Category Archives: Serene Saturdays

Serene Saturdays: The Power of Photographs

A few years back, I started a habit of “swiping” old family photographs from the upstairs loft in my paternal grandparents’ house. My grandmother was an old pro at organizing decades of photos—even having separate envelopes for pictures of my sister, brother, and me. I’d put the photos in albums according to year and occasion, and stick the miscellaneous in small, hearty Victoria’s Secret bags (whoever engineered those bags is a genius).

When Grandma died in October 2011 I nearly emptied her dresser drawers full of memories captured on film. I still don’t know what to do with them all.

There is something about a still-shot photograph, a physical photograph that symbolizes the life cycle at its best. A photograph reveals its age. Whether it’s a black and white or a Polaroid, they can capture the essence of an era.

Digital photography is phenomenal, don’t get me wrong. I love that I can view a picture a mere instant after its taken, and decide on the spot whether or not I want to “keep” it. I love that there are Photoshop features that allow me to remove the red from my eyes or the curves from my waistline. And photo bombers beware: if need be, I will remove you.

But with all the technological advances, the images can appear timeless—and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. I sometimes look at pictures from 2003 that don’t necessarily look different from my 2013 pictures. I look older (and wiser) of course, but the picture itself doesn’t necessarily reveal anything to me, whereas if I look at a picture from 1991, I can see the period unravel in front of me. I’m right back in third grade. I can see an episode of Full House on my TV screen. I can hear Phil Collins on the radio. I can smell the chocolate chip cookies I’m baking with Grandma. It’s all right there in photo.

There’s something about capturing a fleeting moment on film and not being able to do anything about it once the camera clicks. No previewing or nitpicks, or surgical procedures. Just whatever image materializes, forever.

Here are five of my favorite photographs from my collection that help remind me who I am and where I came from—even long before I was born:

My paternal grandparents c. 1948. I love this picture of them. So playful.

My paternal grandparents c. 1948. I love this picture of them. So playful.

My maternal grandparents in 1947, the same year they got married.

My maternal grandparents in 1947, the same year they got married.

My paternal grandfather and my uncle c. 1954. My "Papia" had been a drummer in swing band until his death in 2008

My maternal grandfather and my uncle c. 1954. My “Papia” had been a drummer in swing band until his death in 2008

My mom and dad c. 1978. See how these photographs reveal their eras?

My mom and dad c. 1978. See how these photographs reveal their eras?

That's me at age 8? Likely 1989 or 1990. See, I was always an "Intrinsic Writer"

That’s me at age 8? Likely 1989 or 1990. See, I was always an “Intrinsic Writer”

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Serene Saturdays: Irish Wisdom

This magnet has been on my refrigerator for years now. Many times I’ve stopped to read it, reveling in the perfection of its rhyme scheme and Irish-sounding maxim.

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It was given to us by a friend, who likely picked up my husband’s half-Irish pride. I too, have some Irish blood mixed into my “mutt-like” ethnic background, but I’ve always been able to identify with their culture. Throughout history, the country has survived some less than “lucky” periods. Yet its people have somehow remained some of the grateful in all the world. There is a clinging to pride among the Irish, and a kind of zeal that simply cannot be broken. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Irishmen who wasn’t more than happy to boast of his heritage.

One night last week, I passed by refrigerator in my usual fashion and for some reason, decided to pause and read the delightful words on the magnet. And then? Well, I don’t know what happened exactly, but I started to…cry.

PMS?

Too much wine?

I’m just a freak? (This is one my hubby would agree with)

Dunguaire Castle Nicolas Raymond → in Constructions

None of the above. It was the words. They moved me. In case you can’t read the magnet above, I’ll type them out below:

MAY YOU ALWAYS BE BLESSED

WITH WALLS FOR THE WIND.

A ROOF FOR THE RAIN,

A WARM CUP OF TEA BY THE FIRE.

LAUGHTER TO CHEER YOU.

THOSE YOU LOVE NEAR YOU.

AND ALL THAT YOUR HEART MIGHT DESIRE.

(Irish Blessing)

I cried because I’ve been driving myself crazy with all that I don’t have. I don’t have a house in Bergen County.  I don’t have an agent. I don’t have a publisher making me a star. I don’t have a slot on the New York Times Bestseller List. I don’t have as rockin’ a body as I did high school (if I even did then). The list goes on.

But that magnet? It put things in perspective. It was like an epiphany. Here’s a country that has gone through so much torment, so much struggle. It’s true. Having a warm home, good people and laughter in your life, (and of course tea and a fireplace 🙂 ) really is a blessing. Think about how more than half of this world lives.

I have all those things. Well, not a fireplace, but I grew up in house that had one.

It hit me so hard and I didn’t even see it coming: I’m blessed.

If I never get any of those things I mentioned above, I’m still blessed. Doesn’t mean I won’t try of course, and that in and of itself, the fact that I’m able to attempt my dreams, is of course, it’s own blessing.

