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open sea

This weekend I had the opportunity to meet a fascinating man.  Lazaro Ruda is a wildlife photographer.   Lazaro taught me ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau wrote, “People protect what they love.”   Lazaro loves the ocean and its creatures.   His art declares this love and, as a result, expands our appreciation of these gifts from the sea.

I met Lazaro at the South Miami Arts Festival on Sunday.  I was drawn to his booth by this photograph.   As my daughter and I gazed at the different pictures and creatures captured in time within all their splendor, Lazaro mentioned each photograph held its own story.  He’d be happy to relay their stories to us if we were interested.

Jessie and I were indeed.  Interested.

Lazaro and I share a love of sea turtles.   Sea turtles are hatched from eggs their mother lays buried deep in the sand on the beach where she was born.   Once hatched it can take up to a week for the little baby turtles to dig out of the nest of sand their mom has buried them under for protection.  Protection from the elements, and from all the creatures who roam the beach and are hungry.  Once the tiny turtles break through the sand barrier, there is no protection.  It’s a bee-line for the water where, maybe, he has a modicum of a chance to swim and reach some semblance of safety before someone bigger appreciates him as an appetizer.

Lazaro volunteers his time to patrol Palm Beach during hatching season.  As residents of South Florida, we know modern lights have become an unintentional destroyer of the sea turtle population.   Sea turtles hatch at night.  The hatchlings break through the sand and head toward the light which they sense is the sea.   Artificial light sets the babies off in the wrong direction.   They only have enough energy and moisture contained within their shells to last for several hours.  The hatchlings have to get to the sea soon to survive.

Lazaro is scheduled to volunteer once a week.  He goes every day.  Why he does it is for creatures like this pocket-sized guy pictured here.

hopeful future

Lazaro is convinced our friend is a guy because he found him lost.  Wrong side of the road.  Across A1A.  7-11 parking lot.  Palm Beach.

Wandering around on the asphalt.  Not asking for directions. Still dark with a peak at the sunrise.  Meandering along his way.  Hurrying.  Purposeful.  That’s when our guy met Lazaro.

Lazaro was on his way home when he saw the adventurer exactly where a turtle is not supposed to be.  Going completely in the wrong direction.  Everything going badly for our friend at this point.  Future bleak.

Lazaro saw the motion on the pavement.  Couldn’t believe his eyes.  How did this guy get way over here?  Lazaro picked up the small creature and realized there was still a lot of life left in this little guy.  Even after his arduous journey, the tiny turtle was raring to go.  Feet flapping. Swimming in air.  Lazaro cradled our new friend, walked back across the main street, through the beach sand and back to the shoreline.

Lazaro purposefully stopped a few feet short on the sand to let the turtle take his first steps towards home independently.   After the night this guy had, he deserved the victory lap into his ocean.

Lazaro dropped down with his camera on his belly to capture his shot.  With a different perspective, he grasped even more clearly the beauty of this moment.

Our friend was getting home just in time for a perfect sunrise.

As Lazaro focused his lens, he saw that the tiny turtle had all fins up and was just resting in the moment.  On pause.   Looking around.  Taking it all in.  Appreciating.   Taking a minute to breathe in the salt air.  Savoring that first, grateful glimpse of home.

Lazaro captured a perfect moment early that Palm Beach Morning.   He calls it The Hopeful Future.

For more on Lazaro Ruda and his art visit or email

chase joy

When sorrow is your constant companion darkness has its own beauty.  Glimmers of light appreciated differently than can be experienced in a cloud free, cerulean sky.

We are taught to fear the dark.  To watch leery for dangers that lurk in the night.  Alone in darkness is frightening.   Fear we believe in.  We live in.   Strength something we strive for.

We turn our back to sorrow in others, in ourselves.  Sadness scares us; it may be catching.  We can’t get too close it may seep into our pores and invade the lawn of our well-manicured lives.

We gaze toward happiness as a destination.  That realm just out of reach where we disembark when everything is going just right.  We laugh, we sing out loud, giddy in the sunlit boulevard, yet are repeatedly surprised as we find ourselves tourists.  Just passing through.  Life happens and we’re plunging into a valley.  Somewhere in-between not at all ok and need to cry.

We watch joyful people with envy.   Certain sorrow has never touched that life.  The smile too genuine to be tarnished with misfortune.

