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.

March of the penguins…

There’s a small window of time when the King Penguins walk. It can’t be too cold, certainly not too hot, and the wind can’t be strong enough to blow airborne fungal spores from decomposing plant materials their way resulting in respiratory illnesses.

It was such a joy to watch the group waddle along a protected route. They were curious and content with their rock star reception by the crowds lined up to watch.

And the baby—not even waterproof yet—just a ball of fluff!

Eye-level with a penguin! It made this photographer’s day. The vernal equinox, taking place today, marks the end of their walking opportunities for 2022, and with the winds howling, I suspect they’ll be tucked away this morning.

King Penguins are considered an indicator species for climate change.

For more nature photos, find me on instagram.

https://www.instagram.com/sherylsonnenberg_photography/

I’ll be watching you…

Today’s image led me on a self-guided study about eye cues and their ability to cause people to adjust their behavior. Pictures of eyes or stylized drawings, both seem to work.

Eyes—they aren’t just windows to the soul—they’re powerful tools that have the potential to modify human behavior.

Cue Sting…every breath you take.

A covenant…

Wild Bird World says that spotting an owl, particularly one holding watch or in a strong and dignified stance, might mean that a well-deserved justice is going to come forth.

I like to think that I’m a practical girl. I prefer when science offers me explanations for the things I encounter, and yet a part of me, that same part that likes to think there is good in everyone, wonders if it could be a sign. I’ve seen more owls in the last few months than I’ve seen in my whole life, prompting us to place a beautifully crafted Great Horned owl this past Christmas, atop our tree.

(Cue the practical girl to return from the forest of mystical signs.)

Some say that when people do bad things, you have to love them and let them go because that type of person isn’t capable of remorse or even an understanding of how broken they are. The carnage they leave in their wake will, in their minds, always be someone else’s fault.

We talk about nature or nurture but does it matter? Is why someone does something somehow a valid excuse for the behavior? Not in my mind. Sometimes people are just evil. They cloak themselves in character traits adopted to disguise the rot inside. A bit dark perhaps for a Monday morning but once you’ve encountered this type of monstrosity it’s difficult to not use it as a measuring stick for mankind.

My covenant? I’ll take the strong and dignified stance, allow a fanciful thought that an owl could be a sign, but never stop fighting for justice for myself or those whom I hold dear.

Stay the course…

In my sailing days there were times when the seas were rough and the waves were breaking from the wrong direction, making the path forward difficult and dangerous. Sometimes, because of the length of the passage, there was no option of turning back.

I remember reaching port after one such trip and realizing that I hadn’t let fear overtake me—I’d stayed the course and come out the other side. Oftentimes, it spoke to having had enough ballast to hold steady in battering seas.

Ballast. We need that on dry land too. Someone or something that balances and strengthens us. I’m grateful that I have that. It comes in the form of friends that stay close, family that supports, and last but not least, my husband.

If you’re a fan of the hit series Yellowstone you’ll understand…I married a Rip. And I’m one lucky girl.

Look for the ballast in your life. Put time and attention into the people that put time and attention into you.

The currency of freedom…

Last summer while driving home from photographing a meteor shower, I used a trucker’s lights to paint this image. He was driving down the same highway that is now obstructed for miles in both directions this side of a major border crossing.


I’m not proud of this weekend’s moment in Canadian history. Freedom is the currency being bartered for. What began as a demonstration closely tied to different mandates being required for unvaccinated truckers has gone south. I don’t believe that the mandate should have been implemented—for many, it was the final straw—coming at a time when the decision to vaccinate or not is still a personal one.

From gridlocks and blockades, to vandalism and desecration in cities across this country, it’s the smaller stories that sadden me the most. The ones that won’t make the national news because they are byproducts, not headliners, of an out of control event. How many lives are being affected because people cannot get to where they need to be, or have help get to them in a timely manner? And who will clean up the streets and highways after the protesters have dispersed? We aren’t just talking truckers here, had we been, I suspect the event would have had a different outcome. I don’t believe their intent was a call-to-arms for the fringe unvaccinated to descend from their social media thrones and disrupt essential workers trying to do their jobs. While protesting is legal, blocking a highway is not.

I’m disgusted. There are consequences to the decisions we make—freedom does have a currency.

Mandate freedom. How about we mandate humanity?