When I was growing up I had an aunt, or a cousin or some relative who had the seats in her car covered with plastic. I always thought that was a little strange, to take this nice comfortable fabric and cover it with hot, sticky plastic, just so it wouldn’t get dirty or wear out. I don’t remember for certain, but I think she might have had the furniture in her house covered in plastic too. People used to – probably still do – use plastic carpet runners to keep people from walking on the carpet. I’ll admit that I can see the logic in covering carpet with carpet runner, in the winter, when it used to snow, and we people would come in the house with snow on their boots. But in the middle of summer? Nah!
Today, we can’t buy a cell phone without being offered a “screen protector.” I don’t understand why I would buy a fancy new phone with a gorgeous display and stick a piece of foggy plastic on it. So it won’t get dirty? It’s a touch screen, for Pete’s sake! It’s going to get finger marks on it! When I bought my last laptop, one of my students was appalled that I hadn’t paid another $50 or more for some rubberized piece of goo to cover the computer. I said, “someone went to a lot of trouble to make this computer look so nice, why would I want to cover it up?” We get sold $10 UV filters to put in front of our camera lenses, we can buy “skins” to cover up our cameras and lenses, but for what? So it won’t look like we use them? Come on, we don’t use them enough as it is, why cover it up with some aftermarket stuff someone thinks we need, just to keep our gear looking nice.
I have no idea why that was stuck in my head today. Well actually I do, and I feel much better now. Thanks!
I’ve been away for a while. I didn’t go far, but things are finally settling down after a difficult and hectic August. Kathy has gotten her Dad’s affairs pretty much in order, and to the extent that I’ve been able to help I have helped. Work demands have taken some of my attention too, so there just hasn’t been a lot of time for writing and creativity. The blog got pushed to the side for a little while, but here I am.
Kathy & I spent Labor Day week at the beach. Besides all the hoopla that was already playing out in Charlotte (the DNC, for those who pay even less attention than me) it was time for a break. Kathy was just about wrung out and so was I, so it was perfect timing. A trip to the beach was definitely in order.
Our “beach of choice” is Hilton Head Island, SC. We’ve been going there for years, starting with a weekend each year, then a week, and now we try to get there for a week and several weekends each year. We like it there, the beach is beautiful, and it’s generally quiet. There is plenty of activity for those so inclined, but this year we literally rented beach chairs for 7 days straight and sat on our backsides. We walked, talked, read and just generally chilled. And I took a few photographs. Not many, but I managed to haul myself out for sunrise a few mornings, and even got Kathy to come with me for one (I promised her breakfast!).
One of the best things about “going to the beach” for us is the state of mind we go with. We don’t live hectic lives by a lot of peoples’ standards, but it gives us a chance to “put it all away.” And yes, while the DNC was perhaps a historic event, just because it happened to be in Charlotte didn’t change my lack of interest, and it certainly didn’t give me reason to turn on the TV. We don’t watch TV anyway, so we certainly don’t do it at the beach. I guess we had a TV, but I never opened the doors of the entertainment center to look.
I do very little blog reading or Facebook on vacation. I don’t have a need to post constant “jealousy updates” that my friends can “Like” and tell me how lucky I am. I do some photography but that is not the focus of our time or attention there, and unless I have a rainy day with nothing else to do, I’ve gotten completely away from processing photos. I prefer to live in the moment, and the minute I put my nose into the computer screen “the moment” goes away.
The same holds true with writing. I sometimes think I’d like to spend some time writing while I’m at the beach, but instead what I do is think and take notes. For the same reasons I don’t like to process photos, I don’t want to take time and attention from being there. In many ways I write for escape, and when I’m already “escaped” I want to keep it that way. So I think my thoughts and make my notes to refer to later when something sparks the need to write. I plant seeds. I like it that way.
We don’t completely escape from reality on vacation. Hilton Head has numerous wonderful restaurants. We have a number of “have-to” favorites and always like to try some new places. This year the new ones were about 50-50 successful, some of the old ones are getting a little old, and a few places we had been to only a few times but tried again were worth a visit. We sometimes get out to do some shopping or visit a gallery or two, but this year the weather was so beautiful we didn’t have a reason to leave the beach. We do more of that in the winter if we visit in January or February.
But we’re here now, back to “reality” for a little while. I’ve got some photos to share and a few stories to tell. And we’ll be back to our usual traveling routine after a few weekends at home. So, sorry if you missed me, but thanks for sticking around.
This year has truly exemplified the term “roller coaster ride.” Kathy’s Dad died last week after an extended illness. Her Mom died in May. They had both been ailing for quite some time before they moved to an assisted living facility in April of this year. In between we managed to squeeze in a trip to the beach, several weekends to the mountains, including a great weekend with friends at Shenandoah National Park in April. Then her Mom died in May, later in the month we took a wonderful vacation to Alaska and California, and since then we managed to sneak in a few weekends away, but in general the last several months were consumed with taking care of Kathy’s Dad.
It’s been a tough year.
Kathy & I love to travel, obviously. And we often use our travel as a way to escape – both mentally and physically – from our everyday realities. The last 6 months or more have been emotionally and physically draining, and we feel fortunate to have been able to intersperse the grief and sadness with some well-timed getaways.
It’s surprising how the body and mind can take on additional burden without us realizing it, until such time as the burden is lifted from us and we realize how much we had been carrying. We are starting to feel that lifting now, and it may take a while longer before we fully appreciate it.
We were talking with friends this past week and one of them mentioned that we would be “trying to find our new normal.” That comment hit home for both of us, and we have talked about it a lot over the last few days. I really like the concept of “a new normal,” as if feels like what is happening to us now (I say ‘us,’ but of course Kathy has been carrying the burden, and I have been supporting her as much as I can).
It’s a huge change, to go from caring for two people who have loved you for your entire life to having them gone completely in a few short months. I went through it myself years ago and it still comes back and smacks me in the head when I least expect it. And I suspect it will continue to do so for a long while to come.
The attraction of this “new normal” idea is that it presents one of those rare times when we have at least a little bit of influence about what that “normal” looks like. Will it mean big changes for us? Probably not. But I know that losing both of my parents at an early age – my Mom was 53 when she died, my Dad was 54 – has had a profound influence on how I have looked, and how I continue to look, at my own life as I approach (and hopefully pass) those ages. Let’s just say that I’m hoping for a heck of a birthday party for July 2013!
The concept of “a new normal” is very appropriate to me, because it aptly describes the adjustment process that inevitably takes place when a major change occurs in our lives. Many of these changes are very subtle, such as not having to remember to make a phone call, or not having to plan our route so we come home via Statesville. Some of them are pretty major, as in the fact that having someone living close by and being primarily responsible for their care was one of the major influences to us in terms of staying in the area. Does that mean we’re going to sell the house and move to Alaska? Not today, but when we do decide it’s time to sell the house – which is the only “physical” thing keeping us here – who knows? The kids are here, and our jobs (for as long as we want them or as long as our employers want us) are here. But fewer ties mean more possibilities. And that is what “new normal” means for me right now. What will it mean in a few months or a few years? Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to figuring it out.
We had already planned a trip to the beach over Labor Day weekend, but we had an opportunity to extend that into a full week. I think a week of sand, sun and ocean will do us good. Some quiet time to think and talk, a nice beach for long walks, and a number of good restaurants where they treat us like locals. It is one of our favorite places to visit, and a good place to start getting in touch with our new normal. Indeed.
Life maintains a fragile balance. Most of us take this balance for granted, but the result when this changes even a little can be devastating. A life full of health and optimism can quickly turn to pain and misery with little or no warning.
Kathy’s Mom passed away this past week. The funeral was Saturday. Just a few short years ago she was healthy and energetic, walking and exercising regularly, optimistic for a long and happy future. A series of falls and illnesses were eventually diagnosed as Parkinson’s. A disease as diverse as those who are afflicted, there is little to be done, save for some medicines whose side effects tend to be as horrible as the illness they are designed to alleviate. Eventually the inevitable prevailed, and in too short a time she was gone.
A loving wife and caring mother, she left a family who misses her greatly. Her wit, wisdom and sense of humor inspires us all, and I am grateful that she was even able to find a few redeeming qualities in me.
Here’s something a little different this month. A simpler and more graphic photograph, the kind of photography I’ve been doing more of lately…seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.
While this photograph was taken on Hilton Head Island, SC the location isn’t really important. The photo isn’t about Hilton Head. What it is about is the combination of red, white and blue in a simple, graphic design that to me represents that feeling I get on a sunny summer day with a great clear blue sky. That feeling of being on vacation!
Lots going on these days, so while I hope to send off a few more posts before the Big Adventure, it may be a too little hectic. But you’ll hear from me, don’t worry!
Pentax announced a new mirrorless camera today. A lot of the chatter I saw – on one blog, I don’t spend any time on the “forums” – was discussing the design, which depending on your point of view is either really cool or makes it look like it was built by Little Tykes or Tonka (one of the versions is actually bright yellow). Among the usual comments like “I’d buy it in a heartbeat if only…” was a quote from someone named Paul (hopefully not my friend Paul that frequents this blog!), who in referring to the comments about it being ugly, said:
“You’d think, in a creative hobby such as photography, that folks would be… you know… creative in other ways of thinking and seeing the world as well. The only thing I have learned from reading blogs and online photo forums is that photographers now-a-days are the most conservative, dull and uninspired group (of mostly old men) on the planet.”
Boy, doesn’t that pretty much nail it. There are exceptions of course, and I feel that I and anyone reading my blog qualifies as an exception, but I see that everywhere. A bunch of old dudes collecting expensive equipment and hauling it around in their PT Cruisers to a bunch of checklist places and taking cliché photographs of famous icons. Of course, no one reading this blog fits that definition so please don’t take offense! Although I believe that is perfectly OK if that is your goal. More than anything I want to make sure I don’t fall into that definition, and I’m trying really, really hard to avoid doing so.
Granted, a bright yellow camera and a field full of (mostly) gray and black does stand out, but you’d never lose it! I personally tend to prefer a camera that blends in, and you would do anything but blend in with a yellow camera! But I think you have to give them credit for thinking a little outside the box. And this actually looks like it might be a very nice camera. It’s got a nice, big APS-C sized sensor and it uses existing Pentax K-mount lenses as well as some new ones they are producing just for this camera. Interesting.
It was 65 degrees here in North Carolina today, and I washed my car! Changes are in store over night tonight but I’ll brag while I can!
The coast is a special place any time of the year, but it takes on an amazing quality in the winter. Crisp, clear skies and often some great color both at sunrise and sunset. Our favorite beach within a reasonable drive is Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Amazingly this photo is from a visit there nearly 5 years ago, in January 2007. It’s really hard to believe how quickly time flies.