“The Photo Sociology “I Can Do Better Than A Turner” Photography Award”

“Have you ever wondered what makes a photographer or an artist famous? Felt that you or others have achieved equal or better results but do not hve the same recognition? Who decides that one persons work is worthy of critical acclaim? I saw a winning Turner Prize series of photo’s recently and thought to myself “I can do better than that”.

Do you feel that your photography is better than a photographer that has achieved worldwide recognition? Whether you believe this or not you can enter one photo into this free competition. You may consider yourself to be a photographer or you may not. It doesn’t matter. If you have a camera or smart phone then you can enter. There is no entry fee.

Any one over 18 can enter this competition and can submit one photo. I cannot accept photo’s of minors due to the ethics around consent, and any photo that you submit must be taken in a manner that is in keeping with the legal requirements of the country that you reside. If you photo is of an individual then you are responsible for obtaining consent. We will not accept photos of a sexual nature, nor that promote hate crime or terrorism.

Please visit the gallery website so that you can submit your photo”

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Ancestors On My Mind

Every time I cook or crochet, I think about my ancestors. More to the point, my grandmother, great grandmother and my great great grandmother.

I never knew any of them, not even my grandmother, as she died in 1956. I do bear a strong familial resemblance to her. I know I inherited her love of and talent for writing and her fierce love of nature, her strength and perseverance and steadfastness. And I got my middle name from her, as well. I possess many of her stories, poems and other writings, and they are treasured.

From my great grandmother, my namesake, I inherited, if not her seamstress abilities, at least my crochet skills. She tatted, and I’m thrilled to have her tatting box, complete with the shuttle and a piece she was working on, as well as many linens she added tatted edging to and several things she sewed, including at least one quilt. (There’s a second quilt, but as it pre-dates the cotton gin, my great great grandmother may well have sewn it.)

I know very little about my great great grandmother. Despite newly found cousins who have better info and records, and who have journeyed to Nova Scotia seeking info, I still know very little about her early life, other than her birth place and year. At a young age, her family immigrated from Ireland to Pictou, N.S., where she met my great great grandfather, a MacDonald from Scotland, and they wed. Little is known of his life in Scotland, other than the family was forced off their land during the Highland Clearances, when he was a teenager.

As I find out bits and pieces about my ancestors, things from my childhood make some sense. For example, my mother had no use for Catholics, not at all. She even proudly wore orange on St. Patrick’s Day, which, for some reason, horrified me. Me, being the contrarian I am, dug in my heels, and proudly wore green. Knowing now, that my great great grandmother was from Northern Ireland, Belfast, to be specific, I understand the dislike of Catholics and why the family wore orange, as will anyone who’s ever read anything about the Irish Troubles, and the enmity between Catholics and Protestants.

She undoubtedly faced hardships most of her life, and I often wonder what led the family to leave Ireland. How did they/she feel about it? Did she stand on the shores of Nova Scotia, looking out to sea towards Ireland, missing her home? Did my great great grandfather? Is that why he drank? To forget? After she married my great great grandfather, they immigrated to Rhode Island, where all of the children were born. (Making me a fourth generation American on my maternal side!)

All the children, when they were not students, worked in the cotton mills in Hope, Rhode Island. It’s unclear what my great great grandfather did, but family lore says he more often than not drank away his earnings, leaving the family struggling, hence the children working in the mills to help provide for the family.

From all three, I inherited a fierceness, a certain amount of stubbornness, an unwillingness to ask for help, and an independent streak a mile wide.

My paternal line is filled with ministers, with my grandfather the much beloved head of the geology department at Colby College until his sudden death at age 56. The founder of my paternal line was a servien of The di Spencer family in Wales during the Wars of The Roses. Yes, the family now known as the Spencers, as in Princess Diana. Those Spencers.

The genealogy of my paternal line has been followed back roughly to the time of Christ, and includes early Frankish (pre-France) kings, an accused Salem witch, as well as someone who made the shackles the Salem witches were held in, among other highlights.

I think about these things often, and it gives me a better understanding of who I am, WHY I’m who I am, and settles some things I’ve wondered about since childhood, while raising a million more questions.

Tee totalers, ministers, suffragettes, witches and accusers, high placed serviens, kings, earls and dukes, mill workers professors, farmers. Every single one led to me being uniquely who I am. And explains many things I dislike, i.e. injustice, stealing of land, why I always felt the English should leave Ireland and Scotland alone, and many things I’ve always had an unexplained interest in. Things like English and Tudor history, a heartfelt ache to walk the Highlands, women’s rights, nature and music.

