Lens-Artists Challenge #85 – Treasure Hunt

 

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #83 -Future

As Good as It Gets or Happy Valentine’s Day!

1-IMG_1657-002We got married on Valentine’s Day.  My husband thought that it was romantic. (Well, he also figured that it would help him remember our future anniversaries). I thought it was cute and also special, since there was no Valentine’s in my home country, Russia. Yet whatever our ideas about the joys and responsibilities of marriage were, our Valentine’s wedding turned out to be a true commitment.

I’m not talking about the everyday challenges of married life: suppressing your true feelings about endless football, basketball, and what-ever-ball games, picking up things lying around the house (like his size-large gloves on our dining table), suffering through Chinese meals he loves so much, and patiently repeating questions that he cannot hear because he’s watching some bloody thriller on TV. You expect these things after you say, “I do.”  I’m talking about difficulties that are outside our control, like every year we want to celebrate our anniversary, we have to beat a whole slew of people who go out on Valentine’s Day just for fun.

It took us some time to realize what we got ourselves into, since our first anniversary we (meaning me) we had to plan a long time in advance anyway.  That year, Valentine’s happened to fall on Friday, so we drove to St. Louis (a two-hour drive) for an “Evening of Romantic Music,” performed by the St. Louis Symphony.  Since we had to buy tickets a couple months earlier, it seemed only logical to reserve a hotel room and a dinner to go with it well in advance, too.

Everything worked like a charm that time.  The orchestra was good, the music was beautiful and romantic (although Camille Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah is not a good PR for women:)). And after the concert, every woman was given a piece of chocolate and a rose.

For our second anniversary we drove to Kansas City (also a two-hour drive) to see a Russian opera “Eugene Onegin.” That also had to be carefully arranged, since the opera seemed to have attracted every Russian living in a 100-mile-radius of Kansas City. (There were a few Americans there, too — probably spouses or companions of the Russians:)).

Later, things began getting harder. For our third anniversary, I planned another out-of-town outing, which included visiting an art museum and other stuff like that.  Yet the weather turned bad, and although the temperature was 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the roads were covered with sleet (how can rain turn into ice when the temperature is above freezing is beyond me!). So, instead of enjoying the experience, all I could think about was whether we’d get home alive.

After that, I decided that February is not a good month for traveling, and we should celebrate our anniversary locally. There were other reasons for that, too. For one thing, Valentine’s Day rarely takes place on weekends, and unless you don’t have to work or you’re retired (which we both are now), next day you have to go to work. For another, sleeping in a strange bed has much less attraction for me now.

The thing is I am a creature of habit.  I eat the same cereal every day. I sleep on the same side of the bed. And when we go to the movies, I like to have my husband to the left of me, so I can lean on his shoulder if I feel sleepy, and when we attend concerts, he has to be on my right, so I can squeeze his hand with my right hand when I get excited.

I like going to the same restaurants, too, and I usually order the same dishes in each one of them.  Unfortunately, as soon as I get used to a particular restaurant, it folds down. Is that because I always order the same meal or because we don’t eat out often enough, or both, I cannot tell. All I know is that it’s getting harder and harder to make reservations at those few I like.

Some of them don’t even take reservations for two people. (How do they expect couples to celebrate Valentine’s?  To my knowledge, communal living, which was so popular in the 1960-1970s, is long gone!).  Some restaurants don’t take reservation for holidays, and some seemed to be full even if you call them just after New Year’s!  Of course, it’s all relative. A friend of ours, who once found himself stuck in Tokyo, feeling lonely, decided to go to a nice restaurant. Yet they wouldn’t serve him at all!  The reason being that he went there alone.

Another thing about celebrating an anniversary on Valentine’s Day is that there is too much chocolate around, which is a terrible temptation for chocoholics like me:). Once, during our Valentine’s dinner, I ate a whole flowerless chocolate cake (my husband doesn’t like chocolate)! It tasted great while I was eating it, but, for the rest of that day, I didn’t feel so good. Since then, my husband has been giving me chocolate-covered strawberries, so I would eat less chocolate and more vitamins.

