Category Archives: Encouragement

A Little Package of Big Inspiration

Fill the frame
The hummingbirds have long since moved on from where I am now to warmer places for the winter. I don’t blame them. More than once in the past few months I also considered flying south until the weather warmed up.

When they are in town, these little acrobats always amaze me with their antics. Trying to get a picture of them teaches me great patience as well. They move fast, rarely stay in one place very long, and tend to be a little apprehensive around me and my big black camera; even when using a zoom lens and sitting very still a ways away.

RubyThroatAcro

The average hummingbird weighs in at a whopping 3 grams. For comparison; the nickel in your pocket weighs 4.5 grams. It seems that the hummingbird is a lot of fluff. They are also one of the most aggressive bird species around and have no hesitation to take on big blue jays, crows, and even hawks that infringe on their territory.

As small as they are; there are some specific species that migrate more than 2000 miles every year. A few even include a 500 mile nonstop journey across the Gulf of Mexico. Makes me tired just trying to comprehend that trip.

As migratory birds, hummingbirds serve two very important purposes. They can transport resources between ecosystems located thousands of miles apart. They also assist with pollination, which is vital to many trees and flowers that would not be able to reproduce without the aid of the mighty hummingbird.

All this is interesting to some degree, but why do I care about this pocket-sized bird?

To me it is a small package with large-sized inspiration all around it.

I’m encouraged that the size of this bird does not impact its vision of what it can achieve. Size plays no part in deterring it from pushing toward the goals it needs to accomplish. The hummingbird doesn’t stop to worry about the bigger competition, larger obstacles, or percived impediments. It can move quicker and in different directions than the larger birds it encounters. There is no indication that this bird spends any wasted time considering areas of weakness and uses all its unique attributes as strengths for accomplishing the task at hand.

The hummingbird does not appear to have a confidence problem; and it proves itself with remarkable feats that would not be considered reasonable by just looking at its stature. I like the way this little bird thinks big.

All business and all great projects start as a small thought or idea, but with proper nurturing they can grow into big accomplishments and a create lasting impact even from a small footprint.

Like the pint-sized squeaker; I’ll continue to focus on the staying power of consistent determination and watch small philosophies become large successes.

Love the Islands But Don’t Be One.

Lostinthecrowd

These little birds don’t communicate like you and I. In fact, while watching them wander along the shoreline I never heard them make a single noise. And yet, as the waves would brush up onto the beach the entire group would move as if connected. Mesmerized, I followed their dance up and down the sandy promenade that mirrored the ebb and flow of the gentle water waltz. Occasionally, the group would stop and some members would plop down to rest, the others going on about their business with little regard for the setting few. Then, as quickly as they stopped, they jumped up again and meandered their way along the shoreline in search of the next best thing to find, whatever it might be they were looking for.

Although they moved as a group, it was clear that they did not have any specific pattern of interaction. Each little avian hunter appeared expertly focused on whatever tasty morsel it might find in the fringes of the watery diner and seemed oblivious to what the active peeper next to it might be doing. As an observer, it was fascinating to see this flock move as a unit, yet work as individuals. There was not an obvious collective goal, but it did feel like they had a strong desire to remain together. Interesting and fun to watch.

I know that many times in the past I also wandered through the day in crowds of people and focused on my own tasks at hand, unaware or maybe unfocused on the people surrounding me. It is so easy to get lost in myself at times. In fact, some of my loneliest moments presented while surrounded by the largest number of people.

I believe we’ve all been there at one point or another and truthfully that helps to consider that this feeling is never unique to just me. But how I deal with it is so much more important. As so well put by John Donne:

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Perspective is the key and understanding that although at times I may walk with blinders on toward those around me, and try to consider myself alone, as soon as I am willing to open my eyes to the synergistic quality of human life; I am no longer capable of being alone or lonely.

Passion and Water; A Reflection that Works.

BeauCopyr2010BAC

The elderly man shuffles slowly down a deserted street, fatigue weighing heavily on his shoulders. The broom he pushes falls without ceremony to the ground as he grabs to his hat. Gusting wind sends old paper wrappers and an empty can clanking down the empty street before it. Cigarette butts litter the sidewalk, mixed with confetti and slowly dying balloons. The dampness from a recent rain brings up the musty smell of wet cardboard into the air, rising from the nearby alleyway clogged with old boxes and burdened with evidence of population overload.

Two days ago it was impossible to walk this same path without being jostled about by the crowd. Not today. The holiday is passed and the parade is over. What was festive is now dull and lifeless with little to celebrate but the triumph of one more block to clean and the knowledge that another days work will be offered. The gentleman picks up his broom from where it fell, adjusts his hat and starts the repetitive motion of pushing filth once again.

Sometimes work is just that. Work. According to the Deloitte Shift Report in 2013, a whopping 89% of the workforce is not passionate about their jobs. 11% responded that they felt passionate about what they did for a living. Only 11%. Ouch.

I tried to be passionate a few times, but work got in the way. Too many people whose passion is themselves and they pay for it at the expense of others. I still hold onto promise and search regularly for the passion to make tomorrow’s work a focus of desire and not just a necessity. I need the hope. One day I hope not to need the job.

