Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy 2019! Mystery of the Miracle Frisbee

Happy 2019! This is a true story that happened on New Year's Eve of 2011. I originally published it in January of 2012.  I've republished it the first of the New Year over the past several years because it's true, possibly inspirational, and I think you'll find it amazing.  On New Year's Eve of 2018/2019, I will again be at the spot where the miracle described below happened.  Will something amazing happen again?  Probably nothing so dramatic.  But if so, I will let you know!

The story below is absolutely true.  My family and I were there and experienced this first-hand.  It is not the type of material you find in my typical blog entry.  However, it is too good not to share.  Please post your thoughts at the bottom of this page.  Share this with anyone you think might enjoy it or get caught up in the mystery.

What do you call it when something beyond understanding occurs -- something that defies all odds? Is it a paranormal event?  A coincidence of unimaginable proportions?  Magic?  Or is it a miracle? And what if you can prove to yourself and others that it really happened because you were there and you took photographs!  This incident concerns nothing more elaborate than a Frisbee, but it is mystifying, nevertheless.

My wife’s family is from Guatemala.  My wife, our two children, and I live in Illinois and sometimes visit her family in Central America over the holidays.  This year, we, along with most of my wife’s large family, spent the week after Christmas at my sister-in-law’s beach house on the Pacific coast of Guatemala.

My daughter practicing her gymnastics on the black sand beach.
Every day, my wife’s younger brother, Gonzalo, would run out to the volcanic black sand with his Frisbee and toss it along the beach or over the waves and let the wind return it to him.  Two days before New Year’s, as my children and some of the cousins played on the beach, I took my camera and photographed him exercising with the white disc.
My brother-in-law, Gonzalo, running on the beach with his Frisbee.  Notice the design of the Frisbee on the inset.
Later in the evening, my wife, Maria, and I; Gonzalo and his wife, Marta Yolanda; and the children went down to the beach to catch the sunset.  The children built a castle in the sand.  Maria, Marta Yolanda, and I stood and watched the progress of the castle building activities, while Gonzalo launched his Frisbee toward the waves.  I took several photographs.  Several times, the Frisbee landed on the water and was returned in the waves.  Everyone was having a great time, until my brother-in-law made a bad toss.  He groaned as the Frisbee went into the waves and was not immediately returned on the surf.

The children made a sand castle, while my brother-in-law (far right) played with his Frisbee.


“It’s gone,” he said.

“Give it a minute, and maybe the waves will bring it back,” I suggested.

“No, Tom, I don’t think it’s coming back,” he sighed, as we all peered into the dark waves, hoping that he might be wrong.

After another half minute, I pointed into the surf as a white object came into view. 
“There it is,” I yelled.  The Frisbee washed directly to my wife’s feet and hit her on the shins.  She walked over and handed it to her brother.

He took the disc happily, but after only a moment said, “This isn’t my Frisbee.”

We all looked at him. 

“My Frisbee was red on top.   This one’s black.”

“That has to be your Frisbee,” I said.

“Maybe it had a sticker on it that came off in the water,” my wife suggested.

“No,” Gonzalo insisted.  “Mine was a pure white.  This is pearl colored.”

“That has to be your Frisbee,” I said.   “If it’s not, whose is it?  And how is it possible that it washed up at our feet just as we were looking for a Frisbee?  How many times have you ever had a Frisbee wash up at your feet, let alone when you’re looking for one?”

“Never,” he answered.

“And how many times have you ever just found a Frisbee on the beach?”

“Never.”

“Then how is it possible that this isn’t your Frisbee?

“I don’t know,” he answered.  “It just doesn’t look like my Frisbee.”  It was obvious that my logic had convinced him to give up his argument.

We watched another dramatic Pacific sunset, and then returned to the house to have dinner and rest for New Year’s Eve.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I was looking at some of my photos on the LCD screen of my camera that I realized I had shots from before the Frisbee was lost.  I quickly found the photos and zoomed in on one where the design on the Frisbee was plainly visible.

There was no doubt.  It was not the same Frisbee.  The photographs plainly show a Frisbee with a very different graphic design.  If not for the photographs, we all would have given up on the notion that one disc had been thrown into the ocean and a different disc returned.  It was just too difficult to believe.  But that’s exactly what happened:  one Frisbee was thrown into the ocean, only to be replaced by a different one a moment later.

