Once in a Blue Moon

The other morning, as a full moon lit my way as I walked down to my office, I stopped and stared at how it villainized the trees. The trees around my driveway which normally look welcoming and warm, took on a sinister feel and if it any moment a headless horseman came riding up my driveway, it would have looked perfectly normal.

Well, OK…. that’s a slight exaggeration. I would have probably ran screaming like a little girl if I had witnessed such a happening.

In any event, it wasn’t scary enough to stop me grabbing my camera. That seems to be my normal response these days to almost everything.

I think the camera has created a “wow factor” within my soul that has heightened my sense of appreciation for the beautiful environment that I am lucky enough to live in.

I took a few pics and have attached them at the end of this blog. Hope you like!

You might notice that I altered these images, which is very unlike me for a nature setting. All I really did was change what is called the temperature of the images. In one case leaning it slightly towards the violet end and in the other two, I cooled them off into the blue.

While the purists among us will not agree, I wanted to alter the cameras version of what I was experiencing. I don’t know if you have experienced this before but cameras invariably see scenes different to the way our eyes do.

They might mute a color, darken a scene, or sometimes lose the whole feeling of what we have personally perceived.

Technology is a pale substitute for our own vision, although maybe one day it will actually get there. But if it does get better than our vision, will we ever even know?

So the whole thing got me thinking along the lines of what my eyes might see versus the next person’s. If there is a group of ten of us standing by a shoreline watching the sun come up, do we all see the exact same colors? Almost definitely not, I suspect.

There are few things that are absolute in this world. And our perception is definitely not such a thing.

And yet for most people their perception is their reality and god forbid you try to sway them away from it, most will refuse to go.

Sometimes mass hysteria will cause a common perception. It’s why a dotard in the office can tell us we didn’t really just hear him coerce a foreign president into an illegal act…. and millions of sheep will agree.

Relying on someone else to tell us what we see is a genuine abdication of our own intelligence and while common place in today’s politics, it should never be allowed to rule our personal lives.

It is why the old phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is unerringly true. When we look at something and find an appeal, then that thing is indeed beautiful.

Conversely, just because someone else finds something beautiful, that does not mean we have to.

Just because some twit a number of years ago marveled at the Mona Lisa smile … I’m sorry, but it looks more like a weak grin to me. Normally if I am shooting someone and they give me that kind of a look, I shoot again.

So when we project beauty onto something, let’s understand that this is our beauty. Not everyone else’s. We own it because we feel it. Others might feel it too but it is not a given that they will.

And yet we go through life continually coercing others to our taste and trying desperately to bend their minds to our will. It might be students that we teach. It might be employees in our company. Or it might be children in our homes.

In almost all instances, we try to exert this control over those who are vulnerable to us, which is a shame. Because we end up stifling their own sense of originality and taste.

For example children don’t emerge from the womb afraid of spiders and snakes, yet there are millions of them out there who now recoil at these little creatures. Where did that come from?

For me, beauty lies in almost everything. Certainly everything that is natural and if my eyes can’t appreciate it then I endeavor to understand where the beauty is.

Because I think this is actually the point I was trying to get to … everything is actually beautiful. If we fail to see that, then our focus is too narrow and the flaw is actually within us.

Washing ugly with beauty

The story that I read on the news yesterday evening was so ugly it genuinely crushed my spirit for the night. It wasn’t written as an ugly story, which made it worse.

It was actually written up as something that we were to be amazed and proud of.

Some idiot in south FL had hooked himself a 350 pound Warsaw Grouper and they had a picture of Mr N. E. Anderthal grinning from ear to ear with his catch suspended upside down on a hook.

This fish swam the seas for over 50 years before ending on this idiot’s hook and for what purpose? Sport. Yes. Mr N. E. Anderthal and the whole family of neanderthals are avid sports fisher-folk.

You know if someone fishes in order to eat a fish for their supper, I have absolutely no problem with that. If someone living in the wilderness and surviving on whatever he catches, happens to kill and eat a deer, again I have no problem with it.

But when some idiot with issues in the bedroom chooses to end the life of a living creature so he can get a mental hard-on, I have a real problem with it.

Mankind commits so much injustice against this planet and the creatures that live on it. But most of it is through accident or indifference. It takes a special breed of human to willfully look down the barrel of their gun, or cast their hook, or harpoon any living creature, and label that as fun.

