Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good day, Sunshine!

I don't know how many days of sunshine we’ve officially had in Maine for the month of July, but I can tell you for sure that my count would be too few. The sun has finally been out for the past two days, but I think everyone is waiting for the other meteorologic shoe to drop. My weather station barometer says in fact, that it's going to rain. I’m not sure it actually will, though. There's an icon of a cloud with rain falling out of it and a downward pointing arrow. Perhaps it's been displaying that symbol for so long, that as it's mother probably told it, "Keep making that face and you'll get stuck that way!" Or maybe the weather station has finally cracked up, like the rest of us. This poor, Double Crested cormorant (a ‘DC’ in birding circles) is panting it's so hot! Birds do that when they are overheated or otherwise stressed. Most of them are smart enough to get into the water, though! Even David and I got into our pool for the first time this season. The sun brought everybody out and their laundry. This rental cottage sits across the cove from us. There is no electricity there, thus no clothes dryer. So, the minute the sun came out so did every wet towel and article of clothing this family possessed! And we had the first rainbow of the entire summer, though it too was quite washed out compared to years past. We see Hermit Island camp ground from our house. Every year when it rains I think of the poor campers, huddled in tents and standing around smoldering, damp fires, pretending they are having fun. We know a family that camped there every summer for eighteen years. For sixteen years, it rained. They finally bought a cottage here and paid a King’s ransom for it, too. Anything for a roof, they said. There is a certain amount of “street cred” to be earned in enduring this kind of thing in the name of fun and family bonding. I earned my chops this year when I went to Baxter State Park for the first time to see the moose cows with their calves. In the two days I was there, the park had a record ten inches of rain. The water levels were ten feet above normal, so no moose were to be seen. They had been driven to higher ground and away from their aquatic food sources. Either that, or they were all waiting it out at a bar in Millinocket, drinking beer and watching ESPN on a flat screen TV. This has been the year that even a moose might contemplate, “I think I’ll save up and buy a camp.”

Get Your Mind Out Of The Gutter

This is an Impatien viewed close-up. That’s all, but I know what you were thinking. It is the rare person who does not immediately think of the secret parts of the human form. Our second thought is, “Oh! Wait a minute - that’s a flower!” So, why is it that our response is “get your mind out of the gutter,” as if our first thought is a shameful place to be? Psychotherapists have made fortunes declaring answers to that question. I’ve been working on a project composed of macro shots of flowers and their intimate parts, the parts that jump out at us and make us squirm. There’s nothing subtle about it, either. I choose the most provocative elements, because they stir the moment of unrest that I want to evoke in the viewer. I want to shove you off your mark, to disturb you. Why is that? The simple answer is that it gets attention; the deeper answer is that I want to stand out from the crowd. I confess that I have always yearned to be somebody, though my secret fear is that I'll conclude my life in banal mediocrity. My intense dread motivates me to learn to do a lot of things, too. I belong to a photography focus group where progress on individual projects is reviewed and discussed. It has irked the hell out of me when presenting my project, that the frequent response is ‘Oh ya, like what’s her name………O’Keeffe, ya, Georgia O’Keeffe.” NO! Not her, me! Georgia O’Keeffe was wrongly accused. Art historians claim she did not intend her paintings of Calla lily pistils and labia like Hibiscus to be construed as pornographic. It was her husband, Alfred Stieglitz (ironically, a photographer) who promoted her work with that language. In fact, those works are not representative of her work overall, but simply those that are most popularly recognized. And why is that? Because, they are the works that jolted the masses, not her more subtle, complex abstractions. They are the works which scream to the thing that we all have in common, our bodies and its urges. So, that’s where I decided to start - no disguises, no fans, no feathers, no bubbles, just unabashed posy porn. I chose an impatien as my opening piece because they are possibly the most ubiquitous bedding (see, there you go again) plant. They take shade and full sun. They live confined in containers or sprawling on the ground. They reseed prolifically, mutate readily, survive neglect and outright abuse and come in every possible color. They are simple, beautiful. They may not be the most complicated, but they are the best known, the Barry Manilow of the flower world. I’ll take that kind of recognition. Unlike Georgia O’Keeffe, I’m not beating around the bush.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Here's a five minute video to cheer you up. It's a medley of wildlife and garden photography from the coast of Maine, mostly in Phippsburg. I took these shots over the past month, rain or shine. We have had record breaking rains and cloudy days, such that it's been brain crushing. I'm trying to be positive. The music is by Aselin Debison. She is preforming a medley, too. Her's is a combination of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and It's A Wonderful World (if you want to see the video full screen, click on the small square on the bottom right of the video screen).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Who's The Big Guy Now? Huh?

Big Guy 5.11, Indian Creek UT from wade david on Vimeo.