The Frisbee that returned in the waves (center) and the Frisbee that was thrown into the ocean (inset).
I have no explanation.  Something very strange happened.  I don’t know how or why.  Maybe it was nature’s way of assuring us that miracles can and do happen.  If something with odds this impossible can take place, it can happen again.  And maybe next time, the miracle will be something that will change someone’s life for the better.  Maybe next time we’ll believe the impossible really can happen.  It’s already happened once.  It can happen again.



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You can view my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com.



This blog has been named one of the top 75 fine art photography blogs on the planet.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Couple of Images from Antigua

My wife and I spend a couple of days before Christmas in the beautiful colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala.  It's a place we often go for a day or two of relaxation. As always, I took along my camera.  While I  will post more images after the New Year, I thought I would share a couple of photos from our getaway.

El Sitio Window 2018.  If you're one of the loyal readers of this blog, you've seen this window before.  But as with everything else, it is always changing.  This is a unique view from the end of 2018.  (You can click on images in the blog for a larger view.  Use ESC or Escape to return to normal viewing mode.)


Smiling Girl. Thursday is Market Day in Antigua.  This girl was selling fruits in the busy market.  While she wasn't posing, she turned and smiled at me as I shot the last frame.  I had my image.
Also, be sure to check in with this blog on New Year's Eve.  I will be republishing a fan favorite!

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You can view my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com.



This blog has been named one of the top 75 fine art photography blogs on the planet.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas from me and my family to all my faithful blog readers.


From left to right (Top row): María, Brian, Tom, Cristina, Mr. Watson.
(Lower row) María, Cristina & Brian, Tom & María, Cristina

My son Brian has also been producing his own holiday cards in Photoshop over the past few years.  The twist is that he always appears multiple times in the same scene.  This year, his Grandmother (Abuela) also appears a couple of times.



Also, be sure to check in with this blog on New Year's Eve.  I will be republishing a fan favorite!

You can view my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com.

This blog has been named one of the top 75 fine art photography blogs on the planet.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Ft. Massac Encampment

The weather was beautiful this weekend in southern Illinois.  Those who planned the 45th annual Ft. Massac Encampment couldn't have picked a better time.

The Encampment is a weekend-long event in which reenactors become authentically uniformed troops, craftsmen, Native Americans, and others from the French, British and American colonial periods.  They proudly interpret history for the tens of thousands of visitors who come to Illinois' first state park to eat authentic colonial food, hear the music of the time, view a battle reenactment, and learn about our American history.  It also gave me the opportunity to photograph some of those who participated in the Encampment.

This gentleman appeared as if he might have stepped out of the 18th century. Reenactors take their parts seriously and do their best to become authentic representations of  those from another time.  (You can click on images in this blog for a closer view.  Hit the ESC key on a PC to return to a normal view.)

This reenactor wears a gorget under this neck.  Gorgets were originally worn with armor to protect the area around the neck.  However, by the 17th and 18th centuries, they had become largely a decorative accessory to show status.
This lady was part of a group of played music from the colonial period.  Multiple musical groups played authentic music.
 A trapper and a Native American in a deep discussion.
Throughout this country (and in other countries) reenactment offer interpretations of  different periods in history.  Whether participating or viewing, it's a great family activity and offers plenty of opportunities for photography.  Do a search for reenactments in your area, and you might be surprised at what you will find.

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You can view my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com.



This blog has been named one of the top 75 fine art photography blogs on the planet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Road Trip: Astorga!

Despite the fact that I'm back in Illinois and largely recovered from the 32-hour trip from León, Spain to my home, I still want to share my road trip to Astorga.

It's a small and ancient town with both Celtic and Roman origins.  Only about 30 miles from León, Astorga is an important stop on the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James.)  I drove my mother-in-law's mint-condition 1982 Mercedes 300D, and was there in less than an hour.


1982 Mercedes 300D.  A great car for a road trip.  I first drove this car in 1995 when it was only 13 years-old.  It still looks like a new car.



Famous for it's sweet pastries, called Mantecadas, Astorga is probably best known for its Bishop's Palace, designed by Antoni Gaudí and built between 1889 and 1913. I strongly recommend that you find time to walk through the town's center, but if you only have time for one thing, the Bishop's Palace is the place to see.