So yes (rant over) by the time I lay my head on the pillow, I felt dirty and ugly. As humans, we are all dirtied by these actions.

When I opened my eyes this morning, I needed to ground myself again and in so doing, maybe I could find a path beyond the ugliness.

For me, sunrises are unique moments on so many levels and they become a means by which I can reboot and refresh my outlook on things.

The colors of each shade that breaks across the horizon, paint over the ugliness with a fresh coat of beauty.

I hope you like this little collection of images from this morning at the end of the post.

It worked beautifully as as I raced off into the new week with a feeling of joy and appreciation beneath each step.

So it got me to thinking that whenever we encounter something ugly that makes us sick to our stomach, the best medicine is actually to deliberately seek out something beautiful and then gorge ourselves with it.

By allowing the ugly to linger as the last experience you have, you allow it to take root and fester within you.

We are immersed in shock headlines, subjected to work stresses, exposed to so many personal tragedies, that at times it seems ugly is all around us.

But the honest truth is that there is much more beauty around us, if we just make the effort to find it. It won’t come land on our laps and requires just a willingness and belief in finding it.

Whatever the ugly that threatens to steal your time on earth, identify and then reach out for something that you find beautiful. It can be a place, a person, a song, … literally anything that gives you joy.

Believe it or not, most of our life’s experience comes from within us. If we live within the walls of ugly, then ugly will dominate our outlook and shape our dreams.

But if we find beauty, then we look forward, dream big, and imagine a life that may be better than any moment that we pass through.

For me, that’s a sunrise … it marks that moment when night is finally over and the day ahead can be anything we want it to be.

And I want … no, I insist it be beautiful!

Making the Rules

Climbed out of bed , fed the kitties, and sneaked off to the trails early this morning.

I knew it was a cloudy day, even though I couldn’t really see anything in the dark. But I got to the reserve about a half hour before sunrise anyway.

Normally if I am getting somewhere that early, it is to capture a sunrise, but without one on the cards it was really the naturalist in me that had me out there at that time.

I knew that I wasn’t really going to get much photo-wise but I wanted to feel the early morning energy. Anyone who has done this will know that there is a life that awakens with each day, as day-creatures emerge from their sleep and step forward into their day.

When I started out on foot I could hear hundreds of whistling ducks create a morning chorus that beats out any human composition.

And in the dim distance, I could see three or four Osprey circle out over the lake and return with their breakfast.

Initially I tried to shoot them, but the grey dim morning covered by the deep clouds made a mockery of any such attempt. So I put my camera away for a while and just walked.

It was really invigorating and by the time it did get bright enough to take some shots, I was half way around the trail and walking with a pep in my step.

I did get a few soft images to share and I have bundled them at the end of this blog with five unused images from last week. I hope you enjoy!

Funny thing was, as I sat back into my car and asked myself if I had anything worth sharing in this week’s blog, my first reaction was framed by the “rule” that I could only use today’s images.

I realized quickly that this “rule” was not just ridiculous, but that I was the one that made it! Initially I think I came up with that rule based on a desire to keep it fresh and also to make sure that I am regularly going out to take new pics rather than resting on past laurels.

But the whole notion of making an arbitrary rule and then trying to force yourself into adhering to it, left me laughing at my own insanity. It just makes absolutely no sense.

And so, my whole drive home there was a debate raging inside my head with rules and why we live our lives by them.

Rules are initially dreamed up by someone and then agreed to possibly by a number of people, and then we try diligently to follow them.

But in general, these rules are neither natural or, in most cases, universal.

So really, rules are just a sham. I remember growing up in Ireland to where the rule was that you couldn’t eat meat on a Friday (it was an old catholic thing). What idiot dreamed that one up and why did millions of people try to follow it?

Then there were rules that blended into laws that said you get married, you stay married. Divorce was outlawed in Ireland until 1996. So tough shit if you married an abuser or a battle-ax … they were all yours for as long as you both shall live!

Then there are rules that we all break routinely … speed limits on roads. Or having to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. even if you are the only car on the road and it’s three in the morning! I mean seriously … what an idiotic rule!

Rules exist all around us. They attempt to get citizens to conform to a general level of behavior. And to a certain degree they do.