Science has shown recently that the experiences your ancestors have gone through, good AND bad, altered their DNA, micro evolution at its finest. Which has me asking, if experiences can encode in ones DNA, can memories, places and times? Maybe what people call “past lives” are actually DNA encoded memories of place and time in our ancestors lives that are now a part of us. Maybe that’s why people are drawn to certain places, eras, or skills.

The things I think of.

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SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED

Impressions on twenty minute drive on January 3, 2015.

Cold, gray, winter skies. Dreary, tired, winter skies. Solemn, mournful, winter skies.

Even they stir me to a sort of lyricism, for theirs is a quiet, somber beauty, overlooked by many, in their preference for sunny climes and monotonous sandy beaches.

Those far off hills, tree covered and misty. What secrets are held within their rocks and rills? What mysteries lie coiled in the age rings of trees?

A lone crow perched atop a dead tree eyes me as he caws hoarsely, calling in a murder of fellow glossy beauties, screaming their raucous exuberance, over what, I’ll never know. More mystery.

Water, from recent rains, drips down the long icicles along a rocky embankment, where old shacks perch precariously along the ledge above them and the ice-laced creek below.

A ruddy colored hawk, diving from her perch high in a tree, falls swiftly, like a stone, and I see her, wrestling with her dinner, a small rabbit that squirms in her razor sharp talons, along the side of the road as I pass by.

Summer green cornfields, shorn to stubble, now are just part of the tans and browns and grays that comprise the snowless winter landscape. All is overcast and muted, holding its breath, waiting for Spring.

A great gray and weathered barn sits alone in a field of muted greens and drab tans, set against the backdrop of dark hardwoods and silvery sycamores along the far tree line.

Four-lane highways are like sinewy grey devils, hurtling you down man made corridors with their unnatural “landscaping”. Much more pleasant to go through quiet little towns on the two-lanes, towns with weird and quirky names, like Avoca and Oolitic, those little towns along rural highways with cops running radar.

Boarded up stores and abandoned houses sit hollow and wrecked, blemishes on the quaintness of the town. Gravel parking lots, tiny white churches and signs for deer processing, 2.3 miles down a side road.

And then, just as quickly as the small town recedes through my rear view mirror, I’m unceremoniously dumped out onto the four-lane, feeling…what? A mild sense of shock? Disillusionment? A near desperate craving to be back amongst the fields and forests? A primal reaction encoded in DNA that “slipped through” in my silent and outwardly observant reverie?

I drive on, shaken, not stirred.

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Undone

I am just utterly undone by this day. Grieving parents, traumatized, wounded and dead children, some as young as 14. 14!!! I have a grandson who’s 14. The horror of it is hard for us to imagine. I mean, it’s horrifying enough to see this on the news, but to actually have to live it…sadly, before the year, hell, the month, there will be more families and communities living that nightmare. Just tonight on the evening news, there was a kid in Washington State who was planning a mass school shooting. His grandmother snooped in his journals and turned him in, saving many, as one entry said he wanted as many casualties as possible.

These are not isolated cases. How many more are out there, right now, plotting and planning, gathering ammo and military weapons? Weapons non military people do not need. And please, spare me the tired trope that you just might have to defend your family against the government. Oh please. They could take you out from miles away, and you’d never see it coming. I’m just sick and tired of the violence, the hate, the politicians’ same old tired and pathetic “thoughts & prayers” routine, while they take blood money from the NRA.

We need common sense gun regulations that close loopholes. And did you know about “ghost guns”? Like the bump stock, legal to buy. Better screening for mental health issues, like, maybe have a shared database between agencies. Required training, testing, periodic renewals of training and permit/license. Oh, too intrusive? Tell it to the BMV, who require just such things. I’m just so damn weary of it, the senselessness, the horror, the blood of children.

On the home front, Dearest is sicker than a dog. Coughing, sneezing, hurting all over, low grade fever, been in bed all day. Made a small pot of chicken noodle soup (with plenty of garlic), and he ate a bite or two, then drank the broth, took cold meds and went to bed. These crazy weather fronts are playing havoc with my tendons and joints, especially my knee, back and right foot.

A lady with a little girl knocked on the door while I was cooking dinner, she’d run out of gas, and had walked about a quarter mile along the highway. We had some in a can, so I took her to her truck, put the gas in, absolutely refused money. Told her the best way to pay me back was to pay it forward when she could.

Ran back to the house, checked on the soup, and went to get the mail. As I was coming back across the highway, a car passed, then turned around. They, two little old ladies, pulled over in the drive, and asked me how to get to Highway 37. After giving them directions and they drove off, I went back in, finished up the soup, and finally sat down, in my jammies, to eat.