It knocked the stress right out of me.

Maybe if we all stopped wanting we could calm down as well. And in my opinion, inner-peace is the root of happiness.

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Serene Saturdays: Calm-as Kinkade

See what I did there? 🙂

Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012) was best known for his paintings of picturesque landscape, idyllic cottages, and main street images, and of course, for his superb use of “light.” His work was not widely received throughout the art world, due to his simplistic, “unoriginal” depictions of mere landscapes.

But in fact, Kinkade’s work is not simplistic at all—at least not in my opinion—and while I may not be a trained art critic, I know this much is true: his work, full of color, light, and life comforts me on a far deeper level than any canvas portraying nothing more than a red circle. Besides, he created his own kick ass empire.

This post is not a biography on Kinkade, nor is it an analysis of his artwork. This is a Serene Saturday after all, and my purpose is to show why I find Kinkade’s work wildly comforting.

The prints of course, are not cheap, (especially since his death), but I do have a framed painting and tapestry of two of my favorite images hanging in my bedroom.

For the life of me I can't remember the title of this painting! It's lovely though, isn't it?

For the life of me I can’t remember the title of this painting! It’s lovely though, isn’t it?

 

Snow White Discovers the Cottage

Snow White Discovers the Cottage

Kinkade’s work has a lifelike quality to it in the sense that each painting evokes a response from all five senses. When I look at a Kinkade painting, I’m not just seeing it, but hearing it, feeling it, smelling it, tasting it. If there is water I can hear it moving, and if there are flowers I can sense the waft of sweetness permeating the area. I can feel the sunlight on my skin.

It’s as if I am there. Like in Mary Poppins, when she jumps into one of Bert’s chalk sketches on the sidewalk.

I also have two coffee table type books that become my companions during dark periods.

Smaller book on top: "The Power of Light"

Smaller book on top: “The Power of Light”

 

"Masterworks of Light"(see even Ziggy likes it!)

“Masterworks of Light”
(see even Ziggy likes it!)

No joke, I’ve actually felt my body relax as I’ve flipped through these pages.

Below are two of my favorites:

Deer Creek Cottage my.opera.com

How quiet this scene must be if two deer are lurking about. I can make a whole story from this picture. It’s Sunday night. A college professor is about to start a new a semester and is feeling a bit uneasy. He’s alone in his winter cottage making last minute preparations. The sight of the two deer is a positive omen. Life goes on. Nature prevails. It all will be alright.

 

Graceland artofthesouth.com

Graceland! If you look closely you can see Elvis hand-in-hand with a girl, who I believe Kinkade is portraying as Priscilla. Art is a projection of course; we will never have the opportunity to witness to Elvis leaving his mansion, unseen. Only through the imagination of an artist is it even remotely possible.

Which artists comfort you?

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Serene Saturdays: The Halcyon Hyacinth

The winter months are long and weary, and for many of us spring simply cannot come soon enough. Spring, in fact, is my favorite season because it symbolizes conception, new beginnings. I love how sprites of warmth infuse the cold air. Then there are the flowers: Crocuses, daffodils, cherry blossoms, forsythia, magnolias, tulips, and of course, the sweetest smelling cone-shaped flower ever, the lovely hyacinth.

Forget the groundhog; spring can come early with hyacinth bulbs:

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For the past several years my father has been, in essence, ‘raising’ or the less preferred term, ‘forcing’ bulbs. In mid-to-late fall he places the young bulbs in a dark, cold place—such as a basement refrigerator—and leaves them there for 8 to 10 weeks. This tricks the flower that it is winter and is underground, waiting to emerge.

Once they reach approximately four inches, my dad removes them from the cool area and brings them into a warm room in the house (hence, the flower now thinks it is spring and will slowly being to bloom). Finally, Dad places them in an hour-glass shaped vase with the base of the bulb (where the roots form) resting in water.

It is best to keep the flowers near a window where a good source of sunlight is evident. Rotate the vase every so often to increase exposure. Continue to fill the water to just below the base when needed.

The directions on the back of this box reveal a similar method for the process:

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This year for Christmas (like many years past) my father gave me a bulb that had been sitting on the cold, raw front porch since before Thanksgiving. When I brought it home I put it in its vase and placed it on the window sill over my kitchen sink.

It’s already starting to bloom:

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Look at those roots, aren’t they beautiful? Eventually they make their way to the bottom of the vase and curl in on themselves.

This has become a very calming, January tradition of mine. Each day I watch as the bulb produces a green tip, followed by hearty green stalks, and finally, a bushel of colorful (by the way, it’s fun to wait and see which color surfaces) petals with a smell that perfumes the entire kitchen.

I’m not above assigning a symbolic element to the hyacinth. With the stages of its growth, it’s like watching the life cycle at work. It’s born, it transforms, it reaches maturity, and unfortunately, it perishes. But never without the potential for complete regeneration the following year.

This Saturday, enjoy the force of life at work. And calm down would you?

-Katie

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