It was a stunningly clear sky as I made my way down to Tampa early morning. I was in plenty of time and decided to seek out the Bayshore Blvd stretch of road that got its name by running alongside the bay.

It’s a part of Tampa I seldom journey to, the closest that I get to it being Ballast Point which is a mile or so south of its southerly stretch.

I had exhausted Ballast Point in recent trips, so this time I thought it might be nice to capture the twilight as it lit up the pavement railings and the runners that frequent the pavement.

And I wasn’t wrong. The horizon played a magical role in giving me the backdrop I sought, runners dutifully obliged, and I was even graced during the shoot by some cars that left blazing trails of red behind them on a long exposure.

I’ve put a little collection of shots at the end of the blog and I hope you enjoy.

As I retreated to my car (once the skies had paled), I began to take in the area that I had parked in. The most stunning of homes in a most desired neighborhood that according to Zillow are worth from 1 to 5 million.

Now, compared to prices in the North East, these may sound “normal” but in Tampa the mean house price is somewhere between $250K and $300K, so I was definitely standing among the privileged.

The lavishness of these homes made me question if they could even be single-family homes in the first place … but they are.

As I pulled out past the building I had parked right beside, I noticed three cars immediately inside the gate; a Mercedes, a BMW, and something that looked extra-expensive (I have no idea what).

And I shook my head. Not in jealousy, but in annoyance.

You see, I have a real problem with social classes and the wealth gap between rich and poor in America.

The haves and have nots, couldn’t have been more obvious as I came to the traffic light just before I got back onto the expressway. There was a guy, sitting off to the edge of the sidewalk, resting in a cardboard box. Must have been just getting up, because he hadn’t pulled out his “Homeless. Please Help” sign yet and was just watching as the occasional car drove by.

Memories and the enjoyment of my twilight capture, took a backseat as I began my drive home. Replaced by annoyance and despair.

The despair was winning as I mused about how long this gap in wealth has existed and the universal-ness of how it plays out the world over.

From the dawn of humanity, when strongmen bestowed royalty on themselves, we have been happily dividing ourselves into numerous classes underneath. Each class being subservient or envious of the one above, while using and abusing the class below.

The English, god bless their black souls, coined the word Gentry, which became the ceiling that non-noble rich folks could elevate themselves to.

Then the Gentry developed sub-classes beneath that they would live off. Middle-class, working class, and of course the outcasts … the poor.

This is a pyramid system of wealth and is so ingrained now that barring a French style revolution, will never erode. But there can be no revolution. Unlike France in the 1790’s, today’s upper classes are well protected by police and and private securities, by militias and armies.

And within each organization designed to protect the system, we elevate and promote different ranks to make sure the lower ranks follow orders.

History has proven time and time again that vertically designed security can protect even the most corrupt and vile organizations. Don’t believe me?

The SS implemented such a system in the concentration camps using a organization of Kapos to keep “the sheep moving on the way to the slaughter”. Kapos were (in the main) as vicious or more so than the SS guards and callously steered their fellow jews to extinction in order to get better food and living conditions for themselves.

Drug Cartels and Dictatorships only exist because those at the top are able to structure organizations that allow each layer to use and abuse the one below it.

And in a more subtle and less dramatic fashion, our Capitalist “democracies” use a similar approach to keeping the masses under thumb and creating wealth for the few at the top.

(By the way, I used the word “Democracies” in parenthesis because many of these are structured so that the will of the people who vote is manipulated in delivering results. How else could the last two republican presidents, for example, have been elected with 1/2 million and 3 million less votes, respectively. America likes to think of itself as a democracy, but it isn’t. Sorry, folks.)

Anyway, I digress.

Western European governments tend to be closer to true democracy and as a result, they tend to provide better social programs that take care of the “lower” classes. Free education, free health, free housing. These are very common throughout these countries.

The right wingers reading this will immediately think “damn commie bastard” because they have been programmed to think that way by the capitalist overlords and frankly, they haven’t any idea what socialism is.

“If you’re not one of us, you must be a commie.”

“Yes, Mr McCarthy, I understand. Let me get back to you with that list, straight away, sir.”

Us Irish tend not to call anyone “sir”. It is a British-manufactured acknowledgement of inferiority. And while I am clearly significantly poorer than all the nice folks on Bayshore, I am most definitely not inferior.

Nor is the guy in the cardboard box inferior to me.

Inferiority and superiority are notions created to control and abuse us. We should never accept anything less than what the constitution endeavors to proclaim. That “all men are created equal”

I have a problem with the word “men” and “created”, so let me paraphrase as being “All are equal”

Men, women, rich, poor, intelligent, or republican. It shouldn’t matter.

… just a thought.


It was four something this morning and all the kitties had been tended to.

I checked the weather app and it said “clear or mostly clear” for the next couple of hours and I decided to make a run for somewhere to get a twilight/sunrise view.

So, given that time was firmly on my side, I opted to drive to a little park in the south side of St Pete. I had never been there before but it seemed to be facing east over water and offered a chance to catch something, if the skies would oblige.

