Reaching

Is it so difficult to imagine some sort of leafy sentience in a thing that so persistently reaches and clings, clambering its way toward the light it needs as desperately as air?

This is my short-and-sweet contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Plants.

As I type this, a great horned owl is calling outside my window, perched (I presume) in a taller, more rigid sort of greenery.

Extreme closeup

When you go to sporting events with a super-zoom camera, you end up seeing things that might otherwise have escaped your notice. When you go to sporting events with a super-zoom camera, in other words, you discover that spying on your fellow spectators is almost as much fun as watching the game on the field.

Let's go, Red Sox!

I’ve always been a people-watcher, and sporting events are a great venue for people-watching. Sporting events attract large crowds of people, and when people think everyone else is watching the action on the field, they feel free to be themselves in public. Just as folks naturally assume that no one is watching them while they drive, the presumed anonymity afforded by a large crowd allows fans to feel like they’re sitting at home on their couch, watching the game on TV. If everyone else is watching the game, no one will notice (or care) if I spend the game reading the newspaper, texting my friends, or consuming inordinate amounts of food and drink.

Get your snow cones!

Because J and I attend (and take photos at) so many baseball, soccer, basketball, and hockey games, we’ve expanded our photographic subject matter to include many things besides what happens in the actual game. We have an ongoing challenge to one another, for instance, to photograph food, believing that hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, pizza, and beer add a great deal of “flavor” (both literally and figuratively) to any given event. When I see this picture of an entire tray of snow-cones, for instance, I instantly remember how HOT it was to sit in the outfield at Atlanta’s Turner Field on a sunny, 90-degree day last month. Sweating in the stands–and cooling off with an appropriately cold treat–is simply part of what it means to watch a baseball game.

Snow cone

Because both J and I are constantly on the lookout for interesting candid shots of fans, food, and the like, we spend only part of any given game concentrating on what’s happening on the field. The rest of the time, we entertain one another with an ongoing people-watching play-by-play. I might point J toward an interesting example of fried dough, for instance, or J might nudge me toward yet another shot of someone taking pictures. I’m sure to other people-watching fans, J’s and my behavior is incredibly odd: who, after all, goes to a baseball game in order to watch (and take extreme closeup pictures of) other fans? And yet, I get a perverse kick out of the thought that some other people-watching photographer might be photographing me photographing yet another fan. Isn’t the entire fan experience just as much a part of the game as the actual players and score?

A closer view

Both my blogging and my photography have always felt a bit like snooping. There’s a vicarious thrill in reading someone’s blog, and there’s an exhibitionist thrill in sharing: we humans seem to enjoy both watching and being watched. The whole point of spectator sports, after all, is spectating, so who can blame you if your eyes wander from the field to take in one’s fellow fans?

Both J and I try to preserve the anonymity of the people we shoot: like Jo(e) with her blogged pictures of friends, family, and naked bloggers, J and I take a lot of pictures of the backs or sides of people’s heads, their eyes hidden by hair, sunglasses, or an occasional pair of binoculars. Both J and I also try to shoot candid shots that respect the human dignity of our anonymous subjects: the point isn’t to catch someone doing something stupid or embarrassing but to capture those moments of genuine humanity we all share. Like journalists looking for human interest stories, both J and I are on the perpetual lookout for images that capture what it means to be alive and human at any given moment.

Hotdog & peanuts

As admittedly odd as J and my photo-obsessions are, I’d like to think that looking at the world through this sort of eyes is a boon to my creative life. At any given sporting event, there are shots that are obvious–hockey face-offs, for instance, or basketball free-throws–but the real artistry, I think, lies in shooting the non-obvious shot. When I first saw last week’s Photo Friday theme, Eyes, what I immediately considered sharing was an image of gratuitous cuteness. After spending almost a week thinking about last week’s Photo Friday theme, though, I decided to go with something less obvious. My own eyes, it seems, are drawn to shoot things that other folks might not admit to looking at, one of them being the binocular-assisted eyes of other fans at a hot Atlanta ballgame.

