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The Gift

Eleven years ago, my kidneys shut down. My death was averted through the miracle of organ transplantation. At least that’s how I felt about the disease that killed my mother but which can now be treated with dialysis. I sent my friends long, happy-hysterical, picture-filled word documents in the aftermath of my euphoric battle with death. My attacker lay strewn along the beaches of Sanibel Island, desiccated by the sun and eaten in tiny mouthfuls by sand flies.

I was dancing the gift of life. My body hummed with electricity. “Nature without check with original energy”, as Whitman would put it. Or it might have been the high doses of prednisone :)

Oo wa ditty

I dedicated my time to that gift. I saw it everywhere and tried my best to record and share it. I had a mission. I wrote a personal mission statement and took up photography as if I hadn’t left it (I had, for twenty-five years).

But death has a way of changing his tactics. We compare ourselves, becoming quick to anger, judgement and pointless debate. It eats away at simple joy, filling us with rage and frustration. It attaches itself to the soul like barnacles, waiting to apply the coup de grace.

Blue salt

Salt and ice eating its way through metal in a blue Toronto winter

I know we all feel that way sometimes. Not just me, but so many I’ve known and loved and others I’ve loved from afar. Reaching back for a mission statement is the last thing to do. I know where my mission statement is – on my desk in a folder I don’t have the heart to open. Better not compare oneself with one’s better self. Maybe it’s the loss of my dear friend Melanie after a seven-year battle with ALS, Death’s ugliest swordsman.

Mel and Jojo

Melanie in better times, delighting and being delighted by my daughter

Here’s something I’ve revisited. It often works for me. I hope it works for you.

Song of Myself (partial, 1892 version)



I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,

Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,

I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,

Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,

Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,

I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,

Nature without check with original energy.


Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,

I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,

The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,

It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,

I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,

I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,Leave of Grass

Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,

My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,

The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,

The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the wind,

A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,

The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,

The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,

The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?

Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,

You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.


I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end,

But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now,

And will never be any more perfection than there is now,

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,

Always the procreant urge of the world…..

It Started with a Shimmer…..

Amazing post from the great Joe McNally – the passion, the creativity, the visioning and the work!! Visit him at!/portfolio/C0000VjAIFt

Photofocus (old site)

Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome Joe McNally to Photofocus. While Joe’s a busy guy, he’ll be making some posts here from time to time. Please give a warm welcome to Joe and encourage him by leaving feedback on the article and sharing it with your friends.

It Started with a Shimmer…

Actually, a shimmer and an idea.

I don’t know why the folks at Nikon and the Photo Plus Expo administration listened to me when I came to them with Halloween ideas. For someone such as myself, raised up on comic books and the dark fantasies of Mordor, the notion of distressed trick or treaters, of small children poised on the verge of fantastical disaster and mayhem was completely normal. I was somewhat nonplussed then, when most people I tried to explain my ideas to would listen politely, tilt their head, look at me and say, “Sounds cool. You’re…

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Cold Enough For You?

Does that which doesn’t kill you really make you stronger?

During one of the worst weather days Toronto has ever seen,  1LoveTO suggested that if you found the weather too cruel, you might want to check out the AGO. They quite rightly added #Art and #Inspiration to their tweet, knowing that art can inspire us through tough times. And the Basquiat exhibition, in particular, (now on at the AGO) gives off a lot of heat.

But if spending some time at the AGO can help, would buying art be even better? And if you were buying art for warmth, what kind of art would you want?

So I thought I’d take a poll. Of the photos below, which one would you rather be spending time with today?

