Archive for February, 2016

Risen

February 29, 2016
MX Peacekeeper Missile

MX Peacekeeper Missile

This is the MX Peacekeeper missile, an easily recognizable landmark at the entrance to FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne.  This particular model is no longer armed, having been deactivated through various treaties between the US and  Russia.  Thanks be to God that this weapon was never used in war, as it would have had a devastating effect on the world.  It carried ten warheads, each of them independently targeted, and could hit its intended targets within 100 yards even when fired from 10,000 miles away.  Fifty of these missiles were buried in bunkers around Cheyenne, making us a big, fat target for Russian missiles.

But I don’t want to write about the MX missile.

I saw the movie “Risen” the other day.  This film is about a Roman Tribune and his search for the corpse of the crucified Jesus.  The Tribune’s name is Clavius, and he is a Roman soldier through and through.  His boss is Pontius Pilate. Yes, that Pontius Pilate.  Pilate is deeply concerned that the Jews will steal the body of Jesus from his tomb, claim he has been resurrected, and cause all manner of trouble for Pilate as they rally the followers of Jesus in rebellion against the Romans.  By the way, the Emperor is on his way to Jerusalem from Rome, and Pilate doesn’t want any problems.  He tells Clavius, a seasoned warrior, to fix it.

Clavius, faithful soldier and good politician that he is, sets about to protect the corpse of Jesus by sealing the tomb and placing Roman guards at the entrance.  We know how this part of the story ends, and, while the guards don’t let anybody inside the tomb, nobody said anything about keeping Jesus from going outside.  In the morning on the third day, the body of Jesus is gone, the guards are in deep trouble, and Clavius now has to find the body of Jesus.

Clavius needs some help.  Earlier, in a conversation with Pilate, like two workers chatting at the water cooler, Pilate states that he prays to Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom.  He then asks Clavius to which God he prays, and Clavius responds with the obvious answer, Mars, the god of war.

Mars was who Clavius sought for help in his search. After several ghastly but failed attempts at finding the surely-decaying corpse of the Nazarene, Clavius goes off towards an indentation in a wall where there is a lit candle and a small sculpture of Mars, where he prays to the war god.  This was one of the most personally compelling scenes in the entire movie.  The camera shot of Mars was from directly above the face of the statue as it was pointed up, holding a sword and a shield.  It didn’t look all that different from any Roman soldier,  actually.  But Mars looked small, pitiful and entirely helpless.  Clavius was praying to a piece of stone, an impotent figure that would do him no good.

Which brings us to the MX missile.  This is our modern Mars.  We pray to the threat of unimaginable violence and destruction in the hopes that we can prevent unimaginable violence and destruction.  Clavius paid tribute to Mars by leaving coins in front of the statue’s feet.  We pay tribute in the billions of dollars thrown at the feet of our weapons.  Clavius prayed to an empty figure, one that could do nothing to help him in his search for Jesus.  We pray to our weapons, glorifying them and their use, painting heroic pictures of muscle-bound men wielding them in an attempt to destroy the enemy.  It doesn’t appear that we are much different today than Clavius was 2,000 years ago.

Clavius’ appeals to Mars got him no closer to Jesus.  Our appeals to our weapons don’t get us closer to Jesus, either.  And if we aren’t getting closer to him, it seems to me  that we are really moving farther and farther away from him.

I am no idealist, thinking we can just throw all these things away and all will be peaceful and quiet.  There are those in other places in the world that don’t like those of us in the US, and they are itching to do us great harm.  It seems to me that we – the human race “we” – have really blown it with the instructions Jesus gave us.  At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus, just before ascending to the Father, tells the Apostles “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  

That’s a pretty clear message of what we are supposed to do.  It doesn’t say anything about using our scarce resources to build weapons that can kill hundreds of millions of people, unleash forces so destructive that nothing can survive, or pay enormous tribute to our modern Mars.  Yet that’s what we do.  Our world sees far too much anger, violence and death due to our worship of Mars, in spite of the fact that we were clearly shown the way to peace.

I highly recommend “Risen.”  It is well written and superbly acted.  I was emotionally overcome in one scene in particular, which I won’t tell you about for fear of spoiling it for you.  There were not any surprises regarding the whereabouts of the corpse of Jesus, because there was no corpse.  In order to have a corpse, there must be a death – without a Resurrection.

