Chapter Two: It’s Just a Blog

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this space over the last few months–what it is, why I’m here, do I continue, etc.

When I look back to what this blog was about in the beginning (intended to be a nature journal, essentially), I realize a lot has changed since those very first days of sharing my words and pictures.

There have been times when I had lots of readers and visitors and felt quite connected to people through blogging. And there have been times with hardly any visits, reads, or interactions. A lot of this has come down to me and my own investment in this space, I know.

After quite a long absence when my son was born, I’ve had trouble knowing how and when to pick back up over here—how to connect what this space was and now is into a coherent whole.

And as is often the case when I’m pondering and without answers, I pull in and keep quiet until I’m ready and know what I want to say. Thus the intermittent months of silence on all my social media.

I vacillate between being someone who startles people with my honesty about hard things on one hand and being deeply introverted and private on the other. I realize this sometimes leaves people not knowing where they stand with me—and leaves me not knowing what and how to share in a space like this.

So you want to know what my conclusion is after all these deep thoughts and said ponderings?

It’s just a blog. You should probably chill out.

I tend to over-think things sometimes and this blog is probably one of those cases—I’ve just been taking the whole thing way too seriously. It’s hard, because words matter to me. My words matter to me. And putting your heart and life on the page with written words can scare the fire out of you.

But…

Again, it’s just a blog. These are just blog posts and pretty pictures from one little person in one little corner of the world.

So I’ve decided to calm down and stop worrying. And instead, I’m just going to write and share pictures to my heart’s content without all the anxiety that comes with over-thinking and over-valuing every last word that comes out of my mouth.

That being said, you can expect to see me around here a lot more—like my goal is 3x a week a lot more. You may not like that, I know. You may get sick and tired of reading my words and seeing my face. And if you do, though I’d hate to see you leave, I understand if you decide to go. Kari Ann ain’t for everyone, that’s for dang sure…and that’s okay.

I’ve decided to view this space as a record and an online journal. It’s a place to hash out and write down what I’m thinking about and learning. It’s a place to rant a little and be silly. A place to share what I love and the pictures I’m taking along the way.

I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.

And in closing, I realize many of the readers I had before are now gone and there are lots of new faces around here as well, so on Friday I’m going to re-introduce myself a little bit. This makes me feel profoundly silly, just so you know. It’s like taking selfies…not my thing looking at my own face close up. But I thought it might be helpful as we kick off with a bit of a fresh start.

And if you come back Friday and see nothing, it’s because I chickened out. So there’s that.

Until then, thanks for reading along ❤

—Kari

Instant Gratification

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My dad sometimes {affectionately, I think} calls me a space cadet…because I am flighty, as flighty as a butterfly. My mind is a busy place and I can never seem to focus on one thing for very long.

One time I got sick in college and the doctor put me on a prescription for a couple of days. I remember sitting in class when I was taking that medicine and it felt like everything was moving very slowly, like my mind was so quiet and still. I could concentrate on every word the teacher was saying without getting distracted by a million other thoughts. I wanted to take those drugs all the time and always have a quiet mind like that. Isn’t that awful, wishing for drugs to quiet my mind? But it’s true.

I really drive myself crazy with all this flightiness because I never get anything substantial done. I see a pattern in myself: I get an idea about something I want to do or be good at. I buy the supplies to do that thing. I try that thing for about a week. I get busy or distracted or decide it’s too hard and move on to something else.

I do this with cameras and photography. I do it with words and blogging. I do it with art and creativity and things I want to make with my hands. Over and over and over again.

One thing I really want to be good at is photography. I have always loved cameras and taking pictures and I get completely lost in beautiful images. I was looking at a blog the other day that has gorgeous photography and I kept thinking, “I want to take pictures like that. I want to capture life and the world the way she does.” But the problem is I don’t want to take the time and develop the discipline necessary for the kind of beauty and art she creates. I just want to pick up my camera, point it at something, and bam—my pictures look like hers.

There’s this other photography blog I love too, the one that really got me interested in DSLR cameras, and people are always asking the girl how she gets such beautiful images. Over and over and over again she tells people there’s no trick or shortcut to the images she produces; it’s just a matter of time and work and of learning about photography and how to best use the instrument in your hands. She tells people to read and practice and to take tons and tons of pictures until they start to get a feel for the camera and what does and doesn’t work.

That’s it. Practice. Patience. Hard word. No tricks. No fancy equipment. No apps or instant anything. Just enough love for and dedication to a craft to really master whatever it is you want to do.

This, of course, requires a little stick-to-it-ness and a little less flightiness. This requires patience and discipline and mastery over the monster we call instant gratification.

