Bubbles and a Beautiful Lady

Posted in Under the Sea on September 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Regular readers of this journal will already know that I’m in a pretty bad space and have been for a few months. Nevertheless, I have to hang onto a few “normal” things to help stabilise my life and restore some semblance of order. Writing here is one of those normal activities. Today, I will show you a couple of images of one of the more amusing varieties of coral from my dive last Saturday at The Eel Garden near Pig Island.  I’m also going to add a couple of images of Eunie just because I like looking at them and I feel better when I do.

This is Bubble Coral  (Plerogyra sinosa), which has appeared here many times before. If you put “bubble” in the search box, you will find many images. Why one would waste valuable time doing so, I can’t imagine, but there are all kinds of people. The derivation of the common name is obvious. It is a kind of coral, and the puffy bits of the polyps look like, well, bubbles. It is also known as Pearl Coral, which works for me. It grows only in the Indo-Pacific area.

Bubble Coral can project long, stinging tentacles which allow it to defend its turf. Other corals are stung by these if they grow too close, so they automatically keep their distance. Good fences make good neighbours.

In this shot you can see some juvenile anthea in the water behind the Bubble Coral. You can also see, if you click to enlarge, how much particular matter was in the water on Saturday. When the water is full of specks, you have to get up very close to the subject or the images are useless.

The shot also suffers from two kinds of motion blur because I was using a shutter speed of abou1 1/8 of a second. I allowed the camera to move very slightly during the exposure, blurring everything a little and the fish, as they are wont to do, were moving.

Rob Small (A. K. A. The Butterfly Man) took this shot a year or two ago up at Blueblood.

Having been away from our blood families for nearly three decades, we have found a wonderful surrogate family among our friends in Madang. Putting a baby on Eunie’s lap was always a sure way to make her smile.

This shot was taken by Geneviève Tremblay at the last party we threw at our house before leaving for Australia. Not to put too fine a point on it, it was Eunie’s last party.

The expression on Eunie’s face is priceless. “Ooooo, strawberries!” Eunie loved parties.

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Guest Artist – Kathleen Farago May

Posted in Guest Shots on September 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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As the interlocutor on the Monty Python’s Flying Circus  used to announce, “And now for something completely different.” I ran across Kathleen Farago May seemingly by accident, as so often happens with social networking. Looking at her work, I was puzzled by the impressions I was experiencing. In the common parlance, the images are “spiritual” in nature. This means, of course, a lot of different things to different people.

I am very curious about the spirituality others. I lived my early years in, to say the least, a spiritually diverse environment. Finally, I had to make up my mind what I believed. For my own spiritual life, I found the “many paths” idea untenable. Nevertheless, I think that one way to become more firmly founded in one’s own beliefs is by trying to understand the beliefs of others. You can take out your ideas one by one and compare them to others. If nothing else, it provides a sort of canvas on which to paint a picture of what you believe. Learning about machines in general can teach you something about how your car works. It will not allow you to fix a faluty engine, but you might figure out how to change a tyre.

This is not a very popular idea among Christians, I know. But, for me, I find validification coming with understanding. I also find opportunities to “compare notes” with others concerning their beliefs. Along this path, I occasionally find those whose confusion or lack of belief can be addressed by quiet discourse and hearing ears.

But, we’re not here to talk about me today. We’ve had enough of that for a little while. I am curious to see if Kathleen’s images speak to others as some of them have spoken to me. Maybe they have different things to say to different people. It would surprise me if they did not. Artistically, the images are an exotic blend of the real and the surreal. It sounds crazy, but Salvador Dali keeps popping into my mind. I don’t know if I can explain that!  Kathleen uses photographic images, art and computer generated patterns for her compositions. Possibly this explains the “old” and “new” mix of impressions that I feel when I view them.

I’m going to present them with Kathleen’s comments. If I have something to say about an image, I’ll put it in after Kathleen’s text.

Enjoy!

Gaia’s Song:

Mother Earth is so beautiful, and one of the most lyrical creations is the sea. I feel that this is her song, because like music, the sea moves and changes through time, the beauty being perceived differently, each time one encounters a song or the sea.

