The Last Post

Posted in Mixed Nuts on February 24th, 2013 by MadDog
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  The drivel continues . . .
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Among the hundreds of thousands who have visited Madang – Ples Bilong Mi since its creation in September of 2007 there are a few who have visited regularly and know the history. I won't recap that here, as it is revealed by the more than 1,000 posts, over 5,000 images and about a million words. Only the terminally bored will pursue this past.

I have a new wife, a new life, a new home, new interests, and regained happiness. I'm reborn. My new home is in The Village of Oak Creek, a few miles from Sedona, Arizona. It's about as far as one can get from the tropical paradise of Madang. I've traded one paradise for another. My new wife is an old friend of myself and my late wife, Eunice Messersmith. Grace Preval was Eunie's friend from the age of four. Despite considering carefully, we could find no reason not to marry. I have made a few very excellent choices in my life. The decision to court Grace was on the very short list.

At sixty-nine I can truthfully say that I have few regrets and unbounded gratitude for a truly splendid life. Recovery from tragedy is a mighty rough road. I sincerely hope I will not have to travel it again.

This little web site has meant much to me. It has provided an outlet for my modest talents while allowing me to amuse myself and, hopefully, a few others who appreciate my whimsical style. However, it's time to give it a rest. This will be my last post here. I invite the curious to visit High Desert Journal, my new site which will reflect the blessings of my new life and the "Splendor of Northern Arizona".

To all my past visitors I convey my gratitude for the encouragement, comments and superb Google ratings. These images are all over the web and I get new comments daily. Thanks for reading, my friends. I'll see you at the High Desert Journal.

 

 



Me at Red Rock Crossing

 

 

 

 

 


 

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More Macro Madness

Posted in Photography Tricks on April 22nd, 2012 by MadDog
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Life continues to be far busier than I imagined it might be here in Sedona. In fact, my hope of “simplifying” seems to be dashed. I sometimes thought that living in Madang was overly complex, considering the physical and social environment.  Our most common refrain was, “It’s always something!”, implying that just when things seem to be in control some forgotten detail or requirement rears up and makes its obnoxious presence known. It would be ungrateful of me to complain, so I’ll just make the observation that simply maintaining an existence in America is far more demanding of time, immensely more complex and requires the absorption much more information than does drifting through life in Madang. I’m barely keeping my head above water. I find that I barely or not at all understand much of what I’m doing. Most of the time I’m following the instructions of someone who’s paid to guide me through some thing or another and signing on the dotted line when required. I think I’m managing the big picture, but I’m being dragged along by the nitty-gritty.

Fortunately, I can escape the circus once in a while for an hour or so of  clear thinking and working my craft. It’s an amazing thing to have my hands on the kind of equipment I’ve always dreamed of. The title implies that this post is all about macro stuff, but I have some other images today. My Canon 70-300 zoomer has been neglected lately. It’s a workhorse lens with no particular glamorous features, though it performs its mundane tasks superbly, as this shot of a full moon rising behind a dead tree across the street attests:

Luna is partially obscured by a thin Cirrus cloud layer, softening the details of its topography and creating a soft halo. The tree is about 150 feet away and the moon is about 24,000 miles from the front of my lens. I might have stopped the lens down to ƒ32 and gotten them both in focus, but that would have required a tripod and a long exposure. This shot was taken at 300mm, ƒ22, 1/13 second with image stabilization. This combination just barely allowed me to capture the image hand-held.

Another task for which this workhorse lens excels is bird watching. Serious bird watchers will want more powerful zooms, but for my modest efforts this glass is my ticket to ride. We have some lovely birds visiting our back yard daily. One of my favorites is the Western Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica).  I tossed a handful of peanuts on the ground near the bird bath in the back yard, set up the Canon on a tripod and started recording HD video while I went about my business with other things:

The Western Scrub Jay from Jan Messersmith.

After about forty minutes I copied the video file to my laptop and edited out the blank spots, added a little public domain music and some titles. You can listen to the song of the Western Scrub Jay here.

Changing lenses now, I’ll blather on about my new favorite, the 100mm macro. This piece of glass is not simply a microscope for the little things. It’s a great all-round lens for many situations. I like the flattening effect of the mild zoom for portraits and its tack-sharp images and very wide range of apertures make it my favorite carry-around lens. Here’s an example of a “normal” shot in which the lens excels:

In the full resolution image from the camera the level of detail in this image is amazing. Even in the 2000 pixel wide shot, it conveys a lot of visual detail. A lens like this is really wasted on web images. It takes a full magazine page printed well to make it shine. I wish I was still in a position to sell some articles.

