A Two Hour Smile.

8/11 Waves.

It was a good dream.   Vague and mostly forgotten, not at all unsettling, a slight smile in my sleep.  I seemed very young, maybe seven, still free with innocence, unencumbered by later life.  It was a hot day, summertime, and we were, or had been, at the beach, where I had spent the entire day engulfed in waves.  Diving under, jumping up, turning so that the back of your head had the wave break over it while you looked through to shore, maneuvering for the next one, on and on.  Bodysurfing.  Giggling underwater all the way to the sand when you got caught.

Then came the post stoke relaxation and good sleep.  Warm breezes, full moon, abundance of life and living.  The August cicadas were singing away, celebrating the season.  Something then turned, the timing too early.  Soundwaves getting louder and louder, threatening my sleep and dream state.  The dream faded, like youth, or a good summer on the first day of school.  My alarm was blaring, no longer a cicada’s song.  I hit snooze.  Ahhh, crickets….

This new silence was not feeling like more real sleep,  so I grabbed my camera bag and water housing and headed down to the beach.  There was a slight North wind, which is always good, but heavy stratus cloud cover prevented any sunrise light.  Scanning the ocean for whales and dolphin, I waited, enjoying my 7-11 large, dark coffee.  Didn’t see any, but noticed the waves were actually curling a bit, first time in a while.

When I opened my bag to grab my 16-35mm, the lens was missing.  In its place was my 24-120mm.  Wasn’t sure if it would fit in the housing and with no collar on the lens there would be no zoom, but I gave it a shot and got lucky.   24mm, not bad for leaving the house half asleep. (EDIT:  looking at exif data, the zoom slowly shifted towards the longer end.)

Patches of blue started peaking through the grey.  I headed down toward the Fire Island Lighthouse.  Bare feet in sand, coffee in hand.  The next two hours brought changing light, one long smile, a few giggles, and the focused, alert, wake-full-ness of salt therapy.  Living in a dream.  It comes in waves.

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Spitting into the Weather.

 

I was overheated, lethargic.  The world looked gray and dull for photography.  Yet there was that something in the air – subtle signs of weather change.  I figured I’d try to cool off swimming in a local cove for relief. The high temps and humidity had me feeling pretty lazy, so I figured I’d leave the camera home.  Realizing this was dumb, and anticipating rain, I left the heavy lenses home, but put my camera into a surf housing.  

Hemlock Cove was refreshing.  The god awful record-breaking brown tide was all but gone.  All was calm, but storm clouds were moving in, looking good. Had a swim, took a few shots and the wind shifted North.  White caps within three minutes inside the cove!

A North wind smooths the surface of the ocean, countering the usual onshore breeze here on the south shore of Long Island.  I ran across the parkway, and jumped in.  A nice storm, and being in the ocean are two things that re-energize me.  Can ya relate? Yep.

Photo tips:   I use a Nikon 16-35mm lens with an Aquatech base model housing. The base model has no real controls, so I set the F-stop to where I want it, and shoot in Aperture priority.  I then set the ISO to auto.  This way the camera has a chance to give me a good exposure. In the menu, you can set the lowest shutter speed and the highest ISO that you are comfortable with.  (If the amount of available light means your shutter would get too slow at your chosen F-stop, the ISO will automatically increase, allowing the camera to keep your shutter speed fast.)  

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(Aquatech base with flat port)

The wide angle requires a dome port. To prevent water droplets from blurring a pic, they need to go.  First, make sure you have no oily greasy fingerprints on the port.  (dish soap, but rinse well.)   Then, spit.  And spit.  And lick.  The dome port actually has a lot of surface area.  Spit a lot.  Lick a lot.  You may get funny looks.  Keep the housing under water until right before you shoot.  The water will fall off, leaving a thin film of water with no drops.  Keep spitting, keep licking, keep shooting. 

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Questions or comments?  – feel free to hit the comments.  Thanks for looking!

Spring Equinox

Half-way over that mythic sunny bridge… A little more ocean warmth, some warmer breezes, sun, sun, sun.. salt water baptisms, and lively stirrings of the soul…..

Monday, March 20th at 6:28am on the east coast, was the vernal equinox. Picture the imaginary plane upon which the Earth revolves around the Sun. The Earth is always tilted at an angle of 23.4 degrees. All winter, the southern hemisphere was tilting towards the Sun. This kind of sucks for the northern hemisphere if you don’t snowboard. It even sucks if you have a wetsuit. On the equinox, however, the Earth’s tilt is such that the Sun shines directly on the Equator – the half-way point between the southern and northern hemispheres. “Equinox” – “Equi” meaning “equal”; “ox” meaning not the 53 point Words with Friends move, but the dyslexic Aussie down-under “kiss”. (Their toilets flush backwards too, xo.) More Sun kisses further into the night. Lord knows we all need some more Sun kissing our faces.

Astronomers often mark this equinox as the beginning of a new orbit around the sun. Astrologers start the year with the Sun entering Aries. Since ancient times, it has been known as a time of new beginnings. Think of the great traditions – Easter, Passover, Spring Break, or the bloody human sacrifices of the Mayans at their main pyramid El Castillo at Chichen Itza, Mexico. The main staircase of the pyramid is constructed at such a precise way that, on the day of the equinox, the sun aligns perfectly to create a serpent of sunlight, slithering down the staircase. Ancient Aliens??? Illegal aliens???? No. Stop. Their calendar ended, died, on the winter solstice of 2012. Sometimes people get out of bloody control and too wrapped up in their own customs.

Easter is a nice myth symbolizing rebirth. Kill a savior. Resurrect him. Rebirth. He planted a pretty big seed there. More symbols… Easter eggs. Eggs. Birth, fertility. Someone planted the seed that on the Equinox, you can balance an egg on its end. Well, don’t try this at home. You will die trying. Some myths are out of bloody control. Some are even co-opted by bloody control.

Spring is green. Its not just a fresh coat of paint on new and burned bridges. Green is chlorophyll harnessing the sun and allowing life for billions of years. It ramps up in Spring, rests in Winter. Every year. For billions of years. We are intimately, genetically, directly, connected to this past, its pattern, rhythms, cycles. (And yet, if you want to think esoterically, your mind should die to all past internal and external noise, and be born again with each new moment. This idea, however, gives everyone but the gods, a freaking headache. Which is fine because Spring isn’t a head thing like bloody dogma. Spring imposes its own new prism, new perspective, lessening the need for a good esoteric game.) Go to the beach or walk through town around happy hour on the first sunny 75 degree day of the year. You feel it. You feel the source of Myth. Warmth on your face, ease in your smile, vitality in your core, spring in your step, blood-pumping, aliveness, buzz in the air.

And, clams come out of their shells.

 

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Rock Hopping

…slowing the whirlwind, not one step at a time.

…a short piece of writing by Dean Potter, ex-Flow king climber/base jumper:

***Cold air from the valley drifts upwards. It’s predawn and I’ve been moving on the north Nose of El Cap through the night, focused on the rock in front of me in the faint light of my headlamp. Suddenly, I think of how tired and exposed I am, alone, ropeless, far past any point of retreat. A surge of panic courses through me. I try to think of the summit but that thought, too, is dangerous.

An image floats into my mind. I’m following my father in the early through a pasture in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. He strides towards Moosebrook, his favorite fishing spot. I’m not even half his height, and the frosty grass brushes all the way up to my waist.
We reach the river. My Dad skips from rock to rock, downstream to the first hole, and looks back for me. The water is freezing, and the rocks are covered in slime. I’m afraid to follow. I burrow painfully through the thickets of pricker bushes, swamp, and blackflies as my father calls for me. The bugs chase me back to the river’s edge. and I timidly wade in and try to catch up. Tense and anxious, I lose my footing, and fall into the river. I gasp for breath in the icy water, but manage to scramble onto a rock where I bawl until my father comes back. “I don’t like fishing. I want to go home”.

My father shakes his head at me, and his eyes sparkle. “Dean, put everything else aside. There’s nothing to be afraid of, except a little cold water. Just focus on the next step you are taking. I feel so happy running down the river, the sun reflecting off the water, my body naturally going where it’s supposed to. I almost don’t think at all. I just respond to what’s in front of me.”
He stops talking and heads downstream again. We slowly pick our way across the rocks, catching rainbows and brook trout. The day passes quickly and my confidence rises. Soon, I’m playing and racing down the rapids with eyes wide and senses alert, not knowing I’ve just received my first lesson in Zen.

The air drifts over my body. I grasp the immediate. I reach for the next hold.****

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This story struck a chord in me. I vividly remember being about 6 or 7 years old, visiting my Grandma in upstate NY. There was a gully with a stream rushing through it, complete with rocks at all angles, slippery moss, and icy water. I used to love hiking in that stream as a kid. It was beautiful, serene. Fairly quickly, I learned the art of sprinting from rock to rock, without any distractions. As you pushed off with your right foot, your body already knew where your left foot was going to land, and the precise angle you should land on to prevent slipping, while sending you in the direction of the next “pre-selected” rock. And it was all so effortless. It exhilarated and calmed me at the same time. I guess my addiction to the state of “Flow” started here. In one way or another, I’ve been pursuing this state ever since.

In the moment, harmony, complete concentration without effort, zoned in. When you experience this deeply, there is joy, a smile on your face for days. You have tapped into a great state of consciousness that is not always easy to do.

OK, enough rambling… Go back and read the article again. Instead of reading about climbing and rock-hopping, read it as a metaphor for life. Life as it should be, not the whirlwind of stress it often becomes. Life can be a rock hop if you allow it.

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A Light Tenacity

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