Introducing Chauncey – Pomp & Circumstance

Chauncey has a dream. It is the first day of his final year in high school. He is filled with anticipation and can bearly wait to begin the last chapter of his high school career. But when he arrives, the halls are empty. There is no one there. His footsteps echo loudly and long, and his breath is magnified. He begins to panic. Where are all the people? He peers into a multitude of classrooms attempting to understand the absence of his classmates and teachers. But nothing makes sense. And, then, he wakes.

Chauncey and I met for the first time shortly before the Covid-19 Pandemic. When I asked him if he would consider being a part of A Time To Heal, he quickly accepted. A few days later, on one of the hottest days of summer, we connected at his high school for a candid conversation. Chauncey shared his thoughts and feelings about his sudden departure from school, living in quarantine, and the cancellation of so many events that mark the rite of passage of a graduating senior.

Chauncey is a smart kid, enjoys a challenge, and can figure out most things quickly and independently. Therefore, City High Middle School was the perfect fit for him. The school participates in the IB or International Baccalaureate program. Students must complete all high school classes by the end of tenth grade. The remaining years are dedicated to long term collaborative projects, a secondary language, and coursework related to the theory of knowledge. The program sets a very high standard of excellence and encourages students to believe that the sky is the limit. In addition to his demanding coursework, Chauncey was active in theatre and a member of the Ottawa Hills Swim and Dive Team.

Chauncey is an extrovert in every sense of the word. He is outgoing, likable, and energized by being around others. To be quarantined or “trapped” with his family was not good for him. He was initially angry and responded with self-destructive behavior such as playing online games for hours and hours or just doing nothing. As time passed, his anger subsided, along with the rest of his emotions. Chauncy shut down and was unable to find the motivation to complete the simplest tasks. He even missed critical deadlines related to his college enrollment.

After a few months, Chauncey realized that something needed to change. A friend suggested that he might feel better if he began working out daily. Luckily, it worked! The daily routine gave him something to look forward to, a sense of purpose, and a routine. He began to engage more with others playing online games, youth group zoom meetings, and talking with members of his swing dance group. Just days before we met, he and a few members of the dance group met at a park to visit and dance. The experience lifted his heart and brought him great joy. It was his first outing in over four months. Chauncey and his friends, buoyed by the experience, made plans to meet again. Unfortunately, the number of Covid-19 cases began to escalate, and the group decided to cancel their next get-together.

Chauncey was robbed. The pandemic stole from him his final months with teachers, friends, and classmates. Class trips, senior skip day, prom, his graduation ceremony, parties, and other events appeared on his calendar but never happened. Though Chauncey received his degrees, there was no Pomp and Circumstance. No celebration.

Chauncey’s biggest disappointment, however, was that he was not able to write the exams that would have given him a shot at earning his International Baccalaureate Degree. The certification is accepted by many colleges and can launch a first-year college student to Sophomore status. Chauncey had looked forward to the sense of accomplishment he would have felt, degree or not, by completing the intensive exam process. After sharing this with me, Chauncey shrugged his shoulders, looked away, and stayed in a far distant place for a moment. When he snapped out of it, he attempted to make light the situation. Giving me a big Chauncey grin, he said: “It’s a really ugly piece of paper like card stock, and it has a funny looking sticker on the bottom. Who needs that? I still graduated from City High Middle, and it is a tough school. I can be proud of that.”

Chauncey is very excited about attending Grand Rapids Community College this fall. However, he is not looking forward to sitting through courses that are near identical to the advanced classes he took in high school. As mentioned above, Chauncey was denied the ability to complete the exams that would have earned him an IB degree. No exams mean no test scores. And, without test scores or the IB degree, college credits can not be given.

After he receives his associate’s degree from GRCC, Chauncey hopes to transfer to Western Michigan University to study theatre. Chauncey admits that the theatre is not the typical career choice for students graduating from a school with a robust academic track. However, music and theatre are his greatest passion. Chauncey envisions himself one day performing on Broadway. 