The shot above was taken at Red Rock Crossing, one of my favorite places for a calm walk in the woods. While walking down the shore of Oak Creek we came across an amazing example of fossil ripples in the red Schnebly Hill Sandstone formation:

After doing a little Googling on the subject I conclude that this example of fossil ripples is one of the best which is easy to visit. Here is a shot of another location nearby:

The 100mm focal length of the Canon macro lens is perfect for this shot. The slight foreshortening of distance accentuates the effect of the ripples in the red sandstone. We found three examples of the ripples within an area of a hundred feet or so.

Green being my favorite color and the high desert being particularly short of this shade, I’m snapping everything green that I can find:

Spring is coming on strong. I’m waiting for the rains which will hopefully paint the desert with flowers. I’m wishing for scenes reminiscent of the old Oscar-winning Walt Disney The Living Desert movie which I remember seeing when I was about ten years old, a very long time ago.

While I’m still showing big things shot with the macro lens I’ll show you a mysterious (to me, anyway) series of holes in a Schnebly Hill Sandstone layer at Bell Rock, a famous formation just on the edge of The Village of Oak Creek where we live:

It’s interesting to speculate what might have caused these holes. Being lined up in the same strata implies that whatever caused them was fairly brief in nature and rather unique, since I see no other examples in the area. My personal favorite explanation is that some event caused a large number of stream-rounded boulders of soft rock to be deposited more or less at once on the flat layer of material which later became the red sandstone of the area. When the Schnebly Hill Sandstone eroded, these soft rocks eroded more quickly, leaving the cavities. If you can do better than my guess, please wade in with a comment.

Here’s a nice shot of an ancient looking tree on the side of Bell Rock. The 100mm macro is a great lens for this kind of shot:

But, of course, the raison d’être for this chunk of glass is the little stuff:

Popping up everywhere in the desert are a variety of tiny blossoms which appear to me to be daisies of some kind. I’m hopelessly uninformed about the local flora. I’ve come from a place where I knew quite a bit to a place where I know nothing. (UPDATE – Within minutes of posting this I got word from my friend Anne-Marie Gregory in the UK that this is a Blackfoot Daisy – Melampodium leucanthum.)

But I I can appreciate the beauty and capture the images:

That will have to be enough for now. (UPDATE – Inspired by Anne-Marie, I found a good site for local wildflower identification. This look to me to be the Spreading Fleabane or Layered Daisy – Erigeron divergens.)

Cacti are mysterious to me. I never realized there are so many kinds:

There is no shortage of new things to learn about here in the high desert.

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Home to Sedona

Posted in Mixed Nuts on January 21st, 2012 by MadDog
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While in Madang for the last six weeks I finished up thirty years of residency. Though everything went smoothly and I had some happy surprises, there were some very sad moments. I posted here only once while I was gone. I was scrambling to get everything done that I needed to do to make a more or less graceful exit, so it was difficult to think of anything interesting to write about. I also sold my Canon G10 and G11 cameras, so I had nothing with which to make images. I don’t seem to be able to write without them, even if they have little to do with the text.

Today’s menagerie of images has a peculiar genesis. Last night I gave myself five minutes to scan about three thousand images from Madang – Ples Bilong Mi (yes, a title change is coming soon). My choices have little to do with quality and more to do with knee jerk reactions. Since they are seemingly random choices, the text is likely to be disjointed. In some ways I’m still orienting myself in this new life. Everything is in transition. I’m also still wasted from the trip back to Sedona. I had nearly forty hours in the air from the 13th to the 15th and I don’t know how many sitting in a daze in airport lounges. I was amazed when I left Singapore to learn that we were heading for Houston via Moscow! I boarded in Singapore, sat there for eleven hours and thirty minutes, got off the plane in Moscow, went through security again and got back on the same plane in the same seat and rubbed my aching knees for another eleven hours and forty minutes while watching the path of the plan heading for Greenland on the great circle route to Houston.

Here’s the route which brought me home to Gracie:

According to Great Circle Mapper that’s 17,609 miles. The only break I got was a short overnight stay in Brisbane. My sleep schedule is even more disturbed than normal, even after five nights at home.

I’ll start with one of my favorite underwater images, Buddy, an Amphiprion clarkii anemonefish:

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this one. It has appeared in several publications and now adorns many web sites, probably many more than I know about.

We’ll come back to some more UW images after I digress to illustrate a few of the things I’ve sadly left behind. Forget about the house. Though I called it home, after the walls were stripped and the mementos were packed it was just a shell. Home was where Eunie was. It might seem harsh to say that what I may miss most is Sheba, my beautiful, smart and affectionate dog:

I say I’ll miss her most because she doesn’t understand why I’m not going to be there to love her. Maybe dogs don’t think that much about those things. Possibly it is just our anthropomorphization of them which makes us believe that they mourn for such a loss. I do have confidence that she will be well cared for. It is a blessing that she will not be relocated and the people who will be living in my house want her and will see that she lives a happy life.

