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NATIONAL CAMERA DAY

“The camera basically is a license to explore.”  Jerry N. Uelsmann

Today is National Camera Day.  Being a Nature Photographer, cameras are obviously a big part of my life.  I received my first camera when I was about 7 or 8, a little Brownie Box Camera.  I mainly photographed family, places of interest, vacations.  But eventually I ventured into taking photos of the glory and wonder of nature and found my favored activity.  My focus was always on nature, rarely snapping a self-portrait when I was out and about with my camera. But I did take a few, sort of.

Today, there are lots of ways I could celebrate National Camera Day.  It is always a delight to capture nature up close and personal.  But I have recently shared some favorite nature photos, so a repeat did not seem necessary.  Certainly, the history of the camera from the original camera obscura to the wonder of digital cameras available today is intriguing—but not very personal.

Instead, I decided I would celebrate today by remembering the times my dad and I spent together taking nature photos.  After all, he got me started enjoying photography as much as I do.

One of Dad’s Nature Photos

 

Dad—Raymond Francis Ross—would have been 97 this year, but he died in 2014.  He always enjoyed photography and was the official family photographer.  He even was a professional photographer as his second job, taking photos for weddings as well as for high school yearbooks and church directories. The backdrop he had set up in the garage helped him record family photos over the years, even self-portraits of him and mom.  Eventually, he sold nature photo greeting cards in the local senior center.

Over the years, Dad and I took many trips together to take nature photos.  When Mom came with us, she was incredibly patient as we stopped again and again and again to snap a photo or waited just a bit longer for a bird or butterfly to cooperate.  Together the three of us watched whales in Ventura, looked for birds at the Salton Sea and enjoyed afternoons at places like the Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, and various zoos.

The memories of me and Dad and photography always make me smile.  No matter where we wandered, Dad and I lamented that the hike in as well as the hike out were both uphill!  Some trips—usually birthday adventures—took us out for long weekends to places like Monterey, Yosemite, and Mono Lake. We ate a group lunch under the shade of a small grove of redwoods as part of a Monterey Bay Aquarium Trip, and we wandered the dunes near Mono Lake in the dark after giving up on waiting for the moonrise.  Part of the fun of the trips was waiting afterwards to get the photos developed and then deciding which ones were keepers.  (Dad never shifted to a digital camera.) We could always count on each other to be interested in looking over our many—hundreds?—of photos from any given trip!

At the Salton Sea

At the California Poppy Preserve

Many of my photos of Dad are from these various nature trips we took together.  He always seemed happy and at ease with his camera.

Dad’s Photos from Mono Lake

Anytime I wander out on a new nature adventure, I figure Dad is with me in spirit.  And he must be taking photos in heaven as well.  And there, birds and animals and butterflies must be cooperative models.  Right?

How are you celebrating National Camera Day? 

 

 

SOME QUOTES ABOUT CAMERAS

“A camera teaches you to see without a camera.”  Dorothea Lange

“The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.”  Susan Sontag

“The most powerful weapon in the world, as far as I’m concerned, is the camera.”  Paul Watson

“I tried to keep both arts alive, but the camera won.  I found that while the camera does not express the soul, perhaps a photograph can!”   Ansel Adams

“There is only you and your camera.  The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.”  Ernst Haas

“Saturate yourself with your subject and the camera will all but take you by the hand.”  Margaret Bourke-White

“I can zero in on subtle things because I’m holding the camera.”  Patrice Leconte

“When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.”  Alfred Eisendtaedt

“The camera makes you forget you’re there.  It’s not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much.”  Annie Leibovitz

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind.”  Dorothea Lange

“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.”  Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The simple act of having a camera, not a cell phone, but a camera-camera, there’s a kind of a heightened perceptional awareness that occurs.  Like, I could walk from here to the highway in two minutes, but if I had a camera, that walk could take me two hours.”   Jerry N. Uelsmann

“When you are younger, the camera is like a friend and you can go places and feel like you’re with someone, like you have a companion.”   Annie Leibovitz

SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 8: Blooms Around Town

 

Maybe the plentiful rains. Maybe I’m just being more attentive.  I am not sure why the blooms have been so vibrant this spring, but they have been glorious. I have taken some treks this spring to look for wildflowers, but some of the most impressive flowers have been around town.  No matter where I go, neighbors’ yards and landscaping displays alongside freeways, by restaurants and hotels and even in shopping malls are bright and brilliant with flowers.

