It’s the way you ride the trail that counts, Here’s a happy one for you.”
So begins the wonderful old song by Roy Rogers.
I found myself yesterday on a new trail with some amazing friends and I couldn’t have been happier.
As days go, some would argue that it was a bit on the chilly side for Florida and others would wonder where the blue sky went, but it was a perfect day for exploring a trail and in the company of good friends, I found myself exploring mushrooms, marveling at moss, following leaves, and picking “stickies” off my hoodie.
Inna and Jax sifted through river silt and found amazing fossilized sharks teeth and camel molars and oblivious to the cold water they were in, stayed there for over and hour.
Meanwhile, Kallista and I explored surrounding landscape, climbed fallen trees, and marveled at the scenery around us.
By the time we were finished, they had gathered a bagful of fossils, and me a bagful of memories.
I hope you enjoy the pictures at the end of the blog.
I was left with that song playing around in my head as a blog thought for this morning. And more significantly the thought that it isn’t so much the trail you are on, sometimes, as the people you are sharing it with.
I am truly fortunate that there are enough fools out there that love me and happy to spend such time with me. “May they never get wise” is my mantra these days.
But going through life and occasionally sharing little patches of it with the right people is a true treasure that we should cling to with all our might.
Building memories of time well-spent is a wonderful use of our time on this planet and I like to think that at the final hour when life flashes before our eyes, it is these memories that take pride of place, however we spend our lives.
I can’t imagine anyone having a final thought about their bank account balance, the house they live in, the car they drive, or their job title at work.
What I hope my final thoughts are is the collection of memories I have been fortunate enough to hold onto of the people that I love and the moments we have shared together.
Yesterday morning, we decided to take the trail at Lake Hancock again, even though it was a cloudy grey day and there were other things we could have been doing.
It was a work-day for some and between that and the greyness of the day, there were very few people on the trails when we got there. In fact, there were many times when we were completely alone for up to a half hour at a time and others when the only companions on the trail were feathered or furry creatures.
To say we had a blast, would be an understatement. It was truly a wonderful experience start to finish and when we weren’t being treated to the antics of creatures and such, we found ourselves just breathing in the air and savoring the gorgeous temperature of a long walk.
We watched as fish and spiders became breakfast for creatures higher up the food chain, witnessed the tiniest baby alligator ever (was less than six inches) swimming beside his mom, watched as a great blue heron stalked and then plucked two fish out from the water nearby, and we even had a close-encounter with a raccoon that went by us just a couple of feet away and proceeded down the trail as though he were out walking off his own Christmas dinner.
I have placed a number of the images at the end of the blog and hope you enjoy.
Yesterday was one of those days when the experience being felt was far greater than the images being captured and it isn’t always that way. Sometimes, you get amazing shots that mask a very quiet trail.
But yesterday was so full of the other senses, that image-capturing was very much a secondary aspect of the outing.
And it is that which gave me the thought for today’s blog.
You see, we can often become observers rather than experiencers in life and this is truly a shame. There is a real temptation to do that, when you are a camera guy like me, but I am talking about more than just that.
There are generations now of people that are being entertained (TV, internet, movies) that distract them away from their own experiences in life and replace their life with the life of others. I watched that old movie “Scrooged” the other night, where Bill Murray was describing things from his youth to one of the ghosts and at each turn she pointed out that his description was of something he had seen on TV. It wasn’t his life at all.
The arrival of virtual reality is taking that distancing from experience and widening the gap even further. I can’t imagine what a society of us all living our lives virtually is going to look like. I shudder at the thought.
Forget about the fact that we all become fatter and think less. Forget about the fact that being fed experiences is very different from tasting them.
Just ask yourself what life you want; one that is full of your own experiences or the experiences of others.
Walking trails is a very honest experience. In my opinion, there are very few like it. But even if you can’t do that, savor things that you can actually do. Yes, experiences will not always be good and sometimes will be frustrating and painful. But at the end of the day, these are the things that color between the lines of your life.
Without them, you are merely a black and white cartoon and the memories you take with you at the end, will not be your own.
I went to Lake Hancock trail yesterday and had a lovely time. It was Inna’s thought to go, she recognized that I needed a change of mental state.
I had made a huge mistake earlier that has cost Morgan her Christmas with the cats. If the cats knew what Christmas was, I would have ruined it for them also. But thankfully they think it is just a normal day at home.
There was a lot of people there by the time we got there. It was an unusual mid-day visit for us. But we managed to separate away from the groups of intruders several times and we had sections of the trail to ourselves without too much difficulty.
