Monthly Archives: April 2014

My 200th post. The Hawthorn Tree

I know I posted this a couple of days ago, but I’m going to be sneaky and link this to the Weekly Photo Challenge for the topic of Spring! I think it fits quite nicely, and besides, we all need a bit of hope, so the more viewers the merrier 🙂

 

OK … 200 posts in in 26 months isn’t the most prolific blogging record, although considering the nightmare my life has been and the fact I did leave the scene for over a year, it’s not a bad achievement. So figured I’d better make it a decent post, as I may not make it to another hundred.

I wrote the following tale a couple of years ago, in a creative writing class, for our local MIND newsletter, and I’ve read it out loud a couple of times at our WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) group.

I noticed, when I was out on one of my little walks in the countryside, that the hedgerow branches in the shadows weren’t blooming as vigorously as the ones in the sunshine, and it got me thinking …

Feel free to share this with someone you feel may be losing hope in the cards life is dealing. I know I do on many occasions, and we all need to dig deep to find our own inner strength at times.

Peace.

THE HAWTHORN TREE – A Tale of Hope

 

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Near a pond, near a wood, stood a hawthorn tree. It was very tall and very grand, and it would have been considered a very Majestic hawthorn tree had there not been a small problem.

 

After winter was over and the ice had thawed, the tree began to grow shoots along its branches, and the shoots began to sprout leaves. As the days became warmer, the tree began to grow flower buds; hundreds and hundreds of clusters of little white flower buds tightly curled into balls. The buds waited patiently to open into pretty hawthorn blossoms. They needed plenty of sun to warm them and encourage them to open up and say hello to the world.

 

As the days grew longer and the winter clouds began to dissolve away, the hawthorn tree prepared itself to burst into blossom. The buds became plumper and their stalks grew longer, lifting them away from the leaves so that they could capture as much of the sun as they could when it passed by.

 

When the time came that the sun was warm and bright enough, the buds readied themselves to open up and blossom. They stretched their stems and followed the bright, golden orb as it made its way across the sky. But even though the day was long and the sun’s journey took it from one edge of the sky to the other, some of the buds could not see the sun. Some of the branches were facing the other way. The tree called out to the sun and asked it to send light and warmth to the other branches, but the sun said it was bound to travel along the same route every day and had no way to reach them. Even as it tried to send the warmest, brightest light to all parts of the tree, some of the branches would always remain in the shade, and the buds were never touched by the sun’s rays of life.

 

This continued for many years, and the tree continued to grow taller and wider and stronger. But it could never be a Majestic hawthorn tree, because there would always be a side of it that remained dark green; where the bees never visited and the insects and birds never made their homes. As spring brought warmer days, the sunny side of the hawthorn tree burst into glorious white blossoms, filling the air with heady perfumes and bringing the bees and the birds to its branches. But on the shady side of the tree, the buds remained tightly closed and were filled with sadness. They longed to be able to flourish and dance like the other blossoms, but they knew they were disadvantaged. They didn’t have the same opportunities as the blossoms on the sunny side, and they could not see how it was possible to grow when they never received any warmth or light from the sun. It had always been this way since the tree was a sapling, and they resigned themselves to believe it would always be this way in the future.

 

“We are doomed to stay closed,” one bud cried.

“Never to be pollinated,” wailed another.

“Never to be nested!” another called.

“Never to bloom,” sighed another.

“We may as well die,” whispered a fifth.

 

More buds joined the lament, until the shady side of the hawthorn tree was mourning with misery and defeat.

“Nonsense!”

A voice piped up from the middle of the shady side and stopped the wailing in its tracks.

“Our side of the tree may be dark, and it may be cold and gloomy … but we did not become buds just to give up now!”

A young bud stretched its stem as the others looked on. The bud continued:

“Will you wallow in your own misery forever? You think because we live in the shade we cannot find our own light.  We may not have such an easy, warm and bright life as those on the other side of the tree, but surely, that should make us stronger! I know we can still find a way to bloom. It will just need a little more effort. We have our nutrition and we have our health, and if we try a little harder and believe in ourselves, we can blossom too! The bees will visit us and the birds will nest. We are young and strong, and I, for one, am not ready to give up yet.”

