Tag: Wyalusing PA photographer

Spring has finally sprung in Pennsylvania but it’s always possible another snow storm will come

“There are robins on the hill,” my dad said and we rushed to the windows and “ooohed” and “aahed” because in Pennsylvania we know that the sight of the robins in our yards means spring has sprung. Sure, the grass may still be brown and yellow, the trees may still be naked, and the flowers aren’t yet budding, but when the robins appear, back from their trip South, we know it won’t be long.

Soon there will be flowers (and for our family sneezing), warm days spent at the playground (though we already squeezed a playground visit in this week),

I have to be honest, during our first warm day this spring, I found myself briefly wishing for cold again. After months of waiting for weather warm enough to get the children out of the house, I felt a rush of anxiety at having to talk to people again while walking the dog and pushing my daughter up the hills on her bicycle. I’m anti-social at heart (which is weird, considering the 13 years I worked in newspapers) and find the older I’ve become the more I prefer sitting at home, reading a book, writing nonsense on here, or watching another episode of “Somebody Feed Phil.”

Not having to wear a coat to walk to the car or around the block was welcome for those three warm days, before cold weather set back in, though. I walked to the local diner on the second warmer day, after a family friend invited me for lunch. I was fed what was possibly grass with some dried cranberries, the smallest sunflower seeds I’ve ever seen and a pile of oregano. Apparently, I’m not as “natural” as I like to think and found myself wishing the black beans sprinkled on as my source of protein was a huge steak.

Showing that I’m not yet prepared for the normal warm weather walking of five paces behind my daughter on her bike while trying not to let the dog yank me onto my face on the sidewalk on her short leash, I decided to try to cut corners and let the dog pull my daughter on her bike. I wasn’t really going to leave the leash hooked there long, but truly thought the dog might pull her forward a few inches instead of yanking the bike onto its side and leaving my preschooler laying under it at the exact moment a local police officer drove by.

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The officer’s SUV slowed down and he looked through the tinted window at me as I lifted her off the sidewalk and checked her skinned elbow and grabbed the dog’s leash to keep her from running away. He gave me a thumbs up as if to ask “You okay?” and I gave one back to let him know I was and then waved a ‘thank you’.  One thing that is nice about small-town life is the local police presence.

He drove away and I looked closer at the mark on her arm was about the size of the top of a pin, but you would have thought she had almost lost her arm the way her lower lip was pushed out and she started making demands we turn around and go home. In the past two weeks, she’s become very attached to bandaids and seems to think she needs them on even the smallest scratches.

Even her animals are receiving their own bandages, especially if the dog happens to grab on to one of them and run off with it. Also in the past two weeks, she has become much more stressed about – well, everything. I had a feeling what she needed more than a bandaid was a nap after a couple of hours at the playground earlier with her dad and even more running through the house chasing the dog, before our walk.

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By Friday night the warm air had faded and I was receiving texts from my husband, who was at work, reminding me to turn on the heat. I refused, telling him it was still warm out and I wouldn’t close the windows and turn the heat on until I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. This resolved faded shortly after that declaration and I found myself craving a warm cup of tea and the shawl that used to be my aunts. 

For now I’m happy to sink back into a little bit of introvert isolation, content with the excuse that it’s simply too cold to go outside and interact with others. And who knows, maybe we will have a March blizzard like last year and I’ll have even more of an excuse to stay inside.

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Let’s focus on living instead of dying

People are depressed. I mean it, people. People all around me are depressed.

I can’t turn around without someone standing there or writing somewhere that they are in mourning. The people who are having family members dying, or announcing cancer or abuse is all around me these days. I don’t get why it seems to be happening more and more but it’s probably because I’m getting older. Maybe I was in a fog as a kid and don’t remember all the death and tragedy as much?

I don’t know.

Or maybe people simply tend to share more sadness than happiness and that’s why we are all in the gutter of attitudes some days. We need to share sadness and sadness will happen, it can’t be helped, so don’t get me wrong here.

