Reflections

Day seven of our medicine vigil with poor little Beauty and I bring her to the vet later this morning to get a one-week-check on how her eye is doing. Fingers crossed it looks much better to me, but then again I have a (strong) vested interest.

Anyway the point to that bit of information is that every morning for the past week, I have had to get up around 3:30 so that Morgan and I can administer the eye ointment. Exhaustion is setting in, but if we get the desired end-result, it will all be worth it.

So, by 4:15 this morning all the kitties had been fed and I found myself sitting in front of the computer catching up on the news.

Within a half hour, I had read all the bad news I could take and so I decided what the hell, let’s see what Mother Nature conjures up for sunrise this morning. So, I grabbed the camera and headed off for Lake Mirror this time.

Lake Mirror is just a few blocks off downtown in Lakeland and when I got there around 5:30, it was just me, myself , and I … coffee in hand, waiting for the skies to offer up some kind of definition.

I amused myself in the darkness with the Seasons Greetings display that Lakeland had set up on the eastern shore. It took me a few takes to get that one shot, running back and forth to the camera on a ten second delayed shutter release.

The benefit of doing this at that time in the morning is that no one is around to see you in the height of your foolishness.

The only settings that I messed around with on the camera this time were shutter-speed and aperture. I admit to being a real fan of the long exposure images. The first four of these were all shot at 13 seconds exposure, by the way.

Anyway, I hope you can appreciate the colors that we got treated to this morning … enjoy!

Meanwhile, as I drove home I was pleased with the shots and in particular about how the reflections in the lake played such a big part in the success of most of them.

In photography, reflections are one of those magic elements that truly can enhance most settings. It is why in most movies when they are shooting city scenes at night, they nearly always wet the streets beforehand. You probably knew that already.

I use reflections as much as I can get away with them … water, glass, metal, I nearly always seek them out when I am trying to make something appear more beautiful than it otherwise might.

I remember one time down at Lake Parker, when the winning reflection was actually of me within the eye of an alligator. I guess a 3 foot distance mightn’t have been the wisest choice of my career.

But reflections that occur outside photography are much most meaningful. Rather than just a nifty way to enhance a moment, they can built greater character and help us move forward on a better path through life.

People with no conscience never reflect. They don’t question themselves and would learn nothing from a moment of reflection on a past word or deed, anyway.

But the rest of us are very much aware that as human beings, we are essentially flawed and therefore likely to have made mistakes throughout our lives.

When I reflect, I do so in a genuinely critical fashion. I don’t pull punches or make excuses for myself. So, I tend to be a bit more extreme in this than I should be.

But reflection that looks at a situation that we were in and subsequently asking ourselves if our action or approach was entirely correct … well, that is an excellent mechanism to self-evaluate from the perspective of hindsight.

People will tell us not to live in the past and while that is fundamentally good advice, we also cannot ignore our past. It is a real-life learning tool from which we can alter our approach to situations that we encounter in our future.

Not only does this reflection come from a hindsight that gives us a perspective on how life has subsequently played out, but we can also be more objective in our review as we are no longer in-the-moment ( making decisions under whatever conditions were present at the time).

Objectivity is a requirement in almost any realistic review. In self-reflection, objectivity can have the same effect as the long exposure shots had on the lake surface. It provides a much clearer understanding of that moment in time.

I shudder at some of my mistakes and would never admit them out loud. I have swept them under the rug and they will stay there until I die.

But, the point is, I know they are there. I can see the lumps even if no one else can. And I know what created the lump, so hopefully there is less likelihood of me making the same flawed situation in the future.

I don’t expect myself to be perfect for the future. But I do expect myself to be better. I gave up thinking I could walk on water long before I reached the lake this morning.

“Better” is a condition we should all be aiming for. Life should be a progression and the best place for most of our flaws is in the past. But to have them in the past, we must first know what they are. Only then does the “are” become “were”.

When Nietzche wrote that “all truly great thoughts were achieved while walking” he was merely pointing out that any future greatness comes from being able to quietly reflect on the past.

And when it comes to self-reflection, the best thing to do is look at ourselves coldly in a mirror. If you see something perfect, then you need to try opening your eyes.

Charles Bukowski said it most candidly, when he wrote “I often stood in front of the mirror alone, wondering how ugly a person could get.”

Now that’s a mirror!

… just a thought.

Bubbles

I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing out one of the cat dishes.

With ten cats, two of which are in recovery from surgeries and such, breakfast, lunch and supper has become an overwhelming act of depravity. Well, OK, not so much depravity but definitely overwhelming.

There is an endless stream of dishes to be gathered and washed, filled and emptied. Cans disposed of (they all eat Fancy Feast) and spoons washed.

It is nearing the “routine” level of activity now, as I have been doing this for months.

The thing about “routine” is that we generally stop thinking about what we are doing and muscle-memory seems to take over from action to action.