Being a sea creature and a lover of bush walking, this combination of ocean and mountain delivers an amusing experience to me. The computer generated interlocking sine waves seem to blend it all together.

Take Me Away:

A painting that is a prayer – seeking reprieve from a particularly difficult passage in my life, I was asking my angels to release me from the difficulty of this part of my journey. Within two months they did.

There are so many concepts of angels that I generally leave them alone. Whether they leave me alone or not is open to question. Life is confusing enough for me without them. However, if one is into angels, this is probably a comforting image. It has a strong Eastern feel to it, which strikes me as a little unusual. It certainly is a very nice bit of work.

Dancing in the Light:

About the joy of two souls sharing the light of life. At this point, when I painted this, I was still only imagining the joy that this could be, within three months, I had found the soul with whom that I am able to share this joy.

Well, I love to dance. Since childhood, dancing has been a part of my life. My mother taught ballet and my father taught tap. Together they taught ballroom, modern and jitterbug. Very naturally, this image strikes a chord in my heart.

Centered in Love:

Love has given me an enhanced perception of the beauty of life and I feel more able to perceive the miracle of each moment.

This one gets me where I live. It is a lovely composition. It’s truly magical. I feel all warm and fuzzy when I spend some time with it.

Bliss is Movement Towards Love:

“When I see I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I see I am everything, that is love. My life is a movement between these two.” ~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

I’m not usually moved by purely geometrical patterns, unless they are grounded somehow in realism. However, having dabbled with computer programs which produce them, I will say that is much more difficult than one might think to come up with patterns which are visually pleasing. Most of them just look like, well, vaguely pretty patterns cranked out by a computer. I think that the reason for my ambiquity is that I am so fixed in reality. Focusing on photography can erase appreciation for other varieties of art if one is not careful. I find this image pleasing, so I’ll credit Kathleen with spending considerable time honing her skills.

Rising Clarity:

In my current state, I feel that my perceptions, both intellectual and emotional, have risen to a new level of clarity – I have emerged from the turbulence of previous passages.

I like this one better, possibly because it is not so utterly symmetrical. There is something else there. I’ll back off here before I am accused of critiquing something which I do not understand.

Hydrothermal Origin of Life:

With gratitude to Jan Messersmith for permission to include his original image. This is one of my fascinations – how life can manifest in such challenging environments as hydrothermal vents. This is not meant to be a scientific depiction, just a visual expression of my wonder and awe.

Well, of course I would like this one much better for a couple of reasons. First off is that it contains one my images of a Magnificent Anemone. Another attraction is that it actually has something grounded in reality in it. Yes, I like this.

Kathleen has revealed to me a few thoughts concerning her life. They are too personal for me to pass on. I can say, however, that she has long persevered and is now blessed. I would guess that she is probably blessed beyond what she ever imagined would be possible for her.

We hope for much. Sometimes we think that hope is, well, hopeless. However, if we stop to think about it with a grateful mind, we might realise that we probably receive many more good things than we really expect. Hope and expectation seldom correlate. Every day is a blessing. Every day has a value beyond purchase. We can’t buy more time.

I need to listen more to my heart. That’s the communications centre. The head is just an accessory.

Bulldozer – The Spotted Shrimpgoby

Posted in Under the Sea on September 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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On Saturday I went out on Richard Jones’ and Pascal Michon’s boat Sanguma  for our regular weekly dive. We motored up to Pig Island  to The Eel Garden, one of the few places where the sea was calm enough to be comfortable. The water was full of particulate matter. That spells trouble for photography, unless you can get very close to the subject. Therefore, all of my images from the dive are shot from a distance of a few inches. Today I want to show you a series of images of the Spotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris guttata)  and the commensal shrimp (Alpheus ochrostriatus)  that lives with it.

The shrimp goby and the goby shrimp share the same burrow. The burrow is maintained by the shrimp. In return, the goby keeps guard and may provide a source of food. Approached too closely, both will dart back into the burrow.

