Thursday :: 25 November 2021

  • spanish.magic

    Seattle, WA 23 November 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/30s :: ISO-800

    Seattle, WA
    23 November 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/30s :: ISO-800

    Dear Stranger;

    Looking back on pictures I took this week to share on this post, I promised myself I'd write an entry and attempt to sleep before 2AM but it's now 2:17 AM as I start this, so I guess that blows that out of the water, but I think I better finish this before November slips away and December sneaks up on me. I think this is the kind of scenario that starts to get me into trouble, especially with letter writing, in which I place myself in a scenario in which I am doing something for the sake of doing something instead of doing something with an intent to compose something thoughtful.

    Maybe that's one of the things I need to work on, now that I've typed that into existence, to allow myself the freedom to seek quality over quantity–to let myself be governed more by a string of quality entries than a string of entries that span some length of time. Maybe I just need to allow myself the freedom to write something of which I want to write and not pressure myself into making something of quality or to keep a streak going, I don't now. Is this some new byproduct of the pandemic life? I feel like I'm in some internal intellectual crisis where I just want to create things–videos, art, letters, blog posts, just to let those juices flow.

    I want to tell stories. Maybe that's it.

    And then there is the part of me that wants to learn things–especially surprising things–about people. Mainly because to be surprised by something about someone, it reveals the assumptions I make, and it gives me an opportunity to reflect on how I see and receive people. It gives me a chance to evaluate my risk assessment skills in the sense of whether I should allow someone the benefit of my doubt or if I should perhaps focus more on protecting my safety (not just physical, but mental, too). All of this happens quietly, of course, because I think it's always fair to have someone reveal themselves without my judgment–which in turn allows me to exist more in the moment than in the future or in the past.

    That's my desire, at least. If anything, combining this with life as a crisis counsellor, it's taught me about how and when I start to make assumptions which then feeds back into some loop of adjustment, failure, adjustment, improvement. Is this what life is about these days?

    Anyway, one of my favourite discoveries lately has been learning a former Formula 1 world champion has been learning magic for about the same time as I've been seriously studying it. In fact, in listening to his recent podcast appearance, I've found we have very similar outlooks on life–finding some balance of experience while also being aware of our presence on the finite timeline that is our individual lives, but I think the most pleasant surprise was discovering I had assumed magic wouldn't be something he would ever touch. Maybe what's even better is he's actually pretty good, and in seeing an old video of him performing during a television interview (while wearing Ferrari kit, so...10 years ago), it's clear he's got that Spanish school flair that is a very big component of what's driving (ha!) my current style.

    That's right, Fernando Alonso is actually a pretty good magician. Maybe the trick he's been seen performing is a simple one, he's performing it instead of simply showing someone a trick–and, honestly, that's a lot better than a lot of the egos that call themselves great performers that I see these days.

    What's a surprise discovery that's been making you happy lately?

    Magically,
    -j

Monday :: 18 October 2021

  • time.flies

    Seattle, WA 18 July 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/3000s :: ISO-32

    Seattle, WA
    18 July 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/3000s :: ISO-32

    Dear Stranger;

    It's fall. It's October and I can't remember if September even happened and yet I've been feeling busier than ever reviving some of the things that fell asleep during quarantine–primarily playing the viola. Rehearsals have started again, and we're making sure to keep up to speed on all of the CDC recommendations and are also in a fully-vaccinated/masked environment, but as for me, I've been making sure I take time to do things I enjoy outside of work, and it's been making quite a difference.

    Still growing, still learning, but also still taking time to rest and heal from all of the work. There's a part of me that wants to kick myself for not learning all of this healthy boundaries stuff earlier, but there's also a part of me that wants to take that energy and redirect it so that whenever the chance presents itself, I can maybe help someone to not make the same mistake I've made. What I've done is done, and it's no longer something I can change, but I can definitely take the learned lessons forward.

    In the meantime, it's also probably a good time to try and go to sleep earlier.

    What's something you've learned over the past few months, stranger-friends?

