Versions…

I read something interesting the other day. It was a conversation about how many different versions exist of the same person.

We form opinions about people we encounter based on our interactions with them—sometimes good, sometimes bad—but likely different from someone else’s opinion of that same person. Today as a result of social media there’s an additional dynamic of having a friend that you may have never met in person, yet you’re comfortable engaging with the screen version of them.

How do you decide which version of them is the true one?

It’s pretty simple. If you’re searching for the real person their actions and patterns need to match their words. What’s the history look like?

Pay close attention to red flags. Victim patterns like the plucky little thing tryin’ to get by but somehow always ending up as the victim. Does the world owe them everything just for existing? Are you their servant? Do they isolate you from your friends and family? Do their stories stay consistent or do they change when they’re caught in a lie? Are they capable of empathy?

So what do you do if you see this kind of history? Run. Run as if your life depends on it. Because it might.

Predators are chameleons skilled at finding and exploiting weaknesses. At first they will be whatever they think you want or need them to be. Don’t be fooled into thinking someone is the version they’ve presented you with unless their actions and patterns match.

I’m presenting the version of the above photograph to you as a coneflower.

Is it a coneflower?

I guess you’ll have to decide.

An excerpt…

“How pretty,” Annie said, gazing at the patterns drawn upon the leaf. A slight breeze wove its way through the forest—the clattering of the leaves signaling its arrival.

He loved that about her. That she was always able to find beauty in unusual places and circumstances. He considered telling her the lines were created by insect maggots crawling through the leaves while eating the tissue but, she looked frail, and he hadn’t seen her face light up that way in a very long time. Slipping his phone from his pocket he stole a quick shot of her as she leaned in to have a closer look.

Humans and insects. They aren’t all that different. Some leave the results of their handiwork in full view while others, the worse ones, make sure the damage can’t be seen from the outside. Garrett’s eyes darkened as his thoughts turned to Leah.

In the light..

I’m not a big fan of Hallmark holidays. Some are easier to ignore than others, but not this one. This one is a blatant reminder of what I no longer have, and I know I’m not alone with these feelings.

That’s the thing about life—you aren’t guaranteed more of anything. Not time, not love, not even relationships. One day you can wake up and words left unsaid, or spoken in anger, are what remain. Echoing through an eternity of what might have been. My father’s been gone for decades now but I know that he knew how much he was loved. I’m happy I told him that. And I was never more sure of his love than in those times when I wasn’t the best daughter.

Father’s Day is joyful for some and painful for others. I think about the men in my life and am so proud of them. Amongst them are great fathers, new fathers, sons taking care of fathers. Some have lost fathers, some have lost children, some have lost dogs—you know I can’t forget the dog dads!

It takes a special person to be a father and maturity on the part of the child to understand the complexity of the relationship.

My father painted landscapes and the ones that I own are amongst my most prized possessions. And every time the shutter clicks on a landscape like the one above, I think of him.

I’m glad I didn’t only celebrate my dad on the third Sunday in June. I may not have known it in the moment but he gave my life a richness that I’m forever grateful for.

Relationships can be as transient as alpenglow in the mountains—treasure the good ones. If there isn’t balance in the relationship, if it’s predicated on you doing all the work, consider walking away. Life’s too short, spend it with the people you love. The ones whose love you never question.

Worth fighting for…

Today marks World Environment Day and I can’t agree more with this year’s slogan Only One Earth.

This past year I studied and photographed milkweed through each season, then planted some in my garden—for when monarchs are caterpillars, it’s their main food source. And like bees, monarchs are important pollinators.

My garden is filled with bee and butterfly-friendly plants as well as assorted shallow water sources for the honeybees to rehydrate from and gather water to haul back to the hive.

This year we participated in No Mow May. We let the dandelions run amok and didn’t cut the lawn until June—dandelions provide critical early season nutrients for the pollinators.

We play chess at a tiny table in the center of the garden surrounded by a variety of bees and butterflies, hard at work.

There is only one earth and I’ll continue to capture it frame by frame until it’s gone.

I can relate…

May 2-8th has been designated Mental Health Week by the Canadian Mental Health Association and it’s been on my mind a lot this week. Coincidentally, there’s been a very high profile court case running that deals with abuse and mental illness, and while the testimony has not been completed, and I’m not passing premature judgement, I’m encouraged by the dialogue this case has brought about.

