Yesterday my brother David Crook and I reveled in the stark beauty and promise we found at McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Scottsdale, Arizona. Too early for the carpeting of brilliant wildflowers and cactus blossoms, we still knew we'd find subjects for our cameras. And we did. Mostly desert driftwood and dying trees. We rejoiced in the bleak beauty of the fallen (and falling) trees and cactus, fully aware that they were God's gift to us on that day, and at that time. After lunch, we went to our homes to view and edit our pictures. And began placing some of the best on Facebook. "Guess you have to be there...really trying to appreciate the 'beauty' here...see a lot of dried up, prickly old things that I'd walk from the garden to the compost bin with..." said one of his friends on his Facebook page. And she's absolutely right. It's all about perception and attitude. The compost bin isn't a place of endings. In a sense, it promises new beginnings, doesn't it? Now if she'd said "trash," I might have had a different response. One of the reasons that some dried up, prickly old things go out and photograph is to listen to and learn from their Creator. This describes me and David. We can't help but experience our surroundings in fresh, new ways. We "see" with our imaginations, we "hear" with our hearts. We sense and appreciate history as well as the future. The future? How can that be? God is the Supreme Storyteller. And there is no end to the variety of his presentations. Peeking up through the hard-packed landscape were a few bright pink owl clover, lavender lupine, and feisty yellow brittlebush blossoms. Plus the occasional sage-green coffeebush. A lavish carpet preparing to burst into full bloom at the right time. Promise. Even hope. By the time we'd finished shooting and headed to Fountain Hills for lunch, we were, in perhaps a strange way, satisfied with what we photographed and saw. Like our grandmother, Sue C. Boynton, who wrote this poem (Old Tree) in the mid-1900s: Lord, let me learn from this old tree That there is dignity in loneliness, Beauty in broken branches, Strength in twisted, storm beaten torso. Help me to understand that underneath, If roots go deep enough, No storm can wreck the life That from them reaches to the sky. Help me to remember To stand Where God has placed me. I appreciate David's friend for the realistic reminder that a compost bin is not just an end, but a promise of new beginnings.
By Judy Vorfeld Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? So says the Centers for Disease Control: one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. "So..." you might say. I get it. Not everyone is touched by heart disease. About six years ago my brother, David Crook, had a heart attack, & was quickly taken to a great Phoenix hospital where they did a five-bypass surgery. It really hit home when the doctor said, "Yes, I held his heart in my hands. We fixed it, and now everything is working fine." And it is. We often go out hiking and photographing. And he hikes regularly with his daughter, Michelle. Plus doing 101 other things daily. Why not learn what you can about heart disease on a global basis? Find a nonprofit or NGO to support either in the U.S. or overseas. For example, Dr. Mani Sivasubramanian has a project that has saved over 80 children's lives, and he does most of it through donations. He's a consultant paediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, and is chairman and one of the co-founders of the Dr.Mani Children Heart Foundation. "Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) are a lethal constellation of birth defects of the heart that affect millions of newborn infants and children worldwide; a killer that claims thousands of lives every year," says his website. "Eight of every 1000 children born alive (0.8%) will have some form of congenital heart defect." You'll find many excellent nonprofits in the U.S. that provide life-saving surgery and other types of support for people with every kind of heart disease. Find one. Or consider Dr. Mani's group. But do something. Raise money. Or raise awareness. Give web/blog support; give time, give money. Whatever works for you.
Monday morning, my brother, David Crook, friend Martha Retallick, and I, went to the Phoenix Zoo. We had a wonderful time. Retallick recently published a book, Bike-tography. "When I was in my early twenties," she says, "I set the goal of bicycling through all 50 of the United States. I accomplished this over a twelve-year period, traveling more than 15,000 miles in the United States, plus a bit of Mexico and Canada." These days she lives in Tucson, where bicycling is a huge culture, and she covers many events, bicycle and other, by using her bike as transportation. I'd hoped to show her the Komodo Dragons, but they weren't visible, so we went off to see what else we could find. We discovered lots of little creatures in the first part of our trip, since only one elephant was visible and it stayed near the shelter. We finally got to the area where the giraffes lived, which is always fun. Martha hiked around that area while David and I grabbed a hamburger. We stopped to enjoy the brilliant, beautiful koi, then headed back for Peoria.
My brother (David Crook) and I took a few hours off this afternoon and drove out to the White Tank Regional Park. I'd never been all the way up the Waterfall Trail, and that was my goal. However, I chickened out at about the half-way point. I am just restarting my fitness program and plan to be in better shape each day. Although there weren't many blossoms, there was so much to enjoy: amazing rock formations, petroglyphs, an ever-changing sky that opened up just for us, birds, bird nests, lizards, cactus, and many, many people hiking up and down. Here's a shot (redigitized by me) of a curved-billed thrasher's nest: And here's a petroglyph collection: And here's a cactus wren: And finally, just a lovely scenic: