Carraroe

October 23rd, 2002 … I was traveling west of Galway, heading out to a small village in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area) call Carraroe.

It may be 18 years ago but the memory is fresh in my mind, as if I had just been there.

Yesterday while looking for some images on an archive drive I came across several that I had taken and the road to Carraroe became a true trip down memory lane.

It is a beautiful little corner of Ireland … the coastal roads of West Galway. And on a nice day, it is likely one of the prettiest places in the world.

I remember stopping into a little shop as I entered the village to get a bar of chocolate and a can of coke before I headed into my meeting. Yes, I was a really healthy eater back then too.

As I stepped in and waited behind a local who was at the counter ahead of me, their conversation being completely in Irish, it felt like I had stepped back in time a hundred years or more.

The West Galway dialect is different to the southern Limerick dialect that I had learned and all of a sudden I felt inadequate whereas moments beforehand I characterized myself as fluent. But truth be told, I was able to be understood when it came to my turn and I walked out head held high and returned to the car.

Driving out the coast road with the Atlantic ocean on your left and the wild Irish countryside on your right is genuinely a moment to breathe in. I apparently did, because these images show that I stopped the car and got out early morning on at least two or three occasions.

Anyway, firstly, here is the panoramic shot as you suddenly start to enter Carraroe and at the end of the blog are a small few shots that still mean something to me, these many years later. I hope you enjoy.

So apart from just being a vehicle to talk about Ireland, the real thought in today’s blog was more about how our trains of thought can stop us dead in our tracks sometimes.

I was looking for some images for a friend from 2006 yesterday and before I sent my archive drive to the floor, ruining 8TB of backups (that’s another story), I was scouring from folder to folder and opening up one memory after another.

Some of the memories were trivial inasmuch as I would think “I don’t even remember this person, not to mind shooting them”. But other memories such as the road to Carraroe were show-stoppers for me, my mind, and my heart.

Some of these memories can be so very vivid. For example, I can honestly remember the moment when I stepped out of the car to take that panoramic shot. I remember the chill in the morning air. The freshness as my lungs filled with a wonderful supply of unpolluted oxygen.

I remember the sounds, or perhaps more relevant, the absence of sounds. There wasn’t another car within hearing distance and if a human was stirring somewhere they were wearing slippers.

It was one of those peaceful moments where you realize how perfect the moment is, right there and then. And you acknowledge it to your soul.

Then 18 years later, as you stumble on an old photograph, your brain recalls and your soul reminds you!

It’s like that moment you get a smell of something in passing and it brings your heart back to your childhood standing in your mother’s kitchen. Or you hear a song’s refrain and you remember the soft embrace that came with the first time you shared it with someone special.

So, yesterday I sat in silence, unaware that I was about to drop my hard drive onto the concrete floor in about ten minutes … and the world was perfect once again.

Recall can be one of the most amazing aspects of our brains. Yes, we can analyze, process, communicate, and understand. But nothing gives as much joy as a good memory. Particularly one that has made it all the way up from the distant recesses of mental obscurity.

Emigrants carry with them a cross that most other people don’t understand. It is the memory of a time and place where they are no more and where they are so far removed from it that they have a sense of displacement.

We may gloss over and enamor the memories to where we remember them to be better than they were. Our minds enhance the good parts and downplay the negatives.

Whatever the circumstance that takes us to a new land, a part of us always stays behind. Nobody emerges from such a journey intact. No matter what they say.

It is one of the reason’s why I heartily disagree with the whole oath of allegiance process that places like America put on us. Not the allegiance part, but the part where they make you take an oath that you disavow all foreign countries as you become a new citizen.

Regardless of the words, none of us immigrants here ever disavow our place of birth. Nor should we.

Unfortunately, there is a very real price associated with memories of our past, our home, our people. They remind us sadly that the truth is we can never go home. Because home is no longer just a place or people. It also is a time.

And times change.

The Irish race is often associated with being drinkers and I always smirk at the association when I hear it. It displays a certain ignorance that extends beyond anything racist. It shows us that the people who adhere to that notion just don’t understand the plight of the reluctant emigrant and why generations might turn to drink to drown the sorrow and dull the memory.

I don’t drink. Or at least I should say that Coke Zero doesn’t really dull any memories.

