Flawed

I typed the whole fucking blog, it wouldn’t save and when I tried to select copy on the text, I mistakenly hit paste. Then undo failed .. .so I lost everything.

It’s funny really, the whole blog I wrote was about how pathetically flawed I am and then I proceed to fuck this one up too.

Enjoy the pictures … I am outta here.

All Creatures Great and Small

It was a last minutes decision. The day was perfect weather with mostly blue skies and a temperature that couldn’t have been dialed-up any better.

Circle B on our doorstep is a temptation at the best of times, so given the weather outside, it was a no brainer.

We took the trail down Marsh Rabbit Run and got to see all the usual suspects in all different sizes. Herons, Anhingas, Osprey and Hawks, were in abundance, as well as a number of really large Alligators and one or two babies.

I caught the sun disappearing behind a small cloud at one point and was thrilled to be able to stare up at it without fear of going blind.

True to form, it proved a bad day to be a fish, once again. Felt really sorry for the poor catfish that delivered some technically great shots, right in his final moments. Poor little guy.

Anyway, they are at the end of this blog. Hope you enjoy.

The variety of wildlife at places like Circle B played into my thoughts this morning as I sat down to think of the blog.

Everyone there has their place in the order of things. And nobody seems too bothered at how bad life is or how many wishes they have for a better one. They just breathe in their moment for as long as it lasts, knowing that they don’t have too much say in when that moment might end.

They do their best with what they have. Bring in new life when they can and give up theirs when they have to. They care, feel, probably even love, and they build their lives to be what they are, with the skills and characteristics that allow them to do so.

They aspire only to fill their potential and not to be what they aren’t.

It is highly unlikely that they spend a lot of time thinking about their next life or even their next day, for that matter.

I doubt that they take for granted that there will even be a next day.

They live in their moment.

We can learn an awful lot from animals, you know.

… just a thought.

Familiar Trails

As much as we enjoyed the cruise last week, we were looking forward to getting back out on the trails at Circle B once we returned.

In all truth, having a vacation away from Florida is a bit like deliberately slumming it. We already have the world’s best vacation spot on our doorstep so taking a vacation from it sounds a little shallow.

It was a chilly start to the day yesterday but the skies above were a gorgeous blue and it would have been hard to stay away from Circle B on such a day.

The decision to go was a good one. We saw many of the old familiar faces; herons, egrets, warblers and of course several killer ospreys.

I may have mentioned this mildly before, but if there is such a thing as reincarnation, coming back as a fish in this lake would be one of the most awful options. Poor little guys had another bad day yesterday. I mean, there was a sequence where I got some great shots but I just wish everyone was a vegetarian sometimes.

One of them, I call “The Kiss of Death” … see if you can figure out which!

In any event, there is a collection of images at the end of this blog. Hope you enjoy!

The main thought for the blog came as we drove away. The level of satisfaction was very high and there was a wonderful feeling of being back among friends. So, recognizing the value of familiar trails in our life is an important part of appreciating what we have.

Yes, there is a lovely joy in getting away occasionally and I have written about that already. But the joy of returning, particularly if you are living in a good place (physically, emotionally, etc.) can be doubly so.

Recognizing that as it happens translates into appreciating the moment you are in. And that, my friends, is a critical part of happiness.

It is easy to find that appreciation of course when you are on a trail under blue skies but it doesn’t always have to be something like that. It can be as simple as sitting back in the comfort of your favorite armchair, or closing your eyes on the softness of your own pillow at night.

Find the moment wherever it happens and breathe it in. These are the moments where so much of our lives play out. It would be a shame to not recognize them when they happen.

Anyway, that was it.

… just a thought.

Escape from Reality

We just got back yesterday from a cruise to the Bahamas. It was our second anniversary and escaping for a few days seemed like the best option for celebration of our time together.

Turned out to be a lovely getaway. Yes, we could have done with it being a day less and there was a day of weather that we were less than thrilled with, but overall it was a good getaway.

We didn’t get off at the two stops but chose to stretch ourselves out across the almost-abandoned boat decks and that turned out to be the right choice for us. Being part of the shopping throngs that hit these places held no appeal for us and finding peace and quiet onboard was a true joy.

