Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Contrasts, Amherst, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 6/5357 sec @ f4.5, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp

Clear blue sky against a dark metal roof and pure white snow. Straight ridge lines, twisting branches, and an expansive sky.

Contrasts are life. You cannot appreciate one aspect of a thing, without appreciating its opposite. Such is duality. But you can transcend this perspective, as all the great mystics, prophets, and sages have taught.

Then you will see the white birch, with its tender fingers, sitting at nature's keyboard. While the symphony of cold wind keeps you bundled, you can still feel the sun's solo rays beating deep into your soul. Embrace it all, hear the score, see the conductor, become a part of the orchestra, make your own beautiful music, and rejoice.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Spider on the tree

Spider on the tree, Christian Hill, Amherst, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/800 sec @ f4.5, ISO 58, no flash © Steven Crisp

Do you see it? Theres a perfect spider shadow on the tree. Which is real? The wagon wheel or the spider shadow? They sure both look real to me. You can see and touch the wagon wheel, but you can only see the spider shadow, and only if you are looking at the right angle, and the right time of day. Does that make it less real? I think only less permanent. And by the way, everything in this world is impermant, right?

So the next time you think of yourself as a fixed body and ego, remember your shadow. Just as real. And a reminder that we are all impermanent. So what is real, is real only in the "now". Keep an open mind.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Fire in the Sky

Fire in the Sky, From the deck on our home, Amherst, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 79/2980 sec @ f4.5, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp

Right after a blizzard, we had this beautiful sunset. Our woods truly looked like they were on fire! Who says you have to go to Hawaii for beautiful sunsets (right Alli?)

Although this is not a real fire, it did remind me of this story, which I thought was inspirational:
A Chance to Start Over.

It was a cold December night in West Orange, New Jersey. Thomas Edison's factory was humming with activity. Work was proceeding on a variety of fronts as the great inventor was trying to turn more of his dreams into practical realities. Edison's plant, made of concrete and steel, was deemed "fireproof". As you may have already guessed, it wasn't!

On that frigid night in 1914, the sky was lit up by a sensational blaze that had burst through the plant roof. Edison's 24-year-old son, Charles, made a frenzied search for his famous inventor-father. When he finally found him, he was watching the fire. His white hair was blowing in the wind. His face was illuminated by the leaping flames. "My heart ached for him," said Charles. "Here he was, 67 years old, and everything he had worked for was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, 'Charles! Where's your mother?' When I told him I didn't know, he said, 'Find her! Bring her here! She'll never see anything like this as long as she lives.'"

Next morning, Mr. Edison looked at the ruins of his factory and said this of his loss: "There's value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God, we can start anew."

What a wonderful perspective on things that seem at first to be so disastrous. A business failure, divorce, personal dream gone sour . . . whether these things destroy an individual depends largely on the attitude he or she takes toward them. Sort out why it happened, and learn something from the blunders. Think of different approaches that can be taken.

Start over.

[Author unknnown]

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bubble in the stream

Flowing Falls, Lower Purgatory Falls, Mont Vernon, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 5032/2865 sec @ f2.8, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp
"Think this about the fleeting world: a star at dawn, a bubble in the stream."
-- Buddha
These falls have been here for many, many years, and yet bubbles on the stream come and go in an instant. So is it permanent, or is it fleeting? Think of it this way:
"One man watches a river flow by. If he does not wish it to flow, to change ceaselessly in accord with its nature, he will suffer great pain. Another man understands that the nature of the river is to change constantly, regardless of his likes and dislikes, and therefore he does not suffer. To know existence as this flow, empty of lasting pleasure, void of self, is to find that which is stable and free of suffering, to find true peace in the world."
-- Jack Kornfield & Paul Breiter, A Still Forest Pool, the Insight Meditation of Ajahn Chah, Taiwan:1987

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nuts and Bolts

Nuts and Bolts, Amherst, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 251/5931 sec @ f2.8, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp

Sometimes you have to turn your attention to the "nuts and bolts" of life. My good friend, Dan, along with being a spiritual compatriot, and photographer protege, is accomplished in the financial department (heck, he was able to retire at 43).

