Posts Tagged ‘personal’


entering my home office area

Let’s see …

Designing — Working with creative colleagues at Trinity Church to “think outside the box” during these days when buildings are currently closed for tourism and developing new ways, indeed even fun ways, to share the beauty of an historic landmark. In addition to sharing stories of people and place, we’re putting together an online shop via Redbubble to highlight imagery and designs inspired by the art and architecture. Check out the shop via this link.

Researching — Completing contractual assignments to research and write biographies about African American men and women from the late 18th to early 20th Centuries (my favorite periods to research) whose stories have been forgotten or overshadowed over time. That means I need to velcro my bottom to the chair instead of continually wandering about the little garden. I’ll just have to make the garden my lunch break spot!


a nook in my office area

Curating — Thanks to the energy of some fellow creatives, commencing conversations with them to possibly curate an art show in February 2021 featuring artists of color. It has been a pleasure to be involved with these folks and this event in past years so I am hopeful for the future. Stay tuned for updates.

Submitting photography — Get back into the groove of submitting photography and not just posting on Instagram (which is so much fun!). I’ve put together my first submission calendar in ages.


And then there’s writing, I mean personal writing and with writing will come grieving which is a healthy thing. I feel a renewed yearning to tell stories of the past and those stories involve family no longer here. I want to tell stories of the present and some of those stories involve angst because of my husband’s health and chronic uncertainty about the future. But I also feel compelled to write about hope. I think it’s talking to my young nephew and other young friends.

So that’s what I’m working on … or at least my endeavor … as summer starts to ease into autumn.

Hope you continue to join me on this journey of words and images! 🙂




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Steve’s been having a good time in the new kitchen and with the fresh herbs. I picked up the salmon but decided it was good exercise for him to go up and down the various flights of stairs to select herbs for the fish and my artistic vision of a caprese salad.


Only a few weeks ago, maybe even a week ago, he would have placed the salmon on the table and said, “Okay, go ahead. Take a picture and send it to William.”

Somehow my husband and my oldest brother bonded over food. Two very different people who found common ground in cooking. Given how infrequently they met I find it interesting they developed such respect for one another. Given that the two of them were of a certain generation, Steve, looking toward retirement one day, was hoping the two of them could start a little restaurant called The Two Grumpies. My brother, who had run restaurants before having to retire early due to health reasons, was not opposed to the idea and for awhile actively kept an eye open for locations in his hometown of Norfolk. But then Steve took some health hits and so did my brother though I don’t think he ever told me the full story. William could be a rather close-lipped person.


Steve is staying strong and continues to cook but no more pictures to William. William passed away this week after a recent diagnosis of late stage cancer. One of the things that must have peeved him most was that the disease took away his appetite.

Somewhere I have a picture of him holding me as a toddler. We had a bit of an age difference. In the photo you would see a plump little baby being held tight in the arms of a tall, strong, young Black man with a great smile.

In the past ten months I’ve lost all three of my brothers. I’m not sure people believe me when I say I don’t feel alone. I feel like they are more a part of me than ever. A close friend said, “Cynthia, does this mean when you’re walking in the world, you’ve got the shadows of three six-feet plus black men at your back?” I said, “Well, I suppose.” She remarked, “Oh, goodness. It was hard enough keeping you out of trouble before. Now you’re going to be a real badass!”

Perhaps so. 🙂


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… those in the dark cast the brightest of lights. I think Tara Cipriano was one of those people. While she could never quite convince me to reach into her bag and grab the sidewalk chalk, she convinced many other people to do so, especially her nieces and nephew, and most often strangers on the street. Accepting me for who I am, she eventually stopped asking and just shared her art, and it was art, digitally with me. I think she wanted to share the ephemeral beauty she was creating in the world, and she was looking for positive feedback in a world where increasingly, especially internally, she was receiving so much negativity.


Tara had a great laugh and great mind and had an innate creativity that in recent years overwhelmed her. In a very short period of time she went from fitting a certain young professional mold to becoming a creative wild spirit. At first such sudden flamboyant behavior and change in dress was startling to friends and family and probably even to her. But at some point she embraced the new side of herself even as words like “crazy” were thrown around.


