When I began cleaning out things after Wife died, one of the big jobs was to sort through all of the holiday decorations accumulated over the decades. There were many things in those boxes. A number of them carried many poignant memories.
So, as I looked through those material manifestations of four decades of family life, I sorted them into four piles. One was to keep (quite small), a second was to be sent to Daughter, a third was to Older Son, and the final was to donate. The largest pile was the donation pile. Those were things that didn’t carry many family memories. The second largest was to go to Daughter. She will use some of them and curate the others for Older Son and Young Son as they establish their own traditions and want to include some of the things from their youth. I sent a box to Older Son with things I thought he’d find meaningful. The final bit was for me.
That part all fit into a single 30-gallon tub. I have one that is red and green — it’s perfect for me.
All the old artificial trees went to local charities. There wasn’t anything in the lot I wanted. So I gave them away.
A couple of days ago I decided to get out the Christmas decorations. I wanted to see what I have and decide what to put up. Without a tree, I looked at what Home Depot had to offer in artificial trees. I don’t want a live tree; the Girl might decide to eat it or drink the water. I found something relatively small but big enough to establish a holiday place. I brought it home this morning. Young Son and I set it up, then added some decorations to fill it out.
Decorating the tree and putting out a few other things was quite emotional. I knew it would be and wanted to give that energy a chance to vent. Trying to put it aside is not a good idea and is not optional. So, I remembered how Wife loved this time of year… how she loved playing the Santa role. I think it was the high point of her year.
Last year was difficult. She wanted to do it all, just as she always had. But she was just starting radiotherapy for her lymphoma and was very ill. She didn’t know it yet, but she was dieing from the disease. She already was showing signs of CNS involvement. But we had a path to travel and so we did all the way through to the bitter end. But, I digress.
She did a bit of shopping last year when she felt up to it. That wasn’t much. I finished it up for her when we had a short break from the daily trip to Truckee for her treatment. Mostly she dealt with her illness, her treatment, and rested. That was the right thing for her to be doing. The rest of us handled the other things.
So, it is with substantial emotion that I put up the tree this year. It won’t be the same without Wife. It can’t be. Life isn’t the same without Wife. But, life goes on and so must I. I will celebrate Wife and her love for the holiday. I raise my glass to her when I have a bit of whiskey or a cup of coffee. I salute her life and her fight.
Old Girl, we put up the tree for you… and for us. It’s our way of remembering your legacy as well as the reason for celebrating the season. We miss you and it will be different. But we’ll do this for each other and for you.
I love you forever…
A couple of weekends ago I attended one of our Sit Means Sit outings. Of course, I carried a camera along with me. In this case, I took the D300 along. At one point down near the river, these guys decided to take a swim. No matter how cold it is, water dogs will get into the water. I kept Ki out of the water because it was cold and she has little fur. I didn’t want her to get cold.
Right after the swim, they posed. I made the capture.
Many, many years ago I came across John Michael Talbot, a fine singer/songwriter, at a Christian conference in French Lick, Indiana. I found a few snapshots from that trip (grossly underexposed) last weekend. Talbot’s work as a Christian musician impressed me. The work was good. The music was good. It was a great combination.
I picked up his early recordings as I could afford them. We had little money in the 70s and at about $8 each, records were expensive. It wasn’t until the late 70s I even had something to play them on.
John Michael Talbot went on to become a Catholic monk and turned his musical focus to worship music. While good work, I thought he lost the punch of his early work. That’s OK — people grow and change and decide to leave things behind in the search for what is next for them.
I knew it, but never acted on the fact that John Michael and Terry Talbot formed an early country-rock band called Mason Proffit. That work was seminal to their work that followed and the work of many other musicians as well.
I’ve been backfilling my music collection with artists I enjoy but do not have their early work. I decided to pick up the Mason Proffit catalog, now that it’s been issued on CD. This is music from the late 60s and early 70s. It sounds like it. However, the work holds up. It’s good work.
During the last few weeks I followed the last travels of a Jeff Parker. Jeff was a BMW rider and was part of the internet BMW riding community. He’s well known to many of the long-time denizens of that eclectic and curmudgeonly group.
A few weeks ago, Parker announced he was diagnosed with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is bad. Stage 3 means it’s time to bend over and kiss it goodbye. There is nothing to do but be comfortable and meet one’s end.
Parker elected to give things one last go. He decided to do a four-corners ride. That’s long-distance rider slang for the four corners of the lower 48 states of the U.S. It’s not a ride to be taken lightly. It’s certainly not a ride to be taken lightly when one is dying from pancreatic cancer.
But ride it he did. He posted to the list a couple-three times with updates on progress. A few days ago, somewhere in Arizona, he could not go on. The pain was sufficient that he was no longer fit to ride. He called a few folks from the BMW Anonymous Book (a publication with contact information of BMW riders but no names), met them for supper, and asked if any of them could/would help him finish the ride.
One of them could. So, Parker rode second seat the remainder of the way to the last corner of his ride. He then put his benefactor on an airplane, went home, and went under hospice care. He was comfortable and calm when he posted his last message to the IBMWR mailing list.
