Blog reboot

I’m rebooting xenogere.


Mating pair of syrphid flies (a.k.a. hover flies; Toxomerus marginatus)

Since I last changed my blog theme, I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with blogging.

That is to say I’ve hated the idea.

But no more.

Close-up of a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and various other diversions will no longer distract me.

I will, however, continue to focus on my novels.

Because I have more important things to do.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) mobbing a feeder

And I’ll focus on photography.

Because I can make money with that, let alone use it to expand my horizons.

A male eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus) crawling on my hand

And I’ll focus on technology work since that has put many a coin in my pockets.

I mean, hey, come on already.

A female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with her fawn

I started blogging more than eleven years ago.

It’s time to either shut down and move on or restart and move forward.

I choose to move forward.

A Striped bark scorpion (Centruroides vittatus) eating a cricket--which has been decapitated

As you can see, I’ve made significant changes to the site. These changes aren’t done yet. In fact, not only are they a work in progress, they’re a work in need of focus.

There are problems I must fix, changes I must make, enhancements I must address.

So the site’s incomplete. But trust me when I say I’ll take care of it.

a Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) crawling along a storage barrel

Meanwhile, it’s time for me to get back on the horse so to speak.

And I intend to do just that.

The bayou

There’s a housing project there now, a line of multi-million-dollar homes and Mercedes and Lexus weighting down driveways along the bayou where I remember walking with Christy as we strolled the woods, my parents still at home, the cold pinching us as we crammed hands into pockets and curled toes in shoes, all the while walking, always walking, enjoying nature and the frigidity of the day and the rawness of winter and the comfort of beloved friends strolling, always strolling, comfortable and casual and cold.

They’ve built houses there now, many of them—most of them gaudy and audacious and terribly offensive—or at least too expensive and too showy for this dense thicket of second-growth woods where wildlife teems and cars once were few but now are many and the world was as it should be but is now as it should have been.

But it’s not that way now, at least as it should be, at least as it was—no, not at all, not with the weekenders and their expensive cars and their uncaring attitudes and their money and their homes, all so diligently destroying what once was beautiful but now is barren, used, abused, a world where nature once reigned but where now even the residents care less about how it should be and more about how they want it to be, a place where decades ago I romped and played and hunted, where fewer decades ago I walked and talked and enjoyed, and where now the invaders live—or at least they pretend to live, for they don’t truly live but instead they exist, reside in meaningless lives and expensive homes as they ignore the beauty they destroyed just so they can have a home for the weekends and have a house to brag about and have an expensive construct to smear in the faces of others.

Few remember because so few survive, but I remember, and my parents remember, and I know Christy remembers—among others.  We know what it was like, with the bobcats and cougars and bears, with the raccoons and skunks and opossums, with the quail and doves and hawks and eagles, with the snakes and alligators, none of which these new residents want, none of which the weekenders will tolerate, all of which our current invaders want to destroy and eradicate and subjugate and extirpate, the nature of the place violated and manipulated and manhandled and changed.

I’ve made it my mission to exterminate these foul fiends, to buy back the land they stole from nature, to make their pathetic little suburb a memory in favor of what was and what should be and what will be again, to wipe out this offense so the world can be as it should be, and I will give up all I have and all I will have and all I hope to have in order to make that real, so I can reclaim what’s been stolen, so I can take back what should never have been taken, so I can make the world the place it should always have been, the place it once was, the place it will be again.

I love the bayou.  I love the way it used to be.  I love the way it should be.  I love the way it will be again.

Yes, I love the bayou.  And I intend to make the bayou what it was, what it should have been, what it will be.

Yes, I love the bayou.  And I’ll make it glorious once again, even if it kills me.

Those warm wrinkled hands

[A brief excerpt from a fictional story I’m writing]

Snow fell heavily around the house that day.  It blanketed the world in loud quiet that my nine-year-old mind could barely grasp.  Silence like that is hard to come by, and it was a new experience for me.

I could see Grandpa standing at the window watching as I played in the snowdrifts that grew like wildflowers all over the landscape.  I could barely see his wrinkled hands clutching the cold windowsill.  Even if I couldn’t see them at all, I knew they were there.  I loved his hands.  They were always warm, gentle yet firmly reassuring, always ready to catch me when my latest endeavor to climb that enormous tree in the back yard ended like all the attempts before it—with me falling, although sometimes it was less a fall and more a skidding down the rough bark.

I stopped my play for just a moment when I saw him standing there.  I waved and he waved back.  Even through the heavy curtain of white air that separated us, I could see his loving gaze and the smile he offered in return for my own.

