Just Say No

Today, I gave a talk at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Jamestown.  I’ll include the reading and hymn numbers here, just in case you are UU and might like to know.

Just Say No
Jennifer Schlick

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Opening Hymn #360 – Here We Have Gathered

Welcome and Announcements


Chalice Lighting – Reading #448

Hymn #90:  From all the Fret and Fever of the Day

Children’s Story

A Cup of Tea

Adapted from a traditional Zen Koan

Once upon a time, there was a professor who had been teaching at the University for a long time.  He knew many things and was highly regarded by everyone.

One day, he learned that there was a very wise Zen master who lived high in the mountains above the town.  This Zen master was also highly regarded by everyone.

The professor decided he should meet the Zen master, to see if there was anything he could learn from such a wise man.  He climbed the mountain path for a long time, and eventually found the shelter in the mountains where the Zen master lived.

“Oh great master,” said the professor, “I understand that you are a wise man.  I wish to learn everything you know.”

The Zen master said, “Let’s have tea,” and he began the meticulous preparations.  Once the tea was ready, he placed a cup on a rock and filled it, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself.  “It is overfull!  No more will go in!” he exclaimed.

The master stopped pouring and said, “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations.  How can I teach you anything unless you first empty your cup?”

Children dismissed (Go Now in Peace)

Joys & Concerns


ReflectionJust Say No

I love that story about the Zen master and the professor.  It resonates with me right now.  Not because I want to learn about Zen.  It’s because of the way my life looked this past year:

  1. My mom had some health issues and needed my help more than normal. In fact, I moved in with her for six months.
  2. Andy Goodell invited the artists who participated in Women Create 2012 to display their work this year at the State Capitol. It fell to me to communicate with the artists, arrange for the photo opp, and so on.  For those of you who don’t know, Women Create 2012 was a juried exhibit of women’s art which my friend Deb Eck and I coordinated.  The month long exhibit included an opening reception, weekly salons to meet the artists, and a closing night reception at which a new work of art was unveiled.  People loved it and wanted us to do it again. And we loved doing it.  It was, however, exhausting, so Deb and I decided it could be a biennial.  Which brings me to number 3.
  3. Women Create 2014 had me busy from August 2013 through the end of March 2014 with everything from managing the artists’ submissions, getting the photographs to the juror, then communicating with the artists about who was selected, when they needed to deliver their work and so on. I also created and updated the website, worked with Pat Brininger for publicity, attended all the activities, and so on.
  4. In April, I mounted a solo exhibit of my photography at the Lakewood Library.
  5. The Allegany Nature Pilgrimage is an annual gathering of nature enthusiasts that is organized and executed by volunteers from 4 different nature organizations: Jamestown, Buffalo, and Presque Isle Audubon and a nature club from Rochester.  I served on the planning committee and managed the website and Paypal account.
  6. A bunch of SW graduates thought it would be fun to hold a 70s-80s Reunion inviting all graduation classes from those two decades to gather. I said yes to getting word out to my class, attending a planning meeting or two and going to the event over 4th of July weekend.
  7. 2014 also happened to mark the 40th anniversary of my high school graduation. In the past, I’ve handled the lion’s share of the preparations myself.  But because of everything else I had going on, including caring for mom, I made a couple of phone calls.  Thank goodness I had folks step up and take over so that all I had to do was show up – late by the way – because my daughter’s best friend got married that day and we went to the wedding first.  Leading up to the reunion though, I was in charge of the website and paypal account, communications, bill paying, etc.
  8. In August, I helped both my girls pack up their belongings so they could head out to start the next chapter in their lives – masters degrees – Emily to Rochester NY and Maddie to Boulder CO.
  9. Also in August, I led a short photography workshop at Chautauqua Institution for the Bird Tree and Garden Club.
  10. In September and October I headed up a group photography exhibit at the Prendergast Library with four other photographers.
  11. In September, I was scheduled to lead a hike at Fredonia College Lodge for the Finger Lakes Trail Conference Fall Camp-out. I scouted the trail several times in the months leading up to the event, since I don’t normally hike that trail.
  12. In October, I was invited to offer photography workshops at the Wild Women Unite retreat weekend in Buffalo, NY.

Are you tired yet?  Because while doing all this I was still holding down my 40-hour-per-week job at Audubon and trying to be a wife, mother, daughter, and friend, not to mention trying to keep up with Facebook!

I’m not complaining.  I feel blessed to have the skills to be able to help in all these endeavors.  But as my boss once said to me, “Too much of a good thing is still too much.”