But rules from a country living under Sharia Law are wildly different to a Western Democracy, which in turn is wildly different to a dictatorship. And god forbid you live under a Lèse-majesté system where it is treason to say something that might insult the king! (Cambodia and Thailand practice that degree of idiocy).

So, while we adhere to many of the general rules around us, it is important to understand that in the main, they are ridiculous and sometimes overbearing. We may need to comply in order to live among other humans so we just have to grin and bear it.

But why do we put rules on ourselves? I would call these private rules.

My Mom and Dad had a drinking rule that would only allow them to drink alcohol after nine o’clock at night. So at 8:45 the ice bucket, glasses and bottles were gathered and maybe even the can of coke was popped and ready to pour into the whiskey. But no lips touched the glass before nine!

While we may smile at such a rule, we each saddle ourselves with rules of our own every day. It might be related to when we shower or go to the bathroom, or the time we go to bed. Or it may be that we can’t snack between mealtimes, or god forbid, we eat dinner an hour early because we are hungry. No, we must wait!

We might use rules that limit what we say out loud. Or even stop us from saying anything on a certain subject. “You can’t say that to him …. he’s a customer!”

One of my favorite people on the planet is a friend of mine back in Ireland who is a priest and yet uses the F word (“fuck” for all you who don’t know what I am taking about) more than I do and is the first to tell you that most of religion is pure bullshit.

In his chosen life structure he is surrounded by more rules than most of us, yet he cares not!

Yes, there are times when conforming is appropriate. Farting in an elevator is never the right thing to do.

But being an outlaw with respect to rules that are just foolish is absolutely appropriate too.

Blindly accepting that you can’t eat meat on a Friday is frankly ridiculous.

I remember standing at a deli counter in Ireland in 2000 on Good Friday and when I asked for a corned beef sandwich some righteous voice in the crowd behind me called out “Pagan”. As I turned around, I glared at silence because they shut their mouth when faced with my obvious ire.

And I guess this is the final point about rules that I want to make. Most of these idiotic rules can’t stand the glare of logic. They get created in dark rooms by people with hidden agendas and then forced on the rest of us.

When faced with these we should shine a bright light firmly on them and question them. And then we should ignore them.

Go ahead … break some stupid rules this week. It is liberating.

That was probably the best-tasting corned beef sandwich I had ever eaten!

Never enough

Just before sunrise yesterday, I found myself on the trails at Circle B Reserve. The morning fell into the “simply stunning” category as the freshness of a morning chill was compounded by the clearest of blue skies and the awakening stirring of a host of little creatures.

This time of year opens up the “Reasons I live in Florida” book, right on page one. There is nowhere else on the planet that can produce a day quite like this one.

I have often felt revived by days like this in the past and this morning’s trail was one such moment. It awakened within me a feeling of encouragement again for this new year.

At the end of this post are some of the images from the awakening. I hope you enjoy!

What struck me though, even as I took the images was that no matter how good they turned out to be, they would never be enough to tell the story of the experience. There is so much that even the best cameras in the world cannot capture.

They totally miss out on the sounds and scents, we all know that. They also miss out on the feeling of the moment. The presence that we experience when we stand there bearing witness to something wonderful without being able to capture it.

I guess it is some sort of stimulus to the brain that creates a sense of exhilaration or contentment or just a “wow” that we experience.

I mean, how is any device expected to catch something like that?

And at that moment when we feel it, we think and hope that we will never forget about it. We rush to share it with whoever might listen and we try to record it in whatever way we can.

From a first kiss to a first loss and everything in between, our life is made up of such moments.

Our brain tries its hardest to create the memory but as we get older, we find that most memories become factual and less about the emotion. We try to remember what it meant, opening that special present under the tree when we were five or six. But most of us are lucky to even remember what that present was.

How can an old man ever attach the feeling of a five or six-year-old wide-eyed-innocent to a memory to make it real again? Truth is we can’t and so we create devices to try to capture the memory.

It might be something written down or photographed but no matter how verbally eloquent the writer or brilliant the photographer, the true moment is lost forever.

In olden days in Ireland, thousands of years ago, they relied on poet/storytellers called a seanchaí to recreate the memories of moments and facts.

These men of words would meet every year and retell their stories to each other, adding color and emphasis, inflection and facial expressions to retell something that happened so that it could be passed on from generation to generation.

