Love Inspired: Loyal Birds and “Fowl” Words

For a recent “Love Inspired” swap for the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot Gale D., my partner, went birds and feathers on me.  The goal of the swap was to pair a love quote with an appropriate photo.

Gale settled on a quote from  A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh:

Some people care too much.  I think it’s called love.

Gale does a lot of bird photography, so she sent me two of her favorite photos.

The first, a pair of Mute Swans:

“Mute Swans” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

According to Gale’s note, the Mute Swans “stay together forever. It saves time and energy, and they produce more cygnets this way.  They make a great team.”

I found some interesting tidbits about Mute Swans on Cornell University’s All About Birds Site.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mute Swans are not native to North America
  • The swans pretty much mate for life, but will find another mate if a partner dies
  • Their reputation for monogamy along with their white plumage has helped establish them as a symbol of love in many cultures
  • The Mute Swan is the “star” of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling
  • The swans are pretty aggressive (so give them lots of space)
  • The oldest known Mute Swan is 26 years, 9 months old

Gale also sent a pair of Canada Geese and their goslings.

“Canada Geese,” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

Gale wrote that she loves Canada Geese, but although they adapt around humans well, she hasn’t had much opportunities to get close to the geese.  Ironically, she lives in Canada.  This particular photo was shot in a cemetery pond.

There are a LOT of Canada Geese on the university campus where I work.  She’d have no problem getting up close and personal with them. During early fall, they pretty much rule the campus, even stopping traffic at times.  That can be annoying, but it is a pretty glorious sight to see them take flight in formation.

During the second year of their lives Canada Geese find a mate, and like Mute Swans, they are monogamous and mate for life.

It truly is inspiring to find such “faithfulness” and “loyalty” in the animal kingdom.  We often think so little of them, but we have so much to learn from them.

Microblog Mondays: Time Out for Cute

I received many beautiful and meaningful postcards the last few days, so at the moment I’m torn between posting something meaningful and something cute.

Watercolor by Martha Slavin

“Cute Overload,” Watercolor by Martha Slavin

As you can see, cute won. Why?  The last few days were challenging, and I just want to stop thinking for a moment.

The postcard is a reproduction of a watercolor by one of my new postcard pals, Martha. Martha is an artist and a writer.  The watercolor was inspired by raccoons that used to live under her deck.  She writes  that they now “just travel through.”

Isn’t he the cutest?

microblog_mondays

Microblog Mondays: Permission to Rest

Happy New Year!

Two of my nieces shared a meme from “Quiet Quotes” today–one on Instagram, the other on Facebook. The meme reads, “Raise your hand shamelessly if you have successfully wasted the first day of 2017.”  I raised both hands because I did absolutely nothing on the first day of 2017.

Red-tailed Leopard at the Nashville Zoo

Clouded Leopard at the Nashville Zoo

I was fine with my utter slothfulness until night fell and sleep beckoned.  Then…I started thinking about all the things I could have done.

However, today has been super productive, and as I’m blazing through my to do list, I feel differently.  The “wasted first day of 2017” led to a “successful” second day of 2017.  I accomplished more today than I would have accomplished yesterday and today had I not allowed myself to simply rest.  I work (hard) constantly, often even when I’m on vacation.  I earned the “day off,” and the reality is that all the things that must be done will be done when they need to be done.  I have just about a week left of my winter vacation, and I give myself permission to rest even more if I want to.

What about you?  Do you allow yourself time out–to do nothing–to “be” in your own skin without guilt?

[Note: This year I will be participating in Microblog Mondays.  The idea is to post a short blog every Monday–from one word to eight sentences. This one is a little longer than I intended, but “short” is relative. Right?]

Nature Photo Challenge: A New Song

Last week, my brother, Dennis, a talented photographer and graphic artist/designer, nominated me to do the “Nature Challenge.” The challenge calls for posting a photo, on Facebook, I assume, every day for seven days and nominating someone different every day to join the challenge.

When I first read the post, I embraced it. I was tickled pink that my brother thinks enough of my photos to include me and was also excited to share nature photos–my favorite! But…I’m not much of a “facebooker.” I visit sporadically, and even then, for only a few minutes at most. I posted the first day and then forgot about it. Completely.

I don’t want to disappoint my brother or feel like a complete failure (a little dramatic, yes), so I am going to share here and allow WordPress to do the “dirty work” of Facebook posting.

