“Every now and then it’s good to stop climbing and appreciate the view from right where you are.”
~ Lori Deschene
This post is especially for my sista from anutha mutha, Crystal Heis. I will simply say “Mark II” and she’ll know exactly what’s up. We speak in code and hand gestures most of the time anyway, so why not blog it, too. For everyone, I hope you enjoy the photos I snapped this evening as much as I enjoyed snapping them. Me and The Boy had a lovely time in the very reasonable temps of the setting sun, and then I needed to snap some pix. Meanwhile, I chose the quote several days ago purely by coincidence. Crys turned me on to Lori Deschene because she’s super positive. It’s fitting that it’s today’s quote what with this being for Crystal and all. This is a new, better week for me. I hope it’s awesome for ya’ll, too.
“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” ~ Danielle LaPorte
I’ve had a beautiful, introspective weekend. I’ve mostly been thinking about photography and my role with it. I love pictures, but more than looking at them, I love making them. The point of photography for me is a way to explore how I see my world and the people in it. There’s nothing unique about that. I have tried a few times to do it commercially (weddings mostly), and every single time I come away needing a drink…. and I rarely drink, let alone drink to calm my nerves. Over the last week there have been a few nudges from the universe reminding me why I didn’t choose to go into photography as a profession. It boils down to this: With money comes expectation. I can go to work and follow orders no problem, but when it comes to expression, particularly the form of expression I hold personally close, I simply can’t do it. For lack of a better term, I find it spiritually difficult. I don’t mean to suggest that every hired experience I’ve ever had has been bad, far from it, but the few bad experiences I’ve had were enough to last a lifetime. I’ve had several conversations about this over the past few days, and each one has allowed me to let go a little more this idea of what I should be (a professional photographer), and be okay with who I really am. And who I really am is a photographer documenting my world, not a photographer for hire. There are lots of good photographers out there who want to do it for a living. I’m happier doing it for myself, and I’m extraordinarily grateful to everyone who let’s me photograph them as part of my explorations. I’m happiest when I’m just being me. Aren’t we all?
“There comes a time in a man’s life when to get where he has to go–if there are no doors or windows–
he walks through a wall.” ~ Bernard Malamud
Kentucky’s former Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker, is, in my opinion, the best poet Kentucky has ever borne. As a budding writer in 1991 he coined the term Affrilachia. “Affrilachia embraces a multicultural influence, a spectrum of people who consider Appalachia home and/or identify strongly with the trials and triumphs of being of this region.” A group of young writers assembled at UK’s Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center solidified themselves around the name and became known as The Affrilachian Poets. Frank, of course, was one of their founders.
In January of this year, to commemorate The Affrilachian Poets’ 25th anniversary, the University Press of Kentucky released an anthology of their writing entitled Black Bone. Edited by Affrilachian Poets Bianca Spriggs and Jeremy Paden (top photos below), they joined Walker and other Affrilachian Poets at Brier Books this afternoon for readings to celebrate Black Bone and Independent Booksellers Day. I was pleased to have a front row seat. One of their founding members who wasn’t at the reading, Nikky Finney, played a very important role in my early academic life. I took one of her poetry courses as an undergraduate. What I learned from Nikky was to be passionate about words; be respectful, deliberate, and still. Write, rewrite, then rewrite some more until you’ve squoze all the juice out there is to be got. Not surprising at all was that Nikky won the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry. She’s a South Carolina native who has since returned home, but Kentucky ought to be proud she was with us as long as she was because, without her, many of us would be poorer indeed, and the Affrilachian Poets would be missing an extraordinary link.
There is something so blazingly authentic about these writers. Their truths are beautiful, stark, haunting, angry, compassionate, heady, funny; not entirely southern or Appalachian but completely American. Utterly American. Unapologeticly honest. Individually, they are strong writers. Collectively, they’re unbelievably beautiful. Even more beautiful, if you can imagine such a thing, is their embrace of young Affrilachian writers like Asha French and Dorian Hairston (bottom photos above). These younger writers have the Affrilachian fire for sure. It’s a healthy lot that breathes new life into itself.
Founders Mitchell L. H. Douglas and Ricardo Nazario y Colón (above respectively) rounded out the perfect presentation, and I wish I’d had the nerve to ask them all to autograph my copy of Black Bone. Alas, I bolted like a star struck schoolgirl. That rarely happens. But I am in awe of their collective energy; these artisan wordsmiths. Their words touch me in a place few writers can reach, and for that, they have my complete respect. It was a beautiful day.
“Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do.” ~ Unknown
It’s been one of the most technologically frustrating weeks of my career, and it’s pretty clear from the look on Doug’s face that he’d had a pretty rotten week, too. (we both got a big laugh out this picture) If I told you just how bad it was you wouldn’t believe me, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was really rotten. Thankfully, Ida Sell and Danielle Gabbard maintained a jolly outlook for us all. “But Abba got back together and they caught the Golden State Killer this week,” Danielle quipped. “So, see, it wasn’t all bad!” You can’t argue with that, and that’s one of the reasons I adore her. She sees the good in nearly every situation, and it helps remind me that I do, too. That’s especially important to remember when I’m struggling on days like this.