Well, once again, our anniversary is coming around, marking the twenty three years we have spent together. To tell the truth, despite all my complaints, I still like the fact that we got married on Valentine’s. I like talking about it and, more importantly, I still love my husband. And although the passion that brought us together all those years ago

may not be as burning as it once was, there is no tragedy in that. For what really counts in people’s lives is mutual trust and respect, and also that hand you can squeeze in the moment of excitement and that shoulder on which you can lean in a moment of weariness or distress and feel valued and protected by the person by your side. And that is as good as it gets.

Yesterday‘s the past, tomorrow‘s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody!

 

©Svetlana Grobman. All Rights Reserved

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Lens-Artists Challenge #63 – Magical

                              “Rome is Magic ~ Maria Grazia Cucinotta

My Roman Holiday

For seven days my husband, my daughter and her two children (age 14 and 11), and I crisscrossed the Mediterranean Sea. We walked on the red carpet in Cannes, admired the night view of Palma de Mallorca, visited a turtle sanctuary in Ajaccio, tasted freshly made pesto in Genova, marveled at the still leaning tower of Pisa, and learned basic steps of Flamenco in Barcelona (FYI, the most important element of  it is passion!) . Our cruise ended near Rome, where we stayed for several more days.

Rome was hot, humid, and overrun with tourists. Still, I reserved excursions there, too — a tour of the city, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. The Vatican was our last organized destination and I was looking forward to it.

“Tomorrow we are going to the Vatican,” I said to my family the night before. “Don’t forget to cover your knees and shoulders.”

“OK,” My daughter and my husband said in unison, while my grandchildren looked at me gloomily.

Having done a lot of sightseeing already, all they wanted to do for the rest of their vacation was “nothing,” and going to the Vatican wasn’t that.

“I can’t cover my knees.” My grandson said.  “All I have is shorts.”

The thing about my grandson is that when he doesn’t feel like doing something but doesn’t want to admit that, he comes up with a variety of dubious excuses. Once in London (my daughter’s family lives in England), when I wanted to take him to a public library, he said, looking at me very sincerely:

“In our country, Grandma, they don’t allow children to public libraries.”

That was such an obvious fabrication that I burst into laughter. A librarian myself, I knew that although the case can be made that the Brits like their dogs more than they like their children, they surely build public libraries with children in mind.

“You’ll be OK,” my daughter said to her son. “I have your track pants.”

Here my granddaughter chimed in.

“My ankle hurts,” she said. (She was jumping all over the rented apartment five minutes earlier).

Yet, to her utter disappointment, I reached into my extensive first aid kit and pulled out a muscle relaxer, so a visit to the Vatican became inevitable.

“Your tickets don’t include any museums.” Our tour guide said, looking at our reservation, and my grandchildren’s faces lit up, while their mother’s expression soured.

“What does that mean? I said. “Are you saying that we won’t be able to see the Sistine Chapel?!

“That’s right. Unless you buy additional tickets.”

“Sure,” my husband muttered under his breath. “Let’s fleece the tourists.”

Yet we paid extra and — with 30 other sightseers – headed to our destination.

 

At first, the tour guide showed us around the Vatican’s grounds, and then she herded us to the additionally-paid-for museums. Of course, these were not the kind of museums I was used to — with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. These were ostentatious displays of unqualified power and wealth: gold-leaf ceilings, sumptuous decorations, luxurious carriages and pope-mobiles and, of course, famous paintings and sculptures. It was overwhelming and I fully expected my husband to comment on that or to say something inappropriate. Like the time when we were in Florence, walking around Michelangelo’s statue of David, and our tour guide said, “Does anybody see anything unusual about this sculpture?”

“He’s not circumcised,” My husband said immediately.

