My forty-third year so far has been my most humbling. Hence the blog title. My horns haven't yet been reduced to nubbins by life's sandpaper experiences, but they have receded a little, in the chilling realities that present themselves along the journey. Call it shrinkage. Last month my first freelance photography session reduced me to a puddling mess. The Mormon woman and her extensive family hated the photos I took. Her criticisms went on for days, in an email that took me full circle from wounded ego to indignance to quivering wreck and eventually to a shrug-it-off, you-can't-please-all-the-people-all-the time sensibility, that advice courtesy of a few thick-skinned friends more business savvy than myself. It was a harsh reminder that no matter how awesome you think you are, if you put yourself out in the world and sell your creative wares, don't expect the whole world to love them. Total strangers tend to be slightly more judgmental than family and friends. They will definitely be more honest. Best thing to do is make it a life lesson, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, and do it better next time. In recent weeks there was a complete lack of coinage for any of the little luxuries-$1 chicken sandwiches at Jack in the Box for my kids, en route to the tide pools, cat litter, dishwasher soap...and finally I was raiding my daughter's piggy bank for the three dollars that was in it, just so the gas light wouldnt blink on again. There was the veritable intervention from my mother, and subsequent lecture on shame and the dangers of financial insolvency at my age. And the same from her again, two days later, when I lay on the floor with my legs up, trying to resolve an excruciating sciatica spasm. Like being kicked when you're down. Almost literally. My wife and I laugh about all of it, because at a point, what else can you do? For richer or poorer, I tell her. We hug it out, owning human failing, trying to fix it, but having a perspective on it that allows us to see life as no less wonderful, in the throes of bad money management and economic depression. The cliches affirm it for us...All of us are healthy, we have food and a house and family and friends. And our kids are growing and laughing... and breathing. Breathing. It has been twenty-two days since Jordan died. Twenty-two days since that night all of us ran from our houses to help a neighbor, hearing the awful screams of his father. The sounds haunt me. The images play on a loop in my head, sometimes. Jordan laying on the grass, unconscious. The ambulance arriving twenty-five minutes late, because the driver got lost. The powerlessness of everyone watching that beautiful little boy, who would have turned five on July 19th, slip away before our eyes. He choked to death. Eating ice cream on a summer's night. A cap got into the ice cream, and lodged in his windpipe. And the vital, happy person he was a few minutes before was suddenly gone. I had never met Jordan or his family prior to that horrific night. It was the only time I have not wanted my Nikon at hand; I do not shirk from any photodocumentation, normally-traffic accidents, street fights, fires. The gravity of this occasion, and the irreverance of a camera, only occurred to me much later. I visited the house a couple of times in the week that followed. The family are Buddhists, and held a week long memorial during which mourners were welcome to come in their home, light an incense, and place it on the candle lit shrine that held an 8x10 of a smiling Jordan. When I first saw that picture it startled me, because I had only seen him prone, with his eyes closed, our neighbor Robert desperately trying to revive him with CPR. For a couple of weeks I walked around in a netherworld of child death, unable to process it. And I was only an onlooker. I thought of his parents all the time. First thing in the morning, especially, when my three and a half year old son would run to me for hugs. I could not fathom the absence of that. My heart breaks for them. Jordan was an only child. As happens to all of us who are only onlookers in life's tragedies, we wake up one day and find we have rallied. The broken garbage disposal exasperates us, or we trip over the cat on the way to make coffee and curse, and realize we are back in the land of the living, where the most trivial things become ponderous, and enlightenment never lasts for very long. That is to say...not entirely. I am more apt to forgive the little dramas, these days. And if we don't have gas, so what? So we stay home. Our backyard is full of sun, and butterflies. My son Fin tells me, " Mommy, I'm going to make a hummingbird laugh!" He is infinitely charming. I have total faith in his ability to do this. I talk to my brother-in-law, who is the same age as me, about all of these things. We muse about life, and joy, and pain, and humility. He is currently enduring the break up of his twenty-year marriage. He calmly refers to it as "an exquisite agony". So many of life's unwanted adventures might fall under this description. I take pictures of everything, small and large, beautiful or not. Action shots. Still Lifes.I think of Jordan, and his parents. I watch my children chase monarchs. They are not incongruous. A little poem puzzles itself together in my mind:

there is a desolate thing rattles at the back of my bones a necessary thunder but I am strong, like skipping stones and will not swallow under

-H.P. Hart, 2012

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