01 July 2010

A trio of Thursdays

It has been said, generally tongue-in-cheek, that doing something more than once constitutes the beginning of a tradition! So, Thursdays ... a trio of them to date. After today I wonder if I can count on Thursdays to be set apart in some way. I hope so, but only (to quote Jon Luk Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation) if I make it so.

It all began on the 17th of July, a day on the calendar with nothing written in the square. Despite the oppressive heat our part of the country was enduring at the time, early in the week we proposed a field trip on that attractive unclaimed day and for several days we tossed around ideas of what we might do. By Wednesday evening we had settled on Redcliffe Plantation, a state historic site near Beech Island -- a drive of about an hour south of Edgefield, and a place associated with Tal's late wife's family. It was hotter than the hinges of hell, I promise, and I don't particularly like any of the photographs I made of the house and grounds. But, the magnolia grandiflora was in magnificent, fragrant bloom and I have several shots which pleased me, especially since the white balance was about right for a change. Thursday #1.

Early the next week I was invited on a field trip by a friend from the Art Association of Ridge Spring to photograph at a wonderful -- and ambitious -- location called the Daylily Depot near Ridge Spring in rural Saluda County. We settled on June 24th and it turned out to be a gorgeous morning. I had decided in advance to shoot macro and was delighted with how still the early morning was. As the sun rose and the temperature began to climb, however, a luscious but troubling breeze from across the cotton field began a lifting and swaying of the flowers and foliage that shifted my focus.

Kathy Eyster, a photographer from whom I took a class in macro photography at the annual photography retreat at Kanuga, taught us early in our breezy, and initially frustrating, week together during April 2009 that not all macro photography has to be of flowers. When the wind blows, she told us, one needs to consider photographing something that doesn't move. Now, why didn't we think of that? Fortunately, I did remember her advice, looking at garden sculpture, the depot itself and even a watering can's dented rose. Thursday #2.

Although today, Thursday #3, did not include camera work, the morning was extraordinary. Tal and I rose extra-early and were at the Vannland pond before dawn -- rods, reels, tackle boxes, insect spray at the ready. We caught and released fish to our heart's content. But, the real attraction was the location and simply being there. What could be better than the sight of an eagle soaring over our heads in the brightening sky, a beaver swimming across the pond in advance of the sunrise, the sea of tiny yellow flowers blooming on the surface of the pond at the water's edge?

I write about these Thursdays because they are powerful experiences that give my life extra meaning, adding to the ordinary cycle of yard and house work, of all the responsibilities I tend to make too hard and too heavy. Last fall on a whim I bought a book by Julia Cameron entitled "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" (Tarcher, 2002). Then, a month later I actually dipped into the book and began the 12-week program.

Part of it was easy, especially writing the morning pages -- three pages every day no matter what. I can count the number of days I've failed to write during the past seven months on a single hand. Another essential requirement, the weekly artist's date -- solitary time, free time, frivolous time, however, was almost impossibly hard. During the initial 12 weeks I might have managed something that I could in good conscience call an artist's date maybe five times. Seeing the Ansel Adams exhibition at the Columbia Museum of Art, for example, or cloud-watching, for another. The task oriented part of me talks its way out of artist's dates with persistent determination and remarkable skill.

Each of the past three Thursdays would most certainly qualify as an artist's date. It appears a habit may be forming. Or a tradition. July 8th is coming up, a mere six days from now. I'll let you know what happens.

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