Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo Safari with a Vulture and the Law


All snug on the passenger seat, camera was charged and ready for my first Photo Safari in almost a year. Within ten minutes, I hit the brakes. A mirage, of sorts?

I didn’t leave the driver’s seat and let the car idle on a divided highway in a safe lane that served as a shoulder. While I snapped away, a Charlotte Mecklenburg police officer thought I was worth watching. Heh. He pulled in front of me slowly and made a California stop before a slow right turn, as an invitation for me to follow. I followed and stopped again on the wrong side of the tiny side street to get a snapshot of the most obnoxious male Belted Kingfisher I’ve ever met! CMPD officer parked his cruiser on the proper side of the road ahead of me, waiting for me to make another wrong move or to drive by to get my tag. Heh.


The cop completely ruined my outing. How could I concentrate on Hooded Mergansers while being stalked? I work with police officers and adore them. However, fuming and feeling more irritated than threatened, I left the scene and gave him no reason to run my tag. Truth is, I can’t break my habit of creating my own parking spaces in the wrong places but they are always safe, they work for me, and no one gets hurt. I see beautiful Hawks on dead tree limbs and wires! Illegal stopping? Maybe. Never illegal parking. On my way home, I mumbled something about cops, donuts, and too much spare time.

Later I returned to a designated parking spot and visited them on foot to find the whole freaky family of Black Vultures had moved the raccoon off the road. Vultures are awesome creatures that have an important job and do it well, although they’re more disgusting than I care to think about. I wish these were the lovely Turkey Vulture faces, for dear Lynne.


No apparent aggression. There are usually one or two guards. Then there is the vulture-style “changing of the guards” so everyone can eat.


“Uh, dudes and dudettes… lady approaching. Rev your reflux.”


It’s never a good idea to scare a Vulture. I backed up and thanked them for a great photo-shoot.

The safari ended in my back yard. The birds don’t know me or trust me like they did in recent years and scram as soon as I step one foot on the back deck.


Why bother repeating what I’ve already done? I have taken at least a dozen Male Cardinal photographs much better than this one.


I challenge myself. I want better, that's all.


Without a new, more sophisticated camera, my shots are boring me. So, why bother?


Ha! I don’t have the intellect or time for a more sophisticated camera. Excellent books I own on photography wait for me to read beyond the inside front covers. Will I ever leave the safe haven I’ve found in “auto” mode? I hope so.


It’s warm enough for them to dine, still. The weather today is all wrong.


I love gazing at my foot-long, nameless pets.



My favorite photo of 2011. A grasshopper.


Greet the most cooperative grasshopper in Charlotte, taken in August from my backyard beach chair. I’ll eventually frame this one.

Back to the law enforcement issue.


First responders are part of my biological family as well as my work-related family and I respect, admire, and give thanks to all of them. Perhaps this one CMPD officer thought I might need assistance. But come on!

Isn’t there enough criminal gumbo to police in Charlotte instead of stalking a blonde female in a red car who wants her Photo Safari mojo back?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Our Dear Chloe


In August 1996, on a small family farm in New Holland, Pennsylvania, she was the eight-week-old pup who ran the fastest while carrying a stick twice her size. The only sibling left in her Boston Terrier litter, chubby Jake, sat lazily against a shade tree, watching his crazy sister, Josie, run around the tree kicking up dust as much as a four-pound pup could. Josie carved a speedway around lazy Jake on that warm summer morning while we watched and exchanged glances. Oh, my.

We wondered how we would catch her as she darted and weaved, playing “catch me if you can!” with the agility of a much older dog. She was a tiny Josie, soon to be named Chloe. Odd, that we chose an angelic name when her original name, Josie, suited her just fine.

Fast forward to the life and times of Chloe, the challenger, the one who jumped in with four feet, and the busy body who always pushed the card too far. Everyone who knew her will remember the gal who possessed the utmost pizzazz, athleticism, and intelligence.


The strong-willed pup was not allowed into the living room where the Christmas tree glowed and presents were wrapped. Was she annoyed? You bet.


Always, her body was rock hard, mind sharp, and her entertainment value? Priceless.


I miss the laughter.

I miss the frustration.

I miss how she outsmarted me, every day.

I miss her conniving games that she played too well.

I remember very well the gloomy, wet Sunday fourteen years ago when I cried and yelled at her and wrote the phone number of the Boston Terrier Rescue in Maryland on a slip of paper and smacked it hard under a magnet on the refrigerator door. This is what you do when your black and white energized dog turns chocolate brown in a self-made mud puddle during a rainstorm on a cold Autumn day. For the third time on the same day. Yeah.


A highly skilled Eastern Box Turtle carrier and mole finder and Starling-in-flight catcher and young bunny eater, she was. Her nosey instinct and preoccupation with bees, spongy toads, and spiders all gave her trouble, often.

Try to Get It

Under a one hundred foot Weeping Willow at the back of the yard in her first forever home in Maryland, she sat motionless, just waiting for a squirrel to come down and play. Every day. Sadly, she never caught her "quirrel" and what is more sad for me was that she hadn't been able to spot a quirrel for the latest three or four years of her life.


Chloe was a klepto bitch and snatched and ran with anything that hit the floor, tore potholders from oven doors, destroyed a multitude of toys, chewed on Christmas tree ornaments made of glass, and how could I forget the steak knives she picked from the dishwasher? Two of her own ID tags passed through her and were safely scooped. You might say she is lucky to have lived so many years.

She made Gina's friends squeal in delight or sometimes in fear.

And I smiled.

I miss the gal who became my special girlfriend in due time.