And to a certain degree it worked as facts got passed on, albeit colored by the enthusiasm of the teller.

The written word and books brought an end to that aspect of memories and while to a certain degree it carried forward the factual aspect of the memory, it totally lost the sense and wonder of what a moment really meant or felt like.

Cameras do their best and of course we have all heard the old phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” but what I have arrived at is really that a shared memory is worth a thousand pictures.

So at the end of the day, as we go through our lives journeying through our own string of moments, it seems to me that the best way for us to remember them is to actually share them.

Whether you are fortunate enough to have someone by your side as you experience them, or whether you gather your seanchai friends around a fire and trade stories, the real magic in memories is their sharing!

Have a wonderful week!

By Definition

At yesterday evening’s nightly event of putting out dishes of food for the raccoons, possums, et al, this moth kept landing on my head and then flying away.

It’s one of the features of being bald, that you feel everything that lands on your noggin, regardless of how light. At first I thought he was a butterfly but when I got a better view realized he was a moth.

He landed on some dead branches that I cut away but hadn’t cleared and he patiently waited for me to get my camera and capture his portrait.

I love all creatures but moths are in among my most favorite grouping. They are so gentle and innocent and rarely get the glory bestowed on their cousins, the butterflies.

I mean they don’t get their own gardens, nor to people get moth tattoos on their shoulders, or such.

I even overheard a woman once pull her child away from what I was shooting on a trail, with an “it’s only a moth” statement that embarrassed and upset me.

But it dawned on me last night that (perhaps like most of us) I didn’t really know the difference between a butterfly and a moth. There are immediate things like brightness of color that most people would jump on, but there are brightly colored moths too.

So this morning, I went online to search out the differences and was disappointed at the vagueness in definitions. For example, moths are nocturnal and butterflies diurnal, but then again there are diurnal moths too. And butterflies are brightly colored and moths not, except there are some brightly colored moths too.

So this whole “definition” thing grabbed my consciousness this morning and led to to this shared thought.

Like it or not, humans like to define. We like things to be put into simply labeled containers and have them categorized into good or bad, safe or dangerous, clean or unclean.

We teach our children to do this from an early age. And when we can’t neatly define things for them, we invent fairies, and gods, and magic and tell them to just believe.

So while I do have a problem with this whole notion of defining, I have a bigger problem with how we define.

And worse still, how are we defined?

For example, look up anyone in online sources (wikipedia etc) and you will see that they are defined firstly by what they did. They were a painter, a politician, a businessman. They built bridges, cured diseases, or killed people.

But does any of that really define you? Where is the “he/she was a loving, caring, devoted, witty, intelligent, human being”? Surely the real you is how you feel, think, relate, behave?

I have always believed that we should be defined by who we are, not by what we do.

Of course the problem with that is that most of the world doesn’t know who we are. Therefore they can only define us by what we do. Which is completely invalid.

Not least because those who are entrusted with the definition either like us or don’t.

It is well known that history is written by the victors, which means that almost every “loser” in every conflict is written about from a negative perspective. They have to be. How else could you justify to your population that the war that took the lives of their loved ones was being waged against someone who was actually “quite a nice guy”. No, we have to demonize him and take the stance that these are fights of “good” against “evil”.

For example, was Adolf Hitler a nice person? Did he care, love, feel? By all accounts he loved children and animals … so, who knows? And how about George Washington, was he arrogant, entitled, cold? He inherited his first ten slaves when he was a child and still had a couple hundred when he died. So, who knows?

But neither of the above is the way these people end up being defined.

I can’t imagine for a moment that anyone reading this blog is going to be remembered by the world after they die.

For most of us, the knowledge of who we were dies with us, or within a generation of our death, as our loved ones in turn die.

There may be stories that are told about us a generation after that … ” I remember the time Granddad … whatever”, but that is hardly enough to tell us who Granddad really was.

Which, if I am correct, translates into my belief that the only definition of us that matters is our current definition.Who are we now. At this moment.

How do we treat our loved ones. How do we relate to our family and friends. How do we treat our immediate environment and the little creatures that cross our path.

It doesn’t matter if you are rich and powerful or poor and humble. There are many rich and powerful assholes and many wonderful poor and humble people.

