Monday, May 31, 2010

I wear my sunglasses...indoors

Too bright
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008
Photo by Zach Levy

You never quite know what you're going to get when you hand the camera off to one of the kids. And that's why I love putting it in their hands and seeing what comes back.

I've long ago gotten past the point of worrying that they'll somehow damage it. Sure, a digital SLR with an attached grip and flash unit is a lot heavier and cumbersome than a pocketable camera. I have the occasional fleeting fear that they'll snap the thing in two at the hot shoe. But our kids have grown up with cameras in their midst, so they're familiar enough with my equipment that they know how to hold it, to balance it, to use it to tell a story.

Besides, we buy cameras to use, not to coddle.

So with my in-laws' condo buzzing with extended family, all there to celebrate a very special birthday, I decided now was as good a time as any for our eldest son to enjoy some behind-the-lens time. He'd been asking for it all morning, and I thought it might be nice to have two free hands for a change.

True to Levy form, he was able to capture moments that most folks would typically miss. He quietly moved around the fringes of the room, shooting in and drawing little attention to himself. Later, we had just as much fun reviewing his pictures as he did actually taking them. All in all, it was one of those small moments in the life of our family when I realized our kids are slowly, inevitably absorbing little bits of us as they begin to plot their own way through the world.


Your turn: Do you hand your camera to others? What happens when you do?

One more thing: Thematic Photographic continues to celebrate glassy-themed pics. If you've got one you'd like to share, head here.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Old glass eye

Light my way
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008
About this photo: Tonight, on a very special Thematic Photographic, we look more deeply, or through, the medium of glass. Are you feeling glassy, too? Click here for more.
I can't explain why my eyes are attracted to old cars like moths to a flame. Every time I see one on the street, I imagine what the world must have been like when it was first made, and what it took to ensure it survived all these years. In an age when cars have been homogenized by aerodynamics, focus groups and marketing types who wouldn't know the difference between motor oil and cooking oil, it's heartening to come across a piece of rolling history from an era when cars - and our lives - were so much simpler.

I'm sure I oversimplify things, of course. Nostalgia can do that. We forget the negatives and focus on the positives as the passage of time casts a deepening sepia tone over our memories. We ignore the messy mechanics and frequent breakdowns of the era, choosing instead to think about the adventures these often-dangerous machines opened up to us all.

The average Toyota Corolla could shame any one of these vehicles in reliability and efficiency, but I doubt it could ever make our hearts skip a beat as effectively as this half century-old piece of Detroit iron.

Your turn: Your first car. Please discuss.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Splattered window

After the rain
Bowling Green, OH, December 2008

On our way down to Florida a while back, we found ourselves surrounded by an ice storm of epic proportions. We had tried to roll out early to beat it out of Ontario, but a few hours south of home, it became apparent Mother Nature would win this one. So we pulled into a hotel in Bowling Green, Ohio - our traditional first-day breakfast stop and the kind of sleepy university town that postcards are made of - and hunkered down for the night.

When morning broke, the world was covered in slushy water and ice, and we'd ultimately spend another few hours driving through the tail end of the storm before blue skies would finally smile on us. Before we hit the road, I wanted to freeze (ha!) the moment somewhat. I wanted to remember what it felt like to be shepherding my family through such a challenging sequence of weather on the way to family and friends. The good stuff loomed a long way down the road, but for now, we were thankful to have the opportunity to experience another chapter in the adventure that is us.

Your turn: What do you see through this window?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

An iPad ate my blog

Same blog. New medium.
Richmond Hill, ON, April 2010

I put precious little effort into maintaining the visuals of my blog. I use a standard template that's been barely modified since I first chose it, oh, about five years ago. I know it's dowdy, but my philosophy has never been to wow folks with my web coding skills. The sad truth is I have none. Sure, I can tweak code in a pinch, but I haven't mastered CSS, XML, Flash or any other known online development language or tool. I'm a writer, not a programmer, so instead of spending time making a pretty template, I've chosen to focus on words and pictures instead.

Lame, I know.

