Cherry Blossoms Welcome April

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“Between our two lives
there is also the life of
the cherry blossom.”
Matsuo Bashō

The cherry blossoms grace our lane ways and gardens, welcoming April, the month that was, in ancient Rome, sacred to Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. April is the month that gave us Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth and, more recently, Wangari Maathai, Maya Angelou and Ella Fitzgerald.  There is a warmth in the chill of an April evening, perfect for the beginning of journeys as immortalized in Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales.

What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
Kobayashi Issa

For me, April has always been about cherry blossoms.  Vancouver is renowned for our approximately 50,000 cherry trees, which flower in varying shades of pink and white.  Every year, we hold a Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.

“In the cherry blossom’s shade
there’s no such thing
as a stranger.”
Kobayashi Issa

The cherry blossom is Japan’s national flower that has given birth to hanami, a century-old custom that is said to have its origins in the Nara period (710-794) which simply means flower viewing.  Families and friends gather under the canopy of flowering cherry trees to share a meal and gaze up at the delicate white and pink against a pristine sky of blue. Nighttime brings out the paper lanterns that people carefully place in the trees to add a spectacular illumination, which highlights the profound idea of the ephemeral nature of life. The blossoms come for a moment to bestow a graceful elegance,  covering pathways with petals, then, slipping away with the silent promise to return the next year.

So, my dear friends, I invite you to join me under the canopy of a Vancouver cherry tree.

Cherry Blossoms from Rebecca Budd aka Clanmother on Vimeo.

 

“Cherry blossoms – lights of years past.”
Matsuo Bashō

Celebrating International Friendship Day

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“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Gift of Creativity

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Creativity is central to the human spirit.  It is in everything we do, feel, enjoy.  A line of poetry, a few notes of a musical score, the aroma home-made bread, the vibrant colours of a sunset – all speak to our emotional need for beauty. We experience this first hand through the lens of our memories, our current reality, and cultural awareness.

My journey to understanding art and artists, has led me to a profound conclusion.  That is, we all have a gift to visualize creativity through the eyes of another.  Another time, another culture, another perspective.

 

 

Stopping Time

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“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”  Anaïs Nin

I have often thought of this quote by Anaïs Nin – not in the context of a writer, but in the framework of a photo. Ever since Joseph Nicephore Niepce clicked the first photo in 1814, humanity has been beguiled by the ability to capture something important.  It is our only way to stop time, to remember our journeys, and proclaim that we have lived, felt love, endured challenges and sustained losses.

I confess that I am a “photo hoarder.”  Yes, even the photos that I consider “second best” remain safely stored on external drives in hopes that some day there may be an editing program that will be invented that will enhance and bring out their beauty. By beauty, I mean the emotional impression of that event.

Just last week, I went back to “taste life twice.”  The year was 2004.  I had purchased my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot A70, for a long-awaited trip to Italy to enroll in a 3-week Italian language course.  The reviews were as generous as I was enthusiastic: “The PowerShot A70 is much more than just a 3.2-megapixel version of its predecessor, the A40.”   I was convinced that this was an excellent purchase.

With a camera in hand, there is added emotional drama at play, more clarity, more interest in the “now.”  This awareness was most keenly felt when I walked the lush paths of Frederick Stibbert’s Garden.  It was a late October afternoon. A gentle light settled on the trees and aging walls, a faint wind tossed the leaves.  A quiet solitude lifted my spirits.  I had recently finished an arduous academic journey and was at a crossroads.

Looking back on these photos, I remember a pivotal decision, made with a recognition that we move in tune with the music of time, surrounded by those who came before and those who will come after. Our myths, our struggles, our joys are intermingled.  Perhaps it is in the retrospective, in knowing what happened afterwards, that reveals a greater understanding.  And with that knowledge, we move forward with profound resolve to embrace the next moment.

 

 

The Hero Journey

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“Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have one before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”

Joseph Campbell

The Orkney Islands

These words were on my mind as I felt the plane lift off the runway heading towards Scotland to follow the bagpipes.  I am not an easy traveller as some who have no fear of flying, missing train schedules, or unexpected detours.   I want a plan with timetables and reservation numbers to confirm that there will be food and shelter at the other end of the journey.  In other words, I want security every step of the way.  There is safety in believing that somehow I remain fully in control of my circumstances and surroundings.

That is not the hero journey.  To travel that road, security and comfort must be set aside for something grander to occur.  The important thing, I reminded myself, is that I have taken a first step.

 

The Orkney Islands

Going Mobile

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“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” 

 Susan Sontag

Coventry St. Michael's Cathedral Spire

Coventry St. Michael’s Cathedral Spire

This blog has a simple mandate – to share my photos and random thoughts as they come to me during the day.  My camera is a Canon SX 240 HS with a zoom lens 20X.  I confess that most of the time it is set on automatic so that if I see something, I simply “point and click.”  Over the past few years, I have gained a greater appreciation for photography and those professionals who master the techniques and innovative technologies being developed in rapid succession.

These past four weeks have reaffirmed that photos are a record of the lives we live, a cultural reflection of our time in history.  They form the collection of memories of our generation – fashion, food, architecture, transportation, work conventions and family structures.  We owe a great deal to the photographers of the past.  They didn’t have our digital cameras and they worked with harsh chemicals, yet their photos are a testament to their commitment to witness and record history.

In my recent travels, I embraced mobility via the iPhone. Initially, I thought it would be a good back-up, just in case my digital battery expired or I ran out of space on my SDHC Card, both of which happened.  My ‘back-up’ launched my “point and click” methodology into a new realm where communication merged with photography.  And this is when I had my “ah ha” moment. We intellectually understand that mobile allows multiple stories to be shared, exchanged, amplified and integrated within seconds, across a global world.  It is quite another matter to experience it first hand as an active participant.

Robert Frank once said, “Above all, life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference.”  Our ability to take countless photos does not diminish our responsibility for telling our story, for taking our place as a witness to our history.

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

Dorothea Lange