A Fleeting Moment, Without Beginning Or End

This week’s photo challenge – posted by the Daily Blog – is titled “Fleeting Moment“, and is a picture of a moment captured on the street.  Readers were challenged to capture a moment on the street: to test their skills in street photography.  Now, while my photo wasn’t exactly taken from the street (the subject is parked in a parking lot – I took the picture from the street), I think it still qualifies.

Notice the For Sale sign posted on one of the rear windows of the white van – a sign signifying the owner’s desire to leave behind this physical reminder of times past: a fleeting moment within a fleeting moment.

Every Friday evening, like clockwork, owners of classic vehicles – from old Beetles to muscle cars – gather together in the parking lot of the local McDonald’s to park their rides and show them off.  Why a McDonald’s, you may wonder?  The chosen McDonald’s is actually called the Nostalgia McDonald’s, and is decorated – both inside and out – with a retro, late 1950’s theme.  Many of the featured vehicles are from that same era, making those visiting the fast-food restaurant feel as though they have stepped into an ongoing moment from the distant past.

I chose to take a picture of these particular vehicles because I believed them to exemplify the theme of a “fleeting moment” in a couple of different ways.  The owners of these vehicles do not keep them for economic reasons: they have terrible gas mileage, the parts are not easy to come by for repairs, and finding an exact replacement – should they get into a car accident that totals their vehicle – is next to impossible anymore.  These owners keep these old vehicles around because, to them, they are physical representations of the memories they hold.  When these particular drivers get together every week, they talk about the issues that affected them in years past, almost as though time had not continued to run its course after their occurring.  They talk about the war, about the economic hardships the country was facing, about the changes rapidly developing technology had brought about.  To these drivers, their every Friday might be but a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of things, but to them, it is a moment that never really ends.  I can only hope that one day I’ll be able to continue the tradition and sit around with other vehicle owners from my generation, showing off our 2007 Jeep Liberties to all the gawking hybrid and electric car drivers looking on.  We’ll pass the time talking about the war, about the economic hardships the country faced during our time, and the changes rapidly developing technology has brought to our culture – our fleeting moment stretching on into infinity.

Creativity, Art, and Tacos

My photo response.  (Finally.)

The theme for this week’s photo challenge – hosted by the Daily Blog – was entitled “Create“, featuring the photographer’s definition of the word “create”, as well as a prompt for the reader to photograph something that objectified the word “create” for them.  Recently, I have not exactly been the paragon of creativity.  The only time I am “creative” anymore is when I create Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and put together business orders.  So, for the purpose of this post, I had to be a bit inventive.

This image makes me want to create another taco…and another…and…

This is a taco, made from chorizo filling.  If you have never had the opportunity to try chorizo before, I would highly recommend that you do so.  Chorizo is a type of spicy sausage, and can be purchased at your local Mexican market.  No taco is complete without tomatoes, of which I made sure that my taco had plenty of.  I am a huge fan of avocados, so they – in addition to a dab of Crema Suprema – acted as the dish’s garnish.  My “creation” tasted delicious, and was filling while being aesthetically pleasing.  Perhaps this example of “creation” wasn’t as flashy or visually appealing as a picture or other work of art – but it was edible!

To Be So Close…and Yet So Far

The word of the week is “Close” – or at least it is if you are a follower of the Daily’s Post’s weekly photo challenge. I have been wrestling with this theme all weekend, dismissing each idea for my photo response almost as soon as I thought them up. I finally came up with an answer I was happy with this afternoon while on my lunch break.

The temptation to get closer to all of the cold water was great…and almost could not be ignored.

It was unmercifully hot and humid in Chicagoland today – the kind of weather that inspires worshipful feelings in even the most unbelieving of hearts towards the miracle and saving grace that is centralized air conditioning. While driving my Jeep back to my place of work after my lunch hour, I could not help but notice the many water fountains spread around the parking lots near where work – or ignore just how much I wanted to jump into them.

Every time the wind blew, you could see a miniature rainbow form out of the water. (If you look closely on the right side of the fountain, you can see the tail-end of one.)

The freezing cold waters of each man-made pond called out to me in siren-like tones, inviting me to come closer and closer. The cascading water was hypnotic to look at…and tempting to swim in. It was the one thing I wanted to be close to, and couldn’t be further away from.

Friendships Are Like…

The theme chosen for this week’s photo challenge was ‘friendship’ (the original post “9009” can be viewed here). How do you portray your definition of friendship via picture? What does friendship mean to you?

I have been lucky to have had many friends over the course of my lifetime, and have never had a problem making new ones. This is a handy trait to have as a Navy brat: friendships come and go because your friends come and go, and true long-lasting bonds are few and far between. All of my friendships have been based on a firm sense of camaraderie, and enjoyment over time spent in each others’ presence.

Friendships are like sunsets: warm, bright, and long-lasting. They always make an impression.

The picture I have included with this post was taken somewhat recently on my way home from work. What does this have to do with friendship, you may ask? My answer to that is: only everything.

