Nullum periculum. Nullum praemium.

(No risk. No reward.)

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About this post:

This week I was the victim of extreme cyber bullying. I had a very difficult time with it. My Professor strongly urged me to write a post articulating the devastating effects of this type of negative, non-constructive commentary. In the interest of transparency, I am receiving extra credit for this essay; thank you for reading anyway.

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Bridging The Gap

Whenever I was set to begin a new chapter of my life, or undertake a difficult project, or face a scary health issue, my Dad always said,  Put your best foot forward.  You can do anything you set your mind to, my pet. Or, as he inscribed in the cover of my first bible:

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;”
[Ecclesiastes 9:10]

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It seems as if I am perpetually figuring out who I am capable of being and then trying hard to become that person because I feel that only then will I be living up to my potential and accomplishing all those things of which I am capable.  I hope I am making this effort with all my might.  At the moment, the work my hand findeth is my quest is to become a better photographer.  I am halfway through a year-long photography course, the curriculum of which has violently knocked me out of my comfort zone and into what is, for me, both unknown and uncomfortable territory a lot of the time.  First is the diversity of subject matter.  I am not quite sure of my genre as yet, I only know it involves nature and agriculture – animals, birds, bugs and creepy-crawlies – almost all living things.  Not, NEVER people, and not usually architecture or indoor photography and yet, for this course, all are regularly on the menu.  The second stressful element is showing my work and facing criticism, both of which are frightening and intimidating to me.

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On Ansel Adams:

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
(A. Adams)

This class is meant to bridge the gaps in my knowledge, skills, artistry, design, confidence, and product/brand management.  The main tool utilized by the professor is “Show Your Work” in all it’s stages.  Or, in the words of Ansel Adams, how you make your photographs.  The art of designing – making – a photograph, of creating an image that is superior to a mere snapshot, is one of the gaps I am seeking to bridge with the help of my teachers and mentors.

Our forum for showing is Flickr, the social media site preferred by my Professor and by most professional photographers.  I currently have a few thousand images on display; some straight from the camera, some partially edited and some that are finished with post production.  This has, for the most part, been a pleasant experience.  I’ve enjoyed reading the comments and suggestions made by my prof, my TA and my class members.  None of that feedback would have been possible without showing my work.

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On Eleanor Roosevelt:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
[E. Roosevelt]

In a social media world abounding with opinions, there exists a culture devoted to shame and humiliation through criticism, ridicule and hatred using rude, cruel, personal, misogynistic and crude commentary.  Flickr is no different.  Some of these comments are absolutely devastating.  Thin skin is embedded deeply within my DNA and in situations like this, all my insecurities, all my self-doubts rear their ugly heads, each clamouring for attention.  Comparison is my nemesis; my fear is of not measuring up, of not being good enough, of not having learned enough or tried hard enough.  Of always, falling short.  Of being less than, then.  In short, I consented.  My professor responded to this line of thought:  Do not always assume you are being measured.    But regarding the insulting narrative that was posted to my account, he advised me to look upon feedback (not his, of course) as nothing more than idle observations – not insults, just a casual interpretation that will be a mere footnote to my story.  Just an observation.  I’ll try.

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On risk and reward:

Nullum periculum, nullum praemium.

Thankfully, some of the comments are the opposite; are not vitriol-fuelled and are indeed complimentary.  Some are made by fellow photographers, expressing admiration of a wildlife “get” or of good lighting or composition or kindly suggesting ways to improve a shot based upon their own previous failures and successes.  Having been down that road, they hope their experiences might be of use to me.  Some compliments are from my professor and, as he is very stingy with those, they are feathers in my cap.  Some sweet comments are made by my friends, offering their praise for shots that have appealed to their senses.  In many ways these are my favourites because it means I’ve perhaps captured the emotion of the moment for others to see.  Particularly exciting for me is that three famous wildlife photographers have, exclusive of the course, begun following me and their comments are invaluable because they are exactly who I want to become one day.  Despite the obvious risks, these are the splendid rewards.

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On perspective:

Whilst most critiques are offered in an artistic and instructional forum, cyber bullying does happen – very publicly – on all social media sites.  In my case I was unprepared and shocked by the degree of hatred expressed.  It hurt.  I cried.  But…

I’d like to believe that my skin is now a little thicker and that I’ve gained a fresh and informed perspective.  I plan to continue showing my work just as before, stretching to reach my capabilities and potential; putting my best foot forward, with all my might, trying to bridge my creative gaps.

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In Cornelius Ryan’s oh-so-famous words, I only hope this adventure is not a bridge too far for me.

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‘Til next time, y’all…

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Intention is extraordinarily powerful; our words and deeds in this moment will most assuredly have repercussions in our future. Leading with courtesy, kindness and respect, always being mindful of accountability, our destiny will be peaceful and rewarding.


