“Life is a series of mind moments, each one a new creation. Every moment we inherit something from our past, transform it in our present experience, and thereby seed the consequences of our future.”
If you could, at this moment in time, intentionally plant the seeds for your desired future consequences, what would they be, do you suppose? Would you want to learn something new? Strengthen, renew or repair a relationship? Would it be something creative, artistic? Would you keep a diary, journal? Volunteer? Would philanthropy be an option? What about travel? Would you change your lifestyle? If your imagination had no limits imposed, neither financial nor physical, what would you do, where would you go, who would you share it with? So many possibilities…
The back-to-school qualia typically imbues the entire month of September with preparation and anticipation in my mind, even forty years after completing my formal education. I’m never able to avoid purchasing stationery supplies of one form or another. This year it was three notebooks and a new pen. Irresistible! These are some of my favourite moments to inherit something from my past.
This year, the kernel of Septembers past was transformed in my present experience by the delightful Meg Murphy on My FM Radio, the station we tune in every morning before we leave the house. Earlier this month, Meg said (and this may not be her precise wording): “September always makes me want to learn something new.” This year, she is learning sign language. Meg’s comment reminded me that learning something new has always been every inch the fuel of my anticipation when September arrives, and at the top of my list at the moment is learning new photography skills; every time I am out shooting it becomes apparent that there is an endless list of those skills I have yet to master.
Prompted by Meg’s learning reference, I gave a lot of thought to my desired future consequence. Having been lucky enough in the past year to have taken two quite specialized photography courses, I’ve decided I now want to learn more about my gear. I want to become more than capable with my equipment – I want to know every single function, all technical specs, optimum function of each piece and how each best works in concert with my other equipment. In short I wish to become an expert. Virtuoso, if you will, on all things Nikon. (At least all the Nikon pieces I own.) No small task! It will require a lot of very dedicated learning on my part. Then there’s my planned acquisition which will come complete with its own steep learning curve. I am upgrading my tripod (greater payload), replacing my flat pan-tilt head with a ball head and – drum roll please – splurging on a gimbal head. I am über-excited!
Most tripods, especially older ones like mine have flat pan-tilt heads which are nominally priced making them a practical choice for all uses except long (heavy) wildlife and sports lenses. Lens movement is controlled by three screws (blue arrows) which allow tilting left/right and up/down and swivelling. With a heavy lens, one hand has to support the lens whilst the adjustment is made by loosening/tightening the cranks, all the while trying to keep the bird/animal/bug, etc., in the frame, in focus, respecting the lead room rule, etc., etc., etc. This is neither a quick nor an easy process. You can picture me struggling now can’t you? And you’re smiling at my clumsy efforts too, aren’t you? Enter the gimbal head. A gimbal allows smooth, constant, unrestricted motion on a perfectly balanced support so that once the subject is successfully framed, the photographer can let go and neither the camera nor lens move. It’s a genius invention and I am about to have one of my own. Squee!!!
Learning is definitely the order of the day, week, month, year… I suspect and hope I’ll be forever learning, and not just about my camera gear.
Thanks, Meg, for planting the seeds!
’Til next time, y’all…
As all my lovely regulars know, two years ago my life changed dramatically due to two health issues. The first, the most significant (to me, if not to my doctors), the happiest and the most life-altering difference – I no longer dialyse. Meaning I have four “found” days every week. Every. Week. One might even say I have a whole new life. Everyone I know and talk to has just a wee bit more busyness in their lives than they want and for some, a bit more than they can manage. If that’s you, imagine you could miraculously add four extra days onto every week and you’ll have an inkling of how I’ve felt ever since June of 2015. Those four days are a gift beyond compare, I feel blessed, enormous gratitude, and a sense of responsibility to get this new chapter of my life right.
Earlier this month Graydon Carter, the sixty-eight years young Canadian journalist who has helmed Vanity Fair for the past twenty-five years, announced that he was leaving the magazine. On his pending exodus from the coveted editor’s position Mr. Carter said:
“I wanted to have a third act. And I thought, time is precious.”
Two simple sentences that reveal so much about a man most would consider beyond retirement age: Wishes, enthusiasm, anticipation, ambition, planning and the desire for the freedom to choose a new path.
A third act! Isn’t that everything? That’s exactly how I have been feeling for the past two years but I’d never thought of it in such eloquent terms. I have a third act!
Act III has been my chance to chart a new course using my highest intentions, to orchestrate and prioritize all the elements I’ve chosen to include in my life. To refocus. I have a strong desire to learn more about Buddhism and to improve my daily meditation practice. I want to become a kinder person in every respect. Of course my third act prominently features photographic endeavours – using a variety of cameras, lenses, locations, subjects and post-processing techniques, learning more about each along the way, and sharing my images with my family and friends. And always love. Recent events in my circle of friends have taught me that time is, indeed, very precious. I want to love Cam to bits and pieces. To demonstrate that love every day, always. I want him to know without any doubts that he is very well-loved, adored and cherished. I want to share my love with my family, my extended family and my friends because I want them to know how important they are to me and how much they are treasured.
