Almost like that famous painting, "American Gothic" by Grant Wood. You know the one right? The old farm couple standing in front of their home? The wife with her hair in a sensible bun and wearing her pretty brooch and best apron and the mister with a suit jacket over his Sunday overalls bearing a pitchfork and neither of them indicating any evidence of a sense of humour? Come on, I'm sure you've seen it. It looks like this:
I knew you knew it. When I saw this photo of myself that was the first thought that came to mind. American Gothic 2020. I had been outside doing some yard chores. Nothing big, a little weeding and a little pruning. I trimmed a few trees and then hauled the trimmings and fallen palm fronds around to the side of the house for the lawn guys to take away later this week.
The weather is ever so much nicer now so it's not such a hot and sweaty job. And in fact, I enjoyed just being outside for a bit. And I was just about to finish up when I realized that the palm tree in the front courtyard was not looking well.
I don't know a lot about palm trees (or any other Florida Fauna for that matter) but I'm at least smart enough to know when one isn't looking quite right.
For one thing nearly all of it's fronds were drooping and hanging straight down. Even the ones that were still green. That, even to me, seems like a bad sign. So I thought that perhaps if I trimmed all of the dead stuff and maybe even the not perfectly healthy looking stuff, then all of the trees energy could go back into healing and getting well.
That seems logical. At least it does to me.
The problem was while this isn't the biggest palm tree in the world, it's way way WAY taller than me. So I would have to either stand on a ladder to trim it (nope) or find a trimmer with a really long handle! AHA! We do have one of those. I retreated to the utility room to first find it, and then somehow get it down from the very top shelf (that did require a step ladder) and then navigate it out of the utility room and then out of the house without scratching or breaking anything along the way. Trickier than it sounds.
I felt strongly that this was the instrument of destruction that I needed to use for the job. As you may be able to tell, there is a saw of sorts at the very top and then a chopper than is employed by pulling the attached cord.
The entire thing is probably 9 feet long? Something like that. Not an exaggeration, it towers over my head. And as I am not particularly coordinated, a little tricky to use. But I'm stubborn, if nothing else, and I kept working at it.
gAnd this was the tree prior to trimming. You cam see that's it's quite tall and that there is a lot of droopy, brown not good looking stuff on it. Stuff that has Got to go to keep the tree looking and feeling it's best.
Because the tree is very tall and the tool is was using was really long, it took some time to get the hang of even balancing the saw/chopper/thingie so that it went where I wanted it to go. And then trickier still to snag the branch I wanted to cut (and only the branch I wanted to cut) before pulling the cord and CHONK! The offending frond would fall to the ground.
I kept wanted to yell, "Off with her head", but I didn't want to alarm any innocent passersby.
Eventually I started to get the hang of it. The process required stepping carefully around (and occasionally on - oops) other things in the garden as I moved around the tree from side to side finding the best way to approach each frond. The entire thing was complicated by the fact that the tree is up against the courtyard wall so one entire side of it is closed off to me as an option. Dang.
But eventually, everything that was dead or dying was trimmed. Whew! I gathered up all of the ick and added to the pile of stuff on the side of the house. I patted the tree and wished it well and gave it a little extra natural fertilizer (i.e. coffee grounds). When I was done, all that remained was the central spike (which is essential to a palm tree or so I've been told) and the young, healthy looking, bright green, baby fronds surrounding it.
It feels kind of brutal, but everything I know about keeping green things healthy says that occasionally under certain circumstances (such as this) trees and shrubs require a hard pruning. Which means cutting off everything that isn't healthy. Over and again I've been instructed to just trim hard and then later, I am rewarded when it comes back thicker and healthier and more beautiful than ever.
I felt pretty good about the job and that I had done a Good Thing, trying to help this tree stay alive, stay healthy and to grow strong and beautiful once again. A job well done, is what I thought.
Foolish foolish me.
I went out the next day expecting to see a very very happy palm tree in my courtyard only to find this:
The top spike and surrounding "healthy" fonds lay inside the courtyard and there is no sign of life remaining in this tree. Ratz. I now have a giant dead palm tree in my courtyard.
Of course we have a plan. Well we have two plans. Plan A is to take the tree down. Because it's beside a wall and near the house, it will have to be taken down carefully. Tim is thinking he will cut it down one big chunk at a time (from the top down of course). He will tie a rope around the area he wants to cut and I can guide the fall of the chunk so it doesn't hit 1) the wall, 2) the house, 3) Tim on the ladder or 4) me. So we have a plan.
Plan B is that I learn to carve with a chain saw and I turn this giant pixie stick into some sort of sculpture.
Most likely we will go with Plan A.
Meanwhile, I'm sad for the tree and I hope it's demise was not rushed along by me. But I don't think so. I'm pretty sure what I did was ok. But I also think that I won't rush to do anymore hard trimming of palm trees.
The tree is dead. Long live the tree.
Ok not a great photo but you can see evidence of an abrasion yes? Well this is on the inside of my left foot. I have a matching on on the inside of the right foot as well. The shiny bit is a coating of antibacterial ointment in an effort to heal faster.
I got these two booboo's this past Tuesday while on photo safari with Joy. And not from ill-fitting shoes either. Nope. From sand. You heard me. Sand. Ordinary beach sand. There is a lot of it here. It's what the soil starts out as and then layer upon layer of foliage, both live and dead, pile on top of it where it gradually deteriorates and over (a very long) time composts into the creation of actual soil. But the base, no matter how much time passes, is still mostly sand. Because that's what there is more of here than anything else.
And, a funny things about sand, at least the sand here, the sand itself it composed of quartz. Well yes, and broken up shells too, but mostly quartz. Quartz is a rock. Rocks are very hard. Even teensy itty bitty rocks, AKA sand, are hard. Small but mighty.
In my case, the diminutive quartz rocks infiltrated my socks. And then were trapped between my shoe and my foot. Then as I continued to hike it rubbed and rubbed against my skin. I did notice some mild discomfort while hiking but I really didn't think too much about it. Come on folks, at my age, something always hurts and while it may slow me down, I refuse to let it stop me. Mostly I just pack it up and stick it in a closet and try to not think about it. Clearly that's what I did during the last hike.
