This Photo Is Not By Me (or how I messed-up big time and made two new friends)

At some point last spring I got into my pictures file on my laptop and searched for “tulips”. A lovely picture of a yellow tulip with a perfect red stripe down its middle came up amongst all my other tulip photos. I wondered how I could have missed this one before. I titled it “Tulip with Red Stripe”, worked with it a little bit to bring out the colors, and posted it on fineartamerica.com. Yeah. So…  yesterday I was walking by a colleague’s desk and the red-striped tulip picture came up on her screen saver. How, I wondered, did my photo end up on her screen saver? I searched around on my computer and found a file of sample pictures provided by microsoft – and the tulip picture was in there! After a little investigating I discovered the photo was actually taken by a photographer named David Nadalin. I know – yikes, right? I immediately took the picture off my fineartamerica.com page, and then found David’s phone number and email address, and left him messages explaining what I’d done with his photo, and how I was trying to rectify my boo boo. 

After I left my messages for David I went into my Facebook account – both the author/photographer page and my personal page – to see if I’d posted the photo there, too – and, sure enough, I had. Feeling the need to set things straight there I posted David’s tulip picture on both pages, along with an explanation of the mistake I’d made.

In the meantime, David had graciously replied to my email message, and I was relieved to discover that 1) he is a good sport and 2) he has a well-developed sense of humor. He wrote, in part, “That photo of mine is in every copy of Windows 7. So anyone running that would figure out pretty quickly where it came from. 750 million people have a copy of that one already…”  SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION PEOPLE!!!  That sort of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Yup. When I mess up, it is on a grand scale. No small little insignificant mess-ups for me. Nosiree, bub. I mess-up BIG.

So back to Facebook. I found David Nadalin’s page and sent out a friend request to him – after reading his email response it was obvious, to me, that he’d fit right in with my way cool and kind of eclectic community of FB friends – and he accepted my request! – and then his wife (whom I’ve discovered is a wonderful photographer in her own right) came onto my page, too, and – long story, short –  David and his wife, Carol, are now both my Facebook friends!

Having the opportunity to laugh with my new friends, David and Carol, and my old friends, too (who, I’m pretty sure, are not at all surprised by anything I do at this point) about my 750-million-people-goof ended up being the highlight of my day. I love when stuff like that happens. :)

Tulips

photo by David Nadalin (copyright owned by microsoft)

 

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Note to Self: Turn off the News and Wake Up

Last night as the family sat around the television watching the evening news, our son Xander suddenly stood up – like he’d just awakened from a dream or something – and, shaking his head to clear it, said, “What the hell just happened there? We went from, like, 20 reports of death and mayhem to winning a prom date with Seth Rogen…”

We all started cracking up, but after we’d stopped laughing, I started thinking about what Xander had said, and it gave me pause.

Lately it’s felt to me like… well, like our society is under some kind of mass hypnotic spell or something – like there’s this sort of slow-boiling rage and fear continually swirling around us now. I’ve felt it in myself when I’m trying to negotiate traffic to get to work on time – this impatience with the drivers around me who aren’t doing what I think they should be doing to allow me to progress in a timely fashion. And I’ve seen this rage and fear played out on the television, too – ads about painful and debilitating diseases that pharmaceutical companies run to try to sell their drugs (which, the ads admit with a soothing-voiced narrator, sometimes bring on worse side effects than the original disease) – political campaigns based solely on the negative traits of the opponent, shootings in our local schools, quarantines of people who aren’t actually sick but happened to have traveled from the wrong continent, horrific accidents involving drunk drivers and texters. And it’s occurred to me that my society is being mass hypnotized – being controlled through fear by folks who want to sell their drugs and their politics. It really stinks.

I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to wake up.

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Lulled by stupefying illusions, the world is asleep in the cradle of infancy, dreaming away the hours.” And “The press,” Eddy writes,  “unwittingly sends forth many sorrows and diseases among the human family. It does this by giving names to diseases and by printing long descriptions which mirror images of disease distinctly in thought. A new name for an ailment affects people like a  Parisian name for a novel garment. Every one hastens to get it.”

I’m thinking it’s time the world wakes up from its “stupefying illusions”, turns off the television, unplugs itself from the nonsense on the internet, too, and takes a stand. In the words of Ma in Grapes of Wrath: “I ain’t never gonna be scared no more. I was though, for a while it looked as though we was beat, good and beat. Looked like we didn’t have nobody in the whole wide world but enemies. Like nobody was friendly no more. Made me feel kind of bad, and scared too. Like we was lost and nobody cared… But we keep a-comin’. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out. They can’t lick us. And we’ll go on forever, Pa… ’cause… we’re the people.”