I miss my gal who had patience and caring for her young sister, Bella, and taught her everything there is to know about being the best Boston Terrier she can be. They became sisters in Chloe's second forever home in Delaware.





Chloe recently dealt with oral cancer. She was nearly blind and completely deaf when I held her close to my heart for the last time on the evening of November 22, 2011. She was almost fifteen and a half years old. On that Tuesday, she lost the sparkle in her blind eyes and the wiggle in her tail. And that was the day, when without much warning, she communicated to me in her own way, "Enough already, woman!"


When I thought she would make the end way too difficult as she did with everything else, she made it easy for us to say farewell. Her peaceful death was her blessing and her final gift. So lovely.

Writing this post has been one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever written but I’ll admit to laughing out loud at the memories.

Now, I weep.


Your Daddy, Gina, and your special Licker Sister all miss you and love you.

Thank you, Chloe. I’ll Always Love You, girlfriend.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's Hummer Time


A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird has been spotted twice since last weekend.


I’ve been wondering about them since I’ve been preoccupied and away from home so often.

The least I can do is to provide the freshest nectar for them while I'm away.


His gorget is stunning but I’m never satisfied until I see a female.

This evening at 7:45, just before sunset, I heard her.

She lowered herself close to me for a few seconds to check me out.

Perhaps she recognized or remembered a summer home?

“Welcome Home”, I whispered.

Slowly, she lowered herself to some nectar nearby.

After a few sips, she hovered near again and sipped from another feeder. Perched and very alert.

“Do you know me?”, I whispered.

“Now, go do what you do, Mama.”


I prefer to think she recognized me. That’s what I believe.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Guestbook


I’ve been home for a few hours after a six-hour shopping trip and haven’t unloaded the stuff from the back of the car. It’s just too much for me right now.

Since January, Gina and I have spent approximately sixty hours on the road in search of what we think we need for a wedding celebration.

We are less than three weeks away and it’s an exciting time. It’s also making me flip. My nerves are dying.

Recently I attended a bridal shower at her office. I hadn’t been in a high-rise for a few decades and oh, my. “Gawwwleeeeee. Gina, I SEE MY CAR DOWN THERE!”


In the middle of the night, I wake and think of details. My alarm clock wakes me and I immediately think of details. Hundreds of them.



And I tell myself, “Go outdoors and just breathe.”

It’s crunch time. Regular folks like us aren't accustomed to throwing the largest party of our lives. We need to work feverishly now and I do believe I hallucinated at the mall today, after hour number five.

“Gina, where did we park the car? It is not funny. Where’s the car?

Oh my God, I can’t… find… the CAR!


A clean pond. Breathe.


Just lovely. Breathe. Relax.

(Mental picture for readers: At the shopping mall my hair had dried in crunchy curls from sweat during a two-hour Zumbathon the night before, all enhanced with blood-shot eyes.)

“Oh Lord. That’s the mens’ room. Oops. (laughed out loud).

Where am I?

Where are WE?”

Ensuing laughter, but honestly, I’m at the end of this, already. I’m so spent, financially and emotionally, yet the best is yet to come. The payoff. Please let it be worth all of this.


Find the first lizard of the year. Breathe.

That girl can shop for days with little food and a few pee breaks. After four hours, I’m brain dead. I hate shopping now and after the wedding, I don’t plan to visit a shopping mall until next Christmas.

“Gina, I need to eat something. To hell with the diet. Let’s stop for a slice of pizza.

Do you know I tripped and almost fell into that display of crystal over there? Stop laughing. It isn't funny...

(crazy laughter)

You go into J Crew. Just go. I’ll lean against the railing here and wait. Don’t make me wait too long, either, dammit.

Don’t you DARE lead me to Abercrombie."

I’d rather die than to inhale toxic fumes. (She doesn't venture into that awful store anymore and for no apparent reason, my nasty streak reared its ugly head.) "I HATE THAT STORE. IT STINKS."


While watching the Bumbles, breathe.

“Please! I can’t look at another shoe! Let’s go. Now.”

We’ve visited two different craft stores at least twenty times. Yes, we (I) made a few little things and I have fallen in love with a little glue gun. I never used a glue gun until last week and let me tell you, when I had that mini hot glue gun in my hand, I had the POWER!

Today, what remained on our list of things to purchase was a Wedding Guest Book. We visited a “party store” where you can find anything you’ll ever want or need to throw a party. It’s a store filled with two trillion tiny items.

Ah ha! Guest books! Pens!

I said, “Oh, what the heck. It’s a guest book with some silver on the vinyl cover. The pen? It might not have ink, but for less than $15.00, it isn't bad.”

Without much thought or another glance, she threw it behind her into the buggy. Good shot.


Let’s check that off the list. Yeah!

A few hours later, we stumbled upon a very beautiful guest book with a very nice pen that we are certain is full of ink. She had it engraved and it belongs to her now.

On the mall parking lot we laughed until we cried at that flimsy guest book from the party store, suitable for one of those funny redneck weddings you see in e-mail forwards. I’m glad we decided to care.


Rest by the pond and breathe.

Wedding gown fittings, Mom’s fitting, menu and cake tastings, hair trials… all lead to a day we will always hold close to our hearts.

A union.


Both Mom and Bride are wishing for the end before it’s time.


I'm breathing and laughing with Mockingbirds. My saving grace.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Ride in the Car


Your frog friend is smelly and disgusting, Bella. Saliva and mud are not nice. Let me wash frog in the machine with a load of towels.

No. I will not allow it.

I do not see or hear you anyway.

Well then, Bella. Let’s take a ride to vet for a nail trim instead.

How about that?


Uh oh.

A ride in the car?


Did you say a ride in the car?