It was going to be a little bit of a drive, but what else would I be doing at that time of the morning anyway, right?

To say I was thrilled with the outcome would be selling the experience short. I began shooting in darkness and twilight shots that were noteworthy revolved around some wonderful cloud formations that were hugging the horizon behind the St Pete Pier.

Though they weren’t spectacular, by the time twilight ended I was happy with my shots and felt that they were worth the drive and a lovely way to start my day.

But then some soft clouds started to work their way across at a different height and they began to catch the soft pastels from the arriving sun.

So I clicked some more and even made a short video and was super-thrilled with what I got.

Thinking that was it as the skies began to pale, I began to walk away and if I hadn’t looked over my shoulder on the way back to the car might have missed the sudden surge of orange and reds that the low clouds provided as the sun cleared the horizon.

Anyway, I have uploaded all three phases at the end of this blog … hope you enjoy the changes it all went through.

I certainly did.

As I drove away home, the worm-like thought that made its way into my brain really originated with the name of the place. It was called Demens Landing and it wasn’t a huge leap in my head to take it into Demons , which at the best of times I have plenty of. They run wild inside my head happy to undo any moment of happiness, if I let them.

I try to manage them as best I can. Sometimes I win and sometimes they do. But that’s another story.

Anyway, where my mind drifted onto was the whole notion of angels vs demons, and ultimately good vs evil.

And I thought how we humans love to identify almost every conflict in those simplistic terms.

Every war ever fought has been good vs evil (or so they would have you believe) and given that Hitler was correct when he said that history is written by the victors, then we reconcile the losses of each war against the comfort of at least a belief that good won.

But I love how everyone thinks they are the good ones and the enemy is evil. And I love how they all think they have god on their side.

America is the great satan in the eyes of many in the arab world but unless there is something here that I haven’t seen, I doubt that.

Anti-abortion people describe pro-choice people as pure evil which makes their extermination less of a sin in the eyes of the good christians.

For my part I shake my head at the pure evil that lurks in the loins of each republican or nationalist that puts guns and profits ahead of the poor and the infirm.

But in truth, I know there is nothing such as pure evil. Nor is there pure good.

No… people, groups, political parties, countries … they all live in the grey zone of having some good and some bad. Whether they choose to admit it or not.

I remember seeing a skit on TV in England a number of years ago, where two nazi officers are sitting down late in the war having a dialog and one asks the other “are we the bad guys in this story?”

But the truth is never black and white. Never clear cut, no matter how it is presented.

Good people do bad things and bad people do good things. Which translates quickly to there are no good people or bad people. Just people.

Actions can be bad or good, but not the people that commit them. But yes, by the way … actions should be punished or lauded. I have no problem with that.

I am sure a night of tea and biscuits with Mrs Bundy would include some lovely stories of Ted as a boy and how good he was to his mother. And old Mrs Hitler would recount all the lovely times she had with Adolf as we laughed together through her lovely memories. And surely Mrs Trump would have something good to tell us about her Dotard … well, maybe not.

But seriously, our viewpoints are only that. They are not a statement of fact no matter how right we feel we are.

And forcing our viewpoint on anyone who doesn’t believe the same as us, or see things the same as us, is just that … force. It is a force that enslaves others to our will. Forces them to be less of a person than we are and invalidates their own right to be right.

But activists will never see that point. They need to be able to turn their issue into white and will accept no black counter-point.

In their minds everyone should be able to buy a bazooka if they so wish, should accept only their god at the true lord and savior, and be sterilized if they are on welfare. “popping out babies on my dime!” … yes, I hear it now.

And in case you are thinking that because I am a liberal and in the above paragraph only hit conservative issues, I also don’t believe every black victim of a police shooting is innocent. You resist arrest, make a run for it, or reach for something that looks like I gun, then I’m sorry. But, you’ve created your own epitaph.

So, next time you hear an argument being made for war, or action, or even just a strong political position that uses, god, good, righteousness, or any other asinine justification in its argument … understand that you should be taking a healthy dose of salt along with whatever you are swallowing.

I have lived long enough to have a long list of bad things I have done. They have colored my soul a healthy shade of grey. These are the shadows that give refuge to the demons that every now and then make me question myself. They are the flavors that certainly take the sweetness off the life that I can claim to have lived.

While I sometimes struggle to remember them, I am sure I have also got a list of good things. Somewhere, I think.

Hopefully by the time I die, both lists will be more or less equal length.

But however long each list, neither makes me a good or bad person. They only make me a person.

… just a thought.


It was another early morning start and the lake was calling.

I took the weather app on the phone at face value. It said “clear skies” and from the stars overhead as I stood on my driveway, that seemed about right.

With the cats all fed and free and the hour hand still not at five, I grabbed my trustee camera, took off the wide angle and threw on the zoom lens, and then I headed off.

Where I was heading off to, I hadn’t figured out yet. I just knew I wanted to be somewhere that I could enjoy the coffee and maybe catch some colors.

