Friday, December 31, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Christmas Eve

This exact time a week ago I was sitting on my great grandfather's daybed at our lake house waiting for the sun to rise. It was the morning of Christmas Eve. We'd driven over the night before to share Christmas spirits with friends and spend the night. Spirits and driving don't mix.

It was frigid outside. Crackling air was disturbed only by the moans and signs of countless compressors as heating units chased the chills away from sleeping residents. Our own unit sat outside beneath my window and its wintery breath occasionally clouded the view.

No more sunrise photos I said to myself, for what would be the point? More images unused, clogging up space on a now second stand-alone backup hard drive.

But then those colors began washing the waters and sky and I was doomed. Doomed. Photographers have a gene that renders them incapable of letting a sunrise go to waste, a rodeo go undocumented, or a flower not be recorded for eternity. It's just what we have to do.

Besides, the silhouettes of trees with their few remaining leaves added so much to the composition.

The heart of this sunrise turned brilliant orange.

Limbs stretched toward the sun with glee. Welcome. Welcome.

The softer edges of the sunrise looked like an opal casting gentler colors on the earth.

Maxfield Parrish clouds off in the distance.

Sunrise bokeh dappled and winked upon the ripples.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Giraffe Head Tree.

See more beautiful skies on Skywatch Friday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snowflakes and Ice

See the snowflake?

Like most people with a camera I took my share of White Christmas photos and splashed them up on Facebook. For a long time this weekend it was simply enough to sit and watch in wonder at the beauty and rarity of the occasion. It has been a long, long, long, long, long time since we have had a White Christmas in Alabama. My childhood memories contain many snowy winter times. We built snowmen, went sledding on the sloped road up the hill, made snow cream and dried our wet gloves on the warm air vents. Once, snow was measured in feet and our little dog would have to tunnel through to do her business. Over time snow became rare and our winters became more temperate.

Same flake, a little closer and different angle

But I digress. Yesterday the sun came out and the winds began kicking the fluffy snow about. I'd not yet got out the macro to see what it looks like. Last year we had a light snow at the lake, and through the macro I discovered the snow to be shards like crystals. Not "flakes," as we see on Christmas cards. This year, this snow, I found actual flakes. Hurrying was essential for the sun was beginning to melt the snow into icy, frosty bundles.

Once a real snowflake was spotted it became a mission to find more. Along the way there was lots of beauty to record. Bronze leaves with sugar on top.

Another snowflake about to become part of the icy frost coating a boxwood leaf.

The trees held special treasures nestled among the lichens and tendrils.

This snowflake glinted in the sun, grabbing my attention and delight.

Little pockets of snow were tucked into deep crevasses of a maple tree's bark.

Then, I found ice coating the roses.

Ice coating the azalea. If you enlarge the photo you can see the imprint of snowflakes.

I enjoy very much grand, sweeping landscape photographs of snowy fields, mountains with snow-topped trees, streams with snowy banks, old mills and lighthouses decked with snow and all those similarly stunning images that beg to front a Christmas card. However, there's something about getting in close, seeing snow up close and personal, that makes me smile. Happy Holidays, ya'll, from the frozen South.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's Truly Important

This holiday we count our blessings on all the fingers and toes we can find. We have been given an extraordinary gift. Bob came close to leaving us permanently on August 3rd, 3pm, but found spiritual blessings via a personalized epiphany that appeared nearly non-stop while under trauma care in SICU. I can't share details of something so personal but it has indeed been life changing for him, for us. That is Blessing Number 1.

The teenager is growing up. Now a first year college student she is spreading her wings, discovering herself, and learning how to be in Real Life. This ain't Reality TV, baby! She is maturing like a rocket, taking nearly a full load while working and living in an apartment. The blessing is just how well she is handling everything. Our daughter is growing up and pursuing her dreams - that's just the way it's supposed to be. Congratulations daughter - this is Blessing Number 2.

Okay, I just had to highlight our dog, Baylee. She was supposed to be a cat. "No More Dogs!" I said, stomping my foot, nose high, leaving the room. That eventually became "I'M not taking care of her - YOU'RE taking care of her!!!!" However, today? Who's dog is she? She's MY DOG and I'm NOT giving her back! She is the bestest, most wise, funniest, smartest, lovingst dog ever in the history of dogdom. Baylee is my touchstone. When I need a hug she is always there with her perfect doggie scent and warm licks to my face. Baylee is Blessing Number 3.

Marrying Bob opened my world to a family I consider one of my finest blessings. We all have shared many a Christmas together, and other holidays as well. We've celebrated in Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Mississippi, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, and of course Alabama. Our family is scattered all around the United States, and some even live in England. Yes, there are celebrations going on over there, too, this year. These two photos, above, represent Blessings Number 4.

