Thursday, April 30, 2009

Photostory Friday: Sacred Ground

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

The day we moved into our house last summer -- before we unpacked a single box, even before we put the beds together -- I went and bought a basketball hoop.

Among the fathers and sons, in my family, basketball hoops are very important.


We're not great basketball players. 

None of us play on a basketball team.

We don't spend an inordinate amount of time following any basketball teams.

We don't keep score. 

The truth be told, we don't really even play basketball -- we just shoot hoops. And with only one rule: you shoot until you miss. But, I wouldn't trade what happens under that hoop, for anything in the world. I can't think of a word to express exactly what that is. "Bonding" is the closest approximation I can come up with.

It's where the generations of sons and their fathers come together, on common ground. 

It's where my dad and I developed a true friendship, in the last few years of his life. 

It's where my son and I spend hours talking about the important things of life. And the unimportant things. And sometimes not talking at all. 

It's where we show to our fathers, and to our sons, that they are important -- that we have time for them. 

It's where I feel my dad's presence most powerfully, and where my son and my father -- who never met -- join me in an unbroken line of hoop shooters. 

To me, it's sacred ground. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

365: Week 17

Day 113

April 23: Good.

Bill Cosby has a bit where he talks about how we -- human beings -- are not very humble. I'm paraphrasing: We build a building, and proclaim it great. We build a massive bridge and call it magnificent. We take a picture of a beautiful scene, and call it breath taking. 

God creates the entire Earth, and calls it...good. 

Sunrises are good. 

Day 114

April 24: Have I mentioned that we're going to Disneyland next week, and that I can't seem to concentrate on anything else? 

A few more days and we set course.

Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning...

Day 115

April 25: Home repairs scare me to death. 

This shot represents the biggest, most successful home repair I've ever made (You'll be less impressed when I tell you the rest of the story).

When we bought our home, last July, the home inspector suggested we have the previous owners replace the kitchen faucet. And they did.

With a seventeen dollar faucet, which lasted about as long as you would expect a seventeen dollar faucet to last. It's been leaking for months -- until Saturday, when I -- ME! -- replaced it. 

By myself.

And it works.

And it doesn't leak (yet).

No one is more amazed than I am. Please try to contain your enthusiasm. 

Now I just stand at the sink, turning it on and off, and think about the clog in the dishwasher...

Day 116

April 26: Emma was watching me wander all over the back yard, searching for something to take a picture of -- it turns out the best shot that day, was up on the deck. 

Day 117

April 27: Here's the second in a series:

"Shots taken, seconds before something landed on me." 

You may recall from last week, the shot of Emma hanging from the monkey bars...this time I figured I could shoot the basketball, then shoot the picture and then get out of the way.

(I know, I know, it seems a little optimistic in retrospect).

As it turns out, your (my) depth perception is screwy while looking through a view finder, and I took one in the face. 

I also thought "At least no one saw that..."

I was wrong a LOT that day. 

(No cameras were harmed in the making of this picture.)

Day 118

April 28: Jordan's first piano recital. 

Jordan has been taking piano lessons for about six months now, and like every other kid who takes piano lessons, she doesn't like to practice. But tonight we got a real glimpse of what she is capable of. 

While not bothering to hide my bias, I have always believed that Jordan could be a terrific piano player -- she has both the artistic inclination, and the love of learning. How do you keep them focused until they learn to get past the drudgery?

I think the applause at the recital helps...

Day 119

April 29: Self portrait. 

I chew a LOT of gum.

I also blow a LOT of bubbles. 

And I don't even chew bubble gum!

How do you like me now?

Actually, I was trying to blow it big enough to block out my gigantic forehead. 

See you next week!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Photostory Friday: Beauty

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

I was once told, by a kind old gentleman, that I have a gift for seeing beauty. 

I'm not conjuring up a romantic image here, this really happened.


And he didn't say it was a talent, he didn't say it was a skill -- he said gift. And he implied that with this gift, came the obligation to share the beauty that I see. And I know he was talking about real beauty. The kind that isn't skin deep. The kind of beauty that is radiant. The beauty of God's creations -- all kinds. 

That was nearly eighteen years ago, but I've thought about it ever since. From that day forward, I've been more conscious of my surroundings. I found that beauty -- real beauty -- is everywhere. If you have, as they say, eyes to see it. And ears to hear it. And a heart to understand it.


Don't misunderstand me, I'm not claiming some great insight into the human condition here. But I have found that when you look closer, when you wait patiently, and when you learn to expect it, beauty presents itself -- even in the most unusual places. Those are my favorite -- the ones you have to work for.

I'm not sure how best to share beauty. I suppose that's why my hobbies have gravitated toward things like writing and photography. If this is truly a gift, I am grateful for it. 

Life is hard enough without seeing the world around you as an ugly place. 

True beauty is a blessing and a gift. 

At least to me it is. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

365: Week 16

Day 106

April 16: Blue like the sky. Blue like sapphire. Blue like the deep end of the pool. 

My kids all have these blue eyes. While I never outwardly expressed the desire that my children would look like me (that's just cruel), I had secretly hoped for a little something. 

Alas, nothing.

My mom always told me that I had hazel eyes. In truth they're just kind of a muddy greenish-brown. 

Oh well, there's always grandkids...

Day 107

April 17: Wii (are going to be) Fit!

The new Wii Fit told me that I am at a healthy weight. It also told me that I'm unbalanced -- it literally asked me if I find myself falling down a lot.

Who knew getting healthy was so obnoxious?

Incidentally, those are not my toes, they belong to my wife. Mine are hairier, and crooked-er.

Day 108

April 18: How's this for a flippin' cool self portrait?

I only had to try this about fifty times. 

My kids were impressed that I could still do a backflip. They were even more impressed when I bounced all the way to the ground.

That just means that the trampoline mat is stretched out, and we need a new one right? RIGHT?

Day 109

April 19: Your guess is as good as mine here. I looked over and this was what I saw. 


Day 110

April 20: The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind...

The question: Will I ever be able to breathe again?

Day 111

April 21: I thought the perspective of this shot would be cool. I considered the background. I considered the angle. 

What I didn't take into consideration was the strength of Emma's fingers (it turns out she can't just hang there indefinitely). This was about a second and a half before she landed on me. 

Day 112

April 22: They don't teach you this knot in the Boy Scouts. 

I call it the Super-wrapped-over-under-all-around-double-triple-infinite-never-loosened-it-will-rot-off-the-tree-before-it-comes-undone-hitch. 

The hammock will NOT be falling down this year. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Photostory Friday: Work and Play

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

"Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. And play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do."
  -- Mark Twain

The above quote is from "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" -- one of my favorite books of all time. It comes at the place in the story where Tom, as a punishment from his Aunt Polly, is sentenced to white wash the fence. But Tom, ever resourceful, outsources the job to all the other boys of the village, by convincing them that it isn't work, but actually fun (he also convinces them to pay him for the privilege). 

I think about this concept a lot. 

Have you ever noticed, in your life, how close pain is to pleasure? Often it's simply a matter of intensity -- or, as in Tom Sawyer's case, obligation. 

My ancestors trekked across barren prairies and burning deserts because they had no choice, their freedom, and even their lives, depended on it. 

Today, I hike through burning deserts for fun. 

Which brings me to Emma (I find that I'm learning an awful lot of life's important lessons from my youngest daughter)...

When we moved in to our current home, last July, we found that we were the owners of a permanent dog run. We do not have a dog. We have no intention of getting one. The run sits on, and is bonded to, a large cement slab. It's a well made (immovable) structure. I have pondered all winter what to do with it. 

And apparently I wasn't the only one. 

As soon as the weather began to break this Spring, Emma and the other kids, moved in to the dog run, claiming it as their clubhouse. Emma will spend, literally, hours in this cage. As often as we'll let her, she takes her meals out there. She'll actually lock herself in.


Think about that.

If I were to punish Emma by locking her in a cage, I would go to jail. And rightly so. But, if Emma locks herself inside "for fun," it's a cute PSF. 

As a father and a husband, there is so much obligation, so much stress -- and I accept that. The rewards are worth the price. But, I find myself wondering how much of the stress of my life could be eased with a new perspective -- say from about 4' 1" off the ground. 

I think I'll take my dinner in the dog run tonight. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

365: Week 15

Day 99

April 9: Th elusive artist, doing her best Hannibal Smith impersonation (you think I'm kidding). She loves it when a plan comes together. 

Day 100

April 10: For my 100th picture this year, I had big plans to take some kind of amazing picture. 

And then I forgot all about it. 

Purely by happenstance, I went outside and shot this exotic flower. Any guesses as to what it is?

Day 101

April 11: It's been raining around here for days, but the only rainbow I was able to catch this week was on the kitchen table, the day before Easter. 

Day 102

April 12: A whole new world for Bella.

This is Bella, she's my mother-in-law's dog. Bella is a very sweet puppy. She never barks, I have never heard her growl. 