What matters most is who you are. The real you. Not the you that you project to an audience, but the person that your partner lives with, children get cared for by, and kitty gets her cuddles from.

This is why love is such a powerful element in our lives. It is a powerful expression of who we are to the people and creatures that mean most to us.

It becomes the true definition of who we are and in its absence leaves us completely locked in our own mind and undefined.

Everyday, I try to let those I love (with and without fur) know how I feel about them. It opens up my heart to them so that they will know the real me.

And my definition then, lives within them.

Have a wonderful week!

2020 Vision

I am not a midnight reveler when it comes to New Year’s Eve … I think it is more of a lifestyle thing than an age thing for me. I get up so early that come 9 or 10 pm most nights I am exhausted.

So with the closing of one decade and the opening of another, I decided that the best way for me to mark it was to watch the sun go down on 2019 on one side of Lake Parker and then come up again on the other for 2020.

The camera was completely in manual mode so I was adjusting aperture and shutter speeds in particular to capture the wonderful late and early tones as the sun lit the late and early skies. I hope you enjoy this little collection.

New years are always a special moment. Not because any one moment is different from the next, but because they tend to inspire us to reach for personal development goals as we head off into another year.

It doesn’t even matter if we attain them; it is the reaching that is important.

They also are the time of year when we look back at the previous one and reminisce on moments and accomplishments therein. If there were sad events in the past year, we acknowledge them but hopefully don’t languish. We all have these.

Looking back is a difficult perspective in life, as our memories in that respect are flawed. Mundane and typical happenings disappear into the clouds of our minds, and our immediate focus rests on one or two large events that dramatically affected us to the point where it earned its own slot in our memories.

So the problem with that is that in looking back, we subject ourselves to a distortion of the truth … one that can really affect our general happiness and outlook for our future.

It is one of my reasons for disliking pictures of family and friends. Pictures that serve as a reminder of people no longer with us, and smiles that were purely contrived for the person with the camera. It’s what makes us reminisce longingly for the “good old days”.

But this new year is the beginning of a new decade and with it comes a decade full of hopes and possibilities. So it gives us every reason to look forward and (momentarily at least) forget our past.

We can create resolutions of course and while I am as guilty as anyone of false resolutions, I would suggest that this year should be more about plans and a vision of how we want our lives to shape up. A decade may seem like a long time in looking forward, but how many of us remember 2010? Does it really feel like ten years ago?

So a ten year vision is relevant, as in 2030 those of us still alive will look back on this decade and wonder what we did with our lives. Hopefully I will be one of the “us” above. But each decade that passes makes that possibility less likely.

The average among us, after childhood and teenage angst, has about six of these decades to play with. So planning how we use them is not just relevant but important.

We owe it to ourselves to be aware of time. And we should always ask ourselves if we are using our time here wisely. Of course, the definition of “wisely” for each one of us is likely different and that is altogether fine. I mean, we are all supposed to live our lives in our own ways.

But whatever way you want to live your life, it should be a conscious decision. There will be many things that happen to you that are outside of your control, but the general direction of your life should be one that you set, adjust, and set again.

If we don’t chart a course for ourselves, how will we ever know if we get there?

When my girls were young, they referred to me as the plan-man and while I do some things that are spontaneous, I guess in the main, I try to follow a plan.

Plans give us direction. And vision gives our plan a purpose.

If ever a year was about vision, surely 2020 is it.

So, establish in your mind a vision for how you would like to spend this coming decade and then set a plan that allows you the opportunity to achieve it.

For my part, I want to focus my energies this coming decade on the loves of my life and the world that I live in. I hope you take this moment to focus your own energies on whatever is important to you.

And I wish you a very Happy New Year!

By any other name

I woke up to a rainy morning here in Florida … soft rain, the kind that seems as much mist as rain. So the thought occurred to me that this might be the perfect morning to head to a patch of roses that I know not far from me, with camera in hand.

And it was a good choice.

I wanted to play in tight to the flowers and focus on the presence of rain drops on their petals. I have taken shots like this a number of times and in truth, I can never get enough.

Roses by themselves are beautiful anyway, but adding a touch of mist takes them up a notch in my opinion.

As I wandered from flower to flower, I breathed in such a beautiful aroma and it made me regret that cameras cannot (yet) capture the scent. Sometimes the pictures themselves can only tell half the story.

