Sunday, July 6, 2014

4 Great Things About Taking a Photo Walk

Lately I've spent a lot of time putting on comfortable walking shoes, slinging my camera around my neck (or cramming my phone into a back pocket), and finding some nature to get lost in. Taking a photo walk is a simple practice that helps me calm down after a busy week and stretch my creativity in new, satisfying directions. It's something that can be done almost anywhere, with little to no investment or decision-making involved. Sounds awesome, right?

Here, in no particular order, are four great things about taking a photo walk.

1. Clear your mind. 
Taking a photo walk is a great way to practice a little bit of mindfulness -- it makes you slow down, take notice of what's around, and find beautiful moments even if you, like me, happen to be a stressed out, sweaty, anxiety-ridden mess. It helps me clear my head of the collected weekly junk and forget about the conflicts, nonsense, and cringe-inducing moments that otherwise might run in a brain loop 24/7.

2. Get your body moving.
Let's be real; exercise is awesome, but it's not always something that fills me with intrinsic motivation these days. Adding a creative component to something that already feels great? That's what gets me excited to hit the trails and get moving.

3. Rediscover familiar places.
Looking for interesting details can help you find new, exciting things about places you've been a million times. I've been hiking the trails at some of my local natural places since childhood, but through a camera lens there's always something new to discover, some detail to share that wasn't there the day before. Sometimes you can even meet new friends!

4. Find a quiet place to read. 
There's always a new spot to discover; this is my current favorite place, but anywhere can work in a pinch. Even when out hiking I'm seldom caught without a book.

I've been exploring some of my favorite local parks and naturey places on my photo walks, including Bucks County's Peace Valley Nature Center.  What's your favorite place to explore on a photo walk?

Monday, June 30, 2014

On The Bright Side Blues

So far this year my declaration of the "Year of Explore" has been a bit of a bust. In some ways I've learned a great deal; at work my position has changed twice, offering me the chance to adjust, break, and grow. I've met new people, managed new responsibilities, and tried my best to accept change with a cheerful, flexible attitude.  That hasn't been easy, and my creative life has definitely suffered. I haven't made anything new in ages and am tired and a bit sad.

On the bright side, I have:
  • Read a few good books
  • Taken up meditating 
  • Saved a bunch of money
  • Spent time with loved ones
  • Eaten a lot of amazing food
What's a girl to do when she feels down in the dumps?  Blog her way out of the blues?

It's probably not a great idea to overshare here, but some things do help. Taking pictures helps. Taking naps helps. Spending time with my pets, spending time in nature helps, exercising helps, playing games helps. Advice seems to say that if you want to be creative, create every day -- even if you don't feel like it, don't feel up to it, can't bring yourself to do it. If it were as simple as that, well.

Today, though, sharing a little bit here helps. Writing this helps. Taking pictures helps. One moment, one day, one week at a time. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Another No Mail Day: A Year of EXPLORE

If you live anywhere vaguely near where I do in the United States, you know that it's cold outside right now. Snow, freezing rain, the whole deal. And I'm sick. Sick and feverish and stuck in bed sick, feeling glad that my cat loves the warmth of my feverish existence and has decided to curl up next to me while I catch up on old Rookie playlists, languishing somewhere between sleep and being horribly, crushingly awake.

Still managed to read a little Flavia.

Musing more on 2014, let's talk Another No Mail Day. Instead of trying to do weekly wrap up posts, in 2014 it is my intention to occasionally check in with one word, and use this word as inspiration and guide for decisions.

In 2013, I made some great things happen -- chiefly, I became a full time youth services librarian and became comfortable planning awesome, fun, literacy-based programming for kids on a regular basis. I read a lot of books, finished a few craft projects I'm proud of, and felt more confident being myself. My boyfriend and I spontaneously spent Halloween at Disney World.  It was kind of the best. I made some big decisions and was lucky enough to be able to hold off on making others.

Alongside all that wonderful stuff, though, it seems like life has lost something; more weekends are spent inside, more time is spent watching television, more time not thinking, more time not acting. More time being exhausted. More time worrying, stressing, and trying to figure out how to deal with that. Everyone goes through these slower, quiet times, and I don't regret taking things easy and spending plenty of time relaxing with loved ones... but feeling exhausted and down takes a toll.

