winter’s grip is not so tight

once upon a winter's night

The light is changing, I feel sure
that winter’s grip is not so tight
and twilight has a touch of warmth — no more
abrupt sunsets, the sun rudely diving behind the horizon
before evening arrives — now the day lingers, looking back,
drawing curtains of pale pink and indigo across the window of the sky.
The cold still creeps under cover of darkness, encasing the land in ice,
but morning comes early — impatient now to work its own miracles —
turning snow into slush, ice into water,
warming the sleeping world to life.

Photo taken on February 10, 2011

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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

streets of purple

streets of purple

I went uptown to go shopping on Saturday, and found the city centre beautifully decorated. But then the sun set, casting a bright wash of purple colour along the streets and making the harbour glow with reflected golden light, and that was the best decoration of all.

Photo taken on December 18, 2010

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

november sky

November sky

Barren trees with branches reaching
rendered steel by frosty mornings
mourning the lush and luminous summer
now only memory can find

Before the springtime resurrection
before the sun’s glad warmth reviving
before the sap returns to strengthen
darkness turns us inward

Cherish the flame that thrives in shadow
the bitter wind that drives us closer
hold fast, for though the storm clouds threaten,
the sun still rules the sky

Photo taken on November 6, 2009

you can see space from here

space station in orbit

One of the really cool things about living in Saint John is that we are on the flight path of the International Space Station. On Friday night, we headed outdoors just before 6 p.m. and saw the ISS orbiting right over our back yard, tracing a path across the sky from the northwest to the southeast. I last saw the space station earlier this year, just after the space shuttle had undocked and before it returned to earth, and it was incredible to watch, because you could see the shuttle chasing the space station across the sky.

Of course what you see (unless you have a powerful telescope) is not the space station itself but the bright reflection of the sun’s light on its metal exterior. And there’s no question of mistaking it for anything else — it travels much faster than an airplane across the sky, tracing a steady straight line from one horizon to another.

You need to have a clear sky (and as wide a view as possible) in order to see the ISS pass over. And although it circles the earth several times a day, you can only see it from the ground in the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset. That’s because the earth needs to be in shadow (the sky is dark) and the space station needs to be in sunlight (otherwise it won’t be lit up). As well, its path has to be at least 15 degrees above the horizon; if it barely clears the horizon, there is too much haze and atmospheric dust for it to be visible.

If you would like to see the space station fly by for yourself, check the NASA’s sightings page. It’s a truly magical experience.

Photo taken on November 12, 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