Thursday, December 24, 2015


Christmas Eve. It's sunny here today and warm. The river is up a bit from last night's heavy rains—the first rise in at least a couple of months. The ground is saturated, the brown leaves a soggy carpet. Nothing like the snowy scene above.

As a district manager, Myladylove had to go in for a half-day's work. After all, those desperate folks out doing last-minute gift and grocery shopping must be able to get into their bank and withdraw extra cash. She'll be home sometime after noon.

There are non-stop carols and Christmas classics on the stereo. I've been wrapping a couple of items and am getting ready to assemble a tricycle for Granddaughter Anya. She's 18 months old so this will be her first Christmas that she's big enough to enjoy—and of course I'm doing the grandpa thing and giving her a proper sackful! 

After trike assembly I'm making a quick run to the nearby grocery for two or three items. Then late this afternoon we'll head over to join the daughter, son-in-law, and Anya for a Christmas Eve service at their church—with a chicken-and-dumplin's supper back at their house to follow.

In spite of all this, I'm having a hard time mustering up any real Christmas spirit and don't know why. It isn't the mild weather. And not for lack of anything that I can discern. There's an abundance of gifts to go around. Great meals ahead. Family and friends to share everything. Everyone's health is good. I have love and loved ones. Nothing is amiss.

By any standards we're mightily blessed. I'm mightily blessed! Rich in life, and I don't mean monetarily. But I have all I need and more—way more. And I have nothing to complain about, and really, no complaints.

Yet…the usual seasonal excitement is missing. Which probably says something about me, about my lack of, well, whatever. God knows I'm grateful for all I have. I adore Christmas, for what it is and what it represents—a season of hope and joy and celebration of that long-ago birth which forms the basis of my faith. And I don't want to be this way, feel so uncharacteristically empty. Not depressed, just, um, flat, a bah-humbug sorta nagging, niggling mood.

Guess I need another cup or two—or six—of Christmas cheer!

Peace, joy, and blessings! Merry Christmas from Riverdaze!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Believe it or not, I took this forsythia shot with my iPhone a few days ago. Our weather has been mild so far, though not unseasonably so for this time of a year. Yet apparently it's warm enough to fool several of my hillside forsythias into thinking spring has arrived already—and therefore high time to put forth a few bright and cheery blooms!   

Things are getting pretty frantic around here. I'm still cutting wood, or trying to, when weather and time permits. But I've pretty much given up on doing anything more re. a number of unfinished details on the kitchen remodel for the next couple of months. 

This is due not merely to the holidays, but the fact I have to go in for eye surgery in January and will be out of commission, sightwise, pretty much through February. Which means I have to get two months's worth of columns written and stockpiled before New Year's Day…and with Christmas and all, that's going to be really tough. I still have almost none of my shopping done. Plus Myladylove's birthday, and our anniversary, are both this coming Saturday.

I could really use an extra three months!

Yup, frantic is the word…    

Saturday, December 5, 2015


A foggy morning here along the river—as several mornings this past week have been. Some arrived with fog so dense and thick I could see neither the trees on the island across from the cottage, nor even the riffle a few yards upstream from the bottom of the front deck's steps.

I'm now in woodcutting rather than remodeling mode—a fear of freezing during the coming winter being the deciding factor. By my best calculations, we currently have only enough wood cut and split to get us into early-January. At least two additional cords are needed, and I'd feel better knowing I had three or four at the ready. Luckily I probably have that much in ash logs on the ground, just needing to be sawed into firewood lengths and split to manageable size. That's what I'll be doing for much of today…and tomorrow…and however many days beyond that it takes to work up the logs and stockpile the reserves we need. 

For those of you wondering about the seemingly forever-ongoing kitchen redo, I'm happy to report I got the all the cabinets in, the sink plumbed, and the water turned on the Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving…so we made it with more than 24 hours to spare before starting to cook the big feast. No more bathtub dishwashing! While there's still a number of things to install and do before the kitchen can be pronounced finished, it's now useable—and with any luck, most of the lacking details will be taken care of by Christmas.   


Monday, November 2, 2015


Autumn's annual color show is pretty much over for another year. Here along my hundred-yard portion of the river, where the dominating tree species are sycamore, hackberry, and box elder, fall never quite manages to put on that quintessential eye-catching seasonal performance. None of those expected Technicolor scenes characterized by patchwork forests, thick with various bright maples, and invariably favored by calendar publishers. 

Oh, there are a few willows and a walnut here and there to light things up with their snazzy yellows. But no blood-red swamp maples or festive-orange sassafras. The closest these corridor woodlands come to such vibrant hues are the scarlet twinnings of woodbine and the gaudy flames of poison ivy. Plus way too much invasive honeysuckle, which—at best—dons a sickly and pale yellow-green.

Instead of dazzle my home-turf trees deal in subtlety. Especially the sycamores, who often decide to retain their oversized leaves for a few more weeks. You have to adjust your eye and your thinking to fully appreciate their richness. 