Happiness happens to us.   It is fleeting.   It is dependent.

Joy, on the other hand, is a state of being.

We choose joy.  We live in joy.

Joy independent of circumstances.

Joyful people choose gratitude.  Joyful people choose thankfulness.  Joyful humans chase joy and catch her every single time.

Joy is in the Spirit.

If you’re looking for a reason to find God.   It’s joy.

Psalm 97:11 – Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people,  Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil.  

blame God.

“First her feet were plunged into hot water, and her toenails clipped short.”*

A 10th century court dancer, Yao Yang, mesmerized China’s Emperor Li Yu by dancing on her toes inside a 6-foot golden lotus.  Yao Yang bound her feet into the shape of a new moon.    Emperor Li Yu smitten with Yang, the national fetish is unleashed.    Miniature, misshapen feet become a status symbol the wealthy embrace.

“Then the feet were massaged and oiled before all the toes, except the big toes, were broken and bound flat against the sole, making a triangle shape.  Next, her arch was strained as the foot was bend double.  Finally, the feet were bound in place using a silk strip measuring ten feet long and two inches wide.  These wrappings were briefly removed every two days to prevent blood and pus infecting the foot.”

Then tortuously reapplied.   By her mother.

A child’s marriage prospects expand as her feet shrink.   The child’s mother, aunt and/or wet-nurse ignore the cries, pleas for mercy.    In a culture controlled by men, it is evident their daughter’s future prospects multiply with each inch of growth averted.

“Sometimes excess flesh was cut away or encouraged to rot.”

“The girls were forced to walk long distances in order to hasten the breaking of their arches.”

The torturous process took two years.   When complete the girl was, more than likely, 8 years old.

“Over time the soles were crushed together.”

We look back seven centuries and feel nauseas.  The culprits simply identified.

Men.   Mothers.  Ruling Class.  Society.

The Emperor who let his erotic fantasy disease his homeland.  Yao Yong the erotic dancer who helped cripple China’s children.

One thousand years women brutally subjugated themselves to society’s torture.    Where is God when centuries of 6 year old girls are crying in China?

Did God go to sleep, go on vacation for a Millennium?

Come on, God!

I think about it.  What should God have done?  Strike Yao Yong before she meets the Emperor?  Erase her from existence.  Wipe out Emperor Li Yu before he feels the stroke of Ms. Yong’s feet?   Block the hand of every woman that binds her child’s toes?   Create a famine which leads to a shortage of binding materials, strikes all but a few good men?

When should He start?

More importantly, when should He stop?

Stop the binding of the small girl’s feet, but let the murder of baby girls follow in civilized society centuries later?  When society dictates only 1 child per household and boys are preferred.  Should He just step into China and say enough is enough.

What rules do we want Him to follow?  Hey, God.  What are you even doing?  You’re better than this.   What is going on?

Free will. My mind draws the parallel.

It is the same.  Here all these centuries later.

Free will.

A gift.  Precious.

Free will and consequence.  A marriage we comprehend.   We choose our actions, or they are chosen for us.  There are consequences.   Even for actions that were taken for us when we were too small to make our own choices; when we are powerless.  We touch a hot stove with our hand, our fingers are burned.  We get it.  We understand.

Yet, the child born addicted to heroin because her mother is an addict.  We blame God.  Where exactly should He have stepped in?  At what point is the mother’s free will void.

Slavery, Hitler, 911, cancer, disease, incest, rape – we blame God.  When does the gift of free will stop and He gets to intervene?

Free will, we want it.  We demand it.  We will do what we want to do, and no one can stop us.  It is our right.

Actually, it is how we are created.  We know nothing different.  Yet, we don’t want the repercussions.   When we err, we want the magic wand.  Erase the repercussions.  A magician enhancing the ride when our path is straight; teleporting us out of the road when the one we chose to wander is dangerous, deadly.

 “Once a foot had been crushed and bound the shape could not be reversed without a woman undergoing the same pain all over again.”    Some damage irreparable, the foot never the same……..Placed side by side, the shoes were the length of my iPhone and less than half-inch wider.”

Consequence.   Theoretically, we recognize the concept.  Practically, we don’t appreciate it very much.

We blame God.  It’s a whole lot easier.


*quotes taken from Bound by Tradition, Amanda Foreman, Siberian Tigers, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2016.

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