30 May 2014

Just a Hint . . .

The ever-gracious Jayne from injaynesworld has issued a challenge to write a story (beginning, middle, and end) that hints at a larger story, but is complete within itself, in 25 words or less. This is a style known as hint fiction but I chose to go with something a little different by writing a piece of hint nonfiction.


Cat licked his lips and sauntered toward home.
Cardinal flew toward the alder melodiously greeting his family.
His frantic, unanswered calls shattered the quiet night.

Follow the link above to see how others tossed together 25 or less words to tell a story.

04 April 2014

Stretching and Yoga with the Birds ~ For the Kids, Especially Auggie

Do you ever wake up feeling so grouchy and tired you don't even want to go to get out of bed
 but your mom reminds you it's Friday so you go to school even though you're pretty sure
it's going to be a terrible, horrible, awful, no good, very bad day?

Or maybe you woke up happy, went to school, and then absolutely nothing in your classes
made any sense but you worked really hard and did your best and
still ended the day feeling kind of beaten down and very small?

The birds have taught me it's easy to change my mood just by moving.
Shake your arms, legs, and hips then make big circles with your shoulders.
Loosen up all of your parts, even your fingers and toes.

Tuck your chin and slowly roll forward until your back is completely rounded and relaxed.
With your arms by your sides, swing gently back and forth until you're as loose as a rag doll.

Slowly roll back up then stretch your neck making it as long as you can then relax it completely.

Keeping your shoulders relaxed, gently turn your head to the left and stretch your neck.

Bring your head back to center and gently turn it to stretch your neck to the right.

Be careful not to turn your head too far in either direction because you might get stuck. Yikes!

Now stand nice and tall with your shoulders relaxed and take some long, deep breaths.
I'll bet you're feeling better already and almost good enough to do your homework (just kidding).

Raise your arms out to the sides and overhead ~ oops, keep those shoulders relaxed ~ that's perfect.
 Breathe deeply while holding the Mountain pose then slowly relax your arms back down by your sides.

The Warrior is my favorite power pose and it helps me feel strong and happy.
Step forward with one foot, bend that knee to a 90° angle, straighten your back leg, and raise your arms overhead.
Breathe long and slowly then release the pose by stepping forward with your back leg and relaxing your arms.

After you've finished stretching and doing your standing postures, it's important to rest. Let's try the Child's pose.
Sit on your heels with your arms relaxed at your sides and slowly roll your spine until your head is resting on the floor.
Keep your eyes closed and rest for 5 minutes then use your hands to press yourself back up to a seated position.

To end your set of stretches and postures it's important to acknowledge the work you've done.
Slowly bow your head and softly say, "Namaste" (I honor the light within you and me).

06 March 2014

Bird Counting: It's Not as Glamorous as You'd Think

On a scale of looking for a new job (0) and living out my retirement in a beachfront cottage somewhere warm and uncrowded (10), counting birds ranks right down there with job hunting. No one was more surprised than I that combining my love of birds with my enjoyment of working with numbers didn't result in an immediate and profound sense of contentment in my life.

I'd grabbed my camera for my first outing as a certifiable bird counter knowing it would be easier to count them from photos than standing outside freezing my ass off. As much as I love watching and photographing birds, I didn't want to die doing it. At my first stop, I saw a cute little common goldeneye flirting mercilessly with me. I took a few photos of his handsome little self then realized I needed to remember that all those photos were of the same bird, not 10 or 12 different birds. Lesson learned, I took a look around to see what else was in the area. Out of nowhere, a flock of geese flew overhead and I rattled off another 12 or 14 shots because I love shooting birds in flight.

I'd driven less than five miles, reached my first stop, and knew I was completely screwed because I'd just placed a high premium on my aging memory to keep track of which shots I'd taken for fun and which I'd taken for counting.

