Home sweet home.

During a walk earlier this summer, my daughter and I spotted a small, coarse, brownish lump in the grass. Upon closer inspection we realized what it was: an empty, tattered bird’s nest, likely blown out of a nearby tree.

Nowhere in the vicinity could we see any remnants of actual birds or eggs, so we picked it up gently and brought it home, tucking it safely in the shelter of a patio flower pot.

And there it sat, forgotten, until yesterday, when I asked my daughter if she’d hold it while I made a photo. For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, Structure, we’re invited to share a picture of “the structure of something typically overlooked.”

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And this gave me the opportunity to observe and reflect on this little construction in my child’s hands.

Imagine the time and ingenuity it required for a tiny bird – innately a master builder – to weave this thing, strand by strand, maneuvering materials with its mouth. All this work – despite the fact that most bird species, if I’m not mistaken, don’t re-use an individual nest once the babies have matured. Both the task and the product have a specific purpose, and no time or effort is wasted.

Which makes it even more wonderful when I spot a bit of avian interior decorating:

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This was snapped last winter, when the barren landscape exposed this bit of chic nest décor, which would’ve otherwise been hidden throughout the rest of the year.

I find it liberating and also a bit disheartening that a bird can – once the function of its nest has been served – part with this handiwork (seemingly) without much fanfare. Here, of course, I’m presuming to understand, or possibly invent, a bird’s emotional connection to its nest.

It makes me wonder about our own attachments to the buildings we call home, and how much the structures themselves, aside from all the practicalities and conveniences, influence our emotions related to them. Why do we consider them more than just material things? Would we feel any differently about them if they had no cost? Would we be willing to build them from scratch, with found materials, and using our own hands? Would we be willing to abandon them and start all over again next spring?

I think that’s enough pondering for now. The structure I’m currently sitting in needs to be vacuumed, and I don’t think I’ll find any birds to help me do it.

Thanks, as always, for your visit 🙂

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Bright and shiny.

I smiled to myself when I consulted this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge. The theme is “Ooh, Shiny!“. As in: post a photo of something that demands your attention, something that’s “guaranteed to distract you.”

Well, in my case that could be any number of things: chocolate, fuzzy blankets, hummingbirds, funny cat videos, Viggo Mortensen… the list goes on. I seem to frighten the hummingbirds before I can photograph them, and I ate all the chocolate, so I settled on sharing a photo of something else that’s been occupying my thoughts lately: light.

Since I’ve taken an interest in photography, I’ve spent more time observing and deciphering light, trying to figure out how to tell the camera to catch it the way I see it.

While out the other morning, in search of an arresting view of the sunrise, my travels took me down a country road which was encased overhead in the neighbouring trees’ summer foliage.

And there, at the end of the tunnel, was the light. It filtered down through the morning mist in golden beams. For me, it was an “Ooh, shiny!” moment, indeed.

It’s not an extraordinary shot, and it’s not Viggo Mortensen, but it’ll do.

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Passing grade.

This week, the WordPress Photo Challenge tasked us with “exploring the elements of earth, air, water, and fire through the landscapes that surround us.”

Sometimes I find landscapes challenging – either my focus is off or the shadows are harsh or my composition is bland – so I was actually going to skip this challenge since I hadn’t produced a photo I was happy with.

Then, I scrolled through a batch of pictures I’d made during a trip to the beach with my family a couple of weeks ago. On the morning we arrived at Port Burwell, the sky was overcast and the air was still, rendering the water as a flat, pale sheet. There was a haze in the distance and a row of wind turbines stood ghostly and motionless further along the shoreline.

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My photos, then, were flat and muted – I usually prefer more colour and contrast – but I liked the simplicity of this one.

In terms of the photo challenge: earth and water are accounted for (check and check), the static wind turbines imply only the potential of wind (I’ll give myself half a mark for that), and fire is absent (zilch).

2.5 out of 4 will have to do 🙂

Garden art.

A beautiful garden appeals to all the senses, and doesn’t ignore the imagination. I’m no master gardener (far from it), but, if I do say so myself, I’m quite skilled at garden admiration.

For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge of Textures, I chose photos of an unusual floral peafowl located at Glenhyrst Gardens in Brantford, Ontario.

