Tag Archives: flowers

The Faerie Garden

  ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.

Spring is when I spend a lot of time in the garden kneeling down at eye level with all the flowers that seem to pop up and bloom overnight. I try to take some time daily to search for all the small details that are missed when caught up in our busy world. When you stop and look closely, it’s as if an entire parallel universe exists between the petals and stamen, the soil and grass. Sometimes while lost in a patch of Poppies I imagine a tiny world of faeries that flit about on lacy wings as they tend to the garden. If you look closely, you too might find them.

I shot these photos on my iPhone and edited them on my iPad with the PicFX and Procreate apps.

  

©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.

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Pick up a copy of Zen in the Garden or send it to someone you lve as a gift: http://amzn.com/B00TN2GQHM 


Ode to Spring

  

“Ode to Spring” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.

March is a time for renewal, when the first buds of early Spring begin to push their way towards the surface. The days become a bit longer, less dark and bleak. Flocks of birds begin to fly overhead and make their way north after a long winter layover. Their excited squacks and cackles instill a sense of hope in my soul, but also a feeling of sadness that I never took the time to visit them while they were at rest here in our valley. My soul was tucked away in front of the warm fire, wrapped in reflection, which is where winter often sends me.

I stand in my backyard as a family of Sandhill Cranes ride a thermal right above me. Their giant wings glide in circles as their gutteral call rolls from their beaks in an ecstatic chorus. They circle and glide, resting for the long trip ahead, a momentary pause in their journey as if saying goodbye. A tear escapes my eye as I look up and wish them a safe flight.

The sun sneaks out between big white clouds and leftover raindrops that have settled on the new blooms begin to shimmer. My focus shifts from the vast expanse of the sky above back to the tiny things below me. The longer I stare, the more amazed I become. This micro world of color and light comes alive as if the entire universe exists in this few inches of earth within my vision. Life and death begin and end there. Spring approaches to remind us it is our job to live, to let go of the darkness, emerge from our coccoons and acknowledge the beauty in all that we have been given.

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Pick up a copy of “Zen in the Garden” here. 


Embracing Those Zen Moments

  

Sunday morning I went to church. But this was not your typical preacher at the pulpit, dressed in our Sunday finest, we seek forgiveness for our multitude of sins, here’s five percent of my paycheck, followed by breakfast at Denny’s type of church. It was instead my personal choice of places to go when seeking communion with the Divine. My church of choice is Nature.

I grew up in those traditional houses of worship, but as an adult I find them uncomfortable and often filled with hypocrisy. Please don’t get me wrong, I do not harbor disdain for those who choose a traditional church as their place of worship, but I personally have been unable to find my own peace there. 

When I walk in nature with my feet planted firmly against the earth, embraced by the breeze and serenaded by bird song, I become instantly relaxed and at peace. In those moments I feel closer to a God than any other time in my life. Everything makes sense to me as I walk along and see the beauty before my eyes.

Yesterday I had one of those little “Zen Moments” where I felt connected to everything and found beauty in the simple things. My hope for each of you this week is you will find your own Zen moments as you navigate this noisy life.

** Follow the “Zen in the Garden” YouTube Channel for more “Zen Moments” here. **

** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


For Every Ending There is a Beginning



** A Dandelion flower in the fall as it begins to dry out and die. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014-2015. All rights reserved. **

I have been thinking a lot lately of endings and beginnings. I suppose my reflection is motivated by several events that have occurred in my life. My age for one. The older I get the more contemplative I become as I slither towards that inevitable ending with this dance on earth. Yet I do realize life can become extinguished at a moment’s notice and not necessarily at the point when one is old and wrinkled and worn out. 

The second motivator has been my health challenges over the past two years. First it was West Nile Virus followed a year later by treatment for skin cancer. Both were stressful physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Illness brings you face to face with your own mortality and changes you in ways you could never imagine while in good health.

