Posted in Photography

Every Picture Tells a Story

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.

Ansel Adams

            When I am behind my camera, I see things that others miss.  I feel new and young and inquisitive.  My world is more interesting, with colors so vivid it is almost too much to bear, and I am able to focus on what really matters, the fine details of the bigger picture.

            When I retired, I upgraded my little Nikon Coolpix to this bad boy, Nikon D3500.  The 3500 came with one lens that was adequate and allowed me to snap pics from 17-55 feet, but as I got used to taking photos and our travels expanded, I soon “needed” a larger lens.  (18-400)

            On a trip to Mount Vernon, Virginia, the historic home of George and Martha Washington, I found myself enthralled with the immaculate grounds, gardens, and the Potomac River.  You can actually sit in rocking chairs on the back porch and just stare at the beautiful trees, river, and horizon.  There are probably 40 plus rocking chairs set up just for visitors.

            By now, Boo knows nothing means more to me on vacation than taking photos.  He lets me wander and stop to snap as much as I want.  Sometimes he will call out worthy subjects and point to interesting sights, as he did at Mount Vernon.

            “Babe, look at the cool bird sitting on top of that huge magnolia tree.”

            I love photographing trees and as I was snapping away, I felt something behind me as two rather ‘weathered’ ladies tiptoed up, whispering, “We saw it too. You’ve got quite an eye.”

            I turned smiling, “Thank you.  It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?”

            “Have you seen one before?”  they asked, still whispering.

            “Oh sure, lots of times.  We have them in Texas.”  I whispered back.

            “Ohhhhhh my, that’s rare.  They are usually only seen in this region.  Do you use a journal or keep track online?”  One lady asked.

            And that is when I realized that they thought I was a Birder.  Before I had to admit I was talking about the tree, the bird flew off and two more with it that had been hiding in the tree.

Impressively, I snapped photo after photo of the birds in flight and was able to follow the birds across the sky, all the while not having a clue as to what kind of birds they were. 

            The ladies stopped and burst into an applause. Then waved fondly as they moved on down the path.

            “Good luck!”  they called.

There is something about a large camera that makes people think you must be taking important photos and you must know what you are doing.  On my first ever trip to Mardi Gras, I went with my Sittn’ Ugly Sistah, Ginger, to her parents’ home in Eunice, Louisiana.  Our friends, Mary and Cynthia went too and the three of them really schooled me as to Mardi Gras etiquette.  Once we got to downtown Eunice, I was behind my camera soaking up the colors, sights, and action.

 

People would stop and ask, “Will you take our picture?”  They never seemed to worry about seeing the picture or wondering where it would go, they just wanted to be photographed.  Couples would dance by on the street and pose, waiting for me to snap.  I gladly obliged.  I could almost hear the band and smell the gumbo through my lens.

I love photographing pets, and I could make a large coffee table book just on the pictures I have of our cat.  She’s very photogenic, if I do say so myself, and she is a subject that never gets old.

On a beach trip to Galveston, Boo broke speed limits and raced against time to get me to  ‘the best place in Galveston to capture a sunset.’  He googled the location and even carried my tripod, while helping me out onto the pier.   In Maine, he carried my camera backpack all the way on our three-mile hike around the pond. 

In Glacier National Park, he sprinted through the rain with my camera under his shirt just to make sure the camera stayed dry.  At family gatherings, he’s constantly asking, “Did you get that?”  He’s happy to see me happy taking pictures.  Even Uncle B, Boo’s brother, is supportive.  He gave me his tripod and is always sending me photos he knows I would appreciate.

When your heart jumps every time your camera locks focus- You’ve become a photographer.

Mark Denman

My heart jumps when I photograph my grandkids.  In fact, my favorite subjects are the people I love.  My second favorite is nature.  Any raindrop, insect, flower, tree, or animal; all gardens, mountains, oceans, and clouds.  My mind actually sees things within a frame.  It’s as if my vision is a camera lens.

Most of my photography is what the professionals call a “happy accident.”  I accidently get a beautiful shot and I’m not sure how it happened.  I’ve taken classes, yet sometimes I feel intimidated by people with seemingly more knowledge, bigger vocabularies, and fancier equipment.  But, as with writing, there are a lot of people who talk about it, think about it and plan to do it, and there are those of us who do.  I’m taking a chance, embracing imperfection and enjoying my photography more than I could ever explain.  It simply fills my soul, and that’s all I need to know.

