Thursday, March 31, 2016

Even just 5 minutes of sunshine

relieves my Rainy Day Blues.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

This Never Ever Gets Old

High wind. Wet sand. Water's edge. First photo (poorly focused) at 9:54am. First flight at 11:01am.

I suggest you choose HD for the highest quality.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

1,009 Snaps and 7 Videos Later . . .

I learned these important things:

1. how to adjust the focus point without opening the screen (duh . . . file this in the about time category)

2. how to take bracketed shots (thus, the huge number of exposures today . . . and another duh)

3. how to invite (unwittingly) a dragonfly nymph to follow me when it's searching for the tallest spot for emergence (this is something I would not have believed had someone else told me)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

On Celebrating Easter without Being Religious


They started on Good Friday, at the wrong time (there are usual times and then are wrong ones because they are unusual).

It took me several minutes to remember the Way of the Cross.

Then, this morning, knowing that it was Easter, I heard bells twice -- once at the lake

and once at home, when Doodlebug expressed dismay:

She wasn't too sure about the bells, but me? I love them! 

Even when they ring at night, which they did last night.

I wouldn't mind Easter once a week if it's bring on the bells.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Oh, the Irony

More than two hours at the lake, almost 500 pictures including a number of 4K burst photos. 

Joy . . . and frustration. 

Learning a new camera is such hard work. 

Blue Corporal emerging
Took the best picture with the old one, of course.

Gus waits patiently for his family to walk around the lake.
 Back to the 403-page user's manual. 

(Now I need a rainy day, dadgummit!)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Just Like That

In little more than 35 minutes, stolen between house cleaning and the vet's visit, I watched six Blue Corporals and one Fragile Forktail emerge from Lake Cheston.

Blue Corporal teneral
Lake Cheston
Fragile Forktail, right after emergence
I am struck every spring that it's like waiting for the first pop of corn in the pot.

Only better because the delicious servings just keep coming and coming and coming.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Caged Birds

After I filled out the medical forms (five pages) and took them to the front desk, I turned around to take a seat. 

But I didn't move.

Across the room: four finches I hadn't seen.

"I'm not leaving," I said to the woman with my forms; "I'm getting my camera" and headed out to the parking lot.

Back inside, I went straight to the cage: "Do not touch the glass." 

As if I would.

At least not during the day, like this. I might long to return, to remove the birds to a larger space, open to the sky and air in accommodating weather, something more than a hermetically sealed, antiseptic box, but of course I couldn't and wouldn't.

Whose idea was this display anyway with the live birds, tacky plastic flowers, plain background, and pointless blind? One of the doctors, I assume, all dermatologists. The irony didn't escape me: some patients in the room undoubtedly wanted a good face cleaning so they'd look pretty, as pretty -- maybe -- as the trapped finches. 

But as for me, the finches -- though certainly beautiful -- looked dazed, bored, sleepy, and no one else in the large waiting room crowded with patients showed the least bit of interest in the birds.

A remarkable thing -- the cage and its inhabitants, glassed like a painting, and utterly ignored.

The finches deserve better. 

May they continue to ignore all but themselves and each other. Let the rest of us preen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Signs of Hope

Poet Neal Bowers wrote that in the southern spring "hills [are] white with dogwood / or pink with redbud . . . as if [the south] invented hope." The dogwood is coming (mine sport pale green flowers which, with another day or two of sun, will blanch), but the redbud is already here, everywhere, making everything else more intensely blue or green or white or yellow or . . . .

Even the pale blue water tank, graffitied and rusty, and the yellow warning signs and the weathered posts and the horse pasture -- everything so beautiful as if made new again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What I Learned Today

1. I can do my own taxes correctly without buying a program or paying a CPA.

2. Looking at one thing and standing still to watch it, then moving on because the wind has shifted, isn't so bad  because something else will come into view: like a newly emerged Blue Corporal or an ovipositing Green Darner.

3. Although awkward, carrying two cameras in odonate season is the only way to go (at least until I finally have all the right lenses).