Like a lot of the early morning visits, yesterday was a bad day to be a fish (is there ever a good one?) and we found many of them at their final moments in this world.
On a more peaceful level, we spotted a lot of beautiful turtles and the most gorgeous butterflies, so it wasn’t all blood ‘n guts.
Anyway there are a bunch of the pics at the end of this blog so, I hope you enjoy!
The thought for today’s blog stems not from the shoot but the event that led up to it.
I made a huge mistake and threw out all the presents that Morgan had gotten for her kitties. She had been collecting them for months and had customized the presents for each of them.
She was devastated at the loss and I was heartbroken to have caused it.
Friends and family will rally around me of course, telling me we all make mistakes and that it wasn’t intentional.
But that is exactly the point of this blog. We all make mistakes.
That Alexander Pope quote “To err is human. To fogive is divine” aludes to the act of making mistakes as a normal human trait. So, why do we have such an issue with mistake making.
Many people forgive mistakes within themselves, sometimes even being oblivious to it. They imagine themselves as a great driver, never doing anything stupid, perfect husband or wife, or whatever. Yet they quickly see the faults in others.
“Where did they learn to drive?” is such a common complaint when faced with a fool that changes lanes, doesn’t indicate, or makes a last minute turn.
I have watched hundreds of games of soccer where the biggest earning players make mistakes that miss goals, cost goals, or hurt someone. Yet they are happy to chastise an official when they make a wrong call or miss something obvious.
So, my belief is that our mistakes are our own. And we should own them. Looking to excuse them or find a reason other than ourselves as to why they happened, is avoidance of the truth.
Mistakes dog our every step sometimes in life. We find ourselves unraveled by our own frailties more often than external issues.
The best learning comes from our own mistakes and this is a positive part of the mistake -making aspect of our lives.
But there is little joy in the actual mistake itself. Rarely does a mistake produce a good result by itself. We can adjust after the mistake and try something better and this sometimes takes us to where we were trying to et.
But the mistake itself is almost always a bad thing.
And avoiding them is always the best option. But how do you know what to aovid if you don’t know that you are a flawed human being.
Accepting your frailties and recognizing that you are a loser is difficult for some folks and yet self-recognition is probably the most important perspective we can have on ourselves.
Being a loser is not a comfortable place for many of us, but the reality is that for every winner in life, there are probably many losers. Finding out which one you are is a hugely important aspect of self-recognition.
If, like me, you make a lot of mistakes, then welcome to the L team. There are lots of us here.
I looked into the bottom of a barrel recently and found myself there. Me and some fishes.
It may not bewhere I want to be, but at least knowing where I am, allows me to try to find a way out.
It was one of those near perfect Floridays yesterday without a single cloud in the sky and a temperature in the upper sixties. Totally perfect for a day on a trail.
The fact that it was a Monday was irrelevant to my decision and I know I should have been working. But an afternoon on the trail with my nature buddies was the therapy that was needed and I took it.
Being with nature on such a beautiful day was absolutely therapeutic and though we were there at an unusual time (normally early morning) we still got to see a lot of familiar faces.
There were several highlights but the one that meant the most was probably seeing the bald eagle. He flew past us a couple of times although most of his time was spent quite a distance away in the sky and my camera was just about able to find him.
Anyway, I put a number of pics at the end of the blog and I hope you enjoy!
The idea for the blog from this trail-adventure was quite a straightforward and simple one. Yesterday was all about picking the moment and then acting on it.
It would have been easy to convince myself to stay at the PC and though I used several arguments as to why I could leave (it’s the end of the year, there isn’t much happening, the weekend was cloudy and rainy, next weekend I might be too busy, etc.) I didn’t need to have a reason.
The moment was there. I just needed to take it.
In life we get a lot of those instances. Some of them are opportunities and I have written about that before. But not everything has to be about benefit and loss or possibilities and regrets. Sometimes it boils down to a simple “does this feel like a good idea?”
Yesterday did for me. And I was right to go with it.
But you know what, even if I was wrong, who gives a fuck? These are our moments. This is our life. We get to either choose or ignore moments and life goes on regardless.
Picking the moment is all about experiencing life in our own way. There is a lot of opportunity to live your life the way someone else tells you. But so much of life is about us/ourselves. We come into the world and exit the world on our own. We experience pain and disappointment on our own. We experience joy and love on our own. Yes, I know others feel those too but our feeling is OURS and we experience that feeling based on a moment that we have chosen.
There has been a lot spoken and written of the meaning of life and many of us will disagree on what it is all about. I like to think of it as a chaotic happening that by itself, means absolutely nothing. But as part of the bigger picture, it plays its part in a meaning that maybe we don’t even need to understand.