Posted in Nature

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

My backyard sanctuary is home to two new families.

Being an amateur photographer and Birder I use words like cute or sweet to describe the new families that have inhabited our decorative birdhouses on the patio. I call them chickadees but I’m not positive they are, so maybe one of you will know for sure.

Every year these little birdies spend a week or two preparing a new nest for their springtime babies.  It is hard work to fly back and forth, collecting leaves, string, feathers, and twigs to weave elaborate homes for their soon-to-be eggs. Below you see our bird taking in a rather large piece of white, paper-thin material.

Building the nest

When the nest is built, the mother-to-be will unceremoniously enter the nest, lay eggs, and begin to brood.  Although, we saw the birds building their nest, we were surprised when we peaked in one day and saw the mother looking back at us.  Even if the mother were to be scared away, she will come right back for the two-week incubation period. 

We definitely saw the little brown bird building the nest in the bluebonnet house, but during Easter weekend our son-in-law peeked into the white house and saw babies. How, we wondered and when did this happen?

Shortly after Easter the babies hatched in the bluebonnet house.  We do not hear their faint cries yet, but there is quite a commotion that ensues nearly all day long as the parent birds fly back and forth, looking for food and bringing food to the babies.   I read that when the eggs first hatch, the female will brood the young and the male will bring food.  After brooding both female and male will search for food.  Right now, I’m assuming the male flies out to locate worms, seeds, insects and berries. When his beak is full, he flies to one of the patio chairs and surveys the area.  Then he will fly to the roof or a plant near the birdhouse, and after looking around, he will land on the perch, glance around, then stick his beak into the birdhouse.

Boo, Emmy Cat, and I are mesmerized at their beauty and diligence.  We spend way too much time watching from the window and sometimes from outside, as I sit at the table quietly observing. Usually after a few minutes the birds will resume their work after they’ve decided I am no threat.  Even the other birds watch with anticipation.

We have stacked more plants on the rack to deter any neighborhood cats or other animals from disturbing the new family, while we wish we could do more to keep them safe, nature has its way.

I would love to know from you fellow backyard Birders if these are chickadees?  And are the brown ones in the same family? The brown and black/white birdies are both going to both houses! What’s going on? Boo said this is like an episode of Sister Wives!

Inquiring minds want to know!

Emmy sits for hours watching her birdies.

Posted in Contemplations, Gratitude

I Need Something Sweet by Nancy Malcolm

            There are days, we all have them, where it seems everyone and everything around us is sharp. Sharp tones or answers to our questions that feel snippy and harsh.    I call these tender days, a day when tears are close by and thoughts are deep.  On these days I feel alone in an alien world that thrives on being blunt or quick.  “I need something sweet, Lord,” I whisper in a quiet prayer.  “I need something sweet.”

            As I get older the tears fall more readily.  They often are on the brink, ready to fall and just as close is a smile open and ready to fill my face.  Maybe it’s because I realize I have less time to waste on foolishness, or hurtful people or things that don’t serve a loving purpose.  I appreciate more the answered prayers that are sent to me.  I feel the more I ask for sweetness in my life, the more is sent to me. 

            On one such tender day, two years ago, I was volunteering with my elderly Hospice patient.  She had wanted to go to the grocery store, just to look around.  I pushed her wheelchair up and down the aisles as she looked at make-up, smelled the candles, and marveled at the various types of crackers. We perused the Hallmark cards and bought some candy.  She just wanted to feel normal for a change and I wanted that for her too.  We had spent an hour wandering the aisles, when we got in line to check out.  The woman behind us kept staring and smiling at us and finally she said to me, “Is this your mother?”

            I smiled at my patient and said, “Oh, how I wish she was.  We’re just good friends.”

            The woman replied, “Well, you look beautiful enough to be mother and daughter.”

            And my patient said, “I wish we were.  She is the sweetest girl in the world to me.”

            I bent down to hug my little friend, and we both had tears in our eyes.  That was something sweet.

            I always find when I whisper my need for something sweet, God is waiting and willing to send it.  A smile from a stranger.  A love pat from my husband.  A phone call from my daughter.  A thank you from a friend.  There’s goodness on its way in many different forms if I am open to see it.

