Moment in the Sun

He stood there all night. Alone in the dark. Waiting for his moment in the sun.

And as the low sun cast its reach under the heavy canopy of trees, it touched him. For just a few minutes.

He felt its warmth surround him and for just those few minutes, he felt his short life was indeed worthwhile after all.

Sometimes, when we feel alone and struggling to be seen, it is good to remind ourselves that even a lowly mushroom will eventually get his moment in the sun.

Hang in there and have a wonderful week!

Leaving a trace

So, I knew it wasn’t likely to be spectacular, but the sunrise choice this morning was either to stay put in front of my PC or to grab my coffee and go watch the sunrise at the ball-field.

I chose the latter obviously, and there is something about downing your coffee while watching the sun come up. Aided by a soft breeze and the fresh air filling my lungs in between caffeinated sips, I entered the weekend in wonderful fashion.

The ball-field is still closed from last week’s tornado but that didn’t stop me climbing over the “do not enter” tape and making sure I could exact whatever sunrise Mother Nature chose to share with me today. The fact that she got her feathered minions to aid in my shot was very much appreciated and I hope you like!

But the inspiration for today’s blog didn’t come from the sunrise, actually. It was when I got back home and took a little stroll around my yard with my best friend Coco by my side (see the pics at the end of this) that the thoughts began to play properly around inside my head.

We came across a plant (commonly called a Ginger Pinecone, or Bitter Ginger) that all of a sudden started growing in my yard the year before last. It’s a tropical plant and is commonly used in cooking or in hair treatments in such exotic destinations as Hawaii.

But the origins of my plant are not from such far away places … it happens to be growing where Mrs Brisby used to sleep the year before last. Mrs Brisby was a gorgeous doe that graced my life for a just over a year ago.

We engaged in conversations (admittedly mostly one-sided) and shared food on her daily visits. She showed me her baby fawn one evening before they both disappeared from my life and I felt privileged … almost part of the family, even.

So, however she left the seed behind in that one corner, she ensured that each year, I will think of her and revisit our shared memories thanks to this perennial ginger plant.

And the whole thing got me thinking this morning about how we touch lives and leave traces or marks behind us when we are gone.

Within families and friends our traces typically stay a generation or two and those who seek fame try to leave a mark in history that lasts “forever”. In truth, there is no worthwhile trace that can be left forever as all feeling and sentiment fades quickly, with only a token black and white definition left beyond that for even the most ardent of history makers.

For example what do we really know of Julius Caesar as a person … what his emotions were, how he treated his loved ones, or what his friends and family really thought of him and their time together?

So the real measure of us as a person is not in a historical reference but in the impact that we have in those around us while we are alive. It is why love is such a powerful ingredient in the make-up of each human being. Love for family and friends, love for all living creatures, and love for the planet that we temporarily get to live on.

If we mute that ingredient while we fill our pockets, seek control, and build walls, then we miss the point of life entirely.

Even Mrs Brisby knew the true value of life and whether she deliberately planted a seed for me or inadvertently just left her trace in a more natural happening, she left behind a friendly trace that will remind me of our time together long after our direct encounter.

Do we leave such reminders behind us? Do we leave a trace or a memory that brings a smile to others when they think of us?

Do we leave a little creature living and raising their family somewhere because we chose to make a difference? Do we leave a wild plant blooming somewhere because we gave it a safe environment in which to grow?

I guess what I am trying to say is that if we don’t, then we should.

Leave a positive trace somewhere this coming week …. make the world a better place for your having been here!

Taken for Granted

I was doing a shoot on Friday night at my home studio when two mildly remarkable things happened. Firstly all four of our phones blared with the emergency siren of a tornado warning and then about ten minutes later, we completely lost power.

In truth we were all so unmoved by the event that we continued to shoot by candle light for another half hour before everyone gathered their stuff and went home.

When I went in home, Morgan and I mused about how strange it was to lose power and how long it might be. I suspected it would be back overnight and, unworried, went off to bed.