So I've taken a break from my spiritual investigations to gain some insights into necessary financial matters. Let me save you some time -- only buy index funds with the lowest possible fees; oh yeah, and rebalance every one or two years, and you are done. The only key decision you need to make is your equity/bond allocation (and suballocations if you so desire) to address your risk tolerance. That's it! I wonder why "they" don't teach us that and save everybody a bunch of heartache and wasted time.

Having gained some of those insights, I do intend to apply them to my retirement portfolio and get this baby running on auto-pilot, with a disciplined review no more frequently than every quarter. Oh yeah, and I've tuned out all financial e-mail, news, magazines, etc. This is only so much noise trying to get you to "beat the market" and help stock brokers (sorry JB) and fund managers extract money from your wallet.

Kids -- take notice, these are pearls, pearls, I tell you! Oh yeah, and for you, save as much as you can as early as you can; and when you enter the corporate world, max out your 401-K contributions, even better if they contribute (free money), as soon as possible. OK, now your lesson is done as well.

You've heard the quiet voice in background (supported by academic study after study)-- no one can beat the market over the long term, so why bother? And the market is not so bad in the long run, especially if you start EARLY. Within a week, I expect to be back full time (well, outside of work) to the spiritual reflections and of course, to my photography. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Black and Blue

Black and Blue, Amherst, NH, December 2005, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/250 sec @ f2.8, ISO 87, no flash, heavily processed with iPhoto and PhotoShop elements © Steven Crisp

Can you tell what this is? Oil spilled on some blue paper? A high contrast image of the Red Sea? A wolf baying at the moon? Actually, it’s our dog Frito licking my fingers, which have been digitally removed (that’s a pun). Interesting what you can do with a photo these days.

If anyone wishes to see the real thing (Frito, that is), just click on over to our Frito-a-Day blog, where there’s a new Frito picture every day. (What, doesn’t your dog have a blog yet?)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Knock, knock

Great Knockers, Rome, Italy, September 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/50 sec @ f2.8, ISO 64, with flash © Steven Crisp
Ask and it will be given to you
seek and you will find
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives
he who seeks finds
and to him who knocks, the door shall be opened.

-- Jesus
Or consider:
When the Sufi saint Rabi'a heard Salih of Qazwin teaching "Knock and the Door will open for you" she admonished him. "What are you talking about Salih, the Door has never been shut."

The great mystic poet Jalaluddin Rumi wrote, "I knocked and the door opened, but I found I'd been knocking from the inside"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dappled Moss

Dappled Moss, Ryoan Ji, Kyoto, Japan, April 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/125 sec @ f3.6, ISO 64, with flash © Steven Crisp
The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.
The strength of the fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.
And my heart soars.

-- Chief Dan George

Monday, January 09, 2006

Weary Sentinel

Weary Sentinel, Marion Davis Trail, Miller State Park, Peterborough, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/400 sec @ f4.5, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp

Even in your remaining days
You try nobly to remain erect
As your brothers around you
Lift your spirit with their salute

You have seen many seasons
And weathered many storms
Basked in radiant sunlight
And bathed in warm spring showers

Your canopy, now gone
Provided refuge for the forest flock
And shaded many a sojourner
While they enjoyed the view

Your trunk once strong
Now weak and weathered
Held firm against Nor'Easters
And guarded backs of resting wanderers

Soon you will fall, weary sentinel
And begin again your life anew
Fear not, for your keep is safe now
As new guards make their stand

Or consider this short story when contemplating the photograph:
In his book, Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal Artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it." It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, lest bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life.
-- as quoted by Michael Williams, Morganfield, Kentucky. Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 4.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Seeing clearly

View North from Pack Monadnock, Miller State Park, Peterborough, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Panorama (4 pictures), typical Exposure 1/440 sec @ f5.6, ISO 50, no flash, © Steven Crisp

I just wanted to show you what the view from Pack Manadnock looked like yesterday. Absolutely breathtaking in all directions. Yes, one could see very clearly yesterday, and it was all spectacular. These pictures were taken from the fire tower stairs, just below the shelter which was closed for the season.