And that right there is a big part of my problem: Instant Gratification. It’s not that I don’t already enjoy photography enough to practice and learn and slowly develop my skill. It’s not that I don’t already love words enough to carefully string them together and slowly create a body of work I’m proud of.

The problem is I look at images and read words that are so far beyond my skill right now and I let it frustrate and discourage me because I want to be that good RIGHT NOW. I want to take pictures like that right now, this instant, not after patiently learning and practicing.

I don’t want to wait for anything. I want what I want and I want it right this instant.

But you know what I think? I think we lose out when we get what we want right when we want it. Because in spite of the time and work it takes, there is something very fulfilling and inspiring about the actual learning process and not just the end result. There is something about picking up my camera and taking 57 shots of the exact same thing, changing the settings, trying again…and then finally capturing the image I see in my head. There’s this little triumph, this little moment when everything comes together and I know I’ve learned something and I’ve advanced just a little bit towards my goal. That feeling of learning and growing is almost better than acquiring whatever it was I wanted in the first place.

We live in a world of instant everything. We are told all the time that we can have what we want when we want it. And unfortunately, I think I’ve started believing and living as if all the ads that try to sell me everything right now are actually gospel truth. And in the process I’m losing the pleasure of simply learning and growing and advancing at a steady, healthy pace.

I don’t need everything right now. I don’t need to be the best at wielding a camera or writing words. I just need to be growing, learning, practicing, changing…and taking the time to actually enjoy the experience and feel the moments of triumph instead of always running, running, running towards the next best thing.

Waiting for Perfection

I often catch myself putting life on hold while I sit and wait for the perfect moment to begin. I waste lots of little snippets of time because, by themselves, they don’t feel substantial enough to get anything done. I say I’m too tired. I say I’m too busy. I’ll get so much done later…when I have time.

But time doesn’t come later. All the time we have is the time we have right now. So I’m learning to begin in the small moments in between the hustle and bustle of life. I read, even if there’s only time for a page or two. I write, even if I only get a few words down.

There is no perfect time to begin. And I’m starting to think life might not ever really slow down either. So I’m beginning in the middle, working with the time I have, and getting more done in all those small moments than I ever will while waiting for perfection.

The Hard Work of Creating

Creativity is hard work. It’s one thing to be inspired; it’s another thing entirely to be productive. I find myself lately full of ideas backed by zero action. What’s holding me back?

  • Laziness and procrastination
  • Fear of failing or being misunderstood
  • Getting bogged down by distractions
  • Making excuses about not having enough time or not having enough to say
  • Waiting for the perfect set of circumstances to start instead of just starting where I am

It’s nice to sit around thinking pretty thoughts but it’s also very nearly useless if I never actually birth those thoughts into some form of creative reality.

Sometimes the most important thing I can do is…start. I can stop thinking about what I want and start creating it. I can stop wishing things were different and change them. I can type the first word. I can take the first step. I can begin where I am with what I have.

Creativity is a hard and a beautiful thing; but it’s worth the beauty and it’s worth the work.

So let’s get started.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo

Be Like the Bird

Sometimes I’m afraid to embrace change. Even if I’m not happy with the way things are, I’m afraid a change might leave me even more unhappy so I just leave things alone instead. But change and discomfort is often the road to growth and renewal. Sometimes we have to release our iron grasp on what we have to open our hands up, empty and ready, to something different and new.

I look back at my life, at the times when I let go of one thing and took hold of another, and I see how those times of risk and change helped me grow and move forward. And I think too that even if something hadn’t worked out the way I hoped, I still would likely have regretted not taking the chance more than I would have regretted the potential failure.

Right now I find myself in a holding pattern, afraid to move, afraid to try, afraid to speak—and it isn’t like me to be so paralyzed by fear. Why am I so afraid to move forward, to change, to speak? I don’t know.

I find this blog stands before me a frightful blank canvas and I’m so cautious to put up words, to speak my heart and open my soul in this space as I once did. I’m trying to face the fear, to say the words, to put myself out here once again.

I’ve hidden behind pictures and fluff but I thank you for your patience as I find my way back to the words, to the heart and soul of this space.

“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.” Victor Hugo

Beginnings.

Today I wondered what the first thing was I had written about on this blog so I went back and looked. My first post was on May 10, 2011; I put three posts up that day to kick the blog off. It’s funny looking back now and remembering how and why this blog started.

I’m always jotting down my thoughts and trying to capture what I was thinking and feeling in a particular time and place. I wanted to share those thoughts and moments of inspiration with others–and that right there is how this little blog got started.

In May 2011, I remember sitting at a desk by the window watching the cottony fluff of pollen float down from a tree in my back yard; it looked like it was snowing in the middle of spring. For some reason that day watching the cotton fluff float around outside moved me to start this space and start sharing the words and pictures that make up my little world. At the beginning I intended only to write about nature and the outdoors–that is why I named this space Outside Air–because the outside air was exactly what I wanted to talk about.

