Carraroe

October 23rd, 2002 … I was traveling west of Galway, heading out to a small village in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area) call Carraroe.

It may be 18 years ago but the memory is fresh in my mind, as if I had just been there.

Yesterday while looking for some images on an archive drive I came across several that I had taken and the road to Carraroe became a true trip down memory lane.

It is a beautiful little corner of Ireland … the coastal roads of West Galway. And on a nice day, it is likely one of the prettiest places in the world.

I remember stopping into a little shop as I entered the village to get a bar of chocolate and a can of coke before I headed into my meeting. Yes, I was a really healthy eater back then too.

As I stepped in and waited behind a local who was at the counter ahead of me, their conversation being completely in Irish, it felt like I had stepped back in time a hundred years or more.

The West Galway dialect is different to the southern Limerick dialect that I had learned and all of a sudden I felt inadequate whereas moments beforehand I characterized myself as fluent. But truth be told, I was able to be understood when it came to my turn and I walked out head held high and returned to the car.

Driving out the coast road with the Atlantic ocean on your left and the wild Irish countryside on your right is genuinely a moment to breathe in. I apparently did, because these images show that I stopped the car and got out early morning on at least two or three occasions.

Anyway, firstly, here is the panoramic shot as you suddenly start to enter Carraroe and at the end of the blog are a small few shots that still mean something to me, these many years later. I hope you enjoy.

So apart from just being a vehicle to talk about Ireland, the real thought in today’s blog was more about how our trains of thought can stop us dead in our tracks sometimes.

I was looking for some images for a friend from 2006 yesterday and before I sent my archive drive to the floor, ruining 8TB of backups (that’s another story), I was scouring from folder to folder and opening up one memory after another.

Some of the memories were trivial inasmuch as I would think “I don’t even remember this person, not to mind shooting them”. But other memories such as the road to Carraroe were show-stoppers for me, my mind, and my heart.

Some of these memories can be so very vivid. For example, I can honestly remember the moment when I stepped out of the car to take that panoramic shot. I remember the chill in the morning air. The freshness as my lungs filled with a wonderful supply of unpolluted oxygen.

I remember the sounds, or perhaps more relevant, the absence of sounds. There wasn’t another car within hearing distance and if a human was stirring somewhere they were wearing slippers.

It was one of those peaceful moments where you realize how perfect the moment is, right there and then. And you acknowledge it to your soul.

Then 18 years later, as you stumble on an old photograph, your brain recalls and your soul reminds you!

It’s like that moment you get a smell of something in passing and it brings your heart back to your childhood standing in your mother’s kitchen. Or you hear a song’s refrain and you remember the soft embrace that came with the first time you shared it with someone special.

So, yesterday I sat in silence, unaware that I was about to drop my hard drive onto the concrete floor in about ten minutes … and the world was perfect once again.

Recall can be one of the most amazing aspects of our brains. Yes, we can analyze, process, communicate, and understand. But nothing gives as much joy as a good memory. Particularly one that has made it all the way up from the distant recesses of mental obscurity.

Emigrants carry with them a cross that most other people don’t understand. It is the memory of a time and place where they are no more and where they are so far removed from it that they have a sense of displacement.

We may gloss over and enamor the memories to where we remember them to be better than they were. Our minds enhance the good parts and downplay the negatives.

Whatever the circumstance that takes us to a new land, a part of us always stays behind. Nobody emerges from such a journey intact. No matter what they say.

It is one of the reason’s why I heartily disagree with the whole oath of allegiance process that places like America put on us. Not the allegiance part, but the part where they make you take an oath that you disavow all foreign countries as you become a new citizen.

Regardless of the words, none of us immigrants here ever disavow our place of birth. Nor should we.

Unfortunately, there is a very real price associated with memories of our past, our home, our people. They remind us sadly that the truth is we can never go home. Because home is no longer just a place or people. It also is a time.

And times change.

The Irish race is often associated with being drinkers and I always smirk at the association when I hear it. It displays a certain ignorance that extends beyond anything racist. It shows us that the people who adhere to that notion just don’t understand the plight of the reluctant emigrant and why generations might turn to drink to drown the sorrow and dull the memory.

I don’t drink. Or at least I should say that Coke Zero doesn’t really dull any memories.

So, yesterday’s flood of memories from a time and place that was special to me … well it just comes through loud and clear. And very vivid.