Still, I get a little thrill whenever I see my blog on a screen that I wouldn't normally use. For example, I find it incredibly freeing to walk into an Apple Store and load up Written Inc. on one of their big-screen iMacs. I like to stand back and see if total strangers will actually read it. I do the same thing at Best Buy, or any other quasi-public space that has freely-accessible, Internet-connected browsers.

I'll often take pictures of the result because, well, I find it neat to look at the familiar through a new lens. Sometimes, the vessel does indeed make what it holds look and feel just a little different. So when my brother-in-law handed me his brand spanking new iPad, there was never any question what I'd do with it first.

Incidentally, May 28th is a big day here in Canada, as the iPad will finally be available at retail here. Canucks who pre-ordered their units earlier this month should be getting them just in time for the weekend. It isn't the second coming and it won't clean up the Gulf of Mexico or make electric cars suddenly affordable. But it remains one of the more exciting tech introductions of the year, and it makes me sound somewhat interesting at parties. Otherwise, I'd be all over the guacamole. And we wouldn't want that.

Your turn: Tell us about one time when you looked at something familiar in a new way.

About this photo: We're supporting Thematic Photographic's second week of looking at (into? Through?) glass. Click here to share your own glassy vision.


It's been a busy week in Pitkinville, so you may have noticed my relative lack of writing here on the blog. Between killing birds on the highway and kickstarting the workweek after an extended long weekend in a faraway place, I've been falling asleep with my netbook in my lap and waking up to a blank screen and a wet nose belonging to a dog badly in need of a post-midnight walk.

In light of my light-writing week, I've decided to extend the current Thematic Photographic theme, glassy, by a week. I've still got lots to share, and I hope you do, too. I'm also inviting you to suggest themes for next week: I shouldn't have all the fun, after all.

More later. For now, it's time to get some life stuff done. Soon...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Flight of the inadvertent intruder

To the bird who fate placed at precisely the same point in time and space as the approximate midpoint of the windshield of our minivan just west of Kingston, Ontario earlier this afternoon, I am deeply sorry. Before we even knew you were there, you were gone, a frighteningly instantaneous thud followed by a fast-receding, spinning black body in my rear-view mirror.

We didn't mean for your life to end so suddenly. It wasn't your fault that humans placed the highway precisely in the middle of your flyway, or that, on this beautifully sunny day, you decided to break with your flock for some low-level flight. The world works in strange ways, I guess, and in some perverse, cosmological manner, this was your time.

This will come as no comfort to you, of course - even when you were alive, you didn't read, let alone go online and read blogs like this one - but the brief crossing of your path with ours gave us ample opportunity to discuss the fragility of life as we continued our journey home. We spoke to the kids about the need to appreciate what we have, because there's never any way to know when it could be ripped away in a heartbeat. Or less.

The timing of our meeting was opportune. We were on our way home from Montreal, where we had attended my late father's unveiling. In Jewish tradition, an unveiling is when the engraved gravestone is revealed to the mourners. It typically occurs a few months after the funeral, and it is a ritual that, like so many other aspects of Jewish mourning, is designed as a milestone for those left behind, a meaningful way to put our grief into perspective and make it a part of our lives. We don't get over death, after all. We integrate it into our souls, and my dad's unveiling was a tangible reminder of how we had changed since that awful day last September, and how we will continue to change from this point forward.

I'll have more to say about this weekend in the days and weeks to come. For now, I find myself thinking about loss, and how I'm glad I'm not a bird. Because I get to appreciate life long after it ends, and I'm not entirely sure we can say the same thing about the bird we met, and then lost, earlier today.

Your turn: Finding something after loss. Please discuss.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A different kind of shade

Keeping the sun at bay
Richmond Hill, ON, April 2010

It isn't a picture of glass, per se (click here for Thematic Photographic background), but it's closely related. Well, from where I sit it is. Because no window is complete without some sort of window covering. And venetian blinds always seem to offer up a neat way of playing with light. And since photography is all about playing with light, it's only natural that my lens would eventually find its way here.