This is my long-overdue contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Eyes. Most of today’s images come from my photo-set from the third and final Braves game J and I attended during last month’s Red Sox pilgrimage. Enjoy!

Lush

You might say I’m addicted to color. Apart from a single roll of black and white film I shot in the early ’90s when I had to “use up” a roll of film after having taken several portraits of my then-husband for a company newsletter, I don’t think I’ve ever looked at the world monochromatically. Although J and I often joke that black and white photography is synonymous with “art,” I see the world in full technicolor splendor: the more (and the brighter) colors, the better.

Kind of blue

You can understand, then, why I laughed when I saw last week’s Photo Friday theme, Monochrome. “Oh, they’re going to get flooded with black & white art shots,” I thought to myself, and I figured I’d have nothing to contribute. But in the almost-week since last week’s Photo Friday theme was announced, I double-checked the definition of “monochrome.” If interpreted in its loosest sense, “a painting, drawing, or photograph in a single hue” could refer not just to a black and white image, but also to an image that is all-green or all-blue.

So today’s offering is a lush-green image of a rosette of new pokeweed leaves, and an accompanying image of an all-blue section of empty seats at Gillette Stadium before a New England Revolution soccer game. Each of these monochromatic images contains enough color to sate my color-addicted fancy, although I have to admit an unabashed fondness for this dichromatic version of those Gillette Stadium seats. Some addictions die hard.

Primary colors

Pine Sharks

Today’s Photo Friday theme is Metal, which gives me an excuse to post this picture of Kitty Wales’ Pine Sharks, one of several images from an April visit to the DeCordova Sculpture Park which I posted to Flickr but never blogged.

Pine Sharks

Of all the ingenious, odd, and downright weird works at the DeCordova, Pine Sharks is probably my favorite. I love its fishily fluid lines; I love the juxtaposition of rusted metal, pine boughs, and blue sky; and I love the irony that a sculpture of sharks was conceived by an artist named Wales. (In checking out Kitty Wales’ website, I realize that I’d seen another of her installations, Canis Ex Machina, when it was featured in an indoor exhibition at the DeCordova Museum in 2006.) Only at a place like the DeCordova can you be surprised and delighted by the possibility of airborne fish fashioned from abandoned appliances.

Pine Sharks

It is exactly this element of surprise that I crave in any individual art work or exhibition. When I go to a sculpture park or museum, I’m looking to have my worldview widened. Even if I don’t “understand” an especially bizarre piece of art–and the DeCordova always features some head-scratching doozies–what I love about a good museum is the way you walk away from it feeling like you’ve seen the world, at least for a while, through someone else’s eyes. I would have never dreamed of seeing sharks swimming overhead among pine trees, backlit by sky; I would have never dreamed of seeing rusted metal transformed into fish. Having visited Wales’ vision of a pine forest patrolled by piscine predators, though, it now seems perfectly right and natural to imagine metallic sharks circling the sky.

Click here for the complete photo-set from my April visit to the DeCordova Museum & Sculpture Park, including several images of the mysterious J in action.

Table & chair

Not long after I’d questioned the merit of short picture-posts, real life pulled me away from my laptop, precluding even those. But this week’s Photo Friday theme, Shiny, is an excellent excuse to share this image of the shiny metallic tables and neon-bright chairs at the new neighborhood ice cream parlor, a place which provides tasty treats for the eyes as well as the tongue.

Still life with dog and Subaru

One of the benefits of having a laptop and wifi is being able to work outside. This past weekend while I caught up with online grading, Reggie and I took advantage of the nice weather by working (and, in Reggie’s case, resting) outside, both on the sunny patio and shady porch. Just because you have your nose to the grindstone doesn’t mean your entire life has to be a grind.

