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.
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.
Feeling extra ambitious the other day, I set out on an 8 mile hike to see a waterfall. I was anxious to make a trip like this before the leaves were done changing colors, and hoped to get some great autumn vibrancy captured for this year. The decision was firmed up when the temperatures dropped into a pleasant range and weather cooperated to make the trip enjoyable.
Forty miles of comfortable travel on paved roads brought me to the point of entry for my journey. Fifteen more miles of dirt road traveled slowly with muddy ruts and jarring potholes guided me to a flat spot to park the truck and started the hiking part of my adventure. The first of many choice confronted me. A number of routes were available and the wilderness trail I chose was one of the easier ones, but it connected with multiple others that could lead me astray if I didn’t stay alert.
Ahead of me, the trail started out flat; covered with a blanket of colored leaves that recently took flight from their perches and glided gently to the forest floor. A recent rain dampened the path and the familiar crunch of leaves underfoot was missing from my expected nature soundtrack. There was quiet in fact. Lots of quiet. Too far from the river to hear it even murmur, I was wrapped in the silence that descends from large trees when there is no wind to stir them on a crisp fall morning.
I walked on. The passage of time was lost to me and the weight of worldly stress lifted as the sound of the river grew louder; beating a hasty path over the rocks and trees that attempted to impede its enthusiasm. I let it lead me along until I reached the falls and watched the water yell as it jumped into the waiting pool below with a crash. Camera in hand, I wandered beside as an observer to the wet playground and took portraits of the trees and falling water; cascading poses that dancing sunlight used to build rainbows across my lens. A busy setting of active peace that surrounded me with multiple sensations.
And then it was time to leave. I made certain to find the correct trail and start back, occasionally checking my map just to be sure. I walked and listened; the soft leaves slowly beginning to dry and add character to my step. Walking around a corner, I was suddenly startled by another adventurer briskly heading by. He looked up, just as befuddled to run into someone on this otherwise lonesome trail.
We mumbled pleasantries and then he asked me in an offhand way; “how much further do I have to go?” To which I replied, “That depends on where you are going.” He laughed as he realized how vague he had been and how correct I was. More specifics were conveyed, information passed and we parted company; each going in our own direction.
As I continued on I contemplated the question that my fellow traveler asked and how it really was applicable to more than just this tree covered byway. How often do I start off on a new project before I very clearly identify the end goal? Do I take the time to make certain I’m headed in the right direction before I pick up my pace? Am I willing to stop and ask directions when I need them and when I do; am I careful to make sure the questions I ask are clear enough to get a proper response? Do I know what I want to accomplish next in this life so I can correctly figure out how much further I have to go on this leg of my travels?
I made it safely back to my truck before the sun went down and slowly started the rough ride back to reality. I left this journey with both colorful pictures and some added wisdom to take with me into my next tomorrow.
♦Photo Tip♦ I love to get the glowing, smooth picture of water as it runs over falls or down a rocky creek bed. To do this during the day requires two very important things. A tripod and a neutral density (ND) filter. The best way to get the look of blended water smoothly falling over the rocks is to use a shutter speed slower than 1/30th of a second. This is too slow to hold in your hand and keep the picture sharp. It also will cause the photo to be overexposed in daylight at most settings. The tripod gives you the steady base you need and the ND filter keeps the light down while the lens is open. The pair lets you take pictures like the one above.
A WanderingPixels blog remix.
A man wakes up early in the morning every day to go to work at a company he loves. He builds boats. He works with other people who build boats, specifically fishing boats. His particular craft, which he does well, is to hand-lay the air dried lumber planks that form the hull of the boat. He specializes in carvel planking, which he learned from his father who learned it from his father, who used the same technique when he built Tall Ships that crossed the oceans in earlier times.
The boats this man builds are used to catch shrimp off the coast of North Carolina. One boat in particular, the Miss Evans, spent many years in service bringing in shrimp that was served in restaurants up and down the East Coast. Some of those shrimp made it inland, traveling a few hundred miles on ice to satisfy the needs of Piedmont landlubbers craving a taste of the sea’s bounty.
In a small town in the central part of the state, there is a cozy diner that got a shipment of these delectable shrimp delivered only once or twice a year. It was news in this little town, and the arrival of the Miss Evans shrimp was always announced with fanfare. One particular individual was especially excited when the shrimp arrived. She had never seen the ocean. Confined to her bed by a tragic accident, she was limited in her ability to travel. Nonetheless, she appreciated good shrimp, and saved diligently to be able to purchase a few when they came to town. She never married and was focused on her trade.
