Decisions & Consquences

After a dismal night’s sleep, I was up way too early this morning. Having completed all the kitty chores, I still had tons of time on my hands, so I poured a cup and took it with me down to Lake Parker to watch the morning take shape.

I arrived way before twilight so I drove up and down the side of the lake to decide what spot to pick for my early morning pics. When I started this whole Lake Parker scene, there were four spots that I could comfortably shoot the morning sun rise, but as was confirmed with my drive up and down the side of the lake, three of those were no longer available to me.

They decided to add lights in those areas that take away my ability to get dark shots and so I found myself back at the boat launch and the little pier on the north west side. If they ever add lights there, I am fucked.

Anyway, I did get some nice shots. Nothing spectacular but the peace and beauty of the start to the morning is evident for all to see.

They are at the end of this blog. Hope you enjoy!

It was while still there that the thought for today’s blog hit me. Someone at the city obviously decided that extra lighting was needed at certain points along the road and I wondered if they realized the consequence of their decisions.

I am sure that their justifications for such lighting would far outweigh the needs of an old guy with a camera looking for a dark place before sunrise. So, I am not even remotely suggesting that they made the wrong decision.

It is really just that each decision that is made, brings a consequence with it. In this case, my needs are merely collateral damage.

It is the same when decisions are made to take tracts of land and give permission to develop them. Invariably, wild creatures suffer the collateral damage there in losing their environment.

I remember a year ago being warned by someone driving by my property not to leave my cats out at night. Apparently there are packs of coyotes that have been spotted nearby and they have taken neighborhood cats at night.

I never want to see a cat die like that of course and two of my rescues have suffered horrible damage from such attacks. But the truth of the matter is that these wild creatures have clearly lost their environment to the developments that are now sprinkled across Lakeland.

There are agencies within the government that do raise these consequences so many of the decisions made for development are bounded by such considerations.

But the thought that I was having was more on a personal level of decision making.

You see, each decision we make in life has consequence and it is important that we are aware of such consequences when we make one.

Many of us plough willy nilly through life making decisions without much aforethought of any consequence. In fact, the younger you are, the more likely you are to commit such egregious behavior.

It isn’t that most people are being mean or egocentric. It’s just that they don’t think.

Not thinking is the greatest cause of collateral damage in most of our lives and this is the problem.

I remember when I was growing up, I learned chess. The basics of the game was a set of different rules for each piece and to some people that created a degree of complexity to the game.

But more than the set of rules, what the game taught each of us (hoping to win an occasional game) is that you have to think several moves ahead and imagine what your opponent is likely to do at each move of your own.

Thus you were being trained to examine the consequence of each move before you made it.

There is a real advantage to this in life. Thinking several moves ahead before you say or do something is an excellent way to tackle most things in life. But not everyone can do that and even if you can, sometimes you get it wrong.

But at the very least, we should understand an immediate reaction or consequence of something that we do or say. We have that responsibility to those around us as our words and actions can have real influence and cause real damage to others.

Chess is one of those almost forgotten games these days, for most of us. But we could do well to understand its principles and in particular the skill of consequence to decision, even if we never play the game itself.

… just a thought.

Mannie

I lost a very dear friend this week.

I first met Mannie when we were both soccer referees in Limerick and we stayed closest of friends for the following thirty odd years.

In many ways, he was a wonderful man but more than that, he was a wonderful friend to me. He saved me from a serious beating once which I wrote about in my book but beyond that, he was always there for me whenever I needed help or just a voice on the end of a phone.

Each time I returned to Limerick, I visited him and just saw him a few weeks ago, when he looked very frail and at death’s door. We often reminisced and when we weren’t looking backwards, he was looking forward to meeting his idol, Marylin, once he died.

Even when I wasn’t there, we spoke on the phone often and I could tell that he was get closer to death with each call. When I called this week a few times and didn’t get an answer, I feared the worst. After three or four calls, I called the nursing home yesterday and they told me that he had died on Wednesday.

Though saddened, I wasn’t shocked and in truth I was happy for him in his release and hope that Marylin braced herself … he had been fantasizing about her for donkey’s years.

Last night, his service was in Limerick and today he is cremated. For my part, I went to the lake at sunset and said goodbye to someone who takes a piece of me with him on his journey.

I took three little pics. They are at the end of this blog.

This isn’t going to be a big wordy blog but the thought that occurred to me revolved around the manner of his death. It was a pretty miserable end of life for a man who throughout was dealt a rough hand.

