Oh Deer! [Knowing When to Take a Break]

Deer Art

I had the perfect blog theme for the week, but ugh, after work and people and pandemic issues all day long, my energy was too low for even the things I enjoy. I whined (sometimes inwardly) all week about needing time to just cut paper and glue something. I dreamed of quiet evenings for just that, but after hardly seeing people for 17-18 months, my being around people and talking all day long was draining in all caps. My evenings were spent resting (read: sleeping) and completing very few of the daily tasks of home life.

Of course, I took “micro-breaks” when absolutely necessary: I cut pretty artwork out of a book wrapper on its way to the trash bin while speaking with a colleague. I captured trees and flowers with my phone camera while I walked to meetings or lunch. I doodled sunflowers during in-person meetings, phone calls, and work sessions. I worked on photo edits during Zoom meetings.

The micro-breaks were [are] lifesaving, but the reality is my body and soul need more. So, when my friend and colleague Lisa asked me yesterday “What are you doing to take care of yourself?,” I immediately felt the guilt of not practicing what I preach regarding self-care during these Corona times.  

I had convinced myself that “if I can just get through this week,” I’ll be able to get to a place where I can take a “time out” daily. I’ve been saying that for three or four weeks now. I haven’t taken a photo or nature walk in a good while. Even worse, I haven’t picked up my actual camera to take a shot since the end of last month! That’s almost three weeks! Let’s not talk about the unwritten poetry, prose, letters, and postcard designs dancing in my head, or the great books waiting to be read and the movement my body needs!

I mindlessly opened Instagram early this morning and Beth Moore’s words grabbed my attention. The post drove the point of Lisa’s question home for me. 

Know when to take a break, y’all. This world’s a heartbreaking, baffling, demoralizing ball of fire right now. We’re not God. We can pray and give and speak and act. But we can’t carry all of this 24/7. It’s too heavy for us. It’s not going to give us a time out. We have to take it!

This world is “a lot,” and all that negative energy mingling with all the good stuff can create a chaotic stew inside our minds and bodies. Those breaks Moore encourages help shift and purge the energy. So my silly photo edit with the deer poking its tongue at me? That’s me—knowing when to take a break and poking my tongue at all the things that will have to wait. 

Have a safe and happy weekend…

At the Right Time…

I recently received Morgan Harper Nichols’s beautiful book, All Along You Were Blooming, as a gift. This book is filled with such beautiful soul-filling poetry that I can’t simply pick it up, select a poem, and move on. I have to wait for a moment when I can savor her words and let them sink deep into and soak my soul from the bottom up (if souls have bottoms).

I read the poem that follows this afternoon, and it feels like it was written for me in this moment. I’ve been operating in a fog and from a place of brokenness for far too long. I felt myself beginning to fall beneath the weight of it all, the pandemic, and being in crisis mode all.the.time. A few days ago–Sunday–I simply asked God to help me release the weight. I asked for clarity and direction. I don’t normally put in major [for my job] work hours during the weekend, but Sunday I work-worked for hours nonstop. Something in me felt compelled to clear several things off that particular plate.

By the next morning, I realized that there was a major shift inside. The Divine One had taken the whole load and kept me too busy to fuss and fret. The challenges are still here–obviously–but the weight is not mine to bear. I found myself really breathing again for the first time in a long time.

At the right time,
every broken thing
will come together for good.
You are more than your
failures,
successes,
more than your fears.
And far beyond the surface
of your desires,
there is a truer season
why you are still here.
If you find yourself struggling
to see past your imperfections
because you cannot figure out how
what’s torn apart can come together,
may you know in your soul
that the answer is not found in thinking,
feeling,
doing,
but in trusting what is Greater than you.

–Morgan Nichols, All Along You Were Blooming


About the Images: When I received the butterfly postcard [second photo] from my Love Notes friend Christine B, I was über excited because I knew somewhere in my 2016 photo library there was a twin butterfly feasting on yellow flowers [top photo]. Ha! I was wrong. The butterflies, though slightly similar in underside color, are different. My photo features a common buckeye; Christine’s a Melissa Blue.  Maybe, they’re cousins. 😉

The Brave Rabbit and the Hungry Wolf

“The Gray Wolf,” Endangered Species. Photo by Tom Brakefield for Impact Photographics. Dedicated to the preservation of nature.

I received the “gray wolf” postcard above for Love Notes 29.1. At first, I was so focused on the message that I did not see the rabbit the wolf is pursuing!

I know this is how things work in the animal kingdom, but this is a poor, defenseless bunny! 😩

The first prompt was, “Don’t be afraid to…,” so Kasey, my partner, shared three bits of advice:

Don’t be afraid to:

  • Step out of your comfort zone. Oh, the possibilities abound! How will you ever know if you don’t try?
  • Stop and smell the roses. Life is too short to not make the most out of it.
  • Take the road less traveled. Who knows? It could be the best one you’ve taken yet!

I’m not sure why Kasey chose this card for the prompt, but I’ve come up with an explanation that satisfies my need to have the bunny survive the ordeal.