So, yesterday’s flood of memories from a time and place that was special to me … well it just comes through loud and clear. And very vivid.

Memories are often the source of dreams and they feed our imagination and fantasy world while we sleep.

But memories deserve their moment in daylight too.

Well-balanced people live their lives with a healthy blend of who they were, who they are, and who they hope to be.

Out past becomes the platform in which our present exists and our future can build on. Recalling the past is an important part of understanding who we were and are.

So I guess what I am trying to say here is that recalling should be an active part of our lives and not just relegated to an accidental occurrence that happens just before your hard drive drops the floor.

Apart from giving us a chance to revisit with those we have lost (people and places), they are an excellent way of characterizing how we arrived at where we are in life.

If you don’t know where you came from, how on earth will we ever know where we are going?

… just a thought.

In Good Company

Yesterday, I took a welcome break away from the PC and spent a few hours wandering around Hollis Gardens in the company of my botanist friend, Simona.

Though I have been there many times and in all seasons, she had never been so it was with a fresh pair of eyes that yesterday’s visit occurred.

Now, a typical visit for me to Hollis Gardens is somewhere around an hour and I am very flower-focused. But yesterday was around three hours and flowers played a tiny part in the morning adventure.

There was scarcely a plant left unvisited by the time we left and most of them had been delicately touched and lovingly spoken to. “here touch this, smell that…” I was driven to an unprecedented amount of plant interaction and it was wonderful.

I had never really engaged with plants on that level before and it opened my eyes and mind to an altogether new level of understanding. Though she knew almost all their names and told me, I scarcely remembered any when we were done. Such is the problem of old age … memories become more difficult to form.

I have uploaded a bunch of images at the end of the blog and hope you enjoy. From hidden lady birds, to the tiniest of mushroom my personal guide directed my lens into an entirely new world. Enjoy the view!

It was last night as I went through the images and imagined this blog, that the thought formed about the value of being accompanied on any adventure by someone from who you can learn.

As children, everyone knows more about everything than we do, so we become super-absorbent, gleaning new knowledge anywhere we find it.

But as adults we often fall into the trap of being the most knowledgeable about whatever topic we find ourselves immersed in. Or at least, we think we are. So while we value the opinions of the people on our journey with us, we often just relegate it to that … an opinion.

But as we reduce our learning, we ultimately become stale and life can become stale too. The wonder of a child’s eyes when they experience something fresh to them is so evident as to be thrilling, yet we often remove that freshness from our own life-experience.

It is one of the reasons that I love going anywhere with Simona or Jax (my science teacher friend) … they continually shed new light into my life with things I never knew and a fresh breeze blows through my soul.

There is a tendency among some (particularly those with strong egos) to want to be the most intelligent and most knowledgeable person in the room. These are the people that shun information and ignore directions. They already know it all.

But we are so much better off if we allow others to shine their light into our life because even if they end up telling us something we already know, at the very least we experience their perspective. Humans are quite unique and therefore bring such varied perspectives on almost every topic. Why would we not want to hear theirs?

By taking on board new information or even just new perspectives, we grow as people. And our journey becomes all the richer for it.

As you look through the images, you might notice how my own journey altered yesterday. Looking into trees to find unusual faces looking back at you (spooky even) or turning leaves upside down to see how some plants produce pods of pollen underneath. Who would have thought?

So, I guess the message in today’s blog is very simple … surround yourself with idiots and you will always be the smartest person in the room. But surround yourself with people that know more than you and you might actually learn something!

… just a thought!

Inspiration

Last night, I met a young friend and we headed downtown Tampa to shoot around the lights on Riverwalk .

The gods set out their stall against us, firstly with rain that threatened to wash away our efforts and then with the illumination system apparently stuck on a single color. Now, don’t get me wrong … green is a nice color, but photographing someone under a constant glare of green is only a good idea when they are The Hulk or Kermit the frog.

I had build my plans around varying blues, violets, golds, and reds. But as in that well-known musing from Robert Burns “the best laid plans of mice and men…” and so too did mine go awry.

The rain gave the camera a bit of a soaking and a wet lens and dodgy focus electronics do not necessarily lend to a happy ending to most stories.

But she and I soldiered on and had a fun night despite the gods best efforts.

I can only include one of the images here, because the rest are really hers to use, not mine.

But I like this one. Hope you do too.

