Fujifilm X-pro2, ISO 200, FL 50 mm, 1/30 sec @ f/16


Breathe, just breathe
In, out, in, out
A seagull cries overhead
And the surf rolls in, out, in, out

The moon hangs low over the horizon
A ghostly reminder of the night before
And the sun hangs low over the other
A new day starting

Life is about opposites
Push and pull, in and out
Dark and light
Death and birth


Fujifilm GFX50s, ISO 6400, FL 90mm, 1/60 sec @ f/3.6

I love the silky feel of moonlight on my skin.  I love the reflection of the moon on water, tracing a silver trail from the horizon to where I’m standing.  A night like this doesn’t always fix everything but it comes pretty damn close.

Born in the sign of water

Fujifilm GFX, ISO 800, FL 90 mm, 1/125 sec @ f/11


If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing
It’s the time that I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear water
It’s kind of a special feeling

When you’re out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon, like a lover
Time for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change

Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change
Well I was born in the sign of water
And it’s there that I feel my best

The albatross and the whales they are my brothers
There’s lots of those friendly people
And they’re showing me ways to go
And I never want to lose their inspiration

Time for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change

I’ve never been romantic
And sometimes I don’t care
I know it may sound selfish
But let me breathe the air

Let me breathe the air…
Well I was born in the sign of water
And it’s there that I feel my best
The albatross and the whales they are my brothers

It’s kind of a special feeling
When you’re out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon, like a lover
Time for a cool change

I know that it’s time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change

Thanks to Little River Band and their song Cool Change – for adding a sound track to my life.

government shut down

Fujifilm x-pro2, ISO 800, FL 200 mm, 1/2000 sec @ f/5.6

Somehow, I don’t see these guys limiting the krill availability for the colony because they have a disagreement over a nearby gentoo rookery.

The Thing Is

Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 300, FL 200 mm, 1/1000 sec@f/11

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even

when you have no stomach for it

and everything you’ve held dear

crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,

your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you, its tropical heat

thickening the air, heavy as water

more fit for gills than lungs;

when grief weights you like your own flesh

only more of it, an obesity of grief,

you think, How can a body withstand this?

Then you hold life like a face

between your palms,  a plain face,

no charming smile, no violet eyes,

and you say, yes, I will take you

I will love you, again.

Ellen Bass


Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?


             Royal terns, adult and young.  Fujifilm X-Pro2, ISO 600, FL 400 mm, 1/1000 sec@f/11

I’ve been on the coast for just a week now.  With 2 dogs, I’m doing a lot of beach walking and I pretty much have the beach to myself because it’s been cold. The cold doesn’t really bother me (although Abba has to be bundled up or he refuses to set paw outside) and I’ve really enjoyed the solitude.  Unfortunately, not only has there been an absence of human beings but the birds have obviously been tucked in somewhere because I haven’t seen them around. One of my best memories of beach time is watching the pelicans nose dive like a bullet into the water, followed by their awkward, gangly rising out of the water with fish in beak.  So, I have missed the birds.  But that has been changing the last 2 days.  I’ve seen sanderlings (I just love to watch them scampering around in the surf) and laughing gulls, brown pelicans, and today – royal terns. I noticed two of them – an adult and a young one that seemed to be in a confrontation.  I choose to believe that it’s a teenager talking back to his mom but it was fun watching their behavior.  I’m glad the sea birds have come back to the shore and I’m looking forward to seeing even more of them.

I also saw a few members of the human species today.  Two couples were making their way – very, very slowly – from a beach entrance to a spot closer to the surf.  They all looked very old. One woman was using a cane and the other woman was being actively assisted by one of the gentlemen.  The other gentleman was carrying chairs.  I was walking toward them so I watched their slow progression and eventual arrival to their destination.  And while I was watching them and their slow but determined progress, I thought how brave they are.  At their age, falls are always a worry.  Joints are painful and stiff.  But there they were – slow, halting – but by God, making their way to the surf and the view they wanted.  By the time I had gotten closer to them, they were sitting at the surf line.  The women cooed loudly at Abba and Jackson so we had to walk close to the group so that petting and admiration could be delivered, which the fur-kids loved.  Now that I was very close to the group, I saw they were as old as they had appeared from a distance. But they were smiling, curious about me and the dogs, and asking lots of questions.  What was my name?  Where did I live?  How long would I be here?  Wasn’t it a gorgeous day?  Happiness just bubbled around them and they seemed to be living, truly living, each second of the time I was with them.  I’m sure that is the attitude that permeates their existence.  It is that zest for living that propelled them – aching joints, slowed reflexes, diminished vision and hearing – to the moments they wanted by the water and with their friends.  

