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Sometimes I Gotta Use My Feet…

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If you’ve been to this blog before then you know that I like to ride bicycles as transportation. A lot. And I often comment on how much more a person sees while on a bike rather than being stuck in a plastic and metal shell more commonly known as an automobile. Many of my photos, in fact, were taken while on my bike, which would be nearly impossible if I was driving a car. Well, to drop this down a few octaves further, sometimes I just have to walk…sometimes I just gotta use my feet. Walking, especially when there is no actual destination or time-frame, can be meditative for me; a great way to clear my head and/or think about things. Last night was such a walk. Armed with a camera and an iPod for music, and slightly fortified with a few beers in my belly, I went for a really lovely late evening autumn walk. And here are a few of the things I saw a long the way.

Urban Simplicity.

A Few Things I Saw (and contemplated) While Riding My Bike Yesterday…

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Yesterday was one of those days. And I don’t know why. It was one of those days where the sun was shining and it was beautiful out but still I felt shrouded in melancholy. It’s odd when this happens. Out of the blue. But it did and I don’t know why. I have everything I need–indeed more than I need–but still it washed over me like a warm slow moving wave. I knew, though, that I had a choice. A choice to stay in this valley or climb out, or more specifically ride out. And that’s exactly what I did. It’s a proven fact that physical exercise is a mood changer, and coupled with wandering around my beautiful city on a beautiful sunny afternoon, it did just that. I pedaled and coasted and coasted and pedaled and took some photos, too. I took dozens of photos, actually, and here are a few of my favorites. The combination of a couple hours on a bike and viewing life (contemplating) through the view finder of a camera I emerged a new man. And for that I am very thankful. Click any photo for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

In flux…eight photos of the merging of seasons

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As we all know this has been a hot summer–crazy hot–but this past week the temps have cooled (at least in Western New York) and it has ushered in the feeling of autumn, though it is still officially summer. Today, while out on my bike, I snapped these photos of nature in the city in flux…the juxtaposition of the last or late flowers in full bloom with the backdrop of some that are already dry and brittle. The contrast, I think, is interesting. I hope you do as well. Click any photo for a larger view.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…
Ecclesiastes 3:1 

Urban Simplicity.

Four Photos of Flowers (and how they inspire me)

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It’s interesting. I like many adults have suffered from sleep problems for most of my life. It’s rare for me to sleep more than 6 hours. But every so often I do. My body crashes. Last night was one such instance. I went to bed around 1:00am–which is late for me–and didn’t wake until nearly 11:00am this morning. It was disorienting to say the least. And I’m not sure what it was–the long sleep or the grey and rainy day–but I woke with a feeling of melancholy. Not anything too heavy, just enough to put me in an introspective mood. Seeing that I woke too late to go to church, I read the NY Times on line while I had coffee and then went out for a long walk in the drizzly weather and took photos. I took a bunch of them–of all sorts of things–but am only showing some of my favorites; the flowers. I find it interesting in that when taking photos it forces me to look at–contemplate–the thing I’m pointing the camera at. The one above, for example, is a flower on a tree…who knew that inside its white leaves was hidden such beauty. Or the one directly below–a dandelion–on any other day these are the nemesis to my garden, but when viewed up close, through the lens of a camera, it is beautiful. Anyhow, it’s likely that the brilliant color of these flowers on such a grey day has added color–inspiration–to my spirit. And I thought I’d share. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Good Friday Moon

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The moon is amazing tonight. I was out on my bike and couldn’t take my eyes off it as I pedaled and coasted. The above image I took from my backyard (not bad for a point-and-shoot camera), and the below image is the Liberty Building with a low lying moon to its right. And if you’ve ever wondered about why the date of Easter changes each year it is because of the moon cycle. Easter takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (sounds sort of Pagan to me). If you want to learn more follow some of these links. And it’s interesting–I think–that in the Christian calendar, tonight being a night of darkness it is also a night of such immense light; literally and metaphorically. It’s as if there is a large nightlight showing outside illuminating the earth. While I consider myself a practicing Christian, I also believe that all major religions walk a similar path. That being said, I also consider nearly everything in the Bible a metaphor–to help each of us to discover our own inner truth–and right now I cannot think of a more direct physical metaphor than that incredible moon shining in the darkness like a beacon of hope and newness.

