Draining the swamp

Some weeks carry a certain level of draining in them, such that by the time the weekend arrives, I am completely spent. This past week was one of those so by the time late afternoon heralded in the final PC work of the day, I was completely done.

So I arrived at that moment where you have your chores finished and have to make that decision “sofa & TV or go out somewhere”. There are moments when we choose TV because the bones are tired and the soft cushions of the sofa are so welcoming.

But last night wasn’t one of those moments. Or, at least, the softness of the cushions couldn’t overpower the need to do something that took care of my soul. The body would just have to wait.

So I took a gamble (looking at the sky and the app) and decided to see if I could catch the sun going down, down at Picnic Island. It takes about an hour to get there and I have made the journey before only to be bitterly disappointed in a cloud-controlled wasted-trip.

But the sky looked promising and I was driven by desire for solace. Something that would soothe the raw fibers of my soul. Desire is a strong mistress and last night I was her slave.

As I pulled in to Picnic Island, I opted for the boat launch and fishing pier section. There were lots of people there, but that was OK. On this occasion I had decided that people would be an important ingredient in my shoot.

When the people are with you, sunset always presents a real challenge because you are trying to get enough light on them while still getting the colors in the sky behind. In this instance, though, people were merely a prop and a silhouette prop at that. So their identities were unimportant.

I brought two lenses, the 11 mm super-wide angle and the 300 mm zoom, as well as a tripod to rest the camera on. And the biggest challenge of the evening was occasionally switching lenses (without dropping) so that I could move from super-distant to super-close. I have to admit, it was a pain and I need to come up with a better answer that doing it with a weak break-recovering wrist on one side and a freshly cut and throbbing index finger on the right. I was a mess.

But the good news is I fumbled but didn’t drop. Given how much the lenses and camera cost, that could have been disastrous.

In any event, I have added a number of images to the end of the blog and they are in the order taken, so you will see the progression of color-change that was happening. Each time I switch from wide to zoom, the background color obviously changes dramatically, because i am only seeing a tiny portion of the sky behind the people.

Scenery wise, I prefer the wide shots because the open blue sky is so impressive. However the people actions (the person struggling with his leashed dog, the woman with her braids flying through the air, the guy casting his bait-net, and catching (and keeping) the embarrassingly small fish … they are all courtesy of the zoom at a distance of about 100 yards.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Driving home, I definitely felt like my soul had been somewhat replenished by the experience and there was much more of a pep in my step than there had been at any other time in the week.

And it made me think about the whole aspect of draining and replenishing and how we submit ourselves to this cycle as if it is just life.

While much of life is outside our control and I acknowledge that, we need to make ourselves aware of the parts of it that are draining to us. Work, health, personal life, … these are all primary drains on us and yet significant parts of these are within our control.

We don’t all get to work at what we are passionate about, but if we can, then work become much less of a drain on us. And if we can’t make a career at whatever our passions are, then it is very important that they find some other outlet within us. Perhaps a part-time activity or even a committed hobby/interest.

Health is to a large extend beyond our control, and we all go through periods where it beats the shit out of us. But living healthy (eating and exercise) can mitigate the damage that health causes and so we need to make sure that we are at least giving ourselves a chance for it to be less of a drain.

Personal life is likely the one area we have most control over and yet it is also the area that least control is exercised. We get married, We divorce, We stay single. We choose our own path (and company) to navigate through life and in this respect we are very much captain of our own ship.

Some people hand the captaincy over to someone else and they leave all decisions up to that person. But at the end of the day, they still go down with their own ship.

The decisions that are made throughout our lives either reward us or take from us. And if someone else is making the decisions for us, then it becomes almost impossible to avoid those that drain.

It’s funny how many folks, after they finally give up on a relationship or a job that they were stuck in, bemoan the wasted time. I should have left ten years ago” is a phrase that plays out again and again.

Did they actively decide to stay in that situation or did they just let it slide because it was easier or less confrontational? Chances are, they didn’t decide anything and even at the end, the decision was probably made for them. She walks out and leaves a note, or the boss tells you they are restructuring and your position is no longer viable.

It is at moments like these we realize how much of a swamp our life has become. We are stuck in so many aspects that are not what we intended. We sink further as each day passes and we hope that somehow someone will come along and throw us a rope and pull us out.

The longer we live in the swamp, the more draining it becomes, sapping life’s energy from our every waking moment.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that instead of waiting on this unidentified someone to come along and give us a lifeline, we need to understand the swamp. Understand the pieces that are sucking us in and then make our own decisions about clawing our way out.

Taking control of our life (as much as we can) and making decisions that affect it in a positive manner … even if it is as subtle a decision as “no sofa tonight”. They don’t all have to be earth shattering decisions. They only need to help us live. It’s your life; live it.

… just a thought.

