Open water icebergs

                                        Fujifilm X-Pro2, ISO 1200, FL 70 mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/8

“As you age, the people who remember you when you were young are fewer and fewer.  Then finally it’s just you standing there, keeper of the stories, holding in your heart the endings of those who have gone before you and the beginnings of those who are following after you. And they follow so fast.  That is the way of the world, which makes it natural, but does not make it easy.”   L. D. Burnett

 

 

Breathe

Fujifilm X-pro2, ISO 200, FL 50 mm, 1/30 sec @ f/16

 

Breathe, just breathe
In, out, in, out
A seagull cries overhead
And the surf rolls in, out, in, out

The moon hangs low over the horizon
A ghostly reminder of the night before
And the sun hangs low over the other
A new day starting

Life is about opposites
Push and pull, in and out
Dark and light
Death and birth

Moonlight

Fujifilm GFX50s, ISO 6400, FL 90mm, 1/60 sec @ f/3.6

I love the silky feel of moonlight on my skin.  I love the reflection of the moon on water, tracing a silver trail from the horizon to where I’m standing.  A night like this doesn’t always fix everything but it comes pretty damn close.

The Handmaid’s Tale

fujifilm xpro2, ISO 800, FL 200 mm, 1/60 sec @ f/4

 

Two things in the news recently have made me think, once again, about the roles of women in our society.  Last week, Bill O’Reilly – one of the top grossing TV celebrities on Fox News was terminated because of allegations of sexual harassment.  His misbehavior was not a new item.  The network had paid millions of dollars of hush money over several years but an investigative reporter was able to unearth the gory details and published the findings in a print source.  And then, lo and behold! Current Mad Men began to pull their marketing dollars from his show.  As that movement escalated, Murdoch and his sons decided the negativity outweighed the positivity and O’Reilly was no more.

That was last week.  This week, HULU – a streaming media service – began their made for TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale.  The book, a dystopian science fiction, was written by Margaret Atwood.  I had read it years ago when the feminist movement was at its strongest.  I was particularly attracted to the book because Margaret, a Canadian writer, actually finished writing the book in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where she held an MFA chair.  So, that attracted me, a native Alabamian – a book started in West Berlin and completed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The book was published in 1986 and, at the time, I was a second year medical resident in a pediatric residency program in Alabama.  I remember when I read the book that I found it somewhat frightening but was reassured by the rapid changes that I had personally witnessed of the way women’s roles were changing in a positive way in our society.  There was no reason for me to think that the steady forward emancipation of women from traditional restrictions would not continue to surge. The book was interesting but definitely science fiction.

Understand, I was not naive.  I had personally experienced some of the obstacles often placed in women’s paths.  Some of those obstacles were blatantly obvious.  Some were very subtle.  It is only now, in my more advanced age (smile), that I realize that I had been so indoctrinated to the accepted role of women that I was blind to prejudice and discrimination when it happened right in front of me.  It was what had always been – those subtle little reminders by society of what the female identity should be.

I felt so privileged in my first year of medical school.  I had been an outspoken feminist and member of the National Organization for Women in college and I felt that choosing a male-dominated profession that I yearned to be a part of was a reflection of both my career goals, my desire for service to humanity, and my politics.  My class was a small one – that’s why I chose the medical school that I did.  My COM 1 class was exactly 68 students – 10 of which were women.  In the 4 years that we were together, we got to know each other very well.  Never once did I feel anything but equality with my fellow students.  The attitude was – we were all comrades on this very stressful battlefield and we supported each other without reservations.

But what was also very true is that there were very subtle whispers that constantly reminded the female students that women were different from men.  How?  We spent very long hours in the first year of medical school trying to absorb massive amounts of knowledge – gross anatomy, histology, cell biology, embryology, genetics, immunology, neuroanatomy, physiology.  The classroom hours were long and tedious.  One of the common distractions that the professors would use to try and jolt students awake after hours and hours of the eternal slideshow lectures  would be to insert random ‘pin-up’ slides of women, scantily dressed or nude, into the lecture slideshow.  I remember one example in physiology when we were studying the very complex Kreb cycle of chemical processes employed by all organisms to release energy.  I’m sure the professor, after hours of a long drawn out, complex lecture, decided it was time to wake us up. The distraction pin-up that he used was a woman on a motor cycle, dressed all in leather, with her jacket unzipped to her naval and a skimpy leather skirt pulled across her legs as she straddled the machine.  Kreb cycle – motorcycle.  And, as usual, everyone in the class laughed, some applauded, and the professor would smile approvingly.  Even the female students laughed!  And why?  Because we were told, both by our male colleagues and by our professors, that women frequently could be seen as sex objects but not all women.  Certainly not the female students in the room.  We were different than other women – we were professional equals.  Looking back at all those episodes, I realize now that we were as much a part of the problem as the men.  We condoned and we colluded and we did it from the viewpoint that it didn’t apply to us – we were different. I’m sure part of it was that we were also afraid.  We were a minority group in this fraternity of physicians in training and their medical school professors (not a single one of my medical school professors were female).  We felt so lucky to be part of the experience. If we raised a ruckus, if we questioned these subtle discriminatory practices, we might lose our place in line.