Mantecadas are served with coffee at the hotel cafe across the street from the Cathedral and the Bishop's Palace.
Wall art shows the packing of Mantecadas cakes in earlier days.
Tile Roofs from an overlook in Astorga.


The municipal building in Astorga
Me in front of the entrance to the Bishop's Palace. The building is in the neo-Gothic style. (Photo by my mother-in-law.)
Exterior view of the Bishop's Palace. I can imagine it as a set from the Wizard of Oz.

Stained glass detail from the Bishop's Palace.
More stained glass.
Painted ceramic tiles highlight arches throughout the palace.

More stained glass and ceramic tile.
The chapel in the Bishop's palace.

Wide shot of the Palace.


I hope you've enjoyed this brief road trip to Astorga.  I will have more from Spain in upcoming posts. If you would like to follow along and receive a notification when a new post appears, please subscribe by clicking here and entering your email address.

You can view my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com.



This blog has been named one of the top 75 fine art photography blogs on the planet.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Going Home

Preparing to go home from a trip is never easy.  It's not like you just zip open your suitcase, throw in the clothes and walk out the door.  For me, it involves shopping to buy gifts for my family and friends. Mostly, they're very small gifts -- just something to let them know I was thinking of them while I was away.  But even very small gifts can say a lot.

This isn't an easy blog post to write.  I had intended to document my Spanish shopping excursions and  show you all the cool items I found.  Then I realized that my family and friends read my blog.  The question suddenly becomes:  Do I destroy the element of surprise and write an awesome blog post showing all of the nice gifts; or, do I keep the surprise and not show anything to my loyal and faithful readers?

Sorry, loyal and faithful readers.  My family and friends won this round.

Buying for my wife, María, is the most difficult.  When I give her a gift, the exchange usually goes something like this:

Me: "I really put a lot of thought into it and hope you like it."

María:  (ripping open the box and wrapping paper) "Oh, I love it!  I love it!  (long pause)  But, you wouldn't mind if I exchange it for another color would you?   The green doesn't really go with anything I have.  And if they had it with a different neckline...  You know, I have several sweaters similar to this, but I saw one that was really cute in another catalogue...  You wouldn't mind, would you if...."

Don't worry.  I'm used to it.  The only problem is that whatever I choose this time has to be right, because I can't return it.

So, I won't show you what I'm buying, but I'll show you a few of the shops I've checked out on my gift-buying ventures.  You'll see some gift shop windows that I might or might not have found something to buy. Family and friends, you can use your imaginations!  Loyal readers, sorry, you'll have to use your imaginations, too!

You can probably guess that I didn't buy anything here.  I can wait until I get home to buy the M&M's and Twinkies.  (You can click on photographs in this blog for a closer view.  Hit the "escape" or "esc" key to exit to an normal view.)





This is a nice shop for typical food and drink products of León.  You can bet that I didn't buy the meat since customs doesn't like it when I pack it in my luggage.
Meats, pastries, cheeses, and drinks are in this window.

A souvenir shop in front of the Cathedral.

All sorts of figurines.
More from a souvenir shop display.
Ceramics are always popular gifts.
A bottle of local herb liquor.  Very tasty.

Bracelets.  The scallop shells represent the Way of St. James (the Camino de Santiago.)

Anyway, now you've seen some of the cool shopping options I've had.  Hopefully, I made some good decisions.

This will be my last blog entry from Spain, but I've much more to share, including a road trip to Astorga, a fantastic restaurant and trout soup in Órbigo, tapas, more reflections on Holy Week, etc.
Tune-in in a few days after I'm back in Illinois, and I'll still be blogging about my trip to Spain.

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You can view my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com.



This blog has been named one of the top 75 fine art photography blogs on the planet.

 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Apologies, Elderly Cows, and Bar Tabs

As I mentioned in a previous post, my DNA test shows my ancestry is less than one percent Spanish.  Somehow, the people here in León seem to sense this.

A few days ago, I was at one of my favorite tapas bars, Jamón Jamón (Ham Ham), enjoying an excellent glass of local red wine and a crusty white bread topped with an amazing Spanish ham, chorizo, and manchego cheese.  Holy week was not yet over and crowds were everywhere.  Inside the bar, people stood shoulder to shoulder.  I elected to move outside where there was a shelf against the window for patrons to place their drinks and plates of food.  Usually the space around the shelf is also crowded, but today I found myself alone in the outdoor space, with people rushing through the streets around me.

