Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas State of Mind

Christmas Morning

Sanibel Island, Florida
December 25, 2008

"Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind."
~Mary Ellen Chase

Santa must have decided I'd been a very good girl this year; Christmas morning was weighted down with gifts. My early morning photo adventure on Sanibel Island looked quite unpromising at dawn. Heavy gray skies overhead and thick, humid air made me think the stocking might have coal in it after all. But as we crossed the causeway onto the island, the clouds began to break up as the sun began to rise. It's a pity these blog photos are small. The lighthouse light is glowing yellow, like a big bright star, in the large version. It's a sight that brings a smile because you just know in your heart that good light is in front of you and the day will be blessed.

And it was. The tides were perfect, the skies soon cleared, and birds were abundant. I saw more yellow-crowned night herons in one mile than I saw all year last year. To say that this is a stellar bird year is an understatement. Pure joy. It's just pure joy when white and pink and blue plumage spreads out before you like a carpet, stretching for as far as you can see.

Earlier in the week, I helped my eight-year-old neighbor make a necklace for his mom. We ran out of beads the first day and he was on the phone to me by 7:30 the next morning, asking when we could go to the bead store for more. Off we went, where he completely impressed me with his math skills (buying beads is high finance, after all). We had to have a discussion about sales tax, which he seemed to grasp quickly, asking only, "but how do I sent that tax money to Florida? In the mail?"

Later, he explained Santa to me. See, according to Chris, Santa is dead. "Everybody knows that, M.E. That guy was OLD!" Old, indeed. Yes, it seems that Santa was born sometime just a few years after Jesus. Maybe they even knew each other. Nobody really knows for sure. But what everybody knows (and this was said with a raised eyebrow aimed at me, I kid you not): "Reindeer can NOT fly."

Silly me. I guess it all comes full circle. The older I get, the more I tend to believe in all sorts of crazy things. Why else did I get perfect light, hundreds of beautiful birds, merry jolly passers-by, good company, a coupla keepers in the photo bag, and a day full of joy and peace, just like I asked Santa for?

I swear that night heron was named Rudolph.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400 VR

Monday, December 8, 2008

Acts of Love

Bud Belanger

"I think photography is an act of love."
~Jay Maisel

In the late 90's, Bud Belanger and I became great friends. It was a really fine friendship and brought many gifts and amazing lessons to both of us. Bud and his wife, Lynne, grabbed hold of my dream of photography right along with me, and were the hosts for my very first solo show. Bud would hire me to teach him cool things on his computer and without fail, I would leave our lessons have learned a thing or two myself.

Those lessons were often nothing short of amazing and courageous. One summer, nearly five years ago, Bud suffered a severe stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. For a long time, it robbed Bud of a great passion of his - golf. And then one day, Bud called me and told me about a new golf cart he'd purchased, along with some new clubs. Bud, in his own unique and intrepid way, had found a way to play golf: one-handed. He could do it the cart, swing and hit the ball into forever and drive on to the next shot. About the only thing he needed help with was to tee up. He invited me along one late, cold winter day a few years back. I brought along a lightweight camera/single flash setup and off we went.

I walked, he drove. It was fun. It was fascinating, watching all that concentrated strength and focus. It was a completely unique skill. I was in awe. I was watching an act of love. I was watching a man following his passions, totally in love, completely unaware - no, unaccepting - that the odds were stacked against him.

Bud loved people. He was one of those guys who just had to connect with people. Since the stroke, he'd taken to handing out those little squeeze lights that fit onto key chains. People loved them and he handed them out like candy. Friends, family, kids, service people of all kinds, complete strangers. Hundreds of them passed hand to hand. I have my own little personal collection of them and they've saved me a few times in the dark with the camera. I stood up at his memorial service last week and told the bulging crowd that I like to think of him like that...squeeze him and so much light poured out that it lit up all the dark places.

And so it struck me, standing there, saying goodbye to an old dear friend with so many of his other friends, that this is what makes life so textured and's all these little acts of love in each of our days.

I miss you, my friend.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 24-120VR, Nikon SB-800 Speedlight