Hobbies of Yore

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Our cat Fian, who was known by many names, the best of which was Deep and Sir Darketh.

I’ve heard that there is tension between time and creativity, and I wish I could give proper credit to the author of this notion: when you have lots of time, you have few ideas, but when you have no time, you are taunted by all kinds of ideas you’d explore if you had the time. Alas, I do not remember where I first heard or read about this truth of life.

Digital scrapbooking is a hobby I tried back when I had lots of time but little inspiration. I had a secondhand computer, a borrowed point-and-shoot camera and free scrapbooking software. My daughter and I would assemble digital pages with our pictures and free templates.

This is one of many things I wish I had the time to explore again. I wish I had the time to crochet afghans, knit hats, create collages, etc. Then I consider that this wish arises from pressure on my time. When I had more time, I spent lots of it wondering what to do and feeling guilty that I’d wasted it.

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I remember that my daughter helped me choose the pictures for this page. Notice that she chose a plush with embroidered eyes to represent herself, too. She still has fine taste in such matters.

Sunset: Autumn Wetland

Beyond my backyard is a wetland preserve. While an El Niño summer rages into fall in the rest of my town, the wetlands show that growth is disintegrating on schedule. I have let my camera lie fallow for months, and I now I am surrendering to the urgency to document this season. Every fall I hope to capture the subtle changes until it all reaches a peak with frost-covered red leaves.

Capturing the wetlands in fall challenges me to value the small details of the natural world. If I overlook the glory of a lone grass flower or a long-brown thistle, what I hope do I have with a blazing sugar maple in October? The easy subjects yield better when you’ve taken time to illuminate the things that most regard with indifference: the ugly, the boring, the ignored. With a camera, you can discover that excitement and indifference say more about the viewer than the scene depicted. A rusted wheel can be as beautiful as the Grand Canyon. A withered patch of wetlands matters no less than an orchid in bloom.

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Hibiscus on the First Day of Fall

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My hibiscus bush has rebloomed in full in time for the beginning of fall. This is such an oddball sight for northern Ohio this late in the season. Either I’m merely lucky, or I am witness to yet another sign that this planet really is warming up.

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I dug out my 50mm lens for some of these pictures. I’m in the habit of taking multiple shots of the same object, and it seems that I end up wishing I’d brought along the 50mm only when I’ve left it at home. Since this bush is in my backyard, I was able to rectify this situation.

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My 50mm is manual focus, and sometimes I accidentally focus on nothing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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Each of these flowers is about six inches in diameter. This year the bush grew taller than I am, with a dozen blooms on it daily during parts of July and August. I’m pleased it was able to make a comeback before frost settles in.

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Puff, A Mystic

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I don’t know who owned the mystic I’d borrow and call Puff. His seasonal groomings told me he belonged to someone else. I once spotted him strolling through a neighborhood alley and thought that a man working on a truck called him Larry. Maybe that man was talking to another man offstage from the alley. Then again, Puff was a man’s man. He could have owned the name Larry easily.

Puff had enormous paws that could cover most of the palm of my hand. His gaze could hypnotize me into giving him Fancy Feast and a nap on my pillow or couch. My daughter and I loved nothing more than having him stay the night, and we’d fall asleep to the sound of his steady purr.

By the time my daughter started school, Puff’s visits began to dwindle. We’d take walks through the neighborhood to see if he’d become the back door man for another family. I took the photo above during one of his last visits, and in it he seems to be telling me that he’s found another woman but knows he’s made his mark on me.

My daughter and I still reminiscence about Puff. I hope he disappeared because he and his mysterious owner moved away.

He’d be an old man by now, but I’m sure he’s still full of love, charisma and machismo.

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Puff in his rusty summer glory

Mike on Broadway

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Dad in silhouette on Broadway

My dad has visited New York City several times. I tried to get him to bring the city to life by speaking of his times there, but he offered just one scene to represent the whole. He told me that he attended a Catholic Mass in the basement of a Brooklyn brownstone. On a mantel behind the altar, someone had left a copy of Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, and that album stood in its full 12″ glory for the entire service. Dad said that it seemed as if he was only one there who noticed it.

Several years ago, both my mom and dad planned to make a trip to New York, and I asked to go along. I was between jobs and hoped the trip would provide ample opportunities for street photography, which was a hobby of mine at the time. Once we were there, I was hardly able to stop long enough to take many pictures.

Reams of paper and miles of film have been devoted to capturing life in this city, but there is no substitute knowing what reality is like there. What kind of reality would produce the highest concentration on earth of those who live off their imaginations? The only way to know New York is to be there.

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Another photo I took on Broadway