Relaxing on the porch

One of the results of teaching as an adjunct instructor at schools with overlapping schedules is the simple fact that the usual “hell week” of end-term grading actually lasts about a month or so. First, there’s the ramp up to the end of one online term; then, there’s the train-wreck of deadlines as you simultaneously submit end-term grades and get your new online courses rolling. While all this is happening, of course, your face-to-face classes still demand your full attention, and sleepless nights are the only way to tackle the torrent of almost-end-term drafts you have to read, comment upon, and return before your face-to-face students can assemble their final portfolios.

This week is Finals Week at Keene State, so I’ve been collecting final papers and portfolios from my face-to-face students while scrambling to keep up with my new batch of online classes. While many of my Keene State colleagues are rounding the home stretch, getting ready to submit grades after having collected final projects last week, I haven’t even started my end-term grading. When I first started managing the juggling act that is adjunct teaching, it was discouraging to watch my tenure-track colleagues finish their grades before I’d even started. Now, though, I realize that pacing yourself is key when you’re in the midst of a hellish month of grading. As this weekend’s Kentucky Derby illustrated, it’s perfectly possible to come from behind to win if you save your strength and hug the inside rail. Teaching, it turns out, is more like a marathon than it is a sprint, so you have to pace yourself accordingly.

Reggie relaxing on the porch

One way of pacing yourself is to emulate your lazy dog by taking advantage of every available bit of down-time to stretch out and even nap. This weekend I made a conscious effort to catch up with both work and sleep, knowing this week will be long. The lesson of lazy dogs everywhere is that you can rest in installments, snatching a little sleep here and a little sleep there if life doesn’t throw you an extended stint of downtime. What I envy most in my tenure-track colleagues these days isn’t the fact that they inevitably finish their grading ahead of me; it’s the fact that they enjoy actual summer breaks and even sabbaticals while my staggered semesters keep rolling on. Just as city dwellers cultivate small, hidden gardens as a refuge from crowds and squalor, I’m perfecting the art of the mini-break: a brief chance to step away from the paper-pile, stretch, walk the dog, or even do the dishes as a way of clearing my head. It isn’t as good as an actual break or sabbatical, but it’s welcome all the same.

Now open!

If you don’t have the luxury of an extended stint of downtime, you learn to take mini-breaks where you can find them. On Saturday afternoon, after making good progress with work, I treated myself to a short afternoon walk with J to try out the new neighborhood ice cream parlor. When you’re almost finished with a busy semester, a small cup of root-beer-float-flavored Italian ice serves as its own kind of root beer reward.

This is my belated contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Casual. Keene State grades are due next Tuesday, after which point I’ll be teaching at “only” one school for a while.

Ca$h for your Warhol

In trying economic times, you don’t have to be a starving artist to be on the lookout for an alternate source of income. This offer of cash for your Warhol is a not-so-gentle jab at Brandeis University, whose doomed decision earlier this year to bolster their budget by selling the school’s art collection turned out to be a public relations disaster, earning them nothing but ridicule.

Fresh paint

In the aftermath of my friend JW’s death last week, I’ve experienced a new appreciation for the intangible wealth that is friendship. I shot these photos on my way to the Cambridge Zen Center for a Dharma teachers’ meeting this past weekend, and it was like stumbling onto treasure to see my long-time friends Jen and Jody there. “Make new friends but keep the old,” an old song advises. “One is silver and the other gold.” Old friends are as precious as gold because they’ve seen you–and loved you–through years of changes and challenges. Seeing Jen pregnant with her second child, I remember the joy I felt when we spent some time alone together during her first pregnancy and the happiness of her double baby shower with another long-time friend, Stella. I knew Jen before she was pregnant, before she was married, and before either of us grew into our long Dharma teacher robes. Jody, too, has been a friend through many changes: a musician who once collaborated with my ex-husband, she’s stuck around while he hasn’t. It’s wonderful to spend even a short time with someone who knew you when you were one half of a couple and still loves you after the dust of divorce and heartache has settled.

