Friday, May 31, 2013

A jet gets lost in the weeds

London, ON
June 2012
For more Thematic messiness, click here.
Behold the D-Jet, a bold attempt by Diamond Aircraft to crack the inexpensive business jet (an oxymoron, I know, but work with me) market.

I saw this prototype, registered as C-GVLJ, fly at an airshow in 2007. Back then, optimism was high that this plane would take a company known mostly for its prop-driven aircraft to new heights, literally and figuratively.

The road's been decidedly rocky for Diamond since then. They cancelled the jet program, then revived it, then in February suspended it because of high development costs and sagging sales of the piston-engined planes that were supposed to pay for it all. Then Diamond laid off most of their staff at their plant just beside London's airport.

I grabbed this picture last June because I suspected I'd never again see the plane in the flesh - and because the sight of something that had once held so much promise parked beside a double-wide and a hibachi, surrounded by choking weeds, struck me as somewhat poignant.

The company continues to showcase the plane on its website, so there's always hope. I guess I'm being a little ridiculous, as it's just a plane. But every time I drive by the empty parking lot, I think of the hundreds of employees who've now been scattered to the wind. In the end, the plane is merely the glue that holds a community together, and it saddens me to think of what's been lost in the process.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Digging into the future

Leaving its mark
Shanghai, China
May 2012
Click here for more Thematic messiness
By definition, construction sites are messy places. There's a purpose to the messiness, of course, and a certain temporariness to it all. At some point, the muddy earth will turn to landscaped perfection, the exposed rebar replaced by finely finished, sleekly shaped surfaces. When the ribbon is finally cut, memories of what it took to build this place are almost universally relegated to history, dusty photos tucked away in a rarely opened album or archive.

None of this makes construction sites themselves less compelling. I find them endlessly fascinating landscapes of change, places that overwhelm the senses and challenge us to think about what could - and eventually will - be. Sure, they'll leave a layer of caked mud on your car if you get too close, but who among us hasn't hung around the perimeter fence and simply stared in?

I kind of dug (sorry) this scene as soon as I saw it. I know the digger is huge, but the high angle made it look like a kid's toy. As I tripped the shutter, I wondered if the machine's operator ever wondered about the things he creates.

Your turn: Why do construction sites appeal to us?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On the context of happiness

"Sometimes you have to get sad before you get happy 'cause otherwise how would you know the difference?"
Maureen Child, And Then Came You: Sam's Story
I had never thought of it in quite this way, but on reflection it seems to make a certain amount of sense. If we don't experience the full spectrum of it all, how do we really know?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thematic Photographic 245 - Messiness

After the game is played
London, ON
January 2012
The world isn't always the neatest place. Folks drop stuff in places they shouldn't. Dirt gets into places we wish it wouldn't. The usual rules of neatness seem to be ignored in the process.

Sometimes, like when you're building or renovating something, it can't be helped. Other times, like this scene at the end of a hard fought hockey game at a usually spotless facility, it's another story.

My daughter scrunched her nose when she saw this, and wondered aloud why folks can't be a little more careful about the stuff they leave behind. I didn't have a real answer for her then, and I still don't.

Your turn: Take a picture that evokes the "messiness" theme and post it to your blog or website (or Facebook, or Twitter, or wherever else you like to share stuff.) Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to spread the photographic joy. Pop by again throughout the week, as we encourage repeat photographic sharing. For more background on how Thematic works, click here. Have fun!

Throw momma from the train, a kiss

Little man goes to Washington
London, ON
May 2013
Sunday mornings are normally for sleeping in, lazy mornings when we let the kids take care of the dog while we enjoy our only untimed, unscheduled, undeadlined morning of the week.

Not this Sunday.

We set alarms for 5 a.m. and drowsily patted a puzzled puppy as we ushered our bleary-eyed little man out the door and into a frosty car. Yesterday was a big day for him, one he'd been waiting for all year: his class trip to Washington, DC.

We cruised into the school parking lot and joined up with a similarly bleary-eyed group of parents and kids. The sun hadn't risen high enough in the sky yet, so everyone's priority while we waited for the rest of the kids to arrive was to ward off the chill.

Soon enough, the group was complete and they gathered up their bags and converged with their teachers on the mega-van rented for the trip. After a quick last-hug, Noah hopped in with his friends, smiling faces and waving hands mostly concealed by the tinted glass. And then, just like that, they were gone.

