Summer 2017

June 21, 2017

BW photograph of cumulous clouds behind a stand of trees.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today is the first day of summer, the Summer Solstice, and Tropical Storm Cindy is making her presence known along the Gulf Coast.

BW photograph of cumulous clouds behind a stand of trees.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Locally, the week began hot and humid with a relatively strong thunderstorm on Monday.

BW photograph of cumulous clouds behind a stand of trees.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Yesterday was much cooler as a result-the sky was also washed clean.

BW photograph of cumulous clouds behind a stand of trees.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

These photographs are from the same cloud bank as it moved across the sky yesterday-they were not part of the thunderstorms mentioned earlier.  Unlike being in a tropical storm, let alone a hurricane, there is a settling effect that can come from watching the slow, deliberate movement and evolution of clouds as they pass.

Take care.

A Walk

June 10, 2017

BW photograph of a moonset across a road.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Last week, a very cool (47 degrees) morning followed a full moon.

BW photograph of a foggy morning looking across a field.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That temperature was enough to create fog in the low-lying areas.

BW photograph of a sunrise over a field.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As the sun arose, the fog burned off.

Colour photograph of a sunrise over a field.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

(Colour photographs of sunrises tend to make a better presentation, right?)

BW photograph of the Wolf Rock trail.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Once at my destination and having begun the walk, two books readily came to mind:  A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson, which has been made into a movie, and The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams.

BW photograph of mountain flowers with strong sidelight.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This particular walk was a sensory delight-there was birdsong, the dampness of the earth, courtesy of the copious amounts of recent rain and that morning fog, and the varying scents that come from being in the woods.

BW photograph of four tree trunks near Wolf Rock.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a tree cleaving Wolf Rock.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of an upward looking view of tree tops against the sky.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

While this walk was a bit modest in scope and distance, it was the experience that was important; a point central to Mr. Bryson’s book.

BW photograph of the former Homicide building, which is now a functioning hotel.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

My other possible choice that day was to go for a walk in the city.  Ms. Williams directly addresses the differences in the sensory response between that and being in the woods-her book is well worth a read.  She summarizes the impact of inhaling nature’s aromas as opposed to those produced in an urban environment.  Indeed, which would you rather smell-car exhaust or pine needles?  The issues and assets of activating different neurochemicals are also presented.  Cortisol or dopamine?  The choice of stimulus is vitally important to the overall experience.  Of course, I am biased.  However, it also depends on what one likes to photograph, and I will most certainly return to photograph the newly opened hotel.  Therefore, when it comes to the muse, one, whenever possible, must choose wisely.

That was a very good morning to be in the woods.

Take care.

 

Nostalgia

June 4, 2017

BW photograph of two old rotary movers overgrown with ivy.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

When times become complicated and stressful, there is a real tendency to retreat into nostalgia in an attempt to find some solace and security.

BW photograph of an old strorefront with painted product advertisements.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A walk down a historic street engenders such moments, and that does provide a welcome “time-out” from the everyday.  (Quite honestly, that is one of the reasons I like working in BW so much.)

BW photograph of a white wall with a "Private Property" sign listing several prohibitions, included "No Lurking".

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved,

However, it is a real mistake to think that times in the past were any more secure, less stressful, or “great”.  The Great Depression.  Two World Wars.  Redlining.  The Cold War.  Sputnik.  The 1968 Democratic Convention.  Martin Luther King. Vietnam.  Kent State. Rodney King.  9/11.  Iraq/Afghanistan.  The housing bubble.    Climate Change.  All times present their challenges-some extend longer or have deeper impacts than others.  Some are most certainly more personal than others.  And some issues appear to be intractable:  racism, economic inequality, war.

There is no going back: we, and time, can only move forward.  It is the manner by which that movement forward takes shape that is key. Any attempt to turn back the clock and re-create an illusionary, distorted view of the past will almost certainly create more issues ahead.

Yes, “time-outs” are helpful-we just can’t live in them.

Take care.

Travel When Stationary

April 25, 2017

BW photograph of a plane in a terminal.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Over 10 hours this past weekend were spent in the air flying to and from the west coast, most of which was through turbulent air creating the need to remain seat-belted for passenger safety.  As such, there was not much time for movement-not that planes allow for much locomotion in any case.  Having said that, though, I was able to “visit” several global locations via the books brought for the trip-most principally was Afghanistan via Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, a title ripe with typical British understatement.  This was originally published in 1958, and I had given it a first read back in the 80s.

