“To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble.”
~ Bill Watterson
“To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble.”
This week and next will be the last relatively quiet weeks before life starts ramping up again, and I'll be blowing and going until almost Thanksgiving. I'm trying to balance squeezing in some rest, while also getting my work and mind ready to hit the ground running.
(I'm not sure exactly how to make that happen. Any and all advice welcome.)
Here's to taking things one step at a time. Happy Monday, friends. Wishing you a great week.
This was a great week! Here's why:
• The succulent, above, that lives on our kitchen windowsill. There's actually nothing that special about this succulent -- although, I do sort of dig its psychedelic colours -- but I just love the word "succulent." So this plant made me happy this week. (My word of the year is "thrive," but I think the word "succulent" needs to figure in there somewhere, amiright?)
• I've been missing scuba diving lately, so this video from a sea turtle's perspective has me pretty wistful.
• The Privilege Walk. What an amazing exercise. I'd love to try it with a group sometime.
• This EPIC beatboxing contest between dad and daughter. My first thought? Parties at their house must be off the chain. My second thought? Marcus and Alex have work to do.
• What if magazines described male actors the same way they describe female actors? We'd be lookin' at 'em in a whole new way, is what.
• Five beautiful things Danny Gregory saw today. Lovely. See? Beauty is everywhere, if you just look.
• Finally, today's soundtrack; but first, a question: what do you think Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk would sound like if 10 of the most famous guitarists in the history of music played it?
(And if you enjoyed that, here are 10 more playing Daft Punk's Get Lucky.)
Have a great weekend, friends. See you next week.
A dear photographer friend of mine who lives in Australia, but who travels around the world for her work, once gave me some advice on how to beat jetlag: her surefire way of getting over it quickly, she said, was to go outside once she arrives at her destination, and spend some time with her bare feet in the soil.
(I've no idea whether this works or not, but it certainly hasn't stopped me from trying it. When it comes to the outdoors, I'm a firm believer that being in the salt air -- either actually in the ocean, or near enough to feel its breezes and hear its sound -- has curative properties. So, really, who am I to doubt whether the bare-feet-in-soil thing works?)
I was thinking of her advice yesterday (which is sort of random, because I'm not currently experiencing any jetlag), and I wondered if her advice was really something that shouldn't be confined to merely treating jetlag; but rather, it should be something I do daily. After all, I spend many hours sitting at my desk in front of a computer all day long, and Houston summers being what they are (read: brutal), the house is hermetically sealed in air-conditioned and humidity-controlled comfort. Surely, I thought, breathing this recycled air all day can't be good for me. Surely, I mused, I should make a point of going outside every day and spending some time with my bare feet in the soil.
So yesterday evening, around 7 pm (when the outside temperature had dropped from "satanically infernal" to merely "swampy warm"), I grabbed the book I've been studying for an upcoming training class, and a stick of incense and a lighter, and went outside to my back garden. My goal was to immerse myself in the outdoors, inhale the clean, incense-scented air, and enjoy my book for the amount it time it took for the Nag Champa to burn down.
As I settled down, it was glorious. The air actually wasn't even all that swampy. The evening was downright peaceful.
I opened my book.
And then, many, many swarms of mosquitos arrived, and devoured me alive. I didn't even make it through a third of the incense stick before I ran back into the house to take cover. Hermetic, recycled air, be damned.
(It was a good idea while it lasted, though.)
Soundtrack: Summer breeze by Jason Mraz
I wasn't much in the mood to celebrate this July 4th ... so we didn't. (Even Soca wasn't having it: Marcus took her outside for her evening walk just as the fireworks around our area were going off. Even though Soca hasn't ever batted an eye at some of the very noisy thunderstorms Houston is known for, one boom from the fireworks and girlfriend muttered "oh, HELL no" under her breath and dragged Marcus right back inside. She was not amused.)
But on Sunday, my parents invited us and our friends Trish & Carl and their kids to come over for a barbecue, and the kids spent 7 full hours in their backyard pool, stopping only to eat, and impatiently pose for the photo above. And it was very, very good.
Holidays are totally for family -- blood and chosen.
