Sunday, January 29, 2017

Immigration in Kentucky -- a response -- plus a birthday

post #321
To all my readers outside of the USA -- while I work on the putting the rest of my post together today, I am sharing the words I read yesterday about the current chaos in the USA.       
       First, I am so sorry this immigration crisis has occurred. This is not what most Americans believe could happen and not what we want to happen. Secondly, one of the two senators from my state of Kentucky occupies the most powerful position in the United States Senate. He is a Republican, and therefore in the same party as our new president whose alarming behavior has caused this senseless situation.
        The essay I share today was in the Louisville newspaper, The Courier-Journal. It is in the form of a letter addressed to this senator, Sen. Mitch McConnell. I think the letter is so well written and so on target. Thank you, Fedja Buric. (I had to "cut and paste" the article in order to be able share it here.)
         The rest of my post today now appears later in this post. I promised some photos.

Dear Sen. McConnell -- In 1992, when I was 13 years old, democratically elected nationalist leaders blew up my life.  The country I had known, Yugoslavia, was torn to shreds in a brutal ethnic conflict none of us had either expected or wanted.
          In less than two years, these leaders would proceed to murder over 100,000 people and displace over 2 million more.
         With two suitcases in hand, my parents, my brother and I left behind the life we had known for something that no longer even resembled a life.
         We roamed the Balkans searching for a haven. We slept in an out-of-service train car. The train car was near a major battlefield so the UNHCR relocated us to Turkey. In Turkey, we lived in a refugee camp. We shared a couple of bathrooms with over three thousand other unfortunate Bosnians.
We wrote over thirty letters, begging for asylum: New Zealand, Australia, France, Switzerland, UNHCR, among others. They all said no. Only one country said yes — the United States of America.
         In June 1995, we came to Kentucky. We came bewildered by what had happened to us.  But, a few weeks after our arrival, our depression began to lift.  It wasn’t hard to figure out what was happening to us—we were being shaken out of our stupor by the decency, generosity, and hospitality of the people of the Commonwealth.
        From a parent of a high school friend who offered to co-sign our first car loan, to my ESL teacher who listened to my sappy war stories and encouraged me to write about them, to your own office in Louisville, where your aides expedited my father’s travel papers so he could visit his ailing mother in France, the people of the Commonwealth moved us to tears with their generosity.
        Not once, did my foreign heritage, or my refugee status, hinder me in Kentucky.  On the contrary, Kentuckians from all walks of life, and of all generations, urged me to keep telling my story.  I did.  And as a result, I became a historian.  And a proud American.
        I am writing this open letter to you because I am dismayed, angry, and despairing over the direction our country is taking under the leadership of President Donald Trump.
        But even more so, I have been utterly demoralized by your silence in the face of the ugliness coming from the White House.
       When candidate Trump berated Muslims, you remained silent.
       When he promised to ban them from entering our country, you remained silent.
       When President Trump is putting these words of hate into executive action, you remain silent.      Yet again.
       Dear Senator, as a leader of one of our most cherished institutions, the Senate, you have a constitutional, but more importantly, a moral, obligation to speak up.
        It is up to you to stand up to President Trump’s bigotry and xenophobia and block the parts of his agenda that reflect the ugly echoes of the past.
        Senator McConnell, you are well aware that this not a partisan issue.  This is about our democratic institutions, common human decency, and the respect that the United States of America has earned around the world by embracing those unfortunate, desperate, hungry, and poor.
        I plead with you, sir, to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln and reach out for those better angels of your nature.

Fedja Buric is an assistant professor of history at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY.

       Now for some photos!
       I was in Colorado last weekend with my son's family, to help out. I didn't have my good camera with me so I used my iPhone 6s. I also didn't have time to get out in the wilderness there, but I did capture some snow near Denver in the mountains where we were on Saturday. Then there are some birthday photos -- thanks to my now 6 year old grandson.

good early morning!!

driving over the pass on the way back to Denver

looking out the side window of the car

note: I wasn't the one driving..... 
back home, ice cream cake, per Will's request, and more grandparents

The Kentucky Wildcats shirt was a birthday present I was lucky to find and bring with me....

