|Photo by Carrie Sue Barnes, Location: Rabbit Bay, Lake Superior|
Photo/Writing Prompt: An Ordinary Moment
I began this Pictures & Words challenge for the month of July for one simple reason: to push myself to write on this blog with a greater and more consistent frequency. As taking pictures is among my favorite activities and writing prompts have recently joined that category as well, I knew this challenge would be enjoyable enough to give me a shot at following through. With a handful of skipped days, I can happily say the challenge was a success. For that reason alone, I’m proud of this month.
What makes it truly great though is the fact that I gained so much more than fulfilling that one goal. It was inevitable. Watching, waiting, seeking out the right shot, it was impossible not to be tuned into the exquisite world that surrounds me day after day. My hand wrapped around my camera and my eyes scanning the scenes I encountered, a thousand ordinary moments became worth capturing. The details typically left in the background, overlooked as I went about my days, came to the foreground, demanding my attention. Like that butterfly on the edge of the flowering bushes lining the sidewalk: where normally I’d only have eyes for the blue views of the lake, I now desired to notice the bits of beauty in its shadows.
Then to take these captured scenes and put them into writing. Such a joy! This month kicked my imagination into high gear. Especially the days that I wrote snippets of fictional stories to accompany the photos, it was such fun to surprise myself with what arose from examining the picture. The endeavor taught me there is a story to be extracted from absolutely any fragment of life. A friend recently asked me where I get my inspiration to write and all I could say, with a laugh, was “everywhere.”
So, what do I want to say with these last lines of July 2016? Thank you. Thank you, readers, whomever you may be, for enjoying this month with me. Thank you for coming back again after your first visit to the blog. Thank you for pushing my monthly average views to the 900 to 1000 range. Thank you for taking a minute or two or five out of your day to read my creative ramblings. I can assure you that you have strengthened my belief these pursuits, no matter what comes of them professionally, are wonderfully worthwhile.
Photo/Writing Prompt: Weather
Stepping outside, I had to shade my eyes against the afternoon sun. The heat of the July day drifted over my skin like the rush of air from opening an oven. I smoothed my honey brown hair into a high ponytail, Then I tightened the straps of my backpack and headed in the direction to which the clerk had pointed. The trail head was tucked into a grove of maples off Third Street. If my information was accurate, it would lead me to Tarrow Creek and the creek would lead me to Crescent Beach.
Crescent Beach was a pristine half mile stretch of sand carved out by time, tides, and wind. Few people new of it; even fewer had visited it. It was accessible by boat and by way of the dense forest through which Tarrow Creek ran. I couldn’t remember how I first heard of Crescent Beach but when I did, it went straight onto my Places to See list.
When the hiking trail, clear cut and packed down, reached Tarrow Creek, it crossed the narrow channel of water via a haphazard bridge made of two by fours. From there it continued south but I needed to head east. I stood at the edge of the creek, one stride’s departure from the trail. I squinted my eyes in the shadows cast by the high sun filtering through the branches. No path was discernible but I refused to be deterred.
Based on my research I knew I had seven miles to go and from what I could see now, those miles would be slow going. I’d worn shorts due to the heat but wished now for pants to guard my shins from the low lying underbrush of the forest. Within the first two miles my legs looked like I’d rubbed them with a thorn bush. A few of the scrapes showed blood but it dried quickly enough to be ignored. My arms below the edges of my t-shirt sleeves weren’t in much better shape.
I swept spiders off my shirt and ticks off my ankles. I did my best to give a wide berth to a nest of garter snakes. Harmless as they were, I still had no inclination to draw nearer. I paused over a pair of does staring at me before they fled. Countless birds filled the air with their songs and movements, unseen from their hiding places in the tall trees. I tried to sear into my memory the image of two sandhill cranes walking across one of the few clearings I came upon. They lifted their spindly legs in high steps through the tall, stiff grass. One let out a call and they both took flight, their wings loud in the amphitheater of the surrounding woods.
Always I kept Tarrow Creek to my right. Sometimes my steps went along its bank, sometimes I wandered from it but not enough to lose track of its bubbly brown water. I listened to it gurgling through piles of stones and rushing around small bends in its course. I took one break, sitting upon a fallen tree on the bank. The water swirled around each branch breaking the surface of the creek.