The Beach

The Beach

“The Beach” is where I’d be if I didn’t have a full schedule, so this photo of a painted one perks me up. I picked this one because there’s more to it than just another beach shot. There’s something odd and funny and lovely about how well the painter mapped his ideal escape onto a working stage. I love the door, the lights and the candy-colours he chose. And there’s something else that’s not in the picture but in my memory of it: It stands beside the boardwalk at Hollywood Beach, so it mimics the real beach just behind it. Unfortunately, I took this at night and never got back to capture that wider perspective.

aweandthensome,aweandthensomephotography, aweanthensome blog

“February Blues” is hardly the kind of artwork that most people want to buy. Yet everyone I’ve shown it to has said how it perfectly it captures the hardship of winter. When I ask if they identify with it, they all nod “Oh ya”, that’s me right there. <Men point to the man on the left; women to one of the hooded characters to his right> I’ve loved working on it because it reminds me of our toughness, of who we are and what we get through. And yes, getting through makes us tougher.

Art and drama are all about recognition. They were invented to connect us and to get us through. If you look at art buying that way, you may surprise yourself buying art that inspires and projects you.

And when you buy, you might want to hang it where you can see it when you most need to be reminded that you can make it through.

Embrace the cold! It’s making you tougher, stronger, better.

What Is Creativity?

Creativity is a frequent topic in entrepreneurial and marketing circles these days . We all want it: We want to understand it, to discover its secrets and utilize its power. But what is it, really? Are we born with it? Can we learn it? Can it be harnessed?

First, we have to understand it.

Work at Spadina Station gave me the opportunity to explore textures and infrastructure.

Work at Spadina Station gave me the opportunity to explore textures and infrastructure.

A recent LinkedIn article argued a one-to-one correlation between life experience and creativity. How then, would you explain twins with similar experiences, one of which becomes an artist, the other a manager? It’s hard to argue any kind of one-to-one connection, except perhaps with obsessive interest.

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Obsessive interests, however, are common to creative people. To name a few obsessive creators with limited life experience – John Keats, Marie Curie, Steven Spielberg, Thomas Edison and Wayne Gretzky. Each developed a love for their life’s work in their early teens and rose to the highest level in their chosen fields.

Gretzky? Hell yes. An urban myth goes that he was scouted as a child but went unsigned because he neither skated like the wind, possessed a powerful shot, nor a big frame. The scout could only say that he was a “genius”. He turned out to be right.

What the Great One and the Greater Ones shared was the prime necessity for creative thought: an orientation towards play, discovery and continual betterment. Creativity is always around us but very few enter the realm in which time means nothing and absolute perfection is demanded.

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The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (MEE-hy CHEEK-sent-mə-HY-ee), in his work about happiness, notes that creators are remarkably similar in their description of their ideal work state. They speak about becoming a vessel for ideas and visions that flow through them, almost as if they themselves don’t exit. He calls this state “ecstasy”, where one literally stands outside oneself – Ex, meaning outside and Stasis, meaning standing, in Greek.

Not everyone can get there with regard to their work, but one can experience something remarkably similar in game play. Game worlds offer participants an experience where one’s best technique is challenged to the limit of one’s ability. As technique improves, the game gets harder. In other words, games mimic creative worlds in which the player is oriented towards play, discovery and continual betterment – a realm in which time means nothing and absolute perfection is demanded.


In the world that artists, scientists and other pioneers live in, there is no ROI, except for the thrill of the experience and the final result. It’s not a coincidence that so many artists, composers and writers die penniless. They worked obsessively in a world that could not reward them unless their work could be applied. That, of course, is a shame.

However, the successes of Curie, Spielberg, Edison and Gretzky prove that creativity can be harnessed by sharing space with the real world. Real world needs, like deadlines, can be scheduled in the creative world. It’s an interesting paradox that constraints can be particularly useful for creative individuals.

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So what’s this all mean? For one thing, entrepreneurs can better harness the power of creatives by understanding what makes them tick. Hitting targets and advancing sales percentages don’t mean as much as telling them what their work has allowed the company to do. Secondly, understand and accept that the world of the breakthrough and its application are often far apart. Creators need room for play. And finally, take the advise that Dmitry Shostakovich left behind when he said that creative people only need three things: Praise … praise … and praise.

(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn)

Merry Christmas, My Dearest WordPressers!

i couldn’t have said it better myself. And I love her distinction between “finding” and “making”

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