My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

–Robert Frost

If you’ve read BLUSH, you met Henry, my younger brother.

When the book ends, Henry, at age 15, looks like this.

Henry and his Argus 35 mm camera purchased with S & H green stamps. 1966.

Henry and his Argus 35 mm camera purchased with S & H green stamps. c.1966.

His new camera educated his youthful eye.

Now a physical therapist, he has resumed his avocation of photography.

When I asked him what he aims for, he says,

โ€œI hope to capture light in digital photography, to illuminate details that might ordinarily go unseen . . .

to capture the beauty of living things.โ€

A lion in Kenya, selected as part of the Manheim Township Public Library photo exhibit, 2015

Henry’s photo, taken in Kenya, now hanging in the Manheim Township Public Library

I think you’ll agree that he has captured detail,

and that he illuminates the beauty of living things.

Like the poet Robert Frost,

he is learning to unite his avocation and vocation.

Henry and I are both following paths first traveled in childhood. What hobby or avocation have you had that has persisted or come full circle in your life? How does it relate to your own “object of living?”

Shirley Showalter


  1. Sue Wang on June 17, 2015 at 11:10 am

    As a child, I loved books to a point of hiding to read in the spare bathroom (avoid homework/mother). Now I aim to put together a memoir and all things book are interesting. I consider myself lucky to find this path, among others.

    • shirleyhs on June 17, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Welcome, Sue, and thanks for starting the conversation here.

      My guess is that most memoirists were at one time, if not always, voracious readers.

      I hid out with my books also. I was trying to avoid chores. I wasn’t usually very successful. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m off to see what you have been up to lately.

  2. Elaine Mansfield on June 17, 2015 at 11:37 am

    You can imagine that I relate to this one. What a photograph! And I love the one of Henry at 18, too.

    I was a writer as a child, but only wrote in journals as an adult. Eventually I wrote women’s health articles and had a few nonfiction pieces published. Writing came as a career after my husband’s death. My first publication was in the Mexico Ledger when I was in 4th grade. (Mexico, MO, that is.) They published one elementary school kid’s story on the front page each week. It felt like the Pulitzer Prize. It was illustrated with my drawing of a horse. Now I love to illustrate with my own photos.

    • shirleyhs on June 17, 2015 at 2:58 pm

      I’m glad you enjoy Henry’s photo, Elaine. Someone with your deep love of nature and animals would have to love that lion.

      I’m not surprised to hear that you were a writer as a child and that you won your own “Pultizer.” Those initial thrills never disappear, even if we don’t get back to the thing that we loved for a long time. Jung would have a great explanation for this, I’m sure.

      I have a feeling, when I read your book, your blog, and see your photos that you have found your object in living, even through pain. Your vocation and avocation are one.

  3. Elfrieda on June 17, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    That lion totally reminds me of Aslam in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. What gorgeous eyes! Your brother is obviously following his heart. When we do what we love to do with abandon, wonderful things can happen.

    • shirleyhs on June 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      So true, Elfrieda! I’m not sure if Henry has read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But I think he would recognize the depiction of this kingly lion there.

      It is indeed exciting to see the results of my brother’s old love coming alive again — with abandon.

  4. Laurie Buchanan on June 17, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Shirley โ€” I fondly remember meeting Henry in BLUSH. As evidenced here in his Kenya photograph, his attention to detail is exquisite, a “dying” skill that like your brother, I’m trying to resuscitate.

    • shirleyhs on June 17, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Laurie, your blog fulfills the mission Henry outlined so well, both in the writing and in the photographs. I hope he visits this space and then clicks on your name so that you can see a kindred spirit at work.

  5. Tracy Lee Karner on June 17, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Those are provocative questions and got me thinking about who I was… and am, and how my childhood informs what I want to pursue, with joy.

    Reading and Writing have always been with me and still give me great delight.

    Tree Climbing is something I did all the time as a child; not so much anymore. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I’m thinking about ways to integrate that thrill into my present life, without the risk, and considering my physical limitations. Hmmm…. write a poem from the top of a tall building? Finally take the Cog Railway to the top of Mount Washington? Always seek higher ground?