By Definition

Once again in the early hours of the morning when I looked at the weather app on my phone, it said “Clear”, but having already been taken in by that lie recently, I knew enough not to believe it.

Particularly standing on the driveway and looking up at the darkness but seeing no stars looking back at me. Yeah, white man speaks with forked tongue.

The closer I got to the lake I was picking up more cloud being reflected by the lights. Which made me wonder how these jokers actually define the condition “clear”. My suspicions are that anything up to a certain percentage of cloud in the sky (maybe 10% is considered clear, while up to 90% is considered “partly cloudy” … I don’t know, I’m no weatherman).

So it became clear (there’s that word again) that I wasn’t going to be able to spend the early darkness shooting stars in the skies.

But that’s OK, I wasn’t too disappointed. I haven’t mastered the settings I want yet anyway, so it would likely have been a fail in all seriousness.

I have attached a few images at the end of the blog and the first four were very much in darkness near the boat pier, while the next two were taken at twilight half way down the lake shore.

The very last one was just taken with my phone, showing how finely balanced the tripod was on the edge of the platform, so as to get none of the platform itself in the shot.

Sometimes, I shake my head at the risks I take. It was but one of several this morning, in all truth. There was the huge splash a small few feet away from me, as I first went down the pier in the dark. I didn’t see anything, but the splash was big enough to have been a 10 footer gator.

Or the race through the darkness from camera to end of pier within ten seconds before the shutter opened up. Now that’s a bit of a risk for someone who broke a wrist just a few weeks ago. Or the moment when I climbed down the embankment to the water’s edge in getting the twilight shot. Could have been standing with anything in that spot.

Risk taking is part of taking nature shots, I suspect. It is really only later, when we consider the risks though. Not so much at that specific moment.

In any event, I did make it home in one piece so I guess it is a matter of “live to fight another day”.

It was on the way home, that today’s blog thought really began to play around inside my head. I mused on the whole definition of clear then asked myself what “definition” actually means anyway.

You see, definition is something that we get from someone else or a resource that we believe to be truthful and knowledgeable. And most importantly, definitions are generally delivered as facts. Something that should be accepted and not even questioned.

But definitions are prone to be outrageously wrong. For example, in early days the sun was defined as something that revolved around the world, until one day it wasn’t. The earth was flat until it wasn’t. Pluto was a planet in our solar system until it wasn’t.

So sometimes, these definitions are simply a matter of lack of knowledge and they get “corrected” over time.

But other times, definitions are deliberately wrong. They are delivered as a fact in order to make us think a certain way. For example, blacks are inferior to whites was a definition that was supported by biblical passages in order to elevate caucasion self-esteem and enable slavery.

The Katyn massacre of 22,000 polish officers and intelligentsia was committed by the Nazis and part of the crimes against humanity listed at the Nuremberg trials. Until of course, it turned out the Russians did it and the English and Americans didn’t want to risk losing an ally, so they supported the “fact” and the Nazis were blamed. Don’t believe me?

History is littered with such facts and by definition, we consume them. Sometimes we even act on them. Sometimes we go to war for them. Sometimes we discriminate because of them.

But beyond global and historical definitions, there are definitions around us that we cling to and judge based on, as if somehow we have a measuring stick that allows us to determine how and where to judge another.

“… she is a slut.”

We hear that and depending on our definition of “slut” we demean the person so defined.

According to the definition, a slut is “a woman who has many sexual partners.” You will note it immediately only applies to a woman and there is no male equivalent because nobody counts the number of partners a male has.

So, the very definition is meant to degrade and specifically degrade women.

Yet, this person can be so defined without even being “guilty” of having many sexual partners. She is a slut in some parts of the world, because she doesn’t wear a veil. Or she shows some cleavage, or is dating your former boyfriend.

Who knows and in truth, who even cares.

But my point is that often times the definitions are not simply intended to mislead, but to hurt.

So when we hear a definition of a person or a people, a place, or an event, be wary when it is delivered as a “fact” that brings a consequence.

We shouldn’t box such targets based on a definition we were given, and should only see such targets based on our own interactions with them.

Some of my best friends are sluts. Some of the best food I have eaten has come from dives. Some of the best times I have had are insignificant.

Conversely some of the most wonderful people I was introduced to were complete assholes, some of the best places to eat were mediocre, and some of the most amazing experiences left me cold.

You see, we experience life through our own mind and heart and if we allow our mind and heart to create its own definitions of what we are experiencing then we will find our own truth and not be encumbered by someone else’s perspective on it.

That is, by definition, called live and let live. It works, try it.

… just a thought!

Spirit Animals

I was sitting at the desk, late morning, door open, so the cats could come and go and I was immersed in some intense computer work, for at least the last couple hours.

The outside noises were pretty routine, I guess, because nothing was breaking my PC trance until it dawned on me that some very unusual sounds had penetrated my brain and snapped me back into the present.

