By any other name

I woke up to a rainy morning here in Florida … soft rain, the kind that seems as much mist as rain. So the thought occurred to me that this might be the perfect morning to head to a patch of roses that I know not far from me, with camera in hand.

And it was a good choice.

I wanted to play in tight to the flowers and focus on the presence of rain drops on their petals. I have taken shots like this a number of times and in truth, I can never get enough.

Roses by themselves are beautiful anyway, but adding a touch of mist takes them up a notch in my opinion.

As I wandered from flower to flower, I breathed in such a beautiful aroma and it made me regret that cameras cannot (yet) capture the scent. Sometimes the pictures themselves can only tell half the story.

It was a flower-shop level smell and until cameras do manage to capture scent, you will just have to take my word that this smell alone made my trip worthwhile.

I hope you enjoy the selection of shots at the end of the post. I was pretty happy with the end result and secure in the knowledge that it was a morning well spent.

As I sat back in the car, I mused with the thought that I really am poor at knowing flowers names. I love them, don’t get me wrong. I am just unable to commit to memory what they are called. Hence the safety of knowledge this morning that I was really dealing with roses. I mean, everyone knows a rose.

Then I recalled that line out of Romeo and Juliette where Shakespeare pronounced that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. And of course, he was right.

My thoughts then drifted along how obsessed we become with naming things and how we often use naming as a mechanism to enhance or detract.

For example, we only go to war against “militants, militias, and regimes”, while we have “defense forces” acting on behalf of a “democratic government”. When a people try to liberate their country from oppression or invasion, we refer to them as “terrorists”. Unless of course, we agree with them, in which case they become “freedom fighters”.

Name calling has become a tool of choice these days for the twitter idiot who tries to fire up his base with pathetic “sleepy, crooked, or nasty” tags for those who actually have a moral high ground.

I remember in school years when name calling was seen as something that only bullies did … oh wait, scratch that thought.

We use naming as a mechanism to continually sort and place in boxes, people, groups, and things that we agree or don’t agree with. And sometimes we obsess with names that people even call us.

But does it really matter what we call anything? I understand that we have to be able to teach our young how to identify and that type of naming is fine.

But when we use naming in order to characterize, we step too far towards an extreme. We refer to sharks as “predators”, yet we savage them in unbelievable numbers so some idiots can have a bowl of shark fin soup.

We use the name “Killer Whale” because it fills the seats at water worlds while we brutalize and abuse these Orcas.

We use the name “prostitute, slut, or whore”, to degrade women that invariably have higher morals than the men that tag them as such. But it crates an artificial high ground from which we can look down on them.

We use the word “mob” to describe a large group of people whose motivation we disagree with. But a “gathering or crowd” if it happens to be something we agree with.

I often try to pull my thoughts on these subjects down to a natural world level. I ask myself what takes place in the natural world that is comparable. As far as I can tell, animals don’t discriminate against other animals based on a name or description. They only ask “can I eat it or will it eat me?”

The closest I could come to in this regards was from Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. Where the Fraggles name for us humans was “Silly Creatures”.

Did they get it right or what?


I was working today on a press release about our merger of GaelCom into Caoilte and went looking for an image to explain who Caoilte was.

in 1994 when my Dad and I first set up Caoilte in GA and Ireland, we chose the name based upon the Ronan ancestor of 2,000 years ago. Dad invested some of his hard earned money as a statement of belief in me and as the initial Chairman of the company, he was my go-to person for solid advice.

Of course, outside of the company he was also my rock and so it was no real surprise that he would play this same role in this business venture.

Some people when starting a company opt for the family name and our variant was an attempt to go deeper than that. Caoilte was a heroic figure from the days of the Fianna in Ireland … a true reminder of perhaps Ireland’s most heroic past.

This was long before the perpetual battle with the auld enemy (England) and is written in folklore as the final pagan years before the arrival of christianity to the island.

While based in historical facts, many of the stories became embellished in their retelling and heroes assumed almost mythical qualities and achieved miraculous victories over monstrous and evil enemies.

But beneath the stories and their wonderful imagery, was the underlying value system of ancient Ireland. Simple values of honor, integrity, and truth that either became the justification for marvelous victories or the tears of sorrowful defeats.