And how did the sand get in my socks in the first place? Well I'm not absolutely certain. It's not at all unusual to come back from a hike with half a sandbox in my shoes. I always empty them out before coming in the house. But my socks? That was new. Well I suppose socks are porous, so tiny itty bitty grains of sand could penetrate. But wow, this wasn't just one or two individual pieces, this was a handful of sand. Exfoliation gone bad.
I do recall at least once stepping on what I thought was solid ground that turned out to be a marshy area, so unexpectedly I was up to my calves in dirty wet yuck. So that could be when it happened. But of course I didn't stop and take off my wet shoes and socks and clean it all before going on. Nope, we just kept going. That's what we do.
Perhaps it's the kind of sock. They are shortie socks. They come up just barely over the top edge of the shoe and in all honesty they are cheap. I bought them at the grocery store. Maybe that is the culprit more than anything. Maybe cheap cotton socks allow more opportunity for infiltration?
I know I know, you are thinking, why does it even matter? Why dissect and analyze with such scrutiny?
Well because it flippin' hurts and while I do not want to go through this again, I also refuse to stop hiking. So learning the cause will lead to the solution.
Do I need higher/better socks? Or do I need to dust off my old hiking boots? Maybe I need to invest in a pair of galoshes! It may take a little trial and error to find the answer, but find it I will.
Meanwhile, as I wear only sandals so nothing is rubbing on the sore spots for the next few days, you guys have a great weekend!
Hugs all 'round
Opps! I did not mean to take this photo. It was a mistake. And this sort of thing happens a lot to me. I make LOADS of booboos when I am taking pictures. I'm sure it happens to other folks now and again too. So I thought that today I would do a post about the photos I normally delete.
And I do love a delete button. I delete with happiness, with no regret, with wild abandon. Since the advent of digital photography I have taken oodles more photographs since I know that all of my mistakes are my own dirty little secrets. In the "before" time, anyone who dared take photographs had to drop the roll off at either a photomat sort of place or the camera center of the local Walgreens to be developed. The person developing the photos was, therefore, privy to all of your pictures. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It was kind of embarrassing sometimes to pick up my photos. There I would be, beaming with excitement and behind the counter was the smirking face of the person who already knows what I'm going to find. When I opened the envelope I would try to school my face into a non-expression so counter person didn't see my disappointment. It was a thing. Basically if you were a crappy photographer, at least one other person knew about it. Which sucked.
Now when I return home from taking pictures, the very first thing I do is load them onto my computer and sort through. Before I do any editing, I delete. I go through the enter gallery of new shots, hitting that delete button as if it were slot machine and I was about to hit the jackpot. Normally NOBODY but me sees the bad ones.
And knowing this about myself, I think that some nerve going on facebook bragging about various photography awards and blah de blah. Especially since those same people who voted for me to get an award for this photo: (for example)
Did not see the other five zillion horrible attempts to get this precise shot. And I promise you, that is only a small exaggeration. This time, instead of automatically deleting the lousy pictures, I thought I would share them with you. Lucky you. (Not)
As many photo ops as there are out there, there are as many reasons to get a poor shot. Sadly, most of it is operator error. But not always!
Sometimes the problem lays entirely with the subject matter. Wild animals for instance have zero sense of responsibility when it comes to photography. They will not just stand their obediently and pose for me. What's wrong with them? Instead I get pictures like these. I call these the "half a bird" shots
In each of these instances, the bird was perfectly in frame and then as I am pressing the button, boom, they tip their head or hop up to another branch or just move slightly out of square. Dang!
Sometimes they disappear altogether
I solemnly swear to you that when I began taking this photo, there was a bird standing right in the center of the vee of this tree. It would have been a terrific picture. But Oh well.
Birds are famous for turning their backs on me. I have way way way too many photos of bird butt. And No Thank You Very Much Please. Nobody wants to see that
Sometimes the birds don't move completely out of frame. Nope, sometimes they just move. They wiggle, they twitch, they ruffle their feathers and if I don't already have the setting on sport (which will sometimes accommodate movement) I have missed that shot. Occasionally the wind moves something in front of the subject too. Like pine sprills. And that's fun too. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about.
To be absolutely fair, sometimes it's not the bird moving. Sometimes, it's me. It can be really hard to hold completely still for what feels like a eternity, waiting for the perfect moment for a shot. And the funny part is that I think I am rock solid steady as I'm standing there getting a crick in my neck waiting for "The Shot" to present itself and I'm totally not. Yup, sometimes the blur is totally my bad. Like here:
The funniest part (to me anyway) is that it doesn't even have to be a bird photo that comes out blurry. It could be something far more stationary. Like a flower. How on earth does anyone get a blurry photo of a flower? Yup, the fault here is completely on me and I'm not absolutely certain how screwed it up.
It even happened this week with a dragonfly that was holding absolutely completely totally still on a tall blade of grass. I swear to you that there is a dragonfly in this photo
I actually know what I did wrong that time. I didn't set the focus properly on this one. And sometimes it's really tricky. When there is a lot of 'stuff' around a subject, the camera gets confused about what to zero in on. In the above case, it selected a bit of greenery behind the dragonfly. Yeah I really have to get better at that sort of thing. It happened here with these flowers too
It's not even a horrible picture, it's more a "what the heck is this supposed to be a picture of ?" Yeah. Sorry, I don't know.
It's bad photo but the lighting was pretty, I'll give it that. Lighting is absolutely essential to a good shot. And it can be tricky. There are rules of course, but sometimes the rules are wrong. I've taken plenty of shots into the sun that came out great. But then of course there are the other times when it absolutely did not. These have too much sun flare and are way too washed out! What was I thinking?
Not enough light is just as bad. I kind of like an occasional moody Sillouhette Shot but after awhile, it's very ho hum. Normally all of these photos would have been long gone by now to deleted photo heaven.
There are just so very many ways to go wrong. But the final one, regarding wildlife photography anyway, that I will mention here is trying to take a photo of a creature that is just camera shy. This guy simply did not want his picture taken but he was comfortable where he was and opted to not fly to another tree. His answer, obviously, was to just hide his head.