    Magically,
    -j

Monday :: 23 August 2021

  • seeing.better

    Snoqualmie Pass, WA 15 August 2021 :: Canon 550D :: f/2 2hr. 6min. integration :: ISO-800

    Snoqualmie Pass, WA
    15 August 2021 :: Canon 550D :: f/2 2hr. 6min. integration :: ISO-800

    Dear Stranger;

    I was burning up vacation and I've realised I've been at my job for so long (you know, the one where I bang my head on my desk and airplanes that take you all over the world come out?) that I accrue vacation time faster than I've been using it. So a weekend or two ago, I decided on the spur of the moment to head out to my favourite dark sky spot and try a few things I wanted to try after self-critiquing and watching more how to vids regarding my earlier attempts at the North American Nebula (NGC 7000 for you fellow nerds out there). Granted this time around I was ready to start collecting data much faster than before, set up my tripod in a much more efficient and accessible manner and the usable frames were more in abundance than last time, so everything I had jotted down in my notes did yield improvements, but I only used about 2/3 of the frames I collected.

    Because I forgot about composition.

    See, the first 1/3 of the data I collected had the actual nebula framed to the far right of the frame, not really giving me much margin at my current beginner skill level. I forgot that when composing my shot it was important to imagine where the nebula was relative to the stars I was using as a reference (Deneb and surrounding stars that "cradled" the nebula) because typically it's not really visible through the viewfinder. Instead, my artsy instincts took over and I composed based on what I could see through the viewfinder and, well, I ended up learning something.

    What's funny is that there really wasn't much to see, so I'm not sure what on earth I was thinking, so...

    But I digress. What I found funny, after realising this part-way through the night, was that this really seems to be like a really good parallel to life (only killed 1.5 hours so next time I have my act together, I'll be able to get 3 hours of data at a time!). We learn, we screw up, we learn some more. We get better. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    That's it. That's where I was going with this.

    Fun-snarky aside, I'm trying to accept this cycle of mistake, learning, and improvement as something that is what my life should be (because it is) as opposed to this obsession with striving for crippling perfection because that's what was beat into me (not literally) during my childhood. There are places for this need to minimise risk and mistakes (commercial airplanes, for example), but one might be surprised at all the other places in life (and even to some limited degree in commercial airplanes) that imperfection can be acceptable. That's why we build-in tolerances in the things we engineer, work on resilience in ourselves with our therapist, all that stuff.

    And that's my ongoing journey, really, and it's been a lot tougher to accept than I originally thought because in doing so comes a lot of discomfort early on, but if you take a look at where you are and from where you've come, all that work is yours. You can see progress–and don't forget to give yourself the permission to take credit for the hard work you've done.

    This is my third try at this nebula since my first attempt in June. I've improved my setup routine, how I shoot my light frames, and changed how I stack and process the photos (mainly by using the software packages that I was afraid to use because they looked intimidating on the vids I watched). Little by little, though, we can learn where to focus our efforts, what we see, and really pay attention to the important things and then things really start to come out.

    In a way, everything can probably be made into an analogy for life, I know. And you know what? I really like that.

    What's new with you?

    Magically,
    -j

    (Video from this session is here: https://youtu.be/ux1cNhfw0CY)

Thursday :: 5 August 2021

  • holy.ghosts

    Seattle, WA 19 May 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/2.2 1/120s :: ISO-100

    Seattle, WA
    19 May 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/2.2 1/120s :: ISO-100

    Dear Stranger;

    If there's anything I've learned over the past few months it's the importance of boundaries (healthy ones) and to be smarter about the generosity that I have to give. There was a part of me that thought it had to be without bounds but I've realised that a large contribution to that viewpoint is a matter of perception and practicality, but that's not really the big lesson I found myself learning.

    The big lesson I've learned is that it's given me a better understanding of what is fair to expect from others and how to decide upon what that can look like for me. It's allowed me to better understand who is a close friend, who appreciates me and the unique ways they do, and with what I know to do with empathy, have a good idea of how I could be seen (this will never be definite, but also this gives me confidence in finding peace of mind), and more realistically process that in a way that makes sure I'm still intact instead of steamrolled. Or to stop giving chances to people that ghost you multiple times. Be generous, but don't let your generosity be wasted.