I have nothing profound to say about this particular scene. It's been a brutal, exhausting few days - more on that later this week - and I guess I'm looking at this blog entry as an overtly simple way of keeping everything in proper balance. And staring into a covered window is as simple as it gets.

For now, it'll have to do.

Your turn: Photography as therapy. Please discuss.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chicken. Run!

How much is that chicken in the window?
Richmond Hill, ON, April 2010
About this photo: As Thematic Photographic celebrates the joys of glass, I'm hoping you'll celebrate right along with us. Click here to start the glassy party.
We were on our way back from the playground when this little scene caught our daughter's eye. She's always noticing the out-of-the-ordinary stuff that others would otherwise ignore - she comes by it honestly, I believe - so it didn't surprise me that this little chicken made it onto her radar.

I shot quickly to avoid attracting the homeowner's attention. I could only imagine what someone would think if a total stranger pointed a lens at my house and began snapping away. Then again, if I put fascinating things like this in the window for all to see, maybe that's precisely what would happen.

So to the unknown soul who shared a little bit of fowled up color with the neighborhood, you have my thanks for creating yet another moment in the life of a little girl who enjoys them more than most.

Your turn: Kindness in the neighborhood. Please discuss.

I'm a bad Jew

I'm sure I tempt fate in admitting I'm not an overly religious soul. I've never been particularly good at remembering the intricacies of prayer, and often find myself skipping to the wrong page, choosing the wrong tune or otherwise stumbling over myself as I try to keep up with everyone around me. I do my best, but I often fret that it isn't nearly good enough and joke to my wife that I should wear a "Bad Jew" sign wherever I go because I always seem to muck it up despite my best intentions.

Still, in the eight months since my father passed away (it still stings to write it, and I guess it always will) I've found great comfort in reconnecting with who I am and where I come from. I've found it peaceful to head to synagogue in the predawn darkness, because doing so not only gives me a brief slice of time with a similarly devoted group of really kind members of my community - another family, really - but it gives me an opportunity, as I drive alone, to reflect on what's changed, and how I've had to change as a result.

I'm going to guess, hopefully, that wherever G-d is, I'm not being judged on my current ability to read out of a prayer book or lead others in the service (I'm working on it), but on how I'm trying hard to leverage the experience of connecting with community to become a better person. I'm going to guess that the spirit of a thing matters more than the letter of it.

Your turn: Please share a tip on how to be a better person, because I can use all the help I can get!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A moment in the car

I'm sitting in the passenger seat of the wondervan, with my wife at the wheel. Everything in the world that matters to me is safely tucked in between the bumpers. Two of our three little folks have drifted off to sleep, while son the elder sits in his man-cave back in the third row, tuned out on his iPod, and nervously wonders why I'm looking back at him, smiling.

Because you're a kind-hearted, handsome man-child. That's why.

We're powering our way into the night, hoping for a safe, uneventful journey as the cloudy late spring sky slowly loses its light and gives way to a graying darkness. My wife and I speak in occasional, clipped speech, usually finishing each other's sentences. We've done this route through the hinterlands so often that we can almost do it on autopilot (almost!) We don't much enjoy the tension that comes with a long drive away from home. But we do relish the small moments of Levyness that these trips offer up. They're the kind of little opportunities that are lost to history if we don't at least try to grab ahold of them.

We're stopping now so that I can get back behind the wheel. As you can clearly see, I had nothing earth-shattering to report from my front-seat perch. But I wanted to remember this moment. I wanted to remember what it felt like when everything was simply right with the world.

Your turn: How do you know when your world is spinning right?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A close shave

Despite the fact that the day dawned glorious and only became more so as the sun rose higher into the clear blue sky, I took the car to work today. I had errands to run during the day and on the way home from work, so pushing pedals from one end of the city to the other just wasn't going to cut it.

Still, I made the best of it. I slid open the sunroof, found my favorite set of tunes on the media player and set off. I was having a lovely, reflective drive until I got to a stretch of a near-rural two-lane road that, oddly on this day, was backed up with traffic. As I slowed down and joined the vehicular equivalent of a conga line, I peeked a little more closely into my rearview mirror to make sure the guy behind me was doing the same. Thankfully, he was, so I settled into the routine of driving slower than the average cyclist.

