Saturday, April 18, 2015

On why failure matters

‎"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless."
Thomas Edison

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taking the time to look up

I was headed to an early studio session the other morning when I decided to take a new route. Instead of using the sidewalk, I walked through the grounds of a nearby church.

As I passed the main entrance, the combination of low morning sun and insanely detailed brickwork caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. I stood there for a couple of minutes and drank it in.

I really didn't have the time to spare, and ended up cutting things pretty close because of my little architectural detour. But sometimes, you just have to take the time. Because if not now, when?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thematic Photographic 333 - Multiples

Packets of tea-filled goodness
London, ON
April 2015
There's a certain amount of comforting symmetry when lots of somethings occur in a limited amount of space or time. Repeating patterns often seem to make for neat photography, and I can't resist the lure whenever I come across multiples of anything.

So for the next week, Thematic explores multiples, and I hope you will, too.

Your turn: Take a photo that suggests this week's theme, multiples. Share it on your blog and leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Already have a pic posted online? Share that, too! Visit other participants to spread the photographic goodness far and wide. Head here if you're new to Thematic and want to learn more. And feel free to share more pics through the week: Serial photo-sharing is a good thing, after all. Have fun with it, and thanks!

Messiness. Everywhere.

It's easy to become discouraged by humanity when you keep coming across scenes like this.

I try to ease the disappointment by convincing myself that the long-gone litterbugs simply forgot their drinks there - or on the supermarket shelf, or the bus stop bench, or... - but then I realize there can't be that many forgetful people in the world.

Aside from my finding a convenient place to dispose of the evidence, I see no way, save for DNA matching and facial recognition-based video surveillance, of fixing it. Because you can't teach manners, apparently, and too many people around us have decided they no longer care.

Kinda sad, isn't it?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sesame Street destroys the planet

Eons from now, when archaeologists are digging through what remains of 21st century earthbound humanity, I'm guessing they'll happen upon something like this and decide it represented the beginning of the end.

Perhaps I'm overthinking it. Maybe it's just an innocent package of "juice" boxes. Or maybe I'm becoming a curmudgeon. If that's the case, then please get off my lawn. And take your faux, animated-celebrity-shilled sugary-water with you.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

On doing right by others

‎"To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart."
Eleanor Roosevelt

Quite possibly the most wise words for leaders I've seen in quite some time.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Thematic Photographic 332 - Flowers

Open wide
London, ON
April 2015
I kind of hinted at this week's theme with this entry, so my bad for doing things a bit out of order.

I keep coming back to flowers because they're so transient, so achingly lovely for such a brief blink of time. And a picture is the only way to remember what it's like before time takes its inevitable toll.

Not that decline doesn't have its own innate beauty, of course. But still, I'd hate to miss out on an opportunity to freeze time. If only the real world worked that way.

Your turn: Grab a flower-themed picture and share it on your website or blog. Already posted something? Share that, too! Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy, and check back through the week in case you've got more to share. Head here for more background on how Thematic works. Thanks for making this the kick that it is. Enjoy!

Pretty. Doomed. But still pretty.

An invitation to tiptoe
London, ON
April 2015
Flowers, at least in their commercial, buy-them-on-the-way-home form, don't represent the most logical of purchases. Even while they sit in their refrigerated-display-case perfection, they're dying a slow death. They've already been cut from whence they grew, and the vibrant colours, textures and scents that define their present stand in stark contrast to the shrivelled Miss Havisham-ish reality that they will soon become.

That's right, folks, I'm such a romantic, already pondering the dark side before it's even had a chance to show itself.

And yet, I can't look away. And I can't resist the occasional seemingly irrational urge to pull out my wallet and detour through the florist shop as I pack up the groceries or otherwise finish off an errand and point myself toward home.

Why buy something that'll be garden fodder within days? Because for the blink of time that they're at their peak, they have value that extends far beyond the physical. Because they send a message. That you cared enough to do something illogical. That you cared, period.

I don't buy flowers often - at least not as often as I probably should. But when I do, the feeling of having someone worth bringing them home to is priceless.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Life at the crossroads: Wonderland & Nine Mile Road

An unplanned change in direction
Middlesex County, ON
March 2015
As intersections go, this one shouldn't be particularly memorable.

