Half-Staff

When the sun and the Stars and Stripes align,

Light miraculously lifts the somberness of a flag at

half-staff .

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Half-Staff

I took this image of our flag at half-staff with my iPhone at a car dealership on a busy Phoenix street.  A car salesman approached me as I kneeled down to take the photo in the overhead, bright noonday light.  After proudly disclosing he is a photographer, the car salesman recommended I return at sunset, since the setting sunlight looks so good on the flag. I thanked him for allowing me on his dealership’s lot, while clicking the button on my phone’s screen. He continued with his instructions, advising the best angle to shoot the shot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s telling “half [his] staff” about the female on the car lot taking a photo in the worst light imaginable.

When we’re led by Light, we’re usually blinded by it,  believing certain Light only happens once, so we’ve only got one shot – and it’s our own.

 

Freedom

During a late afternoon in April, we floated downriver in kayaks, searching for the wild horses. We were on assignment to photograph the wild horses for Visit Phoenix, the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. For years, the wild horses and river recreation have lured visitors to the Lower Salt River.  Along the shores, visitors barbecue, camp and swim while the wild horses freely roam.

Almost immediately, we spot our first herd of wild horses. The horses are casually grazing by the Salt River’s edge. The wild horses looked up from their grazing, acknowledging us, and then continued their feeding. Slightly expecting a stampede after seeing us, I was surprised by their calmness. They must be accustomed to visitors, and since we were on the water, and they were on land, we probably posed a little threat to their security.

We, the photographers, had crews paddling our three kayaks, so we waited for positioning and then began to photograph.

Click, click, click – our field of cameras sounded as if the paparazzi had landed on a red carpet full of celebrities.

The wild horses graciously allowed us to approach and to photograph their every move – what a welcomed freedom for photographers wanting to tell their story!

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"Face-Time"
“Face-Time”

After about 15-20 minutes, we continued down the river and witnessed another herd on a bank.  We beached our kayaks and hiked into the grassland, cautiously approaching the horses, so we wouldn’t startle them. When we got too close for their comfort, they aroused each other, as if sending a memo among each other that it was time to go, and in a single file line, crossed the river for safer, unoccupied ground on the river’s opposite bank.

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As I watched them regroup on the other side, I marveled at the serenity they bring to this land. Romantic and a vision reminiscent of the Wild West.

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As the sun goes down, the beverage coolers and the river rafters and tubers go home, but the wild horses remain. This is their home, and we are the visitors, admiring what the wild horses have in their home and grateful for what we’ve been given on this land – freedom.

https://www.change.org/p/salt-river-wild-horses

 

 

An Extra Hand

Rounding a blind corner at a Starbuck’s drive thru, I saw a woman standing against the building’s exterior in the car lane. Her appearance was startling. Missing a front tooth, wearing a dirty t-shirt and shorts, and holding a Starbuck’s coffee cup, she appeared in need. Her tan, leathery skin advertised her hours in sun, possibly days on the streets.  I kept driving.

I couldn’t get her face out of my mind, so I drove onto the freeway and took the first exit – I returned to her. She had left the lane and was headed toward the street, carrying her full pack on her back, her two bound kilim blankets in her one hand, and her Starbuck’s coffee in the other. I followed her, pulling into a small parking lot next to a preschool.  I turned off my car and went over to her.

I approached her, smiling, telling her I’d seen her in the drive-thru.  I asked if she was OK, handing her a folded twenty.

“I’m on the streets for now since the shelters are full. It’s hot out here. I’m waiting for transportation”

How long have you been on the streets?

“A couple months”

Are you from Phoenix?

“yes”

What put you on the streets?

“Circumstances. It’s hard.”

How old are you?

“54 – I mean, 45 [laugh] sorry I got confused.”

the heat will do that 

Do you have a family? children?

“yes, but I don’t know where they are”

Do you know about Interfaith shelter on 9th and Buchanan?

“yeah, I think I’ve been there.”

Here, take my iced tea. You need to stay cool.

“oh thank you but someone put a coffee next to my bag when I went inside to use the bathroom…I’m OK, I don’t need your tea.”

Please take it, it’s a cold drink, not hot like coffee.

“I appreciate you stopping.”

Please know people are out here watching out for you. I care about you. When I saw you at the drive-thru, I could tell you were a good person who needed an extra hand.

With that I got back into my car, rolled down my window and waved to her.  She didn’t have an extra hand to wave, but she smiled, and said,

“Someday I hope to get some transportation. thank you.”

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I’d been standing on the curb with this woman for only 10 minutes, and I was sweating like crazy – what must it feel like to not have a retreat from the Phoenix 110° heat and to be aimlessly roaming the streets, waiting for transporation? Gratefully, I don’t know firsthand, but I can give her an extra hand by reminding my world that she, along with so many others, exist.

They are hot, and they want a way out of their situation.

A cold bottle of water, simple conversation, or a few dollars may not fix the situation, but it sends the message,

I’m not ignoring your discomfort, and I’d like to give you an extra hand.