I’m starting over. Today is my new Day 1.

"A New Song," Original

“A New Song,” Original

I shot this photo Labor Day weekend in North Carolina. It took quite a bit of work since the front of the flower was positioned away from view and in the middle of dense foliage.

"A New Song," Millers Creek, North Carolina, September 2015

“A New Song,” Millers Creek, North Carolina, September 2015

I was inspired to work with the photo when Takiyah, a former student, mentee, and sister-in-Christ shared with me her performance of a new song entitled “A New Song.”  Take a listen…

I’m already singing my new song…

Wishing you a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2016.

Note: For a look at Dennis’ work:

The Indigo Buntings of Academia

I stole a moment yesterday from all the “things to do” to “thin out” the stationery and planner pouches I carry to work with me. All the pretty things were spread out on the coffee table. Among them were at least seven letters to which I must respond soon. In that stack of letters was a gorgeous notecard from Omi, an adjunct English professor and one of my “Professors United” pals on swap-bot.

"Indigo Bunting" by Christy Lemp

“Indigo Bunting” by Christy Lemp

Lemp’s watercolor was one of the winners of the AAUW’s 2015 Art contest.  From the back of the card:

Christy Lemp always loved to draw and paint but only starred devoting more time to it after years of working other jobs and raising her family.  Spurred by the passage of a milestone birthday, Lemp quit her job and dove into her passion: watercolor painting.  After much hard work and persistence, Lemp’s dream of making artwork for people has come true. Indigo Bunting was inspired by a Mother’s Day visit of the beautiful bird to Lemp’s bird feeder.

I often think about adjunct professors like Omi who toil day in and day out with inadequate pay and benefits.  In this letter, Omi wrote about how the university that employs her changed the adjunct pay schedule from biweekly to monthly and were (or are) discussing eliminating adjuncts in her discipline altogether! I am sympathetic to the plight of adjuncts and disturbed by how some universities take advantage of them, but I know that many adjuncts appreciate having a paycheck and a job in academia, hoping that “a foot in the door” will lead to a full-time position.

According to the Chipper Woods Bird Observatory:

Indigo Buntings perform a valuable service as they consume grasshoppers, beetles, cankerworms, flies, mosquitoes, cicadas, weevils and aphids. Diet also consists of seeds of raspberries, grasses, thistle, goldenrod, dandelions and other weed seeds. It is well worth the effort to provide suitable brushy habitat and shrubby forest edges to assure a healthy population of these attractive little songsters.

I’m not in the habit of comparing people to animals, but it’s fitting that Omi wrote her letter on this card. It’s a reminder that adjuncts, too, provide an invaluable service to colleges and universities. They, often, perform in ways that other professors refuse, taking on the grunt work of service courses that leave them little time to pursue their own research and dreams.

Despite the challenges, Omi seems upbeat and optimistic. She’s writing, reading, crafting, sharing beauty, and loving her life–and her cats who “own [her] soul because she can’t resist their cute faces.”  =^..^=

A Box Full of Nature

My family and I were in and out of town during the month of July and “work” started hours after we returned from our last trip.  There was little time to appreciate and share the goodies that filled my mailbox over the last few of weeks.  But know that I was elated to find “nature” in the stack of mail waiting for our return–postcards and a letter that arrived somewhat unexpectedly.

The first I’m sharing is a really adorable polar bear postcard Silke sent.  She’d told me a few weeks ago that she wanted to add a little fun to my mailbox.  Of course, to my advantage, I forgotten about her intent.

From the postcard back (translated from German): Polar bears have adjusted perfectly with their white fur to their arctic surrounding. When they approach their prey, mostly seals, they even hide their black noses, if possible'

From the postcard back (translated from German): Polar bears have adjusted perfectly with their white fur to their arctic surrounding. When they approach their prey, mostly seals, they even hide their black noses, if possible.

Silke added to the description:  “Now, you tell me how they know they have black noses?”  I laughed out loud, because now I’m wondering that very thing. Animal intelligence.  More polar bear facts she shared:

  • As adults, polar bears live mostly solitary lives
  • They are the world’s biggest land predators
  • They can mate with brown bears
  • Their habitat is endangered by the meltdown of arctic ice.

She even added a tiny, happy brown bear sticker to the back of the postcard.  Adorable. Isn’t he?

