184: Odds and ends

(Finch at the Cleveland Botanical Garden)

After a trip or a visit to a local attraction, I’m usually left with photos that just didn’t seem to fit into a post.  I think of them as odds and ends.  So, every now and then, I do an odds and ends post about nothing in particular.

(Chowing down.)

The problem, however, with a post about nothing in particular is that I have to come up with ways to insert some text in between the photos.  Well, okay.  I don’t have to.  But I like to.  To break things up a little.

I’m not sure what type of finches they have at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  They have quite a few of them in the Rainforest of Costa Rica glasshouse.  They are cheerful little birds, willing to pose for a minute or two.

(A plant in the Spiny Desert of Madagascar glasshouse.  Cleveland Botanical Garden.)

It’s another cold day here in the Bogs.  The high today is supposed to be somewhere around 29.  It’s hard to believe that we’re near the end of March and it’s still this cold.  It’s also sunny and clear, something I’m trying to be grateful for.

A look at the 10-day forecast shows there is no warm-up in our near future.  Spring has been put on hold.  Or on ice.

I guess we’ll have to find other ways to keep warm.

Today's view of the pond

The swallows are back.  When I was out on my walk this afternoon they were swooping and swirling over the pond.  It looks like a flying dance to me.  I stood for a while and watched.  Every now and then one of them would swoop close to me, as if checking me out.  I suspect I am not nearly as entertaining to them as they are to me.

A terrible photo of one of the swallows

I tried to photograph them but they are so fast that it is nearly impossible.  I used to think the same of dragonflies until I learned they have flight patterns.  Perhaps the same is true for the swallows.  I’ll have to take the time to sit out there one day and watch.  It was too cold for that today.

Ice formation in one of the boggy spots at the back of the pond

Remember way back to November when I posted the first signs of ice here in the Bogs?  I couldn’t remember when it was, either, so I looked.  Here it is, the bones of winter post.  It seems like it was a long time ago.

Blowin' in the wind

I guess that’s about it from the Bogs for today.  I’ll leave you with a couple of warmer scenes to help those of us still dealing with the cold.

Walk through the door...

... and out on to the beach.


181: Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

As you can tell from the post title, the Weekly Photo Challenge brought to us by The Daily Post is Spring.  Although winter still has a few tricks up its sleeve, the trees are starting to bud.  This photo is of the little fuzzy things on the old maple tree at the back of the pond.  It is a tree we are going to have to cut down eventually.  If a strong storm came along and knocked it over, roots and all, it could do some terrible damage to the dam of the pond.

(Springtime aura on the trees in the woods.)

The Answer

I forgot to give you all the answer to the mystery photo from my close up series.  Sorry about that.  Perhaps this will help:

It is a lobster.  Some of you were close with crab as your guess.  Good job.  🙂

Walking meditation

To find new things, take the path you took yesterday.  ~ John Burroughs

This morning, as I got caught up in trying to solve a problem with the computer, I briefly thought about how I could have spent that time meditating. Then I went on with what I was doing.

I thought about meditation again while I was out on my walk this afternoon, slowly making my way around the pond.

I am normally a fast walker.  It’s not a matter of wanting to get from point A to point B.  I usually walk fast because I see it as an opportunity to exercise, to raise my heart rate, to burn a few calories.  The camera, of course, often slows me down.  But in between the picture taking, I often hurry along as if I am late for something.

I’m not sure when it happened but, sometime since the start of my commitment to get outside every day, I slowed down.  Each step is taken with purpose, with awareness.  I no longer rush to get anywhere (or nowhere).

I arrive back at the house feeling the way I do after I’ve meditated.  That is to say, some days it’s good.  Some days it’s very good.  And other days, the monkey mind had its way and I’ll just have to try again tomorrow.

All walking is discovery.  On foot we take the time to see things whole.  ~ Hal Borland

I hear thunder rumbling in the distance.  I’ll take that as a sign I should wrap this up and move on to other things now.  We have a freezing rain advisory for tonight, but the predicted snow seems to have fallen off the radar.  Tomorrow, they say, will be sunny and cold.