But in earliest soft glimmer of morning, with a backlight assist from the sun, or some blue sky for background—even simply floating atop the water—they are, unquestionably, beautiful. 

Who says brown is boring!        


Sunday, October 4, 2015


Times are a'changing. It's increasingly starting to look like autumn here along the river. Not much in the way of color yet, as other than poison ivy and Virginia creeper, there are few early-turning sorts of trees and shrubs hereabouts to dazzle with gaudy leaves. A few bits of anemic yellow on the box elders, the odd rusty brown dinner-plate-sized leaf on a sycamore—but otherwise, the landscape is still mostly green. Faded and frayed, perhaps, but green.

The real color will come in a week or two, maybe three. Somewhere around the 26th of the month is usually the peak.

And yet…there's no mistaking the new season's takeover. The look and feel, sound and smell and mood is definitely autumnal, from the noisy flocks of Canada geese regularly winging overhead, to the dew-damp morning air carrying hints of windfall apples and distant woodsmoke.

Yesterday was rainy and cool. No, make that cold—the day's high never managing to edge beyond the mid-40s˚F. Cold enough that Myladylove built the season's first fire in the woodstove. Which felt good and was most welcome, as it took a decidedly uncomfortable chill from the house while we worked between showers to finish a handful of small jobs on our endless remodeling list. 

Today promises to be fairly sunny and reach into the low-70s˚; so no woodfire will be needed. But a milepost has been passed nevertheless. The times are definitely a'changing.              

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Still working on the remodel…though Myladylove and I decided to play hooky from our list of planned tasks Sunday for a much-needed break. 

Instead of painting a wall and a pair of doors, custom building an over-the-stove kitchen shelf, and assembling a pile of Ikea cabinets, we went for a long drive—an all-day, 200 mile loop that took us north and west, along bucolic two-lane blacktops and narrow country byways, around a rather distant large lake I've known and fished since boyhood, and through more than a dozen small towns and rural villages.

Along the way we had ice cream cones from our favorite soft-serve stand, stopped to browse in a couple of craft shops, and ate a dandy dinner at a little restaurant overlooking the lakeshore, where we further indulged with great wedges of homemade pie…peanut-butter cream for Myladylove, rhubarb for me. 

Afterwards I snapped a few photos—of gulls and geese and the sprawling autumn landscape below a twilit sky, dramatically lit by the low sun against a band of dark clouds, which momentarily seemed to threaten a weather change. Soon, however, the sun set, the clouds dispersed, and twilight became darkness. We happily zigged and zagged our way south and east to home along a complicated-but-familiar series of backroads.

All told, a fine day's escape and the best sort of impromptu adventure. Today and yesterday, though, it's been back to work. Guilt and desperation see to that…


Friday, September 11, 2015


Yesterday evening, as I was rolling the toter up the driveway to the road for today's trash pick-up, I noticed this lovely little pearl crescent butterfly dramatically sidelit by the setting sun. Though I haven't made a photo in at least a week, it was too pretty a moment to resist…so I left the barrel parked on the hill, hurried to grab a camera, and barely had time to make just this single image before the light faded.

It's the first creative act I've managed in awhile that hasn't involved a power tool or hammer.    

My whole-cottage remodeling project continues. 

So far I've removed a wall and enlarged the rear entry area. Put up new walls on both sides of the hall. Framed in a new doorway to the laundry room. Installed new jambs, headers, and thresholds on seven doorways. Removed a wall in the bathroom. Finished one wall in the kitchen. I've built a pantry, linen closet, and "rustic" bathroom door. Ran crown moldings and door casings. Painted. 

Which doesn't sound like much, all told, but has occupied almost my every waking moment from right after breakfast until well after dark. I'm now working on the cook-stove/food-prep side of the kitchen.   

Myladylove took off to Tennessee yesterday morning for a brief parental visit; she'll be back Monday. Wait 'til she sees I've moved the refrigerator and microwave into the living room.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Official autumn is still a month away. But yesterday—except for the lack of bright, multi-colored leaves—could have easily been mistaken for a day in late-September or early-October. 

The sky was high and that same intense fall blue. Temperatures early in the morning began in the mid-50s˚F and never made it above the mid-70s˚F at their afternoon highest. And throughout, a gusty breeze regularly rattled the treetops and caused the occasional phalanx of puffy white clouds to go scudding across the sky at a rapid pace.

I spent the day, as I've spent almost every day for a few weeks now, working on my cottage remodeling. Making hay while the sun shines, as my mother used to say. I'm almost finished with the hallway walls and doors, and next will start on the kitchen. 

But time is running out on my being able to set up the sawhorses to cut, fit, and finish things outdoors. Having no garage, my makeshift workshop is at the mercy of the weather. Too soon I'll have to begin cutting firewood…and after that bad weather will likely quell any major carpentry for another year. 