I am not sure how to explain the sounds other that they were not the normal collection of bird sounds that I hear throughout my day. Nor were they the raucous squirrels that be moderately irritating. Cat fight noises will always get through whatever brain-cloud is working on me; mainly because I fear that someone will hurt someone and all of a sudden, it will be back to the vets again. But no, it wasn’t cats.

So I walked outside and looked around. It almost sounded like a few kids might be on the street, so I got my assault rifle ready just in case. But no, it wasn’t kids.

It honestly took a minute before I could even localize the sound as to where it was coming from. It was high up in the trees and it was actually a trio of Pileated Woodpeckers at play about forty or fifty feet up.

I love these little guys and rarely see them. I certainly have never seen more than one on a tree, so to see three working each tree as a team, was really intriguing. They hung around long enough for me to get a number of shots and I have included them at the end of the blog.

They were quite distant from me, and continuously moving in among branches, so I was pleased to get the level of focus that I did. I hope you enjoy! My favorites are 7, 12, and 16, by the way.

It was only when I got back to my desk and typed in “pileated woodpecker” (because I was trying to figure out why three might be together) that I stumbled 0nto the fact that they are actually one of the twelve Native American Spirit Animals. I never knew that.

And their sudden arrival at this particular juncture in my life was startling to me in terms of the spiritual significance. I won’t get into the whole “what’s going on, Neville” description but these weeks have been very much a crossroads that brought a lot of self-examination to the surface.

Sometimes having spirit guidance can have a very cleansing and clear effect on your path. Not because it is intrinsically wise or anything, but because its significance is extremely appropriate at that moment in time.

We can often find ourselves lost in a moment and looking for clarity and despite our own processing power and friend advice, we still pause unresolved or confused.

Then we experience something like a visit from a spirit animal, read its significance, and go “wow. That is exactly where I am.”

Such instances should not be off-the-cuff-dismissed, and not just because we don’t know their origin that led them to cross our path at that moment in time. But also because they have brought a thought or consideration into very clear focus at a time when we are looking for one.

No matter where a resolution comes from, we should always be open to it. That is how we broaden our mind and develop a path outside our box and beyond our influence.

Peace and success can often come from such directional changes. It would be reassuring to think that every success is our own, but actually most success comes despite us.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is when the little red-headed guy comes into your yard, stop what you are doing and listen. He may well be that one voice that breaks you out of your trance and allows you to listen more clearly to the world around you.

… just a thought.


He had been trying to get me out of bed, for about an hour before Rocky finally had his way at 4:30. He is a hard task-master when it comes to any possibility of sleeping in.

And nowadays “sleeping in” means I make it to the 6 am alarm.

I am not even sure why I bother to set the alarm, I think it has been at least 3 or 4 years since it woke me.

In any event, it was pitch black outside and after I had fed the upstairs four, the downstairs 7 looked at me, when I opened the office door before five, as if to say “WTF man! Do you know what time it is?”

BY 5:15, breakfasts given and my own coffee made, I checked the weather app on the phone and it proudly announced that that if I could see, it would be clear skies above me in Lakeland.

Encouraged by this and the earliness of my moment, I decided to go shooting stars with the 11 mm lens. If I lived in a desert, I would head far away from town to escape all the light pollution but the darkest place around me is that boat launch on Lake Parker. So, once again, that’s where I headed.

If there is ever a terrorist attack on Lake Parker, I am going to be one of the first suspects because anyone who goes there as much as I do, must be up to no good. “And officer, he doesn’t even have a boat!”

To my eyes, all was still darkness and it really took the first picture to show me that the app had lied. Damn clouds everywhere! And because of the wind they were moving quite a bit, so doing long-exposure of the sky was really not even come close to giving me what I wanted.

I attach three images, the first one is the vertical upshot and if you are viewing it on a phone, you will have to zoom in to see any stars. Anyway, enjoy.

Frustration isn’t the word and I think I was gone from there within 20 minutes as it became clear that not only were the skies consumed in fast moving cloud, but they were also gathering on the horizon in a thick mass, determined to snuff out any colors that twilight might consider bringing.

And as I left, I checked the app again and it casually reported that it was mostly cloudy.

I mean, seriously, you had to wait until I got there before you could fess up and tell me the truth?

I don’t expect a lot from weather forecasting. Growing up in Ireland, a little island in the North Atlantic, I appreciate the uncertainties of trying to estimate what might happen tomorrow.

But is it too much to expect you to be able to tell me what it is like presently? I mean, seriously, look out the fucking window, even.

Or if you don’t know, then say you don’t know. Don’t make up shit and pass it off as a factual statement. Clear, my ass.

It got me thinking about how we rely on certain things or people and assume that they tell us the truth, so that we can base our understanding upon what they tell us.