That I was happy for him that it was over is a sufficient statement on how awful the whole demise was.

Last night while I was there saying goodbye to him, I thought of how my own Mam and Dad were also cast in playing out their own deaths and the unfairness of it all saddened me.

Then I thought how over the past couple of years, each person that I have lost, has gone in a pretty awful way. My dear Brittany in suicide, Ashlee in a violent suicide, MJ suffocating to death … and all of these in their twenties as they left this world.

Even Joey, who was closer to my own age dying in the manner he did with liver cancer. Dreadful.

That we all have to die is not the issue. I fully understand that death is no more than a part of our life cycle and happens to us all.

The issue is how we die.

There is no fairness and many good people die bad deaths.

… just a thought.

Rain

I was sitting in the office yesterday afternoon, door open as normal and looking out through the opening spotted that it was raining.

All the cats took cover, unsurprisingly, but I ran upstairs, grabbed my camera and ran out to where a puddle had formed near the edge of the house.

The rain was hitting me on the back as I stooped over but I didn’t care. My thoughts were very on much on trying to focus on where the next drops might land.

The number of missed or blurred moments was substantial but then again, I would have expected as much. Trying to predict where a rain drop might land in a puddle is akin to figuring out where a lightning strike might occur across a vast dark sky.

Going through the images this morning, you have to skip through a lot of blurs and ignore them. It will eat you alive if you get caught up on that. It’s when you catch one that is in focus, you pause and look at the wonder that Mother Nature has allowed you to capture.

Most of those shots had focus that was almost perfect and therefore they became acceptable when the drop did something special like a ripple or a splash. Then there was one or two where the focus was absolutely spot on and I grinned ear to ear.

Anyway, I have attached a number of the shots at the end of the blog. Hope you get to check them out and enjoy!

In the meantime, the blog thought for today was all about rain and our reaction to it.

I have seen people behaving like cats and getting paralyzed somewhere in order to avoid it.

I have seen people bemoan it, cancel events over it, and complain how three drops on their shoulders amounts to a soaking.

I have seen other people embrace it and dance in it and I admire them for that.

Me, I look at rain and jump at the chance to do something in it. Much like yesterday, rain opens up a wealth of possibilities to a photographer and as long as we can manage to keep our lens dry, these possibilities sometimes produce wonderful images.

But beyond photography, there is an aspect to rain to where we have allowed it to become a negative euphemism.

We take rain checks, talk about people raining on our parade, complain about how when it rains it pours.

People like to have something to complain about. We will take something perfectly good like rain and complain about how it makes us wet, depresses our feelings, robs us of an activity (that involved dryness, I assume).

Yet rain itself is the very life source to this planet in the water it produces.

So how come we are so happy to malign it?

When we experience rain in our lives (physically or figuratively) we need to change our attitude and appreciate that each rain drop brings with it an opportunity for us to alter our path.

The only thing that perpetual sunshine creates is a desert and our lives need to be more than that.

Our lives are a mix of good times and bad times, successes and failures, opportunities and challenges. When it isn’t then we risk it ending up a barren wasteland that eventually just peters out on us.

Rain in our lives should be seen as a refreshing source of where our next road may lead us and while no one wants it to be always raining, its presence shouldn’t deter us from moving forward.

There are moments in the lives of many of us, where the rain seems torrential and we struggle to get a solid footing and move forward. Some reach for an umbrella or take cover and wait for the rain to pass.

But the better approach is to let it give us a soaking. Just continue the push and somewhere ahead, you will find a rainbow. You can always change and dry off, if you need to but knowing that you had to push through a rain storm in order to reach your destination, will make the destination itself all the more valuable when you find it.

… just a thought!

Man was in the Forest

Sunset wasn’t far away and I was sitting on the sofa last night when outside in the yard, my eye caught some movement.

I immediately saw it was a fawn and grabbed my camera, raced downstairs and trying desperately not to spook anyone, I managed to get several shots of her. And her brother! Yes, there were two of them.

Nearby and keeping a watchful eye on the proceeding was Mom.

She was the same young deer who visited a short few weeks ago and this time she came back with her babies.

I know her to be Mrs Brisbey’s daughter, Teresa. And two or three years ago, her mom did the exact same. She came by herself first and then when she decided that my yard presented no danger, she brought back Teresa as a young fawn.

And here we are now, with the life cycle repeating itself. I love it.