Intentions are being called to our attention, scrutinized by analysts of all types and written about in every imaginable forum. It sure has been a dramatic, emotional, and bellicose fortnight thanks to a notorious woman in the television industry. The ensuing discussions are pitting combative right-wing, white supremacist racists against the rest of the world. Twitter exploded and, whilst we all recognize that there is an endless supply of trolls on Twitter, and that many tweets were bot-generated, there were still a frightening number of hate-filled messages proudly posted by people clearly consumed by hatred.

Undeniably there are and always have been, many different beliefs and view points in this world, all proudly expressed and broadcast. Freedom of speech is, after all, guaranteed – here in North America by Section 2 of the Canadian Charter and by The First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The United Nations also protects freedom of speech internationally with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This right is sacrosanct, and in its preservation and practice, sometimes we must accept and hear someone proclaiming the very thing we oppose with every fibre of our being. But…

It is not essential, it is not inevitable, it is not legal and it is not ethical to broadcast hate in order to express one’s opinions, in order to exercise one’s right of free speech.


Using one’s hatred to intimidate, harass, terrify, harm, or threaten a person or group of people is a hate crime and those doing so will be prosecuted:

  • Under Sections 318 and 319 of The Criminal Code of Canada; or
  • Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the USA; or
  • Sections 28-32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and Sections 145 and 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in the UK; or
  • Articles 132-76 and 132-77 of the Criminal Code of France; or …

Whether or not Ms. Barr is ever charged for her “abhorrent” tweet, these are the facts:

  1. Not (too) long after Ms. Barr’s tweet went viral and, publicly confronted by her despicable thoughts and words, the ABC network cancelled “Roseanne” and severed ties with its star; and
  2. Valerie Jarrett, the victim of the tweet Obamaed the situation and “went high”, calling it a teaching moment. She was thinking only of the effect of the despicable words on other African-Americans: “I’m fine. I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers who come right to their defense…”; and
  3. No one accepted that this was a joke (as claimed by Ms. Barr), the vile tweet was immediately recognized as unbridled racism, pure and simple; and
  4. Some folk seem to be feeling badly for the rest of the cast and crew but it is highly unlikely they were unaware of Ms. Barr’s deep-seated racism. I imagine there is considerable relief amongst many of those 200+ individuals at being able to distance themselves from Ms. Barr; and
  5. The talent agency ICM Partners, who represented Ms. Barr, cancelled their association – ‘effective immediately’ despite the obvious fiscal advantages of an on-going relationship.



Ever since the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the wonderful homily “The Power of Love” delivered by the Most Reverend Michael Curry; the best part of the ceremony in my opinion. “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power – power in love.” He cited so many venerable sources, and in Part II said: “I’m talking about power. Power to change the world.”

This is what I know about love:

  • Love never demeans others; never seeks to hurt, scare, harrass, intimidate, threaten or destroy.
  • Love is inclusive, accepting, welcoming, nurturing, encouraging and forging. Beautiful, in fact, in every way.
  • Love motivates each and every one of us to live our best lives and be the best we can possibly be.

“Real power. Power to change the world.” And change is exactly what is needed!

This is what I know about change:

  • Change, when it happens, is a slow process requiring the participation, enthusiasm and long-term dedication of many people; no one can do it alone.
  • Perhaps we cannot fix everything that is wrong with our world, but hatred, that we can take on; we must.
  • With the words we speak, with each action we take, with each social media post, with each picture we share, we must intentionally model the change we hope for. Knowing we’ve done our very best, knowing we’ve moved the needle (even minutely) from hate towards love, is our reward. The best we can do is always enough.
  • Change is contagious, just you watch and see; with each new post, each passing day, more and more folk will take on the challenge.


Love VS Hate

Love conquers hate. Love accepts everyone without limitations or conditions. Hate does the opposite. I wish for everyone, everywhere, to have the feelings of happiness, security, belonging, value and – most especially – peace; feelings that are only present when love is freely given and received. With intention.

Intention is extraordinarily powerful; our words and deeds in this moment will most assuredly have repercussions in our future. Leading with courtesy, kindness and respect, always being mindful of accountability, our destiny will be peaceful and rewarding.

In this moment, and every moment hereafter, with focussed intention, I wish to speak and behave with gentleness and love; not anger or hatred. Please join me.

“Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.”
[J. Jackson and S. Miller]

‘Til next time, y’all…




The past year has been devastating to our family and our circle of friends. Three friends (all Baxter Boys), a cousin, the husband of another cousin and the husband of a friend have all died, leaving behind parents, spouses, children, grandchildren and friends whose lives will never be the same. Whose lives are now at the intersection of endings and beginnings. I do so hope God gives gives each and every one of them a hedge of protection as they take their first steps onto this new path.


“Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.”

As Cam and I have seen first hand this year, life is bewildering, frightening – even downright overwhelming – when a new beginning is the result of a tragic loss, when that change simply is not one’s own choice. When that new beginning is unplanned, instant and urgent. Rather than feeling bright, exciting and promising, the experience feels dark and foreboding.


Grief, of course, has no timetable, no logic, no plan. Crying is a given; each one needs to shed the tears they need to shed whenever that may be – something everyone in our circle of friends needs to understand. Patience! My wish for the mourners is that they are able to feel thankful and fortunate for the life and experiences they each shared with their loved ones. Even more, I wish for their recognition and awareness that they will never lose the love shared, that it will live on in their hearts and memories – undiminished, bright and ever-present. Then, and perhaps only then will they be able to allow the the grief to ebb away, to allow their mourning to take its place, ever so slowly and gently, in the further recesses of their minds. To courageously take the first step on the path of their new beginning. That first suspension of fear and trepidation.


“Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.”

The truth is, every morning each one of us has the opportunity to bravely step onto the path of a new beginning. The choice is ours. Easter, in fact the entirety of spring is the epitome of new beginnings, new life. Spring dawdled up to us this year, arriving slowly and with a few bad-weather-day-hiccups. Now, though, the familiar warmth of the sun teases us; it is bewitching, alluring and captivating. Spring’s new life – both buds and babies – beckons us back outdoors, stimulating our curiosity and offering us limitless possibilities mine, of course, beginning at Presqu’ile.


I drove into the park with my windows rolled down and my roof open listening to the frogs all singing their hearts out and watching three broods of goslings learn to navigate the pannes under the constant supervision and protection of mums and dads. The cedars are quite obviously having a great year; their profusion of new shoots are a very vibrant green and their scent wafted into the car on each wisp of breeze. Fresh and clean. Three clear and glorious signs of the new beginnings throughout the park. The sky over Presqu’ile was pretty enough to be a screensaver. Le beau printemps à Presqu’ile!


Spring is pure wonderment; an annual rekindling of marvel and fascination that surprises, awes and pleases us spontaneously. Wonder is embedded in our DNA; dormant, perhaps, until the perfect stimuli assault our senses. During life’s darkest moments, whilst grieving the loss of one too dear to contemplate living without, wonder is there in one’s soul, patiently waiting ’til, completely unexpectedly, a moment reawakens it and a small part of one’s soul remembers there is still a life to be lived, still hope, still curiosity, still love – to be given and received.


“Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”

My prayer for the three Baxter Boys’ wives, for Juanita’s husband Philip, for Rhoda, for everyone, in fact, who is grieving is that they feel, in some small measure, the wonder I feel at Presqu’ile, wonder that brings surprise, hope, curiosity and peace. Wonder that brings a new beginning.


This post was inspired by the lovely writing of John O’Donnohue.  Enjoy:

For A New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
[John O’Donohue]


‘Til next time, y’all…

Are We Condemned to Repeat History?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
 [George Santayana]

Two-thirds of Millennials do not know what Auschwitz is!

One-quarter of Millennials have not heard of the Holocaust!

Last week the esteemed Washington Post published the results of a study that revealed these two horrifying facts and, after a moment of dumbfounded disbelief, the sage advice of Mr. Santayana came to mind.  It is truly terrifying to even briefly consider that mankind might be capable of repeating the unparalleled Holocaust atrocity.   It is not possible, right?


Gun violence is the urban insurgency currently baffling leaders in North America and although it is on two seemingly very different levels in Canada and the USA, everyone agrees it is abominable and must be stopped.  Here in Ontario, the majority of victims are impoverished, disenfranchised young black men.  Police chiefs, politicians, activists and clergy alike advocate for gun control and zero tolerance of gang violence, but month over month, year over year, nothing really changes. 

A product of gun violence, the modern-day St. Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, saw seventeen people killed and seventeen more wounded – all within half an hour.  During the afternoon and evening of 14th February, I and the entire world watched the news in disbelief, dismay, horror, anger and fear.  Not again!?!   Please, God, not again!


In the aftermath of any crime or act of terrorism that takes human lives I always wonder if we have, indeed, been condemned to repeat our past, if people can or even want to change.  Are we capable of and dedicated to consensus building, of uniting to make real, beneficial improvements to the laws that govern gun control and punish offenders.  If not, is our inaction merely screwing up the world for ourselves and future generations?


“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.”
[Rabindranath Tagore]

History may ultimately confirm that the Parkland shootings were a seminal barbarity; the long-overdue and necessary turning point, but…  The face of change, of fearlessness and heart is not a politician nor a member of the constabulary or clergy but a youth, a boy from Florida who, miraculously, survived his school shooting.  His name is David Hogg.  Please remember it (and him)!