After shooting the ducks and gulls on the other side of the causeway, I got back in my car. As I drove on, I formulated what I thought was a workable solution to my problem of keeping track of photos for me vs. photos for counting. I decided I'd take as many wide-angle shots as I needed to capture all of the birds at any given location along with any close-ups I'd need for identification. After doing that, I'd allow myself to go wild with close-ups of birds I was enjoying. No matter where I stopped, a bird would start doing something cute or funny right in the middle of my wide-angle counting shots. Because I have no self-restraint, I always chose to photograph the interesting behavior then return to snap a few wide-angles to complete the now half-assed count.

At one of my stops, I'd finished taking photos of all the birds wandering on the still-icy marsh and had turned to leave when a Canadian goose started to honk. I whirled back around to see if a hawk or maybe even a bald eagle had flown in and brought on this outburst only to see that bastid staring across the marsh and through the trees at me.

"What in hell is your problem? I'm nowhere near you, ya chucklehead. I couldn't get to you even if I wanted to, so simmer down."

It continued to honk. Obviously it hadn't heard a word I said, so I repeated myself a little louder.

It honked more stridently. This is when I realized that a) some birds simply cannot be reasoned with, and b) I was talking to birds out loud. I took several photos of the goose, turned around, got in my car, and headed down the coast in search of more birds.

Over the course of the next couple of hours, I saw hundreds of birds, took my requisite counting photos, got yelled at twice for things other people had done, and narrowly escaped being ticketed for parking less than 10 feet in front of a No Parking sign. Frozen to the bone, I finally headed home, weary but happy with my first bird counting expedition.

That sense of accomplishment lasted until the following morning when I was faced with the daunting task of sorting through and cataloging 350+ photos then navigating the unwieldy eBird submission forms. What? You thought I was doing this for my own edification? Oh, hell no. When I was laid off in mid-January, the folks at the Employment Security Office strongly encouraged us to do something to break up the monotony of job hunting that didn't include watching bad daytime TV or playing Bejeweled Blitz. I opted to try my hand at bird counting for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a non-profit organization that tracks all types of bird-related data.

Many of you may have made the assumption that I'm a long-time birder based on seeing all my photographs of birds. In fact, I only know the names of the birds I really enjoy watching and/or see most frequently. I'm extremely new to bird identification and, while it's probably never going to be one of my strengths, my ratio of correct-to-incorrect IDs averages a solid 80%. The people in the Task Force for Accurate Bird Identification* over at eBird are not at all impressed with that number.

Knowing those negative Nellies were adamant about accuracy, I spent hours poring over my photos looking for distinctive field markings to help me identify all the birds that were new to me. I had a crashing headache and my eyes were on fire when I finally opened my first eBird submission form. Not only does a new form have to be completed for each stop, it must (emphasis is theirs) include accurate counts of each species along with the exact location of each sighting. Happily for me, my complete inability to retain names of birds is offset by my uncanny ability to look at a map and find the precise location where I stood when I saw them. By the time I'd completed my 7th form, I knew damn well I'd reached my level of incompetence when I realized I'd misidentified a great blue heron, one of my favorite birds that I know by sight, sound, flight pattern, and behavior.

I knew it was time to stop but I had hundreds of birds left to report. Most of those were from my last stop and had been so far away even photos couldn't help me accurately identify what I'd seen. Since I can count the shit out of a thing, I did that and then added "Duck" to the list with an explanation that I'd seen 237 ducks I couldn't identify by subspecies. To date, I haven't received a nasty email requesting I stop trying to help.

After submitting my 10th and final form, I did some much-needed soul searching. Having done my best to volunteer my time, my eyes, and my photographs to the greater good of the birding community, it was clear that I simply was not cut out for this particular role. I haven't let the TFFABI know that I've resigned my volunteer position with them but I think they'll be grateful not to see any more submission forms from me.

* The Task Force for Accurate Bird Identification is, to the best of my knowledge, completely fictional.

01 March 2014

Irruption ~ The Great Snowy Owl Invasion of 2013-2014

When I first read there was an irruption (entrance into a region suddenly and in very large numbers) of snowy owls in New Hampshire, my brain exploded with excitement and filled with visions of seeing flocks of hundreds, nay thousands, of white-winged beauties afloat in the sky. Snowy owls rarely make their way this far south. I was so giddy I actually left the warmth of my home in one of the harshest winters on record to view this spectacle.

