A Roseate Spoonbill managed to find its way to Huntley Meadows. It’s been in the wetlands for a week now. Needless to say, the whole birding community in the area is abuzz. A lot of photographers have taken their cameras and tripods, in all hours of the day, to get a picture (well, hundreds of pictures, by the way the cameras sound) of the wayward visitor. Apparently, this bird rarely finds its way north of South Carolina. I don’t know how much longer it will be here, but there is an ample supply of shrimp for it to feed on. And luckily for me, it was in the vicinity of a blue heron when an egret flew by. It’s good to be lucky (at times). Not too often, as one does not want to live life on the expectation of continual good fortune. Sometimes, though, it’s good to be lucky.
It happens every seventeen years, for a few short weeks. Even the rain, finally falling, can’t stop it. The birds, like this Redwing blackbird at Huntley Meadows, seem to have found a new source of protein.
A short video of a swallow and a heron at Huntley Meadows.
For many people in the world, today is a day to celebrate the resurrection of the Messiah. To all of us, no matter our beliefs, it is a day to reflect on what Easter really means. It is the rebirth of man, so to speak. Fallen from grace, God sent His son to the world and in the greatest act of sacrificial love, gave His life so that we all may live. The true importance of Easter is that we are reminded that the most important thing that we can give to each other is Love. Love made the the sacrifice possible. We think of death as the end of all things. And yet, the message of the resurrection is that forgiveness, generosity, a willingness to help one another without expectation of reciprocity, can make all of us better. Renew us. In acts of kindness, in acts of forgiveness, we are reborn. The yoke of hatred is a heavy one. Human bondage, human suffering, the torment of sin cannot be forgotten. We hope to learn from the mistakes. And yet, what good is learning if we are not able to do the even more important thing. To forgive. Today, we celebrate the resurrection, the manifestation of the love that the Creator has for all of us. He came to the world not to conquer, but to forgive. To love us all. And in so doing, restore us in our place as true children of God.
We are on this earth for a very short time. Do we spend that time spewing hatred, thinking selfishly only of our own importance to the world? Or do we spend our time on this earth helping one another, caring for one another. We will make mistakes. Some big, and some small. All of us will. It is the act of forgiveness that sets us free. Lighten the yoke. Bear no ill will towards others. Forgiveness. A virtue sometimes difficult to achieve. And yet, if we forgive others, if we forgive ourselves, we may find that a life lived in generosity, forgiveness and sacrifice is a life lived in love.
We of different cultures, different races, different faiths all live in one fragile planet. Do we really want to spend our days blaming each other for all the ills that we see? For all the ills of the world? Or do we proclaim, like the blind man did, that I was blind, but now I see? See, in each other, the likeness of God, the Creator who made us all. And if we are of one body, then why should we seek to harm each other? The body is whole when it assists all its members. When love, universal, is shared among all. It starts with forgiveness. And the understanding that each part of the body, though different, has a role to play. Nothing is unimportant. No one is unimportant. The sacrifice commemorated on Good Friday was not for the select. Not for the few. The love outpoured was for us all.
Happy Easter! And since it is a celebration of rebirth, here are some pictures.
Leap for joy! For today, we are all reborn.
I was at church last night and I saw a young couple in front of my wife and I. Has it been that long since the lithe figures in front of me was something readily seen by looking at a mirror? Nostalgia, a remembrance of half forgotten days that seem more whole than the stored fragments show them to be. And then I looked upon the dusty turntable and put some vinyl on the plate. The arm fell with a click, a few pops were heard, not unlike the noises emanating from the early morning stretch. And the music played. And tune after tune rose from the twin boxes in front of me. The sounds that were always in my mind was playing between my ears and then a smile. A person that grows and learns is never old. One need not be defined by wrinkles and added girth. As long as a sense of wonder remains, time’s arrow always moves forward. No matter the age, adventure beckons. Sense it, hold it, go for it. And live.
We look at the world and often times only seek out the beautiful. We are the poorer for it. When we only value that which pleases the senses, we miss out on so much of what the world has to offer.
We look at the empty trees reflected on the water and think nothing of it. The wind whispers to us to look again.
After years of planning, the United States has another rover on the surface of the Red Planet. Well done, NASA and the Perseverance team! Thank you for all the hard work that you and countless number of support people have done to make this possible. Truly a milestone in the exploration of our solar system. With luck, the copter will work better than planned. I was so pleased to see the countdown today and look at the control room. A multiracial, multiethnic, multi gender group of individuals came together and achieved something greater than any of them could have done by themselves. People of all ages. Amazing. I remember how few women were graduating from engineering/science school when I was an undergrad. Look at them now. America at its best – where opportunity is open to everyone, where excellence is achieved through hard work and study. The words of John F. Kennedy still ring true – we do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Well done!
