Life After Death

There it was, the burning question since time immemorial, answered in a single photograph this morning.

Question: Is there life after death?

Answer: yes. Just not our own.

I was passing by a little graveyard by the interstate and the sun was about to break across the horizon to get yet another day under way.

So, I pulled in, got the shot, and answered mankind’s biggest question all in the space of three minutes! How impressive is that?

It’s an interesting quirk we humans have … assigning such importance to ourselves that our ever-so-important lives couldn’t possibly end with death.

So we create our gods and heavens, filled with virgins for some of us, and they await our arrival with baited breath.

But the true notion of everlasting life plays out all around us, every day. As people die, the sun rises, and life goes on.

As jokey as I am trying to make this point, there is a very serious underbelly to the concept of another life beyond this. It serves as a distinct distraction to believers to where their focus shifts onto the hereafter, rather than the here and now.

As I was waiting yesterday evening for my friend Vel, I watched a fly end his little life and be carried off by ants into a crack in the pavement. There is a circle of life at play all around us and death plays an important role in that circle.

By imagining a life above in the clouds somewhere, we reduce the importance of our death in the life down here on earth. Yet, our death brings closure to our living existence and allows our conversion into memory of those who love us so that our essence becomes embodied within them.

Narcissists strive for fame beyond their lives, trying to elevate themselves beyond their existence. So they build walls, start wars, amass fortunes. But the big laugh at their expense is that nothing residual captures their essence like the love that they leave in loved one’s hearts. Anything else is a mere caricature of who they pretended to be.

The Pharaohs created huge monuments in order to feed their cravings for immortality, but beyond the name of one or two, are they even remotely remembered? Of course not.

It is a fool’s errand to spend your life focusing on the next one.

Our focus needs to be with us here, the ones we love, the loves we impact … this is the important purpose behind our life.

We need to cherish our time here as being a valuable commodity, not just to us, but to those around us. The people. The creatures. The environment. These are the only things with which we have any real effect. Use it wisely!

Georgia on my mind

I drove up and down to Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday. I enjoy that kind of drive as it gets me away from the madness that seems to surround my daily existence here at the PC.

In truth, I don’t even turn the radio on during the drive but sit in silence and allow my mind to first relax and then explore whatever thoughts occur within it.

The drive itself is relatively pretty … yes, it is interstate but you can still take in the countryside a bit on a sunny day. Both days were sunny and so my eyes went off into a sight-seeing mode.

On the way up there (it’s about a 7 hour drive) I noticed immediate changes as I crossed the state line. Soil turned red and a lot of the green turned to brownish as trees and fields bore witness to the winter season.

But as I said, the skies above were blue so it compensated for the sudden dullness of the countryside.

I brought my camera with me and promised myself that if I had the chance I would try to capture a little of what Georgia offered to me on the trip.

Interestingly enough, the things that caught my attention most were the things that largely contrasted with what I see in Florida. So, there are three different aspects that I am showing in the pics at the end of this blog.

Firstly there was the huge confederate flag flying just off exit 71, then the cotton fields that lined the road just off exit 134 and then the frost on my windshield when I reached the hotel. Hope you like my little selection!

Anyway by the time I had shot the flag and the fields, the whole thought of slavery started to run around inside my head.

While slavery is abhorrent to me, on every level, I don’t see anything wrong with the flag itself. I can only imagine that most of the men that fought under this flag were not fighting for slavery, but were fighting for their homeland, their families, and their independence.

It has been hijacked by right wing extremists now, of course, and their use of it, in my opinion is an insult to those that gave their lives for it.

But it was the fields of cotton that made more of an impact on me because as they stretched out before me, I could easily imagine a trove of slaves enduring back-breaking days without any rights to walk away from it.

But that made me initially look deeper into the whole notion of slavery, which is essentially the lack of freedom to make your own choice in life and being subject to the will of your “owner”.

And I thought about modern day India that still uses a caste system to enslave millions of “lower caste” people into an impoverished and horrendous life. I think about the millions of south americans that are bound into modern day slavery by economies that only serve the elite few, while the rest toil for almost nothing.

Human slavery is alive and well, wearing the disguise of commerce in many countries. Many millions have no choice in their lives while the wealthy few live off their backs.

But here is where my discussion of human slavery stops.

Because the real thought on slavery that ran around inside my head was how humans enslave animals, the world over. And think nothing of it.

The obvious slaves are the poor whales and dolphins that “perform” for us at attractions. But activist headlines have thankfully made an impact and reduced those instances. But similar slaves exist in zoos, circuses, and many attractions the world over. Yesterday’s sign by the side of the interstate advertised baby alligators at one “visitor center”, while another boasted to have a 14 foot alligator on display.

Can you imagine the life of that poor 14ft alligator? Likely kept in something about the size of a kiddies pool. And what was his crime? What did he do to deserve a life like that?

Look deeper still and peek into the whole pet industry, where pet stores will sell you almost any living creature as long as it isn’t endangered, and even some don’t care about that.

What choices do any of these little creatures have? They are destined to live out a life of our whim. And when we tire of them, we flush them away like a piece of garbage.

Imagine the life of a song-bird kept in a cage and try to put yourself into that situation. Creatures that evolved into the wild of nature, now destined to perform for us, accessorize our life, or assuage our own loneliness.

Dogs have been morphed for us over thousands of years into little slaves that only wants to live for us. They only eat when we let them, and get to go toilet on our schedule. If we opened the door for them, they would likely just wait for us and not run away. We have bred slavery into their entire species.

Ponder the poor creatures that we have developed into our food chain. To create a food chain that didn’t depend on our hunting abilities, we “domesticated” several different species of animals. Cows, Pigs, Sheep, Chickens, all of which originated in some form of free animal.

This domestication is akin to enslaving but that word would be unsavory in a system that requires us to butcher and consume on a large scale.

While it may sound like I want us all to be vegetarian, I don’t.

My only concern in this regards is the way we treat these animals. By domesticating or enslaving we perform a very neat mental trick.

Think about it, the common thread among all slave owners is the feeling of superiority they have over their slaves. And that superiority, translates into a feeling that they don’t need to treat their inferiors with any respect or decency.

Once they give themselves that stature, they level abuse and cruelty on a population of voice-less creatures that the rest of us turn a blind-eye to so that we still have access to cheap meats.

When we abandon ethics for profits and greed, we often need the victims to raise their voice and ask the question. When the victims have no voice because we have enslaved them, it requires men of conscience to ask on their behalf.

And so I ask … can we please replace human superiority with a little human decency?

Failure is ok, Defeat isn’t

Went down to Lake Mirror yesterday evening to watch the sun go down and from the outset managed to get almost everything wrong.

Do you ever have one of those days when every little move you take is in the wrong direction and every attempt seems to come up short?

Sometimes we get to blame things or situations but sometimes we have to recognize when the failure is all ours. I just had one of those sessions where every adjustment I made with the camera was in the wrong direction and my brain couldn’t switch into a true correction mode.

I was keeping the camera is a fully manual mode as I was trying to develop more skills with controlling the aperture and shutter speed. Technically I seemed to be doing what I was trying, but artistically my results were coming out poorly.

Images weren’t warm enough, or lit enough, and the exposure just continuously felt wrong. And while I have shared some of the shots at the end of this blog that seem to be somewhat cool, they aren’t at all what I was trying to achieve.

Hope you find something there that you like.

The last two shots, where I ghosted myself into the frame as part of a long exposure, was my attempt to alter plans and resurrect something from the shoot and they kinda came out the way I planned.

These two shots had a shutter speed of 25 seconds and in each case I stepped into the picture for about ten seconds.

So, while those two images didn’t make it a complete victory, they certainly stopped it from being a complete loss.

And I think that it was this which spurred on my thought process this morning about the whole concept of failure versus defeat.

There are so many times in our lives that we experience failure. We all do. But it is how we react to the failure that really defines us.

My dear friend Carrie bought me a plaque many years ago with the saying “Never, never, never give up” and it is a sentiment that is not just true, bu is the foundation upon which we should all build our lives.

Failure can indeed be wilting. It can sap all your positive energy and make you lose your will to move forward. There probably isn’t an adult on the planet that hasn’t experienced such a moment.

But when we dig deep and find another approach, or an extra push, then we tell life that we may have failed but we do not accept defeat.

Human will and ingenuity are remarkable qualities and recognize it or not, they exist within all of us. There are many times when we have to look hard within ourselves to find them, but they are there.

And there are many times when we feel so worn down that it is just easier to accept defeat.

But that is never the right choice.

The right choice involves spinning and turning, pushing and climbing, and whatever else it takes to reject defeat.

Accepting defeat preys on a weakness that exists within us, but we all have the inner strength too … the inner strength that finds a way, regardless.

As we go through life it behooves us to accept our weaknesses but build on our strengths, because whatever success we have in life will likely come from the latter.

Hopefully my next shoot will deliver some success and all the better if it comes from something that I learned from last night’s failures.

I am quietly confident!

Once in a Blue Moon

The other morning, as a full moon lit my way as I walked down to my office, I stopped and stared at how it villainized the trees. The trees around my driveway which normally look welcoming and warm, took on a sinister feel and if it any moment a headless horseman came riding up my driveway, it would have looked perfectly normal.

Well, OK…. that’s a slight exaggeration. I would have probably ran screaming like a little girl if I had witnessed such a happening.

In any event, it wasn’t scary enough to stop me grabbing my camera. That seems to be my normal response these days to almost everything.

I think the camera has created a “wow factor” within my soul that has heightened my sense of appreciation for the beautiful environment that I am lucky enough to live in.

I took a few pics and have attached them at the end of this blog. Hope you like!

You might notice that I altered these images, which is very unlike me for a nature setting. All I really did was change what is called the temperature of the images. In one case leaning it slightly towards the violet end and in the other two, I cooled them off into the blue.

While the purists among us will not agree, I wanted to alter the cameras version of what I was experiencing. I don’t know if you have experienced this before but cameras invariably see scenes different to the way our eyes do.

They might mute a color, darken a scene, or sometimes lose the whole feeling of what we have personally perceived.

Technology is a pale substitute for our own vision, although maybe one day it will actually get there. But if it does get better than our vision, will we ever even know?

So the whole thing got me thinking along the lines of what my eyes might see versus the next person’s. If there is a group of ten of us standing by a shoreline watching the sun come up, do we all see the exact same colors? Almost definitely not, I suspect.

There are few things that are absolute in this world. And our perception is definitely not such a thing.

And yet for most people their perception is their reality and god forbid you try to sway them away from it, most will refuse to go.

Sometimes mass hysteria will cause a common perception. It’s why a dotard in the office can tell us we didn’t really just hear him coerce a foreign president into an illegal act…. and millions of sheep will agree.

Relying on someone else to tell us what we see is a genuine abdication of our own intelligence and while common place in today’s politics, it should never be allowed to rule our personal lives.

It is why the old phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is unerringly true. When we look at something and find an appeal, then that thing is indeed beautiful.

Conversely, just because someone else finds something beautiful, that does not mean we have to.

Just because some twit a number of years ago marveled at the Mona Lisa smile … I’m sorry, but it looks more like a weak grin to me. Normally if I am shooting someone and they give me that kind of a look, I shoot again.

So when we project beauty onto something, let’s understand that this is our beauty. Not everyone else’s. We own it because we feel it. Others might feel it too but it is not a given that they will.

And yet we go through life continually coercing others to our taste and trying desperately to bend their minds to our will. It might be students that we teach. It might be employees in our company. Or it might be children in our homes.

In almost all instances, we try to exert this control over those who are vulnerable to us, which is a shame. Because we end up stifling their own sense of originality and taste.

For example children don’t emerge from the womb afraid of spiders and snakes, yet there are millions of them out there who now recoil at these little creatures. Where did that come from?

For me, beauty lies in almost everything. Certainly everything that is natural and if my eyes can’t appreciate it then I endeavor to understand where the beauty is.

Because I think this is actually the point I was trying to get to … everything is actually beautiful. If we fail to see that, then our focus is too narrow and the flaw is actually within us.

Washing ugly with beauty

The story that I read on the news yesterday evening was so ugly it genuinely crushed my spirit for the night. It wasn’t written as an ugly story, which made it worse.

It was actually written up as something that we were to be amazed and proud of.

Some idiot in south FL had hooked himself a 350 pound Warsaw Grouper and they had a picture of Mr N. E. Anderthal grinning from ear to ear with his catch suspended upside down on a hook.