With that, in spite of the darkness and in spite of the lack of warmth, the bud pushed and pushed and pushed until … pop!  It burst open to reveal the most beautiful blossom on the tree.

The other buds on the shady side cheered his success and, from him, gained a new determination to succeed, even in the shade. They pushed and pushed, and even when it all seemed too difficult, they willed each other on to push again. Soon the shady side of the hawthorn tree was full of blossoms, spreading their heady aroma across the pond and through the woods.

The hawthorn tree was very proud. It began fluffing up its leaves, shaking its blossoms, and stretching its branches higher for the world to see. Bees and birds and insects of all species came to visit from miles around to pollinate and make their homes there. The tree no longer had a patch of dark green where blossoms should have been. It was draped in the most marvellous cloak of white flowers on every branch and every side.

It truly was a Majestic hawthorn tree.

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© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

 

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WPC: Letters and the Start of an Anti-Ansel Adams Series

Scroll down to the bottom if you’re looking for the Photo Challenge picture. (I call it “Lost Ball. It’s the only one I have with letters on at this time!)

For those who are new to the name Ansel Adams, he was an American photographer and an early version of a conservationist/environmentalist, who spent many years capturing the wild and wonderful landscapes of the Americas and particularly renowned for his photographs of Yosemite National Park.

His approach to photography was one of patience and enormity. He worked almost exclusively in black and white, and his noted contribution to photography (as we are often being reminded in photography classes) was the idea of “pure” or “straight” photography, using tiny apertures and very long shutter speeds. He founded “Group f64” with Edward Weston in 1932 and incorporating eleven well established photographers all using this approach to photography. This technique resulted in majestic landscapes with every part of the image, from foreground to the furthest subject (often a mountain peak) remaining in sharp focus. If you want to learn more, have a look here or here.

Anyway, back to me.

While I’m all for magnificent, powerful, vast, landscapy, black and white images, I have neither the patience, the time, the money, the transport, the knowledge, nor the tripod to reproduce one. So I have honed my own little niche, which I will christen the “Anti-Ansel Adams Series.” Not anti as in “against” or politically or personally opposed to.” In this case, I mean anti as in “kind of the opposite of.”

Basically, the photographs that I will induct into this exclusive domain will be produced using a cheap camera, with a cheap macro lens extended to its fullest extension, so that generally it will be no further than a couple of inches away from the subject it is pointed at. The shutter speed is set at “really, really fast”: minimally 1/500 sec and most likely between 1/1000th sec and 1/4000th sec. This is mainly because I do not possess a tripod, and when I’m thrusting my handheld camera into the face of an insect or a stinging nettle patch, it’s better to get things over with quickly.

Autofocus doesn’t work under those conditions, so I generally just edge the camera lens towards whatever takes my fancy until something looks “kind of interesting” on the LED screen (keeping in mind that the laser eye surgery I had ten years has now worn off with interest) and click the button with the index finger of the same hand that is dangling the camera.

The result is that, if I’m lucky, just one tiny bit of the picture will be in focus, and the rest will swirl around the rest of the frame in a very “painterly” style.

So, that’s my approach to photography.

Please feel free to join me next week, when I’ll describe my “Anti-Isambard Kingdom Brunel” approach to bridge-building (just kidding!)

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Click on the picture for more clarity – or not, as the case may be!

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

 

 

 

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I’ve made a decision ….

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Some of you will be aware that I have recently started a sister-blog, called “Like a Circle in a Spiral.” It was intended that the other blog would be solely devoted to the story about the struggles I have had/am having with my beloved son, who has been diagnosed with Conduct Disorder.