I also love the new growth greens that are so very evident in the spring.  Green continues to be my favorite color.

Most of the flowers shared here are from around town, near my apartment in Bakersfield, CA.  But the Bird of Paradise and Calla Lilies were in bloom near a restaurant in Valencia, and the Pansies and Red Yucca were near my hotel in Las Vegas.

A great blogger I follow recently shared some wonderful photos of dogwood blossoms in Yosemite National Park.

Where have you been finding spring blossoms this year?

MOTHER’S DAY APPRECIATION

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, even have enough.”   Oprah Winfrey

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I am missing Mom a lot this weekend.  It has been about four and a half years since her death, and some days it feels like just yesterday.  She always enjoyed a good pork roast, so I enjoyed one today in her honor.  I think Mom would have liked that.

As I reflected on my memories with Mom over the years, I realized how grateful I am to have had as much time with her as I did.  She was 91 when she died.  I am especially grateful for her love of life, good sense of humor, and appreciation of animals and gardens–these are attitudes I inherited from her, I’m sure.  I am also grateful that she (and Dad!) were alert and engaged until the end, not in pain or connected to machines.

I am very aware today that there is so very much to appreciate.  Here is a list that names but a few items:

The hummingbirds that are starting to buzz around the feeders hung by my neighbors!

The delightful spring that is underway right now. My favorite little trek to search for spring thus far this year was to the Carrizo Plain.

Some good books are sitting on my kindle, waiting for me to read them, including A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday, and a delightful collection of stories called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

My apartment complex management are really nice, worthy of appreciation.  They have added a little cement sidewalk outside my apartment door to make it easier for me to maneuver my new little travel scooter in and out.  How cool is that?  They also do not just remind us to change the filters in our AC units, they provide the filters.

I always appreciate a good sense of humor as it helps make every day irritations tolerable.  For example, I know I need to take water pills to help keep my blood pressure from getting too high.  But if I do not laugh at having to jump up like a pop-goes-the-weasel every 30 minutes or so, I would really go crazy.  And that would not be good.

Of course, I appreciate having family and friends who are there for me—and who I have the time to play with fairly often.  My recent trip to Vegas for my sister’s birthday was not even bogged down with bad traffic.  And I was able to use my new little travel scooter, which I will write about eventually. On one day, we took a walk and fed some bunnies!

Holidays are bittersweet now that Mom and Dad are both gone, but good memories overshadow the grief more and more often.  If you are celebrating with your Mom on this holiday, make sure you give her a hug and tell her you love her.  Overlook the silly little things that can often get in the way of just enjoying your loved ones.

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A FEW QUOTES ON APPRECIATION

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love—and then make that day count!”  Steve Maraboli

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”  Voltaire

“Love is made up of three unconditional properties in equal measure:  1. Acceptance, 2. Understanding, 3. Appreciation.  Remove any one of the three and the triangle falls apart.  Which, by the way, is something highly inadvisable.  Think about it—do you really want to live in a world of only two dimensions?  So, for the love of a triangle, please keep love whole.”   Vera Nazarian

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

What do you appreciate on this Mother’s Day?

EARTH DAY 2017

EARTH DAY 2017:  We Need to Do Better

“To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.”   Wendell Berry

“The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge, for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future.”   Marya Mannes

I try to celebrate Earth Day every time I head out into Nature, not just once a year. 

But today demands a special celebration because it is the 47th anniversary of the first Earth Day. 

Today’s Earth Day Celebrations champion not just the beauty and variety of our natural world, but the role humans should play in preserving our Earth for future generations.  As stewards, we need to protect the natural world not plunder it for easy profits.  Part of this stewardship means we need to develop alternative energies, protect spiritual lands as well as national parks, work on local as well as global conservation efforts, and make strides to counter the problems of climate change.

