Saturday, December 31, 2016

The invisible, lifesaving hardware just over our heads

Tight enough?
London, ON
December 2016
I was sitting in the stands of London's Budweiser Gardens at a hockey game the other night. For reasons I don't quite understand, I was bored. And when I get bored, I start looking around for things that interest me. I had my camera on me, and using the zoom (bless the unknown soul who invented this magical optical technology), I surveyed the arena's steel-framed structure overhead.

Eventually, I found this simple detail, a plate of ginormous nuts and bolts connecting two even more ginormous steel girders together. I'm pretty sure no one else in the building gave these much thought, this despite the fact that they made the evening's entertainment possible by keeping the roof exactly where it belonged. Small detail. Often ignored. Oh so important.

I'm not one for grand end-of-year pronouncements and I don't do resolutions. I don't think generic New Year's wishes do much good, either: Better to share kindness every day of the year instead of saving it up for an arbitrary day on the calendar.

But if I were the kind of person who shared platitudes as the clock ticked down to some flashy ball being lowered down a pole by union members in the middle of a comically overcrowded town square, it might look something like this:

This photo captures everything that I've tried to represent not only over the past year, but through the course of my life as I've tried to figure out how this life thing works. Life is busy, chaotic and unpredictable. It's getting faster all the time, and most days you find yourself sitting in the middle of said chaos, trying to find the one thing to focus on, the one thing that'll help you decide where to take your next step. So you look where no one else is looking. You may not see anything at first, but you keep at it. Eventually you find it - don't worry, you know what "it" is when you see it - and if you're lucky, you capture it, and if you're even luckier, you get to share it with others.

In the coming year, I hope you keep looking for those "one thing" things. I hope you find them. And share them. And realize that life really can be as simple as this.

The stuff we ignore along the way

Follow the pipes to oblivion
Toronto, ON
July 2016
Photography is often the domain of the big and the obvious. Big structures. Big events. Big stuff. Along the way, we seemingly forget to look at the smaller, less obvious things. The stuff that's otherwise forgotten or overlooked.

Like these conduits. Or pipes. I can't even tell what they are, but I was fascinated enough by the sight of them as my family and I walked through a long-ish subway corridor that I felt the need to quickly capture them.

So as I have done so often, I lagged behind and shot fast before tucking my smartphone back into my pocket and hustling to catch up.

I doubt most commuters ever bother to look up as they pass underneath. But that doesn't make these any less worthy of being explored with a lens. With that in mind, I'm pretty sure I'll never run out of potential subject matter.

Your turn: What will YOU look at more closely in 2017?

Friday, December 30, 2016

On being exactly where we need to be

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."
Douglas Adams
I thought this was a perfectly reflective quotation to share as we tick down to the end of the year. The more I look at the crazy journey I've had so far, the more I both realize and appreciate that the apparent randomness and unpredictability have been part of the plan all along. I can't imagine being anywhere else in the universe. Nor would I want to.

It's been quite the journey so far, hasn't it?

FWIW, it's always 42.

Waving at cops in cars

The scene: 6:39 a.m. at the corner of Horton and Ridout, just southeast of London's downtown core, between a couple of parking lots and a municipal utility building. The roads are covered in fresh snow as I gently cruise down the hill and ease to a stop at a red light to the right of a police cruiser.

Not that I'm ever careless at the wheel, but I'm being especially careful on this treacherous stretch of road, as I'm guessing that smacking a cop would be a Very Bad Thing.

As we wait for the light to turn green, I look around and realize there's no one else nearby. As much as I'd rather be sleeping at home, there's something poetic about being up, virtually alone, before the rest of the city is stirring. It's a special time of day, and you never quite forget what that feels like.

I peer over to my left and give the officer a smile and a wave. I don't know if he sees my smile - still too dark - but I'm guessing he's smiling, too, as he waves back. A few seconds later, the light changes and we slowly head off on our divergent paths.