When friends die or face serious illness or debilitating accidents, especially when they are younger than myself, it causes me to pause and take a good hard look at how I am currently living my life. Over the past month one of my friends and former Aikido Sensei’s, Denise, died from a sudden illness. She was eleven years younger than me. This was followed by the news of my friend Julie’s accident that has left her locked in a coma. Two very valid reasons why thoughts of the precarious balance between life and death have been brought to the forefront of my mind.

Nature is the perfect reflection of endings and beginnings. Within it there are many. It is the place to come to an understanding of the fluid nature of life. When you take a walk in the forest evidence of the cycle of life is everywhere. Out of the decomposing duff created by a fallen tree, wildflower and tree seedlings spring forth. The end of one thing makes possible the other. And on and on it goes.

Spring approaches quickly and the evidence is mounting. That which has passed before has allowed new life to arise. People die and babies are born. A flower wilts and another opens its petals to the sun. One door closes and another one opens. Life continues and ends right in front of us every single day. Whether or not we live the moments we are given fully, is our own decision. Whatever our choice, there will continue to be endings that turn into beginnings and beginnings that come to an end.



** Lupine growing near Bassi Falls, Eldorado National Forest, California. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

Click here to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon.


A Dance in the Spring Rain



This morning I woke up to a cleansing Spring rain. Unlike the east coast, things have been extremely dry here in California so any bit of moisture that falls from the heavens is welcomed with open arms. 

So in the spirit of my little book “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature,” I decided to start my morning off by donning my rain boots and doing a little puddle dance. It was so refreshing to stand in the rain and feel the drops fall on my face. I immediately felt more alive, awake, and cleansed.



For me the rain makes a perfect backdrop to focus on my writing. The remainder of my day will be spent working on one of several companion books to “Zen in the Garden.” The first one I am writing is about growing and harvesting herbs and spices for health and healing.

I will of course take many breaks throughout the day to stand in the rain, take photos of the new blooms in the garden, Look for the rainbow, and refresh my soul. My hope is each one of you will find a bit of time for yourselves today to sit quietly somewhere in nature and renew your souls.


Breathing My Way Into Spring



This morning I decided to heed my words from my little book “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature.” Being self-employed, tax season is always a stressor. Add to that the demands of work I perform for clients and my attempt to self-promote the launch of my new book and you have the perfect recipe for a potential meltdown.

But if I have learned anything on this journey it is the importance of placing a damper on stress, or at least the way my body reacts to it, before it has a chance to impact my life and most importantly my health. Today I woke up with a long list of to-do’s in my head. Not a good way to start the morning. I didn’t even take a moment to say “Hello world!” My first mistake. But since I have a forgiving heart, I gave myself a hug and decided to go out on a walk at a local nature trail for a quick attitude adjustment.

“Ahhhhh…” 

The minute I stepped out of my car and placed a foot onto the trail I felt relief spill over me. I could breathe again. There was a cool breeze that placed a kiss on both cheeks and the morning sun warmed the top of my big floppy hat. Whatever stress I carried when I left my house was instantly replaced with a calm peace as I began to notice the beautiful Spring blossoms that had begun to grace the trees. I felt a smile begin to creep across my face. This is how life is supposed to be. We are meant to be happy and to experience the joy And beauty of simple things.

As my day continues forward I carry that peace I found this morning and feel a renewed sense of groundedness and the ability to focus on my tasks. Do yourself a favor. When you begin to feel stress creep in take yourself out on a walk and find at least one thing you think is beautiful along the way. Take a mental picture, or if you have a camera take a photo and revisit that image throughout your day.

You can still download “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” for free on Amazon through tomorrow.


Finding My Center

"Qi" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Qi” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

This past week I have been embroiled in a feeble attempt to find my center. There are moments when I feel like a derailed train that continues to move forward without a clear vision of my destination. There have been a whole lot of unknowns that surround my day-to-day. I float somewhere in this middle ground that follows diagnosis but comes before surgery and treatment.