Since this is 2013, he was able to message us whenever they stopped along the way and found free wi-fi. He pinged us as soon as they got to the hotel, too - and sent his sister a picture of the hotel pool. I expect he'll be taking a lot of pictures, absorbing a lot of experiences, and writing yet another page in the journal of a rapidly expanding life.

It was a quiet house last night. As I fetched the dog from Noah's empty room, I counted the number of sleeps left until he returns home Thursday night. Only four; a blink, really. Knowing him, however, we knew he was already filling his first night away with memories he'll carry for decades. Doubtless he'll do the same with every moment on this trip, because that's just the way he is. And we wouldn't have it - or him - any other way.

Happy travels, little man.

Your turn: What was your favorite childhood trip?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Way stations in the night

Fuel up
Woodstock, ON
March 2013
Thematic. Frozen. Here.
New Thematic goes live Monday at 7 p.m. ET
I spend a lot of time moving between where I am and where I need to be. Which means I have a choice to either lament the surplus of in-between time, or embrace the zen of the journey. I'm all about embracing, so now you know which way I lean.

This particular place is known as an ONnRoute. It's one of a series of service stations alongside major Ontario highways. I grabbed this shot in Woodstock as I headed home from work on a particularly nasty evening.

On the surface, it's a gas station, a collection of fast food joints, and little else. Worse, it looks just like every other ONRoute, an efficiently designed, generically architected and ultimately forgettable facility designed to keep thousands of motorists moving on their way while they forget where they've been. There's no sense of place here, nothing to connect you with the town you're supposedly passing through - but never actually see, touch or experience. In fact, thanks to automated-pay pumps, you can theoretically complete an entire trip without actually encountering another soul. Welcome to the 21st century.

Given all of this, I normally wouldn't have bothered to take a picture. But the traffic had been insane thanks to the zany winter weather and road conditions, and I was feeling particularly reflective as I pulled off the highway and pointed my headlights toward the growing oasis of light up ahead. Before hitting the icy, windswept road for the rest of the trip home, I somehow got it into my head that this was a moment, in an otherwise forgettable place, that shouldn't be forgotten.

Which is my rather inelegant way of saying that every place, even a cookie cutter highway service station, has its merits, its uniquenesses, its reasons for standing out. And it's up to us to take the time to snag them as we move from one place to another. It's a long journey, this life thing. And I'd hate to think of what we'd miss if we wrote every midpoint off as somehow being not worthy.

It took a bitterly cold winter's night to make me realize they're all worthy.

Your turn: your favorite part of the journey is...?

One more thing: turns out I've got a bit of a thing for oases of light, as I've got more than a few examples in the old blog archives. I'm not entirely sure why I keep coming back to this theme, but maybe I should stop questioning why I shoot what I shoot. Here's a quick look back:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Too sweet for words

Snack time
Laval QC
May 2013

Thematic. Frozen. Here.
I've been remiss in posting a new Thematic this week. Life's been, um, busy, with more than the usual concentration of stuff to keep me going from long before dawn until well after most normal people would have tucked themselves back into bed.

So while I mull over a new theme - suggestions always welcome, too - I thought I'd share this with you. On the surface, it's just an ice cream sandwich, a slab of dairy goodness slapped between, in this case, a couple of oversized cookies. It's the kind of food most folks shouldn't be consuming in any great quantity, but they do, anyway, because how can you say no to this?

In the end, we find a way to balance the desire to eat something that makes us happy with the desire to keep our arteries from clogging decades too soon. Because life is all about balance. And a little bit of sweetness mixed into the chaotic ebb and flow of the everyday is a pretty nice way to keep things balanced as they should be.

Bon appetit.

Your turn: Your favorite dessert is...? Because...?
(I'll even start you off: an ice cream sandwich just like this one. Because it takes me right back to when I was a kid, and my grandparents would get such a thrill every time I ate one.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

On playing with reckless abandon

"When you play, never mind who listens to you."
Robert Schumann
And so we play. Never had much patience for armchair critics, anyway. Those who can, after all...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Temporary tracks in the snow

Someone was here
Laval, QC
February 2013
Thematic. Frozen. Here.
If every picture supposedly tells a story, this one speaks of a bleary-eyed start to a grey workday, a bleak walk across a cold, snow-covered parking lot, to a cold, snow-covered car, and a cold, snow-covered drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

It's hard to tell who left these footsteps and tire tracks, or what they might have been thinking at the time. But as I stared down from my lofty perch and wondered about the greyness that had brought us here in the first place, I couldn't help but think that today wasn't a day for optimism, and it would be a while before we stopped seeing the world in cold, snow-covered, bleary-eyed tones.

