Images, Old Diary, Travel

Mrs P, This One’s For You

One of my readers offered some comments on that travel plan map I posted yesterday and in responding I got to thinking about the wonderful Live Oak in St. Augustine Florida.  It’s called the Old Senator and has been core tested to be at least 600 years old.  It was around when Ponce de Leon discovered the so-called Fountain of Youth in 1513

The Old Senator, St Augustine, FL

The Old Senator, St Augustine, FL

Anyway… I just wanted to share this big old monster with y’all. Someone built a motel around it and The Old Senator has survived the infringement on its territory.  Last I knew the motel was owned by Howard Johnson’s but that may have changed since last I saw it.

And as long as I’m posting tree pictures, here’s another one of mine from a couple years ago.



We’re getting rained on with a forecast to change to snow — so I think I’m staying home today.

Images, Minimalism, Old Diary

My New Middle Name

Reading WordPress Reader yesterday was helpful. I linked across to a new blogger (to me).  In an article about remaining compassionate in the midst of turmoil I took inspiration for this re-work of an image from our trip last fall with our daughter to South Carolina.  If you want to see the blog that triggered my thinking, here it is:  Everyday Gurus!  That blog also inspired part of this entry’s content.

I realized something about myself through that blog….

My middle name should be “Antecedent”

I’ve always been a problem solver.  It’s who I am.  Mostly, I solve problems was because those who preceded me failed to look for causes:  antecedents.  That which went before.

My co-workers (in those early years before I discovered self-employment) would get angry with me.  They would schedule meetings at which little or nothing ever changed.  Too often I’d sit through an entire meeting thinking about the first topic under consideration — also the first topic to be tabled till the next meeting.  About the time the meeting was ending I would have worked through the details of the first agenda item, diagnosed the cause, formulated a solution and just when the boss wanted to gavel the meeting to a close I’d suggest returning to that first item….. (and at least we took that item off the agenda for the next meeting.)

The blog I referred to was about compassion.  I don’t hear that word very often.  But it reminded me of things I’ve forgotten. And of the fact that compassion is (at least in my mind) linked irreversibly to “Being.”  It’s easy to lose compassion when we aren’t in touch with our own humanity. If we don’t see other people as unique personalities who hurt and laugh and ache then we don’t realize that we can, or have, hurt them.  That happens for most of us when we are pressured, stressed, under duress.  But the definition of compassion also includes a sense of superiority/judgment — that we have a right/ability to determine what is suffering or misfortune.  As if we can decide what is good for them.  Or what they need.  Or should have. And sometimes when being compassionate we forget that someone else has the right to make their own decisions — good or bad — and that we don’t have the right to interfere with them being them.

COMPASSION: Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others: “the victims should be treated with compassion”.

I came to realize that the antecedent in this housing delay is my pacifism.   I believe in peace.   At my absolute core is a dislike for anything confrontational.

Furthermore, I believe that people buy from people — a boss several decades ago taught me that and I believe it to this day…. we tend to connect with people in ways that we don’t connect with machines.  (Whether that will still be true in 20 or 30 years with the insinuation of computers into our life has yet to be seen. Heck sometimes you can’t even get a hold of a human on a phone line anymore.) The point is that for millennia the decision to purchase has been a function of two people interacting between themselves.

Perhaps that dislike for confrontation is why I dislike lawyers:  they presuppose that any two parties are at odds.  It is an essential assumption of superiority.  I realize now that my dislike for lawyers oozes over onto real estate agents too!  Real estate people have a reputation for not wanting buyers and sellers to meet face to face. That is diametrically opposed to how I think.

I can see some of their reasoning. But only some.

Not everyone is honest. Sellers might say too much. Buyers might expect too much. One party might tick off the other party.  If buyers and sellers talk all sorts of things could happen to screw up a sale.  And we can’t forget that a salesman’s prime directive is in closing a sale, not in making friends.  They may make friends as a side effect of good service but who likes a friendly real estate agent who can’t sell a house?

This old geezer (me) who genuinely likes people (in carefully controlled doses), believes that two people can work things out if they sit down together and talk things through.  I want to sell the house and get a fair price. The buyer wants to buy the house at a fair price for what they are buying.  There is nothing wrong with what either side wants.  But show me any situation where two people who want to communicate — but are forced to do it through the interpretation of two additional people —  will have an easier time understanding each other than they would if they just talked face to face.  Somehow it just seems that adding people to that communication chain makes things harder.

I think that our two agents have finally figured that out.  They now agree that the seller is acting in good faith (that’s us) and the buyer is acting in good faith.  Hooray!  A conversation today seems to have sorted through the remaining sticky details.  We are willing.  He is willing. We have two people who want to do a deal — I’m hopeful we can get this sorted.

Tomorrow we leave for Elkhart: to deliver Journey for her new floor and sofa — I’ll have to work on the sticking points next week.  But we’ll do our best to get it twigged!

numeral 27

Twenty-Seven days till closing? Let’s hope so.

Old Diary, Travel

Next Year I’d Sure Like To Be Here

Anticipating our own closing on June 7, we could not make the Blanco TX Lavender Festival this year, but next spring might just find us here…

10 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country

Between the Lavender festival, swimming in Bluebonnets, and picking peaches — this sounds like a little bit of heaven.

numeral 33

Thirty Three more Days…

Today is home inspection day.  As you know we are out of town just so we got a good nights’ sleep Saturday night and so we had somewhere to be all day Sunday while the inspection was going on.

We’re still optimistic that we have a deal, but so far as I know the inspection today and the results of whatever testing they may or may not do are the final hurdle before closing.  They have a few days for testing results — normal enough.  And no matter what happens we head out for Elkhart a week from tomorrow to get the flooring done in Journey as well as the new sofa installed.

It’s an exciting time and a frustrating time, not only for us, but for Michael and Kathryn who are awaiting our closing so that they can proceed with renovations on their building and their new residence.  So, fingers crossed…  All we can do is wait.


Images, Old Diary

To Each Their Own Beauty


Col Mist over Warm Water

Each season of the year has it’s own beauty.  Finding that natural beauty in the seasons is no different than trying to find the unique beauty in different size, age, and shape people.  All of the components are the same. Every photograph is the same:  line, light, texture, composition, however you categorize the elements they are always the same.

A picture is a picture is a picture

A Promontory of Pelvis

A Promontory of Pelvis

Before retiring I decided to spend several years shooting humanscapes: the landscapes we live in.  I mostly took a break from landscapes and turned onto the human form those skills I had developed shooting natural scenes. While doing so, the challenge was right in front of me.  How do I reveal unique beauty in someone skinny or overweight, athletic or out of shape?  That beauty is present – no matter how society stereotypes beauty and ignores those who don’t fit it’s definitions.  I enjoyed both the work and the reactions of people who never thought they could look as amazing as the images I created of them. Happy clients are always a good thing. 🙂

The Gift of Sight

photo credit: Scott Sternbach

photo credit: Scott Sternbach

What amazes me is that people pretend that there is something different about shooting people, or about shooting landscapes, or architecture, or sports.  And yet, the challenge is always the same.  FIND the image from amidst a cacophony of irrelevant details.  Cull out the irrelevant,  focus on the beauty, find a way to accentuate what you really want to say. 

I have heard lazy photographers justify their lack of discipline or passion or skill by pointing to the words of Brett Weston.  Weston used an 8 x 10 view camera for most of his work.  This Scott Sternbach image gives you an idea of the size and cumbersome nature of a 8″ x 10″ view camera. It is easy to see why some might think he advocated the lazy approach to photography:

“‘Anything more than 500 yds from the car just isn’t photogenic.” – Brett Weston

If you are lazy, or if your images are ordinary, and an expert tells you it’s ok not to drag your equipment out to every beautiful panorama, then it’s easy to be satisfied with your own work. But, Weston wasn’t lazy. He had a wonderful eye for images.  He made extraordinarily beautiful images of very common place things. Of things right outside his door, right alongside his trunk, right around the corner.  How convenient to have an excuse from a master for not improving in a very un-Weston-like way.

Finding something special in a scene right in front of your eyes takes a better set of eyes than finding something beautiful in a panorama everyone agrees is beautiful.  If everyone is telling you it’s beautiful then why not trip the shutter.  Shooting the same sights everyone else shoots is an easy excuse for mediocrity.

Trying to see beauty in something other people have passed by is quite a different challenge.  When I first started pursuing such images I felt completely out of place.  There’s nothing here worth shooting I would say to myself.  Until I started looking closer — and that has often been my salvation.  When you can’t find anything worth shooting — GET CLOSER.

A single leaf on a bed of snow

A single leaf on a bed of snow

I don’t know whether I always realized it, but I looking back at my images now I see that Ihave always looked at the seasons as a metaphor for life. I like metaphors.  When I create an image it’s not just about the form, lines, and color.  On some level I see plants and situations in terms of their stage in life, just as I might view a nude model in my studio. Making average people look extraordinary has helped my landscapes by helping me fine tune my ability to find greater beauty in commonplace items.

winter loneliness

A bonsai in winter

Like most Mid-westerners I get antsy about this time each year.  After being buffeted by wind and snow and howling cold for a while, any exuberance for changing seasons takes a back seat to the desire for a little sun, a little warmth, and a chance to pull on my shorts.  With no leaves on the trees I find myself looking at nothing more than the form:  the lines of a scene before me.  I get closer.  I have no choice. Where someone else sees a “dead tree” I see the hope of renewed life, the symmetry of growth, the regularity of science. These are things I taught myself — a photography class doesn’t teach you to see.

I have a secret to share. As a guy who makes a big deal about not liking large crowds I have used my aversion to crowds as a way of learning to see beauty.

The biggest crowds seem to like to go places when the scenery and weather are at their best.  When I choose to travel where the crowds aren’t, I am metaphorically enforcing my own sort of 500 feet limit to my car.  It’s sort of the anti-social way of searching for beauty: I’m looking for a way to show something uniquely beautiful in an object or scene that anyone else might pass by unnoticed. In fact they find it so uninteresting as to avoid coming to see it.  An empty park right after a snowfall.  An empty bench in a park. Trawler booms.  Incomplete construction, abandoned construction, derelict construction. Blemishes and bulges.

Central Park Bench

Central Park Bench

Take time to look around.  You don’t have to go far.  Start at the tip of your nose.

People have asked where we plan on going once the house is sold and the truth is out destinations don’t matter. Making a life is just like making an image.  And extraordinary beauty is right there in front of us — no matter where we are — if only we will look for it. Anything over 500 feet away just isn’t photogenic.

Old Diary

Patience With Bark

They say that genetic traits often skip a generation.  I believe it.

When we heard that our granddaughter liked Bonsai it was like Deja Vu all over again.  (Sorry for that – there’s a movie line just like that and even though I know deja vu means all over again I couldn’t resist it).

 Seattle 2004 DSC01137

We love taking in Bonsai gardens whenever we are nearby and have the opportunity.  I hope we’ll be able to see a lot more.  And I also hope that our grand daughter will have her little starter bonsai for many many years.  But Bonsai are not for the likes of me — I’ve killed several of them over the years. Mostly because I’m not around often enough.

Let me explain.


There really are no limits to the lifespan of a bonsai.  This specimen on the right is one we saw at Elandan Gardens in Bremerton WA.  If you could read the legend plate it says, A.D. 1320.  Now that’s an OLD bonsai.  Of course the truth of the story is that it hasn’t been a cultivated bonsai that long.  It was found on a desolate outcropping high on a mountain and brought from there to civilization where it has flourished under care for a great many years.  But my point is that these old living things are fully able to survive a great long time.  IF they have someone to care for them.

Bremerton BackwatersAnd of course that has always been my problem.  I travel.  I have always travelled.  And when I’m gone there’s no one home to tend to the plants.  Sigh.

The result has been several dead bonsai.  I’m a tree killer I’m afraid.  And now that we are trying desperately to get, and go, mobile we aren’t planning on carrying along bonsai in Journey. I’ll continue enjoying them when we see them, but I’m getting old enough that starting a bonsai isn’t in the cards — I might find one that has been in training for a half century or more and enjoy that — but my “expected” lifespan doesn’t suggest that I’ll really get very far starting the process from scratch.

When a living plant is first converted into a bonsai there is a process of trimming back the branches and trimming back the roots so as to put the tree into a state of struggle.  By forcing the plant to reach into Mother Nature’s bag of tricks to survive a portion of the unique bonsai trait is begun.  Then by keeping the plant in fast draining soil and with only limited soil in which to gain nourishment the plant achieves more rapidly the look of advanced age.

2004261WASH04018There is something innately human about rushing to make something look older, isn’t there?  We love our shabby chic, and our faux finishes.  We build new buildings and apply venetian plaster techniques to make our new structure look a century old — instead of tearing down that century old building that once stood there and actually USING an old building.  To be truthful I sometimes think that this urge to antiquification is something particularly a U.S. trait.  Our culture is so young, and I often think that we envy cultures with greater age and so we imitate what we do not have.

Bonsai is more of an oriental pastime than caucasian.  Bonsai has been a way of life for a certain portion of Japan for centuries.  It’s not all the common here in the states, though there are local bonsai clubs and numerous gardens around the country.  However, I have never visited a bonsai garden that is as crowded as Disneyland. It’s a different state of mind.

Culturally it’s a strange dichotomy that we’ve created.  We like to have old things around us as long as we can have new old things.  Real old things we get rid of.  We raze our old buildings to make room for new ones.  We hide our old people away in “retirement homes” when they get too troubling to look at.  We go to extraordinary measures to cut our bodies open and insert foreign objects in pursuit of a younger visage.  We endure exercise regimens but we don’t want to work hard.  In fact, we have to exercise because we don’t have enough day in and day out exertion to prevent our getting fat.  It’s a strange world we have created.

Grandma and Grandpa / 1947My grandmother lived to 102 yrs of age (I keep wanting to think it was 104, but I have to look it up from time to time to keep it straight).  She ate so much salt that the family thought she had lost her tastebuds.  She ate so much animal fat  that they were sure she was headed for an early grave. (“that’s where the flavor is,” she would say to her girls in Polish)   Of course she outlived all her daughters by at least 20 yrs.  What she did do, however, was to work until her dying day.

I don’t know.  I find the growing contradictions of american society perplexing. The good thing about Bonsai is they don’t take any interpretation.  They are what they are:  Beautiful patience enrobed in bark.