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Seeing Clearly

Every day I walked in, I noted them. They were impossible to miss and yet I couldn’t do anything about it; the office windows. They were dingy, dirty, and covered with a greyish film consisting of years of dirt, rain, pollution, salt spray and whatever else floated by and stuck. The large windows provided much needed light but the dirtiness muted the light, the view, and the mood.

Then it happened….. I heard the beeping and saw the cherry picker raise up, bringing a crew of window cleaners. In about 10 minutes, they cleaned the entire span of windows; years and years of dirt and grime gone in just 10 minutes.

Wow, I what a difference!! I just stood there soaking it all in. Gone was all the years of dirt, dinge, and just ick. I had forgotten what it was like to have a clear view. The deep blue sky, dotted with white clouds actually looked inviting. The distractions we had grown accustomed too, were now gone. The natural daylight fills the office unfettered, making it bright and cheery. The mood instantly is better.

At times my life can be like those dirty, dingy windows. Things are going along, then something happens. Some dirt gets stuck if you will. Then more dirt sticks to it and soon, my vision is cloudy. For whatever reason, I do not, will not, or cannot address whatever the “dirt” is. Maybe the dirt is fear; fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of being judged. Maybe the dirt is pain, emotional or physical, or both. Could be anything, but I don’t like it and I know it, but “I’ll change it later”. Day after day goes by. Days turn into months, months into years and the dirt is still there. By this time, I’m used to the dirt, have accepted it as normal and have totally forgotten what its like to see clearly. I lose the clear vision.

Then it happens; an unexpected, but much needed change occurs. Someone or something appears at the perfect time and all that old “dirt” is cleared. Wow!! I can’t believe how much dirt there was and how much clearer things are. I am glad the dirt is gone, but at the same time, I am grateful for it because now I truly appreciate being able to see clearly. What a blessing it is to have the distractions removed, to see the light brightly and to see clearly.

Sharing the Light

“That’s barely burning” I said as I looked down at the jar candle. I like to use candles in the bathroom instead of the bright lights and loud fan. It just makes a shower or bath that much more calming. Without a thought, I grabbed another jar candle, lit it and it burned bright. Perfect!

Upon exiting the shower, what I saw next made me stop and reflect for a minute. I looked over and both jar candles were burning brightly and had the exact same flame height. It was as if the brightly light candle had somehow shared it’s light with the other one and now both were burning brightly.

I immediately thought of my life and how at times I’ve felt discouraged, lost and just not “burning bright”. Every time someone has appeared with a bright countenance, encouragement, and just shared their light. By being in their presence, it helped me to become brighter.

As I took this deeper, I wondered if it was really that simple. Had I been making it too hard for so long? Could it be that all I need to do is just humbly and gratefully let my light shine day every day, to everyone no matter what, no matter the situation? Could it be that in times of despair, all I really needed to do was be there? Taking it one step further; why wait for things to be bad, why not BE there ALL the time?

The water dripped onto the floor as these insights flowed through my mind. Who knew lighting a couple of candles could trigger such deep thoughts and emotions. Who knew that such changes in my perspective could occur from such a simple act.

What a feeling of freedom to just BE….and share the light.

Have a beautiful day!

Full Circle

“Sir, Sir!!” the guy waved at me from across the grocery store’s dimly lit parking lot. I cautiously slowed and powered down the window.

“I left the lights on in my car and now it won’t start. I have my elderly Mom with me and just need a jump start. Someone else has offered to jump start it, but their car is too small. I think we need an SUV like yours to get mine started”.

Sure enough, there was a small car with jumper cables connected to his SUV. I’ll admit, I’m a bit skeptical at times like these, but at the same time I’ve been stranded my share of times and had someone appear at just the perfect time.

The guy continued that he didn’t know anything about cars and was totally over his head on things like this. I could tell he was really upset, as can happen in times like this. His elderly Mom was quiet, but capable and effortlessly offered an extra hand or held a flashlight.

We connected my SUV; let it charge for a few minutes and then he cranked his. It would turn over, but not start. Hmmmm…..there was a familiar sound that was missing, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

I broke out my heavy jumper cables and tried again. Still the same result. By now, the guy was getting even more upset. “Why do things like this always happen to me!!?” “This is going to be expensive!!!”. Meanwhile, his Mom just watched and allowed whatever to unfold.