It's a small moment between strangers, but one I feel needed to happen. Wherever he's headed, he may or may not end up on the receiving end of a crossbow, or a violent offender, or any number of potentially life-threatening situations. I, on the other hand, am headed to a darkened studio where I'll talk into a microphone for a little while. A bad day for me is when I forget a fact, stumble over a word or two, or struggle with a document, spreadsheet or report. A bad day for this - or any - officer is infinitely worse.

As I cruise the remaining couple of kilometres to the office through the thickening snow, I quietly thank him and his fellow officers for what they do, for choosing to put themselves in harm's way so that I can have an easy drive in to a job I love, then return home to my family in a safe, caring neighbourhood. It doesn't happen by accident, and even if you never get their names because they're separated by a couple of panes of glass on a snowy road, you hope they know how you feel.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On figuring out why we're here

"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
Mark Twain

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The voice that comes out of the TV...

I'm lucky in a whole lot of ways. I have health, an unbelievable wife, three smart, funny and kind kids, a comfortable home in a safe, caring community, good friends and so much more. I also get to do some really neat things at work, including voicing the occasional news promotion for CTV London.

And when my voice magically fills the room while we're watching TV on an otherwise grey and quiet holiday afternoon, my natural reaction is to grab my smartphone and make a really low-quality video of the moment.

And share it via my YouTube channel, of course. Enjoy!

Carrie Fisher has died

The interwebs are exploding with news of the passing of Carrie Fisher at the age of 60. She had been in hospital since suffering a major cardiac event on a flight to Los Angeles last week.

Fisher is, of course, best known for playing Princess Leia in Star Wars, but she went on to become an accomplished author, as well. Whether you were a Star Wars fan or not, it's hard to ignore the impact she had on a certain generation of filmgoers, and the sadness of a life cut short.

This hasn't been a good year for celebrity deaths - David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and a too-long list of others - but we'll leave the statistical analysis of it all for another day. For now, a life devoted to creativity and opening the eyes of others has ended. No matter how brightly a given star may shine, it's always tragic when that light is extinguished.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Thematic Photographic 394 - Landscapes

Free parking
London, ON
December 2016
I took this photo from an elevated position in the parking lot of Masonville Place, a mall located a few minutes away from home. After weeks of shooting close-in and still-life scenes almost exclusively, I thought I'd get up a little higher and look for the bigger picture.

Which brings us to this week's Thematic theme, landscapes.

Your turn: Please share a photo related to this week's theme - landscapes - on your own blog, website or social media account. Or dig into your archives and point us toward something that's already online. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, then visit other participants to spread the visual joy. Repeat as often as you wish. If you're new to this Thematic thing - FWIW, it's our weekly non-competitive photo-sharing activity - just click here and all will be explained.

Pondering Frasier's handiwork

Paw prints
London, ON
December 2016
You're looking at the inside frame of the front door to our house. Rather, you're looking at what's LEFT of it, courtesy of a relentlessly exuberant schnauzer who had a habit of jumping up and clawing the snot out of the defenseless wood. He'd either stand quietly or circle the entryway as I got ready to take our walk, and he'd pounce on the door just as I reached for the handle. Like clockwork.

As you can see, it never stood a chance, and it now serves as a silent reminder of a dog whose presence continues to echo through our home.

Today marks a week since we took him on his final trip to the vet, and I'd be lying if I said those echoes had gotten any less intense in the ensuing days. We think we hear or see him almost constantly, and everyday activities - walking from room to room, reaching for the garbage can, making lunch - are often stopped dead in their tracks when we realize he isn't there. But it felt like he would be. Odd how reality reminds us.

For virtually the entire time he was with us, I would often stare at the door jamb and think I needed to fix it, to fill in his time-worn gouges and repaint the scarred wood the pristine white it once had been. But I figured there was no point in doing so as long as he was still clawing at it a few times per day. Now that the house is quiet, I probably can go ahead and make it whole again, but something is stopping me.

