The recognition in his eyes had all but disappeared for his wife of sixty-two years however, her devotion towards him created a new portal of connection.
This is a love story that was a lifetime in the making. Their six decade marriage had taken them through the good times with ease and joy, and the difficult times with patience and resilience. They survived the challenges of a long relationship, showing us what a successful marriage can look like.
Now in the winter of their years, they continue to lean on each other for the essential human connection we all hunger for. The evidence of passing time is apparent for them both, him more so than her. With a diagnosis of multiple degenerative diseases affecting his brain, he now resides in a sporadic state of confusion. He has all but lost his ability to recognize the once familiar, experiencing only moments of clarity.
They both struggle with their current situation, but cope as best they can. He spends his days adrift in his fog and she, at times, is devastated and adrift without him.
If you have ever experienced anyone with a cognitive dysfunction, the moments, however brief, of recognition are truly gifts.
Most days, his eyes fall blank, void of any memory. Until, she does one thing.
She sits next to him, moves in close, lovingly puts her arm around his back, pulling him in even closer, then gently presses her lips to his. In a flash his haze dissipates and his mental clarity returns as their lips touch. He sees his wife once again and has enough time to say, Inesinha, his endearing pet name for her. Moments later his mental fog rolls back in clouding, then suffocating his recall.
This elegant couple is Ines and Waldyr Bastos. They are my daughter-in-laws grandparents, presently residing in an assisted-living facility in São Paulo, Brazil.
Hold dear to your own moments, for they are fleeting. Days pass, but moments are forever.
Happy Valentines Day.
Live in color,
Land and sea,
Light and dark,
And peace and chaos,
Lies a world we think we know, or do we really?
We quickly label everything and rarely stray from its given designation. Until we look, really look at something does it unveil its complexity and seamless transmutation into something other.
It is that other I am drawn to.
Discovering the other is better than walking down the stairs Christmas morning to a roomful of glittering gifts. The other is the ultimate gift, the reward for having persistence to see.
On a recent visit to Provincetown I found more than sand and sea. I found the warp and weft of light and texture. It was difficult to see sand for sand, or water for water, for the interplay of the two created the other.
Life is in constant flux. It is in that flux that labels disappear, and new identities emerge.
Welcome the flux.
Live in color,
Some mornings are noteworthy. January 1st, 2020 was one of those unforgettable mornings.
With the sun still below the horizon, indirect light slowly illuminates the nearby mountain ridge. This morning’s light comes with a tall order. It needs to herald in not only a new day, a new year, and a new decade, but also a new vision.
Could the painterly strokes that dress the morning air be a sign of good things yet to come?
This is the year of 20/20 vision. A clarity of sight and expression is needed now more than ever. Just seeing is no longer enough, seeing deeply is required. With decades passing me by as quickly as years, I feel an urgency to pay attention.
This morning I did just that. I took a front row seat to the morning’s spectacle, acknowledged the day was a gift, and mumbled to myself, “now don’t blow it.”
Happy New Year
Live in color,
One thousand and five hundred days and 60 posts later, I have a new look.
After four years, Perspectives is now retired and a new website with more of a focus on my photography, is now up and running. Welcome to Abby Raeder Contemplative Photographer.
Any serious sojourn into photography, I believe, has less to do with the technical aspect of the camera and more to do with what is rattling around in the head of the photographer. So many questions arise in finding your photographic voice. Why am I making images? What is it that I need to say? Does anyone care?
Reflecting on those exact questions is how I have spent most of the last four years My pursuit has been about creating more meaningful images as opposed to more pretty pictures. I have had countless reviews, attempting to guide me through this developmental stage, with little constructive advise other than, find your audience. That’s kind of like the old Steve Martin routine. Martin goes on to explain how you can get away with not paying any income taxes. His advise 1. Make a million dollars. 2. Tell the IRS, I forgot.
Life is never that simple, and neither is photography.
