Monday, August 14, 2017

Field of Dreams, after the game ends. #ldnont #baseball #diamond #dreamers #boys #girls #summer #sport #sports #grass #dirt #perfection #photooftheday #instagood #nofilter #nofilterneeded #nikon #DSLR #nikonphotography #London #ontario #canada


Monochrome? Not quite.

Towering
London, ON
August 2017
Photo originally shared via Instagram

These towers are everywhere, and as ugly as they may seem to some, they're an essential component of modern, mobile life. You may say you don't want one of these things in your backyard, but you'll probably also curse the sky when you lose your bars on your phone. NIMBY much?

What originally started out as an inadvertent monochrome photo shot quickly on the walk back to the car became, on closer inspection, something more Pleasantville-like than I originally intended. Photography still has the potential to surprise, which is why I keep at it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A puppy, a carpet, and some insanity, too

The view from the stairs
London, ON
Photo originally shared via Instagram
 

You have to be borderline-insane to bring a puppy into your family. You lose sleep. Furniture and objects that matter to you are summarily destroyed. You need extra makeup to cover up the inadvertent (or are they deliberate?) bite and scratch marks. You live in fear of her getting into something that could hurt her. Or you.

Yet when you watch and listen to her in the very middle of what once was a much quieter, calmer, predictable home, you realize the little hell-raiser you see here is just what we needed.

I may not be happy when you pee on the floor, Calli Finn, but I can't imagine our family without your feisty self in it.

Remembrance stones

In the end, we're more similar than not
Duvernay, QC
August 2017
Photo originally shared via Instagram

I don't often make it here, because if we're being brutally honest I've never believed a grave or similarly physical monument is the sole marker of an individual, or the only means by which we should remember him or her.

My father and mother-in-law are buried here, literally in adjoining rows. I'd hate to think the only time their memory touches me is every year or so when I take the long-ish drive to visit their respective resting places. Their memory, and the lessons I hopefully learned from them, aren't tied to this or any place. And as the relentless passage of time puts their passing further in the rear-view mirror, I often find myself thinking of them wherever I happen to be.

I'll still come to this place, but it's merely one touchstone, not the only one.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Curved glass under a partly cloudy sky

Look up
Toronto, ON
July 2017
Photo originally posted to Instagram
Some of my most satisfying moments with a camera in my hand tend to happen when I'm seriously pressed for time. When I'm moving between one place and another, and don't have the luxury of time to stop what I'm doing and slowly ponder the scene. Instead, I walk and shoot, often getting only one shot of a particular scene before I move quickly to the next one.

I find it exhilarating. Just as it is when I'm writing on deadline, the pressure of time forces your brain into another gear. Everything non-essential gets tossed, and you're forced to live explicitly in that moment, to the exclusion of all else.

Sometimes you get good stuff, and sometimes you don't. But you remember what shooting-and-running felt like, how satisfying and soul-nurturing that process can be, and you hope it won't be long before you're doing it again. It isn't always about the end result, after all.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Not-so-small dog in a big world

She surveys her domain
London, ON
August 2017
Photo originally posted to Instagram
We had a bit of an eye-opening moment at puppy training this week. Calli is, by far, the smallest dog of the group. The next-smallest dog is Max. Last week he was still visibly larger than she was, but this week, she caught up. Just like that.

In a seeming blink, she's stretching out, getting taller, bulking up. She's still no bruiser, and will always easily fit into the shadows of the big dogs in the hood. But in the context of the guinea-pig-sized schnauzer pup we brought home just over 6 weeks ago, suddenly she's huge.

So I find myself trying to slow down time a bit. I try to shoot videos and photos that somehow illustrate her size, that will serve as markers, of sorts, when she's full-grown, of a time when she was still a munchkin.

I don't think this is even possible to pull off, but it's worth a shot. Time, after all, moves too quickly no matter who's on the other side of the lens. It can't hurt to try to hold onto those fleeting moments for a little while longer.

Your turn: How do you freeze time?