But regardless of its meaning, our individual lives are built around moments, good and bad, happy and sad.
Our experience is filled with many things but the underlying feeling we get is from the moments that we live through.
Picking one and doing something with it is one of the rare pieces of our life that we get to control.
When I got up this morning, much of my day was already planned out and I was ready to roll right into it.
It was about 4:45 and I had just started my bowl of cereal, when Inna came out of the bedroom and looked forlorn after a night of dismal sleep attempts. Apparently she had only slept a couple hours and was now wide awake.
It only took me a few minutes to arrive at the conclusion that my own plans for a day with my cats, working on the PC in my office, was a non-starter.
I mean yes, I could have still done that, but (rightly so) that kind of day would prove a solid step in the disintegration of marriage. In any event, I enjoy the time with her, so I asked her if she would care to see the sunrise somewhere.
Within a few minutes we were on the way to feed and release the cats and then a few minutes beyond that, heading into Tampa on our way to the pier at Ballast Pointe.
The sunrise itself was somewhat muted. A band of clouds hugged the horizon and made things difficult for anyone with a camera. But it did give a warm glow to the morning start.
Having Inna with me brightened the experience considerably. Yes, there is a wonderful aspect of getting cool pics when you are out on your own. But having the person you love with you, doubles the joy and gives your purpose there much more meaning.
We did get one cool pic in particular that I liked. Kinda sinister, or foreboding even. Here it is:
Anyway, the rest of the shots worth keeping are at the end of the blog. I hope you enjoy.
The thought that I was left with (hence this blog), when all was said and done was how sometimes we set our own plans and map out a direction that we decide to follow. But then an outside influence comes along and spins our idea in a different direction.
At that point we can stick to our original plan and do things the way we had initially decided, or we can open ourselves to that influence and see where the new direction takes us.
There is no real answer to the dilemma. No simple “always” or “never” in the answer.
Sometimes the initial plans are good and sticking with them gives us good affirmation that our initial idea was solid. Conversely, if we stick with them and they turn out badly or are merely a dud, then we only have ourselves to blame.
Sometimes modifying the plans due to an influence or a change in parameter takes us on a new exciting venture that is much better than the original idea we had. Other times, not so much and we regret not having done what we originally setout to do.
When something else appears in the mix and we try to determine if we should stick or twist, there are a number of reasons that extend well beyond the plans themselves that we should consider. For example, there might be other people involved and their preferences might be different to your own.
Or perhaps (like me yesterday), just exploring a different option with someone in whose company you enjoy, is enough. Whether or not it results in a better or worse result.
Sticking to our plans, regardless, is admirable when you are working on your bucket-list and feel that death isn’t very far away. But other than that, there are many reasons to afford your moment a flexibility that takes you in a different direction.
Doing everything “My Way” was a good Sinatra song in the late 60’s but the reality is that the best way isn’t always mine.
At lunch yesterday, I heard that a very good friend has terminal illness and couldn’t shake the thought from my head the rest of the day. It was still there as I woke up this morning and so, after feeding all the babies, I decided to try to cleanse my mind by watching the horizon for this morning’s twilight.
So, I headed on down to the lake side and set the camera up to catch whatever the horizon might do for me.
I used to go to this particular spot on Lake Parker quite a lot but then they stuck a big light-pole right where I was shooting and screwed it up for me. Sure enough, I couldn’t take anything that had the pier in it as it was far too bright. This morning, it sent me out to the end of the pier to capture whatever I could there.
It was mostly a clear sky twilight but there was still a little bit of color that I managed to get and I have added some pics to the end of this blog.
I have to admit though that it didn’t really do much to clear my thoughts and as I drove away, the thought for today’s blog was still pretty clear in my head.
There is a phrase we often use in Ireland which consists of two words “in fairness”. Put it at the beginning of a statement and it makes it sound like you are attempting to establish fairness as a reason for whatever happened.
“In fairness, he deserved to win after all the effort he put in.”
“In fairness, we deserved something from that game the other night.”
But the unfortunate truth is that there is no such thing as fairness in this world. It is only a concept that we cling to when we are hung up in some kind of hope. We rarely look to it when we win or when something goes our way.
That life is inherently unfair should be no surprise to anyone. We experience life differently to where some people are born into wealth and power, others into poverty. Some people get great reward for their efforts in life while others don’t.
And some people live long lives while others don’t.
This is a simple reality, yet why do we think that fairness should play a part in any of it? As concepts go, it is about as flawed as humanity has come up with.
