Posts Tagged ‘black and white’

February 16, 2016
Empty

Empty

Ever looked at a playground at night?

I never really paid attention to one until tonight. Every Tuesday we have a meeting of a club I have belonged to for 7 years.  This is a club that is 114 years old and has existed in its current format since the beginning.

We hold our meetings in a building in a park, and next to the buildings is a playground.  As a child, my idea of a playground wasn’t much more than monkey bars on asphalt. Today that just wouldn’t do, despite the sort of romantic notions we hold over the things of the past.  Some kid falling from the top of the bars and hitting the deck below would be in serious trouble. Today’s playgrounds are much, much safer, and, frankly, appear to be a lot more fun than those monkeybars.

Tonight as I walked across the parking lot and into the meeting, I saw the silhouette of the playground. Here was this place of immense joy and laughter, and it was empty and dark.  That about sums up how I felt tonight going into, and coming out of, this meeting.

The emptiness and darkness were not for me.  Rather, they are for a some members of the club who are going through unspeakable hardship right now.  Rather than detail things, suffice it to say their conditions are not what anyone in his right mind would choose.

Yet here they are at the meeting, men of whom I have grown very fond over the years.  Knowing of their fear, anxiety and profound sadness, I can’t help but believe they come to the meetings for the friendship and support they know that is theirs.  My intention is to breathe in their troubles and breathe out purified air, cleansed by the goodness of God, so that they can breathe again themselves.  The Buddhists have a word for this practice – tonglen.  These guys need all of it they can get.

I left the meeting with a heavy heart, knowing that in spite of the enjoyment of the meeting, these two were facing trials that should have precluded their enjoyment of the meeting, but did not.

So this melancholy is not from them, but only because I feel the pain that encompasses them now.  May God bless them both.

A dark playground is a lonely place.  Darkness in our lives can be lonely as well.  We can pray that God shows us his everlasting love.

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Thoughts on Sewing

February 4, 2016
Stitched together

Stitched together

Let me clear up any possible misconception right now.  Yes, this is a sewing machine.  No, I couldn’t use it to save my life. This is Sherry’s sewing machine. She acquired this before we were married, and we have been married 33 years.  She has had it longer than she has had me.

Sherry has a sewing room where we keep our ironing board and our iron.  Each morning I go in there to iron something to wear to work, a task I have been doing for a long time.  This morning I noticed the shadows as they cast themselves across the machine.  There is a south facing window in the room, and at 7:30 a.m. the sun is shining through as it starts its arc low across the southern horizon.  Today the blinds were just right to make me take notice of the stripes across the face of this piece of equipment.

Sewing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  More accurately, it’s been a part of the women in my life for as long as I can remember.  My mother was a wonderful seamstress, and she spent many hours running material through her Singer.  That always seemed to be the best time to talk to her – when she was busy with her hands and I was watching the TV in the same room.  Deep stuff, like girls, school, girls, my future, and girls.  She always understood, never tried to tell me what to do, and made me believe she really listened to me, because she did.

For my senior high school picture, my mom made adenim leisure suit for me.  I can see you cringing – and laughing –  right now, but in 1975 it was cutting edge.  I don’t know where that picture is, but I can see, and feel, that suit right now.

My sister-in-law Sharon is a legendary seamstress.  She made clothes for her two girls while they were growing up, and not just simple things, either.  She taught her skills to her daughters, Carole and Jayne, who picked up the craft and make clothes for themselves, their children and grandchildren.

Sherry would sew, then not, then sew, then not, then sew throughout our married life.  Maybe ten years ago, she got an interest in quilting and went down that road.  We both know of women – I don’t know any man quilters – who have gone into the quilting thing like men go into the tool/hunting/biking thing.  They have yards and yards of fabric filling up cabinets and closets in their homes, and they churn out quilts by the dozens, or so it seems.

Sherry has made quite a few quilts, but our house isn’t littered with them.  She gives them away.  She is working on two quilts for grandchildren right now, and this sewing machine is seeing a lot of use.

Which brings me to the thoughts I had when I was ironing.  Yesterday I wrote about nails holding things together for a long time.  Quilts, while not hard and stout like nails, hold things together as well, but in a much more complex manner.

When Sherry makes a quilt, she spends hours and hours cutting out little pieces of fabric, putting them into some sense of order, ironing them and then sewing them together.  I’ve seen her stay up quite late working on her quilts, not because of a deadline to finish them, but because she just loses track of time.

