A Final Stroll Through My Garden

Posted in My Garden on December 25th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’ve been keeping a low public profile since I left Sedona on a snowy day in early December. After a couple of nights of layover time in Brisbane I arrived in rainy Madang and began to trudge through the seemingly endless list of tasks which will allow me to exit my home town of thirty years. I was planning to take some pictures of the inside of my house before I left, but I watited too long. It is now in a sorry state. I have to avert my eyes from the bare walls, empty shelves and vacant bookcases. It is not the home I once thought. I discovered late in life that home is not a place or a house. The old expression seems trite – home is where the heart is – but it is profoundly true.

My garden is still a cheery place. I’ve enjoyed several quiet walks there, accompanied by my trusty old Canon G10. I sold my G11 and its underwater housing. I was going to sell the G10 and housing also, but I think I’ll keep it. I seriously doubt if I’ll ever dive again, but it’s possible. The G10 will make a great camera for Grace. She wants something that will let her grow. It’s a perfect camera for an enthusiastic amateur. I can’t see much sense in letting it set on a shelf while spending the money on a new G12. For most shots the difference in the images is undetectable.

You won’t be able to tell much about cameras from these shots. They all have been heavily Photoshopped for “artistic” purposes. This hibiscus has been smoothed, despeckled, outlined, enlarged, shrunk, posterized and massaged in other ways until it bears little resemblance to a photograph:

And the spider in this shot has been stretched, sharpened and colorized within an inch of its life:

The colors in this shot are nothing like the original photo, but the grasshopper looks exactly as it does in my head:

I wanted a grasshopper which might take up residence behind the looking glass.

These jasmine flowers smell so sweet as to make the head spin. They affect me much the same as orange blossoms:

I remember driving once through an orange grove with Eunie and getting so light-headed from the intensity of the aroma that I had to ask her to drive.

This night-blooming jasmine has much the same effect on me. After nine in the evening stepping out my front door is a mind-bending experience:

Visceral experiences are common here in the belly of the tropics. Redundant as that might be linguistically, the metaphor holds true. I find the high desert austere in comparison. That is not a measure of value, but an observation upon which I need to reflect so that I may learn to appreciate it and discover its secrets. When I arrived in Madang I was a gawker. I could not appreciate it properly because I had so little knowledge. As I gain knowledge of my new environment I will come to love and appreciate it as much as I ever have loved and appreciated Madang.

Lush . . . the word which comes to mind so often. Bathed in perfume and perspiration – I’m enjoying being wet again – I stand in simple awe of the outrageous palette displayed by humble vegetation:

A little super-virgin olive oil with a dash of balsamic . . . voila! A tasty and festive salad. I wonder what coleus tastes like?

I am having little trouble bidding goodbye to most things in Madang. Friends are the hardest . . . Some things I won’t miss:  melting roads with potholes so deep that you have to turn your lights on, power outages that are timed by Satan himself, phones that work when you don’t need them . . . the list goes on. I’ll live without my boat. I can survive quite happily in the absence of the verdant landscape. Diving gave me decades of fun and learning, but I will find other pleasant pursuits. I think that when I look back over a few years to catalog the things I miss the few pages will be occupied with simple notations of things I thought of as uniquly mine. My smart, pretty dog, Sheba, my lovely house, my orchids in my garden:

The funny thing about this is that you can’t really own any of these things. The way things are going today I sometimes wonder if we can own anything. Maybe some of us are beginning to realize that is it just so much stuff. It’s not the actual stuff that is of value. The value lies in the feelings we get from thinking that we own it and it is ours. It’s my stuff. It’s your stuff.  It’s good stuff . . .

Ah, well, since it’s only the feelings and memories that get the endorphins flowing freely, juicing me up nicely and making me jingle like a pocket full of silver dollars, I’m going to develop a philosophy of Gratification by Means of Virtual Ownership.

I’m going to start with a virtual spin in my new virtual Corvette on the virtually smooth North Coast Road.

See you later . . .

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Arizona Miscellanea

Posted in Arizona Images on December 2nd, 2011 by MadDog
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Since I have been on an extended R&R leave since mid-March, I have made some observations. I’ll take advantage of my pile of miscellaneous Arizona images to waste your valuable time with my folksy anecdotes and unsolicited opinions. I’ll begin with the notion that while one is recovering from a trauma is probably the worst opportunity for getting some rest. While I was moving, gypsy-like, from place to place grieving  for the loss of Eunie and wondering with alarm what the future might bring I was not feeling rested. It’s no small wonder that life seemed so utterly intense and constantly disturbing. Recreation consisted of anything which would distract me for a while from my distress. Only time and change of circumstance broke this pattern of misery.