I hope you enjoy some the images that I have put at the end of the blog. I absolutely love deer!

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, I am embarrassed about the state of my yard. Neighbors around me have perfectly groomed yards and lawn. Mine is over-grown wilderness, lawn-less and I must in that sense be the butt of neighborhood jokes.

But the benefit of keeping my property in this manner is the amount of wildlife that frequents the place. Raccoons and Possums live here of course, as do snakes and squirrels, and occasionally I get the deer, armadillos, and every type of bird and butterfly/moth you could imagine.

I talk to them all, which I am sure is one of the signs of senility but I don’t care. In my mind it is all about making sure everyone feels welcome and unthreatened.

I put food out for everyone on a daily basis, but the one creature I have stopped feeding is the deer.

It is the reason for this, that generated the thought for this morning’s blog.

You see, when Mrs Brisby started coming here, I checked online as to what kind of foods deer liked and immediately went to a feed store and got deer corn and I put it in a couple of places in the yard. And sure enough, Mrs Brisby would keep coming back and eating it.

It was fabulous seeing so much of her and I was able to stand within ten feet of her and talk to her while she was eating.

It was only when I went looking for the second bag and I went to Walmart and found it there … in the hunting section!

Yes, it is used to attract deer by hunters who want the deer to get closer and become distracted.

That moment is when I realized I was grooming Mrs Brisby to trust man. And unfortunately almost all men who spread corn for deer, do it with the intention of killing them.

I felt so upset and resolved never to do that again.

I can’t, for the life of me, imagine the mindset of anyone who could look down the barrel at a little creature like this and feel justified in pulling the trigger.

Do you know how dysfunctional a mind has to be to normalize such behavior? There isn’t a hunter I know who doesn’t talk about how they are only doing this because they don’t want the deer to die from overpopulation. Or how they always eat the meat. That kind of shit.

That they allow themselves to justify murder of any creature is a clear indication of a defective mind. And for all you little girls who have daddies that go out hunting on weekend, understand that he is out there murdering Bambi. Tell him to cop the fuck on.

Wouldn’t it be cool if large Grizzlies came up with fake creatures that lured the hunters and distracted them, so that they could kill them? I mean, they would definitely eat the meat and heaven knows humans need to be population controlled.

There is no excuse to murder any creature. Even creatures that don’t look appealing to us, should be allowed to live their lives without fear of being destroyed by us. But if we are out there murdering gorgeous creatures like deer, what chance does the rest of the animal kingdom have?

Nothing is safe from humans. We have proved that again and again, hunting or fishing in such numbers, or destroying and consuming environments to where they go extinct.

Fuck, we even kill ourselves. We train little Johnny on how to use an assault rifle and then just because Mommy didn’t tell him what a wonderful kid he was that day, he takes the gun and murders a bunch of other kids at school.

Humans are by and large defective creatures. The very intelligence that enabled us to move to the top of the food chain and colonize the planet, is the mechanism by which we destroy everything.

It allows us to rationalize willful environmental damage, murder and consumption of an insane amount of living creatures, enslavement and abuse of our fellow man, and in fact, anything else deranged we wish to explain away.

People have an innate ability to rationalize the irrational.

When you add that to a self-serving ego that empowers this feeling of supremacy, it becomes a recipe for disaster.

Bambi was one of my most favorite Disney movies of all times and as a child I adored it. It was only in later years that I stopped being able to take joy from it when several lines from the dialog hit home to where they made my heart hurt.

“Come on out, Bambi. Come on. It’s safe now. We don’t have to hide any longer. – What happened, Mother? Why did we all run? – Man was in the forest.”

And then later in the movie when the giant stag appears in the snow storm to tell Bambi that ” Your mother can’t be with you anymore. “

Wouldn’t hurt so much if I wasn’t a man.

… just a thought!

Clouds

I had fed everyone but a useless night’s sleep had me chored-out by five, this morning. It was pitch back outside and I decided that I could comfortably make it to Ballast Point in time to catch both twilights.

So, I grabbed a coffee, a few different lenses, and said goodbye to the babies and I was gone.

It was just a few minutes into the drive when I realized that it wasn’t just dark, there was a serious fog accompanied by all the “drive carefully” warnings along the interstate.

I checked the weather app on the phone and it said partly cloudy, but I figured even if the clouds swallowed the twilight, I might get some cool fog-effects down at the bay.

Unfortunately just a few minutes from Tampa, the fog completely disappeared taking that possibility with it.

