of sunsets and kittens

Taylor's Island

There is a joke among photographers that the general public’s taste in images can be summed up in two words: sunsets & kittens. The appeal of the colourful and cute seems to be constant and worldwide.

I took this photo last week at a park on the west side of Saint John. It was mid-afternoon, although the sun was already sinking rapidly. The tide was high and for once there was only a light breeze blowing off the Bay of Fundy. We walked out to a path along the edge of the cove, drawn by the loud booming of the waves crashing against the bouldery beach and echoing against the rocky cliffs. I shot this image into the light, which meant losing most of the foreground detail to the strong contrast. The low sun, partially screened by clouds on the horizon, cast an almost metallic light across the scene. I decided to enhance these golden tones, and yesterday I posted it on Flickr.

And today, I’ve discovered that the image has become a sunset — it has already been added to one gallery of sunset photos — and it has attained a level of popularity well over that of my favourite photos.

I think I’ll go look for some kittens.

Photo taken on January 6, 2011

what I need

sunset river, St. Martins

I am looking at this wide openness, my eyes drinking in the clear light, the bright ribbon of liquid gold winding to the far horizon. And for a moment, a brief instant, this is all I need.

* * *

My cousin recently returned from a two-week medical mission to Mali. Her photos show a loving community that by North American standards has less than nothing. When she returned, her mother asked her what she wants for Christmas. She said she’s realized she doesn’t really need anything.

* * *

At a Christmas party I attended last night, I was not the only who who ate more than I needed, then joked about eating too much. I heard someone telling a story about the frustration of parking at the shopping “maul”. The question “Are you ready for Christmas?” prompted conversations about family expectations, travel plans, food and gifts.

* * *

I already have so much more than I need. I am barnacled with stuff, it has stuck to me over the years like an extra layer of fat. I am holding onto unfulfilled dreams, books half-read, sweaters half-knit, materials gathered and gathering dust. I don’t need more, I need less. I need space and open air. I need to free myself for what lies ahead, to be open to the promise of a new year.

Photograph taken on November 28, 2010

this beautiful country

Gardner Creek

I love the fact that the country is right on our doorstep. In less than 15 minutes, you can drive from Saint John’s city centre to the country. I love driving in the country, following the roads as they wind up and down the hills, looking at mailboxes and barns, wondering about the dirt paths that disappear into unexplored territory.

The road out to Fairfield, just past the eastern boundary of Saint John, is a familiar route. My aunt moved here as a war bride when she married a Canadian soldier during the Second World War. It was quite a culture shock to move from the outskirts of London, England, to a small rural community, but the warm welcome from her new family made her feel at home. My mother and her parents followed, building a house and settling just down the road. Although that was many years ago now, my aunt and her extended family still live in the same area — just over the hill, around the corner and up the road from where this photo was taken.

To the casual eye, it looks like a scattering of houses and farms, far apart and disconnected, but I know it is a tight-knit community, where everyone looks out for their neighbours. Just last week, a new bridge was completed on the main road at Fairfield. My aunt loves to tell the story of how she and her late husband were the first to cross the old bridge. When we were visiting her yesterday, she told us that a neighbour brought her to the new bridge before the official opening last week so she could be the first to cross it again.

This may look like ordinary rural landscape, but love makes it beautiful.

Photo taken on March 15, 2009

seeing is… seeing eyes

morning, Chance Harbour

When I first joined Flickr in 2006, I merely wanted to share my travel photos with family members on the other side of the world. I was surprised and pleased to see comments on one of the first photos I uploaded, and from then on, I was hooked. I would not be as avid a photo enthusiast today if I didn’t have Flickr to encourage and inspire me.

I chose my Flickr name “Seeing Is” partly because it can be read in two ways (I love puns) as “Seeing is… believing” for example, and as “Seeing eyes”. Having “seeing eyes” has become increasingly important to me. To see means to have vision, to pay attention, to notice and observe and wonder at all things great and small. I’ve always liked the image of the eagle, who sees clearly and far. Here on WordPress and other sites, I am eyeGillian (another pun), referring to photography and also my internal ego-emperor, a reference to the Robert Graves novel I, Claudius.

As I write this, my father is struggling with failing eyesight, and I can see how it has affected his previous enjoyment of driving, hiking, reading and even simple everyday tasks. I remember my disappointment when I had to get glasses at age 19. The thought of what my father must be going through, and the possibility of someday losing my own sight makes me cherish it all the more.

Yet there is something deeper than just seeing. I need to remember the wisdom I read as a child in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”.

Photo taken on November 14, 2010

a walk in the park

a walk in the park

Yesterday we walked beside the sea. We watched a puppy frolic in the park, the waves dance along the shore, and seals basking on the sunny rocks. Besides the treat of seeing seals (too far away for my 50mm lens), we also saw a snake and a butterfly. And we picked 5 kg of rose hips along the way. I was inspired to get outdoors by writing a list of my favourite 20 activities (check out Herby’s post here for other peoples’ lists). As I created a list of things that I could do, and enjoy doing, I realized that I could add a lot more activities to the list, and — bonus — many of them are free!

As I walked, I considered what it means to say that “time and tide waits for no one”. Focusing on uncertainty, trying to peer into the murky future, is an exercise in futility. Of course we would like to know that life’s problems are behind us, but that isn’t going to happen, or at least not while I’m alive and kicking! I need to stop waiting for change, and start creating the change that I want. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. Compared to seeing the future, that should be a walk in the park!

By the way, I received some good news yesterday. Remember that photo contest I was shooting for here? Well, my photo won third prize — check out my winning entry here. Woo-hoo!

Photo taken on November 3, 2010

waiting for the fog to lift

The fog has been constant this past week. This is a stubborn fog, and nothing seems to shake it. The rain came down hard for a short time yesterday, but it was still foggy. I could hear the wind howling last night, but the fog only hugged the city tighter.

And so we are waiting. I am waiting. I am ready for change.

I have been on an extended holiday. When my contract ended at the end of June, I decided that I wouldn’t mind taking a month off. It had been a long time since I’d taken a real vacation. The month became two, then three, and now…. now it’s October. And I am ready, more than ready, for change.

I have a job interview on Monday. Wish me luck.

Taken on September 25, 2010

between the sea and sky

Today is the day after Labour Day. Today is a good day to go back to work, back to school, back to whatever it is that got put aside for the summer. The days are getting shorter with the turning of the year, and they will go by quicker with all the activities that start up again to fill evenings and weekends. I find the hint of autumn weather invigorating — the cooler temperatures remind me of the excitement I used to feel about the first day back to school. There is a brisk wind blowing in from the sea, a wind of change and opportunity. Today is a good day to spread your wings, to let the wind lift you up and send you flying!

Taken on May 31, 2009