I am thankful that the MX missile is now standing harmless at the entrance to the Base.  Would that the rest of the weapons that threaten our world become museum pieces as well.

 

 

February 28, 2016
Waterfall

Waterfall

We visited our daughter today.  She lives in northern Colorado with her husband and two sons on the ranch her in-laws own.  It’s a beautiful place, and I always take my camera with me.  Most of the time I just take pictures of our grandsons, because they are just so darn cute.  Occasionally I like to wander around and take photos of the animals that call the place home.

Today I took a bunch of pictures of the grandsons, which I shared in Facebook.  As we came across the last cattle guard before the ranch buildings, I noticed a little waterfall in the creek that runs nearby.  That was my target.

If, dear reader, you are a photographer, here are the details of this shot.  ISO 100, f22, 70mm, 0.3 seconds.  I tried to do a longer exposure to get the water softer, but it was taken almost at noon and the sky was clear and sunny, causing a whiteout when I looked at the shot.  I did not have a filter with me, so I was left to my own devices, hence the tiny f stop and the 0.3 exposure.  Any longer and I got a blown out picture.

This creek is no more than a few feet wide here, and to get to this little waterfall I walked through the water.

If, dear reader, you don’t care about those things, that’s OK.  This is a beautiful little spot in the shade that just a few weeks ago was all ice.  At that time it was precarious to walk across, and it was best left alone.

When the mountain snows melt in June, this little creek turns into a raging torrent.  The place where I took this shot today will likely be under 6 feet of water at that time, whereas today it was just a couple inches deep. When I walked through the water, it never reached the laces of my boots.

I like the serenity of this moment.  Coupled with seeing our daughter and her family, this was a wonderful day.  I hope you like the waterfall.

Sunset

February 27, 2016
Sunset over the Laramie Range

Sunset over the Laramie Range

Again, my search for the “perfect” sunset.

Sherry and I had a visit from our daughter Brianna and her family this afternoon, and as they were getting ready to leave I was noticing the clouds building a little to the west.  This looks like a good night to shoot a sunset, I thought. After our visitors drove away from the house, I asked Sherry if she would go west with me to shoot the sunset, and, to my delight, she said she would.

I grabbed my camera and my tripod and we piled into the car and headed off into the sunset.  With around 60,000 people, Cheyenne is the largest city in Wyoming, and is the closest thing we have to an urban area. Yet just a few miles west, the land opens up and antelope outnumber the people.  That was where I wanted to go, to catch the clouds and the color as the sun dips behind the horizon.

When we finally stopped, we were at about 8,000 feet in elevation and leaning into a stout 40 mph wind.  With the rays of the sun now almost parallel to the ground, there wasn’t much warmth to be had to ward off the cold of the wind.  I climbed out of the car, leaving Sherry inside with the heater running, and went to seek the colors.

It never ceases to amaze me just how quickly things shift.  The sun seems to take forever to get to the horizon, followed by a 5 minute light show, and then that’s it – all done.  As a photographer, the challenge is to catch the light in the right place and the right time.  Tonight I got close, but the real colors were somewhere else.

The true joy and beauty of the night, however, was sitting next to me in the car.  Having Sherry along with me was just wonderful, and I think we may have discovered a new activity to share.  She wants me to teach her about photography, and I want to teach her.  Her enthusiasm can lead to all manner of excursions, and we can share so very much on these outings as we seek photographic opportunities.

I’m afraid I fell short of finding the perfect sunset again.  But I had the perfect companion with me, and after almost 36 years into my relationship with Sherry, that’s sure a nice feeling.

February 26, 2016
Birthday angel

Birthday angel

Today was the birthday of one of my co-workers.  We are a small group – 14 or 15, depending on the day, and we are pretty much a family.  It’s hard not to be when you are working for the same thing – eternal salvation – in such close proximity.

Like a family, sometimes there are disagreements, but no fisticuffs, foul language, or character assassinations.  We might raise eyebrows or talk about someone, but it’s not serious, or long lasting. And woe be unto anyone who attacks one of us – there will be all the others lined up to protect him / her.