It was a flower-shop level smell and until cameras do manage to capture scent, you will just have to take my word that this smell alone made my trip worthwhile.

I hope you enjoy the selection of shots at the end of the post. I was pretty happy with the end result and secure in the knowledge that it was a morning well spent.

As I sat back in the car, I mused with the thought that I really am poor at knowing flowers names. I love them, don’t get me wrong. I am just unable to commit to memory what they are called. Hence the safety of knowledge this morning that I was really dealing with roses. I mean, everyone knows a rose.

Then I recalled that line out of Romeo and Juliette where Shakespeare pronounced that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. And of course, he was right.

My thoughts then drifted along how obsessed we become with naming things and how we often use naming as a mechanism to enhance or detract.

For example, we only go to war against “militants, militias, and regimes”, while we have “defense forces” acting on behalf of a “democratic government”. When a people try to liberate their country from oppression or invasion, we refer to them as “terrorists”. Unless of course, we agree with them, in which case they become “freedom fighters”.

Name calling has become a tool of choice these days for the twitter idiot who tries to fire up his base with pathetic “sleepy, crooked, or nasty” tags for those who actually have a moral high ground.

I remember in school years when name calling was seen as something that only bullies did … oh wait, scratch that thought.

We use naming as a mechanism to continually sort and place in boxes, people, groups, and things that we agree or don’t agree with. And sometimes we obsess with names that people even call us.

But does it really matter what we call anything? I understand that we have to be able to teach our young how to identify and that type of naming is fine.

But when we use naming in order to characterize, we step too far towards an extreme. We refer to sharks as “predators”, yet we savage them in unbelievable numbers so some idiots can have a bowl of shark fin soup.

We use the name “Killer Whale” because it fills the seats at water worlds while we brutalize and abuse these Orcas.

We use the name “prostitute, slut, or whore”, to degrade women that invariably have higher morals than the men that tag them as such. But it crates an artificial high ground from which we can look down on them.

We use the word “mob” to describe a large group of people whose motivation we disagree with. But a “gathering or crowd” if it happens to be something we agree with.

I often try to pull my thoughts on these subjects down to a natural world level. I ask myself what takes place in the natural world that is comparable. As far as I can tell, animals don’t discriminate against other animals based on a name or description. They only ask “can I eat it or will it eat me?”

The closest I could come to in this regards was from Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. Where the Fraggles name for us humans was “Silly Creatures”.

Did they get it right or what?

Origins

I was working today on a press release about our merger of GaelCom into Caoilte and went looking for an image to explain who Caoilte was.

in 1994 when my Dad and I first set up Caoilte in GA and Ireland, we chose the name based upon the Ronan ancestor of 2,000 years ago. Dad invested some of his hard earned money as a statement of belief in me and as the initial Chairman of the company, he was my go-to person for solid advice.

Of course, outside of the company he was also my rock and so it was no real surprise that he would play this same role in this business venture.

Some people when starting a company opt for the family name and our variant was an attempt to go deeper than that. Caoilte was a heroic figure from the days of the Fianna in Ireland … a true reminder of perhaps Ireland’s most heroic past.

This was long before the perpetual battle with the auld enemy (England) and is written in folklore as the final pagan years before the arrival of christianity to the island.

While based in historical facts, many of the stories became embellished in their retelling and heroes assumed almost mythical qualities and achieved miraculous victories over monstrous and evil enemies.

But beneath the stories and their wonderful imagery, was the underlying value system of ancient Ireland. Simple values of honor, integrity, and truth that either became the justification for marvelous victories or the tears of sorrowful defeats.

Over a thousand years before England’s Magna Carta sought to establish basic legal rights for its citizens, Ireland was already in possession of the oldest codified laws in Europe … a legal system based largely on civil relationships and trading heavily on honor, truth, and integrity. These laws, known as the Brehon Laws, were gradually destroyed by a christian revolution over the following centuries and more hierarchical laws favoring kings, wealth, and power became the law of the land.

It is strange to think that the world wasn’t always run within a framework that favored the rich and powerful. We are taught to think that what we now have in terms of rights and laws are an improvement over a barbaric past.

But as I paused today and imagined the world that my ancestor existed in, I couldn’t help but think that he would be woefully disappointed about the world we have manufactured for ourselves.

