Emotionally Drained

I returned home yesterday thankful my 6 PM appointment had canceled and sad that my 7:30 had not.

I hate feeling like this, not sad, not depressed as “everyone” says these days; just emotionally tired, exhausted.

I take care of myself and am happy with my self-care. I found my stride so to speak as I haven’t missed a day of journaling since the start of the year. There are days here and there where I write simply to write, simply to put words on a page. More often than not, the words begin to flow with more ferocity and a paragraph turns into a page or more.

My journal is more than a collection of thoughts. It is a list of books I want to read, passages from literature or quotes which I simply want to remember. It is also a collection of random jottings or musings. The nib of a fine fountain pen gliding across a page provides the tactile stimulation which a keyboard does not.

Wilhelm Von Lenz wrote in 1855, “When Beethoven was enjoying a beer, he might suddenly pull out his notebook and write something in it. ‘Something just occurred to me,’ he would say, sticking it back in his pocket. The ideas that he tossed off separately, with only a few lines and points and without bar lines, are hieroglyphics than no one can decipher. Thus in these tiny notebooks he concealed a treasure of ideas.”

Hemingway had the following to say about writing in his journal, “I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.”

The weather has started to warm to a level which is becoming increasingly comfortable. I needed lightweight gloves this morning on my walk/run because the temperature hovered just a few degrees above freezing. This was my first walk/run since my surgery on April 6th. It’s been 291 days since my last full run what was a comfortable 7-miler. Over that time I have lost pretty much all of the fitness I had worked so hard to build. Getting older doesn’t make the return of that level of fitness easier to return. I successfully navigated through three running segments and the fourth caused some discomfort. Time will tell if I can return to the level of running with which I had been comfortable.

Last week I had a chance to see a new doctor. He’s an ENT or Ear, Nose & Throat specialist. Within the last month I have noticed ringing in my ears. Tinnitus is a logical explanation but since I don’t have my medical degree, I’ll leave diagnosing up to the doctor.  I can now see why people with such a condition  can become more easily frustrated. One day the symptoms are there the next they’re not. The next day they’re there but at such a profound level it makes focusing on anything a chore.

I met with the doctor and was gratefully informed that my hearing is excellent. Unfortunately my wife was made aware of the quality of my hearing. This has brought to a relatively abrupt end my successful ability to tune out the chaos.

Anyway, the doctor is trying a couple of things to make the somewhat intrusive ringing easier to manage. This involves the prescription of a medication and testing which is scheduled mid-June.

The other night, after a particularly difficult day at the office, I returned home unlocked the bike and went for a ride. I had no particular destination in mind other than out of my head. I have always found running and cycling to have a restorative quality. As the years have progressed, cycling has taken a backseat to running because quite frankly I don’t feel safe going out for a ride. As running has been sidelined for an undetermined period of time, cycling it is. This is another time for me to reflect, plan and become more focused. It would be great if employers would provide an opportunity to shower because I would find myself commuting to work.

Next week I leave for vacation. I look forward to a week spent on the beach, cigar and bourbon in hand. My kindle and journal will also make frequent appearances.

Life in Transformation

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude for this beautiful day.

Life is transformation. I can think of several individuals in my life who would disagree with this notion. Then again, those same individuals would disagree with just about any notion which identifies the personal responsibility with which we need to take to transform our lives.

I am coming up to the first scheduled day off since May. It’s been a long time I know. I’ll be heading back to the Adirondacks for some quiet time which will include a lot of reading, a lot of writing as I work toward completion of my book. This time will be punctuated with several sips of bourbon and some Puterkos Pizza.

Fall is upon us. The light of each day grows progressively shorter. We inch closer to the Winter Solstice. It’s that time of year when we begin to once again regain precious minutes of daylight. The calendar, at the same time, inching closer to the new arrival of Spring.

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I woke this morning to rays of beautiful sunshine peeking through the slats of the blinds. One of my joys is having an opportunity to wake without an alarm. Another joy are the beautiful sounds coming from the birds at the freshly filled feeder and the smell of freshly brewed coffee. It is these simple things which bring me the most joy. The joy I find in such simplicity reminds me not to take life too seriously, to not worry about the things which I cannot control and to live each day to its fullest.