And I'm not the only one: My wife says she can't wash the dining room floor just yet because his dirty paw prints are still there. It's too soon to get rid of the little messes and dents he left behind. Maybe someday, but not just yet.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Icicles - and everything else - are temporary

Phase change
London, ON
December 2016
Click photo to embiggen
Whenever the world spins too quickly for my liking, I tend to seek refuge in words and images. Whether I'm walking around the neighborhood with my camera in hand, or sitting in the gentle pool of light cast by my monitors in the home office, I feel like these simple acts of creativity are enough to keep the chaos at bay, even if only for a short while.

As you might imagine, this has been one of those spin-too-fast weeks, and true to form, I've been reaching for keyboards, cameras and solitude. As part of this almost subconscious ritual, I've been throwing my DSLR camera into my backpack before heading off to work in the morning. While I often take pictures during the day with my smartphone, taking the so-called "real" camera somehow raises the stakes, and forces me to be less flip about the whole process.

Our office is, to put it gently, not the most energy-efficient building in the city. The eaves often sprout huge icicles in between London's regular freeze-thaw cycles, a sign of major heat escaping from the edge of the roofline. I find them endlessly fascinating, and have been telling myself silently for weeks that I should bring the camera in. Because they can change or disappear in a blink - and then we'd have nothing tangible to mark the fact that they existed.

This was the week, and every day around midday I'd pull the Nikon out of my bag and head for the windows. The skies were defiantly grey every time I tried, but I still did my best to bring home at least a shot or two that reflected what I was feeling when I tripped the shutter.

The world can be a dark, frightening place. But if you always know where your comfort zone is, and have the wherewithal to put yourself there whenever you need to, chances are you'll find the light soon enough.

Your turn: What - or where - is your comfort zone?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Canine muscle memory

A day in the life
London, ON
November 2016
It's been a few days since we lost our pup, Frasier, and I still find myself falling into habits that had slowly sealed themselves into my brain over the course of almost a decade:
  • I automatically reach toward the end of our bed every time I walk past, half-expecting that he'll be there.
  • I watch the clock every evening, wondering when we'll have to grab the leash and head out for our meandering walk through the neighborhood. He was, as it turns out, a very precise timekeeper.
  • I open and close the cupboard below the kitchen sink - the one where we keep the garbage bin - and find it so empty without the baby lock on it. We had to babyproof the house because he was such a freaking garbage-picker. Now, it's an annoyance I strangely miss.
  • When I leave the house, I look back down the hall because that's where he would stand and stare at us as we prepared to leave. I'd often get out of the house late because I found it endlessly fun to try to talk him into walking over to me for one last hug before I left. He was pretty good at the staring thing, and I always wondered what he was thinking.
  • I look for his face in the front window when I arrive home, and wait for him to come charging down the front walk, body quivering as if he hasn't seem me in years.
I share these vignettes not because I find them depressing. Quite the contrary, memories like this make me glad we were able to experience them at all. He added incalculable joy to our lives and managed to help us become kinder, more empathetic people - and that doesn't just go away now that he's gone. I guess I'm writing this before the sun comes up in a silent home because I don't want to lose these seemingly routine memories to history, because I want to bundle them up somehow and carry them forward. Maybe it's a writer thing, but it makes me feel a little better.

I also share these moments not because I'm now immersed in some sort of endless, hopeless period of mourning, but because I feel I need to put this loss into some kind of broader perspective. I've seen folks who've lost pets prattle on endlessly, mostly in Facebook, about the ruins their lives have become now that Fido the dog (or Skittles the cat, or even Nemo the fish or Sparkles the rabbit) is gone (note to self: In 2017, spend less time reading my Facebook news feed.) I'm not going to tear my clothes to shreds and build a makeshift shrine of 242 candles in a room festooned with dog-eared prints of every picture we ever took of him. With apologies to other folks who've owned and lost pets: I lost my dad and my wife lost her mom. They're not in the same league.

