Snow mounds with shadows and highlights.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There have been many posts written on this blog that are tied to the Symbolic Interactionist theory of Sociology.  At its core, this theory states that words are symbols that have meaning and that without this form of communication, culture would not exist.  For example, as new technologies are developed or new discoveries are made, words have to be created so as to have a means of identifying, defining, and communicating these experiences to the masses.  This winter of 2014 has brought some extremely cold temperatures and a couple of (newish) terms to the weather lexicon: Polar Vortex and Bombogenesis.

News organizations have been covering this story from a variety of angles and it appears folks have been blogging about these conditions, and these terms figure prominently in those discussions.  There really is not much more to add other than this thought, which relates to the second word linked above.  “Bomb” has been used to discuss long passes in football; home runs hit in baseball; a movie failing at the box office;  a lack of personal success in love or work; and, more recently in pop culture, something that is considered cool or desirable.  Sebastian Junger  wrote The Perfect Storm, which is about the convergence of three weather systems that led to the sinking of the Andrea Gale, and “bomb” was used by the forecaster in the movie adaptation to describe that event.  Historically, of course, the word refers to an explosive device used in war or to incite terror.  Far too often now stories using this term are about this last meaning, which is the reason why I pause a bit when “bomb” is used with any of those other connotations.      

Sun setting over snow with tree shadows.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

With regard to the weather, I am waiting for the warmth that is yet to come.

Take care.

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Significance

January 22, 2014

Window of house slated for demolition.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Transitions have  been on my mind a lot lately.  A window provides an opening into a house…

Front door to a house slated for demolition-the demolition notice is posted.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

as does the front door.  The notice says that this house is slated for demolition-the sign also says that the house was built “circa 1830”.

Front doors to a house slated for demolition.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I wonder what the house looked like when it was built over 150 years ago.  It appears that the section to the right was added at some point in the past.  This house has stood for all that time, and now is being torn down-the final transition.  What will take its place?

Post Road Bridge in Westport, Conn.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Above is a photograph of the Post Road Bridge, which leads into Westport, Conn.  This photograph is looking back toward the house pictured above, which is just up and across the street from these much newer buildings.

Post Road Bridge in Westport, Conn.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is a much wider angle view of the same scene.   The tighter shot makes the bridge and buildings on the far shore seem larger (increasing the focal length will do that).  However, the wider shot, which includes much more of the river and sky above, also provides some scale.  Those structures now seem to be dwarfed by the water and clouds and therefore of seemingly less significance by comparison.  If all of the buildings, along with the bridge, were to be demolished, the river and sky would remain.

Interestingly, it is those that cannot be replaced.

Take care.

End of Days?

January 16, 2014

Dead mum in direct sun.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Following-up on the slow demise of this mum in the last post, the above is an image of the same flower made earlier this afternoon.  While recognizable, no one would confuse this with the bright image from just a short while ago-the circular flow of energy and vibrance of colour has withered away.  It is as if the flower has folded in on itself and is physically withdrawing from being seen.

And so it is. 

One my colleagues whom I have known and worked with for years passed away recently.  While it is a cliché, and I do so not like clichés, Kathleen would literally light up a room upon entrance.  Her spirit and energy was such that she could make you want to face a challenge simply because you knew she would be there with you and would put forth all of her effort to make as successful an endeavour as was possible.  Shame on you if you did not match that.

Which is the issue at hand.  I find wakes unpleasant, which should not be surprising.  How could one “like” them?  There is an historical and cultural significance to such ceremonies, which is understood, and viewing the body in state does convey a sense of finality to the corporeal part of one’s journey.  However, this one was especially difficult as it was so painfully apparent that Kathleen’s life force energy had dissipated.  The contrast was just too great.

Which leaves the memories.  Had I not made the image above, I could go back again and again to that days old photo and see the beauty the flower possessed and therefore think of it always as it appeared then.  A photograph will do that as by definition it is a freezing of that fraction-of-a-second slice of time that is preserved.  It is important to remember, though, that a moment is not the totality of life (or death, for that matter).  Holding onto a particular moment of the past is precisely what can fuel the denial of the present.  Wakes are the reminder that all that lives will eventually be no longer.  That is a hard bit of reality and what makes wakes so poignant.