This fish swam the seas for over 50 years before ending on this idiot’s hook and for what purpose? Sport. Yes. Mr N. E. Anderthal and the whole family of neanderthals are avid sports fisher-folk.

You know if someone fishes in order to eat a fish for their supper, I have absolutely no problem with that. If someone living in the wilderness and surviving on whatever he catches, happens to kill and eat a deer, again I have no problem with it.

But when some idiot with issues in the bedroom chooses to end the life of a living creature so he can get a mental hard-on, I have a real problem with it.

Mankind commits so much injustice against this planet and the creatures that live on it. But most of it is through accident or indifference. It takes a special breed of human to willfully look down the barrel of their gun, or cast their hook, or harpoon any living creature, and label that as fun.

So yes (rant over) by the time I lay my head on the pillow, I felt dirty and ugly. As humans, we are all dirtied by these actions.

When I opened my eyes this morning, I needed to ground myself again and in so doing, maybe I could find a path beyond the ugliness.

For me, sunrises are unique moments on so many levels and they become a means by which I can reboot and refresh my outlook on things.

The colors of each shade that breaks across the horizon, paint over the ugliness with a fresh coat of beauty.

I hope you like this little collection of images from this morning at the end of the post.

It worked beautifully as as I raced off into the new week with a feeling of joy and appreciation beneath each step.

So it got me to thinking that whenever we encounter something ugly that makes us sick to our stomach, the best medicine is actually to deliberately seek out something beautiful and then gorge ourselves with it.

By allowing the ugly to linger as the last experience you have, you allow it to take root and fester within you.

We are immersed in shock headlines, subjected to work stresses, exposed to so many personal tragedies, that at times it seems ugly is all around us.

But the honest truth is that there is much more beauty around us, if we just make the effort to find it. It won’t come land on our laps and requires just a willingness and belief in finding it.

Whatever the ugly that threatens to steal your time on earth, identify and then reach out for something that you find beautiful. It can be a place, a person, a song, … literally anything that gives you joy.

Believe it or not, most of our life’s experience comes from within us. If we live within the walls of ugly, then ugly will dominate our outlook and shape our dreams.

But if we find beauty, then we look forward, dream big, and imagine a life that may be better than any moment that we pass through.

For me, that’s a sunrise … it marks that moment when night is finally over and the day ahead can be anything we want it to be.

And I want … no, I insist it be beautiful!

Making the Rules

Climbed out of bed , fed the kitties, and sneaked off to the trails early this morning.

I knew it was a cloudy day, even though I couldn’t really see anything in the dark. But I got to the reserve about a half hour before sunrise anyway.

Normally if I am getting somewhere that early, it is to capture a sunrise, but without one on the cards it was really the naturalist in me that had me out there at that time.

I knew that I wasn’t really going to get much photo-wise but I wanted to feel the early morning energy. Anyone who has done this will know that there is a life that awakens with each day, as day-creatures emerge from their sleep and step forward into their day.

When I started out on foot I could hear hundreds of whistling ducks create a morning chorus that beats out any human composition.

And in the dim distance, I could see three or four Osprey circle out over the lake and return with their breakfast.

Initially I tried to shoot them, but the grey dim morning covered by the deep clouds made a mockery of any such attempt. So I put my camera away for a while and just walked.

It was really invigorating and by the time it did get bright enough to take some shots, I was half way around the trail and walking with a pep in my step.

I did get a few soft images to share and I have bundled them at the end of this blog with five unused images from last week. I hope you enjoy!

Funny thing was, as I sat back into my car and asked myself if I had anything worth sharing in this week’s blog, my first reaction was framed by the “rule” that I could only use today’s images.

I realized quickly that this “rule” was not just ridiculous, but that I was the one that made it! Initially I think I came up with that rule based on a desire to keep it fresh and also to make sure that I am regularly going out to take new pics rather than resting on past laurels.

But the whole notion of making an arbitrary rule and then trying to force yourself into adhering to it, left me laughing at my own insanity. It just makes absolutely no sense.

And so, my whole drive home there was a debate raging inside my head with rules and why we live our lives by them.

Rules are initially dreamed up by someone and then agreed to possibly by a number of people, and then we try diligently to follow them.

But in general, these rules are neither natural or, in most cases, universal.