A young groundhog—likely the same one whose photo I posted with its mother some weeks back—has decided to bivouac under the front deck. Every so often he ventures into an overgrown bed of hostas I've planted under the doorway box elder—sometimes startling me with his piercing alarm whistle. An amazingly loud whistle when heard at close range. There's a good reason that in addition to groundhog, another common name for a woodchuck is whistlepig. 

Finally…yesterday evening, on a uncharacteristic whim, I decided to Google the names of several friends and family members I'd lost touch with over the years. I'd barely begun when the obituary for a first cousin popped up. The eldest of my Uncle Paul's two daughters, and a half-dozen years older than me, she'd passed away only a few days ago. Her funeral had been held that morning.

Though she and her family lived several hundred miles from here, I would have attended…but had no idea she was facing serious health issues. It's probably been ten years since the last time I stopped by her home in Michigan for a visit. 

But the fact such a sorry situation existed was as much my fault as anyone's. Once our parents died, we cousins—offspring of the original five brothers and three sisters—sort of went our separate ways. Not out of any animosity, simply more ennui and location. Those who lived close to one another stayed connected; the rest of us, scattered around the country from here to the West Coast, gradually drifted away from the communication fold. I don't have a single phone number, email address, or street address for anyone…and so far as I know, none of them have anything of mine. So they couldn't have easily contacted me if they'd tried—which they very well may have attempted. 

Alas, it was too late for me to even send flowers… 

Thursday, August 6, 2015


This post has nothing to do with damselflies. Except that yesterday, as I cut and shaped pieces of dimensional lumber for my latest cottage remodeling project, dozens of iridescent damselflies, such as the ebony jewelwing (above) plus various species of dancers, bluets, forktails, and slenderwings—in a host of breathtaking colors—zipped around, sometimes pausing for a quick rest on the sawhorses, energized by the bright sunlight's summery heat.

Today it feels like another season. Even now, at 2:00 p.m., the day's high is still a ridiculously chilly 62˚F! That's at least 25 degrees below the usual expectations for this time of year in southwest Ohio. Flat too cold for August hereabouts! Nor is there much hope temperatures will rise more than a degree or two between now and nightfall—and tonight it's predicted the low will dip into the mid-50s˚F.  

If this wasn't bad enough, it's been raining since before dawn. A steady drizzle that occasionally increases to a near downpour. And of course the sky is low—a dim, dark charcoal gray the shade of dirty wool.  

As you might surmise, there are no vividly hued damselflies zipping around! 

Moreover, I can't work on my latest carpentry project because, lacking a garage or other dry interior space, I have to wait for better weather before I can set up shop in the yard. So in spite of being all energized for a day's work, I'm instead forced to quashed my plans. A rained-out, froze-out, time-out.          

Last night, just before we turned off the TV and headed to bed, Myladylove sat bolt upright, sniffed, then wrinkled her nose. 

"Ugghh!" she said, giving me an annoyed glance. "What's that awful smell?"

Myladylove has the olfactory sensitivity of a bloodhound. I'm not exaggerating when I say she's phenomenal at detecting and discerning scents. I've never met another human being with even half her nose prowess. 

While my own scenting capabilities didn't approached her level, I used to be above average at sniffing things out. But a couple of months ago, when I first got sick and went on my initial round of medications, my trusty sense of smell mostly vanished. It has yet to return. Currently, I can crush a handful of peppermint leaves, hold them against my nose, and barely catch a whiff of their strong scent. The same goes for mentholated rub, aftershave, woodsmoke…and, apparently, skunk. 

"Dunno," I said, with an ineffective shrug. "I can't smell anything."     
She shot me another irritated look, sniffed again, then answered her own question: "Skunk!"

At which point she sprang up and hastily closed the screen where the offending musky smell was flooding through—drawn in by the big window-mounted fan on the opposite side of the room that busily pushes air out. Her actions were accompanied by overly-dramatic sounds of gagging, retching, and imminent asphyxiation.

I had more sense than to rise to that particular ploy. No use getting blamed for the behavior of a stinky skunk. It's against my nature, but I've learned when to remain silent. A savvy survival instinct. 

But I should have paid better attention to the omen-bearing skunk, even if I couldn't smell it. I do believe the critter was delivering a malodorous prophecy…for today has been a real stinker!        

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes who eventually—and to the surprise of many—returned to 221B Baker Street after falling off Reichenbach Falls. 

Not that I see myself as any sort of latter-day incarnation of the world's most famous consulting detective. Rather, it's merely that rumors and mutterings of his apparent death, while locked in mortal combat with the evil Professor Moriarty, proved blessedly premature. 

When he did eventually return to his work and lodgings, that period of prolonged absence came to be known ever after as the Great Hiatus.

I never fell over a falls, or down a rabbit hole. Nether have I heard actual rumors and mutterings of my own demise, though several concerned friends—knowing I'd been desperately sick and didn't seem to be getting well—were worried enough to email and check about the seriousness of things given my continued silence. 