And of course there was a birthday event at school as well:

Will with one of his teachers and his sister, Audrey

Audrey built this in school, and I was fascinated by its possibilities. First I made this photo by putting it on my lap, and I was wearing a black coat.... Then I wondered if it was a model for a flow chart for use in the current Oval Office. Surely there is some other explanation for what's coming out of there besides meanness and short-sightedness. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

being forthright and writing forth: how I learned to be a blogger and love it

post #320
      I'm not part of circles where everyone blogs or twitters or leaves a comment on whatever or lives for publicity. I actually am fairly private, despite often having things to say. I hang out with writers (especially my long term writers group) and photographers, when I can, but I live a rural life in Appalachia -- by choice -- miles from anyone with an Apple laptop, until recently, that is, when some of my family members moved back to our ridge. I've had to learn to make do or make it up. It does help that we have that fiber optic in our county through our local telephone coop corporation that covers four counties.
       I don't remember exactly how it happened, but about 6 1/2 years I "took a notion," as we say in Appalachia, to start a blog. I had no idea how to do it, but since there were millions of them out there, I suspected I'd be able to figure it out. The main thing I wanted to do was share my photography about my region of the country - Eastern Kentucky - and write about the region as well. And I knew myself well enough to know that once a week was enough to ask of myself.  In addition to this not being part of a money making strategy, I didn't think I'd last if I had to think about my blog all the time.
        Now, six and a quarter years later, I have posted  320 times on my blog, usually on a Sunday or maybe a Monday, and I still enjoy doing it. I am proud of myself for that, even if a lot of people who could read it either don't know about it or don't have time to read it regularly. That don't matter none no-how, to use a family phrase of ours. The truth is I do it for myself. Zoning in on my photo work so regularly helps me make sense of what I see and what I want to share.
        I don't know how people in countries all round the world find my blog, but I will hope at least that they come away with a fresher view of Appalachia, perhaps, or a new way to look at something American, or an answer to a question they might have. (My posts about growing tobacco, for example, are visited periodically, as are some about Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, 4H, barns, etc.)
        As for where my ideas come from, let me just say that sometimes I know a week or two ahead, but other times I sit down on a Sunday morning to see what surfaces after I look at recent photos or reflect on something that happened in the neighborhood or in the nation.  Also, if I am visiting somewhere that my neighbors might never get to visit, I will post photos from that trip. Since my step-mother is British and lives in England, and since the light for doing photography is so remarkable over there, I really enjoy sharing photos while I am there. 
         As my viewers may have figured out, I am curious about a lot of things, I love photography and I love where I live.

Some details:      
            1. I chose to use (connected to Google) in the beginning, and I've stuck with them. I use the same format every week, because I don't have time or incentive to go cutting edge or play around with the format. Maybe someday, but not yet.

            2. It took me a long time to learn that if a viewer clicks on one of my photos (usually there are 10-15 photos per post), they all line up along the bottom of the screen and can be viewed one by one in a larger format, thereby looking better that way than in the post itself.
            3. I'm relieved that once I click "Publish" to post my draft on my blog, I can later go back in and REVISE or CORRECT or ADD. This helps me immensely, especially psychologically. Clicking on the "Publish" button is therefore less fraught, i.e. improvement is possible. Thank goodness.
            4. Every blog has a title, and I came up with Sideway Views. This is because my gallery is on Sideway Road.  Even though everyone wants to put an 's' on the end of Sideway, where there isn't supposed to be one, I still like the title. It turns out it is possibly the only use of those two words together on the whole Internet!! Who knew!

            5. Like with photography or writing itself, posting on one's blog goes better with PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. My early goal was to get better about using humor in my writing. I'm not there yet, even though I keep practicing, and this is a hard reality for me.

