A Time to Tug

Have you ever read The Invisible String? It’s a children’s book by Patrice Karst. The mother in the story tells her young twins who have woken up in a storm that they needn’t worry and can return to bed. She then describes the invisible string which connects them to her and all whom they love. They can tug on the string whenever they want and, because the string is made of love, it will tug back. Karst asks readers to imagine how far their strings may stretch. It ends by assuring “no one is ever alone.”

Would you agree there are millions of invisible strings stretching around the world right now? They’re connecting grandparents with grandchildren who are social distancing, families gathering on balconies in the evenings cheering in support of first responders and healthcare providers, farmers and grocery store workers with neighbors waiting patiently in crowded food lines.

I could fill this post with countless examples of invisible strings connecting humanity (a good thing for sure) but I’d like instead to invite you to consider another invisible string – the one connecting us to spring and to God.

A couple weeks ago when the news seemed particularly sobering, I felt a tug to go outside and photograph spring. Honestly, it didn’t feel quite right at the time. It wasn’t the eerie quiet in the neighborhood so much as a feeling of guilt in doing something enjoyable. But the tug won out and, as is often the case, the more I photographed, the better I felt. By the time I returned home, my sadness had turned to gratitude. I gave a little tug to my string.

Here are some of the images from that day and another that followed:

patch of paper whites in a neighbor’s yard

tulips under a neighborhood stop sign
bee sucking nectar from cherry tree blossoms in our front yard
peppermint twist
row of pink tulips singing Lean on Me
social distancing, forsythia style
large white pom poms on Chinese Snowball Viburnum

I hope you like these images from around my neighborhood. Granted, they are not as showy as something I may have shot in a botanical garden, but they’ve given me a nice lift. That’s partly because, as devastating as COVID-19 is, it’s helped me appreciate beauty in people, places, and things that, only a few months ago, I’m not sure I would have noticed. I’m thankful for that.

Spring is best known as the season of hope. We’re excited to see the first robin or daffodil because it suggests we’re turning the corner away from the cold, dark nights of winter. Each bud fosters anticipation of something more joyous to come. Yesterday I walked through our neighborhood and saw purple irises, pink azaleas, and Knock Out Roses. Yes, they’re all proclaiming hope, but also providing comfort and reassurance from a loving God who gently, sometimes boldly, tugs our invisible strings made of love. Each little miracle of spring is a reminder – “no one is ever alone.”

Thank you for following my blog. For a free screensaver of the featured image in this post, or for a vertical version from the same tulip patch, please visit http://www.maryricephoto.com/spring. Click Select Photos in the bar at the top right corner of your screen. After the screen refreshes, click download. Should “menu” appear over the top left corner of an image, click it and then download.

Feel free to share the images with others. It’s a good time to tug someone you love.

Take care.

The Corona Virus: Making Sense of it All

News flash: I’m breaking my blog silence with this long overdue, surely much anticipated post …

A little context – On Thursday Gov. Bill Lee announced COVID-19 had spread to Tennessee. Only one man has it. He’s 44, lives in Williamson County (my county), and is staying home. Although his child (children?) attend a local private school, the entire Williamson County public school district responded by closing its doors for two days to do a “deep clean.” Really??

So yesterday afternoon I drove down to Lewisburg, Tennessee to photograph a fast food restaurant and as I was coming home I stopped in the local Walmart to buy some hand sanitizer and soap. That’s reasonable, right? I’d heard Costco had been crazy busy Thursday with people stockpiling supplies & this rural Walmart seemed like a good alternative. It was until the man in front of me at checkout turned around, eyed my soap and shamed me with:

“Oh! I see you’re got some soap there. Uh huh. You’re stocking up to fight the Corona virus. Not me. I’m not doing nothin’ about it. I say bring it on!” (manly big belly laughter follows).

The lady across the aisle then responds:

“Yeah. You know what? My Lysol can [at home] says it fights the Corona virus. Has said that for years. Says so right on the label!”

At this point I try to interject that while her Lysol can may say that, this is the novel Corona Virus – a new strand. It’s like she doesn’t hear me and proceeds to check out anyway. Nevertheless I hear her saying under her breath, “now I do sometimes worry that my children might catch it …” I start to tell her that actually children seem to be resistant but then I, too, fade off. It doesn’t even occur to me to take pictures. It’s just another day at Walmart.