What I have uncovered in my process is my apparent connection to nature. I have learned there are innumerable life lessons that are available to one who carefully listens during a walk in the woods or along a windswept seashore. Nature holds more wisdom than a bevy of monks perched atop a Himalayan peak.
In the coming months I hope you will enjoy my new look and continue to read my occasional posts, under the tab Musings. I will be out and about making connections and images which I look forward to sharing with you. In the meantime, I encourage you to take a walk under your own leafy canopy to listen and learn.
Live in color,
This making art stuff isn’t easy.
Once you have mastered your tools, all that’s left to focus on is you, the artist. That’s the space that is lonely and filled with doubt.
Making art is like being in therapy three times a week, with your therapist on speed dial. The process is filled with self-examination. Questions arise. What is it I really have to say? Does anyone care? Do I matter?
Anyone making art contributes their own flavor to a creative stew. Some add the spice, some add the stock that holds everything together and some add the garnish. All are essential to a rich and satisfying meal.
Pretty art may be considered the garnish, trite and superficial. But is it? During a 5-star dining experience, the visual is just as important as the taste. Pretty becomes the lure for you to pick up your fork and taste, to dive deeper into the complexity of the dish.
I may be putting my head on the chopping block, but I make pretty art. Not superficial or trite art, but art that uses pretty to draw you in. Ultimately, I want you to be seduced by my images, then astonished by nature’s magical and transformative beauty.
The challenging part of navigating my artistic journey is to stay true to who I am as an artist and not be swayed by the flavor of the moment. Provocative, edgy art seems to be the current flavor. I’ve seen enough disturbing art that my antacids are always within reach.
Let’s not let pretty get a bad rap. Where would we be without pretty? I don’t want to be in a world that considers a sunset trite, or a rainbow hokey, or the morning light on the ebbing tide, banal.
Self-analysis is crucial in the art making process, but giving yourself permission to be authentically you, is paramount.
Gotta run, there’s a rainbow hovering over my meadow.
Live in color,
Who among us will pick up and carry forward the baton Mary Oliver passes to us?
Who will prompt us to stop and take notice of our “one wild and precious life?” Who will remind us to listen to our breath, to pay attention, to be astonished?
I’m not a poetry girl. I have trouble digesting metaphor rich poems that speak of one thing, yet mean another. My brain just doesn’t go there. But then... along comes Mary.
Mary Oliver’s poetry is accessible. She asks the tough questions in a straightforward and honest manner. She understands the importance of nature and solitude. We speak the same language.
As I sit alone on a beach, on a raw May morning in Provincetown, my mind can’t help but think of Mary. Her presence here is palpable. How can I walk across the dunes she loved so dearly and not think of her? This was her fertile ground. The ground in which some of her most recited poems came to life.
Mary awakens me to the magnificence of life by simply noticing. She teaches me that the act of observation quiets the infernal hum and refocuses my attention to the ever-present beauty that surrounds me.
She was an advocate of cultivating one’s observation skills to see at a deeper level. She wanted her readers to look beyond the “ho hum” ultimately to discover the “holy cow!”
I may not be as eloquent, or as wise, as Mary but because of her I will continue to notice, photograph and praise the beauty I find. Hail Mary!
Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell me about it.
Live in color,
The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.
Lunch break. While wandering through the Old Delhi market, our eyes met, and for a brief moment we had a connection.
When traveling, what do you focus your photographic attention on? Is it the natural beauty of a sweeping landscape or local monuments or other well-visited attractions? For me, it’s all about the people I encounter.
Beauty is not my focus, but more what resides behind the eyes, the soul.
Each of the following images has a story, a brief encounter and connection.
The Sikh gentleman manning one of the information booths at a Hindu temple in Delhi, a sage if ever I saw one.
The boy who begged to have his photo taken in the hectic market of Old Delhi.
The old man who waved to me and graciously posed in Dharamshala.
