Are You Traveling Through Life as a Driver or a Passenger?

Monday, October 30, 2023


In life there are leaders and there are followers, just like in vehicles where there are drivers and passengers.  One of my favorite subjects to photograph is the view of the road in front of me as I enjoy our road trips from the passenger seat of our car.  

As the passenger, I get to relax and take in the sights, sometimes capturing them through the lens of my camera.  Often it isn’t until I come home and upload those captures to my computer that John is able to really ‘see’ and savor the beauty we experienced on our road trip, much of which he only got a glimpse of as he focused on the task of driving.

On our recent trip to Schoharie County this weekend where we did our best to stay on back roads, some a little precariously narrow, I was reminded that life can be compared to the contrast between being a driver or a passenger.

Often in life we are the driver – managing the conditions, keeping our 'vehicle' under control, directing our team (kids, spouse, co-workers, etc…) all to make for a smooth and safe journey.  We’re navigating careers, extracurricular activities, recreation, in addition to all the hazards life throws our way.  It’s easy to get so caught up in the demands of life that we sometimes forget to step away from the chaos to sit back and just enjoy the ride.

If we haven't been intentional, we can find ourselves waking up one day realizing that we’ve been so busy dodging potholes and avoiding crashes that we’ve forgotten to enjoy the view along our journey.  Our kids are grown, we’ve gotten old, jobs may have come and gone, opportunities to ‘live’ have slipped away, all while we’ve been busy driving down the busy highway we call ‘life’.

While it’s inevitable that someone needs to drive, to be in charge, to steer and navigate, it’s important to remember to pull over, take a break from the freeway we refer to as life – just like we might pull over at those scenic overlooks.  Better yet, let someone else drive once in a while.  Try being a passenger, a spectator if you will – in life and in the car.  Take time to savor the view around you, soak it up and file the beauty and blessings away for a stormy day that is sure to come at some point in your life.  Move out of the fast lane and take the dirt road.  That’s where the beauty is, where the moments you want to savor are, and where life happens just a little bit slower.   And while you’re there, take time to enjoy the view!

For more posts like this one, search my blog Directory:
under the category, Food for Thought. 
 To be sure not to miss new posts, you can subscribe - Subscribe         . 
 You won't receive any emails except for new posts. If you're on Facebook, follow me here:

Soaking Up Autumn Among The Dearly Departed in the Historic Oakwood Cemetery

Monday, October 23, 2023

 Some people dislike cemeteries.  They find them creepy and sad.  I find them serene and sacred.  I also find them to be a good reminder.....cemeteries are filled with people who thought they had more time.

The Oakwood Cemetery in Troy NY, was the subject of a blog back in 2019 when we first stumbled upon it, also in the stunning golden light of autumn. Some of you may have read that piece, but for those who did not, let me give you a little cemetery history.

Founded in 1848, Oakwood Cemetery  (a nonsectarian cemetery) was designed by Philadelphia engineer, John C. Sidney with the help of Garnett Douglass Baltimore, the first African American to earn a degree from RPI.    The 352 acre property is long and thin, running north and south along Oakwood Avenue in Lansingburgh.  Although Sidney was the engineer, it was John Boetchner who gave Oakwood its charm.  Boetchner incorporated rare and foreign plants to fill the rolling hills and flowing lawns making it look more like a beautiful park than a cemetery.  The cemetery features four man-made lakes, two residential structures, a chapel, a crematorium, 24 mausoleums, about 60,000 graves and about 29 miles of winding roads throughout the cemetery.  Yes...29 miles!

While Oakwood is the resting place for a number of notable people, perhaps the most well known is Uncle Sam, Samuel Wilson.  Other notables include educators Amos Eaton and Emma Willard, financiers and business leaders George M. Phelps and Russell Sage, community founders Abraham Lansing and Jacob Vanderheyden, and civil war heroes Rice C. Bull, Joseph Bradford Carr, William H. Freeman, George H. Thomas, and John Ellis Wool.  Fourteen members of the House of Representatives are also buried here. The largest structure on the property is the Gardner Earl Chapel and Crematorium. The chapel's namesake, Gardner Earl, was the son of a wealthy Troy shirt collar maker, William S. Earl.   I wrote about the chapel later in 2019  Another of the cemetery's beautiful structures is the Warren Chapel, featured in this story:

Enough words!  The focus of today's post is the beauty and grandeur of this beautiful, historic resting place of famous and ordinary local folk.  Beautiful in every season, but especially in the golden hue of autumn.  

