Weekly Photo Challenge: Together

In a museum in Vienna we saw statues of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, usually standing alone and looking very grand.  Occasionally one was portrayed with his spouse, each sitting upon a throne, like salt and pepper shakers; a matched set, but separate.  Then we came to a sculpture of an Egyptian couple sharing the same seat, a simple stone block.  I don’t remember who it was, some Ramses or other, but it didn’t matter.  He leaned into her ever so slightly, and her arm rested gently on his back in such a fond and tender gesture that it warmed the stone.  Not just mummies waiting to happen, they were flesh and blood humans who must have loved as tenderly as we do.  Togetherness for all times, and all time.

In Vienna we visited The House of Music, where we saw this Mozart Family portrait.  Seated at the piano were young Wolfgang, his sister Maria Anna, and their father Leopold.  Anna Maria, Leopold’s wife and the mother of his children had died, but they couldn’t think of having a family portrait painted without including her.  They commissioned a portrait of the deceased Anna Maria within the painting, which strikes me as sad, but sweet.  Togetherness in any case.

Oh, my gosh!  I look at this picture of my husband and kids at an open-air history museum in Switzerland, and while I laugh aloud just to look at it, my heart is melting.  My sister Con says the one who wields the camera wields the power; if you are aiming a camera at folks and ask them to jump off a cliff, she says they’ll do it for the sake of the shot.  This photo might be taken as proof of Con’s theory, but I took it as proof of their love for the family photographer and to a certain sense of loyalty and fun.   Togetherness at any price!

But if I had to choose one photo to depict what “together” means to me, it would be this one snapped in the streets of Orvieto, Italy.  It brings to mind the marriage vows Thom and I made to each other twenty-nine years ago.  “Grow old with me, the best is yet to come…”

All words and imaged copyright Naomi Baltuck


Stairway (to Skellig Michael)

When we traveled to Ireland we visited Skellig Michael, a monastery founded by Christian monks in the 7th century.  Life there was remote and harsh, the weather often severe.   The monks collected rainwater to drink, raised a few animals and imported soil from the mainland nine miles away so they could grow vegetables on that barren little island.

If a monk made a rare crossing to the mainland for supplies, rough weather might strand him there for a week or a month.  To return to his spartan life in a cold stone beehive hut, he would have to climb 700 feet up these winding stairs, bearing whatever supplies he had fetched home.

On our life’s journey most of us earn our bread, raise our families, and pursue our passions.  Sometimes, like water flowing down a hillside, we take the path of least resistance.  What in your life do you care enough about to be willing to make this climb?

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Wall.

Sun (Worship)

Sunset at Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Reconstruction of an ancient home in the Jewish quarter of Cordoba, Spain.

A minaret at sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Traitor’s Gate in the Tower of London, where prisoners came in by boat, and looked back one last time at the sun.

In Seattle we have our own kind of sun worship.

All words and images c 2014Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of the One Word Photo Challenge: Sun.

Click here for more interpretations of Cee’s Oddball Challenge: Week 38.

Two Subjects

You might look at this photograph and think, “Yes, two subjects, the darkened foreground and the colorful Argentine background.” Or perhaps you might decide that the two subjects are actually the two hikers.  I look at this photograph and see all that, and more.

In this one picture, I see many shared adventures, but also the life journey we have made as a family.  I see my husband and my daughter standing on a verge, both soon to be subject to great life changes.  His little chick is flying off into the bright colorful world stretched out before her. He is waiting for the lady with the camera to catch up, and together we will fly home, but not to our empty nest.  We also have wings with which to fly, and that wide world is also ours to explore in a new way, through new eyes.

People perceive every snapshot through their own eyes.  One single image can hold numerous meanings to the same person.  So many stories, based on the viewer’s experience, past and present, and loaded with hopes, wishes, and dreams for the future.  Some of these visions occupy the forefront of our consciousness, others live quietly in the back of our minds.

There are always only two subjects that matter when we look at a picture–the eye and the beholder.

Life Will Out

While traveling in Argentina, we visited La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.   Since 1822, nearly 5,000 mausoleums have been constructed  in the highest fashion of the times, from Baroque and Neo-Gothic to Art Deco and Art Nouveau.   La Recoleta is a city for the dead, with elegant marble tombs neatly laid out in blocks over fourteen acres.

Some are maintained, for love or pride. Others, like the poet Shelley’s statue of Ozymandias, have fallen into disrepair, covered with spider webs and graffiti, littered with broken glass and faded plastic flowers.  Feral cats stare warily from marble perches and skulk away sideways if approached.

We saw the grave of Eva Peron, and other statesmen, poets, generals, and presidents.

More interesting to me was the final resting place for a mother and her infant.  They were not famous, but clearly they were loved.  Did she and the child die in childbirth or were they swept away by an epidemic? In any case, a grieving husband and father was spared to erect this memorial. Was he able to pick up the pieces of his broken life to find happiness again?

Wherever we go, we find reminders of all the stories in this world that will never be told.  When I photographed this memorial, I could be certain of only two things.  Both mother and child were subject to an early and tragic demise.  And, as seen by the lush green fern sprouting from the dust collecting in the cracks in the stone, life goes on.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Spare.