That left just me and the clouds and if they were in the right place above the horizon, they might give me some good colors to play with.

It was still really dark when I got there, but from what I could see, it looked like they were hugging the horizon and therefore likely to snuff out any chance to a decent twilight.

This reality threw me into a different mode, scarpering around looking for anything else to shoot other than the horizon. I shot the piers, but there wasn’t anything new there that I hadn’t already shot. I even switched out lenses a few times; from the 11 mm super-wide to the 28 mm standard, to the 600 mm zoom.

Try as they might, none of them gave me anything memorable.

What finally did give me something was when a beautiful young lady named Libby, sat down on a swing bench to watch the sunrise and take guidance from a book she was reading. Thankfully, she wasn’t freaked out by the weird old guy with a camera who kept taking silhouette pics of her.

Simultaneously at the old shorter pier, I noticed a young man in morning prayer also seeking guidance, I suspect.

I have attached a number of shots that show the progression from real darkness to the actual sun rise. Twilight, I am sorry to say, didn’t really happen.

My favorite shot is the very last one in the bunch at the end of this blog. In the foreground, she is staring off into the sun rise, mid-ponder, and in the distance, he is staring off to the same sun rise, mid-prayer.

I hope you enjoy!

The blog thought began to form in my head, mid-scarpering, while I was down there and it played within my head for most of the drive home.

You see, clouds that appear in pics can play a number of roles. They can be the source of gorgeous colors lighting up the skies at sunrise or sunset. They can add character and depth to an otherwise solid blue sky. They can even become a subject all of their own when they adopt interesting shapes that conjure up magical creatures in our minds.

Tragically they can also rob images of value, like they did this morning, stealing the twilight and threatening to make my drive a waste of time.

In this mode, they become obstacles and hindrances, that stop us from seeing what it is we want to see. There are many euphemisms of such a role, where a confused brain is described as cloudy, and judgment become clouded by too many factors or distractions.

And here is where we have to adapt ourselves, much as I did in a practical sense this morning. We have to change our focal point and find something else that we can grab onto and make the subject of our moment.

I was lucky to find such a lovely subject this morning, to where the relevance of the skies were relegated to a mere backdrop rather than being the subject.

In life, we need to do the same, switching gears and finding a positive that we can grab onto. It is easy to allow the negative to dominate our thoughts and become the defining moment in our day. I have fallen into that trap many times.

But, if we can find something that adds purpose or generates a little happiness, or provides a little win, then any negative that happened become merely a backdrop to whatever we have managed to achieve.

I don’t pretend to say that we can outweigh any negatives that happen in such a manner, but at the very least we can try to find something that softens the blow to our day.

I have done this a number of times and have reaped real benefits at night when laying my head down on the pillow. I might lick my wound from the negative a little, but then console myself with an “at least” of some sort.

And some times, the “at least” actually turns out to be better than whatever it was that injected a negative into your day. I got one of those this morning … thank you, Libby!

… just a thought.

Great Expectations

I got up early. Too early. Shoulder was killing me and couldn’t sleep with it. So by the time 5 came around, all my kitty chores were done, everyone was fed and those needing to be released, were. I had even eaten my bowl of Frosted Krispies and was half-way into a black coffee.

I looked at the clock and thought to myself that this is crazy. I needed to escape and so I did.

I took what was left of my coffee and headed off to Lake Parker. I could finish it down there and try to clear my head out before any semblance of a work-day began to crawl out of the shadows in my brain.

Grabbing the 11mm lens was a last-minute decision and nothing really went into that thought process other than the last outing had the big 600 mm one. So, I guess I was just opting for something completely different.

It was quite a pretty twilight and I got a few decent shots which I have placed at the end of the blog. I hope you find something there to enjoy.

But taking pictures wasn’t my primary goal this morning and so I had no expectations of a great capture. And that is what led my thoughts to this blog.

In truth, I don’t believe I had any goal other than the actual getting away from the house and so I placed no expectations at all on the place I was going to.

Thus, no matter what I found there, I was not going to be disappointed. Hence the little bit of joy I found was both unexpected and delightful.

Very often in life we encumber ourselves with expectations. We place them on ourselves, on those around us, or on an event or a place. And the higher the expectations, the more likely we are to be disappointed.

It would be impossible however to go through life with no expectations and we would just become a fop for whatever was happening to us or around us.

So, as in most aspects of life, neither extreme presents the best answer.