I feel privileged to have known and had the opportunity to work with Kathleen.  She made the good times better and the unpleasant ones much more than tolerable.

Yellow mum against blue background.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That is worth remembering.

Take good care.

Comparisons

January 11, 2014

Remaining mound of snow and autumn leaves in parking lot.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It is interesting to see how things fit together.  The above photo is the last remnant of the most recent winter cold and snow-once the majority of the snow had melted, the left-over fall maple leaves were blowing about.  It is intriguing to see the hallmarks of the sequential seasons paired.

Two cranes with crossed booms in fog.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Speaking of the melt, with temperatures on the rise, fog settled over the area.  The softness of the fog provides a pleasing backdrop to the much more angular and edgy human-made creations.

Tree in parking lot on a foggy day.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Nature, of course, can be quite edgy, too.  Visually, there is a fair amount of similarity between the subjects in the two photographs.

Yellow mum against blue background.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Alternately,  nature also provides smooth, flowing edges as well.  Pretty nice to have flowers to add scent and colour to these grey days.  This serves as a reminder of the Spring yet to come, which makes time the final comparison here.

This particular flower is already on the slide down from fresh to not-so-fresh.  While nothing photographic is permanent, this image will certainly last much longer than will the natural subject.  That is one of the appeals of photography:  there is a record of what once was, especially for when what was is no longer.

Take care.

Wind and Cold

January 7, 2014

Wind blowing through tree branches.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

An arctic cold front has moved into the Mid-Atlantic and brought with it the coldest temperatures in decades for this area, 2 degrees F as I am writing this, accompanied by winds gusting to 35 miles-per-hour.  Last night the house rattled when hit with the blasts of air as the front moved in.

While laying in bed, I found myself remembering being terrified of the wind when I was a child.  There was at least one incident of hiding under the bed during a blow.  In the middle of another, I looked out in horror as the trash cans blew down the street.  That second incident was also my first attempt at cognitive reorientation, although I did not know that at the time.

Cognitive reorientation comes from the work of Albert Ellis and is an outgrowth of his Rational Emotive Therapy.  Basically, Ellis believed that it was a person’s thinking that created problems-change the way you think (cognition) and you change the way you behave.  All those years ago I recall looking out the window and saying to myself “It is only the wind and it will not hurt me.”  Perhaps this was an attempt to change what I was really thinking.  Of course, one can not rule out the possibility of denial, either.  I do not remember from whom this definition comes, but I always use it to describe denial as “a buffer against an unacceptable reality.”  Denial protects us from that which we do not want to, or can not yet, face.  As long as I told myself the wind would not hurt me, I could deny that as a possibility.  As an adult looking back on that experience, I am currently not sure if what I was really afraid of was the wind itself or getting into trouble as it my job to bring in the trash cans.  Yes, distortion is certainly a problem with memories.  (It was probably a bit of both.)

Pine Ridge Reservation trailer.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Having said all of that, the Mid-Atlantic is pretty fortunate when compared to the Mid-West.  Yesterday morning in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, it was -16 F with stronger winds.  The Oglala Lakota live on the Pine Ridge Reservation there-many in the trailers provided in the 1970s.

Installing aluminum skirting on Pine Ridge trailer.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Two years ago we took a group to Pine Ridge for an Alternative Spring Break and one of the activities we did was to install “skirts” on the underside of the trailers.  These are aluminum sheets that are screwed into wood frames and subsequently screwed into the underside of the trailer.  The reason for doing this is two-fold:  one, they keep snow from building up underneath and chilling the trailer more than it already is (Pine Ridge had a four-foot snowfall this past October); and two, they keep the wind from blowing underneath and flipping the trailer (much like those trash cans blowing in the street).  While this appears to help, the skirts do nothing for the broken windows.

