Fall Photo Walk, November 19

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I hadn’t planned a photo walk today. As noon approached, a few patches of sunlight I spotted outside my windows persuaded me to take a short trip to a local forest park. Of course, the good light had fled by the time I reached the park.

As I started my walk along the forest trail, I felt that I was exactly where I needed to be. The chilly air and remaining leaves recharged my spirits. The beech and oak trees still had plenty of leaves fluttering in the blustery wind.

I walked until I had a silent sense that all would be well. I knew it was time to go home, where I could wrap myself in warmth and the company of those I hold most dear.

A Rainy Saturday Morning

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Around 11 last night, it started raining hard enough to turn all the pipes on the roof into little dissonant steel drums. My sense of what keeps a house from surrendering to noxious fluids and vapors is vague at best. It’s only during a hard rain that I know for certain where the all the exhaust vents emerge atop the house.

I awoke to the sounds of the same hard rain this morning. I’ve already done the dishes, started the laundry, and done some basic grocery shopping this morning. I really should fold the clothes. When the dryer starts dinging, it’s like a siren call of domestic duty–fold me now, lest you need to dust off the dreaded iron.

I will resist that call in favor of writing a bit. I don’t think there’s anything in that dryer that can’t be unwrinkled with a few minutes of fluffing.

I suppose it’s a cardinal sign of self-absorption to the start several paragraphs in a row with the word I. Indeed this post focuses on me and my recent struggles.

In sharing these problems, I hope that I am not merely alienating my readers. It is not impossible that some of you have endured the same or similar trials. If that is the case for you, I hope you find some solace in seeing a kindred spirit emerge from similar adversity.

I am just arising from flare-ups of chronic pain and depression that spanned three months. It began with hip pain and ended with the worst variant of sciatica that I’ve ever had the misfortune of feeling.

I did have a few random days I felt no pain at all. All the while, I had no pain unless I was moving. To feel no pain at rest is a blessing ordinarily taken for granted. I recently joined a Facebook support group for people who’ve had spinal fusion surgery. My first impression was how fortunate I am among that cohort of patients. Compared to that group of patients, my burden is light. I don’t struggle to sleep because of pain. I can work.

Here is the thing I gleaned from reading those stories: The only pain you know is your own, and it should not be discounted just because someone else has suffered more. There were moments of my most recent sciatica episode that afforded me the worst pain I’ve ever felt. It’s a pain that does not season you pleasantly with wisdom or humility. Instead, it just makes you bitter that it happened, a rude surprise that you still had a little innocence left to steal.

It all ended with a moment akin to the last bolt of lightning that flashes at the end of a storm. I was putting away laundry and leaned over to open one of my clothes drawers, a drawer that is heavy with clothes that need pruning. I felt rushed (for no good reason) to finish the laundry, so I stayed bent over at the same awkward angle as I closed the drawer. As I pushed it closed, I felt a bizarre stretching in my lower back, and the ends of my spinal fusion felt like they were sparking with a bit of heat.

I straightened myself out, dreading that I might have complicated hereditary lumbar degeneration with a careless accident. As I walked down the hallway from my bedroom, I realized that something quite different had happened. My sciatica was gone. My awkward maneuver made a supremely lucky adjustment, one that I couldn’t repeat in a hundred tries.

I am still contending with the ordinary legacy of ongoing recovery from my spinal fusion surgery, which presents a random array of numbness and nerve pains. It is a calm I’ve not known for long since the height of summer.

I’m devoting this time before the holiday rush to some deeper rest. I’ve been digging into some Agatha Christie stories, both in print and on television. Actually, Agatha Christie is an author I willfully ignored until now, dismissing her body of work as trite without having read a line of her work. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how witty and sometimes bawdy her prose can be. The stories I’ve read and seen on screen are reminders that the moral compass of humanity isn’t degenerating more with each succeeding generation. The good and bad have always existed, only the fashions and technology have changed.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how witty and sometimes bawdy her prose can be. The stories I’ve read and seen on screen are reminders that the moral compass of humanity isn’t degenerating more with each succeeding generation. The good and bad have always existed; only the fashions and technology have changed.

With that written, I will now attend to folding the laundry, avoiding any foolish haste with the pushing and pulling of drawers.

Life in Lima and more–from Intensity Without Mastery’s Michelle Cole

It is my great honor to share this post, a collaboration between myself and Rebecca Moon Ruark at Rust Belt Girl. She asked me some questions that really helped me break through the lack of inspiration that’s plagued me lately. This is part one of a two-part series.

Rust Belt Girl

For my next two posts here at Rust Belt Girl, I am honored to present Michelle Cole, a fellow Ohio native, who blogs at Intensity Without Mastery. I first stumbled upon Michelle’s photographs of the city where she lives: Lima, Ohio. I have posted before about abandonment photography, or “ruin porn,” as leaving me cold. Michelle’s photography, on the other hand, struck me with its depth of feeling, and I knew I had to learn more about the woman behind the lens. She has agreed to guest post here at my blog, and I’m so grateful.

As Michelle will tell, life in Lima—like in many Rust Belt places—has seen its share of hard times: leaving and loss. There are also sweet spots.

Between her photographs and candid backstory, Intensity Without Mastery moves me with its intense truthfulness:

My life was a mess of attrition and despair…

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Yesterday’s Fall Photo Walk

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I hated winter until I learned that I needed it. I spent four winters away from Ohio, in places where a 45-degree dawn was hailed as the start to a frigid day.  Each winter away from the Snowbelt would begin with a feeling of escape from a harsh fate and end with a sense of impending madness. I needed the deep rest that only a classic, frosty winter can offer.

While winter has not arrived yet, the temperatures have been cold enough to suggest that it’s getting time to bring out the blankets and sweaters, that there is no time like the present to dust off the books you’ve been meaning to read. The time has also changed, so there’s not enough light to get much done outside before or after work.

I had hoped for sunshine yesterday, but the skies were also gathering a blanket against the cold. The temperatures hovered in the low 20’s during my photo walk. The oaks, with their russet tones, are reigning now. Just a few sweetgum trees are blazing red. Last the willows and Bradford pear trees will change color before all of the trees slip into their winter’s rest.

(This post is also my entry in the Weekly’s Photo Challenge’s theme of Temporary.)

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Fall Photo Walk, November 8

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I don’t feel equal to the task of choosing the best of the photos I took today. While some of them were duds, I really do like the majority of them. In honor of my indecision, I will share a Flickr photo album I made of every picture I took today.

There’s something very candid and vulnerable about sharing a camera roll. It’s like the unretouched swimsuit shot of a photographer’s creative process. It offers the good, bad, and mediocre of one day in my photography hobby. This album does randomize the order of the shots to prevent boredom for the viewer.

The sunshine was glorious today. Last week I was trying to get excited about taking pictures on cloudy days, but there’s nothing like a clear sky to deepen the color of everything,

I’d be honored if you visited my photo album.

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Garden, November 5

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Some of the flowers in my garden persist despite a few frosty nights. The weather has been too inhospitable for much deadheading or trimming of these plants. The time has come to let this garden season go, but I will not pull the annuals until every last blossom is spent.

I will cherish this year’s garden for years to come. This was the year their bounty helped sustain me.

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Fall Photo Walk, November 4

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The weather was gloomy today: deeply overcast skies with the threat of rain. The temperatures hovered in the low 40’s, but I ventured to my favorite local park, determined to conquer the challenge of capturing leaf season during cloudy weather.

I fiddled with some of the settings on my camera, dialing up the ISO and adjusting the white balance. I learned that there is more drama in low light than I suspected.