Right or left?

That was the first decision I had to make this morning, as I headed off to catch the sunrise.

There was safety in a right turn because getting to where I could shoot would be easy within the time left before twilight. I could have shot from the pastoral pond on walker road, or even down by the ball field and the little ponds there.

But I turned left.

It put me in a race against time trying to make it to Lake Parker before the sun came within the 6 degrees and spilled its early morning colors across the horizon.

I knew it was going to be touch and go and with seven lights along the route, I needed them all to go my way or at the very least for no more than a couple to go against me.

Fortune favors the brave-hearted, or so they say and the gods seemed to smile on my efforts this morning. Each light conveniently turned green either just before or within a short few seconds of my having stopped for it.

All along the way, I kept only one eye on the road as the other was definitely fixed on the horizon and thankfully I made it to my lakeside spot just as the skies began to give way to whatever the sun was about to dish up.

I kinda disturbed a lone fisherman that had chosen the same spot but he politely moved to one side and even agreed to let me silhouette him in a few of these shots.

I hope you like them. There weren’t many clouds around but the sun still managed to created some wonderful shades of reds and oranges to usher in its new day.

As I drove away, I mused over a few different thoughts. Not least the decision of right or left and how in this instance, it played out. That isn’t always the way and there have been a couple in the past year where i never did make it on time.

Even though it was very much a win/lose decision, I didn’t even pause in making it other than slowing down on the initial stop sign at Walker Road.

Making a quick decision is one of the few qualities that I actually like about myself. I tend to be able to make a quick assessment and move forward while others will deliberate and even procrastinate while decisions get made for them.

I don’t have time in my world for procrastination and never really have. Those who do, tend to either find it difficult to analyze and process a situation, or hope that if they allow enough time that the decision will resolve itself.

Whatever the reason, it represents a character weakness. We all have character weaknesses and mine would fill many buckets, trust me.

But taking opinion polls, or forming committees, or waiting for fox news to tell you what to do inevitably leads to poor decision making and generates slow responses. In some situations, this can even lead to loss of life.

Reactions to pandemics, being an undecided voter, filling up lifeboats … these are all characteristics of a people that have trouble deciding what socks to put on in a morning. By the way, I love Titanic analogies; they are excellent when addressing decision-making issues.

But the majority of our decisions are not life-threatening. Heading north or south on Walker Road isn’t going to save anyone.

So why do we struggle with so many of life’s simple decisions?

In truth, I suspect that it is something to do with the fact that we have been groomed over generations to believe that being wrong is bad and being right is good. And so we raise generations of people who think they must always be right.

Yet many of the most important human accomplishments have been on the back of something wrong. Alexander Fleming didn’t set out to have mold on his petri dishes, but it led to life-saving penicillin and the age of antibiotics.

When we groom children to always be right, we deprive them of the ability to learn from their mistakes.

But worse still, we fashion them into thinking that we all must be winners and there is no room for losers. Is there even such a thing as a loser? I’m not sure there is.

We habitually pit ourselves against others in sport, competition, politics, business, and ultimately in war. We loudly announce that god is on our side and that we fight for the side of good versus evil.

Yet there isn’t even such a thing as good or evil.

The world is not black and white.

Good people do bad things and bad people do good things. Intelligent people are occasionally wrong and idiots are occasionally right. As my Dad told me many years ago, even a broken clock is right twice a day!

There are many problems involved in the search of being almost right. And while we can debate the rights and wrongs of external things such as politics or business, there should be no debate about our internal things.

By internal things, I mean the right or wrong that really only affects ourselves. Did I make it to the lake or not? Did I choose the right color socks or not? Did I blur the shot or not?

Almost all right vs wrong decisions have happened in the past. It’s why I used the word “did” in those silly questions above.

And right or wrong, past decisions got each of us to where we are right now. Here and now.

Whatever is in the past is in the past. Its only real benefit to us lies in whether we learned something from it. And the best learning comes from not being right all the time.

If you always win in each of your endeavors and are where you are today because of it, how well positioned are you to be able to handle a future adversity?