I was suppose to the wildlife we are trying to capture on film, we are the unwelcome, unwanted, rude, papparazzi. And it's funny because Joy and I always keep a respectful distance and never attempt to interact with these critters. I suppose we believed that we were doing the right thing. Walking quietly, sticking to the trails, strictly "pack in in pack it out" photographer/hikers. We never so much as pick a flower. But I imagine that to them, just being there is an intrusion. So I guess an apology is overdue. We always remember to say, "Thank you" after we've gotten the shot (honest, we actually do that). But it never, until now, dawned on me to apologize for interrupting their lives.
I'm not sure how to balance that out. I guess I could offer to allow them to whip out their little cameras and I will hold still while they take endless photos of me? Hmmmm. Maybe it requires a little more thought.
So anyway, that's it for now. The shots I normally would have deleted from our photo safari earlier this week are now here for you to giggle at. And now if you will excuse me, I have a date with a delete button.
No Hunting eh? Well that's just fine with us! The only thing Joy and I hunt is photo ops! And we found them aplenty yesterday! Get ready to hear all about it and buckle up because it was a lot of fun!
Our first stop was Curry Creek Preserve. It was loaded with birds and pretty greenery and beautiful morning light and mist. Just absolutely stunning!
And in fact there were so many photos I'm not quite sure how to present them. Maybe I'll just start with the early morning light, mist and dew type shots. That ok with you?
There were bunnies and squirrels scampering about and birds at every turn. They chirp, they chatter, they sing operas. We watched as they flew and glided and soared over head. Birds hopped around the branches, from limb to limb and tree to tree and every once in awhile they paused just long enough for me to get a photo or two.
Mercy me! Birds in such abundance that after awhile you say, nah, I've already got a good photo of a Blue Jay today. Really? Wow. But of course there were other things that I got pictures of. Of course! Here we go with my personal favourite, the miscellaneous file:
It all seems just idyllic doesn't it? This pristine, quiet, beautiful place with nothing around but us and the wonders of nature. Yeah, well, this is where the Stephen King moment came.
I have to begin by explaining that there exists a working farm that runs along one side of this preserve. We are accustomed to hearing moo-ing and crowing and occasionally the sound of farm machinery off in the distance. It's no big deal and somehow just adds to the ambiance.
Well there we were pretty farm down the trails when we heard what was absolutely positively no doubt about it the sound of a tractor. Joy and I both spent some time on our paternal Grandparents farm in Michigan and during my first marriage, I lived on a small working farm in Connecticut. Suffice it to say that to our ears, the sound of a tractor is unmistakable. But we were so far down the trails that we were surprised to hear still be able to hear it. And then we realized that not only was the sound still audible to us, but it was getting louder. And louder. And louder! And holy Cats, there it was right behind us on the trails, just about one bend behind us! Yikes!
What the John Deere was that tractor doing on the preserve trails? We didn't stick around to ask, we moved a little faster and we thought out loud to one another, ok he was probably just turning around down there, or taking a short cut to a back field. And then we'd slow down and go back to taking our photos in a more leisurely manner and then chugchugchug, like a dragon, there it would be coming up from behind us once again!
So we would scurry ahead until we felt out of potential danger once again, only to have the tractor come up behind us again. Relentlessly! Dang! Shades of Christine!
Eventually we came to a secondary trail and jumped onto that just to stay out of the way. You would think that it was would be no big deal. We could just step off the trial and let him by. It's just not that easy. There isn't really room to step off the trail without being either ankle to knee deep in water/muck or waist high in undergrowth. And sometimes along the sides was a veritable wall of trees. I suppose another option would be to climb a tree to get out of the way, but the last time I successfully climbed a tree I believe I was 7 years old. So I'm a little out of practice. We will leave it that getting out of the way would have been a tricky proposition. Thank goodness for secondary trails! Whew! It was an adrenaline moment.
I'm exaggerating about the Stephen King thing. It wasn't really a fear for our own safety. I'm quite sure that if the driver saw us ahead of him on the trail, he would have stopped and let us move out of the way (I'm not sure how we would have done that but still). It was more about how the loud tractor scared off a lot of wildlife, squished many of the things I may have wanted to take photos of and made it impossible for us to have a conversation. Our time at that preserve was clearly over.
We found our way, eventually, back to the entrance and moved on to our next stop. Which was very close by. The Pinebrook Nature and Fitness Trails.
These trails are wide and well mowed and throughout the park along the trails are "fitness stations". Under normal circumstances, Joy and I would walk right on by those and concentrate on our photo taking. But were having a silly moment and since nobody was looking, we tried some of them on for size. We weren't very good at it, but we had some laughs. And that counts too! After all Laughter is supposedly the best medicine, or so we are told. I apologize that the photos of me are teeny tiny. Joy, kindly, sent them to me and clearly I didn't do something right. Use your imagination. I'm short but not quite that short.
Anyhoo, we actually did get some real photographs too:
So there you have it. Some pretty photos, the adventure of feeling chased by a giant tractor, a solid workout at the fitness stations and another terrific morning spent together, laughing, talking, hiking and taking photos.
This man is a freakin' genius!~ Why aren't all bicycles in Florida made like this! It's got everything you might possibly need. An umbrella to protect the rider from sun OR rain, the basket on the front to carry purchases and the cooler on the back to keep water or ice tea or lemonade cold so when it's time for a break, the rider can be refreshed. A person could be out all day long on this bicycle regardless of the weather. It's awesome!
I have tremendous admiration for inventors. Those folks who see a need and instead of just complaining about it (oh that would be me) they then turn around and find a way to make it better.
And it doesn't have to be really huge enormous life-altering invention to impress me. I mean, indoor plumbing is pretty much the most amazing thing ever and yes, I have been in homes that didn't have it. Yeah, it pretty much changed my life. Everyone's life really. But there are smaller things in my life that wowed me too.