Hope you all had a wonderful weekend.
Soundtrack: Fireworks by Moby
This was a lovely week. Here's why:
• Someone got her "summer cut" at the groomers this week. She's still very cute, and very naughty. (But really, very cute.)
• I was (who am I kidding, AM) a huge fan of Sesame Street -- so when I found out Maria (played by Sonia Manzano) is retiring after an astonishing 44 years of being on the show, I couldn't help but be thrilled for her. (That link also has a great video of an interview Sonia did about how they wrote her marriage and pregnancy into the show. Worth grabbing a cuppa and taking a look.)
• Erykah Badu has the kind of style that I wish I could pull off. (I'll at least try to pull off her attitude.)
• This poor wedding photographer had a fall (a nasty one, by the looks of things), but still managed to fire off this epic shot on his way down. The expressions are awesome, and the bride and groom now have a great story to tell every time they open up their wedding album.
• Dude, who knew octopi could run?
• And finally, today's soundtrack: Dunes by Alabama Shakes. It's Independence Day weekend here in the United States, and Alabama Shakes, with it's folk, rock, funky-bluesy feel is about as Americana as music gets.
Click here or on the image below to watch.
Happy weekend, friends. Be safe, and be kind out there.
Last May, when I was in Malawi, my travel companions and I ended up criss-crossing half of the country, starting from Lilongwe (the capital) and ending up in Blantyre (the commerce center). It was a distance of over 200 miles, and our daily schedules were packed; but every day after our last appointment, our bus driver and trip organizers would hurry us onto the bus. "We need to go," they would say. "We need to get to the lodge where we're staying before nightfall."
At first, I thought their insistence that we arrive at our destination before nightfall was out of concern for our safety -- but it became clear almost immediately that Malawi is a safe, peaceful country. So I was confused. But then it dawned on me:
At night, there are no streetlights. But there are still many pedestrians, walking along roads with no sidewalks. We needed to be off the road for their safety.
In Malawi, the antiquated and inadequate electrification system is the single biggest obstacle to economic growth and development. Fewer than 1 in 10 people (9%) in Malawi have access to electricity, and that number shrinks to 1 in 100 (1%) in rural areas, where 85% of the country's population resides.
It's probably not hard to imagine that electricity is critical to all aspects of development. For example, without electricity, health clinics are unable to keep vaccines at the proper temperature, causing them to spoil, and rendering them useless to save lives. Hospital equipment sits unused. Businesses, especially those unable to afford a generator, aren't able to function efficiently. And Malawi's situation isn't singular: across sub-Saharan Africa, 7 out of 10 people don't have access to electricity.
Seventy percent. Millions of people who don't have access to refrigeration. Millions of children who can't do homework at night. Because there is literally no light to work by.
But there's good news: last year, the United States House of Representatives and Senate both introduced bills that would help bring electricity to 50 million people in Africa for the very first time. And while, unfortunately, it didn't pass, we have another chance this year: last week, on June 23rd, the Electrify Africa Act was re-introduced: and I, together with the ONE Campaign, want to make sure that this time, it happens.
I'm known for saying "look for the light" a lot on Chookooloonks -- light is, after all, a photographer's medium. In fact, the word "photography" literally means "drawing with light" -- without light, I couldn't do what I do. So when the ONE Campaign asked if I would help spread the word to convince US politicians to help pass the bill, I was only too happy to help. So I'm the very first person to participate in ONE's Light for Light Campaign -- for the entire month of July, some of your favourite photobloggers will be sharing their favourite light-filled photographs; in exchange, we'll be asking you to sign the petition to encourage lawmakers to pass the Electrify Africa bill, to help bring electricity to countries who desperately need it -- for their economies, for their children's education, and for, literally, their lives. It only takes a few seconds to sign, and as you might recall, ONE will never ask for your money, just your voice -- so once you've signed the petition, that's it. You've done your good deed for the day.
