Learning from Cancer by da-AL

Photo of daisy wearing glassesPhoto: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Years before I was diagnosed with cancer, an agency that facilitated emotional support groups for people with cancer hired me to produce a video for them.

The morning my partner and I gathered our camera equipment, I braced myself for an emotionally trying day. Listening to the stories of those battling to live, I did my best not to cry as I stood behind the lens.

By the end of the videotaping session, I felt uplifted by their strength — and mystified! How could many of them speak of cancer as a blessing?

In 2007, I too was diagnosed with cancer. At first, I was angry, sad, frustrated, and terrorized. It took time for cancer to reveal its lessons to me.

Photo of a group of mallard ducks walking Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Learning that happiness is worth fighting for has changed me profoundly. Early on, a sage cancer warrior recounted how a friend of hers dreaded when his cancer would kill him, yet he outlives many loved ones. The wise woman told me, “No one can predict how long they’ll live. We’re lucky for every day.”

Day and night, as I endured my illness being categorized, quantified, and treated, I obsessed over how I might have contracted it…how to get rid of it…how to never get it again…how it would hurt my loved ones…and on and on…

When I tried was hot yoga, the laser focus it demanded quieted my mind. The full length mirrors reflected how, if I dwell on what hurts and what I fear, then my yoga suffers. They showed me how, when I physically and mentally resonate words like ‘happy,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘joy,’ and ‘love,’ possibility becomes reachable.

Photo of bee at purple flowers Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

It’s a wonder that my worrying didn’t kill me. Often I wondered if someone as ordinary as me deserved to live. Eventually, I figured that I’ve got as much of a right to breath as do cockroaches and fleas. And that I’ve got something to say, which is how this blog started (as did the two novels I’m writing!)…

Life is always a gift, and that includes all of our experiences.

Has illness taught you any lessons?

Guest Blog Post: A Self-Publishing Story by M. A. Lossl

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

When fellow blogger M. A. Lossl said she just self-published yet another book, I asked her to tell us all how the process went for her. Here’s her post on it, plus some info on bee counting…

M.A. Lossl

Scenario

June has been UK’s national bee count month. You download an app, take pictures of bees (challenging!). Then upload the bee picture, with the number of bees of that type, you saw.

The fly in the ointment

Well, I managed a couple of days of blissful bee spotting. But, I had to self-publish my paperback.

The publishing train as requested by DA-AL

Back in March, I completed the easy task of  uploading my manuscript to Amazon KDP. I then proofed and published the eBook version of Betweenwhiles; A family between two wars – a true story of rebellion against Nasizm. I decided to release the illustrated version, in paperback.

This decision was informed by reaction to my first illustrated book. Mizpah Cousins: Love, life and perilous predicaments duirng the Great War Era, received great feedback. But, the pictures could sometimes be hard to view, on…

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Guest Blog Post: Reconnecting via Photography by Richard Keys

Puffin (Bempton)
Photo courtesy by Richard Keys of Photosociology.wordpress.com

Fellow blogger Richard’s photos are stunning! Here he describes his process and how photography can heal…

Dandelion: Photos courtesy by Richard Keys of Photosociology.wordpress.com

Introduction
Hey, I’m Richard, and my blog is photosociology.wordpress.com. To be honest, I’m surprised that my blog is followed by others, I’m just a guy with mental health problems, which photography helps me to cope with. Initially, it got me going outside when I was too scared to do so. Basically, I’m a middle-aged guy, trying to grow up and find a way to live in this confusing world.

Close up of a fly courtesy by Richard Keys of Photosociology.wordpress.com

Reconnecting
Although I am a student photographer and use photography to explore social issues, such as inequality, mental health, and diversity (and more), I also thoroughly enjoy photography. Macro photography and photographing birds are my joy and my peace, especially when I am having a day of intense anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia.

When photographing birds, flowers, bees, and bugs, I have to slow down. I mean really slow down. I’m not here to take a quick photo and walk on. I want to make a great photo and that means searching. Seeking out the best angle, ensuring that the background doesn’t distract from the subject, checking the focus, and making sure the exposure is correct. When it comes to bugs, bees, and butterflies, I have to slow down even further, firstly to spot them and then to ensure great focus by getting close without scaring them off.

Having a mental illness brings challenges with living, over-thinking, analyzing, being busy because I’m scared of my feelings, and being suspicious and paranoid about people. At first, I was scared of slowing down because I thought these difficulties would overwhelm me, but the opposite is true.

Slowing down is vital for my mental health, it refreshes me, recharges me, helps me to stop running from my emotions and thoughts, and allows whatever is there to be allowed to be, as it is. The process of connecting with nature means that I reconnect with myself, and all is surprisingly well.

Richard Keys

Guest Blog Post: “🐝CREATING A BUZZ 🐝,” in Katheryne Gatehouse’s exact words

Lucky for all of us, my (da-AL’s) recent post about bees inspired Katheryne Gatehouse, my new FaceBook friend, to tell us about her love of bees and what she’s learned about them …

Example of flowers that attract bees
Example of Bee attracting flowers

A warm hello from chilly Kent, the county known as the Garden of England. Historically Kent was widely populated with orchards supplying fruit for the South East of England, London, and beyond. Orchard keepers were often beekeepers too often ensuring pollination of fruit flowers, vital for both the edible crops and also a supply of popular drinks like fruit juices, apple cider, peri-cider and mead (honey based). The taste of honey varies depending on which flowers the bees visit, and a large range of flowers is generally held to produce the best honey.

Example of a Not bee friendly flower (I love it anyway!)
Example of a Not bee friendly flower (I love it anyway!)

Many of our old orchards have disappeared, fallen into decay, or land used commercially  or for housing . Agro-farming has diminished the numbers of hedgerows too, along with their flowers, and bees are fighting for survival. There has  been a shift away from more bees being in the countryside, to moving into urban areas where the bees can forage in gardens. There is a greater percentage and wider range of flowers per square mile and bees expend less energy in searching out and retrieving the pollen, which they store in the pollen sacks on their legs to bring back to the hive. Natures saddlebags! The forager bees search out the best and richest sources, returning to the hive to “dance” their findings to the other bees who will then also fetch honey for the hive. The pattern and speed of the dance depends on how far bees need to travel and which direction to go, and the quality of nectar and pollen. I find this utterly charming — the nearer and better the pollen the faster and more excitedly they dance.

Bees are highly organised, sociable and hardworking but they are not just a quaint visitor, part of the pastoral scene, they are essential to our food production. If we want the same levels and varieties of food available to us, we all need to do more to help and  this can be done easily in several ways — the most important two are growing more bee friendly plants in your gardens or allotments, and to stop using harmful pesticides and chemicals.

Sunflower, verbena bonariensus, penstemon and cosmos -- a bee banquet!
Sunflower, verbena bonariensus, penstemon and cosmos — a bee banquet!

My own interest in bees has resulted from a wider interest in the environment, horticulture and nature and has grown slowly but surely over the years . So, initially,  I increased the number of bee-attracting plants in my garden for the active bee year — late February to October, avoiding double or enclosed flowers where bees find it difficult to access the pollen and nectar, and increasing daisy-like, flat surfaced flowers like cosmos and zinnias.  Also, long-tongued bees like tubular flowers,  e.g., foxgloves and penstemon, which grow happily in my chalky alkaline soil.

Next I became a member of the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust a research facility based in Stirling Scotland and a charity I’ve donated to and held small local fund raising events for.  Then an allotment, more scope and space for bee friendly plants alongside fruit and veg for me, recently a second plot (no stopping me now!) where friends and I are planting it up entirely for bees and other wildlife — no extra food for us!! Our own crops  will benefit from having pollinators close because, and  most exciting of all, we are attending a weekly bee keeping course with a view to having our very own beehive on the Bee plot.

So here we are at the start of our Next Great Bumble Bee Adventure. Would you like to hear how we get on in future…the trials, tribulations and setbacks? Plus of course the successes and the pleasures involved in making room for, and helping our friends, the bees🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝

Katheryne Gatehouse. Nov 2016.

I Bee Grateful by da-AL

161029bees3For weeks, I’ve been meaning to post these photos. This blog covers stuff that interests me, plus what makes me happy.

I’m happy that bees like my home.

Some bees pollinating flowers.Bees the world over are struggling. I bee-seech you to bee kind to them.

Here in the U.S., seven species are on the endangered list, many others critically threatened as well. They do so very much for everyone, not just those of us who enjoy honey — they’re integral to the web of life yet their populations are rapidly diminishing.

Bees pollinating a bunch of flowers.With all this in mind, what a delight it was when I snapped these. It was a bright morning, right after my Saturday yoga. The outdoor perimeter of my home beckoned me in with aromas of the brunch my mom and husband were arranging: Persian toast, husband-made fig and kumquat jams, real butter, salty crumbly feta, lush green herbs, free-range eggs, and bergamot/green/saffron/cardamom tea.

As I reached to unlock the front door, “bzzz… bzzz… bzzz,” make me turn my head. Twenty bees, maybe more, hovered about the flame-colored blossoms that line my porch!

This U.S. Thanksgiving Day as on all days, I’m thankful for you, dear reader.

I’m thankful for my upright and furry loved ones — all safe, sound of body and mind.

I’m grateful for our beautiful world. For waking each day to life, that can be as tear-jerking awful as it can be watery-eyed amazing.

I’m grateful for bees, modeling how to live with discovery and purpose, flower by flower.

A fun video from a local Iranian-American father-daughter bee-keeping team

The Huffington Post offers ways to help bees plus a video. For a start, tell your friends to swear off pesticides, be bee friendly, and vote pro-bee.

The Guardian explains their plight in depth.