The knee is still fucked so heading to a trail somewhere wasn’t an option for me this morning. Other than some commercial assignments, my camera work has been very muted this past couple of weeks and I was in a desperate need of escape.

In the hope of a colorful twilight, I headed off to Lake Parker at six. Wouldn’t have to walk much and the weather seemed color-friendly. Or so I thought.

Any plans I had of a glorious and peaceful sunrise, unraveled as I made it to the boat pier. The parking lot was almost completely full, with more than 30 pick-up trucks, trailers, and boats. Unaware, I had found myself in the middle of a fishing competition and as I stepped from my car, the heightened levels of conversations among the 60 or 70 competitors drowned out any of the normal waking bird sounds I am normally greeted by.

In recognizing that this was never going to be a photo opportunity for me, Mother Nature decided to throw enough clouds onto the horizon to kill any prospect of a nice twilight.

For a moment, I felt stumped and other than taking some shots to capture some of the busy-ness going on, my options there were quite limited. I waited until all the boats had left but with civil twilight over and no colors happening, there wasn’t really anything more for me to do there.

So, I drove down to the side of the lake opposite the fire-station and captured some of the actual sunrise after it broke the horizon and irradiated the edges of the clouds as it began its journey upwards for the day.

I even captured a couple of shots of a beautiful Great Egret who was originally just standing there watching the antics of the smaller birds in the reeds. But then, he didn’t like my proximity and flew away.

I have put some shots at the end of the blog. Hope you enjoy.

It was on my way home (as it most often is), that my head began to muse over the chaos of the morning and how it had altered my expectations.

Oftentimes, we plan things in life based on our understanding of the situation as it exists. Not what might exist.

And yet, it would be ridiculous to imagine all the complications that life could throw at any of our plans, as doing so would probably mean that we would end up doing nothing.

So beyond planning for things in life, we have to be able to react when the unexpected happens and adjust ourselves in response. It is always easier to just walk away, take our ball, and go home. But that is never the correct response.

We may indeed arrive at that moment at a later point. But, initially we have to meet the unexpected challenge and see what we can do about overcoming it.

Clearly some of the unexpected become showstoppers. For example, when the sky doesn’t fill up with the colors we want for a sunrise, we can’t influence it to do so.

But when faced with other happenings, we owe it to ourselves to try to manage our path beyond them. Though they may appear chaotic and confusing, they can often be dealt with by stepping back, analyzing, and amending our plans to deal with whatever has arisen.

While many of the unexpected issues could not possibly have been planned for, others could perhaps have been better anticipated and therefore worked into our plans to deal with them in the first place.

And if we didn’t anticipate something that perhaps we should have, then we need to ask ourselves why we didn’t plan for that. This becomes part of our self-analysis and ultimately our learning and growth as people living in a chaotic world.

I refer to it as a chaotic world because for most of us, life is indeed mayhem from the moment we get up in the morning to the time we rest back down on the pillow. Very few of us will experience relentlessly predictable days.

Unless we are living in a friary or convent, most of us experience plans unraveling on a persistent level.

As Robert Burns famously wrote “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” So, whenever we make our plans, we must also anticipate as many possible happenings as we can and determine what impact they might have.

In modern times, we have adapted that approach to ” Hope for the best and prepare for the worst”.

Our plans, our approach, our expectations, all need to evolve when we find mayhem in our path.

In fact, even the word “mayhem” evolved as its use widened from its original intent. Did you know that the word originated as a legal term to a crime of maiming or disfiguring another person, back in the 15th century? Yet nowadays, the word is used to describe any kind of chaos or disorder.

Whoever coined the word initially could never have planned for its widespread acceptance into the spoken vernacular. Such a chaotic application of the word ultimately led to its wider meaning, while at the same time retaining its specifically negative connotation.

How could its creator ever have planned for such a thing?

… just a thought.

Pontius Pilate

I had an urgent need for some paper products yesterday morning and took myself up to Walmart before the normal crowds started their Saturday shopping.

When I pulled into the parking lot I saw a stray cat and paused before going into the store to give her a bowl of food. I always carry a small number of cans of food, styrofoam bowls, and plastic spoons in my car for such a situation. I stayed for a brief moment talking with her to put her at ease and then went into the store.

On my way in, the security person and I chatted and he commented about how he had seen what I did and how they (employees of the store) also kept some dishes with dried food for the stray cats at a different part of the parking lot.

It was on my way back out of the store that we engaged more fully in conversation and for fifteen minutes he regaled me with stories of the cats and how he and others had rescued some, neutered some, and how others had been gathered by people and given to the SPCA.