But at the same time, we're still sad. We still find ourselves looking for him, listening for him, feeling for him in a dark room, only to realize he isn't there anymore. We still find the silence in the house somewhat jarring to the soul. We still look inwards with just a little self-doubt, hoping that everything we did for him was, in the end, enough. I'd like to think it was, and that if given another chance, we wouldn't change a thing.

Thanks for the indulgence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On focusing kindness toward others

"The most worthwhile thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others."
Robert Baden-Powell
It's been a brutal week (see here for at least part of the why), so when this quotation popped into my inbox, it seemed to burrow itself more deeply into my psyche than it perhaps normally would.

Your turn: What's the one thing that you'll do today to put happiness into the lives of others? It can be big, it can be small, it can be pretty much anything you wish. But I hope it'll be something, and I hope you'll share it here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

When a dog's life ends

London, ON
December 2016
It was a sad day in our house today, as this morning we put our dog, Frasier, down*.

He had had diabetes for more than half of his 10 years on this planet, and while we were able to stay ahead of it since the day he was diagnosed, his liver had other plans starting this weekend, and he very quickly deteriorated until the point where taking that last drive with him to Dr. Tom was the right thing to do.

He was a rescue dog, and after a tumultuous start with a family that to this day I cannot judge, but hope they never again are entrusted with an animal, fate smiled on him - and us - and brought him to our family. We taught this crazy Miniature Schnauzer to walk on a leash, to sort of listen to the occasional command, and to trust us completely. What we didn't need to teach him was to bark, to cuddle when he knew we were troubled and we needed him to cuddle, and to endear himself to everyone he met.

Sure, I'm biased, but he was a sweet, kind, wonderful little being who permanently embedded himself into the very fabric of our family. He always knew who needed him most, whether he was hugging you with his paws, putting his head on your shoulders like Finnegan the dog (Mr. Dressup fans will know), shoving his little body into yours while you slept or sat, or simply staring at you when he knew you didn't want to be alone. He got us.

All day long I've heard his echo around every corner in the house, and I don't know how long it'll take until I stop wondering when he'll materialize in front of me or when I'll get used to that empty spot at the end of the bed when the house gets quiet at night. Indeed, it's the quiet that seems so odd, and as much as I appreciated not having to hold my breath this afternoon during a live radio interview from my home office that he'd freak out in the middle, the breath-holding was part of what made him so lovable. He was unpredictable, loud, messy, expensive and frankly borderline insane. But, God, I loved him.

I appreciate that he was a dog - and this isn't on the same scale as losing a human family member. Yet he indelibly coloured those experiences as well, helping us grieve after we lost my father and Debbie's mom. His mark on every chapter of our family's life mattered, and he made the tougher chapters somehow easier to bear.

As much as losing him hurts, and as disturbed as the rhythm of our family is by his absence, I keep reflecting on the singular reality of dog ownership: That their relatively brief lifespan means they'll always leave us. That getting a dog makes losing him or her someday an inevitability. We deliberately set ourselves up for wrenching days like this. Yet I wouldn't change a thing, because I'd rather have and lose than never have in the first place. Because I can't imagine life without a dog. I guess that makes me a dog person. So be it.

He also made our kids better people. After we first brought him home, they quickly took to the routine responsibilities of owning and caring for him. They fed him, made sure he always had enough water, and played with him until he was exhausted. And then played some more.

But it was after his diagnosis that our kids came into their own. They learned how to give him his needles, setting precise alarms and texting each other and us to ensure everyone always knew what had been done, and what needed to be done. We never worried about missing a shot or mis-timing a meal: They had it covered. They just knew. Their words today, shared on Facebook, continue to bring me to tears:

Zach:  It's not gonna be the same without you greeting me at the door every day.

