Of Tulips and Thistles

Beauty can be seen all around us – even in our own backyards. The annual bloom of our tulips is something I look forward to each year. Inevitably, there are always interlopers in my back garden including this beautiful wild thistle, infamous as a weed to be eradicated. Indeed, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Reflections of a Ferrari

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Reflections of a Ferrari

Ferrari S.p.A. is an Italian sports car manufacturer based in Maranello, Italy. Founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1939 as Auto Avio Costruzioni, the company built its first car in 1940. However the company’s inception as an auto manufacturer is usually recognized in 1947, when the first Ferrari-badged car was completed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari

Photographed in the old warehouse district of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

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Nassau’s Finest

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Police in the downtown core of Nassau, Bahamas

An artistic facsimile of the young police personnel that patrol the downtown portion of Nassau, Bahamas. This particular pair of police officers were very congenial and were willing to be photographed by tourists.

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The Long Road Home

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Another storm on the prairies is blowing in from the west.

One of my favourite rides, as a road cyclist, is an approximately 65km (40 mile) loop that I have ridden frequently over the last three decades. The counter-clockwise lasso loop takes roughly two and a half to three hours to complete riding solo. What makes this particular loop enticing is not only the rolling terrain and challenging steep hills, but the unique ecosystem of windswept prairies and lush green valleys. Much of the prevailing weather system here tends to flow from the northwest to the southeast allowing for a brief reprieve from the strong prevailing winds at some point in the ride.

Over the last thirty years or so, I have seen tremendous change, in not only the prairie landscape, but also the increased influx of people (city dwellers) wanting to experience the country life. Many of the affluent want the quietness, fresh air, low taxes, and small community atmosphere of living in the country. Yet, because most people work in the city, a one hour return trip commute is necessary each working day. For those who have moved out West and migrated away from the twelve million people of greater Toronto, this commute is a small price to pay compared to a two hour one-way commute by rail into downtown Toronto.

With this influx of people has come a major increase in housing infrastructure and new support services, including whole new communities situated alongside the manicured green grass of a new golf course within one of the valleys.

Naturally, with this increasing movement of people to the countryside comes a disproportional increase in automobile traffic along both major and secondary highways. This is both a good thing and a not-so-good thing for road cyclists. Increased vehicular traffic means better maintained and/or new road surfaces. Unfortunately, too many motorized vehicles also leads to an exponential increase in noise, pollution, and the other inherent dangers cyclists face when confronted by inattentive and/or dangerous drivers.

Another challenge a solo cyclist faces is being self sufficient on the road. One needs to be prepared for the inevitable bad weather, flat tire(s) and other mechanical issues that crop up more frequently than most of us would like to admit. I carry an old cell phone in my jersey pocket that does not even have a valid sim card in it. The phone is still capable of GPS tracking and dialing out to 911 emergency services, so I do have some recourse in case of a serious accident. Many of my cycling friends think I am insane not to carry a “working” smartphone, but my response to them is that is just the way I roll. I did not have the luxury of a cell phone some thirty years ago, and even if I did, it would have been the size of a large brick in my back pocket.

Personally, I like disconnecting from the ever intrusive electronic world whenever I can – just me, my bike, and the wide open prairie skyline.

https://www.strava.com/activities/607469320/embed/8849fdc8d76b6aac6a77845ff9a2f70b7d6bff2d

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Traditional Ice Fishing

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Traditional Ice Fishing

A traditional aboriginal fisherman retrieving a catch of fish from a net. Although this particular individual is licensed as a commercial fisherman and will receive a modest income for his efforts over the winter, much of what is caught on this particular day will go towards feeding his own family and members of the tiny northern community of Dillon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

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The Joys of Living

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A young mother and her son

I don’t photograph candid portraits very often, but this candid photograph of a young mother and her son has always reminded me of the joys of living. Laughter is indeed the best medicine of all!

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A Safe Place

San Juan
A facsimile of a Sixteenth Century statue of Mary, mother of Jesus.

I have had the opportunity to attend a Christian church over the last few years that is composed of predominantly young adults often labelled as Millennials. People my age (middle of the spectrum) probably represent less than 5 percent of the congregation. Sometimes, that makes me feel old and out-of-touch with the Millennial specific cultural norms. Yet, regardless of generational and cultural differences, I think it is important to listen to the younger generation – truly listen. When different generations collide together without some intrinsic principles of tolerance and respect for one another, polarization and division is often the end result. One of the underlying principles of our young and rather exuberant church community can be summarized as follows:

We will be known for what we are FOR rather than what we are AGAINST.

Essentially, what that means to me is that we will be known as people who love God and love each other rather than what we oppose. Pretty simple stuff, yet for each one of us, it necessitates a trial and error PROCESS of living out our faith from day-to-day.

It would be an injustice to claim that rather imperfect people, from widely different age-groups, and equally variable social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds, can mesh together flawlessly at all times. Living under the banner of love for God and love for each other is merely the beginning of a life-long journey for most. If one expects everyone to be in perfect harmony right at the onset, and requires that relationships work like clockwork – they will be end up being disappointed.

True love for others cannot be scripted. All relationships take time to grow and develop to fruition. Our love for God is but a faint reflection of his boundless love for us, and is demonstrated by our love for one another.

Someone once said that life is where the rubber meets the road. As a road cyclist, I can understand that metaphor quite well. A bicycle tire is pumped up to a considerably high pressure, three times that of an automobile tire. The contact patch of the bike tire on the pavement is actually quite small [about one square inch (2.54 cm squared) in a rather elongated pattern], and yet we still experience the effects of friction and resistance that slightly impedes our forward progress. The rougher the road surface, the greater the resistance. Loving God and loving others is like that – there always seems to be a little friction and resistance going on, but we are still moving forward. Somewhere along our journey together we hit a rough patch, and things get much more difficult.

May I suggest that this is where mutual acceptance and forgiveness comes in to play. We all make mistakes and sometimes we really mess things up. As a result of this, it is quite natural for human beings to desire a safe place where we can be loved, accepted, and forgiven for our inherent faults, character weaknesses, tendency towards selfishness, and so forth. The theologically educated will notice that I did not immediately use the word SIN. The Greek word hamartia, translated into the English word “sin”, essentially means to miss the mark (as in archery) and/or to intentionally miss the mark or standard that God intended for us.

Historically, I think that the concept of a family unit was intended to fulfill that need for a safe place in the context of a larger society. Unfortunately, for many of us in North American society, that ideal did not necessarily work out so well. The seemingly endless cycle of broken relationships and high rates of divorce has deeply affected generation upon generation of young people and adults alike. For better or for worse, this is our story.

Millennials understand the concept of a SAFE PLACE. They practically invented the idea on our university campuses throughout North America. The difference, however, between a predominantly secular humanist notion of a safe place and a Christian concept of a safe place is literally worlds apart. The former emphasizes shutting out even the abstraction of a personal God and any person(s) who holds to a worldview that contradicts their own, the latter is far more inclusive and tolerant of opposing ideas and welcomes God, as we understand him, into the conversation.

How do I know that? By my own life experience. I want to be loved, accepted, and forgiven like anyone else. To be respected as a person who has inherent value as a human being is something we all want.

As for me, I have chosen to hang out with a bunch of Millennials that have often been the brunt of a whole lot of stereotyping and criticism by my generation. I feel that I am an ordinary person living in an extraordinary time in human history.  Our little church community is just a minuscule part of something much bigger than all of us. It’s an honour to experience that together.

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