At that point, I quickly withdrew my hand from his and pretended that I had never seen him before, while our female guide raised her eyebrows and — not waiting for my husband’s other insights — quickly informed the group that one of David’s legs is shorter than the other, and if he were standing  up straight, we would clearly see it.

This is time, thought, a body part comment came out of the mouth of my 14-year-old grandson.

“Why did they tell us to cover our knees and shoulders?” He said looking around. “There are naked pictures all over!”

That was a very good question, but while I tried to come up with an appropriate answer, the dense crowd of visitors picked us up, pushed us through several galleries and flights of stairs, and deposited us into the Vatican’s Jewel – the Sistine Chapel.

With every inch of its surface covered with frescoes, the Chapel did look like a jewel box — or rather a jewel box filled with ants, as the visitors stood there shoulder to shoulder. My pulse quickening with anticipation, I lifted my gaze to the ceiling, fully expecting to be struck by another Michelangelo masterpiece — “The Creation of Adam.” Yet from where we entered, the famous fresco appeared backwards and I couldn’t make much sense of it. I spent some time craning my neck and twisting my body, so I could see both God and Adam the way I was used to from observing numerous reproductions, but the collective noise and heat emanating from the crowd made me feel lightheaded and I switched my attention to the walls.

Unfortunately, the number of people pressing on me from all sides did not allow for much maneuvering. Besides, to my horror, I suddenly realized that not only did I lose sight of our tour guide, but I also lost sight of my daughter and, worse, my grandchildren! The only familiar figure I could spot in the distance was my husband’s.

The loss of my daughter in a strange city was somewhat distressing but clearly, I wasn’t in a position to save every member of my family. Therefore, I stopped looking at the frescoes and began scanning the crowd for the kids. Thank goodness! They were only twenty yards away, so I desperately pushed my way through the overheated bodies, grabbed my granddaughter’s hand with one hand and my grandson’s with the other and pulled them to the exit, toward the pennant carried by our tour guide, which loomed far ahead.

Before we exited the chapel, I glanced at the ceiling for the last time. From this direction both God and Adam looked right, and feeling relieved that I finally solved the puzzle of the creation and my grandchildren were safely in my hands, I left the building.

 

On our last evening in Rome my husband and I went to the Trevi Fountain. The night was starless, and by the time we reached the famous fountain, set against a baroque palazzo and brightly lit from all sides, it looked like a turquoise oasis in the dark desert of the night. People crowded all around it — talking, taking selfies, or just enjoying the view. So many people, in fact, that we couldn’t get close to the sparkling water — even less to toss a coin without landing it on someone’s head. Instead, we kissed. And it was a nice moment.

When we turned to leave, I noticed a young couple with two little girls just behind us. The man looked Middle-Eastern and the woman wore a headscarf. They, too, were trying to take a selfie, but the girls, who were too young to recognize the uniqueness of the moment, kept twisting and turning, making it difficult for their parents.

Had I met that family somewhere else, I would never have approach them. Had I met that man in any other crowded place, I would have put a distance between us. Yet here, by this fairytale fountain that spoke of romance, hope and goodwill, I looked at the pretty woman and the cute girls, and said:

“Would you like me to take a photo of you?”

They did.

I took several pictures, handed them their phone, and we left.

 

“Too bad we couldn’t toss a coin,” I said to my husband on our way back.

“Do you want to return to Rome?” He said.

“Sure …” I started. But then I stopped.

The one way I would enjoy that — I realized — would be returning here all together, hopefully when my grandchildren are older and can appreciate it better. As for me, my happiness does not depend on this city or this fountain. In fact, it doesn’t depend on any patch of earth. For me, a Jewish Russian immigrant to America who lost her roots a long time ago, whose parents passed away, and whose daughter no longer lives in the same country, happiness is defined by being needed, being able to help and also being able to create memories that will live after I’m gone.

