Life as seen through my lens…
It’s all to easy to look at your life through your own eyes and draw a totally wrong (or at least badly distorted) picture of it, where others looking at the same life from a different vantage point might well paint a totally different (and much more flattering) image. How you see something depends on where you are looking at it from. Seems too obvious to state I know, but I saw something today that really hammered this home for me.
I grew up in England. I lived about 40 years of my life there, and while I had the benefit of movies, television, and the Internet to tell me that other stuff was out there, most of my first 40 years were spent in a small but (mostly) affluent country that thought it was the creator of the modern world.
Almost 10 years ago I moved to America. The land of the brave and the free has a lot to offer, but it also has a very particular view of its place in the world, one that is not necessarily supported by historical fact or by much of the rest of the world.
I suspect I’m right in saying that everyone reading this has one thing in common – we all live on planet Earth. The blue and green globe that serves as our collective home seems huge. So huge that our minds cannot comprehend the distances between us and the other objects that share the universe of which we are a part. Many that occupy this planet think we are we own it, and that we are the most wonderful, powerful, intelligent living things in the universe.
I’m not one of those people. The universe is too big and full of “stuff” for it to be even remotely likely that we have the only planet on which sentient, intelligent life has evolved. Just look at the clear night sky – even if you have a lot of light pollution where you are you’ll see many many stars. Just how many of those stars have planets orbiting them? How many of those planets have the right conditions for life? All we can really do at the moment is speculate, but I doubt the answer is zero.
What got me to write this was seeing a picture on Facebook; this picture (courtesy of NASA JPL)…
The small bright dot upper-left of center is us. It’s the Earth. It’s this HUGE planet that we live on, and it’s how we look from Mars. A few pixels in an image of a sky as seen from another planet. You can’t even make out the continents, let alone anything that mankind might have done on it. It’s a dot in a sky full of dots.
Next time it’s dark and the weather permits, look again at the night sky. If you are lucky you might see a couple of the other planets that orbit the Sun with us – perhaps Jupiter or Venus or Mars or Saturn. But with those you’ll see countless stars, each of which could well have it’s own set of orbiting planets, and any one of them could be home to beings, looking up at their sky. They won’t see us or our home, as we don’t see them, or their homes, but they might, just might see our star, the Sun, and be wondering if there is anything there.
One day we’ll know. Until then, I hope more people on this planet get to consider their lives from a different viewpoint. If that were to happen more, we might, just might, have a chance to find out who else is out there, and how we can all help one another to live better lives.
Many parts of the US continue to be hammered by Winter storms. The UK is saturated by rain. Meanwhile, here in California we are facing the worst drought that we’ve seen in recent times, and we’d happily take all the snow and rain from those that have had enough if there were some easy way to do so.
We do have some relief on the horizon – there was some limited rain over the past weekend, which fell as snow at higher elevations, and more is falling now, but will it be enough? Only time will tell.
I have to wonder though that given all of our efforts to pipe other liquids around the country and beyond, why can’t we do the same for water?
Yesterday was a fun day… my daughter (mother of these two adorable monkeys) had to work, and my wife was helping as a volunteer at a Girl Scout weekend camp, so I did my grandfatherly duties by looking after these two for the day. As the weather has been unusually warm and sunny (California – drought – all that fun climate change stuff), I decided to keep them happy and busy by taking them to the beach.
After an hour’s drive we arrived in Half Moon Bay where we parked up and spent a few hours on Poplar Beach. You have to pay for parking there, but it’s not that expensive, and the parking fee has the advantage of serving to keep the numbers of visitors down, so while we didn’t have the beach to ourselves there was a lot of room to run around and play.
Poplar Beach is long and sandy, and the sand is good for making sandcastles too, so both little monkeys set to the task of sand construction with their sand toys…
It wasn’t long before the lure of the waves became more interesting than the sand, and so after a few rounds of wave-tag, I had two rather wet little monkeys.