Here we see the shrimp goby standing guard at the side of the little ditch that is always present running from the burrow to the sand dump. You can also see the goby shrimp pushing a load of sand up out of the burrow:

The goby shrimp shoves the sand along with its head and claws, reminding one of a tiny bulldozer:

When the shrimp reaches the sand dump it pushes the sand up into a little pile at the end of the ditch. If the pile gets too big, it will move off to the side at the end of the ditch and start another pile:

Here we can see the shrimp after it has pushed the sand onto the pile and is getting ready to go backwards down the ditch and back into the tunnel for another load:

The process goes on indefinitely. Its work is never finished.

I enjoyed the dive this week more than last, the first since returning from Australia alone. I was far too unsettled that day. I should not have been diving at all. Faded Glory  is finally back where she belongs. When Rich Jones and I put in a new mooring buoy last week, somebody stole it the first night. So much for our security staff. They are too busy sleeping at night to walk around.

The work load has not diminished noticeably. Trevor Hattersley did help me get a handle on part of it. We will have to have more sessions as I progress until, eventually, I have a handle on my personal finances and the insurance claims are settled. I am looking at these things as challenges, not problems. However, they are big challenges. I haven’t had time to grieve properly or get lonely. All that will come later.

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Back To My Garden

Posted in My Garden on September 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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It seems as if it has been a year since I last had a morning stroll in my garden. I’ll start by saying that I’m sad that I can’t manage to post every day. Part of the reason for this is that I simply have too much work to do. Insurance claims, learning to manage my personal finances (a strange new experience for me) and a hundred other time consuming duties call on me to spend an average of twelve hours a day at the computer or chasing down details.

However, the bigger problem is that I’m finding it difficult to extract much enjoyment from life. I know that this will pass as I get over the steep mountain of absolutely necessary busy work and can get a glimpse of the peaceful valley beyond.

Just outside my front door, there is a hibiscus bush with deep red flowers. It also sports freckled variegated leaves. Here is the blossom which greeted me this morning:

In the background at the right of the reproductive bits of the hibiscus flower you can see some blossoms of my night-blooming jasmine.

My friend Val Jerram has cautioned me against viewing every obstacle to happiness or seemingly onerous task as a problem.  She suggests instead that I see them as challenges.  I did not really understand this until I began to apply a long forgotten technique from the days when I was battling crippling depression. The trick is turning it around.  For instance, one of the obstacles to happiness is the seemingly insurmountable problem of learning to manage the rather complex personal and business finances about which I have been absolutely ignorant for more than three decades. Eunie was so good at managing all this and did it so effortlessly that it didn’t seem worth my attention. I am now paying for the luxury that I enjoyed for so long.

So, applying the technique of turning it around, I am trying to view the obstacle as an opportunity to take charge of my life again instead of rapidly drifting into a truly hopeless situation. Only a modest learning curve and entering a few hundred transactions into bookkeeping programs stands between me and the confidence that I so desperately need.

Around the corner from the front steps is another hibiscus bush with outrageously hues leaves:

What is that  all about?

Out by the little round garden with a candlestick tree in the middle are some small white hibiscus. Bees are usually swarming around these in the morning. Today they must have been sleeping late:

You can see some bees feeding on these blossoms here and here.

And, of course, no stroll through the garden would be complete without the orange lilies:

I need a holiday.

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Back Under the Sea

Posted in Under the Sea on September 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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On Saturday, after what seems like a year, but was only about six weeks, I went back into the water. It was a grey day and Astrolabe Bay  was calm. I went out on Sanguma  with Richard Jones.

Since Faded Glory  rolled over and sank in about two metres of water in front of my dock the day we left for Australia to get medical treatment for Eunie, I have no boat at present. It is at the marine repair shop waiting for me to pick it up. Trevor Hattersley has checked on it a couple of times and says that it’s running well. If the control cables don’t rust and freeze up, she should be good to go.