She did seek help, and with her intelligence, she sometimes knew more than her various doctors and therapists. And there were times when, despite her great intelligence, when common sense was drowned out by other voices, and she did things she shouldn’t have. She was only human.


I don’t know Tara’s specific clinical diagnosis and it wouldn’t be my place to say on this blog. I can say that she was a unique woman who brought joy into the world and filled it with light, laughter and color. Don’t even get me started on her love of glitter and distaste for the color blue … or maybe that was just blue pens. She loved profoundly and was profoundly loved. There are those I know who will keep asking themselves, “what more could I have done?!” and to those people I say: You did all that you could. I know that she believed that because she told me so over the years. For her, you were anchors in her life that kept her here as long as she managed to remain.


After recently dealing with my younger brother’s unexpected death, I told myself that I would write no more obituaries. I don’t think of this post as an obituary but it is my attempt to share the beauty of a creative soul who will be missed and who too many people never had the chance to really know. I think she is at peace. Farewell, Tara.

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This is a ramble with no meaning except I felt a need to put fingers to the keyboard and share an experience from this day.  I’ve been saving watermelon rind trying to decide if I will try to make some watermelon pickles. Now, I have never eaten such a pickle in my life though when I was little I used to admire their beauty in big jars on store counters. As a child I ate plenty of the fruit itself. My oldest brother still reminisces about the big ones with the big black seeds. I think I remember watermelons so big I could sit on them. Those are hard to find. Small, round, seedless (and in my humble opinion oftentimes tasteless) has become the store norm. I’ve lost my taste for watermelon flesh though I’ve been buying watermelon slices of late. Not for me but for a certain person in my life who needs to drink more water but doesn’t and so I simply place saucers of sliced cold watermelon in front of him. Hydration is hydration.

But now I have these rinds … and I’m in a creative place in my life right now … and so I told him I might try my hand at pickles. And when this person heard my intentions, he remembered words from a poem. “Reflections on a gift of watermelon pickles,” he said. We looked it up, a poem by John Tobias.  As I began to read it out loud, Steve, who has a wicked memory for poetry, stopped me to say, “I don’t think I’ve ever actually read the poem. I just know those few words.” And so I finished reading the poem and he was silent and when I looked up I saw that he had been moved to tears.

I think my big brother who is near Steve’s age would cry too. Not so my 12-year old friend. Her response to reflections on a life lived would be quite different than people five decades older. This is a rambling post with no photographs because there is no photograph that can compare to the rich imagery embedded throughout the poem … except maybe one day I’ll come across one of those big ol’ watermelons and split it open and let the sun shine on the pink flesh, black seeds and white rind … and maybe that would be an appropriate pairing of image with the following words. We’ll see …


Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
(Hollowed out
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts
In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
Of civilization;

During that summer–
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was–
Watermelons ruled.

Thick imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;

And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.

The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
Swallowed reluctantly.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

by John Tobias

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… mad at some things that had happened around me.  Things that were kind of like bits of straw raining down upon a camel’s back.  What I felt was certainly legit but I also felt myself getting angrier than I needed to be.  I wanted to redirect that anger. A long walk, my method of choice, was out of the option because of the cold.  Yet I was determined not to do what I remember my mom having penchant for doing which was to sit in a literal and figurative dark place.  I was not ready to talk about what was bothering me.  There were no words quite formed for me to write.  What do do, what to do.  I decided to follow the advice I sometimes give to others when they tell me that they are tired of talking or that they cannot write (“I don’t know how to write. You’re the writer!”).  What do I suggest?  Draw.  So, I sat down to draw.  Now I almost stopped myself.  Why? Because I can’t draw.  Yes, I’ve dabbled in this that and the other thing but really even with the help of a ruler, I can’t make a straight line!  Then I took a deep breath and decided not to worry about straight lines. Curves can be cool.