We turned our phones off and locked them away with our passports in the safe for the duration and while disaster could have happened in our real lives without our knowledge, it didn’t and somehow the world got on without us.

I have included a number of pics at the end of the blog and hope you get to check them out.

You’ll note I stayed fully clothed throughout as it wasn’t a whale watching cruise. So the speedos stayed in the closet. Mind you, there were many on board who should really rethink their height to weight ratio. I can honestly say that I was shocked at some of these people.

By the way, “fat lady in wheelchair”, having six burgers and two plates of fries at 11:30 at morning, was really unnecessary! Just because it is an all you can eat buffet, doesn’t mean you have to eat it all. And no, circling back fifteen minutes later and topping it all of with ice-cream, might be one of the reasons why your wheelchair was groaning under the weight!

OK, rant over!

Anyway, the idea for the blog really came from the whole notion of what our reality is and why every now and then we should escape from it.

Our reality varies for each one of us and rarely do we find ourselves stuck in a reality that is exactly what we want. Very few people that I know are actually “living the dream”. Most of us struggle on at least one front and some of us find the struggle to be across several fronts at the same time.

That’s why it is important to escape every now and then. It doesn’t have to be on a cruise. Sometimes it can be as simple as heading on a trail or losing yourself in a good book.

Reality is something that can absorb us more than we it and we have to be careful not to lose ourselves completely in it.

No, we don’t need to live in virtual reality either. There is an anchor that we need to have in our lives regardless of whether it is good or bad.

But like most things, it is about finding a balance that allows us to handle what we need to and close our eyes on it also when it becomes too much.

We are on the verge now of a new weekend and if you have the chance, give yourself a little something this weekend that changes your existence just a little. Breathe in a moment that makes living worthwhile and savor those around you that you can share it with.

One day, it will all be over and your last thought should not be “phew, glad that is over” but rather “that was worth living for.”

A little escape occasionally, might be the difference between the former and the latter.

… just a thought.

Time, Gentlemen, Time

It was the final day of the year and weather-wise a perfect day for a walk on the trail by Lake Hancock.

The sky above was clear-blue, and the temperature was somewhere around fifty and perfect for throwing on a jacket and taking a walk.

We got there just after eight and though there were a few people ahead of us, we didn’t care. Most of the time we were on our own, or at least, just us and some furry or feathered friends.

It was a bit too chilly for the alligators but everyone else was out and having fun. Even the moon hung around to see what was going on.

We saw most of the usual suspects plus a couple of playful raccoons, one of which walked right by us on the trail, perhaps only three feet from Inna.

The adventure finished with a distant capture of an elusive night heron, and another far-off shot of a woodpecker that was playing hide ‘n seek on one of the palm trees.

I have added a number of images as the end of the blog and I hope you enjoy.

It was later in the day as I sat down to see what I had managed to get, that the thought for the blog formed in my brain. It revolved around the notion that this was my last shoot of the year and I wondered what the new year would bring.

The more I thought about it, the more I ridiculed the notion of time. We humans invented it and beyond our mind it doesn’t really exist.

Yet we use it to measure and delineate almost everything about our lives.

It becomes the one metric by which almost everything is defined.

“How old is little Johnny now? What age was grandpa when he died? How long before we eat?”

We try to calibrate everything by it and somehow believe it to be a relevant yardstick. We have even created a word for it when something larger needs to be counted. “I will love you for all eternity. Who wants to live forever?”

Yet, unless I am sadly mistaken, most creatures in the world don’t use such a concept and they live (for however long they live) regardless of the passage of time.

For example, a Mayfly only lives 24 hours. Do we really think the passage of time is therefore a relevant metric for him? I say “him” because apparently the female Mayfly lives 5 days (she has more to get done, apparently.)

The Greenland Shark lives up to 500 years so do they puzzle about how short humans live and whether anything meaningful can be accomplished in that time?

We use time not just to define ourselves but also to define the world around us. We also use it to provide limits on each of the things we do or achieve. There is a statute of limitations on most crimes, which implies that the relevance of the crime is lost once that timeframe passes.

We even limit creativity and such with time, where patents and copyrights only last a certain number of years. (Hence Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Wilie became public domain this morning and open for us all to use as we wish.)