I tie the stern to a mooring point well out from the dock – usually. Over several weeks the mooring point had been moving closer to the dock. I did not know why. I do know that it was too close. I couldn’t get enough pull on the stern from the mooring, so at high tide the bow of the boat got hooked over the edge of the dock. When the tide went down . . . well you can guess what happened. Water came seeping, then roaring over the transom and the back end of the boat settled on the bottom and she rolled over on her side.

When it rains it pours.

Anyway, this afternoon Richard Jones brought Sanguma  over to my house and I put on my dive gear and went out and wrapped a big chain around the engine block that is the base of the mooring point. I then tied a new piece of rope around the chain and put a float on the end of it. Okay, now I can go over to the marine repair place and get Faded Glory  back home where she belongs.

Isn’t that exciting? One less thing.

At Planet Rock  the water was full of particulate matter. That makes for pretty poor picture taking unless you are up very close. The marine photographer’s mantra in murky water is “the closer the better”. Any time you see a Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  is reason enough to take a shot at it:

This is certainly not the best shot of this critter that I have managed. In fact, it’s rather ho-hum. Nevertheless, I saw it and here it is for your viewing pleasure. I have heard that some restaurants serve cuttlefish. I wouldn’t eat one if I were starving (well, maybe). It’s not as if they are endangered, it’s just that they are my friends. One doesn’t eat one’s friends.

The Magnificent Anemones (Heteractis magnifica)  were splendid. The whole top of the rock is plastered with them in many riotous hues. On Saturday most of them were in their “jug” configuration. I confess I don’t know what this indicates. They are usually stretched out more or less flat for feeding. Possibly the day was dim enough that they reckoned it was night:

Who knows what an anemone thinks? I certainly don’t.

This one shows one of the many bright colours on the underside:

I have some more shots of other colours which I will post in a day or two. I’ve backed off to posting every other day, since I need to conserve my strength to mine the mountain of paperwork that has been generated by Eunie’s passing and still do my work at the office. Who knew I would be so busy? I didn’t expect it. Add that to the list of Things I Never Thought Of.

Th last shot here is my favourite. These are Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello)  with a couple of Bigeye Trevally at the bottom of the image:

They led me on a merry chase to get the shot. When playing with such schools one needs to be careful not to ascend too quickly. That can lead to serious consequences. “The bends” or Decompression Illness is only one mistake away.

For those out there who are checking up on me I’ll say that I’m “doing as well as can be expected”. Actually, my friends are telling me that I”m doing considerably better. I’m having a hard time seeing it that way, but I’ll take that as encouragement. I will go to Divine Word University on Thursday morning to make arrangements for a memorial service in the chapel there. Rich Jones is going with me as an advisor and to hold my hand. I seem to need a lot of hand-holding these days.

Hey, that’s what friends are for.

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More Mount Beppo – Guest Shooter Alison Raynor

Posted in Guest Shots on September 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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I need to persuade my head to give me a break from my own difficulties for an hour or so. Let’s have some beautiful images from our guest shooter, Alison Raynor. Alison lives in Toogoolawah in Queensland, Australia. She has been a guest shooter here before. She is getting right into sunrises and has sent me some very nice ones. I’ll devote most of this post to her images and fill in at the end with an update on my currently miserable life.

This is not the prettiest of the lot, but it has four items of interest, namely four black cockatoos. You may have to click to enlarge to see them:

Along with the photo, Alison included this amusing comment.

The old farmers here have a  saying that, when there are an uneven number of black cockatoos overhead that means that there will be rain.  Well, it’s an interesting theory which can be listed alongside the one that says that if you see the long neck turtles walking uphill it is also a sign of BIG rain, not to mention the swarming of the flying ants (termites) that are said to mean HUGE rain, possibly floods (if the swarm is big enough).   The thing is, that the later two are both quite accurate and make sense if one chooses to analise the natural reasoning behind what initially seems to be a crazy “old cockies tail”.

I did not count the total number of cockatoos this morning, as I was too busy with the camera, but soon found out that the stunning light and colour show that was capturing  my attention in the east was actually an  insidious diversion for what was  sneaking up and preparing to thrash me from behind. A big thunderous black cloud full of flatulence and cold water. Mmmmmm?