Nature in my mailbox PCs-2

Candace of Glenrosa Journeys sent a postcard boasting about her coming retirement.  Okay, not really. Maybe not.  (Not sure, as I received this news as I’m beginning a new academic year). Her postcard should have been “expected” also.  We’d committed to exchanging postcards post-LYA and we procrastinated sending.  I couldn’t decide which one to send, and Candace was lazy–her words, not mine.  😀  She shared a beautiful butterfly postcard and quote that were worth the wait:

“Like a Butterfly” by Candace

The quote:

I want to fly like a butterfly around this beautiful world, till the last frame of my life and the last click of my heart.  –Biju Karakkonam

To see more Candace’s beautiful photography which focuses on the nature of Phoenix, Arizona, you must see her blog,  Glenrosa Journeys, or Flickr album.

Lastly, I received a letter from Beckra, a friend and colleague I met through swap-bot.  This was totally unexpected, especially since she had just sent me a special package a couple of weeks before–and I hadn’t even had a chance to respond to her yet.  Way to put the pressure on, Beckra.  😉

In addition to her newsy letter, she shared her photography story (read: philosophy) and three of her photo postcards. [Click an image for a closer look]

She writes:

Photography is a different way of experiencing, and one that helps me see differently. […] Without photography I’d never spend so much time with water and light, and I’m grateful for that.

I featured Beckra’s calming photo postcards in an October 2014 post I might need to revisit in a couple of days when classes begin: Getting Through the Crazies: part i.

Thank you, ladies, for adding beauty and joy to my life! You’re on my snail mail list for this week. Hugs…

Playing with Black and White (Part II): A Touch of Color

Yesterday, I shared Part I of “Playing with Black and White” (Flowers).  Today, as promised, I bring you Part II.

The second swap in the “A Thousand Words” group’s B&W photography series, “Black and White with a Touch of Color,” invited photographers to stretch their skill just a little further by keeping just one color in the photo.

Mahlermail sent three photos that did not stay in my possession long; my little one requested them for his nature album moments after I opened the envelope.

“Leaf” by Mahlermail, October 2014

She captured the leaf in North Carolina while driving/riding the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It’s my favorite–an autumn leaf! 🙂

“Owl Eyes,” by Mahlermail

The owl picture was taken two years ago at a state park in the Houston, Texas area.  Its eyes are so striking, I can’t imagine them “losing” their color.

“Backyard Baby Love,” by Mahlermail

Mahlermail was fortunate enough to catch this one in her own backyard. She describes the photo as “totally cute”–a spring baby bird being fed by its mama.

I sent my partner four or five photos. Here’s one of them:

Melissa's Roses, Original Photo Taken August 2014

Melissa’s Roses, Original Photo Taken August 2014

I captured Melissa the Magnificent’s (the Program Coordinator in Academic Administration) beautiful red birthday roses on my iPad. They’ve gone through several different post-processes. I haven’t figured out which one I love the most, so I’m always looking for opportunities to use them in swaps. I’m a little proud of this shot since it shows a bit of improvement in my rose photography.

The quote is borrowed from the opening lines of John Keats’ poem, “Endymion.”

Here’s another of the shots I sent my partner–

My New Orleans, Original Photo, 2011

My New Orleans, Original Photo Taken July 2011

This photo is part of a “My New Orleans” collection of photos that I’ve been building for the last few years. I captured it while my sister, son, niece, and I strolled through the French Quarter one summer afternoon. I cheated a little by keeping more than one color, so I sent this one an extra.  Don’t you just l-o-v-e this dress?

I also played around with fish, flowers, leaves, stained glass, street art, and bird berries.

Some of these were a “miss”–they lost something they needed when most of the color was removed. But I enjoyed playing around with them.  The fun thing about keeping a little color in B&W photos is deciding which color helps the photo make a statement.

I’ll post the third part–“Buildings in Black and White“–tomorrow, or the next day.

Looking forward…

Oh, the Cows!

I got in trouble with my son because of the cow posting a few nights ago.  Sure, I posted “the cow” as he requested, but he didn’t want me to post a “Photoshopped cow” [Note: I didn’t know he was familiar with the term]. He wanted me to post “the cow” in “its” natural state.  So, here’s the photo, no filter.

