Photography

Launch: Geography of Now eCourse

Yokohama GON {Yamashita Park, Yokohama Japan}

Most of us find it pretty easy to admire the greenness of the grass elsewhere. We tell ourselves pretty little stories about how perfect our lives would be if only we lived in another house or neighbourhood or country… if we had different or better stuff. The truth is that we already have everything we need to have a good life.

Exactly where we are.

I’ve always been attracted to place. When I was in grad school, I travelled by bus to Toronto to visit a friend. My heart had been recently broken and my friend was a generous and comforting sort so I accepted his invitation to stay for a while.

So I’m on this Greyhound bus and it’s night-time and the streets of Toronto are much better lit than those of Kingston, where I was living at the time, and I can see a couple standing under a streetlight talking and smoking. Although I don’t smoke, I admire the grace with which the woman reaches over and lights the man’s cigarette with her lighter. With just one hand. The glowing red end of his cigarette moves like drunken fireflies. And I’m wearing headphones and listening to some seriously sad-ass, broken-hearted love songs and I feel so affected by the scenes I witness as we drive through Toronto that I pull out my journal and start writing a poem. I still have it.

And the thing is, I did not have a particularly strong attachment to Toronto. I’m from Ottawa and grew up hearing Toronto referred to as, “That EVIL city.” (Totally true story.)

But that night, on the bus, I let myself feel connected to the people of the city and to the city itself.

Since I began blogging in 2006, much of my writing has been an attempt to describe my connection with the places I have lived. Cali, Colombia. Monterrey, Mexico. Barcelona, Spain. Bangkok, Thailand. Yokohama, Japan.

Whether I am travelling or staying put, I like to make myself at home. I like to unpack, nest, and get well acquainted with my surroundings. In my daily life in Japan I don’t wander very far from home but the ten blocks that surround our apartment have become my my playground, my entire world. I am ridiculously in love with our little corner of Yokohama.

About six months after we moved to Japan, I started writing some of my blog posts in free verse which I came to call “skinny prose”. I like the way that the short lines and the musicality convey my feelings better than paragraphing it.

And I adopted Instagram as my way of photographically documenting the places I loved.

These little skinny prose pieces and the photos that accompany them help me work out my feelings about where I live. They help me understand this relationship to a country that is on the other side of the planet from where I grew up… and they help me feel securely attached to my new home.

The posts I write about place are contemplations. And little prayers of thanks.

I want that for other people.

And I know that it’s hard to imagine taking the time to slow down and notice what’s happening in your own neighbourhood. We are busy folks. We have long lists of things to do and people who depend on us.

I get that. {Me too.}

But take a walk with me. Look over there. Who has painted their mailbox purple… and why? One of your neighbours has a new pug that sits on the back of an emerald green velvet sofa and waves at you through the living room window. (At least it looks like it’s waving.) There’s a new restaurant opening in the space where you used to rent videos. You take a moment to admire the pink roses that grow for a few short weeks in the lot beside the grocery store and you wonder how they got there and who tends them.

This is your corner of the world. These are your people.

The Geography of Now is about this. It’s about waving back to that pug. It’s about eating at that new restaurant and telling your friends about how amazing their grilled cheese sandwich was. It’s about being curious while staying out of judgement.

The Geography of Now is about…

SEEING
Observe the place where you live through a new kind of lens. See with a more relaxed and compassionate perspective.

PHOTOGRAPHY
Document what you see through photographs taken with a simple point and shoot camera or with your phone. Click.

WRITING
Record some words. Express how a particular image made you feel… or the memory it awakens like some ancient sleeping giant in your mind.

NOTICING + GRATITUDE
Notice the details of your life (like really, really noticing… not just noticing that you are out of milk) and feel grateful for the places and people that surround you. Those that love you and help define you.

BEING BRAVE + VULNERABLE
It may have been a long time since you wrote something creative and you might feel frightened. You’ll need to summon your courage.

I’m inviting you to take this leap with me.

THE DETAILS:

Start date: Monday, 15 September

Duration: The course will run for six weeks, from Monday 15 September until Friday 24 October. Please note that messages will arrive on weekdays only.

Format: You will receive a message in your inbox every day. The daily message will include a reflection as well as a photography/noticing/writing/gratitude prompt.

How much time you will need a day: 20-30 minutes although you may choose to spend less time… or more. It’s completely up to you.

What you will need for the course:

  • Computer with internet (for accessing the course and downloading your photos)
  • Point and shoot camera or cell phone camera
  • Journal and pen (I like one small enough that I can carry it with me at all times)
  • Facebook account. Note: we will share some of our work with each other in a private Facebook group. This means that no one who is not enrolled in the course will be able to see your photos, your writing or your comments.

Topics:

  • Knowing yourself
  • Photography
  • Noticing
  • Writing Skinny Prose
  • Gratitude
  • A final project of your choosing

Cost: 50 Canadian Dollars

Payment: You will be using Pay Pal to purchase this course. Please not that you do not have to have a PayPal account as you can pay with a credit card.

Refund policy: This is a non-refundable investment in yourself, your photography and your writing.