At that time of the morning, the world was my oyster. There was no time pressure and everywhere was within reach before twilight just after six.

I figured that I would go down walker road to the gas station and buy myself some time in the decision process, while I filled up the car with gas.

As I passed the ball field, I noticed some soft slivers of low cloud drifting across the lights, so I did an about turn and for a few minutes, took some aimless shots as the soft trails of vapors drifted past each light.

The first shot below is from that moment.

By the time my car was filled up, I had talked myself in and out of several destinations. Until finally, I determined that trusty ol’ Lake Parker was where I really wanted to be.

I know I have been there a million times already, but the truth is, I find an awful lot of peace there. Particularly at the little pier and boat dock where I poured some of my Mam and Dad’s ashes as I drifted unwillingly into orphanhood.

I argued that the change of lens would give me a different feel photo-wise, so I wasn’t really repeating something I had just recently done.

When we seek to convince ourselves, we often find the most willing of audiences.

Anyway, it was still quite dark when I first got to the lake, so I went to the farthest point on the south shore so that I could watch some of the light reflections from buildings and such nearby.

Most of the time there in all honesty was spent chatting to a Great Blue Heron who was standing knee-deep in the nearby waters. As conversations go, it was pretty one-side and eventually he had enough of my idle chatter and flew away.

That’s when I decided I would head back up along the shoreline to where the little pier is. Whoever opens the gate, was early and even though it was only 5:40, I was able to drive right in no problem.

The horizon was as yet colorless (unless you count “dark” as a color) and so I took the first ten or fifteen minutes just sipping the last of my coffee and breathing in the morning noises.

As a tinge of red/orange began to define the horizon and accentuated the early morning blue skies I pointed the camera east and began taking shots.

I’ve assembled a few of what I got at the bottom of this blog and hope you get to enjoy them.

An older guy with a fishing rod appeared while I was taking them and he became a main feature of my shots from the morning.

As I drove away, the sun still had not risen, but I wanted to get home to the furry babies and was satisfied that my work here was done.

The thoughts running around my head were not just related to my belief that I had gotten some decent shots, but how certain variables had played out. Firstly in my decision process and secondly in the actual end product that I had produced.

You see, there was no way that I could have known those traces of cloud were there, but their presence played an important part in my decision to head to the lake. I wanted to see if there were some over the water and what they might look like to the camera. But there weren’t any there.

And there was no way I could have counted on that guy with the rod deciding to pick that moment to head to the pier.

These were variables that affected my morning without any input from me … other than just being there, that is.

The only constants in my morning were the clear skies and the impending approach of sun to the horizon. Even the early arrival of the guy opening the gate was something well out of my control. But if the gate wasn’t open 20 minutes ahead of schedule, where would I have gone?

These kinds of variables happen all around us almost every day of our life.

When we open our eyes in bed and begin to think about the day ahead, there is always the unknown, the variable, that can alter our plans or present us with something unexpected that we have additionally to deal with.

Variables have the wonderful aspect of adding originality to each of our days and in many ways they make our life interesting.

Some variables are disasters and can alter our days in miserable ways. Some are wonderful and enhance our experiences in ways we had no right to expect.

But either way, being variables, we cannot count on them … we can only react to them.

Yesterday evening as I finished work, my AC failed and as everyone living in Florida knows, that is quite a disaster. It completely altered my plans and made for a miserable night in stifling heat and a costly (and time-consuming) morning getting it fixed.

As adults, we get used to responding to such instances and they are very much just a part of our lives.

Similarly I took a booking for an unexpected shoot in two or three weeks that will not just be interesting but will provide a nice financial windfall that was nowhere in my immediate plans.

So when we encounter variables it is not just important that we deal with the negative but that we acknowledge the positive. Together they form the intricacies of life’s journey.

The constants are very important. They form the basis of our life’s plan and they give us the direction and the means to progress through life’s end.

Constants can be a place we live, a work we do, family and friends that fill our lives and give us purpose.

Without constants, life is without direction and overly spontaneous. We experience a reactionary journey that is oftentimes wild and unmanageable.

Without variables, life travels its path in a droll and steady pace. It can be boring and predictable and while in many ways, safe, creates fewer memories that we take with us as our life experience.

No, life is about balance in all ways. And having a balance of constants and variables is what makes the journey truly rewarding and rewardingly true.

… just a thought.

An inner hawk

I had a wonderful moment yesterday morning down at Lake Parker.

it was one of those “where will you go to” moments, where you pull off the driveway in the darkness but haven’t really set a destination in your mind.

All that I knew as I drove east from my house was that maybe somewhere on the edge of the lake might be a good place to drink my coffee and watch the horizon expose some colors.

I was too early for the north section where the boat launch and pier is, so I drove down along the lake edge to the south side. In fact the first two pics are from the south side of the lake, before I gave up and headed half-way up the edge.

I could have stayed there but something told me to move on from there, that something better awaited me further up the lake.

The rest of the pics at the end of the blog were taken about half-way up the lake’s edge.