In another more lingering way I will miss my friends, represented here by Trevor Hattersley and Tony Collins:

Many people come and go in Madang. It’s that kind of place. Tony has already gone. I’ve now left. Trevor will soon follow suit. Some of the dearest will remain. Some I will see again; some never.

I’m not sure why this image demanded to be included:

Maybe it’s because it is so inclusive of thoughts of Madang, the sea, the people, the exotic nature of the place. It’s appropriate that this image departs from photography in the direction of w watercolor painting. It needs to fade from reality into the landscape of dreams.

The sea, the sea . . . How it captured my body and my mind. Here a Blue-Spotted Stingray flees in a panic as I approach:

I reckon that I spent roughly 2,500 hours under water during my twenty five years of diving in Madang. Though I was generally a very careful diver I still had several brushes with the Grim Reaper. Except for the occasional sky-dive, I expect that life will be a mite safer here in the high desert.

Living with the ocean at my front doorstep provided constant opportunities for image making:

This shot of a ship in the early morning light now graces the cover of a catalog for a German marine equipment supply company.

And, in the end, diving was more about friends than anything else. This is one of my very favorites. Karen and her little blue friends.

The world of nature was my playground. I showed a local fellow how to press the button on the camera mounted on a tripod for this shot:

The image appeared in Paradise Magazine, the Airlines PNG in-flight publication as one of the images in Bush Tucker – PNG Style, an article about edibles which can be found in the rainforest. I lost both nails from my big toes within a few days after completing this trek. The “Land of Surprises” they call it. I was certainly surprised.

On any given day, in my garden, I could find gifts of beauty to photograph:

Here the evening rain drips from the underside of a banana leaf. I had about twenty banana trees in my garden. They remain the best tasting bananas I have ever eaten.

My life was blessed with travel around the world, thirteen times at my latest count. Here is the wonderful “Tunnel of Light” at Chicago’s O’Hare airport:

And I will never forget the severe vertigo I felt as I mounted the top of this astoundingly long escalator in Budapest:

I know there are longer ones, but I don’t want to ride them.

Domestic travels were less wearisome. Here I enjoy a ride on Honey near Boise, Idaho, captured in this image by my friend Carol Beth:

Honey was the same age as I, in horse years. We got along well. We were polite with each other. I seem to have a natural ability with horses and dogs. Maybe it’s because I’m sympathetic to their lowly place in life. It must take a lot of humility to be a good riding horse or a fine, well mannered dog. Humility is a good thing. It can take you places where pride is met by a burly bouncer.

Peculiar, unique images always catch my eye and I strive to create them. This is one that I really enjoy, partly because of the experience which led to its creation:

Special permission was required from the scary, suspicious guys in the gun shop to enter with a camera. I’m sure I was one of the stranger characters to visit that day. They didn’t know what to make of me as I set up my shot on a large piece of white paper on the counter top. It was a bit of an adventure for all of us.

I’ll wrap this up with what is, sadly, probably the only image I have of Eunie and Grace together:

I shot this during the only visit to Sedona which Eunie and I enjoyed together. How little I could imagine how much my life was to change in the course of a very few years.

This post will serve as a sort of whimpy farewell to Madang. I don’t want to dwell on it. It is but a passage in life – one of many.

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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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First Snow

Posted in Arizona Images, Photography Tricks on November 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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There was a time in my life, before my annus horribilis, when I would brag, to those inclined to listen to such claptrap, that I had lived for a decade or so without suffering through a winter and I intended to keep it that way. I thoroughly dislike cold weather and bronchitis seems only a sneeze away when the sky is grey all day and the snow turns brown in the streets. Ugh!

So, it was with a bit of cautious curiosity that I approached the coming of winter in Arizona. Last Saturday morning we awoke to take a little drive to town and noticed the first snows of the season on the mountains surrounding Sedona. Grace’s amused smile tells the story:

Her amusement centered around my Michelin Man appearance. Two shirts, a sweater and a coat were barely keeping me defrosted. Though there was no snow in Sedona itself, we could see mountainsides only a thousand feet or so higher which were heavily dusted. In Sedona we pulled off the highway to climb the hill to The Church of the Red Rocks to savor the spectacular view. The entire front of the chapel there is glassed. While getting your Sunday morning sermon you can let you mind contemplate this view:

We left Sedona on the Oak Creek Canyon road and began to climb toward Flagstaff. Here the dynamic range of light values was so extreme that I had to abandon normal photography techniques to delve into the mysteries of High Dynamic Range composites. I derived this HDR shot from a “stack” of five exposures moving from very underexposed to very overexposed. The software takes the best exposed areas of each image and adds it to the composite. It takes a bit of fiddling, but it allows one to get reasonable images from impossible situations:

A single exposure would show a bright sky with a nearly black mountain in the foreground, since the mountainside was in the shadow of another higher mountain behind me.

