Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Website

Happy New Year, all!

As of January 1, 2011, my website and blog will be found at www.jenniferlynking.com. It should be a seamless transition for subscribers, and I look forward to meeting you all there!

Thank you! and have a happy and healthy 2011.

With Gratitude,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Austrian Alpine Christmas

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We're happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.

-R. Smith, lyrics to Winter Wonderland, 1934

an Alpine Winter Wonderland

This year, I am spending the Christmas week in the Austrian Alps with my family. We are skiing here, which is a perfect way to soak in the Alpine beauty. Heavy snow glistens across jagged peaks and frosted evergreens decorate every slope and valley. In the tiny village where we stay, we walk across a bowed bridge to the ski slopes, and also walk to the little grocery, the family-run huts (traditional restaurants) for food, and the chocolate-box type church in the center of the town--for Christmas Eve service. Horse-drawn sleighs pull people across the village toward their destinations, jingling as they go. It truly is an idyllic scene, especially for Christmas.

the majestic Alps

I'd like to share it with you, here in a short collection of photographs I've taken this week, accompanied by the original version of Silent Night, written in Austria in 1818:

composed and lyrics written in Austria, 1818 Music: Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818
Words: Joseph Mohr, 1816/1818

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,

Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

driving into the Alps, near Salzburg, Austria

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

a village church on the Austria / German / Czech border

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'.

Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

an Austrian castle nestled into the Alpine slopes

 ENGLISH Literal English prose
translation by Hyde Flippo

Silent night, holy night
All is sleeping, alone watches
Only the close, most holy couple.
Blessed boy in curly hair,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds just informed
By the angels' hallelujah,
It rings out far and wide:
Christ the Savior is here!
Christ the Savior is here!

from the peak where we are skiing

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, oh how laughs
Love out of your divine mouth,
Because now the hour of salvation
strikes for us.
Christ, in Thy birth!
Christ, in Thy birth!

the powerful silence in the Alps

Sending you warm wishes for a wonder-filled Christmas. Merry Christmas! 

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Time of Peace and Beauty and Hope: Christmas 2010

"Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone-- we find it with another." -Thomas Merton, American Monk, Kentucky, USA, 1915-1968

As another year comes to a close, and the beauty and peace and hope brought by the meaning of Christmas fills the air, I enjoy reflecting on the year that has passed while looking ahead at the year to come.

Continuing from last week's post, I am using the Reverb10 prompts from the site at Reverb10. Click here to see their excellent site, motto Reflect On This Year & Manifest What's Next.

December 9 – Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe.
My main man, husband, Brian--so grateful for him
I laugh at this question because we've had so many fun occasions with friends in 2010, but I have to pick my birthday. With four other couples, we spent a long evening at SaSaZu, a hip Asian fusion restaurant in Prague. Lots of fun, lots of food, and lots of great friends. One of the best memories of Party ever. Grateful.

December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
Hmm. Isn't this a stumper. I'll have to say taking my literary agent's suggestion to heart and attending the great ACFW conference. Great time to refresh and renew, learn from and meet other writers.

December 11 – 11 Things: What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?
Again, these questions aren't easy. Eleven things: so I ask my boys, who are sitting beside me right now ... they say (because they are arguing right now...) 1) Arguing, 2) Criticizing, 3) Complaining, 4) Making fun of people ... etc. You get the picture. I'll wrap up 11 things by adding, saying only things that encourage or help lift another higher. Life is hard enough as it is.

December 12 – Body Integration: This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
For me, this happens when I am writing. I lose all track of time, and become immersed in story. Also, skiing, biking, tennis-- playing, in essence.

December 13 – Action: When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?
Writing my next book. Working at the story until it sings, and gets sold to a publisher ...

December 14 – Appreciate: What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?
I appreciate four things most in life: my family, my friends, my health, and my ability to use the gifts which I've been given. Expressing gratitude becomes a natural extension of every moment, in recognition of the Giver of all good things in life.