“When you go out into the woods and you look at the trees, you see all these different trees and some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are green and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it, you see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans you lose all that. And you’re constantly saying “you are too this,” or “I am to this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are.” ~Ram Dass

If you think that life is a journey to some sort of destination you could not be more wrong. I understand your thoughts right now because we have all heard the sayings on the t-shirts and bumper stickers which remind us that “life is a journey.” If we think of life as a journey then we keep going faster and faster to reach this unknown destination. Life is transformation. Life is a transformation. We are reminded of this every day while also being reminded of the opposite. We are constantly changing, evolving, and improving. Our growth has nothing to do with speed. In fact it often this need for speed, the need to reach a believed destination which causes us to stumble and make decisions which may not be in our best interest. We need to slow down and assess our direction. We need to ask ourselves what we are transforming into. Every Sunday I receive a text message that asks, “Slow down and ask what you have learned this past week?” What have I learned that can impede my transformation and which can help my transformation excel? Am I a better person today than I was yesterday? Better than last week, last month, last year?

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I use photography to help better understand the path on which I am on. I look at my photographs, camera in hand to see how I can see my life and its surroundings differently.

How do you see yourself? When you look at yourself, do yourself a favor and don’t blame others for the condition of your life. Your decisions are just that, your decisions. If you look to blame others, you will find the hole in which you are in become ever deepening. Accept responsibility for your actions. Ask for help from honest individuals and develop a plan that will help you achieve the goals which you have set.

Namaste

The Gospel of Nature

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude.

I am here.

I stopped by the Niagara River this evening with my journal in hand. I needed to see the sunset, to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, to feel the breeze and listen to the sound of crickets as their music entertains my ears. Those things are integral to me and to my ability to feel grounded in the insanity with which we define our world.

In between peeks at the setting sun, I was reading an essay by John Burroughs called, “The Gospel of Nature.” I am struggling to maintain my focus as I read, the sounds of nature are overpowering but in a good way.

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“I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order.
A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.
Leap and the net will appear.” – John Burroughs

Recently we experienced a full moon, a Supermoon. The brilliance of the light reflected will provide enough light to continue to read but I decide against continuing to read and instead focus on my breath. I time my breath with the sound of water lapping at the shoreline.

Namaste

The Long Weekend

I greet you with both hands clasped together in gratitude.

I’m here. I arrived at my home away from home yesterday, the Adirondacks. I came “home” because I needed time to rebalance my life. This is the place where it is easiest for me. My phone does not usually work and there are many miles of hiking/running trails to be had within a few minutes drive.

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Puterko’s pizza was not to be had. The owners decided to take an ill-timed vacation. Their vacation was ill-timed in that I love this pizza and look forward to eating some slices when I arrive here. NY style pizza with the thinnest of crusts and delicious!!

I woke Saturday morning with the idea of revisiting some places within the Adirondack Park which I had not visited in several years. I look forward to fall every year. There is something magical in the colors which begin to slowly appear on the leaves of the trees which blanket the countryside. These same leaves, soon will fall from their perch and blanket the ground in those same bright colors. Those same colors will soon begin to fade and they will be forgotten with the first snow.

Henry David Thoreau says it best in his description of fall. “October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year nears its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.” – Henry David Thoreau

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My first stops were Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. I stopped at one of my favorite put-ins on the Middle Saranac Lake and reminisced about past paddles on this lake. I stopped in Lake Placid for a quick visit. There is much history in this town with both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics being held. After a brief walk through town and a stop at a bookstore, I remembered what I struggle with when I visit this town. That memory was brought to the front of my memory when outside a wine store was a white Ferrari. Now I hold nothing against this beautiful car or its owner who I do not even know. It is the attitude of many of the visitors, visitors such as these with which I struggle. I took my book and made my way back to my car with a new destination in mind. As I walked, I enjoyed the light rain which fell giving the area a fresh scent.

As I walked briskly along the sidewalks in Lake Placid, this small town for which I have a love/hate relationship, I found anxiety beginning to rise. I needed to leave, to travel down the road and away from the throngs of people. I needed to return to the woods and the cathedral which is the woods with its silence and brilliant colors displayed for all who wish to see. Thoreau said, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” I could not agree with this more.

I traveled to Whiteface Mountain and marveled at its beauty. The summit of the mountain was bathed in fog as the rain which has accompanied me since the start of this trip, remained. It was this rain and the accompanying temperatures which brought the fog. More beautiful memories were made this day. I remained at the base of the mountain not wanting to take the time to travel to its summit as “a lot of snow” was being forecast later in the day. Not to mention, I had a strong desire to return to the Ausable Chasm. I haven’t seen the chasm in all of it’s fall glory in several years and this was a sight I did not want to miss. Whiteface was otherwise bathed in the beautiful but fading colors of fall. The colors, had I arrived a week earlier and the sun had been shining would have been even more delightful to behold. Regardless, their beauty did captivate me. Several times I stopped in pull offs along the Ausable River to snap photos and to write in my journal.