I guess if we didn’t turn off in that manner, we would go crazy in all the endless trivia of repeated tasks.

I have experienced the same on drives, long drives in particular. Where you suddenly realize you can’t remember the last half hour of the road. Our brains have shifted into auto mode and we are no longer forming new memories.

Definitely dangerous when driving … not so much when washing cat dishes.

So, anyway, there I was standing at the kitchen sink and I stopped auto for just a moment and watched how the aerated water was behaving as it hit the dish in front of me.

There was no soap involved in this piece of the process, yet there were bubbles on the surface that were glistening in the sunshine beaming in through the kitchen window.

The engineer in me figured out it was because the aerated water pressure and the shallowness of the dish but the artists in me screamed “stop … camera time”.

So I took a few quick pictures and there are four at the end of the blog. One is full size and the other three are cropped in sections that show more detail. Hope you enjoy.

It could just be a matter of senility as I have definitely crossed the rubicon of old age. But, I marveled at the wonderful shapes and complexities of what the water and air were creating.

The close up shots in particular could be whatever we imagine them to be … isn’t life wonderful?

And yet (and here is the thought that played out in my head later) I almost missed it. In fact, I must have missed it many times before. That cannot be in doubt.

It made me question how much of life is experienced in auto mode?

Our brains are dramatically underutilized, with some studies showing we use as little as 2% of our brains (1% for republicans) and to me, this gives me a better understanding of why.

We have become more efficient in processing things that are happening around us and only choosing to make memories when new things are being experienced.

Our speed of observing things is faster than our speed of processing things into memories, so in order to avoid a buffer-overrun (this is the engineer in me again, sorry) we dump much of what is happening.

Younger people experiencing life’s moments for the first time tend to commit things better into memory that old folk. Their brain is understanding that it hasn’t experienced this before and so it goes to the bother of identifying what is happening, attaching a label to it, and storing it in a box in our hall of memories.

Years later they are able to recall their first kiss, mom’s stew, a favorite sweater, etc. But ask old folk what they ate for dinner a week ago and they will be hard pushed to recall with any certainty.

What the hell is he on about? I hear you ask. Why is any of this even remotely important?

Well, here’s why.

Our experience of life is very much an assembly of memories. We recall good and bad and look back on our week, year, or life, with a determination of whether things are good or bad, based on what we remember.

Extreme good or bad create very profound memories and so we remember them very vividly.

But a lot of other good things can be happening all around us and since we haven’t formed memories with them, we forget them as if they never existed.

And so we can draw the wrong conclusions as to whether life is good or bad at any particular moment. Because only the most extreme or novel are recalled for the assessment.

This can create a very real understatement within our mind of the life we are experiencing and our resultant sadness can be significantly increased.

I’ve said it before; life is to be experienced. It is the journey that gives meaning and value to our lives. Our interactions with those we love. Our ability to help and affect those around us; enhancing their life experience.

Our auto mode disables much of what we experience in life and that is a shame for us. It also affects those we love as we find ourselves not really listening or paying attention and their lives are all the poorer for it.

A few years back I found the auto switch on my camera and there is great joy in switching it off now and then and trying to experience my photographs with only manual settings.

If I could just find my own auto switch, my life would be all the better for occasionally being able to switch it off too. I’ve checked both armpits but I have no idea where they hid it.

I guess I will just occasionally have to stop myself mid-stream and just remind myself to breathe it in and occasionally watch the bubbles.

… just a thought!

Precious

It was just one of those incredibly blue Florida mornings that scream at you to grab your camera and hit a trail.

The air was fresh, it had a bit of a chill to it and so, armed with my cameras, a sweater (from the back of my closet … this is Florida, you know), and a coke zero for hydration, I set off for the trails at Circle B.

I said goodbye to all the kitties and drove the 20 minutes to the shores of Lake Hancock. There are several different trails there and I chose the one that leads me down alligator alley so as to not be walking directly into the sun. My original thought was to take a trail that bordered the lake itself, but because of where the sun was, most of my pics would then have been silhouetted.

Aaaah the joys of planning ..

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That was Coco by the way … he wanted to give his input to this morning’s blog.

Anyway, Lake Hancock doesn’t have any recreational fishing on it, so it has developed a wonderful range of associated wildlife. Birds in particular seem to thrive here from the largest Great Blues to the tiniest Warblers.

There are some resultant non-feathered creatures here also, from the alligators (the biggest one I have seen here is about 15 feet) to furry creatures like raccoons, rabbits, etc.

Fish and insects make up the bottom of the food chain (unfortunately for them) and the whole world here just seems beautifully balanced.

There were so many times on the trail yesterday where I was the only human in sight and it created a wonderful feeling of being at one with nature. There were moments where I just stood there and closed my eyes listening to the sounds around me and breathing it all in.