After a couple of minutes, it became apparent we'd be here for a bit longer. The GPS still showed 2 km to the turnoff, and this being the middle of nowhere on the way to the airport, I had nowhere else to turn. I looked in the rearview again, and something looked funny. The guy - now clearly identified as a middle-aged, shades-wearing man with thinning hair - was peering longingly into his passenger seat. He was alone in the car, so clearly he was eyeing something on the seat that had little to do with piloting his vehicle. My spidey senses began to tingle as he seemingly reached across for something.

Sure enough, the driver of the circa 1998 sandy-green Chevrolet Malibu soon had something in his hand, which he proceeded to rub up and down his face and neck. Yes, folks, he was shaving while creeping through traffic.

Now, I realize it isn't my place to impose my will on total strangers. But considering he was piloting a vehicle that could potentially emboss the Chevy bowtie into my rear bumper during the critical transition between the adam's apple and the chin, I took exception to his little display of multitasking. I watched him closely to ensure he stayed sufficiently far back, and after a few stop-and-almost-no-go cycles, I realized he simply wasn't up to the task.

So I stopped. And I waited. The cars in front of me slowly moved forward, opening up the distance between us, as Malibu Man continued his quest for silky facial smoothness. I waited some more. He had no idea. I continued to wait. He continued to electrically obliterate his facial hair, completely oblivious to what I was doing. I briefly entertained getting out of my car and knocking quietly on his window to ask if he wanted me to hold a mirror for him, but then thought better of it. As funny as it would have been - and make no mistake, I would have laughed for days at the memory of the experience - the safety risk just didn't seem worth it.

After what seemed like an age but was likely more like 90 seconds, he looked ahead and realized what I was up to. He didn't honk - stupid-guilt, perhaps? - as I dropped the car back into drive and eased back into line.

I hope his colleagues appreciated his dedication to personal grooming.

Your turn: The strange things you've seen while driving. Please discuss.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thematic Photographic 99 - Glassy

Rainbow connection
London, ON, April 2010

[Please click photo to embiggen]

When a good friend of ours gave this incredibly lovely plate to us last month, my first thought was to shoot it as soon as humanly possible. Fortunately I didn't have to wait too long. Since I'm a fan of natural light - see this entry from earlier this week - I was out of bed early the next day the moment I saw sun streaming through the window. Breakfast could wait: This was perfect light.

I love working with glass because you never quite know what you're going to get. Exposure is always a bit of a challenge, of course, but that's what makes it so much fun to explore. You throw the camera into full manual and let your mind take care of the rest. It's very Zen, and it's one of the reasons I enjoy photography as much as I do.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

Your turn: For the next week, Thematic Photographic explores glass. Simply post a glass-themed pic on your blog or photo sharing site, then paste a link in a comment here. Repeat as often as you wish. And don't forget to visit other participants to share the photographic joy. For more background on how our weekly photo sharing/exploration extravaganza works, click here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Did someone call room service?

London, ON, March 2010
About this photo: Thematic Photographic's edible week begins to wind down as we get set for Wednesday's launch of a new, uber-exciting theme? How exciting? Come back tomorrow after 7 p.m. Until then, we're still taking foodie photos here.
I'm a fan of the forlorn and the forgotten, the things left behind after everyone's moved on. There's a strange beauty inherent in scenes like this, and I don't think I'll ever tire of it. They invite the mind to wander, to wonder what it must have been like when there was life in this place, before the moment ended.

In many respects, photos of what once was aren't as much about what you see as they are about what you can't see. So you close your eyes and think back. And you realize the visuals taking place in your head are often more vivid than those on the screen in front of you.

Your turn: Please close your eyes. What story is this tray of room service leftovers telling you?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jammed up

The sun shines on breakfast
London, ON, April 2010
About this photo: If it's edible, we're hoping you'll share it as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. Follow your mouse here to do just that.
The scene: Sunday morning. The brilliant sun paints the kitchen a bright shade of happy as we settle in for a quiet breakfast, an oasis of calm before we get on with the business of playdates, choir practice and grocery shopping. I've found a new jar of apricot jam in the fridge, but I hold off on the actual opening and eating part because, yet again, I've got an idea for a picture.

