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For anyone who knows me, it is just a given that during any free time that I have I can usually be found doing something that involves writing, photography or painting. These are my passions, save for gardening. When I can combine two or more of these…well, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Through these three outlets, I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in some pretty creative projects. For over twenty years, I did senior and family pictures which allowed me to meet some terrific folks. Two years ago, I compiled and designed a four-family cookbook that actually got some heritage family recipes down on paper. I have done many memorable feature stories for various magazines that let me meet some interesting people and non-humans, including: camels, reindeer and some pesky un-invited critters like skunks, raccoons and bats.

Writing and painting are the two outlets that have seen me through some pretty tough times. Within a span of six years I lost five people who were very dear to me; my parents, husband and an aunt and uncle, all of whom greatly impacted my life. I used my journal exactly as it was intended to be used; words of love, hate, joy, sadness, loss, gratitude, loneliness and fulfillment fill the pages in true, un-obliterated words that convey my true feelings; pages that allowed me to get the feelings out, but pages that are only meant for me.

Writing got me through these tough times and, given my age and stage in life, I know more loss will come. It is just a fact of life. Writing will get me through those times to come too.

Writing affords me an emotional outlet and painting allows me to leave reality and be taken to a world that only holds beauty with no pain or sorrow. I actually feel that I am transported into the painting that I am working on at the time; if it is a forest, I walk its serene paths, if it is an ocean, I am lulled by the waves, and if it is a still life, I am engulfed by the beauty that surrounds us each day that sometimes we forget to actually see.

All you left-brainers out there, please forgive me, you may not understand how us right-brainers perceive every little thing of beauty and we want to capture and share it all. It brings us peace, a peace that we just feel we need to share with the whole world.

Though I cannot imagine my world without my writing or being able to harness all the colors of the spectrum in my painting, it is photography that has taken me to the greatest heights and triumphs. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words — no argument there.

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to capture all the unique and wondrous moments that my eyes witnessed. I started out with my Mom’s vintage “Brownie” camera that I could use on special occasions like Christmas and birthday parties. Later, I dragged the old Instamatic 126 and 110 cameras everywhere I went and couldn’t wait to get the film processed. There was no greater joy than when the first Polaroid came out that developed the photos instantly…it offered not so much in quality but instead there was instant gratification.

I have fond memories of my Uncle Don lining each family up year after year on the same sofa at Grandma and Grandpa Brueck’s house at Christmas for family photos. I still have all those old photos which have turned into cherished memories. I wanted to be just like him.

Then, as a young adult, I set my sights on a SLR (single lens reflex) camera that would open up whole new worlds by permitting me to interchange lenses and to be even more creative. I had all the filters and attachments and bells and whistles. I was set. Then digital rocked my world, I could have instant gratification AND quality — total ecstasy!

So, what do I photograph? Ask anyone around me who is always looking at me through the opposite end of a lens of a camera and they will tell you that the question should be, “what doesn’t she photograph?” I love landscapes because they transport a person into different worlds. Still life shots capture rare and delicate beauty that is sometimes passed over in our rushed world. And people, what can I say, even candid shots here and there preserve a second in a person’s life forever. You may lose the person but you will never lose the moment.

I have been in more than half of the states that make up this great nation of ours and captured some amazing scenes in all of them. I have spent countless hours in my own backyard in every season of the year. I have captured people in so many different situations: good, bad, funny, embarrassing, happy and sad. And, I have never done any of these alone.

Like John Steinbeck’s 1960’s travelogue “Travels With Charley” where he recounts his road trip with his trusted poodle, Me and my friend Tucker have traveled together and recorded all these snippets of life. Always my forever sidekick, Tucker has taken on different forms through the years. Currently, he is a Canon Rebel XS; we are never very far apart, so much so that I feel almost naked without him on a strap encircling my neck.

We pretty much go everywhere together and I don’t “baby” him. He has been covered with dust riding on a fender of a tractor, dowsed with rain at a corn husking contest, frozen on a sleigh ride, scorched in the desert, banged, almost dropped and rough-housed by the small hands of young ones. Together we have endured. I wouldn’t have it any other way, there is no other way to experience life.

Think it is weird that a grown woman personifies an inanimate object? Through the years, many have done the same to possessions that are so closely tied to that person that they become part of their personality. Remember the old Roy Rogers westerns where Pat Brady tooled around the sagebrush in his faithful Jeep “Nellybelle”? How many farmers name their tractors? My Dad had a Farmall M and Farmall H, known affectionately as Big Boy and Little Boy, respectively. Car enthusiasts name their cars.

It is no different for me and Tucker, we have a kinship. It just seemed right to make Tucker a “he.” I feel protected. Once on Mackinac Island, my bicycle started to go over a cliff where there was no guardrail. Had it not been for a kind soul behind me that grabbed my back wheel, I would have gone over. Those I was with still ask me why I didn’t jump off. It’s simple: Tucker was in the basket. We are tight.

Yes, just like there were many Lassies over the years in the old television series, there have been several Tuckers. He wears out, he gets upgraded. Just like with all of us, it is not the human bodies that count as much as our souls. The same goes for Tucker, his bodies may have evolved over the years, but the concept of what he is to me is constant.

So, the whole point of this article? Ron always tells me that I take 50,000 words to go the long way around a subject. Well, I always feel the need to explain how things and circumstances evolve. It is a new year and new projects are on the horizon. I am planning on writing a book, a book of some of my experiences and how they have, hopefully, impacted others’ lives for the better. The eternal optimist, I always believe that things happen for a reason and always, even down deep, there is a positive. Even in tragedy, if there is no positive, then everything is in vain.

I can’t do this alone, as it always is, it is a joint effort between me and Tucker. Between the two of us we can tell the story, the whole story, with pictures and words. The easy part is done, deciding on a title. This was a no-brainer. How could it be anything but “Me and Tucker.” Now, we have work to do.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images