Of course, you don’t want to keep your eyes closed too long for fear of missing something or perhaps something finding you!

Anyway. while my eyes were open, I did manage to get some decent shots showing the diversity of my fellow trail-occupants.

Blue skies behind and sun in their faces, make for good shooting conditions. I hope you enjoy.

As I climbed into the car and drove home. my battery was recharged and I felt very much alive and in tune with my surroundings. I thought of the diversity of life that I was made privy to yesterday and in general on this planet.

And I mused over the preciousness of life and how we as humans often fail to grasp that we aren’t the only important creatures on this planet.

From the tiniest bug to the largest creature, the diversity of life around us provides us with a very real challenge on where to set the bar for preciousness.

I mean, we assign importance to lives that allows us to treat the “unimportant” in a casual or dismissive manner. And in many ways, our views of these creatures amounts to a death sentence handed out on such a casual basis.

For example, bugs are unimportant, so we freely step on them. Except for the ones with pretty colored wings … those get a pin stuck through them and mounted on a board.

Fish are unimportant so we drive metal hooks into their mouths for entertainment purposes, allowing us to tell tall stories of the ones that got away.

Deer are unimportant, so we license killers with high-powered telescopic rifles to shoot them at distance for the thrill of it.

Bulls are unimportant so we dress up in glitzy sequins and drive multiple blades into them in front of cheering crowds that throw flowers into the arena when the poor creature has bled to death in front of their eyes.

Factory ships from Japan harpoon families of unimportant whales (arguably one of the most intelligent and social creatures on the planet) or slice off the fins of wonderful creatures that have survived since the dawn of time only to now become the soup appetizer in a fancy restaurant.

Yet we raise blue murder at the thought that in parts of asia, they raise and kill dogs for food. Dogs who are neither as intelligent as whales, or as old as sharks.

Why?

It’s because we assigned important to the dog the moment we decided they make cool pets. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that would derail if those little barkers were no longer assigned that level of importance on our creature-scale.

Interestingly enough, humans also use this scale among ourselves. We assign unimportance to different people, different religions, different colors and it allows us to step on them, hunt them, and kills them, in a not-dissimilar manner.

We put people in a box “he’s black”, “he’s a muslim”, “she’s a slut”, “she’s just a woman” …. careful boxes that we have fashioned that allow us to enslave, disregard, discard, and discriminate.

There are those among us and the only important people in the world are themselves. Their wives are their property, and their children merely a reflection on their own greatness.

These people occupy an end of the spectrum that is in many ways the very worst of humanity. They pop tic-tacs and grab pussy at will. They shoot unarmed blacks because they looked like they were up to something. They foster hate and intolerance of poor immigrants, even though in all likelihood they were descended from the same.

What they have lost sight of is simply that ALL life is precious. That of an impoverished child in the far reaches of a village in Afghanistan. Or a deer quietly grazing on some grasses on a forest floor.

Each living breathing creature has a right to life. The same right as any other regardless of wealth, intelligence, or circumstance.

Superiority is a cancerous trait. It spreads virulently and feeds off our own insecurities. We infect others with it as we build cliques of fellow-important-people.

Yet after we draw our final breath, our importance fades and we return to the same dust as the bug that we stepped on during our oh-so-important life.

… just a thought!

Curiosity

So just before sundown the other evening, I found myself in the yard, watching my kittens wandering around in the scrub.

They are almost six months old already, so perhaps I should start calling them cats … I don’t know.

But their playfulness hasn’t subsided at all and their energy levels are endless and worthy of such envy. They always seem to be up to something.

The images at the end of this blog are of Everest and Beauty, two sisters, as they hung out near where I put out the raccoon and possum food each evening.

Their curiosity and interest in everything around them is energizing to witness, possibly because most of us are so jaded by everything, we become oblivious to what a wonderful world this is.

This is the thought that developed in my head as I looked through some of the images this morning. And it began with the phrase “Curiosity killed the cat”, a phrase that I have know since I was a child and just hangs as an unspoken fact somewhere in the back of my head.

The phrase was coined in 1598 in a play by Ben Johnson and the message was clear: don’t poke your nose into things that aren’t your business.

But the more I thought about that, the more I realized how counter that runs to everything I believe in.

Curiosity is a fundamental part of exploration and experimentation. It drives innovation like nothing else.

My own humble efforts in experimenting with images hinges on a curiosity of “I wonder what it would look like if …”

So, why would this phrase have become part of the standardized vernacular?

Yes, it is cat-chy (pun intended) but there is a lot more to it than that.

For centuries people have been groomed to know their place and not step above their stature in life.

Keeping things on a need-to-know basis has been a fundamental part of class-distinction. It is designed to keep the poor poor and the rich rich.