After a change and a short drive down the coast-hugging Highway 1, we stopped at Pescadero State Beach. This beach has a nice mix of rock-pools and sand, and has some nice sheltered rocky coves for when the wind is blowing. In the summer this beach can get very fog-bound and cold, but on this mid-winter day it was warm and sunny, so in their swim costumes the little monkeys took to the beach for round two of some beach fun.
Both having been unexpectedly soaked in the waves at Poplar Beach, neither of them was interested in the water, so instead they made more sand castles, and also explored (climbed over) some of the rocky terrain.
The day was getting long, and so after a couple of hours here we bundled back into the car for a little drive further down the coast to Pigeon Point Lighthouse where we stretched our legs and explored the area around the lighthouse. We even saw a couple of spouts from migrating whales out in the Pacific Ocean.
It was here we found the telephone box. One of the things about California’s Highway 1 is that a lot of it’s run has no cellphone coverage because of the surrounding terrain and the remoteness… so at various stops along the route you can find working phone boxes. Watching the two monkeys explore the booth made me think that their generation will likely be the last one that really knows what a ‘traditional’ phone looks like. These curiosities will likely disappear for good, resigned to history like the VCR, cassette tape, and other pieces of tech that we have left behind in our never ending drive to improve the devices we live with.
Anyway… after exploring the lighthouse we headed for home, but first a stop for some food, and for that we stopped at Cameron’s Inn Pub and Restaurant in Half Moon Bay. This California-ized British Pub is the perfect place to stop and enjoy a drink and some food, while immersing yourself in all of the best parts of a British Pub. It’s kid-friendly too, which with a 2 and 4 year old pair in tow was a blessing! After a lovely meal (they do some wonderful English food, which for an ex-pat like me is a real treat), we explored an old London double-decker bus before getting in our car for the hour long drive home.
Accompanied by music from Disney’s Frozen, played from the internet on my smartphone, through the speakers of my car, we sat in the expected queues leaving Half Moon Bay along route 92, and got home just as both little monkeys were ready for bed… after a quick bath to wash off the sea water and sand that had accumulated through the day, both were in bed and snoring within minutes – the sure sign of a fun day with Granddad.
We tend to fill our lives with “busy stuff” just to keep ourselves occupied. I am as guilty of that as the next person, but every now and again I force myself to get away from all that “stuff” so I can make time to enjoy the wonderful things around me.
On one such escape I found myself at the beach by Pigeon Point Lighthouse, a few miles south of Pescadero on California’s Highway 1. On this unusually warm sunny winter’s day I left my car at the side of the road and started walking along the trails that weave through the vegetation. Sprinkled along the trails are benches such as this one where you can sit and enjoy the scenery.
The view from the bench is perfect for reflecting on what is important – the ocean, the rocks, the beach, the wildlife, and the lighthouse – all metaphors for how we should all be living our lives. I could have sat there for hours enjoying the view, but then I would be missing out on much more beauty that the Pacific coastline has to offer.
As much as anything else, this little excursion taught me that I need to do this more often. Rather than just doing “busy stuff” I need to get out more and enjoy the beauty that this wonderful planet we all call home has to offer.
For the past 7 years my wife and I have been repeat visitors to this place. We’ve now stayed at Howard Creek Ranch Inn (HCR) 15 times and we will be back there for more visits this year. Why? Because it’s at the north end of Highway 1 on the Pacific coast, so easy access to everything that Mendocino County has to offer, but more importantly it oozes rustic charm, and with no cellphone or (reliable) internet service it gives you that much-needed occasional break from our hectic connected lives. Oh, and the breakfasts are wonderful too, as are the hosts (Sally and Sunny Griggs).
I took this photo of the farmhouse at HCR on January 1, 2014, but the timeless look of the place on a slightly foggy afternoon made me want to have a little post-processing play… Click through and view this full screen for best effect.
If you do happen to visit Howard Creek Ranch, please mention me to Sally. 🙂