Fresh paint

In the aftermath of loss, being able to come together with old friends to commiserate a shared loss is invaluable. Last night, I made a two-hour drive to Rhode Island and back to attend JW’s seven-day Buddhist memorial ceremony at the Providence Zen Center. One of the three jewels in Buddhist practice is the community called sangha, and to me it was worth a four-hour round-trip to hug a handful of friends after having chanted, shared stories, and wept in a Dharma room packed with fellow mourners. JW himself was a treasure: a man whose kindness, loyalty, and good humor helped Zen practitioners all over the world for the 20 years he worked for the Kwan Um School of Zen and its international sangha. Approaching PZC last night, I felt a twinge of emptiness knowing JW wouldn’t be there, omnipresent clipboard in hand, to greet guests and see to their needs. That emptiness melted, though, when I heard a Dharma room of people, all gathered in JW’s memory, who were already there chanting for him. Make new friends, and keep the old, even if some of your golden friends have left this suffering world behind. The memories and love you carry in your heart are priceless indeed.

Goldenstash = stash o' gold

This is my belated contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Wealth. Originally, I had intended to end with this “pot of gold”-themed photo of Goldenstash, which I spotted on my way to the Cambridge Zen Center this weekend, but I got sidetracked by another, more intangible sort of wealth. It’s all good.

P1000816

Tomorrow morning, J and I will take the T into Boston for an afternoon Bruins game, just as we have the past two Saturdays, and just as we will next Sunday. That’s how our 12-game Boston Bruins weekend ticket package was scheduled, with a grand finale of four straight weekend games to end the regular season.

P1000828

In the course of going to so many weekend Boston Bruins games, J and I have become practiced at our pre-game ritual. We leave home two hours before the game is scheduled to start, and it takes us about an hour to arrive at North Station, where the TD Banknorth Garden is located. Doors open an hour before the game, so we make our way to our balcony seats, stopping first at the restroom, Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and hot chocolate, and the concession stand near our seats for our usual game-day lunch of two hot dogs a piece. We always go to the same concession stand, so we know “our” concession workers by name: James and Allen. By the time we’ve made our way to our seats, we have just enough time to eat our hot dogs and start sipping our coffee and hot chocolate before our Winter Parents arrive and the Bruins come out on the ice for pre-game warm-ups.

P1000948

Winter Parents, you ask?

If you’ve seen the movie Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon, you might remember the scene where Fallon’s character (a diehard Red Sox fan named Ben) explains to Barrymore (a baseball-oblivious girl named Lindsey) that the folks who sit around his coveted Fenway Park season ticket seats are his “summer family.” Over the course of a summer courtship, Lindsey comes to appreciate the devotion Ben and other Red Sox fans have for “their” team, and she also learns how the simple act of sitting next to the same folks for a season’s worth of baseball games does create a kind of familial bond. By movie’s end, Ben’s summer family has “adopted” Lindsey just as surely as she’s fallen for both Ben and his lovable Red Sox.

P1000801

With a nod to Fever Pitch, then, J and I quickly dubbed the couple whose balcony seats are right next to ours–folks from Hartford who drive up to Boston for each of the weekend ticket package games–our “Winter Parents.” They have grown children, so they’re old enough to be our parents, but unlike James and Allen, they don’t wear name tags. We don’t know these folks’ names, but we know a bit about their lives: they used to be Hartford Whalers fans before the Whalers moved to North Carolina, they have grandchildren who play peewee hockey, and they traveled to Florida last year to catch some rays while catching a game between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers. We don’t know our Winter Parents’ names, but they still feel like a kind of kin to us, at least for a season: after next weekend, it’s possible we’ll never see them again, for there’s no guarantee that the balcony seats we had for this year’s 12-game weekend ticket package will be the seats we’ll presumably buy next year.