Not everyone accepts this responsibility to protect our world.  Current government actions are even undermining protections that have long been in place to preserve the environment and not exploit its treasures and undercutting funding for the science needed to help make things better.  If you want to get more informed and more involved on some efforts to keep preserving the Earth for the future, consider joining the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy or the Natural Resources Defense Council in their efforts.

I’m sharing some of my favorite photos to show some of the wonders of Nature that inspire me with awe and reverence, that generate contemplation and reflection, that make me see the need for interdependence with all of nature.  It is easy to see God at work out in Nature!  How can we not take care of the Earth?  Maybe these photos will help suggest some of what is at stake if responsibility for protecting the Earth continues to be ignored or—worse–abrogated.

Get involved today!  If you need a reminder about the importance of Nature and all its wonders, go for a drive or take a hike! Maybe you will find some ancient voices carved in the hills.  Happy Earth Day 2017.   How are you celebrating the day?

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Some Quotes about the Need to Protect Our Earth

“We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.”   Kurt Vonnegut

“The only thing that scares me more than space aliens is the idea that there aren’t any space aliens.  We can’t be the best that creation has to offer.  I pray we’re not all there is.  If so, we’re in big trouble.”   Ellen DeGeneres

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”   Jacques-Yves Cousteau

“Every day is Earth Day, and I vote we start investing in a secure climate future right now.”   Jackie Speier

“My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.”   Abraham Lincoln

“You carry Mother Earth within you.  She is not outside of you.  Mother Earth is not just your environment.  In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.”   Thich Nhat Hanh

“Earth as an ecosystem stands out in all of the universe.  There’s no place that we know about that can support life as we know it, not even out sister planet, Mars, where we might set up housekeeping someday, but at great effort and trouble we have to recreate the things we take for granted here.”   Sylvia Earle

“If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either.”   Joseph Wood Krutch

“We have a moral responsibility to protect the earth and ensure that our children and grandchildren have a healthy and sustainable environment in which to live.”  Jim Clyburn

“Life on earth is more like a verb.  It repairs, maintains, re-creates, and outdoes itself.”   Lynn Margulis

“But when I wasn’t working, I was usually at a window looking down at Earth. . . . The view of Earth is spectacular.”   Sally Rider

“I see a lot of damage to Mother Earth.  I see water being taken from creeks where water belongs to animals, not to oil companies.”   Winona LaDuke

“Sell a country?  Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth?  Did not the Great Spirit make them for the use of his children?”   Tecumseh

“Life is abundant, and life is beautiful.  And it’s a good place that we’re all in, you know, on this earth, if we take care of it.”   Alice Walker

 

 

 

It’s about Time!

I usually start the new year with some reflection and corresponding blog posts.  But here it is February, and this is my first blog post of 2017.

Mom & Dad 1938

Mom & Dad 1938

I suppose my hesitancy has been a result of being more down than usual over the holidays and into the new year.  The holidays are always rather bittersweet, but this year a friend died just before Thanksgiving.  Then, memories of Mom and Dad—who have both been gone now for years—were more intense this year.  The rains have also come this year finally, making for some welcomed but dreary days.

Of course, my malaise is most directly related to my dismay over the election results and worry about the future of America. Living in a Trump-led America is disheartening.  From what I can tell, President Trump is still acting as arrogant and impulsive as ever, still using tweets to bully anyone who seems to oppose him, and still not fully breaking his business ventures from government duties.  He is expanding his circle of advisors with those who seem not very qualified, open-minded or humane.  He is advancing his promised executive orders, but they do not seem to be supported by critical thinking that would generate helpful implementation procedures and anticipate and mitigate against wide-reaching consequences.  Fake news and alternative facts should not be part of American society.

But it is February. In fact, today is National Homemade Soup Day.  I am celebrating by making a batch of my vegetable soup with a decidedly Mexican flare.  It contains the usual—any veggies you have on hand!—but also jalapenos and some black beans.  And then—when served—it is completed with some cheese and tortillas.  Yummy.  It would be nice to share a meal with Mom and Dad, at least in spirit.

Mom & Dad on a Past Valentine's Day

Mom & Dad on a Past Valentine’s Day

While the soup is simmering, it seems like a good time to reflect on things I am grateful for right now.