The truth is, I was worried too. The illness that began way back in May carried all through June and most of July. I saw doctors, took regimes of various antibiotics and other medications, and felt too bad to do much of anything other than rest. But none of it helped…or maybe it did, but only in that it kept things from turning even worse.

However, the good—no, great!—news is that a bit more than a week ago I started to improve. And by the middle of this past week I was not only back to normal, but better than normal—the best I've felt in several years. So good that I've been able to finally start work on the cottage which I'd planned to begin this spring.

I didn't want to write this report until I had something positive to say. And I wanted to be sure, because I know everyone is tired of hearing and reading my posts whining about being sick, feeling bad, blah, blah, blah. 

Believe me, I was tired of writing them. 

So have returned from my own Great Hiatus, I'll now get back to posting here—probably not daily, given all the projects I need to finish on the cottage—but regularly. And making photos, even if it's just a half-hour stop somewhere on the way to or from the building supplies or grocery store. 

To those who kept me in your thoughts and prayers, thank you—sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. It meant more than you can imagine. And I have no doubt it made all the difference. 

As the Godfather of Soul so inimitably said: I FEEL GOOD! 


Wednesday, July 8, 2015


I'm thinking it may rain forever. At least it seems that way sometimes. Our recent spring was one of the rainiest ever. Summer has so far been unseasonably rainy. It rained yesterday, is supposed to rain today—in fact, the sky is dark and I hear the not very distant rumbles of thunder—and local weather oracles predict rain every day but one through next week. 

I probably should have planted water lilies instead of gladiolus.

Ah, well, the truth is most of the flowers which have managed to not drown are doing rather nicely, what with the cool temps and ample moisture—though they've certainly had to make efficient use of whatever irregular flashes of sunlight came their way.

Naturally, any brief intermission from our extended monsoon season has invariably occurred on days when I had to spend most hours sitting at my desk, pecking away at the keyboard, in an attempt to remain gainfully employed. 

Still, from time to time the pull of that rare sunlit world beyond the windowpane proves irresistible. So I leap from my chair, grab a camera from a nearby counter, and bolt through the door to scurry about the yard for the next twenty minutes, snapping images like a madman. Therapy to calm my soul. 

The three shots of various summer lilies were made day-before-yesterday during one such fleeting, sanity-keeping breakout.       

Friday, July 3, 2015


My daughter, son-in-law, and most-delightful granddaughter, Anya, along with their longtime best friends and their twin daughters, all headed off this morning to spend the holiday and following week being Buckeye beach bums at Hilton Head, South Carolina.

A pretty cushy getaway place if you don't mind sand, surf, sun, seafood—and judging by recent news reports, possibly the occasional sneaky shark. I hope they have a fun vacation, and pray nobody gets fish-bit.  

Meanwhile, Myladylove and I will be holding down the fort here. Our plans include much relaxing, grilling and consuming various good eats, working a bit in the yard, and in my case, continuing with my healing—which may to the untrained eye superficially resemble seriously lazing about, but is actually a medically-proven therapy technique. 

In addition, while my immediate kin are galavanting off to enjoy themselves on the Atlantic coast, Myladylove and I volunteered to dog-sit Gwynn (short for Guinevere), their perky cream-champagne maltipoo. We picked her up last night and to our great relief, she proved everyone's fears groundless by making the 40-minute journey from there to here without getting car sick—which may be a personal first.

But I don't want to give the wrong impression, she's actually a nice little foo-foo pooch—eager to please, well behaved, and always an all-around good houseguest. And, of course, she's been here before—though never as the only dog in the house. 

But I'll still miss having my world-class grandbaby to tease, smooch and dandle. 

Therefore, by way of compensation, while the deserters, er, vacationers are gone, I intend to do my very best to turn the dainty Miss Gwynny-poo into a full-fledged redneck river rat. And I must say, so far the plan is working. She's not only proving to be easily corrupted, she's embraced this laid-back lifestyle makeover as an enthusiastic accomplice!

What can I say…revenge is sweet!    

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Another cloudy, rainy, cool day here along the river. The same weather we had most of last week, and the same weather that's predicted for most of the week upcoming. Overall, spring was cooler, wetter, and cloudier than normal—and if beginnings are any indication, it looks like summer intends to follow suite.

I'm not completely over my recent illness. Still coughing occasionally, and disconcertingly weak—a half-day of shopping or rambling about pretty much does me in. But I'm improving, and feel the best I have since before I got sick. 

Between a slow recovery and uncooperative weather, I've managed very few photos lately. Plus life has been—to put it mildly—pretty boring. All of which has lead to a singular lack of personal motivation…the only excuse I have for not blogging   

However, I must have passed some inner milestone, because I'm now feeling guilty about continued self-pity and whining, while emulating the behavior of a potted plant. I guess it's time for me to reemerge from my den, rejoin the living, go on the occasional brief photo foray, and post my thoughts and deeds to this blog. 