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I’d gushed about the building on site earlier this spring, but many of the garden beds were only emerging at that time. The annuals have now filled out, providing a feast for the eyes, but also an invitation to bend down and brush a hand over the blooms. This artful sculpture alone has several textures covered: spiky sedum, velvety foliage, silky petals and a coarse bed of mulch.

I tried to capture the graceful lines and patterns of this planting – I only wish I’d been able to make a photo from a greater height to really highlight the spread of this bird’s “feathers.”

What’s an appropriate amount of time to spend with a bird made of flowers? Whatever it is, I think I exceeded it. But floral birds were made for admiration.

And I’m really good at that.

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Love note #13.

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I’m glad that Erica loves herself. I’m glad that this statement is carved into a fallen tree trunk. And I’m glad I was carrying my camera when I nearly tripped over this particular dead tree.

Erica’s declaration is now 13th in my accidental photo series.

Here’s how it started:

One day last November, while out walking, I came across this:

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I thought it was cute. I’d just begun my daily photo project a few weeks prior, so I snapped it, pleased to have stumbled upon something interesting to post that day.

 

A couple of weeks later, I found this:

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Nice, right?

 

And then, in January, Coral showed up again in a different part of town:

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Wow, someone really has a thing for Coral.

 

Later in January came this:

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Okay, now I felt I might be on to something. All the graffiti in my town was not, evidently, crass or offensive or nonsensical. Could even crappy-looking graffiti be forgiven for looking crappy if it sent a warm and fuzzy message?

 

Since then, I’ve had my eye out for public love notes… and here are the rest (so far):

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I decided to file the 13th love note under this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge of Satisfaction for two reasons:

1) Adding photos to my collection of random public love notes is gratifying, not in the least because I love imagining the story behind the scribbling; and

2) While the rest of that tree trunk was etched with several versions of So-and-So loves So-and-So, Erica claimed self-love. I’ll choose to imagine that it was Erica who whittled this message herself, not someone else who wrote it as an insult. I’ll choose not to imagine Erica as a lonely, resentful person. I’ll choose not to imagine her as a narcissist. I’ll choose to imagine her as a well-adjusted, emotionally intelligent individual who has great capacity for giving and receiving love because she loves herself first. I’ll take her carved declaration as an act of self-acceptance, independence, gratitude and satisfaction. Brava, Erica!

Okay, clearly, I’m wearing my rose-coloured glasses tonight. They’re lighter than my regular specs, so I try to remember to put them on every once in a while.

Especially when I’m looking for love notes.

I spy… something red.

I had so much fun during my last I Spy photo excursion that I did it again. This time, instead of fixating on circles, I had eyes only for the colour red.

I spent about an hour and a half downtown today, and almost no one looked at me strangely for snapping photos of fire hydrants and discarded take-out containers.

As before, giving myself a theme (and a time limit) to capture a series of photos allowed me to practice observation and composition but also encouraged me to avoid overthinking. Sometimes I just need to get out of my own way.

Bonus… this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Collage. Perfect! Here it is:

Beware of spiders.

In Paris (…Ontario, Canada), just before the Nith River joins up with the Grand, its width is spanned by a pedestrian bridge connecting the tiny, historic downtown to the park on the opposite side. The bridge is quaint. And covered in spiderwebs.

If you’re not too busy taking in the view of the river below, or gripping the handrail for dear life while trying to avoid disturbing the spiders, you’ll notice these lone, thought-provoking words written along the railing:

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Is this how graffiti’s done in small, pretty towns? In any case, I wondered why a bridge was chosen as the canvas for this particular message, instead of a wall or a door.

I put on my deep thinking cap and this is the best I could come up with: Maybe, as people, we’re most connected and accessible to one another when we’re allowed to experience and share the depth of our emotions – joy and hurt and everything in between – without the fear of judgement or failure or rejection. Maybe the world is a colder and scarier place when we become numb to our feelings in order to preserve ourselves. Maybe the bridge-philosopher is trying to say that we should work to embrace our vulnerability to experience a more wholehearted existence…Maybe, for some inexplicable reason, Brené Brown walked over this very bridge in Paris (…Ontario, Canada) and wrote this message! Look at that handwriting! Doesn’t it look like it could belong to Brené Brown?

Okay, okay. So I probably should’ve left my deep thinking/daydreaming cap at home. But it came in handy at the time. I needed a distraction from the spiders.

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