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Not to mention, I had a strong desire to return to the Ausable Chasm. I haven’t seen the chasm in all of its fall glory in several years and this was a sight I did not want to miss. Whiteface was otherwise bathed in the beautiful but fading colors of fall. The colors had I arrived a week earlier and the sun had been shining would have been even more delightful to behold. Regardless, their beauty did captivate me. Several times I stopped in pull offs along the Ausable River to snap photos and to write in my journal.

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Driving back to Indian Lake from Ausable found rain continuing to fall. As I neared my final destination of the day, the rain became heavier and had begun to transform into sleet. Within several minutes the transformation was complete and it had begun to snow. My first snow of the year. I retired to my room to eat dinner, read and write. I heard a sound outside my window which carried with it the eerie feeling that winter in my neck of the woods would not be far behind. That sound was a plow clearing the street.

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On my solo drive home from the Adirondacks, I think about my return to my office feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I think about getting into a car again Friday evening, this time with company and traversing the highways as we travel to South Bend, Indiana to watch the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame take on Miami University.

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Namaste

A Beautiful Day

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude. Gratitude for this beautiful day and this beautiful life.

This past Sunday, I was awarded with two exceptional items in my day. The first, my grandson’s presence at our home for the entire day. As sick as he was feeling and as unenergetic as he was, it remains a pleasure to have him grace our home with his presence. The other was the beautiful weather which accompanied Chase.

My Sunday morning went as smooth as it normally does. I take a few minutes to ask the question,”What good can I do this day?” This question is a daily question. It is a challenge to myself to be a better person every minute of every day. I am not perfect and I catch myself falling back into old ways; old behaviors. Difficulties only arise when I do not catch myself lingering in the past and do not acknowledge the work which remains. As I grow older, I am acutely aware my time on this plant is set. Like everyone else, I am unaware of my expiration date. There is no fear for me in death, there is however fear that I will not accomplish everything which I have set out to accomplish.

I digress as I desire to keep this post brief and to remain on point.

I rocked Chase to sleep, that beautiful feeling of contentment in my arms. I am having difficulty deciding if I want to continue to sit, holding him or put him down. I decide on the latter and decide to retreat outdoors. Before I do so, I gathered my journal, my newest addition to the fountain pen family which has been freshly inked, my journal, a favorite cigar, my lighter and a two fingers of one of my favorite whiskeys.

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I am immediately caught by the stunning scene as I exit my home. The sun, still high in the sky, its rays piercing through the still covered canopy of the maple tree in my backyard.

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The sweet smell of fall immediately strikes my nose; leaves which have recently fallen from their perch, the decay of the pumpkins being chewed upon by the neighborhood squirrels and the dew remaining on the grass. Yesterday, Stephen and I had raked all of the leaves and the grass was cut. Today, it was as if the grass was never touched; carpeted by a new covering of colorful leaves. A smile crosses my face and I retreat from the porch to my favorite Adirondack chair. I softly brush the leaves from the seat and place myself in the comfort of this chair. I clipped my cigar and touched the flame to the end and begin to puff. The smell of this exquisite smoke curls upward and eventually dissolves into nothingness. It is at this moment which I am reminded again of the briefness of life.

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I reach for my pen, a Visconti Homosapien freshly inked with a beautiful blue ink. The ink, I notice is the same blue as that of the sky.

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I open to the last page written and this beautiful nib glides effortlessly across the page, my thoughts flowing with the same ease. The pen, recapped, returns to it’s leather home and now I sit. I sit and simply take in the beauty that is this day.

Namaste

Sauntering

Today I went “sauntering.” Henry David does a much better job of explaining the definition of this fine word than I so I will allow him the effort. “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking, that is, of taking walks – who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” A Saunterer, A Holdy Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are in deed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which therefore, in the good sense, will mean having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.” – Henry David Thoreau

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As I watched the Sunday morning news, I found myself glancing toward the window several times to assess the weather. Each assessment rendered the same result; a cloudy, overcast sky. The news, now concluded offered me brief respite from the reality of the goings on in the world. I put down the Sunday Times and retrieved my camera from it’s hiding place in my camera bag in the basement. My camera has not seen the light of day in several months due in part to the excellent camera on my phone also an opportunity to work with Groupon left me feeling emotionally exhausted and with no desire to pick up the camera, let alone to make photographs.