And so, as promised, my favourite light-filled photograph. Obviously, I take a lot of photographs that are light-filled, but the one that immediately came to mind for this campaign was one that I shot with my iPad while I was in Malawi -- I didn't process or use a filter in any way. It's my favourite shot that I took on the trip, and a great reminder that it often doesn't take fancy equipment or Photoshop or filters to make a good shot. Often, all it takes is light.
And now, friends, your turn: fill out the form you see below and hit enter -- and you'll have officially signed the petition. It's that quick and that easy, and you'll have done your part today to help change the world. How awesome is that?
Thanks, friends. And tomorrow, check out my friend Laurie's site -- she'll be sharing her favourite light-filled image for your enjoyment as well..
Want to get in on the fun? Share this post, or even better, share your own favourite light-filled image on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, and tag it #ElectrifyAfrica and #LightforLight. Bonus points for adding the link to the petition: http://bit.ly/1GStA0E
I can't wait to see the light you share.
There is a personal trainer at my local gym, who might be the most joy-filled person I've ever met. I've never worked with him, but I've watched him in action: he's invariably in a great mood, always energetic, always thrilled to be spending time with his clients. I'm a regular at the gym, so he knows me; and when I ask how he's doing every morning I'm there, he exclaims "I'm changin' lives!! How are you?" with a huge smile.
He noticed my absence when I was in Malawi, and when I told him what I was doing there and he found out that I'm a photographer, he almost lost his mind. "I'm studying photography!" he blurted. And since that day, he's introduced me to many of the other gym members, all of whom are also photographers (this gym is apparently teeming with them). He's a consummate professional, and while I'm not in the market for a personal trainer, I can't help but think that his clients must truly enjoy their time with him, even as he's pushing them to their physical limits.
Would that we all were that in love with what we do for a living.
Unrelated: a few weeks ago, a photographer that I follow on Instagram shared an image of a note that simply said, "To make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world." I haven't stopped thinking about this sentence since I first saw it -- I even copied it into my journal. It's such a great thing to keep in mind when I start comparing myself to other people.
And the personal trainer at my gym is such a great example of its truth.
Many years ago when I was going through a rough patch, a friend once told me, "Karen, it always works out in the end. If it's not working out, it's not the end yet." I've always loved this bit of comfort, and I've thought about it a lot since, anytime I'm facing challenges.
Yesterday, Marcus, Alex and I went to visit some friends at a beachhouse in Galveston. It was a great day. We didn't really do much other than sit and talk, but every once in a while I'd walk out onto the balcony and take a photograph. And by the end of the day, I realized I'd captured this little bit of wisdom visually over the course of the 10 hours we were there.
So, hang in there, friends. It always works out in the end.
Soundtrack: Ooh Child, as performed by Bear McCreary, featuring Raya Yarbrough
After a week off, this was a good week. Here's why:
• My schedule has gone from maniacal to merely busy, which means that I have time to focus on family and close friends for a few weeks. I'm so relieved!
• Grocery-store-bought flowers, FTW.
• I've got no air travel scheduled for a while, but I'm thinking that given my love of sushi, I'm going to have to get these for my next trip. (Only issue: I might be tempted to let my suitcase move around the carousel a few times before claiming it, just for my own entertainment.)
• Speaking of air travel, four-year-old Léa's dad is an acrobatic pilot, and he took her on her first acrobatic flight. I don't have any idea what they're saying, but I'd say she's having a whale of a time. (The difference between Léa and me? I'd be sobbing hysterically.)
• My friend Lola had the opportunity to visit a small town in Italy called Ville Montetiffi, where a small family is reviving the 500+ year old tradition of hand-making terracotta pans -- and because she's a photographer, she took some amazing photographs of the process. Goodness, how Lola's images always give me wanderlust.
• As of Monday, it's officially summer: the season of beaches. So I really love these photographs of sand, extra close up. I'll be looking at Galveston Beach a whole new way.
• Women's fashion over 100 years in 3 minutes. We've come a long way, baby.
• And finally, another JohnnySwim original, Take the World. I know I featured them recently, but the mood of this song really captures how I've been feeling lately. Besides, it's June, which is wedding season -- and it's kind of the perfect wedding song.
Click here or on the image below to listen.
Have a peaceful weekend, friends. See you next week.