Over a thousand years before England’s Magna Carta sought to establish basic legal rights for its citizens, Ireland was already in possession of the oldest codified laws in Europe … a legal system based largely on civil relationships and trading heavily on honor, truth, and integrity. These laws, known as the Brehon Laws, were gradually destroyed by a christian revolution over the following centuries and more hierarchical laws favoring kings, wealth, and power became the law of the land.

It is strange to think that the world wasn’t always run within a framework that favored the rich and powerful. We are taught to think that what we now have in terms of rights and laws are an improvement over a barbaric past.

But as I paused today and imagined the world that my ancestor existed in, I couldn’t help but think that he would be woefully disappointed about the world we have manufactured for ourselves.

In so many ways, or living is better. Health and comforts are dramatically improved and few of us would really wish to exist in a time when reaching 40 was a somewhat miraculous achievement.

But I wonder why our core values also had to change. Why is truth no longer a gauge with which to measure a man? Why do men or women of honor rarely succeed in this world while charlatans, liars, and cheats make it to the most powerful positions in our societies?

When France overthrew its aristocracy in the great revolution, it showed the power of the people to effect change. So when people choose inaction and allow tyrants to rule and commit atrocities, then the people themselves are complicit. We become passive enablers of our own demise.

I think what I ended up with in answer is that mankind has become essentially a lazy collaborator that empowers the liars and cheats as long as they line our pockets and keep us fed. We are little more than sheep in the field that dutifully follow the leader without question, as long as there is grass to chew on. Even if we are being led to the slaughter.

How did we stray so far from our origins? At what stage did we sell our souls and at what stage will we recognize what we have done.

When a 16 year old Swedish girl stands up and screams that we need to correct these wrongs, we allow some dotard to bully her with unrestrained twitter feeds that give more grass to his base.

When we allow these idiots to tell us that black is really white and that anyone who says otherwise is guilty of fake news, we step even further away from our origins and devalue any truth and honor still remaining.

There is an old adage that I believe in that essentially says that in order to really know where you are going, you must first understand where you have come from.

For my part, I look back a couple thousand years and remind myself that their initial value system of truth, honor, and integrity must form the foundation stones of anything I try to achieve in life.

Is there any reason it shouldn’t form a foundation for you?

Christmas morning

It was as quiet a Christmas morning as I could imagine. I awoke alone in the house except for my kitties and of course, Ada, our little rat. I was out of bed at 5:30 and had everyone fed (including myself) by 6.

It would be a few hours yet before company would arrive, so I grabbed my coffee and my trusty old camera and headed off to the lake to see what the sunrise might bring.

The roads couldn’t have been much more quiet than they were, as the whole world seemed yet asleep.

For a few seconds I was pissed off when I realized there was a solid blanket of cloud above me and with about a half hour to sunrise, there was unlikely to be any break that might allow the sun to poke through.

But it would have been impossible to stay upset very long … the soft gentle breeze from the lake and a temperature of low 60s, together with the occasional call of an overhead Osprey or nearby Heron … all creating an environment of relaxation and joy.

So I figured anyway that a true photographer would know how to take a grey morning start and turn it into something art-worthy. Without photoshop, that is. And so I messed with the camera settings a little, turned the shutter speed to about 20 seconds, closed down the aperture, and set the ISO as low as it would go.

These two pics below show the net effect and while they won’t win me a pulitzer prize, they both go some distance to capturing the whole mood of the start of Christmas Day 2019. I hope you enjoy!

By the time I got home and began to start the whole dinner preparations, I was already locked in a moment of zen and my soul seemed to have found a quiet corner to rest.

And that is really what created today’s thought was that I wanted to share … inner peace and the importance it plays in our life.

Like most people, even on my best days, I allow stresses and pressures to drive much of my inner calm. I try to control and manage them as much as I can, but there always seems to be something playing around inside my head.

Whether it is a wish, a plan, a happening, or even just an imagining, there always seems to be something that works against my inner balance and tries to pull me in some direction or other.

So, moments like this morning, where I find myself hitting a true moment of inner calm, are extremely precious. Such a moment reconstitutes your soul to where life seems genuinely fine. Waiting 20 seconds for a shutter to close and doing it several times, while you stand there in the quiet and dim surrounds, tends to take your mind away from life.