DahliaRescuing you was the best thing we've ever done, Frasier. You taught us about unconditional love, kindness, responsibility and so much more. You truly were the best dog and my best friend. You were so cute and had the sweetest, funniest personality. Saying goodbye to you was the hardest thing I've ever had to do but I know that you are no longer suffering. You were and will always be a part of our family. I hope there's lots of Kleenex for you to chew up there, buddy. We love you and we'll miss you so much, Frasie Boo.

NoahYou'll always be my little guy. I'll miss everything about you. Rescuing you when you were just 8 months old was the best decision our family ever made. You made us happy just as much as we made you. I love you Frasier

I could not be more proud of how they took this scruffy pile of quivering fur and made him their own, of how they found ways to communicate with him despite the obvious fact that dogs don't speak English and humans don't speak dog. Yet he always knew what they were up to, and watching the three of them with him was one of those powerful joys of parenthood that won't ever fade. He made them better people.

More often than I dare admit, I'd hold him and whisper in his radar-dish ears three simple words, "Know you're loved." I wanted him to know that despite his tough start, we loved him unconditionally. My wife and I would always ask each other if he knew he was loved, and inevitably we'd conclude he did. In spades. At the same time, he had a funny habit of giving us far more than we ever gave him, and for that we're forever grateful.

We love you, Frasier Herschel. We're unspeakably sad you're no longer with us, but just as unspeakably happy to have had you at all. May your memory always be a blessing to us, and to everyone whose lives you touched.

Related posts:
The family grows by one (his first day with us, when we thought he was black)
The difference a day makes (a much prettier pup emerged after his beloved groomer, Jean, worked on him for hours)
A boy and his dog (when his human brother got sick)
4 weeks on (early learnings)
They'll always be puppies (his dog-buddy, Hudson)
His master's foot (when he hovered over Zach's broken leg)
Puppies don't get sick, do they? (his diagnosis)
A director is born (his movie debut)
All Act of Dog-labelled entries

* See Debbie's Facebook entry for more.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Dirty, dirty bread

Not for resale
London, ON
September 2016
Thematic. Dirty. Here.
Not too long ago, I was grocery shopping with my lovely wife when I came across this forlorn loaf of bread. Someone couldn't hold on tightly enough as he/she tried to get it out of the bulk display cases just above this scene. That same someone obviously never believed in cleaning up after him/herself, either.

So I thought an impromptu photo shoot was in order before I sent this never-to-be-eaten loaf on its merry way.

Your turn: What's your favorite type of bread? I'm partial to challah (aka egg bread) partly because of the taste, but mostly because of what it means to me and my family. What about you?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Please don't call me at 5:49 a.m.

I work weird hours, often getting up well before dawn to write my pitches or do interviews. A lot of it depends on the news cycle: When a big story breaks, chances are I'll be setting my alarm a little - or a lot - earlier than usual.

Today was one of those days. Late yesterday the interwebs exploded after Yahoo announced hackers had stolen information from upwards of 1 billion accounts. You'll recall that just three months ago the company admitted a separate breach put data from 500 million user accounts in hackers' hands. It was a big story not just in tech, but everywhere.

My phone rang and my inbox overflowed all the way home from the office, and well into the evening. I booked a bunch of interviews for oh-dark-stupid, set my alarm for oh-dark-stupid-minus-30-minutes, then put my head down for a three-hour nap. Yes, I lead an incredibly glamorous life.

After the alarm launched me ot of bed, I tiptoed downstairs in my brightly colored and patterned jammies and worked the story from my home office. Then as the sun rose I headed into the real office (after putting on real clothes, of course) to officially join the 9-to-5 crowd. When I got to the office, I peeked at my phone to double-check that I hadn't missed anything along the way. There was a voicemail from 5:49 a.m. that I rather naively figured was from one of my producers. My eyebrows almost hit the roof when I listened to it.