As I’m nearing home about 6:30 I stop in my local Publix to buy some fake ice cream. Soon I realize this typically busy grocery is virtually empty. Only me and a few others are in the store. And, as I start to look around, many of the shelves are also empty. So now I take some phone pictures …

empty shelves for Lysol Wipes

Okay, I get that. Next –

empty shelves for toilet paper

I only get this because a FB repost from a friend in Washington state prepared me. It said “will trade for toilet paper.” Next …

empty shelves for paper towels

Okay, I kind of get this. If the Lysol wipes are out of stock, you spray your favorite cleaner and then wipe with a dry paper towel. Next –

mandarin oranges seem popular

Okay I may get this – it’s the Vitamin C thing. Next …

empty shelves for bottled water

Okay, I don’t get this. At all. Will somebody please explain the run on bottled water? Do people think COVID-19 is going to spread through our water supply??

and then there’s this:

empty shelves for Easter candy

Okay I got this. If we’re hunkering down maybe for the next month or so, by golly at least our kids are going to have a happy Easter! That’s it, right? No??

After I return home I tell Don about my topsy turvy “novel” encounters. You know what he says?

“and all these people vote for President.”

Ahhhhhh

Thanks for following my blog. I’ll be back, sometime, probably …

Go Find a Mockingbird

Would you recognize the sound of a mockingbird if you heard one? I’m not sure I would. It’s the state bird of Tennessee and Mississippi so I’ve seen and heard a lot of them, it’s just I’ve never paid them too much attention. Their gray feathers don’t call out to me the way the brightly colored feathers of a cardinal or blue jay do.

All that changed the other day when walking back to my car after a family photo shoot. When entering the parking lot, I noticed a young mockingbird standing intently on the roof of my car. With camera still in hand, I stopped to photograph it. I liked its soft fluffy feathers and reflection.

Well, soon its mom flew in bringing lunch.

It was fun seeing this play out in front of my camera except I sensed the little fluffy bird was still hungry.

The mom seemed to have gotten the hint and flew away. I then photographed the young bird waiting for its next incoming meal.

At one point it turned and gave me a concerned “Are You My Mother?” look …

Eventually the young bird also flew away and I got in my car and drove home. Today, when editing the family’s photos, I saw the mockingbird images and started thinking.

Initially I thought about To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s character Miss Maudie says this about the birds: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens. don’t nest in corncribs. They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Next I turned to Youtube to watch and hear some mockingbirds. I was soon reminded that mockingbirds actually sing with many voices because they can mimic or “mock” sounds they hear. I heard one mockingbird sound a lot like mourning doves, which was lovely, but that same mockingbird also sounded off like a car alarm, which was, for lack of a better word, alarming. Still, pretty cool.

Well, guess what? May is National Photography Month. To celebrate, I ask you to take some time in the coming weeks to find and photograph your own “mockingbird,” that is, a common subject you often encounter but fail to really notice. In doing so, I think you’ll find a beauty and wonder in your world which you never knew existed or appreciated. That beauty and wonder comes not only from your subject but from deep inside of you. I think, perhaps, it’s what many call the joy of photography.

Thanks for following my blog. Now go find a mockingbird, find lots of them, and celebrate photography this month!

Better than Fall Color?

Like a lot of folks and especially photographers, I spent much of the last four weeks chasing fall color. It started in mid-October when my sister and I took a weekend trip to Damascus, Virginia. Here’s what we found right across the state border in our home state of Tennessee:

fall scenic of stream at Backbone Rock State Recreation Area, Stream Valley, Tennessee

But guess what? Fall color wasn’t the highlight of the weekend. The highlights came the next day.

What can cause more excitement than fall color? Snow! Yes! Our Sunday morning adventure began with snow. Granted, we had to drive to the top of White Top Mountain (that’s really the name), but here’s some of what we saw:

Admittedly, not a blizzard, but for this Nashville girl escaping 80 degree temperatures, it was way cool (in fact, really cold). Certainly an exciting and invigorating way to start the day.

We next visited Grayson Highlands State Park and just a short hike down the Appalachian Trail we found THE highlight of the weekend – wild horses.   Needless to say, I love wild horses. They’re so beautiful and free. I think the last time I saw some was several years ago on a trip to Wyoming.

Okay, so these horses weren’t running wildly with wind blowing freely through their manes like you see in the movies, but …

here are a series of images, shown in chronological order, that are very tender and sweet. It started with this:

and then this happened: 

Dam and foal #2
Dam and foal #3
Dam and foal #4
Dam and foal #5
Dam and foal #6

Now how many weekends have you found beautiful fall color, been surprised by the first snow of the season, found wild horses on the Appalachian Trail, and a foal nursing from her mother? Whatever you may think of the images, it was all pretty awesome.