179: Close up photography, vacation style

(Pelican hamming it up for the camera.)

When Scott first posted Assignment 12:  Close Up Photography, I was lucky enough to be in Florida where there was no snow, no ice, and plenty of color.

(Hibiscus in the sunlight)

My first thought, which might not be too surprising was:  Flowers!  There were, at the time (and still, no doubt), plenty of flowers blooming in Florida.  But as I walked along the beach I realized there are so many other things ready for their close ups.

(Do you know what this is?)

The rough winds and waves washed to shore a variety of things other than the usual shells and seaweed.  There were pieces of coral, both dead and alive, sponges, man ‘o wars, and even the guy pictured above.  (Figured it out yet?)

(Sea Fan Coral.)

I have a macro setting on my camera.  However, I don’t use it if I don’t have a tripod handy.  Or, in this case, if I’d rather not have my tripod washed away.  Most of the close ups I took on the beach were of things that were taken back out to sea almost as quickly as I could capture them with the camera.

(Dead coral.)

After a great deal of trial and error (because I still haven’t downloaded the manual for my camera, aka the easy way to learn), I found that the best way for me to get decent close ups with my camera when I’m not using a tripod is to put it on the action setting (which takes care of camera shake, to some degree) and zoom in on the object I want to photograph.

(Bits and pieces — shells and coral.)


If I want to get closer than the zoom allows, I crop and, if necessary, sharpen it up a bit.

(Red sea sponge (?) — cropped.)

(Red sea sponge (?) — cropped but not as much as in the previous photo.)

Someday I hope to have a camera that will allow me to try my hand (and eye) at true macro photography.  In the meantime, I am having fun experimenting with the equipment I have at hand.

(Man ‘O War tucked into some seaweed.)

Today’s Outdoor Adventures

You probably want to skip this part of the post if you’re just here for the photo assignment.  There won’t be much to see here anyhow.

Our weather here in the Bogs has reached that confusing, mixed-up stage we go through in spring (and in the fall).  One of the local weather people on television this morning announced, “Rain associated with a cold front moved through overnight.  The high today will be around 62.”

“Well,” I thought, “it wasn’t much of a cold front.”

She followed this announcement with the details for tomorrow’s forecast which included more rain, this time associated with a warm front.  The high will be 49.

Say what?

Seems to me that ought to be reversed.  But I’m not a meteorologist so what do I know?

Today I decided to skip the walk (since I spent time on the elliptical this morning).  Instead, I sat on the deck, soaked up some sun, and watched the grass grow.  Not very adventurous, I know.  But it was lovely, relaxing, and very meditative.

(One more man ‘o war.  Just because.)

176: Bird flying through a wave*

(Sunlight on the pond.)

Doesn’t that sound lovely?  Almost poetic.   I don’t have a bird flying through a wave, in a photo or otherwise.  This is just another search engine term doubling as a post title.  I do, however, have some waves and some birds.  You can put them together in your imagination and come up with a bird flying through a wave if you like.  Or, if you’re in the mood to think metaphorically, you can think of this post as a bird passing through a series of waves, touching on different experiences (subjects).  I don’t think I’ll be sticking to one subject today.

Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe.  It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.

~ Michael Strassfeld

While out for my walk yesterday, I took photos of the sunlight on the water.  I am fascinated with the way the light plays on water, as well as how the sparkles of light appear to the camera.

In the image above, for instance, the sunlight on the water reminds me of stars or little suns (which are stars, after all) in a wavy, dark sky.  If you look carefully you’ll find one of the little stars is heart shaped.  Did you find it?

I also like the texture of water in close-ups.  There are times when the camera makes it looks silky and soft even though I can see the wind is making it choppy with sharp waves.  It can also come out smooth as glass, rippled, or ruffled and ridged as if it is icing over.

(Rocks in a stream.)