You become aware of your own inner heartbeat and each breath becomes a source of peace.

I can see why people who meditate, choose to do that. And to truly experience it with meditation, you have to be able to tune out your surrounds and focus on nothingness.

But when you find a special spot, like I did this morning, you don’t need to tune anything out. There was no traffic, no external noises, no bright colors … just the solitude and me.

Obviously we all live in different places and while Florida affords me the chance to drive ten minutes and experience such zen, others may not be so fortunate.

But however and wherever you find it, I suggest that you do so. Because however you end up grounding yourself, the benefits of doing so is significant.

Inner peace is such a precious commodity. It is not something that we should realistically expect for every moment of our lives. There is far too much chaos in the world and only in death are we truly expected to rest in peace.

There have been many more lively, entertaining, joyous, and festive Christmas holidays for me than this one. But it would to difficult for me to recall one that nourished my soul as much.

I wish you all a peaceful Holiday …

Under the Tree

This is the time of year when most of us us become givers and if we are very lucky, we even receive. We can remember a childhood Christmas perhaps where we found the perfect gift under the tree.

I was lucky enough last night to find Michelle under the tree … her hubby lent her to me for the evening and even though it rained almost continuously, we still had great fun and got some decent Christmasy type pics.

I feel very lucky at times to have such special friends in my life that can turn a wet and miserable evening into a special and unforgettable moment. Michelle is one such friend … thank you, young lady!

I hope you like the little selection of pics at the end of this blog! Apart from the Christmas tree aspect in a couple of them. I loved the long exposure treatment of them that gave me some cool motion blurs on people that past by. See if you can see these ghosts!

Christmas happens to be my favorite time of year and not because of the giving or receiving, but I love how people suddenly become more friendly.

Part of this of course is mechanized friendliness as we experience an extension of the typical cashier “Have a nice day” at all the retail and restaurant places we happen to go.

But most of what we encounter is genuine … people feeling good within themselves to where they spontaneously give us a Happy Holidays greeting.

It has a warming effect on us when we experience a Happy Holidays moment from a stranger and it is also very contagious as suddenly we hear ourselves wishing the same to total strangers because they held a door open for us, or even perhaps just smiled as they handed us their cart in a parking lot.

Happy communications are one of the wonderful features of humanity. we have a huge selection of words, gestures and facial expressions that much of the animal kingdom doesn’t really have.

So my question (and the thought behind today’s blog) is “why do we reserve this aspect of who we are for just holiday moments?”

Why are we unable to carry this same feeling of caring and compassion throughout the year and into all of our interactions with humans and creatures alike?

I mean, I have even seen conservatives smile at people of color this time of year. But the rest of the year, they want to build walls and only let them in when it’s time to pick the strawberries.

Is it that we can only recognize fellow humans when they are wearing red and green and donning Santa hats? Perhaps that is what it is; our color blindness is triggered by reds and greens while browns and mochas don’t trigger our “this is a human” response.

It doesn’t take anything from us to be nice. We are not lessened by holding a door, giving a smile, or helping a stranger. In fact, we typically benefit from such an act and we experience reflected smiles and the inner warmth of having done something good.

I remember noting that one big difference when I moved to the US from Ireland. Growing up there, you acknowledged almost everyone you passed on the street with a smile, or “lovely morning isn’t it?”, or something similar. No one was treated like a stranger and doors were always held open.

But here we have built built bubbles around ourselves that separate us from “strangers”. We warn our children away from strangers, demonize those “rapist” immigrants, and only hold the door for good looking young women so we can check them out.

It is sad. Very sad.

Because being nice to our fellow travelers in life can genuinely enrich our own journey and make us better people. There is that saying in Ireland that a stranger is only a friend you haven’t yet met (or something like that) and it extols and openness that offers the possibility of a reflected benefit of future friendship.

Where and when did we lose that openness?

Wars and conflicts started the rot, Where everyone fought with god on their side and the enemy was demonized to the point of pure evil. Hence, the perpetual battle of good versus evil.

But in America we extended that into sport, where winning is the only option and where the opposition were simply losers . And now we have extended this into politics where we have allowed ourselves to be polarized into opposite camps where we demean those that don’t agree with us and bully them on twitter to the raucus applause of our base.