December 15 – 5 Minutes: Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.
Back to the quote at the top, the time and experiences I have been given with my family and friends. So grateful.

December 16 – Friendship: How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
The friendships we have here in Prague have been rich, filling our lives with more than companionship, but also laughter and new insights into worlds and cultures vastly different than ours. Our lives will never be the same for the depth of the friendships we have enjoyed especially over the last year. Certainly, they have changed our perspective on the world while stretching, challenging, and bringing our lives much joy.

December 17 – Lesson Learned: What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?
The lesson learned most: rich relationships with family and friends will always be the thing that matters most, makes life vibrant, and fills my heart with overflowing warmth. Time spent with others will always be the thing that makes me tick. Thank you to all the cherished who make my life so very rich and full. Looking forward to 2011!

Staring the conversation: What about you? How have friends helped 2010 be a great year for you?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Life in Story: Story in Life

"I would like it very much if you thought of me as a mouse telling you a story, this story, with the whole of my heart, whispering it in your ear in order to save myself from the darkness, and to save you from the darkness, too. [For]'Stories are light.'"
-Despereaux the mouse, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

I love to write. Writing is me. But the deeper part of my love of writing and reading is my passion for STORY. Like an emerging picture in a connect-the-dots sheet, through story we connect our daily realities to a bigger meaning. Story brings illumination to the daily grind. A well-told story lends staggering power and beauty to ordinary life. Story transforms.

Here, in December, I like to connect the dots of the past year--to see what story emerges from the days piled up in 2010. My story. Do you do the same?

In 2009, a brilliant woman named Gwen Bell created an online community of year reflections. This year, she has teamed up with other women to create Reverb10, or a look and consider the reverberations of the past year as we turn ahead to the next. It's a powerful exercise in intentionality, and a time to reflect on the STORY of our lives.

One look at the Reverb10 site will show that the concept is to write, journal, or blog each day on the day's individual prompts. But since I am a once a week blogger, I will write the week's previous prompts in one day per week ... so here it goes:

My Reverberations of 2010:

December 1: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why: 
Alive. I choose the word Alive. This year, life has been rich, and through all of the varying experiences, tough or enjoyable, I have tried to live out a conscious choice to be fully present, fully engaged, and fully embracing where God has brought my life. This year has been the best of my life. I am grateful for the journey.

December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
Honestly, my life involves little more than things that contribute to my writing. Besides the actual time I spend writing (2 -5 hours per day), I believe that all the experiences we have in our lives build into the stories we have to tell. Whether it is the conversation over coffee I have in the school cafeteria with another mom at drop-off or the grocery store clerk who in anger throws my bread to the floor, the experiences of daily life make up the richness of my life which I tap for all of my writing.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year.
I felt most alive this year when standing on a peak in the Alps with my family. The sun shone brightly through the puffed clouds skipping across a blue sky seemingly just above our reach. And the greens in the Alps--they were so vibrant it seemed no grass and forest could be more lovely than the carpet spread over the mountains below us. Hiking with my family--this is when I feel most alive. 

On top of the world in the Austrian Alps

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
Traveling naturally creates a sense of wonder for me. I continuously marvel at the differences and yet the similarities between cultures and countries so near yet so far. With our unique situation of living in Prague, Czech Republic, we were able to travel through and absorb places like Montenegro, Hungary, coastal and mountainous Tuscany--16 countries in all in the past year. A tremendous gift. I loved it all.

Kotor, Montenegro across Kotor Bay

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
Letting go of pleasing people is, has been, and will probably always be my most difficult problem to overcome on a daily basis. But this year, I have learned deep lessons and made strides, I think, in letting go of destructive relationships--ones where others are concerned only with their gains from the people in their lives. Life is too short to be dominated upon by people who are never pleased with others, and make that known loudly. There are too many people to love, and be loved by, to spend precious hours and days on whether or not they are happy.

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made?
A snowman! We have over two feet of snow on the ground in Prague right now, and last night, mostly by the incredible work of my boys, we put together a six-foot-tall snowman just outside the kitchen window. I love it!

