Walking in John Denver’s Footsteps

For as long as I can remember, there has been an artist screaming for me to release him from somewhere deep within my soul. The only challenge has been I wasn’t blessed with a great deal of traditional artistic talent.

I love music, but I am incredibly tone deaf. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket? Apparently, that description is not adequate for describing my musical deficiencies. It is my understanding that I couldn’t carry a tune in a thimble.

While I love singing, and it sounds quite good to my ears, I have come to accept that I am the only one who appreciates what comes out when I (frequently) break into song. I have been told I am tone deaf. Perhaps, my Dad was doing me a favor when he set me straight at a young age by interrupting me in the middle of singing by bluntly asking, “Hey, what do you have against good music?” Many others have repeated that sentiment with similar questions over the years.

Can’t sing? Why not paint or draw? Trust me; I’ve tried.

I’ve played a part in directing the development of more ads than I can count. Unfortunately, it never worked out when I tried to sketch out a concept in a brainstorming session. Apparently I have an uncanny ability to make people look like trees, swimming pools like sinkholes, etc. One of my creative business collaborators once exclaimed, “Ohhh nooo, not another Neanderthal crayon drawing” when I began an attempt to illustrate a concept by sketching it out.

As a result of these and other artistic deficiencies, I’ve learned to laugh at my many shortcomings. My favorite saying to explain my musical and artistic ineptitude is, “I’d be a great singer if only I could carry a tune: I’d be a great artist if only I could paint!” I’m actually half-serious when I make that statement. I feel like I have the heart of an artist, but, too frequently, not the talent.

I think that is why photography has been such a blessing, such great medicine, for me. I may not be able to sing or draw, but I can frame a picture. And, when I occasionally do it correctly, I have a chance to share with others how I see the world. Thanks to great software, I can even come close to painting a picture through photographic manipulation. It makes me feel good and I always hope it lifts the spirits of others.

Mary and I love visiting friends and relatives in Colorado. Not only is it strikingly beautiful, it’s a great place to escape when the temperatures begin to soar in Arizona. More importantly, it calls forth the artist in many, many people (think John Denver and Rocky Mountain High).

The pictures featured in this post were captured during a respite this year on our way to Kansas for Mary’s mom’s estate sale. For more of our Colorado images and the location of where these photos were taken, check out our Exploration Communication Colorado gallery.

Now he walks in quiet solitude, the forest and the stream, seeking grace in every step he takes,his sight is turned inside himself, to try and understand, the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake. And the Colorado Rocky Mountain High, I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky. You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply. Rocky Mountain High, ….in Colorado….Rocky Mountain High.

– From John Denver and Mike Taylor’s Rocky Mountain High

Photo-remedy Travel Quick Tips

Some people tell us they come to our photo-remedy blog for the pictures, others for a little light-hearted humor, and still others for an occasional bit of wisdom from the people or research we quote. We also still hear from those that are attracted to our original concept – using photography and the creative process as a powerful tool to help them, when appropriate, better cope with whatever ails them. We know our readers include those who are fighting everything from arthritis and chronic pain to depression and even disabilities. Many are facing more than one of these challenges. This posting is primarily delivered for the original audience, but we think there is some ‘good stuff’ for almost everyone.

My most pressing issues are related to chronic pain that flows from a number of spinal issues and failed surgeries, psoriatic arthritis, and neuropathy. As long as I don’t try to do too much, photography almost always brings me significant pleasure and it frequently offers much-needed relief. I continue to maintain that photo-remedy is an outstanding alternative medicine. If it helps you get over a hump, I say that’s the right prescription.

One of the results of the lumbar and neck challenges I’m facing is declining dexterity in my hands and fingers. Those who knew me when I was younger probably think, “Weren’t you always clumsy?” Yes, that’s true, but I’ve taken it to a new level. I drop, fumble, and miss hand-guided targets on an all too regular basis. Plates, cat food, water, glasses, and even jars of pickles are almost daily visitors to the floors in our house.

There is an upside to this. When I drop or break a wine glass, I’m able to shout out, “Darn hands!”