Rounding the new year and thinking about how things feel in my life and how I would like to feel in the future, it was easy to choose this year's theme: explore.

Thinking about the feelings and experiences I value, explore kept bubbling up and wouldn't let me go. I love learning new things, feeling adventurous, creative, and brave. I love examining things, finding things, trying things, traveling. I love discovery. I love sharing, connecting, organizing, and documenting. I've come more and more to love the practice of gratitude, and I love shining a light on and appreciating amazing things. These are all vital and as things move forward in life they're things that I don't want to lose.

After all that, dear friends of this digital age, what better way to stay committed than write up a post sharing your not-actually-very-lofty intentions?  And hey, here's this shiny blog just left sitting here -- let's fix that!

In 2014, let's explore together. Let's see where we can go. We'll figure things out.

Also, I made this graphic for some reason. Ta dah!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Read More Stuff: Flavia de Luce

Thanks to the wonder that is Edelweiss, I recently had a chance to read an advanced copy of the newest installment of Alan Bradley's excellent Flavia de Luce seriesThe Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. I've been on the edge of my seat since the previous volume ended with a most unexpected, thrilling, series-changing cliffhanger.

You know the feeling. It's been, literarily, agonizing. Flavia's one of the most unique and intoxicating narrators I've encountered and in the past few years a new Flavia installment has been one of the highlights of every year... and with such a cliffhanger?  Agony!

As the series title would suggest, these slightly cozy mysteries introduce the reader to the positively marvelous Flavia de Luce. Flavia is a clever, curious young girl with a passion for chemistry (specifically, poisons) and a knack for observation. She lives in a stately-but-quietly-decaying country house in 1950s England along with her eccentric, emotionally distant family. Since she's the heroine of a mystery series, she manages to get herself into all kinds of trouble when strangers and happenings wander into her life -- bodies in the cucumber patch, for example. She's constantly a little too clever for her own good, one sharp comment away from trouble, and one step ahead of the police. Or so she'd like to think; it's possible she's not the most impartial of narrators.

No real series spoilers here, but the new book swiftly deals with that cliffhanger and broadens Flavia's world and family history in nigh-unbelievable, serious ways. She grows up a little, learns a lot, but remains Flavia de Luce through and through. The things revealed in the new book left my mind reeling, wondering how certain revelations would color my view of the previous volumes... and so I've decided to kick off 2014 with the Great Flavia Re-Read! Despite having a stack of things to get to, here is a picture of my immediate reading future:

Did I mention the design of the books is just gorgeous?  

The first in the series is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie -- if you haven't read a Flavia yet, definitely start there! I've read that there's going to be a television adaptation of these at some point, and that Bradley is going to be writing more adventures for Flavia beyond this first "arc," so I'm currently filled with an abundance of fannish glee. 

Have you read the Flavia series? Do you have a favorite "cozy" mystery series that you can't help but recommend when the discussion turns to books? 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Let's Make 2014 Amazing.

A cat on your blog to start the new year?  That's a lucky omen.

Happy New Year, world!  2014 -- we're really on our way to the future now, aren't we?

On the first day of the new year, it seems only natural to post something on this oft-forgotten blog. Thoughts for the new year, intentions, resolutions... everyone knows the drill. For a while I've been working on pinning down some kind of actual goals that I would like to meet, things I'd like to accomplish in my life this year... and nothing comes up. And that kind of stresses me out and then I stop thinking about it but can't stop thinking about it because shouldn't I be thinking about it or know what am I even doing if I don't know. So I think I'm going to resolve to stop thinking about it for a while.

And maybe that's fine?

For now, that's just fine.

So instead?

Let's keep things non-binding and light.

In the next year I hope to explore more, have more fun, be brave, create, and express my sincere gratitude for all of the 100% double top wonderful people and things in my life and in the world on a regular basis.

Think about work less. Be outside more. Try to devote more of my energy to things that are awesome, and less to things that don't rock my world.

Share more.

Be kind.

Enjoy everything.