We are trapped in the trappings of ease and seeming contentment, failing to see the world and what it has to offer. A construct we build for ourselves and even a pandemic isn’t enough to break the habits that have taken its toll on modern society. We can be indifferent to the world around us. And what does that do? It divides us from each other. And in our isolation, we seek only those who think and behave like us. We fail to learn. We fail to grow. We fail our world. We fail ourselves. Within us is the desire to belong, not just to one group, but to all. We often seek dominance and yet wonder why humility and kindness brought a revolution to the world. If we are to be what we can be, we need to look up from the small screens that occupy our attention and partake in the universal journey that we all share. Life on a planet called earth. On a system of planets that revolve around a yellow sun. A myriad of stars, different colors, different sizes. In the arm of a spiraling collection of stars, itself part of a cluster of galaxies. Where forces, known and unknown, bring new possibilities. A destiny shared amongst the denizens of a universe, itself but one in a myriad of universes.
And so, why look down when you can look up. And see the world.
I’ve been reading (and looking) at a lot of books and pictures lately. I was inspired to go out with nothing but prime lenses and just take pictures of what’s around me. Sooner or later this pandemic will be under control and life will be back to some sort of normalcy. I am struck by how photographers like Diane Arbus and Don McCullin, who took very different types of pictures in very different types of environments captured the humanity of the world they were in. There is dignity in all of us, no matter what our plight and circumstances may be. So last Saturday afternoon, I just went out and took pictures of the world around me. I think that every once in a while, we just need to see the world and remember what it is that makes it whole. Not the grand things. Just every day things.
This is about a book about a beautiful lady. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful woman. Decades ago, when I was still in college, I happened to turn the channel and watched a young lady with so much poise, so much charm glide so elegantly across the small screen. The lady was Audrey Hepburn. The movie was Roman Holiday. They say that your love for something starts with something small. I think that in that day, in my small room with that small tv set, my love for movies was born. I feel lucky that the movie that first piqued my interest is a classic that today remains, for me, one of my favorite movies of all time. Who couldn’t love that luminous actress with those soulful eyes? Who could not love Audrey Hepburn? And heck, Gregory Peck wasn’t bad either. And Eddie Albert, in a fantastic supporting role. And who can forget Rome, after watching the princess and the newspaperman speed through its streets in that Vespa scooter. It’s strange to remember that what made them happy was doing ordinary things together. Just enjoying what life has to offer.
And one of the joys that life has to offer, at least to me, is reading books. The pandemic has given me a chance to go through my library and get rid of books, Kondo style, that have never given me pleasure. Perhaps if I actually read them, but no. I thought I would trim the fat, so to speak, but I bought “Always Audrey” and I was hooked. Yes, I sold a lot of my unread books, but I ended up buying a lot more books. Mostly books on photographers and their photographs. Some books on how to become a better photographer. Though in truth, I really cherish looking through the pictures in the books I purchased. Discovering new places, new people, new things. Learning about life through the eyes of others.
All these wonders unfolded because like the movie she starred in, Audrey Hepburn got me hooked. “Always Audrey” is a fantastic book. It’s a book about a beautiful woman. It’s a book about six photographers who were extremely gifted in what they did. And how the same person can be so different when seen through a different person’s eyes. Truly a magnificent book to own.
Sometimes, I wish that fashion photography would just be simply showing something beautiful as beautifully as you can. There are many photographers who have done that and though they’ve all done the same thing, they did it differently. There is artistry in simplicity.
I watched the Audrey Hepburn documentary on Amazon Prime. And it struck me how beautiful those eyes were. And how those eyes were windows to something even more beautiful. A beautiful soul.
A few years after graduating from college, I saw Audrey Hepburn being interviewed after returning from Somalia, on a mission for UNICEF. I didn’t pay much attention to it. She had gotten older and now she had time for her causes. I realize now how callous that view was. She was older and she had time to do anything she wanted. And what she wanted to do was go around the world, to give voice to those that didn’t have a voice. To bring attention to the famine, to the hunger, to the suffering of the people of Somalia. A great human tragedy. And the world was largely ignoring it. And there was Miss Hepburn. Showing the world that we can be better. We don’t have to watch the suffering. That we can all try to make this world better.
And the words she said ring so true to me. “I don’t believe in collective guilt. I believe in collective responsibility.”
Truly, those eyes were windows to a beautiful soul.