It was at that moment that the conversation took a darker turn as he explained that almost all the cats were dumped there by people. People who tire of their presence or perhaps just experienced a litter of kittens and took the easy way out and dumped them in the parking lot of a large store.

He pointed out that this happens as a matter of routine on a quite regular basis and that explained the steady influx of cats that I see there, each time I go. When the SPCA gets them, he explained that while their shelter is a “no kill” shelter, when their numbers become unmanageable, they “surrender” the overflow to the county’s animal control department who then euthanize/murder/exterminate (pick your own word) them en masse.

By the time I left Walmart, my mind had considerably darkened.

I wondered what kind of people can dump a harmless cat or kitten into a busy parking lot where they may get run over, starve, or end up in the grasp of animal control.

I initially had said to the guy at Walmart that these people should be fined and he echoed that they would if they were caught doing it. But by now my mind had escalated the punishment into 50 lashes like they do in Iran for certain crimes.

While it is a crime, we lessen the implication of committing it to being a small fine and frankly it is rarely even prosecuted. Try dumping dogs or puppies in the same manner and see how such animal cruelty is tackled. But in the case of cats, humanity by and large sees them as a lesser creature and affords very little protection.

Some ask why should we even protect them in the first place and ignore the fact that it was mankind that domesticated their ancestors and created what we now experience as a cat. Any creature that has been thus created is the responsibility of their creator.

What startled me is the abject cruelty that allows some people to dump such harmless creatures and then walk away, leaving their future in the hands of others.

I recalled the lessons from school, of Pontius Pilate who is vilified as having done the same to some rebel who ended up being crucified by the pharisees. That action is forever remembered as “washing his hands” of the affair and claiming no responsibility for what happened next.

Which is exactly what these people do when they put their car in drive and pull out of the parking lot.

What happens to the cat or kitten after that is none of their concern.

We enable that behavior when we fail to teach our children that they have responsibilities in this world and when we fail to hold them accountable as adults for their failures to meet these responsibilities.

There is a unique flaw in humanity that affects most of us that when we get away with something, that makes it somehow ok. That is why huge numbers of people fudge their taxes, drive faster than speed limits, and cheat when they think no one is looking.

If the punishment isn’t severe enough to make us rein in such behavior, then the only counterbalance we have against the flaw is our conscience.

And unfortunately with a growing trend towards self-importance and self-indulgence, our collective conscience is suffering. More people act now with malice than ever before. And they give it no thought because their action serves themselves and they feel little obligation to consider others affected by the action.

Rich to poor, employer to employee, politicians to constituents; the former almost always serves their own need first and foremost.

So is it any wonder that the mistreatment is magnified when it involves what we consider to be a “lesser” animal.

The thought that any creature is exterminated is abhorrent in the extreme but many of those doing it claim benevolence and use words like population control and culling in order to assuage their conscience (or lack thereof).

Try exterminating a group of people and they will hang you at Nuremberg. But feel free to exterminate “dumb animals” and that’s ok. It’s as if intelligence is a measure of the right to life afforded any creature. Yet, we all know that if it came down to low IQ, many of these same people would have long since outlived their own right to life.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love all animals. There is no one right to life that supersedes any other.

As I finished the drive home I thought about the cats that live with me. I have rescued almost all but I don’t own any. They are living creatures and no living creature should own another. I have included a number of phone pics of them here at the end of the blog.

I am so lucky that they choose to live here with me and my life is enriched by the love they show me in return for the food and lodging I provide.

So, it makes it incredibly difficult for me to understand how others can be so selfish and hurtful to wash their hands of the lives of innocents in such a manner.

… just a thought.

Comfort Zone

On Monday, I took a trip to Arkansas on a private plane doing a commercial shoot for a client. I was only back in Tampa for a few days since the Ireland trip so I hadn’t really even had time to settle back at home yet.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a reluctant flyer and going on such a trip is every unusual for me. But needs must, and the client’s needs superseded my own, so it wasn’t really much of a decision.

It was an early morning start from Tampa and with two pilots at the helm and me the only passenger on board, we took off at six as the skies were just beginning to gain definition behind us.

The plane was quite gorgeously equipped inside and I felt very much like someone of importance as we took off. There was an underlying unease that stole my ability to relax and others would have enjoyed the experience much more than I.

As the skies brightened, there was a lot to see along the way and this muted my anxieties some as the clear skies at 20,000 ft gave me an ever-changing landscape below. Here is one of the shots I took on the way out showing how early morning fog gripped the river beneath us. Never seen that before!

Flying back on Tuesday evening changed the parameters of the journey for me inasmuch as this time it was a night flight and it would just be me and one pilot.