Have you ever seen Peter Pan or read the book?  Do you remember the part where Wendy asks Peter to describe Neverland?

He says, “Well, it’s an island.”

“A large one?”  she asks.

“No, no.  Quite small.  But it’s nicely crammed with hardly any space between one adventure and another.”

That’s my life – hardly any space between one adventure and another.  In fact, I usually have more than one adventure happening all at the same time. And the adventures overlap with a new one starting before the last one is finished.

And you what?  It isn’t healthy.  I was tired.  My digestive tract wasn’t behaving.  I didn’t feel sick-sick, but I never felt truly well, either.  Stress was taking its toll.

At some point in early- to mid-August, a classmate and I found ourselves on Facebook doing the typing-chat thing.  He asked me what I thought of the reunion.  I took a few deep breaths as I remembered the activities of just a few weeks prior.  My exhausted mind tried to find opinions or emotions tied to the events.  Finally, though, I had to say, “Honestly.  The reunion was just another check mark on a long list of things I had to do.”

And I thought, how sad.

And in that moment something snapped.  I decided I was done.  No more packing my life so dang full of projects.  I would finish the projects I had already committed to, but I would say NO to anything new.  For one whole year.

I would empty my cup.  I would put some space between my adventures.  I would free up some time for reflection, yes, but also for spontaneity and surprises.

Not long after making this decision I had lunch with a friend of mine who studied gestalt once upon a time.  Conversations with her are always very interesting.  She asks hard questions.  She probes deep.  We chatted about why I say yes to so many things and what I hoped to gain by pulling back.

Sometimes I said yes because I was truly interested in a project.  But sometimes, I said yes because it felt good to be appreciated for the skills I could bring to bear, even if the project itself didn’t truly interest me.

What do I hope to gain by saying no?  I hope to gain a more powerful yes.  I hope that when I finally go back to saying yes, it will be to projects that are a true reflection of the mark I want to make in the world.

The last few months have been interesting.  I’ve tied up many loose ends and quit many projects.  I’ve said no to more than one request to get involved in something new.

Some endings have been easy, others have been bittersweet.  Some NOs have been easy and others have been difficult.  There have been some mis-steps and some mistakes.  For example, I said YES to a friend who asked me to speak at her church…  And I find myself daydreaming about projects I COULD start…

But I’m not going to.  Not for at least a year.  I will give myself time to reflect.  I will pay attention to which things I truly miss.  And after the year is up, I hope I will choose my projects and activities more mindfully. I hope I will have more clarity about what I want to say YES to.

I’m going to follow this advice:

When you feel stuck or lost or overwhelmed, stop everything.
Empty your cup.  Create a void.
Do not refill the void too quickly or without reflection.
Fill it mindfully – and not too full like Peter Pan’s Neverland.
Leave space between adventures for reflection.

And spontaneity.  And surprises.

Hymn #83:  Winds Be Still

Extinguish the Chalice (Reading from Richard Gilbert)

The Shirk Ethic
by Richard Gilbert

O God of Work and Leisure
Teach me to shirk on occasion,
Not only that I may work more effectively
But also that I may enjoy life more abundantly.
Enable me to understand that the earth
Magically continues spinning on its axis
Even when I am not tending thy vineyards.
Permit me to breathe more easily
Knowing the destiny of the race
Rests not on my shoulders alone.
Deliver me from false prophets who urge me
To “repent and shirk no more.”
I pray for thy grace on me,
Thy faithful shirker.


Wildflowers of Nova Scotia

wildflowers of nova scotia

For sale on Amazon.com!

I’ve never been to Nova Scotia.  I would like to go.  Especially now that I have SIX photos in a book about the wildflowers of Nova Scotia!

First up is American Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium Americana) on page 59.  This TINY flower was hard to photograph until I got my 10X magnifier which screws on to the front of my 18-55mm lens.  The plant grows in very wet places.  Most of my photos of this plant are from Allegany State Park, including the one that made the book:

American Golden Saxifrage

Next up is Broad-leaved Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) on page 103.

Common Arrowhead w Leaves
This was a ditch flower. I took this photo along Jones & Gifford between Jamestown and Celoron, NY.  For the book, they cropped the top part off that shows the leaves.  They have a different photo that shows the leaves.

On page 108 is Two-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine diphylla)


I have about a billion photographs of various types of Toothwort. This one was taken up in the woods behind Bergman Park in Jamestown, New York.

Also taken at Bergman Park was this Foamflower which shows up on page 139:

Heart-leaved Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Kidney-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus abortivus) shows up on page 206:
Kidney-leaved Buttercup
This is another of the many spring wildflowers I find every spring in the woods behind Bergman Park.