    Side note: lately, because I'm a bit twisted, I've been having "fun" with ghosts by being polite and respectful and thanking them for the time, for taking a chance on me, and also that I'm letting them know that I'm moving on after about a month of unresponsiveness–and then I move on. The "fun" comes from the observation that, interestingly, doing so usually gets a swift response but, armed with grace and respect for myself, I am able to proceed with the self permission to actually move on–that I responded with genuine respect and gratitude. That's a very important part of why this works; don't fake it (it's not worth faking it), really mean it by really finding a place of gratefulness and respect in doing so. It's a bit of a mind hack I've had to do for myself as not only does it give me closure, it gives me peace of mind knowing I've done my part, I've given them more than a reasonable chance and in doing so, lets me set my gaze forward to the next opportunity and gives me the self respect for my time that I deserve. And no, I don't respond back when they reply because, as I've notified them, I'm moving on. It's important to do that because that was the point, you know?

    This works for me because I found myself not really feeling respected and I would struggle to move forward and it would often put me in dilemmas of trying to move forward with new opportunities but also trying to suddenly accommodate the past and it would get...stressful. And it didn't have to be. It wasn't fun to be treated that way, either.

    Again, be generous, but don't let too much of your generosity be wasted.

    As a result, all of this has also given me a much better appreciation for the friendships and relationships that I do have with others.

    I think the only issue with this deeper appreciation I can see is that when I say, "thanks so much for your friendship" or something, I'll mean it more than ever...but I'll also I'll likely end up expressing my gratitude more often, too.

    What's something you've learned or are maybe working on?

    Magically,
    -j

Saturday :: 31 July 2021

  • something.something

    Seattle, WA 26 July 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/7000s :: ISO-32

    Seattle, WA
    26 July 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/7000s :: ISO-32

    Dear Stranger;

    The more conversations I have the more I start to build a picture of not only the things that people are going through, but also the things we do to others as human beings and it makes me a bit sad on one hand, but it also gives me a bit of hope because not only are they not alone, but I also don't feel alone because I spend some nights in my week with a bunch of amazing and caring people that bring such lifting energy to the night that I have to tell myself to take it easy and finish off my shift when scheduled–because we can't pour from an empty cup.

    I think this experience is currently teaching me the importance of empathy and how to be empathetic, but it's also given me a better idea of what could be a reasonable amount of empathy I can expect of someone should I wish to call them a friend. The past few months have been an extended re-evaluation of what friendship means to me as life has forced me to take a really good look at what is important to me when it comes to friendship.

    Growing is hard, sometimes it's painful, and it's really hard to see the benefit of going through all of this learning when we're in the middle of it all but so far, if there's anything I've learned, the best way out of it is through. And there are usually people that'll be there to help you along the way, so don't be afraid to reach out.

    That's all that I really had on my mind today, I guess. Also wanted to mark reaching Level 3 as a Crisis Counsellor because I feel like this is a journey I'm going to want to document. Sometimes it's okay to look back not to find ways to beat yourself up, but maybe to see how far you've come, right?

    What's new over yonder?

    Magically,
    -j

    020.2021-07-23 22.35.25

Saturday :: 26 June 2021

  • spreading.empathy

    Cle Elum, WA 18 June 2021 :: Canon 550D :: f/5.6 50 min. :: ISO-6400

    Cle Elum, WA
    18 June 2021 :: Canon 550D :: f/5.6 50 min. integration :: ISO-6400

    Dear Stranger;

    Last week I put my camera, tripod, and star tracker in my bag and drove to a dark location to revisit a hobby I was just starting to get into while I lived in Alabama, shortly before moving to Washington. I was the only one at the location, but I didn't really feel alone, to be honest. Not in some mystical kind of way, it was just the simple fact that on the outside it may have looked like a lonely scene, but I was trying my first real attempt at astrophotography with a DSLR and I was going through my notes like a checklist.

    I was on task, and I decided to also make a video (shameless link: https://youtu.be/aB1Ra3bI0u0), because I still want to continue to learn how to make videos, learn how to tell a story using that medium, and to also find my voice. I don't know what my voice is yet, and right now, I'm studying things, learning things, and I think this is just part of the process in which that voice eventually does shake itself loose and so I look forward to seeing it emerge.

    For now, I'm fumbling through words, speaking into a camera, trying to remember there's an audience of largely anonymous people behind the camera's sensor, and I'm also peering deep into space and visual time with another camera.

