Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An Interview With Meri of Meri's Musings

Our fifth interview in this series showcasing fellow bloggers is Meri of Meri's Musings.  Meri is an amazing photographer, writer, mixed media artist, digital artist and social advocate.  The stunning images on her blog are often accompanied by a haiku or personal reflection that leave me wanting to know more about this intriguing woman.  Thus this feature interview.  I encourage you to visit Meri at Meri's Musings - a link is provided at the end of this post.  All of the photographs and digital art images in this post are the product of Meri's imagination and talent.  Let's move on now to the interview:

Meri could you give us a brief overview are who you are, where you live, current interests or preoccupations?

I'm basically a creative, intuitive type but also logical and goal-directed. Interested in collaborative, generative projects. Grew up mostly in the Pacific Northwest and find peace and solace in the natural environment: the boundary edges of land and water, the heights of the mountains, quiet forest spaces. Interests? Writing, photography, mixed media art. I'm rarely reading only one book at a time.

Could you name a couple of your strengths?

Creative vision. Intuition. A sense of humor or ability to ping on the absurdities of life, perhaps.

 How about sharing one weakness.

Only one? There are many! I've never learned to love exercise. I stress if there is significant conflict in my personal life (funny for a lawyer, eh?). I tend to over-function emotionally in some relationships.

I believe I read in your blog that you are a lawyer. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I gravitated to law school as an extension of my women's movement activism. I saw it as a means of achieving social justice systemically. Unfortunately, the practice of law quickly disillusioned me; change was incremental at best and maddeningly slow. My practice eventually centered around family law. My favorite clients were women and children (though representing my male clients was more lucrative).

I loved the writing, the problem-solving aspects of law and creating outside-the-box individualized solutions. I also spent some time as a "substitute" judge and particularly enjoyed presiding in hearings because of the fast pace. Also, since I still had kids at home then -- preteens or teens -- it was gratifying knowing that the litigants, unlike my children, were legally compelled to obey my commands.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My adult children are wonderful, vibrant, caring human beings. Besides that, I'm proud of my advocacy for causes I believe in (including starting one of the first rape crisis centers in the U.S.).

 Have you always lived in the Pacific NorthWest of the USA?

Nope. Born here, then spent preschool years in Indiana while my father was in graduate school. Moved back to the Northwest at the beginning of kindergarten. Went through public schools and university in Washington. Spent my early adulthood wandering a bit. Have lived in Mississippi, Colorado, and Maryland (went to law school in the latter). Then came home to where my heart had always been. My parents, my brothers, and my sons all live in the state. My daughter is just over the border in Oregon.

What quality do you value most in your friends?   Big hearts, sharp minds.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?   Metabolism.

You display amazing digital art on your blog. What is it about digital art that appeals to you?

Digital art is a creative playground, not unlike mixed media art. You can layer things, move things around, and constantly wonder, "What if?" Possibilities are endless.

You are a stellar photographer. What camera(s) do you use? What is your favourite lens?

I'm a Nikon woman. I've got a Nikon Coolpix P90 that I call Baby Camera that I take when I want something really lightweight and non-obtrusive. I've also got a D5000 that is larger but still lightweight. Both Baby Camera and the D5000 will shoot video if the need arises. I've also got a D200 -- a workhorse. Lenses are interchangeable on the D5000 and D200.

My preferred lens is an 18 - 200 mm with a polarizing filter. I've also got an 18 - 24 mm wide angle that's a lot of fun and great for capturing narrow European streets with sky and cobblestones. Plus a micro/macro lens.

What is the best tip you could offer a freshman photographer?

Don't leave the house without your camera. Besides that (and learning to use manual settings).

I would tell you to shoot a lot and study things like the portfolio or single image contest winners in magazines like Color, my favorite photography magazine. Figure out what makes an image stand out. Analyze what appeals to you: portraits, landscapes, abstractions, surreal manipulated photos. Use those resonance cues to push yourself toward your passion. If you love taking photos of something particular --- shadows, reflections, people's hands, color -- then those photos will sing. Oh yeah. . . one more thing: the light is incredible as the sun comes up. Sometimes you've got to fight the urge to hit the snooze alarm and just get yourself outside to dance with the light.

You have more than one blog. Tell us about the others.

Besides Meri's Musings, there's Playing Along (memeplay.blogspot.com) and Tacoma Photo. Playing Along is where you'll find things like my genealogical/historical pieces for Sepia Saturday and my photo montage pieces for Mosaic Monday. Tacoma Photo is being a bit neglected right now because I'm so busy with projects that I'm not shooting new material, but its format is one photo a day of the city and surrounding areas. The photos tend to be a bit quirky on that site.

