Eastern Standard Time

For a few days toward the end of October, there was some fuss about turning back our clocks one hour. The running complaint focused on days getting shorter even though we “gain” an hour of time. Early darkness just made things, well, darker, physically and qualitatively; it gets darker outside and for some, darker within one’s psyche.

I suppose I’m the odd person out; I shouldn’t “suppose” as I am an odd person with such things. Sunsets that announce evenings arriving earlier is not a big deal for me. Like some form of line dancing flitting across the horizon, once again daylight and night trade places, and time marches on without losing a single beat.

Whether it’s 4:30 in the afternoon or 8:30 at night, I don’t tire of sunsets. Some are dramatic in their intensity and expanse, others are less so, their palate of warm colors as soothing and inviting as those found in an impressionist painting.

There’s nothing standard about this light that quickly dissolves into shadows of dark blue and greys. The one constant I’ve felt through the years has been the brevity of the light which morphs an hour before and up to sunset. The times are few when I don’t have a camera by my side, yet on those days when I don’t, I sometimes forget about today’s most ubiquitous of cameras, the ones found in today’s smartphones. And they are amazing tools for photography, videography and more.

The photograph shown here was taken within that half-hour before sunset. The way the light and shadows shifted was a process all too short, perhaps as short as the traffic light that changed to green shortly after I took one photo. Figures. The one time I hoped for a few more seconds stopped at a red light just wasn’t there.

For the various times we use our phones to take a photo, we hope that one shot becomes the money shot. We want just one, a really good one, which connects with everything and anything that courses through our thinking and feeling. I relish the feeling of making this particular shot. The stoplight, the headlights, the reflections on the car hood, the gradations of orange and yellow, blue and grey are a surprising though welcome confluence of order.

A confluence of order. We can use some of that in the here and now regardless of whatever time or GMT standards we’re in.

Space

I am convinced that modern life has boxed us in more so than we’d like. It’s part of the contemporary territory which includes both our professional and personal lives. There’s a surfeit of information, misinformation as well as disinformation. We have data that’s important, partially accurate or altogether inaccurate, the latter done purposely in order to deceive and create confusion.

The spaces outside and within our mind are under siege. This coronavirus pandemic has produced a variety of empty spaces in the form of closed businesses, a void born from a lost loved one, an even larger, emptiness created by becoming unemployed and losing our face-to-face social connections with friends and family.
In addition we see meadows, forests and even arable acres, reshaped with new developments, new businesses, and right-of-way passages for utilities. These spaces, like others, will never resemble their former selves.

The modern mind is challenged with the illusory nature of augmented realities, misinterpreted online interactions, the CGI creations readily seen on the big and small screen and so on. I would wager that ruminating is a regular mental exercise for many, in ways that even the thinker didn’t think possible in the here and now.
It’s not that such spaces are wanting for content. Some of the content in our heads is twisted and distorted, an unattractive morass of schadenfreude and unforgiving defenestrations toward those with authority, power and privilege.

A lot of good space has been replaced with some nasty creations, tangible and intangible, palpable and even unreasonable.
We’re better than a lot of this, each of us capable of individual betterment. I remind myself in my own spaces of thinking and feeling that, at times it’s okay to be embarrassed in one’s journey to be genuine. I think it aids my ability to acknowledge what occupies my internal and external spaces other than what’s so obvious not only to myself, but to others.
As in marketing, perception is reality: it’s not what you’re getting, but what you think you’re getting.

Color

Autumn is my favorite season for a variety of reasons: the cooler, drier air is both invigorating and refreshing, the quality of light is remarkable, at times appearing clearer on even overcast days. Even time feels slower with a more gentle cadence though by mid-November, I wonder how it went by so quickly. Certainly it goes without saying that the foliage change can be magical, even personally restorative.

Many years ago, I attended a photojournalism workshop at what was then called The Maine Photographic Workshops in Camden, now known as Maine Media Workshop located in Rockport, a mere stone’s throw from Camden. Located half-way up the coast of Maine, the town of Camden sits next to Penobscot Bay. I haven’t been back since, so I hope it hasn’t lost its New England charm. It was quaint, quiet and photogenic to be sure.
You can glean techniques and technical knowledge from more places today than back then [now a surfeit of info sits on the web]. Convenience is nice, but for me, being engaged with a like-minded person is all the more rewarding. Levels of inspiration come to me when I visit an exhibition, a gallery or listen to or converse with a speaker whose work clearly validates that person’s passion for his/her choices.

I was fortunate to have heard and seen in person Jay Maisel, Ernst Haas and Dick Durrance. Titans of their craft, I learned more than just technique, but a whole lot more about this passion to see things in a new way, to transcend the connections of light, color, subject, interpretation and meaning. My brain needed to do some real lifting and learning, and was thus able to do so when my soul became the catalyst to assist with that lifting and learning.

