Foto Friday – Storm Clouds

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Happy Foto Friday, everyone! Today we continue our cloud series. The very first thing that I began to photograph obsessively when I first got into photography was the sky. I was obsessed. After a while, though, I branched out into other things. But recently, a summer storm whipped through and in the early evening the sun was setting as the sky cleared. I stood out on my deck and shot these as the sky lit up like fire. Enjoy!

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Sciencey thoughts

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I’m not really religious. I’m not sure about the soul, or what happens after you die. I’ve searched for answers and always come up wanting. But there are some things in science that sort of make sense. Concepts related to energy, chemistry, biology, space and time, those touch on my understanding of myself and my humanity.

The only evidence of a soul that I can reckon is the way I feel being around different kinds of people. Some people light me up in a way, make me feel happy, creative, charged up. Others complete exhaust me, leaving me feel drained, dejected, frustrated and sad. It’s as if some people shared or took valence electrons, or something.

I was talking with a friend about photography, and we happened on the topic of selfies. Although I’m a photographer, and have done portrait photography professionally for years, I’m still quite bad at taking photos of myself. I can do better if there’s someone else taking them. But living in a generation defined by the self-image, I’m a little outside that skill set.

There’s some concept I read about that matter in space changes simply by being observed. Perhaps the same is true for me. When I take pictures of other people, I try to form a bond of sorts. Having the camera in the middle is just incidental. However, if I’m in front of the lens, and no one else is there to shoot it, for me, I’m just, well, artificial. The differentiation between the illusion and the genuine thing is a nuance at best, but the pictures where I’m truly happy are the best.

I’ve heard enough about the theory of infinite variable coexisting universes, as one way of explaining the way things are, to begin to subscribe to the ideas. If there’s one concept that appeals to the indecisive Libra in me, it’s the knowledge, that in the alternate universes that exist opposite mine, the decision I just made was reverse, and the consequences are spilling out like ripples across the pond, like increasing concentric circles, expanding ever more as they drift away. The impact of each choice mirrored through every possible scenario until, maybe, in one perfect place it all fits together and I’m happy.

I read somewhere, maybe even fictionally, that they tested this theory, shooting a laser at a material in which the reflected image was the infinite variances that existed ad infinitum. It was postulated that not only was this proof of their existence, but also gave rise to the idea that these multiverses exist on top of each other, perhaps creating a reason for a thing like black holes and dark matter to begin with.

If this is true, in my mind, I imagine that there must be huge buildups of energy where overlapping areas are high. The just out of reach scenario playing out a mere few universal layers away, and yet does the body know it? Can we sense each other on these other planes? If certain elements are drawn to each other in chemical bonding, so too could we not sense those individuals or elements that draw us in on our own plane of existence? Could our desires for people just be the culmination of better overall success rates as determined by the infinite universal average?

Sometimes, maybe the planes run so parallel, they lay perfectly flat over another. In the synchronicity, do we sense the deja vu effect of experiencing something twice because we really are? That we stand so close to the mirror, we can reach out and touch its reflection. The pan-dimensional high five.

While I don’t know if humanity or any life is in possession of a soul, I can say that I believe existence is bigger than what can be contained in a single lifetime. If we ascribe to the big bang theory (the science thing, not the tv show), the universe began with an explosion, and the expansion from that central point can be seen as ground zero for the dawn of this age. All the matter in the universe has shot out in all directions from this central point, determined by a lot of science, but probably as simple as where is the epicenter of universal gravity. It is thought that the universe will continue to expand from that point until it runs out, and then, in the vacuum be drawn back in as the universe collapses in on itself.

And then what?

Well, the process that the big bang theory postulates sounds like it can be measured in a metric of big bangs, because something happens before and after, right? Things don’t just not exist, do they? So, for me, this process sounds an awful lot like taking a breath, only on a ludicrously large scale. That all the matter that exists, may in fact, not be destroyed, but converted into energy. And it is in that energy, we find all things, including the breath of life, but also wind, sunlight, fire. I wonder if it is possible that on a universal scale, that all the energy has a set limit, that truly if all things are interconnected, for every single action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Perhaps, even on the smallest, barely noticeable scale, each bit of energy I consume or produce has its effect somewhere else in the world, based solely on maintaining the delicate balance of chaos.

But as with all things, nothing is constant, and eventually the universe will hit the end, run out of steam, and then collapse back in on itself. And perhaps in the drawing back in, the pressure will become too great, and it will explode back out again. This time, a whole new set of variations and universes to run the numbers out into infinity. Another roll of the dice, another chance.