I have gone on longer than I like to. And this is a second week without any of my photos. Gasp! But before I quit for today, I want to add two more things I have learned:
             A sample blog located in northern Appalachia that my friend Meg told me about is inspiring --  Delightful! So well done! Written by an intrepid naturalist sharing her love of place. I even contacted her to ask what was the camera she uses. I am still trying to learn how she does such a consistently good job with nature photos. She naturally frames photos into a story, which I also like to do.
          Another time I did a workshop for writers about blogging. It turned out several people in the "class" had been doing blogs a long time and were much better informed than I was on many aspects of blogging! I loved being reminded that teaching is a great way to learn.

Note: My photo class has met and I am so glad to be there. Then there's the amazement at the many voices heard in the women's marches on Saturday, all over the country. I added an excellent article to my last post, about narcissism, that my sister shared with me. If this topic interests you, which I hope it does, please look there and read it. 
           Next week: PHOTOS!  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

narcissism and reflections

post #319

     Today is a quiet day for me, in the company of my own personal head cold, but I am determined to touch on a serious topic – which is narcissism. Although my blog is about photography and Appalachia, visitors here do know I sometimes think about other things as well.  In fact, I have already mentioned in a recent post that narcissism is not a personality TRAIT, but rather it’s a personality DISORDER. 
       I now feel I need to speak up some more about this condition. In fact I was encouraged to do so when yesterday I read that it’s one of the things film maker Michael Moore is also concerned about as far as this presidency is concerned. We are a democracy after all, and caring means participating and speaking truth to power.
      I am not talking here about who should have won the election. I am mostly confused why few politicians seem to have bothered to research narcissism to find out for themselves what the word actually means. Do they really not know? Do they think narcissism merely means being full of yourself? Are they denying the possibility that such a mental health impairment requires vigilance?
     I don’t claim in the least to be a mental health professional. Instead I have an overactive curiousity gene, and I have had occasion in my life to learn as much about narcissism as I could. It’s not a pretty picture. And by its very nature is very hard to treat. For one thing, admitting a mistake is apparently almost impossible to do for someone with serious narcissism.
                   We as a nation seem unwilling to explore the true reality of many things, including narcissism, therefore it doesn't get enough due respect. Quite simply, while no one wants to make fun of anyone’s mental disorder, we should at least be willing to become well enough informed to admit that being narcissistic can cause major problems. I am not listing the symptoms here because they’re easy to look up. I’d wager it’s not the only issue Trump has, but I don’t claim to know as much about whatever the others might be.
                 The consequence of so many heads in the sand is that someone who exhibits every sign of serious narcissism will soon be our president. The real question is what the backup plan is when a president ends up being potentially unable to handle his job.
                How many of his cabinet choices are willing now to take responsibility for what difficulties lie ahead! How much enabling is going on by his “team” and by others who should be better informed and show more backbone!  To me, it seems like too many politicians are overlooking this devastating reality for some reason of their own. If they do understand the facts but don’t mention it, then each of them becomes partly responsible for how this truth affects the future for all of us. We have to hope that some of them are working behind the scene to stem the chaos.

Donald Trump can’t change, and he won’t change. This condition has nothing to do with  how much money or how many buildings around the world a person has.  Or how smart he is or how rich.  Or even how many votes he managed to secure. However, it may have everything to do with how much he wants to think Vladimir Putin likes him.
All I am doing here is using my small voice to speak up on this topic, one I just happen to know something about. As much as I hope I am proven wrong, it feels very serious to me.  NOTE: my sister has just sent a link to an excellent article on this same topic. I highly recommend it: Narcissism

I want to end this post with two wonderful photos my daughter took this week. The second one is literally and figuratively a call for personal reflection, which I obviously took to heart before writing this post. Thanks for taking the time to read these concerns of mine....    
         Today's post is not like any other I've done, so next week I plan to share with my blog visitors how I usually pull a post together.

five years old and on the pond the day before -- the rope is for being pulled over the ice by her dad --

and the next morning -- still enough ice below to come close to walking on water!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

favorite photos, 2016, part 3 of 3

post #318
       Cold weather -- time for warm memories and final favorite photo moments from 2016:

  I am doing pairs of photos today.  I so often want to tell a story through what I see.
my neighbor's house, across the road, near the mailbox

Clyde's apple orchard and garden, from the curve along Hogtown Ridge
     Two sets of paired photos from September's 4H event in Sandy Hook:

Jayla won the grand prize later, but I chose this earlier photo because it shows her in action.