Looking north (above) you can see Mt. Monadnock in the center. Looking south (below) we could actually see Boston (but you'ld need a magnifying glass on this reduced image). That is about 70 miles away. Unbelievable clarity.

View South from Pack Monadnock, Miller State Park, Peterborough, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Panorama (5 pictures), typical Exposure 1/440 sec @ f5.6, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Frosted Fingers

Frosted Fingers, Pack Monadnock, Miller State Park, Peterborough, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 3/2500 sec @ f4.5, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp

Sometimes it is hard for the camera to capture the moment. But in this case, I think it did alright. This is an unaltered (except for some cropping) photo. No color enhancement has been applied. Yes, the sky really was cobalt-blue, and this was at high noon today.

It was one of those rare winter days, when the closer we got to the summit, the warmer we got, and the deeper and richer our surroundings became. As we increased in elevation, tree branches went from bare, through lightly dusted, until they were caked with frosting at the top. And the sky went from clear blue, though azure, until it reached a cobalt blue directly above. I cannot remember another day like this.

It was one of those days when I just continue my trek up the mountain with my jaw dragging along the trail. Simply amazing. What an incredible experience.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Walking the Talk

Weathervane, Amherst, NH, December 2005, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 7/1559 sec @ f4.5, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp

Before we end the first week of 2006, I'd like to reflect upon an important insight learned in the closing moments of 2005, and see how that might help to chart the course for the new year.

I was having New Year's Eve dinner (and wine and champagne -- too much champagne ;-) at my cousin's cottage on Tucker Pond. He and his wife had invited some good friends of theirs, and we had a wonderful meal, and to me, fascinating conversation.

Surely we were discussing issues of great consequence! Oh what brilliant dialog and insight!
"We must become the change we want to see." -- Mahatma Gandhi
And as I listened to my soft-spoken friends, I realized that as much as they talked about issues, they also took action in support of their beliefs. In short, they "walked the talk". I'm not sure I could say the same, or at least not as much as I would like to.
"Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one's thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
On and on we talked about issues, late into the morning, and I found myself asking "so what are you going to do about it?" only to realize that through personal action, they were indeed addressing those aspects under their control, and thereby making a difference. It's so easy to be paralyzed by the scope of the challenge, and in the end, do nothing but "talk" about it.
"The world we are experiencing today is the result of our collective consciousness, and if we want a new world, each of us must start taking responsibility for helping create it." -- Rosemary Fillmore Rhea, New Thought for a New Millennium
So what are you going to do about it? First of all, are you going to set your own compass, or will your weathervane swing in which ever way the wind blows? Assuming you intend to take control of your direction, what tangible steps in your own life or in your community, are you going to take that will embody your principles and move us closer, little by little, to that desired state. It is nice to "think great thoughts", but it is even better to take some action in their direction.
"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading." -- Lao Tsu
So I will set my course, and begin the journey. And I hope to have even more interesting discussions, buttressed with action, on next New Year's Eve.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Rushing river

Rushing river, Just above Lower Purgatory Falls, Mont Vernon, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 818/2069 sec @ f2.8, ISO 100, no flash © Steven Crisp

The snow is fresh and clean
Nature's way of covering our tracks
and telling us we are the only ones
that have ever taken this walk.

The water rushes
as it always does, never ending
looking the same,
yet always different.

Just as we are
somehow the same
but you understand --
always different still.

One vista glimped
one conversation heard
one idea contemplated
one moment of solitude

Each can make a dramatic difference in our lives.
And yet we look the same to the outer world.
But they too will see the change
if they look deep enough

If they really listen.
Can you hear the water rushing by?
It is the same,
but always different.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Cloud Light

Cloud light, Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii, February 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/2000 sec @ f7.7, ISO 64, no flash © Steven Crisp
"What I'm about to tell you is so important, please write it down: Seek insight, not happiness."
-- Vernon Howard
Chasing after happiness is like playing football with movable goal posts. Once you think you are there, you are not. You will have to keep on playing the game, hoping to achieve another first down, over and over.