It felt good to help folks out, a bright spot in a couple of shitty and really trying days. Still, it’s hard to not feel discouraged and ineffectual in the face of the atrocities of the last two days. But it’s what we do. We go on. One foot in front of the other.

And we do what we can.

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Lessons of Childhood, a Realization of Sorts

 

There’s an All in the Family, Good Times and Sanford & Son Marathon on GETTV. Growing up, I loved all of these shows. Now, seeing them with adult eyes, I see that Archie was so horribly bigoted, and though it was seen as shocking to be so open on tv about it, it was still social commentary couched in humor. I see how Mike & Gloria represented the direction the culture was going at the time. And poor Edith was torn between 40’s/50’s moral and societal norms, and the freedoms she saw emerging for young women. Freedoms she quietly, secretly craved, but dared not take too far, mirroring many womens’ position and attitude of the time.

I watch the Evans family deal with poverty, and the challenges of living and raising children to be decent and righteous people in an inner city Chicago ghetto. I see now, the subtle ways society was, and in so many ways, still is stacked against the poor people of color. I watched a family stand strong against prejudice, against hate, against gang violence with courage, dignity and remaining strong together, and felt inspired by that kind of courage and indomitable spirit.

Now I see that Sanford & Son, despite the gallows, and occasionally raunchy humor, was about diversity, acceptance, the value of honesty in dealing with others, and to not be greedy or try to undermine others to get ahead.

All these shows taught us so many things with subtlety and laughter. It’s only now, as an adult, I can see those lessons. Now, I understand better why I have always rebelled against the norm, the “establishment”, or playing the silly social games that require you to be someone you’re not. It explains why I so intensely dislike unfairness, labels, sexism (both male and female), the idea of societal, personal and/or traditional roles. I was almost 9 when the Equal Rights Amendment was passed on March 22, 1972. (It STILL needs three fourths of the states to ratify it!!! WTH?)

I guess my point is that, to some people, the shows were just mindless entertainment, good for some hearty laughs, and that was it. They watched them and went on with their evening. For some of us, particularly those of us whose parents were in their 40’s when we were young children, we internalized them, and I personally think that they had a influenced our political/societal mores and religious/spiritual beliefs.

I was exposed to news at a time when I was impressionable, seeking my own sense of self and developing individuality. These shows, in their own unique ways, along with the events I saw and heard about on the evening news, like the Cold War, the Civil Rights and Women’s Movement, Vietnam and the protests in the streets, over hearing my parents and neighbors quietly discuss events of the day, all these things shaped me without my even knowing.

So many things in Life, in the world, aren’t what they seem. It’s only later you realize that.

It’s even later that you understand that.

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Thanksgiving Thoughts 2017

Last night, while peeling potatoes for potato salad, I popped in my earbuds and opened Pandora Radio, selecting my Scottish Traditional Station. It both soothes me and stirs my spirit. And, as always, it makes me feel more connected with my ancestors.

I wish I could have known them. I have so many questions that can never be answered.

I thought about my Scottish great great great grandparents, Robert, b. 1790) and Meary (Mary, which at that time was spelled that way), and their son, also a Robert, b. 1818. What drove them to leave Scotland and immigrate to a tiny little port town nestled on a small inlet on the central Northern coast of Nova Scotia, just south of Prince Edward Island? Did they know people or have family already in Pictou, Nova Scotia?Forced off their native land during the great Highland Clearances, according to oral family history, my great great great grandparents and their family immigrated to Nova Scotia when my great great grandfather was a teenager, about 1832. There is a record showing his birth in 1818, born in Nova Scotia, which conflicts with this oral history. I want to know which is true. I want to know where in the Highlands my people came from. How did this affect him? Could the loss of family land be what drove my great grandfather to drink his life and wages away?

I thought about my great great great grandmother, born in Belfast, Ireland in 1830. When did she/her family immigrate to the same Nova Scotian port as my great great great grandfather? Why did they immigrate? Was it because of the potato famine? Troubles between the Catholics and Protestants, which have long plagued Northern Ireland, Belfast, in particular? After they immigrated to Pictou, when and how did my great great grandparents meet?

What did they look like, these ancestors of mine? What color hair, eyes did they have? Did they sing? Write? Marry for love or convenience? What did they do? What traits and physical features of theirs have been gifted to me in my DNA? These are the fundamental questions of my life, because these people, these distant, hazy, decades gone ancestors, are me. Who they are, what they did, where and how they lived, have shaped my DNA, made me, ME.

