Two Jesters Named Mel

Mel, a very close friend of one of my photographic mentors, was often fond of saying, “Come on!  Let’s go!  We’re burnin’ daylight!”  The first time I heard this expression, I thought it was funny, but totally in keeping with Mel, the busy New Yorker that he was.  And while I still find it to be a funny expression many years later, I’ve gained a healthy dose of respect for the wisdom, not just in the realm of photography, but also as it applies to life in general.

This past month was a whirlwind of activity, both at home and at work.  I only managed to pick up a camera once or twice, and, I also fell further behind on cataloging a large number of previously shot images, so the immediacy of getting them processed and out to folks seems to be fading as I continue to “burn daylight”.  Thankfully my income does not depend on their delivery, but I am not happy that I have been burnin’ a lot of daylight lately, but have not been able to deliver some photos or put together a post.  Furthermore, we are rapidly approaching that time of the year when the calendar starts to suddenly fill up with lots of seasonal events, and this means even less time for writing, although one really has little to complain about enjoying late spring and early summer weather here in the Pacific Northwest.

The other reason that I have not been able to find some chair time to put together a post is that I was visiting an aging parent who lives out-of-state.  Health restrictions prevented me from any major travel these past two years, so this was a long overdue visit.  It was somewhat bittersweet visit, and it clearly reminded me of why I also take the words of another Mel to heart.  Mel Brooks, one of my favorite comedians, once said that “we mock the thing we are to be”.  Although the quote may have actually been attributed to The 2000 Year Old Man, the message is the same – be careful about making fun of people’s behaviors, because some day that could be you.  It seems that this expression also took some years to fully sink into my brain, succeeding mostly through experience and a bit of aging.  And, I was again reminded of its wisdom in not so subtle terms as I met a number of elderly folks whose lives have been impacted by losses in their cognitive abilities.  It did not seem especially hard to be graceful, caring and compassionate when interacting with people suffering from memory loss, but it was a very stark reminder that life can have many things in store for us that we cannot, or do not, wish to fathom.

A Foggy Memory, 2014

A Foggy Memory, 2014

I am aware that my life may still be a number of years away from many of these types of health challenges, but I am also aware that I am as equally as far away from my college years, yet those days seem just like they were yesterday, a sentiment I am sure that is shared by most folks over 50.  We are all burnin’ daylight, but sooner or later, it seems like many of us are just a bit more aware of the finite amount of daylight that we believe we get to burn.

The days are getting longer, the sun is rising earlier and setting later, and the warmer weather is signaling the start of another summer very shortly.  I am not unhappy to see the cold weather in retreat, but in spite of the challenges that it presented, I tried, and was somewhat successful, in having finally made some peace with winter.  It was a goal I set out to achieve back in 2011, mostly so I could photograph local bird migrations.  And while I am certainly not ready to take a stab at activities like winter camping, as I am still trying to just deal with the basics, like Reynaud’s Syndrome in my hands on mildly cold days, I have tried to understand and accept some of the season’s offerings that may I shunned in years past, like foggy days.

Winter Fog, 2014

Winter Fog, 2014

Both Mels may be quite the jesters, but like many of their medieval counterparts, their advice carries great wisdom amidst their humor.  So, I say bring on the daylight and the warmer weather!  I’m hoping to eventually find the time to catch up on all of the many projects that have been in need of attention, but in the meantime, we are burnin’ daylight!



  1. Suzanne Engelberg

    When I was a child my father used to say “It’s too bad that youth is wasted on the young.” I thought that was a bizarre sentiment–who else but the young would have youth? Now I’m even older than my father was when he made those pronouncements. I finally understand what he meant. I guess I’ve burned a lot of daylight. Fortunately the only people I mocked were my parents. Mel Brooks was right–I’ve acquired many of the characteristics I used to tease them about.


      • Suzanne Engelberg

        The cartoon is great. Thanks for the link! I think I lived my youth in a way that made sense for who I was and the situation I was in, but boy I’d love to have some of that stamina now, and as you wrote, the knowledge that I have now. I think it was the character Merlin who said that life is understood looking backwards but must be lived moving forward.


        • Ken

          Even though I have been trained as a historian, I suspect that Merlin may have been a bit of an optimist as to how much we truly understand when we look backwards. I frequently try to make sense of things past, but I am not sure if they are really understood, or if they are just arranged in some acceptable manner that leads us to believe they are understood. This is a big issue in the world of photography, both for the photographer and the viewer, and is one that is always in the back of my mind when viewing images.


  2. Suzanne Engelberg

    You have an interesting point. I’d like to think that at some point I’ll understand–if not in this life, than perhaps afterwards. (I’m currently reading a book on what people experience as they prepare to die, as I’m preparing for my mother’s death. I’m sure that’s influencing my thinking.)


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