December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010?
This past Spring, friends urged me to join their tennis group, to play tennis once a week at the local clay courts. I hadn't played in ten years or so, because of the kiddie years. But now that I'm playing with this fabulous group of ladies, I am not only loving the competitive doubles exercise, but also the lavish community we have together.

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. 
Different. Gosh, I do know that I am different. We all are different. For me, it's evident at first glance, in person, because of my height (pushing six feet) ... but I would like to believe that the beauty in my person-hood comes from my love of embracing others for our differences, and enjoying the similarities we share. I feel most in my element when listening to the stories of others' lives, how they became who they are, and how they plan to overcome obstacles moving toward their goals in the future.  

Thank you to the great folks at Reverb10 for helping us revisit the past year, to learn from and look ahead to the days and years to come. I love intentional living. Thanks! Next week, I'll continue with the next week's prompts.

Starting the Conversation: What have you felt about your past year? What one word describes your past year? And what one word would you like to say next year at this time about your 2011?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas, Snow, and the Grinch

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons, it came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before ...
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store?
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"

-Dr. Seuss, American Writer, from The Grinch Stole Christmas

December has arrived to Prague with a blast--a big blast of snow! This week, what began with around twelve inches has at least doubled to over two feet. This is all at a place where the locals say they get no snow, and where the schools offer no "snow days". It's quite an adventure!

For about one hour this week, the sun peeked out from behind its winter cloud covering and shone in all its glory over the snow.

The sun dazzling on the snow

No diamond can compete, I think. There is no more intense sparkle than of the sunlight on snowflakes.


And the excitement of snow -- there are snow forts, and snow balls, and snow angels to make. And sledding, and skiing, and sliding to do. The snow makes toys and games from the store a bore. Instant JOY!

In the midst of the holiday shopping, buying and wrapping gifts, and attending holiday parties, it's easy to get swept away in the popular spirit of the season: busy-ness. But busy-ness, for me, also steals away the joy that can be found in the simple things, things that come without wrappings and ribbons, without tags and boxes, without the sparkle and glimmer of store-bought things with high price tags.

Maybe the real joy in Christmas can be found in spending time away from the busy-ness, giving of our time to others. Making snow forts. Throwing snow balls. Laughing, wrapped in the smaller, gentler things that Christmas brings. Like the Grinch so eloquently pointed out, the JOY found in Christmas must come from a whole lot more than wrappings-- a joy that started 2,000 years ago in a humble manger.

Starting the Conversation: This week, what are ways you can find to escape the run-around surrounding Christmas? How are you able to remember to embrace the simple in the midst of the media storm promoting sales for the holidays?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In Gratitude: Photographs for You

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is Thanksgiving Week, and though we don't have a Thanksgiving Day in Czech Republic, I would still like to say a huge THANKS to all of you!

Thank you for joining me here at The View through My Lens, I'm posting five of my favorite photographs from this year, 2010. Please take and copy any or all of these to your own computers, and share them with your friends.

In Gratitude, these Photographs are Gifts for you ...

Sailing at St. Gilgen, Austria

Ribbons of Summer Grain, Czech Republic

Poppies, Czech Republic

The View of Mala Strana from Charles Bridge, Prague

Prague Castle and Charles Bridge

An easy way to do this is to hover your mouse over the image, and right click. You should have a list of options before you. Choose the option that says "save image as:" and click. Then select a spot on your computer where you would like to save it. One easy place to find your image is to save it to the "Desktop".

To make this image (or any other) your desktop photograph image, right click while you are looking at your computer desktop, and select "save as wallpaper". Or if you have a different operating system, choose desktop background, and select the file you want as the background photograph.

I am so thankful for my family, our friends, our health, our adventures, and for the ability to do what I love to do: write, capture beauty with a camera lens, paint, and connect with so many of you here. Thank you!