As for what to draw … now I’ve been having this ongoing conversation with one of my little postcard penpals.  He’s my four-year old nephew living down in Virginia.  I’ve been sending him pictures of birds and squirrels and such.  He’s tasked with drawing me a fish.  Or a school of fish.  Maybe a shark.  As I sat at my desk in the bright sunlight, I drew fish for him and for myself, bright colored, imperfect, smiling fish.  My anger did not disappear but it came into perspective.  I have not sent the fishy bookmarks to the little guy.  I want to give him time to draw his fish for me and for himself in whatever colors of the rainbow he decides.

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In an old journal, I found the following words.  Perhaps one day I will polish them, but even a bit rough, I feel inclined to share them, paired with some new images.  I suppose I should be sharing a poem, given that it’s Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day, but perhaps there is poetry embedded in these words and images. 

Journal Entry:  Several friends think that I never go to the dark places. That I always see the light in the world. The glass is always at least half-full.  Lemons can always be turned into tasty lemonade.  There is no dark so dense where some bit of brightness cannot be found.  At such accusations, I usually say nothing or  I perhaps point out the beauty of fallen petals upon the ground. I do not to say with indignation, you are wrong because I do go to the dark places. Don’t we all?  I do not say, I have seen the dark clouds descend from once-bright skies and settle over once-clear roads.  Haven’t we all?  But, for me, you know what always happens … even upon the darkened road … eventually?  Winds come and blow the clouds away.  If there is a lingering dark fog, the sun rises and burns it to a cooling mist, refreshing upon the skin. When I’m in the darkest place, pitch black, I don’t always see the light but I know it’s there somewhere.  It has to be. I can feel it even if I cannot see it.  Don’t the blind feel the sun on their faces?

Maybe that’s why I write, why I photograph.  To show that no matter how dark, light penetrates and reveals certain glories. In the contrasts, the shadows created, the silhouettes that emerge, unique beauty is revealed. That is what I want to convey, in whatever medium feels right in the moment.  The simple beauty in this life.

I do not want to ignore the dark, or the fears that spring to life though I may not always share such fears with friends.  I will walk the dark roads until the sun rises.  I will carry a flashlight or a lit candle and if these items should fail then I will take a deep breath and raise my eyes to the sky and focus on the tiny beacons of the stars.  And who knows, I might even see a sliver of moon. All I know is I may walk in the dark – we all do at some point in our lives — but I will not stay there.  I will not.

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I once served my father mulberries on a little pink plastic plate.  The mulberry tree stood in the yard of a neighbor down the street.  Most people rued the tree’s existence as birds ate the berries and then proceeded to stain laundry hung outside to dry.   I do not remember why on that summer’s day I wanted to pick berries but I did and I guess I became quite vocal.   In any case, one of my older brothers took me by the hand and walked me down the street.  He helped me pick the berries from the ground.  Upon returning home, I rinsed them in the kitchen sink and then carefully piled them on a saucer.  My parents happened to have company over that day.  Most of the adults sat outside beneath the shade of our plum tree.  To each of them I offered my plate of sparkling fruit.  I wanted someone to partake.  All said no except my father.  He looked me in the eyes and smiled.  Then, he took the plate and the fork I offered.  He smashed the berries just a little and then scooped them into his mouth.

Maybe eight years later when I was fourteen or so, I sat at the kitchen table.  Across from me, my father read the local newspaper while sipping his instant coffee.  I leafed through the Sears catalog.  My mother called it a dream book.  When especially young, my younger brother and I would sit side by side on the couch with the catalog draped over our legs.  We would spin tales, pretending that we were drinking from the crystal goblets or playing with the toys and tools.  But as time passed, and I began to attend school with kids from a very different socio-economic bracket, leafing through the catalog became less fun.  It was a reminder of what I did not have.   That day as my father and I sat in the kitchen, I flipped slowly through the catalog pages staring at young women dressed in clothes I wanted.  At some point, I looked up.  My father watched me.  I will never forget the look on his face, the sadness.  “I’m sorry I can’t get you those clothes.”   I closed the book and said with a big smile, “I don’t need them.  I was just daydreaming.”  He shook his head, then smiled a bit tentatively and went back to his paper.