Chauncey’s backup plan? He will become a lawyer. The transition seems logical. Both require communication skills, the ability to be quick on your feet, and a bit of acting.

Chauncey, no matter what you do or become, you will do it in your style, with ambition, intelligence, and humor. It was an honor and privilege to hear and share your story. Congratulations Chauncey! Your high school graduation is just the beginning. “Oh, the places you will go!”

Pomp & Circumstance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CASX-05ihfg

Footnote:
“Oh, the places you will go!” Dr. Seuss.


A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community as it relates to the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Are you interested in participating? Message me.

A Time To Heal, the Exhibit will be on display during September. Please check their website before attending to verify hours of operation. http://citycenterarts.com/

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

A Time To Heal

A Time To Heal is a project that utilizes photography and words that share the journey of vastly different people. The views of the people that have participated may or may not be the same as mine or yours. Still, A Time To Heal intends to encourage constructive conversations related to difficult topics, such as the Covid-19 Pandemic, Racism, the LGBTQIA community, and more.

I am a child of the ’60s. I watched my parent’s reactions as the world as they knew it unraveled. My mother wept uncontrollably when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was only three, but the image of her sitting on the steps leading to our upstairs, face in her hands, and body shaking, is still vivid today. The civil rights movement was disturbing to my parents. Not because they were opposed, but because they did not understand why folks had to fight so hard to have the same rights as others. To them, people were people.

My father cursed at the television nightly. The topics varied but were most often related to draft dodgers, Vietnam War Protesters, Rock & Roll, Hippies, and the feminist movement. Later in life, my father admitted that he was wrong about Vietnam, draft dodgers, and parts of the feminist movement.

We learned as a nation that all things were possible when the first man walked upon the moon, yet feared a nuclear war with the Soviet Union to the point of encouraging citizens to build their bomb shelters in their homes. At school, children practiced duck and cover drills and given dog tags. The student name, address, and the letter P, C, or J. Religious affiliation, Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish was listed to ensure the proper burial of victims of a nuclear strike.

So what does the social revolution in the 1960s have to do with an artistic endeavor and exhibit in 2020? Absolutely everything. Peace, love, and unity filled the airwaves in the late 1960s. Pop songs such as All You Need Is Love, What The World Needs Now (is Love Sweet Love), and Get Together touched my heart. The lyrics, combined with my deep faith in God, led me to believe that love can heal all wounds. 

The United States is once again at a point of extreme unrest. We are more divided today than ever, and a social revolution has begun. When people feel unheard, marginalized, oppressed, or unsafe for long, revolution is inevitable. A Time To Heal will introduce viewers and readers to people they might never meet in their community. I hope that by getting to know one another, we can begin healing conversations that will peacefully close the chasm that divides us, and that one day we can honestly say, We The People, and genuinely mean it.

A Time to Heal, the exhibit, will be held at City Center Arts in Muskegon in late August and through September. I will post blogs chronicling the lives of participants and post the links on Facebook.


 

Interested in participating? Message me.

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Be The Light

In my dreams, I dance! I dance with the practiced perfection and beauty of the most skilled ballerina. I am grace in motion. In reality, I stumble and fumble awkwardly, and the only joy my disjointed movements produce is from comic relief.

In my dreams, I sing! My voice is like that of the angels. It is pitch-perfect and capable of reaching the highest of highs and lowest of lows. But, in actuality, my voice falters, wavers madly off-key, and forgotten lyrics turn into an odd monotonous hum. My cats don’t mind. People though! That’s a different story.

In my dreams, the world is at peace. There are no wars, what makes us different is honored and respected, and our children grow up knowing they are loved and safe. Unfortunately, as the days unfold, the Utopia that I dream of appears to slip farther and farther away. None-the-less, I will not give up my dream.

The path to peace is complex and has many components. I believe one of them is gratitude. Gratitude is an emotion of the heart and the quality of being thankful or appreciative. Can something as simple as gratitude change the world? I believe it can. It has been scientifically proven that the practice of gratitude improves physical and mental health, increases empathy, reduces aggression, and opens doors to new relationships. In other words, it makes one feel better, experience more joy, be kinder to others, and make more friends. Gratitude changes everything.

