Posted on 8 Comments

The Beauty of Serendipity

Serendipity : unexpected beauty

Serendipity (n.) : discovering something good, valuable, or pleasant without looking for it. (Webster’s Dictionary)

 

Last week was one of those which opened with sunshine and beach-like temperatures, but by Thursday, temperatures plummeted forty degrees and rain came in torrents along with a tornado. By Friday, rain mixed with hail at the top of every hour. The plans my family had made for the weekend–camping–didn’t pan out.

And yet, I can say this past weekend was one of the best I can remember. Why?

Serendipity.

How?

On Friday night, a bunch of friends came by the house and ended up staying for hours. It was mostly impromptu, a time filled with raucous laughter. I woke up the next day, my sides still splitting and sore from laughing so hard.

Serendipity : unexpected beauty
Serendipity : unexpected beauty

 

By Saturday night, after a day full of oil painting, chores, and running boys to and fro, we thought it might sound fun to try and do something different, something on our family bucket list on Sunday. The weather was clearing and the Indy 500 Time Trials ran on Sunday. Should we try to make it? we asked the boys at dinner. After a little arm-twisting and promises for time to do homework in the car, they agreed.

Indy 500 Time Trials

Indy 500 Time Trials
Indy 500 Time Trials

My backstory with the Indy 500

18 years ago, I worked as an intern for General Motors / Delco Electronics in technical sales and marketing and spent the month of May at the Indy 500 track for them. I helped with the displays, talking with spectators, and hosting corporate guests for the activities surrounding the race. The sound and rush of the race cars as they fly around the track digs under your skin when you’re there. It’s an unexplainable feeling, but it was a thrill to get to go with my husband and 3 sons all these years later.

At the Indianapolis Speedway for the Indy 500 Time Trials
At the Indianapolis Speedway for the Indy 500 Time Trials

 

The Sound (that thrills me): 4 second clip of an Indy car

 

An NBA Game:

While we were at the Indy 500 track, watching the races for the pole position, my oldest son mentioned he thought game 1 in the Eastern conference finals for the NBA was that day in Indy. Thanks to the affordability of Pacers tickets and the accessibility of modern technology, we soon had tickets for the game, the Indianapolis Pacers versus the Miami Heat.

Indianapolis Pacers stadium: Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Indianapolis Pacers stadium: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

My boys are 15 1/2, 13, and 11 1/2, and all love basketball. They’re athletes and are growing faster than I can feed them, so a Pacers / Heat game live and in person is like winning the lottery, no matter how high up in the rafters our tickets were. It was amazing.

Indianapolis Pacers versus Miami Heat, game one, conference finals, May 18, 2014
Indianapolis Pacers versus Miami Heat, game one, conference finals, May 18, 2014

 

After watching the Pacers beat the Heat, driving the hours home with the setting sun at our backs, we all had to shake our heads in amazement and gratitude with how it all came together. Divine, joy-filled; a gift.

This is the Beauty of Serendipity.

We didn’t deserve any of it; we simply showed up, held things loosely, and watched as the moments unfurled. It was a wow. I’m still in awe, grateful beyond words.

Serendipity.

I couldn’t help writing about it this week, because I believe serendipity is one of the greatest gifts in life. It’s a coming together of things out of our control, a time and place outside of a planner or schedule, a collision of love and beauty in the most unusual of circumstance. It is catching the joy as it flies.

Now, as I sit back and watch as the calendar spills into summer, I’m trying to remind myself of the importance of open space on those fleeting days to come, time to allow for the possibility of serendipity.

All too soon, my boys will be grown and on their own. I need and want to embrace serendipity for the smallest moments, for that is where the beauty in life lies.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  -Leo Buscaglia

My definition:

Serendipity (n.): catching the joy as it flies.

I’d love to hear your definition of serendipity … do you have one?

Posted on 12 Comments

Paradise Found: My Fourth of July in the Austrian Alps

Paradise Found: St. Gilgen, Austria and the Zwolferhorn

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Poet, 1803-1882

Paradise Found: St. Gilgen, Austria and the Zwolferhorn
Paradise Found: St. Gilgen, Austria and the Zwolferhorn

