The First Breath of Winter

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we are at sea level, so we don’t get snow. But fall can sometimes be short lived and move directly into fallen leaves, fallen temperatures and lots of rain. And fog, of course, but then we can have fog in almost any season. I put this photo through a filter to emphasize how cold (for us) the weather was last week – uncharacteristically dipping into the high 30s F at night. I know, I know – that’s positively balmy for those of you in Canada or in the midwest or northeast states. But here, that requires us to pull out our down jackets when we are out.

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©Hannah Keene 2019

Posted for K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge: Winter’s Breath.

The Tears of an Agapanthus

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Hannah Keene 2019

I often cry these days. Not just because my husband died a year ago, although that’s the occasion for tears on some days. But I more often cry out of despair and fear, and a feeling that my life’s work has been in vain. I spent my career as a teacher of 4th and 5th graders. Two thirds of my teaching years were in underserved neighborhoods where I tried with everything I had to give the necessary skills to my students so that they would be able to break out of a cycle of poverty. And for all my students over the years, whether middle class or below the poverty line, I tried to instill in them a love of learning, and a curiosity about the world. Each year I worked to create a cooperative classroom where students could learn from their mistakes, take risks, and help each other succeed.

These days I sometimes wonder if my 20+ years of teaching made any difference at all. I do know that I made a difference in my individual student’s lives, but I find myself wondering if that made any difference in the wider world. Across the globe I’m seeing genocide, bigotry, hate infused rhetoric, riots and protests caused by the desperation of ordinary people who can’t make ends meet. I see the very rich becoming the super wealthy while ordinary people can end up on the streets because of one medical bill too many, or an expensive car repair that is necessary in order to get them to their underpaid job. I see the 1% of the world’s wealthiest people buy influence and power that subverts democracies. I see desperate immigrants arrive on the shores of more stable countries because of climate change and violence in their land of birth. And I see the more stable countries genuinely unable to take in an infinite number of refugees. I also see some leaders, especially in my home country, the United States, flat out deny science and refuse to work toward limiting the carnage that will be unleashed by a warming planet if we do nothing. 

I am the first to admit that I am more fortunate than most. My husband and I had access to good educations, and although we each had times of unemployment while rearing our children, we were never both without a job at the same time. We had access to good and affordable medical care when our younger child faced a host of serious medical problems shortly after birth. And for most of our working years we each worked in jobs that had a decent salary and excellent benefits. Money was often tight. Sometimes very tight, and we did without a lot of things. But we knew that we could keep a roof over our head, put food on the table, and send our children to school. That counts as well off in most of the world.

I took that knowledge, that we were privileged compared to most of the world, and dedicated my life to working for justice, trying to level the playing field through education, and believing that while no system of government is perfect, democratic and parliamentary systems of governments are the best options we’ve got. And I now see them crumbling into authoritarian and autocratic systems that seem to disproportionally  benefit the most well off of citizens. It’s not much of a surprise, then, that societies world wide are devolving into a us vs them mentality with each side of the spectrum not trusting the other.

I have some theories as to how this has come about, but unfortunately I don’t have any nuts and bolts ideas as to how to fix it. Because it’s not just the United States, or France, or Venezuela, or Hong Kong that’s falling apart because of inequitable resources and whole segments of the population that have been left out of the power loop. It seems to be global. I keep trying to work on equity, kindness, seeing each person for who they are and trying to have honest conversations about where we disagree. I work every day at showing each person that no matter where they are on the income scale, or what the color of their skin is, or whether they have made serious mistakes in their lives, or whether they are immigrants or native born, they matter. I can do this on an individual basis, person by person. But I feel overwhelmed. And I feel like it’s not enough.

A flower cries, the stones cry out, and I weep. Who will remember the forgotten of the world?

Posted for Ragtag Daily Prompt – A Flower Cried.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #66: Filling the Frame #5

This is the fifth day I’m taking up Patti’s pilotfish challenge: Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: #66: Filling the Frame. I took this shot with my (new!) mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M5 with a Zuiko 75-300mm lens. I was, as usual, walking the dogs and noticed that some of the brown leaves on a tree were were still partially orange. They were also perfectly back lit by the sun. The photo practically took itself.

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Hannah Keene 2019

A Boy and His (Shared) Dog

I am finding myself somewhat nostalgic and sad lately. The daylight is beginning to fade sooner and sooner, and while fall is usually my favorite season, September 2 marked the first year anniversary of my husband’s death. So I have been looking through family pictures of late, and went searching for these, as they are among my favorites of the past year – the first year without my husband of 44 years. While the post itself is far longer than six words, the title is exactly six, so I hope I can still use the Six Word Saturday hashtag.

I have written before about the fact that my good friends, Martha and Arthur, and I share our two dogs. Theirs is Teddy the Labradoodle and mine is Zoë the Miniature Schnauzer. When my husband and I returned to Northern California three and a half years ago and moved into our retirement community (St. Paul’s Towers), the grandkids were just 1 and 3½. Teddy was bigger than the 1 year old, obviously, but he was also awfully big for the 3½ year old. About a year ago, when they were 3 and almost 6, the two of them decided that it was time for them to start walking the dogs instead of just accompanying me when I walked them. So they became the walkers, and I became the accompanying and supervising person. The 3 year old was still rather scared of Teddy, but was comfortable walking Zoë. The almost 6 year was adamant that he wanted to walk Teddy by himself, without me holding on to the leash. Here is the result: he walking confidently on ahead with Teddy last February, when he was fully 6+ a few months. My granddaughter, Zoë, and I are lagging behind, in a perfect position to capture a photo.

Walking the Dog at Twilight

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Images: Hannah Keene 2019

Posted for Six Word Saturday. Well, at least there’s exactly six words in the title. 😉