When There is Joy

Photography is not merely the process of capturing an image.  It’s not just looking at the world, looking at the things that are beautiful.  It’s not finding cruelty or kindness, nor is it just looking for excitement, nor is it documenting the commonplace and the mundane.  Photography is looking at the world and finding in it something that stirs your soul.  It is not always bright and cheerful.  It is not always gloomy and dark.  It is, if you are honest with yourself, a reflection of who you are at the moment.

And because who you are constantly changes, the images captured is never the same.  One can hope, however, that as in life, we can always find hope, even joy in all that we see.  In the depths of despair there is always the promise of a better tomorrow.  In the heights of happiness there is always a realization that moments like this are treasured, but not what we ultimately strive for.

Finding meaning in life, where you know yourself and understand that imperfection is not a curse but a blessing, when you see a world that is not closed but open to possibilities.  When you look back not to long for what is past, but to learn that failure is not permanent but is always necessary.  To know that success is not a singular achievement but a communal experience.  To know that at the center of it all, is not the selfish tyranny of pride and conceit, but that in spite of one’s frailties, generosity and love prevails.  That in every moment, great and small, the inner light illuminates the soul and that in all that we are, in all that we do, joy gives meaning to our existence.

And so it was yesterday afternoon, on a surprisingly cool day in July, I walked the grounds of Meadowlark Gardens.  Paths walked so many times before.  And yet, each step is always different, and so are the pictures.

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Balance

In the wee hours of the morning, after another restless and near sleepless evening, I started listening to music.  The notes played on and then I suddenly realized that at that moment, I wasn’t really in the room.  My mind had wandered back in time, remembering a time when family members who are but a memory were still breathing the same air that I breathed.  And in that moment, I found myself wondering.  What is really important in my life?  And in nearly the same instant, I thought about the people who are forever part of me.  I didn’t remember the clothes they wore.  Or the places we have been.  I thought about how much I was loved.  And how this feeling that never goes away always brings balance back into my life.

I was taught so many things by a great many people.  The most important lessons were not imparted with words, but through actions, through example.  Kindness is not optional, even when it is difficult to give.  Respect other people, even when you don’t agree with them.  Be generous to others, for what you have, even if earned, is a gift given to you, not to be hoarded, but to be shared.  Speak the truth always, but never harshly.

And then the present, or the near present, came back to me.  Sometimes, just seeing and being with someone is enough.  Your heart always finds a way to tell you what it feels.  And in the music, joyful and hopeful as the dawning of a new day, I remembered the thing that gives life to a life.  Love.  A gift, a treasure.  A memory?  Sometimes.  Transient?  Not when it is true.

How So

Last Saturday morning, I woke up shortly after the sun had awakened and Huntley Meadows, one of the local wildlife refuges, beckoned.  There was only one thing that made me think that maybe, just maybe, I should stay in bed.  The sky was overcast and the weather casters predicted about two inches of rain for the weekend.  I was pretty sure I wanted to just go out, go for a short hike, and take some pictures.  There was, however, something weighing on my mind.  It was grey.  It was dull.  What pictures were there to take in such a day as this?  In short, while I knew what I wanted to do, how will the reality of the on and off drizzle mesh with my idea of taking pictures of birds in spring?  My heart said go ahead.  My head asked why?  How so?

Sometimes the head wins out.  Sometimes the heart flutters too much and like the sweet smell of sampaguitas, the feeling envelops you, and the world feels new.  Is new.  The dawn of a new day.  A little muted, perhaps, but alive with possibilities.

And so it was that three hours was spent walking around in the on and off sprinkles from the sky.  And sometimes, the sun decided to tease a little warmth into the cool May morning.  The heart may be a lonely hunter at times, but then again, it can only be so.  For in the ups and downs and ups in life, we find our way to life lived, a life lived well.

How so?  The answer is simple.  Make it so.  And here are the pictures to prove it.

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Beautiful and Wet

Spring is tulip season in the mid Atlantic region.  With days getting warmer, rainfall is also bountiful.  Life giving water.  It makes the grass green.  The mood a little melancholy.  The ground, saturated by the drops of rain falling from the skies, is a little soft.  Maybe even muddy.   Grey skies indeed.  And in what can only be described as a pleasant contrast, shades of red, pink and yellow adorn countless gardens in all the neighborhoods.  The colors, saturated by the clouds diffusing light as it falls from our star, are vibrant.   Droplets of water cling to every flower.  And through each miniature lens, beauty is magnified.

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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

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.