So, from an early age we are told to stop asking too many questions. Children have an innate need to know “why” and that need is extinguished in many by a relentless barrage of obstacles to learning or just silence and ignorance.

As schools become college and college becomes work, we are made feel less confident in asking a question and fear ridicule for not knowing already.

This is a system developed to cap learning and stunt curiosity.

Religion plays a big part in this grooming with its endless emphasis on faith and belief rather than answers and proof.

Questions are sacrilegious if they are deemed to threaten the foundations of faith of these churches. Don’t question, just accept.

Governments are built on control of the masses. Rules and laws put in place to confuse and stifle. Legal jargon becomes the norm and fairness plays no part in our lives.

Even online services hide behind endless agreements of many thousands of words that are designed to confuse and overpower, so we all just hit “Accept” on the terms and conditions without even reading the first few paragraphs.

Who knows what we are agreeing to?

Even though we have been groomed away from it, curiosity is obviously a trait that we admire in creatures like kittens. Just like I did yesterday evening, we stand and admire, smile at, even laugh when they slip off the log and fall on their asses.

But falling on your ass sometimes is exactly what you need. It is how you learn and find a better way to climb whatever obstacles lie in your path to learning. So, never be afraid of that.

Whenever I am encouraged to stop asking questions of something or someone, it immediately makes me wonder what they are hiding. And trust me, anyone that wants you to stop asking , most definitely IS.

Blind faith should be left to those that are just that … blind. You are not a doubting Thomas just because you are looking for more information and something that resembles proof.

On the contrary, your innate nature is to be curious. If you don’t believe me, spend time watching a toddler “getting up to mischief”. We shape their world around them and guide them as best we can. But we often smother their curiosity in the process.

Kittens don’t have that smothering, which is why as cats they are still devilishly curious. There is no limit to their curiosity and exploration. Which is why every closed door is merely a challenge to them.

None of my cats accept a closed door. They may have been on the other side a hundred times already, but they rush through its opening as if it is their first time.

Nor should we.

Whenever we are faced with a closed door, ask why. Ask what is behind it. Ask how do I open it. Keep asking. Don’t stop. And one day that door may just open enough to let you run freely through!

… just a thought!

Too much beauty

There was a moment towards the end of yesterday morning’s shoot, when birds were flying south, birds were flying north, and the sun was bursting with fiery reds and I actually said to myself “stop, there’s too much beauty”.

And I did.

I stopped taking pictures and I just watched.

For a few minutes the world played out its early morning symphony and their wasn’t a single shutter-click to capture it. So, forgive me …

But yesterday morning was just one of those godsends. You know those moments. Your soul is crying out for respite from a miserable week and the gods deliver.

And for almost my whole visit there, it was just me, the birds, the planet, and me. Yes, it was so good, I was there twice. In body and soul.

And as this wondrous beauty played out all around me, I realized how the scope of the lens fails in such instances. Of 360 degree happenings, it captures less than 90.

So, I would have needed four or five cameras all going at the same time to blanket shoot what was going on. Not to mention the ten hands holding the cameras and pushing the buttons.

Anyway, I hope you like what I did capture. Images at the end of this blog.

Oh, and I did put a short video (less than a minute) up on youtube, if you want proof that I wasn’t altering any colors, Check it out!

Too much beauty! Boy, what a complaint.

It is almost shameful to voice that phrase yet as I climbed back into the car and drove home, that is exactly what was ringing inside my head.

Saturation of anything can occur when we get too much of it. No matter how much we love the “it”.

It is why after a lengthy vacation, we yearn to get back to work even though we couldn’t wait for the vacation before we went on it.

It is why we could stand in a field of gorgeous red roses, yet our eyes would finally focus on the one little daisy standing in the corner.

It is why after three or four days of leftovers, we just can’t even contemplate another serving of turkey and ham.

It is why I can send 24 lovely color images of a client to them and yet they will almost always love the one black and white, I added as an afterthought.

Life serves us up wonderful moments quite sparingly, to where we rarely saturate on them. So, these type of situations don’t seem to happen very often.

We can identify with the type of situations I wrote about above, but they don’t really happen very often to us.

Or do they?

It is the subtle saturations of beauty that go unnoticed on a daily basis.

For example, Floridians are so used to blue skies and sunshine that when a cold rainy day happens in December they all comment about how they absolutely love this kind of day.

Kids get so used to mom’s home cooking that they moan when sitting down to the 45th cooked meal in a row and ask “can’t we just order pizza?”

We marry the most beautiful girl of our dreams only a few months later to not even notice her when she walks into the room while we are watching football on the TV.

Taking anything for granted is a shameful trait and yet we all fall foul of it.

We often only notice that we have done so, when time has taken it away from us. Mom’s home cooked meals become a hugely missed piece of home when we are gone off to college.