Blessing Number 5 has to be my mother. Known as Mur, Mimi, Mimi-Monet and Miss Betty - she goes by many monikers but she is always Mother to me. She has all my life been there for me in more ways than I can count. While we had a good relationship in the early day, today she has become my very best friend. Time spent with her these past few years have been a gift to us both. Now that she is married we see each other less often but our love for each other hasn't diminished. We will find a "new normal," as someone I love often says. This woman is my mentor, my personal angel, sent to me straight from God. Blessing Number 5.

There are of course other blessings in my life but for this post, today's purpose, these blessings are speaking to my heart. I am missing Bill and Elgin deeply this year but feel them here with us. Several visions of Elgin appeared at the hospital during Bob's darkest days. They are here, and I am so pleased to feel their presence.

Houses go away but people remain. This is a reminder to me, to my soul, of what is truly important. Merry Christmas my friends. Please remember to give lots of hugs this season. Oh, and special thanks to Jerry Jones of Shadowhouse Creations for the lovely textures.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Cranes

You know how it is. After painstakingly processing hundreds of images, and narrowing down your blogging choices to a precious few, ya go back and fall in love with some images all over again. This morning in our quiet house, everyone (dogs and hubs) sleeping but me, the smoky flavor of coffee steaming around my face, I revisited our trip to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to see the cranes. Words of wisdom aren't forming this morning so I'll share instead words from other like minds. The link to the quote page can be found at the bottom of this post.

"I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?"

~Robert Redford, 1985

"There must be a better way to make the things we want, a way that doesn't spoil the sky, or the rain or the land".

~Sir Paul McCartney

"Sustainability is a condition of existence which enables the present generation of humans and other species to enjoy social wellbeing, a vibrant economy, and a healthy environment, and to experience fulfillment, beauty and joy, without compromising the ability of future generations of humans and other species to enjoy the same."

~Guy Dauncey

"The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future."

~Marya Mannes, More in Anger, 1958

"The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river."

~Ross Perot

"Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals "love" them. But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more."

~Edwin Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons, 1953

These and more Sustainability Quotes can be found at the Drury University website. Just click the link if you're interested.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Carroll and I met in the middle to see the sandhill cranes. We hoped to see some whooping cranes as well. The volunteer manning the desk said there are an estimated 7,000 sandhill cranes at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge this winter. She also said there are a "hand full" of whooping cranes. Whooping cranes are a bucket bird for me and Carroll, and our spirits were high.

We arrived at 9am and followed a volunteer in who opened the refuge gate. Sandhills were flying all around us, trumpeting their holiday greetings. I spotted one whooper nestled in with the flying sandhills, but it was a brief glimpse only. Once settled in the observation building we watched sandhills come and go amid a great amount and variety of ducks.

Lots of courtin' going on.

Sandhills flying and sandhills foraging.

Great flocks of sandhills flew right past our windows.

Sweet, soft morning with the cranes.

They flew right over the building, which has a speaker system installed. Inside, you can hear every trumpet call, every quack, every birdsong. The experience is complete.

As the sandhills fly past I spot two brighter cranes off in the distance. Could it be...?

Yes, the mated pair of whoopers our volunteer told us to be on the lookout for.

We watched the soar and ride the currents up and up and up, then down, down, down, like a slow aerial ballet. Finally, they began their landing approach.

In concert.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Brown Thrasher

I hereby announce an end to the pity party. Put away the party hats, take down the banner, throw the streamers into the trash. It's over. I'm very appreciative of everyone's kind comments, your encouragement and positivity. I've missed being here, frankly, and my absence is showing. What a dowdy, drab place it has become. Old music, stale graphics, doom and gloom. Ick and ach! A pox on doom and gloom! As of today I shall once more begin counting my blessings, which are in abundance. Let's start with some creatures from our yard and have a parade.

The brown thrasher, above, is easy to hear scrambling through the leaves and brush of our house, but has been hard to spot. Until this day, when he poked his head out and stood for his portrait. Isn't he gorgeous?

Cedar Waxwing

The other day I was playing frisbee with Baylee in the backyard and I hear this trilling high overhead. There's no song quite as distinctive as a Cedar Waxwing's, to me anyway. There were about 20 or so high in the trees snacking on some berries.

Cedar Waxwing

These are some of my favorite birds, the cedar waxwings. Their coloration and markings are strikingly beautiful, and their trilling song warms my heart.

Is this a white crowned sparrow? My bird book is still packed. There were about 5-6 of them one afternoon snuffling in the leaves, getting worms and seeds.


The State Bird of Alabama, climbing up a tree in the backyard.

He jumps down to the ground, grabbing hickory nuts and other snacks.

What a handsome, gorgeous fella.

This summer two black swallowtails of some sort were making babies,
fluttering around like this for quite some time.

Rufus Sided Towhee, I believe.


Love the bumblers....

Skipper of some sort, all these on the blooming autumn sedum this fall.


I'm crazy about sycamores. They're messy, I know, but they are beautiful.

So, I'm back and I'm once again embracing Life and Adventure and Starting Over and New Beginnings and all that good stuff. Now that I have some pretty photos up (some which require help with identification) it's time to spruce up this blog and decorate for the holidays. Season's Greetings, ya'll!


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