I don't personally know this young girl, but this is my favorite photo from that afternoon.

Again, congratulations to all the hard working students taking part in 4H!!

 These two photos are from my two days in London, where I met up with a close friend from Norway after spending some time with my step-mother in Chipping Campden. We had walked under the ferris wheel before crossing the River Thames headed toward the famous clock tower, Big Ben, on the parliament building. The English sky makes these photos work for me! Love that light!

The next two photos pay hommage to the wonderful woodstove that had been left in our house when we bought our land 45 years ago. Such a wonderful companion in any kind of cold weather!  I made these photos last winter but the stove is in use today, for sure.

       I can't stop myself from ending with a few brief words about our future as the clamor for PROFIT NOW gets louder, while the call for taking care of our one and only earth for our children's children gets drowned out.  Clean water, clean air, and healthy forests are clearly threatened by a pervasive lack of backbone. (I definitely don't get it how anyone can deny the reality of our part in the warming of the world.)  Saying coal jobs can come back is like that fairy tale "The Emperor's New Clothes."  Read it and weep. At the least, in the face of double think, take time to figure out what might be true even though it is outside some random comfort zone.
       I am grateful for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (  They are not backing down from advocating Clean Power and a healthier and more economically sound future for our state. I congratulate them, too, for reaching their 2016 fundraising goal of $500,000! Let's take time to celebrate how far hard work has brought us even though the job is far from finished.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Favorite photos from 2016, part 2 of 3

post #317 (interesting to begin 2017 with post 317, and therefore to have ended 2016 with post 316...)

       Welcome this chilly first day of 2017! I'm glad I took last week off, though I'm proud to have done this blog every Sunday for 6 years and 3 months, missing only 4 times. I really enjoy pulling a blog post together.  
       Starting in the middle of January I am going to begin a digital photography class at Morehead State University. I suspect I will learn a lot that I don't even know I don't know! I am so looking forward to it and to sharing on future posts some of the projects it requires.
        Today I want to share more of my favorite photos from 2016. Last week I did some of the portraits, and today I want to do some of the outdoors photography from near where I am privileged to live, and some of the neighborly reasons I am grateful to live here.

redbud branches, barn roof, porch roof

There is quite a bit of luck in getting a different-than-usual image of dogwood flowers! So this photo brings me happiness.

We left this skull alone for months after we found it here in early spring along the creek. We wanted to see over time how it would return to the earth.

Exploring rocks and woods happens during any season.
Ann C. and Capp Y. visit the waterfalls when there was just a trickle. Come again!

looking in another direction from that same place

What makes the mystery of timeless beauty from two stones near a stream?

Will this winter bring those snows of last winter? I was told these are deer tracks going up our steps overnight.

The second annual memorial ride for Garry P., along our ridge and at his house:

Natalie warming up for the walk, in Garry's barn

Garry loved his family and his horses.

I so enjoyed this gathering as well -- George Ella Lyon Day in Harlan (Harlan Co., KY) and the audience's deep connection to a native daughter being Kentucky's Poet Laureate. This is what dreams are made of.

         I have to admit that I originally took the last photo (below) because I thought it was funny.  Now, after the election this fall, I can only wish it were funny.
          I find that my hopes for the New Year are also the stuff dreams are made ofMay all citizens of our country communicate better with each other, may we have equality among differences and not be afraid of someone because we are told we should be, by someone seeking power by telling us how to think or feel. May there be a recognition that we need cleaner air, cleaner water, and safer food, none of which can happen if we rely solely on outdated fossil fuels. May greed not determine a person's worth, may we look after the least among us because we are all connected, and may we simplify our lives so we can hear our own selves think and feel.  We need to be present for each other.  
        Well, that's the idea of what this sign now carries for me. A big load! It would be nice if we could all admit there are things we don't even know we don't know, (as I said about my upcoming class) and then trust our own path and the path of others as we try to engage in a world that needs help from all of us.