4. Natural beings doing their natural thing is balm, always.

Monday, March 21, 2016

More Fun Than a State Fair

Honestly, whirligig beetles are even more fun than the bumper boats and cars I loved at the state fair when I was a child. I can stand on the lake bank and watch these little guys bunch up (they're quite social) and part, suddenly exploding like firework bursts. Imagine moving this fast, looking up and looking down simultaneously, only to come to a complete sudden halt without seeming effort.

or click here and make sure you choose HD1080 for the best quality video

Everything in the natural world delights me, even the carcass of a Fragile Forktail found in the same spot where I watched many mate just last week. It's just the way things are.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Weather Readings

The cats are no fools. They bedded themselves in their plush doughtnuts as soon as they rose from my own bed. All day, they have slept, barely repositioning or peeking.

They know weather.

No sunny spot to stretch across, no open door to deck, no birds to draw them -- jaws chattering -- to the windows.

This cold gray day after several sunny warmer ones hibernates them again.

Not to worry I assure them. These are the death throes of winter.

as people winter,
skin thins
when bruised or punctured
failing to hold within
the vitals
and skin dries
leaking out
what was once within
hiding less
revealing more
veins thin rills of blue

The daffodil, in its last throes like winter, shows its linear skeleton.

Some people read weather, not for the sake of prediction but for the sake of creation. Artist Natalie Miebach collects data and weaves fantastical storms, sometimes composes in musical form.

This is my kind weather, especially on a day like today.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Like Going Home Again

This is where it started: love of flowers.
Like going home, but really at home.

(If you're unable to see the slideshow, see the photos here.)

Friday, March 18, 2016

As If the Snake Bit Me

The other day, I happened upon a watersnake, sunning himself on leaves at Lake Cheston. I didn't see him until after I had scared him and he had slithered downhill into the water. And then, of course, I felt I had to apologize, even though I knew he wouldn't understand me. I did, and moved on.

Today was a lost day. Much like the snake, I was jarred out of my normal routine. One medical test, one long afternoon sleep, some dinner and Netflix streaming, and another long sleep. Happily this isn't an annual exam.

And at least it doesn't scare me.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring Cleaning

Some people clean houses.

I'm cleaning my cats and me: six medical visits/tests (one for the felines and five for me).

I am not a happy camper, especially when the weather has sprung suddenly into spring.

At least I managed to snap one photo today before preparing for tomorrow's doctor visit, and this bloom is conveniently located in my own backyard.

toadshade trillium (I think)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

In the Category of: So What Did You Do Today?

1. Got a replacement crown. 

2. Ate lunch.

3. Had my hair cut.

4. And sat in the mud because . . . Fragile Forktails! At one point I counted seven females!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Springing at Three Venues

Lake Cheston

blue sky, budded trees, warm temperature, toad strings waving the water, Oscar swimming, and one Fragile Forktail sunning

J's Garden

twin-leaf, bloodroot, grape hyacinth, daffodils, vinca, celadine poppy, budded trillium

Abbo's Alley

Virginia spring-beauty, vinca, daffodils, Japanese magnolia, bluebells

It's been a long wait.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Such an Improvement!

Dear W. S.,

Since you came to the University, the grounds have finally starting catching up to the beauty of the buildings and natural surroundings. I really love your work!

I know I spoke to you just a few weeks ago when we ran into each other on the new downtown trail. I thanked you then for the work you've accomplished here, but today I was so startled and delighted as I came off the highway that I went home, changed clothes, and headed right back (before the rain) to snap a few pictures.

Ever since the main entrance to campus was re-routed and the huge stone (and concrete?) sign went up with its bluish light thrown from a lumpy black box, I have averted my eyes and driven further down before turning off. 

Today I didn't.

The sea of daffodils (also found in abundance on the campus this year) and the flood of crocus (I stopped counting at 63) have turned what I think is an eyesore into a welcome springtime delight.

Soon it'll be odonate time, and I look forward to running into at one of the lakes.

With appreciation,

Sunday, March 13, 2016

When I can't go down to Shakerag (bad feet again)

I can wander in the woods behind my own house. 

I counted seven trillium this afternoon; at least two still have their buds, a cervine delicacy. Now if only the rain would stop and the sun would come out, I might get to see a blossom (or two). Meanwhile, I'll enjoy the selfie in a raindrop.


And I can enjoy the buds waiting to burst on the four surviving shrubs I purchased last year.


Small gifts are especially pleasing in the continuing rainy season.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Into the Woods at Home

Hey Neighbor,

Look what's growing in the woods right behind your house!