I don’t do well with unknowns. What I do know is the cancer is still growing while I wait to have it removed from my body.

So, I spend an inordinate amount of time doing research on anything related to skin cancer, Mohs surgery and Efudex treatment. I have always been the curious sort with a need to know, oft-times to my own detriment. But I would much rather be educated than blind to the facts and possibilities before me. I suppose it provides me with some semblance of control in the midst of feeling out of control over the current circumstances during my body’s rebellion against the sun.

"Gazania 2" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Gazania 2” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

When you stop and read the statistics on skin cancer it is a bit astounding. One in five people will have some form of skin cancer in their life time. One in five. Yet we continue to have this sordid love affair with tanning booths and the sun.

Skin cancer is not just a simple trip to the Dermatologist to have a couple of bad cells scraped off or frozen away. It can be that for a few, but it also has the potential to be extremely disfiguring. And it can kill you.

We have been taught to shrug our shoulders and say “at least it’s just skin cancer.” In my mind this is nothing more than a statement of denial since we tend to place bronzed skin and vanity on a pedestal far above common sense. Skin cancer of any type can metastasize and spread to the organs if left untreated. I challenge anyone who thinks that skin cancer is “no big deal” to Google it and read the blogs and stories of people who have or are now going through it. It’s not pretty.

Black Beauty

Although I do feel lucky to so far avoided the diagnosis of the creeping black spider that is Melanoma, this in no way diminishes for me the seriousness of my own diagnosis. The fact I have any type of skin cancer at all increases the probability that I will have more in the future. All those days in my past spent carelessly soaking up the sun for the sake of vanity altered my DNA and have finally culminated in something not so pretty.

"Gazania 3" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Gazania 3” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

On Monday I meet with the Opthamologist/Oculoplastics surgeon for the pre-op appointment prior to the Mohs surgery on my face. Since this lesion is close to my eye and my eyelid it is considered high risk. I will need reconstruction surgery and most likely a skin graft following the removal of the cancer by the Mohs surgeon. I should know shortly after this appointment the date of my first surgery.

So, for now as I continue to ride the roller-coaster of stress and emotion and fumble for my center, I take trips out into the garden and attempt to focus on the beauty I see through my lens. When I do this I feel my whole body exhale. I feel my feet grounded on the soil below me. I begin to find my center. I forget, if only for a moment, about the ugly and garner hope for a future filled with the magnificence of the small things we are often too blind to see in this life.

"Emanating" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Emanating” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

You can now purchase any of the photographs from my “Zen in the Garden” series on my Etsy shop here.


More Zen in the Garden

"Twirling" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Twirling” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The pain and limitations of my torn Rotator Cuff have caused me to slow down a lot when it comes to my photography. I can still use my iPhone with relative ease but my DSLR is a different story altogether, especially when I use my heavier lenses such as the 300mm zoom or FD macro lens. This past week I have learned to embrace my tripod all over again.

"Sleeping Beauty" - "Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Sleeping Beauty” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Although a tripod increases your odds of taking a sharper image, I have always loved the freedom of shooting without one. Many years ago I spent a lot of time at several of our local wildlife areas shooting with a 50-500mm zoom. I learned to steady the lens with my elbows tucked tightly into my ribcage or resting it on a beanbag on the edge of my car window or hood. The types of shots I was after simply did not warrant the time involved to set up a tripod and get the camera tethered and setup properly. By the time the setup was complete, the bird or animal I wanted to capture was long gone or had stopped the behavior I wanted to catch. I tried to use a monopod but still found it to be restrictive in a number of ways. Eventually I sunk some money into a shoulder rig but still only used it on occasion because again, it still restricted my ability to react quickly when the need arose.

"Katydid Nymph" - "Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Katydid Nymph” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Slowing down with macro photography in my garden has been good for me. I find I am searching and shooting with more deliberation and spending more time being focused on “seeing” the things before me. I now wander the garden with my big floppy UV protective hat and sunglasses like some crazy old lady on a make-believe safari in search of my next trophy. Crazy old lady or not, the act of wandering the garden has been very healing for the soul in the midst of the cancer diagnosis. When I have a bad day due to pain in my shoulder or when pondering the possible biopsy outcome of additional spots on my skin, I grab my camera, tripod and hat and am instantly transported to another place.

