Happy New Year 2016

Looking ahead is always good, new plans and dreams require planning and optimism and you can’t go wrong with these traits and activities. However, sometimes there is much to be gained by looking back as well. There are lessons learned, failures to digest, victories to build upon, accomplishments to relish and seemingly insurmountable obstacles overcome.

frontcoverSo on this last day of 2015 I noticed that I had written a Happy New Year 2015 blog post and so I read it to find out what I might have been thinking last New Year’s Eve. I’m sure it was a rough one, although you would not know if from my brief post. Tricia was dying, there was no doubt in my mind that without the miracle of all time I was celebrating my last New Year’s Eve with her. From my blog post I remembered that my main camera had served me well for six years, but had finally snapped it’s last image. I wrote of the anticipation of a new camera in 2015 but I remember thinking how unlikely that would actually be.

My blog for 2015 looked pretty bleak, including only the one goal of going out to the Lost Creek Wilderness for pictures. And of course on the first of March in the middle of the night in a blizzard we took our final ambulance ride together to Memorial Hospital. There was nothing more the doctors could do and two days later she passed away at the Pikes Peak Hospice at Penrose Hospital. There was no time to mourn, there was too much to do and not enough time to do it. Much to my surprise though, with some help from church members I was pretty much moved out of our cottage before her memorial service near the end of March.

As a result of a true miracle from God, it wasn’t long before I had the new camera and was making plans for an eventful summer. I made it to two whitewater festivals on the Arkansas, Bison Peak in the Lost Creek Wilderness that I previously mentioned, photographed the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run, visited the wolves in Guffey with Facebook friends and wolf warriors Lisa and Jeanne, explored new trails on Pikes Peak and got a press pass to report on the Pikes Peak Ascent where I finally met my Facebook friend Jill in real life. Photographing the mountain goats and bighorn sheep on Mount Evans and climbing the two 14ers later in September were so far beyond my wildest expectations that I still have to pinch myself to believe it. With the help of Tracy Roach, we also finished an Examiner article about her climbing adventures that we had started months ago!

But I think that by far the most important lessons from 2015 involve lessons learned about grieving and also of building personal relationships. It was my plan to just become a mountain hermit, do my photography and writing, and live here on my mountain in solitude. But it was not meant to be so. I should have known when old friends Doug from Control Data Corporation and Frank and Michelle came out for Tricia’s memorial. My brother Jim and his girlfriend Robin came to visit later and much to my surprise, Jim and I climbed the Manitou Incline, something I had been wanting to do for years. In surprising and unexpected fulfillment of a deathbed promise to Tricia, I met met my Facebook friend Apryl in real life as well. Through her I made some more new friends and even re-connected with my old friend David from our old neighborhood in Parker at the Manitou Coffin Races  on our racing team that she organized.

However summer’s end and the associated short days and long hours of darkness came with terrible sadness when Apryl had to move back to Northern Colorado for an awesome new job opportunity and I once again began to entertain the idea of life as a mountain hermit. I think this is when I learned the most important concept of the entire year. I received a message from one Facebook friend one evening asking me if I had heard recently from another Facebook friend. I was kind of feeling sorry for myself and a bit lonely too at the time and really didn’t feel like talking to anyone, but I started thinking that I had not heard from her in quite a while. So I checked and indeed, she had not posted anything or messaged me in a long time.

I started trying to track her down and find out what was going on and that is when I was hit by a startling revelation. The isolation I was contemplating is selfish and self destructive. I realized that while I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself others were fighting terrible battles in their lives as well and as a mature long time believer, God was expecting me to get involved, to continue where He left off when Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”.

The major lesson learned here is that so often, the thing we need the most is the very thing we are supposed to be giving away. As I began to take action on this knowledge I also discovered that many times a gesture that seems small to me can make a huge difference in the life of someone else. I think not because I have any unusual ability or strength, but because a task that is small for me might be an impossible burden for someone else, just as my own battles sometimes appear insurmountable to me and minuscule to someone else. Each and every one of us has talents and tools that someone else is needing and it is selfishness to conceal them in solitude, even if all we might have to offer is an encouraging word or a hug at an opportune time.

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Winter Solstice 2014

The Winter Solistice, the event which converges all the forces of orbit, angle and rotation to bring about the end of the Northern Hemisphere’s plunge into the darkness of winter will officially hit Colorado this afternoon at 4:03 p.m. Mountain Time. The science of it all is complex, but for me it is simple, the sun will begin it’s travel northward and our brothers and sisters down under will be saying g’day a bit later each morning for the next six months.

It may be insignificant to some, but for me the Winter Solstice is my new year. I despise the short days and the long hours of darkness that disrupt my whole outdoor lifestyle, and just knowing that each day is a little longer gives me a lift on this day. With Christmas and the calendar New Year holidays approaching I know the rest of the month will pass quickly and 2015 will be upon us before we know it. As January wears on the days will become noticeably longer and here in Colorado it means that the chances for many days of extreme cold are numbered. Of course at 9000 feet of elevation it will continue snow well into April and sometimes even May but I can handle that. It’s the below zero stuff that I experienced in my youth that I find most difficult to bear in my old age.

I have to say 2014 was an eventful year and unfortunately not such a good one. I experienced the loss of my beloved friend of 17 years, my border collie Sweet Pea. A lot more time was spent shuttling back and forth to hospitals than I expected and my stock photo business took a bit hit with the resulting diminished time spent on it along with the eventual loss of my main camera. But there were some high points as well. 2014 was the year that I finally got my framing and printing website underway and also began writing in earnest for the Examiner. 2014 was the year that I started this blog and finally got my Linked In and Twitter profiles set up and working well for me. In 2014 I met new friends and was adopted into a loving church family that has given me the strength to continue moving forward in the face of loss and hardship.

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And almost unbelievably, after hundreds of facebook posts, blogs and Examiner articles, word came in yesterday from my fellow wolf warriors that wolves in some of the worst wolf killing states of all had been placed back under the protection of the Endangered Species List in the Great Lakes Region after having been betrayed by the Federal Government years ago. Now at the end of 2014 I am gratified to report that wolves in a total of four states comprising some of the worst violators of the spirit of the law have been brought back under the protection of the ESA. Oregon and California are already taking steps to assure that wolves in those states will not face the atrocities perpetrated upon them in other places.

With the advent of longer days and more sunshine I am hoping that 2015 will be a great year. It appears that many of the changes implemented by Getty / iStock, including the introduction of the subscription license, are beginning to take effect as the long drain on the customer base is reversed and buyers return from sites where they took their business in quest of more price options. I have begun to scout out new camera models, comparing prices and specifications while keeping an eye on the calendar looking forward to events I might attend to photograph and write about. Maybe 2015 will be the year I can organize a tour of the Wolf and Wildlife Center in Guffy and maybe I will finally get to travel across the high plains of southern Colorado to attend the great whitewater festival along the Arkansas in Salida next summer. Maybe I will travel to the Lost Creek Wilderness and take some of the hikes described in the book I bought last winter at this time.

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Halo on the Pikes Peak

This afternoon as I write I am looking out of the big window in the reading room of the library it looks like the peak is wearing a halo. The mountain is a temperamental lady though, one minute she is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen and the next she seems like she is trying to kill you. The forecast has called for a snowy solstice this year and I can’t think of a more appropriate way to reflect on the end of the solar year in 2014 than fresh snow on Pikes Peak. Here’s to a great start to the new solar year!