Elkhorn 5/22/22

Events with Richard Bleil

As my regular readers (both of them) probably know, recently I’ve been trying to pick up photography as a hobby.  I’ve spent a goodly amount of money buying a camera that is far too advanced for me, but it’s a good starter camera.  It can be used in fully automatic mode, but also has the capability to allow the user to control everything.  The plan, honestly, is to use automatic mode for a bit (except focus which I often do manually to emphasize what I want the viewer to see) to practice framing shots and practicing various types of photography.  Then, I’ll begin to learn the various settings, and start experimenting with setting those manually. 

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to go to the Ren Fair here in Omaha.  I opened the link in my social media app and clicked on the link to open maps.  How could I go wrong? 

As it turns out, the navigation did not take me to the fair.  Instead, it took me to a charming little town called Elkhorn.  I later found out that I was about two miles from the actual fair itself (and I did go to a Ren Fair at the exact same location the following week but put on by a different group). 

But there I was, at a town instead of my intended destination.  I had my camera with me, and the day was absolutely beautiful.  Not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was perfect.  So, I decided to make the best of it.  I saw a little restaurant not far from where I had parked, so I grabbed my camera, and went to get some barbecue for lunch.  Then I walked around the town, and just took pictures, visiting with the few people who were out until my battery died.  I thought I had a spare camera battery with me, but it turns out it was in my other bag.  NOW I have a spare battery in both.

But the point being, that instead of just turning around and going home, I opted to make the most of the situation.  It wasn’t where I wanted to be, and I didn’t do what I had hoped, and yet I had a marvelous day. 

Yes, I know.  At this point you’re thinking I’m going to give some Peter Pan advice about making the best of your situation.  I think the song from the ‘60’s probably said that best (“if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”), and that’s not bad advice.  I’ve tried to live by this mantra.  Every experience, good, bad, or indifferent has something to teach us.  I’ve forged great friendships out of acquaintances when I was homeless and couch surfing.  I’ve come to appreciate bus lines and the people who use the services when I was without a vehicle.  Now I’m working at a drive-in theater, and truly enjoying the experience and the people with whom I’m working.  There’s a great saying that we cannot control things that happen to us, but we can control how we respond.  But I think there’s more than that in this story.

The reality is that things don’t always work out the way we had planned.  I’m still single, I have no children, I am not in a relationship, and I’m not working as a chemist or in academia anymore.  This is not the way I had planned my life to go back when I was still young and stupid.  All I’ve wanted was a wife, children, a job as a chemistry professor (which I did achieve at one point), and here, it’s all gone.  I’m just a lonely old codger living alone.  But even when things are not as we expect, there is still joy to be found.  There is serenity to be found when you can be happy with your situation rather than pining for what you wanted. 

I worked as a water treatment chemist for a time.  In treating waste, the desire is to get the fecal matter to clump together and expel at least some of the water.  The best you can hope for is about 80% water, and there are chemicals that are added to the sewage, called “flocculants”, to accomplish this clumping.  But every treatment plant is different.  What works as a flocculating agent in one plant won’t work in another.  It was my job to find the proper flocculant, and concentration (at parts per million concentration) to maximize the flocculation. 

One day, working with some men in the treatment plant, I hit upon just the right flocculant, and concentration.  The large beaker on the stirring plate was swirling, and the plane brown fluid began to clump.  The clumping solids began their ballet in the motion of the water, and if you could get past the thought of what, exactly, we were looking at, it was a very cool thing to see.  “Isn’t that pretty?” I said, apparently out loud instead of to myself.  The men in the room with me thought I was insane.  But the reality is, I just appreciated where I was.  Even working in that field had its beauty when I looked for it. 

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