Your turn: Who left these tracks?

Friday, May 17, 2013

On dancing by the light of the moon

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
Anton Chekov
Bonus points if anyone can figure out the song reference. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Blink and you'll miss it

Frozen in time
Delray Beach, FL
December 2009
Thematic. Frozen. Here.
Whether or not this scene qualifies as frozen is a matter of interpretation. Technically, the water here isn't frozen. At the moment this shot was taken, the water was in decidedly liquid form. Yet the combination of fast-moving surf, adequate light and a fast enough shutter speed combined to freeze the moment, even as it ceased to exist barely a millisecond later.

This is why I've always loved shooting surf (see here, here and here for past examples.) Because everything is transient - it's over before you even realize it's happened. And if you hang around long enough, you'll be blessed enough to see another transient moment. Before it, too, disappears forever.

So we keep our eyes open, ready to absorb the wonder of it all.

Your turn: Things that disappear in a blink. Please discuss.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On those who dance, and those who don't

"Those who danced were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

So we dance, and ignore what anyone else might think. Sound good?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thematic Photographic 244 - Frozen

Anything but plain vanilla
Deerfield Beach, FL
December 2009
It may seem anathema to choose frozen as a theme when the planet - okay, the northern hemisphere - is busy warming up and breaking free from a seemingly never-ending winter. But humor me for a moment.

Frozen doesn't necessarily need to be a winter thing. Even if you don't live in the Great White North, there's plenty of thematic potential closer to home. I found this one on a trip to the ice cream store with the munchkins - in Florida, of all places - and I'm betting you'll all find a way to interpret the theme in all sorts of creative ways.

Your turn: Thematic is our weekly photo sharing/exploration/learning thing. It's certainly not competitive, and is designed to get us to look through our lenses just a little differently. To participate, grab a photo that evokes or reflects the weekly theme and share it on your blog or website (or Pinterest or Instagram or Twitter or wherever else you hang out online.) Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the joy and pop back in through the week to share additional pics. For more background, click here. And have fun - because that's why we do this in the first place!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On Aesop's most profound lesson

"No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted."

Pondering the flip side of Mother's Day

I've never been a fan of the manufactured holiday. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, whatever so-called Day it may be, I can't get past visions of the mad rush to buy stuff, any stuff, to raid the card section, bring home something, anything, to avoid the stigma of non-recognition, the shame of empty-handedness.

The avalanche of printed, broadcast and electronic flyers and ads would have us believe that these Days are all about stuff. That we're in the good books if we obtain stuff. And to a certain extent, the unseen faces behind the avalanche are right. Try not bringing something home on a day like today and see what happens. With few exceptions, it likely wouldn't be pretty.

But here's the thing: this year's Mother's Day, at least in our house, isn't remotely about stuff. It's about the things we can no longer have. Like time. Or each other.

It's my wife's first Mother's Day without her mom. And as I wrote on the first Father's Day without my dad (here), it's a day that has undertones never anticipated long ago by the denizens of Hallmark whose only interest was - and clearly still is - selling more cards and related uselessness. They, and if we're being honest, we, forget the dark side of a day like today. They ignore the impact of limitless commercialism on folks who may no longer have their parents around. It's like rubbing salt into a wound, and it makes the process harder than it needs to be.

But who am I to stand in the way of profit?

This morning, the kids woke up early and fetched me as quietly as they could. We fed the dog, gave him his insulin and brought him outside. We made my wife breakfast, loaded it onto a tray and and tiptoed upstairs. We sat on the bed with her and tried to keep the dog from shnarfing her bagel. The phone rang, and when she got off the phone with her dad, the room was suddenly very quiet.

Every day is a special Day to my wife, and every day is an opportunity to both honor and connect with the important folks who helped shape her. She doesn't need a holiday or an avalanche of flyers to remind her what she has, or what she's lost. We don't need a holiday to gather around her and remind her that she's the center of our universe. And she doesn't need a day like today to remind her of the calls she can no longer make. It'll be just as stark and raw tomorrow as it is today.

Maybe we'll do breakfast in bed for her next weekend, too. Just because.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Darkness descends from above

London, ON
July 2012
Click here for more chaotic Thematic
Weatherpeople get no respect. When their weather predictions are correct, we forget their role in ensuring we had enough shorts and sandals on hand to enjoy that gloriously warm and sunny day. And when they're wrong, they become our chosen objects of disconnected scorn. They made us get wet in the rain, we reason, so they must be roundly criticized.