Time is a strange concept and one that should be taken with a grain of salt.

It’s passage is far less relevant than what we actually do with the time we are here. Forget about physical achievements or creative ownership as these will be lost over time.

All that really matters is how we use time to love and be loved, to care and be cared for.

Beyond this, we fool ourselves into believing our existence is even remotely relevant.

The most famous Mayfly ever is the one that (OK, then, go on. Finish that sentence for me.)

… just a thought.

Happy Trails

“Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.

It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.”

So begins the wonderful old song by Roy Rogers.

I found myself yesterday on a new trail with some amazing friends and I couldn’t have been happier.

As days go, some would argue that it was a bit on the chilly side for Florida and others would wonder where the blue sky went, but it was a perfect day for exploring a trail and in the company of good friends, I found myself exploring mushrooms, marveling at moss, following leaves, and picking “stickies” off my hoodie.

Inna and Jax sifted through river silt and found amazing fossilized sharks teeth and camel molars and oblivious to the cold water they were in, stayed there for over and hour.

Meanwhile, Kallista and I explored surrounding landscape, climbed fallen trees, and marveled at the scenery around us.

By the time we were finished, they had gathered a bagful of fossils, and me a bagful of memories.

I hope you enjoy the pictures at the end of the blog.

I was left with that song playing around in my head as a blog thought for this morning. And more significantly the thought that it isn’t so much the trail you are on, sometimes, as the people you are sharing it with.

I am truly fortunate that there are enough fools out there that love me and happy to spend such time with me. “May they never get wise” is my mantra these days.

But going through life and occasionally sharing little patches of it with the right people is a true treasure that we should cling to with all our might.

Building memories of time well-spent is a wonderful use of our time on this planet and I like to think that at the final hour when life flashes before our eyes, it is these memories that take pride of place, however we spend our lives.

I can’t imagine anyone having a final thought about their bank account balance, the house they live in, the car they drive, or their job title at work.

What I hope my final thoughts are is the collection of memories I have been fortunate enough to hold onto of the people that I love and the moments we have shared together.

… just a thought!

Experience

Yesterday morning, we decided to take the trail at Lake Hancock again, even though it was a cloudy grey day and there were other things we could have been doing.

It was a work-day for some and between that and the greyness of the day, there were very few people on the trails when we got there. In fact, there were many times when we were completely alone for up to a half hour at a time and others when the only companions on the trail were feathered or furry creatures.

To say we had a blast, would be an understatement. It was truly a wonderful experience start to finish and when we weren’t being treated to the antics of creatures and such, we found ourselves just breathing in the air and savoring the gorgeous temperature of a long walk.

We watched as fish and spiders became breakfast for creatures higher up the food chain, witnessed the tiniest baby alligator ever (was less than six inches) swimming beside his mom, watched as a great blue heron stalked and then plucked two fish out from the water nearby, and we even had a close-encounter with a raccoon that went by us just a couple of feet away and proceeded down the trail as though he were out walking off his own Christmas dinner.

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

Yesterday was one of those days when the experience being felt was far greater than the images being captured and it isn’t always that way. Sometimes, you get amazing shots that mask a very quiet trail.

But yesterday was so full of the other senses, that image-capturing was very much a secondary aspect of the outing.

And it is that which gave me the thought for today’s blog.

You see, we can often become observers rather than experiencers in life and this is truly a shame. There is a real temptation to do that, when you are a camera guy like me, but I am talking about more than just that.

There are generations now of people that are being entertained (TV, internet, movies) that distract them away from their own experiences in life and replace their life with the life of others. I watched that old movie “Scrooged” the other night, where Bill Murray was describing things from his youth to one of the ghosts and at each turn she pointed out that his description was of something he had seen on TV. It wasn’t his life at all.

The arrival of virtual reality is taking that distancing from experience and widening the gap even further. I can’t imagine what a society of us all living our lives virtually is going to look like. I shudder at the thought.

Forget about the fact that we all become fatter and think less. Forget about the fact that being fed experiences is very different from tasting them.

Just ask yourself what life you want; one that is full of your own experiences or the experiences of others.

