Beautiful Things

Recently, I read a book set during WWI. Historical Fiction has always been interesting to me, but what I found most intriguing in this story was a detail that one of the characters discussed a couple times. In the middle of a war this particular character attempts find beautiful things throughout the land.

I thought about this concept and other novels I’ve read set during times of war, occupation, disasters, hardships and realized there’s usually always some form of beauty within those pages. Whether it comes in the form of a character, a sunrise or any number of things, there’s some type of positive light that shines in the darkness.

Stepping out of the literary world, I believe we can see this type of positive light in our own world. Think about it.

It’s a pretty simple idea — the idea that even among the darkest situations there’s beauty.

And the world has so much beauty to offer.

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Inspired By the Erie Canal

Recently, I visited the NYS Museum, as there were a few exhibits I wanted to see. One, and the one I’ll focus on in this post, was called Art of the Erie Canal.

This exhibit featured art inspired by the Erie Canal — sketches, photographs, paintings and transfer-printed earthenware. I found it interesting to see how each artist, professional and hobbyist alike, presented the Erie Canal while working in their chosen medium.

There was a set a of pictures done with water colors and chalk (or pastels), which was fascinating. The two were so well blended that it was difficult to tell where one or the other was used. From the weather to the buildings to the reflections, both depictions were beautifully done.

The paintings hanging in the gallery were gorgeous. The oil paints seemed to glisten under the lights. For some of the works, if you stood far enough away and took in the entire image, it was so well done it almost resembled a photograph. If you stood closer it was easier to notice all the details, like the people or houses in the background. You could see the expressions on faces more clearly and the line which connected the horses or cattle to the boat so it could be pulled through the waters of the canal. And if you stepped closer, so close in fact that your nose was almost touching the painting (but you never, ever, touch a painting), then, other details were visible. Paint appeared thicker in some places then others, a way of giving the image texture, or part of the artist’s technique. Multiple colors and shades were used in the sky and on the clouds to gain their present effect and you could see the layering and blending. In some parts of the paintings you could see the brush strokes where the artist laid their paint laden brush and whisked it across the canvas in a way only they knew how.

Incorporated into the exhibit were two large photographs, printed from glass plates. This is a very old style of photographing and while staring at the pictures from the angles they were taken I could imagine the photographer setting up their camera, sliding in the glass plate and taking the picture when the moment suited them. The one picture was a classic black and white with beautiful tonal range. The other picture had a reddish brown, or yellowish, tint as if done in sepia tone. It’s hard to say if this look was the artist’s intent or if time had taken it’s toll. Either way the photograph was beautiful from the viewpoint of the water as it rushed by. You could see and feel its movement as it blurred, due to it’s speed, in certain areas.

It’s always interesting to see how history has influenced the world. It’s equally as fascinating to see how history has inspired artists. In it’s own way this exhibit does both. (Plus there’s an exhibit on the history of the Erie Canal right next to it, which is also interesting.) While these beautiful works are only a small taste of the first 150 years, the Erie Canal has been inspiring artist for decades. So, I would recommend visiting this part of history and seeing these artworks for yourself.

Love Life

love the sun
and the rain

love the pleasure
and the pain

love the wind
beneath your wings

love your rise
and fall from grace

love the sand
between your toes

love the ocean
waters flow

love the wildflowers
that grow

love the one
who did you wrong

love the one
who feels like home

love the unknown
uncharted path

love the future
and the past

love the moments
that will not last

love yourself
and all you are

love your soul
like shooting stars

A Day in Brattleboro

It was one of those last minute, spontaneous decisions. I’m not even sure how we landed on the topic, but all of a sudden everyone whipped out their phone or tablet and was asking me the name of the antique store, the name of the brewery, and before I knew it a trip was planned.

We drove to Vermont, through the mountains at one point which were covered in snow. Ice coated the sides of the mountain rocks while icicles hung from the edges. Water flowed easily in the streams, over snow capped rocks and boulders and under fallen trees. The evergreens and leafless branches of other trees were dusted with snow. The ground appeared to have a fresh coating, bringing back memories of February. It was beautiful. Once we were out of the higher points in elevation the snow lessened until the landscape gave way to grass and bare trees.

Tiger MuralThe town itself was small and quaint. (At least that’s the impression I got.) I also picked up somewhat of an artsy vibe, but that could’ve been due to the couple murals and many other art related things I saw while exploring.

Old buildings towered above the sidewalk. Some had painted images of flowers or the sun. Some places had writing and were tagged with graffiti. I found one building along a side street that had a heart drawn on the door. A little ways down, on what looked like a garage door, was a smaller heart drawn in the middle of the peeling blue paint.

The antique store was in one of these old buildings lining the street. I was blown away as Heartsoon as I walked in and knew I could easily spend hours searching for little treasures. I usually know what I’m searching for, but love spending time looking at all the other things. This place had clothes, shoes, books, tables and chairs and other furniture, dishes, typewriters, and many other things. It was three floors, with the main floor being the one you enter into, so there was also an upstairs and downstairs. The store had the same scent most antique places do. Some people might say it’s the smell of dust and old things. I say it’s the smell of age and history and little treasures. I’m not sure how long we were there, but I know I could’ve spent hours.