Right ON, Ma Joad!

fear 2

Look What We found for Free!

Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them…Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? …for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. – Matthew 6

…behold, the kingdom of God is within you. – Luke 17:21

…when has a little financial shortage ever stopped Good from happening? – Karen Molenaar Terrell (from The Madcap Christian Scientist: All Things New)

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photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell

Mell, My First Fan

In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night. And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend… I shall not leave you. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Mell has been a presence in my life for… well… ever, really. In 1953, before I was even a twinkle in my dad’s eye, Mell’s husband, Pete Schoening, and my dad were comrades on the 1953 American Expedition to K2, the second highest mountain in the world.  In fact, Mell’s husband saved Dad’s life and the lives of four other men on that climb with his belay – known as The Belay amongst those familiar with mountaineering history. If it wasn’t for Mell’s husband I wouldn’t have been born.

Pete was an amazing man with a passion for life and adventure. And Mell, although maybe less well-known, was no less amazing than her husband.

My first memory of Mell is of a visit my family made to the Schoening domicile on Lake Washington when I was maybe seven or eight. I remember clearly Mell’s laugh – an exuberant, infectious, no-holds-barred royal gem of a laugh – the kind of laugh that never failed to make those within earshot start grinning. The Schoening children were there that day – ranging in age from a little older than me to a little younger – and a livelier, more energetic group of playmates I have never known. I remember swimming in the lake with them, gathering around a campfire later and roasting things over the coals, and I remember being in a dark room with the Schoening youngsters and being introduced to the joys of a strobe light for the first time.

Although neither my dad nor Pete had been at all religious men, they had both managed to marry themselves to women who were Christian Scientists. Actually, now that I think about this, Christian Science wives were perfect for those two outdoorsmen. There wasn’t a whole lot of dogma and “religiosity” in Mell’s or Mom’s denomination – no belief in eternal damnation, no belief in an anthropomorphic god who zaps his children to hell periodically, no fear, no guilt, no rigid strictures, or a literal interpretation of The Bible. In short, their wives’ religion made absolutely no demands on Dad or Pete to live any differently than they were already living, and Mom and Mell’s positive view that things always turn out alright in the end was probably a huge support to men who occasionally launched themselves out onto epic adventures in the highest mountains in the world.

In 2005 I published my first book of stories and essays, Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist. I started writing Blessings in April and I’ve never had a book pour out of me so easily and effortlessly. By Mother’s Day I had a rough draft ready to give to my mom for a Mother’s Day gift.  And, because I’d made mention of The Belay and what I called “The Children of the Belay” (the descendants of those who had been roped up to Pete’s belay on K2) in my book, I also sent a copy to Mell – I wanted to get her approval before I published Blessings in a more public way.

A few days later Mell called me up. She told me that my book had really touched her and she wanted to share it with the rest of her family. Mell was my first book fan. By the time our conversation ended I was feeling all galvanized and inspired by her enthusiasm and encouragement – and ready to get Blessings published.

Over the next few months as I prepared my book for publication Mell’s unfailing support was crucial to me. She had the uncanny knack of always calling just as I was getting discouraged – right after some weird computer glitch stalled me out, or the printer stopped working, or I couldn’t figure out how to re-work the formatting. And her words of encouragement always set me back on track with a renewed energy. She helped me feel that what I was doing was important. She helped give me a feeling of mission.

A year or two after Blessings was published, Pete passed on. At the reception to his memorial service, several of his children began talking with me about bringing together the COBs (Children of the Belay) for a kind of reunion. The reunion took place the following August and it was a blast! The Schoening family put it all together for us, and even printed out t-shirts for everyone to commemorate the event. Mell played a huge part in all of that.

After Blessings I published several more books, and every time one came out in print I’d send a copy to Mell – my first fan. And every time she received one of my books Mell would call me, or email me, to thank me and offer her words of encouragement and inspiration.

Mell passed on a couple weeks ago.

Publishing my books is not going to feel the same for me now. I think it’s going to feel like it did the first time I climbed a mountain without Dad. It’s going to feel like there’s something – someone – missing from the whole experience.

I know Mell lives on in our memories of her, in our love for her, and her love for us – and I believe who she is has moved on to whole new adventures. I know her laugh is blessing others right now, as it has blest me.

But I miss her just the same.

And I really wish I could share this post with her.

children of the belay

Children of the Belay, 2006