August 13, 2017: Yea…Finally a Wee Bit of Rain

You’d think that living in the Pacific NW, rain wouldn’t be that exacting exciting…correct?  Perhaps but when it rains in the summer months, it is a cause for celebration.

In June July we had .07 inches with no further rain until yesterday when .17 inches fell overnight.  It’s especially welcome as for the past week and a half we had higher heat and humidity as well as a smoky overcast from the Canadian NW and Pacific NW fires.

So, yes, the rain last night was a cause of celebration.  Here’s an image of Boston Ivy growing on the north side of our cedar sauna.

iPhone 7 Plus in Portrait Mode

First Rain of August 2017

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August 7, 2017: Smoky Moon Rise

For the past week or so, the Puget Sound region of Washington State has been under a pall of smoke from forest fires in British Columbia, Canada and parts of Washington State.  While the air is hazy from the smoke that has settled on the Puget Sound area with visible reduction in visibility during the day, with scents of smoke wafting through every once in a while.  While the smoke is not good on the lungs, the haze also provides unique opportunities to photograph a rising, full moon.

As the trees around our house effectively blocked the rising moon, we hopped into the car about 15 minutes ago, drove to the marsh about a half-mile from the house and began shooting.

The moon in smoky orange was absolutely spectacular, an image I will see in my mind for a long time.

Nikon Df, Nikon 300 F4 AIS (yes, this was the lens I used instead of the 200mm), ISO 100, f16@1 second.

Smoky Moon Rise

Moon Rise on a Smoky Evening

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July 28, 2017: Maggie, Gleaming Countertops, White Iris, and My Country is in Trouble

My last post was in February of this year.  If you’re wondering why such a long delay, it’s quite simple…Post presidential election slump; the refusal to proceed on a Supreme Court nominee by the dominate party; the continuing drama of the President and the White House; the Travel Ban travesty; the slow dismemberment of all things Obama by this administration; the steady decline of basic human rights enacted in the 1960s by a joint congress working together and signed by a President who understood the need for voting rights, education, social systems in place to help those struggling with economic hardships; threats to cut funding on Meals-on-Wheels; the arts; attacks on the media and 1st amendment rights, and the list is too long and too mind numbing to continue.

Merry "Catmas"

Merry “Catmas”

Oh, let us not forget when Maggie, our absolutely wonderful, loving, playful cat, an integral member of the family, who greeted each of us in her own fashion when we walked in, was savagely killed by two dogs, one brought home in an effort to nurse the animal back to a stable mental health and the other, a dog that had been part of our household for over two years.

Her death left a huge, gaping hole in our family.  Her death was horrible, devastating and impacted each of us in different ways that we are still struggling with to this day, including PTSD and depression that my wife and I carry each day.   She can never be replaced and will always live within us.

It has been a difficult time of us. Maggie’s death drove me in a deep PTSD episode that I’m just beginning to come out of.  From her death in mid-April, I’ve been keeping busy, always driving forward, having a hard time being still, living in a tense state that makes it difficult to stand down, to see the good in my wife, my family, our home,  and live a more normal life.

Gleaming Cherrywood Cabinets

Gleaming Cherrywood Cabinets

So, it should come as no surprise that routines, working outside in the yard, reading, doing some photography, watching some interesting TV, and trying to reintegrate with my family, my wife, help me enormously.

One such routine, almost ritual like in some ways, is when I oil the cherry wood countertops every New and Full Moon.  While I’m not always successful in the exact dates, I do my best to make sure the wood is taken care of.

When either New Moon or Full Moon rolls around, I take everything off, wipe them down and then apply a food grade oil in the evening.  When I finish the oiling, I stand back, absorb the moment, admire the sheen on the countertop, the large expanse and then get ready for bed.  In the morning, I wipe them down to take off any excess oil and then put everything back together.  Voilà, the kitchen is once again ready for everyday living.

I realize I cannot stay in the post-election slump.  It’s not healthy nor does it enhance living life on a daily basis.

I now look for the good things, the tiny victories, re-engagement with my family, with life itself.  I take great joy in nature’s beauty that surrounds us in this incredibly beautiful part of  Pacific Northwest with its cool green forests so soothing to the eye and soul; the cycle of renewal essential to life; reading more and more; and yes, taking the camera out of the closet to document the beauty around us.

