The Greek roots of the word photography translate as "writing with light." Welcome to my studio--a place to practice and illuminate good work using writing and photography.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Free hugging year 5

Hug connections

"Hey, buddy. Whatcha doin'?" the Philadelphia train station policeman barks as he comes into focus from the background, pointing at the "free hugs" sign. When you are a free hugger your attention isn't on the background. It's on the faces of people right in front of you. He learned in his first year hugging that you can tell when someone is about to hug you by their eye contact. He is sure this policeman will not hug him.

"I think there are a lot of people who can use a hug . . . and I like to give them," he reports for the 331st time in his 5-year love affair with free hugging.

"Let me tell ya," the cop begins. "We might be called the City of Brotherly Love, but we ain't." 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Simply black-eyed Susan

Native Americans used the roots of the black-eyed Susan in teas for worms and colds, in wash for sores, swelling and snakebites, and in elixirs for earaches. It has antimicrobial properties, and acts as a diuretic. A prolific perennial more effective than Echinacea, though seeds are poisonous and hairs can irritate the skin.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Morphing into prairie pastel

It takes more than lightening bolts and thunder cracks to fade an outsider's bright blue and yellow aura to muted prairie hues. It takes up to 3 frisky fawns frolicking at daybreak under a watchful mother's eye to channel the tart-to-sweet green glow of Idaho fescue, squirrel tail and blue bunch wheat grass; and perhaps a couple of glimpses into the cavernous mouth of a determined baby swallow.

Don't be impatient if it requires a double rainbow trellis stretched over barn and hillside; not a surprise if you must witness mirrored drops of yesterday's rain bulging in the shimmering light of daybreak to transfer halcyon gold radiance like prairie gumweed and goldenrod. Sometimes it takes the infusion of a great horned owl's icy stare from the perch in his clerestory. 


It's almost guaranteed that a blush pink glow can only be osmosed by finding prairie smoke at both ends of its season, on a single plant, impossible to decide if waxing or waning is more beautiful. That and an encounter with a clumsy yearling black bear foraging for wild currant on a nearby hillside, and for a moment staring back. 

And one may need to spy red skivvies and such hanging over a barbed wire fence near the tent after 4 days of downpour and soggy everything to reflect azureous blue glimmer, a small placeholder of hope in the relenting sky.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Thinking like a mama sparrow

Sh-sh-sh-sh. Hear that pounding little ones?
Footsteps, getting louder. 
Stay down, stay here, and stay quiet until I return my darlings.
There it is, just as I thought--a waffle-footed giant coming this way.
Over here you interloper, see me here on the path?
Let's play tag. I'll run, you try and catch me.
Wait! Why are you stopping?
This way you beast.
No, don't stop, I'm over here.
Yes, that's right, keep coming. This way!
Come along you monster. Yes, yes you're almost there.
That should be far enough. Time to fly.
Better luck next time giant.

What can we learn from our elders

Although attributing human characteristics to creatures is dangerous, one cannot help believe this magnificent osprey looks pissed. Eyes fixed on my every movement, wings the size of the sky, mouth open and squawking. I stumbled too close to its nest or its dinner or something. It turned on me from above, clearly in charge. The redness of its wings is a reflection of the intensity of the setting sun, not its actual coloring.

We have 3 pairs of ospreys that nest on the perimeter and fly over our urban greenway each June and July and fill the sky with reassuring Momma chirps to panicked baby cries for help.

The osprey species is at least 11 million years old, humans around 200,000 years. Ospreys live on every continent except Antarctica. They are known for their reversible toes that allow them to pluck fish from the water and clutch their catch across the sky to their lifelong half-time home. They also have closable nostrils for diving. In the Middle Ages, ospreys were believed to have magical powers, including the ability to mesmerize fish into giving up.

In the fall, young osprey fly south following the coast through Central America to northern South America, but they don't come back the following spring. They remain behind while their parents head north. If they survive the migration south, a year-and-a-half in South America by themselves, and a return flight north they will return home territory to attract a mate and build a nest.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lessons from the California Quail

If you could be eaten by snakes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, armadillos, rats, weasels, sqiurrels, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, dogs, cats, hogs, turkeys, crows, jays, hawks, owls, ants, and people you'd move fast too--up to 12 miles per hour on land, 58 miles per hour in the air (quick, short explosions).

. . . but California Quail 
  • stick together (for safety).
  • lay eggs in others' nests (a female can lay more than two dozen eggs)
  • come together in a covey after their families are formed
  • roost in a circular formation so all birds can see approaching danger
  • care for all the young in the covey (adults who do this live longer)
  • alternate calls (male and female) creating a tightly orchestrated pattern.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A hibernating bird?

The elusive Common Poorwill is an insectivore, feeding mainly on night-flying insects, especially moths and beetles, grasshoppers and flies. During the winter when insects become scarce, instead of migrating to a warmer climate, the Poorwill's metabolic rate drops enough for it to survive several weeks or months without eating. Its body temperature can drop as low as 40 degrees fahrenheit and its respiration can decrease up to 90%--a state called torpor. The extended periods the Poorwill is able to descend into torpor make it the only known bird to hibernate.