 

Back in the swing

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So much has changed in our little guy in the short time we were gone. He seems stronger, smarter, articulating better, more compliant but at the same time, more defiant. These small differences are just amazing to witness, as the steadily sloping bell curve of his awesomeness reaches an apex.

We had a great day. My husband took him to the park in the morning to run off some energy, then they came home for lunch and naptime. In the afternoon, they went back out together, this time to the pool, before we all went out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

I must say how surprised I was that our little guy was so well behaved. Normally, when we go out, his patience wears out way before the food comes, and he always insists on being let out of the high chair. It always ends with me eating cold food, if any at all, and wondering why we even bother to torture ourselves with this ritual.

But this time was different. He went willingly into the chair, and colored the children’s menu blissfully, snacking on the occasional animal cracker. Then he discovered the restaurant’s soundtrack, which I will admit is catchy. He began bopping in his chair along with the music, happy as a clam, and his giggle was infectious. As our food arrived, we were all laughing together and grooving in our chairs.

I cut up his kid’s meal for him, which he was hungry enough to do some pretty good damage to. He managed his meal and I was able to eat mine as well. For the first time, I think ever, we had a real family meal, each of us eating our own food at the same time. And this, my friends, my dear readers, is what I have been waiting for. Not just over the week we were gone; I have been waiting for this moment since the day he was born. The apex moment of quintessential family history. The first family meal. The best possible reward for returning to our lives. I won’t soon forget it.

Foto Friday – Storm Clouds

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Happy Foto Friday, everyone! Today we continue our cloud series. The very first thing that I began to photograph obsessively when I first got into photography was the sky. I was obsessed. After a while, though, I branched out into other things. But recently, a summer storm whipped through and in the early evening the sun was setting as the sky cleared. I stood out on my deck and shot these as the sky lit up like fire. Enjoy!

DSC_0436

Reflections on the aftermath

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I always note how travel changes me. There’s changes that occur, simply by being out of my home element, challenges to my “survival” (reading a map, navigating a new city, attempting to understand a new language, culture, metro system, or custom).

But there’s also changes I notice in the world that I merge back into when the wandering is finished. I have immense gratitude for the ones who hold our place so we can go. Beyond that is the bizarre feeling of re-integrating with the digital dependence. There’s a dissonance I feel settling back into the well worn rut of the life we put on pause for a few days to experience another part of the world. The mixture of joy and guilt that washes over me when I see my little man for the first time in a week, tears are hard to fight back.

I notice immediately how much he’s changed in such a short time. I love the feeling of home that I can only know when I’m holding him in my arms. I have to accept that too will change too soon, when the day will come when he no longer needs me.

I realize that I kind of hate travelling now. A part of me changed too when he was born. And all the beautiful places in the world can’t compete with the feeling the lifts me up when he smiles at me. And, yes, the Eiffel Tower will still be there, long after he’s a grown man and no longer needs me the same way he does now. And, sure, it’s only a week, and he did really well hanging with my in-laws, and they were just so stellar to watch him for us. I’m just happier when I’m with him.

Paris – Day 7

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The night before we were set to leave Paris was filled with giddy excitement, that for better or worse, we’d be back on our home turf in less than 24 hours. Reality begins to set in, and the final hours of our trip are in reflection of the fun we had and the bullshit we experienced, and in the final measure, determine if the trip was a success.

We kick into “Go” mode and start planning out all the things that can become complicated, the things within the sphere of our control before being rocketed across the Atlantic. The checkout sheet given to us by the travel team was needlessly complicated. Leave the bags inside the door, beginning at 6:00 where the bellhop will come to retrieve them, take them down to the first floor, where we must claim them again and check out. Then meet the bus to the airport by 7:15.

We wondered why we’d need to do all those things when we were perfectly capable of moving our own luggage, which we did. Eliminating the last minute possibility of something going missing, we approached the checkout desk ready to GTFO!

We chatted up a lovely group of Australians who had just checked in for their month long tour of Europe. After just a week away, the idea seemed just as foreign to me as their delightful accents. Soon our bus arrived and we piled in with the other weary travellers, a collective yearning for home hanging heavily in the air.

The bus dropped us off at a ground floor terminal, along with another group from our trip. Another bus emptied into the lot next to us and more tourists poured out. Our bus had been given information on where to go next, but the other bus clearly hadn’t gotten the same. By the time we all met up at the terminal, there had been some major mixups about where to go, leaving the already weary crowd that much more irritated.