            My dear friend Mary, who has since passed away, always encouraged me in my photography.  She would call and ask if I wanted to walk the trails at the Wildflower Center, “Be sure to bring your camera,” she would say.  Then as we walked, she seemed happy for me as I found butterflies or dragonflies just begging to be photographed.  “Look over here!” she would say. “This butterfly is just waiting for you.”  She never failed to compliment me or brag to others about my talent.  She was something so precious that I can live on the memory of her sweetness for years to come.

            I feel the blessings when I encounter kind and generous souls inside my day.  The friendly cashier, gracious friends or a loving card in the mail.  I feel so lucky because my inner whisper, “I need something sweet,” seems to send my guardian angels into overdrive sending me all manner of beautiful expressions.  Even now as I sit at my desk, there is a gorgeous red cardinal outside my window especially for me to enjoy.

            I pray to be reminded that when I whisper, “I need something sweet,” there are others, too, who are whispering.  Perhaps it is within my power to be that source for someone else.  I want to be mindful of their whispers, too.  Take note of the whisper in your heart and the hearts of others. Ask God to let you hear the whisper and give you the courage to answer the call.

In loving memory of Eunice J.
Posted in Boo, Nature, Photography

Squirrels Are Nuts

“Those Bastards!” I heard Boo hollar from the family room window.

“Those dang squirrels have eaten every bite of the bird seed and are now taunting the Bluejays.”

We stood side by side, noses pressed against the window watching as the squirrely creatures took over the backyard.

“It’s like a gang has taken over ‘the yard’ at Alcatraz.  Instead of the Bloods and Crips, it’s the Flying Nuts and the Angry Birds,” I said.

A few years ago our daughter and son-in-law gave us the Yankee Flipper bird feeder, which was our eighth bird feeder in five years.  It was pricey, sturdy and guaranteed to keep squirrels away from the bird food.  “Guaranteed!”  

The Yankee Flipper is designed to spin and flip anything heavier than a bird.  I hate to admit it, but we had a blast watching as it spun, and then gently tossed the squirrels into the grass.  No squirrels were harmed in the process, but it provided hours of entertainment as we watched our pesky guests become dazed and confused.

Squirrels are a member of the rodent family.  They include tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, flying squirrels and prairie dogs. (I always thought a tree squirrel and a ground squirrel were the same thing.)  There are red squirrels and black squirrels and our usually brown ones.  Who knew there could be so many different species?

What is a squirrel’s purpose in life?  I used to think they were so cute, but now they dig up my plants and eat my bird seed.  Remember Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies?  She was always cooking up a mess of stewed squirrel or roast possum.  Sounds like the Keto diet gone amuck.  And talk about attitude…squirrels taunt birds and upset the cat with high pitched chirping, squeeks, scraping and barks.  They act entitled and indignant all at the same time.

Just for fun I read about having a squirrel for a spirit animal.  Who would openly admit this, I wondered?  To have a squirrel on your totem pole means you are very resourceful and that you prepare for the present and future.  And if you dream about squirrels it means you need to lighten your load of clutter and unnecessary items, and that you need more fun in your life.  I tell you this because I know there are still squirrel lovers out there, although the number may be dwindling.

Lest I digress, the Yankee Flipper motor had to be charged occasionally to keep the twirl and flip going.  But, as the years have gone by it has lost its ability to juice up.

Our birds love the large feeder but the problem is the squirrels think it is for them, too.  I personally have watched as a squirrel hangs between the feeder and the tree, perpendicular to the ground, swinging to and fro until he can make the leap.  Sometimes they jump from the tree onto the top of the feeder and shimmy down to the food.  I must admit, they are agile little daredevils.  When we open the backdoor, they freeze to see who it is.  If it’s me, they hang loose and gingerly take their time climbing back up the tree.  If it’s Boo, they disappear in a matter of seconds and perch high enough to chatter and backtalk until he goes back in.

“I won’t go down without a fight”  Boo saluted.  “They have met their match.  Remember when we went to Yosemite, and they taught us to clap our hands loud and yell ‘Hey bear’ if we came across a grizzly?”

“Yes, Babe, but….”  As I turned to look his way, I saw him in his Ranger hat and filling up a water gun, but it was too late.  He was heading out into the back yard.

I give up’, I whispered to myself and moved closer to watch what would happen next.  Squirrels are nuts, and Boo… is Boo.

All photographs are my own…..obviously