And finally, Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana) is on page 287:
These grow just about everywhere that I hike. This one, again, was taken in the woods behind Bergman Park.

So there you have it. My fifteen minutes of fame.

The Art of Mindful Seeing

This is a newspaper article to promote a photography workshop I’ll be giving on November 15, 2014.

The Art of Mindful Seeing
by Jennifer Schlick

IMG_2014 - Back Lighting, Backlit LeavesIt can take as long as twenty minutes to give myself full permission to forget the worries of the world and be mindful as I walk.  To be fully present to this moment.  To see truly what is in front of my eyes.  I may snap pictures before that state of mindfulness settles in, but I know, even as I snap, those pictures will fall victim to the delete key once I see them on the computer.  I take a deep breath and let go of worry and stress.  I invite my eyes, my mind, and my heart to align and be open to visual flashes of color, light, texture.

IMG_1955-2When something catches my eye and stops me in my tracks, I rest with that flash of perception in an inquisitive way, without judgment, without struggle.  I may walk around the object whose color or texture attracted my attention.  I may study the way the light is reflecting off of, or shining through, or just laying softly upon the object.

Eventually, I will raise my camera and attempt to capture an equivalent of the perception I just experienced – nothing more, nothing less.

IMG_1930This photographic practice, described in detail by Andy Karr and Michael Wood in their book The Practice of Contemplative Photography – Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes, will be the focus of a workshop offered at the Nature Center on Saturday, November 15, 2014, 1:00pm-3:00pm.  Think of it as a book report in the form of a workshop.

There are many reasons to make photographs and many approaches to the practice of making photographs.  This is only one.  For me, this approach has been akin to drawing in a sketchbook.  I am not trying to create great works of art, I am simply practicing the art of seeing, and of capturing in a real, uncontrived way exactly what I see.

IMG_1785The practice continues when I get the images home and onto my computer.  Cameras are computers that are programmed to make decisions on our behalf.  Sometimes those programmed decisions distort the image we perceived.  A few adjustments are often necessary to make the captured image match our original perception.

I have found that my practice images are often so beautiful I want to print them and hang them in my home or office.  I have also found that this practice continues to help me see in fresh ways, even when my purpose is conceptual or journalistic.  I find that instead of photographing what I think I ought to, I photograph what is really there.  The book, The Practice of Contemplative Photography, is sprinkled with quotes from great photographers.  Here’s one from Aaron Siskind that expresses what I’m getting at here:  “We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there.  As photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs.”

Students should dress for the weather and bring their favorite cameras as we’ll be making photographs outside.  Any kind of camera will do.  This is not a class about how your camera works.  It is about an approach to using your camera that will improve your ability to see the world with fresh eyes.  We will review the concept of contemplative practice and try some of the exercises put forth in the book. Finally, a few tips for post processing will be offered to improve your captured images.

The deadline to register is Tuesday, November 11th.  The cost is $33 or $25 for Friends of the Nature Center members.  For more information, or to register, call (716) 569-2345 or visit http://jamestownaudubon.org.

The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania.

Jennifer Schlick is the nature center’s program director.   Photography has been her passion for many years and she began practicing photography seriously in 2006 when she purchased her first digital SLR camera.  Her work has been displayed locally in both group and solo shows.


Smaller Enchanter's Nightshade

Enchanter’s Nightshade

We’ve been trying to do it for years.  Something always distracts.  A different creek to explore.  Getting lost confused bewildered.  Starting too late to finish.  Too much snow.  My camera.

Today we finally accomplished our goal.  We were determined.  We set out early.  We refreshed our memory on how to REALLY use the compass and topographic map.  Not the pretend way:  “I think we’re right about here…  That’s cool.”  And most importantly, I left my camera at home!  (The pictures in this post were taken at other times.)

The thing is, the path we hiked used to be a road.  If you look it up on Google Maps, it will show as a road.  But I’m here to tell you:  It ain’t no road!  Not any more.  Some of the sluice pipes designed to divert water away from the road are still in place.  Others are tossed about, rusted, useless.  Some parts of the old road are clear, wide open, easy to walk.  Other parts are so densely covered you can barely fight your way through them.  Or they are completely impassible due to a beaver pond that must be circumnavigated.

100% DEET kept the bugs at bay.  A 12-inch sub and a tub full of watermelon and cantaloupe kept the hunger at bay.  And away we went paying attention to the wildflowers and the beauty and the signs of  wildlife along the way.  Lack of a camera, kept distraction at bay to a minimum.