Living so close to the Arctic Circle (in my case, being stationed in Iceland with my family) means that you are subjected to conditions outside of what you are used to. The winter is cold (as low as negative eighty with wind chill), the summer is mild (never above sixty, and rarely ever that high), and the sun only appears to rise and set once a year (half of the year the sun never sets, and the other half it never rises). To see a sunset was a rare thing, and a sight to be treasured. To this day, I have never lost my love of watching our sun’s cycles, seeing lightning streak across the sky, or “viewing” a summer breeze gently card through a tree branches (both lightning and trees cannot be found in Iceland). I view my friendships much like I do my sunsets: I feel awe at their existence, pleasure at my ability to experience them, and joy at the happiness they bring me. Perhaps seeing a sunset isn’t so rare an experience for me nowadays, but the wonder has yet to fade. Much like a sunset, I will never take the gift of friendship for granted again.

Here Today, Possibly Gone Tomorrow (Maybe)

“Ah, Hope! what would life be, stripped of thy encouraging smiles, that teach us to look behind the dark clouds of today, for the golden beams that are to gild the morrow.”
— Susanna Moodie

~o*O*o~

TODAY” – this is the theme of this week’s photo challenge, meaning that the participant may only use a picture that they took on the day they first read about this week’s challenge (no archived photos allowed).  Despite having the email about this challenge in my inbox for the last several days, I did not actually open it until today – sitting in my Jeep, getting ready to head home after work.  As I did not care to submit a photo of a near-empty parking lot (the first thing I saw after reading the email), I decided to start driving home and search for inspiration along the way.  Thankfully, I found it right just before I arrived home.

The sun was determined to shine today, no matter what the weather report said.

After turning down the road that leads to my subdivision, I happened to look out my driver’s side window and saw the sun making a desperate bid for freedom from the clouds it had been locked behind for the better part of the day.  Even though most of the star’s light is hidden, you can still see a few of its rays escaping from beneath it, shedding some illumination to the population living below.  This picture is very much a metaphor for how my TODAY has turned out: even in its darkest times – dealing with angry customers, tardy co-workers, or confronted with unwelcome truths – there was still some light able to come through, still a silver lining to my dark cloud.  I needed only to look “behind the dark clouds of today” to find “golden beams”, to know that at the end of every disappointment is the opportunity to find something beautiful.  All you need to do is look.

Birds of A Feather…Hang Out Together

I’m in training for a new job all this week via teleconference at a building not so close to my house.  The drive is not so bad: it’s mostly highway driving, which is something I actually enjoy.  We are given several breaks throughout the day in order to break up the monotony of staring at a computer screen for hours on end.  (The key to remaining engaged in online learning for eight hours straight is being very good at entertaining yourself.)

When I came into training this morning, I expected it to rain for a good portion of the day – not that I minded.  (Rain tends to put a damper on one’s daydreams of escaping outside and soaking in the sun’s rays, making the thought of staying in all day far more palatable.)  A couple of hours into my class, I heard a tapping noise coming from one of the windows on my right-hand side.  Curious, I looked over to the window and saw a cardinal outside on the ground, staring in at me.  As I watched, this same cardinal flew up and then into the glass over and over again, determined to gain entrance into the building.  What could be powering his insistence on flying into my classroom, I wondered?  (I felt like the window had become a mirror, showing the cardinal’s actions as a reflection of my own: both of us staring at something we were determined to achieve (knowledge, in my case…classroom access, in his), both of us too stubborn to quit.)

If at first you don’t succeed…well, that glass can’t hold up forever!

After he flew away, I assumed I wouldn’t see him again…and I was wrong.  For the entire time I was at training, he was my constant companion, and distraction.  My picture does not do him justice – he would not stay still long enough for me to better capture his image.  Thankfully, he did not try to follow me home.

What a welcome back to another day of work!

Blue Waters Above and Starry Skies Below…Wait, What?

The moon is easing through its waning gibbous phase here in the mid-west.  Every night more and more of it disappears from sight – that is, if I am lucky enough to see it at all.  This is not the case for those onboard the ISS.

This picture was taken May 5th by astronaut André Kuipers. The image belongs to ESA/NASA – I take no credit for it.

This picture – featured on the European Space Agency’s Flickr account and website – is of a supermoon, taken by André Kuipers (a member of the Expedition 31 crew serving aboard the international space station).  The term supermoon is used to describe the point in the moon’s elliptical cycle in which it appears closest to Earth.  The best part about this picture?  Look above the moon…at the planet Earth.  Despite being a bit out of focus, it is still a fascinating part of this photo, and gives the viewer the unique opportunity to gaze at the night sky from a different perspective.  Thank you, André, for sharing your talents with us once again!

Going The Distance…With Automattic!

Whew!  I just finished walking three and a half miles for the Automattic Worldwide WP 5k…and I feel pretty good!  If you have not heard of this walking/jogging/running challenge – brought to you by the folks at Automattic – I would recommend clicking on the following link.  Come and join the movement!

Old faithful.