As I cut up the potatoes, I wondered again about my great grandmother, thinking about the fact that, due to her fathers tendency to drink his wages away before he got home on payday, she, several other siblings, and her mother all, at various times, worked in the cotton mills as weavers, threaders and cutters, and at one time my great grandmother and a great uncle were the only two supporting the family of 11. Long, dangerous work hours, breathing cotton fibers, risking life and limb working around the large mill machines…

My grandmother raised 5 children by herself after the death of my grandfather in 1936. And I thought about the old pictures I found while cleaning out my mother’s house, and I see people of the land, of the outdoors. Cooking over campfires at huge family get togethers, a group of women suffragettes with signs, women of the family posing with cigars in theirs mouths. My favorite picture of my grandmother isn’t the one where she’s dressed to go to church. No, it’s a picture of her in pants, jacket and boots, with students from the college where she worked and my grandfather taught geology, heading out on a hike. That’s her, front row, seated, on the right.

I see that I come from a long line of strong, capable women and fiercely independent people. So, on this Thanksgiving, I am not just thankful for all the things we’re always thankful for, I’m also thankful for for the ancestors I’ve never met. The decisions they made, the lives they lived, the places they immigrated to, all those choices led to me being uniquely who I am.

I look at my hands, worn, rough and scarred from a lifetime of work, yet still strong and graceful, expressive, capable. Do they resemble my grandmother’s? My great grandmother’s? Someone in my paternal line, as I know nothing of my biological father’s family?

My hair and eye color, my inborn traits, physical/personality attributes, the fact that through my maternal line, I am a fourth generation American, all these things have been handed down to me by my people in the decisions and choices they made. Recent scientific research has shown that the experiences your ancestors lived through, altered their DNA, micro evolution at work. I believe with my whole heart that we are not only shaped on a mitochondrial level by the lives we lead, but also where we live those lives. I am deeply thankful for their choices and sacrifices. Without them, I literally would not be who I am.

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We Are All Charlottesville  & Things I Can’t Say on Facebook 

It’s Sunday, August 13th, 2017.  I’m sitting at the kitchen table my favorite place to sit, where I can watch the birds that come to the feeder, (mainly goldfinches at this time of the year), drink my coffee, and crochet or read or play games on my phone. My spot. 

This morning I am crocheting, a new project, a shawl called Virus Meets Granny. I bought this lovely yarn called Mandala , by Lion Brand yarn. It comes in color wheels that have 590 yards per wheel. I bought two wheels of the “Wizard” color and started on the shawl yesterday morning.  I worked on it all day yesterday, as I watched the news about the tragedy in Charlottesville Virginia. It was a calming influence, keeping me busy, while I watched the horrific scenes unfold.  I watched as scenes reminiscent of those of my childhood played on the TV in 2017, and I was sickened.  And I need to get some shit off my chest, for my own sanity.  

My parents were older, so I was exposed to a lot of news, and discussions about politics within the family and in general terms with others in the community. I also read a lot, and still to this day, have a love of learning about all kinds of things though I was not allowed to learn about Martin Luther King, because, as my mother explained to me, “everywhere he goes, he causes trouble”, yet despite having a Southern Baptist father, and a northern Yankee Methodist mother, I still grew up, in the 60’s, not prejudiced exactly, just aware there were differences, so I didn’t know what exactly the differences were, and I wondered why there was so much hate towards them, when they were just people too, just like me. I simply could not wrap my head around such hate. It was the same way, watching coverage on the evening news, seeing people with utter hate in their eyes, screaming at black folks, attacking them and firebombing their churches and killing them, seeing the young of our country leave as brave young men, still boys, really, the culture was still so young and un-jaded, only to come back broken and hard eyed from the Vietnam war, the protests against the war, and the draft dodgers. I still remember my parents very clearly denouncing the draft dodgers, the protestors  and the black folks. And I remember seeing these images of war, both at home and overseas, thinking, well, hate and war IS a bad thing, why are we killing people?  Aren’t we taught we’re not supposed to kill?  Aren’t we taught that were supposed to love our neighbor? Aren’t we taught that God created everybody in his image?  So why are we doing this?   Why is there so much hate? And just what the hell is wrong with people? In middle school, we watched filmstrips in history class about the concentration camps. I was sick to my core at the scenes of starving prisoners, the people being marched into the showers, then gassed.  Men, women, children, killed because they were different in appearance and thought.  The piles of shoes, jewelry, clothes and other items taken from the doomed, the mass graves, the gruesome experiments, all of it.  As a pre-teen and teenager, it shaped my views just as profoundly as seeing the hate and blood and death on the nightly news.  Made me question, made me seek out answers, made me listen and learn, both from good and bad. And yet, 50+ years later, 154 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and we’re still going around in circles, with the same damn groups, over the same. damn. bullshit.  