The young lovers. I was approached by this pretty girl at a Sikh temple. Without saying one word she made it perfectly clear she wanted a photo taken of her and her boyfriend. She gave me her email. I sent her the photo.
The woman at the same Sikh temple who gently touched my arm and stood in front of me and posed. After I took the photo I turned the camera around to show her and she waved, no. She wasn’t interested in seeing the image, only wished to be seen.
I smiled at this gal, she smiled back. I told her she was very pretty, she glowed and posed as her husband looked on, somewhat disapprovingly.
The woman in red, I had to stop when I saw this beauty lit by a shaft of light. I raised my camera and gave the thumbs up sign, she timidly nodded.
The future of Buddhism, but still babies, in a remote monastery in northern India.
The Hindu Sadhu, that has chosen a life of abstinence, leaving behind all material, family, social, and sensual attachments, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals.
A rich tapestry is woven by the many faces of India. Not all are pretty, but all are authentic and not shy of being seen for who they really are.
Is there a lesson here for us?
Live in color.
Sit back while I tell you the story of Devanajari (Deva), a street kid of Delhi.
Nepal, the home of soaring mountains, mystics and wandering yogis is where this saga begins.
Deva was one of three children living with his parents in their traditional Nepalese home, nestled in the rural lowlands. The backdrop to his mud brick dwelling was the soaring Himalayas.
The Himalayas make up 80% of the land mass of the country. Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is their crown jewel. Deva’s home was situated in the fertile valley, at the base of the southern Himalayas.
As with all typical Nepali households, everyone worked. Deva and his younger brother tended to their two goats and a handful of chickens, while his older sister helped with the cooking and cleaning. None of the siblings attended school. His father cultivated a small farm, while his mother worked in a rice paddy.
One typical morning, Deva and his brother were tending to the animals and his sister was preparing a meal in their makeshift kitchen. His father was already out in the fields, while Deva’s mother was outside collecting firewood. Unbeknownst to Deva, his life was about to be shattered by a blood curdling scream.
As his mother was gathering wood she was bitten by a venomous snake. The children ran to her side, helped her back to the house where they tried to make her comfortable as best they could. Not all snake bites, even from a venomous snake, are lethal, however this was not the case for Deva’s mother.
By nightfall she was dead.
The family was devastated by their loss, especially Deva’s father. He had no idea how to raise three children on his own. Upon hearing of his loss, Deva’s aunt sent a letter to her brother instructing him to move to Mumbai. She had moved to Mumbai three years earlier. She was willing to share her humble home and help raise the children, while he found work and a home of his own. Feeling he had no option, he uprooted his family from their Nepalese village, the only home they had ever known.
Mumbai was a stark contrast to the lush green valleys of Nepal. Deva’s first encounter with the big city was scary, yet somehow exhilarating. The now family of four, settled into the cramped quarters of his aunt’s home.
Deva’s father never recovered from the loss of his wife. Overwhelmed by city life and the struggle to find work, he began to drink.
Deva, now 9, was seduced by city life. While adjusting to his new life in Mumbai, he heard fantastic stories of the gleaming capital of India, Delhi. The tales of Delhi were wildly exaggerated, filled with adventure and endless opportunity.
Deva was headstrong and overly confident, a recipe for disaster for a 9 year old boy. He became frustrated with his father and their cramped living conditions. Growing restless with his situation, he became convinced he could do better on his own. Without any word to his family, he hopped a train illegally, to what he thought would be a promising new life in his nation’s capital.
With images of great riches dancing in his head, he arrived at the dank train station in Delhi. His plan? What plan?
There he sat alone and scared in a foul corner of the station. He watched throngs of people pass by, some with destinations, others, like him, aimless. He noticed bands of children, like ants, scurrying from one point to another. They seemed to have an objective. He was determined to find out what that was.
The children, he carefully studied, were a handful of the lost children of Delhi. On average, there are between 70 - 80 children that arrive daily in India’s capital. These children are runaways, all escaping difficult and dangerous situations, all in search of a better life. This band of lost children Deva watched were about to become his new family.