You realize this through insight. And through insight comes acceptance and gratitude, which leads to peace, which brings joy and bliss.

Happiness? Some would say so, but to me that is just part of the happiness/sadness duality which is ultimately what you wish to transcend. Once again, seek insight.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones, Fujiya Hotel garden, Hakone, Japan, January 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/30 sec @ f2.8, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp
"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving."
-- Lao Tzu (600 BC-531 BC)
Do you see an interesting path worth exploring? Are you so fixed on your arrival that you cannot afford the time? Perhaps you have confused the destination with the journey. We are all ultimately going to the same place.
“I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it.”
-- Rosalia de Castro (1837-1885)
So by all means, enjoy the journey. Follow those stepping stones, and see what magical places they lead. Just the act of letting the current moment decide what the next step will be, will take you someplace special.
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

--T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), from "Little Gidding"

Monday, January 02, 2006

Powder and Ice

Powder and Ice, Bretton Woods, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 125/5071 sec @ f4., ISO 102, no flash © Steven Crisp

What do you want in life? Do you want the good or the bad? Of course, "the good" you say. But then how will you really appreciate it? Indeed, how will you even know it is "good"? Do you want powder or ice? Take them both for better appreciation. See how sharp your edges are. Or revel in the powder along the trail edges. Look how you can hone your skills.

The day began rather chilly, with the top of the mountain immersed in clouds. Snow cover was not complete, and some of the trails were closed. Might be a questionable day.

It's been so many years since I last strapped on the boards. It feels good taking advantage of gravity: "cheap and reliable", as Deming once said. What would we face? Crowded slopes and long lines?

How about just a few happy souls, like this young skier, with his protective helmet all dressed up to entertain us. When I asked to take his picture, because I liked his hat, he could not stop laughing afterwards.

What kind of a crazy person just happens to be carrying a camera around the ski slopes anyway?

As the day progressed, the sun broke through the clouds, and soon the view was clear from the top. That's Mt. Washington in the background.

But this too shall pass, as our warmth begins to set over the mountain top. Clouds dance with the tree tops and play hide and seek with the sun.

Blue sky takes hold and we were basking in sunlight as we rode up the chairlifts, with great long shadows as our companions while we skied through the glades.

What a beautiful way to help appreciate nature, and realize it is all "good", even when it sometimes seems "bad". Because you can't have one without the other. So enjoy it all and see the inherent beauty everywhere.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Simplify, simplify

Simplify, simplify, Amherst, NH, December 2005, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 42/2521 sec @ f2.8, ISO 51, with flash © Steven Crisp

This is the ping pong table in my basement. It looked like this for about a month. Then finally, after much procrastination and consternation, I got around to filing. What can possibly be the insight (and beauty) from this mass of paper? I need more horizontal filing space? Maybe not. Perhaps the real insight was said by a favorite author of mine:
Our life is frittered away by detail ... Simplify, simplify.
-- Henry David Thoreau

Don’t think you can get that far out of kilter? Neither did I. I truly believed I had a great system for bill paying and record keeping. So the good that came out of this mess is that I realized I was fooling myself. Like it or not, I was wasting time — no, wasting my life — keeping track of minutiae. What was the final lesson? When I finished organizing all of this paper, I concluded that I could easily throw out 80% of it and would never miss it. Either I already had an electronic copy of the information, or I at least had a record of the transaction, or it really just wasn’t necessary to keep in the first place.

And from that insight, I have now come up with a different “filing system”. Basically two piles: one to keep for one year, and then throw away, and the other to be filed because it must be saved for an extended period. I expect the same 80/20 rule to apply as to the size of each pile. And as one of my resolutions this year, I resolve to come up with other ways of looking at situations that cause me to “waste time” on unnecessary detail, and instead, to simplify, simplify.