And yet, the level of expectation is different for most of us depending on where we are in life, in our careers, in happiness, etc. Therefore it is only correct that we have varying degrees of expectation different to one another.

I tend to go through life with higher expectations on myself than those around me. That is because I know my capabilities and therefore can be more demanding of myself than others.

But there are others who demand more of those around them than they do of themselves and frankly I believe that is wrong. We should at the very least demand as much from ourselves as we do others.

Wherever you find yourself lying though, it is a good escape to do something for which there is no expectation. Maybe it is something you have never done before. Maybe it is something that you have failed at previously and are going to try again.

Whatever it is, treat yourself to it occasionally. Escape, if only for a moment, can be exactly what the inner you needs and expecting nothing of a situation, can bring a wonderful sense of carefreeness (is that even a real word?) that can give you Monday morning the ideal start to another grueling week.

It can also help you see yourself or others in a more agreeable light. And that’s always a good way to start a week!

… just a thought.

Fair Daffodils

Four years ago today, my Mom died.

She loved flowers. And though I could never remember the names of any other than the obvious ones, I went out of my way in later years to picture them for her whenever I could. So, Hollis Gardens became a favorite seasonal haunting spot for me. And image after image of the endless blooming there, seemed to brighten her weeks a little as she wound down after my Dad died.

In fact, the last time I was with her a number of years back, we planted together a number of flowers for her. Some were in a flower bed just outside the patio door in the kitchen and others were in several flower pots that held pride of place around her garden.

When my sister told me it was four years today, my heart skipped a beat, as I had no idea that she was already gone that long. So, there was only one place for me to go this morning. There were a couple of times I could feel her off my shoulder, as I found some that she would particularly have liked.

Anyway, I hope you like the little selection at the end of this blog. I am pretty sure she would have.

The thought that came to me (for this blog) was as I was driving down to Hollis Gardens this morning. Every year, my sister reminds me of my Mom and Dad’s death anniversaries.

For some reason my brain has developed a blocking system that stops me being able to commit them to memory.

And so, as I drove down there this morning, I discovered something about myself today.

I was questioning why I can never remember these days on my own. Dementia doesn’t seem to have settled in yet. I can remember lots of stuff without any great problem. But when it comes to just these dates, my brain has them locked away.

And then it dawned on me. My brain reacts in a denial or forgetful way when experiencing trauma.

I recall in my last year of school, I was 17 at the time and went to the Christian Brother’s School in Sexton St., Limerick.

It was only a few months before I was to graduate and back then, we were obliged to recite poetry off by heart. Memory of such was a key aspect to learning in the Irish school system at the time.

There was one particular brother there, who was our advanced English teacher and when one day I couldn’t remember Robert Herrick’s poem “To Daffodils” he got particularly annoyed and told me that I had better know it when he came in the following day.

“Fair Daffodils, we weep to see you fade away so soon…” that is how it began. And I studied it that night to make sure I wouldn’t be caught out.

But as he walked into the class and placed his books on the desk he called out “Ronan. Give me To Daffodils”.

Obviously it had stayed in his mind as he said nothing else as he walked into the room. Just that.

I stood up and began with the poem only to stumble into darkness again at the end of the second line. “As yet, the rising sun has not attained his noon.”

I stared off into the black hole that was my brain and there was no third line and I froze. The more I thought, the deeper and darker the hole became. There was no hope for me.

The brother, who took my lack of remembering as a sign of insolence called me up to the top of the room, announcing to the class that in all his years teaching, he had never had to discipline a student of such an age in such a manner.

Corporal punishment was in vogue back then and each brother carried a long leather strap in his waste. It was about fifteen inches long, triple folded and heavily stitched along each side. Rumor had it that the nasty bastards would undo the stitching and slide some coins inside and then close it up. Adding more weight to the tip made it a particularly painful experience.

“Hold out your hand, Ronan.” and then he raised the leather above shoulder height and brought it down with a viciousness across the tips of my fingers. The next one was squarely in the palm of my hand as I leaned into it to make sure it wasn’t finger tips again. Those were the worst.

Of the six that he handed out, one caught my wrist and the others stung the palm.

By the time I returned to my desk, my hand was in severe pain but I didn’t cry. I wanted to. But everyone was watching. So I just sucked it in.

I never did remember the third line to that poem. I must have read it twenty or thirty times but it just wouldn’t stick. Nothing about it came up in the final exams anyway and it just disappeared back into the shadows of my mind until this morning, when I questioned myself on why on earth I couldn’t remember such important dates as the deaths of my Mom and Dad.

Sometimes, we deal with trauma in ways that defies logic. Some people break down and fall to the ground in tears. Some people put it in a box and leave it until they can cope with it. And then some of us just live in denial and are unable to process it all on a level that commits it to memory.

There is no right or wrong way. However one copes is likely the best answer.

… just a thought.

In Spite of Oneself

Yesterday began with a sudden realization that there was a full moon still hanging in the sky … a Harvest Moon, no less.

I was upstairs at the time, gathering myself and trying to decide what to do with my morning now that all the kitties were fed. It was just a few minutes before six and so I checked into the weather app on the phone and it told me that the sky was mostly clear, which put the trails at Circle B firmly on my list of possibilities.

But it also indicated that in about four minutes, the Harvest Moon was about to reach its peak. So, grabbing my camera, I ran off outside and managed to snap a few images of it while it was still large and bright.

Then I bundled the camera into the car, said goodbye to my feline friends and set off for Circle B. It was still dark and no sign of the twilight yet but I was hoping I could make it to the trails and capture it there. Actually the skies began to take on a color when I was only halfway there and so I realized that I had to pull in somewhere and try to catch it. I wasn’t going to catch the colors if I waited until Circle B.

I found a small lake by the side of the road, pulled into a car park and managed to get some neat shots as some beautiful colors announced themselves beyond the far side of the lake.

As the sun finally made itself known, I hopped back into the car and made for the trails.

It was the first twenty minutes or so on the trails that my own struggles caught up with me. Do you ever find yourself suddenly being confronted with a series of your own mistakes that just compound on each other and make your life miserable?

Well, that was me yesterday. As I set out on the trail, my big lens (which was to be my main companion for the morning) fogged up like crazy as I had kept it in the cold car and not let it acclimatize properly. That’s when I realized I had left my lens cloth back on the seat of my car and so I resorted to using the inside of my shirt to try to wipe it clean.

No sooner had I wiped it each time that it fogged up again so for 20 to 30 minutes, I was photographically disabled. Couldn’t shoot anything worth talking about. I was getting more and more pissed at myself with each passing minute and each opportunity to shoot something that I had to ignore.

I was down by the lake when it finally stopped fogging and by then I realized that I was wearing the wrong shoes. These were definitely not trail-shoes and I was slipping and generally unsteady to the point that my lower back was developing a progressive ache from bad posture.

I was half way down the lake when I realized that I also had forgotten my spare battery at home and this one was now showing a charge of less than 20%. This made me rush several moments and I accelerated my walk so that I would be back at the car before it ran out.

In my mind, any moment where I had zero battery left was the most likely moment when I might encounter that elusive bobcat that I have been looking for, for years.

Unknown to me, in my rush, I got something dreadfully wrong in the focus department when a wonderful pair of Osprey began to play in the skies nearby. I rattled off about fifteen shots only later to find out that the sky was perfectly in focus but not the birds.

At about 4% I managed to get some shots of a lovely Osprey eating his breakfast, at 3% there was a brood of baby alligators hidden away beyond some bushes that I managed to get a couple of pics worth taking, and finally at 2% I found a lovely Little Blue Heron who had just caught an eel and was in mid-struggle with his prey on how best to eat him.

I have included a number of images from start to finish of my morning at the end of the blog and I hope you enjoy them. Here is an initial one where I combined one of my very last images, with one of my first. I was thinking of captioning it along the lines of the Harvest Moon not being so lucky for everyone, but I will leave that up to you.

In any event, by the time I made it home yesterday, I was pretty miserable. When I reviewed my Osprey play pics on the PC, I was even more so.

When events around me conspire to ruin a shoot, I can take it, albeit begrudgingly so. But when I repeatedly shoot myself in the foot, I have no such sense of forgiveness.

That’s when the notion for this blog thought hit me. In spite of myself yesterday, I actually managed to get some decent shots.

Honestly, the level of fuck-up that was involved in everything I did, was almost comical and certainly threw me into the lower echelons of amateur photography.

Yet somehow Mother Nature stepped in and gave me a few face-saving moments that made me look like I knew what I was doing.

Conversely, there are moments when we do everything right and we still fall on our faces. You find yourself wearing your perfect trail shoes, cleaning cloth resting beside your spare battery in your pocket, and not a hint of fog on your lens. Yet you catch nothing; might as well have stayed home.