These runaways taught Deva how to survive on the street. He was first shown where to safely sleep. At night the children would huddle together on scraps of cardboard, in a quiet nook of the station. The next lesson he learned was plastic equaled money. 1 kilo of plastic = 22 rupees. This translates to approximately 2 pounds of plastic = 30 cents. He quickly mastered the art of plastic picking.
That money was usually spent on food, however not always. In place of food, at times money was spent on a movie ticket. In the dark recesses of a theater the children would sit quietly, undisturbed and sniff glue or white-out, to momentarily numb the pain of their ill-fated lives. Deva spiraled down that same hopeless path.
This was his life for almost two years.
Just as his life’s circumstance was quickly shattered the day his mother died, his current way of life was about to take another dramatic turn.
One day, during his normal scavenger routine, a man approached him. Deva was filthy and scrawny. The man asked where Deva’s family was. Deva starred blankly into his eyes.
The man then said, “Come with me.”
Frightened, yet hungry, Deva followed with great hesitation. He was brought to an office not far from the train terminal. It was located on the third floor, next to the police station. Upon his arrival, he was fed. Still distrustful, he was ready to bolt the moment he felt threatened.
His young body was fatigued and worn from living on the streets. Being fed and cared for felt luxurious, something he could get used to. He learned the man that picked him up at the station worked for an organization called Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) Salaam Baalak provides a safe environment for the children rescued from the streets. Since 1988 they offer quality education, nutrition and healthcare for the lost children of Delhi.
Deva needed time to develop trust for his rescuer and SBT, and eventually, that trust built. He began classes in the third floor walk up at SBT. Along with his daily studies he also learned about sanitation and nutrition. As time passed, he grew stronger, healthier and more interested in his studies. He slowly worked his way through SBT education program. He flourished while there, a striking difference from the disheveled eleven year old boy that was picked up at the rail station years earlier.
Today, as part of Salaam Baalak outreach program, guided city walks are provided. For a mere $5, a former street kid will escort anyone interested through the dingy back alleys of Delhi. The same streets that Deva once called home. The guide explains life on the streets for a child and the assistance Salaam Baalak provides.
I took one of SBT‘s city walks and Deva was my guide.
I am not telling you this story for you to support Salaam Baalak https://www.salaambaalaktrust.com/who-we-are.php. That’s up to you. However, I am telling you this story because life isn’t always what it may appear to be. Circumstances sometimes happen beyond anyone’s control, where you are delivered to a situation beyond comprehension.
There are many compelling stories of life on the street. All I ask of you is to hold a compassionate ear and an open heart to each and every one of those stories. Listen without judgement.
Salaam Baalak Trust rose out of the 1988 Indian movie, Salaam Bombay, chronicling the day to day life of children living in the slums of Bombay. The writer and director, Mira Nair, deeply moved by the lost children’s horrific story, started the organization. The movie Salaam Bombay was the precursor to the Academy Award winning film Slumdog Millionaire.
Because of Mira Nair’s connection to the movie industry, a street-based Theatre Action Group was formed teaching the street children all aspects of the arts. Scholarships are awarded to a few graduates each year that have successfully completed the program. The success stories of these children are numerous. The professions of some graduates are impressive, ranging from photographers to engineers. Since 1988, SBT has cared for and protected more than 80,000 children. These children are lost no more.
Deva is now 19 years old. He sent for his brother in Mumbai, who now lives with him in Delhi. His sister is married and living in Mumbai. His father still struggles. Today, Deva escorts visitors on daily SBT city walks. He teaches his brother about life and is focused on getting a scholarship. Deva aspires to become an actor.
As in all good Bollywood movies, this is Deva’s happy ending...or is it just the beginning?
Live in color,
A personal story
Please allow me a few moments to share a story and to explain this photo.
