Saturday, July 30, 2016

Get to Know Cathy Sly

hello there, friends,

today's guest is cathy sly, a supporter of our blog from the very beginning. i'm lucky enough to have met cathy twice in person. she is curious and kind, genuine and full of gratitude for the life she lives. she came to photography after retiring from teaching some years ago. she continues to examine her daily life with intention and mindfulness. i know you'll enjoy reading her reflections!

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Cathy is a natural light photographer who uses her camera daily to document mindfulness and gratitude in her simple everyday life. She and her husband of 40 years, live outside of Seattle in the home where they raised their three sons, who are all grown men now. They share that home with an adorable beagle named Basil. You can find her on Instagram @cathysly and on her blog Knee Deep in Weeds

What does a typical day look like for you?

My days are pretty much my own now, after years and years of caring for everyone else. I walked away from teaching five years ago and found my days open wide. I will admit it has taken some time to get use to that, but I have finally moved into a place of comfort and have relaxed into this next stage of my life.

I wake early and slip out of bed, as to not wake the dog, Basil. I head to the kitchen to make my morning latte and usually drink it while reading a bit and checking my email. I read from Mark Nepo’s book, The Book of Awakening, each morning and sit with his daily meditation for a few minutes, setting the stage for my day. I might get in a bit of time photo editing or writing before the dog is up and ready for his breakfast.

Most days I put on some old clothes, and the dog and I head outside to the yard for a couple of hours. I am an avid gardener with several flower beds, full of roses and perennials, and a good sized vegetable patch surround our yard. When I get too hot and need a break, I come in, shower, and clean up. I might run some errands or meet a friend for coffee or lunch, work on my blog, or read. Basil and I usually get a good walk in sometime in the afternoon and come evening we are both ready to call it a day. I eat a simple dinner and I read or watch a bit of TV while Basil sleeps in my lap. My days are slow, full of goodness and gratitude.

My husband, who works out of town right now, is home Thursday night for a three-day weekend and our days are pretty much the same. We work on house projects, head out for a hike or maybe to a lake with our kayaks, go out to dinner with friends, and spend time with our grownup kids. It seems we talk more and more lately about what it might look like when he retires in a year or so.

What does gratitude mean to you and how do you incorporate it into your everyday life?

One of my goals when I stepped away from teaching was to get to know my camera better, get it off auto mode. I took a few classes online, joined Flickr, and soon discovered a passion and a journey I never saw coming. In 2013, I decided to try a 365, one photo a day for a year, and started a blog to document it. Those first photos were bad, but also a doorway to learning.

The following year I worked with more intent, looking for ways I might document my day with more substance. To do this I had to step back, slow down, and pay attention to the tiniest moments that made up my days. I had to be present and mindful. I started to become aware that when I showed up with purpose, I was able to see so many of the amazing nuances of my life: the way the light hit something as it came through the front windows, the smell of blueberry muffins baking, the vivid colors of nature or the flowers in my garden, even the endless rainy, gray sky of our Februarys here in the PNW had so much beauty. There was beauty to be found everywhere, and by simply recognizing that beauty, gratitude followed. This is a circle I travel every day now and I consider it self care.

This year (2016) marks my fourth year of documenting a daily photo, and it has very little to do now with learning my camera. At the end of the day I upload the photos, from my camera or phone, and sit with them a bit. I choose the one that speaks to me, not necessary the best one, but the one that conveys what I am feeling or thinking. I pair it with a few words and put it up on my blog. At the end of each week, I revisit the photos and the words and ramble a bit more, bringing my week to close. Even on my darkest days I am able to find gratitude and beauty with this practice.

How do you stay connected to those you love?

I remember being tied to the wall by the phone cord back in the day. Now we have so many ways to stay connected to those we love. I work hard to use today’s tools, be it email, text, a group IG message, the phone or face-to-face time, to be present. I turn off or walk away from distraction and try hard to give my wholehearted attention, to listen and connect with the people who I am lucky enough to have in my life. My kids each have a different favorite way to stay connected with me, and I embrace that. I look forward to text messages throughout the week from two of them, and a Monday night phone call from the other one, always with an updated fishing report. Each morning, when he is not at home, my husband sends me a text: “alive," it says. I send him one back, “me too.” I find these simple words pretty sweet. Did I mention I still have a landline?

What is inspiring you right now?

The young people of today inspire me. I don’t remember being as focused, or as knowledgeable about the diversity of the world as I find young people are today. We were taught tolerance and when you think about it, to tolerate something is really not to embrace it, but rather endure it. The young people of today embrace mankind with compassion and full acceptance, and I find it inspiring and hopeful.

I did at times color outside the lines, for example, I homeschooled our three boys, way before it was even legal in many states. But I did not think much further than outside my own box. Today’s young people are passionate about the the good of all mankind. I find that rather than me teaching them some wise old wisdom, they open my eyes and teach me about people and exploring different avenues to a richer and more nourishing life.

What is on your bedside table? 

My glasses, some lip balm my daughter-in-law made for me, a phone, a lamp, my Kindle, which I love because I can make the print big! Also, Krista Tippett’s new book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, a glass of water, a small wooden bowl full of earrings and some Burt’s Bees lotion. Taped to the wall, above this table are the words…. "love like a girl” because sometimes, in a household of all men, I forget to do that.


On Monday, Cathy will be taking over the hello there, friend instagram feed. we hope you take the opportunity to check in and say hello to her! xo


  1. dear cathy, i loved this post so much. one of the things i love about you the most is your willingness to stay curious about the world around you, about yourself, and about those you love. thank you for sharing here with us! xo

    1. Oh Beth, it was such an honor! Thank you!

  2. Cathy, I loved every word. I learned so much about you today and hung on every word. You inspire me so much. Beautifully, beautifully written. xoxo Deb

  3. As a regular follower of your daily posts, it is a joy to get to you better. You have paved a path for me - into a retired life that is fulfilling and a true joy, into a love of photography for the joy it brings, and into an attitude of thankfulness and self-awareness. I often read the books you are reading and am always inspired by your artful life.

    1. Donna, thank you so much for these beautiful, kind words!

  4. hello cathy!

    the book of awakening looks like something i want to read!

    also, my kiddos are both entering the junior high years (one 6th and one 7th grader) and i know these next years will be a whirlwind of all kinds of life. i am looking forward to watching and helping them grow through all this time will bring. i am also looking forward to the season after, the one you are in now, of more quiet days and time that looks and feels different. where you are seems like a lovely spot to be! i love the glimpses into your thoughts and life. thank you!