One of the things I love about our house is the way the kitchen is lit in the morning. I'm not a morning person. Not even close. So the prospect of sunlight slashing across the table while I peruse the paper is a welcome one. It won't make me like mornings any more, but it sure opens up the occasional moment of photographic inspiration. This is why the camera generally isn't far away. This is why scenes of everyday ordinariness will never lose their ability to pull me in.

Your turn: Your ideal breakfast. Please discuss.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The pie postscript

Dessert is served
London, ON, June 2009

[In support of Thematic Phorographic's edible theme]

Since every good meal should start with dessert, I present this rather weird view of a particularly lovely slice of lemon meringue pie. The plate that it's on is rather significant, as this is the set that we bought after I destroyed a chunk of our last set in a rather unfortunate pie photography accident.

I've got your curiosity now, don't I? Click here for the whole sordid story. We'll wait.

[Old Rod Stewart-to-muzak standards play in the background. The dog falls asleep. The rest of us lose a few brain cells.]

Welcome back. Now that my lemon meringue fetish has been placed in its proper context, let's continue.

Although it's been about three-and-a-half years since that fateful evening, it continues to cast a rather funny shadow on me. I can't eat lemon meringue pie without someone - usually my wife, but sometimes one of the kids, too - reminding me of my, um, experience. If I pick up a plate to get a different view of something, fingers come out, wagging in my general direction, reminding me of how things ended up last time.

They know me all too well, and I can't say I blame them for their sense of caution. Pie or no pie, I know I'm not the easiest person to have around the house.

So as I considered my options for this particular shot, I thought it might be best for us all if I chose a composition that minimized the gravitational risk to the plate, to the dog (Schnauzer trait: stand under the table, look pathetic, wait for stuff to fall, lick, repeat) and to my permanently-plate-hostile reputation. This time, I played it safe.

The dog was disappointed. My wife was not.

Your turn: Why desserts are memorable. Please discuss.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fish go to school, too

There's no 'I' in team
London, ON, February 2010
About this photo: Thematic Photographic has gone edible, and will remain edible until next Wednesday. To share your own edibleness, click here and start chewing. Photographically, that is.
Goldfish crackers are nothing new around here. To see just how far back they go in the lore of my family, click here for a column I wrote way back in 2002. Yes, I'm just that old. I'll wait while you read.

[Cue theme from Jeopardy.]

Aaaand we're back. Hope you enjoyed the piece. As we fast-forward to 2010, it's worth mentioning that we still have these crackers in our cupboard. Not the same crackers, mind you, as they'd likely be stale by now, and the 2-year-old referenced in the piece, who is now 9, would not be pleased. Nor would my wife, as I suspect she'd be upset with me for allowing the kids to eat really outdated food.

But I digress.

Bottom line is I love the damn things. They make me happy when I eat them. And heaven knows we all need more reasons to smile. So when I pulled these out at lunchtime, I took a few minutes to pay them an appropriate level of photographic respect.

They made the rest of the day just a little brighter.

Your turn: Your favorite cracker is...? Why?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Atlantis - The final launch

I woke up early to get some work done before the rest of the world began to stir. As I worked beside the slowly brightening kitchen window, I couldn't help but think about a similar sunrise in Florida, and the fact that as the day dawns there, the Space Shuttle Atlantis sits on the launchpad in anticipation of her last-ever schedule launch, STS-132.

As the final three missions tick down, we'll be seeing a lot of "lasts" before American human spaceflight goes silent for a while. For just over 49 years, the U.S. has been putting humans on top of rockets and lighting the candle. It's a process that, while expensive, has spawned not only technological innovation, but entire generations of kids to study science and pursue careers in the field.

