Category Archives: Larenti Photos

A look back at 2009

While I’m loath to follow the herd in most cases, like many I find the beginning of a new year to be opportunity both to look ahead and to look back.  But I do not look backward to understand the me of the present.  On the contrary, I don’t consider myself defined by what has come before.  Post hoc, ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”) happens to be one of my pet peeves, a bit of flawed logic that many use to excuse bad behavior in the present by identifying something in the past that must be to blame.  No, I am who I am because that’s who I am, not because of my past, and it’s up to me to change anything I don’t like rather than blaming some conveniently unchangeable event in history.

Very much against the grain of most people who look back to understand why they are who they are, I look back only to see where I’ve been, what has transpired, what things I might like to change and what things I might like to repeat.  And it is in this spirit that I find I’m of the mind to look back at blogging in 2009 for a bit of photographic and compositional navel-gazing.

As I recently mentioned to Ted in the comments on his blog, I am my own worst critic, something that hits me hardest when it comes to my writing and my photography.  But 2009 was a year of growth for me.  I won’t claim I’m even half as good as many of the writers and photographers out there, but I did improve—and I improved enough to capture at least a few respectable images and to write at least a few respectable pieces.

Narrowing down twelve months to a sampling of what I think are the top pictures and top writs of the preceding year seemed daunting.  I take a lot of pictures, after all, and no one will ever accuse me of not communicating with enough words.  Do I go with what I think are the best, what garnered the most positive feedback, what demonstrated the most growth, what tallied the most views, what brought out the most character in my subject, or what fit any of a million other possible criteria?  Ultimately, I decided the best were those that stand out to me for whatever reason (and each entry below catches my attention for a different reason).

So without further ado, here’s a look back at 2009 as seen through my lens and words offered here on my blog.

My favorite photographs:


American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) from On wings: One of the first images of 2009 and one of the first captured with my new dSLR.  Not one of my best images, no, but it was a major advancement for me and a major step forward with my ability to use a camera.


Texas ocelot (Leopardus pardalis albescens) from You might never see it again: This photo could have been better had there been a clear view, had I used a better lens, had I gotten out of the car…  I can think of a million reasons that would make it technically better, but I can think of no reason why it’s not perfect the way it is.  Read the post and you’ll understand why getting lost can be the greatest gift you ever give yourself, a doorway to finding something rare and endangered and magical, and why in my mind the image stands as one of the finest wildlife encounters I’ve ever had.


Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) demonstrating the broken-wing display from Protecting treasure at a distance: I spent part of my summer monitoring and protecting their nest which they built in the middle of a heavily used and often mowed portion of White Rock Lake Park.  They taught me a lot in that time, and they tolerated me more than I expected.  (You can see their story in the link above as well as Protecting treasure up close and The treasure, plus a close-up of one of the parents in put on your faces – killdeer.)


A male eastern cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) from put on your faces – cicada-killer wasp: Several large colonies of these insects can be found within walking distance of my home, the largest of which actually surrounds my home on all sides.  In a good summer, the air is filled with many dozens of these giant wasps.  They are my favorite insect in all the world.  (The above image was taken during this photo session.)


A feeding white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) from A ‘Dear Mom’ letter: A different species of sphinx moth has vexed my mother for some time at the family farm in East Texas: they never visit her when there’s enough light or enough time to get photographs.  When I stumbled upon this one in dim morning light, I knew I had to capture a few shots for Mom (even knowing her species was different, I thought she’d appreciate seeing one).  A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) flew in to protect her dining table and chased the moth away.  It was amazing to see how similar in size they are, not to mention how they both feed on nectar using the same hovering technique (hence these moths are often colloquially called “hummingbird moths”).


A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) grabbing a meal in Gone fishin’: These birds are year-round residents here at White Rock Lake (along with several other heron and egret species), so seeing them requires little effort and can be done every day throughout the year.  Watching this one hunt was a joy because both it and a great egret (Ardea alba) came right into the bay while I was sitting on the shore.