At his funeral many years later, a gentleman called my father “stick in the mud.”  It was a complement.  He was viewed by just about all who knew him as steady and as an anchor in my mother’s life.  The concept of family as anchor and inspiration in one’s life  has been on my mind a great deal lately.  For many reasons but most especially because of a statement made by my younger brother.  For as long as they could, our parents raised us like twins.  Today we still chat quite a bit even though we now live thousands of miles apart.  He is in a new phase of life, juggling a lot, raising his growing family, helping out other family and friends, while working overtime to make ends meet.  After putting out several recent fires and taking a break to simply breathe, he said to me, “When I die, I don’t know if I will ever see our mom and dad again.  If I do, the first words I will say to them, especially to Pop, are Thank you.  I’m just learning how much he juggled, how much he sacrificed.  We just never knew …”

Don’t get me wrong.  My father was no saint nor was he a perfect father.  He was simply a good man who believed in taking care of his family. He was no teacher but he sure taught by example.  He did not speak often but he could spin a tale.  My brothers have inherited his straight forward eloquence.  I am less eloquent but I do love finding the story in words and in images.   I don’t know what he would think of my photography, especially the more abstract images like these branches.  But I do know that he would look earnestly at my work, then gaze into my eyes and he would smile.  And should he see my younger brother one more time?  My brother will say thank you and then I am sure our father will gaze into his eyes and he will say, “Son, you are welcome.”

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A little over ten years ago I began telling friends and co-workers that I wanted to go fishing.  For the most part, they’d all gently laugh.  You see, at first glance, most people would not have considered me — a small brown woman often with a book in hand, sipping lattes in Starbucks — as the fishing sort.  Yet something about the concept of fishing suddenly appealed to me.  Perhaps it was romantic idealism based on childhood memories of fishing scenes in old television shows.  Or maybe it was remembered tales told by my dad of his firsthand experiences fishing in the backwoods of Virginia.  Whatever the reason, fishing brought to mind a beautiful calm.  And though I could not articulate it clearly even to myself, a bit of calm was what I needed at that point in my life.  Eventually, a friend in the office, a young man who’d grown up in a coastal city near Boston, looked at me over the lunchroom table and said with a big grin, “Okay, lady.  You take a day off, I’ll take you fishing.”  In short, it was a wonderful day of sitting on a rocky shore with our poles in the dark blue waters of the Atlantic.  Our hooks were baited with squid.  Older gents would share tips with us “youngsters.”  We caught nothing except what I needed most:  calm.  Fast forward to the present …

Recently, Steve offered me the opportunity to fish at a popular spot near Castle Island.  It would be my first time fishing since that desperately needed excursion over a decade ago.  This time around I felt no “need” of anything from the trip.  I simply wanted to share a new experience with a person important in my life, and to try my hand again at an activity I remembered as fun. Heck, I thought, this time around I might even catch a fish.

We used squid as the tasty lure.  Once the hook had been baited, Steve taught me how to cast (last time the fellow did it for me).  As I stood at the rail holding the rod, I was aware of the looks we received from the neighboring fishermen.  As you can see I am still not quite up to speed on fishing attire. A few people came over to chitchat. I let Steve do all the talking.  I stared out into the sea.

I watched the rippling of the water and the gentle rise and fall of the waves.  In the ephemeral light of the cloudy day, every shade of blue appeared on the water’s surface.  For just a moment.  No fish did I see  but I kept imagining them down in the dark depths, nibbling on my squid.  Birds flew overhead.  Sailboats drifted by.  In the end,  I caught nothing except of course that calm.  Unexpected but welcome.  A treat.  As Steve and I walked back to the car, and he outlined our strategy for next time so that we’d actually catch something, I realized I didn’t need to a catch a fish.  It was the journey that mattered to me, not the destination.  When I shared that revelation with Steve, he was quiet for a moment, then said, “I respect your feelings.  But let’s test that theory once you actually have a fish on the line.”

Hmmm.  We’ll see … 😉

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