For example, if the police tell us they have a serial killer in custody, we don’t expect him to show up at our door. Or if the wife says all the kids are gone to school, let’s make whoopie, you don’t expect to see little Tommy standing at the foot of the bed crying because you are “hurting Mommy”.

My point is, we shouldn’t have to double-check everything when things should be known.

Oftentimes, lies are deliberate or they are a spin in order to create a certain narrative. Presidents and governments lie in order to justify actions against other countries or in order to get themselves re-elected.

But we know that, so when we hear about certain folks having weapons of mass destruction and how we are under imminent threat, we should look deeper than the headline and ask questions. They lie for a reason and we should know that.

But when the wife says the kids are all gone to school, we shouldn’t have to search all the bedrooms and under the sofa. There should be no reason for that lie, unless she has some deep-seated exhibitionist tendencies that you have never seen before.

So, knowing the source of the information that we rely on, and what their motivations might be, is important. When someone tells you he is the most honest person you will ever meet, or the network uses a tagline of fair and balanced, then it behooves you to raise a brow on what follows next.

“Know your source” is a key measure on our road to wisdom. Not everyone travels that road, but if you are not a republican, then we expect you to learn as you get older.

If you are still falling for the same lie five years on, then the problem is with you, not the liar. We each have the responsibility to be aware of what information we believe. Aware of where it came from, why it might be suspect, and ultimately whether it is reliable.

Otherwise you find yourself writing another blog a few years from now about how you found yourself trying to take pictures of stars through a cloudy sky because some app said it was “clear”.

In the words of the most intelligent republican president of recent years: ” There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again. “

… just a thought.


This morning I headed out long before twilight to the lake. I wasn’t sleeping anyway and my Mam & Dad were on my mind.

Today was their anniversary and I thought it might be nice to light a candle and share a moment with them. Both of them have part of their ashes in Lake Parker, so I have the privilege of visiting them whenever I need to.

And the darkness with a clear sky was perfectly appropriate as it allowed me to stare off into the stars and imagine them hearing my words.

I took a few shots (always travel with my camera) and until I was eventually interrupted by a guy launching his boat, the time there was very much just them and I. It was both sad and special.

I left as twilight began to happen. It was definitely more of a visit than a photo shoot. I had said my words and somewhere out there, hoped they heard me.

It is difficult to explain the arrival at that time of life when you become an orphan through age.

Most of us lose our parents sometime and it is a very natural event. But that doesn’t make the loss any less, unfortunately. In fact, if you felt the love of caring parents, as I did, then the loss through age becomes sadder. Because it brings with it an inevitability that degrades your life experience for the rest of your own.

When you lose a love through an accident or an ill-fated illness, the nature of their sudden demise distracts away from the whole loss. Yes, you still suffer the same loss but your anger at the event serves as a partial distraction.

Such losses are very personal and we all experience them in different ways and my general rule of measuring the loss is that the more you love someone, the more loss you experience when they are gone.

That the loss still hurts so deeply within me is a measure of how loved my parents were.

Love is indeed a blessing, but it is a double-edged one that cuts both ways.

I am not sure I agree with that old saying “better to have loved and lost than … etc.” I think it is a poor consolation, rather than a true measured wisdom.

The passage into life brings pain and loss. Babies enter a life not of their choosing and from the moment they leave the warm comfort of the womb, they suffer…. physical pain at birth and stress of the process and the unknown. The baby feels it.

And they suffer the loss of being born. Because once they are born, they begin to die. From the moment of their first breath they are one step closer to their last. In a way, they have suddenly lost their immortality.

The passage out of life also brings pain and loss. The pain may be sudden or prolonged. It may be felt in its entirety or mitigated with medicines. But in this case, the loss is experienced by those left behind. The decedent leaves all behind them.

Any feelings of loss felt by the dying are impending and not actual. A feeling of things undone, words unsaid … they are all transient and evaporate with the last breath.

But the feelings of loss within those left behind, live long after such a breath. Sometimes for years, sometimes until our own last breath takes us too.

In the early hours of a spring morning, they travel with us in the darkness to the side of a lake. And they look with us into the night sky and search in vain for solace.

Sadness is the natural replacement for love. And it demands a very high price.

…. just a thought.

Little Lives

I was walking back down the driveway trying to round up the last two of the cats so I could lock them up for the night. Cat wrangling is not one of my favorite tasks but it brings with it a peace of mind that all are safe for yet another night.

Seven get locked away downstairs with offerings of food and treats and my system works more often that not.

But last night as I found Everest, she was walking proudly out of the grasses with the rear half of a lizard dangling from her mouth. His tail and hind feet were dangling while the rest of him was cradled “lovingly” within her mouth.

As she saw me approaching her, she pulled away and tried to head back into the grasses. She knows I am a lizard-saver and didn’t want to lose her prize to me.

