No Direction Home

Direction
Direction

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice asks; “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

When I first got my motorcycle, just going for a ride was enough; it really didn’t matter much where I went. But after a while I found myself needing a place to go, even if it was just a loose plan. Although all the travel books insist that it’s the journey that’s important, I wanted a destination.

I spent a lot of time studying maps and planning routes, preferring the curvy backroads that took longer but were more interesting. And I would always take a different way home, because at that point just riding was enough again.

After seven years and 90,000 miles, I discovered that it’s always the journey that’s important, but without some general direction I felt somewhat lost, or maybe vulnerable is a better word.

André Paul Guillaume Gide, the French author I mentioned in my post about the color of truth said this about travel: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Note to self: get a sextant and learn how to use it.

The Window of Opportunity

The Window of Opportunity
The Window of Opportunity

You’ve probably heard the phrase “tomorrow is promised to no one,” quoted by many people including Clint Eastwood. I know it, you know it, and the Priest, the Rabbi, and the tiny pianist in the bar know it. But knowing and believing are two different things.

Simply put, there is a very limited amount of time to do the things that you really want to do, to take advantage of all the opportunities you get. Robin Sharma, a Canadian writer best known for The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari wrote:

“Each day, life will send you little windows of opportunity. Your destiny will ultimately be defined by how you respond to these windows of opportunity. Shrink from them and your life will be small, feel the fear and run to them anyway, and you life will be big. Life’s just too short to play little.”

So you gotta ask yourself one question, and its not do I feel lucky. The question is; do you have the balls to go for it, knowing that in reality there is really nothing to lose? Well, do ya, punk? Do I?

We Would Rather be Ruined than Changed

Change machine
Change machine

I was discussing change with my friend Debra the other day, and mentioned this quote by Sheldon B Kopp from his book If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him:

“It is not astonishing that, though the patient enters therapy insisting that he wants to change, more often than not, what he really wants is to remain the same and to get the therapist to make him feel better.

His goal is to become a more effective neurotic, so that he may have what he wants without risking getting into anything new. He prefers the security of known misery to the misery of unfamiliar insecurity.”

To my own astonishment, she had never heard that, and while I understand that she’s not a Buddhist, she is a therapist. So I threw out another one I would have bet my last Xanax that she knew.

From W.H. Auden’s The Age of Anxiety: “We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread, than climb the cross of the moment, and let our illusions die.”

She never heard that one either, which completely blew me away. I mean, I’m open to change and I’m willing to listen to her point of view, but what I really want is to remain the same and get her to make me feel better. Wait a minute, I think I’ve heard that somewhere before…

Note: if you walk into a Laundromat to photograph a change machine, make sure you adjust the white balance, because changing things later can be hard.

The Best Horse

The Best Horse
The Best Horse

In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki writes: “In our scripture it is said that there are four kinds of horses. The best horse will run before it sees the shadow of the whip. That is the best one.

The second one will run just before the whip reaches his skin. The third one will run when it feels pain on his body. The fourth one will run after the pain penetrates into the marrow of his bone. That is the worst one.

When we hear this story, perhaps everyone wants to be a good horse-the best horse. Those who find a great difficulty in practice of Zen will find more meaning of Zen. So sometimes I think the best horse is the worst horse and the worst horse is the best one.”

In this case, the best horse took a break from eating his lunch to let me take his photo.

A New Broom Sweeps Clean

Amish Handmade Brooms
Amish Handmade Brooms

The full version of this saying is that a new broom sweeps clean, but the old one knows the corners. These are Amish handmade brooms, so whether they sweep clean or know the corners is not the point; the thing is that they are made by hand one at a time.

Natural corn fibers and straw are carefully selected, then bound and sewn with a handmade loom, yes a handmade loom.

In this day and age of robot vacuums and electric mops, a handmade broom might seem ridiculous to some people, like a manual can opener or a phone that hangs on the wall. But there’s a certain old world charm to them that I can appreciate.