To date, the NH Audubon Society and national birding organizations have confirmed sightings of four unique snowy owls in New Hampshire.

Reality simply cannot compete with my imagination which is why I rarely drop down out of my head to walk among you. What? You thought it was snobbery? Hell no. Frequently and especially in winter, it's just too damn depressing to spend much time down here.

That said, at least two of those owls have made the seacoast their home. I've had the great good fortune to see one of them a couple of times. On days I've traveled and missed seeing either of them, I've come home with a list of lifers* and first of the year sightings of other birds. If not for those owls, I'd have missed seeing all those nifty birds since staying inside is my default position in cold weather.

With the exception of the last photo that reminds me of the commercial "Weebles wobble but they won't fall down," these photo are available for sale at 3 Seasons Photography, my shop on Etsy.

* Lifer is the term used by birders to describe a species seen for the first time in a birder's lifetime.

I'm late but I'm linking to WWFC February Writing Challenge (hey, I managed to work the prompt into what little I wrote so it counts) and Camera Critters.

26 February 2014

#WhereILivedWednesday: 11 Main Street

Standing in the cold spring rain, I clutched the brick my mother had rescued for me to my chest as I stared across the street. The bulldozers and backhoes sat idle on the freshly churned earth that was quickly becoming marbled with hundreds of small puddles. My back to the library hillock, I peered north then south through the sheets of rain taking in all that was both familiar and extraordinary. At times I'd cast my eyes downward or turn my face up into the rain as I committed those watercolor images to memory alongside all of the earlier memories of this place. I stood there, occasionally glancing across at the muddy plot, until my clothes were thoroughly soaked. Cold to the bone, I was forced to leave before I'd shed all the tears my heart held for what once was my home. I never crossed the street for a closer look at what was left of 11 Main Street because an impossible chasm of pain separated me from that now empty lot.

The first home my parents and the Suncook Bank owned had trumpet vines that bloomed orange in summer. The vines climbed the entire length of the chimney of the two-story brick house that sat on the corner of Main and Rosedale. When I was 3, we moved from an apartment that had grown too small for two adults and four kids into the ground floor of 11 Main Street in the next town over. Even though it happened, I don't remember my mother's parents moving into the apartment on the second floor. In my memory, Grammy and Grampy were always there. My father's parents lived down the hill, across the bridge, and around the bend from us. In the early evening when I was a bit older, sometimes I'd stand near the end of our driveway and look across the river to see if Mémère and Pépère were out on their front porch. If they were, I'd holler and wave until they finally waved back. The library, town hall, fire department, and police department were directly across the street from us. Down the short hill was the country store along with the town residents' mailboxes. Across the river and up another short hill sat the Catholic Church and the elementary school I'd one day attend.

For a couple of years, this small triangle would include everything and everybody I'd ever need.

Both my sister and I had been early walkers and talkers. While she settled into a normal rhythm of talking, I didn't. I was a curious chatterbox and when I was taught not to talk with food in my mouth, I switched to humming whenever I ate. With an infant and three other kids under the age of five, my mother was more than happy to let me spend as much time upstairs with Grampy as he could tolerate.

He was a woodworker with a shop in what had once been the hay loft of the barn. I dogged his heels and incessantly asked him questions or nonsense talked about everything swirling around in my 3- and 4-year old brain. From first thing in the morning until mid-afternoon when my grandmother came home from work, he put up with my chat-chat-chat-chattering without ever becoming impatient or snapping at me to PleaseStopTalkingBecauseICan'tHearMyselfThinkAnymore.

When I was five, the triangle that contained everything and everybody I needed broke. My grandparents moved from 'right upstairs' to 'too far away to visit except on special occasions.' When they moved, I was completely knocked off my center. While I'd always been slightly afraid of my stern grandmother, I unabashedly adored my grandfather.

Shortly after they moved, I started kindergarten. My life was soon filled with new friends, places to play other than our backyard, more privileges, and more responsibilities. That summer, less than a year and only a couple of visits later, my grandfather suddenly died. As much as I loved the different ways my life was growing and changing, lying in bed at night, I'd stare into the newly-formed hole in my heart where death held my grandfather.

