You reach an age where the best Christmas gift is not something you can buy in a store or order on Amazon: time and presence. You can’t unwrap it nor can you package it in a fancy box, but it can be just as complicated to choose for the right person. Yes, of course it’s fun to still unwrap the trinkets and baubles, fawn over the gadgets and gems that tumble out of the stockings or pull out from under the tree. But if you can spend time with those that matter to your soul, then your Christmas is complete.

After the terrible year that 2016 was, I was more than happy to get on the plane and escape to Europe, even if it meant a new set of complications and disappointments. But there have been some silver linings included along the way.

So far I’ve been stopping in cities where I should be clicking non-stop with the camera because it would be “the thing to do” in these places. Instead, this Advent season has been all about giving and receiving the gift of time, whether it was in Manila, Calamba, Amsterdam, Bremen or Lübeck. Yes, my camera has always been in the bag, but it was my soul camera that took the photographs, and will develop them over time.

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FrogDiva Jr. ©MT Herzog

As a writer and photographer, the visit to Lake Dümmer was a milestone and a turning point, and so was Lübeck where I had the joy of photographing my daughter again. Not having seen her in six months was difficult for me, and I am still fascinated by how she has blossomed into a beautiful young woman in the meantime. My time with her is limited, and is a precious gift, as I cannot tell when the next time together will be. My camera has found one of its favorite muses again, and my nest is not so empty at the moment.

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