A Body that Transcends

Her body holds secrets
that I can only hear
if I sink into the liquid,
and let her draw me near,
as her ancient wisdom
soothes, washes, and transcends
time, thought, and truths.
In the murkiness, I suspend
my frame and my beliefs
about what is and what should be
and simply allow her body
to support and carry me.
Just breathe, there is nothing to fear.
She carries and protects the secrets
of all that is, was, and will be,
surely, she can do the same for me.

Gliding Across Glass

I learned at any early age that what first appears as an insurmountable and tortuous task, can turn into one of my greatest joys. I learned this when I was about eight years old and I was faced with learning something that seemed impossible to master. The seemingly impossible task required me to submerge in cold dark lake water, struggle with a life jacket that was riding above my ears, keep my feet in skies that pointed in every direction except the desired one – toward the throttling boat, and wrap my small fingers around the bouncing handles found at the end of a long rope. I needed to manage these tasks while bobbing alone, far from the safety of our boat. Each failed attempt to stand up on those skies meant I had to watch our boat, driven by my father, pass my way without stopping. A castaway, unable to call for help, I once again watched the long white tail trailing behind our boat approach my outstretched arms. My task was to grab the rope, before the boat circled behind me. If I missed grabbing my lifeline, the boat idled while I swam awkwardly to the end of the tail. Handles secure, the boat would continue its journey, back to where it began, and the stretched long rope created a taut straight line from me to them. Not only did the tight rope create the shortest distance between me and my family, it reduced the slack that can cause a sudden jolt and probable tumble after the propulsion catches up with the paused skier.

Another failed attempt and a rope burn around my pointer finger would surely land me a seat in the dry warm boat. Sadly, it did not. Apparently, my pleading and tears were drowned by the waves. My father would not let me back in the boat until I stood up on those skies. I knew those words carried weight, and I would need to lift my own out of the water if I wanted to feel dry land again.

I yelled, “Hit it,” as I had been instructed to do and finally, sitting back, my posture secure, determined, I was able to hold on to the split handles long enough to allow the engine to pull me up and out of the water. I did it! I can still feel the wind on my face, and the sound of the water splashing off me, as the motor’s speed instantly changed me from a floating fish form back into an upright mammal, only now, I did what primates are not naturally designed to do; I was gliding across water.  

I wanted nothing more in those moments of failed ski starts to crawl back into the boat. I am glad I did not get my way. Learning to water ski as a young person gave me the greatest gifts of my childhood and allowed me to experience profound freedom and joy. I have many fond memories of skiing across Arizona lakes: the revved engine when I yelled, “hit it,” feeling the spray from my ski as I leaned closer to the water, the freedom of gliding across the water, the friendly hellos from other boaters as they noticed the small slalom skier passing by, skiing alongside my brother, watching my parents ski, the pop of the vibrating red flag when a skier went down, the smacking sound made when the waves and the boat crashed into each other, and skiing through canyons that amplified sight and sound.

I enjoyed gliding across a smooth glass-top lake, that could be found on a quiet and calm weekday. Gliding across glass was an exhilarating experience, both the feel of the smooth water under my ski, and the look of the surface as I cut across. Calm water was a gift, but I did not mind a few waves now and then to add interest and challenge. My two-ski start was quickly replaced with a slalom ski that allowed me to maneuver outside of the wake, from right to left, and left to right. I learned how to ride the ridge of the wake as it propelled me outside of its boundaries, and I became skilled at leaning sideways, close to the water before leaning back and jetting across the wake to do the same on the other side. My difficult ski start was replaced with the strength and skills that allowed me to balance gracefully on one ski and stay on top of the water for longer periods. I also learned how to motion to go faster, which I often did during my adventurous youth. My ski moments were not completely void of fear – I did experience it from time to time. Fear surfaced if a large boat sped by, because that meant large waves would follow, or if I sat too long bobbing alone in the water before our boat made its way back to me. My family worked well as a team during these moments. My mom or dad drove the boat, and one of us was always on the lookout for a downed skier, flag ready. The last time I skied, my daughter, who was young at the time, saw me fall and somersault across the water. When I climbed back in the boat she was upset and crying; she was worried about her mom. I was fine, not even a scratch. I was better than fine.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my poem about the transcendent power of swimming in a body of water and my story about learning to water ski. I hope that you are finding joy and adventure in your own life. Have an inspired weekend! Michele

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to read my words and glance at my photos. For optimal viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post.