So really, rules are just a sham. I remember growing up in Ireland to where the rule was that you couldn’t eat meat on a Friday (it was an old catholic thing). What idiot dreamed that one up and why did millions of people try to follow it?

Then there were rules that blended into laws that said you get married, you stay married. Divorce was outlawed in Ireland until 1996. So tough shit if you married an abuser or a battle-ax … they were all yours for as long as you both shall live!

Then there are rules that we all break routinely … speed limits on roads. Or having to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. even if you are the only car on the road and it’s three in the morning! I mean seriously … what an idiotic rule!

Rules exist all around us. They attempt to get citizens to conform to a general level of behavior. And to a certain degree they do.

But rules from a country living under Sharia Law are wildly different to a Western Democracy, which in turn is wildly different to a dictatorship. And god forbid you live under a Lèse-majesté system where it is treason to say something that might insult the king! (Cambodia and Thailand practice that degree of idiocy).

So, while we adhere to many of the general rules around us, it is important to understand that in the main, they are ridiculous and sometimes overbearing. We may need to comply in order to live among other humans so we just have to grin and bear it.

But why do we put rules on ourselves? I would call these private rules.

My Mom and Dad had a drinking rule that would only allow them to drink alcohol after nine o’clock at night. So at 8:45 the ice bucket, glasses and bottles were gathered and maybe even the can of coke was popped and ready to pour into the whiskey. But no lips touched the glass before nine!

While we may smile at such a rule, we each saddle ourselves with rules of our own every day. It might be related to when we shower or go to the bathroom, or the time we go to bed. Or it may be that we can’t snack between mealtimes, or god forbid, we eat dinner an hour early because we are hungry. No, we must wait!

We might use rules that limit what we say out loud. Or even stop us from saying anything on a certain subject. “You can’t say that to him …. he’s a customer!”

One of my favorite people on the planet is a friend of mine back in Ireland who is a priest and yet uses the F word (“fuck” for all you who don’t know what I am taking about) more than I do and is the first to tell you that most of religion is pure bullshit.

In his chosen life structure he is surrounded by more rules than most of us, yet he cares not!

Yes, there are times when conforming is appropriate. Farting in an elevator is never the right thing to do.

But being an outlaw with respect to rules that are just foolish is absolutely appropriate too.

Blindly accepting that you can’t eat meat on a Friday is frankly ridiculous.

I remember standing at a deli counter in Ireland in 2000 on Good Friday and when I asked for a corned beef sandwich some righteous voice in the crowd behind me called out “Pagan”. As I turned around, I glared at silence because they shut their mouth when faced with my obvious ire.

And I guess this is the final point about rules that I want to make. Most of these idiotic rules can’t stand the glare of logic. They get created in dark rooms by people with hidden agendas and then forced on the rest of us.

When faced with these we should shine a bright light firmly on them and question them. And then we should ignore them.

Go ahead … break some stupid rules this week. It is liberating.

That was probably the best-tasting corned beef sandwich I had ever eaten!

Never enough

Just before sunrise yesterday, I found myself on the trails at Circle B Reserve. The morning fell into the “simply stunning” category as the freshness of a morning chill was compounded by the clearest of blue skies and the awakening stirring of a host of little creatures.

This time of year opens up the “Reasons I live in Florida” book, right on page one. There is nowhere else on the planet that can produce a day quite like this one.

I have often felt revived by days like this in the past and this morning’s trail was one such moment. It awakened within me a feeling of encouragement again for this new year.

At the end of this post are some of the images from the awakening. I hope you enjoy!

What struck me though, even as I took the images was that no matter how good they turned out to be, they would never be enough to tell the story of the experience. There is so much that even the best cameras in the world cannot capture.

They totally miss out on the sounds and scents, we all know that. They also miss out on the feeling of the moment. The presence that we experience when we stand there bearing witness to something wonderful without being able to capture it.

I guess it is some sort of stimulus to the brain that creates a sense of exhilaration or contentment or just a “wow” that we experience.

I mean, how is any device expected to catch something like that?

And at that moment when we feel it, we think and hope that we will never forget about it. We rush to share it with whoever might listen and we try to record it in whatever way we can.

From a first kiss to a first loss and everything in between, our life is made up of such moments.

Our brain tries its hardest to create the memory but as we get older, we find that most memories become factual and less about the emotion. We try to remember what it meant, opening that special present under the tree when we were five or six. But most of us are lucky to even remember what that present was.

