As the day winds down, I turn the TV on and sit transfixed. Mesmerized by the colors and the beauty of the latest Pixar movie – Soul. What can I say. This is another masterpiece from the geniuses at Pixar. This film has so many levels that I think it will take dozens of viewings before I even begin to digest the messages that the movie has to say. The most important thing that it brings to my mind, however, is that we as people waste so much time thinking that things can be so much better that we forget how to live life. It isn’t the glories, the heights of fame and success that defines a person. It’s how we live with our family, how we live in our community. How we touch the ones we love and the people around us. We live a life and we forget that every moment is special. I needed this reminder today. I need to remember this message every day. We obsess and work hard to get somewhere and then when we get there, it often feels like a disappointment. There is an emptiness, a feeling that we must have missed something. What we miss is the part of life that makes it worth living. Being alive means looking around, taking a breath, and watching the world around us. Whether it is in the company of others or in our quiet corner of the house, life is around us. In the warmth of the early morning sun. In the cold stare of Orion as he marches in the winter sky. Life is everywhere. Each step forward, backward, sideways takes us somewhere new. Each step is an opportunity to give meaning to the lives of others. And in so doing, give meaning to our own lives.
The birds were a bit further from me than I wanted. Heck, they’re birds. They are not going to perch five feet from me, at least not when they can see me. Zoom out, press the shutter button. The images are small, but the birds are beautiful.
I like kingfishers. I just wish they would perch closer and dive for a fish and that my reaction time is fast enough to capture that event. Well, I will keep trying.
A black bird. We see crows, grackles (not really black) and don’t bother looking at what they’re doing. They’re not easy to photograph well, with the dark feathers demanding great dynamic range to render the bird with detail while the bird stands against lighter backgrounds. I was intrigued by this bird, perched on top of a dead tree, looking about, calling out. I thought it was calling for its partner. Soon enough, another bird flew to its side and in a moment of surprise (for me), their beaks locked. And then the surprise. Needless to say, anything can be a revelation, if you look hard enough. On this warm November day. And every day, if you are willing to look. And learn.
Another Saturday, another walk at Huntley Meadows. This time, on the larger wetland area, the water reflected the yellow flowers on the opposite shore while barely perceptible breeze distorted the mirrored image almost imperceptibly. I waited for a duck, a goose, anything to swim in the middle of the scene while in the corner of my eye I was watching two shorebirds on the same opposite shore. After a while, I started thinking about impressionist paintings, namely the water lilies of Monet. Handel will have to wait.
I’ve always wanted to take a picture of a kingfisher diving and getting a fish. I stood around watching this kingfisher on a tree. It was fairly far, but I figured with some post processing I can get a decent picture of the bird catching a fish. I stood in a spot for twenty minutes. The kingfisher perched on a branch the whole time. Which tells you that I wasn’t that close to this skittish creature. Suddenly, the bird flew off the branch. Not towards the water and a fish, but towards me. Oh, I got a picture off. Turns out a kingfisher, head on, has little contrast between the grey and white colors of the feathers and the grey beak. And even though the shutter speed was at 1/2500 of a second, it was barely fast enough to stop the motion. More practice needed. And here is the kingfisher, calm as can be, a few minutes before it flew my way.
I edited the branches out of the picture. One day, the bird will be close enough, not be scared, and perch on a branch that is clear of obstructive details. Until then, post processing, when it doesn’t change the actual details too much, will have to do.
Picky, picky, picky.
There is a message here, I think. You must try, even if you don’t succeed. You may even find out that what seems enticing really isn’t for you. Not every effort results in a desired outcome, but effort always imparts experience. Which, in the end, is the key to success. And finding out what you are about.
Can it be? It’s autumn in the northern hemisphere? Where did summer go? Heck, where did the year go? It has been a rather challenging year for almost everyone. With a scant three months before the page turns and 2020 becomes a memory, it is probably a good time to remember that the hardships and challenges we have endured are what life is about. It is not about jetting to some far off destination. Experiencing the delight of other places or tasting yet another new dish. Life is about living each day the best we can. To be kind and respectful. To watch and listen and learn. We don’t have to agree with what everyone says. Or what everyone does. We must do our part to not harm others. And this means respecting each other as if we are all borne of the same Father. That we are brothers and sisters in the most basic thing that defines each of us. Our DNA says so. Our RNA says so. Does our heart tell the same tale, or do we insist that enlightenment is only for the few? I tend to think it’s for the few. Oh. Check that. That kind of thinking, of allowing ourselves to think that we are better than the other only brings ruin to a community. If this pandemic wracked world has something left to teach us, let it be a simple reminder. A smile, even beneath a mask, still radiates warmth within. We cannot love everyone, but we can respect everyone. And in doing so, perhaps, that respect will become something greater. Something better. Perhaps.
The most beautiful thing in life is what inspires awe and love for the world and the people around us. Sometimes, all it takes is a small blue bird. And some company.
The familiar becomes even more special when mist is in the air.