I put my gear away and shone the flashlight under the hood. The transverse engine looked like so many engines I’ve seen before. The driver’s side had the air filter, throttle body, and intake hardware. The passenger side had the serpentine belt, A/C, alternator, power steering.

I asked him to start it and still I sensed something was missing. As he started it, the engine turned about ¼ of a turn and then stopped. It was then I realized what I thought the problem was.

Usually when you start a car, no matter what brand, there is a sound of power as the starter turns the engine over. You can almost feel the torque, especially if you have the hood up. Not so here; every crank was a feeble attempt to turn the engine over.

“May I give it a try?” I asked. The guy, leapt out of the driver’s side, glad to be away from it. I had a feeling that if could’ve just run away, he probably would’ve.

As I got in, I just bumped the key slowly, just enough to move the engine. I really wasn’t trying to start it; I was proving a theory with each bump. With each bump, the engine made the usual, anemic sound and didn’t start. However……

Now and then one bump sounded solid and I quietly said “darn, I missed it”. After a few more iterations, I had a rhythm. Every 3-4 bumps would be anemic, but the 4th or 5th one would catch.

This process took a few minutes as I figured out what was happening. Meanwhile outside of the car, the drama was building even more. “I knew we should’ve never come here!” the guy exclaimed. “Can you call someone, does he know what do, and is he awake!!?” He was feeling lost, stranded, and just wanted out of here and it showed. His Mom retained her composure throughout and silently watched me.

I bumped the key a couple of more times and then waited. “C’mon baby, I know we can do this” I said under my breath. I knew I could start this car; I just needed one important piece of nuts and bolts to line up just perfectly one time.

One more turn of the key, confidently, putting it all on the line with this one shot. I had missed a few opportunities earlier, but this time I was going for it. I turned the key all the way and held it………with a solid, familiar sound the SUV roared to life!!

Woohoo!! I had a feeling I could do it, but to actually hear it run was quite rewarding.

The guy hurriedly began throwing everything back into the SUV. At one point, I had a feeling he was going to run me, his Mom, and my SUV over if we all didn’t move. He just wanted out of there!

Meanwhile, Mom asked me what it was. In 30 seconds or less, I explained that the starter had a dead spot and all I did was bump it around till I found the one place it’d catch. Not a fully technical explanation, but enough so she’d understand.

She calmly and graciously said thank you many times as I lowered the hood and prepared to leave. She said they would go home now and I said “you can go anywhere you want, as long as you leave it running”. We both just laughed and I watched them peel out of sight, almost literally.

I sat for a second, amazed at how the mom was so composed and the son was so dramatic. What a dichotomy of emotions and character!

As I rolled away, I couldn’t help but remember the times I was that same person; stranded, alone and someone took the time and courage to get me on my way. I had a renewed sense of gratitude for those times of rescue and said a quiet thank you for being able to lend a hand to get them on their way.

You never know what events will transpire, whom you’ll meet, but somehow it all comes full circle and that’s what makes life interesting.

Stepping outside of yourself for clarity

As you can probably tell, I haven’t written here for a while. I took a solo 3 week road trip covering 6 thousand miles and it was fun and life changing. I ended up camping for two weeks in the mountains without electricity, water or even cell phone service. I was in a campground only 5 miles from a small town so I wasn’t totally isolated but enough to enjoy it.

It took me 4 days of driving to arrive at my destination. As the miles ticked by, the ancillary habits and disruptions began to disappear. I was leaving it all on the side of the road and it was ALOT!! I feel bad for the people mowing the right of ways!

That was just the beginning, much like peeling a peach. Once in the mountains, the rest of the distractions melted away and I was left at the core of who I really was. Who was that anyway? I’ve been running for so long, it was time to take a much-needed break.

Without the disruption of modern conveniences, the mirror kept getting polished and I’d see things that’d make me stop and go really? I do that? Or at times, make me cry as I realized some of the crazy things I’d done.

I realized I was just living on habit and not really conscious of what I really wanted. Here in the fresh mountain air and nothing to do all day long it was pretty easy to look inward.