How can an old man ever attach the feeling of a five or six-year-old wide-eyed-innocent to a memory to make it real again? Truth is we can’t and so we create devices to try to capture the memory.

It might be something written down or photographed but no matter how verbally eloquent the writer or brilliant the photographer, the true moment is lost forever.

In olden days in Ireland, thousands of years ago, they relied on poet/storytellers called a seanchaí to recreate the memories of moments and facts.

These men of words would meet every year and retell their stories to each other, adding color and emphasis, inflection and facial expressions to retell something that happened so that it could be passed on from generation to generation.

And to a certain degree it worked as facts got passed on, albeit colored by the enthusiasm of the teller.

The written word and books brought an end to that aspect of memories and while to a certain degree it carried forward the factual aspect of the memory, it totally lost the sense and wonder of what a moment really meant or felt like.

Cameras do their best and of course we have all heard the old phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” but what I have arrived at is really that a shared memory is worth a thousand pictures.

So at the end of the day, as we go through our lives journeying through our own string of moments, it seems to me that the best way for us to remember them is to actually share them.

Whether you are fortunate enough to have someone by your side as you experience them, or whether you gather your seanchai friends around a fire and trade stories, the real magic in memories is their sharing!

Have a wonderful week!

By Definition

At yesterday evening’s nightly event of putting out dishes of food for the raccoons, possums, et al, this moth kept landing on my head and then flying away.

It’s one of the features of being bald, that you feel everything that lands on your noggin, regardless of how light. At first I thought he was a butterfly but when I got a better view realized he was a moth.

He landed on some dead branches that I cut away but hadn’t cleared and he patiently waited for me to get my camera and capture his portrait.

I love all creatures but moths are in among my most favorite grouping. They are so gentle and innocent and rarely get the glory bestowed on their cousins, the butterflies.

I mean they don’t get their own gardens, nor to people get moth tattoos on their shoulders, or such.

I even overheard a woman once pull her child away from what I was shooting on a trail, with an “it’s only a moth” statement that embarrassed and upset me.

But it dawned on me last night that (perhaps like most of us) I didn’t really know the difference between a butterfly and a moth. There are immediate things like brightness of color that most people would jump on, but there are brightly colored moths too.

So this morning, I went online to search out the differences and was disappointed at the vagueness in definitions. For example, moths are nocturnal and butterflies diurnal, but then again there are diurnal moths too. And butterflies are brightly colored and moths not, except there are some brightly colored moths too.

So this whole “definition” thing grabbed my consciousness this morning and led to to this shared thought.

Like it or not, humans like to define. We like things to be put into simply labeled containers and have them categorized into good or bad, safe or dangerous, clean or unclean.

We teach our children to do this from an early age. And when we can’t neatly define things for them, we invent fairies, and gods, and magic and tell them to just believe.

So while I do have a problem with this whole notion of defining, I have a bigger problem with how we define.

And worse still, how are we defined?

For example, look up anyone in online sources (wikipedia etc) and you will see that they are defined firstly by what they did. They were a painter, a politician, a businessman. They built bridges, cured diseases, or killed people.

But does any of that really define you? Where is the “he/she was a loving, caring, devoted, witty, intelligent, human being”? Surely the real you is how you feel, think, relate, behave?

I have always believed that we should be defined by who we are, not by what we do.

Of course the problem with that is that most of the world doesn’t know who we are. Therefore they can only define us by what we do. Which is completely invalid.

Not least because those who are entrusted with the definition either like us or don’t.

It is well known that history is written by the victors, which means that almost every “loser” in every conflict is written about from a negative perspective. They have to be. How else could you justify to your population that the war that took the lives of their loved ones was being waged against someone who was actually “quite a nice guy”. No, we have to demonize him and take the stance that these are fights of “good” against “evil”.

For example, was Adolf Hitler a nice person? Did he care, love, feel? By all accounts he loved children and animals … so, who knows? And how about George Washington, was he arrogant, entitled, cold? He inherited his first ten slaves when he was a child and still had a couple hundred when he died. So, who knows?

But neither of the above is the way these people end up being defined.

I can’t imagine for a moment that anyone reading this blog is going to be remembered by the world after they die.