This shot, showing the nearly six inches of snow that fell near 7,000 feet would also have been impossible without the HDR technique. A single exposure would show black trees against the white, nearly featureless snow:

As evening neared, the temperature dropped again and the sky appeared in turmoil with fiery accents from the lowering sun:

The new Canon 5D Mk II performs wonderfully at high ISO values. This was shot at 1600 ISO and had only the slightest bit of noise in the darker areas. A light massage by NoiseNinja Pro cleaned it up nicely.

As we approached Sedona on I17 from the North we paused for this wintery show across the intervening valley looking toward the Mogollon Rim:

The image above is a five frame panorama slapped together by Photoshop. As a photograph it was a flop, so I turned it into art. Sometimes imagination beats reality. I’m recalling to words of the classic Kodachrome from Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon of 1973.

Kodachrome . . .
You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

Indeed, Kodachrome defined serious color photography for a generation of photographers. For decades major publications would accept photographs on no other media. Recently photographer Steve McCurry trekked through India with the “last roll of Kodachrome” in his camera. The results are far more impressive than any roll of K64 that I ever ran through any of my cameras. I’m glad I didn’t shoot the last roll.

It’s the end of an era, but I’m not looking back. Film is essentially dead, except in the hands of a few quaint eccentrics. The fundamentals of photography have not changed at all, but the media could not be more different. I still think of a digital image file as a “negative”.

How “old school” is that?

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Second Spring

Posted in Arizona Images on October 28th, 2011 by MadDog
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I invested considerable effort while I lived in Papua New Guinea to learn as much as I could about my environment and its flora and fauna. There are thousands of images here in my journal, which shall soon need a name change, of many hundreds of mostly accurately identified species. I don’t claim that as any kind of accomplishment, no more than a model railroad geek might brag about the scope of his layout. Hey, it was a hobby. The hobby now continues, except that I’m starting from scratch. I can identify nearly nothing. Oh well, it is  just a hobby.

I intended to write this post a week ago, but a “cooking incident” made typing painful. Last Friday night, with the aid of one of my fancy new ultra-sharp knives that I told Gracie that I must have if I were to be the primary chef, I neatly sliced off the tip of my left pinkie finger. Let me tell you, that knife was exquisitely sharp. I could tell. I felt it glide effortlessly through my tender flesh a full second before there was any pain. Fortunately, I withdrew the dripping appendage before the neatly sliced pile of hard, stinky Italian cheese was contaminated. It’s been an adventure the last few days to learn how to neatly bandage a fingertip. I don’t think it’s possible.

The subject today is a phenomenon which is entirely new to me. Spring has always been my favorite season. The cold weather I hate so much has abated and everything gets a fresh new start. It’s a time for rapid growth and replenishment. All things which appeared dead are resurrected. What I certainly did not expect to see was a spring renewal in the autumn. That appears to be exactly what happens here in the high dessert.

Flowers are everywhere. I have not yet experienced a true spring in Arizona, but I can’t imagine that it would be much more verdant that what I’m observing now. The predominant color is very obviously yellow. In some places entire hillsides take on a sunny hue. A couple of weeks ago plants such as this seemed to have gone dormant after the blazing heat, waiting for the frosts which will probably start tonight, if the forecast holds:

Here is a species which I have seen in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, but I’ve already forgotten the name. The color in PNG is red:

Of course, not everything is yellow:

And, not everything is a flower:

I got this shot from a resort named Enchantment. I can think of only a few places in all my travels where I enjoyed such a scenic lunch. I wondered where the airliner was going. It couldn’t be any place better than where I was:

I was pleasantly surprised the our lunch there cost little more than any decent restaurant in the area. The splendid view was virtually free.

Here are some more yellow flowers:

The roses all around the neighborhood are in a frenzy to produce blossoms which seem impossible for the end of October:

There are a dozen varieties of rose blooming now, as frost nears, along the streets of our neighborhood on the way to the local grocery store:

Milder temperatures probably contribute to the second spring effect, but I suppose the biggest factor is the increase in rainfall. We have had nighttime showers recently and the occasional stormy day. A couple of days ago, on the way back from Cottonwood, we followed this rainbow for about twenty minutes. It was wonderful to watch it move along with us:

In the image above it is hovering over our home. We wondererd if there might be a pot of gold waiting for us.