We had some time to kill before our flight, so we wandered the airport, milling around the duty free shops. I managed to score some German chocolate eggs, which used to be banned in the United States because they were deemed a choking hazard. Inside each egg was a small toy to be assembled, and although precautions were made to ensure that you couldn’t just bite down and choke, the toys were clearly not intended for very small children. The packaging does reflect this, but until very recently, it was still verboten in the U.S.

Our flight was delayed departing due to some issues with the air conditioner. The growing crowd around the terminal seemed ready to go hostile as announcement after announcement played out in a distant muffled speaker. No one knew why the plane wasn’t boarding, and the mood was growing ever more sour.

Colleagues of my husband milled about, muttering how it shouldn’t be like this, how the travel department failed them somehow, and how someone, somewhere was going to hear about it. There was only futility in posturing like that. Strutting about like an angry peacock doesn’t not make the plane load any faster, nor does it help anyone’s mood.

Finally, we boarded, and settled in. A few rows back, there was some fracas from a passenger unhappy with his seat. Perhaps he wanted a row, or didn’t care for the old woman coughing nearby, but the flight attendant put him promptly in his place. There were simply no other seats on the plane, that making a scene would get him taken off the plane, and if he could not accept his fate, he would be welcome to come back tomorrow to get another seat. From what I could overhear, it was difficult to hear if the words actually reached the complainer.

A woman who was talking to her husband in another row, offered up her seat in a different part of the plan just to shut the guy up. He took them and left, and the crisis seemed averted for now. The delay behind us, we left about 30 minutes later than originally anticipated, time that could have been made up in the air, and was, from what I can tell.

The flight went faster than I had expected. The on-board entertainment helped tremendously. In as quickly as three movies, I was on the ground in Philly, interrupted by terrible meals that somehow airlines are still compelled to provide. The flight would have been easier, if someone hadn’t actually eaten the food because there was some serious crop dusting happening the whole time. By the time we got on the ground, I was ready to murder whoever was responsible. And I probably would have, if the flight in wasn’t so horribly bumpy. I’ve had some rough landings in Philadelphia, but I’ve never thought I might actually throw up on a plane before.

On the ground, safe, tired, dirty and cranky, we cleared customs, waited for our luggage, then our car, still coming to terms with the fact that we were home. Less than an hour and we’d be holding our son again, jumping back into the craziness of our real lives again.

We arrived home to find our little man watching television. His face lit up when he saw us, and the overwhelming joy washed over us all as we grabbed him up into a big group hug. The trip had taken its toll on him as well, as we would imagine. His self awareness, dependence on a routine, and our involvement in his day-to-day made this trip more difficult to endure than the one we took the year before. It gave me pause, when considering the next trip to convention in Las Vegas would take place in less than two months. The dread of going through this all over again tugged at my heart. I was happiest here at home with my family.

 

Foto Friday – Storm Clouds

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Happy Foto Friday, everyone! Today we continue our cloud series. The very first thing that I began to photograph obsessively when I first got into photography was the sky. I was obsessed. After a while, though, I branched out into other things. But recently, a summer storm whipped through and in the early evening the sun was setting as the sky cleared. I stood out on my deck and shot these as the sky lit up like fire. Enjoy!

DSC_0438

Paris – Day 6

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This far into the trip, my sleep schedule has gone completely off the rails. With the time shift, the light blocking curtains and downtime from illness have rendered my body completely incapable of telling whether it’s day or night. I’ve entered a not-unfamiliar dreamlike state of semi consciousness. At times, I’ve wondered if I’ve gone completely insane, I can barely navigate this city of foreign language, smells and tastes. Its impossibly beautiful people seem to navigate with smug ease that triggers off every inferior nerve in my body. Parisians are not to be fucked with, and I’m just a kid in knockoff clothes trying to blend, poorly. The disparity is real.

My body senses this in a very real way and has psychosomatically freaked the fuck out. I’m still sick, still in and out of the bathroom every 20 minutes, not able to really eat or function, or do anything other than dick around on tumblr endlessly using the slowest internet on planet Earth. But, with our last day less than 48 hours away, I feel compelled to give the city one last shake before heading home. I choke down the last of the medicine we brought with us, and hope for the best.