It also depends on relationships – between me and my family, among my friends, and, ultimately, among all of us humans — no matter where we came from or where we’ll go next. Or, to put it simply, on everybody following the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

©Svetlana Grobman. All Rights Reserved

LENS-ARTIST CHALLENGE #40 — SOMETHING DIFFERENT (published in an airport:))

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Heritage

Maternal Instinct: Things We All Do For Our Young

The killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is a medium-sized plover (Wikipedia)

Killdeer distract predators by calling loudly, bobbing, and running away. Killdeer are some of the best-known practitioners of the broken-wing display, an attempt to lure predators away from a nest by feigning injury.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s Easy Being Green … or purple:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Relax

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Magic

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print? 11 x 17

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Chaos

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Transmogrify

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinnertime

Remember a classic movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?  In our case, it was not a person but a sound — a loud whoosh sound to be precise. My husband and I ran outside — just in time to see a hot air balloon floating above our trees. I grabbed my camera and followed it down the street, until it landed by a neighbor’s house. So, here’s my dinnertime story:

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Life Imitates Art

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Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Move

How’s this for being on the move? 🙂

P.S. Depending on species, Hummingbirds beat their wings between 12 – 80 times per second.

Courtesy of Steve Donofrio

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

Dear friends!

Those of you who’d like to see my “Threes,” will need to click here.

I, however, posted two “Threes” on this blog, too — just in case :).

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The Missouri River

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

Here’s my “Selfie”:

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And here’s Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait:

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And — for a good measure — Diego Rivera’s, too:

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I bet you know which one is better! 🙂

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Community


Birds of a feather flock together

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If we only put our gum to it 🙂 (The Market Theater Gum Wall, Seattle)

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Keep  Walking!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

On the Streets

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From Life to Death …

What’s That?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

Marking the Crossing: Boy Scouts or Aliens?IMG_5736

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Who cares about the tourists? 🙂

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Venus, Italy

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape II

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape

Whatever Works: Escaping Writer’s Block

IMG_9849I didn’t start blogging for pleasure. I started blogging because everybody who knew anything about publishing industry told me that if I want to publish my memoir, I must have a Web presence. True, it used to be enough for an aspiring author to have a manuscript, but things have changed and I have to change with them. And so, I started blogging.

At first, I just posted my little essays, hoping that my brilliance and originality would be quickly noticed by leading New York agents and/or editors at Random House. When nothing of that sort happened, I began following tips on how to attract “followers.” This included bugging my real life friends and relatives (which wasn’t easy for me; I hate to bug people), promoting myself through my Facebook, Twitter and what not, and even posting something on YouTube.

img_7395Alas, being an immigrant, I don’t have a huge number of friends in the U.S. Most of my relatives live abroad and don’t speak (or read) English. As for YouTube, I’m afraid that even if I post a video of myself reading my memoir naked, it won’t attract much attention, since who wants to see a naked very middle-aged woman? People tend not to notice me even when I’m fully dressed!

Anyway, I have not found a publisher yet, but, unexpectedly, I found a community of people who put their energy into blogging. In fact, many of them have been doing it for some time and, contrary to my former belief that only vain and lazy spend their time that way, there are plenty of people out there who have truly interesting things to say, including things that can trigger your creativity, too.

Also, if you feel blue or experience writer’s block, there are all kinds of prompts to fuel your mind and imagination on WordPress.com: daily prompts, wiring prompts, Friday Faves, weekly challenges – you name it! One can easily find things she never even thought about and, suddenly, feel violently passionate about them.

1-img_1322_1Of course, the way my mind works, I read a thoughtful essay about which is more important, the forest or the trees, that starts with “The first thing I saw when I looked out my window this morning was  …,”  and I immediately feel like saying, “Let me tell you what I saw when I looked out my window this morning! Deer eating my flowers! And do you know that they’ve already destroyed our apple trees, too?”