When I was a girl, I read all the time, and the first book I remember wanting to reread was Johanna Spyri’s HEIDI. If you aren’t familiar with the children’s classic book, HEIDI is about an orphaned girl who comes to live in the Alps with her reclusive grandfather. Like most fans of Heidi, I relished the notion of finding hope in the face of hopelessness, but I also loved the setting of HEIDI: the rugged and beautiful mountains of Europe where man and mountain thrive together. There is something about being in the mountains that connects with who I am. Whether it is in the Tetons or Rockies of the Western United States, the coastal mountains of Maine, or the Alps of Austria, Switzerland, or Italy, my heart sings when I am in the mountains. Luckily for me, my family feels the same way … Continue reading Paradise Found: My Fourth of July in the Austrian Alps

Posted on 2 Comments

Destination Coastline: Sunsets, a Photojournal

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida's Coast

“The sky broke … into full sunset and the water caught fire.” -Pamela H. Johnson

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida's Coast
Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida's Coast

As I type, I sit below a large canvas painting of a coastline sunset where the water reflects so much citrine color it looks as if it is on fire. I painted it several years ago, and it is my personal favorite. In the center of the painting, a girl stands in the lapping waves with her skirt hiked up, askew, as she stands transfixed.

In the same way that some of us can’t stay away from a sumptious chocolate or a handful of vine-ripened raspberries, I am drawn to the coast. And in particular, I love coastline sunsets. There is something about the way that the earth meets water, and then touches sky, that grabs my heart and keeps hold. Every time we are near an ocean or the sea, as time approaches for the sun to dip to bed for the night, I find myself standing along the shore, rapt by the sun’s grand color show.

This week, passing through photos, I caught a glimpse of a photo I took along the Florida coast just over two years ago (above). And I knew I had to share it. To me, there is something about the colors which won’t let go, about the vibrant light which boldly says “I am alive.”

In the past few years, we’ve been able to see many coastlines on different parts of the world. Here, four of my favorite sunsets from four different Seas:

Sunset over the Adriatic Sea, from Coastal Croatia
Sunset over the Adriatic Sea, from Coastal Croatia
Sun Setting over the Mediterranean Sea, from the coast of Tuscany, Italy
Sun Setting over the Mediterranean Sea, from the coast of Tuscany, Italy

 

Sunset Color in Maine, Lands' End Harbor of the Atlantic Ocean
Sunset Color in Maine, Lands' End Harbor of the Atlantic Ocean

 

Florida Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico
Florida Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

Do you have a favorite place to watch sunrises or sunsets? One particular time you remember?

Posted on 2 Comments

Bruges, Belgium and the Night at the Palace

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium: Flemish name: Brugge a city in NW Belgium, capital of West Flanders province: centre of the medieval European wool and cloth trade. Connected to its seaport, Zeebrugges, by canal. “the Venice of the North”

Bruges, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium

 

 

Last weekend, my husband and I had the most amazing experience as part of our time in Prague. We were invited to attend a formal event at our friends’ Palace within the Prague Castle grounds. If I had to choose one experience I soaked up most from our two years here so far, it was the Night at the Palace. Here, a photo of me (on the right) and two of my closest friends. Thought you might enjoy a peek at the setting (view over Prague), and of the magical fun.

Jennifer Lyn King
the Magical Night at the Palace

Bruges, Belgium

Okay– now on to my Travel Friday Photojournal:  Two weeks ago, my family drove West from Prague to Belgium, to see their beautiful country over Easter weekend. Last week, I wrote about the Dutch and Belgian countryside, which I loved. But, we spent Easter in Bruges. And, if I were to recommend a place to see for a day in Western Europe for an authentic experience, I would say Bruges.

Following, a collection of my favorite scenes from Bruges:

Bruges's Stunning Architecture
Bruges’s Stunning Architecture
Regal Towers in Bruges
Regal Towers in Bruges
Bicycles and Carriages on the Main Bruges Square
Bicycles and Carriages on the Main Bruges Square
Bruges
Bruges
The Serenity of Bruges
The Serenity of Bruges
Bruges Canal, Swans and Reflections
Bruges Canal, Swans and Reflections
A wisteria-draped Bruges lane
A wisteria-draped Bruges lane

 

Have you been to Bruges? What was your favorite element your visit there?

Posted on 2 Comments

Prague’s Stunner: Prague Castle at Night

Prague Castle at Night

“The Thames was all gold. God it was beautiful, so fine that I began working a frenzy, following the sun and its reflections on the water.” -Claude Monet, French Impressionist painter fascinated by the effect of light and reflection

Prague Castle at Night
Prague Castle at Night

In all honesty, I still have to pinch myself to make sure that it is real — this living in Prague, majestic city perched along the Vltava River. We’ve lived in Prague for nearly two years, and I have seen the Prague Castle countless times. But I will never tire of seeing it. It is so beautiful.

the Majestic Prague Castle
the Majestic Prague Castle

On this evening, my family and I and a friend’s family ate dinner along the River. These two photos show part of our view. Doesn’t seem real, does it?