When I awoke to a powerless and dark morning, I went down to the office where my two cats looked outside into the pouring rain and darkness and decided they were having none of it.

Apparently they have more sense that me, because top of my list of priorities was coffee and as the black of night turned to rainy grey of the morning, I jumped in my car and headed off to McDonald’s to get a large black one.

As soon as I turned out onto the main road, reality came quickly into focus. There were downed power lines everywhere and tree debris all over the road. The farm beside us (about a half mile south) had been hit by a tornado and here are some images that shows not just what the farm buildings looked like but also the trail of debris that carried across the road and a distance of about 300 yards into the newly built softball diamonds.

Police had just blocked off the road at the farm so reaching McDonald’s was out of the question. So after taking these images, I did the obligatory u-turn and headed to the next nearest McDonald’s a few miles north. I only got a mile up the road when I saw that the tornado had also hit roadside there, uprooting trees and taking down numerous power lines in the process.

The extent of the damage on my house is shown in the last of the images, a lone leaf had been mercilessly torn from a tree and landed on my windshield.

So at this point in the blog I could write about how fortunate I was that the tornado hit a half mile south and one mile north of me. Or I could write about how I overcame all this adversity to eventually get that McDonald’s coffee.

But no, the truth of thought really came later in the day as I went through a full day without electricity. Luckily it came back after being off almost 24 hours but the day descended into misery quite rapidly. Loss of power in Florida means no AC, which any modern Floridian will tell you is not a particularly pleasant experience. But for me it also translated into loss of water (I have a well with electric pump) , rapidly followed by the inability to flush a toilet.

So the real thought that this experience created was about how we humans repeatedly take things for granted, as though we are unequivocally entitled to them.

Material losses such as what I experienced yesterday are commonly reminded to us, as power outages, water and plumbing disasters, or occasional leaves on our windshields pretty much happen to us all.

Somehow we deal with them, or moan about them, but then once they are over, we return to mere acceptance of their presence. Carrie told me of a conversation she had with her daughters a few weeks ago, where they just couldn’t understand that a world existed without cell phones and internet. The whole concept of landlines and writing letters was entirely lost on them.

There is a whole generation oblivious to the thought that life existed in a fashion without all this and so they just take for granted that it is there and always will be.

But interestingly enough that is not the message in my mind today.

Because as yesterday wore on and my internal moans fell on my own deaf ears, I began to unravel the rest of the puzzle.

It isn’t just material things we take for granted .. it is truly everything.

I had the stark reality (as we nearly all do eventually) of realizing that my Mom and Dad wouldn’t always be there for me. As I became a middle-aged orphan, the fact that I took them for granted for so much of my life came and firmly slapped me in the face.

I expanded the thought and look beyond my own private world and I am incredulous at how so many people take for granted that the planet we all live on, will always be there. Resting on this assumption, affords many the latitude to destroy so much of it with carelessness and abandon. Hundreds of living species extinguished by governments and industries that frankly couldn’t give a shit.

I also suspect (completely without proof) that the vast majority of people go through their lives taking for granted they will live forever. That their life will always be there. As absurd as that thought is in the cold light of day, very few approach their lives in the knowledge that it is a quantified item. That it will actually run out.

They just take for granted that they will open their eyes tomorrow to a new day and they can dealt with whatever needs to be dealt with then. But each of us knows that there are no such guarantees.

Do we take these things for granted because it creates a false sense of security that allows us to close our eyes in the first place?

Quite possibly … but while none of us should work to the assumption that today is our last day alive, we should also respect the possibility that it may well be.

Willful blindness to the opposite leave important things unsaid and critical things undone.

My advice for what it’s worth today is tell those you love that you do. And do what you can today to make the planet a better place for you having lived on it. Others will have to live on it, once you are gone.

A Memory Shared

So, this morning, I met a friend at Starbucks in Tampa and then continued on to Ballast Point to watch the sun come up.