Pantyhose was a huge one for me. Yeah, I know nowadays almost nobody wears stockings at all but when I was just coming into my teens it was still all about garter belts, individual stockings and what a pain in the arse all of that was. Pantyhose were a huge step forward (at the time)
Velcro, which came into being thanks to the Space Program, was awesome for anyone with small children. Suddenly that didn't have to worry about tying their shoes and retieing their shoes and etc. Just slap that velcro closure shut and taadaa! And now you can find velcro on all sorts of things.
Another great category of invention in my lifetime were the childhood disease vaccines. No longer did any child have to suffer, be forever altered or die of "ordinary" childhood diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough or mumps. Wow. Yeah, that was a Huge one.
Less scary but also impactful in a positive way was the invention of non-stick cookware! Holy Cats that stuff is great. I will admit that the original interpretation of it had it's flaws but it had now been many times changed and improved and it's a huge time and effort saver in the kitchen.
Naturally kitchen related stuff are the ones with which I am most familiar. Modern Toasters are pretty awesome. Before any kitchen toaster was invented, people would put a piece of bread on a long handled fork and hold it over a flame until it reached the desired shade of brown, turn it over and do the same thing on the other side. Inefficient and dangerous. Current toasters and toaster ovens are awesome.
Oh! Along with vacuum cleaners! Modern vacuum cleaners rank pretty high with me. I know that my grand mother had to just sweep, constantly. Even rugs got swept most of the time. Once or twice a year all of the rugs in the house were taken outside, thrown over a tree limb and beaten too get the dust and dirt out. No thank you. When I was very young, my mother had a carpet sweeper. It was one of the most useless household items ever created on this planet. Didn't do a bit of good. At some point she got a vacuum cleaner and suddenly our house was sparklingly clean because she vacuumed every day. Sometimes several times a day. She loved that thing. It was, inexplicably, powder blue.
I have to admit that home computers are probably the biggest most impressive modern invention followed by the World Wide Web and cell phones. We would be an entirely different society without them. Completely totally entirely different. They impact every aspect of our lives. I guess that one wins in the modern invention category.
But still, I am totally digging the umbrella bicycle. Woohoo to you umbrella bicycle guy! You Totally Rock!
I know I've mentioned it before, at least in passing. Parks and playgrounds. Venice Island has a lot of them. A surprising number in fact considering what a relatively small place it is. And it's one of the things that we love about living here. Loads of parks. Green spaces with grass and trees and flowers and benches are just so inviting. And actually I love hearing the sound of children talking and laughing as they play outside. It's happy noise.
Just about a block from our house is Epiphany Catholic Church and School. On a pleasant weather day, when the windows are open in the house I can actually hear not just the church bells but sometimes also the screams of delight, the giggles and excited chatter of little ones at play during recess. I have no idea what games they are playing or what they are doing but I know they are having a good time doing it.
It occurred to me just the other day that the one thing I'm not hearing as they play are jump rope songs. Hmmmm. Are kids not playing jump rope anymore? Or are they just not singing jump rope songs while they do so. I have no idea. Probably it's just too old school, too old fashioned.
I have such strong memories of playing jump rope both in my own driveway and on the school playground at recess. It was one of the few remotely athletic endeavors that I was any good at, actually, which is probably why it stands out in my mind. Some kids knocked around a baseball, other were all about the monkey bars or the swings. Dodge ball, tether ball, basketball and 4-square (another ball game), spheres of one sort or another kind of ruled the playground back then. But there were always a few hold outs, usually girls, who took the time and effort to chalk a hop scotch and gather a few pebbles to play that game. And then there was the jump rope contingent.
I loved jump rope. I wasn't especially great at it but I could do it which was exciting to me. In fact, I could even jump double dutch! Woohoo! And even though by the end of the session we were sweaty and hot and out of breath, it was so much fun! There were a lot of jump rope songs that we sang as we jumped but the only one I remember all the way through was done as a call and response. The jump rope twirlers sang a line, then the jumper sang the next line and repeat. It went like this:
Twirlers: "Ding a ling a ling sir, may I come in sir"
Jumper: "no sir"
Twirlers: "why sir"
Jumper "Coz I have a cold sir"
Twirlers: "Where'd you get the cold sir"
Jumpers: " At the North Pole sir"
Twirlers: "What you doing there sir"
Jumper: "Catching Polar Bears Sir"
Twirlers " How many polar bears did you catch?"
And then the fast jumping would commence. The twirlers picked up the speed and the jumper would hop like mad over the rope as it slapped the ground and everyone counted. Whatever number was called out last before the jumper faulted was the number of polar bears caught and obviously the higher the number, the better the jump roper!
Yes yes I know, nowadays it's probably an insensitive song. Why is there the assumption that everyone is male (the constant repeat of "sir" through the song)? Why are they catching endangered animals? (Polar Bears) The rudeness of going to someone's house without calling ahead and asking to be allowed inside their home! (yeah that is kind of rude). I don't know what to tell you. It was a children's nonsense song and it was a different time. Sue me. At least the jumper was trying to socially distance since he was sick, right?
I know they still sell jump ropes in stores, I've seen them. Usually in sports supply stores. And they are snazzy. They have perfectly weighted handles made out of some sort of material that doesn't get too hot, is easy to hold on to and doesn't leave friction burns and the rope itself isn't actually rope, it's some polystyrene sort of thing. I have no idea what it is. But I don't think it's intended for use by children. It's fitness minded adults jumping rope now.
Our jump ropes were sometimes actual rope with electricians tape around the ends to be used as a handle. Other times it was something ropelike (not sure what it was to be honest) but the handles were wood. Mine had green painted handles. Joy's were red. Ahhh nostalgia.
The jump rope song just reminded me of other songs we sang on the playground. We didn't have a name for it but I think now it's called a rhythmic hand claps or some such thing. We just did them, we didn't name them. There were different sorts of hand claps and/or snaps and/or gestures and/or other motions. They went from very easy to relatively complex (even though the songs were still as monumentally stupid as the jump rope songs). The two participants would sit or stand facing each other and do the mirrored clap or gesture or snap or whatever of the other while singing the song. Let's see if I can recall one of those:
"Love grow under the wide oak tree
Sugar flows like candy
Top of the mountain shines like gold
And you keep your little fellow sort of handy
Sweet Dreams, Sweet Dream
Under the wide oak tree oh
Sweet Dreams, Sweet Dreams
Some for you and me oh."