I found them inspiring.  I hope that I can carry the same zest for life and appreciation of every moment that I have, despite the frailties of an aging body.  Brings to mind one of my favorite Stevie Nicks song, ‘Landslide’.

Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older, too

The Black Church at Búðir

Fujifilm GFX 50s, ISO 400, FL 40 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/11. Encaustic wax overlay.

In 1703, Bendt Lauridsen built the first church at Búðir, which was demolished later and rebuilt again.  In 1816, the parish at Búðir was abolished.  Steinunn Sveinsdottir, one of the ladies of the parish fought strongly for a new church, but the national church rejected her request.  Eventually, Steinunn received a royal permission to build a new one, which stood ready in 1848.  A quote on the door ring says “this church was built in 1848 without the support of the spiritual fathers”.  In memory of Steinunn’s achievement, this noble woman is buried in the churchyard in Búðir.  Between 1984-86, the church was reconstructed and consecrated in 1987.  Among the valuable possessions of the church are a bell from 1672, an altarpiece from 1750, an old silver chalice, two messing candlesticks from 1767, and a door ring from 1703.  The church is protected and one of the oldest wooden churches in Iceland.

The Black Church of Búðir has become a very popular spot for photographers visiting the Snaefellsness Peninsula.  The striking dark tones of the small church stands out in sharp contrast to the moody dark skies and the rugged Icelandic mountains surrounding it.

Dust to dust….

I will never forget the first time I saw someone die. I was a very naive, very inexperienced 3rd year medical student. Up to that point, I had only been in the classroom and the gross anatomy laboratory where my focus of study was on the long-dead, well preserved human body. I was doing my first clinical rotation in the hospital and I was assigned to the emergency room.

A man was brought to the major trauma room by emergency medical services. Although he was not much older that I was at the time, he was well known as a ‘frequent flyer’ in the ER because he was an alcoholic and a drug abuser – cocaine being his preferred addictive substance.

Within 2 seconds of his arrival, he was surrounded by circles of ER personnel – nurses, techs, doctors. As a medical student, I was the lowliest member of the team and occupied the outer periphery of all those circles of people. My job was to watch, fetch, and stay out of the way.

The man was attached to monitors that displayed beat to beat heart rhythm, blood pressure, respiratory rate. Intravenous catheters were placed in both arms, a urinary catheter was inserted into his bladder, oxygen cannulas were placed in his nose, chest radiographs obtained and blood samples taken. All of this within 7 minutes of his arrival. When it was obvious that he was not going to immediately die, the medical team began dispersing to analyze all the data. The plan in place was ‘expectant observation’. If anything went awry, all the equipment to which the patient was attached would immediately begin alarming.

Ten minutes after his arrival and I was now the only person remaining in the room with the man. He was pretty agitated, thrashing around on the bed, and I felt pretty helpless watching him. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do but decided that maybe a few words of comfort would help so I advanced toward the stretcher.

Suddenly he sat bolt upright on the stretcher, pulling tubes and catheters and restraint straps with him as he violently propelled himself up. He looked straight into my eyes and said, ‘Please don’t let me die!!’ Then – he died. That is to say, his heart quit any functional beating, he stopped breathing, and he lapsed into unconsciousness. Pulmonary edema foamed from his mouth and nose and every alarm in the room was shrilling.

The entire medical team rushed back into the room and I was unceremoniously shoved into the corner. Everyone was shouting and equipment was being pushed and pulled. The ‘thumper’ was started – a machine that was placed above the patient’s chest with a piston that pushed up and down on the chest to massage the heart through the chest wall.

All to no avail. His heart had fibrillated – a chaotic, functionless spasm of cardiac activity that did not propel blood through the system. Then, his heart stopped all activity and even after 30 minutes of frantic effort by the medical team, never restarted. The ER physician finally ‘called’ the code – he asked the team members to stop what they were doing, looked at the clock, and pronounced the time of death. Once again, the entire team, moving almost like a single entity, exited the room. The doctors begin dictating all the events that had transpired, the nurses gathered material to shroud the body and arrange transport of the body to the morgue, and the ER secretary began the long series of telephone calls to the medical examiner, the police, organ donation, family members.