First, I am grateful for America’s resilient spirit, including the growing visible resistance to Trump’s actions.  The election itself gave voice to those in the country who felt unheard for quite some time.  They represent about half of the country.  The other half—who may have been rather complacent about government actions and policies over the years—now seem to be awaking to political activism as well.  I do not support the violent actions on either side of any issue, but peaceful marches and demonstrations and local and state political engagements are all good steps to help people stay involved in fighting for what they feel will keep America great.  I know I am more engaged than ever to support environmental protections, free press, women’s health issues, and fair and equitable treatment of all in our society.  Maybe—with time—the varying sides of the government will actually start working together again.  I can be hopeful about that.

img_9124I am thankful for the rain that has been falling and falling and falling in California this year. Thus far, 2017 has been wetter than expected, even wetter than what was expected for last year’s El Nino.  Although the rains can bring problems like mudslides, the drought is being beaten back.  And the rains should help produce some wondrous wildflowers this spring.  I can be hopeful about that.

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This year, I am also thankful for my personal goals that focus on action and projects.  I officially retired from my part-time online teaching, so I now have more time to tackle projects around the house.  My first project is sorting through the vinyl records that have been in storage for more than 20 years.  In fact, when I started pulling the boxed records out to sort, I was surprised how many there were.  The records are 45s, 78s, and 33s.

elvisred-skeltonI am having fun sorting, cataloging, cleaning and playing them.  Eventually, I will see if I can find a collector who might be interested in some of these gems.  For now, I am just enjoying myself.  I remember playing the 78s from Oklahoma as a kid, but I do not remember Kate Smith Songs of Erin.  I bet Grandma sang along with those Irish tunes!  The 45s include Elvis singing “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” I had never heard the B-side “I Gotta Know” until now. I do remember Red Skeleton’s recitation and explication of “The Pledge of Allegiance” from his show in 1969.  I am hopeful that projects like these will keep me entertained all year—there’s a lot of stuff stored away in my closets.

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img_0918Finally, as usual, I am grateful for Nature and the solace and rejuvenation it offers.  I will be planning some longer trips in addition to the short jaunts to see local wildflowers when they are in bloom.  I’m not sure where I am heading this year.  Maybe Mt. Rushmore.  Wherever I go, I am sure the Nature will be dazzling.  Until then, I have photos from past trips that I still want to post.  About time I get back to those plans.  I am hopeful I will continue to share the wonder of Nature with my readers.

Open Space & Clouds, Yellowstone

Open Space & Clouds, Yellowstone

What Are You Hopeful about for 2017?

What Paths Will You Be Following into 2017?

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A few little fall surprises

img_3387Recently I took a trip to find the reds and golds and oranges of fall leaves, announcing the ongoing change of seasons.  And I found those glorious colors almost everywhere.  But I was also surprised by some other little delights along the way.  These little surprises remind me to always be willing to stop, look and listen for little wonders that are all around!

As Ralph Waldo Emerson explains, “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, in every flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”

Here are some of the treasures that were waiting to be noticed while I was hunting for autumn leaves:

The first golden hues I noticed were not falling leaves but the golden bushes blooming in the Mojave Desert.

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North of Bishop on Highway 395, Mono Lake was still shining forth, patiently holding on until the end of the drought.

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This flag kept flying even through the rain was pounding down all day long in Redding.

Green—my favorite color—was evident all over.  Always is.  We just need to remember to notice and marvel at its persistence.

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I am always pleasantly surprised to find wildlife along the road.  This little guy was wandering the road in Yosemite National Park.

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In Yosemite, I also had a little passenger for a bit, while sitting at a road block when crews worked on trimming and removing some trees.  She did not pose very well, but I felt lucky all day having spent some time with this little ladybug—especially in October.

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At various stops on my trip, I was delighted by the flowers that caught my eye.  Not the fall colors I was looking for, but gorgeous nonetheless.

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I really enjoyed the rain that punctuated this trip.  The impressive clouds were just an added bonus.