But I quickly re-emerged from the office with a jar and piece of cardboard (my standard lizard protection kit) and of course treats to bribe her into trading.

In truth she had already put him on the ground and the little guy looked dazed and wondering what was next. I got the jar over him with a singular slick move as I am becoming quite the expert at this.

In the past week alone I have rescued ten or more, so I have become a legend among lizards hereabouts.

Anyway, I safely released him over at the old tool shed, away from the watchful eyes of the cats.

As I wandered back across the driveway I spotted Tetsuo in total prowl/pounce mode over near some cut-up old tree limbs. He was inching forward, every inch a puma or panther and while I couldn’t see what he was targeting, I knew it wasn’t likely to produce a good outcome.

So I started loudly calling his name but he continued undistracted. I quickly and loudly stepped into the grasses between him and his target, making as much noise as I could. A lovely butterfly/moth just took off a split second before he pounced and the situations was diffused.

Tetsuo looked at me as though he was annoyed at my clumsiness spoiling his moment and as I walked away, the moth landed momentarily on my head and then flew away.

I imagined it as a kiss of appreciation and so I felt good about myself for the intervention.

Earlier in the day, I had also intervened in a Tetsuo moment with a lizard, so I don’t think I am wildly popular with him at the moment. I took a quick few pics of the little lizard that he had been “playing with” and they are at the end of this blog.

This poor little guy was seriously stunned and I didn’t think he would make it, in all honesty. He was quite green when I scooped him up off the driveway and though I could see he was breathing, he lay totally still as I gently rubbed his back.

I got a paper plate and put some water on it (just a little) and then carried him, the plate and the water to the old pump house, where I tilted the plate until the water touched his face and underbelly. He moved. And as I swished it softly around him, he began to move more and slowly lost his green and became brown.

He was fine. So, I left him in his new home and went back about my day.

I used parentheses above when I said Tetsuo was “playing with” him, because while the cat meant no real harm, and for him it was just a game, for little Lizzy, this was very much a life and death situation.

Much like the kissing moth from later, their little lives hang in the balance as being irrelevant to creatures more powerful than they.

Most creatures that will kill one of these little guys, do so for food … all a part of the greater circle of life. I would never intervene in such a situation.

But all my cats gets dried Purina food and consume large quantities of Fancy Feast and an assortment of treats. So, they don’t need to kill anyone for food. Hence the intervention.

Anyway I hope you like the pics of Lizzy and his recovery at the end of this blog. Enjoy.

It was later in my mind that I revisited my “savings” of the day and I was happy to have affected someone in a positive way. It is a good feeling.

That’s when I coined the phrase “little lives” to describe these poor little souls and the tightrope they walk each and every 24 hour period.

When a lizard or moth dies, is there any funeral? Does anyone mourn their passing and hold a service where there is an out-pouring of grief. Does anyone venerate them and utter the words that they will all meet again one day in heaven?


We think of theirs as little lives and somewhat irrelevant. Certainly not when compared to our own. Even the cats apparently consider them as little lives, because they choose to play with them… to where their lives are only a temporary source of amusement.

But, do these little creature realize they are living little lives?

Do they understand that they are only an extra in a movie about humans and higher order creatures?

Do they ever question the meaning of life or have they fabricated a lizard-god that ranks them as being good enough for lizard heaven or bad enough for lizard hell?

Who knows. We can’t understand them, so we imagine that they don’t think ( at least not to the level we mighty humans do). They don’t feel or care or love. They only exist.

Or so we imagine.

We humans are so vain that we go through life in total conviction of our importance. The majority of us believe that we were “created in god’s image” so we imagine a god which is a kindly old white man with a long flowing beard looking down on us from a pristine home up in the soft white clouds (much like Santa, except he lives in the snow).

Many balk at the notion that their god might actually be black!

Or worse still, a woman!!!

These notions of self-importance are almost comical when written down like this, but unfortunately for thousands of years we have used these notions as a basis for how we treat others.

But here is where my thought of “lesser lives” took a bit of a turn. While it started as a way of describing the lives of creatures way down the food chain, it morphed into an inward look at us and the lives we live.

You see, for however long we live, our life is very much defined not so much by how we imagine ourselves, but by what we do with our life.

Whether we live a year or a century, our life is defined by what we have achieved in the time we are here.

Now, some people read that sentence and they immediately think about the wonderful car they drive, their bank balance, their title at work, and the house they live in.

I choose to believe our greatest achievements are to do with how we have affected the lives of those around us. And while I wholeheartedly agree that this statement applies to those we love and who care about us, it extends beyond that.

It extends to every living creature and to the planet itself.

Our greatest achievements are those which are not linked to a relationship or a responsibility but are freely given to those for whom we have no innate allegiance.

When we do something good without it having any recompense or benefit to ourselves, these acts become the true moments that define our life achievements.

