Reflecting on Refractions or How I Meet Myself At The Door

I’ve been cogitating, incubating, hatching, scrambling, meditating, and kicking my muse in the arse over his lack of inspiration. As all good researchers do these days I turned to Google for inspiration material.  All sources pointed to three necessary ways to create fractures. Water for submerging, or containers or vessels of water, colored paper, and flashlights. Macro photography of wee droplets of glycerine holding an exact copy of the image it sits near, actual or Photoshopped. One clever fellow used a terrific setup consisting of complex placement of objects, colored photo gels, and removing the lens from his camera. He obviously doesn’t live with a dog and three cats.

I was getting tired of ways to reflect refractions and still coming up short. I wanted to try the droplets, but alas, no flowers and no glycerine. I also felt, damn, it was nice the first time I saw it, but frankly, it doesn’t spin my squirrel cage anymore. I still wondered if I could capture detail in a REAL droplet.

Day three dawned with a hard freeze and heavy fog. Perfect weather for refractions. I waited two hours for the sun to pop through, hit the frost edges in my prairie, and pop those sparks into mind-blowing highlights. I drank a cup of coffee and linked to the computer channel, waiting for Operation Migration, and the Whooping Crane chicks to finally leave Marquette County. Their Ultralight went up and came down, cancelled, too choppy, big sigh. I may love this county, but I can’t imagine their crew hanging here for two weeks.

I drank another cup of coffee, lollygagged through Facebook, looked out the window and the frost had melted without the sun coming through! Well burn my butt, that idea trickled down the hill with the rest of the morning dew. I risked madness anyway, heck, I’m already a full bubble off – grabbed my camera and went out to try to find some drops still clinging to the leaves. I say, I got soggy jammy pants laying on my stomach trying to capture light through frost still clinging to my ground-cover evergreens. Some nice photos of leaves in the wet grass and dew drops, more bokeh than refraction.

Day four, did I tell you there was a challenge in this challenge? Today it rained! It poured! Had the light and opportunity presented itself I might of had a chance to get some photos shot through a rain-slopped windshield. I had my pocket camera set up to shoot video of my horse today. She decide to inspect the camera. Got great footage of the camera rolling off the pallet and bouncing across the sand before landing lens down. Of course, it was the type with the shutter on the outside. Always hated that shutter.

Lucky me, I still have my DSLR. I was getting soaked when I got home, but I wrapped my real camera in a plastic bag and went out back looking for the puny fairy droplets that cling to trees. I finally found a few with real refractions. I’m sure to shame myself among the gifted photographers that actually do macro photography. One day, I will catch a BIG refraction, after reflecting long and hard on how it’s accomplished. Late October in Wisconsin is not a very good time for refractions. I figure I’ve done enough reflecting on this subject for now. I’m off to ponder another subject, a good days rest. Thanks for stopping by.

Weekly Photo Challenge/Refractions

John Muir and the Three Little Where’s or Which Prairie When

Cuppants (Silphium perfoliatum) flow into a sea of yellow Anise-scented goldenrod (Solidago odora), and orange coneflowers (Rudbeckia fulgida).

Cuppants (Silphium perfoliatum) flow into a sea of yellow Anise-scented goldenrod (Solidago odora), and orange coneflowers (Rudbeckia fulgida).

Once upon a time, there was a tall man named John Muir.  He went for a walk through a prairie.  Pretty soon, he came upon a small familiar looking lake. He whistled and, when no one answered, he sat down.

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At the lake in the meadow, he spied three murky views into the future.  John was a quirky curious fellow.  He stared as the first hazy image became clearer.

Seedheads of Black-eyed Susans

Seedheads of Black-eyed Susans

“This image picture is so wrong!” he exclaimed. “Tis a very cold semblance to what I remember.”

Now on his knees, he gazed as the second vision cleared.

Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum)

Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum)

“This landscape is too contrived!” he said. “Nothing looks familiar to me.”

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As the last swirl in the lake became clear he exclaimed,  “Ah, this view is just right!”

Queen Anne's Lace - pre-bloom

Queen Anne’s Lace – pre-bloom

He happily sat back, crossed his hands behind his head, and recalled his boyhood.