Those of us who have been around long enough, know we are not always right, we do make mistakes, and sometimes we don’t make it to the lake on time.

We are only human. And that isn’t an apology. It’s just a statement of fact.

Fairies never fail

A very special friend wrote me last night that she wished that “dream fairies would thieve my worries … and …replace them with a new day’s sunrise”.

It was the end of a very sorrowful few days and her words not only cheered me up as I went to sleep, but they also encouraged me to go and find a sunrise this morning.

So, I set out in darkness driving towards Lake Parker unaware of the conditions but hopeful these fairies might deliver.

My plan was to go to where the boat ramp and pier is on the north west side of the lake but as I arrived, I was greeted by locked gates.

Undeterred I drove a little south along the shoreline to where I have shot across open waters many times before. But as I got out of my car, I noticed that the power plant on the opposite shore was pumping out immense amounts of smoke that engulfed the shoreline and left me no chance to grab a sunrise there.

Back in the car again and further along the shore, I parked in a side street and walked to where my solitary tree on the water’s edge has graced several of my previous shots. But still the smoke from the power plant took away any view of the horizon.

When I reached my fourth stop, which was on the south west corner of the lake, it became obvious that between cloud, fog, and smoke, there was really nothing that would produce a good sunrise view.

Safe in the knowledge that fairies never fail, I reached into my camera bag and found a few sparklers and a lighter. Wouldn’t you know it … the lighter was out of fuel! But still in the glove compartment of my car was a box of matches that did the trick!

Sometimes fairies just need a helping hand in order to spark their magic into life and my parents taught me never to leave a fairy stranded.

I have attached a few of the sparkler shots and even a couple of the lighter attempting to light with its own little spark.

Hope you like them. Have you any idea how hard it is to time pressing a shutter release in one hand with a thumb movement on a lighter wheel in the other?

Such efforts really go some way to making one feel clumsy and uncoordinated!

As I drove home, I must admit that I did so with a sense of pride in refusing to admit defeat.

Sometimes the gods indeed conspire and us mere mortals can often wilt in the face of such difficulties. But if we elevate our purpose beyond our own desires, we can often give ourselves that extra drive to keep going. In my case, this morning, fairies provided my extra impetus. But in general, it could really be anything.

If we are trying to do something just for ourselves, we will often lose energy when faced with obstacles, because after all the only person we are letting down is ourselves.

While narcissists and ego-maniacal presidents may find that sufficient, the rest of us tend to settle for less than we would settle for others.

And so it is often a good idea to remind ourselves of our purpose in trying to achieve something.

Purpose for a greater good puts first responders into harms way, and health professionals into front line of pandemics. But on a less dramatic level, purpose of children also drives a single mother into exhausting work in order to take best care of her children.

Having purpose provides an important momentum into every task we embark on and helps us overcome whatever challenges we meet along the way.

On a larger level, we should also therefore decide on the purpose of our life.

A life without purpose is a waste and one with the wrong purpose is misguided at best.

Some people find their purpose in religion, others in family, others in discovery, and so on. None are better than the other, as long as they help propel us forward in life and create some benefit to loved ones and those we meet along this journey.

Years ago I found my purpose. And while I am a million miles away from being perfect, it has helped me in my efforts to become a better person.

So, consider for yourself what your purpose is in task and in life. If the answer is something that extends beyond yourself, then you too are on the right journey!


I thought I might be able to escape all the madness this morning by taking me and my camera off on a trail. But when I got to Circle B, the gates were shut.

I am sure there is logic in someone’s mind as to why they felt they had to keep all us contaminated folk off the trails but frankly, I would have thought nature trails are among the most isolated ways of enjoying life that us humans could possibly have.

I sat there dumb-founded in my car for a moment and decided I would take myself off to Lake Parker. There are no gates there so they would be unable to spoil my fun.

The main access road to the lake was blocked by the police, but undeterred, I found a little back road that took me down to the water’s edge.

As I stood there, I realized that there wasn’t really much worth shooting from where I was (I really should have been on the opposite side of the lake at that time of the day).