Course seeing what needs to be changed and then doing it are two different things. I returned home and immediately made changes. For example, I changed my work schedule from 10 hour days back to 8 hour days. I had been going in at 6:45am and leaving at 5:30pm; breakfast was something microwaved and ate at my desk. My entire life revolved around work.

Now I get up, cook (not microwave) a good breakfast and eat at home. I take time to pray, plan my day, and set intentions. I arrive at work relaxed and ready to go. I continued to focus on my health, both physical and mental and began working out again. Not just working out, but doing things I love for exercise.

What a difference in my countenance and attitude with just those two simple changes! I am continually making adjustments to live consciously instead of just via habit. Some days though, I feel the pull to slide back into those old habits. It’s easy to change when you’re isolated in the wilderness, but back at home in the thick of things, it is a lot more effort.

As soon as I returned, a friend took a 3 month vacation into the mountains. Two weeks in, I received a phone call and the hard, annoying person was replaced by a calmness and peace. Ahhh….there’s my friend. They were beginning to experience the cleansing that occurs when you step outside of yourself.

For me going to the mountains was just the ticket. You may prefer the beach or somewhere else. Whatever you enjoy, I’d highly recommend taking some quality time to step outside of yourself without distraction. It’s a great way to get back in touch with who you really are and focus on what you really want to accomplish.

Two humans, one vulture….the game is on.

“Stop, I see something”, Laurie yells from the passenger seat. I was preparing to pull onto a 2 lane road outside our neighborhood and hadn’t seen any traffic. I still didn’t see any traffic….

She excitedly points to the right, “there’s an injured bird in the bushes over there!” Sure enough, a few car lengths from the shoulder a big black vulture is limping, dragging a wing, and struggling to get further into the bushes.

Seeing us, it struggles even more and with good reason. Imagine, you’re feasting in the road when suddenly, Wham!! a giant, shiny object runs you over. Reeling from the blow, you gasp for breath and struggle to get as far away as possible. Thankfully, the big shiny object keeps going and you can now peacefully tend your wounds.

But wait, here comes another big shiny object. Now 2 giants come out and head over to you. You thought the day was bad before, it’s looking like it’s about to get worse…. Yeah, I’d run like hell too!

As volunteers at state parks and animal rescue organizations, we’re experienced with rescuing and relocating injured wildlife. From turtles in the middle of the road to birds that have been shot, we’ve seen a little bit of everything.

However, capturing a bird is a much different challenge, because if it is injured but has enough energy to fly away, you won’t be able to catch it and rescue it. By the looks of this guy, he’s not flying anywhere. However, nature is on his side as he slips into the wild, un-groomed area of our neighborhood.

This area is the real Florida….Sunlight creeps its way to the ground passing through vines, thorns, poison ivy, big trees, little trees, and the infamous Saw palmettos. We have to go in to this thick, natural area to retrieve this bird, so we look for potential openings in the undergrowth and begin the task of forcing the bird to an open area. Sounds easy enough, it’s just one bird and there are two of us.

We start tiptoeing in, over, under, around, through; any way possible to get this guy to move out where we can catch him. At one point I’m successfully making my way through the jungle of foliage when a large saw palmetto blocks forward progress.

I look around and can barely see the sun; vines are running in a confused maze above me, and branches have me blocked in. I was so focused on moving forward that I wasn’t thinking about anything else. Now I’m wondering 2 things; how did I get in here and how will I get out?

Two hours later, (yes two hours!) I am covered in sweat, my arms & legs look like I’ve been clawed by a cat, and this bird is still at bay. We were planning a bike ride, so shorts & t-shirt are the attire. Not the best for trekking through “natural Florida” at its worst.

I finally give up and yell “I’m going home!!!………and putting on some pants and boots”. I briefly thought of just driving away and not telling her where I was going, but I decided to behave.

10 minutes later I return, a new man; old thick jeans, hiking boots, and ice cold water. Bring me this bird!! Like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo, I stomp my way through the brush. Path? I don’t need a path. We force the vulture toward an open area and finally corner it between us.

She is on one side and I’m on the other. The only way out is by one of us and we’re ready with towels and eager anticipation. It moves right and we move right, it moves left and we move left.