One of the real advantages of reading is the number of regions in the brain that are stimulated by engaging in that activity, as discussed here.  I do not tend to read much fiction, however, my imagination becomes just as ignited as I visualize the scenarios depicted in such works of non-fiction.  Having spent much time in mountains hiking, camping, and doing modest climbs, it is relatively easy to relate to the experiences Mr. Newby describes.  Moreover, I have read much about the geography and culture of this part of the world; the Soviet and American wars that have been and are currently being fought in the region; and have had the opportunity to talk with many who have soldiered there.  As a result, while re-reading Hindu Kush this time, I found myself wondering how the various peoples and villages Mr. Newby encountered have fared over the past 5+ decades.

Take care.

Screen Time

February 5, 2017

BW photograph of a person sitting in a hotel courtyard using a cell phone.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today, the TED Radio Hour continued its series entitled “Screen Time“.  Journalist Jon Ronson’s interview and TED Talk are an important lesson in the legacy of social media and online activity.  While I would highly recommend listening to each of the stories presented though Parts I and II,  Mr. Ronson’s points are the focus of this particular post.

According to an article in The New York Times,  “…children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central, down from age 12 in 2012.”  It is useful to read through the entire article so as to become familiar with the issues of such a young start as well as the guidelines for making such technology available for use.

Biologically speaking, the age of onset of smartphone use is especially critical because of the connection between neuromaturation and the maturation of judgment.  Essentially, the frontal lobe of the brain is our seat of reasoning, judgment, planning, and critical thinking, which are the so-called “executive functions”.  One particular application of these functions is the ability to predict the future consequences of our current behavior.  It takes many, many years beyond the age of 10 for the frontal lobe to be fully ready for such activity. (As an aside, it is also important to note the controversy that surrounds the type of research mentioned in that NIH report.  The text includes a discussion of those points.)

If children and young adults start using smartphones to engage in social media at age 10 or 12 or 15, they are doing so at a point where the biological mechanisms of judgment and impulse control are not fully engaged.  By way of contrast, the social pressures to interact online most certainly are.  Achieving social acceptance is a critical developmental task for this age group, and the desire to be “liked” now has a concrete measure in various social media platforms.  As such, folks are habituated to interacting online well before the brain may have fully developed the ability to assess potential problems with what is posted.  For some, as Mr. Ronson so carefully articulates, what is posted becomes the reality.

Take care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Game On”

January 18, 2017

BW photograph of a closer view of an outdoor chess board's pieces-emphasis on the white king.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In Season Four, Episode Six of The West Wing, President Bartlett’s staff exhorts him to do well in the presidential debate by using the phrase “Game On”, which is also the title of the episode.  This coming Friday is Inauguration Day in the United States-a day when the president-elect officially becomes the Commander-in-Chief.  In that sense, it most certainly becomes “game on” for the incoming administration.

BW photograph of an outdoor chess board's pieces.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Many moves have already been made in this “game” as it began with the 2016 campaign and election season.  Many cabinet appointees have had their hearings before congressional committees and more of those are to come.  The tweets have been flowing.

And, of course, this is not a game, nor is it a television show.

Given the ease of using Netflix, it is possible to binge watch The West Wing, which originally aired from 1999 to 2006.  What is fascinating to see is just how many of the political, social, cultural, and environmental issues addressed in the show remain relevant, if not headline-generating, today.  It is just as interesting to watch how the fictional President Bartlett and his staff navigate those issues.

The president-elect and his staff will have the opportunity to do so in real time.

Take care.

Here to There

January 14, 2017

BW photograph of a concrete road overpass overtop a field.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

How do we get from here to there?

That is a quintessential/existential question-the answer to which is based on the determination of what or where “here” and “there” are.  Once again we are within the realm of perception.

From a psychological perspective, sensation is the sensory data we encounter through sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch.  Perception is the meaning ascribed to that data.  For example, while the data documenting climate change is quite clear, there are different conclusions drawn.  Some see this an opportunity to gain access to natural resources heretofore covered by the now melting ice sheets and glaciers.  Others interpret this as a continuation of the mindset that created the problem in the first place.

This interview is what generated the idea for today’s post.  Please be sure to listen to the entire discussion as it is interesting to hear the different perspectives provided by the host, Bob Garfield, and the interviewee, Rebecca Solnit.  Ms. Solnit’s view of optimism and pessimism is particularly intriguing.  As an aside, climate change factors prominently in this discussion.

Take care.