Although immobile, she knew how to sew. She specialized in making jackets; heavy wool jackets that could keep a person warm and dry in the worst of weather. The fine detail and extra care that was put into her coats was well known. Each was handmade and crafted for the individual who ordered it. Although expensive by the standards of the time, she was only able to lovingly create 4 or 5 jackets a year due to the complexity of their needlework. Still, she had a waiting list of folks who wanted to own her treasured jackets that was pages long up until the day she died.
A gentleman from New England proudly wore one of those coats every day, weather permitting. He got the coat as a gift many years ago, from a friend who owned a boat building company. One of the workers had mentioned that his aunt made the nicest wool jackets, highly prized for their fit and finish. The owner had purchased a coat from Miss Evans and cherished it so much that gave a boat the same name, to honor her for the fine work she obviously took so much pride in doing.
The boat builder never knew a boat he carefully created had been named after his aunt.
The gentleman from New England later became president of the United States, wore the prized wool jacket at his inauguration, and now it hangs in the Smithsonian.
Miss Evans never knew that the shrimp she so loved came from a boat with her namesake, or a jacket she made became famous.
The owner of the boat building company eventually retired and moved inland. He bought a small diner in a central part of the North Carolina, where he serves shrimp when he can get it once or twice a year.
In the spirit of honesty; this story is a work of fiction. I created it while looking at the picture I took of a boat. And while none of it is true, the premise of the story line is not so far-fetched.
Edward Lorenz was a very smart man. His Chaos Theory, later leading to the term he coined– “The Butterfly Effect” describes how slight changes in one dynamic system can and will have an affect on other dynamic systems in proximity, which in turn will affect another, and so on. Basically stated, chaos is defined by Mr. Lorenz: “When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”
Fascinatingly confusing to try and think about for a simple mind like mine, but here is how I translate it:
I like to think that I have have potential for lots of unseen connections of some form or fashion. Most of my acquaintances and people I run into each day come from different backgrounds, perform different jobs, and cope with daily life in different ways. I think we all have a story to tell that brought us to where we are today. Although different in many ways, I think I still impact many people I don’t even know by what I say and do to get myself through the day. I wonder what type of tangled web I would discover if I could see all the lines that remotely tie us together as I wiggle through life every day.
I just hope when I flap my wings, like the butterfly in South Africa; I create something more pleasant than a hurricane.
As the sun slowly sets over the distant horizon another day comes to a close and our measured time washes another 24 hours from the bank of life. If I am there to witness it, I consider myself fortunate for the chance to use those minutes and hours to write another chapter in my own book of memories.
Time is an interesting quantifier. 525,600 minutes of our time tick off each year. On leap years, we get an extra 1,440 — a days worth. Whether I pay attention to it or not, the background passage time makes is not impacted by my actions. It moves at a constant pace regardless of how it is measured. And while I perceive time to pass at differing speeds relative to the activity I am present in each moment; it cares not about my perception and gracefully or not it marches right along.
One of my favorite aspects of photography is it allow me to freeze a moment in time and put it into a 2-dimensional package for me to hang on to. With these papers covered with no-longer-wandering pixels, I can re-create memories and return to past experiences for any reason I chose. The past is the past, but memory can make it feel real again in the present.
I have to be careful, though. For some of my past is not always good to have with me in the present. I file those memories under the category of REGRET. My favorite definition concerning regret is, “to continually go back and visit untoward memories with the hope the past will somehow change.” I know it can’t be done. I know that others are aware the past won’t ever be different than it was. Yet I can still wander around back there in self-pity and a state of mental destitute for days at a time; but always return with the same history I started with. Those minutes, or days, or weeks are wasted.
Henry David Thoreau made a fine recommendation, “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”
I still look back. I end up going that way sometimes. Perhaps another opportunity for positive change?
I can’t keep others from traveling into my past; especially to the memories I created with pain or suffering to them or others. All I can do is ask for forgiveness as payment on my debt and then I can travel in the present with a focused goal to not add to those debts. If my plea is ignored and those harmed chose to stay with regret in arrears, it is beyond my scope to belay it.
So I will chose to go forward tomorrow if I am allowed once more to be a part of that next 1,440 minutes of constrained eternity. I will look for good memories to pack into my camera and I will deliver them others. Whenever I can, I will be a positive force on the timeshare of life with my fellow travelers.
♦Photo Tip♦ Most of us are taught to put the sun at our back when we take a picture. Don’t be rigid with that advice. When you stand to take a picture, use the sun to create the effect you are looking for. To you back, your photo will be well lit for details; although people will be squinting for the same reason. The sun to either side; shadows are cast short or long and can add both dimension and contrast effects. Put the sun behind your subject and you get a silhouette as the focus of your shot. Experiment!