I think I'm back.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


It's been hot here along the river, with recent days getting into the low-90˚s F. Way too hot for your boreal-natured correspondent. Usually. But in the aftermath of whatever nasty respiratory ailment I've been struggling to overcome, I've been suffering with constant chills, regardless of what the thermometer says—often needing to wear a heavy sweater throughout the day just to keep from shivering.

Yesterday was the first day in a long while in which my temperature seemed to stabilize and remain normal without medication. With the lack of fever it also became the first day I truly noticed the heat. Which isn't a complaint. While I'm not completely over things yet, yesterday felt like I'd honestly—finally!—turned a positive corner. I feel considerably better than I have in several weeks. 

For that I'm deeply thankful.

The photo of the common orange daylily was taken the same day as the groundhog shot…though late in the evening, just before the sun dipped below the western treeline. Knowing I was too sick to cook, and hoping a bit of fast food might taste good to me, Myladylove stopped on her was home and picked up a couple boxes of chicken strips. 

I decided to try and sit out on the deck long enough to eat. A moment after managing to make it to one of the rockers, I looked around a saw the lily, in shadow, with the shadowed river beyond, glowing like a stained-glass panel from the low sun's backlight. I knew the lighting—and the image—would disappear in a moment. And I didn't want to miss the photo. So I heaved myself back up, staggered the few feet to the door and to my camera just inside, lurched back to the rocker, framed, focused, and clicked…and before I could click again, the sun winked out behind a tree, the light turned flat and dim—and just that quickly, the image moment was over.

I don't know if all the above plays into things—a sort of situational favoritism—or if it's just an image I would have liked, artistically, anyway. But this simple composition—a single orange lily, gleaming with luminescent fire, surrounded by shadows—is one of the most personally pleasing shots I've made in awhile. 

I hope you like it, too. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I'm still trying to get over whatever it was that rolled over me like a runaway bus a couple of weeks back. The bronchitis symptoms of coughing and congestion are gone, but I'm weak, easily exhausted, continue to have a low-grade temperature, and feel just plain awful.

Needless to say, I haven't been making many photographs. In fact, I've barely been outside, and then only to sit on the deck a few minutes—which is about my maximum capacity for adventure.  

I did, however, manage the photo above—taken yesterday afternoon—of a mother groundhog and her offspring, the youngster nuzzling the parent, as they posed atop a low hill at the edge of the yard. I shot the image standing in my front doorway. Just opened the door, pointed the lens at the pair, and clicked. Mama woodchuck saw me and, quite oddly, seemed totally unperturbed.  

Guess it was obvious I was in no shape to be of any danger whatsoever other the collapse atop the unwary.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


The little flycatcher, whose portrait graced yesterday's post, and whose daily company I enjoy, chooses to regularly perch on various nearby limbs simply because he's afforded an excellent view of the Cottage Pool. A prime spot because this large pool—ten feet from the window, and constituting my flowing front yard—is located directly below a long, rocky, and thus well-aerated riffle. As such, it's a virtual free-eats food factory…at least if you like dinning on mayflies, caddis flies, and similar aquatic insects.

Most days—especially sunny ones—from midmorning onwards, various "bugs" whose life cycle is closely associated with water, either on or in, began to appear. Sparsely, steadily, and in massive swarms. Mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies, dobsonflies, alderflies, dragonflies, damselflies—the list is long and, apparently, tasty. 

Predators know this, eagerly watching and waiting. When the bugs are few, the feeding action is slow-paced, leisurely. One swoop, catch, gobble at a time. But some insects hatch and leave their watery homes en mass—thousands, even tens of thousands of mayflies or caddis boiling up from the depths, shucking their larval husks as they rise, popping onto the surface where they give their winged, airborne versions a bit of pre-flight drying time, floating a few moments on the river's surface before taking flight. Vulnerable. Available. In quantity!

Shazam! The feeding frenzy begins! Fish rise, slashing at floating insects. Birds wheel and swoop, catching their meals in the air—just above the water, ten feet up, at treetop level, and higher. As the insects rise and fly off, trying to disperse—or sometimes mate before returning to the water to deposit their eggs—the hungry, rapacious birds follow, nabbing at their ranks like starving teenagers at a pizza party. Swallows, flycatchers, swifts, nighthawks, waxwings, along with everything else from robins to sparrows to cardinals and jays. Any bird who likes a good bug from time to time occasionally gets into the melee. I've even watched woodpeckers make a few runs on occasion. 

The image at the top of the post is of mostly swallows feeding high above the pool perhaps a half-hour after a recent hatch began. The photo at the bottom shows the density of this same hatch, a few feet above the river's surface, backlit by the setting sun. The middle shot is of the hatching mayflies causing all the fuss.




Friday, June 5, 2015


Sorry I haven't posted lately. And I should have, as a lot has happened here along the riverbank since my last entry. Including a string of unseasonably cold days—and their worthy-of-a-woodstove-fire nights—which the folks around whom I was raised would doubtless have referred to as "blackberry winter." Also, the recent Strawberry Moon on the month's second night…come and gone and unsung hereabouts. Plus the recent appearance of this year's initial twinkling fireflies, feeder issues with the hummingbirds, and today's queen snake sighting…the first one I've spotted all year.