Like I said, stupid lyrics. Another one just popped into my head. Not sure I know all of it: Let's see how does that one go:
"I had a little sister
Her name was Sally Sue
I put her in the bathtub
To see what she would do, do, do
She drank up all the water
She ate up all the soap
She tried to eat the bathtub
But it wouldn't go down her throat throat throat."
Let's not get into the no-no land of keeping our fellow sort of handy or the unhealthiness of eating sweets or the fantasy of golden mountaintops. And I would prefer to not talk about the child endangerment involved in the second song either. When we sang them, the songs were innocent and silly and fun. We weren't gong to actually allow any little sisters to eat soap or drink bathwater for heaven's sakes! There were no polar bears harmed in the singing of the jump rope song.
They were just silly children's songs. They were equally ridiculous but they seemed to have secured a place in my memory banks. And here I am, all these years later, kind of annoyed that I am still wasting good memory brain cells on those ditties. Sigh.
But I suppose it doesn't really mater anymore because I'm hearing none of that on playgrounds. I guess kids don't do that now. Or possibly jump ropes are no longer allowed because they could be mis-used to hurt people? We are such a litigious society. And I'm positive the songs would not be allowed anymore. At least not the songs we sang. And we sang them so innocently. There was no ill will intended.
I'm pretty sure there have been nonsense songs and silly children's songs throughout the ages.
They were never intended to be analyzed, or politicized, or scrutinized. They were just funny little songs. If anyone was offended in the reading of this blogpost, be aware that I'm just writing about my memories. I cannot (and if it was possible I would not) go back in time to change things to make them more politically correct to fit current standards. It was how it was. And not how it is.
And looking to the future, I wonder what thing we are saying or doing now will end up being offensive to generations yet to come.
Yes, that is my big fat (dirty) foot. (and I just now noticed that my shoelace is very nearly untied) You know what that means, right? It's time for another Photo Safari Report!
I'm sure you remember that I've said in the past that each of our hikes ends up having a theme. It's not intentional. We certainly do not start out choosing a theme and then trying to force the hike to fit it. No. We do not do that. The hiking theme is more organic, more natural than that. We just do our photo hike and then let the theme reveal itself to us.
This time, as it turns out there was a dual (and oddly opposing) theme. Or I suppose, themes. They were: 1) 'Holy Cats I'm an idiot' AND 2) "Holy Cats, we are so smart!" Like I said, opposing themes.
First of all we chose to hike some trails we haven't touched in months, so that was a nice change. We weren't certain about the condition of the trails but, as always, we were game to try. As always we left early, so the sun wasn't very high in the sky, the dew was still on the ground and the moon visible against the beautiful blue sky.
It was a wee bit cool out, which is a lovely change, the mosquitos were NOT chomping on us and there was not another human being anywhere around us. So, it was perfect.
Right away we saw wonderful things to capture. Birds, lizards, squirrels, dragonflies were everywhere around us. And some of them even, very thoughtfully, paused a moment for us to take our photos. But I seemed to be having a terrible time getting my camera to properly focus on these small things. I tried over and over, using every trick I knew. Was it my new reader sunglasses? I took them off, nope, still not working. I fiddled with the camera (I never really know what I'm doing when I fiddle with technical stuff). I even resorted to the turn it off and then back on thing. But hmmm. Still not working. Here is the one and only bird photo I got yesterday
I had this awful dread in the pitt of my stomach that whatever was wrong with the camera was my fault. Y'see a month of so ago, I got caught out in an unexpected downpour while I was walking back from taking photos at the beach. Immediately I tucked my camera under my shirt, hunched over it and ran like hell the rest of the way home. Once home, I took my camera as much apart as is possible, removed the battery and the card and let everything air dry overnight. The next day, tentatively, I put it all back together and it worked perfectly! YAY! BUT what if it was a delayed reaction? (yeah my brain works like that) What if I did irreparable harm to my camera? What if in fact, I had killed it? This camera, one of the most important material things I own, AND a gift from Tim was not working properly and it was ALL MY FAULT! The guilt was overwhelming.
I didn't want to be the party pooper of the hike so I said nothing about my concerns. Instead, I tried to be contented to take other kinds of photos. I could take perfectly fine, broader, wider, less detailed pictures. It was only the smaller, macro shots that were utter failures. See?
Finally, the umpti-umpth time Joy asked me, "Did you get it?" in reference to a very cool bird or bug shot that I didn't get, I confessed that I was having some difficulty with my camera. Joy offered to take a look. She has been taking photos much longer than I have and has much more sophisticated equipment. I felt confident that if there was an issue, she would find it and if it was fixable, she would fix it. But nope. There was no finding, there was no fixing. I sighed. Well I would just make the best of it. I would find a way to continue to take photos without my macro settings.
We continued on and I kept snapping away:
I felt as if I was finally getting the hang of this no macro settings thing when Joy mentioned that she had just gotten a great shot of a some bird in profile. Something about the word "Profile" made my brain move to the word, "Portrait". I suddenly remembered that I had been messing around with my camera the day before, taking multiple shots of the same exact thing with the camera on different settings. Y' know what I mean, right? The little dial on top of the camera that can be set on "sport", "auto", "night" etc. There is also a setting for "portrait" and the portrait setting was the last one I was experimenting with. I bet I left the dial set at "portrait" and of course, you cannot be in macro AND portrait all at the same time. What an utter IDIOT!
I checked my camera and sure enough, there it was. Portrait. I corrected the setting and up pops my macro option just like it's supposed to and all was right with the world once again. I showed Joy that it was now fixed. We were both embarrassed that neither of us thought to check the settings but my relief that I hadn't killed my camera was bigger than my embarrassment.
I started snapping more photos like crazy! Macro macro macro!
Happy Snappin' for the remainder of our hike.
So that was the idiot part of the hike. The smart part? It wasn't fixing the camera. No. It was something else entirely.
It was a wet hike anyway. We were on relatively dry land some of the time but practically swamping ankle deep at times in muck other times. But even we have a line we do not cross. And here was the line. Do you see the other side of the trail? And therefore the water running smack through the middle of it? Yeah. There lay the dilemma.
