Sunday, September 17, 2017

Just Have Fun


On a recent pilgrimage to Utah to take photos of national parks, a fellow traveler was sitting next to me during a presentation on travel photography who was feeling a tad overwhelmed. The photo expert was using “photo jargon” that went over his head. This novice really wanted to learn how to take better photos. I don’t why, but I leaned over during the presentation and whispered: “ just have fun.”

Yes, after decades of taking slides, then prints, now pixels I have learned a few tricks of the trade. But I think if you want to develop a passion for any hobby you need to develop a passion for your subject. Landscape photography is my passion.

This fellow traveler surprised me when he invited me to his home in Oakland, California to take a hike into Yosemite National Park. Little did I realize that he has been taking photos for over 50 years and in his retirement after a successful teaching career he wanted to learn how to take better photos.

On a whim, I landed on the west coast and this new friend took me to his favorite “Kodak” moments, my term not his, to share his passion and love for the beauty of God’s creation in national parks.

Note, he’s better than “uber” for his knowledge of the freeways working his way to those scenic vistas was awesome. I’ll never complain about traffic in Rochester or Buffalo again after negotiating 16 lanes of traffic on west coast freeways.

He said “he likes to talk” and his dear spouse agreed. Some of our travels were thirteen hours long and like Garrison Keillor, he shared many fun stories about family, kids, and career as a primary school principal mentoring teachers, students, parents, school boards and all manner of administration.

However, when we got out of the car and reviewed the landscape he got very serious because his goal was to improve his photo skills. My practical advice was: “include some foreground in your images.” It’s nice to take that Golden Gate, or Bridal Falls or El Capitan for the zillionth time, but maybe an interesting foreground that leads your eye would make it a stunning shot.

Jesus was always leading our eyes to a future glory that meant that the journey would fill us with awe and wonder. On the journey of life, he would focus our attention to be the best person we could be. That means we need to include lots more compassion, generosity, forgiveness and kindness in our viewfinder.

My humble thanks to a stranger who has become a treasured friend because he took a chance on inviting this shepherd to his home and take him along to see the wonders of his land. My prayers of gratitude for his time and love for the west coast parklands because he did “wear me out.” Now he’s waiting for me to forward him some of my photos to continue to improve his passion for photography.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends blessed with many gifts and passions to make your beauty and wisdom known. May God bless all your passions and know that you are appreciated for all that you share about your love for horses and kitties, photography and wood turning, fishing, and praying. Remember my mantra: "just have fun."

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Tribute to a Wood Craver

Nobody knows why wood carvers are wood cravers. Not even they can tell you why. It’s time somebody try. Carving a wooden bowl going at the rate of 1400 revolutions a per minute is risky and most likely something that Ed looked forward to doing when he came to his workshop.  He was always clever with his hands but in the last decade of his life he became a master in this art. Many of his neighbors came to watch, a few would donate blocks of woods from their farms and woods.  Wood and steel are uncomfortable separately or together. His friends marveled at his passion.
Any day at his workshop, he would start his day by looking over the blocks of spalling maple or cherry, ash or walnut and figure in his head what project he would tackle. Into his work pants, work gloves and protective face guard and out he goes to work. He starts his day, checking out the air-dried wood that had been drying for six months or more, Minutes later he’s fast at work.  As he pondered which block of wood he would craft his next bowl, he reviewed his simple turning tools. Like a surgeon he would sharpen his simple rougher, then his 90-degree detailer, check his simple shear cutting finisher and prepare to put the wood on the chuck.
For some people, this is the scary part as a steel wheel turning at breakneck speed, and you take a gouging tool and start smoothing the outside of the wood into a curved bowl. The woods chips are sailing through the air while you have your air compressor vacuuming up the dust particles from clogging your lungs. Your eyes are straining to see that you are not cutting too much wood and making it too thin and you might lose track of where you are. Is it worth it?
Inside your protective shield, the wood chips are flying everywhere. There’s sawdust down your neck. You got to be careful to place the detailer on the bar so that your fingers don’t get smashed. But you emerge from this holocaust hugging, with your calloused hands, a unique crafted bowl with a burl and detail that reveals the test of time. Wood and steel.
You have worked hours to craft this unique work of art, not concerned about the months you had to wait for the moisture to exit the wood, or the fact that after hours turning a beautiful piece of wood, you discovered a crack that made it impossible to save. You discovered that the learning continues after all those years of making beds and chairs, for this craft requires more skill and understanding. Once you have designed your bowl and unstuffed your nostrils; you can almost breathe again. Next comes the tedious hours of oiling and waxing and sanding your bowl and then re-sharpening your gouges and cleaning your grimy tools. You a one-man cleaning crew at the workshop as the floor needs sweeping and you gather the woodchips usually to put into your veggie garden or given away as compost for some neighbor.
Back at the workshop, you and a neighbor, would sit a spell, tired but stimulated, admiring another piece of your art, or relieved that you had accomplished another repair order, drinking coffee and laughing, and feeling good about one another. Nobody outside your world can ever quite know that feeling of what it means to sit in the quiet of your wood shop. It was like a holy chapel where you met God who had come to bring you peace. There’s no way that you would ever quit this job, and you wonder how did this hobby became your passion. Yet, only God knows why. Perhaps to give you comfort when your beloved spouse died, she was your passion and when she went home to her heavenly reward she gave you this gift to keep your mind and heart occupied.
God took your sorrow and poured it down a drain, that freed you from sadness until you heard a familiar voice of God saying: “For salvaging wood from the fires of a woodstove or people whose wood treasures needed repair, “I have to relied on your hands.”