When I’m looking for an hour of peace and quiet one of my favorite places to visit is Fitzgerald Marine Reserve along the shoreline of the Paciifc Ocean north of Half Moon Bay.
This morning I took a walk through my favorite part of the Reserve – a grove of old trees along a pathway that leads from Moss Beach to the ocean. I took a few photos along the way with my iPhone 11 Pro Max. I’m loving the three lens/camera system in this new phone!
The entrance to a section of the California Coastal Trail is off Cypress Avenue. Just a short walk leads to this:
A few steps to the left through the tree line leads to this view:
Walking up the trail it’s worth taking a look back at that same fallen tree!
Here’s another from further along on the path:
I then headed over to the coastline trail where the ocean was alive with the waves from the storm.
And my final view before heading back up Cypress Street to my car:
A lovely hour or so away from it all! I encountered one other human along the trail. Otherwise it was a delightful morning stroll in one of my favorite spots along the Pacific coastline!
I’ll never forget that morning in 2001. Getting up early as I always do, walking to my home office, and visiting Dave Winer’s Scripting News as I usually did – I began to learn what had happened that morning. A day to remember. Always.
This afternoon I took a walk around the pond at a local park nearby. While walking, I listened to a podcast with Garrett Graff, author of the new book “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11“. Michael Morrell interviewed Graff about his book and had him read several passages from it – a very moving experience.
I was struck, in particular, about Graff’s opening comments about the innocence of America that morning. About how we just went about our business – at first. Here’s his voice from the interview transcript:
“I think that one of the things that’s hard to capture but that is captured in an oral history format is both how innocent America was at 8:46 in the morning and how confusing the day was for those who were living it. …
You know, to me the most interesting moment of the day comes between 8:46 in the morning and 9:03, the first crash and the second crash. Because we now know that that first crash was the beginning of the 9/11 plot.
No one knew that on the morning of 9/11. And there’s this incredibly odd moment, those 17 minutes where America sort of looks at that crash and in some ways shrugs and says, “Oh, that’s sort of weird,” like, must be a problem in air traffic control, or maybe the pilot had a heart attack. …
…one of the voices that I tell in the book that I found sort of especially striking was a ferry captain in New York Harbor who saw that first plane crash, continued around the tip of Lower Manhattan, docked his ferry. And every single one of the commuters on board got off and went to work in Lower Manhattan. There wasn’t a single person on that boat who saw that crash and was, like, “You know what? This seems weird. I’m just going to turn around and go home for the day.”
… And that’s actually something hard to capture for the country now, because we have a country now, you saw the video over the summer of the motorcycle backfiring in Times Square and everyone runs for their lives. And, we now default to terrorism or a shooting incident in our society today until proven otherwise. And that was not what America was on 9/11.
And that you see sort of just how innocent America was that morning.
While driving to the post office this morning to drop off a photography book that I sold, I was listening to the latest edition of Len Edgerly’s Kindle Chronicles and his discussion with his longtime friend Bryan Person.
At one point, Len mentioned how he uses Austin Kleon’s latest book Keep Going as a trigger for morning journaling – and how one chapter in particular, highlighted the benefits of just taking a walk and getting away from “our devices!”
My father was a very disciplined and punctual man; it was a prerequisite for his creativity. There was a time for everything: for work, for talk, for solitude, for rest. No matter what time you get out of bed, go for a walk and then work, he’d say, because the demons hate it when you get out of bed, demons hate fresh air. So when I make up excuses not to work, I hear his voice in my head: Get up, get out, go to your work.
This notion, for me, is one of the things I enjoy about street photography. While it’s fun to take some pictures, chase the interesting light, find exciting “stages” and backgrounds and great people, a big component of my enjoyment is just getting out, walking, and enjoying the fresh air and the scene. My friend Doug Kaye and I have talked about on our walks – how great it is just to get out of the house, into the city, and getting some exercise – both physically and for our minds.
At the moment, I’m just back from a walk at our local neighborhood park. It’s a lovely warm (but not too warm) Saturday afternoon and there were several couples out walking as well, a group taking portraits with the pond/fountain in the background, a couple chatting seriously while sitting on one of the picnic tables, etc. I often take my AirPods along on these walks to listen to a podcast – but today I didn’t. I wanted to just be in the moment, alone with my thoughts, without any other audio stimulation. It was great! Twenty minutes yielded just over a mile of walking – and the fresh air certainly helped chase the demons away.
One of the great poets of our time, W. S. Merwin, passed away recently. A brilliant writer and conservationist, Merwin spent the final period of his life on a former pineapple plantation in Hawaii, working to restore the surrounding rainforest. … I’ve drawn inspiration from Merwin’s writing because it teaches us about ourselves, our world, and how we as humans connect to nature. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time on poetry but Merwin’s death reminded me of how a good poem can inspire and instruct. So if you’re in the mood, give one of them a try.
Obama’s pointer took me to a recently published collection of Merwin’s poetry: “The Essential W. S. Merwin“. Yesterday, on Father’s Day, I was flipping through this collection and happened to come across his poem “The Unwritten” which I really enjoyed. It’s about a pencil – and how the pencil holds words “that have never been written, never been spoken, never been taught”. He concludes with:
it could be that there’s only one word and it’s all we need it’s here in this pencil
every pencil in the world is like this
And, that word is not just in every pencil in the world – but in every human too!…
Here’s one of my favorite photos from my younger days – my Dad helping me along on that big two-wheeler bicycle! Dad would have been 98 years old this year – and we all miss him dearly. On this Father’s Day 2019 we have lots of great memories of our wonderful Dad!
