Getting better #SOL21 28/31

314 days ago, Lisa Corbett over at A Little of This, a Little of That started a walking challenge and invited me to join in. The goal was to walk every day from Victoria Day (May 18, the week before Labor Day in the US) to Canada Day (July 1) – at least, I think that was the initial goal. It seemed like a fun idea and something to do during those early days of the pandemic, so I joined in. Once we’d finished that, someone suggested extending the goal until the end of the summer, and then until Halloween, and here we are, 314 days later, still walking every day.

When we started, I set myself a minimum goal of 1.5 km (ok, secretly 1.6 because that is a mile and I am, still, American in so many ways and apparently because I also like rules) and I walked. Mostly I walked around my neighbourhood and the more I walked, the more I started to notice things. By May 24, I was taking pictures on my phone as I walked. By June 3 I started posting them because I thought they were pretty. Soon my walking challenge was a walking & photography challenge.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this during March because, obviously, I’m doing another challenge. Given that I’m doing three challenges at once, and one of them is *entirely* self-imposed, apparently I am a challenge person. This is not something I knew about myself. I am not a race person: I’ve tried a few and mostly find myself on race day annoyed that my walk or run is so crowded and that everyone seems to think that a timer is a reasonable motivator. I’m a selective group-joiner, often preferring groups that allow me to attend or not attend based on my own needs. So, basically a selfish group member. Sigh. I *am* a perpetual class-taker, though I often end up frustrated in the middle and regularly swear never to take another – and then I sign up for another one the next summer.

Doing the Slice of Life Challenge got me started with regular writing four years ago, and every year March makes me dig deep to write through whatever comes at me. I have signed up for this challenge even when it made no logical sense and I have always written & commented every day for a month (and almost every Tuesday the rest of the year). As a result, I am a much more confident writer than I was four years ago. I am more comfortable writing in front of my students; I am more versatile (hey, I’ve written poems!), and I think I am more effective. I can’t say that the walking challenge has made me a better walker – what would a better walker be? – but I can say that it has gotten me out of the house every day this year, something that has *never* happened in my previous 13 winters in Ottawa.

I’m thinking about all of this today because today’s walk was in a cold gray rain. Days like today make me a) not want to walk and b) not want to take pictures. What sort of beauty can I find in late March muck in the middle of the city? After 314 days, you’d think I would know better, but I don’t. Even as I headed out the door, I had the same conversation with myself that I’ve had dozens of times this year, “There aren’t going to be any good pictures today, so you might as well capture what you can. You realize how often you think this? There’s always something. Sure, sure, but today… today’s going to be just like yesterday. Might as well just use something left over from yesterday’s batch…”

But there’s always something if I’m looking for it. Always. Today, I found myself fascinated with droplets, entranced by rain and the minutiae of the leaves pushing through the soil. Sure enough, I took pictures; when I got home and looked at them, I had a realization: I have gotten better at photography. This is improvement I can see. And you know what? I’m proud of my pictures and I’m really proud of my growth. That goes for all of these random challenges and maybe this is why I like a challenge – for me, the consistent practice that comes with a challenge helps me get better.

Here, enjoy a few of today’s pictures. Not bad, eh?

Thanks to https://twowritingteachers.org/ who host this challenge every year. Imagine what might happen if you joined!

12 thoughts on “Getting better #SOL21 28/31

  1. Those droplets are beautiful. What great reflections, growing. I loved the part where you doubted you’d find something worth capturing even though you know it’s always there- if you’re willing to see it. That’s been my big take away from this challenge, year after year. The beauty, joy, possibility- it’s always there.

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  2. I’m not sure how I actually found your pics on Instagram – maybe through twitter? I really don’t know. But I’ve been admiring the pics on Insta for the past threeish weeks! I even said to Jess the other day, “Do you follow Amanda Potts on Instagram? Her pictures are amazing!” I think they are! Now that I know they pictures started from a challenge from Lisa – I think I love them even more! Last week, I went out to the garden to check on our garlic and their were water droplets in the scapes and I swear I thought of you! And here you are sharing similar pics! I love this soooo much! Keep walking, keep taking pics — you have an eye that I like to see through!

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  3. “And you know what? I’m proud of my pictures and I’m really proud of my growth.”
    And you know what? Your challenges inspire others to join and push themselves as you do. You should be proud of the growth you encourage in others. You teach and model and nurture in every aspect of your life and being.

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  4. What an encouraging post! And a great testament that not all challenges are pointless. This is both reassuring and heartwarming. I must say, the pictures I my favorite. I love the intensity and simplicity. They are most admirable. Thank you for sharing this with this community. It is a wonderful reminder that stretching ourselves helps us to grow.

    #simplybeautiful

    ~Carla Michelle

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  5. I love your photos!

    I’m really motivated by challenges and being on any kind of streak is super motivating. I was a vegetarian for 10 years and I kept saying, “I can’t give up now!” Then I got pregnant and it was all over. I’ll be writing Slice of Life blogs until I’m 90 and can’t see anymore. 🙂

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  6. Spectacular pictures. I love this post. It says a lot of the things that I feel about these challenges. I’ve been walking every day, too. My dog makes me. I hadn’t taken it as a challenge, but it didn’t feel like a chore either. I knew it was good for both of us. I like the idea of a photo walk. I agree with you that these challenges are a forced consistent practice of something that I want to do better…and it works. Though I am far less versatile than you poets. It also forces me to be disciplined. I’m prone to laziness if I don’t take on things like this.

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  7. Stunning pics! I’m a wimp about walking when the weather’s unpleasant, so I salute you. I walk most days, try for five and must have at least four a week (self-imposed rule). The pandemic has made me realize I can walk the same route over and over and find new things. Consistent practice = growth. You are a wonderful example.

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  8. First of all, I cracked up when you said “(ok, secretly 1.6 because that is a mile and I am, still, American in so many ways and apparently because I also like rules)” because I would do the exact same thing. I could never get off the treadmill before it hit a certain arbitrary number in my head, and I have to have exact amounts on my Fitbit, or I just can’t settle. Secondly, you have written REAL poems, not the kind book-ended by asterisks, my friend. Thirdly, those droplets are just stunning, and I’m so happy you are walking and writing and poet-ing and photographing (ok, that’s like four and five and six and seven…). And finally, I’m happy you love challenges because here you are! I seem to be drawn to them as well. April is going to be a yoga challenge, and I’m currently on a hope-to-be-forever no sugar challenge. But, of all the challenges, this writing one is always the hardest, but here I am, almost at the end of another March, four years later. And so are you. Yay for us!

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  9. Excellent pictures and post. Coincidence or not, the package you shared today shows why you’re a deserving recipient of the Mentor Prize. Congratulations! (p.s. I love your conclusion about challenges serving as an excuse for consistent practice. That feels true to me.)

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  10. What a delightful post and I’m so encouraged your writing has improved from doing SOL, that’s what I’m starting to feel as well. And your photographs, the first thing I noticed were all the stunning shades of green (my favourite colour) and the spirals and whorls and other shapes. Then I saw the raindrops, perfect. I’m glad you made the most of a wet dreary day and found the beauty. And aren’t those kinds of realisations just so good?!

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  11. It’s life affirming to read about you finding fulfillment through challenges that allow you grow and stretch. You are getting better all the time because you persist and also acknowledge and celebrate. And those photos are amazing!

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