For just a brief moment, that picture of him mesmerized me.  The fireplace behind him offered a reassuring glow that seemed to silhouette him against the windowpane with warm amber tones behind his dimly lit countenance glowing from the snow’s reflection.  I was struck by the sight of his white hair and how it seemed to be a halo made of whispers and dreams sketched with gray sunlight.  Even from where I stood I could feel his love for me.  The watchful gaze was nothing more than a gentle reminder of it.

So I turned back to the snow and romped through the powdery wonderland completely oblivious to the fact that it would be his last winter.  I’d never again be stricken by that view of him in the big window, safely cloaked in warmth as I dared the cold to stop me from having fun.  I’d never again be comforted by knowing he would be there in case I fell.  I’d never again relish the embrace of those warm wrinkled hands, those living promises of safety that wouldn’t survive the day.

A need fulfilled

Keigan working under his truck (20130404_07065)

We don’t know what we want until it enters our lives.  That’s why want is the source of greed and jealousy.  We see something, hear something, taste something, touch something, and in the aftermath of the encounter we find our desire kindled, and those flames scorch reason on the pyre of covet.

But need is different.  We need air, food, water, warm clothes in winter, tears when the pain becomes too much.  Needs are inherent like the color of our eyes.  And yet we don’t always recognize our own needs until something comes along to fulfill them.

Keigan petting his dog (20130404_07105)

Many years ago I met a family—they probably don’t remember that meeting, but I certainly do.  Visiting the family farm, I stood at the end of the driveway leading to the private road and watched a mother and her two kids approach.  My parents introduced us, told me this family lived in the new community being built along the bayou just down the road, and we stood and talked for a bit.

The mother, a woman named Denise, talked of the male alligator in the swamp near her home, listening to him rumble and grumble in his search for a mate, spoke of seeing him through a heavy downpour.  And her children, a daughter named Kenzie and a son named Keigan, shuffled their feet nervously in the presence of someone they didn’t know, but they burgeoned with life and vitality whilst dealing with my parents, whom they knew quite well.

Keigan in thought (20130508_07138)

I didn’t see that family again except in passing during a few of my visits in the intervening years.  They seemed like nice people, sure, but they were separate from me and my life in Dallas.  Whatever value they held, it hinged entirely on my parents.

Then I moved to the family farm in February 2012.  Once again I was confronted by this family, albeit under different circumstances.  And in that newfound contact I discovered a need I hadn’t recognized before, one now fulfilled, one now meaningful, one now central to me like the air I breathe and the food I eat, one like a warm blanket on a chill winter day.

Keigan talking on the phone (20130508_07223)

I’m kicking off a new series of posts to celebrate a member of that family.  He’s my brother, though at first I thought of him as a punk, then as an intelligent and interesting young man, then as an acquaintance who became a friend who became so much more.

Keigan becomes a senior in the next few weeks after his junior year ends.  For my first people-only photo project, I’ve agreed, with his sister Kenzie’s help, to photographically document his last year of high school, to help capture those memories for his family—but mostly for him.

Keigan driving (20130512_07236)

Although, honestly, it’s as much for me as it is anyone else.  We spend a great deal of time together, we talk, we go out, we laugh, we have fun, we care for each other in good times and bad.  Yet I know at the end of his high school years he will move on, venture out into the big bad world, take his life in the directions he wants and needs.  And in so doing, he will leave this place we call home, he will leave the world we live in, he will no longer be a daily part of my life.

So I want to capture those memories for his family, but I also want to capture them for me.  In just a year he has become essential to me and has made my life better and brighter.

Keigan stylin' (20130513_07341)

He’s the little brother I never had, the little brother I never knew I needed, the little brother who now represents so much joy and love and kinship.  He’s the little brother I gained in a year and he’s the little brother I will say goodbye to in another year.  Give or take.

Distance and absence will not change what we have.  I believe that sincerely, without question, sans hesitation.  But things will change; they always do.

Keigan looking hip (20130513_07346)

So for the next year I will share here some of the memories worth sharing, albeit I will keep the best for him and his family.  The photos and thoughts I share will be selected carefully while Denise, Kurt, Kenzie, Austin and Keigan hold the dearest closely for themselves.

This series is about a need fulfilled, a need I never knew I had, a need Keigan brought to light simply by being himself.  This series is about his last year in high school.

Keigan stylin' (20130513_07361)

This series is about a boy becoming a man.  This series is about someone facing the future.

This series is about family.

This series is about my brother.

