Saturday, September 16, 2017

Brushed by time

Long exposure fun by the river
London, ON
September 2017
Photo originally shared on Instagram

It isn't often that I have free time to just walk around and do a whole lot of nothing, so when the opportunity presented itself one sunny morning last week, I grabbed it.

Here in the so-called "other" London, we've got a river that, like our city's namesake, is also called the Thames. For reasons I can't explain, it attracts me like a magnet whenever I'm nearby. I figure if I have a camera in my hand, I'll probably find some inspiration by the water.

The light was shadowy and patchy, but a big, slanted tree made a nice improvised tripod as I experimented with long exposures of the rushing water. Sometimes, nature finds ways to turn spontaneous wanderings into memorable moments. Note to self: Return here. Soon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

She completes another journey around the sun

The best half
London, ON
April 2017
Please ignore the doofus on the right and instead focus on the lovely individual next to him. She's celebrating a rather important birthday today, and while it's not my place to share her age here (or anywhere), I'll let it slip that it's more significant than usual. If you'd like to wish her a happy without having to go through me, pop over to her Facebook page.

I've spent most of my life with her, the majority of that time wondering how she puts up with me, why she puts up with me, and how I came to deserve her in the first place. I can't remember what life was like before I met her, nor do I ever wish to. She makes every day memorable simply by being in it. I can sit in a room with her in utter silence for hours on end, yet still feel delightfully connected for every moment.

Whether we realize it or not, time is an incredibly precious, irreplaceable commodity. That she has chosen to spend the time she has with me is something I'll never take for granted, today, tomorrow, and however many other days I get beyond then. Because every day is worthy of celebration when you get to spend it with your best friend.

Happy birthday, sweets.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

20 years of Dahlia

The princess and her pup
London, ON
September 2017
Photo originally posted to Instagram

Two decades ago today, the young lady in the photo above made her way into the world, a tiny, perfect, pink-bundled munchkin who instantly grabbed onto our hearts and hasn't let go since. As anyone who's crossed her path in the interim already knows, she's grown into an accomplished, kind, creative and incredibly funny human being.

She was my wife's early birthday gift, and since then they've been day-apart birthday buddies - though they hardly need a calendar to reinforce just how close they are. I have no words to describe how proud she makes us, and how lucky we are that she's turned out as remarkably as she has.

Every child is a blessing, of course, but this child is in a league of her own. Happy 20th birthday, Peanut. We know you'll never stop making everything - and everyone - around you better through simply having crossed your path.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

After the game ends

Perfect emptiness
London, ON
August 2017
Photo originally shared via Instagram
 

I'm a big fan of the Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams. Despite my less-than-stellar Little League Baseball experiences - I became a better buttercup-picker in left field than anything else - baseball has remained one of my favorite things to watch or to simply be around.

Why? Maybe it reminds me of a simpler time. Maybe the rules of the game form a nice analog for how a life well-lived should be lived. Maybe we all just need a little time-out from the planet every once in a while, and a storied game played on a storied field could be just the ticket.

Whatever the reason, I found myself drawn to this field in south London. It was after the game was over, after the players had gathered up their equipment and cleared out of the dugouts, after the spectators - largely friends and family - had folded up their chairs and trudged off to the dirt paths on their way to the gravel-covered parking lot, trailing dust all the way.

The silence of the field on one side of me contrasted with the ebbing burble of the departing crowd on the other. A picture seemed in order.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monochrome? Not quite.

Towering
London, ON
August 2017
Photo originally shared via Instagram

These towers are everywhere, and as ugly as they may seem to some, they're an essential component of modern, mobile life. You may say you don't want one of these things in your backyard, but you'll probably also curse the sky when you lose your bars on your phone. NIMBY much?

What originally started out as an inadvertent monochrome photo shot quickly on the walk back to the car became, on closer inspection, something more Pleasantville-like than I originally intended. Photography still has the potential to surprise, which is why I keep at it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A puppy, a carpet, and some insanity, too

The view from the stairs
London, ON
Photo originally shared via Instagram
 

You have to be borderline-insane to bring a puppy into your family. You lose sleep. Furniture and objects that matter to you are summarily destroyed. You need extra makeup to cover up the inadvertent (or are they deliberate?) bite and scratch marks. You live in fear of her getting into something that could hurt her. Or you.

Yet when you watch and listen to her in the very middle of what once was a much quieter, calmer, predictable home, you realize the little hell-raiser you see here is just what we needed.

I may not be happy when you pee on the floor, Calli Finn, but I can't imagine our family without your feisty self in it.

Remembrance stones

In the end, we're more similar than not
Duvernay, QC
August 2017
Photo originally shared via Instagram

I don't often make it here, because if we're being brutally honest I've never believed a grave or similarly physical monument is the sole marker of an individual, or the only means by which we should remember him or her.

My father and mother-in-law are buried here, literally in adjoining rows. I'd hate to think the only time their memory touches me is every year or so when I take the long-ish drive to visit their respective resting places. Their memory, and the lessons I hopefully learned from them, aren't tied to this or any place. And as the relentless passage of time puts their passing further in the rear-view mirror, I often find myself thinking of them wherever I happen to be.