Memories are often the source of dreams and they feed our imagination and fantasy world while we sleep.

But memories deserve their moment in daylight too.

Well-balanced people live their lives with a healthy blend of who they were, who they are, and who they hope to be.

Out past becomes the platform in which our present exists and our future can build on. Recalling the past is an important part of understanding who we were and are.

So I guess what I am trying to say here is that recalling should be an active part of our lives and not just relegated to an accidental occurrence that happens just before your hard drive drops the floor.

Apart from giving us a chance to revisit with those we have lost (people and places), they are an excellent way of characterizing how we arrived at where we are in life.

If you don’t know where you came from, how on earth will we ever know where we are going?

… just a thought.

In Good Company

Yesterday, I took a welcome break away from the PC and spent a few hours wandering around Hollis Gardens in the company of my botanist friend, Simona.

Though I have been there many times and in all seasons, she had never been so it was with a fresh pair of eyes that yesterday’s visit occurred.

Now, a typical visit for me to Hollis Gardens is somewhere around an hour and I am very flower-focused. But yesterday was around three hours and flowers played a tiny part in the morning adventure.

There was scarcely a plant left unvisited by the time we left and most of them had been delicately touched and lovingly spoken to. “here touch this, smell that…” I was driven to an unprecedented amount of plant interaction and it was wonderful.

I had never really engaged with plants on that level before and it opened my eyes and mind to an altogether new level of understanding. Though she knew almost all their names and told me, I scarcely remembered any when we were done. Such is the problem of old age … memories become more difficult to form.

I have uploaded a bunch of images at the end of the blog and hope you enjoy. From hidden lady birds, to the tiniest of mushroom my personal guide directed my lens into an entirely new world. Enjoy the view!

It was last night as I went through the images and imagined this blog, that the thought formed about the value of being accompanied on any adventure by someone from who you can learn.

As children, everyone knows more about everything than we do, so we become super-absorbent, gleaning new knowledge anywhere we find it.

But as adults we often fall into the trap of being the most knowledgeable about whatever topic we find ourselves immersed in. Or at least, we think we are. So while we value the opinions of the people on our journey with us, we often just relegate it to that … an opinion.

But as we reduce our learning, we ultimately become stale and life can become stale too. The wonder of a child’s eyes when they experience something fresh to them is so evident as to be thrilling, yet we often remove that freshness from our own life-experience.

It is one of the reasons that I love going anywhere with Simona or Jax (my science teacher friend) … they continually shed new light into my life with things I never knew and a fresh breeze blows through my soul.

There is a tendency among some (particularly those with strong egos) to want to be the most intelligent and most knowledgeable person in the room. These are the people that shun information and ignore directions. They already know it all.

But we are so much better off if we allow others to shine their light into our life because even if they end up telling us something we already know, at the very least we experience their perspective. Humans are quite unique and therefore bring such varied perspectives on almost every topic. Why would we not want to hear theirs?

By taking on board new information or even just new perspectives, we grow as people. And our journey becomes all the richer for it.

As you look through the images, you might notice how my own journey altered yesterday. Looking into trees to find unusual faces looking back at you (spooky even) or turning leaves upside down to see how some plants produce pods of pollen underneath. Who would have thought?

So, I guess the message in today’s blog is very simple … surround yourself with idiots and you will always be the smartest person in the room. But surround yourself with people that know more than you and you might actually learn something!

… just a thought!

Inspiration

Last night, I met a young friend and we headed downtown Tampa to shoot around the lights on Riverwalk .

The gods set out their stall against us, firstly with rain that threatened to wash away our efforts and then with the illumination system apparently stuck on a single color. Now, don’t get me wrong … green is a nice color, but photographing someone under a constant glare of green is only a good idea when they are The Hulk or Kermit the frog.

I had build my plans around varying blues, violets, golds, and reds. But as in that well-known musing from Robert Burns “the best laid plans of mice and men…” and so too did mine go awry.

The rain gave the camera a bit of a soaking and a wet lens and dodgy focus electronics do not necessarily lend to a happy ending to most stories.

But she and I soldiered on and had a fun night despite the gods best efforts.

I can only include one of the images here, because the rest are really hers to use, not mine.

But I like this one. Hope you do too.

We brought the crystal sphere with us to see if it would inspire some creativity and give new purpose to our images.

In truth, it was a challenging past couple of weeks, in the main. Losing MJ threw a damper across my purpose in life and it took a while for me to adjust.

There are moments in all our lives when we derail slightly and life seems to come a little unglued.

The gloss of life seems to disappear and is replaced by a dull pall that distances us from the joys of living.

Over this same period, I had a couple of new kittens stray onto the property, one of who was severely injured and I shed more than a few tears on how cruel life can be to those who don’t deserve such a fate.

But, on each front, I just tucked in my shoulders and tried to push ahead.

These are the defining moments in our lives and not falling down with the weight of them, can be every bit as important as learning to fly when times are good.

Sometimes life follows its own swing and like a pendulum finds its way back to an upward swing. And as long as we are still alive, we get to enjoy the ride.

Other times you have to find an inspiration. Something or someone that causes an inflection in the direction your life is taking.

I was fortunate to find mine this weekend … a casual lunch turning into a new path for my life to follow. I thought I was just having lunch; didn’t realize I was actually at a crossroads in life.

And such is the way … life throws an opportunity your way at the least expected moment.

If you are lying on your back and moaning about the unfairness of it all, you are very likely to miss it. But if you stay on your feet, you might just be able to grab a hold of it and see where it takes you.

Finding inspiration in another is a genuine treasure. You end up drawing strength and purpose from without, when within came up empty.

There is no greater truth than the “no man is an island” and it is important to recognize when you alone are unable to come up with the answers to life’s challenging questions.

So, I guess the moral to today’s thought is to seek inspiration where you can find it. It may be under a nest of leaves and cobwebs in your own yard, or from the helpful hand of your friend. Or, it may just be sitting across the table from you at the Olive Garden.

MJ

I had never met her before when she showed up for the shoot at the studio, Nov 19, 2017.

All I new was that Rachel thought she was pretty and that was good enough for me.

When she walked into my night, the room suddenly got brighter and I declined her request to give her time to put on lips and eyes. “Not needed”, I replied because she was a natural beauty.

I have nothing against makeup or lipstick or mascara … it’s just that sometimes you encounter someone with a natural beauty and any attempt to add to it, only subtracts from it.

I put her through her paces and she pulled off the shoot as if it was all just another day. Her comfort in front of the lens, her ability to shift from soft to sensual, only occasionally interspersed with a howl of laughter.

The camera loved her and pretty soon I found myself following the same destiny. Just one of those people, you know? The kind that walks into your life and never leave.

She left yesterday.

Just five weeks after the shoot, while driving a hot dinner to her friend on Christmas Eve, she was t-boned by some reckless 17 year old, who ran a stop sign at high speed.

Her life was shattered, body broken, neck crushed and almost 3 years and 30 surgeries later, they pulled the plug on her yesterday.

I met her after her first hospital stint and though she bore the physical scarring you would expect, her inner beauty still radiated. She had no voice but had big plans and just wanted to get her life back on track, if she could just get a second chance.

But life is a bastard and doesn’t care if you are good person or bad. She never got that chance. Good things do not happen to good people. Things just happen regardless.

To those that loved MJ, the loss is huge. To the world, the loss is unknown.

You can measure a person by the hole they leave behind in the hearts of those that knew them. If so, she was a giant.

R.I.P. MJ

Kitten Dreams

I was sitting here at the PC for hours yesterday proofing and fixing stuff that had been done incorrectly.

It was a miserable task and has been going on for the best part of a week already. There are many lessons we learn in life and one of them is essentially a recurrence of that old adage “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”.

In any event, the task at hand required a lot of brain-power and focus and I am not sure if it is an age thing or not, but my brain was genuinely “sore” at the end of it all.

Now the medics among us will quickly jump on the fact that the brain can’t really feel pain. hence the ability to do certain surgical diagnostics on the brain while a patient is awake and able to communicate.

But anyone who has emerged from heavy concentration where their brain has been repeatedly tasked with solving real issues, will realize that pain comes from more than just physical nerve endings.

For example, we have a sore heart when we experience loss of someone special to us.

So, that’s the kind of pain I am referring to, I guess. Except in this case, the soreness seemed wrapped inside an envelope of headache so it had even more of a pronounced feeling.

Anyway, I am off topic … forgive me.

So there I am trying desperately to focus, analyze, and solve, and my room-mates (five kittens and their mom) are tearing the place apart around me.

As she guides them with her incessant meowing and marshals them into and out of certain tasks, the memory of quiet moments feels like something that happened a long time ago.

