First death, then what? (Part II)

Phone dropped in a puddle, perhaps the only such puddle to be found in all of Marshall, Texas.  Zapped.  Gone.  Broken beyond words and left in an unstable and increasingly useless state.

Replaced, said phone, but not yet setup properly.

This morning, to my terror, two calls from the family farm.  Both from last night.  One pronouncing death.

My father’s mother, my grandmother, died yesterday.  No surprise, I admit, yet we can never truly be “prepared” for such a thing.  Informed, perhaps, and somewhat expectant even, but never prepared.

Her condition had declined for quite a while, worsening these past few weeks to the point of certainty: she would die in a matter of weeks, not months, and perhaps in no more than a few days.  It took barely that long.

Meanwhile, more pressing health matters worsened, grew colder and more menacing.

Three stricken.  One ailing, spiraling out of control, rapidly jaunting down a path we all must follow.  Another wounded, debilitated, left aching.  The last gone, passed away, fallen to that illness called life that eventually takes us all.

I stand, ponder, worry, suffer an emotional breakdown at work that leaves me unable to function.

But it’s not about me.

Yet those left behind cannot help but feel as much, feel betrayed, feel stabbed in our souls as we search for what’s left behind.

And as we look toward the future with uncertainty, with a knowing gaze that falls upon the next emergency, the next horror that dwells in future’s shadow, that lurks just beyond the next bend.

Finally left feeling that which seems all too familiar, that which curses the living with thoughts of the dead.

I’ve been down this road before.  I’ll travel this road again.  I hate this journey.

Some good before the bad…

I have in my hands the final contract for use of one of my photographs in a wildflower field guide.

How marvelous to see a company utilize integrity and fairness when dealing with the copyrighted material of others.

The contract is simple, clear, and precise.  It spells out in no uncertain terms precisely what they can do, what time constraints they have to work within, what my rights are, what rights I’m consigning to them, and what steps they will take to protect my material while it’s in their possession.

The company?  Adventure Publications, Inc.

This is a respectable organization, one I will enjoy doing business with and one I hope to do business with in the future.

As for the book, let’s hold off until publication is finalized (probably this summer).  Assuming my image does indeed wind up within those pages, I will tell you here precisely what title and availability date will carry my name and photograph.

I needed some kind of good news today…  (More on that statement in a bit.)


Red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), native to the warm southern regions of the U.S., began making their presence known early this month as temperatures warmed.

A pair of red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) sunning on a log, both of them watching me closely (20080405_02963)

I found that pair resting atop a log as they basked in sunshine amidst reeds meant to hide their presence.  Only when I approached did the larger one make clear its namesake: it slid off the log and disappeared into the water with barely a gesture.

A small red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) watching me as it sunbathes on a log (20080405_02968)

The smaller one remained, watching me carefully, my slow movement in its direction not going without notice.  Ever watchful, ever careful, its gaze never faltered as I pretended to be oblivious to its sunbathing.  I don’t think I fooled it.

A red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) keeping an eye on me as it suns itself atop a fallen tree (20080419_03967)

Yesterday while meandering around the park during a charity walk, I again stumbled upon one of these red-eared marvels as it rested in Dixon Branch.  I never caught it by surprise despite my efforts to seem unaware of it.

In regions with warm weather and warm water, these beautiful turtles often are seen lined up and piled up, their social nature making sunbathing a group event when necessary.

The pet trade has unfortunately spread them around the globe.  Even in the U.S. they continue to be a favorite amongst sellers and buyers looking for a terrapin, an unfortunate truth which has dwindled their numbers through overharvesting and reintroduction (thereby passing along captive diseases to wild populations).

Nevertheless, I’m thrilled White Rock Lake supports a thriving populace of these creatures such that bales of them can be seen around the area from spring through autumn.

Worst day for photography

Partly cloudy.  Either I blew out the highlights because the sun popped out after I’d setup the shot or I captured a murky, dark scene because the sun vanished behind clouds after I had the camera ready for a shadowy image.

Windy.  Not only was I knocked about like so much paper blowing in the breeze, but many of my subjects likewise had a hard time sitting still—meaning I have lots of blurry pictures and lots of photos missing the main target.

Fingerprint.  At some point during this morning’s walk, and without realizing it, I planted my fat thumb right in the middle of the UV filter and left a remarkably clear imprint that happily sat between the lens and everything I tried to shoot from that point forward.

Sunglasses.  I kept forgetting I had my sunglasses on, so I’d set the lighting too high based on the dimmer view I was seeing rather than what the camera was seeing.

Some days it’s just not worth chewing through the restraints…

Birds of a feather

Last weekend offered a beautiful opportunity to wander about White Rock Lake like some kind of naturalist vagabond.  Heavy rains from the prior week’s thunderstorms had given way to clear skies, comfortable temperatures and energetic wildlife.

A mated pair of blue-winged teals (Anas discors) watching me carefully (20080412_03185)

The floodplain still under significant amounts of water, this mated pair of blue-winged teals (Anas discors) played coy each time I approached.  I still was able to capture this photograph from a distance as they watched me with suspicion.

Two barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) resting on the bridge over Dixon Branch (20080412_03193)

The bridge across Dixon Branch houses a thriving flight of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica).  While many of their friends flitted to and from the bridge with nesting materials, this pair sat quietly in the shade and watched, almost as though they couldn’t believe the others didn’t stop to enjoy the morning.

A killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) dashing across the floodplain in search of breakfast (20080412_03241)

I spent a great deal of time chasing this killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) across the floodplain.  I only wanted to take a picture, yet it dashed about with abandon, taking flight in brief fits that carried it a bit further away, then a little further, and then further still.  In truth, it wasn’t avoiding me so much as busying itself with finding a meal.

A male red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) turning his beak up at me as I try to take his picture (20080412_03262)

This male red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) turned his beak up at me when I stood next to the tree in which he perched.  He’d glance down occasionally, but mostly he just looked away, giving me the snobbish treatment for interfering with his lady chasing.

A spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia) pausing to look at me (20080412_03303)

Along the northern shore of Sunset Bay where I stood watching sailboats fight the strong winds (some of them losing the battle with overturned boats and collisions), a spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia) dashed by me before turning around to see if I would pursue it.  Despite having the sun directly in my face as I captured this moment, I thought this peppy little bird made for a good subject.

A male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) striding through white clover as he hunts for food (20080412_03343)

And what is a bird post without a male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus).  Ubiquitous around these parts, he looked rather dashing as he strode through the white clover enjoying breakfast.