Moments

I walk out of my front door to get the phone from my car and I look up
The crescent moon shines brightly in the quickly darkening sky
Twilight receding, stars ascending and in front of me
Stands mighty Orion, with Rigel’s light blazing forth
And to one side sits Canopus, with the brightest star in the sky
Looking down on me as I gaze upward one more time
And see the beauty that only the sisters can bring
The seven forever chased by the hunter
And as the winter stars meet the horizon ever earlier
In a slowly changing dance, a sequence of moments, each a memory
Spring will come soon enough
The past will be past, but like the stars that circle the earth
They remain with us, reminding us
That what we treasure is not lost
For they will always shine brightly in our hearts
As long as love endures
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Brrrr…..

After a slew of fairly warm days, I decided to take a walk at one of the local wildlife refuges in Northern Virginia.  Huntley Meadows is one of my favorite places to take walks (with a camera, of course).  There is a central wetland (fairly small) that hosts an abundant variety of birds (especially during the warm months of spring to fall).  In the midst of a relatively warm winter, there have been days that observers reported a wide variety of birds in the refuge.

Yesterday (Saturday) was not one of those days where birds were plentiful and easy to find.  I am sure that trained eyes would do better than I did, but it was barely above 20F when I left for the refuge (about ten miles away), after the sun had been up an hour.  Surprisingly, there were a fair number of people walking around the park.  And there were a fair number of disappointed photographers.

It was cold.  And for the day (at least in the morning), the birds were few in number.  Oh, there were ducks of several sorts and there was an osprey (or something like it) that flew over the boardwalk for a scant ten seconds.  Aside from that, nothing.  It was a cold day for this human.  I suppose the birds don’t really want to go out and about when the wind is brisk and the sun barely peeking out of the clouds.

Oh well.  There were still ducks.

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Meeting before Dawn

I totally forgot that the moon, Jupiter and Venus were going to be in conjunction in the waning days of January.  It was not until morning, near sunrise, as I was taking the trash out, that I looked up in the brightening sky and saw the moon and Venus.  It was seven degrees and I didn’t take many pictures in the crisp January air.  It was, as all astronomical events prove to be, interesting.  And beautiful to behold.

On a cold, cold, cold January Night

A Blood Wolf Super Moon was in view for vast swats of North America.  Did I mention that it was cold?  I wanted to set up the camera on a tripod but it was just a little bit too cold.

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It was quite an interesting site, even in the suburbs.  Fortunately, the moon was almost at its zenith, which made for obstruction free, frozen shooting.  I don’t think I want to be in the Discovery Channel show about living above the arctic circle.  Now, that antarctic winter adventure, however, that is still a dream (or nightmare).

The Return

After years of not paying attention to my record player (and the old LP recordings), a sense of nostalgia filled my life as 2018 was coming to a close.  It was not a very good year for me, but I am not going to say that I had nothing to be thankful for.  There are always so many things to be thankful for in one’s life.  Lives end, but the experiences shared, the memories, the love remains.  It was a time to realize that that old song from “Funny Girl” – “People” still mean the same thing to me now, several decades since I first heard it (and fell in love with the song).  Life has ups and downs, but as long as there are people in your life that give it meaning, life is always worth living.  Sorrow may linger, but joy always remains.

And so it was that I ended up putting a record on that old Denon record player, only to find out the stylus on the cartridge had snapped.  A few days later, Amazon shipped me a new Ortofon cartridge.  And what was dusty and forgotten was alive again.  As the stylus fell on the vinyl, the past and the present became one.  And the sound of music, long unheard, became part of my life again.

A little snippet from Alfred Brendel playing Mozart.

A sampler – Alfred Brendel and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 15

Another thing.  Somehow, an old CD player that was supposed to have been donated years ago never made it out of the garage.  After cleaning off the dust, it was time to play an old Carly Simon CD.  Some things never get old.

Carly Simon, My Romance – a short sampler

A new year.  Old things are new again.  And new things, well, they’re always there to be discovered.  “People.  People who need people.  Are the luckiest people in the world.”  I am a lucky man.

The Inner Light

My favorite episode of Star Trek is “The Inner Light.”  Star Trek has always been a show about what it means to be human.  Yes, it has a lot of flashing lights, special effects, green aliens, esoteric worlds, starship battles and journeys to countless planets and stars.  And yet for all the glitter, the show, at its best, is a grand exposition of the human condition, the human experience.  In “The Inner Light”, Captain Picard is thrust upon a life totally different from his own.  Instead of commanding a starship, he was a man with a wife he didn’t know, on a planet slowly dying.  He didn’t want to be there, but there was this woman he didn’t know who nevertheless tended to him, nurtured him, loved him.  Slowly, the fantasy became a reality and in a scant twenty minutes, Picard experiences a life he had never known.  A love he had never known.  A wife who adored him, children who loved him, needed him and in the end, taught him that being a parent elicits emotions ranging from worry, consternation, disappointment, pride.  All the by product of the most basic human emotion of all.  The ability to feel and to give love.

It is a masterful story and when I need to find meaning in my own life, I watch this show again and remember that all that glitters is not gold.  Kamin was not rich by any means.  His family was but one of many families in a village being ravaged by drought.  Yet the life he was living seemed so much more complete, so much more fulfilled than the life he lived as the dashing captain of a Federation flagship.  And when the illusion ended, when he realized that what he had thought was his life was actually a mental recreation, he did something extraordinary.  He took a flute, sat by a window, gazed at the stars, and he began to play.

We can go through life and be dazzled by the success that we are taught to go after.  We can go through life looking for the next star, hardly stopping to even look at the world that we are in.  We can go through life and experience ecstasy, the heights of fame, the allure of power, the spoils of wealth and yet feel empty, broken.  When we look outside ourselves for validation, we allow others to judge us from their point of view; to tell us that in order to be happy or successful, we must follow someone else’s dream, live the life that someone else envisions.  Is it such a surprise that a life that always looks outward misses the simple joys that life can bring.  A fluttering butterfly.  A cool breeze on a warm day.  A sprinkle of rain blurring one’s view of the world, for an instant.  So many small moments that can bring meaning to a life.  Do we spend the time looking at the world in its own terms, feeling the infinitely small breezes of fluttering wings, feeling the hair on our forehead dance, just a little.  Do we look inward and in our heart find that inner light, the one true beacon that can bring meaning to one’s existence?

It is like the nondescript houseplant pictured above.  Green leaves on a pot.  These leaves have a secret.  They are the leaves that will bring sustenance to this plant, that will eventually provide the nourishment for flowers to bloom.  These are the leaves of a sampaguita plant.  Jasmine.  Beautiful and sweet.  A flower, that to many, symbolizes purity and humility.  It is, in many ways, ethereal.

So as the year ends, I think of this special Star Trek episode.  And of a beautiful flower.  And look inward and see the beauty that the inner light reveals.  It is within all of us.  And when you find it, share it.  Be kind.  Be gentle.  Be generous.  In the grace that the beatitudes bring, we experience the greatness of all creation.