Saturday, December 31, 2016

The invisible, lifesaving hardware just over our heads

Tight enough?
London, ON
December 2016
I was sitting in the stands of London's Budweiser Gardens at a hockey game the other night. For reasons I don't quite understand, I was bored. And when I get bored, I start looking around for things that interest me. I had my camera on me, and using the zoom (bless the unknown soul who invented this magical optical technology), I surveyed the arena's steel-framed structure overhead.

Eventually, I found this simple detail, a plate of ginormous nuts and bolts connecting two even more ginormous steel girders together. I'm pretty sure no one else in the building gave these much thought, this despite the fact that they made the evening's entertainment possible by keeping the roof exactly where it belonged. Small detail. Often ignored. Oh so important.

I'm not one for grand end-of-year pronouncements and I don't do resolutions. I don't think generic New Year's wishes do much good, either: Better to share kindness every day of the year instead of saving it up for an arbitrary day on the calendar.

But if I were the kind of person who shared platitudes as the clock ticked down to some flashy ball being lowered down a pole by union members in the middle of a comically overcrowded town square, it might look something like this:

This photo captures everything that I've tried to represent not only over the past year, but through the course of my life as I've tried to figure out how this life thing works. Life is busy, chaotic and unpredictable. It's getting faster all the time, and most days you find yourself sitting in the middle of said chaos, trying to find the one thing to focus on, the one thing that'll help you decide where to take your next step. So you look where no one else is looking. You may not see anything at first, but you keep at it. Eventually you find it - don't worry, you know what "it" is when you see it - and if you're lucky, you capture it, and if you're even luckier, you get to share it with others.

In the coming year, I hope you keep looking for those "one thing" things. I hope you find them. And share them. And realize that life really can be as simple as this.

The stuff we ignore along the way

Follow the pipes to oblivion
Toronto, ON
July 2016
Photography is often the domain of the big and the obvious. Big structures. Big events. Big stuff. Along the way, we seemingly forget to look at the smaller, less obvious things. The stuff that's otherwise forgotten or overlooked.

Like these conduits. Or pipes. I can't even tell what they are, but I was fascinated enough by the sight of them as my family and I walked through a long-ish subway corridor that I felt the need to quickly capture them.

So as I have done so often, I lagged behind and shot fast before tucking my smartphone back into my pocket and hustling to catch up.

I doubt most commuters ever bother to look up as they pass underneath. But that doesn't make these any less worthy of being explored with a lens. With that in mind, I'm pretty sure I'll never run out of potential subject matter.

Your turn: What will YOU look at more closely in 2017?

Friday, December 30, 2016

On being exactly where we need to be

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."
Douglas Adams
I thought this was a perfectly reflective quotation to share as we tick down to the end of the year. The more I look at the crazy journey I've had so far, the more I both realize and appreciate that the apparent randomness and unpredictability have been part of the plan all along. I can't imagine being anywhere else in the universe. Nor would I want to.

It's been quite the journey so far, hasn't it?

FWIW, it's always 42.

Waving at cops in cars

The scene: 6:39 a.m. at the corner of Horton and Ridout, just southeast of London's downtown core, between a couple of parking lots and a municipal utility building. The roads are covered in fresh snow as I gently cruise down the hill and ease to a stop at a red light to the right of a police cruiser.

Not that I'm ever careless at the wheel, but I'm being especially careful on this treacherous stretch of road, as I'm guessing that smacking a cop would be a Very Bad Thing.

As we wait for the light to turn green, I look around and realize there's no one else nearby. As much as I'd rather be sleeping at home, there's something poetic about being up, virtually alone, before the rest of the city is stirring. It's a special time of day, and you never quite forget what that feels like.

I peer over to my left and give the officer a smile and a wave. I don't know if he sees my smile - still too dark - but I'm guessing he's smiling, too, as he waves back. A few seconds later, the light changes and we slowly head off on our divergent paths.

It's a small moment between strangers, but one I feel needed to happen. Wherever he's headed, he may or may not end up on the receiving end of a crossbow, or a violent offender, or any number of potentially life-threatening situations. I, on the other hand, am headed to a darkened studio where I'll talk into a microphone for a little while. A bad day for me is when I forget a fact, stumble over a word or two, or struggle with a document, spreadsheet or report. A bad day for this - or any - officer is infinitely worse.

As I cruise the remaining couple of kilometres to the office through the thickening snow, I quietly thank him and his fellow officers for what they do, for choosing to put themselves in harm's way so that I can have an easy drive in to a job I love, then return home to my family in a safe, caring neighbourhood. It doesn't happen by accident, and even if you never get their names because they're separated by a couple of panes of glass on a snowy road, you hope they know how you feel.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On figuring out why we're here

"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
Mark Twain

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The voice that comes out of the TV...

I'm lucky in a whole lot of ways. I have health, an unbelievable wife, three smart, funny and kind kids, a comfortable home in a safe, caring community, good friends and so much more. I also get to do some really neat things at work, including voicing the occasional news promotion for CTV London.

And when my voice magically fills the room while we're watching TV on an otherwise grey and quiet holiday afternoon, my natural reaction is to grab my smartphone and make a really low-quality video of the moment.

And share it via my YouTube channel, of course. Enjoy!

Carrie Fisher has died

The interwebs are exploding with news of the passing of Carrie Fisher at the age of 60. She had been in hospital since suffering a major cardiac event on a flight to Los Angeles last week.

Fisher is, of course, best known for playing Princess Leia in Star Wars, but she went on to become an accomplished author, as well. Whether you were a Star Wars fan or not, it's hard to ignore the impact she had on a certain generation of filmgoers, and the sadness of a life cut short.

This hasn't been a good year for celebrity deaths - David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and a too-long list of others - but we'll leave the statistical analysis of it all for another day. For now, a life devoted to creativity and opening the eyes of others has ended. No matter how brightly a given star may shine, it's always tragic when that light is extinguished.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Thematic Photographic 394 - Landscapes

Free parking
London, ON
December 2016
I took this photo from an elevated position in the parking lot of Masonville Place, a mall located a few minutes away from home. After weeks of shooting close-in and still-life scenes almost exclusively, I thought I'd get up a little higher and look for the bigger picture.

Which brings us to this week's Thematic theme, landscapes.

Your turn: Please share a photo related to this week's theme - landscapes - on your own blog, website or social media account. Or dig into your archives and point us toward something that's already online. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, then visit other participants to spread the visual joy. Repeat as often as you wish. If you're new to this Thematic thing - FWIW, it's our weekly non-competitive photo-sharing activity - just click here and all will be explained.

Pondering Frasier's handiwork

Paw prints
London, ON
December 2016
You're looking at the inside frame of the front door to our house. Rather, you're looking at what's LEFT of it, courtesy of a relentlessly exuberant schnauzer who had a habit of jumping up and clawing the snot out of the defenseless wood. He'd either stand quietly or circle the entryway as I got ready to take our walk, and he'd pounce on the door just as I reached for the handle. Like clockwork.

As you can see, it never stood a chance, and it now serves as a silent reminder of a dog whose presence continues to echo through our home.

Today marks a week since we took him on his final trip to the vet, and I'd be lying if I said those echoes had gotten any less intense in the ensuing days. We think we hear or see him almost constantly, and everyday activities - walking from room to room, reaching for the garbage can, making lunch - are often stopped dead in their tracks when we realize he isn't there. But it felt like he would be. Odd how reality reminds us.

For virtually the entire time he was with us, I would often stare at the door jamb and think I needed to fix it, to fill in his time-worn gouges and repaint the scarred wood the pristine white it once had been. But I figured there was no point in doing so as long as he was still clawing at it a few times per day. Now that the house is quiet, I probably can go ahead and make it whole again, but something is stopping me.

And I'm not the only one: My wife says she can't wash the dining room floor just yet because his dirty paw prints are still there. It's too soon to get rid of the little messes and dents he left behind. Maybe someday, but not just yet.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Icicles - and everything else - are temporary

Phase change
London, ON
December 2016
Click photo to embiggen
Whenever the world spins too quickly for my liking, I tend to seek refuge in words and images. Whether I'm walking around the neighborhood with my camera in hand, or sitting in the gentle pool of light cast by my monitors in the home office, I feel like these simple acts of creativity are enough to keep the chaos at bay, even if only for a short while.

As you might imagine, this has been one of those spin-too-fast weeks, and true to form, I've been reaching for keyboards, cameras and solitude. As part of this almost subconscious ritual, I've been throwing my DSLR camera into my backpack before heading off to work in the morning. While I often take pictures during the day with my smartphone, taking the so-called "real" camera somehow raises the stakes, and forces me to be less flip about the whole process.

Our office is, to put it gently, not the most energy-efficient building in the city. The eaves often sprout huge icicles in between London's regular freeze-thaw cycles, a sign of major heat escaping from the edge of the roofline. I find them endlessly fascinating, and have been telling myself silently for weeks that I should bring the camera in. Because they can change or disappear in a blink - and then we'd have nothing tangible to mark the fact that they existed.

This was the week, and every day around midday I'd pull the Nikon out of my bag and head for the windows. The skies were defiantly grey every time I tried, but I still did my best to bring home at least a shot or two that reflected what I was feeling when I tripped the shutter.

The world can be a dark, frightening place. But if you always know where your comfort zone is, and have the wherewithal to put yourself there whenever you need to, chances are you'll find the light soon enough.

Your turn: What - or where - is your comfort zone?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Canine muscle memory

A day in the life
London, ON
November 2016
It's been a few days since we lost our pup, Frasier, and I still find myself falling into habits that had slowly sealed themselves into my brain over the course of almost a decade:
  • I automatically reach toward the end of our bed every time I walk past, half-expecting that he'll be there.
  • I watch the clock every evening, wondering when we'll have to grab the leash and head out for our meandering walk through the neighborhood. He was, as it turns out, a very precise timekeeper.
  • I open and close the cupboard below the kitchen sink - the one where we keep the garbage bin - and find it so empty without the baby lock on it. We had to babyproof the house because he was such a freaking garbage-picker. Now, it's an annoyance I strangely miss.
  • When I leave the house, I look back down the hall because that's where he would stand and stare at us as we prepared to leave. I'd often get out of the house late because I found it endlessly fun to try to talk him into walking over to me for one last hug before I left. He was pretty good at the staring thing, and I always wondered what he was thinking.
  • I look for his face in the front window when I arrive home, and wait for him to come charging down the front walk, body quivering as if he hasn't seem me in years.
I share these vignettes not because I find them depressing. Quite the contrary, memories like this make me glad we were able to experience them at all. He added incalculable joy to our lives and managed to help us become kinder, more empathetic people - and that doesn't just go away now that he's gone. I guess I'm writing this before the sun comes up in a silent home because I don't want to lose these seemingly routine memories to history, because I want to bundle them up somehow and carry them forward. Maybe it's a writer thing, but it makes me feel a little better.

I also share these moments not because I'm now immersed in some sort of endless, hopeless period of mourning, but because I feel I need to put this loss into some kind of broader perspective. I've seen folks who've lost pets prattle on endlessly, mostly in Facebook, about the ruins their lives have become now that Fido the dog (or Skittles the cat, or even Nemo the fish or Sparkles the rabbit) is gone (note to self: In 2017, spend less time reading my Facebook news feed.) I'm not going to tear my clothes to shreds and build a makeshift shrine of 242 candles in a room festooned with dog-eared prints of every picture we ever took of him. With apologies to other folks who've owned and lost pets: I lost my dad and my wife lost her mom. They're not in the same league.

But at the same time, we're still sad. We still find ourselves looking for him, listening for him, feeling for him in a dark room, only to realize he isn't there anymore. We still find the silence in the house somewhat jarring to the soul. We still look inwards with just a little self-doubt, hoping that everything we did for him was, in the end, enough. I'd like to think it was, and that if given another chance, we wouldn't change a thing.

Thanks for the indulgence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On focusing kindness toward others

"The most worthwhile thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others."
Robert Baden-Powell
It's been a brutal week (see here for at least part of the why), so when this quotation popped into my inbox, it seemed to burrow itself more deeply into my psyche than it perhaps normally would.

Your turn: What's the one thing that you'll do today to put happiness into the lives of others? It can be big, it can be small, it can be pretty much anything you wish. But I hope it'll be something, and I hope you'll share it here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

When a dog's life ends

London, ON
December 2016
It was a sad day in our house today, as this morning we put our dog, Frasier, down*.

He had had diabetes for more than half of his 10 years on this planet, and while we were able to stay ahead of it since the day he was diagnosed, his liver had other plans starting this weekend, and he very quickly deteriorated until the point where taking that last drive with him to Dr. Tom was the right thing to do.

He was a rescue dog, and after a tumultuous start with a family that to this day I cannot judge, but hope they never again are entrusted with an animal, fate smiled on him - and us - and brought him to our family. We taught this crazy Miniature Schnauzer to walk on a leash, to sort of listen to the occasional command, and to trust us completely. What we didn't need to teach him was to bark, to cuddle when he knew we were troubled and we needed him to cuddle, and to endear himself to everyone he met.

