And so the second shoot of this moment of retrospect is looking back at the shots we got at Lake Parker, when Pete was here on his visit. It was our first day of shooting and similar to the day that followed, it represented an alternate location as the first park we went to was closed due to the hurricane.

We parked the car on a grassy platform on the north west side of the lake and then just slowly wandered down the edge of the lake, cameras in hand and locked in conversation.

Pete is one of those lovely people in whose company you find yourself only to realize half the day has passed when it felt like only minutes. If you are lucky you have some of those in your circle; if not, go out and get some!

Anyway, by the time we reached the south east corner of the lake, my lens was feeling heavy, my arms were tired, and I was ready for brunch at IHOP.

The walk was a great way to work up an appetite but the outing was all about seeing what creatures might be active along Lake Parker at that time of the morning.

And we weren’t disappointed. There was a myriad of little feathered friends willing to pose for us and even a couple of young gators to make sure the whole morning wasn’t simply for the birds.

Exotic birds abound in Florida. This is a simple fact and one that makes the state a destination of choice for nature photographers the world over.

I managed to get a number of decent shots yet my favorite was of one of the most common of birds, a Grackle. These little guys are related to blackbirds and they have the ingenuity to prove it.

They have remarkable intelligence and are such fun to watch as their antics never fail to entertain.

I have attached a number of shots from the morning at the end of this blog and perhaps my favorite Grackle shot ever is about half way down the set on the left hand side. (number 19, if you are counting.)

When I see how expressive guys like this are, it baffles my how anyone can think of birds as expressionless or indistinguishable from each other.

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

It was really only yesterday when I was going through the shoot, that the thought for today’s blog developed in my head.

The thought was realized as I stared into the little Grackle’s face and a shudder of thrill ran through my heart at how beautiful this little guy is.

And yet we routinely behave as if something as an ordinary as a common bird is somehow less beautiful because of his commonness.

We marvel at a single yellow flower in a field of red ones, a singular sweet taste in a buffet of savory, a shapely cloud in an otherwise clear blue sky.

Our brains respond to difference in a generally flattering way. I mean, yes, we also notice something unique if it is off-putting. But even then, it becomes more off-putting to us because it stands out in a negative way.

But it is really the beauty part that I wanted to emphasize here because when we overlook beautiful things just because they are common, we do ourselves a huge disservice and can fail to bear proper witness to the beautiful world we live in.

I recall years ago on a trail in Circle B, I stepped down off a trail and kneeled down into a damp dirty ditch because I notice a number of thistles down there and want to get a close up of them.

I was there at least ten minutes before a young couple walking the trail with their child slowed down above me to try to see whatever it was that I was shooting. Seeing the question in their eyes, I answered their unasked question; “It’s a thistle!”

One just nodded and the other just mumbled an “Oh” as they resumed their walk, unimpressed.

I found it sad that because it was only a common thistle and not some super-rare flower or precious creature, it failed to measure on their scale of interest.

Yet, it produced some of my favorite moments of that photographic year and produced a shot that ended up in my book, calendar, and on my site as such.

Perhaps if I had announced it as the prickly leaved species of Carduus and Cirsium, they might have slowed down enough to give it the time of day.

They, like many people sharing this world right now have stopped responding to what they consider ordinary.

We should never allow ourselves to become dulled to the beauty around us simply because it is called a thistle or a grackle.

Beauty lies in our ability to see beyond a name and to breathe in an experience regardless of factors that try to mute that experience for us.

We only have one life and it is filled with moments to find and breathe in its beauty.

And if it turns out that the source of such beauty is commonly available all around us, then aren’t we lucky!!

… just a thought.