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.

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.

Into the Night (shake it off)

Night’s darkness looms

Greens fade into black

The horizon’s bright band

Doesn’t reach where I stand


Headlights behind

Embed thoughts in my mind

The air is so thin

I can’t breathe enough in


Stars blanket the sky

Silence rings in my ears

What once was my zone

is now filled with unknown


The snap of a twig

Mirrors the click of a gun

Suck a breath in

Or the pattern will win


Pull out the camera

Set up the tripod

Scars never heal

But fear’s lost its appeal


(shake it off)

I began writing Into the Night (shake it off) last year after realizing that I had overcome my fear of the night once again. I couldn’t have done it without the patience and support of my husband—he gave back to me what I allowed someone else to take from me.

We are a product of everything we do and have done to us. That’s what I believe. I also believe that good and evil exists and their defining characteristics are not gender based. Gender can however play a role in how these qualities manifest.

Don’t allow fear to be a dictator—empower yourself. Surround yourself with people whose actions don’t raise questions and distance yourself from those whose do. Be ruthless. It might be tough at first but it gets easier over time.

Influences…

When it comes to art, nothing is new. Consciously or subconsciously we are influenced by what we see and hear, but what we do with that information is what counts.

I recently watched a post unfold where a painter sourced a photographic group for photos, replicated some of them, and passed them off as his own work. When called out, he claimed not to know better, yet had a well established website from which to monetize his paintings—which were identical in content to some of the photographs. He hadn’t asked permission to use them, and he certainly hadn’t made any of them his own. He’d simply painted the photograph with no credit to the photographer. One was a carefully crafted landscape image that this particular photographer had planned out. The resulting photo wasn’t a case of being in the right place at the right time. He, like many photographers do, had researched the site, the event that he wanted to photograph there, and when the two came together, he went out and got the shot—his vision, his composition, his expression.

Inspiration is a good thing. It stretches our creative boundaries and takes us in directions we might not have gone had we not been moved in some way.

From episode one of the series Yellowstone, I was mesmerized by the opening title sequences so brilliantly put together by creative director Lisa Bolan, Elastic, and crew. (If I’ve missed other attributions, I apologize.) Black and white photography has always inspired me and I’ve written before about people whose work I’ve particularly enjoyed, Stieglitz, for one. The images that drew me in from the title sequences had a gorgeous, yet gritty, yellowish toning applied to them.

By the next day, I’d developed a black and white toning pre-set for my monochrome imagery that for me, had the feel of those opening sequences. It doesn’t work for everything, it’s a starting point, but I’ve had a lot of fun playing with it.

The image above is a farrier hot-shoeing a horse.

Explore other mediums. Be inspired. Be true to your own vision.

Lessons learned…

A relationship must exist before you can lose it—if it never did, you’ve only lost the illusion of it.

Far more people remain in relationships that are damaging, not because they want to, but because they’ve lost sight of themselves.

A journey begins with one step.

Being in a relationship built on compatibility does not require either of you to change things about yourself.

Women, not just men, are capable of horrific things—their methods are different, and are equally damaging.

A handful of trusted family and friends is far more valuable than an army of acquaintances.

Have some great life lessons you’ve learned this year? I’d love to hear them. And to those who are celebrating, have a safe and happy holiday week-end!