“Balancing Act” is my Photo of the Week.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2019
I spotted this scene while traveling along a West Virginia highway. I had to stop to get the photo. I loved all the textures, the various shades of red, and the lines in this shot. The farmer’s patriotism showed through by painting his version of the American flag on an old wooden pallet.
In honor of Presidents Day (Feb. 19), which combines Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (Feb. 12) and George Washington’s birthday (Feb. 22), “Patriotic Repurposing” is my Photo of the Week.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2018
Sunny days or cloudy, high tide or low, the ever-changing elements of a walk on an oceanfront beach stir my senses and imagination. I try to keep a sharp eye out for the unusual. When I spotted these etchings in the sand, I saw a cross-section of roots reaching deep into fertile soil far below the floor of a magnificent forest.
In reality, these markings are nothing more than the tracings of pebbles and shells first being washed upon the shore and then just as quickly drawn back into the sea by its never-ending motion. They still looked like tree roots to me.
“Roots” is my Photo of the Week.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2018
Maybe I’m trying too hard. But I loved the way this tree’s shadow fell to the little forest of nearby blazing saplings, forming a false crown for the now-naked tree.
“Artificial Tree” is my Photo of the Week.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2017
I’ve always enjoyed finding objects in my photographs that I didn’t know where there until I viewed the shots on my computer. This photo is the perfect example.
The original focus of this capture was the striation effect created by the blooming sunflower heads, the tassels of the ripening field corn, and the rows of cumulus clouds on a late summer’s day. However, upon closer inspection, I found what appears to be someone’s lost hat hanging on a stalk of a sunflower in the foreground. It’s a tradition of this Old Order Mennonite farmer to allow folks to freely harvest as many sunflowers as they wish from this five-acre field. A little box is nailed to a utility pole for donations, which are given to a local charity.
I surmise that someone lost the hat while picking sunflowers and another kind person found it, placed it where it could be seen if the owner came looking for it.
“Striations and one lost hat” is my Photo of the Week.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2017
By Bruce Stambaugh
My late mother was very creative. She expressed it so many ways in the long life that she led. She did so through her versatility as a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, and an artist.
When Mom died five years ago, Alzheimer’s disease had removed her far from the woman I remember as a youngster and as an adult son. Her eyes no longer had that sparkle of awareness of the beauty she had seen in everyday life, the joy she recreated in her vibrant landscape and still life paintings.
Those paintings reflected her very being and the beauty she brought to life. Mom painted hundreds, perhaps thousands of renderings, mostly watercolors. But many of those paintings were left unfinished.
Mom was a perfectionist when it came to her paintings. If she felt she couldn’t get it right, she left the picture partially finished, hidden away. Going through her things, the family found stacks of incomplete paintings. To others, the paintings looked fine. Mom only saw the flaws.
Mom was too self-critical when it came to her paintings. She felt they just didn’t measure up to the works of her peers. The attitude of Mom’s dominating father perhaps influenced that lack of confidence at a young age. Mom wanted to go to art school. Instead, she was sent to business school to help her prepare for a job should one be needed.
In those pre-World War II days, women were to work until they married and then raise any and all children that came along. That’s just the way it was, and in many respects, still is in today’s global society.
Our father, himself a controlling man in his own right, saw both Mom’s physical comeliness and the beauty within. He loved almost to a fault this kind, generous, creative woman who was our mother. And he saw her talent in recreating the beauty all around her through her early drawings and paintings.
Dad must have also sensed Mom’s lack of confidence in revealing this creative side. So Dad encouraged Mom to take private painting lessons given by established, prominent artists, and at the Canton Art Institute.
Thanks to her cohorts and mentors, Mom painted prolifically. Using mostly the medium of watercolor, her still life and landscape scenes were usually vivid, real, inspiring, eye-catching.
Again prodded by Dad, Mom entered art contests. She did so reluctantly, but also successfully. Mom won several awards, including the Peoples’ Choice Award on more than one occasion. Mom modestly accepted the accolades.
