The best shot was the one I didn’t see coming


On Sunday morning, I got up early and drove my younger daughter to her synchronized skating practice. Upon dropping her off, I realized that the sun would be coming up shortly, and I decided to greet it as it did.

The sunrise was a dazzling display of clouds and light and water and sky. The shades were incredible, and I took a few pictures, knowing that they could never capture the scene sufficiently. Pictures don’t do many things justice, particularly in the natural world. But it makes us feel better to record something, just the same.

I came away from the scene with about two dozen pictures and a video, all stored in my cameraphone’s memory. One is really all I needed, but for some reason I had to take more. I enjoyed the scene with my own two eyes as well–as I was supposed to do–but the surplus of picture-taking resulted in my favorite shot of all, and the one I’ll share with posterity in this space.

A bicyclist out on a morning ride zoomed past me as I was taking one of the shots. I don’t know–and suppose I never will–if it was a man or a woman, how old the person is, or anything else about him or her. The person was wearing a hat and a backpack, and riding a bike along the lakefront in Chicago. But that person’s timing, and mine, created an interesting piece of imagery: The eternal sun and the temporary person, on a seeming collision course with each other. The sun has come up every day for millions of years, and those of us here to see it are shifting every single day.

I couldn’t have posed this picture any better if I wanted to, and that’s the point. Random, unexpected, and perhaps even unwanted things can sometimes turn out better than anything we could plan for. I’m grateful that I took more pictures of a sunrise than I needed to, and I’m glad that a biker I’ll never meet came out of nowhere and crashed into one of them. It makes for a nice image, and a reminder to take whatever comes and be excited about it.

The orange sunrise


On my morning commute the other day, I was looking toward the sunrise, waiting to merge into traffic. I was stopped at a red light, fortunately, or I wouldn’t have had the time to get my camera open and take this picture.

Filters can allow for any effect at all to be achieved with a photo, but I didn’t have to do anything to make this one look good. Nature and what Thoreau once called “The Great Artist” did all the work for me. All we have to do is appreciate it.

Well it’s Christmas eve


After driving through freezing rain in Missouri and Oklahoma, and then crossing the Texas panhandle and the desert terrain in New Mexico, I get to spend the holiday in a moderately warm clime. It’s below zero back home in Chicago, so I’m grateful to be in a place that’s snowy but not bitterly cold.

The sun rising over the Sandia mountain gave me a chance to snap a Christmas view to share with the world, along with my good wishes to anyone and everyone, near and far. May Christmas remind us of all the good things in our lives.

Sunrises are nice, too


One of the recurring themes of this blog has been the beauty of a sunset. I could find several posts where sunsets were described, and possibly a picture was added for emphasis. The colors that the sky turns–particularly when clouds are involved–is really quite remarkable.

But today I had the opposite experience. I was on my way to work in the morning when the most brilliant sunrise presented itself. I tried to find a view that was not obstructed by trees, but I also realized that colors like those wouldn’t last for very long. So I snapped the shot above, and present it here for the safekeeping of internet posterity.

Henry David Thoreau once referred to a “Great Artist” as the creator of scenes like this.The more I see of nature, the more I understand that we must treasure it and protect it the best way that we can.

Art is meant to be enjoyed, and no human could ever match the grand work that was on display over Chicago this morning. I felt very fortunate to have seen it, and even more fortunate to be able to describe it in this space.

May everyone take some time to marvel at what nature presents to us.

A booyah day


Today started off with some of the best things I know: A hot cup of coffee, an old classic on the radio (Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” if it matters), and a brilliant sunrise that defies an easy description. I thought of it as Daybreak over Chicago, and it was beyond beautiful.

My little one was on the ice at her skating rink, and I was making a water run for her when I saw the sun rising. I went inside the rink, gave her the water, and told her all about the sunrise. She wanted to go and see it, but there wasn’t enough time to get her skates off before the moment passed. These things don’t last for very long.

My daughter then wanted to do a handshake with me, which is actually a semi-elaborate series of jumps, shakes, and an ending where we do a hip bump and call out “Booyah” It’s something that’s only ours, and a combination of a secret ritual and an inside joke. It makes all of the tribulations of being a parent worthwhile.

At the end of our handshake, and after a shared laugh and a smile, my daughter told me it was going to be a Booyah day. I thought about the sunrise, and the coffee, and the music, and the city, and the love inside my heart, and told her she was absolutely correct.

Lincoln at sunrise

I’ve written about Lincoln several times before in this space. Some of the posts are here and here and here. There are many things about human nature that disappoint me, or worse, but our enduring interest in this boy from the Kentucky backwoods always makes up for them, at least in my mind.

This morning I was driving my eight year-old daughter to her ice skating lesson. The roads are so much clearer on Saturday morning than they are at any other time. As I was stopped at a red light at the corner of Western and Lawrence Avenues, I looked west toward the rising sun and saw a really cool image. I didn’t capture it with my camera, but sometimes that isn’t necessary. And if I do this right, I can describe it even better with my words. Let’s see how it goes.

The Lincoln statue at the intersection of Lawrence and Western is in a Chicago neighborhood known as Lincoln Square. The statue is called “The Chicago Lincoln” and was sculpted by Avard Fairbanks. Lincoln is depicted as a fully grown man, but has not yet reached the presidency. It’s a clean-shaven Lincoln, who cuts an impressive figure not as a Sampson-type railsplitter, but as an attorney and a man to be reckoned with.

But as the sun was coming up, it created a halo effect behind Lincoln’s visage.I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, as I started to think, once again, of what he accomplished to shape the nation that we live in today. And then, just at the moment that he had accomplished what he set out to do, it was taken away from him. Would the years following the Civil War, and the difficulties of putting the nation back together, have diminished our thoughts about him? Perhaps, but the Lincoln depicted in this statue hadn’t yet become the president.

The Lincoln that I saw, as the sun was rising behind his likeness this morning, was clear in his conviction that slavery is wrong, and he was also unwilling to just accept it as a fact of life, in the way that every American generation had done before him. He lost his bid to unseat a slave-appeasing senator in Stephen A. Douglas in 1858 but–fortunately for all of us–he wasn’t through yet.

The light changed, and I was once again on my way to the ice skating rink. For a minute or so, every time I blinked I saw the image of Lincoln, backlit by the rising sun. It wore off, as I knew it would, but it left me with the inspiration, once again, to try to put Lincoln’s accomplishments into words. I’ll never be able to capture it the way that I want to, but I’ll keep coming at it, over and over again. Lincoln deserves nothing less than that.