Starting the Conversation (leave a comment below): What is one thing you are most grateful for this Thanksgiving-time? And, do you have a favorite photo from these five (they're all quite different)?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Celebrating: Two Blog Years

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates other."
-Nelson Mandela, in his 1994 inaugural speech

To shine!

I am having a blog party today here on the blog! -- to celebrate two years of blogging! I have loved connecting with so many here over the couple years. So, first, thank you!

My first blog can be found by clicking here. So much has changed for me in the last two years:

In 2008, we lived in a suburb in Ohio, and lived the normal family-of-five existence, had a normal house in a normal neighborhood, shopped at a normal Kroger store, went to a great church, had great friends, and drove to Florida for vacations. Oh-- and I was writing my third novel, glad to have a super agent.

Now, in November 2010:
We live in a village outside of Prague, Czech Republic, halfway around the world from Ohio. We live a completely different life as a family-of-five--much simpler than the run-around whirl of constant activities in the USA. Family time is rich and plentiful, and we're loving it.

Although our house in Prague is quite "Western", it also is not "normal" by US standards. Everything is on a much smaller scale, and our space involves mostly family space. Before we moved, we gave many of our things away, anticipating the shrunken space and total three closets for all of us (one is the coat closet! And no basement, no attic storage. What we have is what we use.). We live in a Czech neighborhood where few people speak English.

We shop at a few different stores for our daily food, all the size of a US 7-11 convenience store, and we mostly have home-church (which we all enjoy so much it's hard to admit) because of the restricted options here in a post-communist country.

Our friends here in Czech are from every continent, from many countries, and speak many languages, and our friendships have become the deepest of my life. I am so very blessed to have so many incredible friends here.  This is one of the things I treasure most, along with our family.

And, as we drive to places like Rome, Budapest, and Dubrovnik for vacations, we learn new currencies, new languages, and learn from many peoples. It is living a dream. We are so grateful.

Oh-- and if you read my blog, you know that I still love to oil paint, and play music on the piano and viola, and take photographs with my camera ... and most of all write. I'm currently writing my 5th novel. None have been snatched by a publisher yet, but we're close ... grateful to have the same super agent representing me and my work. And I'm loving it.

Life changes have been great changes for all of us. Again, we're so grateful. And we're savoring every minute ...

Though the changes in my life have been drastic in the past couple of years, one blogging goal has remained the same ... to just write, about things that strike my interest in daily life. About the daily adventure ... and how I'm learning along the way.

Many blogging folks tout new fast formulas for increased following or fancy new metrics for watching how many people are reading each post, or ways to write catchy titles and play the latest tricks to be the widest-read blogger out there. I think I could do that. But that isn't me. To me, I want to connect with people. And be me-- shine the light that is Jennifer Lyn King. That's it. 

So, I thank you for stopping by and celebrating with me about The View through My Lens reaching its third year of weekly posts. This is number 112! And I sincerely hope you feel more inspired to live larger, shine brighter, and take a risk to do something you love today, in this daily adventure of life.

Last thing, a Christmas shopping commercial: It's Christmas shopping season (again!) and I would love it if you felt moved to buy my non-fiction book, The One Year Mini for Busy Women. It's still on shelves at many US bookstores, and it's conveniently available at Amazon for $11.04, and it makes a great gift (so I've heard :o) ) because it is a daily inspirational for busy women, with one short reading for each day of the year.

Starting the Conversation: What blogging tips to you use and follow? And what practices do you find on the Web that bother you as a reader? I'd love to hear what you think-- and if you have suggestions, I'd love to try them out! Thanks!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Create?

"Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement." 
~Golda Meir, (Israeli Founder and Prime Minister, 1898-1978)

Happy November! One of my favorite months of the year -- because it has Thanksgiving in it, one of my favorite holidays. Also, November is officially the National Novel Writing Month, in the United States, and beyond the borders. NaNoWriMo, as writers call it, also is an organization that encourages people to write a (short) novel during the month of November. They have an official website that helps track progress, and a network that helps to keep participants encouraged along the way. Click here to see my writing goal.