Yet, how does one connect with gratitude during such a tumultuous time? Our country is more divided than ever. We are at war with one another over politics, religion, race, and so much more. Our angst, heightened by the COVID-19 Pandemic, serves to add fuel to the fire that was already burning.  We are hurting, angry, confused, and grieving. Given the gravity of the issues we face, gratitude may even feel frivolous, or like a luxury we cannot afford.

Gratitude is not foolish or inconsequential. It may be the only thing that can bring brightness to an otherwise dark day. It will bring you joy and has the capability of healing your heart. To begin practicing gratitude, take a break from negativity. Let the news be the news, twitter be twitter, and Facebook be Facebook. It will be there when you return. Then, focus on something in or around your home that brings you joy. Take a walk and find beauty in nature! If that doesn’t work, consider calling a friend to tell them you love them, write a letter, pray, meditate, or begin a gratitude journal. Say thank you!

There are many avenues to peace. Gratitude is only one possibility. We all possess talents that can be used for good or not. We are living during a pivotal time in our country. This moment! Right now! Presently! We, the people, must act. We must use this time of unrest to create a better nation and world. What can you do to be part of the change? I challenge every one of you to think of and put into action practices that will create positive changes in the world.

In my dreams, the world is at peace.

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 “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

____ L.R. Knost

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Author’s Note:

Please consider participating in The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo (that’s me). The goal of the Gratitude Project is to promote better living through gratitude and to unite diverse populations through our shared experience of gratitude. Volunteer to have your photo taken while you ponder gratitude, and share a gratitude word or story. Images and stories will be published on social media, art exhibits, and more. Participation is anonymous unless the participant gives express permission. For more information go to gratitudebylakehouse.com or contact me at gail@lakehousephoto.com

Song of The Post: This Is My Wish/Let There Be Peace On Earth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hajBdDM2qdg

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

My Dirty Little Secret – Nature Knows

I have a confession. I lied. It was unintentional, but still, I lied.

I am a storyteller. I observe, gather information, and translate. Sometimes when I do not have all the facts, I make up “stuff” to fill in the blanks. Is that lying? Or, is it just an attempt to make sense out of an unknown thing. Perhaps it is just an exercise to entertain my busy brain. No matter, as time passes, the stories I tell myself become more intricate, and fact and fiction begin to blur. Soon, I am confident that my story is infallible and entirely correct. That is until one of the square building blocks turns into a circle, and the whole tale crumbles.

The Sandhill Cranes of the Lakehouse have taught me more than I could possibly share. Humility is a common theme, and so it is in this case. It has become apparent that I misreported a few of the facts. I contemplated never sharing the truth out of pride or embarrassment. But, honesty and integrity won.

It all began with Lydia. Lydia was one of my best friends. I am solid in what I know about her. She loved me. She was a fierce protector of her colts, and the lake, and a faithful mate to Roger, and then, Bud. When Lydia was injured in the spring of 2019, she lost her status as the matriarch of the lake, could no longer produce offspring, rear her brood of colts, or be a mate to Bud.  She had lost everything that had defined her as a crane, except for me. Her gift to me was to allow me to see her frailty. Her vulnerability deepened our relationship. I lost her at the end of the season, but she lives on in my heart.

Lydia’s last surviving colt was not a typical crane. Crystal was born without fear. Baby cranes should be afraid of humans, but she would wonder about my feet so much at times that I feared I might step on her. She possessed a level of athleticism and grace that I had never seen in another crane, and I often thought of Crystal as a ballerina. She loved to ham it up for the camera and me. Crystal warmed my heart. Lydia and I were both so very proud of her.

When the cranes returned in 2019, I was shocked that Crystal was allowed to linger in the nesting area. In the past, I observed Bud and Lydia turn their backs toward the colts born the previous year. The message was clear; You are no longer welcome here. Bud and Lydia mated, as usual, eggs were laid, and everything seemed normal, except that Crystal was always around. When Lydia was injured and then disappeared, Crystal stepped in as mate to Bud and shared the responsibility of lying on eggs and even attempted to raise colts that were not hers. I was very proud.

