Writing, birding and photography are a few of my many interests. When I can combine a couple of them into one fabulous moment, I am more than contented.
In the process of photographing a gorgeous sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean in northern Florida, a willet wandered into the frame. I love when those unexpected opportunities arise. The shorebird was merely out on its morning breakfast stroll, probing the wetted sand for any tasty morsels along the seashore. For me, however, having the bird enter the scene right as the sun dawned provided a spot of perspective for the colorful seascape. I couldn’t have been happier.
I sat in awe at the beauty unfolding before me. What I had seen compelled me out into the dawn of the day.
I had slept restlessly despite having been emotionally and physically drained by the previous days’ activities. I had returned to Ohio to assist our son in preparing to move before the professional movers would shuffle him off beyond Buffalo to upstate New York for his new job.
For two long, hard days, we sorted and packed his items, and cleaned the house he was leaving for a smaller apartment. I would also stuff our van with family heirlooms and thrift store pieces to take back to Virginia. It was hard to see him off, he and I both in tears.
With those emotions still stirring internally, I surrendered to what lured me outdoors. The day was dawning with a broken cluster of wispy gray clouds hanging in the eastern sky. A spot of pink hue peeked at the horizon, giving me hope of a lovely sunrise.
I sat in the morning’s coolness on the patio waiting breathlessly for the show to begin. Would those clouds enhance or hinder a brilliant sunrise? The answer found itself in patience, not my best quality.
Nevertheless, I remained nearly alone overlooking Millersburg, Ohio from our friends’ place high on a hill. A light, feathery mist lingered over the hardwoods, farm fields, and commercial properties that filled the Killbuck Valley.
As the sky brightened ever so slightly, a menacing caw, caw, caw punctuated the morning air. I strained in the dim light to find the source of the harshness. Suddenly, a pair of inky figures, their black wings flapping furiously, repeated their raucous call.
The two American crows were on a beeline southwest in hot pursuit of another crow far ahead of them. It was like two undercover cop cars chasing a crook.
The only other sounds were human-induced, the distant hum of a few vehicles, and a dump truck on an early run from the gravel pit down the road. Neither crickets nor katydids had awakened yet.
Then it happened. A silent burst of radiance raised me out of my chair and freed me from my stupor. I danced barefoot into the dewy lawn. I soon found myself at the southeast corner of the yard where I had a better angle to view the sunrise and could ignore the obnoxiousness of an ill-placed cell tower, its red lights annoyingly blinking.
Ironically, the only camera in hand was the one on my cell phone. So I hypocritically began snapping photo after photo of the stunning, flowing scene changing second by second.
Those once gray clouds now glowed gold, yellow, orange, red, pink, mauve, and crimson. In the foreground, security lights and streetlights twinkled below the incredible show. One would think I was observing my first ever sunrise the way I clicked away.
Still, I continued to capture the incredible drama before me, not for myself so much as for others. In such a setting, my joy comes as much in the sharing as experiencing the splendor. When the sun finally poked above the horizon, I walked back towards the house.
This sunrise had awakened me as no other had. I felt renewed and refreshed from the emotions and exertions of the previous days. I was ready to begin my journey home.
For most folks, if they saw it, this was just another sunrise. To me, it was a blessed miracle.
When I turned 70, I received lots of celebratory wishes and unsolicited advice. Like a 70-year-old needs advice.
One ditty was the seven and 70 rule. The idea is that seven-year-olds will say anything, and 70 year-olds have earned the right by default to espouse whatever they want. Clearly, I didn’t know or obey that tenet. Wanted or not, I’ve been offering my opinions my entire life.
Nevertheless, I’ve done a lot of thinking since hitting that personal milestone. I feel fortunate, grateful, honored, humbled as I review my life. I have many, many kind people to thank for giving me challenges I didn’t think I could meet, opportunities I never expected, and critiquing I didn’t want to hear but definitely needed. To steal a movie title, it’s been a wonderful life.
Best of all, life continues, but for how long? None of us really knows for sure. As the saying goes, embrace each day as if it were your last. It just might be.
That somber thought used to bother me, scare me even. As a teenager, I thought I’d live forever. I know that’s not going to happen. I read the obituaries every morning, and I find the life summaries of too many people my age or younger.
Death where is thy sting? Many a sermon has already been preached on that topic. I won’t add to that litany.
Instead, I want to share a purposeful phenomenon that seems to resonate with many seniors. Generally speaking, we’re not afraid of death anymore.
After I retired as a public educator, I began my second career in community relations and marketing at a retirement community near my former Ohio home. I wasn’t there long until a common philosophy became apparent among the residents. As they aged, they were happier in their lives, despite increased physical and mental afflictions, reduced agility, and less energy overall. I recently learned that gerontologists confirm these observations. As people’s bodies decline, instead of feeling worse about themselves, they feel better.
Given their settings and expected elderly ailments, logic would dictate the opposite. Why had death indeed lost its sting for them? In general, they needed less in life and from life. They had given their all and were genuinely happy for that. Also, they looked forward to what they called “going home.”
Regrets? Sure, they had a few, just as I do. But that alone could not deter their enthusiasm for whatever came their way. They still expressed anxiety about all of life’s catastrophes they saw on TV, in the newspapers, and online.
But these were folks who had survived The Great Depression, who knew the value of work, being thrifty, conserving for the future and for future generations. They may not have liked many of the social changes that flew in the face of what they believed. But for the most part, neither did they let that bother them or think less of those who behaved or felt differently than they did. Their knowledge and experience taught them that. In my book, that is the very definition of wisdom.
I admired their gumption, fortitude, love of life, and their focus on being in the presence of each moment. They were ready for whatever came next. I’m trying my best to model that attitude, too, to my wife, my family, my friends, my neighbors, to whomever I meet.
Like my octogenarian friends at the retirement community, I’m ready for the next chapter of my life to unfold, one day, one person, one event, one glorious sunrise, one breathtaking sunset at a time.
I must have taken a hundred photographs or more of Mt. Rainier in our all too brief visit to Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. I couldn’t help myself. At every turn on the long, winding drive to the base of this magnificent mountain, the old mountain showed a different face, a different mood. I had to capture each one.
This photo, however, is my favorite. I was hoping for an early morning sky with broken clouds at sunrise. When my wife and I arose, we found the sky a perfect crystal clear blue. We walked up a path towards Myrtle Falls not far from the historic Paradise Lodge where we stayed. A ridge of peaks to the east blocked the sun early on. When its rays finally crested the lower peaks, I was mesmerized. The warm, creamy radiance that glowed from Mt. Rainier’s summit was absolutely stunning. The fact that I got to share the moment with Neva made it all the more pleasurable.
Being at the right place at the right time can make all the difference for a photographer. When these fishermen brought their boat close to the recently risen sun one morning in Lakeside, Ohio, I couldn’t resist this shot. The boat and fishermen blocked the harshness of the reflection. Capturing a shadow from the silhouette of one of the men was a bonus.
“The Silhouette’s Shadow” is my Photo of the Week.
Timing and perspective can combine to create an attractive setting to photograph. Such was the case when the sun rose over the Atlantic Ocean at low tide on Main Beach, Fernandina Beach, FL. The interworking of dawns colors and the patterns and textures sculpted by the retreating tide produced this fascinating picture.
Framing the scene at a downward angle to the beach placed the colorful sunrise at the very top of the photo. Even the usually unwelcome contrail reflected in tidal pool pointed to the rising sun. “Where sunrise meets low tide” is my Photo of the Week.
A fellow blogger friend of mine hates Monday mornings. I laugh at his social media ranting and memes about having to start a new work week. I laugh because he’s funny, and I’m mostly retired. What “work” I do do, I do from home.
I’m pretty sure my friend would have loved last Monday morning. The sunrise was brilliant, the colors changing by the moment. Of course, I hustled out with my camera. However, it was what I saw in the western sky that caught my fullest attention. Much like beautiful sunsets reflect in the eastern heavens, the morning’s pinks and blues danced off the neighbor’s buildings and the clouds hanging in the west.