While I knew I couldn’t devote the time required to actually enroll in the course, I hadn’t heard of the book before – so I thought I might enjoy just getting a copy. As it turns out, the book is priced like a textbook – but I still decided to get it. For the last couple of months it’s just sat on a bookshelf in my home office – until today.
This afternoon – looking for a pre-holiday relief from work work – I picked up the book and found a cozy place away from the office to begin exploring. I read the book’s Introduction and its explanation of the book’s structure (Stories, Commentaries on specific stories, Casebooks on specific authors, and an appendix with Charters’ discussions about short stories, the genre, etc.)
One of my favorite writers – ever – is John Steinbeck. There’s one story by Steinbeck in Charters’ book – “The Chrysanthemums“. The story, like much of Steinbeck’s work, is based in California’s Monterey County – and, specifically, in Salinas.
Steinbeck begins the story:
The high grey flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot.
Many years ago I owned a small airplane and, from time to time, I would need to fly in actual instrument conditions to maintain my proficiency for instrument flight. I have vivid memories of one morning taking off and flying purposely to Salinas – which was fogged in at the time and, as a result, would provide me the opportunity to shoot an instrument approach into Salinas Airport in actual instrument conditions. Steinbeck’s story – and his opening sentences – brought those memories flooding back.
That morning was just as Steinbeck described – the fog was a lid on the valley. It was a closed pot. Approaching Salinas, I was in clear blue sky above but I needed to penetrate that fog to get below it and land at Salinas. As I was communicating with the approach controller, he cleared me for an instrument approach and I began descending into the fog – transitioning from clear blue sky to only flying from the instruments in the cockpit of my airplane.
My approach began normally – me feeling good about getting into actual IMC. But then something happened – the directional gyro suddenly began spinning. This was not supposed to happen!
The directional gyro provides the pilot with information on the heading the aircraft is pointed. It’s one of several important instruments which pilots need to continuously scan when they’re flying in the clouds. One of the risks pilots face when flying in instrument conditions is a failure of one of these critical instruments. So – here I was – in the fog, descending into Salinas, but with a spinning directional gyro.
Pilots are taught that maintaining the scan of all of the critical instruments is vital while flying on instruments. If one of the critical instruments fails, a pilot can become fixated on the failed instrument, stop scanning the others, and lose situational awareness. When I was flying, there were circular plastic covers with suction devices on the back that you could use to quickly slap over a malfunctioning instrument to prevent it from becoming your sole focus. I had a couple of those – but when the moment strikes they’re not handy – being tucked away in a flight bag in the back seat!
So I forced myself to just ignore the damn spinning directional gyro – and figure a way out.
The fog layer was perhaps 1,500 feet thick – maybe even less. I knew I had blue sky above me. If I could break off the approach, applying power and keeping the wings level, I could get back up to that clear blue sky air. And that’s what I did. I radioed Salinas Tower that I was breaking off the approach. He responded with “State your intentions” – and I cancelled my instrument approach as I climbed above the fog and headed back home. I never did land at Salinas that morning. I also never trusted that directional gyro again – and had it replaced.
As I read the opening sentences of Steinbeck’s story, the memories of my foggy morning encounter with Salinas came flooding back. In Steinbeck’s story, Elisa has her own challenges with the Salinas fog as a metaphor for her life. She lived there. For me it was just a close encounter. I made it back.
Looking at Krasny’s course syllabus, I think I’ll begin exploring the other writers he’s featured in Charters’ book – as I move beyond this initial Steinbeck story. The book is such a treasure trove of stories – I know I need – and want – to dive deeper. I’m sure more memories await!
Donald Neff is an old friend and business colleague – who’s also a great painter of landscapes. We worked together as computer geeks in prior lives – and, while my journey into photography is a recent passion, painting is something for Don that goes way back. And he’s great at it!
This afternoon Don gave a talk at the Don Edwards National Refuge Education Center in Alviso about his most recent project – The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley. Don started this project in November 2013 and, over the next twelve months, painted a series of sixty plein air paintings in the nooks and crannies of Silicon Valley. During today’s presentation, he told some wonderful stories about several of these places – full of suspense and delight. His exhibition at this venue will continue for a few more weeks.
I’ve had a page titled “Inspiration” here on my blog for a while. I’ve been less than diligent in keeping it current – but tonight I made some major updates to it reflect some recent learnings – as well as filling out some of the actual experiences I’ve learned from those who have inspired me.
In my life, I’ve come to appreciate the power of serendipity in inspiration – how sometimes it seems that random events trigger a new insight, understanding – or just pique my curiosity to explore deeper. Increasingly, I’m finding new sources of serendipity – in my RSS feed reader and in both Twitter and Facebook – enabled by the current state of web technologies.
I wonder what we’ll be doing in five years to be inspired – wearing our VR headsets and exploring further/deeper?
Meanwhile, I’ll try to do better at sharing what I find inspirational – and welcome your comments here sharing what you’ve found inspirational.
I’ve been enjoying this 1999 documentary recommended by my friend Jamie Smith. It’s available for free streaming on Amazon Instant Video.
I started on episode 5 which began in 1919 and went through the building and opening of the Empire State Building in 1931. I’m now into episode 6 which starts out lamenting the impacts of the automobile on city life.
Filmed before 9/11, many of the images include the World Trade Center twin towers.