Leaves from some of my favorite spring wildflowers remained – Foamflower, Trillium, Hepatica.  I even saw leaves of flowers I DIDN’T see blooming here before – Bloodroot – and made a mental note to come back next spring to watch for their blooms.  Midsummer flowers in the woods are not as plentiful, but you can find them if you pay attention.

Enchanter’s Nightshade takes advantage of tiny pockets of sunlight that filters down through the trees.  The tiny white flowers of this native plant have bits of pink if you take the time to look closely.

Enchanter's Nightshade

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, the genus name, Circaea, comes from the Greek enchantress Circe who “possessed magical powers and a knowledge of poisonous herbs; she could turn men into swine.”  (Source: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CIAL) Whether this species is magical or poisonous, I could not say.

Shinleaf in the Grass


Also plentiful on the forest floor were Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica or maybe it was P. americana… See: I should have brought my camera).  According to the Lady Bird Johnson website, “The Pyrolas yield a drug closely related to aspirin; the leaves have been used on bruises and wounds to reduce pain. Such a leaf plaster has been referred to as a shin plaster, which accounts for the common name of this plant.” (Source:  http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=PYEL)

Shinleaf Closeup

At the far end of the road, we emerged from the woods and in the open spot were all the sun-loving roadside flowers – Crown Vetch, Oxeye Daisy, Day Lilies and more.

Lolli scared up a turkey that turned to feign attack.  I wonder if she could be sitting a second clutch of eggs?  We were most impressed by signs of bear activity.  A large puddle in the middle of the road had recently been stirred up, the mud not yet settled.  The grass around the puddle was spattered with fresh mud from what must have been a delightful wallow!  There was a perfect bear track in the mud of the road, and the grasses and plants off the road were beaten down, showing the direction of the bear’s travel.  We couldn’t have missed him by more than an hour.  A few steps beyond the bathtub puddle was a patch of grass and plants that was completely beaten down.  We wondered if the bear had slept there, or even just rolled around.

It was a great day of hiking and exploring.  I want to go back and enter from the other end of the road – WITH my camera this time!




River Walk

Because Jamestown Audubon is working on a project that involves taking people to the River Walk, I took my camera for a walk down there last Wednesday.

Holts Run Road… Again!

It’s new every time, because we hike it differently every time. This time, we went “backwards.” And by going backwards it was much easier to find the old Holts Run Road.


We followed it to the beaver pond that is close to Crick’s Run.


As we arrived, it started to snow. So pretty!


These tracks confused us. I think they must be fisher… but I don’t know for sure. What do you think?

Hey Ladies! Save the Dates!

October 3-5, 2014 on Grand Island, New York – Wild Women Unite!


That’s me – being a wild winter woman.

I’ll be teaching a photography workshop at this event. I’ve never been to it, but when Yvonne approached me about teaching, it sounded like so much fun, I think I’d go even if I weren’t teaching! Here’s what Yvonne asked me to share:

This is an event for all women: whether we are looking for a weekend relaxing with friends or looking to sharpen our outdoor skills. You can find it all at our Wild Women Unite weekend October 3 – 5 on Grand Island. The weekend is packed with learning, laughter and fun.

It begins Friday, with a meet and mingle happy hour, presenting our very own “Wild Woman Song” written and performed by Gina Holsopple. The adventure starts here, so come and sing along!

Later Friday evening there will be a presentation by Jennifer Haddow, owner and director of Wild Women Expeditions. Jennifer has been providing outdoor adventure travel for women since 1991. Listen and learn how to be brave enough to release your inner Wild Woman. She will talk about her world aventures from Iceland to Thailand and beyond. Our own Canadian Wild Woman!

On Saturday, everyone is given a chance to participate in four (out of thirty) beginner level workshops providing hands on opportunity to learn to play outdoors. This year for the first time, we are offering a “seniors” track of four workshops providing very “first step” lessons to start moving and get healthy (Grandmas allowed). Our workshops are designed to support all sorts of interests, from easy living to heart racing adventure, allowing every sort of woman to participate. Take a look at the workshops choices on our website.

Saturday evening is a barbecue and relaxing around the campfire with an Alaskan Wild Woman. CarolAnn lives in the Alaskan wilderness where her only neighbor is nature. Come listen to her stories.

This is a unique opportunity for women, 16 and older, with any level of outdoor experience to become more familiar with and comfortable in the environment while learning new or enhancing existing outdoor skills.

Warning: Be prepared to meet new friends, let your hair down, kick back and kick some butt!

Just go to the website!! https://www.wildwomenunite.com/