    During one of the first frames I took, a small meteor crossed the sky and it made me smile. It's been a while since I saw one of them, and the most memorable one I saw was in Alabama, shortly after a childhood friend passed away after their second bout with cancer. I like to think these happen for a reason, even if they may very well just be coincidence, but I did acknowledge the thought at the time, and I remember thinking, while looking for some familiar constellations, about how so many things are happening all at once, it's interesting to see what story emerges when one starts to pick out certain key events and trace their timelines in relation to each other.

    For instance, that night, I stood near a small pond, but I was staring deep into the interstellar ocean, searching waves of energy and gathering photons from a period of time that I simply cannot comprehend, all the while, earlier that day, a letter had made its own journey from a friend (with a friendship timeline that connects at some point when I lived in Alabama) that, unbeknownst to them, connects two events to the same person. It's a complex, multi-dimensional kind of thought, and I'm prone to these kinds of dense fascinations that keep me perpetually amused, but in this case, this night: the connections were many, crossing different dimensions of time, location, experience, and emotion that it was interesting to remind myself that this letter began its life only a few days prior, at around the time when I was planning this adventure to spend my vacation day, this series of events set themselves in motion without knowledge of the other, where they started individually only to converge at a specific mailbox on a specific night, with specific words and after a specific set of harmonious yet uncoordinated experiences.

    It's funny how life works like that.

    My experiences have been dense like that, lately, and I'm still working to explain them, but in the meantime, there's a really quiet but buzzing fascination happening inside of me when I think about it. I appreciate it. I get really excited about it (and makes the explanations much more difficult to understand).

    But, for now, this journey of empathy continues, and I feel like I'm just starting to get into the break-in process of how to use this skill. Breaking things in only comes through doing; rarely are there shortcuts and for what I'm doing, there is definitely no shortcut. I'm far, far from my comfort zone, but being this far from it is allowing me to see the truth behind that thing people always say about how the magic can only be found outside of one's comfort zone and even in just the first 19 conversations I've had, there have been some very uncomfortable ones, but it's showed me the power of being there for people in a time of need.

    Two weeks ago I helped 10 strangers, and I'm now one away form helping 20 so within the week, I'll be levelling up again, so I wanted to make sure I celebrated that first level-up before the next level-up.

    How are you, strangerfriend? What's something that you've been working on lately?

    Magically,
    -j

    Seattle, WA 16 June 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/60s :: ISO-200

Sunday :: 16 May 2021

  • practising.empathy

    Seattle, WA 10 May 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/45s :: ISO-500

    Seattle, WA
    10 May 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/45s :: ISO-500

    Dear Stranger;

    On Monday I started a battery of training modules because I wanted to prove to myself (mainly the negative self talk that still seems to linger from previous failed relationships) that I can be empathetic. I mean, I frequently wear a shirt** with "EMPATHY, KINDNESS, RESPECT" in large letters on it, so it only makes sense that I can practise what I'm screaming with my fashion choices. I'm about half-way through the training materials and while I knew it was going to be challenging, I didn't expect it to be as challenging as what I'm finding it to be, and I think that's the sign that that's the room for some much needed growth, so we'll see.

    For now, I continue with a willingness to learn and the genuine desire to try and make a difference in some stranger's life. I'm so grateful for the friends that said kind words about me for when I needed a reference–I promise your time was for a good cause.

    Also, I got my second shot, and I'm excited to let the vaccine bake and do its thing.

    I should write letters and postcards, too. It's been a while.

    Anything y'all haven't done in a while but really want to get back to doing? (Like travelling? Hugging?)

    Magically,
    -j

     

    I've received compliments on this shirt from all of the staff at the vaccination site on both trips, one of them even mentioned the fact that he saw Adam Savage wearing one. Get them here! https://www.constellationco.com/empathy-kindness-respect If you want to learn more about the story behind "Empathy, Kindness, Respect": https://www.constellationco.com/blog/2018/11/the-story-of-empathy-kindness-respect

    I've received so many compliments on this shirt from all of the staff at the vaccination site on both trips, one of them even mentioned the fact that he saw Adam Savage wearing one. Get them here! https://www.constellationco.com/empathy-kindness-respect
    If you want to learn more about the story behind "Empathy, Kindness, Respect": https://www.constellationco.com/blog/2018/11/the-story-of-empathy-kindness-respect