This is so sad and very difficult to recover from. And in truth it is up to our children to rescue us.

You see, they don’t see color the way we do. They are born without prejudice and unaware that they are supposed to fear strangers.

When the true shift in recognizing that all humans are equal needed to happen, it began with open teaching at a child level. Adults retained their bigotry but had to hide it away in the shadows.

And so once again humanity will rely on the next generation to save us from ourselves. A few good teachers will work to lay the foundations. a few good parents will grow the empathy for fellow man within their children, and a few good leaders will establish the guidelines and tear down walls.

I will be long gone by the time it all happens but I have every confidence that it will. One day, browns and mochas will be every bit as recognizable as reds and greens and people will extend their humanity outside of the holiday season.

Happy Holidays everyone!


So yesterday morning while still dark, I caught red-handed this mischievous raccoon tearing through a bag of garbage that I had left beside the trash can.

Note to self … don’t generate more trash than your trash can can hold!

Me being me, instead of worrying about the state of the mess, I grabbed my camera and tried to get some shots of his adventure. I had to resort to flash because it was still almost pitch dark, so I knew that nothing stellar was going to come of this “shoot”.

I also noticed that the beautiful stray cat who has been coming around this past couple of weeks was supervising the whole scene, which in my books makes him partly responsible!

When I got back in and looked at the images, I found these three which I think are shareworthy for one particular reason.

I know we have all seen this a number of times … eyes glowing in the dark when a light hits them. In humans we get simple red-eye which can be a destroyer of images (and yes, I know about red eye reduction) but in animals, I noticed that different animals’ eyes glow different colors and almost none of them red.

In fact, even within animal groups their eyes will glow differently. For example, several times I have gone out looking for Coco in the dark. He’s my little cat buddy and his eyes glow orange in the dark, while others glow green.

Being a black cat in the dark, it is my only way of identifying him among other intruders.

So, the first thing I did was to set out to find out why. Interestingly the answer also helped provide an answer to a question that I had been wrestling with earlier in the week, which is why some animals can see so much better than us in the dark.

Anyway, to get to the first point quickly … nocturnal animals have a layer of membrane behind their retina (called “Tapetum Lucidum” for those who wish to know) that reflects light back into the retina, thereby giving the retina almost twice as many photons to see than us. We don’t have such a membrane. I had innocently thought that it was something to do with how wide a pupil gets … see that’s the engineer in me, rather than the biologist.

Depending on how much zinc is in that membrane, the end color flashes back differently from one creature to another. You were wondering how the title of today’s post was going to work into this discussion, weren’t you?

Zinc is a huge part of the dietary requirement for many of this planet’s creatures and meat is a huge source of it. Nuts, seeds, and other foods are also good sources. And lo and behold, it has a real bearing on vision. Who knew!

But beyond this enlightening information, the real thought that occurred to me was every time I think I know something about this natural planet we live on, I realize how little I know.

The diversity of our co-inhabitants is not just stunning on a topical level, to where we see physical shapes and sizes, attributes and behaviors. But internally on the systems that drive us and allow us to live.

As humans, we think we know all and ravage the environment for our own purposes. We over-inhabit, over-develop, pollute and destroy. And we bully sixteen year old girls that ask to to stop.

We are the epitome of the bull in the china shop, destroying ecosystems at every turn. Systems we don’t even understand. And worse still, systems we don’t care about.

I like to think that I know something about the planet and the environment. But in my brightest moment, I doubt if my knowledge even approaches the 1% mark of what we really should know.

But we elect leaders that know far less and empower them to do far more damage than I could ever do in my lifetime.

The shame of all of this is the apathy of the majority of humans. Because it isn’t so much that they don’t know. It’s that they don’t want to know and that they don’t care.

We’ve written volumes on human achievement and evolution. We’ve claimed supremacy over all creatures and created a god that is apparently in our image. In making such pathetic and unfounded claims, it affords us the right to do what we want and disregard other creatures as collateral damage.

Our supremacy over all creatures is no more than the supremacy of a host of locusts that devours everything in its path. The feeling of supremacy may be momentary, but the devastation left behind can last eons.

So, what is the point of my rambling words?

Very simple. Individually we need to make ourselves more aware of our planet. Learning about it is much more important than learning the latest App. And collectively we need to make sure that if we are going to put dotards in control of things, let’s at least put simpletons there who are planet-aware.