I like to think of seasonal transitions as a form of recalibration. It’s more than a reset, because to reset anything is effectively returning to its default state. Recalibration is a nuance in alignment. If I’m not sure of what I’m feeling when I look through a viewfinder, I move a few or more steps to one side or another, as well as toward or away from my subject. Recalibrating.

There are similarities in writing, but they’re a bigger challenge for me to describe. I suppose the very title of this post lends itself to recalibrating: adjust the “color” of your words such as tone, passive versus active voice, even a tweak in aliteration to keep your narrative—and your thinking—interesting.

Autumn just doesn’t land here in the northeast; when it does arrive it’s akin to that sense of belonging, of knowing that your journey—in spite of personal hills and valleys—continues with the expected and as well as the unexpected. I like all the seasons, but fall is the one which captures the zeitgeist of the rest of the calendar. It’s a short period of time, that in its most fundamental form, feels like the comfort food that’s been sorely missing for more than half the year.

Connections

I love Cape Cod. The season doesn’t matter, but late summer is often a great time. There’s less traffic and a more laid back atmosphere. The beaches and wharfs hold less people, though there are those hearty souls who continue their routines swimming parallel to the shore.
I watch the few on the beaches, most in their chairs, some sitting or lying across a large towel. Others are involved in conversation or quietly engrossed with a book in hand.
You can always count on walkers tracing their steps first one way, then on their return trip to a starting point. The most jubilant are often a dog and its owner. They’ve waited for the moment when the beach was available to them and their joy is clearly displayed. This is the kind of connection that’s about as simple and straightforward as it can get: get out and spend time with good friends, family, your dog—even yourself.

The men enjoying their cocktails aboard a boat speaks of many types of connections: family, work colleague, college room mate, best friend, and so forth. Between the “remember when….did you hear….whatever happened to…” are those moments of hilarity, some brought on by something long past, others in more recent times. Nostalgia connects with the present.

I love the Cape, especially for the many connections its made for me.

Details

A static photograph of an Osprey doesn’t say much about the grace and power of this winged predator. Like many of her cousins, these sharp-eyed birds of prey manifest the attributes to which we ascribe to: a sense of purpose, focus, determination, endurance, patience, where at most we, strive to procure or refine 2 or 3 from that list.

I’m not a birdwatcher nor bird photographer. These serendipitous images were taken during a walk along a beach. In spite of an overcast, somewhat foggy-ish, misty day, you could discern the silhouette as well as the contrast in its feathers. Notice the plumage in a brownish-black to a grayish white, the sharply hooked beak, the yellow of the eyes, the elasticity of its neck—or at least a hint of that feature.

Look at the nest and you may notice other details. Two plastic bags entangled with the nest, one on the right of the photo, the other dangling from an edge closest to the Osprey. I’m certain there are other man-made pieces entwined or even trapped within the pile of twigs they call home.

We can get hung up on details on just about anything. Like a trompe l’oeil, what we see varies from one person to the next. In my case, I noticed those bags right after seeing the Osprey. You may have seen it the opposite way and yet others may have taken a bit longer to realize the incongruous detail.
These days, we’re bombarded with too many things which ad weight onto our anxieties. We can—and should—work to step back from such things and realize that in spite of the current discord, there are other details worth looking at, even searching for.

Features & Benefits

If there’s one thing obvious about marketing and advertising is that they attempt to shape your perception, to one of acceptance or revulsion. In this politically charged environment, I’d say most political advertising encompasses the latter. But we’re not going there today.

Here we have 2 wooden structures, one historical [circa 1800s], the other modern. Now, one may think that the modern structure offers more features: pressure treated wood, steel anchor collars, robust carriage bolts, nuts and washers [possibly even zinc treated to resist corrosion] etc. Well, it does have more features; it has to given its function. But it doesn’t mean it’s better than the simpler one, rather, the modern structure is built specifically for conditions and utility common to coastal areas. Both types share similar benefits albeit differentiated by design, materials and construction.
Well, the purpose of the modern structure may be the same as our historical one, that is, to prevent something from entering or leaving a specified area, perhaps protecting one side more so than the other.

Before you clobber me with the apples-to-orange inequality of this comparison, the point I’m making is that consumers often equate features as benefits. If you’re anything but a design engineer, you may think that the metal anchors or collars wrapped around the angled stanchions may be unnecessary. However, if you live, perhaps even work along this shoreline, you would know that the tides and storm surges exert an astounding amount of pressure against barriers. The added strength of the collars is beneficial to the overall strength of the structure.

