Monday, December 31, 2012


Another year has run it course and had it way with us, and is speedily trickling away. The bottom-line bean-counter types say now is the time to tally up. Make an honest assessment of the situation. Add the pluses, subtract the minuses. Get a perspective on your personal progress. 

Hmmm. Well, why not? I've never listened much to such folks, but you never know…for once they could be onto something. I'll have a go.

Let's see…

I'm no richer. No wiser. Nor a whit more talented. 

[Excuse me a minute, I have to go down the hall to check this out.………………Okay, I'm back.]

Nope, I looked in the mirror. No better looking, either. Didn't think so. Just the same old mug. Dang!

I am a birthday older—but I quit counting that as a positive once I'd turned 21.

On the other hand, I'm still on the sky side of the grass, which in my book is the positive that trumps everything. Moreover, I don't yet need to wear adult diapers, can clip my own toenails, and regularly feed myself soup from a spoon without dribbling any more on my shirt than I did at age 21…even less, in fact, because I now often do the wash and know how difficult is to get those greasy spots out of cotton fabric, so I'm more careful eating.     

I also know God, Myladylove, my daughter, and Moon-the-Dog all love me, in spite of my countless faults—and I truly love them all right back with all my heart.

And speaking of hearts, my own received a new metronome this May which has made a world of difference—starting with the obvious fact I'm still here to witness another passage from one year to the next. For that I'm grateful beyond words.

Though I won't bore you with their itemization, let me just finish by saying my 2012 personal checklist is simply awash with positives, overflowing with good stuff, bounteous with blessings. And that handful of "didn't get" negatives are too few and too unimportant to be worth thinking about.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Joy to the world!

For unto us was born this day
In the city of David,
A Saviour
Which is Christ
The Lord!

Christmas is here!

Glory to God in the highest!
And on earth, peace,
Good will toward men.

From my home to yours,
May your celebration be blessed,
Your gifts be many,
And your life be filled with joy!

And may the spirit of this day
Carry throughout the coming year!

Friday, December 21, 2012


The solstice passed earlier this morning, meaning winter has now officially arrived. But the real news is that in an uncommon natural synchronization worthy of any saccharine Christmas movie from the Hallmark Channel, the weather decided to cooperate by matching the new season with our first real snowfall. 

Not much snow, mind you—something less than two inches. A few additional flakes do keep whirling around out there, but unless these light flurries increase, there'll be no making a snowman, and you'd be hard-pressed to mount much of a snowball fight.    

Still, Moon-the-Dog and I couldn't be happier, since we both love snow and will take all we can get—though a certain member of the household was heard to mutter a few less enthusiastic words as she bustled through breakfast and all those complicated distaff-side details apparently involved in getting ready for work. Of course much of her mood's tone might have been due to the fact she had to be at her office desk a half-hour early in order to participate in a conference call among the bank's various branch managers. In the mysterious way Myladylove reasons through and applies such time-shifts to her personal schedule—which, naturally, becomes my schedule, as I'm first to arise, in order to have our breakfasts ready when she gets up—arriving a half-hour early at work necessitates a full extra hour at home in order to get going.

In case you're wondering, I've asked how such time increases always become so exponential on our end of the equation. I've asked, oh yes indeed, more than once. However, the only answer I've received is one of those female-patented looks which conveys the notion that not only is the answer obvious, but that failure to recognize its logic suggests a flaw in cognitive methodology, and may, in fact, indicate a more serious lack of capability.  

The up side is that an hour early for her means no more than an extra ten minutes for me, since I seldom sleep later than 6:00 a.m.—and only bother setting an alarm clock if I need to get up before 5:00 a.m.

This first snow was preceded by rain yesterday—apparently rather heavy rainfall to the north of here, as the river has been on the rise and getting more discolored all morning. The picturesque view above has changed considerably as the water's come up and muddied. Tomorrow and Sunday are supposed to be sunny, with more rain Monday, and partial clouds on Christmas Day. Which means Moon and I had better get our snowy rambles in today.   


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Yes…it is really, really, REALLY and intentionally this red!

Here are the promised shots of the front-door redo…and for Robin, a shot of the Christmas tree and a few decorations.