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My trip was great, but it was made better by these unexpected delights.  My best advice?  Always keep your eyes and heart open for whatever delightful surprises might come your way.  As Boris Pasternak explains, Surprise is the greatest gift that life can grant us.”  But it is up to us to notice the wonders along the way.

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A FEW QUOTES ABOUT SURPRISES

“There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.”  Albert Einstein

“Things never go the way you expect them to.  That’s both the joy and frustration in life.  I’m finding as I get older that I don’t mind, though.  It’s the surprises that tickle me the most, the things you don’t see coming.”   Michael Stuhlbarg

“Life is so full of unpredictable beauty and strange surprises.”  Mark Oliver Everett

“Surprises are everywhere in life.”  Brownell Landrum

“Life is full of surprises and serendipity.  Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success.  If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns.  Just find your next adventure—do it well, enjoy it—and then, not now, think about what comes next.”  Condoleeza Rice

“The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”  Marcel Proust

 “God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, ‘Ah!’”   Joseph Campbell

 “In all things of nature there is something marvelous.”  Aristotle

 “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”  Socrates

 “The whole of life lies in the verb seeing.”   Teilhard de Chardin

 “Learn to see, and then you’ll know that there is no end to the new worlds of our vision.”  Carlos Casaneda

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FINDING FALL COLORS

img_3129If I needed a reason to go on a Nature Trek to find some fall colors to rejuvenate my soul, I had one.  I am not teaching online this fall so did not need high speed secure access to the internet, which is not always feasible from hotel rooms.  And I would not have to be grading way too many essays, so could devote my time to the solitude and contemplation found in Nature.  So why not go on a road trip?  Besides, I had a new dash cam to play with, trying to capture some videos of the great roads I planned to travel.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

This little road trip took me on a loop from Bakersfield to Bishop to Reno to Redding to Fresno and then back to Bishop and home.  The Lassen Volcanic National Park that was on the route was closed already for winter travel, so I only saw about 10 miles of it—I will have to try visiting there again sometime.  I also was grounded for a day due to a steady all-day downpour.  The sky was all dark grey clouds and the mountain roads I would have been on were twisty and steep, so I opted not to press my luck.

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Tioga Pass, Yosemite

Tioga Pass, Yosemite

On the whole, the trip was a great success!  Most of what I saw were lots and lots of pine trees, given the elevations I was traveling.  But some splotches of fall colors stood out to brighten the drives.  I even traveled across the Tioga Pass in Yosemite again, even though I figured there would not be much fall color.  It offered some dramatic views that I will share in a later post.  The rain that punctuated several days of my trip did not diminish the glorious wonders of the drive either.  I like driving in the rain, especially when the rain is so needed in California to fight against the five-year drought.

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The first stretch of fall colors popped up along California Highway 395 outside of Bishop, California, as captured by my dash cam.  I’m having fun learning to make use of this new little toy.  Light and shadows really are evident in the video, but it captures the colors rushing past.

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I’ve visited Yosemite National Park in the fall before, so I knew there would be some impressive color to appreciate.  This time, the colors came through even on a rainy day.


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I’m not sure if this little video caught the leaves falling steadily from the trees as a breeze swept through the area, but it was a great little show.

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QUOTES ABOUT AUTUMN’S BEAUTY  & WONDER

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”    L. M. Montgomery

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”    Albert Camus

“Fall has always been my favorite season.  The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”    Lauren DeStefano

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.   Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.  Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.  Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”   Yoko Ono

“Autumn is the hardest season.  The leave are all falling, and they’re falling like they’re falling in love with the ground.”   Andrea Gibson

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”   John Donne

“Autumn. . . the year’s last, loveliest smile.”   William Cullen Bryant

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”   Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.”   Jim Bishop

“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the autumnal cascade of autumn leaves.”   Joe L. Wheeler

“And I rose in rainy autumn and walked abroad in a shower of all my days. . . .”   Dylan Thomas

“Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”   George Eliot

“I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence.”   Thomas Hood

“Autumn burned brightly,  a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.”   Faith Baldwin

“Autumn is the season of change.”   Taoist Proverb

WHERE DO YOU GO TO SEE THE BEAUTY OF AUTUMN ALL AROUND?

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