Reaching the goal (here above the tree line, in the Austrian Alps)

This year, I am participating in NaNoWriMo. Why? For a few reasons, really ... but it all comes down to the fact that I love to write. As with the title of this blog, I share the View through My Lens, but if you've read my bio, you know that my passion is writing. Writing novels. 

As with all of the arts, the writing world is a tough place to break in ... or get a publisher for one's work. But just as someone can't walk up to the London Symphony Orchestra and say they want to join and learn how to play a violin, a person can't walk up to a publisher and say they want to use a computer and have their book published. (Well, with self-publishing, technically people can. But that also means the product could be about the same quality as if a novice violinist opened for the London Symphony.) 

The only way to break-in to the Arts is to work. Work more. And keep working through until the quality of an artist's work is of the highest quality. Then, that artist, if it is their time, their hard work will pay off. Their dream will come true. Until then, the term "starving artist" applies well, because it usually takes years. Of work. To get there.

This novel I am writing now is my fifth. And though my last novel was within a breath of being published, it was not. It wasn't the time, yet. And so I work ... and work more.  Well, I also write because I will continue to write, regardless; it is what I deeply love to do.

It is for this reason that I am participating in NaNoWriMo. I've been spinning this novel in my head for the past few months, plotting and feeling the characters come to life inside my head; it was ready to come out.  Creativity takes courage. To create something is to say, "I have something inside to offer, to give, to share." To create is to be fully alive.

I think that comfort (or inaction) is the enemy of reaching our dreams. It is much easier to make ourselves too busy for the sake of being busy so that we don't have time to work toward a goal. But, we can make time. We can clear the schedule. We can realign with our goals. For me, NaNoWriMo is a great kick in the pants. It happened to be the perfect time to pick myself up and move ahead, keeping my sight fixed on the next goal.

Creating something, pursuing a dream, becoming all that we were created to be, and using the gifts we have been given -- none of these are easy. But to achieve something worthwhile, something that resonates and satisfies, we have to trust inner compass and step ahead, in the direction of our dreams. 
Starting the Conversation: What holds you back from pursuing your dreams? How can you begin again, moving in that direction?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Photography: Being There

"The glory of God is man fully alive."  -St. Irenaeus

"Regenbogen" (Rainbow) in the Austrian Alps
Continuing on the topic of photography, and sharing a few more of my favorite photos from my recent trip to Italy ... this is the fourth week on the topic of photography. Click here to read #1, #2, and #3.

I love photography for many reasons, but probably the primary reason is the ability to step out of time and capture an image that I see in my everyday life. Somehow for me, those images are art. And a camera feels like the most rewarding way, with its ease and portability, to be able to make visual art. Don't you agree?

Also, for me, there is something about the ability to live and be in the moment, without twisting back into nostalgia or sprinting forward with worry. When we are fully present, where we are, we can be fully alive. 

A moment with a wisp of fog (Italy's Cinque Terre)

So many times, I have discovered "being there" to mean that I see something meaningful that I may have missed in the ordinary busy-ness of everyday life. Sometimes "being present" means to mark out what haunts us from yesterday, and to dismiss what nags at our thoughts for tomorrow. Then the now is all there is. And it is all we have, really. There are no guarantees. Tomorrow's sunset will not look the same as today's. Time today to spend with others may not come around again. There is no formula for whether tomorrow will be like today. We can enjoy today for what it is-- the present, a gift.

When we notice what is around us in the present moment, we may discover all kinds of gifts.

We may notice things we may not have seen before ....

A moment with a pasture full of sheep wearing clanking bells (Tuscany)

A moment when the setting sun painted the distant mountains with brilliance (Alps)

A moment when the sunrise began to lift the morning fog (Tuscany)

If we have done a bit of preparation and can rest and relax in that moment and have our eyes open wide, we will be able to see and experience what is there, in that moment. And many times it is breathtaking ...