But we are better off if we can check ourselves while it happens and realign our mind. Re-calibrate your sensitivity scale to where you force yourself to notice how gorgeous the sky is or the woman who has just walked into the room.

Breathe in the fresh air and remind yourself that each moment needs to be absorbed and enjoyed as if it were your last.

It really isn’t that difficult. On the contrary; all you have to do is pause and close your eyes (I am assuming here that you aren’t driving). Then imagine yourself in a black room, void of all color, sound, smell.

As you stand there, take yourself to where you feel absolutely nothing.

Then when you are ready, open your eyes and breathe in. Imagine that you are seeing this all for the first time and soak in all the details of what you are experiencing. Notice the details, breathe in the smells, and smile.

The smile is the important part because in doing so, you are acknowledging that this is a beautiful moment and it is a source of joy.

Life is mostly full, ladies and gentlemen. And unless you have tapped into my blog from the after-world, you are alive. So enjoy it.

… just a thought!

Finding Brittany

It was a pretty awful weekend. And the Monday that followed was definitely a rough one.

So by the time the afternoon was winding down and my work was finished, I was desperately in need of a recharge of some sort. My soul was screaming out for nourishment and so I decided on a sunset.

It wasn’t an easy decision, because my best sunsets have been with Brittany and the thought of doing one without her is a little hollow, in all honesty.

And also, my timing was all wrong. A quick check of my clock after I fed the kitties, I realized I would not likely make it across to the other side of Lake Parker in time to catch a sunset.

So, as I sat in the car, pulling off the driveway, I had reconciled myself to just going to an overpass over the interstate and trying to catch something there.

I was headed in that direction and I realized it was a clear sky and therefore not likely to produce anything that would make an interstate type sunset worth capturing, so I made another executive decision and decided to head for the lake, post haste.

It was a drive, I have to tell you. The stress of making it or not making it was palpable and each light that turned against me was greeted with an expletive, as was each and every driver that wasn’t racing down the road like me, or at the very least getting out of my way.

The fact that I am writing a blog about this is a clear indication that I got some pictures and indeed I did. The shadows were deep across the pier view that I would normally park at so I had to drive a quarter mile further up the lake to find somewhere where the sun was still visible.

I hope you enjoy … some of them came out really good. In my opinion, anyway.

I was only there for fifteen minutes or so before it was over but each moment was spent searching for Brittany, her hoop, her music, her happy smile.

Believe it or not, there was an unseen bird calling from a tree and his call sounded just like her name. It sent a chill up my spine.

Did I find her, I hear you ask. Yes, actually. I did.

But she wasn’t at the lake. She was within me, all the time. I just needed the sunset to help see her.

And this is what I was thinking about as I returned home. How we keep precious people alive inside us after they are gone.

We may occasionally forget we have them, but this is how they find eternal life. It is within the memories, hearts, and souls of those who love them.

I used the present tense there, because the love doesn’t stop when a person dies.

If anything, it gets deeper, because we have the added missing of their presence that we so casually took for granted.

We all lose someone and eventually they lose us, but the word “loss” is very much a misnomer. Because a love is never truly lost. It is simply waiting to be found.

Our love is sitting in a memory within us that only needs us to open the door and shine a little light in so that we can see them again.

For me yesterday, the light was the fading golden rays of the sun. But, it could be anything that we are able to associate with this soul. A song we remember sharing, a past moment spent together, or the distant sound of an unseen bird calling out their name.

Remembering someone special is how we visit with them when they have left this world. And because it is our remembrance that stimulates the visit, we can choose the manner in which we visit with them.

When we make that choice, it is sometimes difficult to look beyond the sadness of their last days, but it is important that we do. Our memories of a person can’t always be the sad ones.

We need to remember the happy times we spent together. The smiles they gave us and the joy we felt in their presence. We need to remember the love shared and the warmth it created within our souls when we needed their love.

This is what made them special to us, in the first place.

So, pause a moment today and open a door somewhere inside you. Visit with a love and enjoy them. Let a little bit of light in onto them, they may well be needing it today, anyway. Heaven knows, we all do.

… just a thought.

Missed Opportunities

Good grief, I need to stop getting up so early. Now, if I could just explain that to Rocky, my world would be one step closer to being OK.

Each morning, at increasingly earlier hours, I wake to a foot in my face, or him walking across my chest.

I guess he has figured out that soon after he wakes this furless creature, he gets released into the general freedom of the house and gets a bowl of breakfast to boot.

This morning was a cold one too… definitely one for some extra moments under the covers. But, no, it wasn’t to be. His happy purring made sure that I didn’t drift back into snooze mode and then the guilts of all the poor little faces waiting for me to feed them down in the office grabbed me by the ankles and dragged me from the warm bed.

By the time Rocky, Marcy, and Marty were situated upstairs and the seven little guys in the office were munching away on their breakfasts in the office, I was fully awake and wondering how I would handle the pre-dawn time-slot that was now suddenly became available.

