Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Abandoned Dreams

Abandoned Dreams
Keller, TX
There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… 
I dream of things that never, were and ask why not?
Robert F. Kennedy

We' ve actually had a bit of premature winter this month in north Texas: some snow, ice, and rain. Morning temperatures have dipped into the low 20's and days remained chilly, hard to stay comfortably warm even indoors. 

During one of my morning walks accompanied by our one hundred pound black lab, Grady, I stumbled across this abandoned doll. It quickly caught my attention and made me think in terms of its symbolism. Did the child who owned this know it was missing? Did the parent eventually return to search for this doll? Do we do the same, or do we give up pursuing our babies and dreams?

It would be easy at this stage of my life to succumb to the cynicism which encompasses my world. However, I choose not to let go of my idealism and remain steadfast to changing the world and making my life mean something for me. Can't say I am ready to abandon yet any of my dreams. For me its a constant struggle between following the conventions of my world or the convictions of my heart.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Practice Faith & Charity

Suerte y Sin Suerte: La Limosna
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mx


“Live simply so others may simply live.” 

― Mother Teresa

Yesterday was an extraordinary day, it was the culmination of very stressful and arduous week. My week included trying to close on my father's house (in Florida) while trying to catch a standby flight to El Paso and then crossover into Juarez all on the heels of an ice storm (not something I would recommend). At last moment, my first standby cancelled and my chances of catching the second were diminished; the clock was working also against me. 

Then it happened, the phone call I dreaded, "Mr. Hernandez we don't have the original Power of Attorney document to close on the deal".  There was not one more drop that could be added to my cup it was full. Everything that I could have possibly done was already done. All I could think of was that the document had the attorney's address and they could call him. Fortunately, the realtor decided to call my niece who was also her friend to check to see if my sister had the original document. The only hitch was that my sister was also on a flight home. Fortunately, my sister arrived home in time to turn around and drive two hours from Jacksonville to Orlando and deliver the document in time.

The day had already turned into a year and still I was on the ground at DFW. Finally made the second standby flight to El Paso and caught a cab and crossed over to Juarez where I caught my flight to Chihuahua. Rested up that evening with two banderas (a drink of three separate jiggers of lime, sangrita, and white tequila, representing the colors of the Mexican flag.) I felt very patriotic by the evening's end.

On Friday, when I finally rested up in the afternoon back home at Starbucks. I met a man very much down on his luck and nearly crippled with arthritis. He gave me the typical homeless pitch about needing money for gas…and that he was stuck in Keller. Had come down from Tulsa and was on his way just outside of Weatherford. For whatever reason, I didn't care if it was true or not. 

"Where is your truck? I asked. He pointed at a beat up Nissan pickup. "How many gallons does it take? "I quizzed. "It takes 15 gallons." He replied.

For a moment I thought how foolish it  would be to give money. That it would be best to take him to the gas station myself and fill up the tank. Then I thought, it really didn't matter this could be me. Yes it could go for drugs or booze, but either way this man was human and down on his luck. I thought about the past three years of my own joblessness reached into my pocket and gave him $40 bucks. "Go get gas, go get gas." 

The man thanked and promised to pay it forward. He barely could walk to this truck and fell and needed someone else's help before he got into his truck and drove off. Don't know if he really needed gas money and perhaps will never know. All I know is that I am grateful to all of you for being there for me these past three years. 'Tis the season of faith and charity. Practice both please. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Treasures: Midlife Discovery

Around Town
Keller, TX

Some of the best treasures may lie directly in front of you. We don't always see them but that doesn't mean that beneath the surface of where you stand they don't exist. The key to finding treasure is maintaining a curious mind and believing in the possibility that it exists. Curiosity and belief are qualities that many discard along the journey travails.

As a photographer, I focus on fractions of a second with the undying optimism that each contains some kind of treasure that requires my time to discover. We don't know what we will find until we try. The hope of finding something keeps us curious and eager to search.

There so many obstacles which we let get in the way of discovery. Often times we call them obligations. Sometimes its also a matter of how we think. Our thinking holds us back and we don't see the possibilities or fail to discover them. Yet each day that goes by without discovery becomes wasted; another day that we will never get back.

What some people coin midlife crisis, I prefer to re-label as midlife discovery. We are ticking time bombs each with a preset clock. Dare we risk putting of discovery for an uncertain day in the future that may never come? How wise is having an ample 401K at age 80 when you  have such little time left or health to enjoy it?






Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Thoughts

The Crossing
Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, MX

"Our greatest glory in life is not in never falling
but in rising every time we fall."
Confucius

A year ago marked the end of nearly three years of unemployment and the beginning of a new work adventure which led me to Tucson, AZ. While I was happy with the idea of having a job I was saddened by the thought of leaving my comfort zone, home, and family.

Within the first week, my new company was acquired and all the promises made broken. Yet I was required to move and commit to an apartment rental. To say the least, I was bitter, anxious, lonely, and angered by the emotional drama. My journey took a completely different twist and I was reluctant to embrace the change it brought.

Pima Canyon Sunset
The only and best way for me to handle the new job experience and change was to view it as a glorified part time job in a region of the country I longed to be in. After months of emotional struggles with the job, I found refuge within the nearby mountains and in the mornings of the high desert of Tucson and southeast Arizona. The adventure took a completely twist then and I was able to produce some of my best work. Some of it now resides at the Simon Gallery of Fine Art located in Steinway Piano Gallery in Tucson.

For that twist, I am truly grateful. Had it not been for extreme loneliness and the stimulus of mountains and desert, that work never would have happened. Just when I had given up hope that I would be back joining my family and soon to be born triplet grand babies, I discovered that I had landed a new job back home in Dallas/Fort Worth. This happened one week after the birth of beautiful triplets. This job would keep me home and take me back working in Mexico again.

For the second time in less than a year, I am starting over. This time I confess, I am happy about the opportunities, but I truly miss the desert which I grew fond of at the foothills of the Catalina Mountains and the open pastures of Patagonia. There will be different adventures to chronicle from the industrial border towns this time.

In the mean time, all of my work is for sale and I will be actively marketing it this coming year. My financial recovery is beginning but the huge deficits caused by the unemployment seem unsurmountable but I see some glimmer of hope. Now I need those interested in my work to buy or engage me and support my work. You can friend me on FB or reach me via my website or this blog.  My product offerings are all custom and range from 5x7 cards to 24x36 canvas prints. Truly there's more to my prints than meets the eye. There's a complete story. Go back and read my journey starting from March of 2010 to now…see the chronicled ups and downs. I've survived but still am struggling. Would appreciate you getting the word out about my work. Go ahead and share my blog with others.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Autumn Thoughts

Stroll in the Park
iPhone
Keller, TX

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
as I have seen in one autumnal face.” 

― John Donne

We have had an unusual autumn here in north Texas. The kind I would have expected the likes of New England where I spent my youth. The mornings have been crisp and we've even had some early frost. All of this and I suppose moisture at the appropriate times has brought us an interesting array of yellows, ambers, and oranges that we normally don't receive.

Autumnal Author and Photographer:
Al Hernandez
It's all good and this autumn twist has lifted my spirits given that at this time of year I really get homesick for both my Berkshires and the hilly terrains of nearby Catskills. Although its neither the New England nor upstate New York, this year it will have to suffice.

A few years ago, I grew fond of an expression: "bloom where you are planted". Don't know who said it and for sure I would give them due credit. This I know that it makes perfect sense to enjoy what what you have at hand and can enjoy. It makes no sense wishing today away or wondering what the future would hold if only and only if.

While my mother claimed to have extraordinary insight, I can't say that I have the same vision. Instead Im learning through nature and the nurturing of friends to enjoy and live each day with what I have. Suppose in Texas our twist to the adage is simply "dance with the one who brung ya". Think I will keep enjoying our autumn the one I have and not the one I wish for. Both make me happy, dreaming of one and living the one I've got.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Autumn Selfie
iPhone
Keller, TX

We've had a delightful autumn here in North Texas. The temperatures have brought morning chills to the air and the other otherwise humid mornings have turned brisk and almost frosty. A few clouds have rolled in too softening the autumn afternoon lights subduing the contrast we always find in north texas arduous summer heat. Welcome change has hit us refreshing our souls and making us eager for fall festivities prior to the onset of winter.

Although not as obvious there's change going on within me too. As I hit my stride in the early autumn of my life, I am desperately seeking answers to questions about what I value and want. For years I had mastered the art of self flagellation and criticism and now I recognize that it served no purpose other than self mutilation and destruction. I am not this horrible person I once thought but rather a creative kind person who loves and values his friends and family.

Mid-life and the associated mid-life crisis is nothing more than mid-life discovery. My brain requires me to think about what is important to me. While I was in Tucson each day, I valued the strength which the mountain and the surround landscapes offered me. It became my duty to chronicle the changes I witnessed with both my camera and written word.

Life is more than work and even more than family. You can't have one in front of a television or at a desk working all the time. Life is meant to be interactive. You have to go out into it and experience it. To that extent my passion brings me out of my mind and into the reality of the universe itself. Live your life and engage it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Serenity

Cow at Dusk
Lazy J2 Ranch
Patagonia, AZ

Been doing some thinking 'bout a simpler life free from cares that own me and consume. Suppose I want to find my own utopia here, a hedge against a chance no heaven awaits me. 

Heaven to me is a mental state where I simply float without a worry. A cat like place where I just am and exist just because. Where who I am matters not but that I simply am matters more. 

Suppose what really needs to happen is that I need to change. Can't wait on the world to change. The change I need and want is going to have to come within me. The proverb "as a man thinks, so is he" comes to mind. 

If I can think I'm at peace and free then just may be I will become what I think. I surely would welcome a change of thought and a life free of the worry chains that come with the striving life.  


Kebler Pass
Colorado

If you've never seen the golden foliage of Colorado's aspens, you should add that to your bucket list. While New England provides the best shades of red and orange, Colorado aspens provide the brightest shades of yellow against sparkling blue skies. The yellow groves patch the countryside and stand out against the evergreen forests becoming a quilt of yellow and green.

Quilted Countryside
Along Kebler Pass
Colorado
Schedule some time and rent a four wheel vehicle and trek alongside Colorado's Kebler Pass. Stop by the cities of Aspen and Vail and experience the slopes free of skiers and only the majesty and glory of the Aspens John Denver made famous with his songs. This is home and almost heaven a place where your spirit can soar.





Friday, October 25, 2013

Autumn: Springtime in the Fall

Autmn Excursion
Near Palenville, NY

Autumn is a second spring. Leaf bouquets appear and shower the ground with their colorful displays while squirrels pack their natural pantries ; geese gather and flock and head to a warmer clime. Shorter days and softer lights transition us to longer nights.

Harvest moods settle in beyond pumpkins and hallowed goblins. Cotton candy and ferris wheels also usher in carnivals and odors: funnel cakes, hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and spilled yeasty beer.

For me, it's autumn and something more. Brisk days awaken me as I slide out of bed and step onto chilled floors. Mornings just right not too hot and not cold but enough of a nip to warrant a good cup of coffee or an occasional hot chocolate.

These things and more, Im grateful for. As autumn again greets my door.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

In Light

Estudiando La Palabra
Templo y Museo de Santa Clara
Queretaro, MX


For the most part, we seldom see the whole picture. We see glimpses of truth between light and shadows. Within those shadows we see more than 50 shades of grey, to be exact we can detect 256 shades of grey.

Details are found within highlights and shadows. So it behooves me to study both and find them. For the greater part of my life, I've been fascinated by and obsessed with details. My photography gravitates to the intricacies placed in my path by a universe fraught with dynamic pieces. My eye is inquisitive but doesn't portend to know the answers. Consequently, I photograph and process images as an attempt to understand why I was drawn to them to begin with.

It's through this process, my creative process, that I gather clues about myself. The reason I view things the way I do is a mystery solved only by further inquisition. It compels me to discover and explore my own feelings.

Through this process playing with details of shadow and light, I become enlightened about who I am. I want to know and not merely regurgitate what I've been taught. The final process reveals a life and answers that otherwise would remain concealed from me. I use the light and the light finds me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Understanding

Domed Stairway
Hacienda Jaral de Berrio
San Felipe, GTO, Mexico



When you walk through life you often stumble upon things that don't make sense. Objects which don't seem to match expectations. As I walked through the infinite rooms of Hacienda Jaral de Berrio one object in particular perplexed me. It sat in a corner but it had all the trappings of a confessional.

A confessional in someone's house is an odd thing even for Catholic Mexico. Upon a closer examination, I discovered that the mysterious corner object was a dome to cover a wooden staircase which lead to a downstairs parlor and conceivable ballroom. It was built for the safety of guests and to keep with the sophistication of the era.

Must say that we don't always get things right the first time we see them. It's a wonder we don't have more conflicts based on misperceptions between people. How often we perceive some thing one way yet its quite another. Our cognition may not be accurate, its a function of our prior experiences and tainted by our beliefs. At times, we need guidance from other sources or fresh views and a distinct perspective.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Colonial Opulence

Casa de la Marquesa
Queretaro, Mexico

Had a few moments in between business meetings in Queretaro to visit the central part of the colonial city of Queretaro, Mexico. Not to far from my hotel was the impressive lobby of Hotel Casa de la Marquesa. Built in 1756 by Alarife Cornelio at the behest of Don Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana for his consort Doña Josefa Paula Guerrero y Dávila, the architecture represents one of Queretaro's finest structures.

If you should travel to Queretaro, you might want to consider spending a bit more just to have an opportunity to experience the opulence of an era gone by. Quite the contrast to what was being built in America at that time in civilized places like Boston and New York. It's a reminder of how things can shift over time. None the less, there's a tremendous history of entitlement in Mexico. It's also a reminder of how exclusion via access to education bars the rest from wealth. Opportunity should go beyond the grant of a ruling monarch.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Looking Up

Firework Nebula over San Miguel de Allende
Celebración del Arc Angel de San Miguel
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, MX
 
Complaining about the clanging bells and whistling fireworks of San Miguel de Allende is pointless because undoubtedly you will enjoy the stirring commotion of a real community united by celebrations. During the day, San Miguel is about colonial buildings and cobblestone streets and color. As sunset beckons, the mood changes as church bells remind worshipers and revelers alike that evening is nigh. Soon crowds gather in the plaza known as La Parroquia in front of la Catedral.

Carnival de Arc Angel de San Miguel
Merchants gather with toys, hats, and food to sell, while parents and their children flock to admire the church and the enjoy the pleasant shade of the manicured ficus trees. Lovers of all ages hold hands and sit on benches trying to find secluded spots of privacy to chat, kiss, and dream. You can't help but notice all the stages and phases of the life which surrounds and pulsates around you.

Like a play the lights dim and evening curtains draws and a new scene unfolds before your eyes. Bells clamor again and distant firecrackers and drums collude announcing the advent of the main drama: fireworks. The rapid burst of firecrackers pop pop pop catching your attention. Fireworks begin to spin on spindles circling in front of you whirling and whistling all the while shining their colorful bright lights.  It's night time in San Miguel and the dawn of celebration.

It's all around you a life you've may have forgotten or lost at a carnival somewhere in your youth. There you have it, San Miguel is a carnival come alive at dusk.






Saturday, October 5, 2013

Abandoned Baby

Abandoned Baby and Nook
Hacienda Jaral de Berrio
San Felipe, Guanajuato, MX

It wasn't until I shot this scene at the Hacienda Jaral de Berrio, that I realized that there was a dirty doll in the middle of the scene. For a while, I thought that it was placed there by the other photographer accompanying me but that was not the case.

Many times when I photograph, I truly don't know why I shoot other than something compels me to shoot. As I rework images their stories surface. To be honest  with you can't say, I can come up with a suitable story for this image. It remains a mystery to me.

That could be the story: the abandoned baby beckons to be found.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Looking Back

Window and Silos
Hacienda de Jaral de Berrio
San Felipe, Guanajuato, MX

Spent a full day studying all of the massive rooms of Hacienda de Jaral de Berrio. Each room had splendid details and its own character. Each with its own story. At times, I found myself transfixed and transcended to a different era. Within its walls opulence existed at the expense of those that maintained it. Unfortunately, the revolutions that ended the era did not bring about the promises of a better life.

This could very well explain why the poor cling on to the only thing that they do have. Faith and hope remain and sustain the poor left behind. Dreams were replaced by nightmares.

The town surrounding the faded opulence is comprised of nearly 200 inhabitants descendants of those who tended to the needs of the Marques and his descendants. Although left behind, each day they walk past reminders of an era of prosperity they helped create with their labor. You can't help but wonder about what was and what might have been. At least I do.




Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Man's Home Is...

Moorish Room
Hacienda San Diego de Jaral de Berrio
San Felipe, GTO, MX

Off the beaten path about an hour's drive from San Miguel de Allende in the town of San Felipe, Guanajuato, you will find one of the largest abandoned hacienda in all of Mexico: Hacienda San Diego de Jaral de Berrio. You might recognize the facade itself from the movie Mariachi starring Antonio Banderas.

It's hard to describe the magnificent opulence that this Hacienda represents. Even today in its abandoned state, it makes you wonder what life was like was for the gentrified and for the nearly 6,500 people serving them. This hacienda is more like a beautiful fortress and a self contained city.

Suppose for the Marques de Berrio and his descendants, a man's home was his castle. The Marques received his grant from the king and quickly amassed land and wealth. He and his defendants prospered at the expense of the indigenous people who toiled the land and managed the estate. It was a good life to be privileged back then. 

Today in America, in nearly a decade of time, the disparity between rich and poor is once again beginning to surface. Unfortunately those of us in the middle whose incomes have dwindled fail to realize that in that same period of time, the very wealthy's income level has quadrupled while the middle class has barely kept pace or now earns less for the same amount of work.

There's nothing wrong with wealth. There is something wrong with not asking questions about the causes of income inequality in a society that prides itself in democracy and the notion that all men are created equal. We are again becoming a nation where some of us are less equal and our votes are becoming less meaningful as they are purchased by the very wealthy to support their lifestyles.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mexican Notes

Statue at Hacienda Jaral de Berrios
San Felipe, GTO, Mexico

SMA was a cacophony of whistling fireworks and clanging church bells performing into the wee hours of dawn. It took on a life onto its own without the cares of the complex city life. This past weekend a carnival atmosphere took hold on both citizens and visitors from the surrounding areas including Mexico City, Guanajuato, and San Luis, it was a time to festejar simply festejando. Colorful merchants selling even more colorful wares ranging from balloons to dolls while the aroma of fresh food from street vendors filled the air with happy yet unfamiliar scents that would make the curious succumb.

All of this was a welcome relief from the stress of my week's business travel.  You do have to be prepared for contingencies. In Mexico anything can happen to think otherwise is sheer reckless optimism. Routine is less than routine in Mexico but nonetheless taken in stride.

Upon our arrival in Mexico City on Wednesday, we rented a car which we never should have accepted. We had difficulty closing the trunk but the rental agent cajoled the lock with ease and showed us that it was fine at least by Mexico automotive standards. When we arrived at our hotel our faith proved optimistic. No amount of effort could bring the latch to work.

But in Mexico, there's always a plan B through Z. The hotel manager had a solution straight from Tim the Toolman Taylor: duct tape. No worries an out of the box universal male solution.

Second business day, Thursday was relatively uneventful. As we approached our hotel I saw a water truck pumping potable water to our hotel. Our always ready hotel proprietor had a prepackaged solution to a water main break. Thanks to him we had water to bathe with and for our toilets. Again we were reminded not to take things for granted. There's nothing routine in Mexico.

By Friday, work was over and I took a 40 minute cab ride from Queretaro to SMA for R&R. Got to my hotel to find out that the front half of the hotel had been repossessed! Had to enter hotel through the side door. Not a problem, I had a room near the main plaza right at the center of SMA life.

That evening the city was packed  because of the celebration of the city's namesake, the arch angel San Miguel. This celebration of parades, fireworks, and church bells lasted until about 3 am when I'm sure the last musician and mariachi finally ran out steam and or music. This is Mexico always celebrating some part of life.

The next day there was no need for alarms to awaken me. The church bells rang on cue like a gleeful father waking up children for school. They rang without mercy for the already sleep deprived.

Wide awake I figured a good hot shower would put me in a great mood to offset my sleep deprivation a form of torture that could easily replace water boarding. (Note to self, send message to Geneva Convention regarding clanging church bells and fireworks.) Again I assumed incorrectly as I was jolted by a cold shower. Although I managed to shampoo my hair I didn't have the stamina to let the cold water chill my back. Suppose I wasn't in the mood for that kind of awakening or just my sorry ass was sensitive.

Hastily gathered gear and off to grab a cab and meet with other photographers to photograph the old abandoned Hacienda jaral de Berrios in San Felipe. Our guide pleasantly stressed good behavior and that she recently had to handle an unruly crowd because the local children had been falsely accused of stealing what turned out to be a misplaced camera. More drama to start my journey. Do not piss off the natives. 

Fortunately one of the photographers accompanying us that day was a retired psychoanalyst so I did my best I have this friend who...all without the benefit of a couch.

Time lingered as we toiled our way through the endless hacienda. Finally after a day broken up by a wonderful arrachera buffet, we headed back home.

We hailed cab from the Mega supermarket on the SMA outskirts but a routine trip home was detoured by the revelry of an endless parade and cordoned off streets. In Mexico it's entertainment first.

Finally had to ask the cab driver to drop me off within a mile of my hotel. Had no other alternative. Bravely fight my way back through the throngs of spectators and dancing Indians twirling to the deafening bass drums. Made it safely back to my room where I made sure that there was no repeat of the hot water debacle. Argued for a lower rate too.

Hungry I thought I would grab a bite to ameliorate my throbbing headache but folks were to busy looking at fireworks and listening to bands. Resigned, I too joined the masses and took in the fireworks in between the claps of thunder and flashes of lightening. I sought the refuge of ample umbrella like ficus trees in the plaza near the gazebo and in front of the splendidly lit cathedral. Was able to enjoy about 45 minutes before threats were no longer and raindrops transformed into torrential rains. Most of the masses dispersed. However diehards and optimists continued the party through the night.

My driver reached me late that evening and we agreed upon a time to leave one that included enough time for contingencies. We had been through many drills before during over a decade of travels from SMA and Leon's airport.

The next morning my driver called to let me know that my hotel was on a direct collision course with the parade. The agreed upon location would not work. Perhaps we didn't have ample time after all. I found myself lugging my luggage and back back down cobblestone streets and narrow sidewalks and at times strolling with feathered Indians and crossing their paths weaving in and out between the throngs and parade participants. Finally at the intersection of Zacateros and Pila Seca across from the fountain I headed south to find my smiling help. I boarded his 4x4, a white F-150, smiled and said good bye to a city, an adventure, and a country.

Arrived at the airport in plenty of time. Long enough to have to wait an inordinate amount of time with other sojourners making their way back home to the states some with makeshift suitcase overstuffed.

All was good and after about a 30 minute wait headed to our gate where I fiddled with my iPhone and jotted notes of my travel travails. Gate call and some nervousness set in as I saw an attentive a security agent with latex gloves which reminded me of my dreaded annual position B exam. What else could happen in Mexico? 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Locus of Perspective


Restaurant at Stockyards
Fort Worth, TX

Fall hit north Texas yesterday. A cool front brought much needed rain and day time temperatures dropped a comfortable fifteen degrees. We received a much needed reprieve from the humid temps soaring a hundred and above.

Took the opportunity to become a tourist in my own backyard, Fort Worth. Decided to saunter through the stockyards with nothing but an iPhone in hand. Forced to take shots which hone my composition skills. Actually its how I view life any way, a series of memorable warm vignettes, this is me.

It's not that I choose to dwell on the positive, it's simply a fact that the positive resides inside of us and cannot be reached externally. You determine how good or how bad. It's your judgement/perception of any situation. How you process that information is ultimately what determines the degree of good or bad. Gratitude makes a whole lot of difference. Bottom line be happy with what you have today and what you can enjoy and do today. The world is there for you to live and see.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Faith

Bell Tower in Grapevine
Grapevine, TX

After a life filled with worry the universe and life experience have brought to my attention that worry stems from lack of faith; one crowds out the other. The two cannot co-exist.

All it takes is one torch bearer to light a dark room regardless of it's size. If each of us would simply provide the light we have, we could/would fill many lives with light. Faith crowds out worry sustains us and lights our path. Faith practitioners can become beacons to others who have had worry dim their light.

Share your light, share your hope, and share your faith. In a world filled with cynicism, we can replace worry and anxiety with renewed hope and the faith that things do eventually work out. Faith/hope sustains us.

For those who doubt these words all I can say is that through my ordeals, I've personally experienced this and am truly grateful for my family and my friends who constantly stood by my side and shared there faith and hope with me. Faith is more than a religion its a lifestyle.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Jody Humphrey

In Memory
of
Jody Humphrey
May 18, 1931 - August 7, 2013


Jody Humphrey’s
Born: Jo Ellen Mooring
On May 18, 1931
To Joe and Grace Mooring
Joined her Husband Ben and her daughter Lou on August 7, 2013


Forever in Pink. (Mary Kaye Eat Your Heart Out)

A Texan with a Gentrified Lifestyle.

For Jody’s benefit, I will speak very slowly and deliberately today.

I’ve got good news today; our friend Jody is very much alive today in our hearts and forever in our memories. And we choose to limit our mourning because her pain is gone and best yet she has joined the arms of her companion, our friend and hers, Benny.  Our mutual bonds of friendship and kinship gather us today and we see fit to celebrate the life of our sensational friend who with her class, dignity, and humor seasoned and enriched our lives while she blessed us with her charm.

I don’t know if you knew, but Jody was privileged.  That’s right she was from the right side of the tracks while many of her friends were altogether off the tracks.  She came from means but by no means did that mean that we were not welcomed in her home or in her heart. She was unapologetically simply groomed for another type of life, which if properly cajoled she, would share with you.

So, I will share with you a very brief part of that life which ultimately touched mine by 1987 until today.

Once upon a time there was school named Gulf Park By-the Sea Junior College:

Jody told me about her pampered past in a very deliberate southern drawl.  The finishing school was all about learning the finer things in life from manners, setting the table, to staging parties.  She learned to be the perfect hostess white gloves and all.

Her education included mastering fencing, diving, synchronized swimming and sailing.  Times were very different then.  I will tell you though that Jody has blessed my family with her social graces from back then.  She and my mother-in-law, Shirley, planned all of the details of our outdoor wedding, poolside near our friend's gazebo.  The prim and proper lady practiced and wove her craft and ultimately charmed us with her attention to details.  Jody simply had a way of making everything pretty.  Her flair was wonderful and she spread her joy of a finer time the way things should have been her entire adult life.

In Junior College, she was voted by her peers as the most popular of her graduating class. Jody remained the most popular friend in our neighborhood and in our family even during those last years and months as she struggled to live and to breathe.

Ironically we breathe easier now because she’s at rest. We loved her and because of our love and friendship, we can take comfort in the assurance that she’s at rest with Benny. We should not mourn her loss because there is no way that we will ever forget her. To that extent she will always be alive provided that we keep the embers of her memory and joy stoked in our hearts and minds.

Jody perhaps you remember your Alma Mater song but just in case I will read it to you one more time:

ALMA MATER
This our Alma Mater will forever be
Loved and honored and cherished, Gulf Park by-the Sea.
We will sing thy praise, and to thee be true,
May our loyal sisters from thee blessings accrue,
Give them of thy bounty, and thy happiness too.
Albert V. Davies


Monday, September 2, 2013

Not So Routine

Morning Sunrise
Keller, TX

Although I am now home I am still in the throws of change. Nothing is quite the same including the addition of a new pet. We acquired a "rescue" lab, Grady, who is very large toddler and requires quite a bit of supervision. The fact is that I am a stranger in his home. In addition, there's the change of a new job and the accompanying stress of proving yourself all over again. While being home is a relief the new changes require adjustments.

What remains constant is me and my passion for photography. My walking and my camera keep me grounded when I otherwise would feel completely overwhelmed. My needs help offset the requirements imposed on me by change. 

Yes, I am home and again reunited with both my family and friends. That's a huge comfort. However, I miss the incredible landscapes of Southeast Arizona and Tucson. For nine months, I tried to make sense out of all the landscapes I witnessed. Each time I glanced at the mountains, I would try to discern the subtle changes both light and and occasional rains brought. By studying the natural changes, I was able to accept those changes which were occurring within me. Changes which both my body and situation dictated. I had to change how I viewed my life and world. Rather than succumb to change as the end, I recognized the change of new beginnings. That's why I welcome the possibilities that each morning brings to me.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tombstone

Tombstone: How The West Was Won
Gallows Near Courthouse
Tombstone, AZ

Several weeks before my Tucson saga drew to a close, I set out to visit the familiar sights of southeast Arizona familiar places such as: Bisbee, Patagonia, Sierra Vista, and Tombstone. The real home of the old west. (Keep in mind that the state of Arizona recently celebrated its first centennial of statehood.)

On one of my treks, decided to explore the town of Tombstone, home of Wyatt Earp and all things the world knows as cowboy. As I ventured into the well preserved old courthouse and peered just outside of the court chambers there was a view I had never witnessed before, a fully functioning gallows. It was how scores were settled and the law enforced and preserved right or wrong.

The west was won by intimidation and fear not by kindness and mercy. To rule the unruly, justice was served swiftly and without thought. Mistakes were made and some innocents I'm sure swung from gallows at the end of knotted ropes like these. The Apache, the Comanche, the Sioux, and the Navajo all had to conform to the greed of the European white man. Native Americans believed that the land was not for the white man to take, it was meant to be shared by all but the greed of gold and the dreams and thirst for land and ownership blinded those hell bent on ownership and the conquest of the west regardless whether its claims were Mexican or of Indigenous people was the most important objective; the outcome was the same. Justice was served either at the end of rope or the end of a gun.

It was unfortunate drama but it was one that unfolded over and over again. This land was not our land, it was their land, and we the sons and daughters of Europeans took it under the guise of God's will. It's been this disdain for the land that has now brought us to  our modern issues of global warming and our constant thirst for fossil fuels. We simply can't subdue our greed or curb our consumption. We choose to resolve all issues with might vs will. We should learn the lessons from the noose and the rope and the copious bloodshed on the terrain we now know as the "West". 











Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Number

Nancy: Comfortable in Her Own Skin

Met Nancy Bender and her husband Carl owners of the Whistle Stop Depot back in Tucson a nearly two months ago. They both made lasting impressions on me with their zest for living and their youthful attitudes. Although I prefer photographing landscapes vs people, I chose to make an exception. Quite frankly the setting ( a warehouse made from 100% recycled materials) and my super friendly new found friends inspired me to stage a photo shoot.

Nancy is real and its quite obvious she is content with the woman she is and where she is in her life. She worked as an educator nearly all of her life and now she is working with Carl to develop their business, an event room, well suited for wedding receptions and parties. Yes Nancy really is what you see. Baby Boomers please take note, we are not over the hill in our mid sixties. We have lots of adventures ahead of us. People like Nancy and Carl clearly point that out and remind us of our potential if we only allow ourselves the opportunity. We can be young at any age.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Onward

Great Grandfather Bobby & Tribe: Carter, Annie, and Brennan
Keller, TX

They say you can't get to the next chapter if you are still reading the last. So over the last few weeks since my return, I've taken care of old business both physical and mental preparing myself for the new and learning to live now. This is not only difficult for me but also necessary. The birth of triplets into our family adds to its importance. You must be happy and you must enjoy the life you have.

Today is Sunday and we are getting ready for  a two hour trip to see our grand babies who now are nearly 8 weeks old. In fact their due date was actually tomorrow. We are happy for the joy that these three have brought into our family. Three more reasons to celebrate life and to keep moving forward.

For three hard years, challenge after challenge surface and there appeared little hope that things would get better. They did and it was in many ways completely for different reasons than I would have imagined. What changed wasn't circumstances but rather my own outlook. The ordeal of fire changed me as a person even as my assets were being depleted I became spiritually stronger to meet tougher challenges. The real me had an opportunity to emerge.

We adapt to change even if we do not embrace it. The nine unanticipated months in Tucson forever changed me. I will never wait or idly wait for things to happen in life. If there's a peak I will climb it simply because I can.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Celebrate Life

Grandbabies: Carter, Annie, & Brennan Allred
Texas Pride and Texas Proud
Melissa Zihlman Photography

Like many other folks my age the lingering recession kept many smiles from my face. Three years have gone by and now it seems that light appears to be at the end of this tunnel. Last November, I found a job, however, it took me far away from both my family and friends. Since nothing materialized in Dallas, I took the only opportunity I could find and that lead me to Tucson, AZ.

That Christmas was very special. For the first time in several years, I was employed and grateful. At the same time we were given a very special gift in the form of an announcement; our daughter announced that she was pregnant with their first child. After many tribulations Justin and Travis would become parents. We were elated for the great news.

At that point, I knew that the prospects of an Arizona full relocation might be further off than I might want. Tucson definitely appealed to me.  It was photographic Mecca for me. Several weeks after the Christmas announcement, we received more news: three babies not one.

Whatever illusions I had of residing in Tucson now seemed further away. If I chose to stay it would have to be without my wife. With no other prospects on the horizon, I knew that we would have to be separated at least two years, at least I resigned myself to that. It would mean very infrequent visits between us since, my wife would be torn between the newborns and Tucson.

