Monday, July 06, 2015

Photography ~ My column from Sunday's paper

My Army buddy Kirk Trachy sent me a photograph this past week that he took in the fall of 1971. The photograph was taken on the breaker wall that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Bay of Colón.

I was barefoot and shirtless, wearing only cut-off blue jeans. In the photograph, I was squatting down at water’s edge about to snap a picture of a seabird or one of the exotic fish that lived in the bay. It was back when my hair was thick and my waist was thin. That moment seems like a lifetime ago.

Seeing the photograph reminded me that I’d never owned a camera before then. In fact, I don’t remember ever taking a picture before then.

My sister Mary Lois had a Brownie Instamatic that she carried around her neck for years snapping pictures of family and friends. Once she took a picture, she’d twist a big knob on the top with her thumb and index finger to advance the film.

Her pictures were hit and miss. Some of them had heads lopped off, and some were as fuzzy as mittens, but her pictures are the ones that bring a smile to our faces as we flip through the old family albums. She provided our photographic record.

Had I paused to consider the magic of photography back then, it might have occurred to me that being able to take decent pictures would have come in handy, but it wasn’t my time.

While stationed at Fort Monmouth in July 1971, Kirk was learning about photography. He had a Pentax camera, as I recall. After taking pictures one afternoon, I went with him to the photographic darkroom on the base and watched in fascination as the images began fading to life from a blank white sheet of photographic paper.

The Army paid paltry wages when I was first drafted, but then the military realized they could lure people into joining by paying a decent wage. I still couldn’t afford an expensive camera, but owning a nice camera made it onto my wish list.

As it turns out, most of the people in my communications training class all received orders for Panama.

Soon after we settled in at Fort Clayton, a group of us made our way to Panama City. I walked into a duty-free store filled with professional-grade cameras and high-powered stereo equipment. I fell in love.

My first full payday, I plopped down on a Canon FT-b camera with a 1.2 lens. The camera in the U.S would have cost three times what it cost there. I shot thousands of photographs while in the tropics, most of which were Ektachrome slides.

After my time in Panama, I became the family photographer and with a little sorting, you can watch every family move through the stages of their lives.

Learning to take pictures was a gift, and I have my old friend Kirk Trachy to thank for starting me down that path.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Fun weekend

It's been a slow news day here. The rain moved out in the early morning hours, but trailing clouds made for a gray morning.

I had an encounter with another snake after the company left last night, and this one wasn't one of the harmless ones. There's a story here, but I plan to write about it in my column for next Sunday, so you'll have to wait to read that story.

As a result of the encounter, I spent a great deal of time doing some long-neglected yard work. When I finished, I looked as if I'd showered with my clothes on, but it felt good.

It's been a good weekend for us. The kind of weekend that brings a smile to your face when you look back on the pictures.

I hope it's been a good one for you all too.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

O Happy Day

It's rained on and off for most of the day. Normally our parties spill onto the deck, and backyard but that didn't happen today. We ended up with five kids with the summertime blues inside. Jilda had to get creative with cards, blocks, toys, and bubbles. We scanned the room for sharp objects, and other hazards before turning them loose. Fortunately there we no broken bones, or lasting injuries.

Even with the rain, the day was good. We had friends and family who came together to eat. My nephew Haven smoked an 11-pound Boston Butt. Jilda grilled some hotdogs for this kids and her sister and niece brought poundcake, potato salad, and other goodies.

Jilda whipped up a batch of her homemade ice cream and I ran it through our electric maker. I can't describe how good it was with the pound cake and fresh blueberries.

I tried most of the day to get a decent photograph, but none of them was worth a toot so I winged it.
I have new software that turns pictures into tintype pictures. This is one of the photographs my friend Kirk sent me last week. I'm not sure if I like it yet or not.

I hope you all had a great holiday.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Getting ready for the fourth

It's been an old rainy day here today. Even when the rain stopped the sun remained hidden behind the clouds. The humidity would build to a state near steam, and then the rain would return.

Jilda and I worked most of the day sprucing the place up in preparation for our company tomorrow. This evening Jilda looked at me and said, "How do you feel about Chinese food tonight?" I thought that sounded like an excellent idea.

I slipped into shoes and grabbed my wallet. A few moments later I was on the road. Calling in the order ahead is always a good idea. The sun had decided to make an appearance just before exiting for the evening so the drive was a pleasant one.

The restaurant is usually packed on Fridays, but everyone must be headed to the beach because the restaurant was almost empty. My order was waiting when I arrived.

A few moments later, I was headed home. Jilda was taking a shower while I was gone so I decided to swing by the forks of the river to get a fishing update.

Not many people were there either. My old buddy Randy from the Fly Shop was waiting to pick up a couple of kayakers who'd rented his kayaks to float downriver.

I didn't want the food to get cold, so I got the reader's digest version of the fishing report, snapped a quick picture of the river mist, and the headed home.

We plugged in an old movie that we both love and enjoyed our food. Tomorrow we'll hit the gound running to make ready for the Fourth of July fun.

I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Evening stroll

I did yoga on the back deck early this morning. I try to alternate yoga and walking. The days have been warm and most days I need a shower after an evening walk.

The yoga felt good. Holding the poses for eight or 10 slow breaths gives my muscles a chance to relax into the pose. I did a plank, which is a the starting position of a pushup. You're back is straight and the weight of your body rests on extended arms. When you're in motion, the pose is not that difficult, but when you stay in that position of 10 SLOOOOOOOWWWWW breath, it feels like an eternity. My forearms quaked after seven breaths but I held it.

This evening, I finished up work and headed home. The sky was overcast so I decided to walk. Down behind the barn I came upon a small dogwood and one of the leaves had already turned. July just began and already it's ready for autumn.

By the time my timer sounded, I looked as if I had showered with my clothes on. Even in the heat, it felt good to get a little more exercise.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Gone fishing

My nephew Haven asked me to go fishing with him today. He had work to do this afternoon, so he wanted to go early.

Going early is fine with me. I was off today and the weatherman called for cooler temps and a chance of rain this afternoon.

I headed out at 5 a.m. for the rendezvous. We were fishing a private lake the size of New Hampshire, but he asked me to meet him at the forks of the river.

At 5:15 this morning there was no one else down there - shocker!  I wheeled into the lot and switched the ignition off. I rolled down the window while I waited. The engine ticked as it cooled and off to my left, I hear wings flapping. Out of the morning mist, a blue heron winged his way down stream, fussing because I'd interrupted his breakfast.

Haven arrived a few minutes later and we headed to the lake. While loading our fishing gear in the Jon boat, we could hear the bass pounding the water and it sounded like a child learning to swim.

I caught a small bream on my fist cast, but I released him back into the lake. That was the only fish I caught all morning.  I hung several fish, but lost them before landing them. Haven caught seven bass which will go into the freezer for our next fish fry later this summer.

I've been in a bit of a fishing slump lately but I won't let myself get discouraged. The best thing to do when you fall off the horse, is to get back on.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's not in the manual

I love the work I now do. It's a job that's easy to love because I'm working with people who have been down, but get a chance to turn things around. They learn new things and some are finding meaningful jobs. It's been a slow process, but the last few months, I'm beginning to see results.

The downside is that some of the stories I hear are heartbreaking. I would never compromise the privacy of any of the folks I'm working with, but suffice it to say, some of their lives have been brutal. For some, their plight was the result of ill timing or bad luck. For some, it was the result of bad choices. I wish there was a tab in the manual that advised how to navigate sad situations, but they left that tab out.

I met one person for coffee this morning at a local restaurant. The sky was overcast with a nice breeze from the west so I asked if he'd like to sit on the patio. He said if given the choice, he'd always prefer to be outside. I grabbed our drinks and headed outside to join him.

After the coaching session, he seemed to want to talk. I had time, so I listened. He ticked through a string of events that did not turn out well for him.

We sat in silence for a while watching the traffic pass by. He did not minimize his responsibility for where he is today. I asked what he'd learned from it all. Looking off into the distance, he said, "All through my life, I've been good at making bad decisions."   He went on to say that he strives each day to make better decisions. I told him that was all any of us can do.

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