“This unit can do more than its closest competitor.”

courtesy: Whirlpool

On a recent trip to one of the box stores, I couldn’t help but overhear a salesperson singing the amazing features of a particular dual-door refrigerator. NOTE: the courtesy photo is for illustration and is not the product being referenced herein.
“…..with the app on your computer, that model can sense when it’s time to restock, bread or cheeses or certain vegetables or frozen dinners…”
The technology, the artificial intelligence that’s coming to market, can be impressive. But will it work on my iPhone 6S or will I need an Android system?
You know, my home fridge has an ice-maker, though it doesn’t automatically dispense into my glass when held below a special port. Mine? Open the freezer door and grab ice from the container, a container purchased separately, BUT, looks like it came with my fridge. Typically I empty two ice trays into that container, refill the trays with water and return to the freezer. In less than 10 minutes, you’ll have ice that’s just as good as what the cyborg-fridge can automatically deliver to your glass.

My hand is the delivery and presentation vehicle. And it works. No downloads, no firmware, no software….basically, I’m somewhere with basic technology versus, being nowhere or confused with this hi-tech stuff. Now, if I was that customer learning about the smart appliance in question, perhaps the dialogue would go something like this:

Salesperson: It’s an amazing piece of technology. It can monitor your food and beverage consumption, conveniently at your fingertips. You use an app on your smartphone. It’s a big plus for busy families.
Me: That’s impressive, but it’s a feature that I don’t need or really want.
Salesperson: You can even check it from just about anywhere in your house. That’s real convenience.
Me: Actually, I find it more convenient doing it my way.
Salesperson: And how’s that?
Me: I walk into the kitchen, open the door and make note of what’s still there and what needs to be added onto the grocery list.
Salesperson: How is that more convenient?
Me: Well, it’s not just convenience for me, but a benefit.
Salesperson: Oh….?
Me: It’s called walking. For me that’s a benefit. I already do too much sitting at work.
Salesperson: That’s a valid point, but not really helpful. I mean we’re talking about making your life simpler, by doing less chores, to get more time to do things you’d rather do..
Me: I’d rather get up and move. Besides, I get a chance to scope what’s not in there, but whether the shelves need cleaning or if an expiration date goes back to the Nixon administration.
Salesperson: Wait, who’s Nixon…? Anyway, think of it as an evolution towards the future of appliances. You, the homeowner, can control all your appliances such as your TV, your A/V installations, the lights and the thermostats and so forth.
Me: ….and without even breaking a sweat.
Salesperson: Exactly.
Me: Will people really adapt to this technology? I imagine someday my health insurance being able to buy data regarding my food preferences, and since I love ice cream, well, a dietician or cardiologist may take issue with that…who knows?
Salesperson: Hey, well, hopefully that won’t be the case. I mean there’s a ton of places where information can be bought for marketing or research…that kinda stuff.
Me: Of course….you know and I know that your actual mileage may vary…capisce?
Salesperson: Ah, yeah, sure….have you seen the new washers and dryers that are out now?

The calm that follows…

We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.    Native American proverb.

It seems much of the news these days revolves around weather. Just 3 weeks ago, a powerful storm tore through the northeast delivering colossal amounts of rain and dangerous winds. Add to that the trees ripped apart or from out-of-the-ground and it’s easy to understand why some think the “end is near.”

As this is being written, yet another hurricane struck the southern shores of Texas, Louisiana and Florida. There are other storms gathering strength off the west coast of Africa. The most recent forecast now shows 4 tropical storms in the Atlantic, each with the potential of becoming a hurricane.

There’s plenty of talk about technology in particular advancements in biochemistry and mechanical engineering that are directed to saving our planet. There can never be a one-size-fits-most strategy created from a laboratory, but we cannot rule out the scientific efforts behind such pursuits. There’s good reason to continue work on such technologies. However, we can learn a thing or two about “natural climate solutions.” 

There’s a disquieting quality that follows catastrophic events: the eerie calm. It grates against my appreciation for a calm that I’m expecting, a calm based on softness, a level of assurance, inner peace and that sense of all is right in the world, even for just this moment. We appear to be experiencing less of that these days.

I’m reminded of a Judao-Christian saying, “The sin is not in failing, but in not trying.” Framed another way, there’s a lot of us carrying this sin of not trying.

Enough already. Enough.

 

Same Place. Different Times.

Without a doubt, I am finding greater comfort being outside. From the backyard to destinations within a 2-hour drive, being outdoors is just about mandatory to keep my sense of self from being weighed down by the harsh reality festered by  “insensitivities” of society as a whole.
The omnipresence of intolerance, indifference, ignorance, impropriety, apathy, hate, gratuitous violence on person and property and even more, is disheartening. Of greater significance is the increase of schadenfreude.

Enough already. Enough.

The outdoors is not my only sanctuary. I also find some relief, some comfort, some reduction of stress and disillusion through family and a handful of friends. And it’s not unusual to have some of these individuals with me on those occasions when the world is en route to hell-in-a-handbasket. Though as you might’ve gathered, I reserve the right to keep these individuals to myself. Some things are sacrosanct and will remain so. There are sound reasons for not sharing them here, and you know some of the reasons I’m sure.

