Norman Rockwell…and recognizing joy

Stockbridge General Store, Dec 26, 2011

I visited the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts with my family earlier today. I’ve been there before, in the summer, and I wanted my wife to see the town synonymous with painter Norman Rockwell, the home of the Norman Rockwell Museum. Many of his most familiar works were painted in Berkshire County, in Western Massachusetts, so it’s a trip worth making. One of those “that building looks familiar” trips.

Anyway, the odd thing is, Norman Rockwell actually had a pretty sad life. He moved to Stockbridge in 1953 so that his second wife, his first marriage ending in divorce, could be treated at a psychiatric hospital nearby. He himself later received psychiatric treatment at the same facility, where he is reported to have told the renowned analyst Erik Erikson that he painted his happiness, but did not live it. His second wife died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1959.

I find that amazing. That a man who struggled personally, who struggled with happiness, could paint pictures that so vividly capture joy…what does that say about the human spirit?

Doesn’t that argue that we all recognize joy, even if we don’t (at times) feel it? Maybe that’s what I love about the ocean. No matter how I feel, once I drop below the surface, I’m propelled into a world of amazement and respect; and out of that amazement, out of that respect, I start to feel joy. Genuine joy.

So say a prayer for Norman tonight, that his spirit has found the happiness, the joy, that he could not find while living. If he were alive, I’d offer to take him diving.

(Norman Rockwell died of emphysema in 1978)

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Health of the Oceans, Diving and the Empire State Building

Lobby of the Empire State Building, Dec 24, 2011

So what does visiting the Empire State Building in New York City have to do with saving our oceans and diving? Well, funny you should ask…

I’m not much of a city guy. Truth be known, I hate cities. I always feel liking I can’t breath, like I’m 10 years old and that big bully is sitting on my chest in the playground. But alas, I wanted to visit my folks in Connecticut this holiday season, and although my wife was happy to go East for the holidays, the suggestion of visiting New York City for a few days made it an easy sell.

So there I was on the observation deck on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. In every direction, as far as you could see, more and more city. The view filled me with both awe and disgust (sorry NY). Awe when you consider the engineering required to build this structure, as well as the rest of the city below; but disgust when I thought of what stood there 200 years ago (miles and miles of pristine forest). Even more disgust when I looked down into the East River and the Hudson River. Any one interested in diving the Hudson? Sure, just help me with my Hazmat suit!

Then it occurred to me…if mankind can build so many amazing engineering marvels, can’t mankind slow, and in some cases undo, all the damage we are doing to this planet? Can’t we turn away from ecological disaster? Can’t they clean up the Hudson? The East River? I think yes, but only if we collectively decide to ‘engineer‘ a different future, a cleaner future. But again, maybe that’s just me being silly. Maybe I should just go diving, but just not in the East River or the Hudson.

Empire State Building Observation Deck, Looking South

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…they are other nations…

Frigatebirds (Fregatidae) near Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Sometimes, someone says something so perfectly that it deserves to be repeated…and repeated, and repeated…until people hear it. But…just sometimes. Like when naturalist Henry Beston summed up the world of life around us. Maybe we should try to hear what he was saying.

“The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.” – Henry Beston, naturalist and author (1888-1968)

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Back in the saddle….

Catalina 2011 (photo courtesy of

Finally, after sitting on this web site for a year, I’m getting off my butt and adding content. So what’s this site about? Well, besides a chance to express my rather fragile male ego, it’s about diving, dive travel, more diving, more dive travel….and any information on diving and dive travel that might help any fellow dive addicts! Having said that, 2011 was a good year! In addition to diving regularly in our local waters (So Cal), I dove in Galapagos, the Sea of Cortez and Fiji.

Of course, that was yesterday. What matters now is “Where are we diving next?”. Hmmm….

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Another ocean gypsy

Just another diver, looking for that perfect dive, which is always the next dive, on the next trip.

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