Jamón Jamón serves only one thing for tapas:  crusty bread with Spanish ham, chorizo, and manchego cheese.  (You can click on photographs in this blog for a larger view.  Use the "esc" or "escape" key to exit to a normal view.

For €1.30 ($1.60) you can have a glass of wine and tapas.

It was not long before I heard a commotion and looked around to see a young husband and wife with two small, extremely unruly children pushing my way.  It seemed that the husband's sworn duty was to be totally oblivious to everything going on around him, while the wife grabbed at the children's shirt collars and flailing arms, screaming, "No! Juan Pablo, no!  Javier! No!

Jamón Jamón is a popular destination on the tapas circuit in León.

In a split second, I placed my glass of wine on the shelf and braced myself for the inevitable impact. Sure enough, despite my attempt to move out of the way, the wife, who was bent over trying to control the children, backed into me.  She rapidly turned and looked up at me in horror.  The apology immediately followed, "Sorry!  Sorry!," she said with true remorse.

"No te preocupes. Estoy bien,"  ("Don't worry. I'm fine,") I immediately said as she turned again, crying, "Juan Pablo. Javier!  No!"  The father was looking around with his hands behind his back as if he were waiting for a bus.

Instantly, I was aware that something was wrong.  What had I done?  I hadn't uttered a word before she slammed into me.  Why had she apologized to me in English?  When I wasn't looking had someone secretly stenciled my forehead with text that said, "American. Please speak English!?"

I've had similar incidents happen to me at other times during my travels.  I've been over much of the world, and in some places, I'm obviously a tourist and elicit communication in English, or sometimes in sign language. But here, I thought, if I don't speak with my American accent, surely I will blend in.  Whatever the case, I decided not to dwell on it, and to put it aside so that I could enjoy the last couple of days of Holy Week.

I missed being with my family and friends back in Illinois on Easter Sunday.  I knew that they had enjoyed a wonderful Easter dinner with many traditional dishes, including my favorite: lamb.

On the Tuesday following Easter, my mother-in-law's cousin, Tomasina, invited my mother-in-law, María Rosa; my niece, Sofía with her fiancé, Ronnie; and me to a late lunch. (Lunches in Spain are always very late.)  We entered a very nice restaurant and were soon seated at a table next to a window.

After a few minutes, a waiter appeared and started placing menus in front of us.  I was last. "And a menu in English, for you, sir," he intoned.

I was stunned. How had he known?  I didn't say anything, but looked at him suspiciously.

Seconds later we were talking about other things and I let it slide.  But I must say that the menu in English was a mixed blessing.  Not only did I not know what everything was on the Spanish menu, I had trouble with the English menu, also.  We decided on roasted vegetables and morcilla (a Spanish blood sausage that is delicious, despite what it sounds like)  for a first course.  Then I started looking at the main courses.  After fish were the meats, with beef first on the list.

It was when I got to the third offering that I knew I wouldn't be having beef that afternoon.  "Carne roja de añojo deshuesada..."  The English translation was: "Deboned red meat from elderly cows..."



A picture formed in my head. I could see ancient and decrepit bovines tottering around a pasture waiting to die; the moment they dropped, someone would cart them off to be deboned and placed on a table before us. After getting the image out of my mind, I continued down the menu until I found the leg of lamb. That was my choice, and an excellent one, at that.  It wasn't a substitute for lamb at home, but it made things better.

A leg of lamb with potatoes, a roasted pepper, and salad.  It was far better than eating elderly cows.

A couple of days later, my mother-in-law and I stopped at one of the nearby restaurant/bars for a drink and tapas before lunch, as we often do. (Remember that lunch is late in the afternoon; it's not like we start pounding down drinks at 9 a.m.)  When we were ready to leave, I stepped up to the bar to pay.  The bar tender held up three fingers.  "Three Euros," he said in a heavy Spanish accent.

I sort of see myself as Indiana Jones describes his friend and colleague, Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot,) in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)The Nazis realize that Brody has the journal page revealing the location of the Holy Grail.  Jones defiantly explains why the bad guys will never catch Brody.




 In truth, I think my case lies somewhere between the first and second scenes of the clip.

I keep looking in the mirror to see if something has been stenciled on my forehead, but so far, I haven't found it.





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This blog has been named one of the top 75 fine art photography blogs on the planet.