You can't inspire excellence if you don't practice it yourself, and it saddens me to think that a leading nation has decided to stop practicing it (yes, I know the strategy is to shift accountability from government to commercial interests, but considering where commercial aviation is these days, I'm not hopeful for a future where early-on capitalism-driven innovation is ultimately replaced by bottom-line driven mediocrity. Call me a cynic.)

If you're watching, has the always-excellent Miles O'Brien broadcasting live with astronaut Leroy Chiao and David Waters. NASA-TV will also be running the live feed.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Law & Order cancelled

The Twittersphere's lighting up with news that seven of you have been dreading for years: NBC has cancelled its long-running drama, Law & Order.

The cynic in me speculates they'll be replacing it with a "reality" show about morbidly obese handypeople on a deserted island who date tycoons with bad hair.

The absolute cynic in me is surprised that the show was even still on the air.

Seriously, society watches too much lousy television. If Jeff Probst and 20-year-old cop shows are all we've got, we're in trouble.

Your turn: TV sucks because...?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thematic Photographic 98 - Edible

Rooting for my country
London, ON, February 2009

It was my first week in my new job. When a colleague took me out for lunch and picked up this delightfully timely dessert - it was during the Olympics and Canadian fandom was rampant - I knew it was definitely photo-worthy.

So I didn't eat it at the time, and instead explained my little obsession to him. I had plans for this cookie. Macro-photographic plans. I wanted to remember this cookie. And in a certain sense, I wanted to remember this week, when I was first meeting some seriously smart folks and figuring out how I fit and how I would ultimately contribute. It felt good to be on the cusp of such an opportunity.

Three months on, the cookie's long gone - the kids wolfed it milliseconds after the shoot was over - and I'm enjoying the heck out of myself at work. I'm comfortable in my role and in my skin, and every day presents a new and challenging adventure. Life is good.

And it all started with a cookie.

Your turn: I believe food is more about simple sustenance. It defines moments in our lives and somehow connects us as well. It's no wonder the kitchen is the centrepiece of most homes, and why some of our fondest memories seem to revolve around mealtime. Over the next week, I hope you'll turn your lens on the things we eat.

If you're new to Thematic Photographic, it's a rather simple process: Post a pic supporting the theme to your blog, then paste a link to it in a comment here. Feel free to follow everyone else's links home to maximize the sharing goodness - this is, after all, an opportunity to share and enjoy our respective visions. For more background on TP, click here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Field of weedy dreams

No-spray zone
London, ON, May 2009

As we continue to explore this week's Thematic Photographic theme, spring has sprung (click here to share yours), it occurs to me that not all explosions of new post-winter life are welcome explosions. I've never really understood society's general aversion to dandelions, however. We call them weeds, for some odd reason, and in many jurisdictions we blast them into oblivion with noxious spraying that'll give our grandchildren extra limbs that come in especially handy at the grocery store.

But not in mine, as London now has a bylaw that bans most lawn chemicals. Which means scenes like this are pretty damn common these days. And as much as most folks around me whine incessantly about the fact that "the perfect lawn" is now but a memory, I can't help but stand before a limitlessly yellow field like this and think nature's managed to figure out what isn't welcome and what is.

Perfection's overrated, in my book.

Your turn: What's a weed, anyway? And who decides? And who elects those who decide?

One more thing: New TP theme launches Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. I'm still on the fence as to what that theme should be. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

It came from the earth

London, ON, April 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic is celebrating the return of spring, and the crack research team at Written Inc. hopes you'll share your own vision of the new season. Click here to dive right in, or here if you'd like a bit of background on how TP works.
If winter is a season of monochromes barely lit by a weak sun, then spring is all color and brilliance. As much as I rather enjoy the moodiness of the snowy season - sorry, it's the Montrealer in me - my soul gets a much needed jolt as soon as the snow melts and the flowers begin to poke out of the just-greening lawn.

It reaffirms that life always manages to find a way back. I find that somewhat comforting.

Your turn: Don't you?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Semi happy birthday

So today was another day, differentiated from the other 364 days this year by virtue of the fact that as of 8:08 this morning, I had completed yet another revolution of the sun.