Scotch pine, 9-plus feet, with droopy star.
Otherwise, we're as rushed as ever trying to keep up…still shopping nightly and every other available minute (but almost done!), mailing packages off to distant kin, adding to lists, checking things twice, being as yet undecided what to buy for one another, and not quite to the point of even thinking about food for the upcoming celebration meals—all the while trying our best amid the glorious melee to not allow everything to become all work and no play, and watch the holidays zoom past without really enjoying them.

Droopy star.

Not the always easiest line to keep. 

Is it possible to be having a good time while being frantically exhausted?
The week's real news was a beaver in the Cottage Pool the other morning. A rare treat. I spotted it swimming along the bank, just beyond the stone steps leading down to the water's edge. It's the first beaver I've seen hereabouts in months.

I'd taken Moon out for her morning constitutional just after dawn, and while she did her business, ambled over to look at the river. The beaver was practically at my feet, and didn't seem too concerned—just gave me rather speculative look, and doubtless decided I posed no threat, given my early-morning dishevelment and the desperate clutch I had on my coffee mug, as if I were still barely a sip away from falling asleep on my feet.
My favorite ornament.

Beavers are apparently wise critters…


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


For the second time in the past few days, a Carolina wren has flown into the cottage and found itself trapped. Neither time did we actually see the little bird dart inside. Last's night's visit was only realized some minutes after the fact, though I should have known something was afoot—er, a'wing—after glancing down the hallway from the kitchen and noticing a couple of small woven baskets, which usually sit on a high shelf, scattered on the floor near the back door.

Huh? I thought to myself. Wonder how they got knocked off?

At that moment  I was busy keeping a close eye on a tray of Bruschetta toasting under the broiler. Timing is critical when doing Bruschetta, with perfect browning and bitterly burnt being a matter of mere seconds apart. My supper creations—slices of fresh Vienna bread, rubbed with garlic, salted and peppered, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with bits of cheese, bacon, and chopped veggies—were moments from their delectable completion…and therefore there was simply not time to puzzle over the oddity of the fallen baskets.

Then Myladylove toodled down the hallway and turned left into the laundry room to check the dryer. "Eeeeek!" she yelled, executing a dandy Olympic-class backpedal from a half-squat position into the hall. "There's a bird in here!"

"Probably a wren," I said, flipping on the oven light for a bread check: Thirty more seconds. "You're safe," I added, because while Myladylove is not exactly afraid of birds, she can be disconcerted when meeting one unexpectedly in close proximity.

"Get in here and let this thing out! Now!"

"Just another minute," I said, stalling for the sake of the Bruschetta…and, I must confess, for the entertainment of watching a full-grown woman doing the quick-step avoidance waltz. Which is, I think, an odd reaction from a gal who's spent much of her life outdoors, often camping and living ruggedly, including a few years on an Alaskan island where a trip to bathe in a nearby stream necessitated carting a suitable firearm along as well as soap and towel, just in case a grizzly wandered by. But you'd have thought it was a bloodthirsty pterodactyl she was playing dodge-'em with instead of a half-ounce wren. 

"NOW! This bird will poop in the house!"

"That'd mean the Mayans got it right, I guess," I said. Perhaps it wasn't so much mild phobia as good housekeeping causing the impromptu comedy.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she said, as I came to rescue both her and the wren—after first, of course, taking my Bruschetta from the oven.

"Poop," I said, grinning as I passed around her in the hall. "I'm referring to the possibility of the wren pooping inside. That happens—and I'd say it's more like a probability, given the way you've been frightening the poor bird with all your didoes and yelping—and sounds to me like you think we'd be looking at the end of the world…meaning the Mayans called it."

My writing room is located directly at the end of the hall across from the laundry. The wren had been flitting from one to the other. "Which way?" I asked Myladylove. She pointed right. I looked in my workroom toward the desk. The wren was sitting atop the Mac; no poop on the screen that I could see. The bird saw me and flew up onto a wire shelf adjacent to the printer. I picked up a camera and snapped a quick shot. The wren flew onto the floor and hopped under the desk.

I stepped out, crossed the hall, turned the laundry room's lights off, then turned the interior hall light off, opened the back door, and turned the outside light on. "You stay there," I told Myladylove, "and herd the wren back down the hall should it head your way."

