Fifth Anniversary

Woah! WordPress notified me that today my blog is five years old. Thank you, friends, for liking and commenting over the years. You make me happy, and I appreciate the time you’ve taken to comment and share your thoughts. This marker made me wonder–what was my first post on November 25, 2012?

Illinois Slag Pile

Hail to the Litvak, the Pole, and the Italian.

I started looking through the gallery of posts, almost 500, varying from film to photography and other cultural topics like art, books, and music and thought I’d share several that meant something to me for varying reasons.

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1. I spent many seasons hiking around this Virginia lake before moving to Arizona.

Hiking Around Lake Laura. Virginia

 

2. I enjoyed connecting a pair of films and placing them side by side for analysis. I fell away from doing that; it was an activity that attracted traffic and encouraged fun conversations.

Blue Jasmine vs. A Streetcar Named Desire

3. I enjoy sharing my favorite music. The musicianship from these three favorites never grows old. Here’s a preview — start at 3:00 for the Tony Banks solo.

YES, RUSH, GENESIS

4. When I started the Lucky 13 Film Club 3 years ago–yes, three–this entry wins for the most thought-provoking conversation with 123 comments.

L13FC: The Revenant

5. I spent time creating this pairing between the film and the book with hopes it would be intellectually interesting to those who appreciate history.

In the Heart of the Sea

6. I was in the right place at the right time when the desert cacti exploded into magnificence.

Five Shots: Cacti Blooming

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7. Greece. It’s hard to take a bad picture in a beautiful place.

Rhodes

8. Creative Writing–The research behind the writing was fun to post.

Saloons and Theaters in Jerome, Arizona

Two dogs leaped out of a canoe and flipped the boat, and the lady went flying. We thought that funny.

9. “In My Opinion” posts are personal. I’d like my children and grandchildren to get to know me through these posts one day.

Time Passes

 

Looking forward to 2018. Thanks, everyone! 

Five Shots: Buttes, Valleys, and Canyons

Do you like space? Jim, Bear, and I crossed the quadripoint in the Southwestern United States, commonly called the Four Corners (Utah, AZ, Colorado, New Mexico). Its vastness is scary at times and the closest I’ll get to the surface of Mars. It is a holy ground, the center of the Universe to several Native American tribes like the Navajo and Hopi and the Ute. Up to Colorado, here are shots showcasing the space and grandeur of the Southwest.

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1. Monument Valley Butte
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2. Dwarfed Telephone Poles
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3. Mexican Hat Vista
4. Switchback to Mexican Hat
5. Focusing on a Solitary Butte
6. Sunrise at Six
7.  6:30am
8. Java at Seven
9. Lonely tree talks to a Seamonster
10. A Little Canyon
11. Durango to the Rockies

Which one did you like the best?

Here’s a map of our journey heading North from highway 89 to 160 to 145:

 

Five Shots: Colorado Aspens

These pictures were taken today and tomorrow of 2015. We were hoping to return to South Central Colorado for fall break, but it didn’t work out. A revisit through the photo album will have to suffice. Which one do you like best?

1. Gold Framing
2. Black and Gold
3. The Hills Are Alive
4. Inside the Aspen Grove
5. Fall Drive
6. Trout Lake, outside of Telluride
7. Colorado Pines
8. Granite Face
9. At the edge of Trout Lake
10. Aspen Buddies
11. Looking up
12. Feels like you are in the Alps

We were fortunate the weather was perfect. Capturing a perfect day locks in the memory and lessens the sting of a humdrum day.

IMO: Alone in the Crowd

 

Have you spent a length of time in a completely foreign environment with strangers? 

Here’s a paradox — feeling alone in the crowd. I am naturally an introvert. Yet, several times in my adult life, I’ve thrown myself into situations where I’m alone with strangers away from home. It’s painful for me to stand in a crowd and make small talk. Surrounded by strangers, it’s painful to work as a team. Worse is trying to find a seat in a dining room and be a good conversationalist with strangers. My natural instinct is to take flight and take my meal anywhere else. After an 8 hour shift of working around others, all I want is to be alone. But what to do? For it is painful for me to eat in a restaurant by myself. I find it hard to go to a movie, a bar or public event by myself. Surviving in the group dynamic for a week or months or years is a life skill I’ve practiced for decades. Whether spoiled in luxury or in dubious settings, anxiety accompanies me throughout and threatens to shut me down. So why do I do it?

 

Work Vacations 

For 8 days, this past June, I went to Tampa, Florida to grade AP US History essays. Away from my routines and loved ones, I sat at an assigned table grading. Two breaks and a lunch later, we were free to head back to the hotel. We were assigned a roommate, and I prayed she wouldn’t have sleep apnea. There was a lot of free time to explore and eat out if we chose. Visit the local museums or soak in the hotel hot tub on the fifth floor, I’d consider this a work-vacation.

Academic Vacations 

Once in 1995, I spent weeks in Dorset County, England studying Thomas Hardy. For three English graduate hours, I was surrounded by a Thomas Hardy scholar and sixteen other college students who enrolled in the class to read six novels, a book of poetry, and live in Southern England. The evenings were free for pints and discussions. This was more of a vacation than a chore. Reading, writing, and discussing books is like blogging about movies. It was emotionally and intellectually satisfying.

TAOS, NEW MEXICO

The other academic environment was an all immersion German graduate class in beautiful Taos, New Mexico, run by the University of New Mexico. With 40 other students, we stayed in the ski resort condominium and our roommates and the class vowed to speak only Deutsch. For three weeks we went to class, ate together, and studied in our rooms.  A discussion panel or a German film was shown in the evening. It was a painful three weeks. I muddled through with good grades and credit. Surrounded by others who spoke better Deutsch than I and listening to philosophical seminars in German was daunting. I couldn’t wait to get home.

Educational Traveling 

 

It might seem strange to consider traveling across the globe with a group you’ve never met before. Maybe you know one or two people–the travel buddy, me the facilitator, or other students. Yet, you are sharing an experience. They bring their perceptions to the discussions and you share what you found interesting. Inevitably, you begin discussions and develop surprising friendships.

 

Everyone is on their best behavior as we share the hotels, the famous sites, the excursions, and the food. With my trips, there is free time built into the itinerary so one can simply stop, sit, have a glass of wine or coffee, and people watch. Evenings are free to pursue preferences. Some like to crash and hang out in the hotel. Older couples go out and check out the stores and bars. Every time we return home, couples, grandparents, parents, students, and I marvel at the adventure. Forgotten is the plane ride, the hot temperatures, the rain, or the grumpy traveler on the train. I always look forward to next year’s adventure. I feel blessed I’ve been able to escort people far, far away.

The Military 

In 1981, I joined the U.S. Navy after graduating high school and was sent to Orlando, Florida to boot camp for eight weeks. Other than my first trip to London and the countryside while in high school, it was the first time I had voluntarily separated myself from family and friends. Oh the calisthenics, the screaming by company commanders and never-ending marching and standing at parade rest! I survived and was pretty proud of myself. Off then to San Diego, California to an “A” school to learn how to be a Radioman which means how to establish ship shore communications. I specialized in the teletypewriter and learned how to read tape. While there, I was asked where I wanted to be stationed. I said anywhere in the United Kingdom. I was stationed at the Northern tip of  SCOTLAND  and lived up there for three years in the early 1980s.

Why do I do it? I try to get out of my comfort zone. I’m no fool–these opportunities I’ve described were gifts. I knew the trips would be worth the discomfort of my social anxiety because I thought of them as adventures. Despite fears and loneliness, in each experience, there were strangers who turned into friends. Only when I push myself out of my comfort zone is when I accomplish anything in my life. It would be so easy to be a recluse and shrink in all ways a person can by avoiding my fellow man.

I have an assignment at school where I’m mentoring a neophyte teacher. He told me that Arizona State University rewards mentors by granting them college hours. So what did I do? I looked and sure enough, there’s a summer total immersion program in German at their sister-city in a part of Germany I’ve never been to before. I know it will be painful. I know I will feel lonely. I know I will crave the comfort of my own surroundings, but how can I resist the adventure of gathering with a group of strangers and practicing the German language even if I’m not very good at it?

How about you? When have you been alone in the crowd? 

Five Shots: Clouds on the Rim

Some of our visiting family have never been to Eastern Arizona. Most people assume Arizona looks like the Phoenix landscape.  90 miles north, the Mogollon Rim is one of my favorite spots in this diverse state. Arizona ranks 6th in size among the 50 states. The total area of Arizona is 114,000 sq mi (295,260 sq km), of which land takes up 113,508 sq mi (293,986 sq km) and inland water 492 sq mi (1,274 sq km).  Here are some shots I took kayaking and hiking around the rim. The clouds were colossal. Which photo do you like best?

Bright Blue Sky
Kayaking on Woods Canyon Lake
Soft Reflection
Shore Line
Creeping Clouds
Far Side of the Lake
At the Edge
The Mogollon Rim

Five Shots: OBX

Kill Devil Hills Beach

North Carolina’s Outer Banks (OBX) has a history of pirates and lighthouses, THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE, and the location of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s famous first flight in 1903. Check out this CBS Sunday Morning video about historian David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers. (A great read).

On the OBX you will discover sand dunes and wild horses and your eyes will fill with brown sugar beaches and water–the Pamlico Sound on the west side and the Atlantic Ocean on the east side. In addition to the history, add Southern hospitality and all the seafood you can eat. The warm breezes and the chilly Atlantic relaxed us beyond measure. Jim and I attended a special wedding at sunset on the beach when the waves turned into silver and the tall grass on the dunes waved under the pink sunset. Living in the desert, the water was therapeutic for us. We were only there for a few days, but in my mind, I’m already planning to rent a house and have a full family vacation at the OBX in the future. But for now, it was a welcome retreat and an opportunity to rejoice in an intimate family celebration.  Which shot do you like best?

Fish Enchiladas at Bernie’s
Kill Devil Hills looking North
Pamlico Sound Tiki Bar at Duck

Pamlico Sound house pier
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Bodie Lighthouse
View at the top
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Looking down nine floors

Oregon Inlet fishing station. Today’s catch.
Mahi
Waves at Rodanthe
Sunset over Pamlico Sound
Supper’s Ready
The bride and groom and the proud witnesses

 

 

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