So, when I got to the second stop, I pulled in real close to the water and just stood there for a few moments, finishing my coffee and leaning against the car watching the colors form on the horizon.

That’s when I noticed the hawk to my immediate left. To the naked eye, it was still too dark to make much out so while I saw the shape in the tree about twenty or thirty feet away, it was only when he took off that I understood what he was.

I was also distracted by something that moved in the dark near me and jumped into the water just in front of me. I don’t know for sure what it was but it was large, based on the sound of the splash it made.

It could have been an alligator, or a large turtle, or an illegal who had made it over our beloved wall. Who knows.

But the splash not only startled me, it prompted the hawk to take off from his resting spot and I was sad that I might have missed him.

You see, I associate hawks with my Dad and an astonishing number of times, when I have visited with him on a trail or at a lake, I have been greeted by a hawk. So I feel his presence there too.

Anyway, I needn’t have worried, because not only did he stay around for pics (and video even) but he flew so close to me several times, I felt he was saying hello. I spoke to him on a couple of fly-bys but he never answered. I guess he just let his wings do the talking.

So, other than the first two, the rest of the images at the end of the blog were taken there. One of the images is a compiled 12 shots that showed his swoop as he came in close. I was using an ultra-wide lens, so he looks much farther away from me than he really was. At his closest, he came to within 10 feet of me, I would say.

I hope you enjoy.

Anyway, I drove home, pleased as punch. I felt safe in the knowledge that I had all the shots that I needed. And in truth, even if I had screwed them up, I would still have the memory of the visit locked safely away inside my head.

I thought about the little voice in my head that made me go to the lake in the first place. And how again it spoke to me when I needed to move on to that second location.

Obviously, I would have been none the wiser if I had stayed put and missed the hawk. The horizon shots and the colors would likely have been something similar.

But sometimes, it pays to listen to our inner voice.

Especially when like in this instance, there was no other motivation to move from where I was.

Because this is the part of human nature that we don’t really know very well. People refer to it as a “sixth sense” and perhaps they are right.

But in my mind, a sixth sense implies that the voice is coming from without. Whereas I suspect it is coming from within.

Being intuitive is an important skill (or sense) that we seem to have evolved away from. Much like a cat knows when to jump just before someone gets them, when we were cave dwellers, I suspect intuition was an important survival tool for us.

But being removed from the food chain has muffled this inner voice and in general we pay much more heed to our other senses.

It’s the voice that makes us look up when we “feel” someone looking at us. it’s the voice that says “don’t get in the back of the van, with that stranger who is trying to move a sofa with a broken arm”. It’s the voice that tells you not to walk in the dark across the slippery rocks.

Sometimes, we listen and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we avoid becoming victim to a serial killer and sometimes we slip and break our wrist and smash our camera.

We won’t always know when we avoided something by listening to our inner voice, but we often will know when we don’t.

How many times have you said to yourself after doing something “I knew I shouldn’t have done that. I had a feeling it would … ” whatever.

Not listening to your inner voice or over-ruling your gut instinct, is selling yourself short in your decision making. We may not know exactly why, but when we hear the voice or feel the influence, we should at least pause and consider it.

… just a thought.


Davis Islands. It sounded like an exotic destination to watch the sun rise.

Other than the nearby Tampa General Hospital, I had never been to the place. But I looked it up online and it seemed to have promise inasmuch as it showed Davis Island Beach, pointing to the east over a body of water that offered reflections.

Furthermore it had the Davis Island Yacht Club, it’s own private little airport and was home to those on the wealthier side of life. So, I headed off in the darkness of the early hours, armed only with the Maps App in the phone and expectations aplenty.

Could I have landed any further from the truth?

The place was a miserable, little hole in nothingness. The yachts were a motley collection of unkept vessels and they were afloat on a water that gave slime a bad name.

And as for “beach” … are you kidding me? I have more sand on the floor mat of my car than any beach down there and it looked more like a dumping ground for broken concrete pieces. You know, the kind of rubble you see them take away by the truck load when they tear up a road.

In the interest of getting pics, I tried to step closer to the water a couple of times, but my feet slid in the slime and the rubble moved underfoot.

Cameras lie like a sailor and mine produced a few images that seem to portray a destination worth visiting. But trust me, this had more to do with magically framing the lens away from the real and producing images from nothing.

I have attached them at the end of the blog and I hope you enjoy.

I drove home frustrated and angry, wondering why they thought it was OK to promote something so untrue. I mean, seriously, how do you use the word “beach” to describe broken rubble of concrete?

And that is what formed the basis for my blog today.

You see, “misleading” is such a common aspect of human life these days, they might even make you president if you mislead enough.

There was a time when truth and honesty were qualities we were brought up to value, but not any more.

People who are good at it, will tell you that it isn’t lying exactly … it is more about spinning, creating an interpretation, shaping a viewpoint, etc etc.

Me, I may be old school, but I still think that whoever called this place Davis Island Beach is a fucking liar. Sorry.

Let’s call a spade a spade.