Picture 1: View from a boat, Saguaro Lake, Arizona Picture 2: Lake Pleasant, Arizona Picture 3: Lake Pleasant, Arizona Picture 4: One of 27 replica lighthouses along Lake Havasu, Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Ten Gifts I Gladly Give to You

If you are celebrating the season,

your days have been packed with efforts of pleasing.

In less than 100 hours,

your hustle and consideration will be shared.

Gifts will be exchanged,

and you can finally collapse on a chair.

Before you head out to tackle last-minute holiday tasks,

I have but one favor to ask …

Grab something warm to nurture your bones,

then scroll through ten of my inspired photos.

Ten photos from 2019, along with twenty lines –

gifts I gladly give to you during this holiday time.

Please know how much you matter.

You are more cherished than anything hidden under shiny wrapper.

Paddle Fest on Lake Pleasant comes only once a year.

This shot is lovely, but the view from a board is better than the pier.

Granville Island in Vancouver was a quick ferry ride away.

Shops, art galleries, a park, a brewery, and a market that made us want to stay.

The drive from Eugene took some time, but the Cape Perpetua Overlook in Oregon was sublime.

After spending time with sea lions on the coast, we were famished and stopped to eat.

Watching the sunset beyond the Florence Siuslaw River Bridge made our day complete.

This majestic cactus at Desert Botanical Garden appears worn and spikey.

But every angle reveals a plant that is interesting and thriving.

A tiny winged creature busy pollinating; she was not concerned about me.

Thank goodness, because I have an allergy.

The Granite Dells that surround Lake Watson emanate a sacred presence.

Those who visit are often transformed by their mystical influence.

A replenishing walk along the water’s edge at Dead Horse Lake.

A flock of birds in the sky and Jerome, a town on the hill, too far for my lens to take.

Our view from a cabin at Lake Havasu State Park.

Gentle waves, the setting sun, and the moon, in the shape of an arc.

A challenging 8.2 mile hike in the Tortolita Mountains in Marana took longer than expected.

Nothing happened and we didn’t get lost. We just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful landscape that made us feel refreshed and uplifted.

Thank you for stopping by and glancing through ten holiday gifts I gladly give to you. I hope that your weekend isn’t too stressful and that you have some time to relax and enjoy the season with your loves.

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to read my words and glance at my photos. For optimal viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Rediscovering a Passion and Connecting to a Legacy

Relearning to slow down and see the world through a camera lens. Pictured here looking through my dad’s lens, that I recently inherited.

One of my goals, during my inspirational and intentional change journey, is to reconnect with my passions. Passions that I have either neglected for too many years, or passions I have yet to discover. On the neglected list was photography. As a young person, I loved capturing a moment in time through a camera lens – stories told without words, transferred to the viewer through a single still image. I have been reconnecting with that early love. Five weeks ago, I signed up for a photography class through our local Parks and Recreation department and have been relearning a hobby that once inspired me and gave me purpose.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I asked my dad if he would buy me a camera for a photography class I wanted to sign up for. I don’t recall the cost of the camera back then, but it was enough to warrant a conversation between my dad and (former) stepmom. I had passionately pleaded my case. My photography fate rested in the outcome of a conversation that took place behind a closed bedroom door. I sat in the hallway, waiting and hoping, while they deliberated on this potentially, life-altering decision. Much to my surprise, they agreed. I was ecstatic. Of course, my future camera purchase came with a caveat:  I had to listen to the obligatory, “This is an expensive purchase, so it is important that you see it through,” directive from my stepmom.