The brewery wasn’t really my thing. I would’ve been happy to spend another hour in the antique store and fully explore the town, but I went for the others. (After all, they went antiquing with me.) Inside the brewery smelled of hops and grains and yeast. It was small, but had a nice atmosphere. The music was good, the bartender was nice and the establishment was dog friendly. Plus there was a pinball machine in the corner. (Unfortunately I didn’t have any quarters.) They seemed to specialize in sour beers, which most of the people I was with enjoyed.

Love in The ParkNear the brewery there was a small park with benches. Over one of the benches someone had painted a red heart with a halo and wings. I’m not sure what it was about that simple piece of art, but I liked it.

Towering over the concrete wall backing the park was a church steeple. I left our group and wondered around to the other side. It seemed so close and I wanted to explore more of the town before we left. Luckily the church was directly around the corner, standing tall as it’s steeples reached toward the sky. It was built of brick with red doors and stained glass windows. I thought it was beautiful. That’s when I Old White Churchsaw another old church down the street.

I’m not sure what drew me to it, but I thought it’s white structure was bright and beautiful against the blue backdrop of the sky. This church was also complete with stained glass windows. It’s steeple stretched toward the wispy clouds and was topped with a golden weathervane.

By now the other people in our group were calling me back. I wanted to keep going, to keep exploring, but they were my ride home. All in all it was a beautiful day in a pretty cool town, but I felt like there was still so much to see. As I walked back to them, I made a mental note to return another day.

Winter’s End

Happy spring!

It might sound strange since there’s still snow on the ground and a chill in the air, but today is the first day of spring. The birds chirping, the sun staying out longer, the grass pushing through the melting snow, the animals becoming more active are all signs of winter’s end. So as the winter season fades to spring, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite photos from the end of winter.

To see more photos please visit my website.

Winter On The Lake

Round Lake, NY

Granger Smith

Granger Smith – Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY

Cattails

Upstate New York

Stone Tunnel

Upstate New York

The Two of Us

Upstate New York

Arches

Saratoga Springs, NY

Chelsea Sulkey Band

Chelsea Sulkey Band – Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY

Colony House

Colony House – Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY

Twenty Seconds

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
— Benjamin Mee, We Bought A Zoo

I’m well aware most people consider this to be a children’s movie, but I think there’s some solid lessons we can all take away from it. For instance, the above quote is a lesson in itself.

With a show of hands, lets answer a couple questions. How many of you have wanted to do something and haven’t? How many of you have wanted to talk to someone and shied away? I’m sure there’s a lot of hands in the air right now. My hand is up too. The thing is…we’ve all been there.

Lately I’ve been giving this some thought and I’ve come to the conclusion that there might be something to this whole twenty second thing. Maybe it’s like jumping into a cold pool. We can’t just dip our toes in and climb in inch by inch as each part of our body gets use to the temperature. No, it leaves too much time for us to chance our minds. So maybe we have to jump in wholeheartedly. Maybe we just have to take the plunge.

I’ve thought about the last three months in relation to the above quote and realized how I’ve surprised myself. I’ve looked back on some other aspects of my life and noticed some great things came out of taking a chance, a twenty second chance. Sometimes those seconds are used to encourage ourselves to go for it (whatever “it” might be) while other times those precious seconds are used for the beginning of a conversation (whatever that conversation might be). I think those twenty seconds act like a jump-start — afterward our words and actions seem to come somewhat easily.

Of course we might fell anxious or nervous, but that’s natural. Taking a chance on something we want (like our dreams) or talking to someone (a boss for a raise, an employer at a job interview, a friend about problem or a person we find attractive, just to name a few) is better than hiding in a metaphorical hole with regrets, wondering, ‘what if.’

Some wonderful lessons can come from the simplest places, such as a children’s movie, and I think there’s truth in the above quote. All it takes is twenty seconds. “And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

Follow Your Dreams

We all have dreams.

But…

There’s going to be days where people tell you you’re not good enough. There’s going to be days where you are your worse critic. There’s going to be days where you feel like giving up and quitting.

And those are the days you must fight through.

There’s going to be days where people lift you up. There’s going to be days where you fill yourself with positivity. There’s going to be days where you feel like you’re on top of the world.

And those are the days to remember (as much as the bad ones).

No one ever said there wouldn’t be bad days (or good ones). No one ever said it would happen quickly. No one ever said chasing down your dreams would be easy.

Like anything in life, there’s a balance. We can learn as much from the bad days as the good ones. We can learn from the people around us. We can learn from ourselves. It’s a process of learning and growing, failures and victories, but when you reach your goal you’ll value it that much more because of all the work, time, effort, you put in.

So don’t give up on your dreams. Continue to grow and learn and chase down your dreams. Keep pushing toward them because the things is — you’re capable of anything you set your mind to.