Sure, I'm biased, but he was a sweet, kind, wonderful little being who permanently embedded himself into the very fabric of our family. He always knew who needed him most, whether he was hugging you with his paws, putting his head on your shoulders like Finnegan the dog (Mr. Dressup fans will know), shoving his little body into yours while you slept or sat, or simply staring at you when he knew you didn't want to be alone. He got us.

All day long I've heard his echo around every corner in the house, and I don't know how long it'll take until I stop wondering when he'll materialize in front of me or when I'll get used to that empty spot at the end of the bed when the house gets quiet at night. Indeed, it's the quiet that seems so odd, and as much as I appreciated not having to hold my breath this afternoon during a live radio interview from my home office that he'd freak out in the middle, the breath-holding was part of what made him so lovable. He was unpredictable, loud, messy, expensive and frankly borderline insane. But, God, I loved him.

I appreciate that he was a dog - and this isn't on the same scale as losing a human family member. Yet he indelibly coloured those experiences as well, helping us grieve after we lost my father and Debbie's mom. His mark on every chapter of our family's life mattered, and he made the tougher chapters somehow easier to bear.

As much as losing him hurts, and as disturbed as the rhythm of our family is by his absence, I keep reflecting on the singular reality of dog ownership: That their relatively brief lifespan means they'll always leave us. That getting a dog makes losing him or her someday an inevitability. We deliberately set ourselves up for wrenching days like this. Yet I wouldn't change a thing, because I'd rather have and lose than never have in the first place. Because I can't imagine life without a dog. I guess that makes me a dog person. So be it.

He also made our kids better people. After we first brought him home, they quickly took to the routine responsibilities of owning and caring for him. They fed him, made sure he always had enough water, and played with him until he was exhausted. And then played some more.

But it was after his diagnosis that our kids came into their own. They learned how to give him his needles, setting precise alarms and texting each other and us to ensure everyone always knew what had been done, and what needed to be done. We never worried about missing a shot or mis-timing a meal: They had it covered. They just knew. Their words today, shared on Facebook, continue to bring me to tears:

Zach:  It's not gonna be the same without you greeting me at the door every day.

DahliaRescuing you was the best thing we've ever done, Frasier. You taught us about unconditional love, kindness, responsibility and so much more. You truly were the best dog and my best friend. You were so cute and had the sweetest, funniest personality. Saying goodbye to you was the hardest thing I've ever had to do but I know that you are no longer suffering. You were and will always be a part of our family. I hope there's lots of Kleenex for you to chew up there, buddy. We love you and we'll miss you so much, Frasie Boo.

NoahYou'll always be my little guy. I'll miss everything about you. Rescuing you when you were just 8 months old was the best decision our family ever made. You made us happy just as much as we made you. I love you Frasier

I could not be more proud of how they took this scruffy pile of quivering fur and made him their own, of how they found ways to communicate with him despite the obvious fact that dogs don't speak English and humans don't speak dog. Yet he always knew what they were up to, and watching the three of them with him was one of those powerful joys of parenthood that won't ever fade. He made them better people.

More often than I dare admit, I'd hold him and whisper in his radar-dish ears three simple words, "Know you're loved." I wanted him to know that despite his tough start, we loved him unconditionally. My wife and I would always ask each other if he knew he was loved, and inevitably we'd conclude he did. In spades. At the same time, he had a funny habit of giving us far more than we ever gave him, and for that we're forever grateful.

We love you, Frasier Herschel. We're unspeakably sad you're no longer with us, but just as unspeakably happy to have had you at all. May your memory always be a blessing to us, and to everyone whose lives you touched.

Related posts:
The family grows by one (his first day with us, when we thought he was black)
The difference a day makes (a much prettier pup emerged after his beloved groomer, Jean, worked on him for hours)
A boy and his dog (when his human brother got sick)
4 weeks on (early learnings)
They'll always be puppies (his dog-buddy, Hudson)
His master's foot (when he hovered over Zach's broken leg)
Puppies don't get sick, do they? (his diagnosis)
A director is born (his movie debut)
All Act of Dog-labelled entries

* See Debbie's Facebook entry for more.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Dirty, dirty bread

Not for resale
London, ON
September 2016
Thematic. Dirty. Here.
Not too long ago, I was grocery shopping with my lovely wife when I came across this forlorn loaf of bread. Someone couldn't hold on tightly enough as he/she tried to get it out of the bulk display cases just above this scene. That same someone obviously never believed in cleaning up after him/herself, either.

So I thought an impromptu photo shoot was in order before I sent this never-to-be-eaten loaf on its merry way.

Your turn: What's your favorite type of bread? I'm partial to challah (aka egg bread) partly because of the taste, but mostly because of what it means to me and my family. What about you?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Please don't call me at 5:49 a.m.

I work weird hours, often getting up well before dawn to write my pitches or do interviews. A lot of it depends on the news cycle: When a big story breaks, chances are I'll be setting my alarm a little - or a lot - earlier than usual.

Today was one of those days. Late yesterday the interwebs exploded after Yahoo announced hackers had stolen information from upwards of 1 billion accounts. You'll recall that just three months ago the company admitted a separate breach put data from 500 million user accounts in hackers' hands. It was a big story not just in tech, but everywhere.

My phone rang and my inbox overflowed all the way home from the office, and well into the evening. I booked a bunch of interviews for oh-dark-stupid, set my alarm for oh-dark-stupid-minus-30-minutes, then put my head down for a three-hour nap. Yes, I lead an incredibly glamorous life.

After the alarm launched me ot of bed, I tiptoed downstairs in my brightly colored and patterned jammies and worked the story from my home office. Then as the sun rose I headed into the real office (after putting on real clothes, of course) to officially join the 9-to-5 crowd. When I got to the office, I peeked at my phone to double-check that I hadn't missed anything along the way. There was a voicemail from 5:49 a.m. that I rather naively figured was from one of my producers. My eyebrows almost hit the roof when I listened to it.

It wasn't from a producer. It was from a complete stranger. From Montreal. She heard I was going to be on the radio there, and CALLED me.

At 5:49 a.m.

Because she couldn't log into her Yahoo account.

And asked me to call her as soon as possible.

Let's take a breath, shall we? In what world would ANYONE call a COMPLETE STRANGER before the freaking CRACK OF DAWN because she's having trouble logging into her webmail account?