Mom’s creativity extended beyond brush and easel. She dressed splendidly but not opulently. She couldn’t afford to do that if she had wanted. Mom simply made do with the wardrobe she had.
Stylish wouldn’t begin to describe my mother. Even late in her battle with Alzheimer’s, Mom continued to dress herself, always in a color-coordinated outfit. Residents and staff at the retirement community where she lived her last days often complimented Mom on her stunning look. In her typical modesty, Mom just smiled or returned a pleasant “thank you.”
Mom’s creativity remains alive through her realistic paintings and in our pleasant memories of her loving motherhood. More than that, the artistic genes of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will continue to contribute to life’s magnificence in various means, manner, and places.
Mom’s passion for painting taught us all to appreciate our surroundings, look for the beauty in everything, and generously share that splendor. That is Marian Stambaugh’s legacy of creativity.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2017
There is no place I’d rather be this time of year than the local produce auction. I find its sights, sounds, smells, colors, textures, excitement, energy, people, and the variety of produce invigorating and inspiring. This box of mixed gourds is exemplary of that.
To me, they are much more than a cardboard container of seasonal produce. The various sizes, shapes, colors, and kinds represent all that is right about the farmers’ auction. The sale provides a means of income for growers, most of whom are Amish families. Young children to teens to adults help with the gardening throughout the planting, growing, and harvesting processes. The buyers, a mix of Amish, English, and representatives from large grocery stores, purchase boxes, crates, flats, and pallets of produce to be resold at roadside stands or offered in local supermarkets. Local restaurants and residents even buy food items for their customer and family meals.
The buyers and workers at the auction are also a mix of folks from near and far, some Amish, most not. Just like these gourds, some colorful characters are among them, too. That’s a subject for another time.
“Gourds galore” is my Photo of the Week.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2016
By Bruce Stambaugh
Children see the world so much differently than adults. That can be a positive thing.
In my mind, there is no better place to experience that than Lakeside, Ohio. It’s one reason my wife and I return for our annual vacation respite year after year.
The inquisitive nature and creative imagination of children were on display the minute we arrived at this Chautauqua on Lake Erie. A recent wild rain and windstorm had taken down some trees where we stay. Truncated remnants of one of the smaller trees still looked freshly cut.
As my wife and I pulled our suitcases into our cozy efficiency apartment, a clutch of preschoolers played around those woody remains. One of the kids, not four years old, said, “Look, a smiley face!”
The child was right. Smack in the middle of the light wood rings darker imperfections perfectly mirrored the ubiquitous smiling icon. Anyone other than a child would have walked right by the gnarly stub without noticing the fascinating find.
It took a child. Spontaneous or planned, many inspirational opportunities await all ages at Lakeside. It’s the jewel in the crown that swells the summer resort town to 6,000 from the 300 year-round residents.
Inquisitive by nature, youngsters from toddlers to teens tend to view the world from an entirely different perspective than do the older generations of their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Given all of their learnedness and life experience, adults can too easily dismiss the findings and discoveries of their progeny.
At Lakeside, a stiff lake breeze blows away that theory. Imagination and Lakeside are inseparable.
During the summer months, Lakeside becomes a gated community. It’s as if when the gates close, minds open. In part, that’s by design.
Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Lakeside’s four pillars of purpose highlight religion, education, recreation, and arts and entertainment. Imagination is the header that secures those fundamental principles together.
The Lakeside staff and volunteers go all out to encourage participants of every generation to create, recreate, reflect and uplift. Activities befitting the quartet of categories run from sunrise to beyond sunset.
People choose how to engage their imagination. The options are limitless at Lakeside.
A young, energetic girl wearing a florescent yellow fairy skirt barked out orders to her small troop of followers as she cycled ahead. Their animated play and laughter took them past quaint cottages. In their world, they may have been exploring the Grand Canyon.