I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to spend this “fall color” weekend with my sister and to share it now with you. 

So here’s a thought – as we move from Thanksgiving to Black Friday and beyond, should you get a little overwhelmed by it all, you might think about these images. Why? Because they might help you keep things in perspective.

No matter the deal you may land on the internet, the best things in life are actually … free. Better yet: “the best things in life aren’t things.” – Nancy Whitfield

Thank you for following my blog.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Don’s AMAZING farm photographs

Every time Don goes out to the farm he comes back with stories of things he saw or did that day. Sometimes, similar to an eight year old boy coming home with a prized turtle found in a creek, he brings home souvenirs such as deer skulls, nests, or snake skins. Recently his prized possessions have been photographs.

The common thread in Don’s images is a “wow” effect. I think if his current farmer gig were to ever end, he could perhaps get a job with Ripley’s Believe It or Not. See if you don’t agree.

So we’ll start with two of the images he got from his game or trail camera this week.

Animal #1

MTC_Camera

That’s a bobcat. In daylight.  I’d be happier knowing its home was the San Diego Zoo.

Animals #2 & 3

MTC_Cameraare just deer; HOWEVER, that buck is kind of big and the interaction between the two is pretty sweet.

So now some of Don’s cell phone photos …

Scene #1

That’s grass Don’s been mowing – the kind you probably have in your yard except about five feet taller.

Farm Grass Cutting 2018 (2).jpg

Animal #4

Farm mule snake

That’s about a 5-6 foot snake. So you know how this blog is named “photographs in need of explanation?” Here’s what you need to know about this snake. It fell out of Don’s four wheeler from the dash onto his legs when putting the key in the ignition. Can you even imagine? You’re in your vehicle and a snake like that falls on your legs? I get creeped out even thinking about it.

Animals #5

Farm bee swarm (3)

This is a bee swarm. I actually saw this also. It was about ten yards away from some bee hives. It’s a little hard to tell from this photo, but the swarm is about 1 1/2 feet long and 3-4 inches deep. There were several bees flying in and out when we were there. Fortunately, neither of us got stung.

So that’s the buzz for this week’s post of Don’s AMAZING farm photos. We’ve learned they make great cocktail party conversation.

Thanks for following my blog and thanks, Don, for sharing your photographs this week.

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The Iroquois Steeplechase

What was on Nashville’s hot list this weekend? The Iroquois Steeplechase. It’s been a Nashville spring tradition since 1941.

As one of the premier steeplechasing events in the country, the Iroquois offers the well-heeled social and equestrian circles of Nashville an opportunity to sport new spring fashions, party, and raise money for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. It’s a fun place to hang out for the day, especially if you’re a photographer.

So what did I see and photograph Saturday? Well, for starters, hats. Lots and lots of hats. Here’s a sampling:

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Then, there’s the people watching. Let’s just say there were many fashion conscious people out there:

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Some things I found humorous:

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Some images seemed timeless:

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And last but not least, there’s the horses, the races, the jockeys, and the winners:

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All in all, a great day. Thanks, as always, for following my blog.

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To Spring

Well despite the Nor’easter, today is the first day of spring!  In Nashville, we had some snow on March 12th and snow is possible again tonight, but in the interim, we’ve had several nice days, enough to share some images of Nashville’s early spring blooms. Photos were taken at Nashville’s Cheekwood Botanical Gardens.

tulips and hyacinths
tulips and hyacinths

daffodilsw2
stand-outs from the crowd

the lone daffodil
the lone daffodil

ladybug
the climb of the ladybug

reflection
reflections of a dad taking his family’s photographs

We’re due spring showers for most of the next ten days, but after that? I think more spring flowers.

“We loiter in winter while it is already spring.” — Henry David Thoreau

Happy spring!

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It’s springerlie weather, Buddy!

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Alright, so the actual line in Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” is “[I]t’s fruitcake weather, Buddy!”  But … I’m not a fan of fruitcake and I love springerlies so I’ve made a little recipe substitution a la Truman Capote.

Springerlies are German Christmas cookies that are a Schneiter family tradition. My great-grandparents on my father’s side immigrated to America from Germany in the late 1800’s or maybe early 1900’s and died before I was born, but I do have faint childhood memories of PawPaw (my grandfather) making springerlies at his farm in Louisville, Kentucky, and very clear memories of my dad making springerlies every Christmas wherever we/he lived.