This is a short video (thanks to Wade David) of my son climbing a tiny crack called Big Guy in Utah. He has had climbing in him from when he was born, most probably. My first evidence of this was when I found sneaker prints on the cathedral ceilings of his bedroom. He was about ten years old. Then, around that same time, I found a trough gouged into the window sill outside his bedroom at 2 1/2 stories high. When I confronted him about the damage to the sill, he said he'd been repelling. "Repelling what?! Mosquitoes?!" Rock climbing was new then, so this was new language to me. He explained that he repelled out the window every day when he went to school. The trough had been abraded by his rope, he said. Sure enough, I had to admit that I had not actually witnessed him leaving the house each morning, but only seen him getting onto the school bus. He told me that after eating his breakfast, he left the kitchen, then went back to his bedroom and jumped out of the window. I don't know what was more shocking, that he jumped out the window every day and I never noticed or that he was using a length of cotton clothes line which I had discarded as not sufficient to hold the clothes on the line! I don't get this. I raised the boy on a clam flat and, personally, I don't like to ascend higher than what a step ladder will afford. But he clearly was somehow born to it. Some kids are good at math or science or music; my son was always good at climbing. His great-grandmother was born in Munich, Germany and forever considered herself a Bavarian mountain girl. Perhaps it's all in the genes, after all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Oh, She's A Man Eater!"

This lovely, diminutive wildflower is commonly called Yellow Bladderwort, a nasty moniker for such a pretty thing. It conjures all kinds of disgusting images, especially keeping in mind that I'm a Registered Nurse. This flower grows in freshwater billabongs and stagnant pools in many places in the world from Maine to Australia. The blossom is about the size of a dime. It rises above the water 8 inches on a thin stalk. Below the water lies the source of the name, a series of bladders entwined in filament like roots. The plant is not attached to the soil, but is free-floating. It was believed that these bladders kept the plant afloat, but not so. Utricularia macrorhiza is carnivorous. The bladders create a vacuum suction pulling in microscopic animal life. Once trapped, the animals are slowly digested by secreted enzymes. Gruesome! These flowers are so small, that I could only truly appreciate their beauty through my camera lens. I could'nt get close enough to see the details of the petals without it. I laid on a dock cantalevering my body out over the water. It was the kind of area where you could not pay me to swim. The Bullfrogs were chal-umping amongt the rushes and waterlilies while I tried to ignore the mosquitoes biting me. In the dark water, a few Bloodsuckers slithered by. If the Bladderwort was a bigger plant, this whole scene could make the screenplay for Jaws look like child's play!

Utricularia macrorhiza, Phippsburg, Maine

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is That You, God?

In their times of struggles, a couple of my friends have tried on organized religion. Desperate to plug holes gouged by fear and despair, they wore the trappings of church ceremony like single use prom dresses or ill-fitting jeans on wide birth bodies. I humored them, but thought them silly. What could I say? I envied their ability to grasp a hold of simple things to help them through their times of need. One of them now imagines her long gone mother as butterflies. The other sees her sister in Dragonflies. Me? I see nothing in nothing. I wish I believed otherwise; I wish I had some icon to hold me. Long ago, I had a nephew with Down’s syndrome. Joey died at ten from complications of Down’s. He was buried in Madawaska, Maine on a frigid April day. On a map, Madawaksa sits on the ‘crown’ of Maine, though there is nothing royal nor glorious about it. It’s an eight-hour drive through gloomy spruce forests and potato fields to nowhere. At the graveside, I stood shivering and watched his little casket lowered into a hole. Joey was a trial when he was alive. He was rough and crude, a thug. He needed watching around his cousins because without intending to he could hurt somebody. We accepted that about Joey. When one of the smaller cousins would wail that Joey had punched or shoved them someone would always say “that boy don’t know his own strength.” But, when he died, he seemed suddenly gentle. It was impossible to imagine him set into the hard, cold ground of Madawaska, Maine. That image has remained in my mind. I wish that I could exchange it for a butterfly or a dragonfly, silly or not.
Bluetail damselfly


Fritillary butterfly

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

FORD Feeling

Oh, the fond, fond feeling of a Ford! This is a 1959 Edsel. After seeing it on the side of the road sort of stuffed into the bushes I got up the nerve to stop and ask the owner if I could photograph it. I'm not a car person. In fact, some might say I'm in a wildlife photography rut of sorts. I didn't know this was an Edsel, either. I thought it might be, but I don't know that much about cars. When I showed an interest in it, the owner took an interest in me. He doesn't take his cars on the antique cars circuit, nor does he show his cars to people. So, he's not accustomed to anyone taking an interest in them. Once he got the idea that I wanted to see them, it was no holds barred; he took me into his top secret garage! Hoods were popped and interiors displayed. I oo-ed and ah-ed at the enormous, pristine Bakelite steering wheel of his 'baby.' He was tickled. When I crouched on the grease soaked concrete floor for the side shots, his pride was nearly palpable. So then, it was off to his private barn where he keeps his prize, this jazzy, red 1955 Crown Victoria. Our bond was cemented when I said that is the year that I was born. Kismet. I could almost hear him thinking "Why didn't I meet this woman fourty years ago?" All I wanted was the photographs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