Small-town life suited me well and with the exception of that frightening nightly ritual of staring into an ever-growing abyss, I thrived. I was a responsible kid and was allowed broad privileges to roam through town visiting family and friends as long as my parents knew where I was and I was home by dark or supper time, whichever came first.

In the fall of the year I turned ten, we moved to a farm two and half miles away from home. This was 'close enough to take a bus to the same school' and 'too far to walk to see every person and place that made me feel safe.' On moving day, if it could go wrong, it did go wrong. By the end of the following day, our first full day of living on the farm, an irreparable tear had begun in the fabric that held my family together.

Linking up with #WhereILivedWednesday over at Ann's Rants.

24 February 2014

"Use your experience guided by wisdom."

Reading that line in Robert B. Parker's final, posthumously published Spenser novel was both bittersweet and ironic. I'd like to think Parker would get a kick out of knowing his subtle homage to Rex Stout, one of America's early and most prolific grand masters of detective fiction, appeared in what became his final novel. When Stout's reclusive, genius detective, Nero Wolfe, gave that order to his man of action, Archie Goodwin, I used to cringe. The underlying imperative in those six words was daunting. Wolfe was telling Goodwin to leave the comfort and consistency of the world inside their brownstone and head out into what Wolfe considered the chaos and uncertainty of the world and do something, anything to shake things up and make something happen.

Throughout my life I've always appeared to be the implacable Archie, while in reality I've reluctantly and fearfully been pushing through my natural shyness and introversion and heading out into the chaotic world to make things happen.

Over the past couple of years, friends, family members, and some of you have asked me why I haven't made any moves to sell my photographs. Frankly, the idea of doing that was terrifying. In addition to my belief that my work wasn't good enough to sell, I'd been extremely reluctant to take the one activity that always soothed my soul and change that in any way, shape, or form. In mid-November, the owner of the company I'd worked at for over five years decided to close the doors which meant I'd be out of a job by mid-January. On November 30th, I launched a Facebook page for my photography and quietly opened an Etsy shop.

I've done almost nothing to promote the page or the shop. Sure, I know how to make use of social media to get the word out, but something wasn't sitting right. My gut churned every time I'd come here to tell you guys. I never emailed anyone to let them know what I'd done. I tweeted once then let that go. I did invite friends on Facebook to 'Like' my page but breezed over the Etsy shop tie-in.

I started* Parker's book a couple of weeks ago and when I ran across that familiar Stout line, I felt an easing of the edginess I'd been feeling. I've always hated sales and marketing unless I believed in the product or service. Without the ability to be objective about my photography, I was floundering for something to embrace to help me move forward. After a long walk, the answer to what was missing finally came. I did some research, shot off an email to the head of the events committee, we talked back and forth for a while, I completed an application, signed an agreement, and then she said yes! As of late last week, I'm the proud owner of the right to raise funds to benefit the Cure JM Foundation! Whee! Yes, I am an odd duck, but so is this.

Bufflehead featured on today's NH Audubon Facebook page.

Now that I'm content and legit, I'd be thrilled if you'd check out 3 Seasons Photography on Facebook. If you like what you see, please hop on board for the view through my lens to see what fills me with awe or brings a smile to my face.

I'd also love it if you'd stop by 3 Seasons Photography's Etsy shop. 100% of all sales of blank photo cards and 10% of all other sales benefit the work being done by the Cure JM Foundation.

Because I can, from now through March 31, 2014, I'm offering 10% off your purchase when you use coupon code DECK10.

* It may take me months to finish that book simply because it's his last. Hell, I've owned it for four years and I'm still not ready to say good-bye.

30 October 2013

October ~ Gone, Baby, Gone

Maple leaf adrift

Great blue heron reflecting

Harvest moon sails by.

Hunters Moon aloft

Sun rays dapple late maple

Farewell morning moon.

Saying good-bye to October and any semblance of warmth for the next far-too-many months. To see the other wonders of 'Fall' in photographs, head on over to P.J.'s monthly photo challenge.