Month: July 2017

The Camels of Lancaster County

I'd walk a mile...
I’d walk a mile…

Yes Virginia, there are camels in Lancaster County on a very large farm off Mill Creek School Road in Bird-In-Hand. I’ve been there before but the big ones always seem to be way off in the field doing whatever camels do.

Yesterday I was in the area, which is not far from the daring cow escape I witnessed on Friday, and discovered three baby camels frolicking just a few feet from the barn. This one may not look like a baby but a baby camel can weigh up to 90 pounds at birth, the other two were much smaller.

In the past I would have gladly walked a mile for three camels, maybe more if I knew they would be posing in good light. But they share the same problems with horses and Alpacas: crud in their eyes and unless it’s late in the season, flies all over those pretty faces.

At one point a tour bus called The Amish Experience pulled up and let three passengers off to take selfies. I thought nothing of it until one woman insisted on kissing the big one, not once but several times. I hope it was good for her because he seemed a bit confused by the whole thing.

I found out that these are dairy camels and are raised for their milk. Also available are camel milk yogurt and camel milk soap which is made by a local company. I didn’t really smell them but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to smell like a camel right out of the shower.

It’s really something to see if you’re not expecting it, but for a local like me it’s as normal as a tourist making out with one. Maybe they should set up a kissing booth because that tour bus passes by every day. It’s all good until someone gets their nose bit off though; I guess they could sign a waiver.

Great Expectations

Baby baby, she's just a baby
Baby baby, she’s just a baby

In her book Everyday Zen Charlotte Joko Beck talks about having great expectations and searching for paradise. “It seems to us that paradise is lost,” she says. She goes on to say: “We have, if not great expectations, some hope that sometime paradise is going to appear to us.”

She concludes that “There is no paradise lost, none to be found. You cannot avoid paradise you can only avoid seeing it.” OK great, chop wood, read about enlightenment, and take photos of flowers.

Despite knowing that this baby sunflower is perfect as it is (thank you Miss Beck), I have great expectations for her. I expect her to become trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful…oh wait a minute that’s something else.

To roughly paraphrase Charles Dickens from his book Great Expectations: “I expect her to know the delights of freedom.” I’ll be back to take her photo in about a week, when the wind is as calm as clam shells and the light is as warm and fuzzy as my brain on Valium and Vodka.

Note: those conditions do not happen every morning.

The Escape Artist

Daisy on the lam
Daisy on the lam

Back in march I wrote a piece called Coming Home, about how cows never come home because they never leave, and I talked about the brave ones that occasionally make a break for it just to see what’s out there.

This morning I saw one make the escape, only the second cow escape I’ve witnessed in the eleven years I’ve lived in Lancaster County. I watched with an almost clinical interest to see if this was bravery or boredom.

Daisy (she was tagged) crossed the road and instead of tasting her freedom she tasted the grass on the other side. I walked over to take a photo, and chewing on a stem she gave me her best tough girl look. But she was scared; I could see it in her eyes.

Soon a very large Amish woman came out and shooed Daisy down the road to her own farm while the other cows cheered. I’m not sure if they were cheering for Daisy to come home or to make a break for it, but it started to rain and I lost interest.

T.S. Eliot once wrote: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” In this case it was about a quarter mile until she was reunited with her friends. I can only wonder if they thought Daisy was a hero, a coward, or just another pretty face in the crowd.

Unconditional Friendliness

Unconditional Unfriendliness
Unconditional Unfriendliness

Maitri is translated in a lot of ways, maybe most commonly as love, but the way Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche translated it was unconditional friendliness, and in particular unconditional friendliness to oneself.

I passed this sign today on the window of a store in downtown Lancaster city. As far as I can tell it’s a normal store selling cigarettes and Snapple among other things. But for some reason they do not want people to sit or stand.

Could their very unconditional unfriendliness be because in order to buy something people have to stand in the store, or do they make an exception for that? I wonder if their customers have a time limit, or do they run the place like the Soup Nazi where you go in, state your order and leave?

I was taking a photo and asked a man walking by if he would stand in front of the sign that said no standing. Maybe it was the police car a hundred yards away or maybe it was the bad karma of the place, but he said: “I ain’t standing nowhere for nobody.” Alrighty then.

Suzy Kassem, author of Rise Up and Salute the Sun once said: “To really change the world, we have to help people change the way they see things.” And as Trungpa Rinpoche always said, “Good luck, sweetheart.”

Up Close with the Sony A6000

Pictures of Lily
Pictures of Lily

I like to get close to things, especially flowers, but from what I’ve read the Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro Lens leaves a lot to be desired. So I did some product testing with the 16-50mm kit lens that came with my camera.

This photo was shot in Aperture Priority at f/16, ISO 125, 1/80 sec and zoomed all the way out to 50mm. Fortunately it was as calm as clam shells and the light was as warm and fuzzy as my brain on Valium and Vodka.

I was only about 12 inches from the flower, maybe less, but many of my brain cells were lost during my Valium and Vodka years so I’m not sure. I think some were sharper with a shorter focal length but this was just an experiment and I like the composition of this one.

I will not win any macro awards with this lens and I will not be bringing home the macro trophy, which is a shame because it has a giant fly on it. But it’s good to know I can get decent shots with this lens if a lily ever crosses my path again, in good light with no wind, on a tripod from 12 inches away (more or less).

What Dreams May Come

Dreaming of Jupiter
Dreaming of Jupiter

I was walking the streets this morning thinking about the relationship between dreams and depression. I know that when I have dreams about having nowhere to go and nothing to do I wake up depressed.

So I see a young man soundly sleeping on a ledge right off the busiest intersection in the city. I decide to take a quick photo for my study and discuss this with him when he wakes up. His friend comes along after a few minutes and says: “Dude-wake up, this idiot is taking your picture.”

Then he looks at me and says: “Why man, why?” I told him about my study and he looked at me like I was an idiot. So I decided to leave without even explaining my conclusion so far, which is that things never are as bad as they seem.

In a nutshell, dream when the day is through, dream, and they might come true. Things never are as bad as they seem, so dream, dream, dream.