In so many ways, or living is better. Health and comforts are dramatically improved and few of us would really wish to exist in a time when reaching 40 was a somewhat miraculous achievement.

But I wonder why our core values also had to change. Why is truth no longer a gauge with which to measure a man? Why do men or women of honor rarely succeed in this world while charlatans, liars, and cheats make it to the most powerful positions in our societies?

When France overthrew its aristocracy in the great revolution, it showed the power of the people to effect change. So when people choose inaction and allow tyrants to rule and commit atrocities, then the people themselves are complicit. We become passive enablers of our own demise.

I think what I ended up with in answer is that mankind has become essentially a lazy collaborator that empowers the liars and cheats as long as they line our pockets and keep us fed. We are little more than sheep in the field that dutifully follow the leader without question, as long as there is grass to chew on. Even if we are being led to the slaughter.

How did we stray so far from our origins? At what stage did we sell our souls and at what stage will we recognize what we have done.

When a 16 year old Swedish girl stands up and screams that we need to correct these wrongs, we allow some dotard to bully her with unrestrained twitter feeds that give more grass to his base.

When we allow these idiots to tell us that black is really white and that anyone who says otherwise is guilty of fake news, we step even further away from our origins and devalue any truth and honor still remaining.

There is an old adage that I believe in that essentially says that in order to really know where you are going, you must first understand where you have come from.

For my part, I look back a couple thousand years and remind myself that their initial value system of truth, honor, and integrity must form the foundation stones of anything I try to achieve in life.

Is there any reason it shouldn’t form a foundation for you?

Christmas morning

It was as quiet a Christmas morning as I could imagine. I awoke alone in the house except for my kitties and of course, Ada, our little rat. I was out of bed at 5:30 and had everyone fed (including myself) by 6.

It would be a few hours yet before company would arrive, so I grabbed my coffee and my trusty old camera and headed off to the lake to see what the sunrise might bring.

The roads couldn’t have been much more quiet than they were, as the whole world seemed yet asleep.

For a few seconds I was pissed off when I realized there was a solid blanket of cloud above me and with about a half hour to sunrise, there was unlikely to be any break that might allow the sun to poke through.

But it would have been impossible to stay upset very long … the soft gentle breeze from the lake and a temperature of low 60s, together with the occasional call of an overhead Osprey or nearby Heron … all creating an environment of relaxation and joy.

So I figured anyway that a true photographer would know how to take a grey morning start and turn it into something art-worthy. Without photoshop, that is. And so I messed with the camera settings a little, turned the shutter speed to about 20 seconds, closed down the aperture, and set the ISO as low as it would go.

These two pics below show the net effect and while they won’t win me a pulitzer prize, they both go some distance to capturing the whole mood of the start of Christmas Day 2019. I hope you enjoy!

By the time I got home and began to start the whole dinner preparations, I was already locked in a moment of zen and my soul seemed to have found a quiet corner to rest.

And that is really what created today’s thought was that I wanted to share … inner peace and the importance it plays in our life.

Like most people, even on my best days, I allow stresses and pressures to drive much of my inner calm. I try to control and manage them as much as I can, but there always seems to be something playing around inside my head.

Whether it is a wish, a plan, a happening, or even just an imagining, there always seems to be something that works against my inner balance and tries to pull me in some direction or other.

So, moments like this morning, where I find myself hitting a true moment of inner calm, are extremely precious. Such a moment reconstitutes your soul to where life seems genuinely fine. Waiting 20 seconds for a shutter to close and doing it several times, while you stand there in the quiet and dim surrounds, tends to take your mind away from life.

You become aware of your own inner heartbeat and each breath becomes a source of peace.

I can see why people who meditate, choose to do that. And to truly experience it with meditation, you have to be able to tune out your surrounds and focus on nothingness.

But when you find a special spot, like I did this morning, you don’t need to tune anything out. There was no traffic, no external noises, no bright colors … just the solitude and me.

Obviously we all live in different places and while Florida affords me the chance to drive ten minutes and experience such zen, others may not be so fortunate.

But however and wherever you find it, I suggest that you do so. Because however you end up grounding yourself, the benefits of doing so is significant.

Inner peace is such a precious commodity. It is not something that we should realistically expect for every moment of our lives. There is far too much chaos in the world and only in death are we truly expected to rest in peace.

