Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Transitory Life


A few things have happened recently to friends that remind me that we are mortal and life is transitory. I don't think people in their 40's, 50's think too much about the transitory part but when you get to be my age you think about it. I'm not saying that you spend your days worrying about dying but when you have lost a spouse and dear friends, you wonder about what is going to happen. About how you are going to get from living to being dead. I know that sounds weird. Still, I don't know anyone who wants to suffer or their families to suffer with them through a long illness where there is no chance of recovery.

I recently read Atul Gawande's book, On Being Mortal; Medicine and What Matters in the End. Gawande is a surgeon and has written several books about medicine. He also writes about medical issues in the NewYorker Magazine. Gawande apparently has struggled in his own medical practice on how to handle patients when he knows that medicine can not heal them. He wrote this book after his Father, also a surgeon, died from a rare form of cancer and as Gawande was with his Father through his illness, he saw medicine from the standpoint of the patient and his family.

The book is about the end of our lives and how to manage when our body begins to fail us. He writes about assisted living and nursing homes and why many elderly people are not happy living in these facilities. It is because they lose control of their lives in order that their families feel they are safe and the facility can operate efficiently. Losing control of when you want to get up in the morning, eat, take a bath, watch TV and  giving up privacy is hard to accept no matter if you are old and your body is failing.

The last half of the book about medical care in the last part of life brought back memories of so many doctor visits with Ned as we negotiated his last months.

Gawande writes:
“The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don't want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don't want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn't, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end.”  
Fighting to the bitter end, Ned's last couple of months were overwhelming with visits to specialist who couldn't help, radiation that left him even more exhausted and more tests.

How do we find the right doctors that do not keep offering medical procedures that may prolong life but make it impossible for us to live our last days as we want, a doctor who can help us understand what is happening, ask us what is important and coach us through rational choices.

I think this is a great book for those of us who are in the "third age" as we call it here in Mexico but also it is a good book for our adult children to read as well.

The image of the bottles that once held medicines and potions is from the Port Aransas project.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sicilian Cooking



While I was in Sicily I had some good meals but overall I thought that there was more potential in the dish than the preparation presented. In the restaurants where I ate, I never had the feeling that there was a chef who was taking the traditional recipes and ingredients and re-interpreting them for today's taste such as we see with some of the innovative chef's in Mexico. 

Sicily is an island so you would think lots of fresh seafood but just about every menu was limited to swordfish, tuna, octopus, squid and prawns. I was surprised because when we were in fish markets there was a wide variety of fish, most of which I didn't recognize from the Italian name nor from the look but certainly more varied than the menus reflected. There was always a dish prepared with squid ink. I tried a risotto in squid ink garnished with a marvelous Sicilian ricotta cheese. It was delicious but so filling that I probably only ate one-third of it.

Another thing about Sicily is that the country has been occupied by so many other countries that I expected more Middle Eastern  and African dishes. There were some items on the menus that included meats with fruits and nuts and if there were others they have been incorporated into our international cuisine to such an extent that I didn't recognize them as different.  

Always on the menu were two salads. One was mostly lettuce with grated carrots, maybe tomatoes and olives. The other might include arugula and romaine lettuce with grated carrots, tomatoes, olives, corn and maybe another vegetable or two. The corn in the salad kind of suprised me but it was good. One day in a Sicilian restaurant in San Miguel I had a salad with oranges and olives and I don't remember what else but when I found an orange salad in Sicily, I ordered it. I was disappointed. It had slices of orange not wedges of orange and lots of olive oil but not a dressing.

I kept thinking about the orange salad and when I went to the Saturday organic market last week and I saw fennel and arugula I knew that I was going to make an orange salad. When I got home I looked up recipes for fennel, arugula and orange salads and found several. So the picture is my version of the salad with a dressing of orange and lemon juice, olive oil, a bit of diced garlic, a 1/4 teaspoon of mustard over fennel, arugala, onion, olive and orange wedges. It was good.    

I'd like to have a Sicilian cookbook and I've been to Amazon to look for one. There are a lot of them but before I buy one I want to be able to at least look at the Table of Contents so see what is going to be included. 

Does anyone have a recommendation for a Sicilian Cookbook?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Dad


My Dad, my sister Margaret and me. This morning I went looking for a picture of my Dad. I found this old negative, all silvered and scratched. So blurry that I'm surprised that the scan turned out as well as it did. I'm not sure of the year except it was in the 1940's. But that is okay, I still have so many pictures of him in my mind. He would have been 99 years old but he passed away in 1984. He was a quiet man and not very demonstrative but there was never any doubt in my mind that he loved me. I doubt he could have imagined all the places I would go or the things I would do but I know he was always proud of me.