In fact, as I wrote, it is difficult for me to come up with one that is even a tad more ludicrous. Human nature with it’s sad clinging to unbridled hope, seems to pray for fairness at every turn.
I have written about the nonsensical nature of hope before, so I won’t talk about that again here.
People don’t get their just deserts. It isn’t all about swings and roundabouts. And things don’t all even out in the end.
These are fallacies that we try to console ourselves with when things don’t work out the way we want or need.
The prospect of fairness somewhere out there in our future gives us a false horizon to walk towards. For the vast majority of us, this only leads to further disappointment and discouragement.
The gate to hell is spoken of as having the words “abandon hope, all ye who enter here” but what they don’t tell us is that any sense of ultimate fairness needs to be abandoned too.
Morning fog and overhead cloud didn’t stop us today as we made off for Circle B to see what we might see. I think, inside, we were both hoping that the trail that has been shut off these past few visits would be open again.
But if that is what was being hoped, then I am afraid it was in vain. The morons that had been throwing sticks at a mother alligator were still successful in their rendering one of the two main trails inaccessible.
So, we headed off down Marsh Rabbit Run for the fourth time in as many weeks and though it was alarmingly quiet, we still enjoyed every minute of it.
Creature-count was less than 25% of what we normally see and with the fog and cloud combination, there was also little to see in the way of epic scenic views.
But that didn’t take anything from our visit. The walk was wonderful, the breeze refreshing, and the company excellent.
And yes, though the creature count was terribly low, we did get to see the most beautiful red-shouldered hawk. This is a close-up of him (before I continue with my ramble)…
Isn’t he gorgeous?
That shot was against a bright sky so the coloring is slightly off and there are better shots of him in the gallery at the end of this blog.But, I wanted to bring him into view quickly in this dialog, as the hawk was my Dad’s favorite bird and I often get the feeling that he flies in and visits me on these trails from time to time.
This guy flew ahead of us twice and found another perch in a tree almost as if he were watching us. Sometimes, my mind goes to comforting places and this was one such trip.
In any event, I hope you enjoy the collection at the end of the blog.
So, the thought that ran around in my mind was along the notion of grey days and what we do with them. Sometimes they find a welcoming home in our mood and we nurture them and use them as a source with which to feed our own depression.
Living in Forida , where we get an abnormally high percentage of blue-sky days, we probably don’t experience this phenomenon as much as people living elsewhere.
It is difficult to find food for depression when you get out of bed each morning to gorgeous skies and warm days. There is a natural cheering up that happens when we live in an environment like Florida.
And no, I am not naive enough to think that Floridians don’t get depressed; Of course we do. But we just have to work harder at it. There are more than enough stimuli for depression in Florida. I mean, we have an inordinate number of complete idiots here (and no, I am not just talking about our moronic governor). Every day, I see the most asinine example of what makes our people the butt of national jokes and I genuinely would laugh if I didn’t live here too.
In any event, I have wandered off on a tangent. Sorry.
Where I was really trying to go was down a path where the environment we are in can be a real source of help/hinder to our state of mind. If we waken to grey skies and rain, does it not seem less wonderful a day than one that begins with blue skies and the chirps of birds in foliage-filled trees?
But, what happens next in our mind is more important than the initial feeling of let-down or uplift. It comes down to the question that we ask ourselves and the answer we give.
“What do we plan to do with our day today?”
Answer that one with a modification or cancellation due to the weather and you have already resigned yourself to less of a day than you could otherwise have.
Embrace the weather you wake up to and look for ways to use whatever you are being challenged with and yours is a day that can move with you in as positive a direction as you care to take it.
For my part, when faced with a cloudy day, I look for ways to use the cloud to my advantage. Whether it is taking a certain type of photo or even just being able to go somewhere without worrying about getting sunburned. Whatever the weather brings, there is always something to do.
I even have one dear friend who relishes the possibilities that rain brings and she routinely takes her children with her, exploring puddles and getting muddy.
Even on the extreme, when hurricane’s come our way, I try to find a way to have it add to my day rather than seeking shelter and hiding from it. I remember a few years ago, when the eye of a large hurricane came right through my yard, Morgan and I rode out the heavy winds that rocked the home. But then, when the eye itself was on us, I walked out into the yard and just stood there in total silence and a yellow hue around everything. It was one of the most moving moments of my life and I will never forget it.
So, whatever the weather you wake up to, try to find a way to make the day special. If you were to treat it as your last day on earth, you would find a way to play in the fog, dance in the rain, or dream in the clouds.
What I am trying to say, is that our day lies within us and while there may well be a number of things outside our control that happen to us in the process, how we deal with them is really up to us.