Corridor at Union Station

Under the great glass ceiling
Toronto, ON
July 2017

Photo originally posted on Instagram
The Scene: Toronto's Union Station. We're walking through the pedestrian corridor that connects this massive transit hub with the CN Tower and Rogers Centre stadium to the west. We've just finished watching one of the most intense baseball games in Blue Jays history - they erased a 10-4 deficit i ninth inning and beat the Los Angeles Angels 11-10 with a walk-off grand slam - and everyone is jubilant. As much as we need to find the car and head home, no one really wants this moment to end.

We turn the corner into the long, glass-enclosed corridor that overlooks Front Street. I can't stop staring at the curved ceiling, which is nothing new for me. I stop at the top of the stairs while my family continues down - also nothing new for me, as I'm always dawdling. I shoot fast before catching up to them, another furtively-grabbed moment in pixels from a day we won't soon forget.

Your turn: How do you use your camera to freeze time?

Saturday, August 05, 2017

4 years later...

As some of you may know, I survived a stroke four years ago tonight (more about it here.) It happened after I accidentally tore an artery in my neck by moving my head the wrong way during a bike ride.

Thankfully I came out the other side rather intact. My soul was still there. and I remained able to do the things I had always done. Still, this rather insane experience has had a profound impact on my life's path, and I've learned a few things along the way.

As I mark another milestone in this journey, I thought it might be worthwhile to jot down a few of those learnings and observations and share them here:
  1. I don't live with endless regret. I don't kick myself for taking a ride that day. I don't kick myself for the pre-u-turn head toss that touched everything off. There was no way to know this could happen, and beating myself up for putting myself on the path that led to the event doesn't do anyone any good. It's done. Move on.
  2. I do live with endless worry. To this day, I feel like I have a Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. Every minute of every day, I question whether that little twinge I just felt is everyday fatigue that we all experience on occasion or the onset of another major event. I fear whether a forgotten factoid is a sign of some kind of stroke-related cognitive impairment. I've been told I sailed through with my Carmi-ness intact, but there's so much we don't know about how the brain works, so I still wonder and worry. I often feel a low level of baseline dizziness - like I've had a couple of sips of rum on an empty stomach - almost as a near-constant reminder of what happened to me. Thankfully that goes away when I'm on the bike, and the faster I go, the better I feel (weird how that works) Every once in a while I'll come across an article that quotes scary stats about stroke recurrence, and I get even more freaked about. But you can't hide under the covers. So I don't.
  3. I can see it in everyone else's eyes. I get asked if I'm OK a lot. By my family. By friends. By colleagues. People I haven't seen in a while often hold my gaze just a little longer than is comfortable. They ask how I'm feeling, then ask again to be extra-sure. No one ever believes me when I say that I feel fine. I get that. There's almost an expectation of vulnerability, and it's clear that everyone will be looking at me through that lens for the rest of my life. I get that, too.
  4. I'm still afraid to ride the bike. I took my first ride fairly soon after I recovered, but I still carry some residual fear of messing myself up again. I installed a handy rear-view mirror on my bar-ends, and now wonder how I ever rode without it. I still favour my left side - even when I sleep or drive the car - and I shoulder-check to my left with great care. Despite every shred of evidence that suggests I'm good to ride, I start every ride with thoughts dancing through my head of what could go wrong.
  5. But I still ride. My wife, bless her, constantly encourages me to take the bike out, to go and explore. I dawdle, often finding other things to do, and sometimes never even make it out the door before a) the rains come or b) darkness falls. But eventually I force myself to push off and disappear for a while. I've been bike-commuting to work more than ever this year, each ride treated as something of a victory. I often take the long way home. My initial wimpiness aside, it feels wonderful and once I'm rolling, I wish it would never end.
  6. I tolerate mean-spiritedness even less. I've never had much patience for people who are less than kind. The stroke dropped that tolerance to zero. I'm so conscious of the value of time now that I simply don't bother with people who tick me off. I'd hate to do the math at the end of my life and realize I devoted undeserved time to anyone who didn't deserve it. I remember what it felt like as I was locked in, aware of everything around me but completely non-verbal, to wish I had used my time better. So I won't make that mistake going forward. I'm not being arrogant; just pragmatic. We only have so many minutes. Let's use them more wisely.
  7. Small things mean a great deal. I celebrate things - events, moments, people, even routine tasks - that, beforehand, I might have simply allowed to slip into the past. I appreciate little things more, and I try to take the time to enjoy them more than I might have beforehand. Whenever I do a radio or TV interview, for example, I pause after we're done and reflect silently on how privileged I am to still be able to do stuff like this. I'm lucky that my brain still works much as it always has. I chase sunsets with my camera more often. I linger beside a farmer's field and watch the cows. I watch my wife and kids when they think I'm not looking. I stare at stuff. A lot. It may seem odd to others that I'm spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about and hovering over seemingly everyday moments. But that's the thing about this experience; It has taught me that the everyday can be pretty magical in its own right. And if we don't deliberately drink it in, what are we drinking?
  8. I'm thankful. This may seem like an odd thing to say. Who, after all, would be thankful after having had a major health scare? So, no, I'm not glad it happened, but since I can't change that reality, I am glad that I've been given another shot at this life thing. I'm glad I was able to return to the person that I was - unlike so many others whose lives are ended or are irrevocably altered by something as tiny as a clot or a bleed. I'm acutely aware of how close I came to a very different fate, and how blessed I am that I am where I am. I'm still far from perfect - I was pretty flawed to begin with - but I feel, I don't know, different in a not entirely negative way. Let's just say it changed me.
None of this is new. None of it is earth-shattering - not for me and certainly not for anyone else. But as August 5, 2013 fades further into my and my family's rear-view, I realize it'll never completely stop influencing how my life continues to play out, and by extension how it continues to color the story of us. For every extra day that I've been given since then, I remain thankful, and hope my wish for another doesn't come across as being too greedy. Whatever I get, I'm profoundly grateful to have received it.

Your turn: Can your - or anyone's - life be profoundly changed by a single moment? Has it happened to you?

Related:
So, about that stroke... (Aug. 5, 2014)
When even a thank you seems lame (Aug. 7, 2014)
More stroke stuff... (Aug. 21, 2014)
Coming up on Canada AM (Feb. 7, 2015)
Winding down the day that was (Feb. 10, 2015)
Two years on... (Aug. 5, 2015)
3 bonus years (Aug. 5, 2016)

Life in the abstract

Somewhere to sit
Toronto, ON
July 2017

Photo originally posted to Instagram
The game was over. The good guys had come from a seven-run deficit in the 9th inning to win the game 11-10. It was just one game in the midst of a miserable season, but it was an historic moment - the biggest final-inning comeback in Blue Jays history - that made our kids incredibly happy.

I waited a while for the stands to clear out. We weren't in a rush - I think everyone just wanted to hang around a little longer to drink in the moment, to pinch themselves one more time that they had actually seen it, for real. It isn't often that you get to share a simple experience of unadulterated joy with your family, so we stayed.

Eventually the Roger...er Skydome (sorry, it'll always be Skydome to me) emptied out and I spotted an empty section of seats directly opposite us in the deck overlooking left field. Since I have a thing for patterns and colors, I thought one final abstract scene before we headed for the exits was in order. Of course, we have no idea who sat here on this brilliantly sunny and hot July afternoon, but we're pretty sure they left the game filled with as many indelible memories and feelings as we did.

Your turn: Who's your favorite team? Why?

Friday, August 04, 2017

Payphone against a concrete wall

Who you gonna call?
Toronto, ON
July 2017

Photo originally posted to Instagram
In light of today's massive landline and cell phone outage in Atlantic Canada, this quick capture from a Toronto subway station last week seemed somewhat timely.

We're never more than one quick mistake away from technological meltdown. Today, we saw that reality in action.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Binders on a forgotten shelf


Every once in a while, we come across a scene that reminds us how quickly life moves, and how quickly today's commonplace items become tomorrow's forgotten relics. I found this in deep, deep storage, and for some reason it made me stop and think about what we lose when we move on from paper.

I don't think I have the answer that that one. Nor do I ever expect to.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The age of 17

Young man, emphasis on the man
Stratford, ON
May 2017
In my mind's eye, he was just born. In my mind's eye, he'll always be "just born". And no wonder, as he's our youngest, our baby, our little man.

Yet today he turns 17, not quite a baby and definitely not little. That adorably delightful munchkin who completed our family and gave his older brother and sister another best friend is no longer just a kid who's simply defined by his place in the pecking order. He's a remarkably capable, responsible, sweet, smart and kind young man. Everyone who knows him loves him. And for good reason, as he always seems to be working the room, working the moment to find the smile in others.

I've always seen so much of my wife in our kids, and Noah is no exception. He got her ability to draw others in, to make them feel as if no one else matters when it's just the two of you together. To take the everyday and make it worth something more. This is a kid who's always seized life, and watched out for others along the way. And as he stands on the threshold of leaving behind forever that sense of being a kid, a baby, the youngest, I realize the things that have made him such a good soul all along had precious little to do with the order in which he came into the world.

Happy birthday, Little Man. Keep putting your amazingly unique mark on everything you touch and on everyone whose path you cross. And never forget why we all love you so much.

Your turn: What's your wish for Noah as he turns 17?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thematic Photographic 414 - Knobs & Dials

Only in a Jeep
London, ON
April 2017
As touchscreens rapidly take over from traditional controls in everything from cars to kitchen appliances, it's only a matter of time before we've pressed our last button or twisted our final dial. I've never been one to stand in the way of technological progress - indeed, my career has been largely based on tech - but I fear we're losing something along the way.

There's a tactility to traditional knobs, dials, switches and other analog controls that no touchscreen can ever replace. When you're at the wheel and you want to bump up the fan speed, you can easily do it by feel if your HVAC system uses a big old manual control. You control it with little more than subconscious muscle memory while the rest of you tends to the very important task of keeping the car between the lines.

I love my touchscreens, but they simply can't pull that off. So when I saw this mode control dial in one of the Jeeps from the work fleet, I had to shoot it. Because no one really knows when this, too, will exist only in software.

Your turn: Take a picture and post it to your blog or website - or use one you've already taken and/or uploaded - that evokes this week's theme, Knobs & Dials. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, and visit other participants to spread the photographic joy. Feel free to visit and contribute again throughout the week. And have fun, because Thematic is all about fun. For more background on how Thematic works, head here. Thanks, gang!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

On truth

"The truth is like a lion. You don't have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself."
St. Augustine

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Could have been. Would have been.

This furry being was born 11 years ago today. We sadly lost him last December, but that's the wonder of being dog people: In a whole lot of ways they never really leave you.

We brought Calli into our home just over a week ago, and hardly a moment goes by as I watch her that I don't see some echo of Frasier. From the way she sticks her hind legs straight back when she lies down, to her bouncy, not-quite-straight walk, and a spirit that I can only describe as a mixture of scrappiness and sweetness, she's every bit the schnauzer that he was, and just as deeply embedded into the fabric of our family.

We miss you, buddy, and will never stop seeing snippets of you in every corner of our home and lives.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The family grows by one, again

My name is Calli, Calli Levy
Stratford, ON
June 2017
As many of you may know, it's been just over six months since we said goodbye to our beloved pup, Frasier. The house has been quiet ever since. Too quiet, even. I miss the walks, the waking up to a sleepy schnauzer at my feet, the coming home to a bouncing furball whose only reason for existence is to spread joy to his people. We all miss these moments, and it hasn't been easy adjusting to life without his wacky presence.

I guess that makes us dog people, and it's a label we wear proudly. It isn't convenient, cost-effective or logical to own a dog. Yet we do. Because life otherwise seems a little less complete, a little less rich.

So after much discussion within our family, we decided to bring another pup into our home. The munchkin in the photo above is Calli - full name Calli Finn (short for Finnegan, of Mr. Dressup sock-puppet fame, because I'm weird like that.) Like Frasier, she's a miniature schnauzer. She was born May 9th, and we brought her home earlier this afternoon. Here's what she looked like when she was two weeks old. For more pics, follow her on Instagram.

