Sunday, August 26, 2012

My New Venture

Nat in My White Silk Jacket in Milano

"To read a to go off with him and travel in his company."  Andre Gide

I invite you to travel in my company, in both the outer and the inner world, as I go off on a new venture.

Being a blogueuse (a female blogger) really suits my writing temperament, short comments on whatever is on my mind.

When I add my images to those comments, I am expressing two important sides of myself -- writer and photographer.

Including the quotations, which give a depth that I particularly like, adds another "layer of my beingness," reader of metaphysics, Jungian psychology, and literature.

Traveling in both the outer and the inner worlds has always been my passion.  And now that I'm going to take a little trip to Paris, my psychic home, in October, I will have the opportunity to shoot some new images with my iPhone and process them with PicMonkey.

These images should reflect how my photographs have morphed over the past year or so.

But -- the "new," in My New Venture, is that I am going to include advertising from websites of my choice on this blog.  I'm still waiting for the approval of the specific websites, but they will be in the general area of women's clothes, accessories, shoes, bags, and creams and oils for the skin.

Being in Paris for a week in October will also give me the opportunity to see what the amazing Parisian pharmacies are offering in the way of skin care products for women.  Unlike American drug stores, European pharmacies offer not only make-up, but a wide range of skin care products because European women spend many euros on keeping their skin youthful and glowing.

So -- I invite you to travel "in my company" as I start "my new venture."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Point of Living

"What would be the point of living if we didn't let Life change us?"  (Carson on "Downton Abbey)

Many people are constanting asking themselves, "What is the point of living?"

It seems to me, that Carson's response to Mrs. Hughes when she says, "I'm not the farm girl I used to be.  I've changed."  And so, she had to turn down a proposal of marriage from a "nice man," because she couldn't be a farmer's wife.

The point of living, I have come to believe, is to let Life change us.  And it will, you know, if we don't demand that it bring us what we want, and allow it to bring us what we need in order to change in ways we are not even aware of.

I just read an article in the Yoga Journal by Phillip Moffitt called "The Yoga of Relationships."

He talks about using our relationships as our dharma, our daily practice  of coming to consciousness.

There are several options, according to this article, but Option 3 he calls "Trust in the Dharma."  In relationship, it means "fully surrendering all or part of your ego wants in your relationship."  You give up "any expectations that your needs will be met," and whether they are or not, you do not "allow the giving your your love to be affected."

Not most people's idea of the perfect relationship.  Certainly not our culture's idea.  But great dharma practice -- and quite daunting -- when you can manage it.  "It simply means responding to daily frustrations and disappointments with love, over and over again.

Robert Johnson in OWNING YOUR OWN SHADOW says this:  When  "...the bush will not be consumed and the fire will not stop, you can be certain that God is present."  He calls this place the mandorla, the place where light and dark meet.

He goes on to say what I think is the same thing Carson was saying:  "One can view a human life as a mandorla and as the ground upon which the opposites find their reconciliation."  And it demands conscious work to "... let Life change us."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happiness and Summer Evenings

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy."  Guillaume Apollinaire

And summer evenings are the best time of all to "just be happy." Especially those evenings which mark the end of the summer holiday.  Just geting together with a few friends in a quiet spot near the water, eating and drinking and talking.

My own preference, when there are more than two or three people,  is to listen and look, but occasionally I will add a story or two to the conversation.

These are times to "pause in the pursuit of happiness" and remember those times when we have been happiest.  I learned long ago that the happiest times for me were not the "big" times, the celebrations like Christmas or weddings,  but the quiet ones, when there is a lull in the activitiy and you are with someone dear to you, sharing a cup of tea and reflections.

The end of summer is one of those times to pause and "just be happy," before the activity of a new school year sets in.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"I Have Said Enough About Moonlight"

The quotation is from Ryo-Nen, a Zen nun.

The full quotation is as follows:

"Sixty-six times have these eyes beheld the changing scenes of Autumn.

I have said enough about moonlight,

Ask me no more,

Only listen to the voice of pines and cedars, when no wind stirs."

It was the last writing of a woman who had been both a great beauty and an accomplished poetess in her youth, but was now turning toward contemplation as she aged.

Having been neither "a great beauty" nor "an accomplished poetess," and having always been inclined toward contemplation, becoming an older woman has not been too difficult for me.

Still there are things one must let go of -- although I can't think of any that I truly care about at the moment.  Becoming an older woman has for the most part been like growing into the "little old lady" I have always felt myself to be.  Only now, other people accord me the same privileges I have always accorded myself -- or wanted to.