On that first day I posted three entries I had originally taken down in my journal when I was at the ocean and Walden Pond. These were my first words and pictures:

Hampton, New Hampshire

The dark, water-laden clouds billow above taunting with stray drops of rain. The wind is strong, violent, driving and throwing the sea. The temperature is perfect; the beach is our own. The sky and the sea are the same threatening shade of blue-gray, tossing and reflecting off each other as they make the tempestuous transition into spring.

Hampton Beach, April 2011

Westerly, Rhode Island

The ocean rumbles, crashes, swirls, and spins. The waves lap, roll, build until they smash against the shore. This is a place of constant motion, constant churning sound—and yet it is quiet, peaceful. The ocean with its billowing waves sings a lullaby of rest. It breathes it briny breath and kisses my face with saltwater kisses. A tiny bird hops and frolics on the beach in the shadow of the violent crushing waves. A ladybug works on her tan. The water rolls in undulating, ever-changing shades of green then brown before morphing against the sand into perfectly white sea foam.  The ocean is timeless and yet never the same.

Misquamicut Beach, July 2009

Concord, Massachusetts

Walden Pond

Even the birds are quiet in this quiet place; they sing below their breath, in a whisper, as if showing respect for the beauty of quiet. The wind rustles through the woods, across the water making the trees sigh and yawn with the motion—that is all, the rest is silence. The wind is cold but the trees flirt, taunting the warm air to come—blushing crimson in buds ready to bloom.

Walden Pond

Those three posts on the same day were my only entries in May and I didn’t write again until the end of July.

You see, on June 1st 2011, a tornado came through our town and over our house. We had moved out of a downtown apartment in a not-so-safe city just a year before and were looking forward to our first summer in our home in this small town. We had a backyard for the first time and it was wooded with lots of big trees and a little stream running through it.

I loved our yard. Every morning when I came down to the kitchen I would look out the kitchen window at the yard and the trees and honestly thank God for allowing us to live here. I soaked up the morning light reaching through the woods across our lawn and I was really, very happy. That morning Darren and I went for a walk around the neighborhood before leaving for work. By the time we came home from work that night everything we loved about this place was gone.

Nearly every tree in our backyard was taken down and the brush and debris buried the little stream in the woods. Our entire road was badly hit with many of the houses having to be taken down and a huge area of woods completely gone. Everything looked different without the trees and woods. Instead of enjoying our first summer here we ended up using it to clean up our backyard and put everything back together around here. Even after cleaning it up it has never looked the same.

I was frustrated and disappointed and for a while nothing about the outside air inspired me anymore. I had no thoughts on nature and the outdoors that I wanted to share here. I kept waiting for the inspiration to come back but after a while I just gave up and decided to write about other things instead. I started writing about my thoughts on life in general and opened up about my faith and family. These weren’t the things I intended to share here but that’s the direction life took me that summer.

And so here we are now. Two years later and I think in some ways this space has come full circle. I’m back to sharing my words and pictures of the beautiful outdoors and still continue to share about life in general. I never imagined this space would turn into what it has but I’m thankful for each of you who come along with me on this journey and allow me to share my little world with you here. I am so very thankful for the ways you both challenge and encourage me along the way with each post. Some of you have been here from the beginning and some of us our new friends…I’m thankful for each one of you.

This space has been good for me. Here I have been able to articulate and share my thoughts and feelings and find out what others think of the same things. I have made friends all over the world and grown closer to people who have been a part of my life for years. I have grown as a writer and learned a lot about photography too. So thank you for coming along with me each step of the way. I hope I can continue to share with you for a long time to come.

Here are my latest pictures of the lovely, inspiring outside air ;]

DSC_0820{Lilacs in the front yard of our new house}

DSC_0836{Stopping to smell the flowers on a walk yesterday}

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DSC_0729{Our first garden}

Thank you for reading along with me, friends :]

Why Do You Read the Blogs You Do?

What is it about a particular blog that draws you in and makes you want to read more? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately: Why do I read some blogs and skip over others?

For me it comes down to whether or not I’m interested in and inspired by the person behind the blog.

My favorite blog is by a girl named Aura and I can’t get enough of her writing and photography—but why? She’s just a person telling stories and sharing snap shots of her life so why do I care what this stranger does with her days?

I care because I’m fascinated and inspired by her. I’m inspired by all the beauty she creates in her life and fascinated by the way she lives. Watching her life through the stories and pictures shared on her blog inspire me to go out and do more with myself—and I like that.

Another one of my favorite bloggers/artists is Katie Daisy. Katie is my favorite artist because what she creates fascinates and inspires me—just like Aura’s words and photos do. I love the way Katie combines colors and textures into whimsical little paintings and her work makes me want to transform everything around me into something dripping with color and beauty.