Keigan taking his hat off (20130513_07366)

— — — — — — — — — —

Yes, I’m talking about Keigan from A boy and his cow (intro, part 1, part 2 & part 3), a series I need to finish.  Especially because I’ve photographed several shows since that first one, and most notably because he will continue showing with Bella throughout his senior year.  I promise I’ll bring that series up to date as quickly as I can so I can include their continuing adventures in this new series of posts.

No, this doesn’t mean I’ve given up on nature photos.  Trust me when I say I have so many images to share in that category that I don’t have to take another nature picture for years to come in order to keep the posts coming.  Though I promise to keep taking and sharing nature photos just as I’ve always done.  However, this series about Keigan and his family through his senior year will be as central as nature has always been.

Yes, I do have biological brothers—two older and one younger half-brother.  One has been lost to his own prejudices, one lives his life and visits when he can with his wife and kids, and the other has been gone for decades for reasons too complicated to explain.  It’s not that I never had a brother, but instead it’s because Keigan endeared himself to me for many reasons and became the little brother I wish I’d grown up with.

Yes, his family likewise became my extended family, each of whom I love dearly.  They’ve graciously welcomed me into their lives, trusted me with their home and themselves, allowed me to play a bit part on the stage of their world.

No, I don’t consider A boy and his cow my first foray into people photography.  It was a small step in that direction, but it centered on a person and an animal, not to mention the process of training, caring for, showing, and all the other verbs that come with participating in livestock competitions.  This senior year project is my first time ever focusing entirely on people.  I’ll be winging it, true, but I hope I learn from it and can make of it a permanent addition to my photography repertoire.

Calf cuteness

Thus far we’ve had five calves born here at the farm.  And boy howdy are they cute!  Full of verve and vigor, plenty of personality, more energy than we or their mothers can duplicate, and in general providing ample joy and laughs every day.

Close-up of a calf with his tongue sticking out (20130407_06166)

That’s Red Jr. less than two weeks old.  He was showing the paparazzi what he thought about the intrusion, but when I didn’t get the message, he turned up the volume.

Close-up of a calf with his tongue sticking out (20130407_06179)

I still didn’t get the message, but he didn’t seem to care anymore.

And if you’re wondering why he’s named Red Jr., well, here’s his mother, Red.

One of our cows named Red eating grass (20130315_05678)

Hence the name.

We also have this little guy.

Close-up of one of our calves (20130407_06160)

Nope, we haven’t named him yet.  I probably will even though I shouldn’t.

His mother is likewise nameless, though she certainly has personality.

Close-up of a cow as she investigates the camera (20130315_05689)

Or at least curiosity.  Which is cool by me.

And this is Braue.

Close-up of Braue, one of our calves, resting in the grass (20130407_06253)

The name should be obvious (from German).

We’re not sure of Braue’s gender yet.  Not that it’s an emergency.  Besides, we’ll figure it out soon enough.

As for his mother, her name is Whiteface, and she’s the reason the pasture isn’t safe for strangers.

One of our cows named Whiteface as she looks at me (20130315_05683)

In fact, Whiteface makes the pasture unsafe for my uncle who lives here.  She got her bad personality from her mother who was also dangerous.

One of our cows, Whiteface, standing over her calf, Braue (20130407_06205)

But that personality serves her well when she has a calf.  Trust me, you don’t want to mess with her or her calf if you value your life.  I can get close because I’m in the pasture many times each day and I’m the adopted Mr. Mom for one of the calves.  This has made me an honorary member of the herd.  Anyone else venturing into their territory is taking a big risk if Whiteface is around.

This is Sis.

One of our calves, Sis, holding a dead leaf in her mouth (20130321_05892)

She’s Bini’s twin sister.  Yes, a sister.  That photo was taken while she sampled a dead leaf, something she quickly discarded once she decided it wasn’t tasty.

One of our calves, Sis, drinking milk from her mother (20130320_05772)

That’s Sis feeding from her and Bini’s mother, Mom.  (Yes, we named her Mom because she’s a good mother.)  Unfortunately, having twins seemed to throw Mom’s body for a loop.  She wasn’t able to produce enough milk for even one calf (we’d already taken Bini away to raise him by hand).  Eventually we had to take Sis away from her and start feeding her by bottle.

The separation went well, albeit somewhat traumatic for both mother and calf.  But they’ve both adapted.  Sis has been held in the corral for almost two weeks while she acclimates to her new mother, my aunt.  Once she’s ready, we’ll move her back to the pasture with the herd and other calves.

Which brings us to the fifth calf, Bini.

My adopted calf Bini sleeping with his head on my lap (20130321_05924)

That’s him sleeping with his head on my lap.  There’s no question from his perspective—or the rest of the herd for that matter—about who his Mr. Mom is.

a life in progress