They are also sold on eBay, Etsy and Amazon, but it’s not the same as buying one from a wise old craftsman with a long beard, black hat and a draft horse.

The Empty Boat

Empty boats at Muddy Run
Empty boats at Muddy Run

In this classic parable, Chuang Tzu writes about the empty boat: “You’re on the mountain lake, almost dozing, when suddenly a boat crashes into your hull; you’re angry, you shout, But then you see, the boat is empty.”

So my first question is, am I in a $20 an hour rental boat like the ones at Muddy Run, or am I in a fully restored 1956 Chris Craft worth 1000 times that? But wait, there’s more…

In Start Where You Are, Pema Chodron writes about the same boat: “This is the classic story of our whole life situation. There are a lot of empty boats out there that we’re always screaming at and shaking our fists at.”

Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho writes: “Such is the perfect man – his boat is empty; there is nobody inside. If you meet a Chuang Tzu, or a Lao Tzu, or me, the boat is there, but it is empty; nobody is in it.”

So here are three perspectives on the empty boat metaphor, take from it what you can. And don’t be too quick to delete your photos just because they aren’t perfect, sometimes there’s a story there, even if it’s just and empty boat. And apparently, it’s always an empty boat.

Horse and Buggy for Sale-Horse Not Included

Amish Buggy For Sale
Amish Buggy For Sale

When I drive through this part of Intercourse on a Sunday morning, I usually see at least 20 horse and buggies traveling on the back roads. Sunday is their day for spending time with family and members of the community.

I don’t know a lot about these so I did some research. Modern Amish buggies have brakes, an electrical system for lights and turn signals, and are available in any color you want as long as it’s black.

The asking price for this beauty is $3700, which may or may not be a great deal. The owner and the horse were not available, but I’m guessing that the horse is taking a much needed vacation. They work in the snow, rain, heat and gloom of night much like a mailman, but with fewer benefits and no days off.

As the Amish saying goes: “Alle Daag rumhersitze macht em faul,” which means sitting all day makes one lazy. Of course, of course.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Failure to launch
Failure to launch

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist best known for creating his hierarchy of needs. Of the five needs, the first four are referred to as deficiency needs, and are said to motivate people when they are unmet.

One day I was passing through Bird In Hand, and saw one of the hot air balloons filling up as they do most summer afternoons. I decided that I needed a great photograph of it and I was motivated. The light was good, it was warm, and they were launching three at the same time. I was as excited as a donkey on Donkey Derby Day (it’s an Irish thing).

There was plenty of time so I took a few test shots, checked the exposure and the camera suddenly died. Not having the extra battery with me, I stayed to watch for a while, pretending that it was enough just to see three balloons floating into the gorgeous blue sky, but it wasn’t, my needs were unmet.

The fifth need is self-actualization, and he estimated that only two percent of people would ever reach that state.

He is also known for Maslow’s hammer, popularly phrased as “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Or in my case, if all you have is a dead camera, go home, eat dinner and try again another time.

Right Thinking on the Path

On the path
On the path

Right thinking is part of the Noble Eightfold Path, and is a way to achieve spiritual enlightenment and end suffering. But there is more than one kind of right thinking.

I used to hear people say: “Just expose to the right, everyone does it.” Well, everyone does not do it, and when someone says this in the shower room at the gym it can be confusing.

So I’m on the path photographing white flowers, and I start thinking about ETTR (exposing to the right). Briefly, the concept is to overexpose a bit and fix it later in post processing. Many concepts, like riding your motorcycle at twice the speed limit seem to make sense, but end up backfiring. So it is with ETTR.

Another thing I used to hear people say is: “The histogram is your friend.” He might be, but he reminds me of the friend that used to show up at my house on Friday nights, with very expensive plans and a very empty wallet.

The important thing is to stay on the path and learn these things for yourself. The Buddha said: “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

As you walk the path take time to shoot the flowers, in any way that makes you happy.