Birthdays in the chancery are a nice change of pace.  We get a page on our office phones telling us it’s time to celebrate a birthday in the kitchen.  We all wander  out of our offices and head to the kitchen, where the birthday buddy has prepared a high calorie treat.

We draw names for the birthdays.  The birthday buddy brings a cake, or some appropriate substitute.  Our Chancellor, Carol, makes this incredible coffee cake. She was my birthday buddy a couple years ago, and, having expressed my admiration of her baking skills with that coffee cake, she knew exactly what to make.  The birthday buddy also hangs up the communal “Happy Birthday” sign, and purchases a little gift.

When everyone is gathered together, we then sing Happy Birthday.  For the last 5 years, the Happy Birthday leader has been our HR director, Larry.  Larry is a wonderful human being, but he has trouble singing in a key where others can comfortably join him, and he rarely hits the exact right note.  He gets close most of the time,  but we love the fact that he cares enough to not care about his singing.  Today, however, Larry was gone and yours truly jumped in and helped out.

The birthday girl’s gift was the angel above, which was accompanied by the framed quote behind her. The quote said something to the effect that in the morning I need a bunch of coffee and a whole lotta Jesus. You can get away with stuff like that when you work for the Catholic Church!

It all sounds so very mundane, and quaint, doesn’t it?  But really, none of us would have it any other way.  We really love each other, and we really love the work we do.  Celebrating birthdays is just another way of showing that love to the other workers in the vineyard.

We really are a family, and we really do care about the eternal salvation of the people of God in Wyoming.  It was a joyous celebration today, just like it is for every birthday at the Chancery.

Where’s the gold dome?

February 25, 2016
Blue Capitol

Blue Capitol

 

Things constantly change, even when they stay the same.

My original intent was to get a shot of our Capitol building under reconstruction, but I got distracted by the sky. Again.  Our state is going to spend $300 million fixing up this wonderful building, beginning now.  The whole place is surrounded by chain link fence, and scaffolding is gracing a large area of the walls.  It’s a much needed renovation, as the old building is tired and in need of modernization.

The downside to this project is that we live two blocks away, and our whole neighborhood will be consumed with construction for the next two years.  After it’s all done, however, it ought to make a nice neighborhood like ours even better.

Here’s what I find so interesting about this picture.  A few weeks ago, I took a shot of the Capitol on a cold, snowy morning. The dome shone like it was lit up, the gold glistening even in the gray morning light.  Tonight, at sunset, the same dome can hardly be differentiated from the sky.  And the sky is magnificent.

I continue to be amazed at what I am discovering on this 365 project / journey.  My eyes are different now than they were four months ago. If you’ve been reading along with this, you know that I have mentioned this fact a number of times, and it’s likely that I’ll mention it a number of times more in the future.

Something else I’m discovering is that I believe I have a book in me that needs to come out.  I have been rolling this around in my head for years, but I think I have finally determined the literary method of telling the story.  If I can get that off the ground, I’ll share it with you, dear reader, as I go along.

To the few of you who see this, thanks for reading.  I have to remind myself that I didn’t start this with the hope that I would get thousands of followers, but just so I could get some practice writing and shooting.  Nevertheless, I appreciate the fact that you have followed along this far.  May God bless you always!

Hey kid, you losing your marbles?

February 24, 2016

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Indulge me here  for a bit.

Yesterday was a day of shooting photos, but not for the blog.  The staff of the chancery, including your’s truly, spent the day on retreat at the Abbey of St. Walburga, home to a group of hardworking cloistered Benedictine nuns in northern Colorado.  I shot pictures of the staff during the retreat, but they don’t really count for this blog.  Today was filled with time-sensitive work that demanded my full attention, and I have not gotten the camera out of my bag.  No shots of any kind tonight.

Last night I came home quite tired, as prayer and retreats, while spiritually energizing, can be physically exhausting.  Sherry knew I wasn’t up to doing too much, so we walked to the basement to make some decisions about lightening our load, i.e., getting rid of some of the stuff we have accumulated over the last 36 years.