My brother has been going on for a couple of weeks about he and his wife’s plan for deleting their social media. It’s a good thing but you would think it’s a religious experience for them with all the philosophical statements my brother makes. Or maybe he’s just dramatic (thank God I never am. Ha. Ha.)

My brother has been answering some who ask about his reason for kicking the big “fbook” to the curb, by saying he wants to “make the best of his remaining years.”

He turns 50 in June and in his world 50 is the new 80. But it seems to be where we all are these days (including me) – this impending sense of doom and negativity. We remind ourselves so often that “life is short” and “you never know WHEN YOU WILL DIE!!” in warnings that are supposed to be encouraging that we have forgotten to remind each other to simply live.

I get it. We only get one trip around the sun.

We all die.

Life is short.

That message has been drilled into my head a lot over the years and just in case I didn’t get it I lost three relatives in nine months and a handful of community members passed away as well.

Death is coming.

It’s around the bend.

The grim reaper stands at our door.

But not yet.

Being realistic about death is fine.

Being honest about it is important.

Grieving is important and talking about our grief is very important (so this is not meant as a scolding to those who are grieving), but for all that is good and holy stop reminding everyone they are on the path to death, finding ways to weave it into conversations.

About two years ago death loomed over me like a dark cloud. Test results and severe hypochondria coupled with a mental breakdown had made me decide I had blood cancer and there was no hope. Every day I thought of death and how it was coming and eventually I stopped living. My dog of 14-years died, my aunt’s health was not good, and my husband’s uncle passed away.

One day I was out in our yard trying to make a garden, though I didn’t know why because I was sure I wouldn’t be around the enjoy it. Suddenly I heard a voice within me say “Stop focusing on death and start focusing on living.”

The voice of God? I don’t know but I know I hadn’t been thinking any positive thoughts on my own for about three months at that point.

We can’t really live if all we do is think about how we are dying.

We need to remind people they are on the path of life and life is good much of the time. Maybe telling ourselves we are simply walking toward a new life in the after life is a better idea.

Soon spring will be here and flowers will bloom and birds will chirp and the sky will blue again.

Why don’t we all look toward that new life instead of the grave?

My camera: the pen of my visual journal

Some people keep a written documentary, some a visual one. I happen to be someone who keeps both.

As you know, if you’ve followed this blog or my work at all, a lot of my images feature my children, which elicits comments such as “Wow. Don’t you have enough photos of your kids?” or “Geesh, your kids will never say you didn’t take enough photos of them.”

I’m never sure if these comments are meant to be sarcastic or sincere but the more they’re made, the more I gather there isn’t a lot of sincerity in there. Instead many seem baffled why I’d want to take some many images of my own children. They see it more as narcissism than documentation, I suppose, and maybe they think I’m bragging somehow when I post the images. I’m not actually sure. More likely, though, they are teasing and don’t mean to be snarky at all.

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My real purpose for taking the images is simply to document life as I see it and since I’m mostly home with them all day, they are who I see. Photography is like therapy to me. It is similar to writing in a journal. It’s a way to work out my internal musings, my deep questions, my efforts to understand a situation or a person or even an entire family, but it is also a way for me to slow down and simply notice the world around me.

Often, before I even take a photo, unless I’m shooting for stock photography, I think about what the scene means to me. Why do I even want to photograph what is happening around me? Do I want these images because of who or what is in them or because how the scene makes me feel? Many times I want to capture a specific moment on “film” (or memory card these days) so that when I look at the photo I am mentally and emotionally (maybe even spiritually) transported.

_DSC5937DSC_1879DSC_2915Almost every photograph I take is a desire to capture joy within my life. I rarely take a photo to capture sorrow but if I do it is so I can convey to someone else the heavy emotion of the moment, opening their eyes to the experience of someone else and maybe to try to change the future so similar situations don’t happen again.

I am sure there are some in my family who wonder why I would want to photograph certain situations in my life. When my husband’s grandfather became ill I sat by his bed many days as he slept. I never photographed him, but I did photograph the photo of his wife over his bed, the photograph he lifted his eyes to the day he was brought home from the hospital to be placed in hospice care. He was too weak from the stroke to move but he could lift his eyes upward and he wept at the site of the woman he’d been married to almost 65 years and who had died two years earlier.

The only time I photographed him laying in that bed was the day his older brother came to visit him, holding his hand, and speaking softly. It was one of his more alert moments in those days before he passed. In fact,  it wasn’t long after his brother’s visit that he slipped into a restful sleep and never woke again.

The moment between the brothers was private, intimate, sacred and part of me knew I shouldn’t lift my camera, but on that day the desire to document replaced the worry of offending a reserved and quiet family. It’s not as if I went all paparazzi on the scene. I remember quickly lifting the camera and snapping off two quiet shots and then putting my camera away.

If anyone in the family had witnessed me taking the photos I’m sure they wouldn’t have understood, and may not even today, why I felt I needed to take that photograph. Looking back, I still don’t why I snapped the shots. Maybe because the family was often so shut off emotionally that I wanted to document this tender moment to remind me they weren’t as shut off as I once thought, but simply struggled knowing how to handle painful moments.

Sometimes when we photograph a moment we are doing so to learn something from the moment, not only to teach someone else about what we saw.

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I’ve never shown anyone the image. It’s tucked away in a hard drive and maybe someday I’ll delete it. I’m not sure why I kept it and sometimes I forget I even took it, but then I’ll be looking for another photo and there it is; often showing up when I’m wrestling with a particular quirk of that side of the family. It’s as if God uses the photo to remind me that buried pain creates emotional distance people don’t know how to bridge. In other words, a person isn’t always rejecting us but something inside themselves.

When I  look at photography as a way to document, rather than only a way to create something pretty, I am able to let go of preconceived ideas of perfection. The world of photography opens up and leaves behind the constraints of technical refinement. Learning the technical aspects of photography is a good thing, even a necessary thing,  but being ruled by them is a creativity killer.

When I let go of the idea that every shot has to be perfect, that’s when I can pick up whatever camera I have on me, and document my world. No workshops needed at that point – just a desire to create and learn from what I capture.

Accessing my reason for picking up the camera creates personal art worth looking at.

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Find more of my photography at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or on my photography site: www.lisahowelerphotography.com

Mud, leg bruises and fun

I picked up my 10 year old son  the last day of camp and found him covered in mud and smiling – just the way I like to see him.

He attends a day camp about 45 minutes from our house in rural Bradford County, Pa. for a week each June.

Stoney Point Camp is literally in the middle  of nowhere, or at least it would be considered the middle of nowhere to anyone not originally from Northern Pennsylvania.

Someone from this county is used to dirt roads that lead to camps deep in the woods or sometimes to another dirt road and sometimes to an empty field.

The camp is full of Christian-based adventure and the day camp offers activities related to Christ and wildlife. They also offer horsemanship and teen camps throughout the summer.

Each day my son learned about wildlife, nature and God, which sounds like a good way to spend a summer day to me.

He spent two nights away from us at his  friend’s house because our friends live less than ten minutes from the camp and it was easier on those days to have them take him with them. My friend is also one of the art instructors at the camp.

I won’t lie, we missed him terribly while he was gone. 

We missed his laughter and the way he can make even the gloomiest day seem brighter.

He’s never been big on sleep overs, taking after his mom and preferring to spend his evenings home in the familiar so he was ready to come home on that final day, he said, even though he’d had fun with his friend.

We weren’t sure how Little Miss would handle her brother not being home since she’s so used to him being there every night. She handled his absence better than I thought, but did ask each night before bed where he was. The day we were ready to pick him up after his sleep over, I asked if she was excited to go get him, expecting a “yes!” but instead she said “No. I’m not excited anymore.” 

I guess the process of preparing to head out the door to pick him up had eroded her anticipation.

But she was excited when we finally had him in our van and headed home for the day, stopping by an ice cream stand, complete with a climbable wooden pirate ship and a small playground, on our way home.