I don’t think anyone minded that there was not much of the obligatory BMW content. Parker wrote to say he finished his ride, literally and figuratively. It was his last post.
His daughter posted to the group yesterday late that Jeff Parker died from his cancer.
So what, one might think… people die everyday. It is true that everything dies, at least everything living. We all come to an end sometime.
The cancer is rather close to home. I lost Wife to cancer last January. But I am impressed by Parker’s approach. He saw his end coming and did something deliberate. He decided to go for a motorcycle ride. It wasn’t just any motorcycle ride, but a four-corners ride to all four corners of the continental U.S. It’s about a 10,000-mile ride.
It’s not something to be undertaken lightly. It’s physically and mentally challenging. Parker decided to do it while dying from pancreatic cancer. That’s both deliberate and ballsy.
He finished the ride before the cancer finished him. He had help at the end, but it still counts. He had the courage to take on a thing he wanted to do, but had not done. That courage speaks volumes to me and I hope to others.
Godspeed, Jeff Parker.
Thanksgiving Day was a week late this year. Every few years, it falls in the last week of November and not the third week. It’s always a bit strange when that happens because then it seems that Christmas comes so quickly.
Young Son and I celebrated Thanksgiving this year as a family. Older Son and Daughter are far away and not here. Wife is gone. We roasted a turkey breast, baked some bread, made some mashed potatoes and added a salad. I couldn’t get the fixings for a pumpkin pie, so I bought a frozen pie to bake. I started late morning Thursday, baked the pie, and set it aside to cool. I prepared a baste for the turkey and put the breast in to roast just after noon.
The baste was a half cup of butter (real butter), a couple of tablespoons of Mrs. Dash, a bit of paprika, and a bit of salt. I melted the mass about an hour into the turkey’s cook cycle, applied the baste, and roasted it another half-hour, then reapplied the baste. By the end of the third hour, the turkey was ready and the remaining parts of our dinner were prepared.
We celebrated in memory of the folks who created the feast a couple-three hundred years ago. We celebrated in memory of Wife and the holidays she so loved. It was good and I’m glad we did it.
I spent much of my long weekend working about the house. I decided to donate some more books and am clearing some shelves so I have room to store my lenses and cameras. I also had a bit of photochemicals to put away to tidy up my house. My workroom is nearly clear now and I should be able to get the last few things off the floor, stowed, and I can then dust and vacuum my workroom. This is a good thing.
I also spent some time researching film scanners. I have a lot of slides and negatives I want to scan and the little scanner I purchased last year does not handle the film well. So, I think I will buy a Plustek OpticFilm 120 either later this month or the first part of 2014. It will handle 35mm and medium format films, has a good reputation, and the films are held in carriers so that transport works.
I suspect there will be an Epson 750 in my future as well. It will handle prints and films up to 5×7. There is a 4×5 field camera in my future. I don’t know if that will be in 2014 or not, but I’m going to move to large format photography sometime. That’s where the real magic is. There is no way any digital camera can capture the amount of detail and tones that a large format negative (or positive) can.
This morning I put up a few Christmas lights. Wife loved Christmas… it was her favorite holiday and favorite season. I have pictures of her playing Santa for the kids and grandkids and she was always so happy doing that. It was a joy to watch her and I’m blessed for having had that experience.
So, last month I bought a few strings of lights and decided to put them up in celebration of Wife as much as the season. I celebrate Christmas in my own way — by remembering the Gift and the reason for our celebration. I tried to convey that spirit to my children. Only time will tell if that lesson took.
Nonetheless, the lights are up. I called Young Son out a few minutes ago and plugged them in. We stood there for a few minutes thinking about Wife and reflecting on how she would be pleased.
Then my Girl reminded it (not too subtly I might add) that it was her suppertime. “Kibbles?” I asked.
She blinked with her ears forward in admonition as if to say “Well, duh!”
So I fed her and played with her. Now she’s snoozing on her mat under my worktable.
After the unsatisfactory experience of test shooting the Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 manual focus telephoto lens in Nikon mount, I decided that the reputation of the lens was not illuminated (heh) with the particular sample I used. I happen to have a second sample in my stable, but in Olympus OM mount. That’s OK, because I have an Olympus adapter for my Sony NEX-5N handy.
So, I mounted the lens on the tripod and waited for the birds to appear one morning. Of course, with the lens mounted and ready, there were no birds for several days. I finally gave up and shot the empty tree. The first image is the lens shot wide open, f/5.6. (Excuse the beschwitz in the upper right of the images — there was a bit of dust on the sensor.) Although not tack sharp, it’s definitely useable at the aperture.
The second image is at f/8. It’s much better than wide open. I would not call this tack sharp (again), but it’s quite useable.
Although I shot all of the apertures down to f/22, I think one more at f/11 will suffice. Again, it’s a bit sharper than f/8 (not a lot) and completely useable.
So, my sample of the Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 in Nikon mount is going to the shop for a check-up. I think it’s a little sick. The Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 is capable of producing solid images and is a bargain at its price point.
My friend Jimmy told me he produced good images from the lens and was surprised by its poor performance. I’d like a 400mm telephoto in my Nikon kit because I like to shoot wildlife and sometimes the 500mm and 800mm lenses are just a bit too much.