She pushed to the front an old army ammo box that I got from my brother when he was in the army in the early 60s.  She opened it up to find some 20 gauge shotgun shells, for a gun which I no longer own; a box of BBs for – hold on –  a BB gun; one of my Dad’s old fishing knives; a mold for making bullets for a black powder rifle; and a small brown paper bag.  Sherry asked what was in the bag, and I had no idea.  Opening it revealed a slice of my childhood that I thought was long gone.

Marbles.

This picture, taken on my phone, was my marble collection, or at least what is left of it, from my grade school days at St. John’s school in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I’m 58 years old, and I attended St. Johns between the ages of 6 and 14.  These are old.

There’s quite a variety of marbles here.  Cateyes, puries, and the coveted steelies.  There are also a few smaller blue marbles from an old Chinese Checkers game.  These were my pride and joy when I was 8 years old, and they went to school with me every day, where I would join my buddies on the playground and shoot marbles at recess and lunchtime.

The playground was essentially an asphalt parking lot. No playground equipment except the footballs and basketballs we brought from home, or the jump ropes the girls brought.  And the marbles.

When the bell rang for recess, we would run outside and gather in a small bunch, deciding where we were going to play and what we were going to play.  Some days what we played was pretty much marble golf, where we had to put the marble in a small hole in the asphalt.  The first player up used his thumb in a flipper motion to propel the marble towards the hole.  All the rules escape me now, but I do remember that the second player could use his marble to knock the first player’s marble out of range.  We took shots from our knees, with our faces against the blacktop, one eye closed for aiming while our tongues hung out the sides of our mouths.

Rolling little glass marbles along the rocky asphalt of the playground, banging into other glass and steel marbles, roughed up the surface of the marble pretty good.  A close look at the solid blue marble towards the bottom of the picture shows a pitted surface, as this was my go-to weapon of choice.  Sometimes, when we were feeling really large, we’d play for “keeps.”  If I won, I got to keep my opponent’s marbles.  That blue pitted purie (so called because it was just translucent glass, no cat eye) won a lot of marbles back in the day.  Hence, the pits.

One vivid memory of my marbles sticks with me to this day, and I have shared this many times over the years.  I walked to school every day, as did all five of my siblings over the years.  It was only six blocks, and I found it to be a great time to imagine all kinds of adventures, to stop at Vogel’s Bakery for a doughnut, or just to skip along to and from school.  One day I was returning to school after going home for lunch.  I had my marble bag in my hand and was concentrating on them, probably thinking about the next game.  Out of nowhere, the sidewalk rose up to catch my foot and I did a face-plant on the concrete.  The momentum of the fall forced the marble bag out of my hands and onto the ground, opening the bag and scattering the marbles all over the sidewalk.  An older boy was sitting on the steps of a house across the street and witnessed the whole thing.  While I was lying on ground assessing what had just happened, he yelled out “Hey kid! You losing your marbles?”

I’m laughing about that right now.  Funniest thing I ever heard, and I was only 8 years old.

Hidden treasure

February 22, 2016

 

Our Lady of Peace

Our Lady of Peace

One of the benefits of working in a chancery is that we are surrounded by religious art.  Some of it, as you might imagine, is pretty good.  Case in point is this tapestry.

This photo is just a small section of a good sized tapestry.  I have never known where it came from, even though I have admired it for years and asked my co workers what they knew about it.

Tonight I was getting ready to leave, last one out, when I looked at it and it just caught my eye as a good subject for a shot. It hangs on a wall and is just outside the edge of direct light from a fixture in the ceiling.  It was a little too dark to get the details I wanted, so I took it off the wall and set it in the direct light.

Lo and behold, an envelope was taped to the back of the frame.  I looked inside and there were 2 things; a picture of the tapestry from a catalog, and a holy card from the funeral of a woman.  My guess is that this was a donation from the woman’s family to the Church, and she has gone unknown to me until tonight.

What a wonderful gift to find this generous woman’s legacy in our office!  This tapestry is so appropriately named, as it brings great peace just looking at it.  Our Blessed Mother, in all her splendor.  What joy!

Thank you to this woman for her gift.  I will prayer for the repose of her soul, and thank God for her generosity and love of our Church.