All post-worthy events. Ones I noted but missed.

Alas, they've were superseded by a double-barreled onslaught of bronchitis and the subsequent desperation to survive this lower-respiratory train wreck. Until yesterday, I hadn't so much as stuck my head outside for a week!  

Myladylove started getting congested and running low-grade temps a few days before the Memorial Day weekend. By that Saturday she was having a lot of trouble breathing. I took her to urgent care. Bronchitis. She got a Z-Pac, steroids, inhaler, and cough syrup…and spent the entire holiday days through Monday bedfast (well, more accurately, recliner-fast). She also missed work that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday—the first workdays she's ever missed on any job her entire life! And she says this was the sickest she's ever been—period. 

Meanwhile, about the middle of that post-holiday week, I began to come down with the same symptoms—congestion, trouble breathing, low-grade temps. I bulled and hacked and coughed my way along until last Saturday when I knew I'd taken a real turn for the worse and had to have some help. So Myladylove hauled me to urgent care. Asthmatic bronchitis. "Your lungs are just full," the doc said, almost admiringly. "The worst I've ever heard outside of a hospital. By rights you ought to have pneumonia." I received my own Z-Pac, steroids, inhaler, and cough syrup, and a warning to "get to the ER if you turn even a smidgen downhill!"

As a guess, I'd say Myladylove is maybe 75% recovered; I'm more like 55%, possibly less. Improving, but amazingly weak. However, the weather here has finally turned summery. Myladylove and I are both steadily, if incrementally improving. My granddaughter had her first birthday a few days ago, but since my daughter and son-in-law are in the midst of moving, we'd already planned the celebration for a couple of weeks hence—so there's that MAJOR EVENT to look forward to attending. Life is good and looking up. And I'll get back into the swing of posting. 

Finally, this little flycatcher has been keeping me company every day. Trust me, his portrait looks far better than mine to head up this post.   

Saturday, May 23, 2015


If you're a fuzzy wittle mallard duckling, the first thing you learn to do is mind your momma. Whatever momma says do, you and your not-long-from-the-egg siblings, do immediately—no sass, no backtalk. And when momma says "follow me," being one of her seven extremely cute and mostly obedient youngsters, you form a line and paddle for all you're worth as you carry out her marching, er, swimming orders…even if that means following her up a fast and rock-strewn riffle that seems like a full-blown whitewater rapids—at least to a wittle fuzzy duckling. 

After all, what momma says, goes. Right? 

('Course, being the last ducking in line, you say a quick wittle prayer nobody ahead quacks up!)

Thursday, May 21, 2015


A pair of pileated woodpeckers are currently nesting in a big sycamore on the island directly across the channel from the cottage. Their nest entrance, an elongated oval hole, is located approximately 40 feet up. It's about the size and shape of your two fists held one atop the other.
I have no idea of the cavity's dimensions, though being a sycamore, the interior space could easily be quite expansive.

Every so often, one bird or the other comes flapping over to check things around around the house. That's what the male pileated in the close-up photos is doing. He's investigating a couple of old stumps I've rolled into the dooryard to use as bird-feeding platforms during the winter. Apparently he found a supply of tasty grubs or bugs of some sort, because he poked about for several minutes, whacking away like a deranged lumberjack.

Pileateds are probably the largest woodpecker in North America. I say probably because the ivory billed, if not now extinct, is actually slightly larger. But the crow-sized pileated is still huge. Which is why lots of country folks—especially down South—are apt to call them Lord God birds. As in "Lord, God! Look at the size of that woodpecker!" 

They are, indeed, simply astonishing. I see them every day, and have been around pileateds much of my life, yet I'm still nearly dumbfounded by their outrageous size. Words simply fail in doing justice to the actuality of seeing one of these giant woodpeckers hanging upside-down on a suet feeder. 

But not just big, and certainly not cute…menacingly spectacular! 
They look like a cross between Count Dracula and a pterodactyl, outfitted in what might be an old KISS costume. Between that hair-trigger psycho look in their yellow eyes, and the lethal bill, if I were any bird smaller than an eagle, I know I'd leave the pileated alone.
Still, every time I see a pileated, I'm saddened a bit. Not because I don't enjoy them immensely, and welcome their frequent visits, but because I keep hoping for that unlikely miracle—news of a genuine, confirmed ivory bill sighting. Whereupon, sizewise, old mister pileated will promptly and firmly be relegated to second place—a humbling experience that might just do him some good!

Monday, May 18, 2015


A week or so ago, while sitting at my desk, I felt a sensation of being watched, looked out my riverview window, and saw a yearling buck standing in the small glade on the island directly across from the cottage. Then, three or for days later, I again felt the urge to check for watchers, glanced across the river, and again saw that same yearling buck standing in almost the exact same spot.

