Eye Candy

It was a near-perfect day.

Inna and I got to spend the day with Vel down at the beach in Englewood on Saturday and it would honestly be difficult to find a way to fine tune it into being any better than it was.

The blue skies and warm gulf waters, white sands and quiet seclusion were aided and abetted by the company of a true friend, beautiful young lady, and several Coronas on ice.

We sat and talked away the hours on the beach, only eventually giving way to the threat of sunburn and the welcoming shade back at Vel’s beach house where the smoke from the barbeque lent further aroma to the gentle evening breeze. Then Inna and I went back onto the beach to catch the final moments of sunset as the day drew to its eventual close.

I didn’t have a wide lens and while we were on the beach most of my shots were taken from a distance as memorable moments played out around us. We watched a large number of sanderlings and coastal birds search the wet sands in front of us and laughed at the fruitless antics of a guy on a sail board who couldn’t master the act of getting going. In the distance, a couple were parasailing behind a speedboat and occasional dolphins broke the water surface as they added even more enhancement to a scene that didn’t need it.

I’ve included some pics at the end of the blog and hope you find something there to smile at.

But the thought that planted itself in my mind was about how my own behavior had changed since prior trips to the beach and how life sometimes has a way of turning out right, regardless of the troubles you have to go through in order to get there.

I mean, how wonderful is it when you consider that the eye candy in a skimpy bikini that you’ve been eyeing up all day happens to be your wife?

The road to this destination has been fraught with immense problems and challenges this past year in particular, yet here we were finally breathing in the fruits of our perseverance.

There have been times along the way where we were close to giving up and times when we genuinely lost hope that we would ever make it through the other side. But if there is a single trait that defines our life as human beings, it is our willingness to persevere through life’s challenges and hold sight of our dreams.

We don’t always get the rewards that we are hoping for but sometimes we do. And it is the “sometimes” that makes our eventual victory all the more sweeter.

There are those in life for whom victory comes easy and I applaud their success and am happy for them. But for most of us, our dreams and hopes often seem to be out of reach and at the least become so difficult to achieve that we are almost justified in doubting their reality.

But when we stare at doubt in the face and fight back with our willingness to persevere, we negate its ability to define us and this justifies our reaching for our dreams even more. If there was a certainty attached to a dream, then frankly it is no dream.

Whatever we aim to achieve in life should always have the possibility of failure. Because then that doubt become the very sugar that makes our eventual success so sweet.

Whenever we allow doubt to stifle out our dreams, we have to look hard at ourselves and give ourselves a gentle kick in the behind to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Dreams that are relinquished to doubt line the path of many a journey through life and they form the basis to some of life’s largest regrets.

For my part, on Saturday, I got to share the day with two of my favorite people in the world and chew on the candy that heretofore had only existed on the far side of my lens.

Aaah life … though it often chews us up and spits us out, sometimes it delivers and rewards us with defining memories to chew on.

… just a thought.


The walk along the south edge of Lake Parker took us into contact with many of the creatures that I see on other trails and as expected, birds dominated much of the proceedings.

There was a gorgeous Glossy Ibis, lots of different types of Heron and Egrets, some amazing Osprey and a huge assortment of Gallinules and Water Fowls. Overhead, small clusters of Pelicans were on a southward journey for the evening. The lakeside was literally teeming with activity.

There were also a number of good-sized alligators present and one was guarding her nest waiting for hatchlings, just underneath where an Anhinga nest was, nestled comfortably in a tree overhead.

One of the alligators treated us to a life-and-death struggle as he tried in vain to catch a rather large fish that was nearby in the shallows. It was a rare instance where the fish got away. I felt for the alligator going hungry but glad to think that the fish lives for another day.

I hope you enjoy the selection of images at the bottom of this blog.

It was the notion of nest that stayed in my mind and became today’s blog thought. It is something that almost all creatures do to some degree or other; rearing our young in a protected environment until they can move forward on their own and survive whatever life has to throw at them.

In some cases this period is quite brief and in other cases goes on for years.

I guess it depends on a number of factors, not least of which is survival rate. For us humans this period drags on for many years, where typically our young step out into the wild world around eighteen.

But it is the mental aspect of nesting that I wanted to touch on here; where the young are tended to by their parents to where they feel some degree of safety net against making any fatal errors in their new lives.

While some are thrown in at the deep-end at an early stage, others enjoy the protection of parental figures for much of their lives. Some parents strive deliberately to create independence early on in their child, while others molly-coddle and enable their offspring long after they should have cut the umbilical cord.

At the other end of the equation many young people look to fashion their own independence early on and push hard against any continued act of parenting.

It is difficult to know when in fact cutting the cord and leaving the nest is the right step to take.