The other night, I was invited to have dinner at my son's house with his two college-age sons, his woman friend and her college-age daughter.  They were all busy preparing the food, setting the table, and seeing that everything was in order, while I was sitting on the sofa engaging one or more of them in conversation as they passed through with steaming vegetables or glasses of iced tea.

"The Princess" my son winked to his friend as they passed me on their way out to the grill to bring in the pork chops.   And they smiled knowingly at each other.  "I'm going to be just like that when I get your age," she said, lovingly, when she got back in the kitchen.  And she should.  But she won't.  She is much more "Martha" than "Mary."

Being "Mary" has always been my preference and now that I'm older,  I don't try to pretend otherwise.

(princess:   a woman having sovereign power)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Shadow: A Distorted View of Things

How we see things when we are in a complex

When we touch what Jung calls a complex in our psyche, our view becomes distorted.

We all have complexes in our psyches, and the term "shadow" is probably a catch-all phrase for all of them, as Jung's term for the shadow was "content in the personal unconscious."

So for our purposes, whatever in our lives has been too painful to "feel" in its entirety. we relegate to the unconscious, to the shadow side of ourselves.

What interests me, in this post, is how reality becomes distorted when we view it through the veil of the shadow.  In the same way, a photograph becomes distorted, but sometimes more interesting, when we apply multiple filters to it in an overlay.

I've got to go find my lunch.  More later.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Living in an Unusual Manner

Another PicMonkey Masterpiece

Being on my Colette binge, I couldn't resist posting this photo I made of myself at Lane's house while I was waiting for Bert to get ready to go to play practice.

Vicki gave me the hat for my birthday and, of course, I'm using my iPhone.

The light in Lane's house is beautiful, but the real deal breaker here is PicMonkey.

The photo was too dark to be of any use until I adjusted it, and who would have thought the light coming through that hat would be so compelling?

I do, of course, live in an unusual manner, but that is the subject of all my posts not just this one.

What is Depression? And What Does it Have to do with Auto-Immune Disease and Colette?

What is depression?

Depression is certainly rampant in our world, and there are many views on what it is, what causes it, and how to deal with it.

This post was prompted by two things:  1) reading the biography of Colette in which Judith Thurman speaks of her "enigmatic melancholy" (a mysterious sadness) and 2) reading several articles by people who have been divested of their jobs, their marriages, most of their material possessions, and who have been diagnosed with some sort of auto-immune disorder which requires expensive drugs to maintain their equilibrium.

Quite naturally, they are depressed (mysteriously sad).  And many of them are trying to retain some semblance of sanity by writing.

Colette several times in her life found herself without a visible means of support,  twice divorced  and involved in acrimonious lawsuits,  often having to move to keep a roof over her head.  Additionally, late in her life, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis -- an auto immune disease.

What she did have, however, was a well-spring of vitality that seemed to arise from her instincts as a woman and from her connection to the natural world.

Although Colette, eventually earned huge sums of money with her writing -- novels, nouvellas, memoirs, journalistic reportage, and literary criticism -- she spent the last 10 or 15 years of her long life  crippled with arthritis unable to move from the chaise longue where she both slept and spent her days writing, having to be carried to the ceremonies where she received belated awards.

What is depression and what causes it?

My own background is in Jungian psychology.  It was Jung's belief that depression was energy trapped in complexes in the unconscious.  All of us have had experiences as children, which we have repressed because they are too painful to allow into our conscious memory.  After attempts to create a functioning life for ourselves by marrying, having children, earning money and recognition in our careers, this energy often demands release.

In order to release the energy trapped in our unconscious, we must give ourselves down time.  We must acknowledge our sadness (another word for depression and melancholy) and give it expression (in writing, painting, sculpture, woodworking, etc.) or integrate our sad memories into our lives.

How to deal with depression

The down time is often a problem, given our busy lives, so Life itself arranges for us to lose our jobs, be abandoned by our significant others, and sometimes to exhibit physical symptoms which force us to take to our beds, or at least to narrow the dimensions of our physical lives, giving us the down time we are unwilling or unable to give ourselves.

When this happens, our response is critical.  Medication, though often necessary, only keeps us from feeling our sadness longer.  If we can reconnect to our instincts and to nature, gradually this repressed energy will be released to our conscious minds.  It is then than we must focus on giving form to our sadness by writing, painting, etc.

Reconnecting to nature involves exercising in the fresh air and sunshine,  or sitting by the sea, or working in a garden, and sleeping until you wake up, eating natural food, and being with people who love you or in your own good company.

