Mature Motivation aka Life Lessons

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To paraphrase Janis Joplin…Failure is just another word for nothing left to learn. My primary project in my seasonal wood shop was to use the remaining 100-year-old beams removed from the original cottage & make an outdoor bench showcasing the beauty of  recycled lumber. Making rustic furniture with recycled wood is much better than just adding to the landfills. It’s a small step but rewarding. I also like the idea of extending the history of what a tree created. The imperfections in the wood also provide a balance to my limited woodworking experience & skills.

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My motivational inspiration came from a graphical representation of the mathematical symbol of Pi. The basic symbol is from the Greek alphabet but many artistic licenses have been taken to this form. In addition, the purity of it’s never ending sequence without a pattern is fascinating. When I fist saw this particular form my minds eye envisioned a comfortable bench to set beside the Mini-Meadow I’ve been cultivating.

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I visualized the bench with 4 primary pieces on each end. Using enlargements of the symbol as templates I adjusted the patterns to fit the limitations of a 7-inch wide beam. By my calculations I had about 20% more board feet than needed. It gave some room for error but not a whole lot. The rough cuts of the first pieces were very encouraging. I was pleased with the beauty of the grain on the century old pieces.

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As I was beginning to work on some of the more challenging parts I ran into an unexpected problem. At first I dismissed some of the imperfections in the beams as flaws that would provide character. In reality it became a design-changing dilemma.

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I hadn’t expected the beams to be rotten. Beams I had used a few years ago for a dinning room table was fine. These were not. At first it seemed like the rot was not in areas that would experience stress so I still had hope. The basic form that motivated me would be preserved. Initially, I used wood glue to repair & keep structural integrity.

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As I cut more of the primary pieces I found lots more rot & realized I would need to attempt/inject some more serious repairs. It is always worthwhile to make a plan before you start. The Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” was an early & valuable lesson. As I got older, especially in my Freelance Career, I navigated challenges with a mantra of “Making It Up as You Go Along.” Even, when following your plan you encounter unexpected challenges & must adjust.

Filler, putty & even Bondo for Wood made the beautiful old lumber into a Frankenstein creation. I realized I would have to put some “lipstick on this pig” to cover the problems. I adjusted my plans & decided to paint the bench hiding the ugly patches made. At least the design would still be there even if I couldn’t highlight the pure color & grain.

I anticipated proportions of the basic sections would need to be tweaked. Before I assembled what I had cut I staged the 4 primary pieces. I saw it would require more than just a tweak. The basic concept was still good. But, for a functional bench, adjustments to the design proportions would need to be made.

Using an old bench side for scale I saw that I was close but the shortcomings of the Pi Bench were pretty extreme. I didn’t have enough lumber to re-cut so I procrastinated & pondered for a while. I’ve learned patience has value.

It might be maturity or a twist on being stubborn but I refused to abandon my idea. I went ahead & assembled 3 pieces for one side. I liked the form but realized continuing to make what I had into a bench would be disappointing on many levels. I know myself well enough that if I moved forward with the bench,  every time I looked at the finished work I would see flaws & compromises I made. My plans had become a failure.

I told a neighbor about my mistakes & he said to call it practice. Making lemonade out of lemons now became a reference for my next step. These simple & memorable phrases can be helpful. I had learned a lot from the process, the problems I encountered & design errors. That simple nomenclature adjustment did change my perspective. I decided to use what I had cut & make a plant stand!

Now when I look at what I made I don’t see mistakes & problems. I see a decisions that made the best out of a bad situation. I also see the next steps in learning how to take a good idea & bring it to completion. Instead of a Pi bench I came up with something else. I call it the Practice Stand.

A Confluence of Motivations

In preparing this posting I realized a transition in my perspective that shifts my motivation. I may not become a nature photographer but I’m going to advocate for eliminating fossil fuels to help preserve the natural world.

