Goats, Plantations and Swamp Flowers

Yesterday, Erica and I visited Magnolia Plantation which lies a few miles north of Charleston, SC.  Originally it covered 3000 acres but its area is now around 500 acres. The grounds around the plantation are a wonderful mix of very old gardens, wild areas, meadows and miles of paths with the Ashley River meandering along one side. Magnolia is one of the few plantations that are still owned by the heirs of the original family that build it over 200 years ago. I believe it is the 13th generation of the Dratyon family.

The current plantation house is the third one erected and is somewhat smaller than the original one. The first one burned. The second was destroyed in the Civil War. The majority of the furnishings are all antiques and from the early 1800s. There was also a room that displayed a lot of old photos, maps and documents detailing the history of the plantation and its owners.

Erica and I spent several hours touring the lush forests, swamps and planted gardens. We decided to visit a small petting zoo that contained farm type animals; goats, peacocks, roosters, chickens, pigs and turkeys to name a few. At the gate we were greeted by a very precocious chicken that Erica dubbed Henrietta. She was obviously looking for food, but we pretended she was there to welcome us to the zoo.

After entering, we walked around a bit. I turned and saw one of the goats coming up to Erica. Erica had an expression of excitement as she thought a friendly, cute goat was coming to say hello. But, before she could blink an eye, the goat grabbed out of her hand our map to the plantation, the ticket to get into the plantation house and my receipt for the entrance fees. I tried to grab them from the goat, but he was too quick. After laughing for some time, we made our way to the plantation tour where Erica had to explain that a goat ate our ticket. Apparently, they believed her as we were not the first to meet the same fate!

Rain started to come down after lunch, but we decided to tour the Audubon Swamp to view the lovely cypress trees and vibrant yellow flowers blooming all over the swamp. It was quite nice to walk in the rain with the umbrella. A peaceful feeling enveloped us during the 1 ½ mile walk. It was very relaxing and a wonderful end to a fantastic day.

Michael

Enjoying Charleston

Erica and I are in Charleston, SC for a few days. Neither of us had been here before, so we arrived in high expectation.

The city is situated on a peninsula surrounded by several rivers and islands. Walking the streets, gives you a New Orleans French Quarter feel but it would be remiss to compare completely. Charleston has its own flavor. It has a deep colonial history going back to the 1600’s.  It was a key city during the civil war.

The food here is amazing. Some people we met suggested that we eat our way through Charleston. In other words, go to one restaurant to eat appetizers, go to another restaurant to eat the entree, and finally choose another one for the dessert. It seemed like a good plan. The food we have tried up to this point has been amazing. Our favorite restaurant so far is place called FIG. Strangely enough, it stands for Food is Good. And indeed it was.

Charleston is a great walking city with lots of nooks and crannies. The people are very friendly. The art scene is huge. There’s a lot of history. We’ll do and see as much as we can in the short amount of time we have. It’s a tough job, but we are up for it.

Michael

Passion for Travel

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. – Robert Louis Stevenson

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. – Lao Tzu

My passion for travel is neck and neck with my passion for photography. When I combine the two together, the feeling is close to overwhelming!

Travel has become quite an addiction for me. It doesn’t really matter where I go or how far. I love seeing what is around the next bend or over the next hill. Though I may have a destination in mind, I especially love what happens along the way.

Unlike photography, my intense love of travel began much later in my life. But, I’m working hard at catching up for lost travel time. Really, though, I haven’t lost any time. I’m fortunate to have visited 45 of the 50 U.S. states, 16 countries, and four continents to date.

The people I meet, the new foods I get to try, the incredible places I visit, the experiences I have that change me for the better and the sheer joy of the journey are why I’m passionate about travel.

Here’s to the next trip.

Michael

My Excellent Guitar Teacher

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. – William Arthur Ward

I have an excellent guitar teacher. I’ve been working with him for 3 or 4 months now. My goal was to learn some music theory and some techniques for playing lead guitar. I had learned a lot but I wasn’t satisfied with my progress on playing lead. It was coming slow and I didn’t seem to be making much progress.

So, two lessons ago, I brought up my frustrations to my guitar teacher. I looked him right in the eye and asked if I was really cut out to play lead since it seemed to be coming very slowly for me. I asked him if I should just focus on being an excellent rhythm guitarist. He looked right back at me, paused for a moment and said “No.”

He said what I needed was to learn a lead from some songs that I enjoy. We would then attack the lead playing combined with music theory from that perspective. I said okay. Let’s give it a try. I had to pick a song I wanted to learn the lead on. So, I choose one (Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd) and in the next 25 minutes, he taught me the lead for that song. I was astounded at how fast I picked it up. We also analyzed the song to look at the theory underlying the melody.

Within one session, my guitar teacher was able to completely turn my attitude around. It was brilliant. With the next lesson I learned another song I’ve always wanted to learn (From the Beginning – Emerson, Lake and Palmer). I am now feeling much better about my progress. That changed perspective is propelling me forward faster now.

I’m glad I’ve found this teacher. He is a rare breed.

Michael

We Are Responsible

Through the balance and the chaos, we alone are responsible for our own happiness and success—or lack of it. It’s up to us to design a life that works. – Cynthia Good

The simple thought that we alone are responsible for own happiness and success is a powerful statement. It’s one that many people ignore or believe to be untrue. I, on the other hand, have found this thought to be one of the most freedom inducing beliefs of my life.

