Stolen Moments

Yesterday evening as a special getaway treat, I decided to head down to Ballast Pointe in Tampa to see if I could get some decent lightning shots. The weather channel seemed to indicate that there might be some late afternoon activity but they were wrong and all I got from the high winds on the pier was a bunch of dust on my lens.

Plan B saw me heading back to the car and driving off to Westshore to watch the sun go down at Picnic Island. It’s a city-run park with a modest, but west-facing, beach and there are rarely many people there.

I managed to get a few decent shots of some palm trees, sea-grape bushes and some lovely little yellow flowers growing wild among the dunes. But what really caught my attention was a young couple struggling onto the beach with a couple of paddle-boards and various bits and pieces. When they reached the water’s edge, I spotted a little service dog that was with them and noticed that the guy had one of those boots on … the kind that you use if you have a broken leg or foot.

I watched his struggle and even offered to help but was politely declined. He and his partner pushed off out into the bay and the dog jumped aboard as they paddled slowly along the shoreline, about a hundred yards off shore. Later when I saw them return, the sun was close to setting and I waited until they got in line with the sun to get the images below that I did.

As I drove away, I did so, pleased with the images that Plan B had produced but more importantly in admiration of the way he overcame the limitations that his injury placed on him and got on with what was important to him.

We have all encountered people (sometimes even ourselves) who allow life to be derailed by injuries and illnesses. It’s easy to find a reason not to do something and when presented with something iron-clad like an injury, many of us recede to the comfort of a sofa or bed and let life pass us by.

There are those that milk their injury turning it into a prolonged crutch that not only affects what they can do, but also their mood and general outlook.

But then there are those who seem to take such things in their stride and they pull on their big-girl panties and just get on with it!

It’s not about bravado, but about establishing what is important in your life and how committed you are to doing it. For this young couple, they clearly established the importance of sharing a sunset on their paddle-boards with Tommy (lovely name for a lovely little dog) and they weren’t going to be put off by a broken foot.

As I turned to walk away from the final shot, I heard his gentle laugh and her words of love as they leaned in and shared a kiss. And I delighted in their moment that will live in their memories long after the foot is fixed.

Life is full of moments. I’ve said this before. And it behooves us to make sure that we live and cherish as many of them as we can. Reasons to not do something will always exist but in the end they are little more than moment-thieves.

Crutchless …

Yesterday’s late afternoon adventure took me down to Hollis Gardens in Lakeland and I let the stresses of a tumultuous week fade into the distance while I flitted like a butterfly in amongst the flowers and trees. Attached are a few of my favorite shots. I love having the camera expose macro level views that my aging eyes can no longer see.

I know I could have brought tripod, lights, clamps and I would likely have gotten better pictures, but truth is, I like the challenges of hand-held, close-up shots in a breezy garden. I have seen people with the former type set-up and I often muse as to why they try to shoot something so natural, unnaturally.

In spite of the obvious freedom of hand-held camera, you find yourself struggling against your own breathing, shaky hands, and faltering stance. And to me, that is OK. It’s how I improve my skills.

On my way home. My mind wandered into why some people always seek the easier well-worn path while others repeatedly push up against their own limits.

I arrived at the conclusion that regardless of what your life’s path sets out before you, you are actually best served by throwing off the nearest crutch and finding your own way forward, regardless of the difficulties. In fact, it is often the difficulties that prove to be the greatest part of the experience … giving us the most learning and sense of achievement.

Most successful people will relate that it was through their failures that they learned most. So, if we minimize the likelihood of failure, don’t we also minimize the likelihood of learning?

I guess what I am trying to say this week is to embrace the challenge … make it yours and your life will be all the richer for it.

Don’t for a minute think that yesterday’s experience for me was all sunshine and joy. There were several expletives, groans, and several ounces of petulance that dogged my afternoon there. But at the end of the day, my wins were exactly that … my wins.