The wren was perched on the fireplace mantle when I reentered my workroom. The bird didn't seem too frightened. Black eyes gave me a sharp, quizzical scrutiny. "You need to head back to the roost," I explained. The wren flew across the room to the wall of built-in bookcases, where it sat, still keeping me in close watch. "Out this door and turn right," I said, stepping back to be less in the way of the flight path to the back door.

And in a sudden whirr of wings, the tiny Carolina wren was up and out…and gone.

But probably not for long. I'm sure the accidental visits occur because it's electing to roost in the stone cottage's deep and thus protected back door inset. Whenever one of us goes out, the open door and flicked-on porch light prompts the startled wren to fly the wrong way, into the house. That's usually the scenario with visiting wrens. Almost certainly, we'll be shooing the bird out again before too long.

At least I hope so. Carolina wrens are one of my favorite birds.  However, I can't say those sentiments are exactly shared by every member of the household.          


Friday, December 7, 2012


The chickadees have been at my window feeder since dawn. Occasionally they're joined by goldfinches, house finches, titmice, nuthatches, and house sparrows. And from time to time a red-bellied woodpecker flaps in with a ratchety-squawk, proprietorially shoos everyone else away, furtively gobbles a seed or two, then bolts like a burglar surprised while filching the silverware.

While that goodwill Christmas spirit of fellowship and charity may be strengthening daily in most of us, beneath the ol' red-bellied's natty black-and-white houndstooth-checker waistcoat and sporty crimson skullcap, beats a heart as miserly as Ebenezer Scrooge's before Marley came clanking up the steps. I'm thinking a close scare from one of the neighborhood cats that sometimes stalk through the yard, and maybe a few feather-curling sips of strong eggnog, might do that grumpy bird a world of good…which doesn't, I suppose, put my own Christmas spirit in the most magnanimous light.

It's dark and drizzly outside and the weatherman says we'll have rain for the next few days—at least through the weekend. Not cold, just wet. Which is fine, since our time will be spent gift shopping and decorating the Scotch pine we cut down and brought home Wednesday afternoon. We do have some decorations in place already, but for me, it isn't until the tree is up, trimmed with countless ornaments, colored lights, yards of sparkling garland, and glittering icicles, plus the glowing star topper, that the house really seems truly ready for Christmas.

For now, I have a stack of Christmas CDs I'm feeding into the player and the house is filled with beloved music. I put a pot of chili together earlier that's delectably simmering very slowly on the stove. I also have a column to write—though it's deadline isn't until next week—and a few touches on the new woodstove hearth to complete, which means, first, a trip to the big-box hardware store. At the moment, while waiting for a UPS delivery before I leave, I've decided to give into the urge to bake something…the question being, what? Bread to eat with the chili? Or cookies or cake for dessert?

Maybe, if that UPS truck doesn't show up right away, both.  


Sunday, December 2, 2012


I love the Christmas season in its entirety—from carols to fruitcake, gift-shopping to tree-trimming…all the music and fragrance and bustle. But most of all I love the feeling—that mood of joy and wonder and compassionate goodness which, in spite of greedy commercialism at every turn, somehow yet takes hold of our human heart to steadily draw us toward a place greater than ourselves, where desire and purpose becomes interwoven with the divine. 

For me, Christmas is all about that journey renewed—an annual arc through time and memory, faith and belief, spirit and blessings and love; a passage from darkness into light, following along a sweet and familiar path, to a destination that is home. 

Today is the first day of Advent, the initial step along the road to Christmas. Seeking to mark that seasonal pilgrimage, and as a way of sharing this ongoing celebration, I decided to post a daily card, each with a photo and quote. I hope you enjoy this Riverdaze countdown.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Sunset with duck…

Well, another Thanksgiving has passed and the leftovers are dwindling. That isn't, by the way, a complaint regarding leftovers, which I love…possibly more than the actual feast. I'm simply thinking about how the month of November is winding down, autumn is having its last hurrah, and this particular day has come and gone—twilight having given way to starlit darkness more than an hour ago.

But then, oh, what a glorious day it has been! Nearly 50˚F, no wind, with vast blue skies and brilliant sunshine. The sort of day that could too easily become habit-forming, and which at the very least, you'd like to see repeats of hanging around until the seasons officially change. 

