Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why Don't they Just Rebuild?

Ravaged by a series of missteps, bad luck, or a combination of the two, the remnants aren’t enticing.

All that work for nothing, he thought. The most well laid plans, a perfect entrance and exit strategy if there ever was one. Then something spectacular happened. Or perhaps not a single cataclysmic event, only a series of well orchestrated incidents that totaled up to failure. Why me, he asks. I’ve always tried to do people right; treat with respect and kindness. Tried to help others reach their goals.

I remember as a child riding through Panama City with my parents, enjoying the water of the gulf rolling in, then back out like clockwork. Opposite the beach stood rows of houses and businesses, some new, a few old and battered, others nothing more than a foundation, with debris still covering some. The remnants of a violent storm a year earlier, still leaving a trail of evidence. As a young child, maybe eight years old, I looked at this stark reminder with wonderment. With youthful innocence and no predetermined ideas of why it couldn’t be done, I remember thinking, why don’t they just rebuild? Got the water right here, it’s a great spot, the others rebuilt, why don’t they just do it?

Life’s heavy weights had not yet begun to pull on me, one negative thought at a time, a sharply spoken word by an authoritative figure, well meaning people that simply had no ambition to do anything and could only teach what they knew. In my youthful bliss I simply couldn’t understand it.

Why do some choose to rebuild, while others seem to vanish, leaving behind a trail of debris and unfulfilled dreams?

The debris field may be the most prevalent deterrent to recovery for a failing enterprise. Storms will come and go, taking with them a fair share of dreams and hard work. A solid foundation will stand the test of a storm, despite the destruction of the main structure. The foundation, upon which everything of substance began, is still there, waiting to be rebuilt upon, better this time, correcting a few mistakes along the way. But to rebuild, the debris field must be dealt with. Painful and overwhelming, the cleanup takes time. Credit takes time to re-establish, memories are sometimes slow to fade. It’s tough to see over the pile of reminders.

Lying in the debris field, bleeding and full of despair, a half wall remains, reminding of what once was and could have been. A painful reminder of the failures of one’s past. Dwelling on the remnants will not entice anyone to move forward, but only to feel despondent. What’s the use? I’m a failure, I can’t do anything right.

Cleanup is essential. No rebuilding is possible until it’s complete.

On your back, looking up at the overwhelming scene, a swift blow comes across your head, a piece of lumber from your dismal failures. So expected, yet so unexpected. Could be a creditor, with others lined up waiting their respected turns. Could be a family member, full of venom, waiting for the opportunity to rub salt in your wounds. Perhaps it’s that good friend you thought you knew so well. Definitely a naysayer.

If only they could walk in my shoes……

Sadly, some never build it back. Better than before, off the same foundation they have already worked hard to establish. One day in the not so distant future, a savvy investor will walk by the field of debris and say, “If they aren’t going to rebuild, it, I am.”

Start with an unshakable foundation and mix with determination. Nothing can stop you now.


You may be familiar with the ‘50’s experiments with rats. They were placed in containers of water with walls too high for climbing and water to deep for standing. The rats drowned quickly. However, if the rat was rescued after it stopped swimming just before drowning, and then subjected to the same experiment later, the rat could swim much longer.

Hope is important to people as well. Even if it’s the carrot dangling in front of us, offering that false sense of hope and security, it keeps us going, at least for a season.

I remember a story a coworker told me years back. His aging grandfather had recently died, well into his nineties. He had lived an independent lifestyle forever, even after retiring from work. He stayed busy with chores around the house, made his own oatmeal every morning. One day one of his kids decided he was much too old to live alone, and insisted he sell the place and move in. With nothing to strive for, no goals left, no hope for anything other that sleeping and eating, he went downhill quickly and was soon gone. How many times does this happen to retirees?

This morning I was on our sun room with my wife. We have new windows, and you can slide the windows to a variety of positions to have it screened in, or completely open. Susie noticed a wasp flying around, bumping in to the windows, trying to get out but well beyond the point of fear or fight. He had lost all hope, and out of instinct kept buzzing around the same spot, weakly trying to escape. He was following the same routine that had probably started the night before when he flew in the open door to the back yard, then became trapped when someone came in and closed the door.

Susie walked to the window and opened it so the wasp could escape. Oddly, the wasp kept banging in to the glass, a foot away from freedom. She tried to shoo the wasp toward the open window, but instead of darting violently through the room in self defense, looking for a method of escape at the same time, he weakly flew back to the same spot, ignoring the help. He actually fought against moving in any other direction. I walked over and tried moving him toward a different window, which was now wide open. The wasp had lost all hope, and now had tunnel vision. Running on nothing but instinct, he spent his last hours suffering in a no win situation, only a foot from freedom.

Where do we place our hope? Is it right in front of us all along?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Can't Miss a Thing

Some people like to relax and reflect while on vacation. Not me.

As I get older I’m more and more afraid that I’ll miss something, or worse, I won’t get another opportunity to return. It isn’t being more appreciative of things; reality has a way of settling in, saturating everything we do after the clock has ticked a few more times than we’re comfortable with.