Starting the conversation: Have you taken the time recently to slow down? What did you "notice"? Does having a camera with you help you to slow down and see?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Photography: The Power of Restoring Wonder

"We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls ... the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic."  ~E. Merrill Root

Today, as I write, I sit outside in the Prague sunshine under a vivid blue sky enjoying tempertures in the mid-50's. Last week at this time, I was sitting outdoors with this view:

the gorgeous Maremma region in Tuscany, Italy
Paradise, I think.

And there, in Italy, I attempted to capture the beauty I saw through a camera lens. I took hundreds of photographs during our trip -- I'll be sharing some of my favorites here over the next few weeks.

The extraordinary details and layers in a Mediterranean sunset
For me, holding a camera opens up a whole new world of possibility. With a camera, I find myself slowing down and looking for the beauty around me. And soon, instead of just moving through a day, I'm seeing the amazing elements of life -- the clear blue of the autumn sky contrasted against the swirling leaves, the soft smile of a child holding his first pumpkin, the pastel morning clouds backdropped behind the foggy Prague skyline ...

the peaceful pasture of grazing sheep in the mountains of Tuscany ...

A jumble of Chianti bottles in the back of a truck in Firenze ...

bikes lined up in the crowded Firenze streets ...

the immense and unspeakable grandeur in the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome ...

and the pigeons bathing in the fountain outside Rome's amazing Pantheon ...
All elements of wonder.

With a camera to help capture the beauty around, it might be true that I more fully experience what I see. Maybe, with the aid of a camera lens to isolate and capture what we see, we can more fully experience wonder.

What do you think?

Starting the conversation: Do you find yourself slowing down and really seeing the world around you with a camera in hand? Do you experience life more richly when you have a camera to capture what you are seeing?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Photography: The Magic of Shooting in Low Light

This is the second in a series of posts about photography. Click here to read the first.

I love visiting the ocean, and having time on the beach. To me, there is something about the rhythmic crashing of waves, the wide feeling of timelessness, and the gentle scrubbing of the saltwater and sugary sand to wipe away all of the world’s cares. I love being at the beach.

Sunset on Italy's Maremma, over the Mediterranean
When I brought my first camera to the beach, I made the classic mistake time and time again. And I was always disappointed with my photographs. The colors always appeared washed out, my subjects were always squinting, and the objects I was trying to capture for remembrance always turned out pale. One morning, when I was up with the sun, I watched the woman staying next door to us, out with her impressive camera. After she was done taking photographs, she chatted with me for a moment, and made a comment I’ll never forget. “At the beach, don’t even bother to take photos when the sun is high. Only shoot at sunrise or sunset.”

The day's first light, on an Aromatherapy rose
Since then, I have found her words to be true, for more than just taking photos at the beach. Because when the lighting is low, the colors are rich, and the photographs become magical.

The same type of rose, under high light
When I had a garden in the United States with many roses, my favorite time to be in the garden was at dawn, with my camera in hand, as the light turned the dew into diamonds, and the roses and other flowers sparkled like gemstones in the low sunlight. 

Lavendar Illusion daylily, with low light
I began comparing the photographs I took in low light with the photographs taken in high sunlight, or with a flash, and the difference was unmistakable. 

Lavendar Illusion, taken at midday with a cloudy sky

Lavendar Illusion, again with low light
Starting the Conversation: Can you see the difference? Do you have examples of times when you’ve noticed your photos are better than other times? 

Please, leave a comment, and / or send in your own photos, of a scene that you love, and I’ll post it in a future blog and link it back to you. Just email your favorite photo to me at photos at jenniferlynking dot com. I’ll be collecting them over the next several weeks. I can’t wait to see your work! Thank you, Jennifer

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Photography, Light, and Dark

 A small drop of ink falling like dew upon a thought produces that which makes thousands perhaps millions think.  --Lord Byron (English poet, early 1800's)

Prague's spires, the view from Strahov
In 2003, I received my first SLR camera from my husband as a birthday gift. It was not one of the more prestigious brands, and the zoom lens was off-brand, as well. But, the combination of the two-- a Target-special camera combined with a basic 30 - 300 mm lens did one major thing in my life: hooked me on photography.