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I inserted a memory card, cleared the card of any photographs left over from a previous shoot and retrieved my hat, mittens and a cigar. I entered my car, clipped the end of the cigar and toasted the end before lighting the cigar and inhaling the fragrance of this fine smoke.

 I made the brief drive to the location where I wanted to shoot, parked my car and grabbed my gear. After turning on the camera, I set it to monochrome desiring to make every photograph in black and white. The overcast skies lent themselves to the simple beauty of monochrome as it allows the highlights and tones to stand out and speaks volumes regarding the mood of the lighting. It felt like a black and white day.

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Because of the time of year, I had the entire area to myself save for the one or two people also out sauntering. I made my way around Gateway Park to an area adorned by several benches. I brushed the water left over from a cold night from the surface of the bench, sat my camera bag down and pulled my journal from its hiding place in the back pocket of my camera bag. From the front pocket I retrieved one of my favorite fountain pens inked with the deepest of black inks to match the black and white mood in which I find myself.

I wrote with abandon, the thoughts pouring from my brain faster than they could be captured by the nib of the fountain pen. as I stopped allowing the ink on the page to dry, I lined my head back and allowed the emerging sun to shower me in its warmth.

Today was a good day.

An open letter to my photography clients

This is an open letter to my photography clients. 

 

As I make a decision which has ironically been a rather easy decision, I wish to say “thank you” to everyone who supported me over the last several years. This past year has been one of tumultuous feelings. I have experienced great joy and great sadness. 

 
It is with great joy that I have made a decision to close Christopher Kijowski Photography.

 

I had an amazing time spending the day with many brides, grooms and their respective family’s. The family’s and children I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with and photograph reminded me of what was important in my life and central to my happiness. I enjoyed seeing the smiling faces and the happiness which resulted from many family’s having an opportunity to have their photo taken. 

 

Last August I made a business decision designed to enhance my marketing without the need to increase my rates. This decision backfired and cost me dearly both financially and emotionally. I underestimated the kindness of others. Just to be clear, the decision was to have a coupon accessible through LivingSocial. Initially it did it’s job as business flooded in. Unfortunately, as a result of my naiveté, the business stopped as quickly as it had begun. I underestimated the goodness, the kindness of individuals who saw nothing more than a really great opportunity for themselves. As a result my business lost over 10K in just several months. The emotional toll which this decision took on me was even worse. I found myself rationalizing and justifying the photo shoots just to complete them and even thought at one point of rescinding the coupon and returning the pittance I received from LivingSocial. My value system, as strong and as ethical as it is took the lead and I am in the process of fulfilling the last several photo-shoots. I am very thankful to the small handful of individuals who understood, without me saying anything about my financial dilemma and took care to go above and beyond to financially compensate me for my efforts. My deepest thanks and gratitude to you.

 

My heart hurts at the thought of no longer being able to follow a dream that has been mine for many many years. The ubiquitous nature of digital cameras and  the number of people who have purchased a digital camera and offered both low cost and low quality photography has, in my opinion harmed the art of photography. The desire of many people to take advantage of a small business trying in this economy to eek out a living simply became too much for me. It was resign from my photography business or continue to attempt to manage the feelings of anger and sadness which became genuinely overwhelming. I bristle when I hear others use the word cheap as they refer to wedding photography. Please learn and understand  the difference between “cheap” and “inexpensive”. You get what you pay for. More times than I care to think I spent time with couples who had refused my prices choosing instead to go with the “cheaper” option only to be frustrated with the poor quality of the completed photography.

 
I will be returning to my two great loves; social work and writing. Thoreau wrote, “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you.” I feel that in this way I contributed to the demise of my business. I think it is possible to chase a dream so hard that we can actually damage the dream or at the very least the process of pursuing that dream.

Again, I wish to thank everyone who supported me over the last several years. My camera will always remain with me, in my car, in my pack and with me on my runs. If you wish to contact me regarding a wedding or family portrait shoot I would be happy to discuss your needs. If your only concern is the price which you place on your photography, please don’t contact me.
 

Oh yeah, just one more thing…please don’t purchase a coupon through LivingSocial, Groupon, etc. I know the deep discounts are enticing but what you’ll end up with are small businesses like mine falling by the side of the road because we can no longer compete with the big retailers who can offer volume discounts. Also remind yourself of the difference between words like “cheap” and “inexpensive”. My work is not inexpensive nor is it “cheap”.