There should not need to be a reward for any act, beyond the sense that you have done something good.

Even if you believe in a heaven, it should not be the driving force behind any of your actions. I mean, the closest I am every likely to get to a heaven is Lizard Heaven and I am not sure that is where I would want to end up.

No, an act of kindness should stand by itself. It is not just an action but is also its own reason for having done it.

Not doing so, means that we have settled for living little lives. And in my mind, at least, that is such a missed opportunity. Unless you are Hindu or Buddhist, this is your one opportunity to have lived a big one.

… just a thought.

Celestial Designs

It wasn’t my first choice this morning. Or even my second, for that matter, but when i found myself once again at the shores of Lake Parker, I couldn’t help thinking that openness to change and flexibility in approach are key ingredients in arriving at successful choices.

My initial decision this morning was to head to Ballast Point with the 11 mm lens and see what the super-wide view down the center of the pier might look like at sunrise.

But as I was getting ready to leave, a quick check of current time versus travel time, put me about ten minutes off arriving on time for twilight.

So I regrouped my thoughts and gathered some water, some candles, and the mirror with a view to staging a scene at the end of the Lake Parker pier that might produce some artsy type shots against the backdrop of twilight.

In fact, that is what I still thought I was shooting as I reached the half-way point crossing Kathleen Road. That is when I first noticed the interesting design of a scattered cloud in the dark skies above me.

I am not sure what point I decided to abandon all and go solely after this wonderful celestial design. But at some point I was driving faster and aware of the transient nature of clouds to where I was now in a mild stress mode.

By the time I got to park near the pier, my lens cover was already off and I jumped out of the car already shooting.

I never locked the car, left my coffee cup in the console, and all the planned accessories stayed on the back seat, abandoned for another day. I ran to the vantage point and the first couple of shots were blurred by the fact that I was still moving.

Where had these designs come from, I wondered. The cloud itself as pretty much a lone feature of a blue and empty sky. And what I am guessing is that somewhere between my first noticing the cloud and arriving at the lake, some early-morning pilots had sliced through it on their way somewhere.

But, right or wrong, it made no difference. These designs were all I needed in order to have some photo-fun.

Anyway I hope you enjoy what I captured. I have put some here at the end of the blog.

As I drove home, totally happy with my morning’s work, I thought of the phrase “celestial designs” as a good way to describe what I had seen. But then I also bent the phrase a little in my mind to reflect on the other meaning of such a phrase … as in celestial plans or intentions.

And it made me realize how my own plans were completely forfeited when confronted with something of a much higher order than me.

I am not talking of a god-type entity, but rather how circumstance can become a dominant factor.

It also reinforced for me how important it is to be aware of circumstance and adjust accordingly. Being rigid in the face of conflicting circumstance will almost always lead to failure. Or at the very least reduce the degree of success that could otherwise be achieved.

Sometime people push against circumstance because of pride or self-conviction. Other times, they just misread or are blind to what circumstance is doing.

But a wise person will always try to read the lay of the land before moving forward in a given direction. Just as “no man is an island” so too do we not live in a vacuum. There are people, things, and happenings all around us and it is up to us to know that they are there and adjust accordingly.

… just a thought.


Sounds like something that might land on your sleeve after a particularly strong sneeze.

But no, apparently that is what these wonderful roadside flowers are that come to life this time of year all over Florida. They are wild, of course, and appear annually in a range of colors that run from white to violet through a sunning pool of pinks.

Although they are everywhere around these parts, most Floridians have likely never even seen one up close. They just appear as a smattering of color on the side of their road home. Perhaps even somewhere they can throw their old beer cans, plastic bottles, and empty fast food containers.

I was on my way home from meeting Carrie at lunch yesterday and first noticed them making their appearance on Swindell Road a mile or so from my house. Their numbers have only just begun to be noticeable and over the next few weeks they will dominate that stretch of road home, just as they do every year.

Excitedly I promised myself that I would come back later in the afternoon and take a few shots of the early arrivals.

I think it was around four when I found myself back down there, walking in the ditch and hoping not to step on a snake. Although in truth, the only real danger was tripping on the litter that these pickup-truck-environmentalists decided to leave behind for posterity. God bless their little brains … I mean hearts, sorry.

Anyway, I hope you like the images at the end of the blog. They don’t really do these little wonders much justice, but at least I managed to keep any litter out of view.

I walked back to the car, past the pair of ferocious rotweillers in one yard and the half dozen crazy pitbulls 50 yards beyond. They were all going ape-shit on me and except for the fences that provided some kind of barrier, I truly doubt I would have made it back to the car alive.

While keeping an eye on them, I briefly slipped on a glass beer bottle, but managed not to fall.

It was only on the drive home that I began to think about the types of people that think it is ok to pollute, in full knowledge of the problems they are causing.

