2014 in a Dozen Photos: January-April

Now that we’re a week into 2015, I feel a belated urge to offer up a neatly-wrapped version of my 2014 — you know, the kind of bloggish year-in-review that those writers on top of their game presented in the dwindling days of December. If you’re looking for evidence of grand, probing contemplation of the past year and its moments of deep significance, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed in my quick-and-dirty version of a year-end wrap-up.

I have selected one photo from each month of 2014 for a collection of twelve vignettes. These dozen snapshots will not present anything resembling a comprehensive look back, not least because there were a number of months in which lots of things were going on and I [arbitrarily decided that I] may only choose one picture. These pictures aren’t necessarily the most important or best artistically or any other superlative from each month. Still, each jumped out at me for some reason, so we’ll go with that and try to keep the analysis to a minimum.


January 2014: Pensacola Blizzard

This dusting of snow completely shut down our area for three full days.

The first month of 2014 brought something rarely seen in the steamy, Southern city of Pensacola, Florida: frozen precipitation. Although we grew up rolling our eyes at the way the DC area flails when it snows, even that looks like steely-eyed competence when compared to the Florida panhandle response. Of course, snow happens so rarely here that one can hardly blame the locality for investing in hurricane prep rather than plows, salt, and gravel. It was fun having my husband home for three unanticipated “snow days” from this single dusting, and we indulged in wax log fires and obsessive jigsaw puzzling.


February 2014: Peacock up a tree

A denizen of the Gulf Breeze Zoo surveys his domain from above.

Any semblance of a Floridian winter evaporated quickly, so we were soon enjoying “spring” with outdoor activities and strolls through the Gulf Breeze Zoo. I had no idea that peacocks were even capable of getting up into trees; I’d always thought of them as ground-dwelling birds, akin to fancy chickens.


March 2014: Chag Purim Sameach!

Chemistry geek alert: “Queen Ester,” at your service. (Not pictured: the whiskey flask in my back pocket.)

March brought the Jewish month of Adar II, which brings Purim! Purim is one of the most fun, carnivalesque holidays on our calendar, and its celebration involves reading the Book of Esther, dressing in costume, and imbibing spirits. I let my geek flag fly with a punny “Queen Ester” costume: each molecule on my shirt is a different ester, which are often responsible for a particular fragrance.


April 2014: Backyard Blue Angels Practice

We have an excellent view of the Blue Angels’ twice-a-week practices from our backyard.

In order to minimize my husband’s commute to the flight line, we chose to live very close to NAS Pensacola. One of the advantages (or disadvantages, depending on how one is disposed toward the “sound of freedom”) is that we essentially get a free air show from the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron twice a week throughout much of year. I like the Blue Angels, despite the fact that working around their practices is a pain for my husband and his fellow instructor pilots on base. It gives me a warm fuzzy that Pensacola natives, by and large, take a great deal of pride in “their Blues” even if they have no official military affiliation.

Johnson Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

#BlogElul 4: Accept

#BlogElul 2014 topics

Shabbat is a gift. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that this time of rest and renewal is truly for us, and we turn it aside as if we’re over-modest children, too self-conscious to take a compliment at face value.

Sometimes, though, it’s easy to accept the gift of the world’s beauty. It is a beauty that not only exists independently of any of our labors, but one that can be experienced fully only when we free our hands of workweek burdens and allow our minds to drink in broader horizons.

Johnson Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

“The heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array.” (Genesis 2:1, NJPS)

#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#BlogElul 3: Bless

#BlogElul 2014 topics

Today, my husband was blessed with a very short workday. We took advantage of it to get out and enjoy a rare treat: coffee at our favorite local place. In Judaism, we bless God for the big things and for the little things, such as every bit of food or drink of which we partake.

Caffeine and sunshine, both worthy of blessing today.

Caffeine and sunshine, both worthy of blessing today.

#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#BlogElul 2: Act

#BlogElul 2014 topicsI am a thinker. One could make a well-supported, cogent argument that I am an over-thinker, one who lives too much in her head and not quite enough in the world of action.

Confession time: I was already way overdue for an eye appointment and a dentist visit when the Navy moved us to Florida in March of 2013. A year and a half later, long after all the urgent upheavals of the move had settled into the routine (well, as routine as life ever gets with a Navy pilot for a spouse), I still had not managed to look up a new optometrist and dentist to call for appointments. Oh, I thought about it — frequently, in fact — but there always seemed to be something more compelling I could shove in front of it on the priority list.

I’ll do it later, I thought, and proceeded to throw up all kinds of excuses for why I needed to think about it more before picking some names from a list of covered providers and picking up the phone. I need to do research. I need to be sure our schedule is set. I need to… 

Today, goaded by the blog prompt’s exhortation to “act,” I pulled the dreaded task of phoning strangers off my mental back burner and made the calls. I now have appointments. Done. More than that, a chunk of my brain’s proverbial clock cycles were suddenly freed up. What I had thought was a low-priority task waiting to be done was actually a mental resource hog that had been taking up energy for so long that I had ceased to notice it.

In the new year, I want to be more aware of the difference between thinking about things because they need thinking about and thinking about things as a way to “deal” with them without taking any concrete action. Thoughtless, impulsive action is no help to anyone, but then, neither is overthinking a simple task to the point of paralysis.

#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#BlogElul 1: Do

#BlogElul 2014 topicsIt would take more geekly wherewithal than I currently possess to get through this post without quoting Rabbi Yoda, so I’ll get it out of the way now:

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to do #BlogElul again this year. My regular blogging fizzled out for an extended spring/summer hiatus sometime before Pesach. The months were filled with more doing than writing about doing; I have no online record of events longer than a Facebook update or more deeply examined than a tweet.

We are one month away from Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This month, אלול (Elul), is our chance to take stock of our lives, to sift through the events of the past year that might have whooshed by, unexamined, masked by the background noise of daily busyness. For the next month, thorough, thoughtful reflection is on our daily to-do list.

Because life goes on even in this month of taking account of ourselves, there will be times when the work of self-examination elicits a “do not” reaction from me. I’m not going to like everything I find with all the usual comforting, self-justifying excuses stripped away from my actions this past year. On those days, I will focus on R. Yoda’s first statement and do the work anyway.


“Blog daily this month, you will.”

#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.