I felt very fortunate that my own parents seemed to strike the balance quite perfectly and independence came for me at 18 when I headed off to college. But throughout my life, I always found that they welcomed me back to the nest whenever I got in trouble or needed advice or help.

When they died, the nest died too and became just a fond memory of a time when life’s journey didn’t feel so alone. When you had good parents, there is never a good time to find yourself orphaned.

But the bottom line in all of this is that at some stage we as parents need to take our hands of the handle-bars and let the kids find their own way. Similarly as kids, we need to pedal on our own and find a balance that keeps us moving forward in the right direction and not falling off to the side.

Unlike most creatures in the animal kingdom, our lives aren’t precariously poised in a do-or-die struggle where our very existence depends on whether we left the nest at the right moment. But psychologically such an event and its related timing can be hugely damaging to us and can leave us with emotional scars that never heal.

How many of us know people who have stayed nest-bound too long to where they are unable to make a decision of their own and habitually look for guidance well beyond the time they should be standing on their own feet?

The physical nest is a comforting and welcoming place in our lives so I am not talking about that. There is nothing wrong with physically being present in our parents’ lives. In fact, in many ways this can be hugely comforting when you finally reach a point when they are gone.

But it is the psychological nest that we have to be wary of. It can truly stunt our growth as individuals and robs our parents of that phase of life when they are “empty nesters” and deserving of time to reminisce of the good jobs they did in raising us in the first place.

… just a thought.

Hiding Place

The second set of images from my recent trail at Circle B involved (unsurprisingly) mostly birds.

The trails there are saturated with birds of all shapes and sizes and particularly at that time of the morning, my feathered friends are by and large busily searching for their breakfast.

The place is awash with the sounds of all their voices and we were repeatedly guided by sounds and activities, each demanding attention from our eyes (and of course, my lens).

While Anhingas and Cormorants searched beneath the surface, Herons and Egrets of all shapes and sizes stealthily gazed into the waters at their feet. Meanwhile Osprey and Hawks soared above us with eagle-eye looking for any movement or shapes below that they would then drop like a stone, to catch.

The poor fish didn’t have a chance. There is no safe harbor for those at the bottom of the food chain in a place like Circle B. Nowhere to hide. Someone will find you.

And if the birds didn’t get you, there was an abundance of alligators patrolling the waters ready to catch any unaware prey. We counted over thirty of them on our one pass of the trail by Lake Hancock.

There was also that one moment that seemed to break the seriousness of the surrounds as a young Raccoon walked straight up to us and passed by mere inches from our feet as he travelled north while we did south.

Anyway, I have put some pics of all this cast of characters at the end of the blog and I hope you enjoy!

The thought that occurred to me that resulted in today’s thought was the very notion of a hiding place and why we often seek one out.

In the animal kingdom that I describe above, hiding is one of the few defenses that is used to evade death at the hands of a predator. When there is no chance to outrun or fight off a predator, hiding is about the only option left.

But in the human world, hiding rarely involved such dramatic circumstances.

Yet many people spend alarmingly large portions of their lives hiding. There are those that hide from truth, others that hide from challenges, and yet others that hide from opportunity.

Truth has by and large become an abstract notion. It was once a simple and factual statement of reality but now thanks to people like Trump, Putin, and the unbalanced media and enablers that panders to them, there are millions that happily consume a narrative that appeals to them rather than one that is based on fact.

Willful blindness has become a trait that their supporters adopt as they counter facts about their heroes with nonsensical defenses. They accept “politically motivated” as a reasonable excuse to dismiss anything negative they hear, regardless of the fact that every despot in history almost has deferred to that phrase to deny their wrongdoings when confronted.

I had some moron tell me how Trump jumped out of his limo and saved a white woman who was being raped by a black man (note the roles of white and black in that story) and he completely believed that this was simply a fact that liberal media wouldn’t report on because they are politically motivated against Trump.

How do you speak to people like that? Where do you even begin?

The inability to grasp truth isn’t the issue as much as the ability to hide from it.

There are also those among us that hide from the challenges that life throws our way. I have seen many of my peers follow the Ostrich approach to difficulties and try to ride out a wave of struggle by simply sticking their head in the sand and hoping to out-wait it.

When life gives us challenges (and in most of our lives, it does) we cannot hide and hope that someone deals with it for us. When we were children we might have got away with that because our parents were there to recognize our inability to deal with the challenges and so they did on our behalf.

But in this adult world, challenges will only get tackled when we meet them in the field of battle and beat them. No, we are not going to beat all of them. We might even lose more than we win. But not-fighting and not dealing with is only a recipe for complete failure.

And then there are those that hide from opportunity. As crazy as that may sound, there are people for whom opportunities only represent the possibility of failure and disappointment. So they don’t take the risk and the opportunity passes them by.

When we hide from an opportunity we do ourselves such a disservice and miss out on the chance to advance our lives in a positive direction. Yes, there is a definite possibility that we will fail. That we will be unable to convert the opportunity into something concrete.