This past weekend, I attended the New England Camera Club Conference (NECCC) at UMass, Amherst. It's the largest camera club conference in the country with 1200 attendees. For three days, it's total photography immersion. There are back to back presentations and classes from 8 am to 10pm. Everyone is there to learn how to take better photographs and to edit in digital darkrooms. Standing in line in the cafeteria, in the lady's room, on the bus, the chatter is all photography. It's exhilarating and inspiring and dizzying. I learned a truck load and my head is wildly spinning. I have awoken at 4 am three mornings in a row and in my waking dream state, I've been taking shots in HDR, macro, montaged, tripoded, you name it, all at once. My dream camera is as big as a bus and my lens extends to the moon. Though not realistically feasible, in my dreams all these elements came true. In my dreams, my photographs are better and better. But now, I must come down to reality. I must, like this Great Blue Heron, come in for a landing. I must simply take better photographs. Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Count Your Blessings and Your Lob'stah

Every Fourth Of July, for the past nine years, we have hosted a family reunion at our house. My husband's whole family makes the trip from all across the country to attend and to contribute. This year, both of my children were here. It will probably will be the last time they are together under our roof for a few years. My daughter is moving out of state and my son is going back to Colorado with his lovely girlfriend. We will miss them so much I'm having a hard time to write this through tears just thinking about it. Everyone of these people goes to great expense and aggravation to make this whole event happen. They have to travel long distances and spend a boat load of money. Two of them flew in. As a surprise, my son and his girlfriend drove 48 hours from Aspen to get here. They bring enough food and wine and gifts to overwhelm an empire of kings. We have a traditional lobster bake with corn on the cob, salads, strawberry pie and make-your-own ice cream sundaes. My son ate 7 whole lobsters in one sitting. After all, he may not get back here from Colorado for a while. He had to make it count!
The love these people show me and each other through these efforts awes me. My own family would never have come together like this as a group. None of us has even spoken to each other in nearly two decades, never mind shared a meal. Furthermore, I came from what on a good day would have been called an nonreligious family; most days, it would have been called frankly irreligious. So, I don't know much about blessings. But this borrowed family that I've acquired through my husband, and the extraordinary love of my children, has taught me all I need to know. Each of them is a blessing.

The Cousins

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

TREE SWALLOWS Raising Younguns

      These TREE SWALLOWS reside in a Blue Bird box. Tree swallows are famous for nesting in those boxes. Sometimes, when they first start checking out the boxes as potential homes in the spring, their brilliant blue-black feathers dupe the hopeful into thinking that they see an Eastern Bluebird.They are not a disappointment, though.
     Tree Swallows are aggressively protective of their nests and will dive bomb approaching threats. This includes cats, raccoons, and in this case, me. An Apricot tree provided enough cover to get these photos. I had to hold very still as any movement riled up the birds. The mosquitoes were awful which made that torturous as I had to let them bite me.
     The Barn swallows I posted earlier feed their young partially digested pellets of insects which they regurgitate into their youngster's throats. Tree swallows differ in that they feed the young whole insects. You can see this in the last photo.
     I saw at least two chicks in the box. There were probably more. They usually have 4-6. Males and females both take care of the chicks. Like the Barn swallows, they sometimes nest twice a year. The chicks in these photos are just about to be thrown out of the house. As my father used to say when we left home, "Write when you get work!"

Blackburnian Warbler - Birding Made Easy

This is a Blackburnian Warbler. It's not uncommon here in the summer, but I have never happened to see one, until yesterday morning. I get to add this to my bird species tally. It was made very easy for me; it flew into my house. Well, not exactly. I was getting dressed, progressing from my bathrobe to my underwear when David yelled from the kitchen, "A bird just hit the window!" Striking the kitchen window, it landed on the inside of a stockade fence that surrounds our propane tanks. Wearing my bra and panties, I trotted out into the rain to conduct the rescue. Trotting does not come naturally to me as I am an obese, short, middle aged woman. My last shreds of dignity are compromised by trotting, but anything for the birds! I couldn't quite reach the bird over the backside of the fence and was hopping up and down to try to get to it. From the kitchen window, David was watching his wife hopping in the rain in her underwear in the yard, when someone pulled into the driveway on the other side of the house. "Oh shit!" yelled she, abandoned the stunned bird and full-on sprinted to the back door. I made it back to the security of my bathrobe just in time to greet the visitor at the front door. David had grabbed the warbler and put it in a margarine tub in the dining room. While trying to seem cool, as if nothing what so ever was going on, we chatted with our unexpected guest. After she left, I went to see about the warbler at hand, but it was no longer in the margarine tub! Rather, it was flying wildly around the dining room crapping happily on the table, the china, the chandelier, etc. In my car, I carry a butterfly net. I got it for 99 cents at Reny's. At the time, David asked why I was carrying around a butterfly net in the car and I said, "Because, you just never know!" Armored in my bathrobe with the net, I was able to quickly and gently capture the darling little bird and release it. Dignity restored, I thought about getting dressed.

Crapping in my grandmother's fine, Miessen egg cup. That figures!