For me, one of the fun things about photography is the discovery of how my camera interprets what I framed and captured.  It isn’t always what I think it will be, nor is it always what I thought I captured at the time.  Since I can’t see through the viewfinder all that well (well enough — I’m not blind but even with my glasses it’s sometimes not all that clear), and since the LED screen isn’t much better, I am frequently surprised when I upload my photos to the computer.  I love, love, love that element of surprise.  The surprises might not always be good surprises, but I chalk those up to learning experiences and enjoy them almost as much as the good surprises.

(Leaf preserved in the pond.)

It is a little like what happens when the snow and ice melt, and you finally get to see what’s under there, such as the little bits of green (the crocuses) I showed you when we had our first snowmelt of the season.  Or a leaf that has retained some of its color throughout the winter months as it floated under the ice, something I couldn’t see until the pond thawed.

(Male mallard standing guard near the pond.)

Another thing I find fascinating is the way my camera sometimes turns a photo into an almost painting-like image.  I often wonder if all cameras do this.  I never noticed it with my old camera.  I thought it was related to camera shake (blur), but I’ve seen it happen when I’ve used the tripod.  Not that the tripod is a guarantee there will be no shake, especially on a windy day.

(Last night’s moon.)

We had a beautiful evening here in the Bogs last night.  It was warm with a light breeze, the almost-full moon surrounded by a halo and giving off a watery light.  The exciting part was hearing the chorus of spring peepers for the first time this season, the males courting the females with their song.  I have never, ever seen a spring peeper.  If you’re unfamiliar with the spring peeper, you can learn a little about it and hear it here.  If I have time tonight, I’ll go out and see if I can record their sound on my own.

A blackbird in Florida

I’m posting early today because I’m going on an outing that will involve lots of picture taking, image making, photography — call it what you will.  I have another such outing planned for tomorrow, too.  One will be a feast for the senses.  The other will be a learning experience, as well as a tasty treat.  I’ll tell you all about both soon.  Tomorrow, I hope.

In the meantime, it’s time for this bird to fly away for a little while.  Happy Weekend!  😀

175: Wearin’ O’ the Green

Since we don’t have a lot of green here in the Bogs yet, and since I won’t be posting photos of myself wearing the color, I thought I’d bring you a few more photos from Florida.  In honor of the day and all.  The parrots, as you can see, wear green really well.

After seeing them the first time, I went back every day to see if they were still there.  Much to my delight, they were.  There must be something in the palm trees that the birds were enjoying as they were digging in with gusto, and then chattering about it.

I should have tried to catch them near sunset as I think the lighting would have been better, but we never seemed to be over that way at that time of day.

Outdoor Adventures in the Bogs

It is warm and sunny here today.  I’ve opened up a few windows and doors, and put laundry out on the line to dry.  This is the first time this year I’ve hung it outside.

The joyful little crocuses were smiling up at the sun this morning.  They are probably happy that the sun has been providing with us with lots of light today, and some colorful sunsets once in a while.  I’ve almost missed the sunsets because the time change has had me a bit confused, but I think I’m finally adjusting to it.  It’s wonderful to have it light so late in the day.  I realize that probably isn’t going over well in the morning, when we have to wait a little later for sunrise, but that will work itself out eventually.

(Yesterday’s sunset.)

I think this next sunset is from a day or two after coming home.  It’s been sitting in the camera, waiting, while I uploaded and sorted through some of the Florida shots.

Here is a reflection of the same sunset on the pond:

I love the colors.

I started my spring cleaning today.  I’d like to say I got off to a great start but I had to waste part of my morning dealing with another malware attack.  Arrrgh!  That sort of stuff is so frustrating, especially the amount of time involved in getting things fixed.  This one was odd in that it hit me when I clicked on a link to a blog I’ve been following for a while.  I subscribe through email and I clicked on the email link to visit the blog post and, perhaps, leave a comment.  Now I’m worried that I won’t be able to continue to visit new blog posts this way.