It wasn't a puddle that was could happily splash through and it wasn't a little stream that we could hop across, it was more like a creek. There was no way we were going to step into that water not knowing for sure how deep it was or what lay in it's murky depths. We would have had to double back a VERY long way or find a method to cross. We searched off trail in every direction and all we found was more of the same. Sometimes wider, sometimes deeper but still water. Dang.
We thought about turning back but we are not quitters. So we decided that instead we would find a way across. And of course we did. It some wandering through undergrowth off-trail for awhile but eventually we had it figured out. Unfortunately best option required crossing two of the "creeks" and creating "bridges" across them. Fortunately, out in the forests and preserves, nobody tidies up. There is deadfall and tree detritus everywhere which also means building materials. Ahhhh!
We gathered armloads of deadfall and placed it in overlapping layers across the narrowest and shallowest parts of the "creek" and quickly scurried across. Then, once safely on dryish land, we had to do it once again to cross the next creek. Ultimately, after clambering through brambles and yet more thick undergrowth, we arrived on the other side and were happily back on the trail. We congratulated each other and, flushed with our success, we carried on.
Part of our frond "bridges" below":
So there you have it, moments of stupid and moments of smart. One cancelling out the other maybe? Or just leveling the playing field. Either way, it was a great hike, we had a good time and I learned a thing or two.
I wonder what will be the theme of the next photo safari?
The above is my current collection of sunglasses. I have learned, since moving to Florida, that the most essential part of anyone's wardrobe is a pair of sunglasses. And that is year 'round.
I've lived other sunny places - California, Texas and (surprisingly) Colorado - without owning any and got by. California and Texas because I was a kid and kids are notoriously stupid and in Colorado mostly because I was too cheap to buy prescription sunglasses. But here in Florida, there is no getting away from the necessity,
There is something about the sunlight here that makes it more intense. To be fair, I have blue eyes and the lighter the eye colour (or so I'm told) the more sensitive to light. But it's also the sun reflected off the water and the sand. Yes, I said, the sand. Apparently the sand is made largely from Quartz and quartz is not only reflective, it's also refractive. And moreover, the sand is everywhere! And then there is our lovely clean, no smoggy, air. There is nothing blocking that beautiful sunlight. Put all that together and you bet I wear sunglasses now. Anytime I step outside.
Now that I had my cataract surgery (several years ago) I can buy cheap sunglasses which also means I can have more than one pair and that is awesome. The very first pair I bought for myself after cataract surgery were from the dollar store. They were pink and had tiny black polka dots on them. I adored them and wore them nearly every day. Wore them out in fact. In the way of most dollar store items they didn't last very long.
Around that time Joy bought several pair of sunglasses for herself that she ended up not using. She gave them to me! Woohoo! I still have them. In the line up on the table they are the first two pair (from the bottom up). One pair is black, the other a tortoise shell. I wear the tortoise shell ones the most. They are comfortable, the lenses are very dark and they go with virtually everything I own. I love 'em. Here they are below:
We do occasionally have gloomy days and I learned pretty quickly that the really dark lenses are sometimes too dark to see well in overcast weather, but without sunglasses there is still a glare. Which led me to buy the 3rd pair from the bottom on the table. Bought those at Publix on an overcast day when I had the choice of either squinting against the glare without sunglasses at all or feeling as if I were driving in the dark with them. These much lighter lenses are just enough to knock down the glare, but not too dark. I wear them more often than I anticipated. Glad I have them.
The 4th one up are another pair of dollar store sunglasses. And they are mirrored too so extra snazzy (HAH). I wear those every time I'm doing yard work. If something happens to a pair of dollar store sunglasses, I'm not nearly as devastated as I otherwise might be. And yard work is a messy, dangerous business (especially if I'm involved) As you can see, they are scratched all to heck and back but so far, they are still good enough for their intended purpose. If I wreck 'em.......it's back to the dollar store for me!
The next pair were an experiment that failed. After my cataract surgery I was left with perfect distance vision. I mean PERFECT! But my close up vision stinks necessitating "readers" for anything remotely like reading. These are bifocal sunglasses. Clever concept, but not great for taking pictures. If I wear them I have to tip my head to a bizarre angle to see through the bifocal part to shoot. Not great. And hurts my neck. Probably the bifocal sunglasses would be fine if I was sitting in the courtyard reading a book. If you look carefully at the photo below you can see the bifocal part.
The last pair, well, I honestly don't even know where they came from. They are too small for Tim so they are in my drawer. They would do in a pinch if I had no other sunglasses to wear. I have never worn them. I'm not sure why I have kept them except it is completely against my nature to throw out something that is perfectly fine. Maybe I'll donate them to Good Will.
The only thing about needing sunglasses when I'm outside that continues to be an issue is when I am on a photo safari. I'm outside, so I really should be wearing sunglasses. Yes, I know. But I need readers to see through the camera because it's close up. And therefore I am left with a few options.
I could wear sunglasses until I am ready to take a photo, then switch to my readers, take the photo and then switch back. Which, you know, is reasonable (not). "Hey butterfly, stay right there while I switch glasses!" Nope that doesn't happen.
OR I can try to take the photo without seeing anything through the camera itself. My sunglasses are polarized of course which means I see a black screen and not whatever it is I'm attempting to photograph. That almost never works.
I could just take off the sunglasses and try to shoot with blurry vision. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't.
Or I could do what I've been doing for a very long time now which is, not wearing sunglasses but a ballcap and hoping that the visor of the cap protects my eyes enough while wearing readers perched either on the end of my nose (so I can look over the top while walking) or popping the reading glass to the top of my hat until I need them. The only problem there is sometimes, they fall off. And when they do Joy and I end up retracing our steps until we find them again. Dang.
Tim has solved the problem for me. My Hero!
He had made for me a pair of non-polarzied reader sunglasses! Woohoo! Problem Solved! In theory I can wear them perched on the end of my nose and look over them while walking or seeking something photo-worthy and then when I'm ready to shoot, one tiny little finger push up and I'm ready to go! Yeehah!
