Nature is All Around You!

Another extended period of time without writing anything substantial.  Unless tweets about sports teams can be categorized as substantial writing efforts.  Spring was an interesting period of time.  As each season moves on towards the next, life moves on continually, unpredictably.  I always thought that you have to do something spectacular to make life worth living.  Yet I just read that living every day life fully is a spectacle in itself.  There is a great movie that explores this theme – “About Time”, which stars the great young actor, Domhnall Gleeson and the endearing Rachel McAdams.  The final lesson of this time travel movie?  There is no reason to relive anything.  Living each moment as if it is the final moment in your life makes each moment special.

Life is a series of moments, each one special.  Each one a gift from the Creator.

What does this have to do with the title of this post?  Well, as I have gotten older, I have diverged even more from the things that I thought I’d be doing in my youth.  I was and always will be a nerd of some sort.  A science nerd.  An astronomy nerd.  A computer nerd.  A camera nerd.  But heck, I did not think that I’d ever take up the hobby of birding.  Or more specifically, taking pictures of birds and other flying (identifiable) objects.  And yet.  What a great way to spend time in the middle of the craziness that is our everyday life.  A moment, or two, in a peaceful walk.  By the trees, by the river, by the trails.  So here is a short video of a morning walk at Dyke Marsh in Alexandria, Virginia.  It’s by the George Washington Parkway, south of Alexandria, on the way to Mount Vernon.

I drove up on a Saturday morning to look for herons, egrets, and all the things that ebird.org said I would be able to find.  I have to say this.  A novice birder (me) has a lot of learning to do.  I found ducks, a bird grooming itself, leaves in the water, boaters, flowers – where were the herons, egrets and eagles?  Still, there is beauty in everything.  The world can be a wonderful place.  Nature is All Around You!  Take it in.

It’s been a while

One of the things about getting older is that you have just as many things to do as you desire to do.  It’s amazing what experience does for the imagination.  Your interests broaden and sometimes, you take a break from it all.  Not everything, mind you, but you get lazy at times, reserving space for yourself, turning a little bit inward for some introspection, just doing a mental inventory of what you want to do.  Alas, I’ve done very little of that in the last few months.  I just got a little lazy updating this blog.  And winter has been somewhat harsh here in the East Coast of the United States.  Mind you, the mid Atlantic is NOT New England (and we are GRATEFUL for that).  Still, the photographic opportunities have become somewhat more limited.  But not non existent.  Here are some photographs I took two days ago – after an episode of icy rain, the ice was quickly melting from the tree branches.  A reminder that there is beauty all around us, every minute of every day.  I should have used a tripod and faster shutter speeds.  I wanted to see if I can hand hold the camera and macro lens for these shots.  Sometimes, you just have to take a little more time to get something right.

Silver

DSC02555_sBefore the drop

Before the DropMilliseconds After

Milliseconds After

A tree, by the beach, on the Potomac!

Who knew!  Well, a lot of people did.  After decades of living in the DC area, I finally paid a visit to the Mason Neck State Park, by the banks of the Potomac in Lorton Virginia.  Having lived in Northern Virginia for years, I still remember Lorton as the place were prisoners were kept.  And yet today, on the grounds of the penitentiary, suburbia has taken root.

Meanwhile, by the home of George Mason (Gunston Hall), the Potomac River widens on its way to the Chesapeake Bay.  There are several places to visit in this beautiful area of Virginia.  Pohick Bay Regional Park.  The Elizabeth Hartwell National Wildlife Refuge (bald eagles!).  And Mason Neck State Park.  And on the sandy beach on the river, I heard the voices of dogs barking, people frolicking in the water (I hope it’s safe!!!).  And saw this.

DSC00789_s

The beauty of reeds

Reeds.  Where there’s water, there are reeds.  Most of the time.  From the Nile River, where the early writers got their start, to the Potomac River and the many ponds that dot northern Virginia, reeds are everywhere.  For years, I never paid attention to the stalks growing in the wild.  Until one day, as the dimming, slanted light of the late afternoon sun wandered into my eyes, I saw the beauty of reeds.

DSC00194_s

A month later, on a frustrating morning looking for eagles by the marshes of the Potomac on the Elizabeth Hartwell Wildlife Refuge, a momentary glitter attracted my attention.  More reeds!  And not just green ones.  A single yellowish brown stalk jutted between its green brethren.

DSC00610_s

Reeds..  They are around us.  The as with many of the things we tend to ignore, they are beautiful.

Don’t stop with the first picture

Image

This is one view of the tulip garden at Meadowlark Gardens. After two days of taking pictures of the tulips at Meadowlark Gardens, the picture above is the one that “moves” me the most.  A day earlier, I was at the same spot in the garden, taking pictures of the tulips.  Here is my view of the tulips, a day earlier.

Image

It’s a good idea to come back to the same place, at different times, to have a fresh look at the “scenery.”  Light plays an important role in every photograph.  It affects the mood, the atmosphere.  Coupled with a different point of view (accomplished by pointing the camera about ninety degrees to the previous image axis results in a totally different type of image.  Or you could have taken the picture below.  I supposed it’s not bad, but is it as interesting?

Image

Digital photography makes it easy to experiment with what you are “seeing.”  It doesn’t mean that you need to take the same picture seven to ten times.  It means looking at the same thing with a differently each time you click the shutter.  Variety.  The spice of life.

Once Upon a Time

Family values.  What is that, exactly?  In a world in which we are bombarded by words and images from so many different sources, we lose track, sometimes, of what’s really important in life.  This past Sunday was a reminder of what it means to be a faithful servant to God.  Living a life of service to others is the great goal that we, as individuals, should strive for.  The canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II should be an inspiration to us all.  In our busy lives, how often do we stop to contemplate the many blessings that we have been given, let alone take the time to really give ourselves to others?  It doesn’t have to be dramatic.  A hug, a kind word, things that we sometimes take for granted can mean so much to others.  I am especially guilty of such lapses.

The title for this post is also the name of my favorite show on television.  You can be forgiven to think that this fantastic fantasy show is all about fairy tales.  It is that and so much more.  There are dwarves, ogres, heroes and villains galore. Earlier in the season, they had Peter Pan. Now they have the Wicked Witch of the West. And yet, for all the trappings of magic and fantasy, this is a show, that in its heart, is a manifesto of tenderness, forgiveness, longing, sacrifice and yes, love.  If you’ve never seen this show, watch if from the first season.  If you must watch only one episode, watch the episode “Skin Deep.”

In the early 90’s, Disney came out with the fantastic animated film, “Beauty and the Beast.” To me, that movie was one of the greatest love stories ever told. Imagine the story retold, with even more poignancy and depth.  The great Robert Carlyle, one of the most versatile and accomplished actors in the planet, and the beautiful Emily de Ravin make this forty five minutes or so of escapism a reflection of what it means to be human.   Vanity and despair, through sacrifice and understanding, give way, slowly, to something that changes the lives of two people, profoundly.  Fear gives way to hope.  Understanding gives way to forgiveness.   And through forgiveness, love is born.  The moral of a fairy tale. The words preached and lives lived by two remarkable men.