We assume their work is little more than guesswork. We figure they're throwing highs, lows and troughs at a virtual dartboard in the hope that some of them will stick. We're wrong, of course, but that doesn't make the armchair quarterbacking any less fun. This is interactive television at its finest, and we relish the process because we never have to actually say any of this directly to them.

Which brings me to this scene of weird looking clouds. I could almost feel the storm moving in as the winds picked up and the temperature dropped. I suddenly felt a bit smaller as I realized just how powerful the forces around us were, and how powerless we were to do anything about them.

The mathematics of what was going on in the atmosphere at that moment were well beyond anything I could fathom, but I knew that somewhere, an unseen supercomputer was crunching the data and trying to figure out what might happen next. And somewhere, a meteorologist was turning that impossibly complex mountain of ever changing numbers into a forecast for all of us armchair quarterbacks. Just wanted to say thanks.

Your turn: why do we spend so much time and energy talking and worrying about the weather?

Friday, May 10, 2013

On why we exist

"We are not on this earth to accumulate victories, things, and experiences, but to be whittled and sandpapered until what’s left is who we truly are."Arianna Huffington
Yes. What she said.

Oy, my aching back

Out for a walk
Deerfield Beach, FL,

December 2008
Time moves slowly in this retirement community, filled with folks who, free from the constraints of the 9-to-5 world, seem to follow a different timeline than the rest of us.

Breakfast is lingered over, conversations by the community pool can drag on well past lunch, dinner is often done before the outside world's equivalent of rush hour, and bedtime may or may not compete with an early sundown. That last one depends on whether the guy who played the bartender on the Love Boat is scheduled to play the community auditorium tonight.

I'm not sure if this woman was a fan of Isaac "Boom Boom" Washington, so I never found out if she had tickets for that night's show. I am, however, certain she didn't know I was there as she shuffled along the sun-baked asphalt after dropping off her day's recycling. So I felt a little voyeuristic in taking this picture. But just a little. Because life here is different than it is elsewhere. Sometimes poignantly so.

Part of me felt that whoever this woman was and whatever stories her life may or may not have held, a photo might make us wonder a little more about the strangers among us.

Yes, I'm an odd one.

Your turn: Taking photos of strangers. Please discuss.

One more thing: What does this have to do with chaos? On the surface, not a whole lot. But dig a little deeper, and I suspect this is my way of calming things down after a week that offered more than its fair share of unscheduled chaos - from brutal kidnappings in Cleveland to a spiralling death toll from a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh and a young father's sudden disappearance not far from here. A quiet view of a place where the outside world seems so very far away seemed like a great way to lower the volume and restore a sense of balance. Head here for more Thematic chaotic.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Ring around the sun

Thanks to my parents' long-ago (and getting longer) decision to have me, the fact that they did so on the planet Earth, and that folks way smarter than I'll ever be decided eons ago to use orbital mechanics to measure time, today is apparently my birthday.

I learned this via a number of other channels:

  • Our youngest son burst into the room at first light and gave me a birthday hug
  • My wife and kids decorated the house, and most of the decorations had my name on them
  • Oodles of folks on Facebook have been saying so on my wall
  • My phone's been chirping all day

I'm long past the point at which birthdays were excuses for a big, boisterous party in Mom and Dad's basement, complete with too-loud music and overflowing bowls of cheesies. I no longer relish the prospect of adding another year to a number that's already getting, ahem, up there.

But I've got to admit I rather enjoy the hullabaloo that surrounds this one day of the year, when everything is tinged with just a hint of special, and everyone you encounter smiles just a little more. I've never been entirely comfortable when folks turn the spotlight on me, but it's nice to be surrounded by so much warmth. Days like today remind me how blessed I am with family, friends, health and opportunity - more, frankly, than I ever thought I'd deserve.

Now, to find a way to capture some of the loveliness of today and spread it out over the 364 days that, if I'm lucky, lie ahead of me before the next one. If you have any secrets to share with me, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

On being moved

“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”
Auguste Rodin

Yeah. What he said. Word for word.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Thematic Photographic 243 - Chaotic

Is this even edible?
London, ON
December 2010
Not every scene has to adhere to pre-ordained patterns of neatness. Not everything has to follow some kind of order or established rule.

Sometimes chaos needs to rule, and that isn't necessarily a negative thing. So for the next week, let's celebrate chaotic scenes, things that break the norm and look a little less than perfectly aligned. Because perfection can be boring.