The sun in my eyes blinded most decent shots of creature that I could have taken and so I cursed under breath that the gods were really conspiring against me this morning.

Above my head on a high wire, I heard the chirping of grackles who seemed to be engaged in a conversation all of their own. Did they even know of the stresses that the human world seems to have devolved into this past few weeks, I wondered. Probably not.

I took a few pics of them and their friends and attach them at the end of this blog. But as the thought of their communications played around in my head, I added some words to them … words that perhaps they were thinking of but reluctant to say out loud.

Hope you like!

But in the meantime, driving home in the car I played with the question of what would they really think if they knew what was going on down here on the ground?

I mean, we tend to give creatures no credence for having thoughts like us. And to a certain degree, perhaps they don’t. I mean I can’t imagine any feather-brained idiot imagining that his response to this pandemic rates a 10 out of 10.

But beyond the whole current craziness, what do creatures really think about us humans?

The thought that is most commonly obvious throughout nature is that they fear us. They nearly always run from us, even when we are not their normal predator.

Some might think it is our size that draws the fear but we have all seen cattle egrets and such living symbiotically with cows. So it can’t be that.

I like to think that the creatures that visit my back yard every night know that I am their friend and that they have nothing to fear. But I think that is mainly a fanciful exaggeration in my own mind.

While the cardinals have progressively been getting closer to me each evening as I lay out the food, the raccoons, possums, and squirrels all stay well hidden until I am gone.

But beyond fear, what do the wild creatures of our planet think of us?

Do they see us as a violent and destructive species? Do they understand that we pollute the planet and destroy the environment all in the name of greed?

Do they see us as intelligent as we see ourselves?

Or do they just accept our dominance and the inevitable wiping out of all other species in our quest for supreme idiocy?

In recent years, I often mused over the lack of language translation between human and animal.

We have developed software that can translate any human language to any other, and we have developed artificial intelligence that could easily take us well beyond such direct communications.

But have you ever wondered why Dr Doolittle remains a pure fantasy?

How could we ever explain our behavior to any creature, if we were to ever understand their communications?

How could we slaughter them in their millions in order to gorge ourselves in their flesh?

How could we perform experiments on them so that we can manufacture the latest scent that drives men crazy?

How could we inject them with poisons and play god with mutations in order to increase our ongoing desire for eternal life?

How could we harpoon and slaughter the ones even we regard as being extremely intelligent and social in pursuit of … who fucking cares!!!

The liberties that we take with the creatures that inhabit this planet with us are based on the mistaken belief that we are superior to them and that some god wrote in a book that they are here on this planet for our purposes.

But worse still, they are based on a deliberate refusal to accept that these creatures think, feel, and fear on at least the same level we do. And their inability to communicate with us allows us to commit unspeakable cruelties to them.

When Dr Doolittle was written, the notion of communication with creatures lived only in the minds of fantasy writers.

But there is a legal notion now on our books, called Willful Blindness … essentially even if we don’t know something, but we really should have, given all the evidence around us … then we can be found guilty of being willfully blind.

How farcical is it that we acknowledge it as a legal responsibility and yet we turn a blind eye to almost everything cruel or destructive that we inflict on the planet and the creatures we share it with?

I don’t believe in there being such a thing as a final reckoning. But god help humanity, if we are ever held accountable for what we have done to this planet, to each other, or to the wonderful creatures that value their lives as we do our own.

Shame on us.

It’s where you find it …

Last night, after a day of isolation, I decided that I needed a little nature to fill the soul.

Thankfully, it isn’t a commodity that people can hoard, so I was pleased to find it aplenty just waiting for anyone needing nourishment.

I took off to the east side of Lake Parker and reached my “spot” just as the sun seemed to hit that sweet 5 or 6 degrees above-the-horizon mark. With the right temperature and cloud formation, that’s when the disappearing sun casts its golden light across the skies.

And it didn’t disappoint!

I hurried quickly along the bank to the end of the fishing pier, arm in arm with one of my very best friends. And we watched the sun go down together.