But most can understand the power of the outdoors. In particular Native Americans—indeed the indigenous people of this planet who now inhabit small parcels of land that are but a shadow of times past—embody an understanding, acceptance and empathy for all that is nature, whether seen or not.

No, we haven’t lost paradise. Yet. We tempt fate, but I hope we can collectively muster the virtues and attributes we know make a difference for our future.

I’m hoping that at a different time in the future, many of the places I treasure as sanctuaries will remain “the same.”

Transitions

With September upon us, there’s that sense summer is nearing its end. You wouldn’t think that on such a day as this: it’s warm, bright, a slight breeze and plenty of green just about everywhere you look.

Yet the season’s already changing. My morning start is just a little darker than what it was a month ago. Some of the maple trees are starting to turn color. Shorter days means Autumn is at its threshold.

When I need to have some distance from this maddening world, the outdoors provide a good dose of calm and reassurance. It can be more challenging in urban areas, but parks are a viable alternative. Get outside and realize the natural world accepts you as you are.

This pandemic has modified if not altogether changed, the way we mark the change in seasons. Traditionally we associate baseball as the “start” of summer, football the beginning of autumn, basketball and hockey mark winter’s arrival. But many of these traditional markers have started later than usual. As a consequence, our seasonal clocks are skewed. This has been compounded further by schools having different protocols for their first day. Is that day for virtual online learning or in person at the actual building?

Time to get outside.

Wounds.

The power of water is astounding.  Trickles that turn into streams then morph to raging rivers—at times in a matter of a few minutes if not less—cannot be taken lightly. Trying to accurately track an object caught in fast-moving current is almost impossible. My August 5th post about The Falls clearly demonstrates the meaning of “fast-moving.”

Wind can be just as harrowing. Various parts of the country were seriously hit first by the rain storm Isaias then by a rare, but powerful wind storm called a “derecho.” The middle of our country bore the brunt of its force leaving what resembles a war zone.

Closer to home, there was considerable damage from this most recent windstorm. Though the harm and damage here pales to communities in Iowa and beyond, I’ve noticed pine and oaks uprooted and toppled over. The swath of this recent storm event caught me somewhat off guard.

Looking at the damaged trees produced that anthropomorphic feeling within me. The morphology of plants, and trees in particular, created a connection hard to ignore. My trunk or torso is akin to that of a tree. My arms and legs are limbs just as a tree has limbs. My core, like that of a tree, is the foundation that helps me stay upright.

It was apparent that these trees could no longer return to what they were only days before.  I’m not an arborist, but I surmised that nothing could be done to “save” any of the trees I looked at and photographed. Not a one.

When severe storms strike, all life is impacted in one way or another. However, plants and trees are particularly vulnerable because they are literally anchored to earth. They can neither hide nor escape their circumstance and their wounds are so obvious.

 

 

 

Dark, grey afternoons…

For all the misery and inconveniences really bad weather creates, storms have a unique appeal to me. They are fascinating creations. In the most dire of circumstances the devastation they leave behind is nothing short of incomprehensible, humbling and frightening.

On the other hand, bad weather has a way of fine tuning me to a mode that captures and enables the ephemeral: in one moment, a gentle falling rain suddenly becomes heavy, rampant, even vindictive in the force and quantity of water that dowses everything.

No sooner than the rain pummels the landscape, the water is then swept away, transitioned to a drizzle that moves ahead of a foggy veil suspended just behind the now gentle shower. I think of the various weather possibilities as moods, from the bright sunny days [hope, optimism, gratitude, e.g.] to the dull grey of a threatening sky ready to let loose its worse [depression, angst, regret, e.g.]. Weather figuratively produces such an array of moods.

Dark, grey afternoons carry a weight [wind, water, ice, snow, heat et al] that can lay to waste your surroundings as well as your inner landscape. Yet when I pick up my camera or take pen and journal to hand, I remind myself that things change. Storms have their beginnings and an end. And what happens in between can—and will—wreak havoc on the most carefully laid plans and intentions.

Events, like storms, are markers in time. And having a marker delineates a “before” and “after.”  What were you doing just before the storm hit? Where were you? We often have a stronger temporal sense of change whenever nature throws us the worse. Similarly, we celebrate when the change is for the better; some days are referred to as “picture-perfect…like a perfect postcard if you will.

The prologue to dark, grey afternoons can be a harbinger of bad stuff yet to arrive.  Still, I look at these harbingers for what they are: a dramatic dance of fleeting light, of varied grey swatches which masks greens, yellows and blue, of movements brought on by high wind speeds and even a gentle breeze.

Weather, in all its forms, is a fulcrum on our impressions of just how good or bad our day is doing.