After we four grabbed a pick-me-up coffee I excused myself. It was a beautiful day, I had my camera, and I just needed a quiet, little adventure to ground me. Last Saturday I’d passed the front of the new Student Center and noticed major progress. It was begging a second look. I was across the street admiring the impressive UK stone work when I noticed students filing out the doors. I soon realized it was open. Naturally, I jaywalked in front of a cop to see for myself. (I did not get a ticket)
Last month, Mike Moore told me he had installed escalators in the new student center. I found them inside the bookstore, which opened just this week. Not only does it span two floors, accessible by said escalator, but it houses a Starbucks cafe – not just coffee, but cafe – as well as a small market that sells cold drinks and collage durable foods like chips and cookies. It’s impressive. I knew the old student center and Alumni Gym sections were still being renovated, but I wondered what else might be accessible. I decided to wander some more.
Earlier this week on social media I’d caught a glimpse of another Bowman statue (Bowman is the Kentucky Wildcat) being positioned somewhere inside the student center. He was easy enough to find. I just followed the crowds. I later learned from this video that this area is called the “social staircase.” It warmed my heart to watch parents photograph their collage-age children with Bowman. That’s the kind of photograph they’ll look back on someday with, I hope, fond memories of their time at the University of Kentucky. And just like that I’d been put right. My technological doldrums seemed a distant past. I left the new Student Center with a glimmer of hope, not just for the rest of my day, but for the future in general. This generation of young people are bright, talented, conscientious, and good. I’m glad that they’ll have a nice place to gather. I’m betting one of them will invent superior technology that will make my work-life a whole lot happier one day.
“If there were no night, we would not appreciate the day, nor could we see the stars and the vastness of the heavens. We must partake of the bitter with the sweet. There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless.” ~ James E. Faust
Judy Sackett is very funny. Walking to the garage yesterday she suddenly said, “What are we, Dandelion U?” I didn’t get the reference until I saw them glistening in the evening sun; a field of puffy dandelions where UK’s pristine lawn used to be. It’s a bit unusual for them to let the little wildflowers go to seed, but maybe they’ve taken up the honey bee’s cause. I can get behind that. Besides, one (wo)man’s weed is another’s flower. I choose to see a flower.
“One reason people resists change is because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain.” ~ Rick Godwin
These gals tickle me. We’ve been talking about dieting this week. Almost all of us Happiness Gals are trying to drop a few pounds. Thanks to Weight Watchers – again – I’ve dropped ten pounds in the last three weeks, even after Apollo Pizza (Did I mention their cauliflower crust? It’s a must for the dieting gal). Deb has since gotten on the WW train, and Erin is thinking about it. Weight Watchers ought to pay me commission I do so much advertising for them. We Happiness gals make our own support group though. We’re supportive and entertaining.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Your favorite couple and mine made an appearance today. We shared a lovely meal where our Hero relayed the good news from the doctor. For those who don’t know; among other things, our Hero has been battling lung cancer. First diagnosed in October, he underwent a relatively new radiation treatment in February. It’s designed for people like our Hero who cannot, for a variety of reasons, undergo anesthesia. While the treatment did not eradicate the tumor entirely, it did shrink it significantly enough that no further treatment is required at this time. “Health is better than things,” he said. “That’s thankful wishing.” Hear hear!
“For each situation I encounter today I choose only to see its positive side.” ~ Unknown
Did I mention last Thursday’s Pages and Pints soirée included a special little person? Her name is Ahnat – pronounced: ah-naught – and she’s an elderly six months old. Foster mom Deborah Payne wasn’t kidding when she said this baby is chill. Ahnat went the whole night without so much as a yelp, scream, cry, goo goo, or anything else. It was pretty unbelievable, actually. Even the host commented on her smooth demeanor. Meanwhile, she was completely engaged in people, locking eyes with all of us at one point, staring intently for the longest time. She was so present I kept waiting for her to speak full sentences. She didn’t even whimper when I held her, and that’s saying something because, typically, the second I pick up a baby they start bawling. She didn’t whimper when anyone picked her up. Ahnat is a trusting soul with a beautiful name. I’m pleased to know her.
“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.” ~ Zaid K. Abdelnour
Friday was a pretty day, and by mid afternoon there was a German horn ensemble playing in the wilds of campus. Can’t say I’ve seen this on campus before. Drum brigades and the like, yes, but not a French Horn ensemble sporting Alpine hats. It was purely delightful. Students parked themselves nearby for their studies. Employees came out of their offices to soak up some D vitamin sun and music. But it was the hats that got me. You have to love a band with a sense of humor. There are some major advantages to working on a collage campus, and a German horn band with Alpine hats is one of them. UPDATE: Thanks to Susan Henthorn’s keen eye, our French Horn ensemble is actually the Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble conducted by Dr. Skip Gray in UK’s School of Music. Thanks, Susan!
“[There’s] no guarantee you get someday. While you’re busy making that [bucket] list, you may not see the train that’s coming straight for you, and then you’ve done nothing but make a list. Go live. It’s more important.” ~ Larry Scott Evans
I love this picture. Stacy and I met The Bartletts at Shamrock for brunch this morning. Their little ginger girl Abby is smart, funny, kind, conscientious, and a testament to the goodness of her generation. She gives me hope for the future. Bryan and Jen have done an incredible job raising her and I can’t wait to see what brilliance her future holds. Meanwhile, it’s clear to me that meeting for lunch every once in a while with the Bartletts just won’t do. We need to meet, and meet often, because I always come away feeling better about everything. I’m lucky to have them as friends. I must be living right.