Only it wasn't the same deer. Looking closer, I realized there were two similar sized male whitetails, both of whom—for whatever reason—had felt compelled to pause in the same place, assume practically the same broadside stance, and gaze contemplatively my way. 

How do I know they're two different animals? Because the first one—the deer at the top of this post—is a buck with modest forks in his new, velvet-covered antlers. While the second deer sports only stubby spikes. In deer-hunter parlance, a forkhorn and a spikehorn.

Double click the images and compare for yourself.

The amazing thing to me is that both bucks choose to pause and look in my direction from the identical vantage point—standing almost in each other's hoofprints.

I guess the bucks really do stop there!


Saturday, May 16, 2015


One of my favorite riverbank birds is the Eastern Phoebe, a smallish, gray-brown songbird with buff underbelly and rather oversized head. 

Phoebes are members of the tyrant flycatcher family. Common hereabouts. And in spite of the "Eastern" prefix, found throughout much of the United States and Canada except for the deep South and arid Southwest.

The alert and dapper little bird takes it names from the male's raspy, two-note song: fee-bee! fee-bee! Moreover, the phoebe is one of the earliest winter migrants to return to their annual breeding grounds each spring. Thus, when you hear their distinctive, eponymous call in mid-March, it's always a welcome confirmation that—regardless of current weather—vernal change is already underway.

Phoebes are, as their flycatcher designation suggests, primarily insect eaters. And flying insects—mayflies, caddisflies, bees, wasps, dragonflies, beetles, butterflies, moths, cicadas, etc.—make up the bulk of their diet. They like to hunt fairly open areas, and are especially fond of streams, which regularly offer rich hatches of aquatic insects. 

From a low perch, they sit—often with their tail bobbing, as if in nervous anticipation—carefully watching an area for bugs. When some flying tidbit is spotted, the phoebe makes a swiftly-launched aerial intercept, quickly nailing their prey with deadly accuracy. Depending on the size of their hapless victim, they'll either eat on-the-wing, or return to their observation perch for a more leisurely meal. 

The phoebe in the photo (yeah, I'm just guessing it's the same bird) has been perching and feeding from this dead limb near the end of the deck all week, regularly singing its name…fee-bee! fee-bee!…and of course, keeping me pleasantly distracted. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Small, volunteer silver maple, backlit, with background river shadows.  

Photography is all about "capturing" light. Color is that fourth element of a scene or object besides shape, form, and texture. Light impacts and changes color. 

New leaves, riverbank ailanthus, backlit.
In nature, light is ever-shifting, depending on time of day, season, sky conditions, direction, even parts of a nearby landscape that might affect the quality or quantity of light reaching your subject. This, in turn, affects the light's color and thus the color of whatever you're looking to photograph—no matter if that light is reflected, direct, ambient, etc.

Shade-growing species tulips,
dramatically spotlit by a bit of sun.
The trio of images in today's post were all taken over the last few days—and all were shot within a dozen feet of one another, while sitting in my deckside rocker waiting for a passing warbler to come flitting along. They're nothing special so far as content goes…it was the light and it illuminating effect on the color of my subject that I was trying to capture. 

Light is everything in photography—the elemental magic capable of transforming the mundane into the sublime. Even turning that proverbial sow's ear into a silk purse—at least visually.

The trick is learning to see.

Often, when I can't seem to find a scene or subject to photograph—like when those warblers I'm anticipating fail to materialize—I shift my thinking and start searching for situations featuring light which, through its wonderful alchemy, has altered the commonplace into something beautiful or interesting—a moment worth recording and sharing. And just as soon as I flip this mental switch, I invariably start to spot one potential image after another.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Hush! 'tis he! My Oriole, 
my glance of summer fire…
—from “Under the Willows,”
by James Russell Lowell

Soon after moving into this streamside cottage, one of the first things I noticed was the pair of Baltimore orioles who'd hung their nest in a towering sycamore directly across the river from the front deck. Of course, orioles are pretty hard to overlook, especially males, with their gaudy orange-and-black plumage…a bird which looks like a jaunty, living flame. 

Not to mention their loud, flute-like whistles! In both sound and sight, Baltimore oriles are made to be noticed!

Naturalist Mark Catesby named the Baltimore oriole after George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, who visited Virginia in 1628, and was so delighted by the song and appearance of the many orioles he saw along the way that orange-and-black became the official heraldic colors of the Maryland colony. The baseball team took it’s name from the city and its colors from the state bird.

Audubon wrote vividly of days filled with orioles and their songs when he was exploring on both the Mississippi and Ohio rivers—the “thousand musical voices coming from neighboring trees,” and the gratification he experienced “upon sight of the brilliant birds.”

Baltimore orioles, while not exclusively a riverine species, certainly love to build their "hanging basket" nests along Ohio's numerous pastoral streams. I long ago lost count of the number of such nests and their parenting birds I've spotted while wading the brooks, creeks, and rivers for smallmouth bass—many suspended from overhanging sycamore limbs 20 or more feet above the water. Orioles songs have kept me well entertained when the fishing was slow.