Here along the river, these post-Thanksgiving days have been busy. Myladylove and I have been constructing a cobblestone hearth in the great room for a woodstove, which at the moment is parked in its cardboard carton and shipping shrink-wrap, in front of one of the bookcases. There are also a couple of red-cedar 4x4x8s stacked along one wall, boxes of nails, tubes of construction adhesive, and various tools scatted about, all of which gives the room a rather industrial warehousey under-construction ambience—not the sort of place we need to be starting to decorate for Christmas. Not to mention we have no idea where we'll put the tree. 

Finally, here's a recently acquired piece of friendly advice: If, during the middle of a dark November night, you should submit to the urge to toddle through your own living room on some now-forgotten errand—a room in which a similar cast-iron stove is sitting in the way…DO NOT, in your sleepy stupidity, look upon said cast-iron lump and give it a careless bump with your hip, as if it were an overstuffed chair you might shove out of the way. Cast iron woodstoves cannot be pushed around and intimidated. Cast iron stoves are heavy, solid, and more durable than bodily flesh. And until you have the thing seated safely on its hearth, give it a wide berth. Neither pooch nor spouse will appreciate being startled awake by your wounded howls. Nor will the cast-iron woodstove care.      

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Earlier this evening I stood on the deck overlooking the river. A sliver of moon, like a pale ivory scimitar, sought its way through tangles of bare branches in the tall sycamores on the island across from the cottage. Soon it would sink over the western horizon, leaving only the light from scattered stars to punctuate the crisp darkness.

A dozen feet away water purled over riffle stones. A good sound—the murmur of a stream at peace, neither rushing nor resting, but flowing steadily along, finding its way one bend at a time to a destination already set at birth, down a pathway as ancient as surface geography. You might even call it a happy river.

I feel small when I look at the night sky. And I feel foolish when I listen to rivers. If you want to know your real worth, look up at the stars and listen to streams. Both rearrange my personal perspective while administering a dose of humility. Oddly, I find the experience reassuring, refreshing. I can't grasp one, and I don't understand the other. But I know those stars will still be out there twinkling in night skies a thousand years from now—and I know rivers will be whispering their way from source to sea. 

With me, or without me. I don't really matter; I'm not responsible.

That's comforting. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Sunrise with buzzard…

Well, yes—I have been busy, with more tasks and chores than time, energy, or nice weather for the outside stuff that needing doing, allowed. Last week I wrote five articles, finished painting, staining, and varnishing the front door (nope, haven't forgotten those promised photos) split wood, redid a kitchen light, bought and laid out paving cobbles for a hearth we're putting in the great room for a new wood stove, and ran around to endless stores and a dozen appointments. 

I still have a bit of wood to split—mostly logs which have to first be chainsawed to a shorter length so's to fit in the splitter. The wood stove has to be picked up from the farm supply store and wrangled into the house—and, of course, the hearth must be set and finished beforehand. Then, everything in place to measure accurately, the fireplace opening needs to be tightly sealed off so the stovepipe can be vented through the former opening and into the chimney.

My daughter and son-in-law will be in Florida for Thanksgiving. So we'd planned a sort of pre-Thanksgiving meal here, Sunday. I had my menue all sorted out, everything bought and ready. Dinner, I said would be at 6:00 p.m. sharp. They were going to come over a couple of hours earlier. I had various appetizers and hors d'oeuvres covered, and intended to to make this one of those leisurely get-togethers where much of the meal-prep work was accomplished early, and I could spend time with guests instead of fussing in the kitchen.

The day couldn't have been lovelier—sunny and warm enough that had it been a more midday meal, we could have been enjoyed al fresco.

Well, it was a tad windy. Gusty. Boisterous. Tempestuous. Blustery. Okay, if truth be told, at times howlin' and roarin' like a banshee. The big wind-chime which hangs near the front door and almost never feels wind sufficient to move its heavy clapper, was clanging like the tolling bells of a sinking ship. 

I'd planned to get the appetizers and hors d'oeuvres done in the morning—ready the bowls of red-bean hummus, sour-cream and fresh chives, and minted blueberry salsa, and cut my dipping veggies up. I'd fine chop several cloves of garlic and an equal amount of ginger root for later. I'd also do the salad and make a cruet of fresh dressing. Slice cheeses. Fill the relish trays.  Cut up my beef and start it marinating in the spices and orange zest. Prep and parboil green beans. And maybe bake a couple of loaves of banana walnut bread. 

