Courts and kokanee…

I recently spent several hours in a courthouse observing Family Law cases being ruled upon. You might call it research for my current novel.

Relationships fall apart and divorces, especially the contested ones, are emotionally, physically, and financially draining. What I found interesting to observe was the dynamics between the couples who were all visibly male and female couples or at least appeared so in the cases of ones joining by webex. What struck me about the cases being heard was the volume of men present to fight for more time with their children, and in one case, to have his name listed on the child’s birth certificate as the father.

Men have virtually no rights to their unborn children, and there remains a heavy bias when it comes to custody—80% in favor of the mother vs 7% to the father. Shocking statistics when one considers what’s at stake is the best interests of the child. All men are not violent and abusive and all women aren’t nurturing care-givers. I was pleased to see that in one case, custody remained with the father and support payments made to the mother were ruled to be returned to him, and he was to receive child support going forward.

The judge was compassionate but not swayed by drama and unsubstantiated allegations. Like a captain steering a vessel, she gently guided each conversation back to the law being applied and then made decisive rulings.

I was encouraged by her decisions and left with the feeling that perhaps men will be heard and maybe given time, be considered more than just wallets when it comes to family.

The image above is one of kokanee spawning. In their life cycle, after 3-4 years have passed, the fish turn bright red and travel upstream, the females to lay eggs and the males to fertilize those eggs. It isn’t peaceful. The males fight for dominance and the females fight to keep their nests, called redds, safe. They linger and die there. The males too.

Not that different, humans and animals.

Remembering 9/11…

Recently I was asked to describe some defining moments from my life. (Before you read on I’m curious if, when you think back, your defining moments are happy, sad, frightening or?)

For me I found that happy moments were not what came to mind.

Although the year changes, I never forget this date. September 11, 2001 reinforced the idea that things can change in an instant.

I was standing in line at a coffee shop waiting to pick up some bagels to take to a friend who was ill, when images began to fill the screen of the wall mounted tv. The sound was off and I thought, like those around me, that a movie was being shown.

The chatter from other patrons soon died and we watched in horror as footage of planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York played out on the screen.

My phone immediately began ringing and the next few hours were consumed with phone calls, primarily from team members of the Search and Rescue team I belonged to.

At the time I was living in Florida and handling a bloodhound, a scent specific dog utilized when we needed to find one particular person, but the events of 9/11 called for the usage of dogs trained to search for anything living in collapsed structures.

Several of our team members who trained such dogs were deployed to New York with FEMA Task Force II to be a part of the search.

A defining moment as vivid today as it was twenty-one years ago. That day brought home awareness that the world can change in an instant. Many lives were lost in the attacks and more through the years as a result of the attacks. That day changed me in ways I’m only beginning to understand.

My bloodhound has been gone for many years, the hound in the image above was one that I had the good fortune to photograph one cold winter morning.

Sky pools…

Cumulous clouds reflected onto a wavy lake, both simple and complex at the same time. I like to think of optics as moveable art. There’s something meditative about observing how light interacts with the environment. It dances on the surface interacting with the objects found above and below it—never duplicating, always changing.

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.