I’ve been putting off writing a blog post for several weeks now. One reason is that I’ve been having trouble finding the right balance between the sensitive, empathetic side of me and my rational, critical nature. That balance is necessary in order to connect to a theme and, at the same time, say things about it that could help people learn.

I come from a lineage of critical women. Both my mother and my grandmother could be hypercritical, and I grew up with the belief I couldn’t do anything right. (I describe this struggle in my autobiographical book, Passage of the Stork.) But, as much as I tried to avoid the same behavior, the ability to pinpoint mistakes or faults and try to correct them is deeply ingrained in my nature.

And, in a world where we are inundated with people on media (social or not) screaming whatever they consider to be the truth, the ability to be discerning is invaluable. Time and time again, I find myself needing to point out that the ‘important warning’ a Facebook connection is passing on is, in fact, a known hoax. Not to mention the nonsense posted by climate change deniers and other political and spiritual fanatics (on both sides of the truth!).

Discernment is also necessary when we view our own achievements. If I – seduced by words of praise – become too satisfied with the quality of my photographs, I will never learn to discern which are ‘passable,’ which are ‘good,’ and which are ‘outstanding.’ If I want to evoke awe and love of Nature with my photography, I need to share outstanding photos, not simply good ones.

So, criticism of self can be a good practice, as long as it is held in balance by love and acceptance of oneself. I prefer to use the term discernment in this case, simply because it does not have the association with being hypercritical and destructive.

This is a plea to stay open and empathetic to those people around us who experience life differently, have different views, or are at a different stage in their development. But never lose the ability to discern between their truths and your own. As the poet, David Whyte wrote,

“Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.”

Excerpt from All the True Vows by David Whyte.


  1. Excellent!

  2. Mary-Lou Gillette

    Dear Maddi,
    I so love to read your blogs. This one particularly, as it touches a theme that is close to my own thoughts. I often struggle with deciding when to speak out and when to keep silent. Your last paragraph and the quote by David Whyte are words to live by. Thank you.

  3. A. Elizabeth Robinson, Ph. D.

    Dear, Maddi,

    I love your comments on the Hog Island Explore webcam, and somehow I came to your site today and found out more about your interesting journey. I intend to read your book if I can find it in the library.

    I was interested first in your blogpost on “The Loss of Innocence,” which I think is part of what is been evidenced on the HI site as well as the lack of discernment and overreaction that you mention here…especially the comments re social media escalating both “good” and “bad” but without facts to back it up…and many people either without the critical thinking skills to sort out what to believe or not.

    Since one does not know the source or the people commenting, particularly with all the new chatterers, small waves of false information turn into tsunamis! It is so unfortunate that our beautiful, intelligent, supportive HI site (as is known to the long-timers) has become contention…I think because of new voices which ma not be as discerning….And that can drive some of the voices of reason away. However, even this seems to differ…just went to the Charlo site and there was a perspective on HI which I found interesting (though I do not share it).

    FYI, I am a lurker on HI. I had a very bad experience several years ago within 24 hours of using Twitter, so I do not use it. Made me reluctant to use any open media such as chatroom, blogs, etc.

    You always have interesting comments on the HI site…and I see you are a talented photographer as well. I seem to be on a precipice, “trying to decide” if I should jump in and attempt a real writing career–however, I am more a poet and writer of more academic/journalistic bent than a novel writer. Not sure I can tell a good story…but it is easy to write a poem.

    In any case, I am hoping the “feeling” and comments on HI will destabilize and return to the supportive, intelligent discussion that has been going on there for years.

    I wonder if there are not trolls who come to the site to disrupt it for whatever reasons…or even BOTs. I have not reported in to Regina, with whom I communicate via email, but I had a Google ad come to my iPad while on the HI site a couple of nights ago I shut down immediately. It was accompanied by a number of electronic beeps. Not sure what that was about.

    I also had dinner on July 26th with a lovely lady in the life sciences sector, which I was in for 8 years doing business development, who is from Finland. I believe her son is there now; her children have dual citizenship.

    I hope I can find your book. Keep posting! Your photos are beautiful as well!


    • Thank you for your appreciative words, Elizabeth. I’m not sure you will find my book in the library but it’s a very short, inexpensive book so you may not mind buying it. If you read it, please let me know how you like it!
      Our forum has been visited by trolls and bots in the past, but I believe the discussions going on now are by real participants, some new and some who’ve been around for longer. But if you suspect a troll, the best thing to do is to flag the comment. Moderators always look into flagged comments. As far as the Google ads are concerned, they pop up now on every site I use unless my ad blocker manages to keep them out. They seem to be a fact of Internet life these days. But precautionary use of the Internet remains important!
      Thank you again,

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