They arrived over the weekend so I haven't had a chance to field test them yet, but this week will be their maiden voyage. I have no doubt that this is the solution I've been waiting for! And I'm excited to try it out !! I am ready to roll. I'll let you know how it works out
Happy 4th Blogiversary to us! Yes to both of us. Me, the writer and you, the reader, the commenter, the inspire-er. You guys, the people who share this space with me.
Can you believe it? For four years now, I've been blathering on about, well, very little of consequence really, almost every week, almost always 5 days a week. That's roughly 1,040 blogposts. Holy Cats! And you lovely people have been along for the ride, some of you for the entire length of the journey thus far. I cannot thank you enough.
I believe last year on the 3rd blogiversary I said that I had no idea what I was doing when I started and by year three, I wasn't a lot more clued in than on the 1st day. I suppose if nothing else, I am consistent because it's still true. There is no real plan to anything I write. Oh sometimes, throughout the week I will have ideas and I'll scrawl those ideas down in a little notebook I keep here on my desk. Some of those ideas even become blogposts, but not all of them.
Nope, nearly every weekday morning, I sit down here at my computer and I ask myself, "what shall I talk about today?" Because that's what it feels like to me. Like I'm having a conversation. Just two people (me and the representative reader) chatting over tea and cookies about this'n'that. Nothing of earth shattering importance is written about here, at least most of the time. It's just chitchat, talking about what I've done, what I'm thinking, expanding on thoughts you readers have suggested and sometimes I write about what I'm not doing. In fact, I believe that I wrote one blogpost about the fact that I had nothing to write about that day. Hah!
The actual blogiversary date was yesterday, the 4th. So what did I do to celebrate? I made some pumpkin bread! Yummy! I happened across some sugar pumpkins at the grocery store that were only 99 cents each! Wow! Had to do it. And before you roll your eyes about bothering to make pumpkin bread from the actual pumpkins, honestly it is as easy as, well, pumpkin bread :)
Sugar pumpkins generally aren't very big so I bought two, just to be sure I had enough. I cut them open, cleaned out the pumpkin guts (ewwwww), oiled them then put them in the oven to bake for about a half hour. Once they cooled sufficienty, I cut up the flesh, measured out two cups and put the oil, eggs, water and pumpkin flesh in the blender 'til it was pureed. Then I poured that onto the flour and baking soda in a bowl, stirred it up really throughly, added cinnamon and chopped walnuts, divided it into baking pans and baked it. Oh My Goodness it was so good! The entire house smelled like autumn. One of the best smells ever.
And it was cool enough outside to open windows so open window freshness plus hot out of the oven pumpkin bread. Now THAT is a celebration!
Next we went to the beach and then took a little drive afterwards with no destination, just out and about. I brought my camera, because, well, I almost always do. Here's a few photos:
Eventually we came back home, ordered take out and watched the movie, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" for the second or third (possibly fourth) time. It's my favourite Ben Stiller film and I might even be on my overall top 10 list. Hmmm. I need to give that some thought.
As far as I'm concerned it was the perfect celebration!
So once again, Happy 4th blogiversary to us all! Cheers and Congrats and Many Many Thanks!
These are the steps to the top of the Venice Island Center Bridge. (also known as the Venice Avenue Bridge). Yup that's a lotta steps for sure. Why does it matter?
Well, y'see, Florida is flat. I mean really flat. I don't always realize just how flat it is because there are so many trees that you just cannot see very far. But if you took away all of the trees (and buildings) you could probably see for miles. And miles. And miles. And, well you get the idea.
And then there is also the fact that we now live in a one story house. There are a lot of one story houses here. Probably more one stories than two come to think of it. And every building that I know about here that has more than one story, has an elevator. (or escalator like in shopping malls). So I have, I suppose, become accustomed to one story living.
Back in Colorado, we lived in a two story house that also had a basement. I went up and down those stairs every single day. Many times every day. And sometimes I ran up and down those stairs. The building I worked in however, was only one story. At work, even though I was on my feet most of the day, it was only one floor. That was just four years ago.
Before Colorado, we lived in Connecticut. Also a two story house, also with a basement. At that time I worked in a two story building and my office was on the second floor. I did those stairs many times a day.
Both Connecticut and Colorado are hilly places. So if you are going to go for a walk, odds are very good that you are going to be walking either up or down a hill, just to spend time outside. So add that in as well.
I never had trouble with ANY of those stairs. It was a perfectly normal thing. Like brushing your teeth. You don't think about it, you just do it. Stairs have never been an issue for me. I laugh in a face of stairs.
And then of course we moved here to one story, flat topography life. And it was all good. Until recently when we were somewhere (I don't even remember where) and circumstances required that I go up a rather long flight of stairs. "Nothin' to it" I thought to myself and I began climbing. Half way up my thighs started whining. 3/4 of the way up my calf muscles joined the chorus. And by the time I got to the top I was light headed and needed to stop and catch my breath. What the hell has happened to me?
I walk miles every day. Seriously, I try to do at least 3 miles each day. Some days, like hiking days, it ends up being more like 6 miles. And on a really fun weekend day of activity it might be closer to 9. Awesome! I still do my Pilates workouts as well. I thought I was in fairly good shape. Oh how very wrong I was.
So I decided I would take steps (no pun intended but hah!) too correct this problem. The only steps I could think of that I could incorporate into my exercise routine were the bridge steps. Ok I can do that.
Here was my plan. Every day I was going to walk first to the Center Bridge and I was going to do the steps for two sets (up and down is one set) gradually working my way up to more sets. And then I would continue my walk to where ever I was planning to walk that day. I sounded like a terrific idea.
Once my plan was in place, I was excited to begin. So I grabbed my camera and set out toward the Center Bridge which is a wee bit more than a half mile walk. And a pretty one too, through nice neighborhoods, past Epiphany Church (which plays the prettiest music at chime time), then behind the Theater, under the North bridge and along the Intercoastal Waterway to the base of the stairs of the Venice Avenue Bridge. It was a nice cool day and nobody was out walking there other than me. Very Nice. I took a few photos
It was a beautiful day, I had a great plan, and I had confidence that this plan was perfect. Piece of Cake. I am clearly an idiot.