He even posed for a couple of shots for me, so you might know him from some of the pictures below.

I hope you like this little selection.

The drive home was obviously the return of someone who had just been to the soul-food bank and was now fully stocked again to face the trials of coming days.

I am so very fortunate to be living in Florida and close to an abundance of nature. Whatever my craving is, Mother Nature obliges. Whether it be creatures, scenery, or sun and skies, I have never known her shelves to be empty. She never has to wait for a delivery or ask patrons to wait in line for a one-per-customer limit.

No, she greets our every day with a warm embrace, brightens our spirits with magical skies, and fills our souls with each sunset.

My camera is effectively the door to the my inner pantry that is filled with the most amazing memories that I could possibly taste.

But you don’t need a camera … you just need an open heart and the willingness to let her feed you.

Like many people across the world, I have put down some pretty shitty days this week. But it is pointless to dwell. Negative thoughts breed negative energy.

And when we witness hysterical behavior around us, that negativity is reinforced. We feel justified in our negativity.

But just beyond the wave of hysteria is an ocean of happiness. There are so many happy moments just waiting to be experienced that can help bring a balance into our lives.

Nature is such a moment-provider for me. And I can still experience it while reducing my social contact and not endangering anyone.

But whatever it is that makes you happy, engage with it. Hopefully there are things that you can do that doesn’t involve large crowds and socializing. And frankly, if those are the only types of things that make you happy, then you need to work more on finding better sources of inner happiness.

We don’t need a constitution to tell us we have a right to pursue happiness. Our happiness isn’t gifted to us by another party. It comes from within.

So, look into your soul, because this much is true; happiness is where you find it.

Normal reception will resume shortly

I had an opportunity to shoot a lovely young model at Picnic Island yesterday and so I decided to head there an hour early so that I could explore the natural world before I was forced to look at scantily clad bikini stuff.

Someone has to do it, I suppose.

It was a typically beautiful late afternoon in Tampa, with temperature in the 80s, a mostly blue sky, and a soft breeze coming in from the bay.

These near-perfect conditions brought more than just me out … there were people of all ages, all ethnicities, and all shapes and sizes, enjoying what the natural world had to offer.

As I wandered off taking shots of small wild sunflowers, there were people swimming, sunbathing, barbequeing, para-sailing, boating, and fishing.

All around me were the sounds of people having fun, children laughing, and the strains of Abba coming from a balloon-decorated shelter where a family was obviously celebrating a birthday.

It was idyllic.

I hope you like some of these pics … it is hard for me to choose between the flower that was actually breathing, the anhinga stretching his wings out to dry, or the magnificent colors that engulfed the skies as the sun went down.

But hopefully you might find your own favorite in here!

In any event, the lasting thought that ran around inside my head, as I drove home, was neither bikini nor nature driven. But it was about people’s behavior.

Everything was so damn normal. You could be forgiven for thinking this coronavirus shit was merely a bad dream.

There was no signs of panic, toilet paper hoarding, or canned food shortage. Doomsday seemed a million miles away.

The experience put a spring in my step and yet made me sad for all these people who have their finger almost permanently on the panic button and living their life in constant fear.

Yes, there is a pandemic. Yes, there are changes that need to be made to how we handle the coming weeks or so.

But the rush to hoard 24 mega-rolls and 80 cans of spaghettios is not just ludicrous, but it has damaging effects to all of us. The over-loaded stocks in rich folk’s houses is balanced by a shortage in poor folk’s houses. Not everyone can afford to fill their pantries and bathrooms when they are just about making ends meet during more normal times.

But the big asses that need Hummers apparently also consume about ten times the toilet tissue of the asses that have to walk or ride buses to work, apparently.

I mean, come on! Seriously!!

In times of stress, people show their true colors. Good people help others. Selfish people help themselves.

In times of stress, our empathy for others, our conscience, our moral fabric … it all gets tested and not everyone passes with flying colors.

There are those loud-mouthed, bravado-spewing, chest-thumping, bullies that circle the wagons and make the problem an “us versus them” issue.