My first “real” camera was a pre-digital Minolta; 35 mm film was required. What followed my parents’ purchase was a love affair with my photography class and the picture-taking process. I loved learning about f-stops, the shutter speed, exposure, and film developing. The darkroom was a secret chamber. A place where faces magically appeared on blank paper. I remember the smell of the processing chemicals and the feel of the closed-off chamber that sealed out light and fresh air. But inside that black room, the energy was anything but stagnant. I remember standing over the tub of chemicals, gently moving the photograph paper back and forth with tongs, breathing wafts of pungent odors, and watching as the image came to life. Often the exposed image revealed a lesson to be learned regarding my photography skills, but sometimes I captured something that made me gasp. In joy. In surprise. In wonder. The photograph, whether one to share or one to toss, was then clasped to a long thin wire for drying.

My emerging love affair with photography gave me a sense of purpose. I felt purposeful and directed when I could take pictures at events or gatherings, versus engaging in awkward small talk, or worse, confronting boredom. Looking through the lens also allowed me to see things I might not otherwise see and in doing so, my perspectives began to evolve – not only about the material world around me, but about my future. I daydreamed about becoming a photojournalist, which would allow me to marry my new love, photography, with my first creative love, writing. I continued taking pictures, learning, and progressing through high school until the unthinkable happened. My sophomore year was cut short when my stepmom decided I should live with my mom three weeks shy of summer vacation. Once again, the details of my destiny were sorted behind a closed door, in a hushed conversation. I was surprised by the decision, only this time I was not ecstatic. I was devastated. Moving to Colorado the last three weeks of my sophomore year was a difficult transition and one for another story. I had to say goodbye to my childhood friends, but I did not have to say goodbye to my camera. My camera came with me when I abruptly left my high school and moved to Colorado to live with my mom and stepdad.

Moving to Englewood, Colorado and starting a new high school was a difficult experience, but I did have a few memorable photography moments while there. I remember taking pictures of a lake in the early evening. My perfectly selected settings captured trees, the moon, stars and their glowing reflections in the still water below. The developed image made me gasp. In awe. I also captured several urban shots in Denver that I incorporated into a Social Studies project during my junior year. I was allowed to complete an extra credit project because I was earning an excelling grade in the course. I chose to research and share pictures and details of several historical downtown Denver buildings. My stepfather drove me downtown and waited while I walked several streets looking for just the right architectural picture. Once again, my camera gave me a sense of purpose and it also allowed me to see my new city with a different perspective.

I moved back to Mesa, Arizona to graduate from my original high school, with my childhood friends. Once again, my camera came with me.

Lake Pleasant, Arizona (substitute for my Denver lake picture that is long gone)

…………………

I kept my first camera for a few more years, but my photographs went dark. Photography was an expensive hobby that I could not afford to maintain as a young trying-to-survive-person. The point, click, and save world of today, had replaced the buy and develop film of an earlier era. Each of those steps required a monetary investment – one that I simply could not make. I remember the day I sold my camera. I sold it to a stranger who would never know the purpose it had given me and how grateful I was when my parents agreed to buy it. Although that camera had represented a highly coveted path to creative expression just a few years before, it had turned into pieces of metal, plastic, and glass that served as another reminder of what I could not afford to indulge in. I sold it, paid some bills, and moved on.

I would pick up a camera again when my daughter was born, and like most new parents, I documented every month, if not every day of her young life. Those photographs are my most cherished possessions; they document every stage of her life. They also document a time of delayed photographic gratification. When my daughter was a toddler, we bought our first digital camera. The cost was exorbitant and one that should have made the young parents we were pause, but we were fascinated by the technology and wanted to experience it as quickly as possible. What we didn’t realize, as we were caught up in a must have this newest gadget frenzy, is that the technology that would transform our picture taking would also take away the tangible result of taking a picture. The cost of the camera (somewhat) balanced not having to buy film anymore, except for a few select photographs, but the new technology could not replace the simple pleasure of sitting side-by-side and looking through photo albums. Nor could it replace the experience of developing my own images in that darkroom, or the feel of a photograph in my young daughter’s hands and the intimate connection made by looking closely into a loved one’s eyes, versus clicking hurriedly through dozens of pixelated images staring back from a computer screen.

