Photo taken by Jack Shealy
Wow this time last year, I was experiencing a bit of turmoil in my life; drama that could have been avoided, but when dealing with the immature that’s what happens. Fast forward one year later. I had a great Thanksgivings spent with my youngest son Tommy and the people of the campground where I was staying and where he works as a guide. Old friends were there and so much good food I was in a food coma for hours after. Of course while there I took out the camera, just didn’t have it at the dinner, nor did I have my phone. I simply wanted to enjoy the meal and fellowship with those I’ve not spent time with in a while. I really enjoy going down to Trail Lakes Camp Ground it borders the Big Cypress and so much wildlife all around makes it extra special! Later in the evening I saw with Tommy by a roaring campfire and we enjoyed the warmth of the flames.
It was quite chilly even for Florida standards. I ended my trip with a drive through the Big Cypress on Birdon Road over to Wagon Wheel Road then back on Turner River Road.
Beautiful sky no cloud and that deep azure blue against the sand colored grasses of the swamp. On my way home I stopped and spent several hours at The Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. No bear this time, but the swamp was still teaming with birds and wildlife. It was a marvelous Thanksgiving and I would not change the way life is turning out.
I want to thank all of my readers and followers for a great year. I was so unsure of myself when I started this blog, but I love the outlet it allows me and I am so glad you have all enjoyed my meanderings. This next year promises to be so much better. Thank you for your support.
A really good writer friend of mine recently posed a question on her organizations Facebook page for Women in Leadership: “Christ was never hurried. Even in the face of the death of a friend (Lazarus in John 11) he did not hurry. What would have to change in the lives of women today for them not to be hurried?” -Karen Zeigler I had to really think about that, because I am constantly hurrying from point A to point B at any given moment. I no longer have young children to pull me from place to place and since I am now single, I don’t have the obligations of home life that I once had, but still I am constantly juggling a schedule as an employee and also as a working photographer. My weekends are often taken up with events and photo shoots. As I was driving home, an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip popped in my mind. Calvin is laying in a field of dandelions with Hobbes and he asks Hobbes.. “Have you ever poofed a dandelion? You haven’t lived until you poof a dandelion.” I’ve not thought about little exchange in years, but it suddenly made total sense. We need to take the time to slow down and poof dandelions. Even the bible has a say in this. In Luke 10:38-42 we see Martha was busy preparing for Jesus and his disciples visit and her sister Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus not helping her but listening to what he had to say and Martha got upset and asked Jesus to basically make Mary get up and help. Jesus responded by telling Martha that Mary was doing what was required of her at that time. He was giving the woman permission to not be busy, but to take a few minutes to do what was important to them and to renew their minds and spirit. I’m not sure what that looks like for most people, but for me it’s getting away and renewing my inner creative self, even if it’s simply taking a walk in the park, the beach or even going away to the woods for the weekend. After an adventure I am renewed and refreshed and ready to get back to my hectic schedule. This is not always easy, I’m a spontaneous person and I like to pick up and go, but this past year I have had to pencil in this time in my schedule, I also stick to it, if something comes up I decline with an “I’m sorry I’m already scheduled somewhere else”. I must do this to keep up my energy and creativity. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself, even if it’s only for a half hour, sit on your porch in the early morning before the house wakes up and sip a good cup of coffee, take a walk in the park or get away for a weekend either alone or with friends. Slow down and look for a dandelion to poof.
As a working photographer with a full time job (other than photography) I am extremely busy. I have to plan my away times well in advance and get away to renew myself every once in a while. This weekend I took another trip south to the Big Cypress and camped in Trail Lakes Camp Ground. Old friends own it and my son lives and works there as well as a native guide. I went out on my own Saturday to Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk which is part of the Fakahatchee Strand and walked the boardwalk mid morning. I was alone for most of my trip and passed a few folks coming off the trail, but heading to the end I was the only one out there……..so quiet and peaceful. I spotted mama gator and snapped a couple of shots. Coming in to the area I looked for the pair of Bald Eagles who have taken residence in the Fakahatchee for well over 20 plus years. I didn’t see any activity on the nest, but as I was sitting taking in the beauty of the ‘gator hole’ I could hear them calling. I decided to head back out and was listening as I was strolling along. Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Grey Gnatcatchers, and various other sounds. I was heading around the bend and I saw another couple heading in my direction, but they had stopped and all I saw was him reach around and snap a photo; not thinking much of this I rounded the bend and came pretty much face to face with a 250lb Florida Black Bear. My heart skipped a beat and I raised my camera up to snap several shots, then reality set in and I realized I had no where to go! He was blocked in with the other couple and be on each side. As the photo I will post shows he was taking steps toward me, I knew not to run and was praying it was not a mama bear with little ones around, because it was focused on me and not the other couple. Eventually he turned and exited under the railing which at that point I took my first real breath in about a minute of encounter. I could hear him rustling about in the water, but never saw him again, the other couple from Germany had basically the same shots I had except he was looking at them, and even with a language barrier we could share our excitement! I’m sure they will never forget their day in the swamp just as I won’t.