Mr. Hogg is an articulate, passionate, focussed, determined advocate for gun control and one of the organizers of the March For Our Lives movement.  This week, Mr. Hogg’s mum told CNN that her son would be taking a gap year, time he would be dedicating to his activism.


After the outpouring of outrage, sympathy and support by so many at the March For Our Lives , Mr. Hogg recognized a (perhaps) once in a lifetime opportunity – to register the quickly rising numbers of young voters, those demanding changes to gun control laws, to build very real and actionable support for the Democratic Party/gun control candidates in the upcoming primary elections.  It is admirable that this young man is so socially aware – “woke” – at such a tender age.  It is admirable that he is willing to postpone his education and career to do what he knows to be the right thing.  I’ll bet his mum is bursting-at-the-seams proud of her boy!

Rather than praising him for his civic participation, rather than commending him for his activism, rather than raising him as an example to American youth, his country, via a senior White House Official, ridiculed him on social media for taking a gap year.  Ridiculed!  An adult, trying (but, thankfully, failing miserably) to shame a youth.  Bully tactics in the extreme.


Harnessing the exuberance and commitment of this wave of youthful voters is a noble mission.  These young people have realized their influence en masse, know the power of their ballots, recognize the cause that needs their support and expect to be lead and motivated by this charismatic young man from their school, or their town or their state.  Each one brave enough to stand up to power.  For some that power source is in their families, for some in their schools, for others in their communities and churches. These young people know that if they’re not satisfied with their Government, they must rally and exercise their right and privilege to vote – a commitment too many in our generation have forgotten or ignored.

These young folk are brave enough to stare down their conservative Christian southern traditions – for many of them, that means their own daddies.  A bravery born because they were not cowed by the shooting in their school.  A bravery maintained because – insofar as they are able – they will not allow this tragedy to happen in another school, to other youth, to other students.  Not on their watch!

It is staggeringly impressive. 

Their excitement is empowering previously indifferent adults to take a similar stance.

Their movement seems to be motivating the Dems who have, since Hillary’s defeat, seemed aimless, unfocussed and disorganized.  These kids are challenging them to be activists, leading the way by shining example.

Do we learn anything from our past?
Are we condemned to repeat it?

Not if David Hogg has anything to say about it!


Let us hope and pray it does not take a bloodbath like Parkland to affect similar change here in Ontario.  Rise up, everyone, our election is mere weeks away!  

‘Til next time, y’all…



Spring 2018:  The un-Sacchariferous Season


Technically it’s spring, y’all!  Are you feeling it?  With it arriving on Tuesday, 20th March, we’re one-third through it already.  What?  Where I live it has snowed three times, wintery sleet has swirled around my home and freezing rain has pelted my windows twice (once, even, with thunder which, of course, terrorized poor Toby) – all of this within the past three days alone.  What gives, Mother Nature?  Why the temper tantrum?  You’re meant to be giving us spring, that beloved bringer of sugar and all things sweet.  

Instead of being outdoors – hiking, golfing, cycling, doing yard work, we’ve spent our weekend holed up inside watching television, enjoying our fireplace, eating hot soup and drinking endless hot drinks.  And still we felt cold.  Well… I did, that’s for sure!

The signs of spring and our own spring-like behaviours have been all around us.  My squirrel-planted lawn Tulips have sprouted – they’re up about five inches already.  Our Crab Apples have buds that look ready to burst.  My Daisies are up about three inches. The winter tires have been taken off the car.  The snowblower and shovels packed away.  Our winter boots have been cleaned and stored in the basement.  In short, we were finished with winter!  

URGH!  This morning, the snowblower had to be retrieved from beneath the garage stairs; the plough had delivered an enormous pile of snow and ice at the foot of our driveway, plus the (seemingly) miles of sidewalk around our home needed clearing.  The shovel was out too – in order to move the unwanted and despised piles of wet, slushy, semi-frozen mess from the front steps and the dog run.  It.  Was.  Heavy.  We live in Canada; this weather system shouldn’t have been so surprising or hard to bear, but it was!  Winter’s last (please!) hurrah was both disappointing and a little demoralizing.  


Please, Mama Nature, please!  Let us have spring soon!  We strugglin’ here in this arctic air…  It’s time and we’re ready!  My skin has forgotten how delightful spring feels; so far, the April temperatures have not been sweet, or brisk, or fresh, and certainly not balmy – the air has had a frosty enough bite to take a chunk out of your cheeks.  Rather than knocking at our door, spring is loitering south of the Mason-Dixon and you southerners need to cough it up… It’s our turn!  

’Til next time, y’all…