Our road-trip took us to The White Mountains, Camden ME & Acadia National Park. Although landscape photography isn’t high on my list of motivational genres, I enjoy experiencing the dynamics of nature. Understanding weather, the suns position & atmosphere is crucial to capturing a memorable image. After we returned, I went to a Climate Reality Training conference. The presentations about changing weather patterns linked to destructive storms grabbed my attention. Mother Nature is giving  clues to the damage we are doing to our atmosphere. In preparing this posting I realized a transition in my perspective that shifts my motivation. I may not become a nature photographer but I’m going to advocate for eliminating fossil fuels to help preserve the natural world.

At Climate Training I learned the atmosphere that supports life is only 6 miles deep. In that very thin layer we’ve been putting 33 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year for way to long. Looking at the pristine beauty of Acadia National Park our thin atmosphere doesn’t look like it has problems. That may be part of the challenge. We all must realize how urgent it is that we switch to green energy sources like wind & solar.

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One of my motivations with a camera is the challenge some subjects provide. The skittishness of chippys fits this category. Their home in the forest is not at immediate risk from climate change. Until drought becomes a pattern. Then wild fires will become a threat. Long-standing patterns of the Jet Stream in North American & around the world are changing. Static weather has become common & can lead to drought or floods in places where we rarely see these extremes. The agriculture community, which keeps eyes on the weather, is watching those shifting patterns & recognizes the need to evolve.

The small tidal ports along the coast of Maine are jewels. The tighter constriction of landmasses in the northern latitudes results in severe tidal changes in these areas. Routinely, 8-foot tides are a part of the NE coastal community. This rugged coastline is not anywhere near the risk as communities in lower latitude with flatter land. Rising temperatures are melting ice that will bring life threatening conditions to many coastal areas around the world. Sea levels are rising & the circulation of our enormous oceans is being impacted. Fishermen, who depend on the ocean for their livelihood, realize these changes will have a negative impact on our food supply.

Grabbing the power of the wind in your sails is a wonderful experience. The unseen energy is to be respected. But, it is a force we can harness on the land. Building wind turbines is an industry we can further develop creating jobs & careers. A simple day-sail on the Gulf of Maine gave first hand exposure to some simple parts of the solution. The sun warmed the body & the wind carried us across the waves. When you are on a sailboat some of the answers to renewable energy are right in your face.

With my mind & eye in the viewfinder I was looking for the perfect composition. Initially, I was annoyed by the solar panels. I now see the solar panels as part of a dramatic story. The Curtis Island Light was built in 1835 & likely used whale oil for its beacon. Now solar power illuminates the path to a safe harbor. Change is inevitable for societies to advance.

The sun does amazing things if you take the time to observe. Capturing this classic fall reflection was the luck of being in a great spot at the right time with perfect weather. I learned that in a 24 hr period the sun puts enough energy onto the earth to power everything for a year. I have come to better harness the sunlight in my photography & I have learned about the challenges of a changing climate. I think I am in the right place at the right time with advocacy for sustainable energy.

The left face of that hill is what I climbed to take image #2. These old knees go slow but they do still go. It is an excellent trail for younger climbers that can safely scamper up a rocky path. It might also be an analogy for my journey with the Climate Reality Corps.

Water is a subject I enjoy incorporating in my pictures. I also enjoy landscaping with rocks so this perspective of Jordon Pond was a real magnet for me. As I was marveling at the lack of development my appreciation for our National Parks was rejuvenated. They are inspiring parts of our country. After the Climate Conference, I realized these places are being impacted by a warming climate. The changes happening to glaciers are far removed from most of our lives. However, these cathedrals to nature could also suffer. Fortunately there is hope with new opportunities to harness renewable & stop adding tons of carbon into our world. The inspiration provide from nature motivates me.

As always, never pass up the opportunity to include red in the frame or it the blog. I highly recommend visiting the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Located in Boothbay there are almost 300 acres that will inspire meaningful connections with nature.

In life, timing is an interesting thing. The training immediately after Acadia lead me to examine my own perspective & put a variety of pieces into place. Although I am not a devoted landscape photog, I enjoy the natural world. The roots go back to the Boy Scouts. Appreciation of boating/sailing is part of my Chautauqua Lake DNA. Still photography inspired a career in video and now I have returned to stills. Like everyone else I can’t tell you where the path of my future will take me. However, I do know a confluence of motivations will help me to focus on a sustainable energy future.