It wasn't from a producer. It was from a complete stranger. From Montreal. She heard I was going to be on the radio there, and CALLED me.

At 5:49 a.m.

Because she couldn't log into her Yahoo account.

And asked me to call her as soon as possible.

Let's take a breath, shall we? In what world would ANYONE call a COMPLETE STRANGER before the freaking CRACK OF DAWN because she's having trouble logging into her webmail account?

Did I miss a memo somewhere? Have I been subscribing to now-obsolete conventions of what is and is not considered acceptable messaging behavior? Did it suddenly become OK to call anyone - let alone someone you've never met - after 11 p.m. or before 9 a.m.? Do we not know how to send email or text messages instead?

Since when is your need to read the Best Buy flyer in your inbox more important than my need to, oh I don't know, sleep or otherwise not have my phone go off in the middle of the night? Seriously, what am I missing here?

With apologies to this boundary-challenged individual, the only people who are calling me at that hour are folks who are either directly related to me or are such close friends that they may as well be related to me. And the only reason they'd be calling me is because somebody died. Full stop.

As it turned out, I was on-air when the call hit my phone. I always turn on the Do Not Disturb setting before I do anything live, so it went straight to voicemail. If I hadn't been on-air, it would have gone off in my silent bedroom. Think of the fun we would have had if that had played out.

In the cold light of day, I listened to the full message, left by someone clearly agitated that she couldn't log into her Yahoo email account. I feel her pain - it sucks when technology doesn't work - but this is one message I won't be returning. I get dozens of phone calls, email messages, Facebook posts, tweets and text messages every week asking for tech assistance. I get that my role makes me a bit of a magnet for this kind of thing. I do what I can, but also have to draw some hard lines because if I say yes to everything then it'll quickly become a 24/7/365 thing.

Do I feel guilty? A bit. But at the same time, I'm not sure it's fair for me to be an always-on helpdesk for anyone who can't seem to get his/her technology to work.

There's a very hard line being drawn here. And a 5:49 a.m. phone call isn't going to change my mind anytime soon.

Your turn: How would you respond to a middle-of-the-night call from a stranger? Go nuts!

Related entries:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

On ideas, showers, and action

"Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference."
Nolan Bushnell
When the guy responsible for bringing us Pong, Atari and Chuck E. Cheese's speaks, I do my best to listen. Fascinating guy.

Your turn: Who fascinates you?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Thematic Photographic 393 - Dirty

Alone in a downtown alley
London, ON
November 2016
The world is a dirty place. I don't say that negatively, and I don't believe that this needs to be resolved in any way. A little grit under the fingernails can be character-building, after all.

As I walked back to my car through a darkened downtown core a few weeks ago, I found myself thinking about dirt, and how it seemed to define the fabric of this often-maligned place. I think I need to come back here more often.

Your turn: Take a pic that reflects this week's theme - dirty - and post it to your blog, website or other online "spot". Remember, how you interpret the theme is entirely up to you - Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it, and be sure to visit other participants. Bonus points if you share the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag on social media. Head here for more background on Thematic. And don't forget to have fun with it. Because fun is what this is all about.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

On questions and answers

"I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned."
Richard Feynman
He may have been the eminent theoretical physicist of his time, but he had a certain way with words, as well. Something to ponder given where the planet finds itself today.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

One dozen donuts in a box

So good, yet so bad
London, ON
November 2016

For more colorful Thematic, head here
Yes, yes, I know how unhealthy these can be. Filled with all sorts of nasty substances and completely devoid of anything remotely nutritious. I'll admit there's a reasonable chance I consumed one of these immediately after taking this photo. In my defence, I rode my bike home that day, and I took an extra loop around the neighborhood along the way. A guilt loop, if you will.