I appreciate my files of digital photographs that document our lives together. Digital photography is extraordinary and allows for smoother sorting, easier sharing of images, and of course, digital manipulation. My need to know different camera settings to achieve the results I visualized had been replaced with the ease of point and click. I have continued to take pictures, but the act of capturing an image had lost the creative allure I experienced as a high school student. Yet, I have harbored the desire to reconnect with that young love and once again learn how to use my camera in a manner that goes behind the simple point, click, and save process. So, after several years of saying, “Someday I would like to take a photography class again,” I finally followed through with my desires; I signed up for a photography class and have been learning how to use my 2017 Canon camera Christmas present, beyond the automatic setting, and relearning the technical and the artistic aspects of visual storytelling.

Shared Lens

Inherited camera that I am learning to use.

It was during week two of my photography class, that my (current) stepmom gave me my dad’s camera. I was surprised. I thought he had sold his camera to my brother. He actually had sold a camera several years ago; this was a different camera. She thought I should have his camera, given my interest in photography. His camera, a Sony, represents so much more than the metal, plastic, and glass materials that house the 21st century picture-taking technology. It represents a connection to a side of my father that emerged during his retirement years. A side to him that may have been there for many decades, but it was when his active work life slowed that he began to share his sensitive reflective nature, that was delivered through dozens of emails, sent to family, containing photographs of his picture du jour. His emails often included humorous and thoughtful messages.

Here is an example of an image and message my dad sent to family:

“HAVE A GREAT DAY. I thought this was appropriate for a Friday. It looks like he is heading home.” DDW (email received May 15, 2015)

I can recall several memories of my father, the man behind the lens, as he documented important life events. I remember waving to him, as he stood in the orchestra pit, camera ready, during my first dance recital. He also captured pictures of me walking across the stage, both as a high school graduate and when I received my first college degree. My father would once again be the man standing, camera ready, taking pictures of his dancing daughter, when I participated in several community holiday performances. I appreciate having tangible reminders of special life moments, made more meaningful by knowing the photographer, but it wasn’t until life forced my dad to slow down, that he began to explore the creative side of photography, and through that exploration, an attention to nature’s special moments.      

Nature’s force and fragility, captured by my dad.

My dad was thrilled to capture the Salt River Wild Horses on the move. A “decisive moment in photography,” as my photography instructor would say.

I have been told many times that I have my dad’s green eyes. As a young person, I heard this frequently when meeting one of my dad’s coworkers, friends, or Iowa family members for the first time. I appreciated sharing this physical feature with him. His eyes were a light green that contrasted dramatically with his dark hair (in his younger years). It occurred to me recently, that we shared both similar eyes and the love of extending our vision beyond what is obvious and capturing what a focused camera lens reveals. It took me slowing down and reconnecting with this early passion to fully appreciate the joy my father was experiencing as he worked on finding just the right setting to capture a bee buzzing around a flower in his backyard.

My Green Eye

My “Eye” picture was taken at the Arizona Science Center, in Phoenix, which has a telescope that projects the viewer’s supersized eye onto the ceiling above.

……….

I have some unfinished business with an early creative passion, and now that my fate rests in my hands, I plan on seeing it through – through green eyes that observe behind a shared lens.  

I hope you enjoyed reading the puns as much as I enjoyed writing them. 😊

Slow down and capture a moment.

Are you interested in learning more about photography? Community colleges and local Parks and Recreation departments are a great place to start your photographic adventure.

My class takes place in the City of Peoria, Arizona, at the Rio Vista Recreation Center, with professional photographer, John Keedy.

Message to myinspiredlife.org blog followers:

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to follow my blog, I really appreciate it. I hope you are finding the weekly writings and photographs inspiring. I have noticed that the formatting of each post gets wonky through the static email delivery.

For optimum viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. However you choose to look at my posts, thank you!

If you are going through a life change or know someone who is, I would love to learn more and possibly share their story on a weekly post.

Thank you and have an inspired weekend!

Michele

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.