Once again, I was alone in the room but now with a corpse. I was stunned. Up to this point in my life, I had believed that no one was really aware of the moment of their death. That dying was just a slow ebb of life away from the body and consciousness ceased long before the actual moment of death. The only experience I had with death up to this point was being with my beloved pets when they needed to be ‘put to sleep’ and it was always a very sad, tearful, but quiet, peaceful death. The moment of death occurred AFTER sleep – one was not aware of it at all. I guess that’s the only experience I had of death.

I had never experienced this violent, wrenching, tearing tug of war between life and death. I had never known anyone that was acutely aware of the moment their life had ended.

I have since witnessed many, many different ways of dying and I know that some ways are better than other ways.  I know that some go ‘gentle into that good night’ and some do not.  I don’t know how many of my patients were aware of their moment of death. Who are we to say what transpires in the mind of someone in the last few seconds of life? Perhaps, we are all aware of that moment.

But I will never forget the eyes of the man who looked right into my eyes and begged me not to let him die and I, helpless to intervene, served only to witness the moment of his dying.


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

Reynisdrangar, Iceland

Fujifilm GFX 50s, ISO 100, FL 28 mm, 1/30 s @ f/20.

Reynisdrangar and the black beaches of Vik have got to be one of the most desolate places on earth.  Raging waves and winds whip across the seascape and even if you are with others, you feel vulnerable and alone, isolated by the extreme environment.  Vik is located in southern Iceland under the shadow of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Reynisfjall mountain, and one of Iceland’s most dangerous volcanoes – Katla.  A population of around 300 brave souls call the town home.  The seascape is notable for basalt sea stacks as high as 60 meters and known as Reynisdrangar.  One area of  clustered, rocky stacks is iconic for the region and is known as ‘the trolls’.  Legend has it that 3 trolls – Skessudrangur, Laddrangur and Langhamar – were attempting to steal one of the village boats and were caught in the process at dawn and punished by being turned into rocks. Another legend (and the one I prefer) is that a husband caught his wife as she was being held captive by two trolls.  The trolls promised not to kill her but could not return her home.  So the love of this man’s life, whose free spirit he could not contain at home, lives out among the trolls, rocks, and seas at Reynisfiara.

It is a haunting landscape.  In 1991, the black sand beach of Vik was named as one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.

The Handmaid’s Tale

fujifilm xpro2, ISO 800, FL 200 mm, 1/60 sec @ f/4


Two things in the news recently have made me think, once again, about the roles of women in our society.  Last week, Bill O’Reilly – one of the top grossing TV celebrities on Fox News was terminated because of allegations of sexual harassment.  His misbehavior was not a new item.  The network had paid millions of dollars of hush money over several years but an investigative reporter was able to unearth the gory details and published the findings in a print source.  And then, lo and behold! Current Mad Men began to pull their marketing dollars from his show.  As that movement escalated, Murdoch and his sons decided the negativity outweighed the positivity and O’Reilly was no more.

That was last week.  This week, HULU – a streaming media service – began their made for TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale.  The book, a dystopian science fiction, was written by Margaret Atwood.  I had read it years ago when the feminist movement was at its strongest.  I was particularly attracted to the book because Margaret, a Canadian writer, actually finished writing the book in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where she held an MFA chair.  So, that attracted me, a native Alabamian – a book started in West Berlin and completed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The book was published in 1986 and, at the time, I was a second year medical resident in a pediatric residency program in Alabama.  I remember when I read the book that I found it somewhat frightening but was reassured by the rapid changes that I had personally witnessed of the way women’s roles were changing in a positive way in our society.  There was no reason for me to think that the steady forward emancipation of women from traditional restrictions would not continue to surge. The book was interesting but definitely science fiction.

Understand, I was not naive.  I had personally experienced some of the obstacles often placed in women’s paths.  Some of those obstacles were blatantly obvious.  Some were very subtle.  It is only now, in my more advanced age (smile), that I realize that I had been so indoctrinated to the accepted role of women that I was blind to prejudice and discrimination when it happened right in front of me.  It was what had always been – those subtle little reminders by society of what the female identity should be.

I felt so privileged in my first year of medical school.  I had been an outspoken feminist and member of the National Organization for Women in college and I felt that choosing a male-dominated profession that I yearned to be a part of was a reflection of both my career goals, my desire for service to humanity, and my politics.  My class was a small one – that’s why I chose the medical school that I did.  My COM 1 class was exactly 68 students – 10 of which were women.  In the 4 years that we were together, we got to know each other very well.  Never once did I feel anything but equality with my fellow students.  The attitude was – we were all comrades on this very stressful battlefield and we supported each other without reservations.