But in times of pandemics, we are all in the same boat. We are not chinese, italian, or american. We are just human.

We may live, we may die. But given that we will all die eventually, the living part needs to be about how we live, rather than how long we live.

So, watching these people yesterday live a normal Saturday enjoying their lives by being simply normal … well frankly, embarrassed those of us building walls, closing borders, and demonizing strangers.

Whenever it does happen, one thing is for certain … Normal Reception will Resume Shortly. Until then, just relax and breathe.

Desperately Seeking Sunrise

Fans of old Madonna movies might recognize my theft of titles above, but the truth is that yesterday was about as miserable a day as I have experienced in years and I woke this morning most definitely in need of a sunrise to refreshen my soul.

Nothing awakens the senses like a sunrise and it doesn’t even have to be a spectacular one … it just needs to be.

Sunrises are nature’s reboot and now that we know that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around this heavenly creation, we are also given the chance to recreate ourselves with each new dawn.

Yesterday’s crippling moments get replaced with a whole new set that are hopefully less crippling and our horizon takes on a new possibility as the sun begins to introduce itself to our new day.

The sun of course is scientifically simply a star that is burning and will eventually burn out and at some time in the future there will be no sun to rise. But frankly I don’t expect to live that long (nor should you) so the relevance of that fact is lost.

But can you imagine a world where the sun didn’t rise? How would we begin a new day? How would we establish a new objective as we got out of bed?

Truth is that we probably wouldn’t and hopelessness would ensue.

But until then, we can continue to live in hope. And I do!

I hope you like these few images. You can see where this morning started with a little definition on the horizon and how it morphed for a few moments into a wonderful collection of yellows, oranges, violets, and blues.

As I drove home, it did help my heart a little and it really made me think about how issues can come at us out of nowhere, pummel us with stress or sadness, and overwhelm our senses to where the end of the day brings only sleep (if we are lucky) and often no solutions.

But when faced with this kind of situation, we can be well served by an approach that allows us to close off a day in a box called “past” and renew ourselves with a dawn and a fresh perspective.

Residual upset or stress from a past moment mutes any forward motion. It depletes our energies before we even set first foot on the floor and makes us rehash all the negative emotions of the prior day.

We deserve our sunrise. We deserve our chance to head off into the day’s adventures with hope in our hearts and a belief in ourselves. Without either of those, we might as well just pull the blankets up a little higher and keep our eyes closed.

For me, this morning, the metaphor was the reality. I used the freshness and beauty of the physical dawn. That I am fortunate enough to live somewhere where this often happens, is indeed a blessing.

But even in a cloudy,rainy, sunrise, the sun still rises. It may be behind cover, but to borrow the slogan of my favorite football team, “out of darkness cometh light”.

Once the darkest of blackness has befallen us, there is only one direction for things to go. They have to get brighter.

There are loved ones around me suffering unspeakably right now and all I can say is to persevere and to do so in the strong knowledge that your sun will rise again.

And when it happens, I wish you beautiful colors, fresh breezes, and the sounds of songbirds welcoming in the new horizon!

Plan B

I am having a quiet morning … just me, the kitties, a coke zero and some fireballs. The door is ajar so that Coco and Lola can wander in and out at their leisure and in the yard outside I hear the sounds of small birds chirping, while a Hawk in the tree-tops calls out for his mate.

It couldn’t be a more serene moment if I tried.

As I paused and thought that this is likely the first completely quiet moment in weeks, I remembered that Brittany and I went to Cypress Pointe a couple of weeks ago and I hadn’t done anything with the images yet.

This is one of the pitfalls with taking a lot of images … when one good shoot is quickly followed by another, images become stockpiled within folders on my drive and risk never seeing the light of day.

Strange thing is, we hadn’t planned on going to Cypress Pointe at all but when we got to Picnic Island so that she could practice with her hoop, it was closed because police had just found a body of some poor unfortunate woman. Cypress Pointe was our plan B.

Both places face west so they are great for sunsets in that respect. I normally choose Picnic Island though because there is rarely more than a few people there.