There are other special Dads in my life. Ned who was a good role model for our boys. Now Mike and Doug are Dads and doing a good job with their boys.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Home Office


This week Houzz, the on-line architecture and design newsletter, ran a section that they called 95 Deskscape Dazzlers. Oh my but some of them were so beautiful with flowers, lamps, art work. I looked at all 95 and really liked the look of about sixty percent of them. But after I got through the dazzle, I started being practical.

A piece of art work behind the desk would be nice but a big monitor would cover it up.
Most of the desks were too small to open a laptop and also have any reference materials open.
Where would you put a printer or scanner or backup hard drive?
Where do you hide modems, speakers and phones?
Where do you store files?
How can you stare at a monitor for several hours when it faces a window?

I do like beautiful things but I'm a practical woman. I think I'll give up the idea of a deskscape and settle for a work bench.



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Don't Just Take Pictures, Make Art


Editor Brooks Jensen writes in the Editor's Comments of the May-June 2015 Lenswork Magazine:
Don't just take pictures, make art.
By this I specifically mean finish things -- be it an exhibition, a Blurb book, a website gallerly, a PDF or whatever else makes sense for your process and your content. The very act of committing to something all the way through to completion is one of the best ways to learn. 
I use to say that putting together an exhibition, especially your first one, was a huge learning experience. I'm not doing shows any more but I need the discipline of completing a project. It is nice to come home from a trip or a shoot and run though the images, mark some as the best of the lot. Maybe process one or two for FaceBook or the Blog. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is like deciding that the product of the project will be an exhibition or a boxed portfolio with an artist's statement, or a book that is designed and laid out with templates and text.

It is fine to say this is a nice image and so is this one. I like this too. But when I have to narrow down the shoot from 500, 1000, 2500 files to 20 or 25 for an exhibition, 15 or 20 for a boxed portfolio and maybe 150 for an affordable self-published book, that is when it starts to become a learning experience. Which images are the best of the best. Which images tell a cohesive story.

Then the images have to be processed so that they will be the very best prints I can make with a consistent look. It tests my technical knowledge but the other thing that is happening is that I am learning where my shortcomings are in making images. From that I learn to make the next project better.

Jensen is right. Don't just take pictures, make a finished piece of art.

The image above is Palermo, Sicily, made from the upper terrace of our hotel. And, yes, it will be in the Blurb book about Sicily that I'm working on.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Mediterrenean Sea


Sicily sits off the mainland of Italy in the middle of the beautiful Mediterrenean Sea. Mediterrenean Blue is truly a color and it is different from the colors of the Caribbean Sea. You see the blue reflected everywhere in the colors of buildings and boats and often accented with a bright orange-red.

I did not see many sandy beaches. Mostly the sea rolled up at the foot of cliffs with maybe some small rocky inlets.

When you are looking out at the sea it is hard to imagine the part it is playing in the migrant crisis as people try to escape war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. Many people have asked me if I saw evidence of the refugees in Sicily. I did not.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Photography Tour


I recently spent two weeks on a photography tour to Sicily. It was an amazing two weeks. Our group was made up of six hand-picked photographers. Photographers who wanted to photograph and could roll with the punches which always happens when traveling. Before the tour I knew two people in the group but loved getting to know the others.

We started in Palermo for a couple of days, then to Noto, over to Trapani and back to Palermo and a hundred stops in between for photographs of landscapes loaded with poppies or hilltop towns cloaked in fog or fish markets by the wharf. Elisa Paloschi, our great and wonderful tour guide who is also an amazing photographer and videographer, knows Sicilian towns and country roads so we were in places that I might never have found on my own.

The days were long. Most of the time we left after an early breakfast and returned at dark to drop off camera equipment and head out for dinner. I don't think we were ever back in our hotel room until about 10:00 PM. It was really a great way for a single, 'mature' woman photographer to travel to places unknown and get to locations that might have been way too much to do alone in a car in a foreign country with a different language. I will definitely do some more photography tours. I'll put up more pictures from the trip and tell you more about it over the next couple of weeks.

Okay, that accounts for some of the time I've been missing from the blog. What else has happened? Well, life. All I can say is I've been busy and I haven't been in the mood to write. But now I'm back!