Friday, March 08, 2019

Not What I Planned, March Has Arrived, The Beauty of Less


I've been having some problems with my blog or Google or something. I had a blog post all planned and photos lined up to share with you, but for whatever reason, I haven't been able to access my photos when I'm inside my blog draft.

I ask you, what's a blog post without pictures? In my mind, it's the same as when Julia Child once declared that a party without cake is just a meeting. Exactly. Blog posts without a pretty picture or two are too plain-Jane, if you ask me. Fortunately, the basket of yellow tulips was loaded earlier in the week, or I might have had to resort to drawing stick figure tulips by using the special characters button in the toolbar. 

Just rechecked and now Google says it's a temporary error. Using the word 'temporary' sounds hopeful. In the meantime, I'll be glad of your company as I chat about a subject that's been recently occupying my days and my mind.


Dear March - Come in-
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before -
Put down your Hat -
You must have walked -
How out of Breath you are -
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest -
Did you leave Nature well -
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me -
I have so much to tell -

In these parts (northerly Alberta), we're still frozen in and snowbanks are as deep as they were in February. But, thankfully, thankfully, with the daylight glimmering a little longer each day, we have the faintest hints of Spring. The sun is definitely warmer on our faces. And, though tulip bulbs in the garden are hidden under mounds of snow, we take delight in bringing home pots of blooming bulbs and bouquets from the grocery store to set around the house for cheer. I truly enjoy the season of deep winter, but I admit to feeling a certain restlessness of soul these days. I'm so with Miss Dickinson when she says, "March, come in, how glad I am … Come right upstairs with me."

* * *

"Make progress every day on one thing that matters to you."

That quote speaks to me these days. And, as the world outside my window begins to thaw, you find me making progress, little by little, on two related projects that matter to me: dealing with my ginormous file of digital photos and creating photo books from treasured selections.

What used to be hundreds has morphed over the years into thousands of digital pics hanging around on the iCloud, and it's all become unwieldy. I'm feeling snowed under, as it were. So I've undertaken the monumental task of sorting -- deciding what stays and culling what's no longer desired or required. At least the files were sorted by years, but when I started blogging a decade ago that's when it all got silly: personal family photos mixed together with pictures taken specifically for the blog. And, there were always the photos that were both personal history and bloggable subjects, like garden pictures, food, holiday scenery, Christmas, books, etc. Where would I file those: under personal family history or under blogging material? If I made copies of some pics to store in both categories, which I did for several years, well, you begin to see why iCloud thinks I need to start paying for extra storage. I was horrified to find that my photos were now taking up well over the five free Gigabytes of room available to me. Oh, the joys and woes of having digital cameras and click-easy fingers.

Digitally speaking, it appeared I'd filled the attic, the basement, and the garage. Now I was paying rent for storage on a cloud somewhere, paying for space to 'hold' all this extraneous stuff. Therefore it was high time to wrestle these digital files into some kind of order, culling photos, especially the 'bazillions' of copies snapped in every imaginable angle, pose, and cropped version. Do I still need them after all this time? Find the best ones, let go of the rest.

First we find ourselves as a society generally inundated with material stuffs; now it's starting to pile up digitally. Oh my! I'm reminded of something I recently read and underlined in my copy of Beauty, The Invisible Embrace by John O'Donohue, a current book I'm keeping near to hand for inspiration:

"Most of us move now in such a thicket of excess
that we can no longer make out the
real contours of things." 

Oh yes, I feel the entrapment and suffocation of that excess, like a ram caught in a thicket who cannot kick himself to freedom no matter how he tries. I have come face to face with wondering what on earth I want or need with all these thousands of photos. I don't have children to pass down any amount that a future generation might want. And who will ever look at thousands anyway? It needs to become more selective and manageable, more enjoyable for personal perusals. I also need to rethink what I actually plan to use for blogging or on social media. Perhaps I don't need to add so much to the digital clutter of the universe, but to be more selective here too.