Her quilts are a lot like her life and our family.  She has spent years selecting the fabric of our lives, making sure that what we have is strong and durable, and it can withstand multiple cycles of clean/dirty/clean.  She takes these disparate pieces of fabric that is us and our girls, and irons them, taking out the wrinkles that distract from the beauty of the fabric.  Then she takes her scissors and cuts off the rough edges.  She sews it all together, making this batch of fabric – us – come together as one beautiful piece of art.  That finished product is a marvel to behold.  And while there are imperfections, that’s OK, because this life quilt was built out of love.

I love seeing this sewing machine.  I love what it represents to me, that connection to the strong women in my family.  I love that it is a tool that allows Sherry to make her useful art and share it with others.  I love the fact that she has used this same sewing machine for so long, never looking to acquire a new one simply because it was new.  And I love the stripes across it, giving it a depth and texture that I’ve never witnessed before.

And all that from ironing a pair of pants.

 

The Proper Order

January 28, 2016

 

Shadow ladders

Shadow ladders

I visited a friend in the hospital today.  It was a good visit, because she was there for some serious stuff.  She looked good, even though she had just undergone life-altering surgery that was anything but planned.  When I left her room, I made my way to the elevators and, while waiting, looked out the window to see this street stretch off into the horizon.   As the sun was setting, the cross streets created an open corridor for the last rays of the day’s light to illuminate their paths, while the homes and trees in the blocks in between filled the space with shadows.

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Abandoned and forgotten

 

I left the hospital and walked down the street I had just seen.  A block away from the hospital is a group of homes that no longer have occupants.  As is their wont, hospitals like to acquire property because they grow like nothing else. These homes were in the way, and the owners – a group of investors – wanted to knock them down and sell the land to the hospital.  The homes were considered by some to be historic, and therefore a hue and cry went up up prevent their destruction.  Now they sit empty, and the owners will give them away for the taking, and pay $10,000 towards the moving cost.  In the meantime, the environment is taking its toll. The once beautiful and distinct homes, filled with unique character, are going back to the land.  The paint peels, the wood rots, and soon enough they will be beyond repair and will come down on their own.

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Two dimensions

 

While the paint comes off the wood, the trees show their outlines against the chimney, perhaps in a scene from the future as the only thing left will be the shadows of what once was.  Even brick and mortar give themselves up to the wind, the rain and the cold.  It won’t be long before the shadows will migrate east as their screen disappears.

Light and water

Light and water

And then the snow, the cold, forbidding snow, loses its grip on the roofs and sidewalks as the sun warms it and turns it, drop by drop, into the water that will eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  Today it came down like diamonds falling from the sky.  By Monday, the snow will be back and winter will slap us once again.

My trip to the hospital was quite an adventure.  My friend is resting, recuperating, and we pray for her.  The shadows will come and go again, and the homes will make their way to the land. This is life.  This is the proper order of things.

Kaleidoscopes

January 25, 2016
Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope

I loved kaleidoscopes when I was a kid.

Every once in a while one would enter into my life for my enjoyment.  I remember getting little ones from toy boxes at the dentist or at the shoe store.  Holding it up to my eye and twisting the little cardboard tube to make the bits of glass inside change colors and shapes was fascinating.

I can’t remember the last time I looked at one.  Then today in the office I was stressing about what picture to take to get back on track with this 365 project.  I was the only one in the building, as it was past 5 and everyone else had gone home.  I walked into the common area and looked up.

In the ceiling is a large domed space with skylights and a real old and ugly light fixture that looks like bowling balls suspended on wires.  In a perfect world, that fixture would not exist.  It really is a tribute to bad taste in interior design.

In fact, and I make no secret about this, the inside of our offices are not what one would call aesthetically pleasing.  I often joke about it with visitors and co-workers alike.  The building was a Savings and Loan at one time, and then the bottom fell out of that market and the S&L went away.  It was bought by the Diocese close to 30 years ago, and even though it has been upgraded in spots, it still retains it’s natural shade of hideous architecture.

The saddest part of the story is that it was built on the spot whence stood the Carnegie Library, a grand old edifice with Greek columns, two stories and real character.  Tragically, the library was torn down to make way for modernization and our tribute to the beauty of pre-stressed concrete construction.

Tonight, however, I looked up with the eye for something different.  I have seen that light fixture thousands of times, but never from the perspective of looking up at it from the laying on the floor.  That’s the advantage of being the last one in the building, as you don’t have to worry about who is looking at you and what they are thinking.

I saw a character in the light fixture and ceiling that I had never seen before.  It was so unique, so monochromatic in the dark interior of the building that it took on it’s own beauty, a beauty that has escaped me all these years.

I always loved kaleidoscopes, and I never thought I’d see one in the ceiling of our building.  Like those old cardboard kaleidoscopes, it’s a wondrous thing to see shapes of things change before your very eyes, even when nothing really changes.