Frustrating.  As is my so-called virus protection.  Symantec, I am disappointed in you.  I update you every day.  I run a quick scan every morning.  Your job is to keep malware out, yet you have failed me twice.  I think it may be time for us to part ways.  I’m moving on to someone new, who will (I hope) do the utmost to protect my computer from such attacks.

173: Old Fort Lauderdale Village

Stranahan House

As we continued along on our water taxi tour, we passed the Stranahan House Museum.  It stands on its original location on the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale, nestled in between some of the modern high rises.  It was originally built as a trading post for settlers and the Seminole Indians, evolving into a post office, town hall, and community center.

It was built by Frank Stranahan of Vienna, Ohio.  He relocated to Florida in 1890 due to health reasons (the same reasons we give for leaving Ohio every winter, although it might be said that ours are mental health reasons, having grown weary of winter).  Frank married Ivy Julia Cromartie, the area’s first school teacher.  In 1906 the building became their personal residence, and remained that way until Ivy’s death in 1971.  Frank committed suicide during the Great Depression in 1929.

The structure was built with Dade County Pine, a hard old wood that is termite resistant.  Based on what our guide said and what I can (and cannot) find on the internet, Dade County Pine is not available anymore because the trees were all cut down and used.  But you can find houses in Florida — quite a few of them in Key West — built with it.

Just past the Stranahan House Museum, we passed the Broward County Jail (nicely located on the waterfront) and entered what our guide referred to as “Condo Canyon.”  According to our guide, this part of Fort Lauderdale wasn’t always as nice as it is now (hence the location of the jail).  The condos were built in an attempt to lure in working and middle class people.  That said, none of the condos are affordable for working and middle class people so apparently it failed in that regard.

We exited the water taxi at stop 11 (Las Olas Riverfront/Briny Pub) and promptly checked out Briny Pub for a little libation before taking a walk along the Riverwalk/Esplanade Park.

The drawbridge near the pub happened to be opened for a yacht coming through while we were quenching our thirst.  There seems to be a lot going on in this photo so you might want to click on it for the larger view (something you can do with any of the photos).

We left the pub and strolled along the Riverwalk to Old Fort Lauderdale Village where you will find four turn-of-the-20th-century buildings.  I’m not sure if the buildings were open to the public or not.  They didn’t appear to be.  We didn’t really have the time to check them out as it was getting pretty late in the day by the time we arrived here.

I’m not sure but I think this might be the 1905 Philemon Nathaniel Bryan House, a hollow concrete block home which now houses the administrative offices of the Fort Lauderdale History Center.

One cool cat

We met this unusual looking kitty here on our way back.  M was trying to see if it had six toes.  I thought he might be confusing the area with Key West and Hemingway’s cats, but it seems polydactyl or six-toed cats are most commonly found on the East Coast of the U.S. so I suppose it’s possible.  The cat’s eyes drew me in.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cat with eyes slanted that much.

1905 New River Inn

The 1905 New River Inn is the oldest remaining hotel building in Broward County.  It is also built of hollow concrete blocks, and featured 24 hotel rooms and a dining room.

From there we wandered over towards the Museum of Discovery & Science, where we had a look at the sun dial built into the grass and then wandered back to catch a water taxi that would take us back to where we started.

I ducked into this small park before we went back to the Riverwalk so I could have a look at the fountain/waterfall.

From the water taxi, near sunset

Our ride back was very entertaining.  In addition to the guide’s witty chatter, we were able to almost watch the sunset.  Unfortunately all that great light was wasted on yachts, hotels, and million dollar homes so I have no photos of beautifully lit (during the golden hour) trees or flowers.  Still, it was quite pretty.

So ends our water taxi tour.  I’ve read a few reviews of about it since coming home and they don’t make it sound good.  Our experience differs greatly from those bad reviews.  We enjoyed the chatter of the guides, the boats arrived on time, and we had no difficulties at all along the way.

Sources used for this post:

Today’s outdoor adventures

It’s raining here in the Bogs today.  I did get out and about in between the raindrops, but have no photos to share or big tales to tell.  It was mostly uneventful.