Temperature was in the mid thirties, so the skies above were obviously clear. There was an almost full moon lighting up the skies anyway, just in case I couldn’t tell from the temperature.

So, yes, you guessed it … I grabbed a cup of coffee and a granola bar and headed off to watch the sun rise down by the lake.

Without clouds in the skies, clear-sky-sunrises all tend to look similar. Yes, the temperature affects them a bit in shaping the color intensities, but I pretty much knew what I would get image-wise.

So I kept my eyes open for anything that might add some difference in to the images; footprints, trees, plants. That kind of stuff.

At my third stop on the southern edge of the lake, I spotted a swinging chair that folks had set up for themselves at the end of their dock and was delighted to get a couple of decent shots with it in there.

Hope you like … they are all at the end of the blog.

As I drove home it was the swinging chair set-up that got me thinking about how these folk went to the trouble of building such a lovely viewpoint, yet in my many trips down there, I haven’t once seen anyone out to watch the sunrise.

And this morning was one opportunity for them to grab a hot cup and a blanket and enjoy a front-row view of a truly lovely twilight. And an opportunity to watch endless flocks of birds flying north along the lake edge beginning their daily journeys to wherever the winds take them.

But it was a missed opportunity and that is what gave me pause for thought.

If we are alert and ready for opportunities that come our way, we can generally make a real good stab at being a success at something. Or even just living a more full life. Being ready, when an opportunity came, is a common explanation from happy or successful people when asked to describe how they became so.

Some opportunities are wasted and others we just can’t get our arms around them to make them work. Life is full of these.

But what about missed opportunities? Opportunities we didn’t even know existed?

How many of these arose but because we weren’t in the right place at the right time, we didn’t even know they existed?

Somehow I suspect that there are far more of those that play out around us. Moments we could have experienced, things we could have done, chances we could have taken.

But we didn’t know.

Not knowing is a fall-back for failure. It is offered as a frequent response to a question of “why didn’t you?”

How many times have we all offered that response?

And while there are always going to be opportunities happening around us that we will be oblivious to, our self-determination hinges on increasing our knowledge of and access to such opportunities.

There are known factors in our lives … 24 hour days, sunrise and sunset, wake and sleep.

There are then variables such as fatigue, responsibilities, limitations, and a myriad of others that all affect our lives in different ways.

So, in reality no two of us experience a day in an identical fashion. And no two of us can embrace an opportunity at the same time in the same way.

This is what makes life little more than an organized chaos.

But once we understand ourselves and our goals, our dreams and our limitations, we should then direct ourselves towards opportunities that are both real and achievable.

Because it is on the back of a seized opportunity that we move forward in life.

Don’t do all the work of planning and dreaming, building and preparing and then failing to seek out the opportunity to advance.

Doing so, you might as well build a two-seater swing and point it at sunrise, but hit snooze on the alarm when it tries to wake you.

These are the same folk that buy a complete at-home gym but never use it. Or buy a house with a pool, yet never swim.

Having something is not the same as doing something.

… just a thought.

Just another sunrise

It was just a few minutes past six, the kitties were all taken care of and running free in the darkness outside. I had just finished my frosted krispies and my coffee was patiently waiting for my first sip.

I sat at my PC and read the news and this really annoying mosquito buzzed past my ears a couple of times already and I was ready to kill him … if only I could see him.

So, I made a decision. I could either sit here and hopefully commit mosquito murder before he managed to suck me dry, or I could grab my virgin coffee and head for the lake.

I didn’t have a minute to spare because sunrise would be at 6:59 and it was now 6:09 so the very latest I could get there for twilight shots would be 6:29.

Decision made, it was the fastest I had moved all week and by 6:15 I was in the car racing towards Lake Parker, faithful coffee by my side.

It was an anxious drive, wishing for green lights and hoping the sun might hold off for me for just a few extra minutes.

Important lights refused to cooperate, so I cheated the system and took right turns that I mightn’t normally take.

This shot was taken at the penultimate light, so you can see how the gods were tempting me!

I think I reached my spot at exactly 6:29 and with rattled nerves, climbed from the car and got my first shot almost immediately.

It was a lovely sunrise and worth the trip and I hope you like the images at the end of the blog. There is even one that I combined 13 images (manually, I might add) to show the flight of a lone osprey that graced the early morning skies in search of his breakfast.

Enjoy!

Anyway, returning home afterwards I was arguing with myself about part of my decision process while I was still sat at my desk.

In that “go, no-go” moment, I questioned why would I go to such trouble for “just another sunrise”. I mean, I have shot sunrises millions of times before (slight exaggeration) and heading to Lake Parker for yet another one just seemed a bit silly.

It was a finely balanced decision and in truth it came down to a simple 5 mg in favor of going.

