And now for something completely different.

It would be timely to post about Halloween – pumpkin guts, zombies, sugar-crazed children with bellyaches, etc. My offspring were disguised as a faceless ghoul and a psychotic scarecrow. Sadly, they seem to be past the stage of cute costumes – no pandas or butterflies here. They made the rounds and returned a few hours ago, tired and frozen but still keen to dig into their hoard of assorted teeth-rotting candies.

But since I’m feeling done with Halloween, and since it’s Monday, the photos I chose to post don’t include my costumed kids or our jack-o-lanterns.

Monday mornings, I do laundry at Innisfree House, a residential hospice, where I’ve been volunteering for about a year. Innisfree opened in the summer of 2015 and can accommodate 10 adults. Residents have a life expectancy of three months or less. The staff of PSWs, nurses and doctors tailor individual care for residents with a focus on peace, comfort, and dignity during their last days.

It’s hard to articulate why I was drawn here. It’s not for everybody. The truth is, I’m more comfortable contributing behind the scenes, with infrequent direct interaction with residents and families. For me, in these difficult situations, there simply are no words. But if I can make sure the linens are clean and folded, it means a staff member can spend more time caring for residents rather than wrestling with fitted sheets.

Though you may not expect it, this is an inviting place, designed to soothe the senses. Often I hear a volunteer or staff member singing at a resident’s bedside. The piano isn’t just for show, in fact, a music therapist visits weekly. Each bedroom has a patio door leading to a sunny courtyard garden. When the weather cools, visitors trade in their shoes for fuzzy slippers. The bedroom quilts are handmade. Children and pets are welcome. There’s a jigsaw puzzle on the go in the common room. And there are always cookies baking in the oven.

This morning, in between loads of laundry, I made a few photos of Innisfree’s main common room. It’s a lovely building, clean and modern, with loads of light and space. It’s strikingly different than a hospital ward. There’s a lot of effort invested in the decor. In comfort, in beauty.

Take a look at the coasters. I wouldn’t trade my scarecrow or ghoul for anything, but today, this is where I found my butterflies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put it in your calendar.

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I just learned that yesterday was National Cat Day in the US. Apparently, International Cat Day is on August 8. Depending on your internet source, somewhere on the planet there’s also a World Cat Day, a Hug Your Cat Day, a National Black Cat Day, and a National Feral Cat Day.

This guy doesn’t care because every day is Cat Day in his house.

 

 

Found objects.

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I’m curious about the random objects we leave behind. The solitary items that are lost or discarded or sometimes intentionally placed. The ones we stumble upon every once in a while during our travels that make us wonder, What happened here?

Our trash tells the truth, especially when it’s in the context of a layered heap. Archaeologists love that stuff. They can reconstruct a past culture’s values, organization, and behaviour based on what is, essentially, very meticulous garbage-sifting.

But our former possessions can also spark the imagination. They’re a physical connection to the past, to people and events we’ll never fully know or understand. They meant something to someone, once, or maybe they still do.

This rusting metal rim is hanging from a dead tree on the side of a country road.

Is this a memorial of some kind? Did it fall from passing farm machinery and land there accidentally, or did someone consciously decide to accessorize this tree with a shiny hoop?

I don’t know, but it’s fun to keep guessing.

More decisions.

For the same price, I could either buy a proper macro camera lens to make quality close-up shots, or my family could eat for a few weeks. I considered. In my twenties I’d lived on Mr. Noodles for extended periods of time without getting scurvy. But I supposed starving the family so I could magnify a flower probably wasn’t a responsible, motherly thing to do.

Instead I bought some cheap screw-on filters that allow me to get up close to things with my regular lens. The garden was sprinkled with frost this morning – it looked so dainty and perfect on the few blooms stubbornly hanging on to life. While real macro authorities would probably have a thing or two to say about the image quality, I still like how they turned out.

And my family likes that we don’t have to eat Mr. Noodles for dinner.

Round we go.

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My “assistants” helped me prepare for today’s photo of a marble run. One of them built the tower and controlled the flow. The other one tried to prevent our cats from photobombing the shot and eating marbles. It was a team effort.

I used to think that any blur in a photo meant it was a bad photo. Aren’t we trying to freeze time, capture a moment? But I’m starting to see that intentional blur (not the kind that results because I accidentally focus on the foliage in the background instead of the subject’s face) can be a creative way to express movement and energy in an image. I’ve seen some beautiful shots created by zooming or panning the camera – techniques I haven’t tried yet. Today I just played around with the shutter speed until the marbles were clearly moving but not blended together into one massive streak.

First the pinwheel, now the marble run – I’m starting to think I may be able to make photographic use of some of the neglected toys that are loitering around the house. In which case, it’ll be practically guaranteed that I’ll have the set-up assistance of a kid or two. And a couple of cats.

Day 9. You might want to pick up the pace.

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I’m most comfortable making photos of plants, buildings, landscapes, and so on. Things that can’t get up and walk away. Things that don’t mind if I spend ten minutes fiddling with the controls on my camera because I can’t remember how to adjust the aperture. Things that are indifferent to my fumbling and bumbling, waiting there patiently while I’ve struggled to compose the shot and contorted into just the right position to press the shutter button.

Generally, I speak, write, think and photograph the same way: at a snail’s pace.

My dear friend asked me if I’d photograph her beautiful family, and I was at once excited and terrified. These are not flowers, but people, including two small children. Small children – I’m going by personal experience here – usually have no time for snails (unless the small children are supposed to be getting ready for bed, in which case, they positively become the snails).

I had to step it up today, if you get where this is going.

We did it, though. I even got hugs from all the people, big and small, after the shoot. That never happens with flowers.