project, every customer and every opportunity. The art of it, I think, is to be rigorous about where you're prepared to overdeliver, and not get hooked on doing it for all... because then you just become another mediocrity, easily overlooked."
Over at the 52 Photos Project we were asked what we are letting go of this year and this is a question I've been pondering quite a bit as I considered my word for this year. I love this quote shared by Bella in her challenge to us this week:
"For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. T. S. Eliot"
I've chosen the word "Calling" for this year and I'm taking a more deliberate approach to interpreting and contemplating my word by participating in Big Picture Classes "One Simple Word" project with Ali Edwards.
Choosing a word such as "Calling" that leads to a narrowing of my focus, seems a good balance (hey, there's that word balance again) to the open-ended, try anything, go with the flow, and take it as it comes attitude of 2011. That attitude served me well as I bobbled around on the waves of a stormy sea.
Now, it is time to learn a new language, find a new voice, to say no to more things so that my yes will bring me more proverbial bang for my buck. Deciding what stays and what goes in my life will be a big theme in the coming year. Rather than being open to anything, I will choose more carefully how, where, when and with whom I spend my precious time and energy.
This choice parallels my photographic journey as well. As my interest in photography escalated, I shot everything and processed as much as I could given the time available, and took all kinds of pictures including landscape, wildlife, moons, macros, flowers, still lifes, barns, and portraits. I've texturized with a heavy hand and with a light touch and bounced all over the web to find inspiration in a variety of styles and techniques.
As I move forward into the new year, I want to find my photographic calling, work on the skills I most want to master and maybe even create my own niche. It may take me all year to get there, but I am listening for that which calls to me.
Perhaps you see something I don't just yet, and if you do, please clue me in...it will make my job easier. :)