I thought it might be cool to frame a night with pics that showed the sun going down and then again with the sun coming up.

It’s not the norm, I know, but in truth I was on my way out to McDonald’s yesterday evening when the thought occurred to me.

So the four pics at the end of this blog are two from last night (Lakeland on an interstate overpass) and two from this morning (Auburndale at Lake Ariana). Hope you like them.

It struck me as I was on my way home this morning that I had shot these out of order. I mean, we are always told Sunrise to Sunset describes the correct passage of time.

But if we were all vampires, would we have been told Sunset to Sunrise as we lived our lives among the night shadows?

So, I guess where the thought led me was the very definitions of norms that we are given growing up, are really meaningless because in truth there really are no norms.

The powers that be can structure 24 hour clocks and establish hourly divides, but are these any more than an attempt to normalize something which isn’t normal?

Do these same norms have any relevance for example to a creature that only lives a few weeks?

Much of this normalization is an attempt by rulers and governments to more easily control their subjects and citizens. They establish normal working hours for them and tell us that weekends are for us.

They tell us to celebrate independence once a year, give gifts to family and friends once a year, and put our children into schooling from 5 to 18.

In many ways I agree with the whole normalization and standardization because it reduces the chaos of how we relate to each other.

But the main thought I wanted to convey here is that while this normalization is fine in terms of how we relate to others, it is altogether wrong to try to standardize ourselves.

We are not robots. We do not all think the same, or feel the same.

While we allow some latitude for variation, there are many people that get judged by society just for being themselves.

For example we often judge based on religion, or even lack of religion. Yet not everyone needs a god and not everyone’s god is the same. For thousands of years we have waged wars on each other trying to convince each other that our god is the one true god.

We also judge based on sexuality or sexual preferences. Some get judged because they love someone of the same sex. Others because they don’t want to be a specific sex at all.

We judge women that choose not to have a baby shoot out of their vagina just because they got pregnant. And we judge those that have too many babies sliding out from so many different fathers.

When they (the powers that be) tried to establish the rules by which they wanted us to live, they wrote moral and legal positions that they then sought to enforce.

And their enthusiastic little robots killed blasphemers and infidels, refused service to gay lovers, and bombed abortion clinics.

And that is exactly the problem with standardized behavior. While normal folk can understand that these “laws” are really guidelines that play out in a grey zone of real life, radicals seek to follow the letter regardless of where it may take them.

I was happy to bookend the night time with two shots either side of it. This was my way of thumbing my nose at those who seek to normalize the world we live in.

Avoid conformance as much as you can. In so doing, you set your spirit free.

Just wear pants when you go to Walmart … that’s where freedom of spirit is likely to end up getting your picture on and trust me, that’s not where you want to be!

Organized Insanity

I was sitting here in my office with my door ajar (as I always do), allowing my cats freedom to wander in and out as they wish.

I was obliviously lost in my own thoughts when out of nowhere it sounded like I was caught up in Hollywood madness as helicopters flew just above the trees like in a sequence from Red Dawn.

After hiding all my valuables and grabbing my guns (just in case the wall had been breached by bad dudes, criminals, and rapists), I realized that the incessant loud noise was now coming from just above the trees in my back yard.

There is a right of way for a major power line tract on the back edge of my property and upon figuring out that is where the action seemed to be happening, I grabbed my camera and walked briskly to the beating sound of the helicopter blades.

I stood there, perhaps 50 feet underneath them and the images below are what I managed to get of what was going on.

There isn’t enough money to pay me to hang out of a helicopter, inches from high voltage power lines. And so as I walked away after the shots, I couldn’t help but think of the mindset of the people that this type of work appeals to.

It reminded me of one of the guys I had working for us a couple of years back who had come to us from the cell tower climbing business and I remembered his stories of having lost two of his friends over the years on that job … one falling right in front of him.

So again it beggared the question of why do we take risks when life itself is such a precious commodity. These folk obviously do it for money and I hope they are compensated enough for the risk.

But there are thousands of extreme sports people who jump out of planes, bungee jump off bridges, free-climb on mountain edges, and jump the line at Burger King.