Cypress Pointe in contrast is a well-known and often overly-busy spot crawling with people from one end to the other.

So while Brittany hooped, I decided to use the strangers for my own devices and they became unidentified silhouettes as the sun went down.

I enjoyed the interplay with foreground features that framed both the sun and people and I hope you like this little collection from the shoot.

Looking through these images this morning, my thoughts drifted onto the whole aspect of Plan B.

There are many instances where we are faced with a complication that stops us from being able to pursue something and so we can either get back in the car and go home and sulk, or adapt and find something else to pursue.

In my mind, we should never accept defeat, so the latter is always the right response.

But beyond immediate moments, like this one, have you ever noticed how our entire lives are actually Plan B?

I can’t imagine there isn’t a single person out there among the billions on the planet who is living exactly the life they might have originally planned.

We may be happy with our lives. Or we may not. But invariably things happen to all of us that alter our paths and most of us adapt and move on.

I don’t know about you but I can barely successfully plan a 24 hour period so what chance do any of us have over an 80 year lifespan?

It’s why we have divorces, career changes, and the back space button on the keyboard. Decisions that seemed perfect or permanent at one moment in time, unravel and appear naive or simply wrong at the next.

There is a chaos factor at play in all our lives. It deals us with life-altering variables that force us to adjust something, somewhere, or somehow.

But that’s OK. It’s why we have a brain and not just a computer processor. We see, evaluate, adapt, and move on. It’s what makes us a successful species. Humans are very good at it. We live our lives doing it.

We should embrace each twist and turn that creates a plan B, because at the end of the day, chaos rules and our win is a matter of how we have adapted.

Feeling sorry for ourselves or getting depressed is a one-way ticket to Palookaville (always wanted to use that phrase). Which is what Marlon Brandon’s character was moaning about in the 1954 movie, On The Waterfront.

“I coulda had class. I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender.” he moaned.

But couldn’t we all?

I mean, at different points along this journey, I have second-guessed myself on some of life’s decisions, but the reality is that in most cases, while it feels the decision is ours to make, we are really just experiencing a shift into our next plan B.

So, embrace the changes, adapt to where they bring you, and enjoy the ride. Because that is what plan B really is; a roller coaster that sweeps us through twist and turns, rises and falls, as it leads us to our final destiny.


Found myself in the company of special friends last night and despite a very late night, my friend and I were out standing in his front yard as the morning sun poked its head above the horizon.

I commented on the improvements made to his property of several acres since I had last been down and it was a clear sign of someone moving forward with their lives in such a positive direction. Fields had been cut, trees trimmed, and weeds pulled and the whole place took on a fresh feel, heightened by the arrival of the morning sun as it lit up the blue skies.

Without giving up too many details, suffice to say that a life under clouds had been lifted by the arrival of a special someone in his life and you could feel it, not just in his improved outlook on life, but in the very surroundings in which he played out that life.

Being spring, there were also some very notable new arrivals in the yard … a bottle-brush tree in full bloom and the beginning of a few orchid blooms happening immediately outside the front door.

I took a few shots to share here and I hope you like them.

But there was a deeper thought, in all seriousness, floating around inside my head as I took in the changes that were clearly evident within and without … the whole concept of being reborn.

In nature we see it with the coming and goings of the seasons and we take it for granted to where we would be forgiven for not even thinking about how wondrous the whole event is.

I mean, winter delivers what to all intents and purposes looks like death at the end of each year but spring reclaims the moment and provides the planet with a fresh charge at life again.

So too, do we face death and rebirth. I am not talking about corporal death, but rather the moment when we change from one version of our persona or way of life and suddenly morph into a new version of ourselves.

I think I can see five or six versions of my past self already … to where I can confidently say that I am not the same person as I was “back then”.

And while one or two might be self-motivated-morphings, I believe the vast majority come from external influences. It might be a tragedy, an achievement, or perhaps even a person that arrives that effects the change.

There are moments when rebirth is a painful process and these moments mainly come from some kind of negative catalyst. I suspect most of us have experienced such life-changing moments.