What’s he on about now, I hear you ask. Well a mosquito typically weighs 5 mg and without his intervention on the decision process, it might well have been a lazy “stay at your desk” resolution.

In any event, driving home I was a bit annoyed at myself for even daring to coin the phrase “just another sunrise” as part of my argument.

There is no such thing as just another sunrise. Big of small, they are all special gifts to start a day with.

But as humans, we get easily spoiled and take such wonders for granted. Floridians see so many sunrises, it won’t surprise me if half the people I send this link to don’t even bother to check it out.

“I mean, how many stupid sunrise shots does he think we can look at. For god sake! Martha, how do we block incoming emails again?”

It is a dismal trait … spoiled.

There are few that compete with it for being more disappointing.

We quickly devolve to take almost everything for granted until one day it is taken away from us.

It can be a taste, a feeling, a person, or even life itself.

Taking people for granted is something that catches almost all of us out. Our parents are always there until they’re not.

One day we wake up and we are orphans. What would we give just to have one more day with Mam and Dad? The answer to that question is more painful than you can imagine, if you haven’t yet felt it.

So, I guess my message today is a very simple one. Take nothing for granted because there is no guarantee it will still be there tomorrow. Equally, there is no guarantee you will be there either.

… just a thought!

Attractions

This morning, Simona had a couple of tickets for the Sunken Gardens in St Pete and kindly invited me along. I hadn’t been there before and up to my internet search last night, I knew absolutely nothing about the place.

At over a century old, this turns out to be one of the oldest roadside attractions in the US and it proudly sits on what used to be a main highway that is now part of a city street array in the greater Tampa Bay Area.

Roadside attractions are by definition “a feature along the side of a road meant to attract tourists. In general, these are places one might stop on the way to somewhere, rather than actually being a destination.” And I suspect their heyday has been and gone probably before most of us were born.

Simona had touted it as having some wonderful plants within a single area and beyond that, my expectations were limited.

In truth, her company alone would have made the drive worthwhile … she is a walking encyclopedia for plant stuff. But the place itself was well worth the visit anyway.

I have attached a number of images from this morning to the bottom of the blog and I hope you find at least some of them interest-worthy. I think my favorites are actually the feathers in the water.

Anyway, enjoy.

As I drove home I mused over the whole notion of the disappearing attractions from the US highways and while I suspect that the interstate system together with major destination attractions like Disney World, made them somewhat irrelevant.

In truth, many of them were gaudy and oftentimes cruel to whatever wildlife they had on display, so frankly I am glad to see the back of them.

But I mused on the word “attraction” and began to think about the many ways attraction is used to shape our lives.

On a very simple level, attraction to an opposite or same sex is very much a chemical thing and as attractions go, is probably the most honest form of attraction we will ever experience. We often respond without even making a conscious effort … simply drawn to a life or casual relationship just because something about the other person is attractive to us.

And I have been around couples long enough to know that there isn’t a single formula to define that attraction. And this generally translates into there being someone for everyone, no matter what your taste or appearance.

Plastic surgery is a pollution to the honesty of this attraction mechanism, as some folks get bigger boobs, butt implants, tummy tucks, nose jobs, eye jobs and whatever else in order to “enhance” their ability to attract someone.

I make no judgments and people should absolutely be allowed do whatever they wish with their own bodies.

But beyond the physical, humans tend to build stronger relationships based on character attraction. Or personality attraction. These tend to be longer lasting and more likely to produce genuine happiness.

Beyond this kind of attraction though, humans, governments and corporations have managed to use attraction for pretty nefarious purposes with the general intent to manipulate and control.

It might, for example, be a way to light and show meat in a display case (red seems to be a strong preference over brown), or perhaps a method of advertising products based on pretense that the purchaser will live a sun-drenched perfect life in an impeccably clean house and taking long relaxing baths while sipping a glass of wine.

In government we see politicians work an attraction that people may have to a certain topic (they will take away your guns) so that they create an alignment from a poor working-class voter to where other than guns he votes against his own best interests of financial equity and fairness.

Most of these type of attractions are highly abused until consumer advocacy groups force restrictions. For example, subliminal advertising in the late fifties involved placing hidden messages into television and movies for just a few frames so that the watcher would react in a certain way and want to buy a certain product without evening registering what they had just seen.

Thankfully those days are behind us but today’s version in movies and such is the never ending product placement that is so pervasive in modern media.

These work to create an association between the product or service and whatever situation or characters that we are watching. And given that we only generally watch things or people we like, this association becomes an attraction.

“We do we do certain things” is a good question to periodically ask of ourselves. We can’t do it every step of our lives as it would over analyze us to death.

But for example, why do we have seventeen guns and assault rifles at home? Where did we get the original idea that we needed these and what is the practicality of them ever serving a defense purpose?