Then finally, finally, I saw the end of the creek. I saw it reach through the last of the trees to the beach and pour down into the lake. Here the creek widened. The sun painted perfect reflections of the trees and clouds onto the flat surface. I pulled off my shoes and socks and tucked them under one arm. When I waded into the creek, the cold water startled my overheated nerves. Then I ran. I ran the yards to the beach, my legs splashing from the creek right into the lake. When I saw, as I fully expected, there was not another soul in sight, I tossed my shoes and bag up onto higher ground then added my shirt and shorts to the pile. I dove down until every inch of me was submerged then popped back up, laughing.
Photo/Writing Prompt: Pretty
Today I am noticing what is right in front of me. Every single weekday, I drive past this boat landing and the adjacent patch of park land. Rushing to the office, rushing home, I pass by this flash of prettiness. Sometimes I make sure to turn my head and glimpse the view as I drive on down the road. Other days I am distracted, focused elsewhere on this or that.
When I left home this morning, I noticed I was ahead of schedule by a few minutes. I could drive a little slower, not watching the clock with each mile to calculate whether I’d make it to work on time. The slightly slower drive, the brilliancy of the sun, and the longing to draw out the time before I stepped into my cubicle for the day all combined to heighten my awareness of the scenery along the 25 miles of countryside road. I noticed graceful cranes in the fields and a stately hawk perched atop a fence post. I noticed the horse and its foal grazing in the early sunlight. I noticed the water each time it came into view.
For once, I pulled over when I came to this spot. I didn’t fly by. I didn’t simply smile over the beauty then forget it. I parked the car, stepped out with my camera, and savored what was in front of me.
Beauty works a strange magic. It inspires an array of reactions: gratitude, joy, wonder, sadness, peace. It is always worth noticing.
Photo/Writing Prompt: Below
Nina began lying down between the rose bushes on a sunny day in her eleventh summer of life. Mother planted them at precise, equal distances from each other, spaced for their greatest benefit. She explained the science to Nina once but Nina admittedly did not listen.
It was difficult to explain why she’d done it the first time. She had a fight with her older sister who, at fourteen, thought she knew everything and Nina knew nothing. “You’re still a child,” was the accusation thrown over her sister’s shoulder as she’d sauntered out of the room. Nina had wondered what was wrong with still being a child then tried to return to her reading. Her eyes wandered distractedly from the page to the window behind the sofa, and to the flower beds outside the window. Setting the book aside and turning herself around, she rose to her knees. Nina propped her chin on the back of the sofa. Her long, blond hair fell in curtains against each of her cheeks.
The rose bushes were excessive in their blooms this summer. They seemed to be showing off, lording it over the lesser flowers in the beds across the aisle of plush green grass. Nina’s gaze lowered to the soil covering the roots of those bushes. Her mind’s eye saw how perfectly she might fit in that space between and without another thought she dashed out of the room, down the hall, and out onto the back patio. Outside on the sun warmed bricks, she kicked off the black shoes she still wore since lunch with her grandparents. This called for bare feet.
She was right. She fit perfectly on the patch between the pink roses and the yellow ones. Nina pressed her back against the dirt, trying to feel the life beneath her, the hidden roots responsible for the vibrant petals gathered into sculpted blooms above her face. Suddenly she thought she did feel them. A throb, a pulse pushed against her in return and Nina let a gasp escape before she realized it was the vibrations of Daddy’s car pulling into the driveway.
It didn’t matter though. She knew it was all there. She remembered Mother digging up two bushes once. Nina had sat on the grass and watched. Mother explained about the roots, about how much they mattered. Nina listened that time, wondering all the while over their ugliness. Such ugliness to produce such beauty. It was entirely incongruous in Nina’s mind. She’d learned that word four days ago and this was her first opportunity to use it.
Nina laid like that for an hour. She felt the sun start to burn her bare feet. She heard her mother and father’s banal chatter over what was for dinner, what tomorrow’s weather might be, and whether grandma seemed more or less confused today. She felt Freckles, their gray, long haired cat, paw at her legs where they extended out on the soft grass. Nina thought a hundred thoughts, remembered a dozen memories, and not a single other soul knew of it. It was the finest hour of her life.