It was a good day, filled with kids bouncing in and out of our room before I woke up, friends singing me happy birthday as we walked into synagogue, rainbow white cake for lunch, a perfectly delightful afternoon spent running errands with my wife and our little man, and dinner out with tout la gang. On second thought, it was more than good. Thanks to my family and community, it was a great day. I'm blessed beyond words.

At the same time, it was more than a little bittersweet because it was also my first birthday since I lost my dad. I know I risk upsetting those closest to me by admitting for most of the past week I felt somewhat less than shiny and happy in anticipation of today. I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to feel celebratory when all I really feel is loss.

But here's the thing: As much as I'd like to undo the passage of time, I realize the universe simply doesn't work that way, and no amount of whining - on my blog, elsewhere, anywhere - will ever change that. Whether or not I accept the admittedly sad reality of post-loss life is beside the point. It's reality, and I need to find some way to live with it. It sucks, but it's life in all its flawed glory.

It wouldn't have been my dad's style to be subdued on a day like today. It's not what he taught me, and as I moved through the day surrounded by my family, it's not how I applied his lessons. So I stayed close to those who matter most. I watched them a little more closely than usual. I closed my eyes periodically and listened, hard, to them.

I can't hug my dad any more, but my kids can still hug theirs, and I owed it to them to be there for them, fully in the moment. Because life's too short to miss out on the fleeting, precious moments of happiness.

Your turn: Lessons of our fathers. Please discuss.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The flock returns

Vantage point
London, ON, March 2010
About this photo: We're celebrating spring as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. What am I talking about? Head here to find out.
While the typical image of spring involves buds, leaves and flowers, I've always seen it slightly differently (I know, big surprise.) Spring, to me, marks the return of animals we haven't seen or heard all winter. When I'm walking through a wooded area, for example, I like to close my eyes and listen for the birds. The days are somehow just a little bit richer once their song returns.

On this day, the newly returned flock was kicking up quite a racket. I couldn't tell if they were happy, sad, or something in between. It didn't really matter, frankly, because all I cared about was that they were here in the first place. It was a reminder to me that life, somehow, goes on, and in the end it's up to us to take the time to listen closely.

Your turn: Close your eyes. What do you hear?

One more thing: I spoke live with CTV News Channel's Marcia MacMillan earlier this evening about today's announcement that Apple's iPad would hit Canadian stores May 28th. Here's the video. Here's another link, just in case.

And, no, Steve Jobs hasn't sent me my free iPad yet.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Thematic Photographic 97 - Spring has sprung

London, ON

April 2009

It's been a while since we did Thematic Photographic (a month!) I've been somewhat - okay, very - consumed with my new job and the day-to-day challenges of balancing the activities of three very busy kids with those of two busy parents and a rather busy dog as well. I've been cutting into my sleep to compensate, but I realize that can only last for so long before something's got to give.

As I've been zipping from one place to another, I've been taking little time-outs to shoot pictures of spring. Getting them processed and uploaded to the blog is an entirely different matter, so for this week's launch photo, you'll have to settle for this year-old view from my back yard. These particular leaves no longer exist, of course. But the next generation is already well on its way toward a life of shade provision, oxygen generation and smile induction.

Which is why we so eagerly await the new dawn every year. And why I look forward to seeing your own interpretation of my favorite season.

Your turn: Please share a spring-themed photo on your blog, then simply paste the link to the entry here in a comment. This makes it easy for all of us to share. Oh, and don't forget to have fun with it, as that's the whole point of this exercise. Thanks!

For more background on Thematic Photographic, please click here. To see all TP-themed entries, click here.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Thematic Photographic - on its way

Normally by now I'd have the new Thematic Photographic entry up on the blog, and all would be well with the world. Well, the virtual, bloggy, social media-ish one that I've conjured up in my head, anyway.

But thanks to an electrical storm on the way home from work (very cool to observe from inside the car, but very frightening given Londoners' inability to drive on wet roads), a detour to the mall to pick up my now-repaired BlackBerry (yay!) and a quick stop at home before carting the little folks to gymnastics, I'm going to have to delay the upload till later tonight.