That now reminds me of Anne Morrow Lindbergh in her timeless Gift From The Sea. You will recall how she has come away from her busy, complicated family life to a little cottage on an island by the sea. Where she must learn the art of shedding and finding out 'how little one can get along with, not how much.' When she's packing to return home at the end of her stay, she recalls in her first days there, how 'greedily' she collected the sea shells.
"My pockets bulged with wet shells, the damp sand clinging to their crevices. The beach was covered with beautiful shells and I could not let one go by unnoticed. … The collector walks with blinders on; he sees nothing but the prize. In fact, the acquisitive instinct is incompatible with true appreciation of beauty. But after all the pockets were stretched and damp, and the bookcase shelves filled and the window ledges covered, I began to drop my acquisitiveness. I began to discard from my possessions, to select.
One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few. One moon shell is more impressive than three. … One double-sunrise is an event; six are a succession, like a week of school-days. Gradually one discards and keeps just the perfect specimen; not necessarily a rare shell, but a perfect one of its kind. One sets it apart by itself, ringed around by space -- like the island.
For it is only framed in space that beauty blooms. … A tree has significance if one sees it against the empty face of sky. A note in music gains significance from the silences on either side. … Too many activities, and people, and things. Too many worthy activities, valuable things, and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well. We can have a surfeit of treasures--an excess of shells, where one or two would be significant."

That last line really speaks to me. For we, I, can have a surfeit of treasures--an excess of photos, where one or two would be significant. We really don't need that many, do we? 

And so I come to the second project, creating a select few digital-to-print photo-essay albums that will commemorate my life and that of my family. I come to see that I do not need every picture to help me remember. I only need a selection -- the few dozen rather than the few thousand that are the most meaningful and evocative of those days. Once I understand which photos will do that for me, it becomes easier to release the extras that build clutter.

* * *

According to Susan Sontag, everything these days exists to end in a photograph. Oh my, she nailed that, don't you think? How often I snap photos not for my own personal photo collection, but so that I can load another muffin or flower or sunset picture online. Absolutely nothing the matter with doing that -- lots of us do it -- but I do sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that's available. And so maybe, for me, I'm about ready for 'less is more' … to make room for openness and quietude. To take time for the beauty of one seashell, one photo instead of scarcely noticing the twentieth. To take complete delight in the one sublime specimen and quit holding onto what doesn't do a thing for us.

Case in point, there's a photo I found yesterday of my mom on her 80th birthday some years earlier. She was about to blow out the candles on her cake. Someone must have made a comment that completely tickled her fancy for laughter and delight lit up her face. Captured on the camera, it became a complete joy for me to see. And I knew in that split second if I had to choose any number of photos of my mom as a treasured keepsake, that photo would certainly be chosen and cherished. I wanted to show you that photo, but it will have to be another time.

* * *

Having this Google photo glitch today has taken this post in a direction I didn't plan. Perhaps it has made me see more clearly what I've been yearning at a deeper level to do with the culling and sorting of my digital photos. To bring them back down to a significant, select fewer. So that they can truly be treasured and enjoyed. An aside, I do think the measurement of what's enough and what's excess will differ for each of us.

Enough said for one day. On that note, I'm wishing you the beautiful day I'm planning to have in spite of my technical glulumphs and gliiitches … 

Big hugs,

If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You may leave a comment there if you wish, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you are welcome to get in touch by email.


  1. Brenda, I have been thinking many of the same thoughts. My laptop is full of photos dating way back to our time in France, and some of them hold such wonderful memories. I'm gradually deleting the ones that don't really matter.But it's not easy!
    I love Anne Morrow Lindbergh's writing.

    1. Must be the season of photo culling. Others are saying they are doing similar tasks. And, oh yes, Anne's writings always speak to me.

  2. First of all, I am sorry that grrrroo~gle is having a problem and giving you fits. I’d surely like to see that photo of your mother. Still your words and quote selections nailed it. How true that all the stuff, all the pictures have me swamped. I am currently working on selecting the blog posts that are the essence of my little corner to have them made into a book. Nightmare! 😁 All the best with your culling and choices and with the weather, too. We have more snow in March than we had in February and the days are every bit as cold. Here’s to spring! Thank you for such a meaningful post!

  3. Since my retirement I have cleaned and “reduced” three times so far. I crave air, space, openness to think and breathe. As I’ve sorted and thought one thing keeps crossing my mind: why did I fill up my space so? The answer is complex and I won’t go into it here, but I can share that it has given me pause... and made me reframe many of my values... and, yes, pictures are a part of this... and as you, I struggle to decide what to do with them all... maybuou find many memories that will warm you as we wait for spring.... ❤️❤️

  4. That's a very soul-satisfying project to undertake--taming the beast of clutter!

  5. Brenda, I don't have a problem with photo clutter, but my goodness do I have a problem with "too much stuff." China, books and linens. Sometimes, I open a cupboard and I think I hear it laughing - "she didn't clean me out yet." I hope you resolve your Google issues soon. Things like that can make you want to scream - at least they do me. Happy weekend to you and I hope your snow melts quickly.