"Spring Showers" - "Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Spring Showers” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Macro photography requires a large amount of patience and mental focus. When I am bent over my camera positioning the lens to obtain the desired focus and depth of field, I find myself taking several long, slow, deep breaths in order to release any tension and zero in on the subject at hand. It may sound funny to say it, but I find myself becoming one with the insect or the flower in front of me. The minute detail of these tiny subjects through my powerful lens astounds me. I find myself gasping on occasion at the beautiful colors and interesting physical structures that are hidden to the naked eye.

"The Pollen Gatherer" - "Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“The Pollen Gatherer” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

All fearful thoughts or feelings of frustration are cast away on the breeze as I study the subjects in front of my lens. I feel a sense of amazement and a joy for life as I continue to wander.

"Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.


Spring Has Sprung!

California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I am finally crawling out from under the pile of projects I have been focused on and have actually been shooting with my DSLR over the past few weeks. For the past two years I have taken a hiatus of sorts following the presentation of my Master’s Thesis in Documentary Photography and have focused entirely on creating fine art photographs taken and edited on my iPhone. It was a much-needed break from the heavy and oft-times soul crushing subject of my thesis project. That time spent with my iPhone also helped me to overcome a bit of burnout in regards to the arduous and time-consuming task of shooting and editing ginormous RAW files shot with my DSLR.

So, when Spring finally arrived in my part of the world I found myself pulled once again towards my dusty DSLR. I have recently noticed myself shooting more and more straight images on my iPhone and only using basic edits more inline with my street and documentary work form before. The sound of the Amtrak train whistle in the distance began to tug at me again and got me thinking about hopping the train to continue to build on the project that granted me my degree. Because of that pull I decided to start shooting with my Canon again just to get all the bugs out and I have been having a great time taking photos in our garden.

Butterfly Iris. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Butterfly Iris. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

It took a few days but I soon found myself melded with the larger and definitely more powerful piece of photographic machinery. I realized after pulling up the first few photos in Lightroom how much I have missed the quality of photographs taken with a DSLR. Trust me, I am still a firm believer in shooting with an iPhone. My iPhone has awakened a creative side I didn’t know I had before I bought that piece of metal, plastic and glass. My two years spent shooting almost exclusively with my iPhone has actually changed the way I shoot with my DSLR. I now see things differently when I put the Canon viewfinder up to my eye. I feel more grounded and aware than I ever did before I shot with an iPhone. I am seeing patterns of light, shape, line, and form in a completely different way than I had before.

California Poppies. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

California Poppies. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

So along with welcoming Spring I am celebrating new beginnings in my journey of photography. I look forward to where this all will lead me over the next few months. I even bought a “new” used FD 100mm macro lens with a converter and extension tube. Time to get up close and personal with some bugs in the garden :-).

Honey Bee. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Honey Bee. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.


Spring Hath Sprung

"Fire Poppy 2" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Fire Poppy 2” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

Ah Spring.  The beautiful awakening of flowers, pollen and the honey bees that still remain.  The the time of year I love to roam the garden and take photographs of all the pretty blooms that appear after a Winter’s rest.

This year we have Icelandic Poppies that we planted in the Fall and they seem to be very happy to be here.  So here are a few of my favorite shots for you.  The piece above “Fire Poppy 2” made its way onto the “Pixels: The Art of the iPhone” gallery website today (you can view it along with all the other wonderful art here).

"Fire Poppy" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Fire Poppy” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Poppies in a Row" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Poppies in a Row” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Spring Hath Sprung" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Spring Hath Sprung” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Spring Equinox 1" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Spring Equinox 1” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Spring Equinox 2" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Spring Equinox 2” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.