From the snake-oil salesmen selling cure-alls in the 1800’s, we have developed the art to where we educate young people on how to spin and we pat them on the back when they manage to pull off a good one.

We commonly use deliberate misnomers to sell things and places. “Eagle’s Landing” sounds more palpable than “warehouse properties” and “Westshore Village” sounds more homely that “tampa southside”.

We describe cabs and multi-passenger vans as “Limousines’ when picking up important people at the airport. Loose fitting clothes become “leisure wear” and Spandex pants become training wear. Amazon has a line of Women’s Active Sweatpants Workout Yoga Joggers (I kid you not) and given the shape that many of the wearers are in, I can pretty much guarantee these folk have never worked out nor jogged.

But it’s not just products and places, we mislead when we go to an interview. When the future employer asks what failings we might have, and we reply about how we are leaning towards being a workaholic … we just can’t get enough work.

Or we go on a first date with a padded bra (oh wait, sorry, push-ups), heavy mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, and enough foundation to make our face look like it has been airbrushed in photoshop.

Misleading has become second nature, to where today’s kids see that scene out of Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and see nothing funny about the preacher putting a rolled sock down the front of his pants before going on the stage.

We add weaves, fake nails, and padded underwear to “enhance our curves”.

What on earth happens when it all comes off on date night and you are standing there in your birthday suit and all your best parts are neatly folded on the chair in the corner?

A good lie is one that you can get away with. We all know that.

So conversely, when you are pitching something that isn’t real and it’s just a matter of time before everyone finds out you misled them … well, that is just stupid.

You call a pile of rubble a beach and sooner or later some old guy is going to see the truth and tell the world that you really are a fucking liar.

… just a thought.

Taking on Ballast

There aren’t many benefits to being awake before four and wondering what to do with your day. But one, was a benefit I took this morning; a trip to Ballast Point in time to catch twilight.

It was clear skies and a temperature of 61 degrees that reassured me that it was a justified trip and so I opted to forego the chance to take a nap on the sofa after feeding and releasing all the furry guys from the office.

The drive isn’t that far off an hour, I guess, but the black coffee provided that magic elixir that kept me focused on the road and allowed my mind to wander onto my adventure ahead.

I didn’t really have wild expectations but after a mediocre week, I needed something under my belt that threw the balance in my favor. Yes there were one or two wins during the week, but these were dwarfed in failures and honestly I need more than mediocre at this stage in my life.

When I got there, there were a few fellow-adventurers there ahead of me but I still got to choose my views without interruption. I have thrown a small selection at the end of the blog … hope you enjoy.

I was back out and on my way home to my furry friends a good ten minutes ahead of sunrise but it was definitely mission accomplished as regards seeing what I wanted to see.

Interestingly enough, for the first time that I can remember, it was on my way down there that I came up with the idea for this blog. It is normally a thought on my way home that delivers the notion for this blog of mine, but not today.

You see, I was thinking about the name of the place I was driving to and wondering how it came to be named so. Given the sea-faring history of Tampa Bay, I imagined that it must have been the point at which ocean-going ships took on ballast for the journeys ahead.

Interestingly enough, I was almost right. It was actually where ships dumped their ballast so that they could enter the narrower and shallower waters of the bay.

Ballast, in case you don’t know, is additional weight taken on by a ship in order to stabilize it for rough waters. It could be water, rocks, republicans, … anything inanimate that would lower the hull in the water and make it less likely to roll when hit by a lateral wave.

As is always the case in my twisted mind, I looked for the relevance of that action within our own lives. I enjoy drawing parallels between things that happen within the world and things that we do within our own world.

In this case, I allowed my mind to wander along the tracks of how important it is in life to take on this balance as we venture out into our own deep waters.

Sometimes, the balance comes from a new person that becomes important within our life; a wife or husband, a child, a mentor or a muse.

These are the people who stabilize us and give our lives greater purpose and direction. We tend to mature with their presence and we become better at withstanding turbulence that comes at us from our blind-side.

Other times, the balance come from something that we have deliberately pulled into our lives; an education, a career, a devotion, a mission. This ballast improves our focus and establishes the path to our goals as we navigate our life journey.

No one is born with ballast. It isn’t a natural part of who we are. We have to earn it and make it work for us. For example, children have no ballast and they live a life for themselves that careens from one side to another following whatever gives them joy at any given moment.

Most of us grow out of our childish instabilities by adding ballast and becoming more stable in our dealings with others and with life.

You can easily spot those who navigate life without ballast. They tend to be wildly inconsistent and precocious liars. They can be loud and brash and even intransigent, but only for the moment. For example they may be militant about a woman’s right to choose one year and a vocal anti-abortionist the next. A prominent donor to democrats one year and a republican candidate the next.

You’ve seen these people everywhere, so I will avoid the temptation to point out the dotard.

They exist in all walks of life and to the day they die, their life is all about themselves.

When we encounter people like this we should avoid them as much as possible, as they only create havoc and disunity.

But more importantly, we need to make sure that we too are not those people.