They were bouncing, jumping, climbing, while all around them things were moving, crinkling, and falling.

Watching their antics were a wonderful distraction, but still a distraction. Even their play-fighting and lizard hunting was amazing to watch. (I managed to rescue 5 of the 7 lizards and one of the two dragonflies) But “havoc” would be a good word for what is going on here now on a daily basis.

Then all of a sudden … silence. Completely unannounced and so very welcome. In fact I didn’t even notice it immediately. Took me a few minutes to realize I wasn’t hearing anybody.

I looked across the room and all five little innocents were fast asleep. All in unison. It was like someone had thrown an off-switch and they were all out to the world. There were three cuddled on one chair and a couple on another.

All in dreamland… I took a few pics and they are at the end of this blog together with a couple of the play-fight that happened when they woke up again. I hope you like this selection. I even added some words that occurred to me on a few of them.

I watched their face for a while and most if not all were showing smiley expressions as they slept. One had her leg moving involuntarily as if she were in a dream-race , but mostly they were just heavily snuggled into each other.

And it made me think about the whole concept of kitten dreams … what does the mind of a kitten go through when they dream? And how close are they to our dreams in terms of the emotional (fear, thrill, happiness, sadness).

Their little lives are so young, their dreams can have very little basis on reality. They do not have enough life experience yet to form the basis of any real story.

So do dreams have to wait until there is some basis to form on, or can imagination take over in the absence of reality to give some food for the dreams?

Our own dreams are very similar. They often reflect an experience or a feeling that we have. Sometimes it is even a purely subconscious thought that we didn’t even know we have.

Sometimes we experience very real dreams, where start to finish it seems like we have come through an “actual” experience. I remember having one the other evening and while I have no recall on what the dream was, I know it gave me a very real sense of happiness, such that when I woke up I was actually sorry to wake and find myself in the “real” world.

In fact, that is the real thought behind today’s blog. Why do we focus purely on reality to where our dream-state is responsible for up to 30% of our overall life?

Reality, that piece of life that happens when we open our eyes in the morning and struggle to find our first cup of coffee, is obviously the conscious part of our day and we try our best to marshal it into portions that are productive, happy, caring, etc.

We derive most of our pleasure and sadness from this conscious time and to most of us it defines whether our lives are successful or not. Perhaps it is because we feel we have some aspect of control during these sixteen hours of our day. But, the reality is that in most of this, we do not. We live mostly reactive lives … reacting to the events and circumstances that are happening to us and dealing as best as we can with them.

In real-life, we are very much defined by our physical being. Physical limitations restrict us to what our body can actually do.

But in dream-life we can fly.

I have taken many flights in my dreams and the thrill has never left me.

I have been a woman, a young boy, a military officer, an assassin, a savior.

I have visited with loved ones that are no longer around and emerged with my heart soothed and calm restored.

Yes, I have also struggled in dreams, running through marshmallow, unable to find who or what I am looking for.

But, I am fortunate inasmuch as the majority of my dreams are good ones. I know that some people are not so lucky and some even dread closing their eyes for fear of a nightmare.

But howsoever we find ourselves in a dream state, it is important to recognize that our state of mind before we sleep plays an important role in the dream we are about to have.

A positive frame of mind will more likely than not lead to a positive dream, while a mind of stress or anxiety will more than likely not.

Which leads me (finally) to my point here … if we manage our lives to where each day as we head off to dreamland, we make ourselves aware of where our mind is, we will be much better off.

As you get ready for bed, analyze your state of contentment or happiness and look to park negative thoughts at the very least.

Some people do that by writing down things that they will have to deal with or resolve tomorrow. And they put the list to one side before they close their eyes. Others can do so mentally.

Some people find that meditation immediately prior to sleep is a key ingredient to creating a state of mind that is conducive to happy dreams.

But whatever it is that works for you, figure it out and do it. Because you are about to head into the final-third of your day and the only person that really can affect its outcome is you!

True happiness always comes from within. And dreamland is very much a place to find it. Just as the kittens!

… just a thought.

oh and here are the ones with words …

Jungle out there!

The heavy rains passed and the lush greens of the jungle beckoned the young cats.

In their short lives it had been an age since they were able to steal their way through the tall grasses and explore their surrounds.

The sweet wetness of the lowlands beckoned them and together they ventured into a section of the jungle that they had never seen before.