Or I come across some librarian’s blog (being a librarian myself, I follow those, too) where she talks about the homeless and mentally ill in her library, and something inside me starts screaming, “You think it’s bad in your library? Last time I was the librarian in charge, an old guy jumped from the second floor balcony, and I had to call the ambulance and the police, and then search the whole 2000 square feet building for the  stuff he left “somewhere by a chair.”

My library at night
My library at night

(By the way, do not worry. The guy landed rather safely, although another patron who noticed the old geezer’s rapid descent and tried to catch him got so traumatized that I spent at least an hour calming him down.)img_7421-e1369058172862

This is why when I feel stressed, I browse through photographers’ blogs. Why? Because I love photography. I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, I used to be one of those people who takes pictures of members of her family in front of world-renowned masterpieces, like Notre Dame, Rodin’s The Thinker, or the Mona Lisa (just kidding, they don’t allow flash photography in the Louvre :)).  That way my friends will recognize what well-traveled people we are.

My husband never liked that. He believed that it was architecture or, better yet, nature that was worth photographing, not us.

IMG_9697Yet for a long time I ignored his opinion, until, six years ago, for our anniversary, my husband gave me a nice camera and, voilá, just like that, I got converted into a true photography fan. This doesn’t mean that I became a good photographer myself (I wish I did!), but I’m still trying :).

1-leanne-cole-photographyIn any case, one of the photographers I’ve been following on WordPress.com is Leanne Cole. Leanne lives in Australia and she is as wonderful as she is prolific — which is especially good for me these days, since I recently experienced a loss in the family and I have not recovered from it yet. Most of what I’ve been doing lately is browsing. As for writing, I haven’t done anything, for nothing seems to inspire me these days. That is until several days ago, when I opened my WordPress.com account and found Leanne’s photographs of the building that belongs to a charity Deaf Children Australia. She posted several pictures of the impressive Victorian style house, one of which (a “strange image,” as Leanne herself put it) suddenly triggered my memory — and desire to write about it.

In the summer of 2009 my husband and I were visiting Tate Modern, a modern art gallery in London, UK. It was our second hour of being there, so our pace began to slow down and our perception of modern art began to blur. We were already on level 4, when I stopped in front of an object which looked like an air vent, with a sign above that read “Acrylic Composition In Gray #6.”

I carefully examined the object. True, it was gray, but was it acrylic? I wasn’t sure. Also, where were the first five compositons? Nothing else in the room had a number assigned to it. Confused, I looked at the vent-like object #6 more carefully. It could have been acrylic, I thought. As for the appearance, who knows, this could be what modern art is all about — ordinary things in their everyday environment.  After all, didn’t Andy Warhol’s paint a can of Campbell’s soup?1-leanne-cole-e1369058600509

Now I looked at the vent with considerable respect and admiration. Who was to say that this vent would not be a beginning of something new in art? I turned around to share my musings with my husband, and spotted him tree yards to my left – carefully examining a middle-sized platter with something mushy in the middle.

“Did you see the composition #6?” I said, approaching him.

“I’m looking at it right now.” He replied.

“What do you mean?” I said. “It’s right there!” And I pointed to the spot where I spent the last three minutes.

“No, that’s just the sign.” My husband said. “I first thought so, too, but then I realized that they must’ve moved the work but forgot about the sign. That thing is just an air vent.”

I stared at the platter. It was acrylic. It was gray, too — dark gray, I’d say. As for its mushy content, I didn’t want to think about that. Besides, what was the point? My husband was obviously right. There it was, “Acrylic Composition In Gray #6.” The first five, I decided, must’ve had different mushy stuff that needed to be changed every day. So tomorrow it could be called “Composition #7” or something like that.

I turned back to the air vent. Another woman was carefully looking it over, up and down. At first, she didn’t look very impressed, but as her observations continued, she began looking more and more thoughtful – just like me several minutes before.

“Should we tell her where the composition actually is?” I said to my husband.

“No.” He winked, “Everybody has his own vision or art.”

©Svetlana Grobman. All Rights Reserved