About 11:00 a.m. I'd put my spiced beef with orange sauce in the oven to slowly braise. At 4:30 p.m. I'd make a quick sauce of honey, brown sugar, butter, allspice, salt, pepper, and bay leaves, simmer that for a few minutes, and pour the mix over sliced sweet potatoes wedges which would bake for about an hour. 

I could then spend time visiting and we'd munch appetizers and hors d'oeuvres.  

About twenty minutes before time to eat, I'd start a pot of water boiling. I'd also heat up a wok, add olive oil, fry the green beans, garlic, and ginger. Drop some extra-wide egg noodles into the boiling water. Finish off the stir-fried green beans with a splash of sesame oil and a good sprinkle of sea salt and parmesan cheese. Drain the noodles. Pull the braised beef from the oven to dish atop the noodles. The sweet potatoes would be ready. I could add dressing to the salad. And Myladylove would have her apple pie which she bakes for an hour inside a paper bag in the oven, ready to start. 

A good meal, all planned, tasks clicking off like clockwork, with no fuss and last-minute rushing and dithering. Just twenty minutes kitchen time after they arrived. Not time frantically spent, but leisurely man-in-control minutes, with space for thoughtful words, kidding, calm chatter. 

The power went out sometime after 10:00 a.m. Given the gale-force windy conditions, I shouldn't have been so surprised. But I have an electric stove. And while I knew I could push things until considerably later and still get dinner done…seeing as how it was a Sunday, and a holiday weekend—plus the unlikelihood we were the only area without power—I didn't want to guess how long repairs might take. After an hour or so, I called my daughter. No answer. I left a "call me" message. Five minutes after making that call, the power came back on. An hour after that my daughter called. "I thought dinner might be late, or even cancelled," I said, after telling them what happened, "but looks like everything's now a go." 

I'd barely hung up from that conversation when the power went out for the second time. I called back. Got voicemail again. "Dinner is back on standby status," I reported to an uncaring answering machine. 

The second blackout lasted longer. My great meal prep plans went out the window. Now it was a case of could we even manage a meal. Ninety minutes before dinner the power returned. Lacy and Dave arrived. The cooking schedule was impossible. No slow braise time for the beef. No veggie chopping or banana bread baking. No sitting around munching appetizers and hors d'oeuvres and chatting with the family. I sautéd the beef, added the marinating mix, and set it to a quick braise. Cut sweet potatoes, made the sauce, put the dish in the oven alongside the braising beef. Parboiled and then stir-fried the green beans. Boiled water and cooked the noodles. Salad was deemed unnecessary. Myladlylove's apple pie was bagged and started in the oven. I had to finish the sweet potatoes in the microwave.

In spite of all the uncertainly, fretting, regrouping, revising, and dishes which didn't get fixed…the meal was good and the pie excellent. A fine evening and family get together. 

I think there's a lesson in there, maybe two or three. Or perhaps the final observation is that it takes more than high wind, a couple of power outages, and hastily prepared food to keep this family from eating when we're hungry. 

Monday, November 5, 2012


We've had our frost here along the riverbank. Though my neighbor, who lives maybe seventy yards up the hill, reported a light frost in his yard a couple of weeks ago, this is our first one—probably due to the ameliorating effect of the river.

The frost's icy touch, and a temperature low of 26˚F, finally put the quietus on the zinnias and several other plants which had heretofore still been managing to serve up a bloom or two following recent nights in the lower 30s. The big, leathery leaves on the canna lilies, which were green yesterday, are a curling olive-brown this morning…meaning sometime this week I'll have to shear their stalks and dig up the roots for winter storage in the cool laundry room.

We worked on our woodpile over the weekend, splitting some larger chunks we missed last fall—though several need cutting to a shorter length, and others were too long to fit into the splitter and will have to be cut in half before we can split them. I'm probably going to have to buy a new chainsaw this year. My old one is in excellent overall shape, but is getting hard to start—at least hard for me. My aptitude for successful tinkering with any infernal combustion engine is pretty much on par with my retention of high-school calculus. It may not be cheaper to buy new, but it's less wearing on my nerves and sanity.