Did I miss a memo somewhere? Have I been subscribing to now-obsolete conventions of what is and is not considered acceptable messaging behavior? Did it suddenly become OK to call anyone - let alone someone you've never met - after 11 p.m. or before 9 a.m.? Do we not know how to send email or text messages instead?

Since when is your need to read the Best Buy flyer in your inbox more important than my need to, oh I don't know, sleep or otherwise not have my phone go off in the middle of the night? Seriously, what am I missing here?

With apologies to this boundary-challenged individual, the only people who are calling me at that hour are folks who are either directly related to me or are such close friends that they may as well be related to me. And the only reason they'd be calling me is because somebody died. Full stop.

As it turned out, I was on-air when the call hit my phone. I always turn on the Do Not Disturb setting before I do anything live, so it went straight to voicemail. If I hadn't been on-air, it would have gone off in my silent bedroom. Think of the fun we would have had if that had played out.

In the cold light of day, I listened to the full message, left by someone clearly agitated that she couldn't log into her Yahoo email account. I feel her pain - it sucks when technology doesn't work - but this is one message I won't be returning. I get dozens of phone calls, email messages, Facebook posts, tweets and text messages every week asking for tech assistance. I get that my role makes me a bit of a magnet for this kind of thing. I do what I can, but also have to draw some hard lines because if I say yes to everything then it'll quickly become a 24/7/365 thing.

Do I feel guilty? A bit. But at the same time, I'm not sure it's fair for me to be an always-on helpdesk for anyone who can't seem to get his/her technology to work.

There's a very hard line being drawn here. And a 5:49 a.m. phone call isn't going to change my mind anytime soon.

Your turn: How would you respond to a middle-of-the-night call from a stranger? Go nuts!

Related entries:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

On ideas, showers, and action

"Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference."
Nolan Bushnell
When the guy responsible for bringing us Pong, Atari and Chuck E. Cheese's speaks, I do my best to listen. Fascinating guy.

Your turn: Who fascinates you?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Thematic Photographic 393 - Dirty

Alone in a downtown alley
London, ON
November 2016
The world is a dirty place. I don't say that negatively, and I don't believe that this needs to be resolved in any way. A little grit under the fingernails can be character-building, after all.

As I walked back to my car through a darkened downtown core a few weeks ago, I found myself thinking about dirt, and how it seemed to define the fabric of this often-maligned place. I think I need to come back here more often.

Your turn: Take a pic that reflects this week's theme - dirty - and post it to your blog, website or other online "spot". Remember, how you interpret the theme is entirely up to you - Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it, and be sure to visit other participants. Bonus points if you share the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag on social media. Head here for more background on Thematic. And don't forget to have fun with it. Because fun is what this is all about.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

On questions and answers

"I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned."
Richard Feynman
He may have been the eminent theoretical physicist of his time, but he had a certain way with words, as well. Something to ponder given where the planet finds itself today.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

One dozen donuts in a box

So good, yet so bad
London, ON
November 2016

For more colorful Thematic, head here
Yes, yes, I know how unhealthy these can be. Filled with all sorts of nasty substances and completely devoid of anything remotely nutritious. I'll admit there's a reasonable chance I consumed one of these immediately after taking this photo. In my defence, I rode my bike home that day, and I took an extra loop around the neighborhood along the way. A guilt loop, if you will.

In spite of the nutritional disaster playing out in the pixels above, I'm still glad this temporary scene-in-a-box crossed my journey on an otherwise uneventful afternoon. Because there's something to be said for capturing the otherwise uneventful, and for taking the time to wonder about what else lurks below the radar of conventionality that tends to govern our day-to-day lives.

Your turn: Which one would you eat? Why?

Monday, December 05, 2016

Thematic Photographic 392 - Colors of the rainbow

Ripe for the taking
London, ON
November 2016
As I left the house for work today, I felt blanketed by the steel-grey sky overhead, the dark clouds gathering steam on the western horizon and the general sense of gloom that's been painting life a relentless shade of monochrome for the better part of the past few weeks.

By midday, the sun peeked out for a few minutes and painted the landscape an entirely different set of vibrant shades, but it was strictly temporary, and the sky was soon once again covered up with a thick layer of color-robbing cloud.

Which spawned an idea: Let's use photography to inject some color into an otherwise color-challenged season. It's out there, only it's up to our creativity to find it. Yes, I am just that much of an optimist.

Which brings us to this week's Thematic theme...

Your turn: Take a photo that supports this week's theme, colors of the rainbow. Post it to your blog, website, social media presence or anywhere else you might hang out online. Or find a pic you've already posted - whatever's easiest. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, and drop by other participants, too. Feel free to share again throughout the week. If you're new to Thematic, here's the lowdown. Thanks for keeping the colors flowing at a time of year when it isn't always as colorful as we'd like it to be.

On sharpening our senses

"The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."
W.B. Yeats

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A dog, a phone, and what it takes to feel secure

Riding shotgun
London, ON
October 2016
Having a dog in the family means ritual is king. The cadence of the day is set in stone, from mealtimes and walks to playtime and, in Frasier's case, managing his insulin shots and every other requirement of a diabetic furball. Even leaving the house is a process, and what I take with me before we step out the door is as preordained as the dance he does when his internal clock tells him it's time to head out.

Some might call this mundane. I call it comforting, the soothing order of things that are more felt than said. We may not speak a common language, but in those familiar moments inside the front door as we get ready for our walks, I feel strangely connected to this little guy, as if we understand each other in ways that extend well beyond mere language.

One of my must-haves before we take a walk is my smartphone. I suppose that's an obvious one given what I do. But there's more to it, because I take it everywhere with me not because I want to fiddle with it while we're out - it typically stays, ignored, deep in my pocket, because you only get so many dog-walks in life - but because I'm afraid to be without it. After my run-in with the universe - click here if you're just joining us - I became fearful of being cut off, of not having a lifeline, of something happening and no one else knowing.

For the longest time, I wouldn't lock doors behind me. I still text my wife to let her know when I leave and when I get there. After I recovered and started venturing back into the real world, on my first solo trip by train to Toronto for meetings - a mere two hours east of here - I spent the day freaked out that my phone battery would somehow fail before I got back.

So imagine my surprise when we got a couple of blocks away from home before I realized my pocket was empty. My first reaction was a skipped heartbeat as it dawned on me that we were completely on our own. Sure, we were seven minutes away from the house, but it still felt impossibly far away.

As I fought the urge to scoop Frasier up and double-time it back home, I began to wonder why I had been so set in my ways up until this day, why I felt every moment had to be experienced with a fully charged smartphone always within arm's reach. And why that had all changed simply because I ripped an artery in my neck.

I stopped myself from panicking on the sidewalk, and continued walking away from home, along the path we originally intended to take. Eventually we got home. Nothing happened, of course, and the next night the phone somehow didn't make it into my pocket before we headed out.

I'll always wonder whether or not I need it, always pause when I think about what may or may not happen when I'm on my own, away from home. But the seemingly trivial fact I'm now willing to head out the door without an electronic tether every once in a while, that slight modification to my once-inviolable "rules of flight", seems to resonate more in my head than it probably should.

I guess run-ins with the universe come with their own rules, and it's perfectly fine if we spend endless amounts of time afterward trying to figure them out.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thematic Photographic 391 - Repetitive

Woodbridge, ON
November 2016
For as long as I can remember, I've looked for stories in the shadows, the places where no one else would willingly look. I don't fully understand why, but I suspect it has something to do with discovering stuff no one else saw. Or thought of. Or bothered with.

I recall when I was a kid, wandering down dim, empty hospital corridors long past bedtime and thinking I was the only person on the planet who was watching the airplanes fly over the city from This Very Spot. Or who got to ride the elevators for hours without getting caught. It was an environment rich in unconventional stimuli, and as visiting parents left for home and an institutional quiet slowly settled on the kids who were left behind in the pediatric ward for the night, I waited carefully for the moment when I could slip my six-year-old self unnoticed out of bed and onto the brilliantly waxed floors just outside the door to my room, ready to explore this enormous collection of buildings, not so much afraid of the uncertainty as excited at the possibilities.

If only I could do the same today, but with a camera.

Which is probably why, no matter where I find myself, I like to take little time-outs from whatever I'm doing to point my lens at things that normally wouldn't merit a photo, much less a few paragraphs of writing. Like these lockers at a bowling alley. The place was packed, with boisterous groups of people enjoying a curiously addictive night of flinging a heavy ball down a slickly waxed wooden lane and hoping against hope that it would knock down a bunch of pins. It was a happy place, with skilled players easily mixing with the morons like me who could barely keep their balls out of the gutters.

And yet my eye kept wandering to the badly lit room way down in a forgotten corner stuffed floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall with the square lockers you see here. No one used them for the entire time we were there, which made me wonder if anyone ever came here. I was reminded of similarly forlorn lockers I'd seen at other bowling alleys rather far away, and couldn't shake the feeling that I needed a picture to remember the moment.

Your turn: Take a picture that reflects, supports or otherwise evokes this week's theme, repetitive. Share it on your blog, website, social media presence or wherever you wish, then pop back here and leave a comment letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy, and feel free to post again through the week if the spirit moves you. Additional instructions on how Thematic works may be found here. But whether you're a veteran or a newbie, all that matters is that you enjoy the journey. Happy shooting!

On the enormous power of small gestures

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
Leo Buscaglia
So over to you: What will you do today to make that small - rather, not-so-small - different in someone's life?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thematic Photographic 390 - Out for a walk

No parking here
London, ON
November 2016
This week's Thematic theme, Out for a walk, is a little different than our usual theme. It doesn't describe what appears in front of the lens. Rather, it revolves around when we take the shot. And if it's a picture you took while out for a walk, then I'm hoping you'll share it here.

This particular scene presented itself to me as I walked back to my car late Friday night. It struck me as unbearably sad-looking, a lost relic of another time. Automation is increasingly rendering these forlorn structures obsolete, but for some reason the booths themselves remain in place, the sight of an actual human parking attendant inside an increasing rarity.

I shot a few quick pics before continuing on my way, wary of the inebriated bar-hoppers staggering down the street nearby. I woke up the next morning to news there had been a shooting barely two blocks away from where I took this picture. Maybe it's just as well that real-live human beings no longer work here.

Your turn: Shoot something you've taken while out for a walk, then post it to your blog or website (or Facebook, or Tumblr, or wherever...) then pop over here and leave a comment to let everyone know where to find it. Check back through the week to see what everyone else is up to, and be sure to follow other participants' links home to share in the fun of it all. If you're new to the Thematic thing, head over here for the rules, such as they are. And please accept my sincere thanks for making this such a special touchpoint every week.

On Andy Rooney and the average dog

"The average dog is a nicer person than the average person."
Andy Rooney
I miss Mr. Rooney's 60 Minutes segments largely because the man himself always managed to take the most mundane observations of daily life and turn them into pointed assessments of the human condition. He always made us look inward, and I wish the world had more creative types like him.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Thematic Photographic 389 - Drink up

An occasional, less-than-healthy treat
Laval, QC
October 2016
Everyone's hometown comes with its own set of culinary baggage, a seemingly random assortment of dishes that instantly make you feel at home and give ex-pats something to complain about when they're far from where they grew up.

It's rare that a defining dish is particularly healthy, and Montreal's buffet of iconic foods and drinks is no different. From smoked meat to bagels-lox-and-cream cheese, it's no wonder this city is a mecca not only for native foodies, but for the cardiologists who'll need to treat them afterward.

As I now live in a place that seemingly has no local flavours to call its own, every trip back to Montreal is an excuse to indulge, if only for a few days, in the tastes that defined our upbringing and continue to make this place special.

This explains my little freakout when I realized the otherwise forgettable food court restaurant we had stopped at in the megamall near our old neighborhood served black cherry. Now, carbonated drinks aren't really my thing - not especially good for you, and the fizz is more than a little annoying - but black cherry seems to live in its own unique little world, and as weird as it sounds, I'll make an exception whenever I can find some.

Which isn't often, because it's one of those highly regionalized flavors that's almost impossible to find if you don't happen to live in the right region. Well, this was the right region, and I pounced on the opportunity when I saw it beneath the glass.

Of course, a little impromptu shooting session was called for. I'm so damn predictable.

Your turn: Take a pic - or many pics - reflective of this week's theme, Drink Up, then share on your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to keep the fun going, and repeat through the week if inspiration strikes again. For more background on how Thematic works, click here.

Take the long way home

Alone in the woods
London, ON
November 2016
It's been a better-than-average biking season this year. The weather and other circumstances allowed me to spend more than my fair share of time spinning the pedals through the countryside around London, and I got in lots of commuting miles - oops, kilometres - shuttling the pink wondermachine to and from the office and various studios.

On this late November afternoon, I left the office and pointed my front wheel toward the setting sun. I could have taken the direct route, instead. But looping wide before turning for home seemed like the right thing to do on this perfect day. As I cruised west on the Springbank Park section of London's bike path network, the leaves crunching in a near-musical cadence under my tires, the textures of the fallen branches and other autumn leftovers gently making their presence known through the handlebars, I idly wondered how many more moments like this I'd have before the winter closed in. Not a whole lot, if history is any indicator.

So I pulled over and snapped a few pictures - not because they're particularly spectacular (thanks to the fading light, they aren't) but because I wanted to have something to look back on as inspiration for those long winter days when the world is covered in white and grey and the bikes are tucked safely in the basement.

I don't ride through the winter. I suppose I could haul out the beater bike with its big, knobby tires. Or I could get a fat-bike and keep rolling all year long. As dedicated to cycling as I've always been, though, I'm not that dedicated. Snow and ice don't strike me as particularly conducive to safe riding. Every time I see a cyclist emerge from the Dante-esque fog of a lake-effect blizzard, I quietly wish him or her safe passage and smile at the gumption it must take to saddle up in these conditions. But I also do the math in my head, the calculations that conclude, for me. at least, that the possibility of an accident in marginal conditions simply doesn't justify it.

Which explains why I've been more pensive than usual of late. I drink in each ride, trying to remember what it feels like to be out there, because any one of them could be the last of the season. I've been lucky so far, but that luck will soon run out. And when it does, I'll have these pixels to look at, to hold my attention, to inspire me until the sun returns in a few months and whispers that it's time to roll out once more.

Your turn: How do photos inspire you?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

On kindness and Sandra Boynton

"True kindness is not a superficial and occasional thing - it is profound and essential, and requires vigilance."
Sandra Boynton
Sandra Boynton has been my favorite children's author since before we even had kids. If you haven't bounced around the room to Barnyard Dance or done emphatic farm animal impressions to Moo, Baa, La La La! then you've missed out on one of the elemental joys of literary life.

While she is a multitalented author whose work on the surface seems to be aimed at kids, it's the underlying message in everything she does that seems to grab adults, too, as she sears herself into their permanent memories.

And so it is that I woke up this morning to news that today, November 13, 2016, is World Kindness Day. We all know what kind of week this planet has had, and what kinds of weeks, months and years lay ahead. So her words stopped me dead in my tracks as I idly scrolled through my feeds on my iPad over breakfast.

They're words to live by, today and every day, and I hope they, too, go on to become permanent memories for us all.

Your turn: How do you share kindness?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump can't hold a candle to this tree

Like many others, I've spent much of this week processing the results of Tuesday's U.S. presidential election. Never mind that I'm Canadian and this technically isn't my thing. The reality is it's everyone's thing no matter where we live, and the ripples of a seismic socio-cultural-political shift like the one we're now witnessing know no borders.

So if I'm a little subdued over the next little while, I hope you'll understand.

In the meantime, I found this tree. Or rather, this photo of a tree that I shot last week. I've been staring at it for a while, not because it's a particularly unique tree - it isn't. Rather, it's the story of time, and the fact that this tree's timeline differs from ours somewhat radically.

I'm going to guess this tree's been around for a half-century, give or take. I'm also going to guess that many of the much taller trees that surround it are well into the three-figured range.

They were here well before Tuesday, and hopefully they'll be here well after it, as well.

I have nothing more profound to add on top of that, but I can't shake the feeling that a closer appreciation of this tree's lifespan and life trajectory might help put Tuesday's events into a more digestible historical perspective. Time has a funny way of changing the way we see things, doesn't it?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

On democracy and dictatorship

"Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear."
Alan Coren

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

On democracy and getting what we deserve

"Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."
George Bernard Shaw

President Trump, some technology, and my dog

I'm addicted to screens
London, ON
November 2016
I'm sitting here in my darkened living room, my face lit only by the glow of the array of screens you see in the photo above. I call this my command centre, and I've been using this pile of technology on my dining room table for going on 8 hours as I live-update the social media feeds for work* (and sneak in some of my own social messaging, too.)

Like we did during the debates, election night here in Levyland was a family affair. The kids watched the coverage on the big TV, and of course were glued to their smartphones as they live-Snapchatted, Instagrammed and WhatsApped the proceedings with each other and their friends. This is what engagement looks like in 2016, and it was a joy to watch.

The dog figured prominently, as he always does, with the kids routinely stopping what they were doing to pick him up, cuddle him, speak to him, and otherwise breathe in his dogness. At one point, I tweeted a moment that he triggered by simply walking over to me.

Eventually, my wife and kids headed up to bed, while the dog curled himself into a ball on the couch, where he remains. Every once in a while, I find myself staring over at him as he not-so-quietly snores through another dog-dream.

As jarring as tonight's results have been to so many people on so many levels - and let's be clear, the world just became a less predictable, more frightening place - I keep looking over to him.

I'm not entirely sure why, but it brings me comfort. Because, just as I noted earlier this evening, he has no idea what's going on in the big bad world.

When I walked him through the wet, leafy neighbourhood earlier this eve, I could almost feel the electricity in the air. History-making days have a tendency to do that: Things slow down, feel quieter, more resonant. Small details present themselves, almost asking to be mentally recorded in psychological high-def.

Yet to the happy schnauzer bouncing himself through the piles of wet leaves, none of that mattered. As he followed his nose from one tree trunk to another, it must have seemed like any other night. He was simply happy to be outside, happy to be exploring his neighbourhood, happy to simply be.

Tomorrow morning, some people will wake up feeling it's the dawn of a new political era, while others will feel it's the dawn of a new dark age. Frasier will wake up and as he always does after he shakes off the cobwebs of another good night's sleep, look for his humans and squish himself into wherever we happen to be. He'll bark beside the pantry door until we feed him, then paw the patio door until we let him out to explore the yard. In short, just another day for him.

Maybe I should look through the world through his eyes. Maybe it's overly simplistic of me to even think along these lines. But when the world zigs instead of zags, I can't imagine navigating whatever comes next without this little guy firmly ensconced in the very centre of our family.

Your turn: Where do you seek comfort?

* Here's where to find the social media accounts where all this ended up:

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

On Honest Abe's thoughts on elections

"Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters."
Abraham Lincoln

Monday, November 07, 2016

Thematic Photographic 388 - Abstract

Life in all its forms
London, ON
November 2016
Not everything we see around us is real. Or perhaps it's real, but we don't see it as it originally was.

Consider this: Light moves at around 186,000 miles per second, so what we see is actually what it looked like at some point in the incredibly recent past. And as the light zips through space to where we're standing, it goes through any number of filters - air, pollution, radiated heat, that bottle of half-finished apple juice - that play all sorts of games with the original perspective.

And once it hits your eyes, the fun is just beginning. Because how your brain processes it adds another layer of uniqueness to the proceedings. Given the physical, biological, chemical and mental processes involved in seeing things and understanding what we're seeing, it's a wonder we can make out anything at all.

So when I saw this reflected scene in the slowly flowing waters of London's Thames River, I thought about all the tiny machinations of the universe that brought that scene, that intangible, fleeting two-dimensional representation, to the very spot where I happened to be standing.

Although I probably could have spent hours mulling it over, I instead metered and composed the shot, then squeezed off the shutter. Sometimes, it pays to think less and shoot more.

Your turn: Take a pic that supports this week's theme, Abstract. Share it on your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy. Tweet it out using the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag, and feel free to return through the week: multiples are always welcome. For more info on how Thematic works, click here. Enjoy, and thanks!

Shooting the magic mushroom

Mushroom on the forest floor
London, ON
November 2016
The scene: I'm wandering the Sifton Bog boardwalk with our daughter, looking for fleeting glimpses of autumn color before they disappear for good. There isn't much to be had in this otherwise remarkable place, the once-brilliant leaves now lying in a brownish mess on the floor of the swampy land on either side of us.

The narrow boardwalk at first annoys me - no room for people to squeeze by, and I'm always worried about toppling into the bog on either side - but then I slowly realize it was likely by design, to force strangers to slow down, acknowledge each other not in silent disconnectedness, but in polite discussion with new friends we meet along the way.

Dahlia spots a circular patch of red beside a tree. A mushroom. She leans in for a closer look, careful to avoid stepping onto the sensitive forest floor. As she hovers over her find, an elderly couple approaches from the other way and the lady - she was very much a lady, with a kind, deliberate lilt to her voice - asks what Dahlia's looking at. She explains, and both she and her husband crack huge smiles at this small discovery.

This lovely lady in the black wool coat and hand-knitted hat explains how her fading eyesight makes it difficult to make things out anymore. Still, she doesn't want to miss a thing, and asks Dahlia what she sees, and whether she's getting any good pictures of it.

The woman then asks Dahlia if she'd mind taking a picture of it for her. Of course, she says. So the lady removes an iPhone from her coat pocket and hands it to our daughter.

I stand quietly back and watch my daughter carefully and kindly interact with these very sweet people. I want to explain to them just how accomplished a photographer she is, but I resist the urge to play Proud Dad just this once. She's doing just fine on her own.

She gets down on the boardwalk and deftly composes and shoots a few pictures before handing her back her phone. It wasn't what the both of them said, but how they said it, that made me realize how profoundly touched this couple was that a complete stranger would take pictures for them.

You remember many things as a parent. This moment has just been added to the list.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Wondering what ducks think about

One thoughtful bird
London, ON
November 2016
The day dawned bright and warm yesterday, the kind of day that makes you double-check the calendar before leaving the house because certainly we shouldn't be wearing shorts in November.

Our daughter, who now studies photography in college and has become a master of light in her own right, had been wanting to take one last autumn-color-themed photowalk with me for a few weeks now. After some unexpected road-tripping derailed our plans, we thought we had missed the best of the season by the time we found some common open time yesterday.

We were wrong.

I originally posted this picture to Facebook (here) and Instagram (here), but somewhere along the way the technical gremlins stripped it down to a pixellated mess that looked more Kodak Brownie than Nikon. I'm thinking it has something to do with the fact that I shared it out of Flickr (here's the original), so I probably have some technical tweaking to do before I try a direct-upload again.

Software/web service gremlins aside, it was an amazing day to be out on the trail. We explored London's Sifton Bog and Springbank Park, shooting as much as we could before the sun dipped below the treeline. While I spent most of the time watching her do her optical thing, I managed to capture a few pixels along the way.

At one point, we met this rather large duck - at least we THOUGHT it was a duck - and he (she? I'm no duck expert, aside from making a really good duck call when those "Windows Department" scammers call, but I digress) seemed to be posing for us.

I'm thrilled with the pics we brought home (I've shared the full album here), but I'm even more thankful that I got to spend some quiet time together with our daughter. It's a simple thing, really, but when you think of it, the simple things matter more than anything else.

Our next photowalk likely won't be filled with autumn colors, but that's never the point, anyway. It almost doesn't matter what we shoot, as long as we take the time to get out there. I hope you get the chance to do the same.

Your turn: Tell us about a time you took the time to smell the proverbial roses.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Chasing the sun home

See you tomorrow
London, ON
November 2016
We're in the waning days of biking season, where blankets of wet leaves coat the bike paths and sing a not-so-subtle song under your tires that you'd better slow down and enjoy the view.

At the same time, earlier sunsets mean less time to get home before darkness settles in and accident rates skyrocket. No more carefree extended rides after work: These days, on days that aren't grey with torrential autumn rains and high winds, we simply point the bike home and ride with even greater care and focus.

So I didn't really have a lot of time to play with the other night as I rolled home. I was already pushing the timeline, as I had left the office a bit late (what else is new?) and I had rather stupidly decided to take the longer way home. I figured I'm running out of days to enjoy this particular stretch of riverside bike path, so why not?

I'm like that. Occasionally impetuous. Because I don't want to miss one last chance to drink in a moment. Even if it means fighting a darkening sky later on.

As I approached the lovely pedestrian bridge that marks the path's midway point, I noticed a bunch of people just hanging around with their phones and cameras. Time be damned, I stopped to be among them. Because how many sunsets do we get in a lifetime, anyway?

I lingered for a bit. I took this picture, as well as a few others. I tried to remember what it felt like to stand on this welcoming structure, in this welcoming place. By the time I rolled into my neighborhood a half-hour later, the street lights were on. I thought about the silliness of being late because a sunset beckoned, then dismissed the thought as I wondered about days spent never looking at the sun at all.

I'll be back on my bike today, and already I hope the sky puts on a similar show on the way home. I can't imagine what it must feel like to miss out on moments like these.

Your turn: Do you ever throw your schedule off in the pursuit of an otherwise trivial moment? Why is it worth it to you?

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Do you celebrate a birthday after someone dies?

Today's my dad's birthday. Or it would have been, as he passed away just over 7 years ago. Whenever November 2nd rolls around, I often wonder what an appropriate response to the day might be. Do I mark the occasion in some way? Or do I simply let it slip past without a mention?

Lots of questions, and I honestly have no answers. I don't know what's considered right or not right, and I've learned since we first got that awful call that there's no right or not right in the entire grieving process. Everyone navigates it differently, and we all do whatever we feel we need to do to get through it.

Mind you, you're never really through it, either. It pops back into your head at the most unexpected of times. It irrevocably changes the direction of our lives - sometimes subtly, sometimes more obviously. This isn't in and of itself a negative thing. It just is. Another wave in the ocean of life, if you will, and it's up to us to just ride the thing and see where it takes us.

Maybe after 7 years I should stop fretting over whether I'm doing the "right" thing and just be glad that I'm still here, and still have the capacity, to wonder about these things at all. Maybe "celebrate" needs a new definition, one that extends beyond the narrow-band view of birthday cake and candles, to something a little more reflective of a life well lived. If the day brings me a good memory or two - and it has - then perhaps I should simply close my eyes for a bit and enjoy it for what it is. Everything else is a distraction.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Thematic Photographic 387 - Where I Shop

Our old stomping grounds
Dollard-des-Ormeaux, QC
October 2016
This is Yagel Bagel. It's the bakery at the edge of the neighbourhood where we used to live. Our son was two years-old when we sold the house and pointed the car west, so it hasn't been a part of our reality in a very long time. But memory is a funny thing in its ability to pull you back no matter how many years have slipped into history.

I remember walking the munchkin here in his stroller for bagels on Sunday morning. Heck, it's where I picked up a danish - a chocolate babka - on little man's first drive home from the hospital. Our house was just a few blocks thataway, and I have no words to describe what it felt like to open the door on a cold winter's morning. Indeed, on this morning as my wife and I prepared for the long drive back to London, returning here for some last-minute fixins that Ontarians will never fully appreciate seemed like the right thing to do. And it still felt like home.

Your turn: Pick or take a photo that reflects this week's theme, Where I Shop, and post it to your blog (or website, or Facebook page or Twitter or wherever else you like to hang out.) Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it, then pop over to other participants to share in the fun. Repeat as often as you wish, as this theme will be live for the next week. For more background on how Thematic works, please click here. And if at all possible, don't get yourself kicked out of the store :)

On knowing the limits of technology

"You cannot get into space by building a faster airplane."
Dr. John Sviokla

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Where I get screwed but good

Losing. Air. Quickly.
London, ON
September 2016
Thematic. Disposable. Here.
I ride my bike to work for a whole lot of reasons, primarily because I believe it's healthier for me and, for the most part, more fun than taking the car. It also helps me bypass the guilt I tend to feel when I decide to drive. Sure, if it's raining, snowing or the all-dominant daily schedule otherwise obviates my taking the bike, I feel perfectly justified in grabbing the keys. But if weather and schedule are both clear, I feel like I'm ripping the planet off if I don't pedal in.

So on a brilliantly sunny morning not all that long ago (okay, it was September, and I'm ridiculously behind in getting my drafts posted online), I found myself cruising down the first hill barely two blocks from my house as I settled into an easy spin into the office. As I've done countless times this season, I coasted the bike through the traffic light-controlled four-lane intersection at the bottom of the hill, popped onto the bike path that parallels the sidewalk and spun my legs up to speed.

A few hundred metres further on, something didn't feel right. The rear end of the bike felt a little soft, and I could feel a clicking sound coming from the back wheel. Uh oh. I pulled over and looked down to this sight: A large screw stuck right into the tire. Thankfully the tire itself was still holding some air. Figuring I had a few minutes of grace left before the thing completely deflated, I turned the pink wondermachine around and headed for home.

A flat tire isn't a big deal in the pantheon of life. Unless you're descending a mountain at 70+ km/h and suffer a blowout, you'll likely live to tell the tale. At low speed and close to home, this one turned out to be a relatively low-consequence event, and one that was easily resolved.

So I tossed the bike into the back of my car and headed for the office. Later in the day, I popped into the bike shop near work and had a delightful conversation with another customer who recognized my bike by the year I bought it. While the mechanic fixed my boo-boo, the three of us discussed the challenges of commuting, and the why we still do it despite the risks. Before long, we said our goodbyes as they both helped me wheel my bike back through the creaky wooden door at the front of the shop.

As I tucked the bike back into the garage that evening, I realized how lucky I am - that a chance encounter with a sharp object gave me the opportunity to appreciate just how passionate London's cycling community is, and how lucky I am to be a part of it. Something to keep in mind tomorrow morning as I load up the bike again and set off on my morning ride.

Maybe I was meant to ride over that screw after all.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

When there's nothing left to save

Rotting on the forest floor
London, ON
October 2016
For more autumn-themed Thematic, head here
Autumn might be all about big, bright colors and tones, but that's only one small part of its story. Because once the spectacular leaves turn withering shades of yellow, brown and even grey and then fall unceremoniously to the ground, there's still more than enough there to compel a second look. Or even a third.

Because not all beauty is spectacular. It's always there: We just need to work a little harder to appreciate it.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reflections from a windswept parking lot

The glamor of radio
Laval, QC
October 2016
Thematic. Autumn. Here.
Note: Sometimes I like to stop what I'm doing so I can jot stuff down on my phone. I can't explain why. Probably because I'm a writer, and that's what writers are supposed to do. We feel stuff, sometimes deeply, and when life throws us curves - or even perfectly normal straight lines - sometimes the only way to make sense of it all is to pick up an admittedly virtual pen and capture the moment. So as I sat in my wife's car parked behind my father-in-law's condo and gathered my things after a thoughtful, engaging and fun radio interview, I did just that. Here's what I came up with, along with the photo you see above:

The glamor of early-morning live radio, where you sit in a car in a leaf-strewn, deserted and miserably damp parking lot and hope the winds whipping off the river don't overwhelm your still-sleepy-sounding voice when you go to air. And you get to stare at a similarly wind-whipped Chevy Aveo malaise-mobile because nothing says vehicular sadness more profoundly than a Chevy Aveo.

I must have missed this particular class in j-school, yet I wouldn't trade it for anything. There's something soul-refreshing about speaking live with really smart people, painting a picture with little more than the thoughts in your head.

Theater of the mind? It's even better than I ever imagined it would be when I was that kid sitting on the receiving end of this magical process, listening to long-vanished broadcast heroes spin similarly magical stories for me.

I like to think that there are still kids out there, also listening, also dreaming. And that's why even the most barren, wind-whipped parking lot on a damp, monochrome Sunday morning is as exciting a place and a time as I can possibly imagine. Because it's up to us to seek out these moments, wherever and whenever we can find them.