It’s a lucky break, then, that last Saturday our entire row of Winter Family members was named the Massachusetts Lottery “Lucky Row,” a turn of fortune that gave us each a prize pack of Bruins gear and got our cheering mugs on the TD Banknorth Garden Jumbotron: a few seconds of fame that are now preserved for cyber-eternity:

P1000865

Click here to see a larger version of that final Jumbotron shot: that’s J with his telephoto lens on the far right, me with my #37 Patrice Bergeron jersey and new camera on his left, and our Winter Dad next to me. Winter Mom is hidden behind Winter Dad, with only her upraised arm visible.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, The Weekend. Given the number of weekend Bruins games we’ve shared, J and I might as well call our Winter Parents our Weekend Parents. Click here to see my entire photo-set of pictures from last Saturday’s Bruins victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Enjoy!

Jet with contrails

On this snowy and sloppy day-after-spring, it’s easy to think the past few days were an anomaly: an isolated fluke through which Newton, Massachusetts took a quick weekend trip from the wintry Northeast to somewhere sunny and warm.

Cast-off

On Saturday morning’s dog-walk, a neighbor joyfully proclaimed “It’s spring” as she jogged past in a light jacket. “It won’t last,” I laughed in response, in part to warn myself against getting my hopes too high. March is the season of spotty-springs: intermittent bursts of sun, warm, and mud that give year-round residents the hope to weather another month or more of snow showers, storms, and slush. Saturday was spring, and so was Sunday, but Monday lands us right back in winter, with an inch or so of new snow predicted in Boston and four to seven inches forecast for Keene. “Don’t put away your boots and sweaters,” Mother Nature seems to whisper. “This weekend was just a tease, so I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.”

Left behind

And we did indeed try to enjoy it while it lasted. On Saturday, J and I left our coats at home while we ventured into Boston for an afternoon Bruins game, and it felt colder in the ice-cool arena than it did outside. On Sunday, we wore light jackets while taking a sun-drenched afternoon walk to Cold Spring Park and back, and we weren’t the only ones out for a Sunday stroll: along the way we passed dog-walkers, joggers, playground basketball players, and countless pedestrians who didn’t seem to mind getting their feet muddy.

“Did you get any good pictures,” one passerby asked upon seeing J’s and my cameras. “Not really,” J admitted; “Just pictures of mud,” I added. Under the spell of spotty-spring, even pictures of mud look wonderful: a mundane sight we’ve longed for over the seemingly interminable winter months. Mud season isn’t the loveliest time in New England, but we year-rounders relish it regardless.

Muddy fields

Spotty-spring is the season when abandoned objects emerge from months of isolation. Along our Sunday stroll, J and I saw a half-dozen weathered tennis balls that had overwintered in snow-drifts after having been dropped by neighborhood dogs; along muddy, melting curbs, we spotted sodden gloves, months-old newspapers, and other snow-soaked detritus. Knee-deep snowdrifts serve as a kind of time capsule, hoarding last year’s litter under a blanket of cold. These intermittent days of spotty-spring are when cast-off things and weather-worn humans alike come out of isolation, daring to bare themselves under the white-hot glare of an afternoon sun.

This is my belated contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Isolation. Click here to see the complete photo-set from yesterday’s spotty-spring stroll. Enjoy!

We delete users unfit to date!

Online dating isn’t an exclusively urban phenomenon: there are, presumably, plenty of people in need of a fix-up and looking for chicks in the suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas. But only in the city will you find subway billboards advertising online dating sites, and there’s something ruthlessly urban in this Boston sign promising to “delete users unfit to date.” It’s a jungle out there, people: the Sex in the City crowd isn’t afraid to apply the rules of survival of the fittest in the search for a “keeper.”

Human are stupid

Neither are city dwellers (at least the ones with indelible markers) shy about correcting others’ grammar-goofs. On the same subway ride into Boston this past Saturday, J and I spotted this bit of grammatical repartee on the window-sill of an MBTA green line car. “Human are stupid” says one vandalizing subway rider. “So is your grammar,” responds the second. On this National Grammar Day, it’s intriguing to realize that in the city, even the Grammar Police are willing to indulge in some corrective graffiti every now and then.

This is my belated contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, City Life.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,318 other followers