It moves right again and I move right but….this time it pulls up short and darts left. Oh no, he faked me out!!! I quickly recover but it’s too late.

2 quick steps and it’s out of my reach and then get this; it takes flight!! It lands about a block away. As it looks back, I swear it’s laughing.

I’m hot, sweaty, scratched, hungry, and thirsty. I’m done!! I lean against truck reflecting on the events that just unfolded when she heads to where it landed. “If it was that seriously injured, it would not have been able to fly away” I yell.

5 minutes later, she victoriously parades out with the big bird in both hands. I spit out my water in disbelief. We put it into the carrier and headed off to our local wildlife hospital.

It was treated, brought up to healthy weight, and then released back into the wild. I still laugh about that story and what we went through. Each time I see a vulture flying over, I can’t help but look up and wonder; does it remember the time……..

Life finds a way; a sea turtle lays her eggs

While visiting Juno Beach at twilight one recent evening, I noticed a large dark blob slowly emerge from the rolling surf. Ocean debris, I thought. But when the waves subsided, the object continued to move forward. That’s definitely not debris; it’s a sea turtle!

There are five different species of sea turtles that visit Florida’s beaches to lay their eggs: Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley, and Hawksbill. This ancient reptile’s life is challenging from day one. As a new hatchling, it has to dodge hungry birds, curious humans, and the hot sun on its way to the ocean. If the baby reptiles manage to make it the water, they have to outwit numerous predators of the deep. Throw in the possibility of getting stuck in floating trash or other man-made obstacles, and it’s easy to understand why all five species are listed as endangered or threatened.

As you can imagine, being able to witness such a magnificent, yet fragile species lay her eggs was quite exciting. After the slow trek up the beach, she found a spot under one of the boardwalks and began digging. It is critical that a nesting female not be disturbed during this laborious process, which means no headlights, flash lights, lanterns, flash photography, or even talking.

With amazing quiet and reverence, an impromptu crowd gathered to observe. I was impressed that for almost an hour, people stood in near total silence with barely a whisper. No annoying ringtones or artificial lights. Even a couple’s little dog was perfectly quiet. It was inspiring to see a group of strangers show such respect.

After the mama turtle finished laying her eggs, it was time to head back to the ocean. This, too, was quite a challenge. She had dug her nest near a couple of pylons and had to navigate a very tight space. Each move placed her shell against a pylon which prevented forward movement. The soft sand offered zero traction as she flapped her flippers wildly. If you’ve ever been stuck in the sand or snow, you understand the scenario. She’d fling sand everywhere with little progress and then stop to rest.

The only illumination was from a full moon, but you could still see her breathing hard. Finally, with much effort, the determined reptile turned herself around and had a straight shot to the ocean. There was no quit in this feisty female.

Once on the packed sand, she covered the last several feet pretty quickly, stopping at the water’s edge to wait for the next wave. This gave everyone a photo op. I like to think it was her way of saying thank you for looking out for her. The ancient mariner then disappeared into the moonlit night amidst applause from the reverent onlookers.

As I walked the along moonlit beach, I felt humbled and privileged to be able to view such an amazing feat of life that has being ongoing virtually unchanged for eons. Life will definitely find a way.

Answer the Call

aim high signed

I’m riding home after work when my phone rings. Hmmm… I don’t recognize that number, I’ll let it go to voicemail.

At home, I cooked dinner, fed the pets, and did my thing and then I remembered that voicemail. I played it back and immediately looked at the clock. As the message went on, I could not believe what I was hearing. My heart sank!!

The message was an opportunity to shoot and produce a video for a live performance. The gentlemen who called has done some great work and this would’ve been an opportunity to sharpen my skills. I could’ve made it if I would’ve checked the message earlier, but now it was too late….

Aside from being angry at myself, I felt like an idiot, to put it mildly. Here was an opportunity to do what I love that could’ve opened other doors and not only didn’t I answer the phone, I didn’t check the messages. What good is technology if I don’t use it?

I know I like to think how events or situations will play out, but often good things come in unexpected ways. So next time the call comes, answer it or at least check the message right away. You never know what opportunity could be awaiting.

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