The beyond absolute poverty under which the Lakota live is deplorable and a direct result of well over 100 years of federal policy decisions; these kind of weather conditions make this chronic problem strikingly more acute.

No amount of cognitive reorientation will change that.  Denial, however, will make it less noticeable.

Take care.

UPDATE:  I had forgotten about this article in National Geographic-it is an important read.  If the link does not work, the article is entitled “In the Shadow of Wounded Knee”.

NOLA Fork

January 3, 2014

Fork found in the Lower Ninth Ward 4 years after Katrina.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I have written previously about my trips to New Orleans, LA that occurred three and four years after Hurricane Katrina.  This fork is from the Lower Ninth Ward and was found during the second trip in December 2008, and I think about it, and those trips, often.

Symbolic Interactionism is a sociological theory that basically says we use symbols for communication-a symbol is anything that stands for something else.  What strikes me about this fork are the remaining tines.  It is as if the fork, at least when oriented this way, is “giving the finger” or “flipping the bird”, which is a not terribly nice gesture to make.  In our culture, when one does this, the meaning is quite clear.  Cut someone off in traffic and you might get to see it.

However, as a symbol, I always thought this fork represented the general feelings many folks in New Orleans had for FEMA in the aftermath of the storm.  I do not want to summarize those events as there simply is not enough space in the posts I like to do.  Instead, I would recommend reading The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley as it is an excellent depiction of the history and events of that storm.  Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink is on many of the “best of” lists for 2013 and is also highly recommended.  One could also watch Spike Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke”.

Here’s hoping there are few chances to use or receive this gesture in 2014.

Take care.

2014

January 1, 2014

Early morning 2014 New Year's Day with sunlight on trees.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Happy New Year as 2014 has arrived.

2014 discarded New Year's horn.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What kind of year will this be?

Ice shapes.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The planet has continued to warm and folks are struggling to adapt; an example are farmers in Malawi as reported here.  Closer to home, NPR also reported today that in 2013 there were two hurricanes in the Atlantic-the least since 1982-and neither threatened the U.S.  There were 900 tornadoes-the least since 1987.  Within those 900, however, were the Moore, OK EF5 that killed 54 people and the largest tornado ever, at 2.6 miles wide, that hit El Reno, OK.  On the other side of the globe, Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines with its record size and wind speeds.  These and other climate-related issues did gain traction in the political world, as summarized here.  (Next year, 2015, will most likely be more crucial as plans developed at the recently concluded United Nations Climate Change talks will reach deadline.  2020 is the targeted year for agreements to take effect, which is, of course, 6 New Years away.)

The Central African Republic descended into madness and South Sudan may be poised to move out of theirs.  Syria continues and the Palestinians and Israelis recently traded rockets again. (No matter the year there never seems to be a shortage of weapons nor the desire and will to use them.)

The stock market had a record year and 15% of Americans continued to live below the poverty level.  Residents of SeaTac, Washington voted to more than double the federal minimum wage by passing legislation increasing the rate to $15.00/hr.

The climate, war, and economic conditions will no doubt continue to be dominant stories in this new year and these three items are inextricably linked.  Conflict Theory tells us that there will be a continual struggle for the control over scarce resources and those resources can be boiled down to wealth, power, and prestige.  As the planet warms, seas will rise, droughts will increase, and storms will become stronger-all of these stress local and global resources.  As resources dwindle, power struggles will escalate as those with the means will seek to consolidate and expand their holdings and those in need will find ways in which to gain a foothold.

Trash in water photographed on New Year's Day 2014.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

No one who knows me would ever confuse me with being an optimist.  In fact, my world view tends toward the gloomy, which I would argue is more realistic.  So, pragmatic, yes.  Hopeful?  To a degree.  I absolutely believe that we as a global, interconnected, people need to find the ways in which to create a sustainable life for all.  However, I also absolutely believe that one must first be aware of, and have a degree of understanding about, the forces at work that shape global issues before deciding whether one cares or not about specific issues.

Therein lies my hope:  that in 2014 all of us become more knowledgeable about the world and its problems and our individual role in shaping and resolving them.

Take care.