This past weekend Bella came to stay with us for a few days. At her house, Bella rarely sees kids and really can't see much of the world. But from our kitchen, on the second floor, Bella could see much of our neighborhood -- including every neighbor who took their own dog for a walk. 

I can now testify that Bella barks AND growls. She spent a good part of the four days she was with us, standing vigil at the kitchen sliding door. Barking. And growling. 

In this shot, even though it's dark and the blinds are closed, she wouldn't leave her post. We felt very safe. 

Day 103

April 13: What do you see in this picture?

Do you see renewal? Promise? Life?

I see pollen. 

Day 104

April 14: Do you remember when you were in school, and you went on really cool field trips?

In Utah, in the fourth grade, you study state history. That includes learning about the Bingham Canyon Mine -- the biggest open pit mine in the world. My son made this trip this week. It takes an hour and a half to get there. The mine is 2.75 miles across and three quarters of a mile deep. You can see it from anywhere in the valley. It's so big it can be seen from outer space. You can see it from almost everywhere. 

Except on a field trip. 

They didn't get to see the mine! 

But they did each get one of these cute stress relieving orange cones. 

No, I don't know what it has to do with the biggest open pit mine in the world either. 

Day 105

April 15: Self Portrait.

I work by myself a lot. So for about ten hours a day, these little buds are attached to my ears, filling my mind, keeping me sane. Sometimes I'm surprised to find that I don't have them in. 

By the way, do you have any idea how hard it is to take a picture of your ear as you drive down the road? I took about fifty, about ten of which actually got my ear in the shot. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Photostory Friday: Happiness

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

In the West we have what is called Desert Varnish. This is a substance that adheres to rocks in arid climates, staining them with darker and sometimes interesting -- and even beautiful -- shapes. 

As I was walking up the front steps the other day, I glanced down at the ground by the rose bush, and this is what I saw:

And since I now wander through life, searching for Photostory ideas (so do you, admit it), I knew I had a good one here: Finding happiness in unexpected places. 

I was going to write something deep, about how this little rock sees wind and rain, sunshine and snow, yet keeps on smiling through it all. 

I would write that life is certainly not always filled with happy circumstances, but that if you have a list of demands and conditions that have to be met before you will be happy, you have ensured that you never will be. 

I was going to say that happiness is a choice, and that if your eyes and ears and heart are open, you will find it in the most unexpected places. 

I thought of all of this in an instant.

In the next instant, I took a closer look at the little rock, and the ground surrounding it.


I believe in miracles and I believe in coincidences. 

I also believe in a five year old, with a marker and an artistic inclination, spreading joy in the front yard. 

And that's where I found happiness. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

365: Week 14

Day 92

April 2: 

Emma: Dad! Dad! Come quick, there's a rainbow!!

Emma (even more excitedly): Dad! I can see the end of the rainbow!!

Emma (baffled, dejected and not just a little annoyed): That's not a pot of gold! It's just a bunch of freakin' houses!

Day 93

April 3: Insectosaurus.

We splurged and took the whole family to see "Monsters vs Aliens." It was a lot of fun, and we always wonder why we don't do it more often. 

Then we payed $37.00 for tickets and $42.00 for concessions -- and we remember why we don't do it more often. 

And no, I don't smuggle my own candy in to the theater.


Day 94

April 4: Self Portrait.

You don't see this very often. 

Well, okay, once a week, but hardly ever on a Saturday. 

Day 95

April 5: One of my favorite things to do is share this photography bug with my kids. I get such a kick out of watching them explore their world in new ways.

My advice to them -- and anyone else -- is always to get closer. Move in to your subject and fill the frame. 

Life -- and art --  is in the details. 

Day 96

April 6: I'm actually shocked that there haven't been more of these shots. In the past 96 pictures, there has only been one other shot that took me right to the last moment. 

Day 97

April 7: Emma sees and hears EVERYTHING! But it's what comes out of her mouth -- her commentary on the world -- that puts me on the floor. 

The other evening we (my wife and I, and our older children) were sitting around the table discussing the iphone. Emma was coloring quietly at the other end of the table. Suddenly, she had had enough of our ridiculous conversation, and sarcastically blurted out:

"Oh, right! An Eye-Phone! Look at me, I'm making a phone call with my eye!"

Then she went back to coloring. 

This happens a lot. 

Day 98

April 8: I'm not a big fan of creating drama in my life -- enough of it comes along without any help. But God? He does drama right. 

Like a dark and heavy morning suddenly aflame, as the sun finds a small window between the storm clouds and the mountains.