With the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic almost upon us, I decided to raid the archives for this post.

Writing Between the Lines

What is it about the Titanic we find so compelling?  Yes, it was an epic maritime disaster, but it occurred a hundred years ago, and we already know how the story ends.  Still we line up to see the latest movie version and read the newest book, even if it means waiting through forty-two library holds.

It felt like impending disaster when my husband invited me to his soccer association dinner.  Its purpose–to thank board members’ wives and husbands for tolerating their spouses’ hours of service to the association when they could have been home cleaning out the garage.  My preferred gift would’ve been to not have to dress up and go to a fancy restaurant with a bunch of strangers.  I saw icebergs flashing before my eyes, and headed for the lifeboats.

Me:        “I don’t know if I can find a babysitter for Bea.”

Thom:   “She’s seventeen years old.”

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What’s Mt. St. Helens Got to Do With the ‘Blog on Fire’ Award?


I’ll get to that.  First, I need to thank Mr. Jueseppi B. for nominating me for the Blog on Fire Award. His blog, The ObamaCrat, is so fiery you need a hotline to the Fire Marshal, and an extinguisher at your feet to log on.   Thank you, Mr. JB for the honor you do me!

In keeping with custom, the recipient thanks the nominator, then shares seven facts about herself.  This being the Blog on Fire Award, I have decided to name only things I feel passionate about.

 1.     Purple is my favorite color—always has been.  Even my wedding dress and shoes, and wedding cake were purple.

2.     I’m a professional storyteller.   I tell original and traditional tales to audiences at schools, libraries, and festivals.  I especially love telling in tandem with my kids and husband.

3.     I’ve been to all fifty of the United States of America.  Every summer, my widowed mom piled us into our VW bus to explore the US.  She even drove us up 1200 miles of gravel road to Alaska.  The one state she couldn’t drive to was Hawaii, but I got there on my own.  Thanks, Mom!

 4.     My first grandchild had fur on her face.  One day maybe I’ll tell you that story.


5.     My family made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most documented father-to-son generations.  The Brownyer line of my family left a paper trail going back from Bonfol, Switzerland to the Bregnards in France, all the way back to the year 1099.

6.      I met my husband in a beer factory.   Yes, I did, at a folk dance benefit hosted in the old Rainier Brewery ballroom in Seattle.  I tell you this not because I have a passion for beer, because I don’t.  Last month Thom and I celebrated our 29th anniversary, and he still lights my fire.

7.     I survived the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.  I was bird watching in Eastern Washington when the volcano erupted.  I had to hike two miles out of a canyon wading through ash in darkness so thick we could barely see our hands in front of our faces.  Look for that story on my blog next May!


Now my favorite part!  I get to pass the Blog on Fire Award to ten deserving bloggers. 

Kristen Lamb is a writer and passionate blogger, who wrote an excellent book, Are You There, Blog?  It’s Me, Writer.  She is the uncontested expert for writers who blog.

Pablo Buitrago is a photographer in Columbia with an incredible eye for color.  His work is bold and striking, and he has the sweetest personality to go with it.

Naked and Hopeful is funny and fresh and full of surprises.  One visit and I was a loyal follower.

Laura Stanfill–a novelist who contributes to the writing community.  She creates interesting  writing challenges, offers good advice, and lots of encouragement.

Constance Baltuck is an Alaska artist with a passion for painting and travel.  Oh, yeah, and she’s also my sister.  She has painted her way across Italy, England, France, the Tetons, as you will see in her archives of past shows.  I carry her brushes and sometimes I paint too, just to make her look good.

Adventures for the Faint of Heart.  This passionate young writer has great tips on ‘How to Get Published Before You Can Get Liquor.’  She’s funny, she’s spot-on, she’s an inspiration to under-age writers and, oh, yeah, she’s my daughter Bea.

Writing Blanks-I enjoy her sense of humor and candor, and her fresh voice.

My Novel Writing Adventures and Other Words–Natasha has sound advice and  interesting observations about writing, but most of all, she has fire inside that comes through in her writing.

Writer’s Block--Kasia James is a writer of sci-fi, with a fresh perspective on writing, and fun book reviews.  She is a sci-fi writer who asks the best questions!

Incidental Learner–a watercolor painter whose blog is colorful and delightful, and whose voice is genuine and charming.  Pure pleasure!



I snapped this photo in my Cousin Nancy’s backyard.  We couldn’t have arranged a nicer outing.  Her husband Ian played folk music on his guitar.

Tallie, her little Papillon, and our favorite little fur person, played fetch with the kids.


Then we all roasted marshmallows for s’mores in their fire pit.


Creating a lovely backdrop for us was this fascinating arrangement for firewood that I found so pleasing to the eye.


I did pause to wonder how the tree might have felt about the arrangement. Did it feel supported and held up by the spirits of its ancestors, or was it made nervous at the thought of suffering a similar fate? Am I the only one who thinks about these things?

All words and images c2014NaomiBaltuck