Real life takes precedence tonight. As it should.

Photos soon...

Your turn: Turning the Internet spigot off for a bit. Please discuss.

An error has occurred

The story of our lives
London, ON, March 2009

My BlackBerry had a bad day last month and had to take a trip back to the BlackBerry Repair Shop. Despite the fact that BlackBerrys (yes, plural with a "y") are made by Waterloo, Ontario, Canada-based Research In Motion, I hear the repair place is conveniently located next to Santa's Village.

I'm posting this as a reminder to myself that the little elves have completed fixing my little slice of technological addiction, so I'd best head back to the store after work to pick it up.

Your turn: What is it with Canadians? Even their error messages are polite?

One more thing: Thematic Photographic returns tonight. Drop by at 7 p.m. Eastern for our spring-themed kickoff. Or stalk your neighborhood with your camera, then drop by. Either way, it'll be great to get things rolling again.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Watery fingers

Splish splash
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

I'll be brief because I'm up at an ungodly hour and my head's spinning too quickly to go back to sleep. But I came across this in my archives and thought I'd share it with you.

I can't seem to stop thinking about the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and how it could render tiny, blink-and-you-miss-it moments like this crashing wave mere memories for a while. Mankind has a nasty habit of messing up chunks of the planet - just ask the human and non-human residents of Prince William Sound, who've been trying and failing to fully get rid of traces of the Exxon Valdez spill for nearly a generation - and this latest oil spill is yet another chapter in an ever lengthening book.

The fallout from the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig serves as yet another reminder that something's got to change. I asked this simple question on my Facebook page the other day - Watching the Louisiana coast get smothered by a slick. Wondering how much longer humanity can continue the petrol parade - and ended up touching off a debate between friends living on opposite sides of the planet.

It was a great, eye-opening discussion, and I've been thinking a lot about that exchange ever since. I realize I have no answers, though. So as I look at scenes like the one at the top of this entry, I think to myself that it's time I came up with a few.

Your turn: So, what can we learn from the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? Will we ever learn?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

No Vacancy

Look for the sign
Williamsburg, KY, January 2009

This burg hard alongside Interstate 75 in the mountains of Kentucky has been good to us. Thanks to various factors - namely our van's rather phenomenal fuel economy on long trips, our children's ability to emulate the camel and our willingness to bypass the big towns in favor of the small, sometimes-forgotten ones - we've stopped here a number of times on our way to/from Florida*.

This motel has always made me ponder. In a country where chains of everything from convenience stores to gas stations to restaurants are wiping family-owned businesses off the map, places like this that wear their family-owned history with pride tend to stand out a bit. There's a certain defiance associated with bucking the trend toward anonymous towns that look like all other anonymous towns, and I find myself smiling as I zoom across space and capture this newly renovated sign that hovers over its newly renovated building. Maybe there's hope, yet.

Your turn: What do we lose when unique businesses give way to chain-owned ones?

* See here, here and here for more photos from this place.

Scene from a hospital

So what is it, then?
Montreal, QC, September 2009

The scene: We were on our way out of the hospital after visiting Debbie's mom. It had been two days since my father's funeral - seven months later, it still hurts to write those words - and between his loss and her mom's illness, we were feeling a little more shellshocked than usual.

There's a long hallway on the ground floor that leads from the dingy-looking elevators to the exit. It's the same concrete block-walled, pipe-lined-ceiling hallway I traversed as a kid when I ended my own tours of duty here, so I always walk it just a little more slowly, to drink in the echoes a place that's imprinted itself in so many ways on me and my family.

We're here so often that I try to notice what's changed from one visit to the next. On this particular walk-through, I notice one of the laser printers in an adjacent clinic has been working overtime. The windows are now festooned with bureaucratically-structured messages, all seemingly designed to remind patients when they should show up, what they should bring, and what they can and cannot do while they're waiting.

And this sign, which stopped all of us dead in our tracks and made us wonder just what they were thinking. Sometimes, laptops and laser printers really should be taken away from those who haven't a clue.

Your turn: So what is this sign all about, anyway?