Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Billowing Thunderhead, Ottawa, KS
Blossoming Magnolia, Greensboro, NC
Colorful Sunrise, Wrightsville Beach, NC

I’ve listened to stone sculptors define their art as removing all the extraneous material in the block until the desired form emerges. The process of creating a sky sculpture actually seems to work in reverse. Minute water vapor droplets in the atmosphere spontaneously join together in the presence of rising warm air that begins to cool in the lower pressure further away from the earth’s surface. And then the show begins to rapidly unfold and begin its ascent high into the heavens. Magnificent one-of-a-kind ethereal spirits rapidly take shape in the skies above at a moment’s notice out of seemingly nothing and they can billow up to thirteen miles in height.

I’ve also noticed that God is present in the clouds that drift throughout Biblical writings beginning with the pillar of cloud that leads Moses and the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage in the desert. He spoke to the people from a thick cloud over Mount Sinai. Later, when Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant into the new temple, a dark cloud filled the temple with the glory of the Lord. The glory of God appeared to Ezekiel in his vision in a great cloud that had the brightness and color of a rainbow. A bright cloud overshadowed Jesus as John baptized him and the voice of God came out of the cloud saying that He was pleased with His son and we should listen to him. Soon after his resurrection, Jesus was taken up and a cloud received him out of the sight of his disciples. Finally, the book of Revelation reveals a mighty angel clothed with a cloud and rainbow arriving to announce the end of the present world and the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory to usher in the new restored world.

Initially, I thought of these grand white sculptures in the same light as the Day Lilies in my backyard garden. These beautiful creations literally just have one day to blossom and display the peak of their beauty before they immediately begin to wither. They seem to have created the phrase, “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day”. And I was reminded of the new cultural happenings that occur when a “flash mob” such as a local opera company that spontaneously breaks into singing a rousing chorus with increasing intensity in the middle of a busy Philadelphia shopping center to delight harried holiday shoppers. Then there was the flash mob that broke out into a pillow fight in downtown Toronto to surprise passers-by. The flash mobs are quickly and silently assembled via electronic communications and then quickly disperse once they have made their point and captured people’s attention. Finally, I was drawn to the images I had captured of blooming Magnolia blossoms that unfurl their bright white petals in the rising sun’s warmth and then begin to wilt all too soon. The beauty of watching a developing vertical cumulonimbus thunderhead is the unpredictability of exactly what form it will take in each successive moment. It takes about one million cloud droplets to create one rain drop that eventually nourishes the parched ground below. Then as soon as the magnificent cloud reaches the height of its energy and grandeur, it begins its collapse and disperses just as rapidly until the sky is clear once again as it awaits the next flash sculpting event.

All clouds are white, but their density and our location can give us the perception of darker shades. Densely packed miniscule particles of water inhibit sunlight to penetrate it and the scattered light gives these clouds their characteristic white color. As a thunder head matures the water droplets combine to form larger drops of rain that are farther apart, allowing sunlight rays less reflectance and darker images. Bluish-grey colored clouds result when the shorter blue and green wavelengths are scattered and reflected by rain-sized droplets in the cloud. I still remember seeing an ominous green tinted storm sky as a youth in Kansas that apparently was caused by the short green wavelengths being reflected by ice in the clouds, capable of a severe thunderstorm generating heavy rain, hail, strong winds and tornadoes. And that’s just what we got in due course.

Conversely, a reddish hue occurring at sunrise and sunset is the result of scattering the long visible wavelengths of light like red, orange and pink. They become dominant in those magical minutes when the angle between the sun and the horizon is less than ten percent, just after sunrise and just before sunset. The reflecting clouds at that time can produce brilliantly colored images. I know I’ll capture a great image cloaked in brilliant rainbow colors if I see scattered low clouds on the horizon or a towering vertical cumulonimbus thunderhead building on the facing horizon during that short but glorious window of opportunity.

Friday, August 19, 2011


High Country Morning Glory, Blowing Rock, NC



Monday, August 15, 2011


Rush Hour in the City, Philadelphia, PA

I’ve often heard folks offer the old wisdom to “choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work one moment in your entire lifetime”. Well, bravo to anyone who is fortunate enough to know what that might be and then be able to support yourself and your family for the rest of your life pursuing that elusive dream. The Genesis story of Adam’s fall from grace left him with the admonition that mankind would be forever cursed to experience painful toil and earn a living by the sweat of your brow. Consequently, I find it hard to imagine anybody out there that doesn’t have a few days every now and then that are just pure hard work, regardless of their chosen profession—many more than others. Just as I believe we’d all be better off if we came to terms with the reality that life isn’t fair and every day will not reflect a television sitcom, I believe that we need to acknowledge the reality of work. Work is good for us but it’s not always fun. Since we have to be there to exchange time from our lives for money to continue living and paying taxes, it would seem to be a good idea to embrace whatever we are doing to help make the journey more enjoyable as we rush around interacting and meeting deadlines.

My experience has been somewhat more pragmatic. I’m not sure that it isn’t more realistic for many of us to try to find work that is at least interesting and then strive to nurture a passion for it. Even then, we may need to take on work that is plain old mind numbing until we score something better. I looked around and checked out what was making money in my time, set out to study whatever courses led down that path and then set out with a degree in hand to find a job that might help to fulfill that objective. But I tried not to stop there, since this profession was not the love of my life, whatever that might have been anyway. Every morning I did my best to awake with a positive attitude and tried to always look for the positives in the job experience. I strived to challenge myself to do the best that I could and then later tried to instill that work ethic in those who worked around me. Of course, I didn’t always succeed in doing that, but I got some mentoring advice early on to do just that and the money would take care of itself—and it generally worked out that way.

On those stretches where my work was the antithesis of enjoyment, I sought other activities outside the work place, like playing golf, to relieve stress and find fulfillment using the money I earned on the job to finance it. Could I have tried extremely hard to sort out a passion for the next fifty years of my life? Perhaps, but that would quite probably have been a very futile exercise. Once I jumped into the crucible of work, I was able to look around and see areas that did appeal to me. Actually, with the benefit of life in my rear view mirror, some of the perceived failures in my work life where I experienced setbacks are now revealed as positive forks in the road that led me to more fulfilling work. Life isn’t about how many times you get knocked down, but by how many times you get back up. Do I look back in regret? No, not when I know that I gave it my best shot and that I was able to keep the journey between the ditches, and more importantly, keep it interesting!


Morphing Moments, Greensboro, NC


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Distant Light, Greensboro, NC




Inspector Number Two, Greensboro, NC

I got a really good summer sale deal today on a dress shirt that was actually sized on the fringes for my present body shape. I was a bit suspicious though, having spent the majority of my professional career in the apparel business. I’ve heard of folks out there that don’t always put the correct size labels on garments. Then it’s up the last line of defense, that lonesome quality control inspector, who only measures and inspects a random number of finished product based on a statistical sampling plan, loosely based on the amount of pressure at the present moment to ship every piece in the plant.

So, I was quite relieved (perhaps a poor choice of words) to notice that the infamous Inspector Number Two had checked and apparently passed my new bargain dress shirt with a flying color (perhaps another dubious choice). The ubiquitous Inspector Number Two apparently moves around the world faster than the bird flu, as this time Number Two was operating out of Malaysia. Over the years, I’ve purchased other products that were passed (perhaps a thankfully final dubious choice) by Inspector Number Two and they seemed just fine, thank you very much. Although we’ve seemingly only passed as ships in the night on many occasions, Number Two and I seem to be moving through life together on a pretty regular schedule (sorry).