My sister and I now carry on the tradition and I learned yesterday from our cousin who has recently moved from Chicago to Tennessee, that she once bought springerlies from a bakery in Schaumberg, Illinois. Buy springerlies?? That was enough to cause me to do a Google search which led me to discover this – http://www.springerliehouse.com.  Sweet!

So what are they? Well, they’re really just a mixture of flour, eggs, butter, sugar and anise seed or anise oil which lends the cookie a certain licorice flavor. The dough is rolled to about 1/4 inch thickness with a special wooden rolling pin (you can also use a mold). Once rolled, the cookies are cut and left in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours before baking. After about 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven, you’ve got yourself a pan of delightful little “picture cookies.”

There are several springerlie recipes readily available on the internet, but generally speaking, most springerlies are hard on the outside and have a little “springiness” on the inside. They partner well with a hot cup of coffee. You’ve heard of Dunkin’ Donuts?  Springerlies are the ultimate Dunkin’ Cookies. Oh, and some people paint them which can make them look a lot like Christmas tree ornaments, although we Schneiters always skipped the painting step and just got right to the eating.

Family holiday traditions such as this provide connection, links to your past, comfort, and a sense of belonging. Whatever your family roots or whatever you celebrate this holiday season, I hope you find something in your ancestry which makes you feel all warm and cozy inside.

Frohliche Weihnachten!  Or, as the Brits on my mom’s side of the family would say, Merry or Happy Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the Jesus Bakery

When working in downtown Atlanta, my friends and I would sometimes walk down Marietta Street to the “Jesus Bakery” to buy a cake or a pie or some other sinful dessert for a co-worker’s birthday or because we just wanted to.  These bakery goods were the real deal, made from real butter and sugar, all the good stuff, no preservatives.

The bakery actually had another name, we just called it the “Jesus Bakery” because of the inescapable message you received when there. So, for example, if visiting to ask if they could have a red velvet cake ready for pick-up the next day, the answer would always be “if the good Lord is willing.” More than once I left the store with more than I went in to buy. You might think that’s typical of a lot of shopping trips except I didn’t ask for or buy these extra pies or cakes, they just freely gave them to me.

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time driving with my husband through the South: 20 hours to and from Tampa a couple weekends ago with furniture to set up Scott’s new apartment, and 12 hours last weekend to and from South Carolina for Parents’ Weekend at our daughter’s college. These were in no way photography trips. It was mostly a lot of boring interstate with a day wedged in between when we could spend time with our children.

But I always bring a camera and so I took this image of Spanish moss at a rest stop somewhere in northern Florida.

Spanish moss
Spanish moss hanging from a tree in northern Florida

In South Georgia I was struck by the thick white cotton fields alongside the interstate. Don kindly exited the interstate and took a nearby frontage road so I could briefly photograph them.

Georgia cotton fields
irrigation system over Georgia cotton fields

High Cotton
big white fluffy cotton ready to pick in South Georgia cotton field

I say briefly not because Don or I were in any hurry, but because within a minute I realized I was standing in ankle high ant beds with armies of red fiery ants crawling all over and in my sandals. If you think there’s a lot of cotton in that field, I’m thinking there’s at least ten times as many ants.

In South Carolina a week later, Don and Betsy gave me five minutes (bless their hearts) to take a couple photos of the boiled peanuts vendor who is always parked across the street from the local Walmart.

Hot boiled peanuts
Hot boiled peanuts vendor parked outside a Walmart in Greenville, South Carolina

Twenty minutes later, I returned to the car having eaten and learned all about boiled peanuts and then giving Don a bag of roasted peanuts instead. And people wonder why I frequently run late …

Here’s the peanut man getting ready to show me how to open a freshly boiled peanut:

getting a lesson in how to open a hot boiled peanut
How many peanuts have these hands opened?

Here he is inside his trailer posing. Notice the sign above his radio.

this unspoken message
peanut salesman posing in his trailer in Greenville, South Carolina

It’s occurred to me that the South is, in a sense, one big Jesus bakery. You enter it knowing you’ll be greeted by characters you just don’t meet anywhere else and you leave often taking home with you more than you bargained for. Yes, the Bible Belt is changing, but that’s why the real deal needs preserving through photographs.

Photographing the South is hardly an original idea; indeed, there are entire festivals and magazines devoted exclusively to southern photography, but I think, this Mississippi bred girl is going to take it on, slowly (as in years) but surely, if … the good Lord is willing. The landscape is beautiful, the people colorful, the culture intriguing, and … it’s home.

“One place understood helps us understand all places better.”
– Eudora Welty

Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll.