Thursday, August 27, 2009

Photostory Friday: Making Memories

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

A good memory is like a warm blanket. It's like a deposit in a savings account. We hold it in reserve, to draw from when the lean times come.

Or maybe a better metaphor is that a memory is like a piece of fine art. We acquire it -- sometimes at a cost -- and hang it in a beautiful place. We come back to admire it from time to time. And, as the years go by, it's value increases. Some memories are worth more than others.

Memories that involve my wife and children are the most valuable of all.

We've reached a new plateau in the life of our little family -- we are no longer burdened down with strollers and diapers, and we're more free to act spontaneously. This past weekend we picked up and headed to southern Utah, to make some memories.

We hiked and we sweated. We looked up at towering stone, and down from an island two-thousand feet in the sky.

We saw, distinctly, why the Green River is called Green.

We looked out over Martian landscapes.

We climbed all over the "Indiana Jones" arch (also known as Double Arch).

We watched the sun rise through Mesa Arch perched, quite literally, on the very edge of a 1,500 foot cliff.

(One of us walked across the arch, much to the consternation of his wife).

Sunday night, as we sat in the backyard, dusk coming on, the first day of school only hours away, and unwilling to let the weekend slip away, we started talking about our favorite memories of the previous two days.

It turns out it wasn't seeing this:

Or being here:

It was seeing this:


It was being here:

As a family.

It was Emma, inadvertently keeping me awake on the drive home, as she interpreted the lyrics to Bon Jovi's "It's my life."

("I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd" became "I ain't gonna feed you the fish in the cloud.")

Forty hours yielded a lifetime of memories.

You know, that's not a bad investment at all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

365: Week 34

Day 233

August 20: Shooting stars?

I've taken more pictures of weeds this year than I ever would have imagined.

Day 234

August 21: The Bountiful LDS Temple. This is where we spent a very serene evening -- it had been quite a while, and it was nice to go back.

Leaving the temple, and hurrying home to pack for our early morning departure, I suddenly remembered that I hadn't taken a picture yet, so I shot this as I drove by. Which explains the quality of the image. It's a much more beautiful building than this shot conveys.

Day 235

August 22: Cairns.

These little piles of stones are ubiquitous in the National Parks of the southwest. They mark the general trails to and from the sights. As long as you can see a cairn, you're going to be okay.

Assuming the 110 degree heat doesn't kill you.

(Luckily it's a dry heat...)

Day 236

August 23: On the four hour drive home from Moab, after two early mornings and two days full of hiking in the desert heat, I needed something the keep me awake, so I fell back on my old habit of sticking the camera out the window.

I realize it's probably not the safest thing to do -- but it's better than falling asleep.

I love this shot. It looks like something from the movie Cars, doesn't it?

Day 237

August 24: These dirty little toes are on the feet of our last first grader.

As of today, all of our kids are in school for the whole day.

My wife celebrated the entire day.

Day 238

August 25: My favorite feature of my new car -- the sun roof.

Now I don't have to hang my expensive cameras out of the windows, I can just shoot straight up.

It's MUCH safer.

Day 239

August 26: While we were in Moab over the weekend, we stayed at the Best Western Canyonlands Inn. I highly recommend it -- it was probably the most comfortable economy motel I've ever stayed in. And if you can leave at the spur of the moment, I also recommend going through Priceline -- I got a $150 room for $75. Plus, you HAVE to love the amenities:

Two comfortable queen beds.

One sofa bed.

Free breakfast.

Flat screen TV.

Free coffee (which doesn't do us much good).

And two complimentary paper towels -- to use as you see fit.

(Yes, I took BOTH of them).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Photostory Friday: The Peak

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Sometimes we tend to think of life as a series of high points and low points. The truth is, the vast majority of life is lived somewhere on the road, between those peaks and valleys, and if you don't learn to find contentment on that path -- in everyday life -- then you're in for a long and miserable life.

I have a good life. I don't love every aspect of it, but in the areas that really matter, I am happy.

About seven months ago, I was in the darkest valley of my life. My wife had been diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer, and I felt completely hopeless and helpless. I WAS helpless, there was nothing I could do. Even going back and reading my posts from that time brings those feelings back to the surface.

So much has happened since then. Sharon is cancer free, she is healthier than she has been, almost since I've known her. That dark valley seems like a lifetime ago.

This past Tuesday night -- Sharon's birthday, incidentally -- I reached a peak.

I didn't graduate from college, or get a book published, or win some photography ribbon. I just stood on the shore of a small lake, and watched the sun go down.

It was one of those sunsets that gets better every minute. Every new phase was more beautiful than the one before. In fact, the most stunning colors came after the sun was long gone. It was hypnotizing and breathtaking and overwhelming. There were times that I couldn't tell where the water ended and the sky began. It lasted forever. The moment lingered, as though my desire alone held it bound.

The thing about a peak is, that as long as you continue moving upward, all the roads you travel will lead you to that place. And, when you arrive, you think about all that led you to that point, and as I stood on that shore, watching God paint the far western horizon, I thought of all that was good in my life -- my wife, my children, my family and friends -- all that lifts me up, and I was filled with a sublime peace and a quiet joy. The beauty of the moment surrounded me and penetrated to the core.

The sun set, and the night came on, and the path of life stretched in front of me once again.

But the memory of my moment at the peak is still glowing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

365: Week 33

A week of Beauty

Day 226

August 13: I had to get a new car. The transmission on the old Ford Bronco was just about gone, in fact I wasn't sure I would make it home from work, so I swung into a local car dealership. And they set me up with this baby!

It's silver!

It's a Nissan Sentra!

It's the sporty package!

It's a 2004!

It has a V-6

It's only got 59,000 miles on it!

It has a Rockford Fosgate sound system!

It goes where I point it, and it is VERY zippy!

I now look forward to left turns.

Day 227

August 14: The Relay for Life.

We stayed up all night.

And walked in endless circles.

For cancer prevention.

(I'm not sure how it all works, but I was there to support my wife and mother-in-law, both cancer survivors).

It was actually a lot of fun -- until we were rained out at 6 am.

Day 228

August 15: We lost half the day sleeping, but we still managed to get some frisbee time in, in the late, the early evening -- one of our favorite summer evening activities.

Matt's an odd duck (on so many levels) -- he is left handed, but he throws a frisbee and shoots a basketball with his right hand.

Day 229

August 16: Since we got so little sleep on Friday night/Saturday morning, we thought we should get up at 5:30 on Sunday morning, and head to Eden for the Ogden Valley Hot Air Ballon Festival.

We got lost, but finally made it to the launch site just as the balloons were taking flight.

I had never been to a hot air ballon festival before, what a gorgeous morning!

We're going to hit the Antelope Island Hot Air Balloon Festival over Labor Day weekend.

We're hot air balloon junkies now! (If only we could afford to actually ride in one....)

Day 230

August 17: I'm afraid, looking back on this project, that by the summer, the majority of the pictures will be of something in my backyard.

Just like this one.

But, I thought the sky was pretty tonight.

Day 231

August 18: If the sky last night was pretty, the sky tonight was almost heart stopping.

It was my wife's birthday, and after opening presents and basically bumming around the house for a while, we decided to head out to Bountiful Lake (which is more like a pond with delusions of grandeur) for an hour or so, before sunset.

We watched the fish stocking truck fill the lake with channel catfish. We watched a couple of little field mice run, endlessly, in and out of their little hole to see if we were still there.

We were.

Then, as the sun set, the real show began.

I've always been a sunset guy, but this may have been the best I've ever seen.

Day 232

August 19: I wish I was ending this on Tuesday, instead of Wednesday, this week. This little dragonfly seems so anti-climactic after that sunset.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Photostory Friday: Passing the Torch

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Once upon a time, I was the only photographer in the family. I was never in any family pictures, because I was always on the other side of the camera (well, that was one of the reasons...) But, this is no longer the case.

This week is the county fair. I love August, and I've always loved the fair. The fair means that the summer is not over, but it's certainly winding down. The days will get shorter, and cooler. The light in the sky is different in August -- it is a subtly lighter shade of blue. I never think of August without wild anticipation. And the only "obligation" I have in August is the county fair.