How often does that happen?  How often does an individual participate in subtle discrimination because they don’t see it as applying personally to them?  How often does an individual collude because of fear of being excluded, of having hopes dashed, of having dreams shattered?  How naive I was.  How imperfect I was (and still am).

Two years later, I’m pulling very long clinical hours in the hospital.  Basically, I would work two 12-18 hour days in a row and then a third day of 36 hours.  This was my schedule, week in, week out.  The only place that I could take a shower while working these long hours was in the physician’s locker room, which should have been okay because I was a physician in training.  BUT – the physician’s locker room was a male only locker room.  There was a nurse’s locker room but because nurses didn’t work longer than a 12 hour shift, they took their showers at home.  There was a shower in the nurse’s locker room but it had not worked for years and was basically used as a storage area for stacks of boxes of hospital scrubs.

Fortunately, my best friend in my medical class was also pulling the same long hours.  So, we had a deal.  We both wanted a daily shower so no matter how little sleep we had gotten on our 36 hour on-call stretch, we would meet in front of the physician’s locker room at 3 AM.  One of us would go inside the locker room and take a shower while the other stood guard outside the door, ready to give an alert if someone approached.  Then we would switch places.  This is what we did rather than asking for shower facilities for female physicians and medical students.

Why didn’t we ask? We were working the same hours as our male colleagues so certainly we were entitled to the same considerations.  But we accepted the subtle discrimination, we didn’t even question it.  I suspect fear played a role in this also.  The fear that if we pointed out the inequalities too aggressively, that we might be excluded, that we might lose the position that we had worked so hard to achieve.

Oh, we weren’t completely meek and humble.  If there was overt, blatant discrimination, we spoke up against it.  But there was so much of the subtle, pervasive, way it has always been discrimination that we just accepted.  Some of it, I dare say most of it, we just accepted as the way it had always been and we honestly didn’t see it being any different.

And now, we have as President of the United States a man that manifests all those subtle, pervasiveness nuances of discrimination toward women.  He wouldn’t even shake Angela Merkel’s hand!  He speaks trash about women when he thinks he won’t get caught saying it.  He is writing executive orders that severely restrict women’s choices and freedoms and he does it surrounded by men, posing for the television cameras.  This was not a faux pas.  This was deliberate.  He was sending a message to his base of male power and male machismo and male domination of women and their issues.

In my later years of wisdom, I’m a lot more perceptive than I was when I was a naive 30 year old.  I have seen equality among people, regardless of gender, religion, or culture.  I recognize the subtle, pervasive, erosions of that equality. And I will not accept it.

And I’m rereading ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ with a new recognition that equality and democracy, once achieved, may not last forever.  It’s more frightening to me than even my first reading.

 

The Ties That Bind

Fujifilm x-pro2, ISO 300, FL 50 mm, 1/60 sec @ f/3.6

Do not cut those ties

To those you have lost.

The blade hurts beyond bearing

And cuts more than you know.

Let those ties fray rather

In the winds of passing time.

Thread by thread

Strand by strand,

Time wears the fabric down.

The first to fray is need;

Wiry like old roots,

It shrivels without feeding

Becoming dry and brittle

Before finally snapping

And becoming dust

That the wind catches

And blows away.

The next to go is illusion:

Flashing through rainbows

Of coloured pasts

That become slowly

Monochrome and clear.

You see things as they were

You see the truth

A skilful pen and ink sketch

Showing the bare lines

Of what there truly was.

Anger goes next,

Serpent-strong, writhing

Shrieking with fury

Dull red and thick with misery;

It grows quiet, finally

Stills its thrashing

Lies quiet and subdued.

You look again,

And it’s gone.

Each strand that bound you

One by one wears out

Frays to nothing

Snap!

It’s gone.

And when each tie is gone,

You may find that one alone remains,

Bright shining silver,

Gleaming in the kinder light

That time will bring you.

This is the thread that never frays

Never breaks, never snaps.

If at the end of all the threads

This one remains,

Then leave it be.

Cutting this one

Only cuts your heart.

