Who spiked my punch?

It’s December 22nd, and I’m still buying and wrapping presents and trying to find the stockings to hang by the chimney with care.

I feel a little like this:

possibly the home of Clark Griswold’s other cousin?

There’s so much going on, just where do you focus?

And after periods of trying to whittle down my holiday to-do list, I … crash. Sort of like this:

Christmas afternoon 2009: Rex, at 14 weeks old, was a Christmas present

Only today it’s me instead of Betsy on the couch, and Rex now wears an ugly Christmas sweater. It’s the only thing he’ll wear. Ever.

When things get a little out of sorts for me, I often look to nature and/or photographs I took in New Mexico, particularly those showing the seasonal migration of sandhill cranes to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

In doing that this week, something occurred to me. I’ve never shown you images of these amazing birds in flight! And I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of them!

So here’s one of my favorite bird-in-flight images.

seasonal migration of Sandhill Cranes to New Mexico

Do you know what’s so great about this photograph? It’s that the birds separated out for me. That’s what you want when photographing flying birds. You don’t want them to overlap. Well, there’s that and a pleasing flight pattern. It really can be quite challenging …

Well, I really should get back to my to-do list. Thank you for following my blog.

Oh, and I almost forgot, from me and all those gentle giants out there in New Mexico, Season’s Greetings everyone!!!

Zane at 8

Last weekend we were treated to a return visit from our niece Robyn, her husband Thad, & their sons Zane (8) and Sam (4). They previously had come in April to run the 1/2 marathon and during the race, Don had taken the boys fishing. Before this visit, Robyn had texted that Zane and Sam wanted to go fishing again with Uncle Don.

So on Saturday morning, when Robyn and Thad left for a few hours to attend a teacher’s conference, Don and I (and Betsy who was home from Florence-weary South Carolina), headed to our neighborhood lake with fishing poles, crickets, and a cooler.

Now for those of you who think summer ends when school starts, think again. Today is actually the last official day of summer, and rest assured, it was a very summery day last Saturday morning in Nashville. Think sunny, humid, and 90+ degrees.

Unfortunately, early attempts at finding a fishing spot in the shade where the fish were biting failed. Exit Betsy.

“The boys” and Don were on a serious mission though and kept trying.  Here you see them, a little fatigued but still determined, halfway around the lake.

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No luck.

So they had no choice but to try the dam, which as you might tell from the image below, was in full sun and blazing hot.

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You gotta love Uncle Don’s Huck Finn style hat and brim.

Wait, did I just say bream?

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I did! 

As soon as Zane could cast his line, he was reeling in the bream, one right after the other. He told us his goal was to catch eight. He didn’t say why but it was clear he wasn’t leaving, no matter what, until he had caught eight.

But wait. What about ‘lil bro Sam? Well, about the time we got to the hot dam (I’ve always wanted to use that term in the proper context) I sensed Sam had about had it, so we found a picnic table under some shade trees about 20 yards away for a different kind of fish experience.

Well, it seems Sam loves to snack (“graze”) and after two juice boxes, 1/2 bag of goldfish and a bottle of water, things were starting to look up. Sam, in fact, was smiling up at me from under the table. So I grabbed my camera but didn’t like shooting through the table so I asked him if he could come back up.  He then assumed this pose:

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Okay, I have to admit, I really love this photograph. 

Sam and I continued to talk. I asked,

“So what was the favorite thing you did this summer?”

He answered, “swimming.”

I asked, “Do you know how to swim yet?”

He answered, “no, but Zane is teaching me.”

I said, “That’s nice. Zane is a great big brother, isn’t he?”

Sam nodded enthusiastically in agreement.

We went on to talk about Pokemon, Daniel the Tiger, and Paw Patrol.

Soon we heard Zane yell excitedly “I did it! I did it! I caught eight fish!” Sam and I went over to congratulate him.

Okay! Mission accomplished. Time to head home.

As we were walking back home, Don said he started comparing the day’s fishing to the fishing in April. When home, Don whispered to me, “Last spring, Sam caught 7 and Zane 3.”

I smiled.

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Bragging rights: Zane & fish #8

That little smile? Priceless.

Thanks for following my blog and sharing in one of our sweet end of summer memories.

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Do you have a favorite photograph?

Here’s one of mine.

_23A1711wIt was taken in March, 1953.  The teacher had taken her class of kindergarten students to Kentucky’s Blue Grass Airport to watch the airplanes fly in and out.  A photojournalist with the Lexington Herald took this picture as a feature for the newspaper.

Why is it one of my favorites?  Because the teacher is my mother and it’s a great environmental portrait.  My mother always loved children. Even when elderly and dementia prevented her from remembering familiar names or events, it was really not too surprising to walk into her room and find her singing or reciting a nursery rhyme to one or both of her very young great grandsons.  So I like this photograph because Mom is surrounded by children and looking happy.  It’s how I remember her looking at me as a child.  And I think the photographer achieved what all great portrait photographers strive to achieve.  He captured the essence or soul of his subject at that moment.  For me, that renders this otherwise 1950’s era photograph timeless.

What else do I like about it?  I like the leading lines of the fence and the kids hanging all over it.  I like that the girls are closest to the teacher and smiling for the camera while the boys, for the most part, are climbing every which way at the end of the fence and just being boys. They’re a mess.  I like the expressions on the girls’ faces and especially the shy grin on the girl closest to the camera.  I like all the coats, hats, bobby socks, Oxford shoes and even my Mom’s shoes.  I especially like that Mom is the only one pictured who is not wearing a hat, cap or scarf and her hair seems to be blowing freely in the wind.  To me that’s symbolic of the relative freedom in her life at that time.  Eight months later she would marry my dad and become a preacher’s wife.  While many good things came of that, I think it’s fair to say her hair never blew quite as freely again.

Mom died in November 2014, but I still think of her often and always on August 10th.  Today would be her 95th birthday.  Yes, 95th.  She was a little ahead of the curve in having a career first and then getting married and having children later in life.  She was years ahead of Sheryl Sandberg who penned the bestseller Lean In.  Look back at the photograph again.  Mom is “leaning in.”  

So … recently when attending a neighborhood happy hour social a new neighbor innocently asked, “What is your favorite photograph you’ve taken?”  His question caught me off guard and all of a sudden I had that sinking feeling you get when you’re interviewing for a job and the interviewer asks you a wide open question just to see how you respond.  It’s the “what’s your favorite book” question.  After thinking about my neighbor’s question for a minute, I answered, “I really can’t say there’s one photograph I’ve taken that I like more than all the rest.  Usually I have a group of favorites from each shoot, but there’s not one over-arching photograph I like better than all the rest.”  He seemed disappointed and we moved on to other subjects.

I’ve been thinking about my neighbor’s question and my response from time to time since.  In hindsight, I should have added, “but while I don’t have an all-time favorite photograph I’ve taken, I do have some favorite photographs – some I have taken and some others have taken.  One of my favorite photographs is of my mother who I loved very much.  One day in March 1953, a photojournalist I will never know took her picture …”

Do you have a favorite photograph?  I ask only because I’ve learned it’s worth taking a little time to think about.