They say things happen for a reason. If you know me, you would know how much I've grown to hate that expression these past three years. For me there was no explicable reason for the suffering of my job loss and subsequent financial hardship. In hindsight, however, it was true.

Had I not lost my job my adventures would have ceased. During that time, developed more skills not less. Travelled more not less. Photographed more not less. The journey took me to Caddo Lake, Catskills, China, Death Valley, Puerto Rico, San Miguel de Allende, and Zion National Park. When the dust finally settled late last year, my journey took me to the high desert or Tucson and the grasslands of Southeast Arizona. During that time, I also accomplished what I had always wanted, to have my images in an art gallery; that became a reality in the spring of this year, too.

Just when I had given hope of finding a job in Dallas a week after the birth of triplet grand babies, a job was created for me in Dallas. My journey continues to surprise even me.

My conclusions? Never give up hope. Hope sustains us. If there's a peak, climb it. Do not avoid adversity because you wont fully comprehend the adventure you might have. Things work out for a reason.




Monday, July 29, 2013

One Last Dance...One Last Chance

Farewell Tucson
View from Catalina Foothills
Tucson, AZ

Been trying to say goodbye to my mountains. It's been difficult. So I waited to the very last dance and took one more chance last night to photograph the romance of this place. Tucson provided me an opportunity to grow as a person. The mountains provided me with both refuge and solace.

As the sun sets on this aspect of my journey, I look forward to the smiles of three newborn grandchildren and the embraces of my family and friends. I am coming home refreshed by my mountain top and desert experiences and ready for new adventures.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chasing Clouds

Monsoon and Funnel Cloud
Sonoita, AZ

Just the other day, we were kids staring at and chasing clouds. Years have passed and I still find myself chasing clouds and the dreams they cary. Its not a bad thing.

You if you don't dream, have a vision, or a blueprint you can never attain those ideas. You have to formulate them so at some point down the road you can execute and accomplish your purpose. Time waits for no one. Get up and do something. Become a cloud chaser.

As I drove through the grasslands of Sonoita to watch the effects of the monsoon, I happen to glance to my right and to the skies. I noticed what appeared to be a finger dropping from the clouds as if it was being pursued by the sheets of rain behind it. There before my eyes was the formation of a funnel cloud want to touch the ground but harnessed by the lack of energy.

Keep your eyes open, chase those clouds, follow your dreams and make them come true. Live your life not someone else's. Time is short. Time is precious.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Closing Scenes

The San Rafael Valley
Near Patagonia, AZ

My journey to Tucson and southeast Arizona is about to draw to a close. Originally, I anticipated a job and a paycheck and the hardship of being away from my family and friends. Instead, I found a new artistic voice via the landscapes of the Catalina Mountains and it's foothills and to the south east of the city the splendid Santa Rita's, Huachuca's and Mustang mountains.

Frequently, I found myself going to the grasslands of Sonoita and nearby Patagonia and its San Rafael Valley. It was there that I found myself, my happy place, my own heaven. So every opportunity I had, I spent traveling with my camera allowing the mountains and grasslands to speak to me. And they did and they told me what I had been missing by simply working and not taking time to listen to the quiet found in nature.

Time was meant to measure enjoyment not simply work. How we divide the clock is our problem, the hours are the same for everyone. We must choose to live and to enjoy, not merely survive. Each of us is afforded this choice. Yes, I choose to work but I also choose to live.

Fate has been kind to me.  What appeared to be a travesty an injustice of fortune has turned out to be my most creative period of my life. In addition, I've made all kinds of new friends and have discovered a life that has nothing to do with acquisition or suburbs but the quiet enjoyment of nature.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Closing Chapter

Prickly Pears and Finger Rock
Tucson, AZ


Suppose you thought I vanished. In the last few weeks there've been a lot of life courses on my plate, among them the declining health of my father, the amazing birth of triplet grandchildren (Annie, Brennan, and Carter), several trips to Dallas and one to St. Louis to interview for a new position in Dallas. Now after, nearly nine months in Tucson, a place where I found my photographic voice, its time to close this chapter and move on to the next.

What truly amazes me is how the universe poured so many blessings on this unwitting sojourner. The pain of losing a job and a parent within two years and the financial struggles which accompanied both were overwhelming. So overwhelming that I could not see any good coming out of my situation.

Yet those who know me quickly saw how at each turn, I made something of the situation. It was my creativity which sustained me throughout this ordeal. When shrouds of darkness clouded my mind and the borders of my images, hope and light emanated  through them.

As I already prepared to live in Tucson without my family and friends for at least two years, at the very moment my grandchildren were being born, I was on my way to finding another job in Texas. This was no mere coincidence; in fact it was a result of a cold call on June 18th after reading a brief press release in an scrap industry journal. Incredibly things were turning around for me.

So we can't lose hope even when no light appears in sight. We forge ahead with our dreams intact. Thats what sustains us: hopes and dreams. The next time you see a peak in front of you, don't avoid it, climb it.