Friday Philosophy?

According to my loosely followed schedule today I am due to post a “philosophical” thought or two on this blog. But where to start? Given the unexpected death of yet another celebrity musician/artist yesterday, with the untimely demise of Prince, I could perhaps ramble on about how we are losing so many celebrities this year, but I already did that a few months ago (which perhaps proves a point?!). Instead, I will witter on for a short while about Earth Day, for that is today’s designation.

According to the Earth Day Network the concept of Earth Day emerged from a growing awareness of humanity’s impact on the world through Rachel Carson’s seminal work, “Silent Spring,” in conjunction with the hippy movement that channeled a more introspective viewpoint on the world. This was a fairly slow grass-roots (pardon the pun) movement which became much more active following a particularly bad oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California in 1969 that fueled (I promise that’s the last pun) Sen. Gaylord Nelson to found an environmental movement in 1970, that is still going strong.

I will admit, that I am not generally a great fan of these “(Inter)national days” that seem to be thrust on us from all sides almost every day, and have been largely denigrated by crap like “national chocolate covered cashews day”, “national get to know your customers day” (both yesterday) or “national jellybean day” (today) and “national hanging out day” (tomorrow). Yes, really! However, I do think that Earth Day is special.

Although we should always be cognizant of our environment, and the impact we make on it; whether it be the human environment, natural environment and, yes, even the office environment; how often do we really do this? Personally, I do make the effort to turn off lights (sometimes), re-use and recycle (when I remember), walk instead of drive (when I can be bothered), but I still waste a heck of a lot of resources in my daily life. In fact, more than many people on this spherical rock even start out their day with.

So, perhaps having one day set aside to actually focus on something as important as the planet upon which we live is not a bad thing. Today I will try my fallible best to do something, however small,  “for Mother Nature” and I hope you will too.

By way of celebrating the day I also offer up the Flag of Earth, created by Illinois farmer, James Cadle, in the wake of the moon landing and unveiled the same year that Earth Day was started. It was designed to represent us all as passengers aboard the earth as a spaceship.

160422_EarthDay
What a fitting way to consider our relationship with our home planet!

~Richard

Fox and Hens

It’s odd how things work out. Since last year we have kept three Buff Orpington hens in our garden. They have a lovely chicken coop which sits snug inside a chicken run that I built for them, all  safe and secure. Around the property I have a few anti-predator lights that work at night and also we have a couple of dogs that like to mark their territory in the yard too. We also like to let the chickens out to range freely over the property and they do a good job of clearing insects and, more importantly, those evil Lyme-disease carrying ticks that are prevalent in this area (that’s another story).

Anyhow, today we experienced a late season snowfall (hopefully the last) so we let the chickens out earlier that usual, before there was too much accumulation. We keep an eye on them periodically and by sure luck, happened to get up from breakfast and look out of the front window to see one of the hens running quickly in front of the window – closely followed by a fox!

We banged on the glass, hollered and ran to get out into the yard and the fox “legged it,” as we would say, across the property. Thankfully, a quick check of the hen revealed no harm done, and confirmed the others were safe and sound too.

It was a truly comical, yet simultaneously scary sight to see this fox chase in such a classic pose – a plump golden chicken being chased by a sly red fox! The fox was a beautiful specimen and I am guessing we must have disturbed it just before it got into full stride, as I cannot see how our hen could possibly outrun this determined hunter.

Unserendipitously (is there such a word?) the wildlife camera that I have had set up there wasn’t in place as I took it down for some building work, so we only have our memories of it, but for the three of us who were only a few feet away it was an amazing thing to see nature at work. I’m just glad it ended happily.

We have not had issues with foxes before so I wonder it if was because the coating of snow meant that our red hens contrasted with the white snow so much that the fox could easily target them and risk coming close to the house. We live in a wooded area and there’s usually a lot of leaf litter and other ground cover that may allow some sort of camouflage.

Anyway it was certainly an unusual way to start the day, and one I don’t want to repeat. It will certainly made me appreciate tomorrow’s breakfast eggs from “the girls” a little more than usual!

160409_Fox
NOT the aforementioned fox, but a similar beast…

~Richard

52-week Challenge: week 14


WEEK 14: Landscape: Zoomed in – Most landscapes are wide sweeping images. Try an alternative and zoom in instead.


I admit that this seemed counter-intuitive to me. I always associate landscapes with sweeping vistas, and therefore using a relatively wide lens like my 20mm (that’s 40mm equivalent on a 35mm frame). But the assignment seemed clear so I attached my biggest glass, the 200mm  (that’s a huge 400mm equivalent on a 35mm DSLR) and zoomed in on a woodland landscape near my home.

In order to make it more interesting I captured a little of the Spring grass and some spiky overwintering plants in the foreground, with the wooded landscaped valley behind.

160405_LandscapeZoom

~Richard

Artistic inspiration

For my day job I work for a large corporation, doing corporate activities that generally involve me “flying a desk”, as I like to describe it. For those of you familiar with the corporate world you can perhaps empathize with the following story: We are in the process of a management-led activity to “improve morale” and increase the level of “teamwork” following a series of layoffs and restructuring, all amid a general atmosphere of continued uncertainty. This activity involves a full day of team building exercises which will include each of us being prepared to share with the group something that inspires us.

I have a naturally skeptical disposition when faced with this sort of activity, having been through initiatives of similar ilk many times over the last 25 years or thereabouts, so I have been facing this week with mixed feelings of boredom and dread, as I don’t want to derail the well-intentioned plan, despite my innate misgivings.  In fact, I have been struggling hard for a week to find a relevant example of inspiration without wishing it to be too trite.

Now, fast forward to a completely unrelated activity: the recent tragic early death of a local artist, friend and teacher of my wife. Although I did not know the lady directly I accompanied my wife to her memorial service at the local Quaker Meeting House and was very moved by the deeply heartfelt personal nature of the modest occasion. The memorial allowed for anyone present to speak on any memory or thought about the deceased for as long they wanted and one mourner stood and recited the following poem:

“I am an artist.”

I am an artist.

My definition of art is creating

something with my hands that is an

expression of who I am.

Art is a part of me.

I can’t escape the urge to create,

to get out my feelings in the way

of paper and glue. Or losing myself

behind the lens of my camera.

I am so thankful for my art.

It’s my own personal therapy.

And in the process I am leaving my mark

in the works I create.

I am an artist.

And there is nothing else in the world

I would rather be.

-Author Unknown-

I don’t consider myself to be a spiritual person, having been bathed in secular science all my life, yet as I listened the words struck a chord within me which I think will remain with me for a long time and I felt truly inspired. I truly believe that the unique act of creating art for art’s sake is a wonderful activity; personal yet shareable, challenging yet cathartic, and most importantly mind-expanding.

We should always have this in the back of our mind on this as we peer through our viewfinders and create our masterpiece.

160122_Artist

For Mary and Diane

I originally wrote this piece in October 2014, when it inspired me in that moment to go for a contemplative lunchtime walk and to sit under the autumnal trees overhanging a local brook and create the artwork above. I have since returned to this artwork several times and it even hangs at work in a friend’s workspace. It also seems ironic that, some 15 months later, our organization is repeating the same training, so making this post relevant again and, much more tragically, only last night a second artist friend of my wife’s lost her battle with cancer too, re-emphasizing the cyclical nature of the world perhaps.

~Richard

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