It’s better to be hated…

Why do people love to hate the magpie?

I must confess to spending a large amount of time watching and photographing these birds. Last year I was fortunate enough to observe the parents of a deceased magpie as they held a funeral for the chick they’d lost. A large crowd of these corvids gathered under a pine tree where the nest had been, and on the third day, I buried the body once the funeral appeared to have concluded.

Often the first thing said is that they kill other birds and steal the eggs. Sometimes. But they also clean up large amounts of roadkill and last year, played a roll in controlling the grasshopper epidemic that plagued us throughout summer.

Magpies are capable of understanding that a mirror image belongs to their own body—a cognitive behavior in animals so far only demonstrated by apes, dolphins, and elephants. Then again, they have an extremely large brain size to relative weight, even larger than the African Grey parrot.

I find them to be quite human excepting for their lack of artifice. And maybe that’s what I like about them. Unlike humans, they do what they do and they don’t pretend to be something else. I can accept that, even the cruel bits that I don’t like to observe.

It reminds me of a Mark Manson quote. It’s better to be hated for who you are than be loved for who you aren’t.

On the surface…

Stories—the beginnings are fluid, with starting points somewhere in the timeline and often at a point of action. We don’t know what’s happened before and can only guess at the perils that lie ahead.

Images taken in nature are stories presented within four walls. There are no pages to turn and the cast of characters often remain unknown. They’re not always pretty.

I would liked to have lingered. Waited and perhaps discovered the rest of the tale. I have my suspicions—the heap of remaining flesh and fur spoke volumes—but maybe that’s someone else’s story.

I don’t think I could have photographed this several years ago, but I was a different person back then. Now, when presented with the opportunity, I study nature more closely. I celebrate its beauty and share in its moments of cruelty.

We’re all animals. The difference is some of us keep that hidden inside cloaked with a carefully constructed mirage, while others lay it right out there on the surface for everyone to see. Interesting how a walk in nature can open your eyes and feed your soul at the same time.

Into the Night (shake it off)

Night’s darkness looms

Greens fade into black

The horizon’s bright band

Doesn’t reach where I stand


Headlights behind

Embed thoughts in my mind

The air is so thin

I can’t breathe enough in


Stars blanket the sky

Silence rings in my ears

What once was my zone

is now filled with unknown


The snap of a twig

Mirrors the click of a gun

Suck a breath in

Or the pattern will win


Pull out the camera

Set up the tripod

Scars never heal

But fear’s lost its appeal


(shake it off)

I began writing Into the Night (shake it off) last year after realizing that I had overcome my fear of the night once again. I couldn’t have done it without the patience and support of my husband—he gave back to me what I allowed someone else to take from me.

We are a product of everything we do and have done to us. That’s what I believe. I also believe that good and evil exists and their defining characteristics are not gender based. Gender can however play a role in how these qualities manifest.

Don’t allow fear to be a dictator—empower yourself. Surround yourself with people whose actions don’t raise questions and distance yourself from those whose do. Be ruthless. It might be tough at first but it gets easier over time.

What is orientation?

Is it what shapes the way we interact with the environment?

Is it how ten photographers could shoot the same scene and each image would look different?

Is it why there are differences in how people respond to events in their lives, or perhaps a person’s identity in relation to gender?

Is it the cause of when a business refuses to change its model until it’s too late?

It’s all of these things and more.

Orientation became a critical component of character development last month as I wrote the first fifty thousand words of a novel. It forced me to make mental shifts while in the minds of characters whose actions were completely at odds with what mine would be, under those same circumstances. Some of the characters I lingered with, while others made me want to burn sage to cleanse the air afterward!

Orientation describes why people have certain behaviors, relationships, and varying abilities to adapt—we are products of our experiences, genetics, and culture—and recognizing that allows for better decision making.

When it comes to living your best life, be prepared to make mental shifts on a daily basis. Evaluate and reevaluate. Are the people in your life vested in you? Are they after personal gain? Can they do you harm? Are there strings attached to everything? Look beyond the public or social media picture that’s painted for you. If you don’t, you’ll never know if it’s real or fabricated.

The image above brings another year to a close. It’s a reflection of mountains and trees on a frozen river. And isn’t the end of a year the perfect time for reflection?

This post brings to a close seven years of blogging and happily enough, a doubling of my readership over last year’s numbers. Thank you all, and Happy New Year!

Influences…

When it comes to art, nothing is new. Consciously or subconsciously we are influenced by what we see and hear, but what we do with that information is what counts.

I recently watched a post unfold where a painter sourced a photographic group for photos, replicated some of them, and passed them off as his own work. When called out, he claimed not to know better, yet had a well established website from which to monetize his paintings—which were identical in content to some of the photographs. He hadn’t asked permission to use them, and he certainly hadn’t made any of them his own. He’d simply painted the photograph with no credit to the photographer. One was a carefully crafted landscape image that this particular photographer had planned out. The resulting photo wasn’t a case of being in the right place at the right time. He, like many photographers do, had researched the site, the event that he wanted to photograph there, and when the two came together, he went out and got the shot—his vision, his composition, his expression.

Inspiration is a good thing. It stretches our creative boundaries and takes us in directions we might not have gone had we not been moved in some way.

From episode one of the series Yellowstone, I was mesmerized by the opening title sequences so brilliantly put together by creative director Lisa Bolan, Elastic, and crew. (If I’ve missed other attributions, I apologize.) Black and white photography has always inspired me and I’ve written before about people whose work I’ve particularly enjoyed, Stieglitz, for one. The images that drew me in from the title sequences had a gorgeous, yet gritty, yellowish toning applied to them.

By the next day, I’d developed a black and white toning pre-set for my monochrome imagery that for me, had the feel of those opening sequences. It doesn’t work for everything, it’s a starting point, but I’ve had a lot of fun playing with it.

The image above is a farrier hot-shoeing a horse.

Explore other mediums. Be inspired. Be true to your own vision.

Lessons learned…

A relationship must exist before you can lose it—if it never did, you’ve only lost the illusion of it.

Far more people remain in relationships that are damaging, not because they want to, but because they’ve lost sight of themselves.

A journey begins with one step.

Being in a relationship built on compatibility does not require either of you to change things about yourself.

Women, not just men, are capable of horrific things—their methods are different, and are equally damaging.

A handful of trusted family and friends is far more valuable than an army of acquaintances.

Have some great life lessons you’ve learned this year? I’d love to hear them. And to those who are celebrating, have a safe and happy holiday week-end!

Humankind vs nature…

What a year, or do I say that about every one? The serenity of this image is so not representative of 2021, but it’s typical of how we spent our free time—out in nature, often no more than a picture frame apart from one another.

Nature is much more trustworthy than humankind. Though nature comes with unpredictability and devastation, the difference is, it isn’t premeditated. When the worst transpires, it isn’t the result of a cold-blooded, malicious attack for personal gain—it’s luck of the draw for the most part.

Nature doesn’t masquerade as your friend or family member, she just exists in a form that you’re free to consider, evaluate, and then choose the best course of action. Now humankind…that’s the scary one! I suppose there are some who go through life never seeing what lurks behind the mask, but I’m not one of those.

I write these words from a place of strength. These are merely observations compiled from contemplating humanity and many times, finding it lacking.

Be wary of the ones who posture as oh so nice, for niceness is but a strategy utilized by predatory people to get what they want. Be cautious when placing someone in a position of trust. Pay attention to the red flags—don’t shrug them off with excuses for bad behavior—for intuition is a valuable tool. And if you worry about being alone if you remove toxicity from your life, don’t. You’ll be creating space for the kind of relationships that matter the most.

My two cents for the New Year? Place your trust in nature and stay ever vigilant when it comes to humanity.

Child, hmmmph…

If I close my eyes I can still hear her voice. Sometimes the conversations would begin with a hmmmph, followed by a statement that left no room for interpretation—for she was never anything but crystal clear and to the point. Other times, the hmmmph was preceeded by Child, then an equally observant comment.

We had next to nothing in common other than a shared love for a woman we both worked for, in different capacities, yet, somehow we became friends. I can’t think of her without feeling a twinge of guilt for the privileges that the color of my skin gave me over her, and our conversations were quite possibly the first real ones I’d ever had about race.

Her passing closed a chapter—a period of time in my life that forever changed me. And though she’s gone, she will live forever in my heart.

What path will you take?…

It’s that end-of-the-year-introspection time again! I’m coming down off the high of finishing (what they term winning) my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). My latest novel is well on its way, and yes, I wrote the ending—I like to know where I’m going.

The image above is representative of how I live my life. I like to remember where I’ve been, but I don’t need to see the past in vivid detail. Human nature isn’t kind—it’s cruel and selfish—the sooner one loses the idea that it’s anything other than that, the safer you become.

I stood looking back on our tracks in a landscape softened and muffled by falling snow and thought, silence truly can be deafening. It’s the perfect landscape for me. It’s calm, uncluttered, and contains what’s essential for me to be happy.

What isn’t seen in the image is the support that stands behind me. This year has brought immense clarity and I’m grateful for the people that are in my life.

I’m happy. We’re happy. Find beauty in nature. It will never disappoint you.

Chasing Alpenglow…

In life, I’m not one to look back. I don’t dwell in high school memories. The wishes I make aren’t for do-overs. Sometimes you just do what you do in the moment because it feels like the right path forward. My philosophy applies to people too—don’t allow the intrusion into your life of people that don’t make you feel good about yourself—the cancers that masquerade as friends/family but secretly gnaw at your exterior bit by bit, hoping to access your soul and infect it with their disease.

There is a time and a place for looking back, though. During sunrise and sunset. Sometimes in the garish beauty of one of those events you can find, simply by turning around, a quieter, less common light path. Like alpenglow. A brief and fleeting optical phenomenon found, on occasion, when conditions are right and the sun is below the horizon.

For every rule, there’s an exception.

Find beauty in every day. It’s there.