The roller-coaster of life that I’ve been riding for the last two years has followed some spectacular paths. I feel genuine hope that it might now be settling down for a less thrilling ride. I’ve had to make some pretty difficult decisions on my own. It is very comforting now to once again have a beloved partner with me. Grace and I have set a multitude of wheels turning. All of them now seem to be rolling in a positive direction. Our meager investment accounts are even starting to move upward again after a much too long bankers’ holiday. After the breathtaking ride, I can’t avoid seeing many things as metaphors. The poetry of life is coming back. Arizona, my new home, is experiencing a Second Spring even as I myself am being refreshed and regenerated by the blessings raining down on me.

As corny metaphors go, that’s not too bad.

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Getting Married

Posted in Arizona Images, Sedona on October 19th, 2011 by MadDog
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It was a “do it yourself” marriage ceremony on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Creek near the ranger station at Rimrock, Arizona. It wasn’t covered by TV crews and no circling helicopters were heard. The attire was modest, “Sedona Chic”, as Grace calls it. There were no invited guests, only the participants and local family members. In other words, it was the kind of marriage which maximizes satisfaction while minimizing the fuss.

So, for the second time in my life, I am a married man. I had intended only one, but that was not in accordance with the “Plan.” Paul Simon possibly stated it best in Slip-Slidin’ Away:

God only knows. God makes his plan.
The information’s unavailable to the mortal man.

I say this not to revisit or show a morbid regret for the past, but to celebrate and proclaim my happiness and gratitude for my present blessings. My plan was not the plan of my maker. It took me a long time to stop seeing that as a tragedy. My life has been transformed by some wonderful second chances. All of the love and hard work that Eunie put into molding me into a better man now benefit me even more than in my former life. I have opportunities now to care more, do things better and be aware of and sensitive to things which formerly escaped my attention. I am going to make the best of it, for Grace and for myself.

On Friday afternoon we went to the Safeway store in Sedona to get flowers, a cake and some ice cream for Saturday’s event. We spent most of the evening arranging the flowers into the appropriate bouquets for each of the ladies of the marriage party. I was not, of course, competent to make up the arrangements, but my fingers are nimble enough to wrap the stems with ribbon and tie the knots. We sat them outside to keep them cool overnight. It’s beginning to get very chilly at night here in the high desert:

Grace chose this quiet spot at Beaver Creek for our marriage because it has long been a place of solace and comfort for her. When I saw it first I was also captured by its beauty and simplicity. Next to Grace is Dodie, who stood with Grace during the ceremony. I have no pictures of the marriage itself, because I was rather busy being the groom:

To my right is Verle, Dodies’ husband.

Here is Charity, Grace, me and Pastor Scott of the Montezuma Chapel church near Rimrock. Believe it or not, it’s located on Rusty Spurs Road:

The ceremony was very traditional. Grace and I wrote our vows, which were simple and to-the-point. Pastor Scott covered the usual ground eloquently. I appreciated the low-key tone of our marriage from the planning stage through the ceremony on Sunday. It was a marriage suited to a man’s tender nerves. I had only a couple of days of pre-marriage jitters. This will make it much easier on me when we plan and carry out our “wedding” in April of next year.

Little Tana, Grace’s granddaughter, is on the left. She did not care much for the camera. Next to Grace is Diana, her daughter-in-law. Next to me is Jay, Grace’s son, who stood with me:

It was all over in about an hour. We had swimmers in the background for most of the time, but they kindly removed themselves when they noted that we were taking pictures.

We had a very small reception back at home with Grace and I, Jay, Diana and Tana. We could not find any wedding theme decorations for the cake, so we settled for Minnie Mouse lounging on a sugary beach while watching Mickey hanging ten on a frosting wave:

We gave all of the flowers to Diana and Jay to take to their church the next morning. We took that remaining ice cream and cake to church with us on Sunday. We don’t allow such deadly dietary items to remain in our home.

Finally, we have the obligatory “hands with rings” shot:

I can’t escape the notion that I ought to be writing a great deal more about this life-changing event for Grace and I. However, words escape me for the time being. It seems as if nothing more need be said. Our decision to marry came as naturally as a warm summer rain. Our decades-long friendship serves us well. Disagreements are few, usually trivial and easily settled. We share a comfort with life as it happens that comes with maturity, no small amount of wisdom, deep love and some very hard knocks.

Life can be perfect, if you squint your eyes a little. I like the way Grace puts it, we are “Perfecting the perfection.”

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