Urban Simplicity.

Sometimes a Book Finds You…

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I love books and bookstores. When I travel I make a point of visiting used and/or independent bookstores in that city. And I really do believe that books sometimes find you…that they are placed before you for you to find and hopefully read. The book above is a good example (and more on that in a minute) but the one that stands out in my memory was one that found me when I was living in Poughkeepsie, NY.  It was the mid 1980’s and I was a student at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and was walking down the street on a sunny Spring day when I quite literally tripped over a book…yes it was laying there in the middle of the sidewalk. I picked it up and it was a well-worn copy of The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran. At the time I was not familiar with either the book or the author but was intrigued and kept it and read it. Later I was surprised to learn that we–the author and I–share the same ethnic heritage. Since then I have collected more than a dozen of Khalil’s books (though I haven’t read them all). But I believe that original one–which is also his most famous–found me. Anyhow, back to the book pictured above. As mentioned in an earlier post, I was in Toronto this past weekend with my son, and was in Seekers Bookstore on Bloor Street (which is one of my favorite Toronto bookstores). I have had an interest in Mysticism for many years but do not know anything about Kabbalah (who am I kidding…I don’t know much about anything). Anyhow, I was flipping through the above said book, and read a bit on cause-and-effect, but thought the book was a bit pricy at $9 (CAD), considering its condition. I liked what I was reading but thought I could probably find a better deal on Amazon (I didn’t) or just download it…so I put it back on the shelf and began looking at other books. At this point I was standing near the counter and heard a person ask another (who I’m assuming was the owner of the bookstore) how business has been. He went into a somewhat long dialog on how bad it has been, that even with a mild winter business was poor. Sometimes, he went on to say, that an entire hour would go by and not a single customer will come in, and then when they do they just browse and leave. Between the big chain bookstores and the Internet, he said, he felt his store was dying a slow death. I felt like he was speaking to me though my back was to this person. To cut to the chase…I took the book back off the shelf and purchased it. I love used bookstores and don’t want them to disappear; I felt good to support this one. This book–like the aforementioned title–most definitely found me…I had no choice but to purchase it.

Urban Simplicity.

A Solitary Walk (Playing with Angle and Light: Three Street Scenes)

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I like to walk; it clears my head. When I’m on a bike I have to pay attention to my surroundings but when I walk I can do just that…walk. Tonight I had some thoughts that were troubling me so I thought I’d go for a brisk walk on this chilly (32F/0C) and wet February night…OK, I stopped at a local tavern for a couple beers also (that helps clear my head, too…or maybe it clouds it, whatever). Anyhow, and as usual, I brought a camera with me. I also had my small tripod…in order to get clear pictures at night it’s essential my hand doesn’t shake. What’s interesting is the angle at which these photos were taken…about 10 in./25cm. off the ground. The tripod I use I originally purchased to use on my bike, but tonight I was walking. It gives it an interesting perspective, I think. Anyhow, the walk was good…and the beers were better. As usual, click any photo for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