One of the three juvenile Cooper’s hawks (Accipiter cooperii) from Hawk triplets: Their parents have lived here at least as long as I have.  Being able to spend the summer watching and getting to know these three young raptors was an unequaled treat.  (You can read their story in the above link as well as Keeping my eyes on the triplets and Who remains?.)


A giant robber fly (Promachus hinei) from put on your faces – giant robber fly: These large predators stalk the area around my patio each summer and early autumn.  They will chase anything, from birds to other insects to planes flying overhead.  What they catch is a different story—obviously—but they fascinate me with their daring, their strength, their prowess and their ability to capture and kill things much larger than themselves.


A male American kestrel (Falco sparverius) from put on your faces – american kestrel: One of the best unplanned wildlife photos I’ve ever taken.  On a very cloudy day, I sat at the edge of a meadow watching him hunt the prairie grasses.  I never realized a small field mouse was scampering through the dense flora quite near where I sat, but suddenly this falcon dropped out of the sky and landed a few steps away.  I let the shutter fly but only came away with this one good image.  It was like a studio shot with light breaking through the clouds in front of me and a bit of sun peeking through the clouds behind me.


A young green anole (Anolis carolinensis) from Anole art: No larger than my pinkie and lost in a jungle of brush, this lizard sat patiently soaking up sun while I grabbed a few pictures.  This species is ubiquitous here—a colony even lives on my patio—so they’re easy to find and photograph, but something about this tiny life in this photo with the colors the way they are…  Well, it enchants me.


A female common green darner (a.k.a. green darner or dragon fly; Anax junius) from put on your faces – common green darner: I do not as yet own a macro lens.  Therefore, I have to make do with technique rather than equipment.  In this case, that worked well—using a 400mm telephoto lens!  No flash was involved (since I hate using flash).


A male wood duck (Aix sponsa) from Some flew this path before: No doubt the most beautiful duck species on the planet.  Wood ducks are small in size and small in voice, but they make up in personality and plumage what they lack in vocals and mass.  It takes time to get close, to get them into the open, but patience and persistence can pay big rewards with these unequaled beauties.


A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) from put on your faces – virginia opossum: Most would never think of opossums as cute or endearing.  I’m not most people.  I adore these creatures.  Finding and following this one on a rainy evening gave me an opportunity to grab this very adorable image as it climbed a tree before looking down at its admirer (though I bet it thought of me as a stalker rather than an admirer).


Brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) from put on your faces – brown thrasher: One of several year-round mimic species in Dallas, the brown thrasher can be loud or quiet, deceptive or declarative, hidden or in the open.  When this one flitted to the top of a bramble near where I stood, the trees behind it and the bit of open sky created a perfect natural frame.  I took several dozen photos from different angles as the bird watched me.


A very foggy Dagger Point view from Scenes from Aransas: I admit the environmental conditions weren’t ideal for photography, but something about this image feels haunting, whether it’s the heron lurking at the far left or the way the world vanished not too distant from where I stood or the felled trees drawn with shadows or…  Well, there’s just something about this photo that keeps me coming back.


A female Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) from put on your faces – cooper’s hawk: You may call her Baket.  She’s mother to the hawk triplets mentioned earlier, she’s at least ten years old, she’s raised a brood of offspring every year in the last decade, she lives and hunts only a few steps from my front door, she lets me share her world, and she is my medicine animal, my spirit guide, my life’s totem.  There will be others when she gives up this life, but they will always be hawk.

My favorite words:

Walking out the door: when the search through the photo albums of memory dredges up more than the image we are searching for
a song of adolescent ivory: when thinking of flowers and love and loss, I channel my inner e.e. cummings
That which is to come: a celebration of the spring to come
It’s that time of year: bad photos coupled with a steamy, entertaining look at spring—as defined by mating red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus)
A million fluttering wings: a celebration of butterflies
Remembering my own humanity: though compiled from writings I did in 2007, this event always helps me to know my own heart
Listen with me: what it feels like inside my head when I observe nature
Morning: nature’s daily change of shift in words
Counting the stars: how looking at the night sky made me ponder life out there and worry for the loss of life here on our own planet
And I watch: watching two hawks as they kettle
The journal is the thing: why I blog

The Kids:

And to finish off this review of 2009, I want to include The Kids.  This year’s feline focus is dedicated to Larenti who died on March 27, 2009.