Today’s visitors to the pond include a pair of mallards, three hooded mergansers (one male and two females), and one great blue heron.


170: Flight

Dancing on the beach

M and I are home.  Safe and relatively sound.  We traveled from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee where we spent about 30 minutes before boarding another flight to Cleveland.  I am almost convinced the Universe wants me to fly as our flights were mostly smooth.  There was one big bump on the first leg of our journey that scared the heck out of me.  I am sorry to report that a noise grunted out in lieu of a terrified scream did escape me in spite of my efforts to control it.  I’ve never heard such a loud THUMP on a flight before (as if something hit the plane) and the fact that the pilot’s hurried announcement included an alarm sounding in the background was not a comfort.  Although the sound I made was not loud, I do wish I had refrained from making any sound at all because there were a couple of little girls seated nearby who were afraid of flying and I didn’t want to make things worse for them.  The flight attendants did such a great job of reassuring them at the beginning of the flight that they didn’t need some frightened old grandma making them scared again somewhere in the middle of it when they had relaxed.

Made for flight

I think it would be a wonderful thing to be able to board an airplane and act like all the normal people.  What is it like to take a seat, buckle up, have a conversation with a fellow traveler, read a book, eat a snack, sit back, and just relax while in flight?  Even the birds don’t have it that good.  As for me, I don’t relax on a flight.  Ever.  I tense, I grip, I do this weird OCD-like counting thing, and I keep the plane up in the air by sheer force of will.  If I relaxed and enjoyed myself, the plane might fall.

Kitesurfing on a windy day

During our first full day in Florida, while the winds were gusting at ridiculous speeds, there were a lot of kitesurfers (or kiteboarders) out taking full advantage of all that wind.

Sustained winds filling the windsock

As I watched and photographed some of the kitesurfers, I wondered if doing something like that might cure me of my fear of flying.

Up in the air

It looks like fun…


Flying through the waves

And good exercise as well.  It would also have an element of control.  Not complete control, of course, or I doubt the young guys out there flying around on their kiteboards would be much interested in the sport.  But there would certainly be a lot more personal control than there is when one is a passenger on an airplane.

It's easier if someone helps

So.  I’ve given up my secret.  It’s not being up in the air that bothers me half as much as the lack of control.  Should something go wrong, there is nothing I can do.  Gasp!  Worse yet, if I don’t like what’s going on during the flight, I can’t leave.  Not without a parachute, at any rate.  And can you imagine them letting me open a door to leave?  No, I think not.

I do like having my feet on the ground.  Or in the water and on the ground.  Giving me the name of a bird apparently didn’t inspire me to want to fly.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  There was a time, when I was much younger, when I did want to fly.  I almost joined the Air Force because I wanted to fly.

But life grounded me before I fully committed.   I did other things, and now I have this unexplained fear of flying that doesn’t seem to improve with experience.  Perhaps the Air Force is better off without me.

Coming into Cleveland, it was easy to see we were home.  It was cloudy with sloppy, half-melted snow on the ground.  We had a few quick sunny spells, but nothing worth donning sunglasses (or sunscreen…ha!).  It is warmer than I expected after viewing all the snow from above.  53 degrees on the drive home.

And now, after a good, long soak in the disco tub with the air jets going, chromotherapy lights flashing, and some bath salts labeled “Stress & Tension” (presumably the idea being they reduce stress and tension, not cause it), I’m relaxed and glad to be home.  It is, to me, one of the gifts of the fear of flying.  Instead of having post-vacation blues because I’ve reentered the cloudiness and sloppiness of the Bogs at the end of winter, I am grateful to be back on the ground.  Any ground.

Plus I get to sleep in my own bed tonight!

Palm tree and sunrise dreams

Having had to get up at 3:30 this morning, it’s gonna be an early night.  I’m just waiting for it to be at least close to late enough to fall into bed and off to sleep where I might, in my dreams, fly in a way that is fun.