Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Changing of the Log Guard

video

I finally caught (on camera) a turtle going into the water. Go to time stamp :43 to see it without watching the whole video. (Look at the largest lump on the left, that's the turtle.) I have no deep insights as to what this video means, it was just fun to see the changing of the guard.

The high water mark due to all our rain seems to have changed the habits a bit on this log. Ducks are more prevalent. If you watch the full video, you'll see the swans climbing on, a duck climbing on, the turtle jumping off...good times!


Bear in mind though, I'm like the blind men trying to understand an elephant, I only see one slice of time at this lake. I did notice ducks in the morning today too, so maybe I'm just missing the duck brigade. I see them, but they are by the dock, not the log. I'm rarely there in the middle of the day, so maybe that's when the ducks take a log-turn. I used to see them there all the time, but that was before we had so many swans. And we used to have an enormous amount of geese, but they are gone now due to a program that sterilized their eggs. (They were overrunning the town and the sports playing fields.)

This morning I met a man on the bench by the lake where I regularly take my photos from, and he said he takes pictures there every day too. He commented on the abundance of wildlife that is attracted to that log. He talked about the fish in the lake and the blackbird nests in the flora
at the lake edge, and the turtles. There are a number of things to focus on.

So in the interest of a more complete viewpoint, Saturday I'll take a photo once an hour all day, and we'll see what happens. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day 2009

Once for a journalism class, I had to write a 300 word biography and I chose my husband Tom as the subject. In honor of father's day, I'm posting it here. This was written when both of our children were teenagers, but our son will be 21 this week, and we had our whole family here yesterday to celebrate.

So Happy Father's Day to all the Dads we know, particularly Pop, Grandpa, and the person we're proud to call the Dad of this family--Tom.
Tom drives a 1972, promenade gold, Eldorado Cadillac convertible.

Because he’s a musician. Because he’s cool. Because he’s into cars. Because he found it on eBay. Because it’s big.

Because the center of his world is occupied by others: his teenagers, his wife, his wife’s job, his business, his family, his friends, the Knights of Columbus, the Crash Daddies, the lawn.

He bought the Cadillac for himself, and the fun and funky pieces of his personality took center stage. You have to have a sense of humor and a hunk of chutzpah to drive around in the “Superfly” car.

Tom spends part of every Saturday washing and buffing the beast. The car glows, not with a shiny new sparkle, but with the radiance of a classic that’s been around a few blocks, quite a few times.

Family drives with the roof down attract attention, grins, and one or two Cadillac buffs. His kids feel like celebrities, waving as if they’re in a parade. His wife wraps a headscarf on, adds black sunglasses, and becomes glamour-girl for an hour. The passengers absorb the automobile’s aura, unconsciously acquiring selected attributes.

Maybe this Cadillac isn’t in as perfect condition as the one that starred in the 70’s blaxploitation film “Superfly.”

Maybe it can’t play the lead guitar riffs Tom recorded with his blues/rock band the Crash Daddies—no CD player.

But its silent but massive presence, like Tom, is a throwback to the styles, values and traditions of past decades.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Weather

It has been raining for weeks here. The wildlife of the lake seems to segregate itself and hunker down on days like this. The ducks are in one area by the dock, the turtles must be underwater (I really need to learn where they go when they're not on that log), the birds certainly are not flying around, and you don't hear the frogs. (You don't generally hear the frogs until dusk anyway, but they deserved a mention.) Weather seems to influence risk tolerance. The wildlife is less mobile, closer to shore, less likely to fly, glide, soar and sing.

We experience weather, and other than moving to some location where the weather is different, we don't control it. It's a facet of our environment, or situation. Situation's evoke a response. Does that work for us or against us? Is it better to work with our reaction or ignore the situation and proceed as if the elements made no difference?

My father pointed me in the direction of a NY Times article regarding how golf pros handle loss aversion, and I think there's a related lesson there.
Even the world’s best pros are so consumed with avoiding bogeys that they make putts for birdie discernibly less often than identical-length putts for par, according to a coming paper by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. (NY Times, June 16)
The author's conclude that this is costing golfers about one stroke per 72 hole tournament. Golfers actually accept the study (most athletes don't accept the findings of most studies). Here's what two of them say:

“Par putts just seem to be more critical because if you miss you drop a shot — if you miss a birdie putt, it doesn’t seem to have the same effect,” said Jim Furyk, one of the tour’s best putters.

Added Justin Leonard: “When putting for birdie, you realize that, most of the time, it’s acceptable to make par. When you’re putting for par, there’s probably a greater sense of urgency, so therefore you’re willing to be more aggressive in order not to drop a shot. It makes sense.”
The authors think this is an error in thinking. If golfers realized a stroke is a stroke--in other words it's the total score, not the score for each hole matters--then they could improve their game. I have to read the original study, but I disagree. Golf is played hole by hole. That's why there is sometimes match play. In match play you don't play for score, you play to win the hole. Most holes wins.

Even for the usual total score though, you play hole by hole. There's a mental game, a bogey is a failure. And failures stay with you forever, success has a half life. There's a formula for this (again, passed to me by my Dad). Some day I'll post it, for now, it means that humans are affected more by failure than success. The point of learning that IS to overcome it but you do so by understanding that every moment is worthwhile for something and failure is a perspective.

Still, you pay attention to the weather. The weather just is. To the wildlife on this lake, the rain isn't bad, it just is. However, they don't behave the same in rain as they do in sun. They adjust to the situation because they 'know' their environment. So do the golfers.

My conclusion from this is that to stay grounded in the world, you don't ignore your situations. If things are crazy, you don't have to spin out of control. You can however, pay attention, experience it, behave in synch with the environment and weather the storms.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Grounded

I went to the lake yesterday to think about grounded-ness. I've heard walking by lake edges is good for grounding. And being grounded of course would be the opposite of the unsteadiness that is part of this vertigo episode.

One of my favorite quotes (it was my high school graduation theme) is from Thoreau: "If you have built castles in the air, your work n
eed not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Revisiting the actual quote, I realize that I never recall the part " your work need not be lost..." Why would anyone ever think it would be lost? Why would you not want your castles in the air? By this age (50) you know what people think of you. I'd say for the most part I'm recognized as a dreamer, and I never thought about the downside of that. Your work can be lost, or at least not reach its full fruition if you ignore the foundations.

The reason I liked this photo is even though I was thinking about grounding, I was attracted to the reflection of the cloud in the water. I was thinking that the cloud was the castle in the air and the water was the foundation. Trying to write about it though, water does
n't work too well as a foundation analogy.

I've cropped the plants and ground around the edge of the lake in this photo. I was thinking about all the different types of ground. The lake edge, the lake bed, the log that the turtles are using as ground, the horizon and ground in the distance, the water itself as a grounding medium for swans. But really, ground is ground. If you want to build a foundation, start with the ground. Viewing this photo without that ground (crop it) diminishes
it.

Here's another one. The subject of this photo seems to be the swan, but the swan without the background, the water, the reflection, and the ground in the foreground, would not be nearly as compelling. My head's in the clouds, my heart's always been with the water, I'm going to spend some time looking at the ground and things that are close to it, one step at a time.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Weeds

I love this photo, but I really don't know why. The reality is that it's a photo of weeds. But they look like a Monet.

The color harmonies give it a dreamy quality and yet looking closely, you see the swan feathers and the early June gunk on the lake.

Maybe, because weeds grow no matter what, because they truly are a natural part of their environment, and because when you're a child you see their beauty, they should be admired. So what if they're not rare? They bloom where they are planted, they require very little care, and they are prolific. it doesn't take a great deal to appreciate the rarest of beautiful flowers, but appreciating a weed requires some creativity.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Vertigo

I've been dealing with Vertigo (and it does deserve a capital V) for almost two weeks now. It hit me on Saturday May 23, and I have not been the same. I can't drive, can't work in the multi-tasking polychronic way we all have to today, and I have to focus on one thing at a time. That's the gift. There's a lot going on in our life, and maybe the only way to deal with it is one thing at a time and my body, brain and the universe is not giving me a choice.

This photo sums up the experience perfectly. Before posting it, I had to figure out if the orientation was correct. Which way was up? The way you see it here is correct according to how I took it. If you look in the upper left corner, you can see gray asphalt. That's our driveway. This is one of my favorite plants growing around our home. It's a clematis vine that grows on a trellis outside the window of our back breezeway into the kitchen. To take the photo, I was standing on my back steps, leaning around the corner on my toes so that I could be above the flower and get a closeup that shows the gorgeous color that is so spectacular. In real life it's more spectacular if you experience the whole thing, but in a photo you have to look differently. If you don't believe me, think of sunsets, a spectacular sunset in person is a life-changing moment that proves there is a God, but a photo of the same thing (depending on the photographer) can be a cliche'.

Anyway, as I looked through all of the photos I took that day of the vine, this one spoke to me the loudest. And yet, there's that gray in the upper corner. When I saw it, it oriented me but made me dizzy. Look at it again. I wonder if it makes other people dizzy? T
he way the leaves are growing is actually confusing It seems like it should be rotated, but no matter how you rotate it, they don't look quite right. They seem to be growing up in this photo, they should be hanging in a way that makes sense with gravity. They should hang down slightly. They don't in any orientation because this photo was taken from a perspective that was unusual and unstable. Yet it's so clear and crisp that you don't get the possibility of falling, so I find the effect disorienting. You are looking down at a climbing vine from a height of about 8 feet (my height plus the steps, plus stretching) not something you normally do, and that's why if you focus on the upper left corner and the driveway, it's a little disconcerting.

I love that about the photo. It illustrates that taking a close focus on something from a unique perspective can be beautiful but personally disorienting. No one that's with me can tell that I feel like I'm on a boat and have to use about 20% of my energy to stabilize myself. It's exhausting so I have to lay down once in awhile to rest. Also, I can't think about multiple issues at once. So I'm really looking at each thing I do in a way I haven't before, and some of the issues in my life have no answers. If they had solutions, we would have solved them already. This way though, I'm seeing there isn't a solution, just a plan for proceeding and getting to the next stage.

Again, this clematis is a good metaphor. It's at least a 20-year old plant (it was here before we moved in 16 years ago, I transplanted it to its current location where it flourishes.) And the spectacular blooms grow on the old vines. I am not sure how to prune it without ruining the plant. So I train it rather than cut it. I've had people tell me to take out some of the dead vine, but I'm close enough to that plant to see that sometimes what you think is dead is connected at one end to growth. That's what you learn from looking closesly at things in the range you can focus on from the perspective that holds beauty for you.