I'll keep an eye out for the bloom. I found another closer to my house but someone (i.e., a deer) had already plucked the bud. I'll wander further down the hill tomorrow. Maybe the light will be better then.

Meanwhile, your yard looks fabulous (let me know if want pictures), making me feel, once again, I should apologize for the more natural state of my own. (At least my surviving shrubs will bloom.)


Friday, March 11, 2016

On Edge

This is happening, which is a good thing:

But I'm waiting for this

and this.

Come on already, dadgummit!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

They've been at it a while now

but today I finally caught American toads singing at Lake Cheston. I could hear their melodic mating song from the other side of the lake and all the way around. Birds aren't the only singers in spring!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

No Judgment, Please

Yes, I know. 

This may seem excessive.


The season for navel oranges and moro (blood) oranges and cara cara oranges is short.

Life is short.


Eat as many of all of them as possible.

That's my choice.

Carpe diem!

navel orange, Lil Snappers blood orange, cara cara orange

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Slow Emergence

Over the last several days, I've seen flies, no-see-'ems, tiny spiders, one moth, one honeybee, lots of multicolored Asian lady beetles (but then they're been here all winter), and one (I think) paper wasp. This creature was so (I would say bone-) tired that she weakly dropped from Lenten Rose petal to leaf to leaf and finally to a shaded spot between low leaves and stem. When I looked closely, I could see why: she was loaded with pollen.

Soon, I'll be in the zone and just as pooped as she!

Monday, March 7, 2016

What Sparks Joy

I recently read Marie Kondo's The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, which encourages the reader to be brave and declutter. I have been trying, off and on again for a long time, to do just this, but I suspect that I have been doing it wrong.

She suggests one declutter by category (not by room as I have previously tried). Place everything in a category -- books, for example -- on the floor (or several floors in my case) and pick up each item, one by one. Ask yourself, "Does it spark joy?" If yes, it's a keeper; if no, toss.

There are only a few books on my shelves that spark joy every time I see them or touch them or re-read them. The most joyful of all is this one: Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. (In fact, I have written about the book and the writer more than once in this blog: here, here, and here, for example.) As can be clearly seen in these photographs, I have had the book a long time (it was given to me by my grandmother in 1974, a few months after its publication), and I have read it many times.

Just yesterday I read a New York Times Magazine piece featuring Annie Dillard and three newly published essays. The writer's opening fills me with joy, the photograph of Dillard laughing fills me with joy, and Dillard's writing fills and re-fills me with joy -- new words, old words, familiar words, always surprises and elegant thought.

For me, she is the living embodiment of natural wonder and soaring intellect. I will let the author of the article speak for me:

"Dillard began publishing books in 1974. Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, a small collection of poems, was followed immediately by Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a long nonfictional account of her experience embedding, Thoreaustyle, for a year of close observation of the titular waterway in Virginia. Pilgrim won the Pulitzer Prize and unleashed upon the world Dillard’s radical style: prose right on the border of poetry, dense with dazzling effects — strong metaphors, heavy rhythms, bold verbs, sudden parables, outlandish facts harvested from the darkest corners of the library. From the start, this has been Dillard's mission: to crowbar surprise, sentence by sentence, into all the tiny gaps of our ordinary experience. 'Water turtles smooth as beans were gliding down the current in a series of easy, weightless push­offs as men bound on the moon,' she writes in Pilgrim. A pile of burned books 'flaked in my hand like pieces of pie.' In Dillard's writing, strange things are constantly becoming familiar, and vice versa. 'Like mushrooms and engines, they didn’t have hands,' she writes of nuns.) Above all, Dillard refuses to fall into traditional expository rhythms, to calm down, to be normal, to proceed with caution. She feels driven, always, to summon revelations out of nothing — to 'call for fireworks, with only a ballpoint pen.'"

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Color Blocking

Who needs fashion or art on a day like today?

The world offers it own master class.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sun Worship

Despite having had melanoma many years ago, I freely admit that I worship the sun.

Not in the way I did as a stupid teenager, lying on a towel atop an asphalt driveway, after having slathered myself in baby oil. 

But in a respectful way, wandering (in long pants, long socks over the pants, long-sleeved man's shirt, wind jacket as much for the pockets as any other reason, hat) somewhere, anywhere beautiful things can be found. 

Like these:

water and algae
children at Lake Cheston
marmalade cat.
Everyone needs some sun.