I got to the bottom of the stairs and looked up. And Up. And UP. Hmmm. There are a lot more stairs involved than I realized. But no big deal, "I can do this", I sez to myself. And with a big smile on my stupid face, I began climbing. I wasn't holding the railing because even though these were unforgiving concrete stairs, I don't need no stinkin' railing. Oh I am twelve different kinds of ridiculous.
I began with sprightly pace, no running but moving with happy energy. It didn't last long. There are so many steps involved in this particular stairs case that there is a landing half way up. I paused there, ostensibly to look out at my surroundings from this higher perspective and to give my legs a chance to rest a second or two. "Get a grip" I lectured them, "This is no big deal! Keep moving". So I turned and continued up, this time with my hand on the railing, just for safety's sake at a less energetic pace.
Once I reached the top, I stopped again. This time to catch my breath. But I was facing the water, so any car passing by me on the bridge would think that I was just enjoying the view. While trying to steady my beating heart, I took a few photos. Mostly to kill time.
Once my heart rate had calmed down a bit, I took a deep breath, once again reassured myself that I could, in fact, do this, I went back down the stairs. A wee bit slower and more carefully but down I went. You'd think it would be easier going down than up, but for some reason I always have more difficulty with the descent. On ladders, Mountains, stairs, makes no difference, for me down is scarier. So I'm extra careful.
It felt like it took forever, but once I finally got to the bottom, part of my brain said, "call it a day" but the other part, the really stubborn part said, "No you said you would do two sets today and two sets you shall do!" I groaned out loud, but obediently turned and started back up, moving at the speed of smell.
When I got to the landing, my thighs and calves were no longer whining at me, they were screaming. And what they were saying was, "Why? Why are you doing this to us? You are a cruel and viscious woman!" I told them both to shut up and kept climbing. I wasn't goin to to pause on the landing this time because, frankly, I was afraid that if I stopped I would be able to get started again. I was huffing and puffing like the Big, Bad Wolf. Obviously I couldn't see myself but I'm sure my face was red, I know I was sweating, even in the cooler air.
My legs were now trembling. I found myself saying outloud but softly , "step, step, step" in a helpful instructive way. I was now pulling myself up with my arms as much as lifting with my legs. I was going to get there, come hell or high water. By the time I reached the top, my entire body was shaky and I was gasping for air. I leaned against the bridge railing while I collected myself. "What the heck is wrong with you?" I asked myself, "Why can't you just let sleeping fat lie there quietly? Why are you doing this to yourself?"
As I wiped sweat off my face with my hand and the corner of my tee-shirt, I peered back down the stairs. "you know what?" I said to myself. "1 1/2 isn't bad for the first time. Next time I will do two full sets" .
And I continued over the bridge to Venice Ave and dragged my weary arse home on blessedly flat ground from there.
The next day, my legs hurt, my butt hurt and I felt quite accomplished. If it doesn't rain this afternoon, I will go back and this time I will do two full sets, dang it! I will! If I can do 1 1/2 then I can do 2.
It may take a little longer to get back to where I want to be, but I will get there. One of these days, and soon, I will be able to do those stairs with ease, with aplomb, with style and grace, and then continue my walk all over the island. I can do this!
Yesterday was another photo safari day and Joy and I were determined to not be devoured by biting bugs this time so we pulled out the big guns. My thought was that if Deep Woods Off didn't work, then the bugs that were bugging us, were alien creatures and honestly, we have nothing in our arsenal to take care of that!
So we thoroughly sprayed ourselves down and attempted a re-do of Sleeping Turtle preserve.
It was only 69 degrees, overcast, more than a little wet on the ground and very breezy. And I know that sounds perfectly lovely to all of you people who don't live in Florida. But for those of us who have become accustomed to temps in the 90's and high humidity, 69 degrees is chilly. I was wearing a sweat jacket. And shorts of course, I'm not crazy after all.
But that's just fine. The bug spray seemed to work (Hurrah!) because for the most part we emerged unscathed. Right off the bat I got a photo of a cardinal. For reasons unknown, it came out a little like an impressionist painting, but I like it.
There were not many pretty blooming things though I did find this:
But mostly it was pictures of dewy grasses
and moody, spooky looking trees and ferns. Kinda cool. And considering that today is the first of October, I'd say, rather timely.
But as we made our way further and further back into the preserve, we kept running into puddles and streams on the path that got bigger and more problematic as we went.
Eventually, we threw our hands up in the air, cried Uncle, and went searching for a different, hopefully less wet, place to hike. But every place we tried was either, closed, blocked by enormous macherinery parked there for purposes unknown (at least to us), or too recently travelled (again by us).
What to do, what to do?
We decided to throw caution to the wind and headed to Myakka State Park. It is on the Myakka River, which means the odds of it being flooded were pretty good, but at that point, what the heck. We were already wet to the knees. Why not check it out?
It was such a good decision! Here is some of what we saw.
First of all the birds. Usually, Myakka is a birders paradise. They are everywhere! But not this time. They were few and far between. Still, we saw a some:
There weren't a lot of flowers either. This is kind of a between-season time of year down here in Florida. On the other hand, while there aren't as many flowers, the ones that we found were still beautiful:
And the trees were particularly captivating as well. I'm not sure if it was the low light or just my frame of mind yesterday, but I think I took more pictures of trees than anything else:
I saved the best for last. Completely unexpectedly we saw deer. Lots and lots of deer. At least a dozen of them. Our best guess is that the flooding deep in the interior where few people go drove the deer forward and much closer to trails and roads. The animals were of course wary, but hungry, and Joy and I are merely admirers. We stand quietly to watch and only moveslowly and carefully to take photos. And then there were also the raccoons. First we saw a huge, robust adult lumbering across the road ahead of us and later a young one. What a sweetieface!
What a wonderful and unexpected treat!
We saw so many people just blithely zooming through the park, looking straight ahead with grim looks on their faces. If they had just slowed down a little and looked to the right or the left, they would have seen so much more. It's like anything else in life, the more you look, the more you see. And if you look for good things, well, there are a lot of good things out there just waiting to be found.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.