Walking trails is a very honest experience. In my opinion, there are very few like it. But even if you can’t do that, savor things that you can actually do. Yes, experiences will not always be good and sometimes will be frustrating and painful. But at the end of the day, these are the things that color between the lines of your life.

Without them, you are merely a black and white cartoon and the memories you take with you at the end, will not be your own.

… just a thought.

Mistakes

I went to Lake Hancock trail yesterday and had a lovely time. It was Inna’s thought to go, she recognized that I needed a change of mental state.

I had made a huge mistake earlier that has cost Morgan her Christmas with the cats. If the cats knew what Christmas was, I would have ruined it for them also. But thankfully they think it is just a normal day at home.

There was a lot of people there by the time we got there. It was an unusual mid-day visit for us. But we managed to separate away from the groups of intruders several times and we had sections of the trail to ourselves without too much difficulty.

Like a lot of the early morning visits, yesterday was a bad day to be a fish (is there ever a good one?) and we found many of them at their final moments in this world.

On a more peaceful level, we spotted a lot of beautiful turtles and the most gorgeous butterflies, so it wasn’t all blood ‘n guts.

Anyway there are a bunch of the pics at the end of this blog so, I hope you enjoy!

The thought for today’s blog stems not from the shoot but the event that led up to it.

I made a huge mistake and threw out all the presents that Morgan had gotten for her kitties. She had been collecting them for months and had customized the presents for each of them.

She was devastated at the loss and I was heartbroken to have caused it.

Friends and family will rally around me of course, telling me we all make mistakes and that it wasn’t intentional.

But that is exactly the point of this blog. We all make mistakes.

That Alexander Pope quote “To err is human. To fogive is divine” aludes to the act of making mistakes as a normal human trait. So, why do we have such an issue with mistake making.

Many people forgive mistakes within themselves, sometimes even being oblivious to it. They imagine themselves as a great driver, never doing anything stupid, perfect husband or wife, or whatever. Yet they quickly see the faults in others.

“Where did they learn to drive?” is such a common complaint when faced with a fool that changes lanes, doesn’t indicate, or makes a last minute turn.

I have watched hundreds of games of soccer where the biggest earning players make mistakes that miss goals, cost goals, or hurt someone. Yet they are happy to chastise an official when they make a wrong call or miss something obvious.

So, my belief is that our mistakes are our own. And we should own them. Looking to excuse them or find a reason other than ourselves as to why they happened, is avoidance of the truth.

Mistakes dog our every step sometimes in life. We find ourselves unraveled by our own frailties more often than external issues.

The best learning comes from our own mistakes and this is a positive part of the mistake -making aspect of our lives.

But there is little joy in the actual mistake itself. Rarely does a mistake produce a good result by itself. We can adjust after the mistake and try something better and this sometimes takes us to where we were trying to et.

But the mistake itself is almost always a bad thing.

And avoiding them is always the best option. But how do you know what to aovid if you don’t know that you are a flawed human being.

Accepting your frailties and recognizing that you are a loser is difficult for some folks and yet self-recognition is probably the most important perspective we can have on ourselves.

Being a loser is not a comfortable place for many of us, but the reality is that for every winner in life, there are probably many losers. Finding out which one you are is a hugely important aspect of self-recognition.

If, like me, you make a lot of mistakes, then welcome to the L team. There are lots of us here.

I looked into the bottom of a barrel recently and found myself there. Me and some fishes.

It may not bewhere I want to be, but at least knowing where I am, allows me to try to find a way out.

… just a thought.

Picking the moment

It was one of those near perfect Floridays yesterday without a single cloud in the sky and a temperature in the upper sixties. Totally perfect for a day on a trail.

The fact that it was a Monday was irrelevant to my decision and I know I should have been working. But an afternoon on the trail with my nature buddies was the therapy that was needed and I took it.

Being with nature on such a beautiful day was absolutely therapeutic and though we were there at an unusual time (normally early morning) we still got to see a lot of familiar faces.

There were several highlights but the one that meant the most was probably seeing the bald eagle. He flew past us a couple of times although most of his time was spent quite a distance away in the sky and my camera was just about able to find him.

Anyway, I put a number of pics at the end of the blog and I hope you enjoy!

The idea for the blog from this trail-adventure was quite a straightforward and simple one. Yesterday was all about picking the moment and then acting on it.