Who are your favourite writers, poets?

There is a little-known poet named Pit Pinegar whose two volumes of poetry I bought when she did a reading locally. I'm a fan of Ellen Bass as well. I also like David Waggoner, Carlos Reyes and David Whyte's work. Hafiz and Rumi speak to me. Mary Oliver and Marge Piercy.

For Fiction - that's a hard one. I've like some of Elizabeth Berg and Barbara Kingsolver's novels, but not all. I surprised myself by loving the Steig Larsson trilogy. When I was in my 20s, I think I'd read every Joyce Carol Oates novel written, but got over that phase because I got tired of how broken her characters all were. It was tiresome. Besides fiction, I read a lot of psychology, sociology, history, and spirituality literature as well.

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?

Predictability. (Though I also like Expat from Hell's answer -- humility.)

How do you play?
Being silly; photography; art; writing. Laughing loudly! Getting my hands dirty with acrylics or glue or garden soil.

How do you attend to your spiritual needs?
Cultivating silence. Being in community with members of "my spiritual tribe." Grounding myself by communing with nature.

Is there one thing you wish you had learned or discovered earlier in your life?

That just by being authentically myself, I make a difference in the world and that no one, including me, is "ordinary."

What do you still want to learn?

How to more effectively bring potential to fruition in my projects and visions. To really believe that I can have more than I dream possible if I don't demand a certain outcome.

 How do you make your life meaningful?   By owning and expressing my gifts.

What is your greatest fear?

That I will succumb to fear instead of allowing and embodying abundance.

Meri what sustains you through difficult times?

The example of other survivors; meditation; looking for meaning, no matter how meager it might seem at first.

What two or three pieces of advice would you give to a young person just starting out?

a.  Eliminate the word "should" from your self-talk and be gentle with yourself.
b.  Figure out what makes you excited and fully alive and make that your work.
c.  Love like there's no tomorrow.

What brought you to blogging?

The discipline of writing regularly and a place to put my images and words out into the world.

What keeps you blogging?

The friendships I've made in the blogging community, the gratification of writing and learning that my words make a difference, having people love my images.

What have you learned from the experience of blogging?

You can't predict what will grab people's attention. So write close to the bone, post interesting images, and keep writing to please yourself.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers of your blog?

I don't know. Perhaps that I'd be able to entertain myself inside a paper bag? Or maybe that I've never felt capable of writing fiction, but just finished my first and second short stories?

What is your favorite word?   Love

What is your least favorite word?   Can't

What turns you off?

 Political conservatism and religious zealotry. Racism. Sexism.

Oh yeah. . . and dating. Who knew there were so many men for whom I'd have so little time?
I once had coffee with a man who told me his ex had left him up to his eyeballs in debt and he was still rescuing her financially. And then he turned the conversation to crankshafts and drive shafts. Such a romantic. Now I know the cure for insomnia!

What sound or noise do you hate?   Someone verbally abusing a child or spouse.

What sound or noise do you love?   Laughter.

Thank you Meri for taking time out of your busy, creative life to do this feature.  The images you shared will surely inspire some to try their hand at at photography and/or digital manipulations of photographs. 

To enjoy more of Meri's many artistic talents and reflections, visit her at Meri's Musings by clicking here.


  1. This was a sensational interview, Bonnie and Meri. I enjoyed it immensely.

    I'm rather astounded, Meri, at how much we have in common — both lawyers; both with backgrounds in Mississippi and Maryland, where I now live; both love photography, writing, and other creative arts; and perhaps this, above all: a propensity "to ping on the absurdities of life." I've never heard it put quite that way, but I love the line and the sentiments behind it.

    I will definitely be visiting your site later today, and I'm looking forward to following your journey, both your words and your images. Thanks for such an honest and interesting interview.

  2. I am enjoying your series Bonnie, and have to say I've visited Meri's blog many times and never come away disappointed.

    Meri, you pointed me in a direction for digging into my own ancestry that proved to be very fruitful and my brother-in-law actually has done extensive research based on what you shared with me.

    Your mixed media on this post is divine. I think the sunflowers are my very favorite... well done. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for introducing all these beautiful souls Bonnie...More please....