Are we solid and reliable or flaky and irresponsible? Have we decided yet between becoming a rocket scientist or a ballet dancer?

Are we someone that people come to when they look for advice? Can people count on us in a moment of need?

You don’t need to be a rock in the lives of others. Rocks are intransigent and people run aground on them. What you need to be is a stable vessel that will navigate solidly through life’s stormy waters, occasionally rescuing others along the way, and ultimately reaching your final destination with your hull intact.

… just a thought.

Diminishing Returns

It was long decided before I went to bed last night, that this morning was going to be an early-start trip to the lake.

You see, today is my Dad’s birthday and with some of his ashes occupying the waters of Lake Parker, it was always going to be the best place for me to visit with him.

I brought a candle (together with my cup of coffee and camera, of course) so that I could shine the light for him to see. Lake Parker is a dark place, pre-dawn, and I wanted to make sure he would see me.

When I arrived, there was of course no-one else there. Just me and the ghosts of my past.

It was so quiet, the little grackle in the distant reeds must have felt embarrassed for breaking the silence with her gentle chirp.

I lit the candle and sat on the end of the dock for a few moments while it was still at its darkest and I remembered the man that took a huge chunk of my heart with him, the day he left this world.

I recalled vaguely a saying about standing on the shoulders of your father and how you can be properly launched in life. Me, I was standing on the shoulders of a giant and from this height I could almost see forever. He was a truly amazing human being.

A measure of how much we love someone is the amount we grieve for them and I don’t see my grief abating any time soon. But I have tried to find soft memories of him to soothe the edge of the wounds carved into my soul by the loss. And lately it is beginning to work.

Memories are how we reclaim our past and if we are lucky, we can find happy ones that make our past worth having lived in.

At the end of the blog are a number of images from this morning. I hope you enjoy.

It was as I was driving out of the parking lot by the dock that my thoughts for this blog began to take shape. I realized that it was still a good five or ten minutes before sunrise and I wasn’t waiting around.

Why was that?

Was it the mosquitoes? Or the fact that there was a boat in the water now? Or did I have something pressing that I needed to be doing?

No. It wasn’t any one of those.

I realized that it was really down to the principle of diminishing returns. People who invest or engage in research will understand that in the business world there is always a point where diminishing returns on our investment (or effort) should make us question whether we continue on our path or take a new one.

While this approach doesn’t affect our decision of a simple choice of A or B, it should help guide us to whether we move on from something or stay put in our chosen path.

So, in personal life, we should also apply a similar principle in deciding on a change of course. If something we are doing has begun to produce less of the reason we were doing it in the first place, then we should invest ourselves in something that gives us a better result.

For example, this morning I could have stayed there taking pictures but the truth is, the clouding wasn’t photo-friendly and anything I might have shot, I have probably shot a hundred times before. So, I thought about the little furry faces that were waiting for me at home and I decided I would get more joy by being around them than I would if I were to stay at the lake.

In all of life we follow paths that we commit to early on based on a set of expectations. It might be a career, a relationship, or even an adventure of some sort. A key aspect of being on the right path is measuring the performance of any path in meeting our expectations and then adjusting our direction based on whether these expectations are being met or not.

I can’t tell you the number of people that I have met over the years that have stayed in a relationship many years after they realized it wasn’t for them. Or stayed working in a career that didn’t really light their fuse, the way the imagined it might. There are enough disappointments that happen in our lives, self-made ones shouldn’t be part of our life story.

As I continued the drive home, the wise old words of Confucius played out in my head: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away and know when to run”.

Beyond the catchy melody, the words are startlingly simple … knowing when to stay or move on is a very simple concept. In the vast majority of instances where we experience less of a life than we figured on, we know well enough when it is no longer viable.

So, knowing isn’t the only important aspect here. It is the action that should follow … the walking away (or running, as the case may be). This is what defines us in our life’s journey.

Are we destined to live out our life fully to our capabilities, or do we languish in something less?

Some people live in fear of change and that fear paralyzes them and they stay rooted to whatever spot they find themselves in. And they become stuck. And nothing changes until they die. Or if it does change it’s because their partner leaves them or the boss fires them.

Embracing change is an alien concept to those people.

And while all change is not good, change that is driven by diminishing returns is almost always a good move. While no move guarantees success, moving is what reminds us that we are alive and, at least partially, able to drive the direction that our life is taking.

When we settle for something diminishing, it should not surprise us when we, in turn, become diminished.

… just a thought.

Cleansing the palate

There were a couple of shoot opportunities that came and went this weekend before my Saturday morning even started.

But they were both people-related and given the wild success of last weekend’s black-light shoot, I really struggled with getting too excited about either.

Don’t get me wrong, both involved people that I really like and the topics of the shoots would have provided me with fun and enjoyment. But I am glad that they didn’t happen, because I needed something different in order to restore equilibrium and normalize my senses again.

So, I looked at the mid-morning moment that I found myself in today and decided to head off to Hollis Gardens. The skies above me were a rich blue and the temperature was in the low seventies, so it was perfect for a little wander.