Moon-the-Dog got sick last night, throwing up several times until there was just nothing more left to come out. The most recent episode was about 4:00 a.m. I've been up most of the night, sitting in the front room with her so Myladylove could get some sleep and be able to manage work. I don't know whether Moon ate something she shouldn't have while outdoors yesterday, or if this is another, more serious problem.

She's been okay so far this morning—no additional episode—but I've only fed her a bit of a scrambled egg and maybe a teaspoon of canned dog food. Her appetite seems good. Had I given it to her, she would have eaten her usual bowl-full—but I figured it best to go slow and see how she did with just a bite or two.

I'm worried and feeling pretty awful from my own lack of sleep.  I love my faithful dog dearly. She's been there with me through some of the worst and best times of my life. But to everything there is a season…and Moon is 15 years old. Time always wins.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Another week is winding down and another day—the first of a new month—has all but slipped away. More to the point, this has definitely not been last week's version of autumn, a distinction that felt quite apparent when I got my macho going, though perhaps not all of my brain, and accompanied Moon-the-Dog outdoors…shirtless. 

The temperature was a nippy 47˚F. I didn't know that at the time. All I knew was that it felt cold and I could see my breath. Then I glanced around. Sunset was cranking up in the west. The sky gone all orange and blue. A stunning farewell gift. In spite of being woefully underdressed for a protracted pause, I still manage to lose myself watching the way the river caught and held the colors, blending, intensifying, giving them the magic of life and movement as the current rippled and swirled along.     

I don't know why I haven't written a post lately. General ennui, maybe. Or perhaps distraction. Like most folks, I've spent a lot of time throughout the week watching Hurricane Sandy stalk its way ashore and chew up the East coast. Even now, I expect the latest aftermath coverage has yet to reveal the full extent of that super-storm's powerful destruction. Every so often, it seems, least we become convinced of our mastery of water and land, nature must show us otherwise.  

I feel so bad for those folks who've just lost everything. It's easy to say that so long as you have your life, the rest is just stuff and doesn't matter…but really, while stuff may not be the most important thing, it's important, nevertheless. When you're down to the shirt on your back and everything you've worked for is suddenly reduced to a ripped-apart, waterlogged mess, it's mighty hard to feel optimistic. Perspective takes time, and some things can honestly never be replaced. Dreams and hearts have been broken, and lives shattered.  

While some of the news maps showed all of Ohio as being affected by power outages, damaging winds, and snow, that really wasn't case here in the southwest corner. We received a couple of windy days, lingering colder temperatures, and a bit of rain. Power and cable service held. I did once, and only briefly, see a few snowflakes mixed in with the raindrops. Small limbs fell from a few trees. Otherwise, I still have flowers blooming, and on the island across from the cottage, lots of trees retain their leaves; most of mine were bare before the storm. 

I'd like to believe I've been silent because, living beside a river, in tornado country, I well know—but for the grace of God and a turn of winds and rain, it could just as easily have been my little corner of the world on the news. And for that I'm very thankful. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


This is a portion of the downstream view from my deskside window. The photo was taken only a few minutes ago, just as a brisk drizzle began. 

As you can see, the sky is gray and the leaves are wet; many are already on the ground—especially those from the five-strong clump of large sycamores in the upper left corner. A lot more are in the air, being blown about amid their descent, loosened by gusts which arrived along with the rain. 

Two minutes before I made this shot, those sycamores still held maybe fifty percent of their oversized brownish-tan leaves. Now I'd guess no more that five percent remain attached to the lattice of branchlets. 

The wooded streambanks are suddenly looking decidedly skeletal as the view opens. Even with the wooly gray overcast, there's a noticeable increase in illumination, as if nature had cranked the lighting rheostat a few notches to the right. A brighter dimness, if you will. 

There are leaves out there yet to turn—though most of these never amount to much, colorwise…another week or so of yellowish-green and then various shades of brown—beige, sepia, umber, burnt sennia, caramel, chestnut—before they, too, give in to gravity and add their topping layer to the fresh carpeting. No, any bright color notes will be few and far between from here on out. Time flows on, just like the river. 

Autumn's dazzling leaf show is beginning its end.         

Saturday, October 20, 2012


This was supposed to be a sunrise shot. At least that's sort of the image I had in mind when I saw the morning's first light come beaming over the eastern horizon. Envisioning something in silhouette—say, the giant sycamore over by the fence, or maybe the walnut up on the driveway—I put my coffee mug aside and grabbed the camera. Then I went out in the yard and waited…and waited…and waited.