Maybe, the little rabbit went out into the world to conquer his fears. He “stepped out of his comfort zone” and took “the road less traveled.” He knew there would be dangers and tests along the path, but he “stopped to smell the roses” anyway. That’s what creatures do when they live outside of fear.

You see? This isn’t the end of the rabbit’s story; this is just one part of the journey. The struggle heightens his awareness and pushes him to develop strategies and tools to avoid such pitfalls in the future.

The little rabbit will have a fuller, deeper life because he faced his fears!

As for the wolf…he found something else to snack on. 😉


From postcard back: The Gray Wolf (canis lupis) mates for life and lives in packs of family members and relatives. The strongest male is the leader of the pack and all the members help to care for the young. The pack will work together on a hunt by chasing down its victim or driving it to circle back to the waiting pack. They can gallop and bound over short distances at speeds of more than 30 mph, and if they cannot capture their prey, they will abandon the attempt.

Snapshots from an Early Evening Walk

As I mentioned in the previous post, my guys and I took an evening walk some days ago in a nearby nature preserve to see if we could spot the recently released rabbits that were under our care. We didn’t find the bunnies, but we found nature being her wild best.

We love walking in this park. We encounter beauty with each step, whether on the open trail which frames the pond, or the covered trails where we’re more likely to encounter the creatures that make the park their home.

Though much of the brilliance of summer has faded, there’s still so much to enjoy: Unloved flowers showcasing their beauty for those who have learned to see it.

Bugs that feast on the flowers. [Look closely]

Sun-kissed clouds floating above the trees, making way for night.

Random splashes of color.

Feasts for birds…

and the smallest animals.

Remains of fallen trees that continue to give life.

A surprise gift–a moth waiting patiently to be photographed.

A brightly colored flower captured as we exited a trail.

The final gift of the evening.

I hope you take some time this weekend to sit [or walk] quietly in nature, find strength, heal your soul, connect with the Divine.

Goodbye, Bunnies! | #WordlessWednesday [with words]

“And just like that, they’re gone.”

My guys and I said good-bye to the rescued rabbits early, early one morning last week. They explored the little patch of land we placed them on for a moment, watching us warily [thank God!].

Within moments, they gave their final good-bye and took off.

At first, they were headed in two different directions, but my hubby, the animal whisperer (not kidding!) got them to hop along together.

I didn’t think to capture the “together” shot, but my son captured video and shared a still of the more curious of the two just before we walked away. The other is just beyond him, well-camouflaged.

We released them into a nature preserve we frequent and where we regularly see rabbits, so we are sure they are surviving and thriving in their new world.

The guys and I took a walk on the trails a few nights ago to see if we could spot them. We didn’t, but I did capture shots that I’ll share in another post. Promise.

Now There Are Two: Meet the Bunnies

Once upon a time there were four little rabbits. –Beatrix Potter, opening [half] line of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

We have bunny house guests! I’m not sure how long they’re going to stay, but we are loving our furry, very active little visitors.

As I write this, I’m watching them run to and fro in their temporary home, the dance they perform to let us know they are hungry. They are always hungry. They’re also nosy…uh…curious little things.

“Curiosity”

The bunnies have been with us for almost a month. My husband received a message from my son’s school that three recently orphaned bunnies needed a home, so my son and I picked them up at the end of the school day and eagerly took them home.

“Photo Bomb”

The poor babies witnessed the horrific demise of their mother at the hands of a hungry and determined coyote. I imagine she sacrificed her own life to protect her little ones. Can you imagine the terror those bunnies experienced? I know nature is nature and coyotes have to eat too, but still…”bad, bad coyote!”

These are not “keeper bunnies,” so we haven’t given them names or handled them as we would pets. Because they will be released back “into the wild” eventually, we don’t want them to lose their survival instincts.

Sadly, one of the triplets died not long after we brought them home. We’re not sure why, but we’re pleased the other two are happily thriving.

For just a little more bunny love, click over to Beverly Dyer’s Art Prescription; her “Soft Bunny” watercolor provides an extra dose of cuteness. Then, hop over to Holly’s ThreeSixFiveArt and swoon over “Bunny” drawn by a five-year-old Ellis. I drew a bunny this week, and I tell you, her art skills way surpass mine!

Wishing you a weekend of sweetness and warmth…and to all the fathers…

Happy Father’s Day!

Meet Kaja: The Lovely Bear

Kaja, Photo by Oliver Utz

Bears find themselves at the spot where two deep-seated but contradictory human impulses collide: the desire to feel protected from unforeseeable danger and the longing for unspoiled nature.  —Bernd Brunner, Bears: A Brief History

This lovely bear has been sitting in my “to be blogged” bin since February. Her name is Kaja. My Love Notes friend, Eileen V, sent the postcard after learning about my love for bears through a blog post featuring vintage bear postcards from another Love Notes friend.

Kaja is Eileen’s rescue bear. She was rescued along with her two sisters after spending 15 years in a small, concrete garage. The bears were poorly fed and had no exercise. As a result they suffer from arthritis.