But the ones that I mused about this morning were actually the positive ones. Like the moment someone new comes into your life and reawakens the life within you.

You can be slowly winding down your current phase of life without even realizing it. Mood can be low. Excitement can be minimal. Life is replaced by routine.

And then someone brings you through a reawakening to where you realize that this phase was merely existing and not living.

Similarly it could be that an opportunity of magnitude happens … perhaps a career change, or a new-found passion, or a sudden breakthrough on a heavy issue.

When a magnitudinal (is that even a word?) event happens, we can embrace it and harness the chance it gives us to transform.

Some of us will shy away from change and will allow the opportunity to pass by. But others grab on with both hands and see where it leads them.

There is a life. And there is an existence. And at each crossroad we have an opportunity to choose. And when someone extends their hand to us, helping us through the crossroads, they become the midwife to our rebirth.

We too, if lucky enough, may become the person that enable the rebirth of another. So be keenly aware if that opportunity comes your way.

As Plato said “the greatest privilege of human life is to become the midwife in the awakening of the soul of another person”

OK then …. PUSH!!!

Finding a smile!

It was one of those sucky work days … the type that seems to suck all the life out of your soul and leaves you a pale shadow of the person that began the morning full of energy.

Typically on the end of one of those, temptation is just to retire away onto the sofa; rest, eat, relax, and eventually bed.

But in doing that, we are just giving up on the day and waiting for it to be over. But armed with my trail buddy, we decided instead to head on a late-afternoon trail and the thought of spending the final hour or two of daylight wandering along the edge of Lake Hancock was enough to motivate us into action.

By the time we got there, there were only a few isolated cars left around and the sign on the gate said they would be locking it in about an hour and a half.

Could we cover the ground in that time and still make it a meaningful moment with camera? Yes, we believed we could and so we set out briskly down the late-evening path.

As it turned out, we needn’t have worried … by the time we got back to the car we still had ten minutes on the clock and our bellies full of wonderful images to gorge our souls with.

We were accompanied initially by a young, camera-shy raccoon in the tall grasses at the side of the trail, but I did manage to get one good shot of her lovely little face. And several sightings of herons, and alligators, were delightfully interspersed with encounters with a wonderful Hawk (directly over my head), a wakening owl, singing osprey, and a delightful little armadillo sunning his backside in the warmth of the falling sun.

I hope you enjoy this little collection!

I think my favorite is the obscure view of the hawk where he looks just like a round ball of feathers. Odd perspectives are really fun to do sometimes.

In any event, we made it back on the road home before the padlock got thrown onto the gate, and as we drove away in excited conversation, it was clear that both our souls had been replenished.

And I couldn’t help but think of the millions of people around the world that go through their work-lives feeling drained at the end of their days, without the opportunity to replenish. And I felt sad for them all.

Work is necessary, obviously, and it does serve to provide a good focus and discipline in our lives. But it also robs us. It takes away our energies, often hides our individuality, and casts a shadow on our soul.

Without the ability to replenish, we begin each next day a little less of a person than we were the day before. The realities of life and commitments often makes it impossible to replenish during the week and it transfers that responsibility into the weekend.

But even then it competes with chores, family, and other commitments. And oftentimes, it loses out in those priorities.

I think this is why over time, the childish smiles and wonder that once lit up our faces in our youth, evolve into frowns and seriousness by the time we are stuck in the realities of a work life.

And have you ever noticed how a simple smile can make you look years younger than your unsmiling (or god-forbid, sad) self? Me personally … when I stand in front of a mirror, I can see a five or ten year difference on my face depending on whether it has a smile or not.

And so we need to realize that others around us see our mirror-face. If there is a smile missing from it then we look older and sadder and we in turn steal their smiles. So then they look old to us!

If I am right, then the importance of doing something that puts a smile on our faces, is not something that can be deferred to the weekend. We need to find a smile each and every day.

Personally speaking, the natural world puts a smile on my face like no other activity. I repeatedly marvel at the wonderful little creatures that greet my trail adventures. I soak in the sun rises and sunsets, and my eyes fill my soul with the natural sights or sceneries that surround me.