Hope you have a winning week!

Refusing to give up on new tricks

I am still a million miles away from being a good photographer of lightning but I refuse to follow the “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” adage.

So last night in the middle of a thunderstorm that rolled across the Tampa Bay area, I found myself kneeling in torrential rain on soaked grass, fighting off an incessant assault from vampire mosquitoes, who seemed determined to hamper my attempts. I can’t tell you how many good shots I missed because of being too slow, or the shutter not responding, or a million other reasons, but my level of exasperation with myself was really quite intense as I climbed back into the car and drove home with my tail between my legs. None of these shots are great (attached) but they serve to give me hope that if I persevere, perhaps one day I will be able to get something in focus.

But the whole experience did drive one important thought into my head that I wanted to take a moment and share.

I had recently studied some articles on why, as we get older, we notice how quickly time flies. Much of this feeling is actually down to how the brain processes experiences as we go through our daily routine. If the day is full of stuff that we have already done, or that we generally find unchallenging, then the brain switches into a somewhat passive mode and assigns little importance to the processing. So when we look back on a week or month of such days, our brains look at the events as having little relevance and therefore creates the feeling of time having gone by very quickly.

On the other end of the scale, young people generally encounter lots of new and learning experiences that they have not encountered before. So the brain stays fully engaged and even reprocesses them later in helping to sort and understand the experiences as they are committed to memory. So when looking back on the same period of time, the younger brain feels that time has indeed gone “slower”.

While we measure time in absolute terms of hours, days, years, etc … the feeling of passage of time is very subjective.

Therefore I would suggest that in order to not let time run away on us, it is very important to keep your brain engaged and never stop learning. Keep reaching for new experiences … even though the act of learning may indeed become more difficult or uncomfortable. It is easy to stay within your own comfort zone of your experience but frankly that isn’t good for you.

Me? I grab my camera and step out in the rain and chase the storms that make my skills feel amateur. And if or when I become good at it, I will try to learn something else that I know little about.

We have but one life and my intention is to live every minute until I finally drop dead of exhaustion.

I hope you manage to fill the coming week with some new experiences of your own and slow down the passage of time as you fill your mind with new memories.

Life and death … and life

My work week spilled into the weekend and yesterday I found myself doing some work on a property in Miami. It was the last place I would have expected something natural that would be worth taking a picture of. But the parking island had the stump of what used to be a palm tree and the two attached images are what I got.

“Life finds a way” is what Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park when trying to explain how Mother Nature evolves over everything to continue with the living and breathing of this wonderful planet we are on. And indeed she does. I know these aren’t the most exciting or thrilling pics you have ever seen, but they capture a little microcosm of life. Within the rotting base of the tree sprung a collection of new life, reminiscent perhaps of Fern Gulley (another early nineties movie) and I found myself staring into it.

I read recent reports that talked about how scientists believe it will take the earth about ten million years to recover from the human species once we are extinct. And they wrote that report to make us feel that ten million years is a lot of time … but this planet has been around for 4.3 billion years. So we are just a tiny blemish in the timeline to Mother Nature. Apparently the ten million years is how long it would take to restore evolution to where it was before us, even if we caused mass extinction of most species.

Prior mass extinctions have occurred, most notably the ice-age which wiped out the dinosaurs. So, humanity isn’t the first disaster to befall the earth and probably won’t be the last.

Regeneration is a wondrous thing … just look at the little world that is coming alive in the base of that one tree trunk. One tree trunk on a shopping center. On a shopping center in the middle of a huge urban development. One of many thousands of such developments across what we know as America.

Makes me pause and think about what this land mass looked like before humans descended from the trees.

As much as we see ourselves as masters of our domain, isn’t it sad to think that, looking back from the distant future, Mother Nature will view us only as one of several extinction events from which she had to recover?

It’s a sobering thought …

Have a thoughtful week!