Note to self for any future trip: Either pack two pairs of jeans or none (and that means no wearing them on the plane). Denim, in my opinion is pound for pound one of the worst fabrics for travel. For me, my jeans always pick up the most funk just by virtue of all the surfaces you encounter while travelling. They just soak everything up, and either need to be laundered or not worn again. So, if I want to wear them home and not smell like a hobo, I bring these travel Tide packets to do small loads of laundry while you’re on the road. They work great for delicates and what not, but I get the crazy idea to wash both of our pairs of jeans during my zero day. (Because what else is there to do, really?)

Well, the other lovely thing about denim, is that it takes for fucking ever to dry when hung up. At that point, you begin to enter into the realm of diminishing returns for your efforts. I’d rather smell like a stinky airplane than the musty second-day laundry stank. So, to mitigate this new development, I decide to hit must with heat and iron the rest of the moisture out. And, while this technically worked, may I just say it took forever and was a huge pain in the ass. I also had trouble “drying” any surface of the jeans that had doubled over fabric, like along every pocket and down the seams.

So, in the future, I’ll just bring multiple pairs of jeans or none, because the temptation to wash the single pair I have to wear a more comfortable staple in my wardrobe is not cost effective when you consider the limited amount of time for the trip. I think a huge part of my issue with travelling is feeling comfortable in the outfits I pack, which is sort of my anxiety shield when I’m in a new environment. Clothing has a huge impact on the way I feel about myself. As part of my social anxiety, the more “put together” I feel on the outside, the calmer I can be on the inside. In the day to day, this is part of my approach to most days, but when travelling it’s so much more important. Venturing out into the unknown has certain triggers, and the more confident I feel, the better our chances at success.

Eventually, we got the jeans to a workable compromise, and I was able to walk around without doubling over with pain in my guts, so we decided to hit the town. The sky was dark and overcast, the threat of impending rain nagging after us all the way to the metro station. By now, we were pros at the station, we moved wordlessly like navy seals through the throngs of people, having already discussed our plans before arrival. The train was less busy at that hour as we took standing positions near the door, heading for Monmartre.

The sky opened up ahead of us, greeting us at the station with groups of people huddling under the awning just below the stairs. Enterprising folks sold ponchos, bottles of water and umbrellas for a huge markup just outside the opening. More people crowded together under the converted garbage bags they’d just shelled out $15 for.

Rain doesn’t really bother me. It’s a part of life, and I’d rather just walk through it without hunching or cowering under an umbrella if I can get away with it. Typically, unless it’s a huge downpour, I don’t even bother. I think that carries over from my days at the brewery, where you learn to desensitize yourself against it because it was so integral to the job. I learned to steel myself in the face of a lot of flinch-worth encounters in that job, but that’s a story for another day.

But because it looks bad for a man to be walking under an umbrella while his lady friend walks without one, for the sake of appeasing social convention, we huddled together nonetheless. This just meant that his shirt would become completely soaked since there wasn’t really room for two. We carefully traversed the slick uphill cobblestone streets, taking our time to take in the buildings as we passed. I wandered away to snap photos and soon the rain began to lighten up.

At the top of the hill, there was a huge cathedral and throngs of shops and restaurants, an absolute swarm of people milling around while the occasional car tried desperately to navigate through. A small train carrying tourists made loop through the area, dinging its bell to announce their passing. We followed the crowd to the giant cathedral, hoping to get some pictures, but as we entered we were inundated by signs forbidding any photography. There was a security guard to inform us of the same, so we stowed our cameras and entered the church.

It was lovely, extremely quiet in respect to the many signs asking for it. People did pretty much that. Anything spoken was done in hushed murmurs. We made it about halfway through before finding a few chairs open to sit and check the map for our next destination. Ahead of us, a man lifted his camera and snapped a photo, the unmistakable sound of the shutter closing set off an immediate reaction by a man in the church.

He came rushing over, addressing the man in English, because of course it would be an asshole American who would be do disrespectful.

“Sir, Why? Why would you take a picture? Did you not see any of the signage? We ask you not to take a picture! Why?”

He spoke in the only terse words through a thick French accent, as it was all he could think of without outright calling the man a fucking idiot. But, with the phrasing, he gave the man the opportunity to explain himself, for being a fucking idiot, and to apologize. He didn’t. Instead, another man from the American group had the fucking balls to turn to this guy from the row ahead and shush him, smirking arrogantly at his friend who was being chastised. He fucking shushed the church guy!