Lord Baltimore's colorful bird is easily one of my favorite birds, and a cheery riverside companion.        

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


A couple of days ago the weather oracles predicted rain would begin about eleven a.m. and continue throughout the afternoon, evening, and most of the night. The day certainly began cloudy, with skies to the west growing darker and more ominous and the morning progressed. The air felt heavy and damp. I thought it would commence raining right on schedule.

So, apparently, did the riverbank's resident turkey vultures.

In case you've never lived in close proximity to a band of ragtag buzzards, you should know they're creatures of habit. They sleep late, are slow to get up and going in the morning, and like to squabble a bit among themselves and perhaps take in some early sun before flapping off to spend their day sailing around on rising thermals, scrutinizing the land below for a tasty morsel of roadkill or otherwise deceased flesh. Moreover, they seldom stay out late—generally returning to their roost area by late-afternoon.

Decided homebodies, cautious, a little lazy. And always heedful of changing weather. 

For a turkey vulture, the roost area is both home and refuge. A pending storm—morning or afternoon—sends them scurrying back to their familiar shelter—which in this case is the riparian woods, and its mostly huge, towering sycamores, densely covering the island across from the cottage.

As I said, it was supposed to rain. It looked like rain, and felt like it was about to rain. I sure thought it was going to rain…as did the buzzards, who hadn't been off on their breakfasting carrion hunt more than a couple of hours before they came sailing back, obviously dodging the expected storm.

Except the rains never materialized. Not a drop. Though for the next couple of hours we all hunkered in our respective havens—the vultures amid their sheltering sycamores, yours truly within the cozy confines of the cottage—waiting and watching with bated breath, until the sky eventually began to lighten.

I hate to admit that when it comes to weather, I'm no smarter than a buzzard. 


Sunday, May 3, 2015


One of the most useful corollaries to persistently looking through a camera's viewfinder is how it teaches you to pay better attention to the world at large, even when you're not seeking to make photographs. Of course that, in turn, allows you to spot ever more images which beg to be recorded photographically. 

A delightful and inspiring circle. Though one which, when pondered philosophically, is decidedly bittersweet, because you come to realized how many extraordinary and lovely things are overlooked and ignored by folks too busy and self-focused to notice the beauty all around.

The emerging leaves on the little Japanese in my yard, backlit by the river's reflected morning sunlight, glowing ruby-red, is a prime case in point. One of those everyday treasures, pretty as a flower, that can almost take your breath away as it fills your heart with joy.   

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Lately I've been trying to capture a nice, crisp image of rough-winged swallows in typical feeding action. A handful of the small birds occasionally stops by the pool in front of the cottage, swiftly circling over the water, twisting and turning with aerodynamic grace and lethal accuracy as they work the air just above the river's surface for hatching insects.

Like bats, dragonflies, and similar high-speed fliers whose flight patterns are erratic or quick-changing, rough-winged swallows present a real photographic challenge to track in-focus, keep well framed, and catch in your recorded image at that fraction of a moment when everything is interestingly depicted. A goal which has, so far, eluded my efforts. 

But I'm getting close…at least I'm now managing to count on one out of every three or four frames to be more or less properly focused. A ratio that's a decided improvement compared to my initial efforts. 

Close, perhaps, but still no cigar. I've not yet captured that singular, artistically satisfying image. 

Incidentally, I remain conflicted and open to correction as to whether the birds are indeed rough-winged swallows or bank swallows. I believe I'm correct in saying the former, because I never see (or note in one of my attempted photos) that distinct wrap-around dark breast band or white throat of the bank swallow. However, that assumption could easily be based on my birding incompetence.     

Friday, May 1, 2015


In earlier days—from the at least as far back as the 12 Century—May Day was treated as a big deal.  

Ancient Celts reckoned May First as winter's end and summer's beginning, which they called Beltane. The evening before, they built bonfires and made merry with food a drink, sometimes attempting a celebratory leap over the dancing flames. They also wandered hither and tither in woods and fields, gathering bundles of flowers and greenery for the morrow's decorating…whilst enjoying the occasional moonlit tryst. 

Britons had their ribbon-strung Maypoles and Morris Dancing—and they, too, went "a'Mayin," picking baskets of blooms and greenery to employ in decorating for the festivities. There's a fine old painting by John Collier—a scene from Malory that was later recast in a poem by Tennyson—that depicts Guinevere astrid a white horse, surrounded by her retinue, her arms loaded with May blooms—hawthorn, by the looks of 'em.  

In the place and culture where I grew up, many of the older folks and their kids still clung to many Mayday traditions—particularly setting up the annual Maypole, and going a'Maying to gather baskets of various spring flowers.

Photographically speaking, I went a'Mayin' yesterday, making images of many of the mostly wild blooms I found around the yard. I hope you see something you like.