-Vivienne Tuffnell

Golden after-glow

Fujifilm x-pro2, ISO 6400, FL 50 mm, 1/80 sec @ f/3.6. WB @ 5600 Kelvin

I’ve been very fortunate.  I have traveled all over the world and have been able to witness some incredibly beautiful landscapes.   Despite all my travels, tho, I still feel that America has some of the most incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring vistas on Earth. And sometimes, sometimes – I witness a part of the beauty of my country and it grabs my soul and reminds me that the love I have for my country is deep and heartfelt. Last night was one of those times.  Abba and I were walking our usual, sunset beach walk.  I try to photograph as long as there is light but always, I run out of light before I run out of inspiration.  My camera was off because now the shadows  were a deep black and we had turned back for the trek back to the beach house.  The light was absolutely beautiful – the highlights in the ocean and the water-swept sands were the same color as the golden afterglow of the sun.  And then – just a flashing of gold on the surface of the water and it was gone.  I stopped and watched closer and sure enough, once again – a flash of a golden fin tip above the wave and then it dove back into the water.  Even though the light was quickly vanishing, I stood and watched for about 15 minutes as a group of dolphins danced in the waves.  They really seemed to be playing because two of them would surface at the same time opposite each other and then dive back into the water. The water was sheeting off their fins and off their backs and because of the backlighting, the water had the same gold as the dwindling sun.  It was amazing!  The ocean was very dark – the light was almost gone – but the breaching dolphins were bordered in this glowing, golden light.    Even Abba seemed to know that something profound was happening because he stood and watched the water as closely as I was.  It didn’t last long, maybe 15 minutes, before even that golden after-glow was gone.  But now I KNOW, even when I can’t see them – that somewhere underneath those dark waves – dolphins are playing. 🙂 

End of day

fujifilm xpro2, ISO 10000, FL 60 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/4.5

There is a quiet space, between waking life and sleep.  A transition from the busy, keep moving, check off the to-do list, yes, that’s been done, what’s next?  It is an in-between time, a pause, like the deep inhale before the exhale.  In this time, I focus on being rather than doing.  It is like slipping into a poem and it prepares me for the deeply metaphorical dream state. 

Left behind

fujifilm xpro-2, ISO 600, FL 50 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/8

“Recently abandoned women can be complicated.”
 Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian

Moonlight

fujifilm x-pro2, ISO 500, FL 27 mm, 20 sec @ f/2.8

“The moon understands what it means to be human.
Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Refugees

Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 6400, FL 70mm, 1/60 sec @f/4. Taken at Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, Georgia

Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 6400, FL 70mm, 1/60 sec @f/4. Taken at Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, Georgia

This is a blog posting that I did over a year ago.  It bears repeating.

I watch the evening news and I see the faces of the people who are fleeing their homelands – frightened, anguished, exhausted.  Or you hear the horrific numbers – of those refugees who died from suffocation in a truck on the side of the road or the 900 migrants drowned in an inadequate, overturned sea vessel and whose bodies are now washing ashore.  And this, this image haunts me.  I suspect it always will.

IMG_0527

 

And the bigoted bully of the republican party that is running for President of our country, President!  is trumpeting his hate message about migrants.  Even people I love are saying – ‘we need to put up more barricades, we have to be careful – there could be terrorists among the migrants.’  Some of the most frightened voices I hear asking for barriers to be erected are people that I know have a strong religious affiliation.  How can this be?

We are letting our fear drain our humanity.  It reminds me of a twilight zone show that I saw as a kid – The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street where a 1950s idyllic American neighborhood becomes paranoid about a possible alien invasion because of a loud noise and a shadow passing over the town.  The electrical power for the neighborhood goes out and darkness descends on the street.  A young boy suggests that this is the way an alien invasion always happens .  The inhabitants of the neighborhood become more and more hysterical and panicked and when some of the neighbors’ homes suddenly light up, they turn to the home owner with suspicion and accusations.  Eventually, firearms are taken up and neighbor begins shooting neighbor in an absolute chaotic free for all.  At the end of the show, the perspective changes to a hilltop overlooking the neighborhood streets where, in fact, 2 aliens are manipulating the power grid for the neighborhood and discussing that the best way to conquer the planet is to let the people become their own worst enemies.  The ending, narrated in a voice-over by the brilliant Rod Serling, said:

‘The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices — to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill — and suspicion can destroy — and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own — for the children — and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is — that these things cannot be confined — to the Twilight Zone.’

We cannot let ourselves be manipulated.  We bear responsibility for those fleeing sickness and death and oppression.

The words of the Kenyan born Somali poet, Warsan Shire in her moving poem Home says it better than I ever could.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here