(Oh, and college football starts in three weeks -- but that's a different blog...)

Actually, the fair is not an obligation, but I've been submitting pictures for about eight years now, and I don't always (or usually) win big, but I do usually bring home some kind of little ribbon. I have to admit, I get a bigger kick out of eavesdropping on people who are admiring the entries.

Last year, I convinced my daughter Jordan to enter a couple of pictures, and she ended up placing higher than I did (I came in third place, she came in second -- yes we compete in different divisions).

And I've been hearing about it for a year.

This year not only did Jordan enter again, but my sister-in-law Pam entered a picture as well. We're taking over! And now, I'm sure you're dying to know the results:

Pam's entry:

3rd place!!!!

My entry #1:

3rd place!!!

My entry #2:

3rd place!

My entry #3:

3rd place.

(I seem to have plateaued)

Jordan's entry #1:

3rd place!! (are you sensing a pattern?)

Jordan's entry #2:


Yes, she smoked me again. And she's pulling away. She actually had the graciousness (or guts, or nerve, or chutzpah) to say to me: "Better luck next year Dad."

I can't decide whether to be impressed or insulted. Especially when her picture bears a STRIKING resemblance to my big winner from two years ago:

You be the judge.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

365: Week 32

Day 218

August 6: I love summer clouds. They're so big and dramatic! They just look apocalyptic!

Day 219

August 7: The hike up Adams Canyon: three miles and three hours.

The trail: Rocky and vertical.

The Waterfall at the top: breathtaking.

A day out with the boys: priceless.

Day 220

August 8: Day number 2 out with the boys: Still priceless, but a little more exhausted.

Day 221

August 9: Sunday morning breakfast.

Note to self: start earlier and you will actually be able to eat breakfast in the morning.

Day 223

August 10: I publish this picture, in spite of strong opposition from my lovely wife.

I was eating her ear.

I was hungry.

See what she puts up with?

Day 224

August 11: There is something very therapeutic about standing in the back yard, and squirting stuff with the hose.

I was out there for at least an hour.

I was pretending it was my lightsaber.

(Try NOT getting your camera wet, while doing this -- it requires more dexterity than you -- I -- would think).

Day 225

August 12: This is not the most flattering picture of Jordan, but I wanted to catch the moment that she realized she had won a blue ribbon at the county fair.

I had snuck in earlier, so I already knew the results. That's two years in a row now that she has beaten me (I got some third place ribbons) -- I may have to take away her camera privileges.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Photostory Friday: In her eyes

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

She sat on my lap, her big blue eyes wide open and staring intently into my own. And then she laughed.

"When I look in your eyes, I see me!"

Jordan was about three years old at the time, and I had told her what beautiful eyes she had, and she wanted to see what color my eyes were, but what she saw was her own reflection.

I have always been amazed at the profundity of children. They are so untouched by the world, and their perspective is so honest and fresh, and so often when they speak, they say the most amazing things. And then they turn and walk away, and we are left pondering the deeper meanings of their innocent statements.

I've thought about what Jordan said here many times over the years. What greater statement could a father wish for? I see myself in each of my kids.

In Emma, I see myself in her unpredictability, her interest in everything. I see myself in her curiosity, and my wife tells me the attitude and the temper are all me.

I see myself in Matthew's naturally average abilities at sports. We're not great but we're competent. I see myself in his peacemaking (I realize that seems to contradict what I said about attitude and temper -- we're a complicated bunch) he has a profoundly gentle soul.

But with Jordan, I see myself through her eyes. She sees what I see.

That's a hard thing to explain. But she views the world from the same perspective as me.

Jordan is my photographer, and my writer. Jordan is my artist.

She sees the beauty in everything around her, and is touched by it. She loves the experience and satisfaction of creation. She, like her father, is moved by creative instincts.

I know there are some tough days ahead. Jordan, in so many ways, is different than me, and that gap -- somedays -- seems wider than ever. But I'm so grateful that we have this connection. I'm thankful that our common ground is creation and the love of beautiful things.

I hope that when Jordan looks in to my eyes she still sees herself. I hope she also sees the love and pride that I have for my first born.

When I look in her eyes, I see me.