Same but different

February 21, 2016

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Sherry keeps geraniums on our porch.  I have shown pictures of them in the past, and in the dull gray of winter their intense pink is a respite, a small bit of color that invades the monotones of snow, ice and darkness.  The porch is made up of 238 individual panes of glass that face south, letting in enormous amounts of light.  It may well be the best part of the house.  We use it year around, and if the sun is shining, regardless of the season, we can sit out there during the day and enjoy the warmth.

Today was a sunny day, and the geraniums were in bloom.  We were praying on the porch, and, as we usually do when we finish our prayers, we were talking about what we just did when I noticed this flower right in front of me that was pretty much lit up like a flame.  I like to play with backlighting, so I intentionally overexposed the background so I didn’t turn the flame into a piece of coal, which is what would have happened if I followed the usually-good advice of my light meter.  This was shot at 1/100, f2.8 at 70mm.

 

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Then I went to the other side of the flower to capture it with the sun in its face and I metered off the flower itself.  I shot this at 1/3200, f2.8 at 70mm, just like the one above but with different exposures and different viewpoints.  They were shot at 3:23 pm and 3:24 pm, respectively. I was no more than six feet away on the second shot from the first.

I find that utterly amazing.  How is it possible that we can see the same thing, but from different viewpoints and come away with a completely different image?

I had this happen to me recently outside photography.  I had an encounter with a person with whom I have worked over the years that left me angry, bitter and resentful towards this person.  The image I had was this was a person who didn’t appreciate what I was doing, how much I was helping him/her, and, by God, how ungrateful he/she was for all that I had done!

Then he/she talked to me, without realizing the depth of my anger. It turned out my image of the event was totally flawed, and that it was just my perspective that had driven my emotions.

This action, which I am afraid is very common to us all, separated me from this person, but more importantly, me from God.  It’s difficult to be in a loving relationship with someone, be it another person or God, when anger is the driving force.

I see the beauty in the encounter now, better known as grace.  My anger led to grace, as I was able to see the love that had been shown to me even though it looked all the world to me like someone was out to get me.

Like the flowers in the pictures, our view of others changes based on our perspectives.  I find great beauty in both these photos.  We can find great beauty in each other if we are willing to look at how we view those around us.

I love our porch. It’s full of light, warmth, prayer, love and grace.  Just like the people in our lives.

 

She’ll be coming round the mountain

February 20, 2016

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It’s a Saturday, dear reader, and we had our grandson with us last night and today.  He’s 4 years old and an absolutely delightful boy.  Sherry noticed that a local group, the Sherman Hill Model Railroad Club, would have an exhibition at the mall in Cheyenne today, and so we thought that was a good place for boys, both the 4-year-old and the 58-year-old type.

My memories of model trains are from may years ago, and they consist of big gauge rail cars, tracks that sparked occasionally, and big black transformers with red and green handles.  The transformers required connections to 2 screw-down terminals that lacked any insulation.  A touch across the terminals by one hand or finger resulted in a nasty shock.  If we gave those to kids today, it’s likely we would be thrown in jail.

These trains are controlled by wireless computer systems and complicated controls.  The models themselves are incredibly realistic, and, as I understand it, awfully pricey.  The set-up for this is filled with great stuff. Model size towns, factories, a lumber mill, depots, mountains, tunnels and bridges.  It is absolutely fascinating, and if you like trains at all, this is the place to be.  I don’t believe I will ever delve into this hobby, seeing as how I just don’t have the room for it or the inclination to drop a bunch of cash on the equipment.  But I love what these folks have done, and I’ll be back to look again some time in the future.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

Self Portrait

February 19, 2016

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This is me.  As you can see, I am about 12 feet tall and remarkably athletic looking.  It’s a wonder I’m not playing professional basketball.

Lots of photography teachers say taking self portraits is a great exercise.  Today I followed suit and must agree with that conclusion.  I especially love the expression on my face.

My camera goes everywhere with me, and you can see that I am holding it up with my left hand.  This is an instinctive move, as I have practiced it many times in the past. Today, however, it was not a real good idea.  The shoulder doc told me not to lift more than about 1 pound for the next six weeks, and camera and lens weigh more than that.  There is some discounting that takes place because all I was really doing was holding it up, and not really lifting it up.  It still hurts.

This is me at 4:30 in the afternoon.  I’m just a shadow of my former self.


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