As I am rather camera-shy (and a bit clumsy when holding a camera with the intention of photographing myself), I hereby give you a picture of my walking shoes!  These shoes and I have seen many miles together, and tonight was merely another excuse to tack more on to that final count.

Talk about rough terrain ahead...

This is my walking route (yes, that is a treadmill).  While I would have rather walked the requisite 5k outside, it would have forced me to come in contact with our extensive mosquito population.  (Some years back, this species and I had a falling out over our individual eating preferences: I suggested they pick their meals a little less raw, and they picked me as their meal.  Unfortunately, we have never been amicable since.)

It took me a little under an hour and a half to finish my walk, as I chose to walk at a pace much slower than I usually prefer.  Instead of watching an episode of JAG while I walked – as I always do – I decided to watch a few episodes of Stargate Atlantis on my Kindle Fire (my inner geek is showing).  I needed to slow down my walking speed to ensure that I would be able to watch my shows in their entirety without accidentally doubling my walking distance.

Crossing the finish line.

This is what I saw as soon as my walk – and show – were completed (the middle set of numbers being my distance).  Perhaps not as picturesque as a wooden clearing or sunny path, but a testament to my accomplishment all the same.  Success!

I am quite happy that I decided to participate in this challenge, and will do so again in the future.  I strongly encourage you to walk with us, readers, and the sooner the better – you only have until April 29th to clock your miles!  Good luck!

A Lakeside View of Earth Day, 2012

This is my city.

A lakeside view of the city.

Welcome to the Navy Pier.

In the image on the left the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and the Shedd Aquarium are clearly visible, and you can see the expanse of the Navy Pier stretching out in the photo below.  Most visitors come to the city of Chicago to admire and explore the beauty of these man-made structures, in a place where old architectural styles are found mixed in with more modern building designs.  However, if you make your way over to the Museum Campus (and you will – you simply cannot visit the city and not enter one of our great museums), it is the view of Lake Michigan that will take your breath away.

Towards the center of the image, you will see the Chicago Harbor lighthouse, still standing sentry as it has for over a century.

This picture (on the left) was taken during an early spring day in Chicago, one with an over-abundance of sunshine and no wind to speak of (hence the placidity of the water).  While the splendor of the city is always worth seeing, I often find myself drawn to the lake, and pass through Millennium Park every chance I get to admire the view.  Without Lake Michigan – the largest freshwater coastline in the world – Chicago would not be the city that it is, or perhaps even a city at all.

On this day, Earth Day 2012, we should all take a moment to think about the wonders of our planet that we take for granted every day, whether they are famous – much like Lake Michigan – or little known – such as a local fish hatchery.  Without the water, oxygen, and edible sustenance our home provides us, our species would have never survived; we would not be here today.  If for no other reason than the survival of the human race, we – as a planet – need to continue to take better care of our Earth, both for ourselves and generations to come.

Happy Earth Day!

The Prompt That Keeps On…Er…Prompting

I have been participating in the Daily Blog photo challenge every week for several months now – and have loved every moment of it!  Every week (almost always on Friday), Daily Blog readers are challenged to discover new meanings to everyday things through the lens of their cameras – to perceive the world around them in different ways.  I responded to this week’s challenge with a photo of nature and technology occupying the same space: a picture of my mother’s lilac bush sharing the backyard with my family’s satellite dish.  Since posting this, I have caught myself seeing “two subjects” in everything around me.  Now when I look at pictures, I focus on the background every bit as much as the main subject, paying particular attention to how both subjects work in harmony to create beautiful pictures.  As a subscriber to several of NASA’s websites and missions, I receive daily emails to keep me abreast of NASA news via articles, videos, podcasts, and photos.

This image was taken on March 28th, 2012 by the International Space Station's Expedition 30 crew at an altitude of about two hundred and forty miles. One of the station's solar array panels can be seen on the left, while the city of Moscow occupies this photo's center. The horizon is suffused by riot of colors, a combination of the Aurora Borealis, airglow (light formed in the upper atmosphere by atoms and molecules via chemical processes), and daybreak.

This picture was posted on April 16th and tagged as the “Image of the Day for NASA” (I take no credit for this image: all credit goes to NASA).  Prior to this challenge, I would have looked at this picture and seen only the beauty of our planet – how the greens and blues of the Aurora Borealis naturally offset the bright, human-generated lights of Moscow.  The International Space Station’s solar array panels (on the left) would have caught my attention, but only in passing.  Now I look at this picture and not only do I gaze in awe at the sheer splendor of our planet, I find myself also giving an equal amount of attention to the technology that made this photo possible: the previously ignored solar array panels.  Without these panels, there is a good chance that there would not be an International Space Station (other methods of power being be too costly, bulky, or both to maintain or to have even justified the creation of the station in the first place), and my ability to see my planet in such a way would be severely limited.

Every week my perception shifts and evolves with every new photo challenge, altering the way I perceive the world around me.  I find myself anticipating each new challenge, excited at the chance to look at the ordinary and see something extraordinary.  What new theme will this week bring?  Only Friday will tell!

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