Tetsuo, the panther cub, and his best friend Everest, a gorgeous tigress, set out to explore and they left the safety of their dry sanctuary to see where today might take them.

From a safe distance, I had seen their differences but as they both went about their exploration, their differences fell aside, one by one until the only thing left was two young cubs in the jungle.

But they prowled at the same pace, sniffed the air with the same inquisitiveness, listened identically to the same rustling sounds of creatures that made a fast retreat from the young invaders.

Neither led, nor did either follow. They moved through the jungle together as equals and they worked in unison towards their common goal.

Did the grasses move differently because one was black and one was not? Did the prey fear one less she was a girl? I think not.

As they drove deeper into the tall grasses and wet green shrubs, they momentarily disappeared from sight and for a while I saw nothing.

There was a lonely mother’s cry in the distance and the sounds of a lone hawk on high in the canopy, but these two brave adventurers pushed on.

What they were seeking, I don’t really know. Could it be a search for Ponce De Leon’s fountain of youth, or simply just a casual adventure of two young friends?

I suspect the former is not of great significance to these young friends as yet, so perhaps it was just an adventure for adventure’s sake.

Suddenly a burst of activity as the grasses moved, a small reptile ran for his life and the two cubs leapt in a mash of black and stripes to where I couldn’t swear who got closest to the kill.

But the prey escaped and the cubs looked at each other, as if to say “I had him, brother!”.

But then they just smiled and jumped on each other and rolled and played until once more the shrieking sound of a worried mother invaded their ears and told them the adventure must end for today.

As they crept quietly past me, I thought how they both were amazing little cubs … destined to be rulers of their jungle and color or sex made no difference.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in such a world .. where color or sex played no part in your destiny?

… just a thought.

Heart Stopping

It was a typical Wednesday here in the madhouse that my office has become.

Half-way through the week, supplies were low, particularly in the cat food department. So, a trip to Walmart was in the offing. I was also out of Coke Zero anyway, so that forced my hand in going just before lunchtime, rather than waiting until the end of the day.

Work on the PC hit a break point, so I closed the door, hopped in the car and drove the 7 or 8 miles to Walmart.

It was mid-day heat in the 90’s as I began to walk away from the car, but then I heard something that stopped me dead in my tracks. The sound of a kitten crying from underneath the hood of my car.

My heart stopped. I hoped I was wrong. Maybe there was a cat nearby or in someone else’s car.

But no. My worst fear was happening.

Though I had done so a hundred times before, I couldn’t remember how to pop the hood. Panic plays havoc on the brain and when I popped it, I dreaded finding someone burning on the heat of the engine or caught in the fan-belts or another moving part.

I could hear her crying but couldn’t immediately see her. The sound seemed to be under the radiator or near the wheel well and so I quickly got down on the ground and began prying away the plastic sheeting that they use to protect the engine from road spray.

I then moved around to the wheel well and began to pull apart the plastic protection there. Popping rivets and pulling things apart with my bare hands.

Eventually a saw her. She looked intact. Severely overheated and drooling and terrified. But intact.

I tried to reach in but couldn’t get her and she retreated further into the engine area and she cried louder.

No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get her, so I called 911. After a few minutes talking with the dispatcher, they refused to come help. I was on my own.

A lady returning to her car parked adjacent came and offered help and though we came close to the kitten a few times, we were unsuccessful in getting her out of the engine area.

Another stranger, a man my age, came over and helped and after almost 45 minutes eventually got the kitten out though one of the loosened plastic panels to the ground beneath.

It took a further 45 minutes of trying to coral her as she evaded us underneath several adjacent cars, climbing into wheel wells and always being just out of grip, before I finally managed to get a gloved hand on her and she was caught.

Terrified, she accepted being put into the back of the car and I drove her home.

It was several hour later of convalescence lying by herself in the darkened corner underneath a table, before I had any real confidence that she was going to be OK

And thankfully, the end of the story this morning is that she is OK.

I got a number of pics this morning of everyone being kitten and she is the happy little camper in the final few, including the very last one with the sleepy smile.

Of the five, she is one of the unnamed twins, impossible for me to tell apart. But yesterday she got her name … Lincoln. Morgan says that is because she actually survived the theater, but no, it was because of the car she had her near-death experience in.

Anyway, hope you like this little collection (at the end of the blog).

The thought process that led to this blog was not just to share the story but to share some of the experience that we both had yesterday.