Oh, the sun came up. And there was some nice pinkish-orange light. But it wasn't spectacular—and I couldn't find the angle or the foreground object to make an image that worked. My sunrise expectations fizzled.

Then I turned around to head back inside and looked westward. Wow! The still-darkened sky was a deep blue, while fat rows of puffy white clouds caught the burgeoning light—glowing gold and lemon, with peachy pink highlights. All I had to do was point and snap.

It's a lesson I've been relearning over and over all my life: embrace the surprise. Things won't always work out as planned…but look around instead of grumbling about defeat. The unexpected might be better than whatever you'd planned.

I can't tell you how many times I've gone after trout and came home with a bonanza of morel mushrooms instead of fish. Or it might have been smallmouth bass that turned into butternuts. Or bluegills instead of dandelion greens. I've set off on wildflower forays and found fossiles or arrowheads. I've gone hiking to a distant waterfall and discovered a cave. And grumpily attended a boring-but-inescapable cocktail party where I ended up meeting a kindred spirit who became a friend for life.

Moon-the-Dog, my beloved companion for more than fourteen years, was found during a pawpaw expedition in the hills and hollers woods of southeastern Ohio, near the ghost town of Moonville.  

The point is, we don't know where a particular path may lead, can't always predict what the next moment may provide. But serendipity awaits, if only we keep our eyes and minds and hearts open to such possibilites. That's part of the adventure.

Embrace the surprise. Or as Yogi Berra so wonderfully puts it, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!"

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Yesterday, while Myladylove was having her cracked filling looked after at the dentist's, I adjourned the waiting room for a small park area nearby. I'd hoped to while away a half-hour or so making photos. 

As it turned out, there wasn't much autumn color. Many of the trees were already denuded of their leaves, while the hackberries and box elders were dull in thinning cloaks of greenish-yellow. 

There were a few asters around, and the ubiquitous poison ivy, but not much else—the one exception being several modest sycamores growing along the edge of a small pond. They looked great against the intensely blue sky. 

I mostly shot a  few small still lifes, which I'm always prone to anyway, no matter how spectacular the expansive view. 

This hasn't been the greatest autumn for color, and it seems like I've somehow—for one reason or another—missed the best of even those few peak days. 

Still, no fall slips away without delivering a measure of beauty—even if that beauty isn't quite all we expected. Each new passage is unique, an individual experience, and should be taken on its own terms. Just like with people. And I find there's always plenty to admire if you look carefully.

After all, isn't that what keeps our journeys 'round the year interesting?      

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Today was simply gorgeous here along the river…beautiful light, stunning color—though mostly yellows, golds, and rusty tans—and a spectacular blue sky. The shot above of the Cottage Riffle and a nice sycamore on the island, plus the slightly downstream view from just beyond the front door, were taken in early afternoon during the one attempt I made to gimp my way outside for a few minutes.

I'm gimping because I somehow managed to injure my left Achilles tendon Saturday after Myladylove and I had visited our family doctor for our annual check-ups in the morning. Except for the usual blood work yet to be done, the exam went well. We celebrated by going out to lunch, and then ambling around a nearby flea market for a couple of hours before returning home. By evening, I was beginning to notice some tenderness, which had developed into mild soreness by bedtime.

Around 3:00 a.m. Sunday I awoke in a fair amount of pain, and as the night wore on, the pain increased. By morning the tendon—plus the whole rear portion of my ankle, from heel upwards nearly to the calf—was puffed out with swelling, throbbing, and desperately sensitive to even the lightest touch. I could do little except keep it elevated, try the occasional salts-bath soak, rub with sports cream, and attempt to not sound like too much of wimp when I moved my leg a millimeter. Which you'd think would be easy for someone with a high-pain tolerance who's blithely gone through life banging and battering himself up…but confound it, it hurt

Anyway, I spent Sunday camped out in the recliner, reading, snacking, listening to music, snacking, and watching the tube. I snacked a lot, too. The swelling was still fairly sore yesterday—too sore to think about getting out and about—and only a little less sore today. So my fall color photography has been necessarily limited. 

However, I have high hopes for tomorrow…