For more information about Oakwood Cemetery, located at 186 Oakwood Avenue in Troy, NY, visit the cemetery website:  For a real treat, check out their events including a Sounds of the Season Holiday Concert on December 9th from 1:00-2:00 pm in the Gardner Earl Chapel.    If you've never considered visiting a cemetery that's not the resting place of a family member or friend, let Oakwood be your first experience.  Be sure to use the links provided above to see the inside of both the Gardner Earl Chapel and the Warren Chapel.  You'll be amazed at the beauty!  I just learned that there will be two tours of the Gardner Earl Chapel the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend at 1:00 and 2:30 pm.  Tickets are $10  pp paid in advance at the Oakwood office. 518- 328- 0090. Limited to 30 people per tour, these are likely to sell out quickly.  As always share with a friend and if you like this blog, consider subscribing to receive new stories in your email.  Subscribe

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words. What Story Does This Picture Tell You?

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

 A picture's worth a thousand words so what does this photo say to you?  

When I took this photo on a recent ride through Washington County,  I had an immediate analogy pop into my head.  The vines, which at first seemed to be suffocating, even strangling this small building, made me think of a person in distress.  The vines appeared to me as the friends and family surrounding and supporting that individual (the building) - holding them up almost, in their time of distress.  It reminded me of times I've been supported and times I've lent an ear, or a shoulder, or some small assist to someone in need.  The vines appeared to me a positive thing in that first impression of this scene - working together for a common cause to do good.
Later when I uploaded the image to my computer another thought came to mind.  At that moment the vines encircling the building, making the building almost impossible to discern, reminding me of the condition of the world today.  It reminded me of the many people struggling with their mental health, with financial shortages and the general overwhelmed feeling of so many.  Some days we are that building.  Some days we are supported and held together by the caring people around us and we feel surrounded by love and held together by those stronger that ourselves.  Other days, instead of feeling loved and supported, we feel choked and overcome by the burdens of life and hopeless of a way to break free.
As in all situations in life, it's sometimes how we perceive that situation that makes it possible or impossible to overcome.  We feel overcome by our perception of reality.  Surely some things are every bit as bad as they seem and it's those times we need our friends and loved ones support to see us through.  There are other times when our perception isn't quite our reality and in those times, it's good to step back and be sure what we see and feel is really what is true.
Today I hope when you 'look' at your world, your situation, you'll see a network of vines supporting and loving you, holding you together.  If, though, you see yourself overwhelmed, out of control, helpless and hands tied, I want you to remember you are loved.  You may not see that or feel that, but I hope you'll step back and look again.  Maybe those vines surrounding you are a wall keeping others out.  Regardless of the condition of your building today - God loves you, messy or neat, happy or sad, helpless or in control.  Today, imagine His love encircling you like the vines on this building.  He's got this and He'll help you if you let Him!

Finding Joy, Peace and Gratitude In the Darkest Chapters of Our Life

Sunday, September 10, 2023

It's become somewhat of an annual tradition to visit Grafton Lakes State Park in late summer to search for mushrooms...not the eating kind.  For the average person, that exploration might involve walking through the forest but my M.O. is capturing photos from the passenger seat of our car.  That not only eliminates the fear of ticks, but increases the challenge of the catch by a landslide.  

With the exceptionally wet summer we had, we were pretty confident we'd be successful, but I couldn't believe how many we found. I didn't realize mushrooms came in so many varieties. Did you know....

Fungi are critical to the health of the forest, decomposing woody debris and helping trees obtain required nutrients. Fungi are neither plant nor animal, and biologists place them in their own kingdom.

Our annual hunt for mushrooms is a little like a toddler's version of a scavenger hunt.  Each discovery evokes a tap on the brake, sometimes a short drive in reverse, a squeal of joy (from me, not John), and a photo capture for posterity.  By the end of our visit, I'd captured a bumper crop of fungi, some varieties I'd never seen before.  I imagine my excitement and sense of accomplishment may be a little like what my dad must have felt after a good day of fishing.