Lincoln must have been terrified and today she looks at me very suspiciously, quite understandably so. I hope cats don’t get PTSD but if she suddenly attacks me for no apparent reason, I will fully understand. Poor little baby.

For my part, I may well develop PTSD from this experience. It was one of those worst-fears-coming-true moments and however I made it through it, I was truly grateful for the lack of the disastrous ending.

The palpable fear while popping the hood, the extreme anxiety of trying to get her out of the engine compartment, and the heightened stress of trying to catch her and get her home so that she wouldn’t die from the ordeal … these were so traumatic that when it was all over and I headed into my evening, I felt so ill and worn out.

The disappointment with the fire department (I had often seen stories of them rescuing cats in trees, saving owls from wells, and all those other feel-good stories where they became heroes to us civilians) is very real to me now. And I know not to even bother calling for help in the future.

But the real story in this blog is the joy of how strangers converged in the Walmart parking lot and showed care, empathy, and constructive help in bringing this story to a happy end.

Over the years, I have lost so much respect for humanity, in how we treat each other, how we treat the environment, and in cruelty to animals that I have witnessed from so many.

But that one man yesterday, spent a good hour or hour and a half by my side, crawling, leaning, stretching in a very hot and uncomfortable environment. And he did so without being asked and completely unselfishly of his time and energies.

Without him I would most definitely have failed and I will forever be grateful to him. If I had caught his name, I would mention it here, but with all focus on Lincoln, I never asked.

Humanity isn’t dead. It may have been obscured and ridden rough-shod over with all the drama and pressures of life. But it still exists.

In Walmart parking lot yesterday, it took a trapped little kitten to find it.

There were four or five strangers by the end of that story yesterday, who shared the joy of the rescue and whether they played an active part or passive concern, they each showed their humanity and for a moment, the world was a better place.

I am still floating a few inches above the surface of the world this morning and as I look to the right of me, right now, Lincoln in safely lost in a happy dream, snuggled into her sisters on a soft blanket.

Today the world is a good place.

… just a thought.

Flowers

I woke up this morning and threw myself into an active start, taking care of all the babies downstairs, before falling into my desk chair and catching up on the news.

At 5:30 it is still very much the domain of darkness, so there isn’t very much I can do while I am being crawled on and attacked by five furry little innocents. I don’t turn on the light, because I leave the door open for the adult cats to go in and out and if I turn on the light it invites every mosquito in FL for breakfast.

So I generally just sit there in the darkness, drink my coffee and plan out my day ahead.

By the time it got bright enough to turn on the light, I had already gorged myself in all the bad news around the world and watched a few music videos on YouTube.

They were good ones, but very sentimental, so a few videos in, I realized that I was falling into melancholy and needed to dig myself out quickly before it became a spiral.

So I resolved to go to Hollis Gardens and check out whatever Mother Nature had in bloom there. It varies quite a bit from season to season and never lets me down.

It was a beautiful morning there and the butterflies and the bees were busy pollinating everything in sight. Pretty sure if I stood still long enough, they might have pollinated me.

I got pics of some lovely blooms and some of the pollinators. They are the end of this blog … hope you enjoy!

By the time I got back to my car, my mood was several shades brighter and it got me thinking about how easily we can alter our moods if we set out to. If we want to stay dark we most definitely can and the word for that is “sullen”, I believe.

But I chose to elevate myself and chose flowers to do so. Which brings me to the thought for today’s blog.

Why do flowers have such a genuinely positive effect on our spirits?

We give flowers to our Mom and she feels loved. To our girlfriend and she feels special.

We give flowers to our sick friend in hospital and they feel a little better. We give flowers to our dead friends to send them on their way.

We use flowers to make a corsage for that special prom and we wear them in our lapel when we make our confirmation or get married.

We acknowledge the change of seasons when the first flowers bloom in Spring.

In fact, in virtually every instance I can think of, the arrival of flowers is seen as a positive thing.

So, why is that?

If we were bees or butterflies, I could understand it as an indication of a time of plenty as we gorge ourselves on the pollen or whatever nectar we can extract from them. But I don’t see too much of that happening in all honesty, except at a funny farm perhaps.

So the sustenance we get from flowers can only be mental or emotional.

And that means the physical life-giving qualities of the flowers have no say in our enjoyment.

Flowers are beautiful and sometimes smell wonderful, I hear you say, and that is very true. But the whole concept of beauty and smell is a very subjective one.