It wasn't long after we purchased the camera, and we took a trip to the coast of Maine from the flatlands of our home in the Midwest. The time was precious because the skies were vivid blue, the ocean was alluring, the lighthouses shimmered, and the fog was thick at times. But also, our boys were then ages two, three, and five. It was tough, with boys running everywhere and into literally everything. But, as I now look back on the photographs I took during that time, I realize that it was the time of our lives.

Somehow, through the lens of the camera, time can stand still, and a MOMENT is captured, forever.

I have photographs from that Maine trip of majestic lighthouses surrounded by waves crashing like thunder along the craggy shore. And the next frames had photographs of little hands and legs scrambling to climb the dry rocks beside me. These memories will last. They are a treasure.

The very definition of Prague: two Czech men at 11:00 am with their beers, in Obecni Dum

Of course, now living in Europe, I tote my camera everywhere. Because everything is beautiful, and our boys are at a great age. My photo batches now have ones like the two above, of the Prague spires poking through the shroud of fog and two men chatting over beer in the Prague Municipal House, followed by a dozen shots of our boys playing futbol with their school tournament. All moments frozen in time, to share with our loved ones far away, and to cherish for years to come.

It doesn't matter what our cameras are like -- whether they are digital SLR cameras with multiple lenses or the always-handy cell phone cameras. To be able to separate ourselves from everyday busyness and to SEE the preciousness of a snatch in time -- this is a gift. To be present. To really see, and mindfully capture the whirl of life around us.

Since that first camera that I loved, I have stepped forward into the digital era, and have happily captured thousands and thousands of photographs. And I have realized, what it is that propels me toward a life's work of writing, and photography, and art.

Charles Bridge, October 2010
The fascination that propels my writing and photography and painting is light, when it shines around and in and through us, despite the dark. Because, like the photograph below, our lives are being lived. We, and others around us, are blooming. And yes, life is difficult. But if we choose, despite that difficulty and the darkness of life, we can make choices. We can choose to shine. This is what excites me.

A daisy, shimmering with dew in the morning light
So, today, in the falling autumn light, pull out your camera and look for the things that interest your eye. The richly colored autumn leaf. The glassy reflection of light upon water. The toothless grin of the neighbor girl in braids. The dew shimmering across the grass. And share the shots with those around you. For in a click of a button, you have captured the beauty and the value in the single moment in time.

Over the next month, I'll be collecting and sharing photographs to post here, with photo credits and links back to you. And I'll plan to write posts about photography, and some of the basics I like to use when I shoot.

Starting the conversation (leave a comment below): Have you captured a photograph that you love? Email me at photos at jenniferlynking dot com and attach a photograph. I'll include it in a future post. Thank you! Looking forward to seeing your work!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Autumn in Prague

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.  -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In Prague, the leaves are changing into brilliant splashes of color scattered among the city's rigid architecture. And autumn in Prague also means fog. Which means more beauty, and mystery for this gilded city straddling the Vltava River. 

The view across Charles Bridge and the Vltava River, in Prague
With hopes to photograph Prague in the early morning fog, I ventured down into Mala Strana (Lesser Town) last week, just catching the last hints of fog lingering along the Vltava River when I arrived. And, I enjoyed a few serene moments alone in the magnificent St. Nicolas Church in Mala Strana (photos below). In contrast to the lovely sites, however, daily living in Czech Republic is a challenge. Last week, a grocery cashier sporting a typical Czech chip on her shoulder threw the bread I was buying onto the floor at her feet. (People here normally buy three items at a time, as opposed to people like me, who buy a mountain of food to feed the four men in my house for one day...) 

But despite the difficulties, this second year of living in Prague, I find my love deepening almost daily, for the city, for the history that pours from its centuries' old stones, and for the potential that continues to build of Czech's restoration after the devastation of communism. St. Nicholas Church in Lesser Town, which sits above the Vltava near MalaStranka Square (Sv. Mikulas Kostel, Mala Strana), beckoned ... since I had never taken the chance to go inside. I was awed by its magnificance. 