This year I was delighted to welcome back Bud and Crystal. But, Bud seemed smaller, and I was concerned about his health. As time went on, I began to wonder if the bird was, indeed, Bud. Mostly, the bird seemed like Bud. But, one day, as I peered out the window, I noticed the cranes doing their special spring mating dance. Oh my. Oh, dear. Nope. No, indeed! My mind refused to process what it was seeing. My square building block became a circle, and the story I had told myself of Crystal fell apart. Crystal and Bud were not mates last summer, but companions. The new bird is not Bud, and the old bird is the same, but not Crystal.

Thus, I humbly introduce you to the Sandhill Cranes of the Lakehouse; Patriarch Billy Crystal and his mate Rosebud.


Song of The Post: I Heard it Through the Grapevine By Marvin Gay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hajBdDM2qdg

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Grace & Gratitude

Yesterday I was mad. Not just a little heated up, but over the top angry. And, the fact that I could not put my anger in its right place made me furious. Didn’t my anger know I had important things to do! 2020 is the year of Gratitude, and I have articles to write, plans to make, people to meet, photos to capture, and stories to gather. And didn’t my anger know that I am a woman of peace and love? My mission, no matter how lofty it seems, is to make this world a better place by uniting people with different ideas and belief systems.

The irony is that I was upset with an organization that has different ideas and belief system than my own.  Yes, please, let me have that anger with a large helping of humility. That stopped me dead in my tracks. I glanced in the mirror and did not like what I saw. I want to say that I took the high road, let go of my anger, and continued my journey to spread peace and love to all the nations. But I felt I justified in my rage. I was right, and they were wrong. I recounted all the years of feeling discounted, rejected, and judged by this group. No, despite the image in the mirror, I held onto my anger. After all, I earned the right to feel this way.

I spent my entire day wondering how I, an angry woman, could move forward with The Gratitude Project. How could I launch a project to encourage the building of bridges between communities when, in this circumstance, I was refusing to place the first plank or hammer the first nail?  Late in the evening, I found the answer. In an attempt to do something positive, I began to look at photographs that I had taken in the fall. Perhaps I could edit  a few images. The first picture I saw brought tears to my eyes and I felt a knowing in my heart. I was humbled for the second time of the day.

The photo was of a Maple Tree. I have always thought if love were a tree, it would be a Maple. They are big, tall, strong, and have branches that extend slightly upturned like arms to hold children just right when they climb upon them. The light honey-brown wood is stunning and often used in home construction. If that is not enough, they even feed us with their sugary sap. 

The Maple tree reminded me that we are all one. As I studied the image, I noticed first, the trunk, then branches, smaller branches, and finally the leaves. Each had a unique shape, color, and texture. The tree was magnificently complex and beautiful. My mind shifted and I began to think of the trunk of the tree as God, the branches as nations of people, breaking off into smaller and smaller groups, and finally, the leaves as individuals. Again, I thought, we are all one.

How is it then that my anger could possibly be justified? By withholding my love, forgiveness, and compassion from any group, I, in turn, withhold it from myself. I have been building and maintaining this wall of anger for over thirty years. Sadly, I only recently realized that it is not impacting the group that caused me pain. Instead, it has hurt the people I love the most and me. For that, I am truly sorry. 

So, to answer the question, how will I, an angry woman, go forward with The Gratitude Project? I will deconstruct the wall. It will take time. It will take practice. And, it will take an abundance of Grace and Gratitude.

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Authors Note: Would you or your organization (e.g., community group, retreat) like to participate in The Gratitude Project?  Please feel free to contact me at Gail@Lakehousecc.com.

Song of the Post: Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) By BYU Noteworthy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6Mtpk4jeVA

Instagram – The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo – https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

The Gratitude Project – https://lakehousecc.com/

Instagram – Lakehouse Photo & Living At The Lakehouse – https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

Photography: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

2019© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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