The air was fresh, with a gentle breeze coming in off the bay and the temperature was in the mid-sixties. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and for a little while we gazed at the horizon as it began to define and at the star-filled skies overhead, while we sipped our hot Mochas.

This was completely unadulterated luxury to me; I cannot imagine a single thing on earth I would rather have been doing at that moment.

The horizon flushed with soft peaches that morphed into deep oranges before paling away as the sun came up and my early-morning companion was kind enough to let me silhouette her in my shots as a foreground on the pier. I hope you like some of these shots … a couple of them are my favorites of the year so far.

We parted company after a little bite to eat, where we revisited much of the experience and talked about our shared feelings for the natural life. And as I drove home, my mind wandered onto how this experience was so very different for me than almost all my other shoots.

The difference revolved around the fact that 99% of the time I shoot alone and this time I got to share the moment with someone of an ilk mind. Someone who marveled as I did at the changes of colors, the wonderful birds that dotted the skies, and the freshness of the air as it filled our lungs with the arrival of fall.

In a material world, when you share something with someone you always get less. But in a natural moment like this, the sharing actually gave you more. You not only got to enjoy everything your own senses gave you but you also basked in the reflected glory of the moment as seen through the eyes of someone who genuinely cared.

The enriched experience is something we can only absorb when we are with people that add to it. Not everyone fits that parameter and we all have people in our lives that mute our laugh and dull our smiles. So it behooves us to seek out those that enrich rather than detract and then share as many experiences with them as possible.

This is one of the reasons that the sentiment expressed in the “no man is an island” adage is so important to embrace. We need loved ones, or friends around us … people who are not only there to help during the bad times, but people who add to our good times.

In this social media driven world where people think “friend” is a Facebook categorization, it is important to grab hold of a few in our real-life and reflect our moments in them. We don’t need two and a half thousand friends following our postings; we need just a handful to share our lives with.

In choosing the right friends, we enhance our lives and the moments therein. And we in turn can enhance their’s.

Being a friend to someone is in itself reward enough, as the act of giving friendship warms up your own soul. Even if it does mean getting up at an ungodly hour and standing around with your coffee in your hand while some old guy with a camera tells you what a wonderful silhouette you are!

Thank you, Simona.

Forlorn Anhinga

I went down again to the lake this morning, coffee in hand, camera in bag, repellent in car, and hope in heart.

The mosquitoes lakeside are apparently unable to read the label on the bottle because it didn’t work and I was dive-bombed from all directions. They made it so difficult to concentrate on getting decent pictures and by the time I fled the scene back to the comfort of my car, I was eaten alive!

As I drove home, I saw this lovely Anhinga sitting at water’s edge and so I pulled in and got a few shots of him.

He was a cute little guy but wary of me and when I moved to try to put him between the sunrise and me, he flew away.

I was honestly still miffed by the whole experience by the time I got back to the office.

I grabbed a second cup and loaded the pics into the PC to see if I got anything and that’s when I spotted this shot. Hope you like.

We often humanize these little creatures, transposing our own feelings onto their behavior but it seemed to me that he was looking sadly at the horizon, wishing he was in flight somewhere too, instead of standing at the lake’s edge with me.

It got me thinking how our mood really alters our perspective of things. This morning I was struggling with a personal issue and so it shaded all my viewpoints onto the dark side of the spectrum.

But I am sure we can all identify a time where we hear a song that plays exactly to our state of mind and it becomes our anthem for a while.

Or you watch a movie that plays out some scene that causes your eyes to tear up as it cuts a little close to the bone.

Our emotions drive many of our experiences in life; turning otherwise meaningless moments into something special, or taking something that should be special and making it meaningless.

Optimism and pessimism, happiness and sadness, love or loss … they all shape our experience on a moment by moment basis.

Which translates to a simple fact … that most of our happiness and contentment comes from within. Our minds very much control our life experiences and when we push a positive agenda within ourselves, it can have a very real effect on the quality of life we live.