I thought about whether I could identify any other creature in the animal kingdom that takes such risks for any reason. I think of penguins who jump into sea-lion infested waters in the Antartic … but they take the risk in order to find food for their young.

I think of birds that build their nests on sheer cliff-edge rocks, but they do so in order to protect their young from predators.

Maybe there is one, but I truly can’t think of any other creature on earth that seeks exhilaration above life. Just mankind.

Then I think a little deeper and realize that this is actually a relatively recent phenomenon (as in recent centuries) and tends to be the pastime of the more affluent of our society.

And it makes me wonder if life comes too easy for some people that they assign it less value than those for whom it is a struggle.

Life and death plays out within the natural world at every moment of the day and night. And rarely is it for any reason other than sustenance or preservation.

Frankly I have arrived at the conclusion that there is an insanity gene that festers on the back of apathy towards life. It creates the illusion within some that the only way they can enjoy life is to risk it.

Life becomes for them, a self-centered activity to where they seek their own thrill above all and their viewpoint becomes inward-looking.

It’s a shame really, because if they could turn that same intensity and energy into helping their fellow man or helping the creatures that we co-inhabit the planet with, the world would be such a better place.

All it requires is less thought about ourselves and more thought about the rest of the planet. It’s as simple as that.

But clearly, insanity clouds the power of clear thought … such a shame!

Nature meets Art

Yesterday’s meander was along a winding little trail in Plant City accompanied by two of my most special friends. And when I use the word “special” I mean it not only in the sense of how I feel about them, but also how their knowledge and characters enrich my own experience.

Jax is a science teacher and Simona is a plantologist and with each fern or fallen log, my knowledge base was increased as I soaked up their insights into what everything was.

I have written before on the advantages of having a good friend with you on a trail and yesterday’s experience was all that and more. I like to think that I am reasonably well informed on the natural world, but I was very much a novice in the presence of such beautifully encased souls.

My shots were many and varied of all that was green, or wet, or growing on the surface of trees and fallen logs. Any many of these were really good shots. But the shots that I have included here are of a different topic.

We came across some wild grasses that were seeding in a burst of reds and crimsons. My approach to them was from a position lower down on the trail and looking up, and I noticed how the sun behind them created flashes of color that washed over my eyes.

So, normally I try very hard to get as tight a focus as I can and for my first shot here, that is what I did:

But then I decided to capture the colors as the movement of the little seeds in the breeze painted their own gallery for my eyes. Here’s what I got (at the bottom of this post). Hope you enjoy!

Anyway, the whole process got me thinking about how we view certain things. How we separate them in our minds. But as in most cases, life doesn’t fall into neatly organized black and white boxes. In this case, nature and art overlap into something that as merely the shutter-clicker, I only capture. The creator is mother nature and this wonderful world we live in.

So why do we do that? Why do we always try to put things in discrete boxes, rather than just allow them to blow in the breeze?

I think it has something to do with the human brain being a rational instrument (well, for us non-republicans in any event) and we are in an agitated or uncomfortable state until we have an answer to everything.

It’s why humans created flat-earths and gods. Without such things, we would have to accept that there are some things we just don’t know.

And what is the harm in not-knowing? Why do we fear that so much that we will even go to war and commit genocide in order to argue our answers to the unknown.

But when we take this to a personal level and relate to those around us by trying to neatly put everyone in a known box, we sell them and ourselves short. We create stereotypes of people of color, of different religion, even of different sexual persuasions. Then we decide who we do and don’t like and we label the boxes accordingly.

But at the end of the day, everyone is human. Just like us. They live and breathe. They have fears and needs and wants, just like us. They may speak with foreign accents or even foreign languages, but they are the same as us.

Until we recognize that, we will continue to build walls and create boxes for all these “illegals”. I watched a wonderful sketch the other night on SNL where the native americans were concerned about these illegals coming over on boats and how they needed to build a wall.

So, as I said, the problem with continually needing to have an answer and to be able to put a tag on everyone we meet is that we only end up putting ourselves in a box … with the big label that says bigot, hater, misogynist, trumper, ignorant, or all the above.

By all means we should seek answers and enjoy the shared knowledge of the world we live in. But as life’s journey is far more important than the destination, so too is the answer seeking and not the answer itself.

Have a wonderful week everyone!