The Church of St. Nicholas in Mala Strana, Prague
I am a Cathedral girl. I love a space massive enough to stretch high toward the heavens, inspiring visitors with not only majestic architecture, but also frescoes or stained glass or both. St. Nicholas, of Baroque styling, boasts one of the largest frescoes in Europe, painted over an area of 1500 square meters. St. Nicholas' spires stand tall, and add substance to the impressive Prague skyline. Ironically, St. Nicholas' bell tower was used in the recent Communist era by the State Secret Service, for spying on the people and the embassies below.  

The view up, of St. Nicholas' frescoes
To me, I love the place where human imagination creates something so grand we cannot help knowing that God had a hand in the realization of that dream. A cathedral, rising toward the sky in adoration, happens to be one of those places for me. 

The View of the Prague Castle, the Powder Tower, and St. Nicholas' spires from Charles Bridge
Luckily, Prague is said to be the city of a thousand spires -- the beauty is unending. Despite whatever snags daily life throws at us, we can always choose to look for the beauty. It is always waiting, even in a simple changing autumn leaf. Here's to finding the beauty in each day ...

Starting the conversation (leave a comment below): What have you encountered lately that has inspired you?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Weight Matters (and Why Brooke Shields' Blue Jeans Also Matter)

"The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not." -Mark Twain, American writer and humorist
I don't know anyone who doesn't struggle with weight. Family, friends, and people in general living on both sides of the ocean, models included. Everyone seems to battle with the scale in some way.
Brooke Shields talked recently about getting back into her Calvin jeans from the eighties. (To see the clip, click here). When I read her conversation about zipping up those jeans and looking like a sausage, I had to laugh -- because I could relate. I've done the same. Those relic blue jeans really do matter.

photo: www.wikimediacommons.org
It is no understatement to say as we age, we grow -- for lack of a better word -- fatter. No matter who we are and what our heredity is, life catches up to us, the couch feels ever more satisfying, and food becomes the best ally in finding comfort in our turbulent lives and world. It's true -- whether from years at a deskjob, or from pregnancy, or from just plain slowing down on our feet but not slowing down with the fork, we all gain weight and keep it as we age. Unless we do something about it.

For me, after having three boys in less than four years, my weight became an unavoidable issue, and I reached my own tipping point with my weight. I made a decision, and set a goal -- of getting back into the jeans I'd kept from 1988. My relics.

Making a workable plan was the hardest part, and included many false starts and a few extra gained pounds before I finally hit my groove. But this is what has worked for me: trading in an extra hour of sleep in the morning for 3 miles on the elliptical. And keeping at it, every day. There aren't many days where getting up at that hour is easy. And then, truly working out for any stretch of time at any activity is work. But after months of driving myself toward that goal, I fit back into my relics. And then I had a party.

Now, over three years later, I still work to get up at early hours and jump on the elliptical. And still, not many mornings are easy to get moving. But from all that working out and setting goals and working more, I have to say I feel great. Not because I dropped a few jeans sizes and have stayed that way, even though that is a huge perk. But I feel great. Deep down. There is something spiritually satisfying about being fit. That is what gets me out of bed these days, the deeper sense of well-being and health.

I do agree with Brooke. Having a goal, a measuring stick or pair of relic jeans, to work toward creates a feeling of triumph when that goal is met. Sausage-look or not, a healthier life is always worth working toward.

Working out is tough. There is no magic formula to being fit besides pure work. There is no miraculous diet that makes us our best without the dedication and perserverance that goes with becoming well. But, we only get one life to live. We only have one chance to go through each day we've been given. And in that light, it's so important to never stop trying to be our very best. The work is worth it. Being healthy is always a great goal to keep.

Starting the conversation (leave a comment below): I'd love to hear your fitness journey. What is it that gets you moving? What works for you? Do you have a relic to stand in as your goal?