This blog, on the other hand, began as an outlet to discuss my own struggles with mental health. However, “Alice through the Macro Lens” quickly acquired a reputation for my arty side of photography (some of you may recall “Bug-a-Day/Wee Beasties?) and since I returned after a while away, I do still use photography as a fall-back when my head doesn’t want to write anything particularly pleasant.

Unfortunately, lately, trying to figure out what post involves my journey (for Alice blog) as opposed to my son’s journey (for Circles blog) is starting to get too confusing, and my brain is starting to ache.

The bottom line is that my son and I are so inextricably linked that it’s almost impossible to separate the two journeys.

So I’ve made a decision to devote all my serious writings, whether about me, or my son, or any other bits in between, to my other blog – and I will keep “Alice through the Macro Lens” for my photography and quirkier bits.

So the choice is yours – if you are interested in the deeper stuff that I write about, you’re very welcome to pop over to my other blog (here’s a link) and you’re similarly welcome to follow me over there too.

On the other hand, if you arrived at this blog because of the quirky pictures and the more upbeat stuff, then stick with Alice, and I will try to post more often now that the pressure is off.

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Staring into the abyss …

Staring into the abyssI’m a mess.

For the last few weeks I have been so much more down than up. It’s strange, because there are occasional days/part days when I feel OK. I can carry on easy conversations with people, perhaps jokey, and even able to laugh. During those moments, I feel like a fraud – I feel I should go back to work, I want to ignore appointments, and that I should discharge myself from mental health services.
But then, within minutes, without warning or obvious trigger, I plummet. I become some puddle in the corner. I lose comprehension, I gain white noise. I lose spirit, I gain self-loathing. Confusion sets in, along with head-noise, stammering, memory lapses, agitation, irritability, anxiety and complete inability to function.
I become that crazy hunched over old woman who wanders the streets aimlessly, muttering to herself and pulling her world in a shopping trolley.
For fear of sounding “insightful” (“insight” seems to be synonymous with “there’s nothing wrong with you” in the mental health world) I think I know the reason I’ve deteriorated so drastically. Earlier this year, the Court ordered both a Psych report and a Social Services Parental Assessment in my son’s case. I have been grilled within an inch of my life by both parties in separate, yet very similar, multiple, marathon sessions (two x 3-hour sessions with the Psych, and four 2-hour sessions with Social Workers) asking me to dig through my own childhood memories, experiences of my own parents, education, school-life, travels, sex life, relationships issues, self-image, work history, travels, life choices, dubious decision-making, medical history, mistakes, guilt, addictions, mental dissolution, life in England, life in Germany, life in America, life back in England, and an inch-by-inch account of motherhood.
Like a complete twat, I convinced myself that refusal to cooperate would be viewed far more negatively than complete transparency. After all, everyone makes mistakes … it’s recognising them and moving forward that makes us bigger people, isn’t it? And like a complete twat, I still thought there was the slimmest chance that they would offer to help me get my son back.
It was only after the sessions were over I realised that they have no vested interest in my welfare whatsoever. They never intended for my boy to be returned to my care – they just wanted a reason for him being as misguided as he is. And I gave them all the ammunition they needed.
So here sit, having revisited memories from my past that I had long put behind me, often for good reason. Old wounds have been opened by “professionals” who had no other motive than to use the information against me, and no inclination to help me patch them back up. Instead, they fester and throb and infect me until my brain hurts.
Anyone got a spare plaster?
 © Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]
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Daily Prompt: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

 

 

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Occasionally, I read the WordPress Daily Prompt and hum and hrrr about the possibility of writing something – but my lack of motivation, or Judge Judy re-runs on the TV often dissuades me right back. Today’s prompt, however – well – prompted me to write something.

The prompt itself asks the questions: Do you find it easy to make new friends? Tell us how you’ve mastered the art of befriending a new person. “

The two sentences don’t necessarily connect. I mean, if, like me, your answer to the first question is NO, the the ensuing statement is a moot point … isn’t it?

Perhaps WordPress didn’t anticipate that anyone might answer the opening question with a negative – but surely … really? Tell me I’m not the only one … am I?