Most of my professional career was spent in the travel industry. As a result, I still love to play tourist. I also REALLY love to take pictures when traveling. The problem is travel is extremely hard on my body, and we are a bit concerned that the current progression of my dexterity issues may eventually take away, or severely restrict, my ability to take pictures in the future. It is not a given, and we are fighting this, but decreasing dexterity has become a very real concern.

As a result, Mary and I have decided that this is the year we will finally attempt to travel to Ireland. The old adage ‘You better do it while you still can’ is a strong motivator. So, we will be planning to make a trip there later this year to attend a family friend’s wedding, and to hopefully spend some time with other family friends that will be in Dublin for the Emerald Isle Classic football game, which will feature the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the Midshipman of Navy.

We just got back from the auction where items from Mary’s Mom’s estate were sold. Our journey helped me capture some great images from Colorado and Kansas that I’ll be sharing in greater detail in upcoming posts. The trip helped me further test some of the items and approaches that we hope will get us to Ireland and back as pain-free as possible. This travel quick tip list is not meant to be inclusive, but we hope it will help others facing similar challenges. And, if we are really lucky, perhaps some of you will leave comments that offer your own photo-remedy travel tips and advice.

1-3) Much of my pain management approach involves avoiding mind numbing prescription medications as much as possible. I’m not critical of those that have to take that approach on a daily basis, but I try to avoid it when possible. When it comes to natural methods, nothing works better for me than ice. I rarely go a day without ‘icing’ for a couple of significant periods. I also try to ice both my neck and lower back when traveling. It makes the unbearable more bearable. Number 1,  pictured above is my ‘go to’ bag. Keep it dry, take it through security lines at the airport, fill it up at a soda fountain ice machine, and ask your flight attendant to refill as needed. You can take a similar approach when traveling by car. Numbers 2 and 3 are also awesome – they can be frozen or warmed up in a microwave for instant relief. Better to check these when flying.

4) Perhaps my greatest photo-remedy accessory invention. When traveling, I now take my camera mono-pod. When not using it to stabilize pictures, you can set it to the right length and use it as a walking stick. This helps replace the cumbersome canes that I inevitably drop nine or ten times a day. Using them this way is a bit hard on the devices, but you can easily replace them for $10-$20. I got mine at Walmart. At that price they are disposable, but I’ve been using mine for six months or so. Perhaps, I’ll ‘treat’ myself to a new one before going to Ireland.

5) You will not go back once you buy good, comfortable socks. Spend a little extra here and everything from your toes and feet up to your cranium will be grateful. Taking good care of your feet is especially important when traveling. Do not hesitate to invest in hiking socks from a sporting goods store or even diabetic socks (they are really quite comfortable, even for those who are not diabetic).

6) These specialty, easy to transport seat cushions offer great relief to those who have suffered low back trauma. They can be used in the car or carried on when traveling by airplane. If you don’t take care of your low back when traveling even on short trips, you may pay the price for a very long time. In my case, ignoring this issue played a role in my broken vertebrae and multiple degenerative discs.

7) If you can make space for them, hand massage units are great pain-reducing aids. I’ve had really good luck with a variety of Homedics products.

8) Photographers can’t leave home without their camera bags. A backpack has proven to be the best for me. It’s great for keeping all of your camera accessories, and there is often space left over for other items. I often take my iPad in my backpack. Oh, I almost forgot, don’t forget to pack your camera!

9) My Empi TENS is often one of my best friends when I just cannot get a handle on my pain. Since travel usually exasperates pain, I take the American Express ‘Don’t leave home without it’ approach with my TENS.

As I said, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. I am extremely thankful that I have access to all of these items. I hope one or more of these tips helps you! In the meantime, I am hoping they will be helping me see green soon.

– Greg

Note: Additional reader tips are always welcomed and encouraged.  Photo-remedy is published as a labor of love. Please feel free to share the site, or any of our posts, with others. Our Home Page always features an option for our readers to sign up to immediately receive new material as an email. New readers are always encouraged to review our  ‘Blog Background and Initial Post’ tab featured at the top of each page.