The lakeshore drew others to sunbathe, walk, read and dream as sailboats big and small tacked their courses. A roaring cigarette boat occasionally disturbed the peace. At the shuffleboard courts, still others tested their strategy skills and dreamed of winning the tournament championship.
Schools of families camped on the dock plied for whatever nibbled. Fish or no fish, their time together exceeded any catch imaginable.
Youth groups sang, studied and tested each other’s faith with blind trust games. It didn’t take much imagination to see that letting go and learning to lead truly went hand-in-hand.
Artists applied paint to brush to canvas to the delight of admirers. They dabbed their creativity into familiar scenes with stunning results.
Imagine yourself lying in a hammock strung between a pair of giant shade trees as Baltimore Orioles warble and Common Nighthawks dart overhead. That is the reality at Lakeside.
Seeing a smiley face in the middle of a stump perfectly sums up the Lakeside life. Imagination thrives there. It’s why we keep going back.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2015
By Bruce Stambaugh
A painting hangs on a wall in my home office where I spend much of my workday. The artistry isn’t one of my mother’s rich landscape watercolors.
The painting is simple in content, perhaps even a bit juvenile in style. That’s why I like it so much. I purchased the watercolor from a former student.
The sixth-grade artist took a common setting and made it exquisite. She had captured perfectly the daily scene in her classroom. A row of colorful books lined the soldier brick windowsill. The black tattered blinds, cords hanging limp, covered the upper third of the old steel framed windows.
I wanted the painting as a memento. I also wanted to encourage her to keep painting. That was a long time ago, and I don’t know if the girl, now a young woman, still paints or not. I hope she does. She had a creative eye.
My middle grandchild does, too. His older brother by two years, and his 2-year old sister also have their own individual flashes of creativity. But Davis is different for sure. He is left-handed after all.
For a 5-year old, he seems to see patterns that others, myself included, look right through or ignore altogether. Davis may have inherited some of his great-grandmother’s artistic ability.
My wife and I visited recently with our daughter and her family in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley. During our stay, Davis’ creativeness burst forth on more than one occasion.
He showed me his rock collection, which is housed on the porch of an unused entrance to their home. Davis uses several characteristics to choose his rocks. Size, color, texture, shape, and weight are all his geologic requisites.
I was honored when he asked me to identify a rock he chose to take to preschool to share with the other students. I told him it was granite, and Nana chimed in that countertops are made of granite. This took us to the Internet for pictures of the coarse-grained igneous rock. Davis was fascinated with all the different types and colors.
While playing football with him outside, I pointed out a big puffy cloud floating overhead. Davis informed me that it was a dragon. On second glance, I don’t know how I missed that obvious observation.
The sure sign that we may have a budding Picasso in the family was Davis’ intensity while drawing. He stared at the Wii characters on the television screen as his big brother played a game. Davis turned to his drawing paper over and over again, dedicated to replicate what he saw. He didn’t quit until he was satisfied with what he had sketched.
His siblings, Evan and Maren, draw, too. Evan is a meticulous stay-between-the-lines kind of guy, while little Maren is just honing her abstract expressionism. She sent a sample of her early work back to Ohio with us.
At the park, Davis discovered a shark designed cleverly onto a section of a gigantic wooden play set. Like the dragon, I didn’t see it until Davis pointed it out. The sharp teeth, the menacing eye, the dorsal fins and the fanned tail were all right there. Creative kid that he is, Davis sat down in the pea gravel and began to outline a replica with his index finger.
I marvel at children who can see the extraordinary in the ordinary. I admire it all the more when the children happen to be youngsters I know well, like my grandchildren.
Writing generated from the rural life
writer. teacher. podcast cohost.
El amor cruza fronteras / Love crosses borders
reflections about God and life
We are all just babes in the woods.
A blog of Jim Smucker's run across Ohio to raise money for a house for flood victims in West Virginia
Natural History Travel Images
travel consultant/hotel curator/connoisseur of life