  4. Great interview! Bonnie I adore Meri's works of art!

    Art by Karena

  5. George: The similarities are even greater than you know. For the first six years I spent as a lawyer, I was an attorney/hearings officer for the Dept of Energy in D.C. We're also insistent on learning, learning, learning. And we share, I think, "negative capability."

    Vicky: I'm happy to have been able to provide an ancestry assist and even more happy to hear that you did a hand-off to your brother-in-law for the extensive research. Genealogy is a black hole that can suck in all your time, which is why I rarely dabble anymore. And I'm always excited when my posts and images resonate with someone.

    Turquoise Diaries: isn't Bonnie's series marvelous? Like I said, I'm honored to be in such esteemed company.

  6. Wonderful interview Bonnie! I enjoyed meetin Meri very much. Her work is amazing. I love altered photography and mixed media art. So she is definitely speaking my language.

  7. Like Expat From Hell, I have seen Meri in the neighborhood. How nice to find out more about this accomplished and talented woman.

  8. Meri sounds like a person with an abundance of talent and understanding, qualities that radiate toward each other beautifully.

    I like the “Big hearts, sharp minds” quality in friends.

    Do you have time to teach me the manual settings on my camera? Your photographs and other images are glorious, really moving.

    I’m also drawn to your answer about cultivating silence, and being in community with your “spiritual tribe” – I love that.

    I’ve seen you around the blog world and it’s just delightful to meet you here in Bonnie’s warm salon.

  9. So I just went over to Meri's Musings, and it is literally like a splash of cold water. Thanks again, Bonnie, for making such a monumental opening to all of us. As Meri says so perfectly: ...here's to coincidence,
    creating meaning
    and making meaningful images.

    Here's to coincidence - and to both of you!
    Thanks also for your shining and encouraging examples....EFH

  10. Karena: It's always exciting when another artist says she adores my work. Thanks!

    SueAnn: I left you a comment on your site, but forgot to tell you that I wanted to pick Melody up and cuddle her. And as for altered photography, maybe my faults should have included not being able to leave a perfectly fine image alone.

    Ellen: Moving piece today on your site. I've visited from time to time but need to make it more of a regular thing.

    Ruth: I loved meeting you through Bonnie's post. With reference to learning manual settings, first check your camera's manual so you have an understanding of what each setting does. I'll send more to you directly.

    Kent/Expat From Hell: Laughing over being a splash of cold water. I can hear the inhalation of breath and yelps of surprise from here!

  11. wonderful....great pictures...pretty sure i have been in the same circles but heading over now...

  12. Meri: I am so enjoying peeking in on all the responses you are getting. So, I have pulled out MY manual too. I don't think it's fair that Ruth gets private lessons! I think you are going to have to do a special tutorial for we manual-challenged persons!

    BTW - I'm seriously hoping you will. I am tired of carrying around an expensive camera that is always set on AUTO!

  13. Brian: I've seen your comments on some of my favorite sites. I think I've even browsed your site a time or two. Nice to meet you.

    Bonnie: Maybe I will create a tutorial. Teaching someone else is a great way to learn.

  14. another great find, Bonnie

    Warm Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral

  15. Bonnie, Wow, so many great blogs! Thanks for the intros.

    Meri, nice to meet you! Advocacy for women and rape centers are very worthy causes. I’m a Nikon gal too (D80) but I also have a point and shoot Canon as it’s easier to bring everywhere (excellent tip). Your lovely gondola photo brings back nice memories of Venice. I love Barbara Kingsolver’s novels too except the latest. I shall visit.

  16. Bonnie, This was a wonderful interview with one of my wisest blogging friends. I enjoyed every moment of it. Plus, I am absolutely DYING over your Venice image.

    Meri, As usual, you stun me. I love your answers and am really struck by the idea of cultivating silence. It has been wonderful to see you here.

  17. Hi Cloudia: Left you a comment at your place.

    Sarah: I think one of my soul purposes was to advocate for women and children. I'm not in the forefront of activism anymore, but am on the advisory board of a charitable fund that gives strategic contributions to nonprofits that deliver education and empowerment services to women and girls. And I actually loved The Lacuna after I rode out the first 75 pages. It was really hard to get into, however, unlike Poisonwood. I really didn't like her one in between, the name of which escapes me right now.

    Relyn, I'm so pleased you liked it.

  18. wow, so say you are an inspiration is an understatement.

    I have "seen" you around, so it's nice to meet officially.
    You are incredibly talented and brilliant .


Comments are always read and appreciated.

(I am grateful for all awards received. However, I ask that this be an "award-free zone" and meme-free zone. Thanks for understanding!)