This is where we have to look at the bigger picture and realize that life isn’t really about us. We don’t really make things happen. And certainly we don’t control things to any reasonable level.

No, in most cases we just live through moments that play out in front of us. We get to witness and occasionally react. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. But most of the time we are just along for the ride.

Life is much bigger than the world we create in our heads and understanding that is part of the maturing process. Until we get to that point, life is mainly just a struggle. We pull and push and kick and scream but rarely seem to make a dent in what is happening around us.

Our experience is generally one of strife, interspersed with some happy moments. Making the most of those moments is, at the end of the day, what forms the basis of a happy life.

The big destiny of life is dismal. Its big conclusion is that we all die. So therefore it must be the journey itself that we find our value in. Stringing enough happy memories together to form the basis of a sense of happiness for ourselves and those around us; that is where the real value of having lived, lies.

As Oscar Wilde so beautifully put it: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Getting bogged down with our struggles and worrying over things we cannot affect are ridiculous paths to choose through life. Understanding that life will go its own way in spite of us, is an important principle to accept. And in so doing, we can shift our gaze away from the struggle and up to the stars.

… just a thought!

Inadvertent Impacts

There are only two images at the end of this little blog. They came about from the tail end of last night as I was in the kitchen getting ready for bed.

I live in an older house and it is a continual battle with mother nature, keeping the vines from overtaking the place. There is a huge vine on the western face of the building and outside the kitchen window it is standing about fifteen feet tall. It clings to the building and its tentacles have now grabbed onto the glass of the window.

I have pulled this down several times these past few years and they keep growing back. I have mowed over them, hacked at them, even pleaded with them.

They are a beautiful plant but I don’t want them taking over the house. It is already bad enough. On the nearby trees, they have climbed to heights of about thirty or forty feet and they look awesome there. Just not on the house, please!

Anyway, this current one that is climbing along the kitchen wall houses several small creatures and I have been reluctant to pull it down because of that.

I still will. I am just putting it off.

In any event, as I stood at the kitchen sink last night, taking my medicine, I saw that a lovely frog (or toad) was outside on one of the stalks, looking back in at me.

That’s who I took the pictures of, at the end of the blog.

This particular spot has always been a haven for such little creatures as the light from the kitchen windows draws a wonderful supply of food for them, right to the glass surface!

Morgan has a habit of leaving lights on when she leaves a room, and being a night creature herself, the kitchen lights always seem to be on overnight … hence the frogs.

Admittedly, I too have left the lights on occasionally when I spot one of them outside the window. I like to think that I help them get a fill of whatever bugs they can catch.

The only times I deliberately turn them off when a frog is there, is when I spot a moth on the window … I like moths and don’t want to play a part in enticing them into the frog food chain.

Anyway, as I wandered off to bed last night (leaving the light on for him) I began to think about what eventually led me to this blog thought.

Essentially, the thought is how we can impact life around us in either a negative or positive fashion and how rarely that fact is more than just a passing thought for us.

Most times we are too busy going somewhere or doing something to even realize how we help or hinder other creatures. Major issues like polluting the environment, destroying habitats, etc., are done on a huge scale but that is not what I am talking about.

I am talking about the little moments in our lives that turn out to be big moments in the lives of other creatures.

For example, when we are walking across the driveway and we see a worm stranded too far away from the grass, exposed to the sun or a predator … do we just walk by? I am sure the majority of times this happens around me, I don’t even see, but last week I found a crispy leaf, put the worm on it, carried him over to the grass, broke a little ground for him and tipped him into the soft earth so he could escape.

Twice the week before I found a large black beetle lying on his back on the asphalt, unable to right himself and I righted him, took him over to the grass and let him free. But how often have I not noticed situations like that?

My big accomplishment yesterday was noticing that some of my kitties had caught a vole outside and were in the middle of deciding what to do with her. I took the decision out of their hands, caught her, drove her to a safe place a mile away and released her near some tall grass and a small pond, where she happily ran off to begin a new life.

These are all instances, where I stopped myself mid-routine and played an active part in the life that is going on around me.

But like everyone else, I normally go from point A to point B, busy in my own struggles and oblivious to the lives of smaller creatures around me. This is a natural response to living a life that is at least partly self-involved.

Some people are completely self-involved and oblivious on a staggering scale to the suffering of those around them. These people disgust me and while I don’t expect everyone to begin looking for over-turned beetles and deliberately setting about to righting the world, it would be nice to think that people could at least make themselves occasionally aware of those tangentially crossing their lives.