Water: treading or savoring

It’s the start of rainy season here in Florida and when the rains started yesterday afternoon, I grabbed the camera and headed out to see if I could find a picture that used the rain water within it. First sign of rain or stormy weather drives some people indoors where they just put things on hold until the sun reappears but I choose to continue the adventure, getting a little wet in the process. I ended up with this pic of a tiny little flower cradling a water drop in the palm of its hand … savoring the moment.

I guess the phrase “treading water” is derived from a genuine practice of staying afloat in water in an upright posture. But these days most of us would ascribe a different meaning to it. In fact I have come across so many people who at any moment in time are simply treading water … staying afloat but doing sweet little else towards adding value into their life.

It’s a shame really because it tells me what I already knew … that most of us go through life thinking that “there is always a tomorrow” and behaving as if time has no value. I am pretty confident in saying that I think almost all of us understand that time is a finite item. One day it does indeed run out.

Imagine how you would behave is you found out that at noon tomorrow you would be gone from this world. How differently would you play out those final 24 hours?

But it is the unknown aspect of “when” that makes many of us behave as if it won’t be tomorrow.

And yet if that aspect of “unknown” was applied to almost anything else in our lives, we would still behave differently. For example, if you had no idea if you had any money left in the bank, would you run out and blow the $200 in your wallet on a pair of shoes? Or if standing in a desert would you use your last bottle of water to get the dust off your shoes without knowing where the next water hole is?

We can’t take every day as if it were our last … the intensity would burn us out and paranoia would reign. But it is also important to keep water-treading days to a minimum and spend as much time as we can with those we love, or doing things we love, or whatever it is that moves this adventure forward.

Whatever your week does to you, I hope you enjoy the adventure and choose to savor, rather than tread. ?

Pride of independence or independence from pride

I heard a few rumbles in the skies last night and ran out with the camera. Ended up standing there for about an hour, trying desperately to get a decent shot or two worth sharing. I have attached the best that I got to this email and was so proud to see how it turned out.

Pride though is a really hollow feeling and it didn’t take long to realize the pride for this type of shot purely belongs to mother nature. My part in the capture was randomly shooting into a dark sky and repeatedly pushing a shutter button.

When the pride evaporated, I began to widen my thought process into how later this evening much of America will show their independence pride in fireworks displays all across the country. From parents on their driveways, to community displays, even to the over-zealous display in the nation’s capitol, fireworks will light the skies within just a short few hours. It is an interesting tradition and apart from some unfortunate injuries that seem to happen every year, it brings happiness and wonder into the minds of children (young and old).

The piece that bothered me though was the fundamental role of pride that has overtaken the celebration itself, as neighbors try to outdo neighbors, cities try to outdo towns, and presidents try to exalt their own egos. When it is all over, kids will have memories, some of us will have photographs, and others will have bragging rights.  Making independence great again though is a fools errand. Charging at ostentatiously lit windmills in the sky because your dreams of military parades haven’t happened seems Quixotesque at best. (I might have just made up that word, by the way).

I have seen enough Planet Earth episodes to know that pride is not the sole domain of humans. Many species exhibit this characteristic and yet when we see over-the-top displays in animals we generally are entertained and often laugh at its foolishness. For it is a laughable characteristic that at the end of the day means absolutely nothing. It is a transient feeling of utmost shallowness that can be instantly extinguished by sadness or tragedy.

One of the wonderful and true feelings that being a part of the natural world can give a person is the feeling of humility. There are few feelings as meaningful and as life-shaping and yet the pressures of this materialistic world keeps pushing mankind away from it. To stand in a dark park and gaze at the night sky while mother nature lights it up is gratifying on a level that only true humility can understand.

Everything about this wonderful planet serves to remind an open mind that this planet is greater than all of us and how lucky we are to live on her. Pride enables her destruction, while humility can take us back from the brink.

Have a thoughtful weekend and I hope the planet speaks to you and your heart.