We are each attracted to different traits that we define as beauty when it becomes physical attraction. And similarly with respect to smell, hence the range of perfumes and after shaves.

Which once again reinforces the notion that flowers are not really appealing to something physically for us.

So, our appreciation of them is on a very elevated level. An appreciation of an intangible beauty that gives us a mental or emotional uplift transcending any physical stimulus.

I have arrived at the conclusion that this is a genuine human trait that we humans have that most other creatures do not. The ability to truly value and appreciate something that neither sustains or enhances us.

It is the same trait for which we appreciate art and poetry. It is the sign of an elevated mind for whom the world provides much more than physical or material things to us.

Yes, there are base humans that only choose to gorge themselves in the physical and material, but I promised myself today not to mention the RNC convention, so I won’t.

But the rest of us can look beyond the base level of Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid and aim to experience a life that is about love, esteem, and self-actualization.

To life your life in such a way, is to choose a life of true value. So make a point today, if you can, to stop and smell the roses.

… just a thought!

Reflections

It was approaching sunset last night and I was already tired of sofa-sitting and longed for something more substantial to end the day with.

Following the wonderful previous evening I had with my low-tide friends, I sought a return to the highs, only for the day to fail to deliver and slump into an anti-climax.

Lighting would be the answer, so I looked through the phone’s weather app to see what was in the area. I convinced myself that the stormy clouds passing through the area right after sunset would be my best bet.

So, I hopped in the car and drove downtown Lakeland.

Before I left the driveway, I sensed that this was, generally speaking, a losing decision. It was raining and the whole drive there was just rain too.

I pulled into the parking lot over at Hollis Gardens, just off the downtown strip and it was still raining.

I stepped out of the car and realized this rain was here to stay and it wasn’t even “exciting” rain that might carry with it some lightning or interesting clouds. So, I got back in my car and checked the weather app again.

Even though I was looking at the exact same information as I saw back on my sofa, I came to the conclusion that the only lighting around was likely inside my head.

A passing car gave me a wet-street idea so I took the camera out of its dry home and rattled off a few shots as a few more cars drove by. But then I climbed back in my car and drove home. Here is the one shot that is worth sharing. It is pretty but nowhere remotely close to what I went out looking for.

Disconsolate with the evening, I decided an Oreo McFlurry would make the outside adventure worthwhile so I pulled in to a McDonalds on the way home. Waited patiently in a long line at the drive through only to be told that they couldn’t make any McFlurries as their ice cream machine was broken.

A couple of expletives later, I was back on my way home and lost in thought.

I reflected more on my decisions than on the evening itself. I wasn’t disappointed with the rain or lack of lightning. I wasn’t even disappointed with the lack of a McFlurry … my waistline doesn’t really need another one of those.

No, I was more concerned and disappointed with my decision process itself. On two separate instances I looked at the same information on that weather app and came to different decisions. It boiled down to deciding a course of action based on a “want” and another based on reality.

Many decisions we make in life are based on the outcome we want and this is a totally human flaw and completely understandable. When reality hits us, we often regret the decision or simply adjust and move on.

So, this blog isn’t really about the decision, but rather about how I reflected on it.

Reflection is part of our learning process. It is a key ingredient in how we analyze successes and failures and learn from the course of action involved.

If we are good at it, we look at the factors that contributed to our choice and make a mental note to watch out for that same instance later on in life.

Reflection though always has the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. We see clearly how the result of our decisions have played out. So, second guessing without acknowledging that, can lead to regret and recrimination.

This is akin to watching a later airing of a soccer game where you know your team already lost 2-0. How can you watch it and then get upset or disappointed that they lose?

Knowing the outcome in advance would make every decision better but life would probably get very boring very quickly if all our decisions were right. As I have realized many times before, it is from life’s mistakes and bad decisions that we learn most.

So when we reflect on anything in our lives that didn’t work out as planned, it is always good to adopt a more impartial or objective viewpoint. One that is no longer clouded in the want or hope of the actual decision itself.

Reflection like this is analytical and clean and most likely to produce a fair review of what went wrong.

For me, last night, I allowed the want in me to overcome the information that was clearly available in my app. There was a big green swathe of rain showing on the radar map all around Lakeland and a dog with a mallet up his ass could have forecast that was not going to produce lighting. Even if orange or red and producing lighting, I would have been unable to shoot it because I would have been right in it and not distant enough for the shot.

