Signed, sealed, delivered.

The pictures I’ve chosen to share on this site have been almost exclusively “found” photos – in other words, naturally occurring scenes or subjects (the exceptions that come to mind are the photos of compliant family members that resulted from my bossy posing directives).

Recently I’ve taken an interest in a conceptual approach, where the pictures are more “staged” in order to illustrate an idea or emotion. I’ve kept most of these photos to myself, since they’re more personal.

This one, though, came to mind when I learned that the WordPress Photo Challenge this week is liquid. True, the “liquid” isn’t the subject of this photo, but water is a key component here.

Message in a bottle (1 of 1)

I had been at the dollar store to pick up some tissue paper, and when I walked through the craft aisle to get to the checkout, a package of clear miniature corked bottles caught my eye. Inside each of the eight bottles was what looked like a tiny, rolled up slip of coloured paper.

I stood there, staring at the package. For what reason, I didn’t know. I’m not really a crafty person and I surely don’t need more trinkets lying around the house (I have two school-aged children and therefore far too many items lying around the house). Feeling a bit ridiculous, I bought the bottles, though I didn’t know what on Earth I’d use them for.

That became clearer when some days later I planned a morning photo walk on the beach, and remembered the tiny bottles. Aha! Surely, an appropriate location for such props. I pocketed the bottles, and when I got to the beach, I plunked my toys in the sand and watched them shine in the sunlight.

My mind began to wander beyond the fake rolls of paper in the dollar store containers. What might be written in an actual message tossed into an ocean? Declarations of love? Pleas for help? I imagined it being carried to its landing place by the perpetual currents and waves of the water: the water of life, both literally and metaphorically. Both gentle and wild, both predictable and erratic, both beautiful and vicious. A perilous journey, no doubt.

I thought about the likelihood of a bottle being lost in the depths, or broken on the rocks, or swallowed up by some creature. Or, less likely, swept to safety on the shore. I thought about who might discover it, and what they might do with such a message, and whether they would somehow be changed by this act of fate or coincidence. I thought about the writer’s necessary sliver of hope and lack of expectation in believing that another human being would eventually be at the other end of this improbable attempt at communication. I wondered whether the feelings and facts committed to paper would’ve been altered over the passage of time needed for such a crossing.

Maybe the messages we leave – in bottles or otherwise – are our attempts at affirming our identities and existence. We. Were. Here.

Pictures made, I gently scooped up my bottles, the sand clinging to their smooth sides. Perhaps they served their purpose, and I can pass them on to my kids. Maybe they won’t be interested. But maybe they will. Maybe they, too, will hold those tiny bottles in their hands, peering through the glass, and wondering about the words that might be curled up on those colourful slips of paper.

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A moment of truth.

Yesterday, I watched a TED talk by writer Anne Lamott, in which she offers twelve life truths.

“Number one:” she says, “the first and truest thing is that all truth is a paradox. Life is….filled simultaneously with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, desperate poverty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.”

I’m immensely grateful that life in our family’s little bubble has been, for the most part, very good. Like most parents, I want my kids to be healthy and happy and kind. I want them to know love and trust and selflessness and second chances. I don’t want them to be hurt and I don’t want them to hurt anyone else.

All this talk of rainbows and unicorns is lovely, but, as we adults know, not terribly realistic.

My kids are growing up. They’re becoming more aware of the complexities and contradictions of circumstances and emotions. More aware that there’s a big, messy, beautiful, dangerous, exhilarating world beyond what they already know.

Despite my romantic desire to preserve their innocence, I know I won’t be able to protect my kids during their journey on a path strewn not only with joy and wonder but also with deep disappointment, pain, and loss.

It’s not my job to do that, though. As terrifying as it may be, it’s my job to ready them for that path, it’s my job to walk beside them as they navigate it. Until it’s time to pull back to the sidelines, that is. You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey,” Lamott says, You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to.”

In the warmth of yesterday evening, I strolled alone through the park. I followed the path beside the creek and made photos along the way.

Okay, so life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, kids. But sometimes, evidently, it is.

June 10 (1 of 3)June 10 (3 of 3)June 10 (2 of 3)

 

Twinkle, twinkle.

To my kiddos:

There aren’t enough stars for all the wishes I’d make for you.

But if I were to create a post for the WordPress weekly photo challenge of Wish, this is where I might start.

March 10 (1 of 1).jpg

I wish you won’t ever feel the need to spend too much time inspecting yourself in the mirror.

But when you do examine your reflection:

  • I wish you’ll remember that you were born with DNA instructions that dictate what you can see: the shade of your skin, the shape of your nose, the length of your eyelashes. These features were assigned without any input or effort from you. They are part of you. They may be the first things people notice about you. They may be admired or they may be criticized. But these, alone, don’t define you, and they don’t define beauty, no matter what you hear in the schoolyard or read on the internet. These are just the tip of your iceberg.
  • I wish you’ll look deeper into yourself to see these, as well: kindness, grace, and humour. Courage and perseverance. Resilience and curiosity. The capacity to love and to be loved. The willingness to help and to stand up for others. These, I believe, make you beautiful. Maybe you were born with some of these qualities. Maybe you were taught. Some of them are strong, while some need growth. In any case, your attitude and actions have influence in these matters. These are your superpowers. Use them for good.
  • I wish, in the healthiest way possible, that you’ll also acknowledge the darker parts of yourself, like anger, greed, and fear. Apathy and doubt. They exist not only in you but in every single one of us. I wish you strength and support to cope with these, to accept them when appropriate and to rectify them when necessary. Do so to keep them in check, as they make very unpleasant superpowers.
  • I wish you’ll read and enjoy this quote, because it’s so much better than anything I could have written:

“Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself. Let your altruism meet your egotism, let your generosity meet your greed, let your joy meet your grief. Everyone has a shadow… But when you are able to say, “I am all of the above, my shadow as well as my light,” the shadow’s power is put in service of the good. Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.”

~ Parker Palmer (click here for more of this wonderful piece)

  • I wish that you’ll always look at yourself with equal amounts of honesty, courage, appreciation, and tenderness.
  • I wish, then, that when you turn away from the mirror and face the world around you, you’ll appreciate the duality existing in everyone, in everything. Light/dark. Joy/pain. Strength/vulnerability. Nourish your empathy, because everyone has a story. In a way, we’re all balancing acts. Grief and regret are inevitable, but it’s still possible to cultivate joy and wonder.

For starters, just look up at the stars.

With all my love,

Mom