It did it its way.
I was driving to northern New Jersey for a Christening. I figured, what the heck, wake up early, try to get to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge by sunrise, and watch the sun rise. The sun and the clouds and the sky cooperated.
I came for the birds, and ended up with the sun.
There are two exhibits at the National Gallery of Art that I wanted to see. “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting” was an interesting and eye opening display of the willingness of great painters to borrow ideas from one another. The “Posing for the Camera” exhibit allowed me to see for myself some notable prints by great photographers. Of course, everyone was intently looking at the great masterpieces.
Images from “Posing for the Camera”
Paintings from the “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting” exhibit
And the painting by the stairwell, Salvador Dali’s “The Last Supper.”
Outside the museum, proof that red is a beautiful color.
Years ago, while vacationing in Cabo, I decided to drive to La Paz, Mexico. I didn’t have a GPS and I was adventurous enough to attempt to go across Baja California with a rudimentary map that I printed from the internet. I wanted to see the clear waters of Balandra Beach. So off I went, on my small rental car, driving between fast moving, close passing cars and trucks that seemingly were only a second or so away from colliding with me. When everything seems like a close call, you just learn to go with the flow. A few hours later, I was in La Paz.
After a quick lunch and a visit to the beach, it was time to go back to Cabo. There was only one problem. I only mapped out the path going eastward. I had no idea how to get back to Cabo. I was driving around in circles. Every once in a while, I’d ask somebody for directions on how to get back to the highway that would take me back west. There were so many helpful people, but it was readily apparent that my inability to speak or understand Spanish was a major liability. People tried to help me by drawing pictures of the roads that I needed to drive to. That only lead me to different circular paths. Flustered, I stopped by a gas station to try to get directions.
Once again, I didn’t have much luck getting directions to Cabo. I was panicked. And then, something miraculous happened. There was a beat up car parked in the gas station. A man came up to me and told me that he can show me the way back to Cabo. Follow him, he said. He will take me to the highway to Cabo. I did as he said. I started my car and followed him as he drove through streets that were unfamiliar to me. We reached a highway and he pointed to a certain direction, a sign telling me that I have finally found the road home. I waved at him to thank him. He smiled and in what seemed like an instant, he was gone.
I sped through the highway, heading westward. A few hours later, I was back at Cabo. Relieved. Thankful.
The thing is, there are many beautiful things to see and experience in Cabo and La Paz. Great food, great beaches. And yet. The thing that I remember the most is the kindness of a total stranger. I was lost; somehow, this stranger found me, and set me back to the right path. I could think of a lot of religious allegories, but I really want to say something about how many of us, including me, lead our lives.
All of us, in a multitude of ways, are attracted to beautiful things. A beautiful person, a beautiful car, a beautiful whatever. How many times do we ignore the things that seem common, the things we deem unexceptional. We look up and see the bright lights. And we gravitate towards the brightest of these lights. We forget (truthfully, we neglect) the other lights in the world. Why is it that we choose to ignore so many things that can bring us so much happiness, so much joy? I can’t even fathom how much I have missed in life by not paying attention to the things that really should matter the most.
We can spend endless amounts of money trying to stay young, to become more presentable, in the hopes of being likable enough for people to pay attention to us. We surround ourselves with things to make us look comfortable, as if the look of success is somehow enough to impress everyone that we seek. Somehow, we have allowed the constant bombardment of messages extolling wealth and beauty to distract us, to make us forget what is really important in our lives.
I am so glad that I got lost in La Paz. This unfortunate happenstance lead to one of most life affirming lessons that I have experienced. In the midst of nowhere, a man in a rusty old car extended the hand of friendship to someone he didn’t know. He didn’t ask for any compensation. It was enough for him to give help when help was needed. He didn’t ask me who I was. He didn’t care that I didn’t speak his language. He just helped.
I need to remind myself of this lesson every day. Beauty comes from the heart. Love freely given, without any expectation of getting anything in return, is the most beautiful thing of all. Remember to be kind. Remember to listen. Be of service to others. Expect nothing and in so doing, gain everything.
The boat across Jenny Lake at Grand Teton National Park afforded us an incredible view of the Tetons. Upon reaching the shore, the mountainside trails beckoned. Up we went, some slower than the others. In due time, the spectacular waterfall that would be one of the hallmarks of this trip came into view. The Teton peaks may give Grand Teton National Park its name, but the lakes, the waterfalls, the flowers of spring, the clean air, the beautiful mountainside hikes, and so much more make this park better than grand. Eloquently beautiful, sublimely inspirational, incredibly inspiring – no superlatives can truly describe this jewel of the national park system.
With most of the United States in deep freeze, why not venture out on the first day of the year and feel that cold, crisp air? Why not. Unfortunately, my favorite museum was closed for the day.
Still, a little cold weather did not deter this man, nor did the weather deter his drinking companions.
But on this cold January day, the first day of the year, the afternoon light made this short trip to the Mall worthwhile.
Even on a cloudy, drizzly, cold, windy, autumn day, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a revelation. Cape Breton is an island off Nova Scotia. Buffeted by the winds of the Atlantic Ocean, the rugged beauty of the island is a sight to behold. As you drive through the Cabot Trail along the coast, you will pass through this incredible natural wonder.
Driving through Nova Scotia, the seaside towns, the rugged coastlines, the friendly people already provided enough memories to last a lifetime. And as we drove to Cape Breton, I had expected to see more of the same. Well, yes and no. The people were friendly, but the island is more exposed to the winds and tantrums of the Atlantic. And as we drove through the coasts, the road winding through the mountains on one side and the Atlantic on the other, I could not help but think that I was the luckiest man on the planet. I know countless people have witnessed the beauty of Cape Breton. Yet to see it for the first time, to feel the cold crisp wind in your face as you stop and marvel at each curve in the trail, to experience the raw power of nature and the raw beauty that it has to offer – there are few places in the planet that elicit such awe.
I didn’t spend enough time at the park. That much is certain. A few hours hiking barely gave enough time to grasp the true beauty of everything that was around me. Here, at least, are some images from this incredible spot on an incredibly beautiful island known as Cape Breton.
This was proving to be a wonderful hike through the highlands. And then, the forest gave way to the coasts. What a sight to behold. I ran into these two women who bicycled their way across Canada. From Vancouver, to the Canadian Rockies, to Cape Breton – they must have seen so much of what I still long to see. Probably not on a bicycle, but someday – there are still so many places left to explore.
The winding roads, the clouds over the ocean, the wind, the trail went on towards vistas that boggle the mind.
And then, the sun peeked through. Just a smidge of sun, a few ticks of the clock – it was enough.
Sometimes, when a place is really special, even a moment is enough to capture a memory. And strangely enough, all the time in the world is never enough time to spend in that same place. Cape Breton and Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I hear the siren call.