My kids are fine with sitting in and reading one afternoon, ignoring the sun and the beach, or the splendor of the mountains. They know without a doubt the sun will rise again, opportunities will repeat themselves. Same way I was at that age.

This week my family has enjoyed Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Beautiful and hot.
We did the expected family stuff that we enjoy together. Ate burgers, some seafood, stopped at an ice cream stand (a couple of times,) the kids played miniature golf. The surf was strong, the shells plentiful. The shells were like walking on glass at times, they were everywhere.
My three kids spent their share of time in the game room, polishing their ping pong skills. Late in the week, my two daughters entered a ping pong contest, and did pretty well.
At night, my wife Susie and I went for walks along the boardwalk along the waterfront. Caught up in the neon glitz and the sounds of a brass quartet, along with other musicians hired by different venues, the night life was anything but boring.
By day, my daughters and myself enjoyed strolling along the beach, looking for unusual shells, taking in the sounds and smells of the Atlantic.
I’ll never tire of these things, especially considering the precious few years we may have with all three kids still at home and traveling with us. All three are teenagers this year.

However, beyond this is where I am changing my definition of a vacation. By my own definition, in the past, vacation meant rest and relaxation, a time for regeneration, for clearing the mind for a return to the daily habits. Not any more.

I’ve decided I can rest when I get home.

The first morning I woke up in the condo, I set the alarm for 5:30AM. I figured this was ample time to dress, grab my camera gear, head down the elevator, and be ready for a 6:04 sunrise. I was right about the time, but I discovered the sun rose a good bit further north, so I did not see the ball of the sun rise up from the water’s edge. The reflection across the water was beautiful, and the colors very nice. I was surprised how many shell hunters were already combing the water’s edge, and digging through the layered pile of shells left behind by previous high tides. I still managed to find a few interesting shells to add to my collection.

Huntington Beach State Park at Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina. If you love nature, hiking, the beach, or any of the above, this is a place to check out. Entering the park after paying the $5 per person admission ($5 total in this instance,) I soon crossed over the causeway, a two lane road, with a short wood fence on either side (short enough to step over,) and a sidewalk for walking. A couple hundred yards long, the rode provided a boundary for fresh water and salt water.

The fresh water side was loaded with alligators, some barely visible beneath the water’s surface, while others sunbathed on a small sand bar off shore. They were in their own territory; while I was there one crossed over the road from fresh water to salt water, and I watched a game of cat and mouse as a beautiful bird was stalked, but not captured. A local told me the causeway is not a place to stroll after dark; shine your flashlight as you drive across and you will see red eyes flashing back at you.

The salt water marsh was void of water for the most part when I arrived; loads of fiddler crabs darted in and out of their homes amidst the smell and muck. It looked to be a very inhospitable place from where I stood. Later in the day I returned to find the marsh full of water. Seems the high tide of the nearly Atlantic Ocean filled in as a natural overflow. Amazing how the life there can adjust to such a distinct change in conditions every few hours.

I met a photographer there using the same gear I use; nice meeting someone with similar interests. Had a nice conversation, and we’ll stay in contact.

The 1930’s Huntington beachfront mansion is owned by the state, and is well worth the $1 to tour the place. Sits adjacent to one of two public beaches in the park.

Friday morning I decided, after some debate with myself, to visit Bird Island in North Carolina. A little over an hour drive, I got up at 4:15 and arrived just before 6. I made the drive with the top down, and it was so nice during the cool morning hours.

As I left the car and walked the long wood platform to the beach at Sunset Beach, I looked to the left and saw the ball of the sun coming up behind a silhouetted old tree. This came as a surprise, since I was too far south at the condo. I took a series of images before beginning my journey down the beach.

Bird Island, a 2K acre plus sanctuary owned by the state, began down the beach a ways. Isolated from Sunset Beach until Hurricane Bonnie filled in the gap in 1999, the state purchased the birding sanctuary in 2002.

I love the unspoiled landscape of a relatively undisturbed barrier island. It shows how our resort areas could hold up to nature with less buildup. Dunes as high as 15 feet, maybe a little higher.

Someone added a mailbox a ways down the beach, at the dunes. With the phrase “Kindred Spirits” written on the side, several journals and pens lay inside the box, some in plastic bags with seals. Visitors, including myself, wrote their thoughts of this fabulous place.

About a 3 mile round trip for me, including a walk around the corner at the end of the beach, I enjoyed the beauty and sounds of Bird Island. A handful of joggers and bike riders, and one other photographer, enjoyed it as well. All kindred spirits, judging from the expressions and camaraderie displayed by individuals that did not know one another.

All in all, my kind of vacation. My family all had a wonderful time, and enjoyed the time together. We also appreciated a touch of one another’s individuality as well. Too bad we ran out of time; my oldest daughter wanted to ride the slingshot, and I wanted to do the parasailing.

Maybe next round.