This annual tradition has become a somewhat philosophical exercise, reminding me of the challenges of life.  Specifically, it reminds me that in times of darkness, when it's hard to find hope, when the light at the end of the tunnel seems too far away to discern, when we're in that dark place, we are called upon to not dwell in the darkness, but instead to look hard for the bright spots.  Just like when in a dark forest, we must turn our eyes to the rays of sun to guide us out.  We must focus on our blessings, on the things we are grateful for to help us overcome the darkness.  I've written about this idea more than once here on the blog, but today that concept of focusing on the light is inspired by a person - a person who is facing what most of us would consider the worst kind of darkness....only she isn't consumed by that darkness.  She is focused on the light.

Last week I had the privilege of visiting a dear friend who is nearing the end of her earthly journey.  I was apprehensive about seeing her in this state, worried that I wouldn't have the right words - or any words - worried that I'd not be strong for her and break down.  I feared that I would be weak when I should be a comfort to her.  I spent about 30 minutes with her, and all of my fears faded quickly, not because "I" was strong, but because SHE was.  In those 30 minutes, my friend talked about her wonderful family, about the great care they are giving her.  She shared the kindness of her neighbors and of the friends who had sent her cards - over 100.  Every word was of gratitude, joy, love and faith!  There was no fear, no anger, no resentment over her limited time.  All she seemed to feel was immense love and gratitude and peace.  How?  How does one reach the last days of their life and have a heart so full of grace and peace?  What an inspiration!   I didn't have to worry about what to say, she filled the conversation with ease and I suspect it's because she understands how difficult it is for her friends and family.  I believe it's also because her faith has replaced fear and she knows where she'll be when she leaves this earthly place.  

Too often we become entrenched in life's small struggles, in the daily frustrations, the things that don't go as planned, the things we wish we had in life, the have nots instead of our blessings.   It's just how we humans sometimes operate in this world of convenience and instant gratification.   My exercise in treasure hunting colorful mushrooms in the forest is an exercise we all need to practice in our everyday lives.  Not for mushrooms, but for finding the little joys around us and feeling gratitude for them instead of wishing things were different than they are.  We need to stop dreaming of what might be and find the jewels all around us.  We are called to live with gratitude and grace.  Finding all these mushroom was challenging, just like fighting to focus on the light when all we see is darkness is challenging.  Just like the mushroom are critical to the health of the forest, the dark times in our lives serve to teach us to appreciate the bright spots, the blessings if you will.  If my friend can do that as she faces saying goodbye to her large, loving family and many friends, certainly we all can do better in our own lives.  Instead of mourning that she's writing her final chapter, she's celebrating that chapter and writing it with the same strength, grace and faith she lived her life.  She's not just focusing on the light, she is the light that is enabling her family and friends to walk this difficult walk. 

Life is not always as we planned or imagined.  Some days it feels hopeless and we are forced to walk miles in the darkness and face unimaginable challenges and impossible goodbyes.  I think we are called to be like my friend and rise above those challenges, celebrate the small victories and have faith that tomorrow will be a little brighter. These little jewels of the forest remind me of that and of the special people who have stood quietly at the edge of the darkness in my life, cheering me on, holding my hand, reminding me how very much I have to be thankful for.  I'm so blessed to have so many of these people in my life and I hope that one day when I'm writing my final chapter, I'll be as joyful and grateful, and that my light might shine on after I'm gone.  Thank you, my friend, for being the light that helps others see.

 Matthew 5:16 says, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven".  Godspeed my friend!  The world has been brighter for having you in it and your light will live on in all the people you've touched.  Carol, may the road to heaven be as beautiful as the life you created.

Post Script: 
When I finished writing this post, this memory from 2013 popped up on my Facebook page.  It's what I refer to as a God wink - not a coincidence, but a wink from God whose Hands are in everything we do.
Post Script:  My friend went home to her Lord on September 26th.  RIP Carol.

Life As I See It Header

Never Miss A Post - Follow by Email

Sign up here to get the latest blog post delivered to your inbox.
Never miss a post again!