We brought the crystal sphere with us to see if it would inspire some creativity and give new purpose to our images.

In truth, it was a challenging past couple of weeks, in the main. Losing MJ threw a damper across my purpose in life and it took a while for me to adjust.

There are moments in all our lives when we derail slightly and life seems to come a little unglued.

The gloss of life seems to disappear and is replaced by a dull pall that distances us from the joys of living.

Over this same period, I had a couple of new kittens stray onto the property, one of who was severely injured and I shed more than a few tears on how cruel life can be to those who don’t deserve such a fate.

But, on each front, I just tucked in my shoulders and tried to push ahead.

These are the defining moments in our lives and not falling down with the weight of them, can be every bit as important as learning to fly when times are good.

Sometimes life follows its own swing and like a pendulum finds its way back to an upward swing. And as long as we are still alive, we get to enjoy the ride.

Other times you have to find an inspiration. Something or someone that causes an inflection in the direction your life is taking.

I was fortunate to find mine this weekend … a casual lunch turning into a new path for my life to follow. I thought I was just having lunch; didn’t realize I was actually at a crossroads in life.

And such is the way … life throws an opportunity your way at the least expected moment.

If you are lying on your back and moaning about the unfairness of it all, you are very likely to miss it. But if you stay on your feet, you might just be able to grab a hold of it and see where it takes you.

Finding inspiration in another is a genuine treasure. You end up drawing strength and purpose from without, when within came up empty.

There is no greater truth than the “no man is an island” and it is important to recognize when you alone are unable to come up with the answers to life’s challenging questions.

So, I guess the moral to today’s thought is to seek inspiration where you can find it. It may be under a nest of leaves and cobwebs in your own yard, or from the helpful hand of your friend. Or, it may just be sitting across the table from you at the Olive Garden.

MJ

I had never met her before when she showed up for the shoot at the studio, Nov 19, 2017.

All I new was that Rachel thought she was pretty and that was good enough for me.

When she walked into my night, the room suddenly got brighter and I declined her request to give her time to put on lips and eyes. “Not needed”, I replied because she was a natural beauty.

I have nothing against makeup or lipstick or mascara … it’s just that sometimes you encounter someone with a natural beauty and any attempt to add to it, only subtracts from it.

I put her through her paces and she pulled off the shoot as if it was all just another day. Her comfort in front of the lens, her ability to shift from soft to sensual, only occasionally interspersed with a howl of laughter.

The camera loved her and pretty soon I found myself following the same destiny. Just one of those people, you know? The kind that walks into your life and never leave.

She left yesterday.

Just five weeks after the shoot, while driving a hot dinner to her friend on Christmas Eve, she was t-boned by some reckless 17 year old, who ran a stop sign at high speed.

Her life was shattered, body broken, neck crushed and almost 3 years and 30 surgeries later, they pulled the plug on her yesterday.

I met her after her first hospital stint and though she bore the physical scarring you would expect, her inner beauty still radiated. She had no voice but had big plans and just wanted to get her life back on track, if she could just get a second chance.

But life is a bastard and doesn’t care if you are good person or bad. She never got that chance. Good things do not happen to good people. Things just happen regardless.

To those that loved MJ, the loss is huge. To the world, the loss is unknown.

You can measure a person by the hole they leave behind in the hearts of those that knew them. If so, she was a giant.

R.I.P. MJ

Kitten Dreams

I was sitting here at the PC for hours yesterday proofing and fixing stuff that had been done incorrectly.

It was a miserable task and has been going on for the best part of a week already. There are many lessons we learn in life and one of them is essentially a recurrence of that old adage “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”.

In any event, the task at hand required a lot of brain-power and focus and I am not sure if it is an age thing or not, but my brain was genuinely “sore” at the end of it all.

Now the medics among us will quickly jump on the fact that the brain can’t really feel pain. hence the ability to do certain surgical diagnostics on the brain while a patient is awake and able to communicate.

But anyone who has emerged from heavy concentration where their brain has been repeatedly tasked with solving real issues, will realize that pain comes from more than just physical nerve endings.

For example, we have a sore heart when we experience loss of someone special to us.

So, that’s the kind of pain I am referring to, I guess. Except in this case, the soreness seemed wrapped inside an envelope of headache so it had even more of a pronounced feeling.

Anyway, I am off topic … forgive me.