As the energy is released from the unconscious, engage consciously in painting or writing or some other expression to give form to your sadness.  Simply talking about it won't do the trick.  Some way or other it has to be transformed

And it takes a long time.  Probably the rest of your life, but it gets easier after the reservoir of sadness from your childhood is thoroughly cleaned out.  No other work is more important.  From now on, this must take precedence in your life.  Eventually, you will find a way to meet your financial needs if you keep them to a minimum and don't neglect your "inner work."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"Extremely Grateful and Extraordinarily Content"

Nat in her wedding dress

"Extremely grateful and extraordinarily content" is the way I'm feeling this morning.

And part of the reason is that I found a new blogger, via Vicki Archer's FRENCH ESSENCE, called A LIBRARY OF DESIGN by Janelle McCullough.  I was reading an except from her book LA VIE PARISIENNE and came across these descriptives.

One of the joys of my life these days when I am no longer going to Paris with any regularity is to read the blogs and look at the pictures of women who are still enjoying a place where I once planned to live.

What kept me from it? Probably several things, but the most important one at the time was that my first grandchild was on her way into my life.

And here she is, 25 years later, my only granddaughter Nat, posing for me to shoot some pictures before her wedding in a dress she designed herself.  The light on her hair as it falls over her eyes, the pearls in the necklace, and the blurry colors in the background all give me that feeling of gratitude and contentment.

Another reason for my gratitude and contentment is that my oldest McLelland grandson, Bert, is spending the weekend with me.  We are living on pasta and Poirot, reading our writing aloud to each other -- well, he's reading his writing to me.

As soon as he wakes up and gets the sleep out of his eyes, I'm going to take him to eat lunch at one of my favorite places, The Brown Bag.  It's not Paris, but the food is good Southern cooking.  It's a bit far out, but worth the trip and one of the few places open on a Saturday.  I think Bert will like their fried chicken.

Do I regret not living in Paris?  Not at all when I think of the happiness that being a grandmother has given me.  Do I still like to think about Paris, read about Paris, see pictures of Paris?  Most certainly, I do.  And finding blogs like FRENCH ESSENSE and A LIBRARY OF DESIGN add to the feeling of gratitude and contentment I'm feeling this morning.

All in all, I am reminded of what arrogant and ungrateful creatures we sometimes are when we throw away with both hands what life has so freely given us.  And why?  Because WE WANT something else.  At least, in this instance, I didn't throw away the joys of being near those I love -- and I can still enjoy Paris virtually.

Friday, August 10, 2012

An Exquisite Mental Laziness

" herself over to an exquisite mental laziness."  Colette 

Perhaps if we were all like Colette, who mined her own life experiences for material to use in her writing, we, too, would be grateful for some "exquisite mental laziness."

The laziness, languor, that Colette was speaking of though was the laziness that she could indulge in whenever she went to her home near Saint Tropez, La Vielle Muscate.  There she could swim twice a day, weed her garden, and cook for the constant stream of visitors that ran through her home in the South of France.

This was, indeed, a break from her normal routine of locking herself up in a hotel room and writing for 18 hours a day.  When she was "seized" by an idea for a book or, more likely, when she was compelled to write because her bank account was depleted, she could endure long bouts of work that taxed even her own strength and vitality.

She discovered this way of forcing herself to work relentlessly, when her first husband Willy Gauthier-Villars would lock her in their small apartment on the rue Jacob and demand that she fill a certain number of pages in what turned out to be the "Claudine" novels, a highly successful venture to which he applied his own name as the author.  Until, she sued him for the rights to them after their acrimonious divorce.

The tactic was then one she used on herself for the rest of her life, living in small rooms at the Claridge Hotel or in the entresol in the  Palais Royale where she did much of her mature writing.

All her life she swung back and forth between her almost obsessive attachments to whatever the object of her affections at the moment and the solitude that was necessary for her to produce the oeuvre for which she ultimately received the Prix de Goncourt when she was 76 years old living in a crippled, corpulent body which required that she remain in bed most of the time and where she continued to write until her death.

"The kind of solitude Colette associates with paradise is a state of erotic detachment," says Judith Thurman in her biography entited SECRETS OF THE FLESH: A LIFE OF COLETTE.  Which, I guess, is why the image above and the quote provoked this piece of reflection.

The story of the image is itself as convoluted as some of Colette's writing where she uses characters in real life, but fictionalizes them so that one sometimes can't tell which is which.