    • shirleyhs on June 17, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      Wonderful to have your voice here again, Tracy. And thanks for the smile. Another youthful reader and writer.

      As for the tree climber still in you, I think those are great ideas. The words “higher ground” immediately brought to mind a song we sang at my church in my youth. Found it on Youtube.

      Did you know this song?

  6. Marian Beaman on June 17, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    It’s fascinating to see how the genes dance around in the family pool. I’ve always seen visual images in your writing and I have no doubt your sisters have artistic tendencies too in other areas.

    Henry is talented and thoughtful. You can see it in his eyes at age 15. Yes, I do remember reading about him in BLUSH of course. Now I’m an astute observer of certain tendencies in my grandchildren.

    Reading has always been part of my life as you know from photos in my posts. Writing too, but less overt except academically. I just discovered a postcard I wrote to my sisters at age 12 (Shock!) Apparently, I have always had the need to record my thoughts, then as news to the family; now for posterity.

  7. shirleyhs on June 17, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    You are right, Marian, ALL of my siblings have some kind of artistic gift. I’ve always supposed it was my mother’s love for stories, drama, and music that fostered our own loves.

    The need to record our thoughts is a need you and I share, and the desire to write for posterity is indeed linked to our desire to blurt out our youthful enthusiasms.

    I rather like the thought that your children and grandchildren may view your memoir in the same way that your sisters viewed your postcard. It represents “news.” And (mostly) good news at that.

  8. Chery Miller on June 17, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    That lion…..seems so at peace in his space. Reminds me of a stallion who loved to be with me as I hung clothes on the line…..he “asked” to be included by banging on his gate. Love the companion life with animals.

    • shirleyhs on June 18, 2015 at 7:48 am

      Yes, Cheryl. This lion seems to have human qualities (or ones we think of as human) and wild, mysterious qualities. Some people can communicate with animals better than others. Lion whisperers are probably less common than horse whisperers. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Joan on June 18, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Handsom Henry and his photo of the lion are marvelous. I’ve always been interested in reading and also working with light and color. I’ve spent most of my adult life creating either with paint, photographs, and now with the writing of my memoir. Even in writing one must consider the light and color in ones descriptions. For me, writing is also a visual art.

  10. shirleyhs on June 18, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Hi Joan! Are you still in NYC? You certainly did pick the best shows. Hope you tell us all about them.

    Yes, you have spent a lifetime as an artist in many different genres. I am in awe of your ability to locate the right medium for the right time in your life.

    I’ll also be looking for the visual in your descriptions when you launch your memoir!

  11. Sam Lapp on June 18, 2015 at 11:58 am

    The late bloomer I was never dreamed of actually being what I became – an artist. I took my first sculpting class at age 26, nearly 50 years ago, and have been active ever since (except for three years with MCC where time and tools were not readily available). The 100 plus pieces floating around in the possession of family, friends, and others, no doubt mean/meant more to me than to the current owners, The most recent piece was completed one week ago for the 250th anniversary celebration this weekend at Plains Mennonite Church, Hatfield, PA and provided much therapeutic enjoyment.

    • shirleyhs on June 18, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      Welcome to this space, Sam, and thanks for this inspiring story. I wish I could see the piece you completed for the anniversary of the Plains Church.

      I’d love to know what inspired you to take a sculpting class at age 26. Even if you were a late bloomer, my guess is that you were fascinated by some artistic endeavors before you began your own.

      At any rate, keep on making those sculptures. I love the fact that artists never really “retire.”

  12. Linda on June 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    I think that for me would be writing and reading, since I’ve loved both ever since I knew how and still do. These passions have led me to publish two books, my latest, Hutterite Diaries.

    • shirleyhs on June 18, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Linda, you must have done a lot of reading and writing before you finished your memoir. I remember finding the quotations throughout the book inspiring. And from a diversity of sources, also!

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