After decades of political non-participation, I’m finally engaging in local events to support political causes to make America a better, safer place to live.  In the past months, I participated in two marches with my wife, the first in Tacoma in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in their battle against the pipeline, and the second at Alki Beach in Seattle with our local chapter of Moms Against Gun Violence as part of nation wide rally’s and marches with thousands of other chapters across America to make gun safety a priority as another way to reduce the gun violence taking place across the nation

I am extremely heartened by the occasional political victory such as the Senate Republican majority failure to repeal/replace/dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “Obama Care”) due to three senators who had the courage in last night’s vote to stop yet another flawed version of a medical bill that, if it had been passed, would have set the stage for a bill that would deny millions of millions of citizens medical care.  The courage of these three senators should be recognized for their actions that will hopefully provide the impetus for both parties to work together to build a better, improved version of the ACA that will provide good, cost effective medical care for all citizens of this country.

Finally, the White Iris.  This was taken about two weeks ago as the sun began to approach the horizon.   It’s beauty is riveting and a calm settles over me each time I view the image.

Enjoy!

White Iris in late afternoon sun

 

 

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January 23, 2017: Skeletal Nikon F4 Body – the Story behind my PTSD Cauldron Image

http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/dPYAAOSwo4pYhZA2/s-l1600.jpg

Nikon F4 body for parts

A few months ago I ordered a “broken” F4 body for one specific component…the lens mount on the front of the body.  My goal was to make a custom Nikon F mount on a 4×5 view camera lens board to allow any of my Nikon F lens to be securely mounted on the 4X5 view camera without fear of it falling off. So, when the F4 body arrived I dutifully disassembled it down to is skeletal state.

 

All this was crammed in the F4 body

All this was crammed in the F4 body

By the time I had fully taken it apart I was absolutely astounded at the hundreds of parts that Nikon had somehow crammed into that F4 body.  It gave me a different perspective on the skills and engineering concepts needed to craft a precision camera.

F4 lens attaching ring mounted on 4X5 lens boardI cut the mounting mechanism out of the front to the body, attached it to a pre-drilled plywood mounting board, mounted the board onto the 4X5 view camera and attached a lens.  My concept worked perfectly – kinda of!   What I didn’t anticipate was bellows focal lens – which, when coupled with a 35mm lens, had an effective focusing range  (somewhat) less than 1/2 inch from the lens.  Not the most optimal focusing distance unless you want some crazy, not quite focused macro images.

Stripped down F4 body

Stripped down F4 body

I put the parts way for macro shots at a later date.  The body intrigued me so I kept it out, epoxied the camera base to the frame and then taped on the mirror on the back of the body and set the contraption on my desk – sort of a advent-garde desk ornament though I suspect it’s a bit of a stretch to call this art work.

As I pondered more about what to do with the stripped body, it slowly came to me that perhaps it would provide an interesting image for my PTSD posts with different types of lighting and back drops.

As night fell, I had everything in place, an old-fashioned bankers or library lamp, a porous black felt drop cloth and began shooting with the NikoBron (Df with 50mm Bronica lens).   Once the shoot was over, I began processing the images with Capture One Pro.  As I reviewed the images. I realized I’d captured what I was generally looking for…the green glow the lampshade visible though the various openings of the F4 body as well as the incandescent light falloff at the bottom corners, it wasn’t quite what I really wanted.

The Cauldron of My Mind concept

The Cauldron of My Mind concept – Not quite what I was looking for

My initial shot was hand-held at two seconds to see how far the lighting was off.  I knew it would be blurred and had no plans to keep it once I began post-processiomg.  My initial response when saw how blurred the image was as well as the harsh lighting, was  to immediately delete it.  However, the more I looked at the image, the more I realized it had possibilities.

Now curious, I began playing with the image  and all of a sudden, I realized it was the image I’d been wanting all along..the transformation from raw emotions, painful memories, and tortured conflicting thoughts too long harbored within  the crucible of my mind  allowing thoughts of peace, tranquility, and a sense of calm restored to my journey through life.

Fires within my mind

The Cauldron of  my mind

 

 

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January 22, 2017: Follow-up to My Post “Yes, I Can Do This” – Addendum

Please accept my apologies – I inadvertently list the same point in the Venn diagram below.  The top circle is now correct.