So there I am trying desperately to focus, analyze, and solve, and my room-mates (five kittens and their mom) are tearing the place apart around me.

As she guides them with her incessant meowing and marshals them into and out of certain tasks, the memory of quiet moments feels like something that happened a long time ago.

They were bouncing, jumping, climbing, while all around them things were moving, crinkling, and falling.

Watching their antics were a wonderful distraction, but still a distraction. Even their play-fighting and lizard hunting was amazing to watch. (I managed to rescue 5 of the 7 lizards and one of the two dragonflies) But “havoc” would be a good word for what is going on here now on a daily basis.

Then all of a sudden … silence. Completely unannounced and so very welcome. In fact I didn’t even notice it immediately. Took me a few minutes to realize I wasn’t hearing anybody.

I looked across the room and all five little innocents were fast asleep. All in unison. It was like someone had thrown an off-switch and they were all out to the world. There were three cuddled on one chair and a couple on another.

All in dreamland… I took a few pics and they are at the end of this blog together with a couple of the play-fight that happened when they woke up again. I hope you like this selection. I even added some words that occurred to me on a few of them.

I watched their face for a while and most if not all were showing smiley expressions as they slept. One had her leg moving involuntarily as if she were in a dream-race , but mostly they were just heavily snuggled into each other.

And it made me think about the whole concept of kitten dreams … what does the mind of a kitten go through when they dream? And how close are they to our dreams in terms of the emotional (fear, thrill, happiness, sadness).

Their little lives are so young, their dreams can have very little basis on reality. They do not have enough life experience yet to form the basis of any real story.

So do dreams have to wait until there is some basis to form on, or can imagination take over in the absence of reality to give some food for the dreams?

Our own dreams are very similar. They often reflect an experience or a feeling that we have. Sometimes it is even a purely subconscious thought that we didn’t even know we have.

Sometimes we experience very real dreams, where start to finish it seems like we have come through an “actual” experience. I remember having one the other evening and while I have no recall on what the dream was, I know it gave me a very real sense of happiness, such that when I woke up I was actually sorry to wake and find myself in the “real” world.

In fact, that is the real thought behind today’s blog. Why do we focus purely on reality to where our dream-state is responsible for up to 30% of our overall life?

Reality, that piece of life that happens when we open our eyes in the morning and struggle to find our first cup of coffee, is obviously the conscious part of our day and we try our best to marshal it into portions that are productive, happy, caring, etc.

We derive most of our pleasure and sadness from this conscious time and to most of us it defines whether our lives are successful or not. Perhaps it is because we feel we have some aspect of control during these sixteen hours of our day. But, the reality is that in most of this, we do not. We live mostly reactive lives … reacting to the events and circumstances that are happening to us and dealing as best as we can with them.

In real-life, we are very much defined by our physical being. Physical limitations restrict us to what our body can actually do.

But in dream-life we can fly.

I have taken many flights in my dreams and the thrill has never left me.

I have been a woman, a young boy, a military officer, an assassin, a savior.

I have visited with loved ones that are no longer around and emerged with my heart soothed and calm restored.

Yes, I have also struggled in dreams, running through marshmallow, unable to find who or what I am looking for.

But, I am fortunate inasmuch as the majority of my dreams are good ones. I know that some people are not so lucky and some even dread closing their eyes for fear of a nightmare.

But howsoever we find ourselves in a dream state, it is important to recognize that our state of mind before we sleep plays an important role in the dream we are about to have.

A positive frame of mind will more likely than not lead to a positive dream, while a mind of stress or anxiety will more than likely not.

Which leads me (finally) to my point here … if we manage our lives to where each day as we head off to dreamland, we make ourselves aware of where our mind is, we will be much better off.

As you get ready for bed, analyze your state of contentment or happiness and look to park negative thoughts at the very least.

Some people do that by writing down things that they will have to deal with or resolve tomorrow. And they put the list to one side before they close their eyes. Others can do so mentally.

Some people find that meditation immediately prior to sleep is a key ingredient to creating a state of mind that is conducive to happy dreams.

But whatever it is that works for you, figure it out and do it. Because you are about to head into the final-third of your day and the only person that really can affect its outcome is you!

True happiness always comes from within. And dreamland is very much a place to find it. Just as the kittens!

… just a thought.

oh and here are the ones with words …