Sunday :: 9 May 2021

  • seeking.empathy

    Seattle, WA 10 April 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/2.4 1/666s :: ISO-25

    Seattle, WA
    10 April 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/2.4 1/666s :: ISO-25

    Dear Stranger;

    Some days I wonder what's it like to have someone feel so proud or so happy for you that it moves them to tears. I know, I've just watched "Free Solo" and, along with all of the other things I've watched during this year of quarantine is how much it moves me to see people succeed or to receive praise for things they've done–whether they've felt they deserved it or not. I like to think about what it's like for someone to really knock it out of the park in whatever they decide to undertake, all of the things they have to get right, and the consequences of getting it wrong–and then they nail it.

    But more so, there's the personal celebration afterward, but there's also those around them that celebrate for them. What's it like to have that? How does it feel to have someone be so happy for you? What's it like to accomplish something important to you that the person is happy that you simply accomplished what you set out to do and not so that you're now free to divert your energies to something else?

    This isn't a complaint, this is a recognising of something that I think has been missing in my life.

    And yet with it missing, it's what moves me so much that I get misty-eyed when I see someone or a team of people accomplish something truly great. And it's why, when I pay off my debts (oh, life), I feel a push to get a skydiving A license.

    I think.

    Pretty sure I'm going to go for it.

    Otherwise, I'm also in the middle of a search to be more empathetic. I can read off the dictionary definition of empathy, but what is it like to be empathetic? That's what I want to better understand. I've been told that I need to learn how to be empathetic, and I've been told I don't need to learn how to be empathetic, and the self-talk in me is currently saying it doesn't necessarily hurt to learn even if those close to you disagree with the more negative self-talk, so that's one of the latest self improvement projects I'm working.

    What are you working on? Doesn't matter what, self-improvement, home improvement, anything goes–whatcha workin' on?

    Magically,
    -j

Monday :: 26 April 2021

  • multiple.perspectives

    Seattle, WA 25 April 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/38s :: ISO-640

    Seattle, WA
    25 April 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/38s :: ISO-640

    Dear Stranger;

    Today I was thinking about the fact that a magic trick is a great example of people seeing the same thing but coming up with very, very different experiences from the event. Sure it's entertaining when it's successful, but it's also a mixture of deception, perception, and misunderstanding–things we normally associate with negative connotations only in this case, something positive. That contradiction alone was enough to keep me thinking about it for a good two weeks because, for a bit of a sober return to reality, it's representative of a lot of what we see in today's political discourse.

    But keeping with the context of magic, it's been interesting to go one route and break it down into a perspective that sees the trick as something that invokes real emotions through a fabricated reality. It's been a source of excitement and also a source of caution because as I think of it, it seems to be a rather fragile situation and probably should be handled with care–and it also seems like it's one of those risks that are worth the reward.

    Because, what if you could get someone to believe in themselves using a magic trick? How would you do that? Now I know a lot of magician friends would just use the easy answer of, "well, just have the magic happen in the spectator's hands" but that only goes so far, and the average effect that "happens" in the spectator's hand (or "in the spectator's mind") doesn't really get past the fact that it still has the residue of it being a novelty magic trick.

    What if a magician really made an honest attempt to take care with the presentation and scripting of an effect and got someone to really dig deep inside and feel an emotion? What if a magician could leave someone empowered, or thinking more openly about the world and their place in it. What if a magician could get someone to find a better balance of fear and hope when it comes to the unknown–to better know when to be skeptical and when to be more accepting that the unknown may actually be harmless or even helpful?

    What if a magician could get someone, whether consciously or not, to maybe better see a difference between keeping a secret from someone and keeping a secret for someone?

    That's what I'm exploring now.

    What's something you're exploring?

    Magically,
    -j

Sunday :: 25 April 2021

  • first.dose

    Seattle, WA 24 April 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/796s :: ISO-32

    Seattle, WA
    24 April 2021 :: iPhone 12 Pro Max :: f/1.6 1/796s :: ISO-32

    Dear Stranger;

    Today I:

    I put on one of my favourite shirts.

    I got my first dose.

    Thank you to all of the volunteers that made all of this possible and flow so smoothly.

    Magically,
    -j

    014.2021-04-24 22.24