Weekly Photo Challenge: Home

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12 years ago, I was living east of Kansas City, Missouri and driving 20 miles through blizzards nearly everyday to get to and from work. On one particularly frightening evening, I discovered this delightful thing called freezing rain. I grew up in central Minnesota, so freezing rain was a new concept. Precipitation always just came down in the form of snow. So, when a layer of ice accumulated on my windshield that night, I was terrified. I had to roll down my window and drive with my head outside to navigate the last mile to my apartment.

Two days later, when I journeyed down I-70 again to return to work, I was shocked to discover the ice-storm carnage. Multiple semi-trucks littered the ditches, some overturned. Cars were strewn about like an angry giant-child had taken to the freeway. That day, I made the decision to get the heck out the Midwest! I had recently separated from my husband, so I saw no reason to stay in Missouri and subject myself to the weather any longer. If it wasn’t ice-storms and blizzards in the winter, it was tornadoes in the summer. No thanks!

I moved to the Seattle, Washington area. Snow is rare, and I have not yet experienced an ice-storm here. Mostly, it just rains, and I’m okay with that! Rain or shine, the Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I know many people who follow my blog may think “home” is more of an Ireland state of mind for me. But, when I saw the photo challenge this week, I knew exactly where I belonged.

Be the Spark

Scanning the floor of the Tacoma Dome after the lights went down Friday night, I looked for opportunities to improve my seating situation with my unnamed Englishman and new partner in crime.  A decade ago, I’d be sneaking forward for a better view of Ozzy on stage.  In my early 30’s however, it was Desmond Tutu who had inspired seat pirating with a complete stranger. A stone’s throw away from the Governor at the end of our escapade, I felt perfectly poised and ready for whatever Archbishop Desmond Tutu had to say. 
 
I love getting older.
 
“Be the Spark” was an event put on by the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.  In addition to Desmond Tutu, world-renowned human rights activist, it included various performers and speakers such as Craig Kielburger, who at the age of 12 (yes, 12!!) founded the organization Free the Children.   His organization has helped to build over 650 schools worldwide. 
 
Desmond Tutu walked on stage to a standing ovation, and he delivered a short, yet deeply personal message.  “Do your little of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the word.”   Those daily news articles of child labor, famine, and war aren’t distressing pieces of information to gloss over and discard.  They’re “God’s checklist”.  They’re opportunities for us to be the “spark” that ignites change.
 
Englishman lost to the masses, I walked through the Dome after Tutu left the stage, ushered out to the voice of Crystal Aiken, deep in thought. 
 
Let’s spark some change…
 
Did I get pictures, some of you are wondering?  Well, apparently my D90 is considered “professional” camera gear and was banned from inside the Dome.  So, the answer to that is a big, fat NO.   However, I did spend some time in Seattle yesterday afternoon, so I made the most of it.  As you will see, my fascination of street artists and performers continues.  
 
Point of View

 

Native American wood carver

 

Half-painted

 

Painted in SilverSilver at Pike Place Market

 

Silver at Pike Place Market
I can't hula-hoop anyway...forget adding a guitar and harmonica!

 

I can't do this either...this girl had an amazing voice!

 

Interesting back alley busker

 

My favorite pic from yesterday

 

I'll save you from that pigeon! This way!

 

A splash of color

Cameras and Shoes

This is one of the last images I had taken with David’s Canon 40d.   I reluctantly returned it to him yesterday after having used it since August.  But, I didn’t hang my head for long because my new NIKON D90 arrived later in the afternoon!!  

I spent hours reading the owner’s manual and then playing with all of the unfamiliar buttons and settings.  I am in love!!  Now to start accumulating the new lenses I want…

So, back to this picture.  High above the Seattle street, the irretrievable shoes kicked the wind.   These look like perfectly good shoes, which makes me wonder if an angry mother later beat some barefoot child and sent him to bed without supper for throwing them over this cable?