I think we have a tendency to talk more about depression and suicide when we think about mental health, but this week, I’ve thought more about mental illness.

I suspect many people prior to this highly publicized case would have envisioned only the man as the abuser. That preconception is why the statistics are so skewed when it comes to abuse. Women are just as capable of being abusers. Their methods tend to be different, but they are no less damaging and the stigma attached to a man who comes forth with these allegations, is one of the reasons why they don’t.

I feel like this is a step forward— for men and for a more open discussion about mental illness.

The photograph above might be interpreted differently by everyone who sees it. It’s a sunrise through trees—a reminder that things are not always as they appear.

It lives in transient moments…

sandhill crane snowy woods

In our travels yesterday we passed a man toting a camera and lens longer in length than my arm. When my husband asked me if I’d like a lens of that size I could truthfully answer no.

While I do love macro photography and images that could be described as intimate landscapes—tiny sections of a larger scene—I’m more passionate about the story. I’m just as excited about seeing signs that an animal has passed as I am seeing the animal itself.

The light covering of snow softened the harsh landscape winter left behind and as we got out of my Jeep, the rattling bugle-like call of a Sandhill Crane echoed through the mountains.

A hike towards the marshland uncovered fox tracks, wolf tracks, and winged impressions left behind by perhaps a large hawk. Striding along the snowy landscape was the source of those melodic calls.

Nature is all around us. It lives in transient moments not always captured by a camera.

But on this morning I’m glad it was.

Reading your environment…

Visual clues can be found all around us if we take time to observe what’s different, not only in our environment, but in the people who can impact us.

It would be a grave mistake to assume that everything stays as it was—that time and events don’t alter our perceptions and guide our future responses.

I was reminded this morning of a boxer we had when I was a child. Neighborhood dogs seemed to target her, even though her breed was more than capable of dominating. One day she was beat-up, one too many times, by another dog. After that, she became the aggressor—a surprising change in a dog who’d been a gentle soul. She changed because events forced her to.

Glitter paths are a visual clue that, if read properly, provide information on how rough a patch of water is. For a sailor out on the water, it’s a valuable tool to use when plotting a course.

Adaptation is more important today than it ever was. Be observant to changes in your environment and never assume the person you knew then, is the same one you’ll meet today.

Upside down?

I think I could have lived in this moment forever. A gorgeous spring day emerged after a sprinkling of snow—cloaking the browns and yellows of winter in a soft covering of white.

There was a stillness to the air, a rarity for this mountain town known for its wind.

Not a ripple marred the glass-like reflections.

Clouds dotted the sky’s canvas.

Here in this place of beauty, there were no flags flying upside down and the only sound for miles around was birds twittering.

There’s a disconnect in humanity today. Perhaps it’s brought about because so many of our interactions take place with layers between us. We interact with people on social media that may not even exist. People who, in reality, could be far removed from the personas they exude on screen.

Many of us have been working from home—sometimes never interacting in person with another human being for days.

Algorithms reinforce our ideas and interests, further separating us from people who may have opinions different from our own. We see more of what we’ve searched for instead of something new. In years past we might have sat around a campfire and engaged one another in debates about current affairs. Not now. Now, those discussions take place behind keyboards.

What a world we live in. The nautical side of me, and the ingrained respect for a country’s flag and how it’s flown, can’t even begin to fathom why people sitting in their homes, or driving their expensive vehicles, choose to fly their flag upside down, signaling distress. It’s an embarrassment when compared to countries like the Ukraine.

I think John Burroughs had it right. I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

Me? I’m going to spend as much time as I can in nature— its beauty is a balm for the soul.

Let’s talk about it…

I’m encouraged by conversations about gender and fluidity but puzzled by the lack of those concepts when it comes to the topic of abuse.

We need to stop genderizing abusers. There are good people who live by moral codes and there are bad people who exist purely to cannibalize those around themselves.

Abusive relationships are about power and control and when we make decisions about who is abusive based purely on biologically defined factors, we are minimizing abusive behavior by women.

It needs to stop—abuse does not just happen to women and when it happens to men, there’s the added price of a stigma attached.

Abuse is perpetrated in many forms and many, if not most, do not leave visible scars or bruises.

Abuse is not just a conversation for and about women, and it’s not about raising better men. Until abuse becomes a conversation for and about everyone, and its definition beyond physical becomes more universally acknowledged, we will never come close to resolving it.