And when I see friends, people I’ve known all my life, post comments like “I am a proud white American man/woman”, my first thought is, “I really don’t know if I can be friends with you anymore”, because a statement like that is pretty much an endorsement of these hate and rage filled idiots, saying you’re in agreement with them.  For people to be ok with groups like this?  Well, you’re no patriot, you’re no christian, that’s for damn sure. You’re not even a good human, because you can’t claim to be good or christian when you are killing (see: The Ten Commandments), or patriotic when you are trying to take freedoms away from anyone not just like you.  You’re part of the damn problem, keeping this bullshitthis hate, this divisiveness going, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. But apparently, you’re not. Hell, some of seem proud of it, and that is morally repugnant. 

I grew up with the specter of the Cold War. I remember seeing images of how bad the Soviet Union was, with food shortages, bread lines, people dying of starvation, gulags…and I’ve lived in fear of things like that happening here in this country.  One thing I’ve learned from studying history, is that you can NEVER say, “Oh, it can’t happen here!”, because brother, it sure as hell can, and damn quick, too. Iran had freedom in the 1970’s. Women wore the same clothes we wore here, short skirts, big hair, makeup, heels.  Oh yeah, it can change in the blink of an eye. 

So as I sat there, and watched all this bullshit unfold, with the specter of nuclear war looming over us, tension with the Russians, and all the other wars going on in the world, all the hate, the labels that divide humanity into warring tribes that then war amongst themselves, making everything about “us VS them”, and I grieved for my country. 

Ask yourself this.  What I f the neo-nazis that stormed the campus of the college the night before, with their tiki torches, cargo shorts and polo shirts, their shields and regalia and their precious little signs had been a Black Lives Matter group instead?  I guarantee many would be howling with outrage.  Oh, you’re quick to condemn THAT movement, yes you are, but when it’s these dim witted,  backassward cretins, these white supremacists, these nazis, these mouth breathing knuckle-draggers, you balk, and either blame everyone equality (false equivalency!) and give some generic statement denouncing it in as vague a way as you can, or you’re silent.  It’s your silence that is the most telling.  

We have no leadership right now, none.  What we have is a petulant and petty, small minded, greedy man-baby waggling dicks with a crazy dictator over who’s is bigger. One who has, and still is, systemically alienating our allies, pissing off our enemies, putting the entire world at risk. 

We have infighting going on, because El Presidente has encouraged it during his campaign, and, by not directly addressing the specific groups involved (white nationalists, kkk, nazis) in harsh and condemning terms, gave a quiet nod, a dog whistle, to the scum that he was ok with it.  Call it what it was, o orange one, otherwise, you’re a hypocrite.  Remember that whole thing you did where you complained that President Obama (and others) couldn’t say “radical Islamic terrorism”?  Yet here you are, pulling the same shit you condemned him for.  Just say it, it’s ok, we know–it was white supremacists , it was kkk, it was neo-nazis.  And this shit is on you, pal.  You’re the one who stood on the world stage, before AND after the election, you’re still doing it, spreading your hate, giving your tacit approval to the scum who howl with glee and are all too happy to do your dirty work for you. You’ve emboldened them, and we are now watching history repeat itself.  Those who do not learn from history will continue to make the same mistakes, repeating the pattern(s). And isn’t that the definition of insanity?  

God or Jesus isn’t going to fix this, not any of it.  Hell, that’s what most of them are fighting about anyway.  “My god(s) are bigger/better/more correct than yours. Yours are wrong/false/weak.  

No, it’s on us, ALL of us, to fix this.  I’m tired of hearing people say, “You have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, no one is going to do it for you.”  Well, practice what the hell you preach, get off your knees and get to work. This is not a time of complacency, it is a time to resist the darker dregs of society that want to stamp out our individuality, destroy our diversity, cause us to live in fear, act out of hate, and harm other humans over something so petty as the color of skin, a difference of beliefs or country of birth.  

If you’re angry, use your anger constructively, NOT destructively.   Build up, don’t tear down.   We hate what we fear, and we fear what we don’t know.  It’s time to change that. 

“Suffer not your neighbors affliction, but extend your hand.” (Source: Patti Smith). Something to think about.  

I’ll leave you with this short, moving video, written and produced by Seth Andrews, narrated by Nathan Phelps.  https://youtu.be/L6IPFyHEv3o

Fight the good fight, friends

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