"For the Little One," No Filter, Northern Alabama, 2013

“For the Little One,” No Filter, Northern Alabama, 2013

And a goat on the same land captured seconds later:

"Who You Lookin' At?" Somewhere in North Alabama, 2013

“Who You Lookin’ At?” or “Through the Barbed Wire,” Somewhere in North Alabama, 2013

And while we’re at it you might as well have some more bovine:

"Bovine Basking on a Beach," Maui, Hawaii, 2005

“Bovine Basking on a Beach,” Maui, Hawaii, 2005

I snapped this one in Maui a long time ago.   I wonder where else in the U.S. we’d find beach-lovin’ bovine.

Moo!

Two Heads Are Better Than One. Sixteen Legs Are Even Better Than Four!

It’s been more than a month since my last post, so I have quite a bit of mailbox goodness to share. I’ll have to put the sharing on hold a bit because my little one made a special request for me to post the two-headed cow I photographed last year during one of our Saturday afternoon drives.

Two-Headed Cow

Two-Headed Cow

 

He gets such a kick out of this photo!  It’s not exactly two-headed. In fact, there are more than two cows here. Three obviously. Keep looking and you’ll see the baby legs of a second calf.

Enjoy!

Monte Sano: Trees, Hobbits, and Sunsets

"Father and Son Chat," Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, Alabama

“Father and Son Chat,” Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, Alabama

I trust your year is off to a grand start.  2014 has had a bit of a strange beginning for me, but after cramming some reflecting and planning into the last few days, I’m feeling a little more centered.  I’m engaging in a bit of avoidance behavior at the moment after taking full advantage of a bonus winter vacation day, thanks to the Polar Vortex.  I am not complaining.  Otherwise, I would not have time for this post I’d intended to write a week ago.

One of our favorite things to do as a family is to jump in one of the cars and drive/ride around, cameras in hand and snap shots from the car or park and take photos of the interesting things, places and people we find.  On New Year’s Day, the hubby, the little one and I took our photo-drive/walk to Monte Sano State Park.   Monte Sano, Spanish for “Mountain of Health,” is a 2,140-acre “mountaintop retreat” located in Huntsville, Alabama.  It rises 1,600 feet above sea level and has been attracting visitors since the early 1800s.

We walked quite a distance and took in so much beauty that we could hardly contain ourselves.  We only left because it was nearing sunset, the time the park closes.  It would have been great to see the wildlife in action during the evening hours.

I took dozens of shots, but I am mildly pleased with only a handful.

"Winter's Heart"

“Winter’s Heart”

If you look closely, or maybe with a bit of imagination, you can see the shape of a heart in this tree.  I have a “thing” for photographing trees, particularly the same tree through its seasonal changes.  This tree reminds me of a heart-shaped tree I shot last September.  That tree had lots of leaves, and the heart was a bit more obvious, but I imagine this is what “heart tree” looks like minus leaves.

“A ‘River’ Runs Through It”

"Fallen"

“Fallen”

The network of naked branches and limbs of the tall, thin, and fallen trees is intriguing enough to keep me occupied all day.

Hidden Cave

“Cozy Home”

Then, from another angle and with rock formations, nature tells a different story.

Hidden Cave

“Who Lives Here?”

My son and hubby had a nice long conversation about the possible tenant(s) of this tiny cave.  Raccoons? Possums? A fox?  [What does the fox say? Sorry.  I cannot say the word “fox” without singing that song].

Who goes there?

“Who Goes There?”

Who Goes There (up close)

“Who Goes There?” (up close)

I am also fascinated with tree stumps or tree “remains.”  Fueled by childhood stories of Hobbits, elves and fairies, I enjoy imagining tiny beings akin to humans living their lives beyond stumps and such, tiny hollowed tree communities thriving, undetected, right in the midst of us.  What stories await us?

Such Interesting

“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Note the twists and turns that must have occurred before this one (above) fell…as if it writhed and resisted the inevitable.

Pathway

“The Well-Worn Path”

Our tree-lined path.

"All Good Things Must Come to an End"

“All Good Things Must Come to an End”

Time to leave.

"Day Is Dying in the West"

“Happy New Year Sunset”

This sunset photo was actually taken outside the park, at a lookout a few miles away–the first sunset of 2014.

I’m looking forward to returning to Monte Sano soon and can hardly wait to capture its beauty in the full bloom of spring.

Happy New Year!