Of course, the thought running through my mind when hearing this is “what if we are in the air, he dies of a sudden heart attack?” then I am all alone at 29,000 ft in the dark and I have never even played a flight simulator game.

I could find no reassurance for that thought but realization set in that there was no option and I would just have to reconcile myself that if such an event happened, then I was about to prove out my belief that there is no god.

We set off into a dark sky and there was immediate clouds to contend with that enhanced my general feeling of helplessness.

The pilot was happy to have me in his co-pilot’s seat, so this time the view was looking forward and not out over a wing.

Between cloud and darkness, the first portion of the flight showed me how pilots must have an innate belief in their cockpit avionics as we could see absolutely nothing ahead of us.

Eventually the skies opened up a bit and the moon came up and lit the skies for us to see. Taking pics became a good distraction and the conversation truly shortened the journey to where I didn’t really feel the 2 1/2 hour flight as much as I would have, if I had been alone in the back.

The pilot was a really good guy and he went out his way to explain what the monitors in the cockpit were showing and what everything meant.

But the bottom line was that he didn’t have a heart -attack and despite my fears we landed safely in Tampa and I made it home by eleven.

I have attached a number of shots from the cockpit to the end of this blog. Hope you enjoy!

In rationalizing my fears and the ease at which I could take myself into a mild panic state, I found the thought for today’s blog.

You see, most of us live our life within our comfort zone and quite rightly so. Within our comfort zone, our heart rate and blood pressure stays normal, our sense of well-being is at its best, and for whatever level it ever is, we feel life is somewhat under control.

Oftentimes, things happen that force us out of our comfort zone and we can experience increased stress and anxiety until once more we return to however we view our normal lives.

Some people deliberately challenge their boundaries, pushing themselves to the limits and expanding their view of what is normal for them. It might be as extreme as jumping out of a plane or as mild as taking one hand off the handle-bars on their bicycle.

To a certain degree it is a good idea to do so as it can help us grow as a person and many of us do so without even thinking about it once the umbilical cord is detached.

While thrill seekers live their lives on the end of a bungee cord, those of us with “normal” brain function create a better balance between new and old such that our lives are balanced and yet have an essence of growth.

It is important to step outside of our comfort zones at least occasionally so that our lifestyle is more than just a sedentary passage of time.

New experiences give us an option to explore if something suits or doesn’t, is good or bad for us, will help us grow or not.

Regardless of our fears and anxieties, we should challenge ourselves to stretch without necessarily placing our lives in jeopardy.

For me, personally, though I experienced the “joy” of flying home like I did the other night, the thought of meeting my fate from over five miles up in a dark sky can continue to stay beyond my boundaries. I will take my chances with a five foot distance from a giant gator on one of my trails.

At least then, if someone is about to die because of a heart attack, it will likely be me.

… just a thought.

Breathing it in.

It wasn’t really a photo-journey trip but when all the business end was taken care of, Inna and I took a drive to the coast road south from Kilkee and walked along the cliff edge.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a blue-sky day, the fact that it was end of January and not raining was in itself a bonus. We stood there in the cold, feeling the power of the Atlantic Ocean. It wasn’t just the incessant crashing of waves against the sheer cliff edges, it was the huge base sound as it did so and the massive ocean swells that served to convey the immense power of such a body of water.

I had a lot of trouble with the lens I was using (user error) and most of what I shot was garbage but a few of them came out OK and I have attached them at the end of this blog. We also went to Dun Beg a little north of Kilkee and I have included one coastal shot from there too at the end.

Hope you enjoy!

It was later in the day when I got over the fact that I had butchered so many good moments by not paying correct attention to the surface of the lens, that today’s blog thought came to mind.

You see, the moment wasn’t so much about me capturing it on image, it was about the moment itself. There were several times when I just let the camera hang by my side and I enjoyed what the ocean was doing around me and how insignificant I felt compared to its majesty and power.

Breathing it in, is an insanely important part of life’s experience. Savoring the moment for its worth and not being distracted or consumed by recording it.

You have noticed those people standing in crowds in a live event. Might be a concert, a game, or a speech and they have their phones lifted up recording it. If that is you, then forgive my next sentence. They are all fucking idiots.

They are reducing their experience of the moment, maybe even missing it, in order to get something on their phone. Do they really believe that the dozen professional cameras in place are going to miss something that they manage to get with their phone?

Moments happen and if we are lucky, we bear witness. If it comes to a choice between capturing that moment and experiencing it, the latter should always win.