In one moment, I saw why we’re perceived so poorly in the rest of the world. If this is how we behave, even if it’s not all of us, even it’s just some of us, people remember. We have a bad reputation, and now I see why. If people came here and acted like that in our backyard, we’d hate the fuck out of them too.

The church guy switched to tell off both of them in turn. But by then, I wanted nothing to do with them, so we left. The stern lecture still going on behind us. I felt so embarrassed on behalf of my countrymen, and promised to do better as my contribution to damage control for our bad reputation.

Outside the church, the weather finally broke and the sun was shining brightly. The vista from the top of the church steps was clear skies and you could see for miles, a perfect perspective of the giant city below. We wanted to see the Salvador Dali museum, so we wandered around to find the street. The line wasn’t very long, and we got in quickly.

Inside were sculptures, prints and mixed media pieces. It was a neat experience, but I think without a guide (there was an audio one I probably could have downloaded prior to going, but didn’t). I took a lot of pictures before we decided to grab something to eat. As we rounded a corner to enter the artists quarter, a group of young people stood with clipboards looking for signatures. It was the first time we’d seen this in action, but not long after did two police officers roll up on bicycles and chase them away. Apparently this was one of the pickpocketing scams that you see. They distract you while you’re signing their “petition” and then their confederate steals your shit.

If I had more time and patience I would definitely have stayed in the artists area and had my portrait drawn. The booths were all stacked against each other, each one with a client sitting on a stool as still as they can, while the artist furiously sketches them out. The work was beautiful, and if I ever found myself in such a position again, something that looks like it would be worth doing.

We found a pizza place and grabbed a quick lunch. It was by far the most crowded restaurant we’d been in yet. Real estate in this area was tight. We had barely enough room to move, the tables were like children’s furniture and all on top of one another. My stomach still unnerved, I order a green salad and lasagna, figuring that might be substantial enough to hold me over. At another table nearby, two of the four chairs were occupied with a mother and daughter, before the second half of the table was given to a single japanese tourist. I’d heard of this being done in restaurants in Europe, but never actually saw it in practice, outside of a very crowded Korean restaurant I used to love going to.

The japanese tourist ordered escargot, and for the first time I got to see what it looks like in real life. Still not tempting enough to eat, but I was curious to see someone more adventurous than me do it. It came with it’s own set of tools, specially designed to hold the shell still, I guess, and another to root out the little bugger. They were bigger than I imagined they would be for snails. But decidedly, not something I’d want to eat.

A piano was crammed in the already impossibly small bar area, pounding out ragtime interpretations of familiar music. We finished our lunch and tipped the player a few euro on our way out. We found our way back down the hill to the nearest metro station and headed back to the hotel.

We began our preliminary packing and trying to inventory all the stuff we brought with us. I always end up lamenting how much I bring that I don’t wear and how I never bring the stuff I end up needing. This is what we call the “Hindsight Haze” which involves long sighs, and waxing poetic about “the next time we go away” plan to finally pare down my luggage and thereby, my soul.

For dinner, we decided to find the nearest Indiana Grill. We wandered back down the same street to trace our steps to the way we’d found it. The sun was beginning to lower in the sky, and long shadows cast down the treelined, nearly vacant street. This was the Paris I didn’t mind so much. It would be incredibly peaceful and quiet, far away from the restaurants and tourist areas where people just simply lived. That moment where the highest and simplest form of your humanity honors theirs, and the namaste moment is yours.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled posts to bring you this rant

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Although I normally can use the WordPress mobile app without issue, this is the third time in my trip that an entire post has been lost. It’s difficult enough to find time while traveling to write posts, but when the damn app doesn’t save changes (even locally), it’s all I can do not to go on a murderous rage.

So, imagine please, if you will, that these travel posts are wittier than they seem. I tend to write in the moment, and recreating a post from memory is difficult. Also please forgive me if I repeat myself, because although I fully intend to review these before they go live, I’m so very tired and some errors may get through.

And to the fucking asshats who are responsible for my lost brilliance, I hope that you get a particularly nasty paper cut. That way the irony of the dying medium won’t be lost on you.

Foto Friday – Storm Clouds

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Happy Foto Friday, everyone! Today we continue our cloud series. The very first thing that I began to photograph obsessively when I first got into photography was the sky. I was obsessed. After a while, though, I branched out into other things. But recently, a summer storm whipped through and in the early evening the sun was setting as the sky cleared. I stood out on my deck and shot these as the sky lit up like fire. Enjoy!

DSC_0440

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