No Death, No Fear

A rose is a rose is a rose
A rose is a rose is a rose

“When you practice looking deeply, you see your true nature of no birth, no death; no being, no non-being; no coming, no going; no same, no different.

When you see this, you are free from fear. You are free from craving and free from jealousy. No fear is the ultimate joy.

When you have the insight of no fear, you are free. And like the great beings, you ride serenely on the waves of birth and death.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Impermanence Revisited

Tulips and Bluebells
Tulips and Bluebells

Here in Pennsylvania the tulips are in various stages of maturity. The beautiful yellow ones in front of my house dried up and blew away, while the others are somewhere near the end of their life cycle.

I found these in a local park and they seem to be in their prime, but in a few weeks they will be gone forever-dust to dust. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older or maybe I just notice it more, but things seem to move a lot faster now.

Watching the flowers come and go is also watching the days speed by, and I know I’m running out of time. Of course this is how life works; we’re here for a while and then we’re gone. And whether we acknowledge it or not, suffering comes from wanting things to be different than they are.

W. Somerset Maugham, author of The Razor’s Edge has a great perspective on impermanence: “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”

Along the way, take time to smell the flowers, in as many ways as you can for as long as you can.

Water Your Dreams

Amethyst Dream
Amethyst Dream

“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success.

Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.” Lao Tzu

Being and Nothingness

Being and Nothingness
Being and Nothingness

Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre has been called the bible of existentialism. It’s a long, difficult book to read, and depending on who you ask, it’s either a work of pure genius, complete nonsense or both.

It might be worthwhile to look at some other things that Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in order to understand existentialism and his perspective in general.

For example, he said: “All I really want to do is go to the book store, drink coffee and read.” Back in his day book stores didn’t even have Wi-Fi, so you know he was serious.

Another thing that’s crucial to understanding the man and his philosophy is this: “I do not think therefore I am a mustache.” Well, obviously.

And possibly the most important thing he ever said is: “Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.”

This is especially true of most outdoor photography unless you plan to shoot wide open, convert to black and white, and call it something obscure like being and nothingness.

A Tale Told By an Idiot?

Bleeding hearts
Bleeding hearts

In Macbeth Shakespeare writes: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I have to admit that I’ve felt that way before, as most people probably have when they realize that they aren’t going to live forever. A tale told by an idiot seems a bit strong though, and if Shakespeare were around today he would probably get a prescription for Prozac, but I digress.

After a light rain I went to a garden full of flowers and trees in a nearby park, which in itself is something very special, and I noticed that the bleeding hearts were starting to bloom.

Walking down to a small pond with a waterfall, I looked at them as if they were something new to me, because they were. In a few weeks they will be completely gone, and they will come back next spring whether I’m there to see them or not.

Watching these absolutely amazing flowers I remembered the feeling I used to get after washing down a couple of Xanax with a glass of Vodka. It was a feeling of calmness, and I knew that even though the tale doesn’t last, I like to be here when I can.

I no longer need drugs and alcohol to get that feeling, a walk in the garden can do it in a heartbeat. If life signifies nothing, so be it, its only going to be a short walk anyway.

The Decisive Moment

Yellow Columbine
Yellow Columbine

Yesterday I found these yellow columbines at Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse. The light was perfect, I had a tripod, and it was as calm as a virgin who never told a lie. But for some reason I ignored all that, I was indecisive and hungry so I left.

This afternoon I went back and it was cloudy and windy. I stayed for an hour in the hope that everything would change, it didn’t, the decisive moment was yesterday.

Henri Cartier-Bresson once said: “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

Dammit.

Nothing Special

Tulip
Tulip

I left the house at 5:30 to photograph the United States Hot Air Balloon Team in Bird-in-Hand. It was a beautiful, calm morning and I had an extra battery, a tripod and high hopes.

The balloon went from trailer to air in twenty five minutes and floated off into the sunrise. I took 50 photos that I knew I wouldn’t keep because I’ve seen it so many times before. Here in Lancaster, watching a hot air balloon is an ordinary thing, and even at dawn it seemed like nothing special.

I went home and as I walked towards my front door I noticed some tulips in the garden, took a few quick shots, then downloaded and deleted everything because they weren’t perfect. But I went back to look at the flowers, and this time I really looked (and photographed).

The photo isn’t perfect but the tulip definitely is. It opened within the last hour, will close at night, and by the end of the month it will be gone. I was looking for something amazing and walked right by it.

In her book Nothing Special, Charlotte Joko Beck talks about awareness. “We don’t have to try to develop awareness; we simply need to notice how we block awareness, with our thoughts, our fantasies, our opinions, and our judgments.”

I was looking for something special, something awe inspiring, and these flowers are as close to a miracle as I was going to find. You don’t have to go far to be inspired, you just have to be aware of the things that are right in front of you all the time.

The Problem with Euphorbia

Euphorbia
Euphorbia

Euphorbia myrsinites, also known as myrtle euphorbia or donkeytail spurge, is one of the most useful and highly ornamental plants to grow in the garden.

Now for the bad news: the milky white sap has been known to cause extreme allergic reactions that in some cases can lead to anaphylactic shock, and visits to the emergency room are frequently reported.

Charles Bukowski wrote a book called The People Look Like Flowers At Last. This flower looks like the pretty college girl next door who works as an escort on weekends. Approach both with caution and use protection.

Amethyst Dreams

Amethyst Dream
Amethyst Dream

Dream interpretation is like calling a psychic hotline; you believe what you want to believe. I found two versions about the meaning of amethyst dreams and they’re both exactly the same but different.

The first said that simply seeing an amethyst in your dream means that you need to be very honest in your dealings if you want to maximize your financial success.

The second said that to see an amethyst in your dream indicates that you are pleased with the aspects of your life pertaining to finances and your personal happiness. You don’t require many material possessions to be satisfied.

So, do I need to maximize my finances to buy a new camera, or realize that happiness is not having what I want but wanting what I have? This is a big question and can mean saving at least a thousand dollars.

I found this Amethyst Dream in a greenhouse and took a photo with the camera I have. After a few minor adjustments, I am now pleased with the aspects of my life pertaining to finances and my personal happiness.

But there’s a 35mm f/1.8 lens out there with my name on it, maybe playing the lottery wasn’t such a bad idea after all…

The Poppy Conundrum

Iceland Poppies
Iceland Poppies

I stopped in a local nursery today to check out the flowers and take a few photos. It’s a great way to spend a cold morning and they had a huge variety of flora. Cherry trees, Orchids, Tulips, and even Venus Fly Traps as well as the common stuff I see in the park. But the most interesting to me were these Iceland Poppies (Papaver nudicaule).

Then a thought hit me, the kind of thing that would have occurred to me years ago, don’t all poppies produce opium? Not that I have any need for it, but my scientific curiosity got the better of me. From what I’ve read they do not.

One article said that only one species of poppy contains opium, the breadseed or opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Another said that although the opium poppy has the highest concentration of narcotics, all poppies in the Papaver genus do contain some amount of narcotic. Alrighty then.

Walter Savage Landor, an English writer and poet wrote: “Truth, like the juice of the poppy, in small quantities, calms men; in larger, heats and irritates them, and is attended by fatal consequences in excess.”

So I guess now I’m back to the truth conundrum. Maybe I should stop seeking the truth and only cease to cherish opinions, but that’s easier said than done.

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.