Cup of coffee in hand, that fact is self-evident this morning. Sitting on a sofa, looking for a high last night, it apparently wasn’t.

So, no, I don’t regret my outdoor adventure last night. It didn’t produce a lightning strike image or a soothing McFlurry but I did get off the sofa and I did get that one nice reflective picture. And more importantly I learned to watch out for decisions based on want.

More often in life we don’t get what we want. But if we are lucky, we get what we need.

It’s only 7 in the morning, but I feel a need for a McFlurry … damn!

… just a thought!

Friends

We quite probably picked the worst night to try to try to do anything with a camera but we were desperately trying to work to a low tide schedule that could give us a night time shoot.

We wanted to create artistic shots using different light sources and perhaps some natural elements, with darkness as the most key element of all.

So the four of us (Jax, Cassandra, Sam, and I) made our way to the last exit before the Skyway Bridge full of hope and determination. Yes, the skies looked very ominous right from the outset but we were hopeful it might at least stay dry.

An expectation of low tide that left us mostly on dry land with collections of puddles all around us turned out to be so far from the mark as to be funny. The water level never got anywhere close to that and our journey along the inner bay had us meandering through water that varied from one foot to two feet levels.

Sam and I were the jeans people and we got particularly soaked while the other two took the wetness in their stride. But undaunted we soldiered on through the waters for an hour or so. Stopping every now and then as one of the three ladies came across live creatures that weren’t expecting evening visitors.

We even saw a lovely manta ray swimming away from us in the shallow waters, as we collected little bits and pieces in the shallows.

There was very little light to work with, but I still managed to get some decent shots of our explorations. They are at the end of the blog. Hope you like them.

The main feature of the evening was to be our long-exposure light photography but the most vicious storm you can imagine blew in on top of us and we had to exit the water. Torrential rains and lightning … so, standing knee deep in water is not particularly ideal.

As I got to the car, I was so soaked that I was too wet to even change into the change of clothes I had brought … so much for that plan!

I drove home wet and cold and looking like a rat that had just escaped a sinking ship.

The first part of the drive home was absolutely treacherous … severe weather than meant I couldn’t even see the road I was driving on. In the distance I could see a car with his hazard lights flashing and that is what I followed to safety.

If they drove off a cliff, then so was I … lemmings, that was me!

Anyway in the wording thus far in the blog, you could be forgiven for thinking that this wasn’t an enjoyable night. But it was honestly a truly wonderful evening. The soaking, the cold drive, the driving conditions, the poor light for photography, and having to abandon a shoot because the camera was getting so soaked as to be useless … all of these meant nothing.

Why? Because I was in the company of terrific friends and the craic was mighty (as we would say in Ireland).

From the moment we started until the moment we left, the journey we took together was filled with happy discovery, great conversation, and shared joys. We each cocooned in the group’s company and were mostly oblivious to the happenings around us. We could have been lost in a desert and we wouldn’t have known, because the enjoyment was within us.

Yes, we fed off the little creatures and sights that we encountered but the true energy was what you might find between four friends sharing a common interest and immersed in their time together.

And this is the real thought that I left with last night; the value of friendship in our lives and how it fills in the shadows for us on our life-journey.

Friends are the cornerstone upon which a rich life is built. Not facebook friends, but real people with whom you share a moment or perhaps even the whole journey with.

I have been very fortunate along the way to be able to share some of my journey with some of the most amazing people. And in that regards, I truly count my blessings.

When you focus your life on achievements or material things, there is a real hollowness in that success. That is why every now and then you hear of a wildly successful or rich person committing suicide. Wealth or success are not what keeps your life warm and your soul complete.

But friends that take steps with you on your journey are worth their weight in gold and should be treated as the treasure they are.

When you enrich your life with diverse friends, they help you grow as a person. Mainly because you open your mind up to the viewpoint of a friend more easily and you absorb some of their energies into your own. Adversaries never learn from each other. They only resist.

So, I have arrived at the point in life where I realize that whatever greatness there is within me, is very likely something that I have assimilated from the company I keep.

There is an old saying along the lines that “you are the company you keep” and while it is really delivered as a negative at people who hang around with poor influences, I take the view that when we hang with good people, then some of their goodness rubs off on you.

I became a better person last night. These young ladies elevated me and I start the day better off today than I started yesterday with.

Sure, isn’t that what life is all about … taking the journey and improving yourself along the way.

… just a thought!