Lion’s lament: discovering habits can be like a blade against flesh after the loss of a loved one, even if that loved one was a cat
Living in the past: sitting on the couch reading turns into a travel through time
Larenti from the unseen: some old photos of him from my defunct photoblog
Pains of life revisited: after his death, something I wrote for someone else in 2005 suddenly became written for me
Remembering that which is lost: a synaptic weeping in quick memories
the ghost of you whispers: for and of Larenti

the ghost of you whispers

A close-up of Larenti (20080927_12938)

scarcely of the twilight in summer’s breath
you walk unmoving above nowhere

and I, hardly the old youth of your gaze,
see the sound of autumn’s valley
where you do not stand

over the brow of winter’s hill
silence brightly listens for the scent of your voice,
when your vanishes enormously sing alone
—yet only as perfection is alone

in beginnings end the blossoms of wishes
while endings writhe in withering leaves,
so blooms dying darkly rest upon lonely nights

afar off in unfelt thoughts not forgotten
toward us the ghost of you whispers

[for and of Larenti, whose absence weighs heavily on me today for reasons I cannot explain, an old wound freshly torn open]

Remembering that which is lost

Of all the rash and midnight promises made in the name of love, none is more certain to be broken than “I’ll never leave you.”  What time doesn’t steal from under our noses, circumstance will.  It’s useless to hope otherwise, useless to dream that the world somehow means us good.  Everything of value, everything we cling to for our sanity, will rot or be snatched in the long run, and the abyss will gape beneath us, and suddenly, without so much as a breath of explanation, we will be gone.  Professions of love and all…

A close-up of Larenti as he looks down on me from atop the bed (2009_02_28_011325)

I remember thunderstorms with torrential rain.  Would he be okay?

A wet cat speaking to me from outside the fence, a feline begging for shelter, for comfort, for assurance that all would be well.

I welcomed him to the patio, to protection from the tempest.

I remember chastising him for hunting rabbits, for bringing them to my doorstep as though meant as a gift.

A wild cat, a feral soul falling prey to companionship.

I let him leave the creatures so I could quickly scoop them up and rush them to safety.

I remember the first time he let me touch him, his thick fur resting warmly against my hand, his eyes watchful yet trusting, his purr sudden and powerful.

A lonely cat seeking that which we all seek: belonging and friendship.

I gave only as much as he would allow, sought to be welcoming so he could take the next step.

I remember the day he moved in, met his new roommates, explored his new home, found happiness.

A loving cat, a spirit divine yet frightened who wanted only to belong.

I let him belong, made him welcome.

I remember that night not too long ago, that fateful evening when so much emotion came crashing down under the weight of ending.

A beautiful cat, a giant who cowered before shadows and needed love as much as air.

I lamented then what was lost.

And I remember…

[introduction paraphrased from the beginning of the first chapter in Clive Barker’s Cabal]

Larenti from the unseen

I had yet to migrate these photos of Larenti from my old photoblog, xenogere unseen.  Now is as appropriate a time as any.

A close-up of Larenti as he tries to rest (20080114_01315)

A home with some of the children gone.  That’s how it feels.  I keep stepping over him when he’s not there, hearing his voice when it doesn’t exist, feeling his fur under my fingers as I drift off to sleep.  Fantasies of a wounded heart.

Larenti lying in the window enjoying the fresh air (20080426_05069)

Time’s altar is a fierce place to exist.  It takes at will, sacrifices on whims we cannot understand.  It rests stained with the blood of all who have been lost.

A close-up of Larenti (20080426_05105)

He nuzzles my hand, reaches out and grabs it with his paw to let me know I’m not done petting him.  He says as much as he looks at me directly and lets me lose myself in that jeweled, peridot universe defined by his eyes.

Or at least it seems to me, but in truth that was last week.  Now only his memory remains.