“I wanted to have a third act. And I thought, time is precious.”
‘Til next time, y’all…
[Thich Nhat Hanh]
September eleven. Separately they are very ordinary words. Put together, for aeviternity, they symbolize the unspeakable evil mankind is capable of unleashing upon itself. I hope you paused today. I hope you took time to remember and to honour the victims – all the victims – those who perished and those who were left behind.
This is where I am writing my blog post today:
It is a lovely view but more importantly for me today, it is very peaceful and quiet (there’s not a soul around). Sitting here, it is easy to find peace in myself. But I feel guilty enjoying the sunshine, this view and this beautiful day. You see, I have a friend who I’ll call “Orchid” throughout this post. At this very moment, Orchid is at home, consumed by grief and nigh-on unbearable sadness because sixteen years ago today she lost her only child who was attending a meeting at the top of the World Trade Center.
Like almost everyone else, I watched the most horrific television coverage I will likely ever experience as the planes slammed into first the North Tower (8:46 a.m.), then the South Tower (9:03 a.m.), then the Pentagon (9:37 a.m.) and finally into the ground in Pennsylvania (10:07 a.m.). I was numb with shock, horror, fear and sadness. The world, particularly the western world, changed forever during those eighty-one minutes.
Much of the world has moved on; grown accustomed to the stringent airport security measures, perhaps visited Ground Zero, perhaps even taken a selfie there to share on social media. For most of us, although still a nebulous tragedy in our memories and our hearts, the shock, horror, fear and sadness have all faded. We remember very well but perhaps feel less intensely.
Not so for my darling Orchid. Not at all! However does she move on without the child she birthed, nurtured, raised and loved for thirty-nine years? More than half her life. I’ve never had children myself yet I know this to be an impossibility.
True that Orchid is a very busy woman. She lives her life largely in service of others, working hard to improve the lives of the people in her town and county. She is an activist of the first order. She champions the down-trodden, the marginalized, social justice, health care and acceptance for all. And she’s a kick-ass feminist! Technically Orchid is retired but she works more hours every week than most folk holding down full-time jobs. She is very social and does her best to meet up with her enormous number of friends as often as possible, but believe me when I state: This is all busyness! Not a day goes by that she is not gripped by sadness at least once. Not a day goes by that she does not miss her child who was clever and passionate and principled and destined for greatness. Not a day goes by that she does not grieve that loss, a loss that left a hole in her heart that not even the world’s most skillful cardiologist will ever be able to repair.
May you be safe from all harm.
May you be healthy and have everything you neeN.
May you be filled with loving-kindness.
May you live in peace and harmony.
With all my love, always! xx
“Love is all you need.” John Lennon’s song is eternally uplifting because of its enduring and always relevant message of love and peace. Today, in memory of the 2,977 souls who were killed sixteen years ago, please share a little love with someone who needs it. I fear you’ll not have to look to far to find that someone.
Peace In Oneself. Peace In The World
I wear Thich Nhat Hanh’s words around my neck. Each morning when I put on my medallion I am reminded to try my very best to live with intention. Intention to find peace within and intention to be peaceful with everyone I encounter. I believe in the possibility and the power of these words to change the world, one person at a time.
’Til next time, y’all…
A lot of my subscribers are kidney friends; dialysis patients scattered, for the most part, all across North America. Today I read a gut-wrenching message from one of my favourites. She lives in Maine, has four children – two tweens and two teens – a devoted husband and is treated by a world-class Nephrologist whom I adore. Last month she found out she has cancer – an always dreaded and feared diagnosis. A battery of tests has been ordered by her oncologist and haematologist and some pre-surgical drugs prescribed. The gut-wrenching worsens because her HMO has refused to pay for the drugs and almost all of the tests so after much soul-searching she has decided to skip them all, not wishing to put an additional financial burden on her husband’s shoulders. Damn! Life should never, NEVER force us to make such adverse life-threatening decisions. Certainly not in North America where state-of-the-art hospitals abound. The USA is a powerful nation, a power that extends beyond military to education, research, the arts, technology, philanthropy and yes – medicine. Imagine what might happen if the collective skills, creativity, drive and passion of that nation combined – for just one year – to design, establish and fund universal health care! Imagine!
August has officially become cancer month for me; everything, everything is checked, endless tests are run, blood work taken several times, imaging, eye tests – the lot. It’s a little stressful and it makes life a bit hectic running around to get it all completed. To complicate things, in the past month I’ve had two viral chest infections which have sorely hampered my breathing. And fevers… URGH! I confess that until I read my friend’s message, I was indulging in a bit of a pity-party, and now I feel sorely ashamed of myself. I have beaten cancer twice now and have one case held firmly (I hope) at bay. Not once in all of those battles did we ever have to wonder if we could afford to proceed as recommended by my doctors. Gramercy. Profound gratitude that I live in a country with comprehensive health care and compassionate practitioners.