Perhaps a hundred years ago people could be forgiven for “not knowing” but these people know. They just don’t care.

I hate these people and if I could make the rules, I would have these people gunned down on sight. The world doesn’t need them and their families will get over the loss. Who cares if they don’t anyway!

Though they do a lot of damage, thankfully their numbers aren’t that great.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are people like me. People who love the world we live in and try our best to absorb as much of it as we possibly can. We walk ditches, smell wildflowers and smile at the bees. One or two of us might even fantasize about being alone in an old warehouse with a handcuffed litterer, a six-pound hammer, and a 9mm. Ok yeah, and sheets of plastic.

Unfortunately though most people fall into the middle of this spectrum. They wait until they get home before discarding drink containers and fast food bags. But they drive home so mindlessly that they never even ask themselves what the pink blur was on either side of the road.

And not in a million years would they dream of pulling in and taking a walk in the ditch. God forbid, it might eat into their important sofa-time.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that you shouldn’t live your life mid-spectrum. So step to the left … there is plenty of space out here where I am. Life becomes so much more fulfilling and there are hammers for everyone!

… just a thought!


The past couple of mornings have been CSS in Tampa Bay, or at least as close as makes no difference. As, I have mentioned before, CSS mornings tend to produce very similar stories to begin the day with, barring of course serious differences in temperatures or humidity.

So, when I had the kitties all fed and tended to and it was only 5:30, I was faced with that same choice of lazily sitting in front of my PC over cereal and coffee, or gather myself and head somewhere to watch what twilight might bring.

I chose the latter obviously and coffee by my side, I headed off in the darkness to the shores of Lake Parker.

Yesterday when I did this, I was running against the clock wondering if I would make it before the skies tumbled into daylight. But this morning, I was early and the drive was definitely more leisurely and stress-free.

A black-coffee morning is a wonderful way to boost your system and my system was fully online as I pulled in by where the boat launch pier is on the northern shores.

What do you mean “what is CSS?” … I told you a few blogs ago “Clear Skies Sunrise”. Don’t ask again.

Anyway, the skies were definitely clear yesterday and today’s tiny band of cloud on the southern part of the horizon weren’t enough to make a difference.

I have uploaded ten images at the end of the blog … the first five from yesterday and the second five from today. And you would be hard pushed to tell that they weren’t all taken on the same morning.

But yesterday was from half way down the lake shore while today was at the boat launch pier.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy them. There is a very soft beauty that treats the eyes when you stare off into a CSS. Particularly at twilight. The night sky hasn’t yet yielded the heavens and so the level of blue is extraordinarily pleasing.

While I was driving there this morning, with time very much on my side, the first traffic light was a short red and the others were solid greens. I remembered thinking as I drove through the last one how the world felt good and life felt balanced. It is amazing what a green light will do for the psyche.

And as I stood there sipping my coffee and casually taking a few pics, I was soothed from recent trials and tribulations and my prior moans had mostly melted away.

So, by the time I was driving home I let my mind wander onto the importance of balance in our lives.

I don’t live in a world where my family and friends experience a wonderful life where everything goes right. So the imbalance that most of us feel leans towards the negative.

I am sure someone out there is probably experiencing a life of no complaints, but that doesn’t really happen in my circle.

Most of us struggle and only get relief when something breaks in our favor. A green light that lets us know that life isn’t all bad. That it isn’t all a struggle.

And if you are like me, you ride through those green lights with a smile on your face and a softer breath.

When something good happens, life leans back towards a balance. Something that we might consider more fair than the life we are dealt.

If you are very heavily beaten by life, even the hint of a green light will bring a smile to your face.

I remember the old story of the two donkeys that meet up in the street, having pulled their carts to a rest. And one turns to the other and asks how things are. “Quite good, actually”, the second donkey replies and the first one looks aghast. “But how can you you say that? Your master beats you every day and makes you pull this heavy cart up the hill.”

“Ah, yes, but he didn’t beat me today” replies the second.

Sometimes, a green light is all we need to help restore a little balance and it is important to recognize it when it happens.

It is easy to focus on the negative things that befall us and to moan our way from birth to death. And while occasionally we are right to moan, it shouldn’t become our standard.

Moans can bring relief and attract some sympathy and sometimes sympathy has a soothing effect to our souls.

But life needs to be more than sympathy. It needs to be about a positive. A positive something. Doesn’t matter what that thing is … just as long as it is positive.

I remember once when I believed in total balance. Where I genuinely thought that all things balance out in the end. I remember thinking that whatever ills befell us would in turn be followed by joys that made up for them.

But I no longer believe in the great balancing act of life. There are people who are born with silver spoons in their mouth, live a life of luxury, and die in a soft morphine-induced slumber. Then there are others who struggle against the cruelties of their poverty from the moment they are born until they eventually fall over beaten and bruised and close their eyes in pain for a final time.