It might be too big for us. It might have arrived at the wrong time. We may not have the skills or the resources to capture it. But the simple truth is that unless we try to, we will never know whether we could have or not.

The most endearing aspect of America is not linked to it being the land of the free or the home of the brave. There are several countries that are more free and more brave. But it is the opportunity that it brings and the mindset that sees opportunity and reacts to it.

Unlike any other country in the world, America’s “can do” attitude became its calling card throughout the twentieth century and it became a beacon of hope for billions across the planet.

Even Fievel’s “There are no cats in America” story shone a beacon to immigrants the world over. It had nothing to do with democracy or freedom. But everything to do with the mind-set.

If we could harness the approach of our forefathers and be willing to take a risk when opportunity comes knocking, then our failure becomes nothing to be afraid of. But rather a step closer to success.

… just a thought!


It has been a couple of weeks since I was last on a trail. It has been a hectic process of making Inna’s move to the US possible and a stunningly dreadful process it was.

There are lots of wonderful aspects of the USA that I love but their treatment of immigrants and would-be immigrants is not one of them. That a country that once proclaimed “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free” has drifted so far from that founding principle is shocking.

I won’t rail on it here in this blog but America should do the decent thing and remove that inscription. It is shockingly misleading.

So, anyway, Inna and I went to Circle B the other morning and it spawned two sets of images, the first of which is here. This set involved the death of a fish (or the successful catch by an Anhinga, depending on which way you want to look at it.)

In reverence to the fish, I decided to give him his own platform rather than have his death get lost in the middle of a complete set of trail images. The thought that his death would become a mere footnote in an otherwise fun shoot, seemed unfair.

And so, this is to you, Freddy.

The shots turned out quite awesome and when the Anhinga broke the water surface with his catch, it happened only about 60 or 70 feet away from where we were standing. So, it was well within reach of my 600 mm zoom lens.

I shot the scene from that first moment where the fish suddenly appeared above the surface wondering what had hit him to where the light had left his eyes and he disappeared down the gullet of his captor.

I have placed some images of the scene at the end of this blog and hope you “enjoy” them.

It was honestly the following day before the thought for this blog took shape in my head. And it revolved around my desire not to lose his final images in the middle of a larger set from the trail.

You see, I don’t believe the death of any creature should merely be a footnote in a bigger story. If that is what it becomes then we have devalued the life of the recently departed and minimized its existence.

All lives are significant. If not to those around the living creature, then surely to the creature himself.

Of course, being human, we prioritize human life higher that other animals and then further prioritize lives based on our own belief system and surrounds.

Faced with a huge number of living creatures, we are right to do so, however we need to be careful not to minimize those whose lives we have not prioritized.

Remember how in 2001 when those of us in the US experienced the 9/11 tragedy where over 3,000 lives were lost? Well, just a couple of months later in Asia, almost 300,000 lives were lost in a catastrophic tsunami.

Yet this second event barely made the news here, so involved with our own tragedy were we.

In fairness, there is only so much news airplay in a given day, so I don’t fault anyone for prioritizing what happened here. But the scope of the human tragedy in Asia was very much minimized within the general view that these were foreigners. Distant peoples living irrelevant lives.

And that is where the shame lies. To each of those poor souls, and very likely those around them, their lives were equally important to anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the twin towers that day.

Each of these had dreams, hopes, loves, that were completely extinguished within moments and none voluntarily decided to end their lives drowning in a sea of misery.

Lady Liberty turned a blind eye to their suffering and instead turned her gaze to focus on the ruins of the buildings behind her in Manhattan.

On a larger scale, we humans have managed to isolate ourselves away from the death of other creatures by our own lofty aggrandisement above all other creatures. We elevate our significance to a level where we too can turn our gaze away and look elsewhere as creatures are slaughtered for fun or profit.

Did you know that the latest numbers (2013) show that over 100 million sharks are killed each year by humans? Compare that to the 57 humans that were killed by sharks in 2022 and you will see the disparity.

This is like when a few ragged Palestinians fire stupid rockets into Israeli territory in protest at their lands being occupied and then the Israeli Defense Forces launch an all-out aerial attack on residential areas killing and maiming hundreds in response.

Our ability to differentiate between one group of humans and another or between humans and other animals, is based purely on our “us” versus “them” notion.

It is a cancer that belies the truth of this world and mocks the reality that actually, we are all “us”.

Poor Freddy’s adventure came to an end suddenly and without provocation. There was no malevolence in Andy Anhinga’s actions and I think Freddy’s final thought on the circle of life was that he was just playing his part.

Andy needed to eat and this was the basis upon which he killed. If he ever opens up his own business killing fish for fun or profit, then I will have a different view.

… just a thought!