How could I not smile?

So, I guess what I am trying to say here is that howsoever you can find a smile, find it. Don’t settle for an unsmiling day, even if just for the vanity of trying to look younger to those that have to look at your face each evening!

Mid-Day Meanderings

I rarely hit the trails in the middle of the day. I am generally a creature of habit … and habitually first thing in the morning is my trail time apparently.

But my trail buddy worked her wily charms and got me out to Circle B around lunch time on Sunday. The parking lot was full and the sun was high in the sky, which is notoriously a bad time for taking pictures (or so the experts say). But I went anyway, because I am afraid of her and I need to occasionally be able to sit with my back to a door.

We found an unconventional parking spot and set off on foot surrounded by throngs of Sunday-Snow-Birds, but by the time we had walked a half hour, the herd had thinned out and we found ourselves alone on a trail.

By this time, we had photographed several lovely creatures along the way, who apparently didn’t object to the stark shadows caused by the high midday sun. Apparently wild creatures don’t read professional photography books, generally speaking.

But as we slowly wandered along a quiet section, just ahead of us, a head poked out from the side-grass, stopped, and just watched us. We dropped to our knees and displayed no threat to him.

Out he came … a three-legged alligator that must have been 10 or 12 feet long. He limped quietly across the path and then head-first through the grasses, until he softly slid into the waiting waters and swam away.

I wasn’t really ready when he walked across but had enough presence of mind to hit the video button on my camera and managed to get a few seconds of him before he disappeared. Check this out … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2BSre5_qNI

If we had been just a minute earlier at that spot, we would have likely missed him, so we both felt very lucky to have shared a moment with him.

At Blog’s end are a number of shots from our trail. Hope you like them.

As it turned out, there was a good mix of creatures around and several large gators waiting to be petted. And having the sun hitting the feathers of the Glossy Ibis and showing off his range of colors, was a very special find that totally satisfied my photo-appetite.

By the time we left, the whole thought of habitual behavior was playing out in my head. I must have been to Circle B almost a hundred times in recent years and yet this was my first mid-day experience.

So, why have I conditioned myself into a pattern that limited me to early-morning shoots there?

It is obviously a self-imposed limitation and while there are many aspects of early-morning trails that are uniquely appealing, someone with a more balanced life-view would realize that different moments in the day offer different experiences.

Recently with the arrival of a new shoot-buddy, I have found myself expanding myself in several directions and therefore experiencing more sunset shoots and life shoots than I have in several years.

Us old fogies develop habits over our lifetime. We find things we like to do, restaurants we like to eat at, things we like to eat, and even people we like to see. Then we keep meeting the same people, at the same place, eat the same food, and do the same things with them.

There is a psychology behind this “old folk habit” and it goes like this: people who have been around a long time have generally found things that they like so they have no further need to experiment. Whereas younger people need to experiment in order to find out their likes.

But the problem is that these likes become habit-forming and we tend to live smaller lives, the older we get.

Experimentation is a real source of vitality and while it brings both a possibility of success AND failure, it tends to open our minds to new thoughts and new events.

I am very lucky inasmuch as half my friends are half my age. While my body becomes old and decrepit, they keep my soul as young as a baby’s.

I constantly am exposed to new things and new scenarios. Sometimes they challenge me to the point of exhaustion. They force me to learn new things and to adapt to challenges that others my age have long since retired from.

But without a doubt, they feed me. They nourish the youth within me and give my life a real purpose.

So, when I spot an old fogey habit like I did on Sunday, I quickly resolve to throw that one out. It brings a resolve to me that I need to be better at mixing things up.

Each one of us fall into the habitual-living pattern over time. Today’s youth will become the old fogeys a generation from now, much as we did when we overtook our parents’ generation.

But succumbing to old age is something we should only allow our bodies to do, never our mind. Inside mine, I think I am somewhere in my twenties … now, if I could just live in a mirror-less world, life would be perfect!

Have a wonderful week!