I was living in New York when 911 occurred. Anyone who lived there at that time will remember the shock and numbness that descended on its residents. For months afterwards life in the city and surrounding counties was surreal. There was a choking heaviness, a mixture of fear and uncertainty.
As time passed, the holidays grew closer. I wondered how could I celebrate Christmas that year? Buying frivolous gifts seemed disrespectful and planning a sumptuous meal felt too extravagant. Even when it came down to a Christmas card I was stumped.
Through the years my go to Christmas card was a photo of my son and two Newfoundlands, however, this Christmas I thought the card needed to say something more. After much deliberation, I decided to make a macro image of my Newfie’s nose. Yes, just his nose. In all its glistening, wet glory, an image of a jet-black Newfoundland snout was my Christmas card. The message inside read: Enjoy the small things in life.
It didn’t take long for people to respond. The majority were, “Well, she’s finally lost it.”
In retrospect, it was in that moment that I finally found it.
The horror of 911 quickly put life into perspective. I realized in a flash what was important and what wasn’t. Suddenly my comfortable, suburban lifestyle felt unsettled. All the trappings of my provincial way of being left me hollow and unfulfilled.
Everyone experienced 911 in their own way. I experienced a shift. It was a shift inwards. My relentless outward search for happiness relaxed into an appreciation for what is right in front of me.
Now to the photo attached.
This morning I woke and followed my normal routine beginning by making coffee. Grind, measure, fill and flip on.
After breakfast, I cleaned up. I dumped the remainder of the coffee, opened the lid of the coffee maker to empty the grinds and there they were — a nest of coffee beans. Now I’m sure there is someone out there saying, “Big whoop”. But to me, it was a big whoop. How these four beans made it through the grinding process and how they settled, huddled together, in a seemingly safe and secure nest, put a huge smile on my face.
Each day unexpected visual gifts present themselves. These presents are everywhere, but only apparent to the perceptive observer. These visual surprises are life’s momentary expressions of its playful beauty and certain unpredictability.
Please allow this pithy post be a reminder that it is the little things that ensure a well-balanced, fragant and robust experience.
Live in color,
It happens every year about this time. March rolls in and I become constipated — creatively that is.
Living deep in the woods of Vermont, the solitude and beauty I find in the winter months is breathtaking. The fire and vitality of summer are silenced by a layer of fluffy frosting, revealing only stark contrasts. The March landscape in Vermont is brilliantly minimal.
That’s the good news. The bad news is, I’m a color gal. Just about this time every year my heart and creative pulse yearns for color.
I have enjoyed winter's living grayscale laying outside my window, exposing the whitest whites to the blackest blacks, however, I now pine for color. My monastic, midwinter, white-bread diet is yearning for a little spice. Color is that spice, the remedy I desperately need to stir my creative flow once again.
So until the first signs of spring appear, my eye wildly searches for color. Today’s color was found is a bouquet of orange roses on my kitchen counter.
I pulled one stem from the arrangement, brought it to my windowsill, gently placing it on its side, while admiring its beauty. I said to the rose, “Talk to me”.
Oh, what a conversation we had!
I inadvertently opened a flood gate of emotions for this single rose. Rose told me how misunderstood she was. She resented how she was looked upon as just a pretty little thing. Most never took the time to truly recognize her depth and sensitivity. She went on to explain she was so much more than a cluster of petals. She was life itself.
Rose then felt comfortable enough with me to expose her various sides. In an instant she became my model and muse, perched in front of me, the artist. Slowly she stripped away her layers, exposing her mystery, sensuality and her grandeur.
Just as an artist's brush attempts to capture the grace and emotion of that which lies before him, I tried to document the complexity of this rare beauty.
What would happen if you spent quality time, like this, with everything that crossed your path? How could you not feel the flush of awe and reverence for life itself.
Live in color,
An image alone sometimes feels insufficient, that’s where Musings come in. A space where words and images come together to tell the story.
I promise not to sell, rent, or share your email address with anyone. Ever.