And why do we need seventeen cameras strategically positioned around our home on a network that we can access from a cell phone while we are off partying somewhere. The attractiveness of having a perfect home where nothing we have is at risk of loss, has been sold to us as if it is real.

Generations ago, the doors didn’t even have locks. Then after they sold us the locks, the sold us deadbolts. Then they sold us alarm systems.

Then they sell us expansive monitoring systems. And if all else fails, we have our seventeen guns and assault rifles.

Folks, the attraction of the life they are pitching isn’t real. There is no absolute security and absolute protection and frankly nor should there be.

Yes, there are bad people out there. But there always was. And likely always will be.

We shouldn’t find a sterile and perfectly safe world attractive. It just isn’t real.

… just a thought.

Foggy Times

Last night I drove over to Jax where, she, Maria, and I played with a new fog machine to see what kind of images we could make.

We didn’t really have any pre-planned notions other than to try so once the machine itself started to work, we just looked at each other wondering what poses we could make.

It was definitely an experimentation 101 class and the three of us had no prior experience.

We had to make several adjustments along the way but we got the Lume Cube lights positioned correctly from the outset. The evening breeze was the true mischief-maker as each change in direction caused us to restart from a different position.

When you are experimenting in the company of fellow experimenters, failure never happens. No one gets impatient. Everyone throws ideas into the mix and if you are lucky, as I was, some of the ideas work out.

Here are five of my favorites from the evening (at the end of the blog) and I hope you like them.

As Jax said this morning, when I sent them to her, the images have spawned further ideas in her head for our next attempt. And so the learning process has taken root.

Fog is in many ways a challenging element to work with but great fun once you figure it out. And once you emerge from the fog, it is amazing how clear things can become.

From an evening shrouded in fog, immersed in memories of the last time we did an experimental shoot with Brittany, I awoke this morning to a stunningly clear sky.

And the metaphor struck home on such a strong level.

Fog is a medium of confusion and when we live through fog it is difficult to move forward in a defined path. Things appear suddenly as obstacles or impediments to our plans and we often have to detour to get around them.

Fog can engulf us and linger for an undefined period of time. It can blow in from nowhere and suddenly dominate our life.

Some fog is natural and just falls into the “shit happens” category. Other is man-made and in many ways the latter is the worst.

I don’t mean worst in intensity, because life can serve us up some pretty confusing scenarios to work through. No. I mean worse in the sense that it is unnecessary and often doesn’t accommodate rational thinking.

We like to think of ourselves as rational beings, with the ability to reason but man-made fog often defies reason and therefore cannot be rationally worked through.

For example (skip the next couple of paragraphs if you are a republican), the fog that consumed America for the past four years engulfed the country in a divisive and hate-filled manner. If you are a socially conscious and empathetic individual with a genuine concern for all living creatures and the planet, then you would have spent the last four years wondering how 60 million people could be OK with racism, misogyny, fascism, and corruption.

If you are one of those corrupt racist, fascist, misogynists, then I told you to skip these two paragraphs.

But seriously, the arrival of COVID and the loss of all remaining semblance of normality, added to the fog on a very substantial level and developed a mentality that was just geared to keeping your head down and hoping that you make it out the other side alive.

As an individual, the only possible play for any of us was to wear a mask and half the country couldn’t be bothered, making it almost futile for those of us that do.

Beyond fog on such a national level, there are also many times when we create fog in our own lives by adding issues in that in general are either irrelevant to us or frankly none of our business.

For example, we can live a life where we insert an importance on what other people are doing with their own bodies and we line up outside women’s health centers holding plastic fetuses for shock value.

Can you imagine the life that those people live? They have elevated a social or religious or political issue to where it has become a main element of their lives. They spend a major portion of their time involved in an issue that really has nothing to do with them. They live in a fog.

Or how about the folks that attach such significance to an old flag from a racist past that they fly it at home, mount it on their pickup, wear it as a t-shirt, or tattoo it on their arm.

It was simply a battle flag meant to rally a brave army, but it evolved into a symbol of white supremacy and hate. Why march in cities and disrespect the victims of racism and hate? Why build a life around your involvement in such a hate group?

These folk live in a fog where they allow such garbage to run their lives. For what purpose? At the end of the day, do they get awarded a slave that makes their lives better somehow?

No. At the end of the day they die. Just like we all do.

And like all these fog issues, they consume portions of lives that are never recovered. Some people live in these fogs for years.

When the fog clears there is a realization of what life is really about. And it is very simple.

Love

Love of those around you and love of this planet we live on.

Simple as that.

Our final thoughts are never going to be that we wish we could go one one more march or stand outside one more women’s center.

Our final thoughts are going to be that we wish we could have one more kiss or embrace from those we love. One more moment to share our love with those we care for.

How sad if we wait until our death bed before we finally get a clear view of the meaning of life.

… just a thought.