Friday, December 26, 2008

New Year's Resolution

I am making a New Year's resolution this year. I am doing it here, in public -- so that perhaps I will be a bit more likely to fulfill this little "promise-to-self". It is a one-word resolution -- can't get much more basic than that. One word that has the potential to impact my life, and the lives of those around me in so many ways -- economically, ecologically, politically, physically, artistically, emotionally, spiritually.... One word. Simplify. For 2009 I want to simply, well, simplify. Easy, right? Not!

Voluntary simplicity is nothing new -- in fact I've been studying the philosophy for a number of years. Use less stuff, spend less, pollute less, unclutter your home, your office, your brain... reuse, recycle, relax. Man, do I wish I could relax. At this point in my life -- empty nest, good job, good health, you'd think that might not be so much of a problem. But holy moley is my life at the virtual border of "out of control". When you're 55 and still wondering what you're going to be when you grow up... When you're working 60 hours per week (at least I'm working)... When you always feel like you need to move on to the next thing in order to just keep pace with yourself... When you're doing photography and people seem to like it, but not enough to pay the bills, but you love it more than almost anything... When you realize that the happiest times of your life were when you were on stage performing your own songs, and you want to write more but can't find the time, when the band calls and you have to say no... When you feel guilty for all of the social engagements, gigs, photo safaris, and pleasure trips you have to turn down... Perhaps it's time to ease up, pick a few priorities, narrow the scope. Simplify. Think about what makes you happy and focus on that.   In my fantasy world that would be:
  1. Photography
  2. Music
  3. Writing
  4. Reading
  5. Work           
In the real world, numbers 5 climbs to the top and the rest shift down one. Food on the table, need for lenses, bandwidth and all that, you see.                                                                                       
SIMPLIFY. A one word promise to myself. Life saving, I think. Sanity saving, certainly. There are plenty of other blogs dedicated to simplicity, uncluttering, Zen living -- and most, if not all written by and targeted to 20 or 30-somethings. Let's see how it goes for a 55+ over-committer.

 I'll let you know how it goes. Weekly updates. Promise.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Ghosts of Slavery in North Florida

Mrs. Muse and I took a Saturday off from the insanity of the holiday season crowds and drove up to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island for lunch and a little strolling around. Instead of hitting the interstate (I-95) for the 50 mile drive back down to Jacksonville, we decided to take the less traveled and more scenic A-1-A through the marshes and small islands of coastal northeast Florida. On the way toward the Mayport Ferry crossing, we came upon the Kingsley Plantation National Historic Site -- an important piece of regional history that we have never visited in our two decades in the area. The plantation, named for it's second owner, Zephaniah Kingsley was populated by several hundred slaves, along with its owners. The first photo is how I imagine the ghosts of those slaves must view the "master's" house -- remembering their labors in the production of cotton, oranges and indigo.

There is no doubt of the amazing northeast Florida rural beauty of the place. This next photo is the view across Ft. George inlet (the plantation stands on Ft. George Island) that is seen from behind the main house looking east. Still much as it was in the early to mid 19th century, the trip back to the site is traveled on a one lane unimproved dirt road through heavy tropical vegetation -- literally a drive back in time. Walking among the ancient cypress and palm trees I could sense that the spirits of the earlier inhabitants of that piece of beautiful, yet sad land were still there. The black slaves of 150 years ago live in small tabby built shacks about a half mile back from the scenic spot shown above. Here is what remains of those less-than adequate residences...

"Tabby" is a mix of oyster shells (taken from the waste and burial middens made by the Timaquan Indians -- the island's original inhabitants -- and ground limestone. Holes for ventilation, dirt floors and empty windows provided quarter for up to 300 African slaves, most of whom were first or second generation and still spoke their native African languages. In the twentieth century these important historical remnants have been heavily vandalized by visitors who found the soft tabby walls easy to carve (as seen in the final photo below).

I have always had a strong sense of history and a special interest in archaeology, but something about this place affected me more deeply, more strongly than the usual visit to an historical site. I could so easily visualize the children of slaves running through the trees, the pain, anger and sweat of black laborers, the arrogance of those who would be so brazen as to believe that they could own another human being as property. This was a place worth visiting, and one I will certainly return to -- to feel, to meditate in and on -- to record visually and to interpret -- and to be among the ghosts of the families who occupied those beautiful acres in pain and in vanity not all that long ago...

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I'm trying out a photoshop plug-in by Topaz Labs called "Topaz Adjust". It gives the user a variety of interesting adjustment options that can create some interesting effects. Here are a few examples... (Click on the photos to view them in larger sizes and get more information about them on my Flickr photostream).

Gone Camping
Florida Off-Road Vehicle

Scrub Jay III
A Florida Scrub Jay

Stepford Sunset III
Central Florida Sunset