There have been many more lively, entertaining, joyous, and festive Christmas holidays for me than this one. But it would to difficult for me to recall one that nourished my soul as much.

I wish you all a peaceful Holiday …

Under the Tree

This is the time of year when most of us us become givers and if we are very lucky, we even receive. We can remember a childhood Christmas perhaps where we found the perfect gift under the tree.

I was lucky enough last night to find Michelle under the tree … her hubby lent her to me for the evening and even though it rained almost continuously, we still had great fun and got some decent Christmasy type pics.

I feel very lucky at times to have such special friends in my life that can turn a wet and miserable evening into a special and unforgettable moment. Michelle is one such friend … thank you, young lady!

I hope you like the little selection of pics at the end of this blog! Apart from the Christmas tree aspect in a couple of them. I loved the long exposure treatment of them that gave me some cool motion blurs on people that past by. See if you can see these ghosts!

Christmas happens to be my favorite time of year and not because of the giving or receiving, but I love how people suddenly become more friendly.

Part of this of course is mechanized friendliness as we experience an extension of the typical cashier “Have a nice day” at all the retail and restaurant places we happen to go.

But most of what we encounter is genuine … people feeling good within themselves to where they spontaneously give us a Happy Holidays greeting.

It has a warming effect on us when we experience a Happy Holidays moment from a stranger and it is also very contagious as suddenly we hear ourselves wishing the same to total strangers because they held a door open for us, or even perhaps just smiled as they handed us their cart in a parking lot.

Happy communications are one of the wonderful features of humanity. we have a huge selection of words, gestures and facial expressions that much of the animal kingdom doesn’t really have.

So my question (and the thought behind today’s blog) is “why do we reserve this aspect of who we are for just holiday moments?”

Why are we unable to carry this same feeling of caring and compassion throughout the year and into all of our interactions with humans and creatures alike?

I mean, I have even seen conservatives smile at people of color this time of year. But the rest of the year, they want to build walls and only let them in when it’s time to pick the strawberries.

Is it that we can only recognize fellow humans when they are wearing red and green and donning Santa hats? Perhaps that is what it is; our color blindness is triggered by reds and greens while browns and mochas don’t trigger our “this is a human” response.

It doesn’t take anything from us to be nice. We are not lessened by holding a door, giving a smile, or helping a stranger. In fact, we typically benefit from such an act and we experience reflected smiles and the inner warmth of having done something good.

I remember noting that one big difference when I moved to the US from Ireland. Growing up there, you acknowledged almost everyone you passed on the street with a smile, or “lovely morning isn’t it?”, or something similar. No one was treated like a stranger and doors were always held open.

But here we have built built bubbles around ourselves that separate us from “strangers”. We warn our children away from strangers, demonize those “rapist” immigrants, and only hold the door for good looking young women so we can check them out.

It is sad. Very sad.

Because being nice to our fellow travelers in life can genuinely enrich our own journey and make us better people. There is that saying in Ireland that a stranger is only a friend you haven’t yet met (or something like that) and it extols and openness that offers the possibility of a reflected benefit of future friendship.

Where and when did we lose that openness?

Wars and conflicts started the rot, Where everyone fought with god on their side and the enemy was demonized to the point of pure evil. Hence, the perpetual battle of good versus evil.

But in America we extended that into sport, where winning is the only option and where the opposition were simply losers . And now we have extended this into politics where we have allowed ourselves to be polarized into opposite camps where we demean those that don’t agree with us and bully them on twitter to the raucus applause of our base.

This is so sad and very difficult to recover from. And in truth it is up to our children to rescue us.

You see, they don’t see color the way we do. They are born without prejudice and unaware that they are supposed to fear strangers.

When the true shift in recognizing that all humans are equal needed to happen, it began with open teaching at a child level. Adults retained their bigotry but had to hide it away in the shadows.

And so once again humanity will rely on the next generation to save us from ourselves. A few good teachers will work to lay the foundations. a few good parents will grow the empathy for fellow man within their children, and a few good leaders will establish the guidelines and tear down walls.

I will be long gone by the time it all happens but I have every confidence that it will. One day, browns and mochas will be every bit as recognizable as reds and greens and people will extend their humanity outside of the holiday season.

Happy Holidays everyone!