Lion’s lament

I know not when these days began, though I know when they ended.

Larenti lying on the bed (2008_12_17_002472)

I sit on the couch and wait.  I will wait forever for that which is expected: Larenti rushing to my side, leaping atop the cushions to join me.  From anywhere in the house, he always knew when I sat down there, and he would always run to the living room and jump up to take his place on my lap or by my side.

But no more.

The rest of The Kids still share the couch with me at every opportunity, and they vie for my lap and to get somehow in contact with me as Larenti always did, yet the absence remains unbearable, a blade cutting deep with every moment.

Larenti peering over the edge of the bed (2008_12_17_002482)

I lie on the floor next to the bed and look up as I await his usual reaction.  Await is all I can do now, for Larenti’s face will never greet me by peering over the edge of the blankets with a half-questioning, half-delighted visage painted with beautiful earthen hues.  He enjoyed quality time along with the other cats, yet he never seemed sure about this particular game.  I always loved his curiosity in response to my being on the floor beneath him; equally, I loved that he knew it would always lead to blizzards of love between us.

Yet his face will never again peek over the edge of the bed.

The rest of The Kids still engage in Quality Time with the utmost interest and joy, and they try their best to sweep away the loss with kisses, touches, purring, play, and all manner of passion, though the emptiness they seek to fill is not theirs to fill.

Larenti sitting on the edge of the bed (2009_03_01_011699)

I awake and climb from beneath the covers anticipating the morning ritual.  Anticipate is now all that will happen, for Larenti’s voice will not fill the dark room with greetings and requests for affection, his form will not sit on the edge of the bed as I kneel next to it and shower him with soft words and petting, and his formidable purr will no longer bring joy to my heart as he demonstrates his love and contentment.

The morning ritual is forever changed.

The rest of The Kids remain steadfast in taking and receiving adoration in those early morning hours just as they have always done, yet a vacuous chasm now exists that can never be bridged.

Larenti sitting in the hall (2009_03_01_011652)

I grab the cat food or treats, and then I look and listen as the horde descends upon me with much meowing and jockeying for position, although now that one face in the background will never offer up the plaintive cries that always made me remember the skittish one who would stay back, stay out of the fray, but who nonetheless joined the restless herd in pretending they were all starving to death.  While I never let the food bowl grow empty, the sound of the bag meant tripping over cats eager to get something fresher than yesterday’s offerings, and tapping on the top of a can of treats or shaking a bag of treats would bring them all running.  Larenti stayed out of the commotion as much as possible, always lagged behind while still showing the same devotion to goodies—or even just a refill of the bowl.  His eyes wide as he watched me closely, he would offer up his sorrowful yet beguiling voice as part of the feline chorus that defined such times.  Only now his face will be missing, his voice silent, his stunning and wide eyes only a memory of what was.

Food and treat time now bears a fresh scar that will never fully heal.

The rest of The Kids continue creating loud, boisterous obstacles under my feet whenever they hear the food bag or treat containers; however, I keep wishing for that seventh song and hoping for a sighting of the lion, neither of which will ever caress my soul again.

A close-up of Larenti (2009_02_28_011212)

I grab the camera as afternoon sun fills the bedroom with warm light and pools of sunshine where The Kids gather.  I will never have another chance to see how such moments brought out the stunning colors and contrasts in Larenti’s face.  His large green eyes would catch the light like diamonds even has his beige tabby coat glowed like a fire on the beach.  His beauty was undeniable, yet at such moments it became a cause for celebration that the universe itself could not ignore.  I loved to feel his gaze resting upon me, his eyes devouring in great sweeps all that could be seen, his jovial spirit spilling from them when finally they touched me directly.

Only now the camera will never capture his magic again.

The rest of The Kids still offer their magnificence when the light is just right, still congregate in the bedroom where a wall of glass proffers afternoon pools of sunshine where they can bathe and nap and gather the warmth unto their bosoms; the pain of one missing, however, screams like an unhealing wound.

A close-up of Larenti (2009_02_28_011342)

Larenti: November 2002 – March 2009