The story:  While studying Jungian psychology in Zurich and being in need of warm clothes, I went to the flea market which was held every first Saturday at the end of the Bonhofstrasse.  As I was browsing though the cashmere sweaters, I found an old photograph and paid one Swiss franc for it. Years later, I rephotographed it and did a watercolor from that image.  The final version, at the top of this post, was done using PicMonkey.  The image below is of the orginal watercolor.  The old photograph itself has long since been misplaced.   I'm not sure which I like best, the orginal watercolor or the PicMonkey version.

Original watercolor from an old photograph found in the Zurich flea market

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More Fun with BeFunky

This is the BeFunky Watercolor Version

What Fun!  I just tried another of my photographs with BeFunky and discovered how to make watercolors out of them.

Above, is the watercolor version.  I painted the lips a bit and tried the eyes (but I think I missed.)

Anyway, after having soup with Barbara at 1:00 pm, spending time with the McLelland boys from 2:30 until 5:30, and then going to my duplicate game at 6:00, I'm sure I will come hope and experiment some more.

There are so many things to do with these new softwares that I still haven't found with them all.

Below, is the original version of a photograph I shot for Nat's portfolio several years ago.

We have great fun.  She invited two of her friends to try on the garments she had made while attending the Chicago School of Fine Art, and I made the photographs.  I think she used them in a portfolio she keeps updated, but I haven't seen it in a long time.

This is the original shot I made for Nat's portfolio

Time to change gears and get dressed for the outer world.  What a wonderful mix!

Monday, August 6, 2012

PicMonkey and BeFunky Compared

Up early this morning, so I decided to compare PicMonkey and BeFunky with the Original version of one of my images.  I chose an image with good lighting, but it has not been re-touched.

PicMonkey is my favorite of the versions because I like the dark background contrasted to the white arrangement.

PicMonkey Version

This is the BeFunky version, and for my taste, it's a bit too funky.

BeFunky Version

This uncropped shot is the original version.  The light is nice, but the composition is too "busy."

Original Version

However,  you might try them yourself and see what your own preference is.  And then again, mine might change depending on the original shot and my intention.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

BeFunky Photo Software

Now that I look at this image, it's not as good as I thought it was.  But I think the software -- -- has possibilities.

I was in a hurry, as I was playing in the bridge tournament this morning and this afternoon, so I didn't really get to explore the software sufficiently.

But -- I'll try it some more.  One thing I like is the way you can elangate the writing.

BeFunky is similar to picmonkey, but it may reveal more to me as I use it.

I have become so enamored of manipulating my photos that even the "good" ones seem pale by comparison to the manipulated ones.

I wonder if I like the blurry ones so much because that is always the way I have seen the world.

Nearsighted and astigmatic since I was a child, I remember distinctly the day my daddy took me to Pizitz in Birmingham to have my eyes checked.

All the Hursts are so nearsighted, that an uncle of mine once quipped that we should order glasses by the dozen for the family so we could get a discount.

After being fitted for my first glasses,  I rode up the escalator holding daddy's hand and was astounded to see individual tiny light bulbs, where before I had only seen a bright blur.  Going outside, I could see the leaves on the trees, not just a green splotch.

However that may be, my favorite pictures have always been a bit blurred, soft around the edges.  And now,  I can produce that effect with all the software available on the internet.  Life is truly amazing.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Inner World -- Outer World

This is what my "inner world" feels like this morning upon awaking from my customary ten hours of sleep.

My family and friends are astounded -- and some are envious -- that a woman my age could need/want/use so much sleep.

But to me, being able to sleep until I wake up, and then slowly come into the physical world, is the greatest luxury I have.

When it happens without inteference from the cat, the phone, some unusual noise (from the outside or the inside), it feels -- well like this image to the right.

I try to stay in touch with that feeling, but the outer world has a way of dimming it.

Today, as I go to play in the ACBL bridge tournament we are having in Tuscaloosa this weekend, I'm going to try holding the image of this little light and the latice work behind it in my mind.

Then we'll see what effect it has on my outer world.  It's not that I don't enjoy/appreciate my outer world.  I do.  And every day I look forward to being with the people I love, doing the things I'm fond of, etc.  But somehow, my inner world shines with a luminescence that is missing in the outer world.

Somehow I feel if I could hold on to that luminescence, I could tinge my experiences in the outer world with it.  Superimpose on them, even the most ordinary of them, a numinous quality.

That's it.  Just as I use the photo software, picmonkey, to add various filters to sometimes nondescript photos, I can allow the inner world to filter my experiences of the outer world -- and they become numinous.

(numinous -- mysterious, holy, appealing to the higher emotions or aesthetic sense)