Loss, Grief and Healing
“I go to nature to be soothed, healed and have my senses put in order.”– John Burroughs
This is a difficult and harrowing time for so many people. I worry about my family and friends every day. This worry has led me to daily deep contemplation about how I use social media and this blog in particular. I try to use this blog to uplift and bring a small bit of joy to the readers. I do not want to add more despair to the world. I tell a few stories and show photos and do my best to illustrate that this world isn't solely sorrow and suffering and sadness. There is however, even in the best of times, much suffering in our world. The virus and the racial injustice and the environmental degradation just put an exclamation point on it.
The other day on my daily walk I thought, "Life essentially consists of loss, grieving and recovery."
In my life I have suffered breathtakingly deep losses, extended periods of grieving and, thankfully, blessed healing and recovery. The thought of writing about these losses as a process of redemption overwhelms me. I have chosen a different path to find solace. I immerse myself in nature and then share.
I know, if you have lived very long, that you too have experienced breathtaking losses. The longer we live the more they pile up. I often find myself these days thinking about my lost loved ones and dead best friends...perhaps that is the way of old age. I remember my 90 year old uncle telling me he didn't want to live so long - it was too hard to lose everyone. I understand and, I'm guessing, you do too. And now this terrible virus which has already claimed at least 130,000 lives and the grim numbers still grow.
Also, now, we see the ongoing tragic effects of racism in our country. I grew up in the 1960's and saw much civil unrest and this reminds me all too much of 1968. My heart breaks daily and I cannot understand why we are still dealing with these clear issues of right and wrong.
Another of my favorite quotes is; "What defines us is how well we rise after falling".
If falling is loss and we all fall... the question then becomes, "so how well do you rise?"
These days when I feel my heart breaking I fall back on the one thing I know will bring me solace and comfort and hope and healing...nature. I believe that without my loving family and nature I would not have been able to cope with the losses of this life and, candidly, I wouldn't be here.
As you know, I have taken to the road the last several years and that, in turn, has taken me to photography. Now, of course with the damn virus, is a difficult time to hit the road and take photos. Instead, I decided to share two old photos a day on my Twitter account. Besides my backyard it's about as much nature as I'm getting these days. Simply looking through the photos helps me catch my breath and injects a bit of joy into my days. That was my goal in my last post as well. So, perhaps, you might sense a theme.
I am always a bit bemused by seeing which photos get the most attention because rarely are they my favorites. Awhile back my online friend, Chris LaTray posted a magnificent photo that ended up with somewhere near a thousand "likes". And while it was certainly a stunning photo - I wanted to say, "Hey! Have you seen his other stuff?!". It's an old story - often what is popular is not necessarily the best. I always use the McDonald's metaphor - selling billions of burgers doesn't exactly make it fine dining, does it?
Regardless, I thought I'd share what others seem to like. And, in order to lighten our load I offer these revisits from days gone by in hopes that it may bring you a tiny bit of relief from these difficult days.
The following photo, which actually is one of my favorites, garnered some attention. It is of Imperial Point, on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, taken on a late afternoon in July 2018 while on a photo walk with my pal, Liz Kylin.
I admit I was very surprised about this next one being popular - at all. I was all alone with old baby Nikon and took this photo of the Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend National Park, Texas in spring of 2015. It seems very ordinary to me...
The next one is from one of my many trips to Red Rock Canyon State Park here in California near the old ghost town of Cantil.
Next is a photo of Half Dome in September 2017.
My Casita, my little home away from home, a quiet and chilly night at Red Rock.
Here's old Route 66 near Essex, CA
This is near Johannesburg, CA and one I have framed in my office - it captures a bit of the West of my life...
I took a gazillion photos of Fajada Butte in Chaco with my iphone and shared one - it's a deeply moving place...
Funny enough I realized recently I don't have very many photos of my "home" National Park -Joshua Tree. I've had two trips canceled by the idiots running the government and have also been a bit disgusted by the crowds... but, here's one from a trip a few years back that Lilly was on... Gonna get out there this Fall...