I also read blogs that resonate with me and the way I live.

Blogs about nature and the outdoors, photography and art, faith and family—these are just a few of the things that speak deeply to me and draw me into the writing of others with similar interest.

Both Aura and Katie are Midwest girls who grew up in the prairies of Oklahoma and Illinois. The words they write and the art they create resound deeply with my love for the prairies. I feel connected to these artists in a way because we each share a deep love of this one common thing—the flatlands, the woods, the birds and trees…the places and things that speak to us about where we are from and who we have become.

Both of these artists inspire me to create more beauty in my life. They inspire me to live better, write better, and create from a place deep inside my soul that is genuine and true.

There are very few bloggers who reach me in this way but whenever I come across someone who does, I can’t get enough of their words and stories. I want to dive into their world and understand everything that makes them who they are. I want to go away from their words and pictures and create something just as beautiful and inspiring with my own words and stories.

What draws you into a blog? What determines who your favorite writers and artists are?

Something Out Of Nothing

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Sometimes I think I’m wasting time blogging and taking pictures. Sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting other people’s time expecting them to read what I write and share in the stories I tell. Sometimes I think about walking away from it all and doing something “useful” with myself. And then I think about God. I think about how he likes to write and paint and doing so is never a waste of his time.

Something out of nothing—that is what God does.

He creates and delights in creation. And he has filled our hearts with the desire to create too.

Something out of nothing—that is what art is.

Words and colors shaped into stories and meaning.

Nothing God does is a waste and God likes to create.

So I create too.

And it is not a waste.

Find Yourself

The best of me comes from within not from without. My most inspired, creative work happens when I work from within myself rather than looking for inspiration from others. Other people do inspire me, but when I try to follow after them and do what they do, I always lose myself along the way and lose any authentic inspiration too. I admire people but that does not mean I need follow them. We are each our own and when we are not, we lose ourselves in each other.

I struggle with this in the realm of social media. There are so many beautiful blogs and pictures and ideas. There are so many ways to share ourselves with each other using Pinterest, Etsy, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., etc.

Social media isn’t necessarily a bad thing—I’m sharing these very thoughts with you right now using social media—but sometimes I find it eats me alive. Sometimes I lose my own inspiration in the inspiration of others and nothing I do rings true for a time.

My best work happens when I am quiet and alone, when I look within instead of without, when I walk away from the internet and into the woods, when I feel the world pulsing around me in all my senses—tasting, smelling, touching, hearing, feeling the world for myself in my own living senses.

I am never more inspired to garden and nurture life than when I go outside and feel the cool spring air on my skin, smell the dirt as it’s dug up and prepared for planting—nobody, however inspiring, can replace the inspiration that comes from living your own life in awareness of yourself and your own surroundings.

Sometimes I forget to be inspired in myself, outside of others. But I am finding the best way to live happily, peacefully, fully, is to live truly to myself and outside of others. To live within my senses and live out my own inspiration. Nothing is more inspiring than a person who has found themselves and is living authentically from within, not from without.

I don’t think being creative is so much about being original as it is about being authentic—being true to your own inspiration and living out of your own senses and awareness. Sometimes I have to step away from the people who inspire me to actually find any inspiration of my own.

“Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.” -Rumi

Silent Letters

Must your every thought and word be heard? I’m afraid my generation and the generations growing up behind me think so. We share everything—on Facebook, on Twitter, in our blogs, through Instagrams. And then we wait for a reaction—for the likes, comments, and all the pretty little stats that tell us we are good, we are heard. It’s a drug, an addiction—a hit that sends endorphins flooding through our brains, lighting up the part of us thirsting for attention and affirmation.

And we find the silence becomes deafening because we just can’t live without the noise, the reaction, the endorphins flooding in and telling us we are heard, we are good.

And we lose the beauty of silence, the sacredness of solitude.

Sometimes our souls need to be alone.

Sometimes we can only begin to hear in the hush.

Sometimes words need to be written but not read.

Sometimes beauty needs to be seen but not captured or shared.

Sometimes we just need to live quietly in a moment or we will lose ourselves in the noise.

My soul needs some silent letters—words written but not shared. Letters penciled into my journal for the soul, not for the reaction. Letters tapped out on my typewriter slowly, carefully with the heavy stoke of each letter hammered in ink to paper—just for me.

Letters and words good and valuable…and ever so quiet….quiet enough to be heard by the soul.

Because not everything I am must be known. Not everything I say must be heard.

My soul needs silence. Solitude. Words written and not read.

Otherwise I will drown and lose myself in the noise.

hampton-beach-2011-121Can your soul find silence? Can you walk away from the noise?