It would have been easy to convince myself to stay at the PC and though I used several arguments as to why I could leave (it’s the end of the year, there isn’t much happening, the weekend was cloudy and rainy, next weekend I might be too busy, etc.) I didn’t need to have a reason.

The moment was there. I just needed to take it.

In life we get a lot of those instances. Some of them are opportunities and I have written about that before. But not everything has to be about benefit and loss or possibilities and regrets. Sometimes it boils down to a simple “does this feel like a good idea?”

Yesterday did for me. And I was right to go with it.

But you know what, even if I was wrong, who gives a fuck? These are our moments. This is our life. We get to either choose or ignore moments and life goes on regardless.

Picking the moment is all about experiencing life in our own way. There is a lot of opportunity to live your life the way someone else tells you. But so much of life is about us/ourselves. We come into the world and exit the world on our own. We experience pain and disappointment on our own. We experience joy and love on our own. Yes, I know others feel those too but our feeling is OURS and we experience that feeling based on a moment that we have chosen.

There has been a lot spoken and written of the meaning of life and many of us will disagree on what it is all about. I like to think of it as a chaotic happening that by itself, means absolutely nothing. But as part of the bigger picture, it plays its part in a meaning that maybe we don’t even need to understand.

But regardless of its meaning, our individual lives are built around moments, good and bad, happy and sad.

Our experience is filled with many things but the underlying feeling we get is from the moments that we live through.

Picking one and doing something with it is one of the rare pieces of our life that we get to control.

… just a thought.

My Way

When I got up this morning, much of my day was already planned out and I was ready to roll right into it.

It was about 4:45 and I had just started my bowl of cereal, when Inna came out of the bedroom and looked forlorn after a night of dismal sleep attempts. Apparently she had only slept a couple hours and was now wide awake.

It only took me a few minutes to arrive at the conclusion that my own plans for a day with my cats, working on the PC in my office, was a non-starter.

I mean yes, I could have still done that, but (rightly so) that kind of day would prove a solid step in the disintegration of marriage. In any event, I enjoy the time with her, so I asked her if she would care to see the sunrise somewhere.

Within a few minutes we were on the way to feed and release the cats and then a few minutes beyond that, heading into Tampa on our way to the pier at Ballast Pointe.

The sunrise itself was somewhat muted. A band of clouds hugged the horizon and made things difficult for anyone with a camera. But it did give a warm glow to the morning start.

Having Inna with me brightened the experience considerably. Yes, there is a wonderful aspect of getting cool pics when you are out on your own. But having the person you love with you, doubles the joy and gives your purpose there much more meaning.

We did get one cool pic in particular that I liked. Kinda sinister, or foreboding even. Here it is:

Anyway, the rest of the shots worth keeping are at the end of the blog. I hope you enjoy.

The thought that I was left with (hence this blog), when all was said and done was how sometimes we set our own plans and map out a direction that we decide to follow. But then an outside influence comes along and spins our idea in a different direction.

At that point we can stick to our original plan and do things the way we had initially decided, or we can open ourselves to that influence and see where the new direction takes us.

There is no real answer to the dilemma. No simple “always” or “never” in the answer.

Sometimes the initial plans are good and sticking with them gives us good affirmation that our initial idea was solid. Conversely, if we stick with them and they turn out badly or are merely a dud, then we only have ourselves to blame.

Sometimes modifying the plans due to an influence or a change in parameter takes us on a new exciting venture that is much better than the original idea we had. Other times, not so much and we regret not having done what we originally setout to do.

When something else appears in the mix and we try to determine if we should stick or twist, there are a number of reasons that extend well beyond the plans themselves that we should consider. For example, there might be other people involved and their preferences might be different to your own.

Or perhaps (like me yesterday), just exploring a different option with someone in whose company you enjoy, is enough. Whether or not it results in a better or worse result.

Sticking to our plans, regardless, is admirable when you are working on your bucket-list and feel that death isn’t very far away. But other than that, there are many reasons to afford your moment a flexibility that takes you in a different direction.

Doing everything “My Way” was a good Sinatra song in the late 60’s but the reality is that the best way isn’t always mine.

… just a thought.