It’s so easy to blame others or to give away our power of choice. When things are not going good in our lives, it can be difficult to take responsibility. It can be depressing to think we might be at fault for our own problems.

For me, it feels better to know I’m in control. I like the idea that I can make my life what I want; happy or not happy. I relish in the belief that I can change at any moment the direction my life is going. I don’t have to settle for something I don’t want or desire. It’s the ultimate freedom.

Only we know what’s best for our lives. Only we know what we truly like and dislike. Only we know what will make us feel fulfilled. Only we can control our attitude and reactions to events around us.

Only we can choose to be happy.

Michael

Fall Has Arrived

Fall has definitely arrived in the Northeast. I swear it was summer one day and then it was in the low 40s. There didn’t seem to be much of a transition. I don’t have a problem with that at all.

As fall is a favorite time of year for me, by the end of the summer, I’m anxiously awaiting it anyway. The color transition up here in the northeast is spectacular even in the years where the colors seem muted. But, the years when the colors are intense are quite special. I’ve had the fortune to see several of those.

If a season can bring me happiness, then fall would be the one. It’s one of the reasons why I like living up here. When I was growing up in the South, we didn’t really have four seasons. Two maybe and sometimes we had three. So, I always make sure I get the full fall enjoyment factor every year. I either take a special trip to New Hampshire or enjoy the color surrounding the inland areas of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Ah, time to go and see some more.

Michael

The Best Years are Now

The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny. – Albert Ellis

I didn’t learn this lesson until I was in my middle years. Before that, I blamed just about anything I could that was not me; the government, the economy, my boss, my childhood and etc. The idea that my problems were my own was a foreign idea and one that did not sit well with my belief system at the time. Those thoughts left me with a sense of powerlessness about the course of my life. Even though I had many good times throughout my life then, there was always an undercurrent of “I’m not in control.”

Towards the late 1990’s, I begin to suspect that the world worked much differently than I had previously believed. I met people that seemed to be in complete control of their lives and didn’t care what was going on anywhere else in the world. They blamed no one else for their misfortunes or their successes. I started reading books that delved into these topics.

Little by little, my approach to my own life changed. I saw a dramatic difference in my thoughts, perspectives, attitude and beliefs. I did have to take a deep dive down into a quagmire for a complete transformation from the old me, but that is for a different story.

I felt like I was growing by leaps and bounds in a short period of time. When I looked back on my life, it appeared somewhat stagnant while my current life was like a kayak on a fast moving river. I liked the new sense of freedom that came about from believing that I was in control of my own destiny.

The point of my story is to convey the message that your thoughts are your own. Your attitudes can be changed and controlled. Your belief system can be adjusted. You hold the reigns for your own life. Not one thing or person one can take that from you unless you believe otherwise. As our thoughts, attitudes and perspectives change we see the world differently. We understand the power of every individual including ourselves. We now know that we can be and do anything. As some have said, the world is our oyster. Life can be fun and fulfilling. We just have to make the decision to go there.

Michael

Follow Your Passion

Many of us are afraid to follow our passions, to pursue what we want most because it means taking risks and even facing failure. But to pursue your passion with all your heart and soul is success in itself. The greatest failure is to have never really tried. – Robyn Allan

Do you follow your passions? If not, why? Are you fearful of the opinions of others? Do you feel like you can’t do whatever it is that you feel passionate about? Do you feel guilty? Do you place unreasonable expectations on yourself?

I think this is one of the great secrets of life. When we follow our passions, we feel alive. We feel fulfilled. We feel that life has meaning. We feel like we are getting things accomplished. We are happier.

I have many passions. Sometimes I wonder if I have too many. :-)  Frankly, I don’t think you can have too many. If you love to do something and it gives you great pleasure, then you should do it every chance you get. We all deserve to lead a happy life and do things that are both fun and meaningful in our lives. It’s a basic human right.

So, if you have been holding back from doing something that you feel passionate about, then get out there and do it. This isn’t about anyone but your. Don’t hold back. There are no good reasons to prevent yourself from enjoying life.

Be an example for others and follow your passions; follow your dreams. You don’t have to do them well or be the best. You just have to do them.

Michael

Are You Laughing

The amount you laugh in your relationships with others is the true measure of the health of your personality.- Brian Tracy

Are you laughing enough? Do you spend time with friends or significant others smiling, joking and laughing?

Regularly having fun and laughing consistently are important for continued emotional and mentally health. In fact, laughter has a positive effect on your immune system and heart health. It is great at reducing stress and relaxing the whole body.

Laughter can be the perfect attitude adjustment and helps the mind to think more clearly. Your perspective can broaden with regular laughter. In the book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses experiments showing that the simple act of making a face can quickly change your emotional state. We all know that our emotions translate to facial expressions, but these experiments showed that producing a smile or frown actually caused the corresponding emotions to express themselves. I found that fascinating.

So, a simple technique to help you lift out of a bad mood would be to smile even if you initially don’t mean it. The act of smiling will cause a positive shift in your emotional state. The more you do this, the better you can feel.

Smile a lot. Laugh as much as you can every day. Find humor in every situation.

Michael