Your turn: The Thematic drill is a simple one. Post a pic that evokes the theme to your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the fun. Repeat as often as you wish, as the theme will be live for a full week. For more on how Thematic works, click here. Otherwise, have fun!

All that remains

London, ON
December 2006
Thematic. Vegetative. Here.
I wanted to end off this week's vegetative theme with something a little different: Not the thing itself, but an echo of the thing.

Images like this haunt me, and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's because they're fading echoes of what once was. Maybe it's because you can see the history, but you can't really touch it because the original is now gone. It's like a photo - sure, you can see the faces in front of you - but you can't speak with, or otherwise interact with them, because none of it is real or otherwise tangible.

It didn't take long for the acidic imprints of these long-gone leaves to themselves disappear. Before long, the rains came and washed the sidewalks clean until these dark images were barely wisps. Then came a winter-long blanket of snow. By the time spring melted it all away, even the trace memories of these leaves had disappeared.

Well, except for this photo.

Your turn: Holding onto the past. Please discuss.

One more thing: Thematic's new theme, chaotic, launches tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Hope to see y'all then!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Waiting for the snow to melt

Where's my blanket?
London, ON
February 2013
Click here for more vegetative Thematic
It's sunny and gorgeous outside. No one's complaining about the cold or the snow, and the Environment Canada website could be offline for all we know and no one would care.

Pretty soon, I'll take my shorts-and-t-shirt wearing self outside, and I won't have to put on a parka or hunt down mittens. The dog won't bury himself in a snowdrift, and the winds won't howl around the edges of the windows.

Yet it wasn't that long ago that I was freezing my hands blue to get this shot. Funny what time can do to the landscape. And to us.

Your turn: For some strange reason, I'm having flashbacks to Les Nessman's Eyewitness Weather. what's the weather like where you are?

Saturday, May 04, 2013

On conformity

"I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself."
Rita Mae Brown

Drummer. March. Beat. Your own.

Friday, May 03, 2013

We stand on guard for thee

St. Thomas, ON
June 2009
Click here for more Thematic vegetative
Get off the superhighway for a bit and you'll come face to face with life as it was lived decades ago. Sleepy two-lane, unpaved roads bisect massive farmers' fields, with the occasional pickup or tractor breaking the silence. Time seems to either move more slowly here, or it's simply ignored in favor of a cycle driven by when the animals get up, when the sun rises, and when it sets.

That more genteel pace probably explains the guardrail you see here. I doubt it would hold back an out-of-control 18-wheeler. But folks don't drive like that out here, anyway. At least that's what I like to think as I take in this scene and feel the summery breeze on my face.

Your turn: What's the appeal of farm country to you?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

A rose is a rose is a rose

Pretty in pink
London, ON
February 2013
Thematic. Vegetative. Here.
I don't take nearly enough pictures of flowers. That's largely because I don't bring them home nearly as often as I should. Bad Carmi!

This time, however, I managed to get the camera to the vase before time took its toll. Or before the dog managed to jump up onto the table and take care of it himself. He doesn't mean to be mischievous. He just is. And we love him for it.

Back to the flowers. On the surface, they're wholly impractical and sadly transient. Once upon a time the practical/cynical side of me failed to see their purpose. Sure, they looked lovely, but they didn't do anything. Well, beyond costing a lot of money. And once you bought them, you got to watch them slowly wither back to nothingness, crunchy remnants of now-lost beauty.

None of that matters when you're surrounded by family, though. Because a flower's worth has nothing to do with practicality and everything to do with the message it sends. And you can't put a price on that. Nor should you.

So as I stare at these long-since trashed roses, I think of the moment I decided to pick them up, the moment I brought them through the front door, and how lucky I felt - then as now - to have someone to bring them to.

Your turn: What do flowers mean to you?

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May Day

Spring has sprung
London, ON
May 2013
Click here for more vegetative Thematic
It seems we all blinked and April was over. All day I've been staring at my smartphone. It has a feature called "live tiles" where the app for the calendar icon shows the date as well as your next appointment. I kept staring at the disembodied "1" in disbelief, because the month of May wasn't supposed to get here so quickly, was it?

When I got home after work, the flowers poking out of the clearly untended garden made it abundantly clear: the season has changed. Now where did I leave my cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirts?

None of this upsets me in any way, though. I And for some reason, I feel an overwhelming need to take note of smallish milestones like this one. I guess that's because there are far more small moments in life than big ones, and you never want to miss an opportunity to appreciate the minor miracles of life on this planet. Because when things spring from the messy earth literally right under your nose, the only word that applies is "miracle".