There were others there; a couple of quinceaneras and a wedding group so I was far from being a lone photographer in situ. Yet, I was the only photographer lost in among the flowers. To the others, they were merely backdrops for their events.

Me, I wandered in among the blooms, savoring each color and breathing in each scent. It was amazing.

I had seen most if not all these types of flowers here before, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you the name of even one of them. Over the years, my brain has been quite decent at remembering names of birds and creatures, but for some reason, flowers won’t stick there.

I hope that doesn’t matter to you, because it mattered not at all to me. I didn’t need to know what they were called in order to enjoy them. In fact, I think that is one of the wonderful things about flowers … you don’t need to know where they originate from, what their favorite environment is, or how they vary from clime to clime … you only need to see them and breathe in their glory. At least, that’s enough for me.

I hope you enjoy the smattering of colors at the end of this blog.

Driving home is when I first began revisiting my decision process in my head. Normally Hollis Gardens has been my go-to place when the weather has been grey or rainy. The presence of sunshine or blue skies is not a requirement in enjoying the place.

But this time, my decision had nothing to do with the weather. It only had to do with the saturation level that was in my head and my internal need to reset the clock, restore the balance, and yes, cleanse the palate.

I needed a break from the intensity of feeling from my prior success … something that was not just different, but calming.

Flowers were it today. And it worked.

Oftentimes in life we get so busy chasing and doing, that we get caught up in the intensity of each moment. This is particularly true if we are experiencing successes and the rush that they bring.

We can go through a cycle where each success is taken on board as something that was earned, due, and frankly expected.

When we are running in such a vein, we elevate our mind to a level where successes become the norm and can even get to a level where we don’t fully appreciate them. We might even take them for granted.

This type of conditioning not only sets us up for the obvious “fall” when success doesn’t come, but even without the fall, we are reducing our success-benefit. We shorten the thrill. We mute the joy.

So we don’t enjoy each success for all it is worth.

In a way it is similar to the shell shock that was first seen in World War One, as trench-emboldened soldiers lost sight of what normal really was and daily bombardments and such became the new normal.

So, in good times (and bad) it is important for us to be able to step back from whatever is happening about us. We need to get off the ride and sip a relaxing cup of tea.

In doping so, we restore some of the perspective in our lives and we appreciate what is happening more, once our tea-break is over.

This is why life can’t be all about work, no matter how demanding work is. It can’t all be about partying, no matter how many friends you have. It can’t be all about playing the slots, no matter how much you are winning.

You have to step back occasionally and take a rest from work, forego the party for a good book, or leave the casino and sip a Starbucks while people-watching.

It really isn’t important what you do, only that you don’t keep doing the same thing.

Our journey through life needs to be savored. It doesn’t all need to be wonderful adventures. Sometimes it can just be stepping away from the race and catching your breath. (Perhaps even among the flowers)

… just a thought.

Habit forming

It was another early morning and what else would a wayward photographer do but grab his equipment and head to the lake.

I wasn’t in a particular rush as any sense of time-related urgency was assuaged by the fact that I had shot this many times before.

So, when the train crossing lights turned red and began their incessant flashing, I dutifully stopped and avoid the temptation to gun it before they were fully down. I never understand the idiots that do that, by the way. Life should never be risked for the sake of a few minutes.

I captured this image while waiting …cool colors, right?

Anyway, once the train had passed I continued on my journey and made it in plenty of time to catch what I was looking for.

Cup of coffee in one hand, camera mounted on tripod in the other, I strolled out to the end of the little boat dock and set myself up to begin taking shots.

But then I paused and just stood there for a little while. I stared off to the horizon, spoke a few words to my mom and dad, sipped the coffee a few times and just breathed it all in.

Peaceful is a word that comes to mind but in truth to use it here feels quite an understatement. Serenity is probably a better choice.

As I stared off, I recalled having the question as to whether I should go down to the lake at all. Particularly having been here so many times before. The feeling of serenity more than answered that question.

I have put some of the images at the end of the blog. Enjoy.

It was while driving back that I began to muse over why the older we get, the more habit performing we become.

Some might think it is a lack of adventure. Some might proclaim it is laziness. But it isn’t either.

Experience through growing older puts in our path, certain things that we truly enjoy. We establish our favorite foods, our favorite activities, and our favorite places to go.

This favoritism is a result of having explored avenues when we were younger, in order to find what it is we like or enjoy.

So, why wouldn’t I go there, is the real question. By exploring other places, I have found this to be the quietest, the least amount of artificial light, the most expansive view of water before the horizon … all just fifteen minutes from my front door.

For twilight, these are the important ingredients, not just for my shoots, but for my peace of mind. No matter what else has gone on the day before or how bad a night sleep it might have been, I know what is waiting for me at that boat dock and I just plug in and recharge.

As I have said before, it doesn’t even matter if it is cloudy or foggy … I still get such a boost in starting my day down there.

But there is a balance and I need to remind myself that there is.