Fires within my mind

Fires within my mind

In my January 20th post I mentioned a number of “way points”  I needed to come to grips with before I could move forward in my PTSD counseling.  I mentioned that the last way point  “Forgiveness is acknowledging you cannot change the past” was the most important as in my mind if I cannot forgive myself, I would be caught in an endless loop of the past with no real chance at being present today with tomorrow an impossibility.  I would always be stuck in the past, no matter how much counseling I would participate in.

I realized over the next four or five days that “Forgiveness is acknowledging you cannot change the past” was perhaps the important aspect of my personal PTSD journey.  Until I truly understood this, I would never break free of it’s mind numbing and insidious grip.  There’s a part of me that needs to understand the “why” something is so important before I can truly integrate it.

Venn diagram of the causal relationship why forgiving yourself is so critical

Venn diagram of the causal relationship why forgiving yourself is so critical

The more I thought about forgiveness, the more I realized this concept was the common denominator that enabled the integration of those six way-points referenced in my previous post.

As I thought about how to best show the relationship of each of these points,  I realized a Venn diagram would best demonstrate the interconnectivity of each hard earned understanding over the past five years that has allowed me to finally forgive myself.

While the Venn diagram lists those six way-points, I would like to share those elements of why forgiving yourself is so absolutely crucial to a better journey through life:

  • Forgiveness is acknowledging you cannot change the past; until you truly understand this, you cannot forgive yourself.
  • If you cannot forgive your self, the past will control you
  • Past actions must be acknowledged; they happened and must be understood and dealt with before you can move on.  No action is an action.
  • It’s how you come to grips with those acts…you can learn from them or ignore them at your own peril.
  •  If ignored, they will continue to fester, control your life, your relationships, goals, everything you want to do or accomplish will be adversely impacted.
  • The past contains teaching points; it’s up to you to use them wisely or not – it’s your choice; once you recognize the event, dissect it to the nth degree, learn from it put it away as best you can.
  • The past you is not who you are today, nor will it be who you are tomorrow.  However, today cannot be truly lived, nor become the basis for tomorrow if you cannot learn and forgive yourself of your past
  • The past can be a vortex of misery or a collection of happiness…or both.  It is your choice how to accept, and forgive, your past
  • Until you accept and forgive your past, you will never truly enjoy life in all it’s infinite possibilities

These are my personal thoughts of the importance of forgiving your past; that once forgiven, it changes everything for the better…my perspective, my outlook on life, my relationship with my wife and family, to name just a few.

Astoria-Megler Bridge - four miles long and a beautiful crossing

Astoria-Megler Bridge – four miles long and a beautiful crossing

I also know that PTSD will be with me always, that there will triggering events, and it’s up to me how I react to those events.  Yet, at the same time, I no longer feel that it dominates my life as it once did.

Today is the bridge to tomorrow and it’s up to me, to each of us,  of how our journey continues each day; that life must be lived today with tomorrow a world of infinite possibilities.  More importantly, I finally feel “human” and it is an indescribable feeling of elation and joy to me.

Choose Wisely!

Tommy

 

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January 20, 2017: “Yes, I Can Do This” – Notes of My PTSD Journey

Fires within my mind

My Mind’s Cauldron

A rather dramatic title but, nonetheless, apt for today’s post – the long, drawn out journey from when I left Vietnam  in 1968 to where I am today, a torturous 49 years later.  The journey from then to now is littered with casualties, figuratively speaking, as I lived within myself even after I married, causing pain to my wife and to my children, succeeding only in work, from abandoned friendships, before being blindsided by three traumatic events in 2011: Being rammed from behind in heavy traffic on my motorcycle in May; my best friend’s death in August; and telling my family in October that they would be better off without me, that I should leave, shattering the trust between my wife, my children and I.  This sequence of events began unraveling walls, barriers, and safeguards unconsciously built up in my mind over the years since leaving Vietnam, ultimately triggered the flashback that occurred while driving to work on that sunny May, 2012 morning.

