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December 24, 2006

I dread the holiday season. Just before Christmas 2001, Paula came home from the hospital in good cheer, but relentless pain. Although no one would say it, she was in the last stage of terminal cancer. She died shortly after New Year’s Day. Every December since then, I’ve squirmed inside my own skin.

Working through the holidays, including on Christmas, is not sufficiently distracting. Tuning out the seasonal swirl of joyous songs and hearty greetings is impossible. This year, I hit upon a scheme to turn agonizing, negative energy into something creative. I decided to make a book of nature photos I’ve taken over the years. The result was a delightful project titled “Seasons.” I had several copies printed as Christmas gifts, and as a hopeful experience for myself.

The pleasure in doing this project came from recognizing gifts that won’t be found under any Christmas tree. The first of these gifts was from a perceptive colleague at work, who said to me one day when I was still in deep grief: “Hey, you look like the sort of guy who’d really enjoy a digital camera.” Seems he just happened to have one that he was selling, and he urged me to try it out.

Thanks to Rod Allee, I was reintroduced to simple, elemental enjoyment – in this case, of snapping scenes that caught my eye, and getting another jolt of pleasure seeing these scenes again when downloaded on my computer.

Carrying that camera around reintroduced me to appreciating Nature’s gifts – from breathtaking changes of daylight, weather and seasons to memorable interactions with wildlife. I spent many weekends and stops along the way during workdays taking snapshots of fleeting, appealing views. This sharpened my eye for significant details used in my journalism work. So I began taking photos on reporting assignments as another way of taking notes. This led to some of my photos appearing in the newspaper, as part of a toxic waste dumping investigation I worked on.

A third gift, then, was the pleasure of improving my photography skills. Paula and I enjoyed interchangeably snapping photos with inexpensive cameras that filled family albums of vacation trips and holiday seasons. Some of my pix of picturesque places – or hers – ran in newspapers with travel stories I wrote. The digital camera, with its multiple settings and instant reviewing, greatly improved my framing of fascinating scenes.

An additional gift of enjoyment was working with my friend Carol to select and arrange photos in the book. Engaging in a spirited exchange of artistic perspectives is a great pleasure. Sharing our creativity is also, surely, one of the most heart-felt gifts of the Christmas season.

(To see the photos in “Seasons,” send me an email for a link to the book pages at www.mypublisher.com.)

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