Breathing in the moment is particularly important, when that moment is of such awe that it can impact us on a pretty base level. Anything that reminds us of how wonderful this world is, or how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, should be absorbed as fully as we can.

This is life showing us its power and providing evidence of the very reason why we should be happy to be alive.

For millions of years before we existed, this world existed and moments happened. For millions of years after we cease to exist, this world will exist and moments will happen. So, the interim period that we call life is one that should be treasured by us and experienced as best we can.

I know this isn’t exactly the start of a new year, but make a resolution to breathe in as many moments as you can this year and your life will be all the richer for it.

… just a thought.

Irish Mist

I just got back from Ireland late last night. It was an odd time of year to visit any place, let alone an island in the North Atlantic, and frankly when I stepped off the plane in Orlando, it was the first time I felt warm since I had left ten days prior.

I had a visa-related mission to undertake while there, so it wasn’t a pure social visit to the country of my birth. And yet it was impossible for me to travel to such a place without bringing my camera.

Much of nature was dormant as of yet and when the Vikings named my home town, they aptly captured the mood of the grey overcast and cold place they found awaiting them, as they sailed in the mouth of the Shannon River and alighted in Limerick (Luimneach = Bleak Place).

But in the middle of a misty day, I wandered around my Mom and Dad’s back garden looking for something to photograph anyway. I wasn’t going to let some Viking definition cast a shadow over my efforts to find beauty in Nature, dormant or not!

As it turned out, Mother Nature didn’t disappoint.

Her mist had covered everything with a gorgeous mantle of fine water droplets and if it didn’t look magic beforehand, it certainly did now.

From the newly arriving Snow Drops that littered the base of the tree where my Mom and Dad’s ashes were spread, to a nearby frost-bitten remnant of a rose bush, to tiny little wild flowers that showed their faces to the world just outside the kitchen window, to the wonderful moss that seems to have taken over a side path that my Dad had kept clear for decades, and even some blades of grass that did their best to gather as many droplets as they could.

There was magic with every step I took and wet shoes or soaked knees didn’t deter me from capturing it.

I have placed a number of the images at the end of this blog and I hope you enjoy them.

Meanwhile, it was the whole concept of mist that formed the basis in my mind for today’s thought.

You see, mist has always held a very special place in Irish hearts and those of us growing up there gave it a unique aspect rarely attributed to rain.

Yet if you type the phrase “Irish Mist” into google the first couple of hundred responses will be related to the country’s most famous liquor of the same name.

But dig deeper in the results and you will find references to the role that mist has played in the country’s ancient history. Thousands of years ago, much magic was attributed to the phenomenon to where general belief was that this was how the ancient peoples of Ireland (the Tuatha De) concealed themselves from the recently arrived Celts.

However they defined magic, their belief was that the Irish mist provided a medium for its happening

In the millennia that followed, mist began to be used as a symbol of untruths or confusion. When confused with fog, it became a mechanism to encompass even danger.

So, across the space of time the original entity that was hailed as a positive magical medium, had morphed into a negative and fearful medium.

This isn’t anything to to with evolution of language, so don’t just dismiss it as such.

It is all about the way our minds over generations have been shaped away from the spiritual and magical of the natural world and transformed into mechanisms by which we try to define good and bad and answer life accordingly.

The very essence of living life in the spiritual or magical past was that it allowed people to live in a manner that didn’t require answers for everything. While the knowledge evolution that has happened since has provided many answers to the unknown and has allowed the human race to develop at pace, it has come with a pretty severe price.

The wealth of factual knowledge such as the world being round, has proven to be astonishing. But it has created in us an innate belief that all questions should be answered. That everything has an explanation.

We seek knowledge and that is a good thing but habitually seeking answers is not. Much of life is without answer and in our craving for one, when there is none, we invent solutions.

The ancients invented answers that had different god for the seasons, for wind, for rain. And when these answers were challenged, they were met with genuine resistance and often an accompanying punishment.

Similarly, we invent a life after death at the side of some omnipresent power and when challenged, the heretics are often chastised or even killed.

On a global scale the search for answers causes chaos and wars as different ideologies battle it out in favor of their own answer.

On a personal scale, we must be careful to understand that not everything in our life is explicable. Why did little Johnny have to die so young, why does she love him and not me, why did he win the lottery and not I?

You can beat yourself up as much as you want and you will never find the answers. Not because you have a finite brain in an infinite challenge, but because in many cases there is no answer.

Sometimes, shit just happens.

Understanding and accepting that none of us are gods is a first step in finding contentment regardless of what life throws at us. Reacting and coping are the skills that allow us to handle them.

Embrace the mist and find your purpose within.

… just a thought.