I'll still come to this place, but it's merely one touchstone, not the only one.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Curved glass under a partly cloudy sky

Look up
Toronto, ON
July 2017
Photo originally posted to Instagram
Some of my most satisfying moments with a camera in my hand tend to happen when I'm seriously pressed for time. When I'm moving between one place and another, and don't have the luxury of time to stop what I'm doing and slowly ponder the scene. Instead, I walk and shoot, often getting only one shot of a particular scene before I move quickly to the next one.

I find it exhilarating. Just as it is when I'm writing on deadline, the pressure of time forces your brain into another gear. Everything non-essential gets tossed, and you're forced to live explicitly in that moment, to the exclusion of all else.

Sometimes you get good stuff, and sometimes you don't. But you remember what shooting-and-running felt like, how satisfying and soul-nurturing that process can be, and you hope it won't be long before you're doing it again. It isn't always about the end result, after all.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Not-so-small dog in a big world

She surveys her domain
London, ON
August 2017
Photo originally posted to Instagram
We had a bit of an eye-opening moment at puppy training this week. Calli is, by far, the smallest dog of the group. The next-smallest dog is Max. Last week he was still visibly larger than she was, but this week, she caught up. Just like that.

In a seeming blink, she's stretching out, getting taller, bulking up. She's still no bruiser, and will always easily fit into the shadows of the big dogs in the hood. But in the context of the guinea-pig-sized schnauzer pup we brought home just over 6 weeks ago, suddenly she's huge.

So I find myself trying to slow down time a bit. I try to shoot videos and photos that somehow illustrate her size, that will serve as markers, of sorts, when she's full-grown, of a time when she was still a munchkin.

I don't think this is even possible to pull off, but it's worth a shot. Time, after all, moves too quickly no matter who's on the other side of the lens. It can't hurt to try to hold onto those fleeting moments for a little while longer.

Your turn: How do you freeze time?

Corridor at Union Station

Under the great glass ceiling
Toronto, ON
July 2017

Photo originally posted on Instagram
The Scene: Toronto's Union Station. We're walking through the pedestrian corridor that connects this massive transit hub with the CN Tower and Rogers Centre stadium to the west. We've just finished watching one of the most intense baseball games in Blue Jays history - they erased a 10-4 deficit i ninth inning and beat the Los Angeles Angels 11-10 with a walk-off grand slam - and everyone is jubilant. As much as we need to find the car and head home, no one really wants this moment to end.

We turn the corner into the long, glass-enclosed corridor that overlooks Front Street. I can't stop staring at the curved ceiling, which is nothing new for me. I stop at the top of the stairs while my family continues down - also nothing new for me, as I'm always dawdling. I shoot fast before catching up to them, another furtively-grabbed moment in pixels from a day we won't soon forget.

Your turn: How do you use your camera to freeze time?

Saturday, August 05, 2017

4 years later...

As some of you may know, I survived a stroke four years ago tonight (more about it here.) It happened after I accidentally tore an artery in my neck by moving my head the wrong way during a bike ride.

Thankfully I came out the other side rather intact. My soul was still there. and I remained able to do the things I had always done. Still, this rather insane experience has had a profound impact on my life's path, and I've learned a few things along the way.