So, try not to dwell in the negative. It is ok to lick our wounds but not ok to make a meal of it!

Speaking of wounds … I need to go now and pour some hydrogen peroxide on my back; time to buy a different repellent!

Mind cleansing

Last night’s dreams were anything but peaceful. You know the kind … stressful to the point where you wake up but you are still anxious.

So, after feeding the babies, I grabbed my coffee and camera and took off for the lake. I got there in time to witness the last of the night’s blues develop through twilight’s pinks and violets into the morning’s gold.

I hope you like the little collection of images at the end of this blog.

I wasn’t the only one there to witness the new day and from the lone guy in the canoe, to the two friends setting out to fish for the day, to the lady with her iPhone who pulled up behind me to make her own memories … we all said goodbye to the old and ushered in the new in our own distinct ways.

It all came sharply into focus for me that when it comes to cleansing your mind and beginning afresh, there is no single proven method. It really comes down to what works best for you.

But be you a canoer, a fisher, or an observer, arriving at a body of water in time to bear witness to Mother Nature’s daily miracle can be an amazing cleanser to whatever ills the night before threw at you.

Each new day brings a new opportunity to breathe in and open a new page on your life. Whatever goals we set for ourselves are right here in our pocket and each sunrise is the chance to shine a light on them to see if we can get them to take off.

This is probably the reason why sunrise is my favorite moment of the day.

Renewed optimism is fashioned with each defining horizon. My Mom used to call me her “Cockeyed Optimist” and these are the moments when I feel it the most. It is that time of day when I like to raise my coffee cup in memory of both my parents and commit to them that I will try to make the most of this new day in memory of them both.

Sometimes it helps to have a reason to dedicate the day. When we don’t feel so positive about ourselves, we can attach an importance to our loved ones and motivate ourselves forward to achieve something for them.

While it may not always work, it oftentimes does. And that’s enough for me.

I don’t need a victory every day but I sure as hell am going to try.

So whatever yesterday threw at you, wrap it up and put it in your box of memories. It has no play on your new day. Unless you actually broke your leg yesterday, then yesterday doesn’t limit one bit your ability to put your best foot forward and step out into the new world that started afresh today.

If you did break your leg yesterday by the way, feel free to use some of these images as a crutch and let your spirit run free along the shoreline of Lake Optimism. Today will be a better day. You’ll see!

Simple Pleasures

It was only a tiny weed at the side of the trail.

It didn’t smell wonderful or look gorgeous. Its beauty wasn’t being heralded from the mountains as a “must see”.

Anyone who passed it by ahead of me, likely did just that. Passed it by.

So why did I stop? And why did I take this pic?

Believe it or not I spent about three or four minutes trying to get the right angle, trying to get focus, trying not to get my knee too wet while I knelt on the grass.

It drifted gently in the morning breeze, adding a layer of difficulty to the shot. Auto-focus was useless to me with the strong contrast of trees in the background so I had to fumble through the experience with my clumsy attempts at a good manual focus.

So why did I? There were many more exciting and colorful subjects ahead and behind me on the trail. But still, there I was … shooting a little weed with a couple of tiny cobwebs on it.

By the time I got home and sorted through all the award winning, gorgeous and noteworthy pics, this little shot was almost left among the weeds and discarded.

But I paused to think about why I even took the shot.

The answer is simple.

No, seriously, the answer is ….. simple.

We get so used to thrill-seeking and looking for more and more by way of an experience that sometimes we forget that all of life is worth stopping for. It doesn’t have to be stunningly colorful, or death-defying, or supercalafragylistic expealadocious. (Hope Mary Poppins forgives my spelling).

But it doesn’t. It just needs to be.

And our hearts and mind need to be open to receive it.

Our world doesn’t need to be super-saturated and we don’t need to be over-indulged.

Being able to stop and bear witness to something that is naturally simple brings a huge sense of peace with it. No rush or thrill or unforgettable smell is needed if we just pause and appreciate the beauty of the world around us.

Nature is simply beautiful.