The website "Visit Colorado" picked up this photo of Cliff Palace.
And lastly, to show you how you really can't explain tastes... this one was actually liked...it's a geezer in the High Uinta Mountains of Utah.
Welp, that's it! Thanks for riding along on our trip down memory lane.
I've been making a few photos of our wild Orange County backyard and I hope to have you visit with me back there real soon - at least virtually.
Stay safe. Take care of one another...
Ten Favorite Photos 2018
I've been fortunate in the last few years to meet some really fine photographers like Lori Carey, Joe Smith, Tracy Schultze and Rachel Cohen (among others). Something that most of these photographers participate in is a year end list of their "favorite (or best) photos". We submit them to a well known and well regarded Bay Area photographer, Jim Goldstein, for his annual "Blog Project- Your Best Photos"annually. So this is my list.
I had the good fortune to maintain my regular routine of monthly travel (except October because of the Dodgers - dem bums). I started off the year with two trips to Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave, visited Dodger Spring Training and Homolovi State Park in Arizona, took two trips to the Central Coast, went to Utah and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, went to each California League stadium, Petco Park, San Francisco (AT&T Park) and environs with Lupe, and took a fabulous Four Corners trip, which included Mesa Verde, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Hovenweep National Monument and a quick jaunt to Joshua Tree to see my buddy, PJ Finn. Whew! Who said retirement was boring?! I made about 8000 images this year and 7,990 were pretty bad. Well, not really, but these photos represent my personal favorites.
The first photo (above) was taken in the fading light of a September afternoon at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from the south rim near Chasm View. To me, it seems to capture the "up close but oh so deep and mysterious" look of this magnificent canyon.
The next two favorites are also canyon photos and both from Imperial Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at opposite ends of the day. The first was taken while walking around with my amiga, Liz Kylin, in the late afternoon and a few days later I got up early to catch the sun as it just started to hit the point. You'll get a sense of how fascinating the light of the canyon can be from these two very different photos near the same vantage point (taken with the same camera).
Let's move from canyon country to the coast. My number 4 favorite is a photo of Morro Rock - a place I return to year after year (since the 1980's). I finally took a photo I liked of it.
Next is a Mojave Desert photo taken after a steady 24 hour rain and the clouds were still lingering and creeping over the ridges into the valley below.
The next photo is a long exposure of the pier, at sundown, in my beloved Gaviota State Beach. I'm not a fan of the ugly yellow boat hoist at the end of the pier - but, hey, that's Gaviota.
My amigo Joe Smith has really encouraged me to use more black and white and the last 4 are in that medium. The first is of Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu on a late summer afternoon.
The next photo is of Round Tower in Hovenweep National Monument. This structure was probably built between 1150 AD and 1350 AD by Ancient Puebloans.
This photo of iconic Spider Rock at sunset is probably my favorite of the year. Yes, I know its been photographed thousands and thousands of times but I like the simplicity and shadow of this black and white.
Lastly, you wouldn't really expect the old Southwest Dude not to have a railroad track photo, right? Right. My last is from a favorite spot near Cantil, CA.
Since it is the end of the year I want to express my gratitude to each of you who follow my blog and vicariously travel the roads of the West with me. I hope you get some sense of how much I enjoy sharing my "traveling life" with you and I hope you know how great it is to have you along.
I'd like to also give a shout out to my pals and fellow inspirational photographers, PJ Finn, Craig Pindell, Scott Hays, Don Wendell, author extraordinaire, Chris LaTray and fellow travelin' fool, Scott Jones. I'm fortunate to have you dudes in my life (even if most of it is online).
Lastly, I also want to acknowledge the greatest blessings of my life which are my three children, my two daughters in law and my sensational wife. I don't know how they put up with me - but they do and I'm so damn lucky.
My best to all - let's have a brilliant 2019.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.