So, absolute balance is a myth.

But things that happen to us that work to provide some degree of balance should be cherished. If we don’t recognize them as such, then we allow life to beat us without respite. Even though the respite was there … we just didn’t acknowledge it.

“Thank god that is over” should not be our final thought as we close our eyes and drift off to darkness.

But rather we should be able to smile at the good moments and recall the good parts of the journey. The green lights that waved us on and moved us forward on our journey.

Our journey should be a collection of our loves, our joys, our wins. These work to form the tapestry of a colorful life that tells the story of someone who lived it.

Moans and complaints are black and grey. They add no color and will not form a part of the reason you lived.

When you are gone, people should not be remembering you as the person that broke his wrist, lost his love, and lived under a dark cloud.

You should want to be remembered as the person that always had a smile on his face, a word of encouragement for those that needed it, and a positive perspective that shone a green light into the lives of those you loved.

… just a thought.


By the time darkness fell last night, I was downtown Tampa with my latest lens. An 11 mm very wide angle, fixed lens that essentially creates a fish-eye effect on the edges to pull more into the frame.

In my mind’s eye, I imagined that the colorful canopies along the river walk would give me a cool closed-in effect that the lens would open out.

But I was wrong. While the lens does indeed open out settings like that, the images aren’t as dramatic as I imagined. In hindsight, the reason is obvious … the dramatic aspect of a fisheye view is when you are enclosed by straight edge objects (such a buildings or railings). The reason is that the mind doesn’t accept a curved edge to a building and it creates a wow factor. Whereas something that is already curved is only exaggerated and the mind is not so impressed.

So I did a few things. Yes I got the canopies and also some buildings. I also created some long exposure shots of 5 to 8 seconds to see how light trails behaved as cars drove by. I also created some 1 or 2 second views that ghosted people that passed by.

There are some cool shots below and while I don’t really have a favorite, I was particularly thrilled with the spooky effect of having a hooded stalker in the foreground while the young couple walked unknowingly to their doom (pic 6).

For all you dog lovers, there was that moment when he pawsed (lol) to look at me while his owners kept moving. So they ghosted to invisible while he became part of my moment.

Anyway, hope you like the little selection at the end of this blog. Enjoy!

It was about a 45 minute drive home, so I had lots of time to think.

The enduring thought was about how much the lens altered reality and brought such a cool feeling to my surrounds.

But then my brain dug a little deeper and began to ask how do we even know what reality is? Would a fish look at my normal images and remark to his buddies how I seem to use these weird lenses that distort otherwise curvy shapes into straight lines?

And how does the brain on a bee (with her five eyes) or a spider (with her twelve eyes) decipher the reality in front of them? What on earth do all the world’s shapes look like to them?

And that doesn’t even touch on our definitions that rely on color.

And what about the relative speeds of all of us? Do we ghost to much slower moving creatures? And are their others that occupy our same physical space, but they move so fast, we can’t see them?

And on occasion when they do slow down, do they become the ghosts that little Johnny sees in his room late at night?

There is so much that we are convinced we know and yet we only know it within the scope of how we define our reality. “Look at those silly land creatures … will they ever figure out how to even draw a straight line?”

Meanwhile in the world of trees, little Tommy Tree is told by his mommy that there are no such things as ghosts and how he only imagined someone climbing in among his branches. “Tommy has such an overactive imagination, maybe we need to put him on Arborall”, she whispers to his Dad.

We define our life and death within the scope of our reality and we convince ourselves that everything we “know” is real. And we dismiss any thoughts to the contrary as being deranged.

But do we really know what we know?

Even within the scope of our own reality, this has repeatedly proven to be untrue. The sun revolves around the earth along with all the stars and the earth is flat. Various gods are responsible for sun and rain and we must please them or they will be angry with us.

Methuselah live to the ripe old age of 969 and Jesus was born of a virgin.

To those who believed (or believe) any of these, they are their reality. Trying to convince them otherwise would be akin to explaining to a fish that this IS a straight line.

To many, these formed the basis of their understanding of life for thousand of years.

Even on a much tinier scale, there are still those that think the dotard actually won the election. You could talk until your head explodes and you will not convince them otherwise. Such is their reality.

Having an open mind and entertaining thoughts that could possibly reshape our own version of reality, is how we grow as “intelligent” beings. While we may be incredibly stupid at times, we humans have the ability to evolve.

We emerged from the lake and oceans and climbed down from the trees. We learned how to stand on two legs, how to use tools, and how to communicate complex thoughts.

Now we need to be able to process these thoughts and be less rigid in our definitions of what reality, really is.

Because the truth is, our reality is not real. It is merely a moment in our evolutionary process that helps us figure out how to exist. Thousands of years from now an evolved species will look back on us and comment “What a bunch of neanderthals! They couldn’t even draw a straight line.”

… just a thought.