A note about receiving my messages:
The Geography of Now course and my newsletters are sent by me via Mad Mimi. If you have never received an email from me before, the message may end up in your Spam folder. You can resolve this by making me (monnamcd at gmail dot com) a contact in your email or checking your spam folder. Thanks!

Registration is now open here.

The Puddlewonder(ful) Press

Three quick notes on a rainy Friday afternoon.

  1. I cannot take credit for this gorgeous photograph. (How I wish I had taken it!) This is the work of my partner, Damien Pitter.

  2. Recently, Damien has redesigned his photography blog, The Puddlewonder Press. You can check it out here.

  3. In the new year, Damien plans to open an Etsy store to sell some of his photographs as prints. He would appreciate some feedback regarding which prints people might like to own. If that sounds like fun to you, here’s the game:

  • Click on this page
  • Please look over the photographs below
  • Use the form at the bottom of the page to indicate your top 10 choices

His photographs make me happy + I am happy to share them with you!

The Noticers

i
We are observers
DP and I.

ii
I’m a noticer of emotions,
the clouds that pass over a person’s face
when remembering
a small slight,
some words left unsaid
or too many words
expressed in anger.

I notice shifts in relationships
the small sea changes
of our love-comings and goings

I notice when people are lying.

I love the way
the homes of our friends say,
“This is who we are
and what we love
and how we choose to live.”

I am a sucker for beauty
in all of its forms
and also for kindness.
{Are they not often the same thing?}

iii
We both love people-watching.

In a square in Barcelona
children play football
with their grandfathers
and the friends of your parents
become your family.

At school
we notice which kids are artistic
and which ones have big hearts
and which ones need to be encouraged
more often.

We notice
each other,
what the other
wants and needs
which is no small thing
after all these years.

iv
DP is a very special noticer.

He sees tail-fins of whales
in the Atlantic
where I see only waves.

He always spots
immediately
the item for which I’ve been searching
in a grocery store.

He detects patterns
where I see chaos.

He sees poetry and math
as partners.

He sees the structure of stories
as clearly as I see metaphor.

He notices people’s agendas
and he knows
in his bones
whom we should trust.

Now,
at the Red House
in Newfoundland,
he notices the small shifts
in the diamond sea,
the mackerel sky
and the fog that rolls in
like ghosts.

His photos are proof
of his noticing.
He sees life
unfolding
and captures
slight changes,
tumultuous beauty
instinctively,
the way my father tells a joke.

With his lenses
he captures the world
like stars caught
behind clouds on a clear night
in Newfoundland.

{These photos of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland were taken in July 2012 by DP who used a Canon 7D.}

Following happiness home

what is it about friday afternoon
that makes us giddy?
i love my work
(even when it’s exhausting…
all good things are, sometimes)
but friday afternoons
leave me effervescent,
light and fizzy
like a pink drink with an umbrella
sipped on a beach.

perhaps
it’s the promise
of all that freedom.
48 hours
of exactly what i choose
and nothing else.

yes.

yesterday
these two school girls
in their navy uniforms
and i walked home
from school.
(our students don’t wear uniforms.
i wonder what it’s like.)
they walked very close
to each other
merging their selves
like girls do when we love.
as we neared the park,
the girls began to run.
my heart jumped
and wanted to follow.

in the park
a tiny two-year old in a purple dress
with white polka dots
stared at a small bush
as if it were
a work of art.
(it is.)
she leaned towards it
and whispered.
{oh, how i wish
i understood japanese.}

two teachers
and ten small students
skipped rope on the grass
outside the escalator.
they sang while they skipped.
skip. skip. skip.

outside the daycare,
two women pushed six toddlers
in a trolley
(the kind normally used
for delivering mail
in offices too big
to know everyone’s name.)
the wee ones,
dressed in pastels
like easter eggs,
were standing up in the trolley,
looking about and laughing.
their giggles made me laugh
and also
the girl just ahead of me.
as we rode down in the escalator,
she kept turning around
to look at the babies.
the girl wore small, round glasses
and she seemed especially smart.
at the ground floor
she tore off to catch her train
to the neon city.

at the exit
onto motomachi shopping street
a boy and a girl held up their hands
to the sky.
it was raining
confident, plump drops
and the pair seemed delighted
at this sudden change
in the weather.

crossing the street
i fell into step
behind a tall teenage boy
in a red baseball cap.
he was nodding his head
to the music from his ipod.
by the time we reached
the red light
head nodding
had turned to dancing.
(this kid had swag.)
the japanese people
moved back slightly,
surprised at this sudden outburst
of joy
at street level.

he crossed the street
dancing.
i followed him
dancing in my own way.
happy.
happy in my own way
on a friday afternoon.

the walk home

i’d like to take a moment
to remember
how often the sweetest
things
in life
are also the simplest.

it had been raining hard
all afternoon
and when the bell rang
the kids went running
from the building
with yells
and stolen umbrellas.

by the time i left school
the sun was pushing her blonde head
through steel grey clouds.
the concrete was still wet
and the sun bounced there
like hard red rubber balls
in a playground.

at the end of golden week
in japan
the bluff was filled
with tourists
admiring the city
from the cemetery.
(a strange but true vantage point.)
the late-afternoon sun
made their faces soft
and kind.

the world smelled new.

i walked home.