  6. I have thousands of photos as well, Brenda. Every now and then I will take a little time and delete the ones I don't need but sorting and putting them into a new file, that's another issue altogether. I try. Sorry about the Google issues. Hopefully it will be remedied quickly. I get very frustrated with computers sometimes. I'm so glad March is here! We've had snow since November and although we haven't had any abnormally cold weather, we have had many long stretches of cold and very few mild days. March always brings hope that Spring is just around the corner. Have a lovely weekend.

  7. I've noticed today, yet again, Blogger must be having some problems. It's really getting tiresome. Today I find I have to click twice on almost everything, and it's slow as molasses. Some photos are taking a while to load. It's not my Google Fiber provider which is working fast for the Internet, mail etc., so must be Blogger as they continue to make all those changes they told us were coming.

    I have zillions of photos just about everywhere - on computers, phone, portable drives, in the attic (the old albums, remember them?).
    I recently backed up all my photos from the MacBook Air to portable drives. Then loaded all the photos on my phone to one of those amazing little SanDisk iXpand Mini Flash Drives (64GB) for iPhone and iPad. It took almost no time to backup almost 3,000 photos. Now, I have to admit, I still have them on the iPhone but will start deleting a lot of them soon!!!!

    Great post Brenda, enjoyed it so much. I agree with so much of what you write regarding hoarding our 'stuff' etc. I have children, and grandchildren and now great grandchildren, however I doubt they will ever be interested in all those photos I think are so important and which I treasure, especially from my travel to the really special places such as Antarctica and Africa. These days the family and its memories don't seem as important to the younger generations, so sad!

    Hope you CAN share the photo of your mother soon - would love to see it.
    Wishing you warmer weather soon.
    Mary -

  8. Sorry to hear about your bluffer problems. I created a post yesterday and it seemed slow, but once I restarted the computer, it seemed to work better. Oh the multitudes of pictures I have as well, but at least for now,I can't bear to delete any of them.Too many memories come with each picture.

  9. enjoyed reading your comments...less is more to enjoy and not to be overwhelmed by. I recently put together a photo/poetry book of my photos and poems on shutterfly and it turned out amazingly...

  10. Oh, how frustrating technology can be. And we are mostly helpless before it. Like you, I have too many photos. When I feel in the mood I go back and delete those that I know I will never use or need again. It takes a long time. I do not have them backed up to the cloud; but I do have an external drive where they reside. This concept of too much stuff is not only our generation - my daughters are also careful about what they bring into their homes and do not want loads and loads of things filling their cupboards and closets. As you've said, each person's "minimum" or "enough" is different.

  11. Hi Brenda.....What a delight to see your lovely blog post. I always enjoy reading your posts so much! Yes, March is upon us but spring MUST be around the corner, right? Also, I can totally identify with photo overload. Oh my, wish there were a digital photo fairy who could come in and organize my thousands upon thousands of photos! But, alas, I must be the fairy. Hope you have a totally wonderful weekend and new week of life. Hugs. Susan

  12. "For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well. We can have a surfeit of treasures--an excess of shells, where one or two would be significant."

    Oh, that is so true, isn't it?

  13. Hope Google resolves this technical glitch soon. One blogger who had a similar issue with uploading photos tried using a different web browser--this seems to have fixed the issue for her.

    I'm also guilty of digital photo hoarding so this post is just what I needed to motivate me to declutter my digital files.

  14. Your post is making me think this evening. I do fairly well keeping physical clutter under control, but I am quite the opposite with digital clutter. I would not want to tell you how many e-mails are in my inbox (my husband cringes) and my photo accumulation is crazy.

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  15. Brenda - it appears to me the more we live the less we need of things but more of what is important - love. Your post certainly touches a spot where my digital photos lie...there are too many and I need to reduce them. It is a monumental task but a necessary one. Thanks for inspiring me to get busy in this area. As always I so enjoyed my visit. Hugs!

  16. Dear Brenda, your post resonates with me. Too many pictures, too little time. Yet, time is saved when we reduce clutter in our lives. Gift from the Sea happens to be beside my bed; a lovely read, like your post.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo