Month: July 2017

Train of Thought

Working on the railroad
Working on the railroad

“Trains are beautiful. They take people to places they’ve never been, faster than they could ever go themselves. Everyone who works on trains knows they have personalities, they’re like people. They have their own mysteries.” Sam Starbuck, The Dead Isle

Signs That Horses are Intelligent

Give them a sign
Give them a sign

Back in 1966 Mister Ed went to college to become a veterinarian so he could help his friends beat the high cost of medical care. 50 years later here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania most horses are home schooled, which is more convenient and much less expensive.

Although not all horses are taught to read at a college level, the ones that pull the buggies are encouraged to develop basic skills including the ability to read signs. This is almost a necessity these days with all the confusing traffic rules like turning right on red.

You can lead a horse to water but if he finds it himself he has a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance. Note: we don’t know if horses are color blind but for the ones reading this I felt it was better in black and white.

Are Horses Dumb Animals?

A horse is a horse, of course, of course
A horse is a horse, of course, of course

According to Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death, unlike the average person standing in a foggy field, horses think about nothing all day long. For example he writes this about the lower animals:

“They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being.”

Tom Dorrance, who has been referred to as the horse’s lawyer wrote a book called True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse & Human. In it he says: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse or cow being stupid; I figure it’s a sure sign that the animal has somehow outfoxed them.”

So you have to ask yourself one question, and its not do I feel lucky. How much does a lawyer charge a horse or a cow, and if they go to trial together can they get a group rate? From my experience with horses and cows, that’s gonna be one messy courtroom.

The Color Purple

The Color Purple
The Color Purple

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Half Full or Half Empty?

Wabi-sabi
Wabi-sabi

The pessimist who has to bail out the boat calls it half full; the optimist who owns it calls it half empty.

The pessimist who goes to the lake at 4am curses the clouds for blocking the sunrise; the optimist takes a photo of the boat and calls it Wabi-sabi.

Buying the Farm

The Farm
The Farm

As I get older I find myself thinking a lot about buying the farm. There are two ways to do it: one is to quit your job (if you have one) and literally buy a farm in the middle of nowhere, the other way is to stop breathing.

I know that everyone will buy the farm sooner or later and to deny it is futile, but I have to wonder what it will be like. Will it be an endless succession of meaningless working days like Sisyphus rolling a rock uphill for eternity, or will it be more like Green Acres?

I like to imagine that being on the farm with my wife Lisa will be frustrating but there will still be good times. Mr. Haney will finally sell me a washing machine that works. Sam Drucker will eventually get those seeds I ordered, and the girls from Petticoat Junction will move into the guest house (Lisa is fine with it).

And one stormy day while sitting around the general store, Eb will ask me if I think the rain will hurt the rhubarb. And I’ll smile because I learned the answer to that question long ago working with a Polish house painter. Not if it’s in the can Eb, not if it’s in the can.

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour?
The Golden Hour?

The golden hour, also known as the magic hour, refers to the period just after sunrise or just before sunset, and its length depends on where you are and what time of year it is.

Some say that the golden hour is an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. It seems as easy as falling off a log, just show up at the right time and your photos will be amazing right? No.

The afternoon is a lot easier for several reasons. You can see where the sun is and decide where you want to be. You can also decide if it’s worth waiting around or if the clouds will block out all that beautiful light. Also there’s a good chance you’re already awake.

I prefer the morning because I’m a masochist, and because it’s usually much calmer. But instead of finishing dinner and heading out late afternoon I have to set my alarm, fortunately I have insomnia so I’m already up.

If you’re taking photos in your backyard you can wake up at first light or slightly earlier, otherwise you need to give yourself a few hours. Consider the drive, stopping for coffee, reflecting on the meaning of life (should be done while it’s still dark) and time to set everything up.

So today I got up at 3:30, decided to go out at 4 and was in place with coffee reflecting by 5:00. I watched the sky get light, the clouds open up then close again before it got darker and a few minutes later it rained.

Of course you can take photos anytime, especially if you’re not shooting landscapes, you just won’t have that warm, magic light that photographers crave, you also won’t have to get up knowing it might rain on your parade.

Walt Whitman once said: “To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.” It may help to tell yourself that while waiting for the storm to pass and realizing that you could easily be in bed dreaming of rainbows and unicorns.

Note: rainbows only happen near the golden hour when the sun is low in the sky and unicorns are rarely found in the daytime, plus you need a virgin to lure them in close enough for a good shot.

Between a Fence and a Hard Place

On the fence
On the fence

I saw these huge flowers this morning which I now believe are Hibiscus, also known as dinner plates. The light was fairly good and it seemed as calm as a lake in heaven, until I set up my tripod. Then they started to move.

I’m not sure why, I didn’t shoot down on them and tried my best to show their good side, but no matter what I did they swayed back and forth slowly like a drunk sailor (no offence to sailors or drunks). After about a half hour I was about to give up when I saw one on the fence.

The dictionary definition of being on the fence is to be uncommitted or undecided in a controversy. I believe the controversy here was whether or not to let me take some decent photos and the majority decision was not to. But she was wedged in tight and we both knew it.

There’s probably an important lesson to be learned here about resistance. Suzy Kassem said: “When you keep hitting walls of resistance in life, the universe is trying to tell you that you are going the wrong way.” On the other hand, Constance Friday said: “Resistance is a sign that shows you’re going the right way”

Next time I hold them in place or find one on a fence. For a fraction of a second I considered picking some and bringing them home but that would be wrong on too many levels. Karma is a bitch.

The KKK Took My Baby Away

The miracle of a single flower
The miracle of a single flower

It was a beautiful morning as I headed to the Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown to visit the sunflower baby from my post Great Expectations. I was excited to see her progress over the last week and a half and expected a beautiful flower smiling at the sun.

I knew exactly where she was because last time I parked right in front of a sign that said Thou Shalt Not Park Here. And as I got out with camera and tripod to wait for the light I saw total devastation, someone had cut all of them down and left nothing but stems.

My first thought, logically, was that The KKK took my baby away; they took her away, away from me. The KKK took my baby away, they took my girl, they took my baby away. Maybe because the Ramones were just on the radio as I pulled in, but it made sense.

As I stood there dumbfounded, a waitress walked up and explained that they cut them down to put on the tables as decorations, oh. So I asked her how I could see the miracle of a single flower clearly if they keep cutting them down.

She said it was probably a good idea to appreciate them while they’re here and pointed to a small patch of new ones in between the wheat. I realized she was right, took a few photos and tried my best to see the miracle.

I suddenly caught a fleeting glimpse as the sun lit her up, and just as my whole life was beginning to change I slipped in the wet grass and fell on my butt. The flowers and the waitress thought this was hysterical, and at that moment I had an epiphany. Change is as hard and as messy as a muddy, rock filled field.

So today the only thing that changed was my pants, but tomorrow is another day and I’ll try again. Robin Sharma said that change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. I wish the waitress said that, it would have made my whole day.