Working Late

January 13, 2016
Lights on at the Supreme Court

Lights on at the Supreme Court

My truck is at the shop today, getting an oil change.  This isn’t big news or anything, but it did cause me to walk to and from work.  For lots of folks, that would be a delight, and today, for me, it was as well.

I only live a few blocks from where I work, and the crime here is that I don’t walk there very often.  Walking slows us down and allows us to see, to think, to ponder, to understand in a manner unknowable when we are speeding from one place to another in our cars.

Tonight on the way home, I walked past the State of Wyoming’s Supreme Court building.  On the south wing of the building, a lone light shone out of the halls of justice.  It was about 6:00, a time when most people who work downtown – lawyers, bankers, state employees, and those of us at the chancery – had already gone home.  I tend to work until this time more often than not, as it affords some uninterrupted time in my office because my coworkers have already left.

But tonight I saw evidence that a state employee working after hours.  It doesn’t surprise me at all, as I know a few people who work in that building, and their work ethic is such that staying on the job after hours is no surprise.

I spent a dozen years on the State Retirement Board serving the people of Wyoming.  This was pretty much a volunteer position, appointed by the governor, and I always considered it a privilege to be a part of the organization.  I was never a state employee, and I do not have any eligibility for a state pension.  I was truly an outsider.

We all know about the caricature of government employees as a bit lazy, and bureaucratic, and certainly unwilling to do more than they are assigned to do.  Yet my experience with public sector employees never bore out that picture.  The people who worked for the Retirement System, and every other  employee in the system whom I came across, including teachers and cops, were enormously dedicated and worked very hard, oftentimes without any notoriety, lower comparative wages than their private sector counterparts.

No surprise in the late night light in the window.  There is important work going on in that building that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it nonetheless affects the daily lives of more than half a million Wyoming residents.

I need to walk more often.

Catching up

January 10, 2016
Here's looking at you

Here’s looking at you

In the beginning of this project, I committed to a picture and a post a day.  I Missed posting yesterday, although I did take a photo.  Today I catch up.

This big fella is on the east side of the Wyoming State Capitol.  I have walked and driven past him hundreds, maybe thousands of times.  Every time I see him, I am awestruck by the reality of the sculpture, to the point where walking up to him, I almost expect him to turn his head to look at me.

I would never do that to the real deal.  Since hunting bison at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming 6 years ago, I have gained a love for this animal that I never thought possible.  I always pictured them as lumbering behemoths who were as challenging to shoot as milk cow.

If that were the case, bison would have been extinct a long time ago.  They are some of the oldest mammals on the earth, and I’m certain they will be here for a long time to come.

The bison is the state animal of Wyoming, and it’s silhouette is on the state flag.  In many ways, it’s deeply symbolic of the people of Wyoming.  The bison is built to withstand the toughest environment – many feet of snow, below zero temperatures for extended periods of time, long winters and food that’s hard to reach.

Wyomingites are built for tough environments as well.  While we can get food in the grocery store and then go home to a heated home, the small numbers of people and an energy based economy that goes up and down like a yo-yo make this a tough place to live.

Like the bison, we just keep getting up each day and going to work, knowing that those before us had it a lot harder than we have it now.

That’s why I like looking at this guy and why I find him inspiring.

 

Cold up there

January 7, 2016
Winter up High

Winter up High

This is Vedauwoo.

For those of us blessed enough to live here, we know how to pronounce that weird looking word, and it’s not what you might think.

Even though it looks like Vee-daw-woo, if you say that around here people will just smile and nod, which is our way of saying “you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

So here is the secret – it’s Vee-duh-voo.  Not so difficult, but no way to figure that out by looking at it.

Vedauwoo is an amazingly beautiful place.  The rocks look like giant blocks stacked up on each other.  The wind howls all winter with a ferocity and constancy that keeps the trees free of branches on the windward side.  The snow piles up to 6 feet deep in drifts, while a few yards away the sparse grass is visible where the wind has swept it clean.

Winter comes early up here, and it hangs around a long time.  When spring finally makes a little headway in May or June, it is the home to vast, fearsome and bloodthirsty swarms of mosquitoes.

There is plenty of wildlife here as well.  Moose, elk, mule deer, antelope, mountain lions, eagles, hawks and lots more make their homes right where you are looking.

If you like to cross country ski, there are groomed trails on the mountain in the distance.  Plenty of mountain bike trails on that mountain for the warmer days, too.

Vedauwoo is spectacular, and less than 30 minutes from Cheyenne.

As you can see, winter is in full force here, the wind singing it’s constant song that drowns out all other sounds, and the snow keeps piling up.

This is one of my favorite places.  Come and see it sometime.1Z1A0540 1Z1A0530 1Z1A0529 1Z1A0535


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