For most of us, the knowledge of who we were dies with us, or within a generation of our death, as our loved ones in turn die.

There may be stories that are told about us a generation after that … ” I remember the time Granddad … whatever”, but that is hardly enough to tell us who Granddad really was.

Which, if I am correct, translates into my belief that the only definition of us that matters is our current definition.Who are we now. At this moment.

How do we treat our loved ones. How do we relate to our family and friends. How do we treat our immediate environment and the little creatures that cross our path.

It doesn’t matter if you are rich and powerful or poor and humble. There are many rich and powerful assholes and many wonderful poor and humble people.

What matters most is who you are. The real you. Not the you that you project to an audience, but the person that your partner lives with, children get cared for by, and kitty gets her cuddles from.

This is why love is such a powerful element in our lives. It is a powerful expression of who we are to the people and creatures that mean most to us.

It becomes the true definition of who we are and in its absence leaves us completely locked in our own mind and undefined.

Everyday, I try to let those I love (with and without fur) know how I feel about them. It opens up my heart to them so that they will know the real me.

And my definition then, lives within them.

Have a wonderful week!

2020 Vision

I am not a midnight reveler when it comes to New Year’s Eve … I think it is more of a lifestyle thing than an age thing for me. I get up so early that come 9 or 10 pm most nights I am exhausted.

So with the closing of one decade and the opening of another, I decided that the best way for me to mark it was to watch the sun go down on 2019 on one side of Lake Parker and then come up again on the other for 2020.

The camera was completely in manual mode so I was adjusting aperture and shutter speeds in particular to capture the wonderful late and early tones as the sun lit the late and early skies. I hope you enjoy this little collection.

New years are always a special moment. Not because any one moment is different from the next, but because they tend to inspire us to reach for personal development goals as we head off into another year.

It doesn’t even matter if we attain them; it is the reaching that is important.

They also are the time of year when we look back at the previous one and reminisce on moments and accomplishments therein. If there were sad events in the past year, we acknowledge them but hopefully don’t languish. We all have these.

Looking back is a difficult perspective in life, as our memories in that respect are flawed. Mundane and typical happenings disappear into the clouds of our minds, and our immediate focus rests on one or two large events that dramatically affected us to the point where it earned its own slot in our memories.

So the problem with that is that in looking back, we subject ourselves to a distortion of the truth … one that can really affect our general happiness and outlook for our future.

It is one of my reasons for disliking pictures of family and friends. Pictures that serve as a reminder of people no longer with us, and smiles that were purely contrived for the person with the camera. It’s what makes us reminisce longingly for the “good old days”.

But this new year is the beginning of a new decade and with it comes a decade full of hopes and possibilities. So it gives us every reason to look forward and (momentarily at least) forget our past.

We can create resolutions of course and while I am as guilty as anyone of false resolutions, I would suggest that this year should be more about plans and a vision of how we want our lives to shape up. A decade may seem like a long time in looking forward, but how many of us remember 2010? Does it really feel like ten years ago?

So a ten year vision is relevant, as in 2030 those of us still alive will look back on this decade and wonder what we did with our lives. Hopefully I will be one of the “us” above. But each decade that passes makes that possibility less likely.

The average among us, after childhood and teenage angst, has about six of these decades to play with. So planning how we use them is not just relevant but important.

We owe it to ourselves to be aware of time. And we should always ask ourselves if we are using our time here wisely. Of course, the definition of “wisely” for each one of us is likely different and that is altogether fine. I mean, we are all supposed to live our lives in our own ways.

But whatever way you want to live your life, it should be a conscious decision. There will be many things that happen to you that are outside of your control, but the general direction of your life should be one that you set, adjust, and set again.

If we don’t chart a course for ourselves, how will we ever know if we get there?

When my girls were young, they referred to me as the plan-man and while I do some things that are spontaneous, I guess in the main, I try to follow a plan.

Plans give us direction. And vision gives our plan a purpose.

If ever a year was about vision, surely 2020 is it.

So, establish in your mind a vision for how you would like to spend this coming decade and then set a plan that allows you the opportunity to achieve it.

For my part, I want to focus my energies this coming decade on the loves of my life and the world that I live in. I hope you take this moment to focus your own energies on whatever is important to you.

And I wish you a very Happy New Year!