A Few Things I Saw Today

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I’ve used this comparison before but have to mention it again…you see a lot more when on a bike than in a car but you see ten times that when you walk. Because, like a car, when you ride a bike you have to stay in control–or at  least keep the bike in control lest you fall. But when walking, especially in a neighborhood that is familiar to you, you can walk somewhat aimlessly and take it all in…and that’s just what I did today. I have a couple things laying heavy on me–concerns and decisions to make–and one of the best things to help level my thoughts (besides prayer and meditation) is a good contemplative walk. I really believe that there is art and beauty all around us–even in the middle of a city–and that all one has to do is look. Anyhow, these are just a few of the things I saw today on my short walk (a mile each way) to the health club.
I saw the above squirrel–rather, he saw me first–as I approached it at the corner of  Delaware and Summer Street. It darted from in front of me, forgetting the chestnut it was chewing, then came back–looking at me the entire time–to retrieve it before scurrying onto the fence to finish it’s consumption. He was, I’m guessing 30ft/9m from me–truly taxing the zoom on my little point-and-shoot camera–but I’m sure he was watching me out of the corner of his eye. I watched him for a moment and wondered if he ever worried about money or paying bills or about anything for that  matter. Likely not. His concerns are honed to where his next chestnut is, how secure his shelter, or if there are any predators about.
The photo directly below is the shadow of a fence very near where the squirrel was sitting; the light seemed just right at the moment I was standing there.
The next photo below, and in the middle, is of a flower I’m sure I saw while in full bloom (I walk/ride this route often). In the height of season it was I’m sure, white, fluffy, and full of life. But now, brown and withered, it still stood defiant of it’s decay. T
And the most bottom photo (and this is my favorite) is a little hidden gem in the city. I’ve photographed this path before and in all seasons though not this close up (meaning I walked down it a bit). It’s a private path (a rear entrance to someone’s home) but to me it looks like it could be somewhere in rural Europe. What’s interesting is that it is located on Summer Street in the city of Buffalo.
Walking is good for your physical health but also good for your mental/emotional health, at least for me it is. So the next time you feel anxious or need to work something out internally, go for a walk, you’ll be amazed at what you see in your own neighborhood…but don’t forget to bring a camera.

Urban Simplicity.

Playing with Light

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Since recently purchasing a small tripod, and using my bike as a platform, I have been able to take much fuller evening and night pictures with my inexpensive little point-and-shoot camera. I have always found the night to be very spiritual, and taking photos such as this is, to me, a form of contemplative photography. I usually carry a camera with me (and lately the mini tripod as  well) and as I pedal and coast silently through the chilly city streets I’ll often stop and take a few photos. Sometimes I find it a soothing and reflective experience…I have to really look at the object or scene before me–study it a bit–before I take it’s photo.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a brief story. Tonight as I was leaving the health club I had my little camera and tripod set up on the back of my bike and was about to take a picture. A guy I’ve met before was walking from the parking lot to the building. As he passed he asked what I was doing; I told him taking pictures of a tree. Why, he wanted to know; because I thought it was beautiful, I told him. Okay (but pronouncing it (ohkaaay) he said as he rushed passed me. I was hoping he would look up to see it, but I don’t believe he did…the above image is the one I was taking. The light–or the lack of it–really changes things.

Urban Simplicity.

Life in Motion

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How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
~Dr. Seuss

Sometimes I forget about it…or at least refuse to be aware. It has been such a busy year–the past month especially–and now Christmas and the year’s end is just around the corner. But then when I slow down I remember. Sometimes I just need to stop and take a breath. And this is what I was thinking as I pushed the Mundo up the Plank of Gratefulness today, and as I stopped to look at the withered weeds and plants pictured above. It’s an image of where–just a brief time ago–I grew vegetables. It seems like just a few days ago that I was relishing in the fact that it was the longest day of the year and now–in two days–it will be the shortest (and darkest). Oddly, as I looked at the shriveled plants they looked beautiful to me. So after pushing the Mundo into the living-room (yes I keep my bikes in my living-room) I grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos. And as I was taking the photos–zooming in on them–it occurred to me that nothing is permanent on this physical plane in which we currently reside; everything is in transition…it always has and always will be. Life moves on and we must move with it. And with the sake of sounding hokey (as if I haven’t already) I also think that each of us has a purpose in this current incarnation which we find ourselves….whether we ever realize it or not. I’ll get off my little soapbox-pulpit now. Carpe Diem. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:
 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

Urban Simplicity.