It's a few miles north of the edge of town, surrounded by farmland and little else. It looks remarkably like countless other intersections in the southern Ontario countryside, differentiated only by the street signs poking out of the still-thawing ditch.

And yet, I found myself standing here with my bike last weekend, on a brilliantly sunny, bitterly cold and windy afternoon, taking pictures to remember the moment. But why?

This place has something of a hold on me. See, this is where, on a similarly sunny yet much hotter summer's afternoon, I had stopped my bike.‎ And on this day, I had approached from the west, near the end of a long loop of a ride that had taken me on a high-speed tour of the hinterlands deep in ag country. The plan was to turn right on Wonderland and follow it back to town, then home.

Problem was, Wonderland was under construction‎, and I learned this only after turning right and running straight into a hopelessly blocked road. I peered over the barriers, figuring it was a small enough interruption that I could walk the bike past. No such luck: It seemed to go on for miles, and I was going to have to detour far around it.

So I turned my head waaaaay to the left to make sure I wasn't about to become some motorist's new hood ornament, executed a neat u-turn and headed back to the open road.

Although I didn't know it at the time, my little head‎-turn prompted a nasty chain of events, as it caused a tear in my carotid artery that later that evening prompted blood clots to break free, lodge in my brain and touch off a stroke.

It's been close to two years since that rather pivotal day, and this corner continues to serve as something of my own personal Ground Zero, the spot where my life took a decidedly unplanned turn. It isn't a bad place, nor is it a good one. It just is.

And on this day, my first ride of the season, as I sped past still-dormant fields and heard the electricity crackling through the wires overhead, I knew it felt right to stop here and reflect on the bike season that lay ahead, and why something as simple as a bike ride far from home means so much more now than it did before August 5, 2013.

I realize how lucky I am to have been given the chance to return here, and to continue to use my legs to cover ridiculous distances in impossibly lovely countryside. I returned from what, for so many others, is permanent disability, or worse, and continue to write, speak, tell stories, and simply live my life with my incredible family.

If stopping by the place where it all began becomes an occasional ritual to remind myself how precious all of this is, and why riding my bike is now a treasured act of defiance and a sign that the universe didn't win this time, then it's a visit I'm all too willing to make whenever I feel the need.

Your turn: ‎Do you have a spot in the world that you need to return to every once in a while?

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Friday, April 03, 2015

On seeing beauty

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."
Andy Warhol
Which begs the question: Where do YOU see beauty?

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The view from the hot seat

London, ON
March 2015
Thematic. Please be seated. Here. Because you want to.
This is what it looks like from the seat in the studio at CTV London. I do most of my remote interviews from this place - known as the Windsor Studio - and in many ways this storied room with decades of television history quietly tucked into its darkened walls has become a very comforting place for me.

I'm pretty sure the first impression can be terrifying, as staring down the barrel of a camera broadcasting live to folks you don't even know can be intimidating. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little nervous in the pit of my stomach before every interview.

But here's the thing: This entire studio is something of a home away from home for me. And the folks who work here are part of my extended family. I trust them implicitly to always do what it takes to make TV magic happen. The folks at the other end of the line are similarly incredible, and it always settles me down when they talk in my ear and walk me through a process that, even now, is insanely complex. I learn a lot about being a better person by hanging around the people I work with here.

Your turn: How do the people who surround you help you succeed?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

April Fool, April Idiocy

‎I'll apologize now if this seems a bit curmudgeonly, but I don't get the whole April Fool thing. I never did as a kid, and nothing has changed in adulthood.

Aside from the ridiculous notion of having a set day on the calendar for pranks and practical jokes - really, Alphonse, I had absolutely NO idea that you were pulling my figurative leg...such a surprise! - there's the somewhat darker veil of nastiness that pervades a good chunk of the day's activities. The notion that it's perfectly acceptable on this one day to "get" others in some way, all under the veil of supposed humor, is ridiculous. And mean.

Where I come from, none of this is funny. In fact, it smacks of bullying. Which is more than a little ironic given the anti-bullying mantras we all spout on the other 364 days of the year.

Now, please don't get me wrong: I do, in fact, have a sense of humor. And anyone who knows me knows I like to use it. Broadly and often.

But there's something about today, and the way we've evolved this tradition of trickery, that rubs me in all the wrong ways. The journalist in me similarly bristles at the notion of trusted operations willingly turning their coverage streams into "jokes" for the day. There's nothing funny about fake news if it makes you wonder whether they're being serious or not.

I hope this doesn't come across as get-off-my-lawn-ish, but please count me out today, and leave the funnies for times when they are neither expected nor programmed. To be truly funny, one never needs to schedule it.

Your turn: April or con? Why?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Thematic Photographic 331 - Please be seated

Waiting for Godot
London, ON
March 2015
This week's Thematic theme, please be seated, is a rather personal one because I tend to spend more time than I should sitting on chairs. Call it a writer's occupational hazard.

Thankfully I don't have to spend much time in chairs like the one you see here. It was parent-teacher interview night at our kids' school, and as I waited for the final appointment of the night, I found myself facing this rather forlorn-looking scene. It struck me as dimensionally perfect, so plain yet so richly full of detail about what it felt like to be Right There.

Indeed, at various times in our lives we've all been seated out in the hall on an uncomfortable chair, institutional linoleum at our feet, institutional concrete block around us, and institutional fluorescent lights and pock-marked drop-ceilings above us. Within that context, this may be one of the most relatable pics I've shared in a while.

At least that's what I hope the principal was thinking when she busted me.

Your turn: Take a photo that evokes, suggests or merely breathes the name of this week's please be seated theme. Post it to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Already got something online? Share that, too! Head here for more background on Thematic. Visit other participants and come back through the week - we encourage serial sharing. And friends. Because photography is more fun when it's shared.

On mulling over your impact on others

"A life isn't significant except for its impact on other lives."
Jackie Robinson
Which begs the inevitable question: What's your impact on the lives of others?


Saturday, March 28, 2015

The cat who cast a long shadow

10 years ago today, we put our cat down. In a world where millions live in fear and whatever the opposite of freedom is, where children grow up hungry and without hope of breaking the cycle, where good people die young and those who take advantage of others so often seem to escape justice, the life of a cat seems ridiculously trivial indeed. And in virtually all respects, it is.

But he was our cat, and he was a part of our lives for a dozen years. And small memories, however trivial they may seem at first - or even second - glance, still matter in the lives of those who retain them.

We had had Shadow since he was a tiny little thing, and after a late-night escape attempt outside the pound from which we had just adopted him, some tenuous nights spent hiding under the covers hoping he wouldn't claw us in the dark, and a disturbing sequence of broken glass, chewed-up flowers and destroyed furniture, he settled into quite the contented life with us.

He was there when we brought our first munchkin home from the hospital, when we pulled up stakes and moved to London in the dead of winter, when we settled into our new home here and welcomed two more little people into the family. As he imprinted himself on the top of our couch, he also imprinted himself on us.

He taught our kids what it was like to treat others with care, and how to communicate non-verbally. Through him, they learned empathy, patience and gentleness. When he got sick, they learned how precious life is, and ultimately what loss feels like. He was their first real pet, and they continue to carry those early lessons as they continue their own journeys into adulthood.

So, yes, he was a silly cat who wrecked the house, ruined our sleep and drained our wallet. But a decade after we said goodbye, his rather long shadow continues to touch us. And as I look at our kids who were lucky enough to have their "Best Cat" in the house for as long as they did, I can't help but think that they're better people because of him.

On balance, it ended up being a reasonable tradeoff.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

She's a dirty girl

Poor Henrietta has had a tough winter. From a mangled tire to hard-packed snow in the wheel wells and enough -30C cold-cranked starts in the pre-dawn murk, I'm guessing my little wagon is just as happy to see spring as I am.

Considering the state of her rear hatch, I'm guessing a careful washing might be in order. I love Canada and all, but ‎the on-road grime makes me wish we lived in a less messy part of the world.