Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another Year Down...

Untouched, originally uploaded by Paul-G.

Time to update the profile information to reflect my passage through year number 56. I've passed the speed limit on many roads today. But the regrets, while there, are remarkably few. Interestingly, I've had more birthday calls, wishes, and visits today than I've had in the last five years combined. Not sure what that means other than that I've expanded my reach a bit. Friends connected with through FaceBook and MySpace Music that I haven't heard from in 30 years... my office crowded with co-workers singing Happy Birthday... my 2 year old grandson leaving a phone message that sounds vaguely like "happy birthday grandpa"...e-cards from distant relatives... dinner with my wife, youngest daughter and her fiance. A song by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris posted by a friend 3,000 miles away. Pretty cool business.

So I'm 56, employed, healthy, more full of friends than I really knew. Life is good. Simple.....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mind over Matter - my battle with Tai Chi

Mind over Matter, originally uploaded by Paul-G.

I am one of the (seriously) least coordinated individuals without a physical disability you will meet. This is in part because I am inherently inflexible (physically), barely able to reach my knees, no less my toes, and in part because I am by nature highly impatient. I never learned to dance both because I was never agile enough to make it look good,and because I would give up on the moves quickly when they didn't come naturally or quickly. I frustrate easily -- which is why more solitary pursuits tend to suit me best.

A month ago we started, for the second time, a beginner's Tai Chi class. Both of us need the discipline of a regular exercise program, and we have seen in our friends the physical and mental benefits of a consistent Tai Chi practice. The first time around (about two years ago) I frustrated out after less than a month when, as with dance, I couldn't string the subtle, slow movements together quickly enough to suit myself. This time seems to be different, so far... we have a much more patient, intuitive, and helpful teacher. She is helping me to learn that the secrets of Tai Chi are not in your muscles, but in your brain. Learning to let go of your expectations, of rigid expectations of immediate success and gratification -- learning to relax and let it happen, has made an amazing difference. This morning, after four weeks I was able to come home and take myself through the 17 moves of the "starter set". Very satisfying, confidence building, relaxing and stimulating at the same time.

So wish me luck -- the full set we are learning is 102 consecutive, connected moves. Simplification of thought is the goal. Let the body learn and remember, and the ultimate benefits spread to every sector of your life... simple.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wind Dancers

Wind Dance I, originally uploaded by Paul-G.

Kay and I took a couple of days to join family in St. Augustine late this week for a stay at the Old Powder House Bed and Breakfast. St. Augustine is one of our favorite quick getaways (about 30 miles south of us), and our lodgings were in the heart of the historic district. We ate too well, drank some fine wine, walked for miles, and generally had a desperately needed break from the day-to-day stress of our busy lives.

Friday morning we headed out to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Because the massive population of Florida alligators are natural enemies of the natural predators of our native water birds, the farm has turned into a very busy rookery during the late winter to mid-summer months. Herons and egrets of all descriptions, roseate spoonbills, and wood storks fly in to find their mates, build nests, lay eggs and raise their young in relative safety.

While a bit early in the season, (only the great egrets, a few little egrets, night herons and woods storks are in and starting to nest), I was able to snare a number of decent images of these amazing birds in flight, and displaying their breeding plumage. The one above is a great egret. pulling to a stop to do a bit of nest building. You can find an additional dozen or so photos from this trip to the rookery on my website, HERE. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Viola Septemloba

Viola Septemloba, originally uploaded by Paul-G.

Violet with five lobes -- this tiny Florida wildflower (about the size of a pinky-finger nail), decided it was time to show its face in the natural section of our backyard gardens. With the temperature warming to near 80 f today, it would seem that spring is at last , on the way.

I know that I get no sympathy from my friends to the north -- but even here in north Florida, we have had 28 freezes this winter. Enough to do severe damage to the tenderest of our plants, many of which are likely gone for good. Those will be replaced with hardier natives as we continue to endeavor to plant our little square of the planet with only geographical native plants, that should be able to endure even the colder than normal winters here.

So here's to spring -- won't be long, now....

Sunday, March 1, 2009

St. Augustine in 50mm of Black and White

After work Friday Mrs. Muse and I decided that a great way to decompress from a too long week would be to make a late afternoon drive down to St. Augustine. The trip is about 35 miles, the weather was great, America's oldest city always provides something of interest -- so off we went.

Traveling light, I took only my 50 mm f/1.8 lends mounted on my D200, and no other photo gear. I set the camera up for black and white shooting, and decided not to be fussy about what or how I shot -- sort of a "shoot now, think later" kind of trip -- the whole idea being to just relax, enjoy each other's company, and start the weekend right.

We walked a bit -- and ended up at the Tiny Martini Bar (on the front porch of the Casa Blanca B&B, where we have stayed overnight before). I can recommend the wine list, which includes a pretty decent Rosenblum Zinfandel (I'm a bit of a red zin fanatic) -- and Kay's mango martini wasn't too bad either.

Capped off with a shrimp dinner, we made a clearly successful and satisfying start to the weekend... more photos of St. Augustine in 50mm of Black and White are on my River Road Photography site HERE... Simple.