As I mark another milestone in this journey, I thought it might be worthwhile to jot down a few of those learnings and observations and share them here:
  1. I don't live with endless regret. I don't kick myself for taking a ride that day. I don't kick myself for the pre-u-turn head toss that touched everything off. There was no way to know this could happen, and beating myself up for putting myself on the path that led to the event doesn't do anyone any good. It's done. Move on.
  2. I do live with endless worry. To this day, I feel like I have a Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. Every minute of every day, I question whether that little twinge I just felt is everyday fatigue that we all experience on occasion or the onset of another major event. I fear whether a forgotten factoid is a sign of some kind of stroke-related cognitive impairment. I've been told I sailed through with my Carmi-ness intact, but there's so much we don't know about how the brain works, so I still wonder and worry. I often feel a low level of baseline dizziness - like I've had a couple of sips of rum on an empty stomach - almost as a near-constant reminder of what happened to me. Thankfully that goes away when I'm on the bike, and the faster I go, the better I feel (weird how that works) Every once in a while I'll come across an article that quotes scary stats about stroke recurrence, and I get even more freaked about. But you can't hide under the covers. So I don't.
  3. I can see it in everyone else's eyes. I get asked if I'm OK a lot. By my family. By friends. By colleagues. People I haven't seen in a while often hold my gaze just a little longer than is comfortable. They ask how I'm feeling, then ask again to be extra-sure. No one ever believes me when I say that I feel fine. I get that. There's almost an expectation of vulnerability, and it's clear that everyone will be looking at me through that lens for the rest of my life. I get that, too.
  4. I'm still afraid to ride the bike. I took my first ride fairly soon after I recovered, but I still carry some residual fear of messing myself up again. I installed a handy rear-view mirror on my bar-ends, and now wonder how I ever rode without it. I still favour my left side - even when I sleep or drive the car - and I shoulder-check to my left with great care. Despite every shred of evidence that suggests I'm good to ride, I start every ride with thoughts dancing through my head of what could go wrong.
  5. But I still ride. My wife, bless her, constantly encourages me to take the bike out, to go and explore. I dawdle, often finding other things to do, and sometimes never even make it out the door before a) the rains come or b) darkness falls. But eventually I force myself to push off and disappear for a while. I've been bike-commuting to work more than ever this year, each ride treated as something of a victory. I often take the long way home. My initial wimpiness aside, it feels wonderful and once I'm rolling, I wish it would never end.
  6. I tolerate mean-spiritedness even less. I've never had much patience for people who are less than kind. The stroke dropped that tolerance to zero. I'm so conscious of the value of time now that I simply don't bother with people who tick me off. I'd hate to do the math at the end of my life and realize I devoted undeserved time to anyone who didn't deserve it. I remember what it felt like as I was locked in, aware of everything around me but completely non-verbal, to wish I had used my time better. So I won't make that mistake going forward. I'm not being arrogant; just pragmatic. We only have so many minutes. Let's use them more wisely.
  7. Small things mean a great deal. I celebrate things - events, moments, people, even routine tasks - that, beforehand, I might have simply allowed to slip into the past. I appreciate little things more, and I try to take the time to enjoy them more than I might have beforehand. Whenever I do a radio or TV interview, for example, I pause after we're done and reflect silently on how privileged I am to still be able to do stuff like this. I'm lucky that my brain still works much as it always has. I chase sunsets with my camera more often. I linger beside a farmer's field and watch the cows. I watch my wife and kids when they think I'm not looking. I stare at stuff. A lot. It may seem odd to others that I'm spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about and hovering over seemingly everyday moments. But that's the thing about this experience; It has taught me that the everyday can be pretty magical in its own right. And if we don't deliberately drink it in, what are we drinking?
  8. I'm thankful. This may seem like an odd thing to say. Who, after all, would be thankful after having had a major health scare? So, no, I'm not glad it happened, but since I can't change that reality, I am glad that I've been given another shot at this life thing. I'm glad I was able to return to the person that I was - unlike so many others whose lives are ended or are irrevocably altered by something as tiny as a clot or a bleed. I'm acutely aware of how close I came to a very different fate, and how blessed I am that I am where I am. I'm still far from perfect - I was pretty flawed to begin with - but I feel, I don't know, different in a not entirely negative way. Let's just say it changed me.
None of this is new. None of it is earth-shattering - not for me and certainly not for anyone else. But as August 5, 2013 fades further into my and my family's rear-view, I realize it'll never completely stop influencing how my life continues to play out, and by extension how it continues to color the story of us. For every extra day that I've been given since then, I remain thankful, and hope my wish for another doesn't come across as being too greedy. Whatever I get, I'm profoundly grateful to have received it.

Your turn: Can your - or anyone's - life be profoundly changed by a single moment? Has it happened to you?

Related:
So, about that stroke... (Aug. 5, 2014)
When even a thank you seems lame (Aug. 7, 2014)
More stroke stuff... (Aug. 21, 2014)
Coming up on Canada AM (Feb. 7, 2015)
Winding down the day that was (Feb. 10, 2015)
Two years on... (Aug. 5, 2015)
3 bonus years (Aug. 5, 2016)

Life in the abstract

Somewhere to sit
Toronto, ON
July 2017

Photo originally posted to Instagram
The game was over. The good guys had come from a seven-run deficit in the 9th inning to win the game 11-10. It was just one game in the midst of a miserable season, but it was an historic moment - the biggest final-inning comeback in Blue Jays history - that made our kids incredibly happy.

I waited a while for the stands to clear out. We weren't in a rush - I think everyone just wanted to hang around a little longer to drink in the moment, to pinch themselves one more time that they had actually seen it, for real. It isn't often that you get to share a simple experience of unadulterated joy with your family, so we stayed.

Eventually the Roger...er Skydome (sorry, it'll always be Skydome to me) emptied out and I spotted an empty section of seats directly opposite us in the deck overlooking left field. Since I have a thing for patterns and colors, I thought one final abstract scene before we headed for the exits was in order. Of course, we have no idea who sat here on this brilliantly sunny and hot July afternoon, but we're pretty sure they left the game filled with as many indelible memories and feelings as we did.

Your turn: Who's your favorite team? Why?

Friday, August 04, 2017

Payphone against a concrete wall

Who you gonna call?
Toronto, ON
July 2017

Photo originally posted to Instagram
In light of today's massive landline and cell phone outage in Atlantic Canada, this quick capture from a Toronto subway station last week seemed somewhat timely.

We're never more than one quick mistake away from technological meltdown. Today, we saw that reality in action.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Binders on a forgotten shelf


Every once in a while, we come across a scene that reminds us how quickly life moves, and how quickly today's commonplace items become tomorrow's forgotten relics. I found this in deep, deep storage, and for some reason it made me stop and think about what we lose when we move on from paper.

I don't think I have the answer that that one. Nor do I ever expect to.