Later in the afternoon my son Tommy and I drove out to Fakahatchee to walk one of the trams. I ran into an old friend who passed the information along on the bear encounter and my photo will be in the November issue of the Ghost Writer newsletter put out by the Friends of Fakahatchee. Later in our walk we spotted an alligator that we thought was deceased, he was extremely emaciated and until he took a large breath and moved forward did we realize he was very much alive. Very dangerous at this point, because he was hungry and/or injured. We gave him lots of room, but not before taking a few shots to document his condition for the biologist at Fakahatchee, who happens to be my ex-husband. As we headed out, the rains started and we ended our day of adventure.
Sunday morning I woke up early and head off to Turner River Road. Driving into the Big Cypress I feel all of my burdens slowly lift from my shoulders, and any anxiety that I had has melted away into pure bliss on these quiet back roads of the Big Cypress Swamp. The only activity I see are few alligators and the birds feeding in the early morning light. I was on a quest this morning to find the elusive Purple Gallinule. Unfortunately I didn’t find one, however I was fortunate enough to see a doe and her fawn snacking on the grasses off the side of the road. Over all it was a beautiful trip and I can’t wait to head back out there. For me there is no other place on earth than the beautiful Florida Everglades.
I have been a busy lady these past few days, lots of things going on and I have been extremely fortunate to be involved with some wonderful events. Locally we have an annual event called the Cape Coral Coconut Festival and each year they bring in some of the best bands around. This year proved to be no different with the 80’s style hair band Lazy Bonez opening for headliner Loverboy! What a great evening of rock music. Typical of Florida weather (you never know what you will get) we had a November rain (yes you may sing at this point) and it was quite chilly. However the bands played on and the crowds showed up despite the rain, proving you can’t keep the hard core rockers down!
Last night I traveled up to Clearwater to once again photograph the great girl band in the history of Rock and Roll; HEART. Let me tell you these ladies can still rock the stage with all the classics. What a wonderful show they put on . This is my third time photographing them and they never disappoint my camera lens.
I have one more concert this week and it will be blues inspired with Tab Benoit and Will add photos once they have been taken. Enjoy my journey back to the 80’s.
A walk on the wild side
I was talking with a friend yesterday as we strolled around the Taste of Lee and we were discussing ways to keep our energy levels up. I work a full time job that currently pays the bills and I work about 30 hours a week on my photography, either with attending and shooting events or on the computer editing or handling my social media. He works really long hours some days and also understands the need to chill even though he too has an abundance of energy. I shared with him I take really great supplements, however he also reminded me I take “time-outs” or down time to allow myself to rest and restore. I thought about it, and it’s something I incorporate into my life, and it’s become so second nature I don’t think about it. He explained when he’s mentioned about needing to rest he’s been criticized for acting “old”, but I discern this differently; this man has learned to balance his life and understands it’s a matter of taking care of yourself. Being older, I know I don’t have the energy I had even 20 years ago so to keep up with the schedule imposed upon myself, I must have balance or I will face burnout.
Life is all about balance. With my busy schedule, I have to stop and take a moment to regroup and refresh, I sometimes stay in, but most times I’ll go to the park or to the beach to refresh. If I take my camera I’ll try to capture my down time, but oftentimes I want to disconnect for a brief period. I attend church regularly to keep myself in spiritual balance and I enjoy reading, painting and have even taken a class, or I’ll take a day or afternoon to spend needed time with the people in my life I care about. This balance keeps my creativity fresh and alive and allows my mind to rest and reset.
If you are trying to juggle a busy schedule, whether it includes your own life, or one with children or taking care of a loved one, take a timeout for yourself, don’t feel guilty about it. Sometimes this will make all the difference in how you feel and will refresh your mind and body. In the comment section below, tell me how do you keep your life in balance?