In spite of the nutritional disaster playing out in the pixels above, I'm still glad this temporary scene-in-a-box crossed my journey on an otherwise uneventful afternoon. Because there's something to be said for capturing the otherwise uneventful, and for taking the time to wonder about what else lurks below the radar of conventionality that tends to govern our day-to-day lives.

Your turn: Which one would you eat? Why?

Monday, December 05, 2016

Thematic Photographic 392 - Colors of the rainbow

Ripe for the taking
London, ON
November 2016
As I left the house for work today, I felt blanketed by the steel-grey sky overhead, the dark clouds gathering steam on the western horizon and the general sense of gloom that's been painting life a relentless shade of monochrome for the better part of the past few weeks.

By midday, the sun peeked out for a few minutes and painted the landscape an entirely different set of vibrant shades, but it was strictly temporary, and the sky was soon once again covered up with a thick layer of color-robbing cloud.

Which spawned an idea: Let's use photography to inject some color into an otherwise color-challenged season. It's out there, only it's up to our creativity to find it. Yes, I am just that much of an optimist.

Which brings us to this week's Thematic theme...

Your turn: Take a photo that supports this week's theme, colors of the rainbow. Post it to your blog, website, social media presence or anywhere else you might hang out online. Or find a pic you've already posted - whatever's easiest. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, and drop by other participants, too. Feel free to share again throughout the week. If you're new to Thematic, here's the lowdown. Thanks for keeping the colors flowing at a time of year when it isn't always as colorful as we'd like it to be.

On sharpening our senses

"The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."
W.B. Yeats

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A dog, a phone, and what it takes to feel secure

Riding shotgun
London, ON
October 2016
Having a dog in the family means ritual is king. The cadence of the day is set in stone, from mealtimes and walks to playtime and, in Frasier's case, managing his insulin shots and every other requirement of a diabetic furball. Even leaving the house is a process, and what I take with me before we step out the door is as preordained as the dance he does when his internal clock tells him it's time to head out.

Some might call this mundane. I call it comforting, the soothing order of things that are more felt than said. We may not speak a common language, but in those familiar moments inside the front door as we get ready for our walks, I feel strangely connected to this little guy, as if we understand each other in ways that extend well beyond mere language.

One of my must-haves before we take a walk is my smartphone. I suppose that's an obvious one given what I do. But there's more to it, because I take it everywhere with me not because I want to fiddle with it while we're out - it typically stays, ignored, deep in my pocket, because you only get so many dog-walks in life - but because I'm afraid to be without it. After my run-in with the universe - click here if you're just joining us - I became fearful of being cut off, of not having a lifeline, of something happening and no one else knowing.

For the longest time, I wouldn't lock doors behind me. I still text my wife to let her know when I leave and when I get there. After I recovered and started venturing back into the real world, on my first solo trip by train to Toronto for meetings - a mere two hours east of here - I spent the day freaked out that my phone battery would somehow fail before I got back.

So imagine my surprise when we got a couple of blocks away from home before I realized my pocket was empty. My first reaction was a skipped heartbeat as it dawned on me that we were completely on our own. Sure, we were seven minutes away from the house, but it still felt impossibly far away.

As I fought the urge to scoop Frasier up and double-time it back home, I began to wonder why I had been so set in my ways up until this day, why I felt every moment had to be experienced with a fully charged smartphone always within arm's reach. And why that had all changed simply because I ripped an artery in my neck.

I stopped myself from panicking on the sidewalk, and continued walking away from home, along the path we originally intended to take. Eventually we got home. Nothing happened, of course, and the next night the phone somehow didn't make it into my pocket before we headed out.

I'll always wonder whether or not I need it, always pause when I think about what may or may not happen when I'm on my own, away from home. But the seemingly trivial fact I'm now willing to head out the door without an electronic tether every once in a while, that slight modification to my once-inviolable "rules of flight", seems to resonate more in my head than it probably should.

I guess run-ins with the universe come with their own rules, and it's perfectly fine if we spend endless amounts of time afterward trying to figure them out.