My life, and my relationship with my wife and my sons has not been the same since.  Each day a journey of introspective thoughts, counseling,  backsliding while moving forward even though I felt progress was being made.  Painful discussions with the counselors and my wife; dissecting traumatic events to an “nth” degree; recurring flashbacks, searing memories, triggering events that seemed to have no end; keeping a journal of my thoughts while trying to get a better understanding of “why”; an inability to recognize triggering events in “real-time”; writing, writing, always writing about what was going on, how I felt, eventually sharing with my wife; joining a Veterans Talking Group; before slowing becoming aware that  “Yes, I can do this” as I realized that I am in a better place, that “I am doing this”.

From when I entered counseling in 2012 to the realization that “I am doing this” has been a difficult process, a process that hinged on understanding and accepting fundamental truths if you will:

As I look back from 2012 when that first flashback thundered into my mind, I’ve realized that where I am today would not be possible without coming to grips with important waypoints, six in particular:

  • PTSD, once recognized, is a lifelong journey; it never goes away, yet it can be managed
  • I can only control what I can control; what I cannot control I have to let go
  • I am not the same person today as I was when I was 18
  • Communications with your spouse and friends is critical
  • Participating in a Talking Group with other veterans with similar experiences is cathartic
  • Forgiveness is acknowledging you cannot change the past; until you truly understand this, you cannot forgive yourself

These points are the culmination of many counseling sessions, discussions with my wife and my counselors, constant backtracking to trying to understand why I hadn’t quite grasped the nuances of each point before they could be incorporated into my daily life, each step requiring more and more painful introspection before the next plateau could be scaled, before I could truly understand that there would be no true acceptance of my past before I could forgive myself.

Forgiveness

If you cannot forgive yourself, you cannot love yourself

If you cannot love yourself, you cannot love others

If you cannot love others, you will always be haunted by your past

If you cannot forgive the past, today is not possible

If today is not possible, tomorrow will never be

Tommy

——————————–

Thoughts on Today’s Post

This post was driven by a friend’s request a few years ago asking if he could share my post about Memorial Day in 2014 thoughts in the hopes that it would help one of his friends who was also suffering from PTSD.

 never knew this would be such a heavy load to carry all these years

Somewhere in Vietnam in 1967, a heavy load to carry all these years

This was a very difficult post to write, extremely difficult in fact, given that it took over a week and another day anguishing on whether I should post this or not.  In the end, I finally came to the conclusion that acknowledging publicly that I have suffered from PTSD from events of long ago, that by not acknowledging I had PTSD many, many years ago, has and an extremely adverse impact to my family, to myself, to lost friends, to lost opportunities, to a loss of a better life for all.

PTSD is a painful, often private, journey that is almost impossible to acknowledge publicly, yet without acknowledging PTSD exists within you and shuttering it away to avoid the pain, ultimately has a cascading, adverse effect on everyone.

It is my sincerest hope that writing about my journey will allow PTSD survivors realize there is hope, that forgiveness of yourself is possible, that in time, each of you “can do this”, no matter how arduous the journey.

As I told my friend in 2014, “yes, please share it” with you friend, if you find find value in my journey that you wold like to share with someone you know who also a PTSD survivor, please do!

Tommy – A Vietnam Veteran from 1965 – 1968

 

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January 8, 2017: Recycled “Soda” Bottles

While recycling is part of our daily routine, sometimes we acquire products made from recycled materials that have all the elements that excite us (Function and Form as well as being aesthetically pleasing).  And, if the recycled products also provide jobs to the area and people who make the products, then it’s even better.

Beautiful Glass from Recycled Soda Bottles

Beautiful Glass from Recycled Soda Bottles

These glasses are hand-made from “soda bottles rescued from the landfill” by Bambeco, a company committed on being environmental friendly and sustainability focused.   Each glass, hand-made and hand blown by master glassblowers (click here, then scroll down for a fascinating video of their process), has its own individual flare, they’re wonderful to hold and drink from, and stunning in their beauty.  I particularly like the rounded edges of the tumblers when drinking from the glass.  Yes, you really should watch the video, its very informative and , if for nothing else, just to see how they get all those wonderful colors in the glassware.

An added bonus is that all their packing materials are made from recycled materials, including an unusual paper they wrap each glass in that they encourage consumers to reuse in art projects as well as send in photos of their completed products.

Disclaimer: While it’s very obvious we truly like the glassware and would encourage others to look into this product, we receive no compensation of any sort from Bambeco.

Technical Details:  NikoBron (Nikon Df with Bronica 50mm wide-angle lens) and hot-shoe mounted flash

 

 

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