In the interim, I take pictures and reflect on the moments they capture. I use the memories of frozen pixels as a handhold to lift me from the struggles of today into the hopefulness of tomorrow. I see the storms of life and know they too shall pass, usually with a powerful sunset and the refreshing calmness that following a summer thunderstorm. I stare into the calm waters and see the reflection of clouds moving to their next adventure. I wait patiently for my next adventure as well.

The street sweeper continues to push his broom, knowing the next parade will someday come and go with celebration and fanfare. I will continue to find the reflections of optimism in the pictures I take and we will both wake tomorrow with a renewed sense of purpose.

Some Days The Fight Doesn’t Need To Be Part of the Struggle

Dock

Ouch. This was a rough week.

In the struggle of what I wish my life was like every day and the real life I have to deal with, real life won out by a large margin this week.

Times like this I have to go back to a very simple but favorite saying for encouragement, “They say it gets better in the end, so if it’s not getting better, it must not be the end!”. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I hope they have the wisdom of the ages to back up that prediction.

I strive to maintain a level mood, and most days I am very successful. I do this by drifting back to places like the picture above. This was taken on a small lake in North Carolina. I wandered out on this dock as the sun began to set over a very calm water. No wind. No sound. No distractions but my own thoughts. I was alone and void of pressure from outside. It required me to focus on letting myself get just as calm on the inside. This helps me remember that inner peace is something I can really get used to.

So much goes on around me every day that can really put a hurting on my emotional stability. Like others around me, I have to deal with illogical people; people who are smarter in their heads than they are in real life; people who challenge my integrity and my sanity at the same time. Add to that the noise of everyday living, the pressures I let others put upon me, and internal strife that I carry as baggage from the past; Kaboom. If I let it all have a piece of my soul, there will never be any left for me.

So I can’t let that happen.

I find my “dock” like the one above. I take a few minutes and realize that the only person I have to answer to every day is myself. I need to step back, breathe deeply and let out the frustration that comes along in dealing with other beings. We all have our daily battles. I am not alone and can’t survive by always being focused on just my struggles without taking a moment to identify my part in keeping these struggles alive, and how I chose to get caught up in group angst.

I need to ask myself: Am I trying the hardest I can to do the best with what I have and who I have to work with? Do I look to find the common goals I might have even with those who are selfishly only looking out for their own interests every day? Can I do something to make the people around me happier and try to improve my environment by improving theirs? Do I try to change the things I can’t and create my own internal struggles in the process?

This week I need to spend a few more hours sitting on the dock. I need to flush the poison of emotional sabotage from my system and breathe back in the realization that I don’t need to let others pick away at my soul. They can chose to do that to themselves, but not to me. My goal will never be to help them self destruct, but always just to help them get into a better place when I can.

I will get up tomorrow and do what I am able and as long as the end of the day lets me lay my head back down with my integrity and my character intact; I’ll be ready to do it again the next tomorrow that I may be granted access to.

Past Meets Present and Keeps Me Going Forward

Past Meets PresentHead down and arms out as I push hard against the heavy hanger door. Cold steel pushes back against the palms of my hands and the loud squeal of sliding rusty metal permeates the quiet of the morning. My breath is visible in the air around my head, suspended in the frigid spell of dawn. A distant rumble shakes the sleepiness from my mind and the wandering thoughts bouncing around become more focused. I smell the aroma of burning fuel and oil as I’m snapped awake by the stiff breeze generated when four large radial engines are summoned to move history from the 1940’s to the present and get it airborne. In awe I watch as a ghost from the past ambles by on rubber shoes and slowly lifts itself into the waiting blue sky.

Excitement replaces sleepiness and I can’t wait to follow that path upward as I get my less notable craft ready to go.

Bird are born to fly. Humans had to work hard to accomplish the same feat. I appreciate the dedication and sacrifices made by the many who poured their heart and soul into the goal of taking mankind from a ground based being who was stuck to the earth by the glue of gravity and giving us the freedom to change our perspective skyward. I love to fly and putting into words the feeling it gives me is one of the few things I struggle to describe. The closest I can come is an excerpt from the most famous poems about it:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of …

–John Magee “High Flight”

I wish I could go back and watch that first interaction; the first time someone told someone else they were going to try and fly. I can only imagine the laughter and ridicule that followed. Fly like a bird? Are you crazy? I am certain that same conversation played out many times again and again over the years, but with a different subject. You are going to make a pen that you don’t ever have to dip in an ink well? Are you crazy? You want to make a contraption that travels faster than 35mph on wheels? Are you crazy? You want to make a boat that travels across the oceans but does not use a sail? Are you crazy? You are going to get into that aircraft and fly faster than the speed of sound? Are you crazy?

I wonder what our world would look like today if any of those who challenged the common sense of the times listened to the nay-Sayers, put down their work and wandered off? I wonder how many times I have really been my own worst enemy in this same department and convinced myself that the goals I have are foolish ones?

The B-17 pictured above was ahead of it’s time and changed the course of history for many people. Someone had an idea and was encouraged to follow it. The rest really is history.

I have ideas and I have dreams. I don’t need to change history for many, but I do need to make sure I don’t let my own fears or the negative words of others change mine.

Time for me to fly. I never was very good at keeping my head out of the clouds.

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