A balance between comfort and exploration. Neither one by itself is the right approach to life. To stay on either end of the spectrum makes our lives too sedentary to where life hold no further challenge or too thrill-driven and therefore unable to appreciate the things we have learned along the way.

When we analyze ourselves and look at our habit behavior, it is a good idea to firstly ask how much of ourselves is driven by habit and how much is not. (A secondary question is to examine our habits and ask if they are good habits or bad. We all have bad habits of course, but they shouldn’t define us. If they do, then we need to break them.)

But I can look back on a given period of time (a week for example) and ask myself how many out-of-the-ordinary experiences did I seek during that time. And how many habitual things did I follow.

Now, I am not talking about things that happened to me. These are outside our control, so I am really more interested in the things I sought out. This is a truer measure of balance.

These sought-out activities will be mired in the middle of mundane commitments. So, again don’t confuse things you have to do, with things that you seek to do.

If you can look back on a given period and create a short list of unusual activities and habit-based activities, you will have a sense of where the balance is in your life. The younger you are, the more the balance will be in favor of the unusual. The older you are, the more habit-based your activities will be.

But remember, young people who are living a life based on continually unusual activities are generally flaky and unreliable. Older folk who always follow a habit-based schedule are stodgy and boring.

I found out years ago that by virtue of my circle of friends (most are in their 20s and 30s), there is a very real influence of the unusual and the experimental that works to keep me living younger than my years.

Similarly younger people who have older-influence within their friend base, tend to get more stability, responsibility, and reliability into their lives.

Before humans segmented into age-based groups, they lived within family-based structures and influences between the age groups were more real and evident.

My belief is that we live fuller lives when we have a balance that is flavored with the experience of age and the adventure of youth.

… just a thought.

Caught in a web

It was only a web.

It wasn’t why I had stepped onto the trail and some might question whether it was even worth stopping at, at all.

But I was there. The web was there. And I was lost in a moment of low and needed a lift.

The beauty of the web in the early morning light and adorned with thousands of droplets of dew might well have been the thing that caught my eye. But it wasn’t what kept me there.

No, it was actually a source of intrigue as I stared into the complexity of what that little spider had created. I saw her pattern of course and they do create the most eye-catching patterns in the natural world.

But it was only when I stared into the maze and tried to imagine her process of creation, that I began to take on board the many times she went back and added in strengthening strands and supports.

It was no mean feat and while I don’t know how long it took her or how long it would last, I do know that her efforts and ingenuity deserved to be noticed.

I stuck a few images of her web at the end of the blog, in case you are interested.

On a given day, there must be millions of webs all around us. Spectacular or not, they are testimony to the creative process of some of natures most invisible little creatures.

Spiders know we don’t like them. They know that we often kill them when we see them. They know that birds will eat them, when they find them. And yet they hang out the evidence of their existence for all to see.

Do they want to die? Or perhaps they just don’t live their lives in fear of death. Living in fear is often the domain of humans, I suspect. Particularly with respect to death.

The rest of the natural world seems to understand that life and death go together. They are just a stage of the neverending process of existence on this planet.

Everyone dies, but not everyone lives. And some that live, live a small life … small minded, small ambitions, small reach.

Yet some who are small, live big. They stretch as far as they can, spread out their web of influence and coexist with loves whose lives are better for their existence.

Some who are money-rich and big people of power, live small lives that enrich no one around them. They only take, not give. Others who are money-poor, allegedly insignificant, touch the lives of those around them in a way that leaves an indelible mark of love.

The biggest spiders do not make the most impressive webs. The most industrious and committed do.

So as I thought about the highs and lows of my own life and how they can affect me, I shook off the feeling of defeat. As the little spider had carefully revisited the strands of her web, giving support where needed, I too needed to shore up the weak points in my own life.

Life is not a “build it and they shall come” experience. It is something that must be continually tended to and adjusted.

We need to tie off the loose ends that periodically unravel, and move forward in strength knowing that one day, our little web will get blown away and nothing will be left but the loves that have shared it with us.

At one stage this morning I stopped myself and said “imagine you are dying. Right now. Not tomorrow. Not the day after. Now.”

What would we feel about the life we have built and the loves we have shared along the way?

Would we be ok with dying? I don’t mean, do we want to die. I mean, would we lament the loss of life to where we chastened ourselves for all that we left undone?

Because if the answer is that we have so much undone and unsaid, then shame on us. Because we need to be confident that we gave it a good shot. Did our best.

Even though we may have failed at things, it should not be for the effort put in. It is a fools game to assume you have tomorrow. Stop putting things off until tomorrow.

If tomorrow comes then be grateful for it. But do understand that if it comes, then it becomes today and we need to get done whatever we put off from yesterday.

I have asked myself several times, would I like to know in advance the day of my death. Would that certainty help me make sure I got everything done and said, that I felt important.

But the reality is that unless you are on death row reading this, you don’t know when your last day is going to be.

Maybe it’s today. Maybe you won’t even get to the end of this sent…

…ence. Oh, you are still here?

… just a thought.