So, when is a good time to kick back? Well, I’m as healed as I’ll ever be and grief has subsided to the level of an incipient toothache. I am once again married to a woman I love dearly and who is the best kind of friend one can have. I have a home again. I’m not broke, but still viciously frugal, a good combination for these times. I’m still on R&R until I start my new job in January. So, I reckon that I should be relaxing and recreating, eh? That would probably be so were it not for one thing. My wife is “retired”. What I want to know is how can there still be so much stuff to do, none of it is trivial, it seems? The primary necessary activity appears to be something called “shopping.” I confess that I do not get it.

When I need something I tend to go directly to the place where I can buy it. I go inside. I find what I want. I make a bee line to the nearest checkout station and make my purchase, being careful to keep my vision averted from the thousands of oh-so-tempting impulse items lurking in every spot where one’s eyes might fall. This thrifty and, I dare say, wise technique bears no resemblance to the ways of a “shopper.”

I’m learning that a shopper must properly “scan” the store, possibly making multiple rounds of every aisle, taking in the “scope” of the offerings, noting “newness” (sometimes “freshness”) and “cool.” Shoppers operate on a plane of awareness that is incomprehensible to me. I expend a good deal of psychic fuel avoiding being enticed by things which may arouse my desire to purchase them. Looking at things which tug at my consumer heartstrings makes me slightly nauseous, as if I’m experience the onset of buyer’s remorse before I even hand over the cash.

I am particularly annoyed by stores which sell exclusively to women, but provide not so much as a chair accompanied by a rack of magazines (NOT ladies’ magazines) for a man to sit comfortably while the spouse enjoys a leisurely couple of hours examining every item for tastiness. This is foolishness on the part of the store managers. I would be far less likely to distract Grace from her ecstasy if I were not tagging along behind her rolling my eyes every fifteen seconds. I will give it to her that she seldom spends much. It appears that shopping is mostly for entertainment.

Okay, enough of that.

Arizona has more than its share of strange little restaurants. In Black Canyon City there is an odd restaurant called Kid Chilleen’s. The sign outside proclaims the quality of its BBQ:

Kid Chilleen’s Steakhouse is family owned and operated by the whole Chilleen Family, including Daughter Aleah, Son Scott and daughter Cheyenne. Many of the recipes used were handed down from Jeannine Chilleen, Scott’s Grandmother. The clever use of the family name’s similarity to that of the character Kid Shelleen played by Lee Marvin in the 1965 movie Cat Ballo.

Inside you are greeted by a wall painting which depicts one  iconic scene from the movie:

Among the many quaint western themed items are several Cougar skins:

I felt sorry for the cougars.

Next to the restaurant is the saddest little motel I’ve ever seen. I assume that it’s not a joke:

I didn’t inquire about a room.

I shot multiple frames at the same exposure settings to get this panoramic view from the Haunted Hamburger Restaurant in Jerome, Arizona:

The work in progress was boring me, so I used some High Dynamic Range techniques to turn it into funky art. The Haunted Hamburger has, of course, a story. You can read about it here. The food is better than the story.

I began to play with the image of grace which I got on the day of our first snow.

I’ve been fooling around with cartoon techniques for a few years. I haven’t found any automated process which satisfies me. Someday I hope I’ll stumble on just the right combination of filters. The process I used here worked nicely for this shot.

Nearly done now.

I got this shot at afternoon twilight from near the “vortex” at the Sedona Airport:

Too bad I can’t show you the full resolution image. You can see the individual lights in Sedona.

This is my Zebra herd:

I’m hoping they’ll be fruitful and multiply.

And this, kiddies, is Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens):

I always thought that mistletoe was an exotic plant dragged out from some mystical place for Christmas decoration. It seems that it more like a weed.

If all goes as planned I’ll begin a four day trek back to Madang tomorrow morning. I’ll be there for six weeks to sell Faded Glory and all of the rest of my possessions there. There will be some great bargains for Madang residents. I have some very sad things to do in Madang, but I can always think of my goal – to get back to Grace and Sedona, my new wife and my new home. Visiting Eunie’s grave and saying goodbye to many friends will be difficult, but moving on is as necessary as breathing for me.

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