Monday, August 13, 2018

Thematic Photographic 420 - Floored

Industrial disease
London, ON
August 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
I've been sporadic with Thematic - hey, that has a ring to it! - because life's been a bit busy over the past few months. I quit my old job and started a (much better) new one. We went on an epic family road trip to a faraway place. I pulled waaaay back from my on-air work because I realized routinely getting 3 hours or sleep per night wasn't all that healthy.

As I've adjusted to this new, much more balanced life-reality, I've realized just how much I needed to change. I wasn't riding the bike as much as I should have been. I wasn't taking as many photos or writing as I would have liked. And most critically, I wasn't spending enough time with the fam. They deserved more of me.

Somewhere in that turbulent mess, Thematic got left aside. As I slowly realign my brain to this new routine, I'm finding myself carting my camera along more often. And I'm spending more time at the keyboard not only for work, but also for play. I'm once again letting those voices inside my head create stuff to both read and look at.

This photo reminds me of the need to look down every once in a while. Floors may not get the attention they deserve, but stopping to shoot the usually-ignored steel plate floor during a recent day at a local indoor activity centre was an important milestone in recapturing the spirit that not so long ago defined who I was and how I chose to interact with the world. What seems unimportant and routine is, in fact, the exact opposite, and I'm pleased to be back in the groove, proving that point with every word I write and every photo I take.

Your turn: This week's Thematic theme is floor. Take a picture of a floor - or the ground, or anything around where your feet would normally be - and share it on your blog, website, or social media account. Leave a comment here with a link letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants throughout the week, and check back here next Monday for another exciting chapter in Thematic history. Because we're back on a weekly schedule, folks. Spread the word. And please accept my thanks for coming along on this journey.

If you're new to Thematic, head here and all will be explained.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Remembering an early-morning drive with my kid

The Grid
Lambeth, ON
June 2018
Photo originally posted on Instagram
The scene: 7:58 on a grey Sunday morning in June. Our daughter has a photo shoot at an arena/community centre in this quiet bedroom community nestled in the agricultural hinterlands that surround London. After I park the car, she heads in to set up with her team. Normally at this point, I'd point the car home and leave her to do her usual great stuff, but a ceramic wall feature on the outside wall has caught my eye.

As you can see from the photo above, it's just a bunch of tiles. But given my long-established propensity to view the world through a somewhat bizarro lens, I can't stop staring at it. I jump out of the car and wander over for a closer look. I like what I see, and out comes the camera for a quick and spontaneous photo shoot. I'm going for straight-on, straight lines, and when I get what I like, I wander back to the car and head back home. There's a puppy to walk and coffee to be made.

As far as photos go, this one isn't all that spectacular. No depth, no perspective, and fairly repetitive. So why shoot it in the first place? Good question, and the answer speaks directly to why I shoot in the first place.

Sometimes, like here, or here, or here, it's because the photo itself is unreal. Or it's fleeting. Or it's just plain thought-provoking. This one, to be frank, isn't. But it didn't need to be. That's because it's a placeholder, or a moment photo, a pic that I took not because it was spectacular in and of itself, but because it captured a moment I didn't want to forget.

And this particular moment was an important one, a reminder of what it felt like to be alone with our daughter in a car rolling quietly through the countryside as we both chatted about the craft of photography, about what lay ahead for her for the day, and why it was worth waking up too early on a Saturday morning.

We've had many of these mornings, the two of us, and as much as I relish my sleep, I enjoy these mornings more. Driving her to wherever she needs to go. Being a dad. It's what parents do, of course, part of the deal we make when we decide to become parents in the first place. But this kid makes them fun, moments to look forward to. To the outside observer, it's just a parent and child having a chat in a car. To me, these moments are everything, and fleeting, and I needed a picture, something, anything, to remember what this particular moment on a particular Sunday morning in a quiet parking lot in Lambeth felt like.

Mission accomplished. Now, when's our next early-morning drive?

Your turn: Do you take placeholder- or moment-type photos? Why?

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Five years on...

Today is a bit of a milestone for me, as it marks five years since my stroke. I generally don’t watch the calendar in search of significant dates, but this significant date is different because it isn’t every day that you doubt you’re going to get another one. And it isn’t every day that you somehow get a second chance.

I’ve had five years to ponder the events of that day (here’s what happened, here’s more background, and here's some more) and I keep coming back to the singular fact that I’m incredibly lucky for so any reasons. That I didn’t die. That I wasn’t left severely disabled. That I was able to crawl back out of the rather deep hole I was in and back toward the life I had previously known.

I know the experience has changed me, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My sense of balance, never all that great to begin with, is even worse now. I won’t be pulling a Wallenda on a highwire anytime soon. Nor will I be jumping out of planes, or scuba diving through underwater caves. I'm good with that. I was never much of a daredevil to begin with.

But here’s the thing: That’s minor stuff. Because it pales in comparison to what could have been if I had bled out, alone on my bike, at the corner of Wonderland and 9 Mile Road, if the tiny clots that landed in a certain part of my brain had landed somewhere else. Or if I didn’t get world-class medical care a mere 10-minute drive from my house. If my wife hadn’t recognized the symptoms and immediately called for help. Or if our entire community hadn't rallied around our little family.

It also pales in comparison to what happens to other stroke victims, folks who aren’t so lucky. Over the past five years, I've heard from so many who have been touched by stroke, and too many of them tell sad tales of ignoring the symptoms, of shrugging off calls by friends and loved ones to get it looked at. Until it was too late. I can't fix them, but I can raise awareness. Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada has a wonderful page on stroke awareness here:

http://www.heartandstroke.ca/stroke/signs-of-stroke

If you do one thing today, please visit the page, read, learn, and share.

I've had five years to count my blessings, but as it turns out I had a lot of early-life preparation. I spent a lot of time in hospital as a child, and learned then that someone always has it worse than you. When I was in the children's ward, my bed was opposite that of Dimitri, a child (we were both about 5 years-old at the time) who broke his leg and was in traction. At night, after the lights were turned down and the ward went quiet, I would slip out of bed and wander the hospital in a wheelchair. I'd tell him about my adventures when I got back. He couldn't move, but I could. That sentiment continually rings through my head every time I’m tempted to buy into the “woe is me” line. I had nothing to complain about then, and that's just as true now.

I still push myself to get out there. I still ride the bike - despite the fact that a bike ride is what touched off this whole adventure. I still write. Still speak about geeky things on-air. Still have a sense of humour. Still shoot the world through a bizarrely skewed lens. Most importantly, I still get to enjoy life with my wife and kids - because, really, what else matters more?

I know I'm lucky to have been given these five years. Indeed, we all are, and you shouldn't have to experience critical illness to come to that realization. Every day is a gift, and there's no way of knowing whether we'll get another one. I'm just grateful to have been given the extra time, and grateful to be able to share the experience with others. Maybe I'll still get to write an update in another five years. That would be neat.

Your turn: How do you cherish every day?