Here is another more colourful shot:

And one even more so:

The best of the bunch, I’d say.

In the cloud here I see some curious banding which I can’t explain:

Is it an omen? No, wait. I don’t believe in omens. I’d go really crazy if I did.

This isn’t a sunrise, but it’s my favourite of these images:

Alison’s veranda looks like a peaceful place to me. I’d like to spend some time there – in a peaceful place.

Thank you, Alison for a little time off.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The ruckus in my head continues – intensifies. When it rains it pours. I won’t bore you with the growing list of Things I Never Thought Of. Let’s just say that every day seems to bring some new, terrifying fact to light. The renter in the house in Brownsburg has chosen this fine time to move out, leaving me with a house that’s empty, earning no income and not in good shape. Oh, did I mention that I have joined the immense club of those owing more on their house than it’s worth and having no money to pay the payments? Yes, that’s me – a joiner.

Does grief magnify one’s problems? I suppose it could. I don’t know. This is my first experience with bone-rattling grief – the kind of grief that makes you feel weak and shaky all the time and won’t let you sleep.

By the way, I’ve stopped asking what else can go wrong.

The possible answers terrify me.

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Gympie Sunset

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have been travelling for a couple of days and also fell into a black hole of no web access at my house, so this is the first time I’ve had a chance to post. A lot has happened. It’s time to catch up.

One thing that I was dreading was the memorial service at the Anglican Church in Gympie. I simply did not see how I could get through it. I’m now reminded that the human spirit is usually stronger than the particular human thinks it is. In other words, you can take a lot more than you think you can.

As it turns out, it was absolutely magnificent. I’d love to tell you the names of all who were in attendance, but I think that might be an invasion of privacy. I was frankly surprised at the number and variety of familiar faces I saw there. If any of the attendees are reading this, please accept again my heartfelt thanks for your efforts to be there to remember Eunie and prop me up.

Carol Dover sang Amazing Grace  is her lovely manner with a mid-southern accent and mountains of soul. Tears flowed like a river. The pastor said that he had never heard singing such as that in that place and I can believe it. It was fitting, comforting and magnificent. It was perfect.

Richard Jones delivered a eulogy which made me proud to know him and count him as a friend. Rich had been chosen as the man on the spot. After what he and Jenn had been through – all of us had been through – it was not an easy task nor one to take lightly. We had all read it when he was finished composing. We knew that the truly hard part would be getting through it. His brief pauses to compose himslef during the reading were both understandable and fitting.

As Val took me to a friend’s house to pick up the mail they had collected for her while we were all in Brisbane, I spied this wonderful sunset:

Throughout this ordeal for those who knew Eunie, so many people have been right where I needed them to be. It’s a testament to someone who radiated love and attracted it back to herself. Here is another shot of the sunset:Once again, the next day – signing a new will, going to the dentist – people were there. Nobody said, “Call me if there’s anything I can do.” and then turned away. They just started doing whatever they saw needed to be done. Somebody once told me a story about “The Guy Who Cleaned Shoes”. This fellow would show up at a house in his neighborhood where there was some sort of death-related gathering and ask people to remove their shoes and line them up in the hallway. Then he would get his shoeshine kit out and polish everyone’s shoes. This is the kind of action I’ve been getting.

Val’s lawyer would not let me pay for drawing up a new will with one day’s notice. Rich and Jenn went to the funeral home to pick up Eunie’s ashes for me, saving me the agony. Carol and Amanda sat quietly with me, holding me when I needed it. I want to mention more examples, but hesitate to open private spaces. If you are reading this, you know who you are. I love you for being there.

Here is a picture of Eunie at her desk – right where she belonged – taken not long after she was elected Director of the Pioneer Bible Translators Papua New Guinea Branch:

It may be a couple of days until I am able to post again. I have no web access at my house – something is broken in my wireless link – and I’m dealing with some emotional issues, as you can imagine.

I’ll be back.

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