Being aware gives us a choice of do we help or do we keep walking. So that is the first step; being conscious of the world in which we travel. It is important to understand that we don’t travel it alone, nor does it revolve around us.

Then, once we face that choice of helping or not, it comes down to our feeling of empathy. Empathetic people will almost always help, non-empathetic will not.

OK, I said “will not” as if that is always true 100% of the time. The truth is they might help if they happen to think highly of the creature involved. A beetle, no. But a cute little puppy, perhaps.

Empaths will help regardless of their own taste and that is a powerful statement of character.

A few weeks ago, a big mud-wasp flew in through the open door into my office and flew menacingly around me several times. I spotted him immediately and wished him back out the open door but he was having none of it.

Then I saw him fly over towards a window on the far side of the room and he landed on the edge of a picture frame I have mounted over there.

I didn’t see him move away and became concerned, so I got up from my desk and walked over to inspect. His leg had become stuck on a cobweb and he wasn’t able to break free.

So, I grabbed a piece of cardboard that would allow me to free him from a distance of a few inches and I did so. I carried him out on the cardboard with the web still holding his leg on it and when I reached the surface of my car, I put it down and then used a pine needle to free him and he flew away.

There wasn’t any wave of gratitude or benefit to me. Nor was I expecting one. I did it because I was able to. It cost me nothing but a minute of my time but my inaction would have cost him his life. I think that was a good trade.

By the way, in rounding off that story, as I pulled his leg free from the initial web at the picture frame, I saw that a spider had started to come out, hoping his trap had worked.

So over the course of the next fifteen minutes and again later that day, I managed to catch a few mosquitoes and bring them over to the web where the spider accepted the trade.

Anyway, the point that I am trying to make is that it is easy to focus our lives on ourselves and even on those immediately around us. But we actually move in a much greater circle than just that and we should become aware of that.

Removing life’s blinkers is a genuine first step in understanding our role in the environment in which we live.

Beyond that, it becomes a simple statement of whether we want to impact that environment in a good or bad way. Because impact it, we do!

… just a thought!

Change of Pace

it was one of those moments where you begin your day and wonder what you want to do with it. I stood there, having taken care of all that depend on me and it was only about 5:45 am

Typically that type of realization is accompanied by a “Where will I find a good spot to shoot a sunrise?” But this time, I was in need of something a little different.

I realized I had good timing to get down early to Tampa and see what was happening there. You see, today is Labor Day and unlike most other Mondays the traffic heading downtown was likely to be almost nothing.

I wasn’t wrong. There was very little traffic on the road and I was down town at the University of Tampa in no time.

I meandered across their grounds that stretched down to the Hillsborough River and took some pics of the downtown skyline from there. I was using the ultra wide lens as well as my ordinary 28mm lens and even though there was nothing spectacular in what the sky was doing, I still enjoyed the change of pace being down there gave me.

I have put a small selection at the end of the blog. Hope you find something there to enjoy.

It was on the way home that I began to think about the change of pace and how it made an otherwise ordinary morning feel special.

We tend to run our lives at a single pace. There are people who are rabid go getters and others who just drift slowly through life. And there are many levels in between. For everyone, their own pace is right for them and depending on how a person is driven, they will be best served by a pace that matches the drive.

Personally I think I am reasonably driven and it tends to run things at a pretty solid pace. This is why disappearing onto a trail and just relaxing into nature for a few hours is a great getaway for me.

Getting away from our regular pace is good for a person. Particularly if we are on the right pace of life in the first place. Such a change allows us to recharge or restore if our normal pace is fast or exhilarate and pump ourselves up if our pace is more sedate.

It isn’t that the new pace itself is something we wish to sustain indefinitely but it is the contentment and reassurance that it brings when we return to our normal mode of living.

If we are indeed on the right pace for us, initially, then when we come back to it, there should be a feeling of normality and correctness when we resume.

If we don’t get that, then we are likely not on the correct pace initially and we should reassess where we want our lives to take us.

Otherwise, we end up on our deathbed wondering what did we do with our lives (if we should have been more driven) or how did we not take time to smell the roses (if we raced through it all too quickly).

So, I guess the point I am trying to make here is that if you look at the past month and can’t see where you did something that was completely different to what you normally do, then try to resolve to do it in the coming month.

A change of pace is therapeutic and there is nothing wrong with a little healing therapy every now and then.

… just a thought.