The animals are now sheltered in the Black Forest Woods in Alternativer wolf und Bärenpark [Alternative Wolf and Bear Park] Schwarzwald in Germany, which provides the bears [and wolves] with an “animal-friendly home where they can use a natural environment to explore the area, hide, dig caves, bathe or retreat to hibernation.” In the park the animals “rediscover instincts and natural behaviors.”

I’m happy that Kaja has a home designed for her needs, but it saddens me that misdirected “love” for animals leads to their being mistreated. A bear is not a pet. Neither is a panther. Nor a bobcat. Nor a dolphin. Nor an alligator. Nor a rattlesnake.

Love them, but leave them where they belong.

The Solitary Bird

Just before heading indoors after exploring an abandoned bird’s nest one day last week, I looked up and the golden glow of the sunset sky was so gorgeous, I was stunned. Moments into admiring the sky, a single goose caught my eye, its partner a little distance ahead. I took the shot.

The photo reminded me of a poem Dr. Benn, my undergraduate professor and mentor, shared with me:

The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
The first, that it flies to the highest point;
The second, that it does not suffer for company,
not even of its own kind;
The third, that it aims its beak to the skies;
The fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
The fifth, that it sings very softly.
–San Juan de la Cruz, Sayings of Light and Love

Obviously, this goose has very little in common with the “solitary” bird described in the poem–it was not alone; it doesn’t sing; it doesn’t even “honk” softly. But the lens captured a bird alone and reminded me of the poem.

Life’s Rewards: “To Be Elated Over a Bird’s Nest…”

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life. –John Burroughs

I submitted my grades today and closed the book on Spring 2018. As I looked outside my window yesterday and today, the beautiful weather beckoned me and provided the motivation to push to completion. The sky was filled with so many cumulus clouds that I couldn’t resist taking a few minutes to photograph them. Today was just as gorgeous, so I sent grades for my final class and grabbed my camera for more photos. [I’ll share those later–maybe, tomorrow].

After today’s session, my hubby and I visited a Killdeer that was nesting at the back of the yard. Although we cautiously approached, the bird left the nest to protect its brood. This gave me a good look at the eggs and a shot I liked [above].

Just before evening, we visited again with our little one. By this time, our feathered friend was a little more comfortable and remained on the nest, wary and watching. [Click an image for a closer look].

It stirred only when I changed my vantage point for a different shot.

The bird has been nesting for quite some time. In fact, my hubby told me about it some time ago–when I was too crazy-busy to take a look. It stood its ground and protected the precious cargo through lawn mowings and thunderstorms.

I appreciate its tenacity and courage.

And I’m grateful for the time I was able to spend with it. This felt like a gift–a reward–for maintaining my sanity once again through the crazy last half of the semester.

For more information about Killdeer, see the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birdwatching.

How to Take a Photo Walk When You Can’t

“Chickadee.” Photograph by Gale D.

Can we say tired? I am so physically and mentally exhausted from grading, grading, grading, and grading. I want to take a photo walk, but (1) my camera battery isn’t charged. I learned this last night when I was about to record my son playing in the strings orchestra. And (2) I barely have enough energy to make it to the door let alone through it.

Therefore, I decided to take my photo walk indoors today. How? Thankfully, Diane W, Midteacher on swap-bot, created a series of swaps for the A Thousand Words group that’s right up my photo alley. The series, called Take a Walk, encourages photographers to take some time with their cameras regularly and share their photos with others in the group.

If you’ve been following Pics and Posts long enough, you know photo walks are my go-to for “getting through the crazies.” I take a walk–camera in hand–quite regularly during the work day to take a break from screens and students, to readjust or reset. Also, my hubby, son, and I take photo walks and drives on weekends when the weather’s nice (or tolerable).

Today, I need to follow a different path, so we’ll take a walk with Gale D, Grstamping on swap-bot.

Gale, from Ontario (Canada), spends a lot of time outdoors and loves shooting “in nature,” particularly in her favorite spot near Lake Ontario. She “can hand feed birds, watch squirrels at play, stalk deer, and be stalked by wild turkeys.” These ventures help her to feel close to nature and clear her mind. They also keep her sane.

She sent me a few of her memorable encounters–either because of their beauty or because of how the animals trusted her in their space–from her January photo walk.

Gale was allowed to get up close and personal with the chickadees. She even fed a few from her hand! They love sunflower seeds!

“Hand Feeding the Chickadees.” Photograph by Gale D.

A vibrant visit with a blue jay added a splash of color to the grays and browns of winter.

“Blue Jay: Vibrant in Winter.” Photograph by Gale D.

And finally, she had a brief tête-à-tête with a squirrel, her favorite subject because they’re not only beautiful but “they’re fun to watch!”

“Squirrel.” Photograph by Gale D.

I love these photos, but I’m kind of interested in seeing a photo captured while she was evading wild turkeys! 😀

You can take a photo walk too, even if you can’t get outdoors. Check out Glenrosa Journeys. Candace takes readers with her as she explores Arizona. Her photography and her blog are inspiring. For photos without the blog, check out the Nature Photography Group on Flickr. You can find more of Gale’s work at Photographic Touch.

Stay tuned. I’ll share more “take a walk” photos soon.

Walk on!