We don't speak dog, so we couldn't really talk about her day with her before we tucked her into her new crate with her now-favorite toys (Eeyore is in the early lead) and watched her instantly drop into a deep sleep. But if she could talk, she'd probably tell us about what a tough day it was for her. About how she was taken by strange new people to a strange new place. I worried about that on the drive home. I hope she saw the day as a good one, as the beginning of an exciting new chapter in what we fervently hope is a happy, healthy and fun-filled life. I hope she knows how much we already love her.

We're pretty sure the next few days, weeks and months will be sleep-deprived, mess-filled and generally chaotic as she adjusts to us and we do the same with her. I say this not because we cherish sleep or a perfectly neat house, because in my book that's not what qualifies as a life well lived. I'd gladly give up some zees in exchange for watching our kids continue to grow as people. Our first dog taught them so much about life and responsibility as they rose to the challenge of managing his diabetes. Whatever the future holds for Calli, I know she'll find some way to carve herself into their lives, as well. Because dogs make us better people. They make our kids better people, too.

Welcome to the family, little one. We can't wait to see what adventures await us all.

Your turn: Why do we love dogs as much as we do?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

13 years + 1 day

Yesterday was this blog's 13th birthday* - or its bar mitzvah, if you're into that sort of thing. Which I was, once, but no longer am, as it's been a while since I was 13. But I digress.

Yes, the blog. About that...

I started it before Facebook was a thing. The now-dominant social media giant existed on June 26, 2004, of course, but it was still The Facebook, an embryonic Web 2.0 experiment that classmates used as a digital hot-or-not service. Mere mortals still didn't have access. It was two years before Twitter launched, before social media was really on our radar. Before the iPhone. Sure, some suits carried BlackBerrys, but they were only about email and messaging back then.

It was a radically different digital world, and blogging took the then-unidimensional web (surf, read, repeat) and gave everyday folks their own platform, their own voice.

The rapid encroachment of all the things I mentioned above - and then some - has in a few short years transformed the blog from what was once a sign of digital savviness to a quaint relic of a bygone time when we put an i before everything and a number - 1.0, 2.0 - after everything.

Quaint as it has become, however, I continue to write here because for all its network-based power, Facebook is ephemeral, and not something that is distinctly ours. What we post there is quickly absorbed into the past in a fast-moving timeline stuffed with ads, memes, Candy Crush top scores and conspiracy theories from folks you once loathed in high school and now, thanks to social media, loathe even more. Facebook is a busy place, where the vast majority of people who know tend to hang out. But it isn't ours. Or mine. It's like a busy airport terminal: Hardly a place you can call your own.

Likewise, Twitter is too limited, too filled with bullies and trolls. Snapchat is where the kids hang out, and whatever we write will disappear in 10 seconds, anyway. As you go further down the list - to WhatsApp, Pinterest, LinkedIn and beyond - you get deeper into unique online sub-groups that further accentuate the modern mobile/social Internet's splintering effect.

Which leaves the doddering old blog, where the number of comments in a month might equal what once flowed in before lunch. But compared to today's far busier social platforms now represents something of a quiet spot from which we can watch the chaos unfold.

Thirteen years on, the wonderful relationships I've formed through this blog continue in many forms - often on alternative platforms - and I sometimes wish we could rewind the clock to the days when this form of communication dominated the online landscape. But as I've said so many times before, technology moves in only one direction, and it's up to us to either adapt or fall off the back of the treadmill. This blog, like all blogs, may no longer be current, leading-edge or as uniquely relevant as it was back in 2004. But it's still my quiet little corner in a tumultuous online (and real) world, and I can't imagine not having this place to return to when I need a little word-based balancing between my ears.

Thank you for joining me on the journey, and thank you for keeping the flickering embers alive. To 120 for us all...

--
Related:
And so it begins (June 26, 2004)
Thrice around the sun (June 26, 2007)
10 times around the sun (June 26, 2014)