But what was also very true is that there were very subtle whispers that constantly reminded the female students that women were different from men.  How?  We spent very long hours in the first year of medical school trying to absorb massive amounts of knowledge – gross anatomy, histology, cell biology, embryology, genetics, immunology, neuroanatomy, physiology.  The classroom hours were long and tedious.  One of the common distractions that the professors would use to try and jolt students awake after hours and hours of the eternal slideshow lectures  would be to insert random ‘pin-up’ slides of women, scantily dressed or nude, into the lecture slideshow.  I remember one example in physiology when we were studying the very complex Kreb cycle of chemical processes employed by all organisms to release energy.  I’m sure the professor, after hours of a long drawn out, complex lecture, decided it was time to wake us up. The distraction pin-up that he used was a woman on a motor cycle, dressed all in leather, with her jacket unzipped to her naval and a skimpy leather skirt pulled across her legs as she straddled the machine.  Kreb cycle – motorcycle.  And, as usual, everyone in the class laughed, some applauded, and the professor would smile approvingly.  Even the female students laughed!  And why?  Because we were told, both by our male colleagues and by our professors, that women frequently could be seen as sex objects but not all women.  Certainly not the female students in the room.  We were different than other women – we were professional equals.  Looking back at all those episodes, I realize now that we were as much a part of the problem as the men.  We condoned and we colluded and we did it from the viewpoint that it didn’t apply to us – we were different. I’m sure part of it was that we were also afraid.  We were a minority group in this fraternity of physicians in training and their medical school professors (not a single one of my medical school professors were female).  We felt so lucky to be part of the experience. If we raised a ruckus, if we questioned these subtle discriminatory practices, we might lose our place in line.

How often does that happen?  How often does an individual participate in subtle discrimination because they don’t see it as applying personally to them?  How often does an individual collude because of fear of being excluded, of having hopes dashed, of having dreams shattered?  How naive I was.  How imperfect I was (and still am).

Two years later, I’m pulling very long clinical hours in the hospital.  Basically, I would work two 12-18 hour days in a row and then a third day of 36 hours.  This was my schedule, week in, week out.  The only place that I could take a shower while working these long hours was in the physician’s locker room, which should have been okay because I was a physician in training.  BUT – the physician’s locker room was a male only locker room.  There was a nurse’s locker room but because nurses didn’t work longer than a 12 hour shift, they took their showers at home.  There was a shower in the nurse’s locker room but it had not worked for years and was basically used as a storage area for stacks of boxes of hospital scrubs.

Fortunately, my best friend in my medical class was also pulling the same long hours.  So, we had a deal.  We both wanted a daily shower so no matter how little sleep we had gotten on our 36 hour on-call stretch, we would meet in front of the physician’s locker room at 3 AM.  One of us would go inside the locker room and take a shower while the other stood guard outside the door, ready to give an alert if someone approached.  Then we would switch places.  This is what we did rather than asking for shower facilities for female physicians and medical students.

Why didn’t we ask? We were working the same hours as our male colleagues so certainly we were entitled to the same considerations.  But we accepted the subtle discrimination, we didn’t even question it.  I suspect fear played a role in this also.  The fear that if we pointed out the inequalities too aggressively, that we might be excluded, that we might lose the position that we had worked so hard to achieve.

Oh, we weren’t completely meek and humble.  If there was overt, blatant discrimination, we spoke up against it.  But there was so much of the subtle, pervasive, way it has always been discrimination that we just accepted.  Some of it, I dare say most of it, we just accepted as the way it had always been and we honestly didn’t see it being any different.

And now, we have as President of the United States a man that manifests all those subtle, pervasiveness nuances of discrimination toward women.  He wouldn’t even shake Angela Merkel’s hand!  He speaks trash about women when he thinks he won’t get caught saying it.  He is writing executive orders that severely restrict women’s choices and freedoms and he does it surrounded by men, posing for the television cameras.  This was not a faux pas.  This was deliberate.  He was sending a message to his base of male power and male machismo and male domination of women and their issues.

In my later years of wisdom, I’m a lot more perceptive than I was when I was a naive 30 year old.  I have seen equality among people, regardless of gender, religion, or culture.  I recognize the subtle, pervasive, erosions of that equality. And I will not accept it.

And I’m rereading ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ with a new recognition that equality and democracy, once achieved, may not last forever.  It’s more frightening to me than even my first reading.


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