Yes, I know this is a photography blog, however I will take liberty now and then to get more personal on it.
I LOVE being a photographer, I can’t think of anything I have enjoyed more. There is nothing I would love more than for this to be my full-time job. However arriving to that point I stay very busy getting my name out. Because of the busyness I am missing out on a lot of personal things in life, for instance; I love the outdoors and recently I’ve not been getting out and simply enjoying this paradise I live in, I want to camp and to hike more. Outdoor activities keep me focused and creative and I am a much better person when I have had my “green” time. I need to slow it down and take the time to enjoy where I live. Secondly, I would like to have a partner in life, a special someone who gets me and enjoys me for me. My friends on several occasions have encouraged me to join dating websites and I have to appease them. I detest this form of “dating”, I’ve given it another shot recently and I don’t feel this is what I should be doing so I’m sure I will be deleting my account (again). I’ve had people say “you meet so many cool people” it’s true I do, but in the atmosphere I am meeting them, they are not what I am looking for.
I take up my time with extra photography gigs on the weekends because it’s better than sitting home alone; I would love to share that aspect of my life with a man who understands how important it is to me and will encourage me. I know he’s out there somewhere.
I miss being close to someone and long to share my day and my experiences. In the past few weeks I’ve taken inventory of what life looks like for me. When faced with life and death issues it causes you to take stock in life and reassess what matters and the important things in life. I have had women tell me “you don’t need a man, they can tie you down and hold you back” I don’t see it like that, I do need someone, I need to feel wanted and loved, it’s who I am and it’s what I’m about.
I enjoy my life now, I love being behind the lens I am truly blessed with the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met, but I know I’m missing an important element and that’s someone to walk down the path of life with hand in hand, after all life is better when shared, at least for me it is.
“Ride the wave baby”
I was given an encouragement recently to “ride the wave, baby” and I’ve been thinking about what that actually means. I’ve had an incredible year, I have allowed my talents and gifts to grow and I’m constantly trying to improve my work as a photographer. It seems as if one wonderful thing after another has been coming my way, with so few setbacks they are not even worth mentioning. Not to say there hasn’t been rough patches, there has been, but I don’t dwell on them as I would have in the past. It was said that maybe I’m no longer interfering with the flow of my own energy. I had to think about that statement too and what that really means.
I have always been a bit of a perfectionist, from the time I was young, I didn’t like erasing on my paper or if writing in pen I had a difficult time crossing through because I would want to start over on a clean sheet of paper. I have always had the need to do things perfectly. It was a fear of never being good enough. I have carried this perfectionism through most of my life and into adulthood and I know in looking back it has interfered with relationships; not intentionally, yet I would expect those around me to adhere to the same standards and become upset when it didn’t happen and not always expressing it outwardly, I would keep that disappointment deep within my mind. This created a lot of stress within myself and my relationships and I made some poor choices. It also caused me to listen to the negative voices of not being good enough. It’s an extremely self-centered and self destructive way to be. I’ve learned some difficult lessons, but I have learned to “let it go” The full journey actually began over two years ago when I laid my worrying to rest through the guidance of my friend Karen Ziegler’s book Freedom From Worry* based on scripture Phil. 4:6&7. I also started being thankful for everything in my life, and still keep a gratitude journal almost daily. This has allowed me to open up and to be more authentic and to remove the blockage which in turn opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to eliminate toxic relationships from my life, not an easy task but needed and very freeing. Immediately, wonderful things began happening, people entered my life who were only on the sidelines before and have given me a lot of wisdom and encouragement. I am so thankful for each one of them. I have found an outlet for writing and of course foremost, there is my photography which has taken off by leaps to where it was. I have made some incredible contacts and have projects in the works. Blessings are happening daily and sometimes minute by minute and now I take the time to be thankful for all I’ve been given. And, yes even though I don’t totally understand it all, I am going to ‘ride this wave’ of positive energy as it is only building in momentum.
The only other thing that could possibly make this any better is to have a life partner who shares my enthusiasm; after all life is better shared, yet I am wonderfully blessed with friends and family who share in my successes as I ride through this incredible life we’ve been given, I encourage every reader to ‘ride the wave’. Practice gratitude and take the most important people with you on your journey.
*Karen Ziegler is in process of writing another book and I was honored to be the one to take the headshot for this newest book.