A New Project

A few winters ago, I noticed a man in a long red coat panhandling on the freeway off ramp where I exit for home in the evenings.   His dark, curly hair and beard grew out of control and, coupled with the attire, reminded me of a displaced Charles Dickens character.  His theatrical appearance sparked my interest, and I began watching for him.  

I noticed some patterns.  He’d arrive for “work” when I was leaving Bellingham in the mornings.  He had a shopping chart filled with belongings that he parked below the overpass.   Upon returning to Bellingham, I’d see him still standing there, or packing it up as though this was a full-time job.  Every now and then he’d yell furiously down the street at some non-existent passerby and throw his hands in the air like he was reliving some old, angry memory. When the summer arrived his unruly mane was trimmed, and he’d shift nervously from left to right as he held his cardboard sign in the heat.   It absolutely broke my heart.  I started thinking about how this mentally ill, most likely homeless man was someone’s son.  Someone’s brother.  Possibly someone’s estranged husband. 

Eventually he disappeared from his post, but I still think of him on occasion and wonder what happened.  Did he get help?  Medication?  Food and shelter?  And, how could I have possibly helped? 

In Vancouver, British Columbia this past summer I found the Hope in Shadows project.   A contest is held every year in which homeless residents in Vancouver receive disposable cameras, and winning photos are used to create a calendar.  The calendar is then sold for profit to help the homeless.   It got me thinking – this would be fun to attempt in Bellingham, understanding of course that the photographers would need to be carefully selected by the volunteers who work at the shelters.  The man by the freeway I mention above wouldn’t necessarily be capable of participating, but he could at least benefit from the profits. 

Of course, my idea stayed exactly that – an idea.  I’d talk about it with friends trying to figure out what I’d need to do to get started, but I never really got the ball rolling.  Then, this past weekend in Seattle I spotted the man pictured above in an alley.  He emerged to join a group enjoying some rare sunshine in Pioneer Square.  There was one face in particular that tugged at my heartstrings, and I decided I had to get serious about it.   I like photography, so why not use something I love to help others?  I have other ideas that would work in tandem with the calendar project, but more on that later.

The homeless live with such a stigma – that somehow they can help their situation but chose not to.  Maybe that’s true for some, but I don’t want to make assumptions.  I just want to help.   There are valuable organizations already in place that support this population.  However, I think this would be a creative way to raise more funds that can then be donated to them.   Not everyone can be helped, and not everyone wants to be helped, but even if just one person can benefit, then I think it’d be worth it.  Right?

All of these thoughts, just from a photo walk to Seattle!   Thanks for reading to the end of this longer than usual post.  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them!

Spotlight on Libya

Imagine visiting a place that borders the Mediterranean and walking through ancient Roman cities.  Italy?  Think again.  Picture yourself wandering among 12,000 year old rock sculptures as the wind continuously reshapes the desert and then stumbling upon a secret oasis.  Where would you be?  Libya.  Despite  the country’s natural beauty and the capital Tripoli’s claim to be the “White Bride of the Mediterranean” and one of North Africa’s prettiest cities, it’s not somewhere most people add to their travel itineraries.  Politics and religion play a huge part.

Africa’s fourth largest country, and more than 95% Sunni Muslim, Libya survived countless battles and a devastating Italian rule before gaining independence in 1951.  Colonel Muammar Gaddafi arrived in 1969, and has been in power ever since.  That’s the Reader’s Digest version anyway.  Libya is one of several North African countries since the fall of Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine in January and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak last week to begin pro-democracy demonstrations.   The main focus of demonstrations thus far has been in Gaddafi’s home of Benghazi.   One report I found stated that 84 people have already died in the protests.  Hundreds more have been injured.

Yesterday, on our photo walk in Seattle we happened to pass a peaceful demonstration, where I snapped this picture.  This particular flag is not actually the official flag of Libya, which is a solid green.  The flag wrapped around the young man above is the original one to be flown after gaining independence, but replaced by Gaddafi in 1977.

Since my blog is for photography, it’s a lesser known fact to most of my readers that I’m interested in all things Africa.   Although I may not write about it frequently, I do think about it often and will definitely keep following the news on these events.