I love being here, in this medieval city whose past tells so many tales. Every view is breathtaking. And I can’t help wondering what Monet would’ve thought if he would’ve seen Prague …

Surely, I am inspired.

Have you been to Prague? What is your favorite view?

Posted on 3 Comments

Photography: Finding Your Inner Lens

Years ago, my love for photography came on strong—it traipsed into my life like a memorable song, sashaying in, swinging her coattails, and purring a delectable melody. For me, the lure of the lens is unavoidable and its magic unforgettable. Photography and the world it opens up to share is part of my identity, part of me.

–Dewy daisy at first light, in my backyard, one of my favorite early shots

My first exposure to cameras was in modeling, the high-fashion kind where seedy photographers follow willowy girls with their dark cameras to freeze an attractive look for all time. There, cameras hooked me, I think. Images created and released from the combination of mysterious light, pungent film, and human creativity became a song in my head which followed me and grew louder with each passing year. Swapping sides with the camera, being the creator and not the subject, has been a wonderful experiment for me, a dive into a world of new beauty and staid time.

My first good camera was film-based, and I took endless rolls of photographs, learning by testing the limits of light and lens to find the style which I now see as my own. Changing the film SLR camera in for a digital SLR has been tremendously freeing, allowing me to capture more images than imaginable, all in the small minutes of found inspiration. When the lighting is just right and something beautiful catches my breath, I dash for my camera and click through a few shots. I shoot photography in small blippets of time, between writing and the family and the daily chores of life.

Years and hours behind a camera and studying images have helped me to find my inner lens, one of the more rewarding pieces of my life. To help you find your inner lens, I have three essentials for a great shot.

The Essentials

A WOW moment is one I love to grab onto an image … one where I say “Wow!” as I press the trigger. Three elements are essential to a WOW shot:

1) Lighting. When the light is right, the shot surpasses the ordinary to rank with timeless. Soft light is almost always best—first thing in the morning or in the evening, cloudy days, or natural light through a window. Harsh shadows from direct sunshine or blatant flash usually compromise the best image.

2) Camera. (See below, especially the differences in shutter speed.)

3) Subject. Something amazing occurs in a photograph when the subject (what you want in focus) appears crisp and the background fades out and appears fuzzy. Leaving out technical terms, for a great shot, back up and zoom in as far as possible when taking the photograph, focus on your subject and allow the subject to fill the frame. The background fades away, leaving the subject as the main interest—beautiful!

Practical Matters of Photography

Cameras, and photography, have come a long, long way in a very short time. Without getting into brands and technical jargon, I think there are several things every person taking a photograph in our day can know, to help improve the results. We all want a great photograph—one that looks like what we are seeing, one that captures the moment and the mood, one that commemorates the significance of an occasion and a moment. To put first things first, then, the type of camera should be the most important consideration.

For simplicity’s sake, following are three categories of cameras with their benefits and drawbacks in my opinion:
1) Cell phone cameras:
a. Benefits: handy
b. Drawbacks: poor quality (though technology is getting better), slow shutter speed
2) Compact pocket-type cameras:
a. Benefits: handy and packable, good quality
b. Drawbacks: slow shutter speed (meaning, when the trigger button is pushed, the photograph takes a second or two later), what you see isn’t always what you get
3) SLR cameras: (SLR means Single-Lens Reflex—what you see through the lens is the actual photograph. These are the cameras with detachable lenses.)
a. Benefits: good quality, rapid shutter speed (instantaneous photographs, no lag time)
b. Drawbacks: bulky, generally more expensive

Our family has, and uses, all three types of cameras. But even if I didn’t love photography and cameras and the technology behind the process, I would still choose an SLR camera—for one major reason: when the trigger is pushed, the camera instantaneously captures the photograph. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to take a photograph and missing it completely because of the compact camera lag time. Though the options on an SLR can be mind-boggling as well as the price, SLR’s have automatic settings just like compacts, and also have recently been introduced with models at much lower prices. All-in-all, I believe SLR’s are worth a try, and they will likely always remain my favorite.

This past week, I found out I have passed the screening to join a stock photography site as a contributor—an exciting milestone! I now have an outlet for my work.

Please leave a comment or question on the comments section of my blog. It’s a beautiful time of year to discover some new spring beauty through your own lens … happy clicking!

:o) JK