Well anyway, here I am – Nelly No-mates in all her glory.

Frankly, I’m just crap at making and/or keeping friends. I don’t really get the whole need to be friend-full thing. Facebook hasn’t helped. there are people out there who claim 5,000 “friends” and another 1,000+ “followers” who are apparently on some kind of waiting list to be a “friend” as soon as a space opens up through death, blocking, or un-friending.

So I’ve heard, anyway.

Admittedly, I do have a Facebook page. I have a grand total of 45 “friends,” all of whom I know personally, and 27 of which are schoolbuddies of my son, who had to use my Facebook page because he wasn’t allowed to have one of his own.  I suppose I should un-friend them now that he is no longer with me – if I only had a clue where to find the un-friend button.

Of the other 18 friends I have on Facebook, four are ex-professors of mine from university days of yore who I had to befriend to keep up with assignments, three are girls (well, women now, obviously) with whom I went to grammar school, one girl/woman from college, one from primary school, one person from the States when I lived there 15 years ago, and one – you’ll like this – is an ex-NFL player from a previous life as a sports videographer/back-door groupie (me, not him). Three are vendors on local recycling sites, one was my Weightwatchers leader and two are family.

I’d like to say that I’ve been a worthy Facebook friend at least to the old school friends, but I can’t. No matter that at least two of them were people I longed to reunite with over the years; I have been incapable of maintaining any level of communication beyond sending them extra lives on Candy Crush.

And lord help me in the real world!

I don’t know what it is exactly … it’s hard to describe, but apparently my inability to form and maintain consistent relationships  is one of the reasons I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I wish I did have the ability to claim a friend. Instead I find that I go one of two ways: either I seek out a person who is unavailable to or disinterested in me; or I become uncomfortable and anxious when someone expresses interest in becoming friends with me, leading to a hasty retreat.

For the last thirteen years I have been able to conceal this “deficit” in my social vocabulary by devoting my time to other, more pressing matters. I mean, who needs friends when you have a full-time job and a full-time child?

But now, jobless and childless, the friendless part is glaring and harsh.

It’s an empty house here now. Too much space and time to think.

Makes me want to post my status on Facebook … almost.

 

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

 

 

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Losing a limb …

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Yesterday, I let my dog go.

She was gentle and kind and comforting and warm and playful. She was patient and tactile and snuggled up close to me at night when I slept. And she is the only friend I had that gave me truly unconditional love.

But I haven’t been fair to her. My depression has been deep and my mood swings unpredictable. I would never hit her, but I am intolerant, and I could tell that sometimes she was nervous of what I might do. I do not have the energy to take her for walks and had to rely on my neighbour to take her with him when he took his own dogs out. My life has become such an incredible excuse for a car crash that I felt her life would be better off elsewhere. And, of course, there’s the probability that I will be moving home soon, probably to a place that doesn’t have room for dogs.

I did it the right way. I went through a person who runs a rehoming website for cats and dogs. The animals don’t have to spend any time in cages. My dog stayed with me until a suitable new owner had been assessed. Her new owner had travelled a long way to meet her, and I’m told he had tears in his eyes because she reminded him so much of his last dog who died.

She’ll have a good life. Her new owner is a retired man who lives in the glorious English countryside and often walks across the Peak District. So she’ll be OK.

But what of me?

Until yesterday, I only had two “protective factors” that had been keeping me from falling / leaping over the edge.

One of those was my dog.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

I went to Whitby last year for a day-trip on a coach. I have entered another set of photos for the weekly challenge on my sister blog here. After a day of solace looking around the more spiritual areas of the town, I wandered through the “lanes” where there were all sorts of quirky shops: sweet shops galore, charity shops, and shops selling hand-made crafts, clothes, and foodstuffs. There was even a smokehouse that sold its own kippers. But this alleyway caught my eye. You can see it leads down to the sea and the harbour/marina. But I love the name it has been given. I wonder if many people cross this threshold … Arguments Yard Threshold © Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

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