This awful virus also means I’ve not had many park days and I really miss my time at Presqu’ile when it’s suspended. So, unlike a lot of the kiddos and most of the teachers and principals, I am delighted to see the end of August and be finished with the inside of labs, doctors’ offices and hospitals (hopefully, for another year). So far (touch wood) all my tests have been negative and I’m hoping the last few are exactly the same.
Meaning having great importance, in my life the eighth month truly is august.
Friday, seeing the brilliant sunshine, I knew I wasn’t wasting it by hibernating, not even for one day more, not even with a virus!
“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”
Me neither, Mr. Hawthorne, me neither! After my appointment Friday morning I ran away to Presqu’ile to recapture my bliss and serenity. September, the gathering month, is very much about contradictions. It is an ending and a beginning. The weather can be scorchingly hot, humid even, or it can be cool bordering on cold. Cold is exactly how I found Presqu’ile – a chilly 13℃ when I arrived – feeling for the first time like summer is really over. Although all the usual suspects were roaming the beaches and trails with their binoculars and high-power lenses – all of them searching for that oh-so-rare bird/bug/reptile/animal, etc., – the park had that end-of-season look to it. There were no kiddos romping, laughing and riding their bikes, no families playing on the beach, all the picnic tables along the south shore were unused and both the park and lighthouse stores were closed.
Autumn is, nevertheless, a very special time at Presqu’ile because the migrators begin to assemble ready for their long flights across Lake Ontario and southward to winter in warmer climes…
Damsel and Dragonflies
The Canada Geese and Cormorants spend many hours practicing their formation flights; honking and squawking across the sky above. On one take-off yesterday, I had to pause and look around – the sound of the Cormorants’ wings sounded for all the world like applause. The waterfowl are busy, focussed and very active, as are the squirrels and chipmunks – cheeks stretched out by their hoard of acorns and berries – laying in their winter stores. I had a simply lovely time watching them all working so hard.
“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”
In sharp contrast to this busyness, and just like me, the frogs and turtles were just chillin’, soaking up the warm sunshine on this cool day.
I simply cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.
A lovely and unexpected kindness was extended to me this week, a first for me in this month of new beginnings. The blogger I most admire gave me a shout-out on Twitter. That’s a first for me for sure. It made my day and I’ve shown everyone who’ll look (and indulge me) that tweet. Thank you PMT!
Gramercy. My heart is full.
‘Til next time, y’all…
Having good people in your life is a treasure, recognizing who they are is a blessing and celebrating them is an honour.
The Good, Version 2: Grace
“But to each one of us grace has been given…”
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he wrote that to each one of us grace has been given and I believe that is true, but I also believe that some people truly personify grace. They accept that gift and comport themselves with its humility, generosity and kindness in every aspect of their lives. I know just such a person.
I am still choosing to focus on the abundant good in my life, and tonight I am writing about another dear friend – I am calling her “Grace” – who constantly impresses me with her calm acquiescence of the hardships in her life, and with the wisdom she has earned along the way.
Grace is the archetypical Earth Mother, always caring for everyone in her life, be they family, friends, neighbours, or strangers in her community. She is a nurturing soul, spreading warmth and caring wherever she goes. At first glance, Grace seems to have everything – a handsome, very intelligent, funny and devoted husband who happens to be wealthy, lovely daughters, a large brood of beautiful grandchildren, a luxurious home in a divine location, clothes (the right clothes, of course) beautiful jewellery, etc., etc., etc.
Despite living on the a-list, my friend has – as long as I’ve known her – fulfilled the role of caregiver; to two family members with chronic and severe mental health issues, helping them see the best in themselves; and to her mum with Alzheimer’s Disease, helping her live her remaining months (years?) with as much dignity and comfort as possible; and to a daughter with incurable cancer, helping her tap into sources of bravery she never knew existed; and now, the toughest blow of all, to a husband who has been forced to enter end-of-life planning, doting on him with loving kindness, tenderness and constant patience despite the demanding nature of his illness. It is a menu of challenges that would defeat most of us, yet she copes – day in and day out – with unfailing good humour, with ease, with love and kindness… In short, with grace.
“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
Aeschylus, an ancient Greek playwright, is conventionally regarded as the father of Greek tragedy. This incredibly powerful poem, written nearly 2500 years ago, is a mainstay of ancient Greek studies and is often quoted in modern times. Historians believe Aeschylus was telling us that with God’s grace, life’s hardships are the pathway to greater wisdom – perfectly true of our Grace. Regardless the dilemma, she is the first person we all turn to for advice, knowing that no matter how full her life may be at that moment, her time will be generously given and her counsel will be sound.
Grace is a trait that encompasses many qualities, all of which we strive to develop, use and have recognized by those closest to us. For me, the essence of grace is equal parts strength and love which is exactly how I would describe Grace to anyone who did not know her. I am privileged to have this shining example of honour, loving kindness, generosity and caring in my life.
In my world, amongst my friends and associates, Grace is a very special part of my abundance of The Good.
“But to each one of us grace has been given…”
‘Til next time, y’all…