Black-eyed Susan - skeletal remant of July

Black-eyed Susan – skeletal remnant of July

After seeing the three visions John was feeling a wee little sleepy.  Shuffling off to a hillside where he saw three trees, he leaned against the first tree to rest.

Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot) - after the bloom has faded

Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot) – after the bloom has faded

“This tree is too hard!” he exclaimed.

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So he leaned against the second tree.

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“This tree is too small!” he growled.

Prairie Cinquefoil

Prairie Cinquefoil

He chose the third tree, a young Bur oak, where he sighed and fell into a deep slumber while listened to the rustling dried leaves, sounding like far off tinkling of bells in a Buddhist temple.

Ratibida pinnata (Yellow Coneflower)

Ratibida pinnata (Yellow Coneflower)

As he was sleeping, three organization leaders came to discuss how to revive the worked-out land on which he slept.

Wind painting the Little Bluestem -Schizachyrium scoparium grass on the tall grass prairie

Wind painting the Little Bluestem -Schizachyrium scoparium grass on the tall grass prairie

Papa bear, who owned the largest portion of the land, decided it would be seventy-five percent native wild flowers, with a smidgen of sedges, and a portion of four native grasses, keeping the upland hardwoods, and a plan to open walking paths. This would become the John Muir County Park.

Wind painting with Big Bluestem grass, staple of the tall grass prairie

Wind painting with Big Bluestem grass, staple of the tall grass prairie

Mama bear, who owned the original homestead, the actual site of the Muir family house over looking the lake (NOTE: Private property no public access) felt the original prairie land would have been mostly grass with a smidgen of prairie flowers. They have maintained their property as predominately short grass prairie with appropriate prairie plants. I think John would easily recognize his front yard.

Wind painting the sedges and various grasses of the tall grass prairie

Wind painting the sedges and various grasses of the tall grass prairie

The federal government’s taken half the Muir family’s original homestead property and turned it into a tall grass prairie. Severed as cleanly by Wisconsin’s Marquette County Highway F, the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge, is a gem of a prairie reconstruction. Don’t visit Muir County Park and not cross the road to stand amid the waving grasses of a different kind of reconstructed environment.

Wind painting the tall grass prairie ...

Wind painting the tall grass prairie …

On a windy day you’ll understand why pioneer ancestors referred to their wagons as ‘prairie schooners’. The wind tosses waves of color, sunlight foams, and textures flow across my vision. Is it wind blowing past my ear or faint murmurs as John Muir and his boyhood friends scurry toward the distant river.

Wind painting a close in view of the neon, late August colors, of Big Bluestem prairie grass.

Wind painting a close in view of the neon, late August colors, of Big Bluestem prairie grass.

Would John Muir recognize any of the three landscapes? Which would look the most familiar to him? If an award were given for best adaptation, which of the three would receive it? I know which I prefer, and I know which I like least. Not that I would exclude any from my visits or my camera. All have something to discover, to teach, to preserve. Which to consider correct, I’ll leave for wiser minds than mine.

Wind painting the tall grass prairie dominated by Big bluestem, Turkeyfoot,  Indiangrass [Sorghastrum nutans], Switchgrass [Panicum virgatum], and Little Bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium]), and lively yellow of Solidago speciosa (Showy Goldenrod).

Wind painting the tall grass prairie dominated by Big bluestem, Turkeyfoot, Indiangrass [Sorghastrum nutans], Switchgrass [Panicum virgatum], and Little Bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium]), and lively yellow of Solidago speciosa (Showy Goldenrod).

(Unfortunately, I haven’t visited the private property – original home site in over ten years, so I have no current photos or permissions to post. You’ll have to trust me … it’s spectacular.)For information on where location and travel to Wisconsin’s John Muir country visit http://www.marquettenow.com/bike4trail.php

all photography copyrighted, all rights reserved, Charly Makray-Rice 2014
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Losing Ground and Lost in Place

For the second year in a row there has been a noticeable loss in the variety of our prairie plants. Our three native varieties of coneflowers disappeared entirely. Last year, only one bedraggled half-grown coneflower struggled for survival on ground where dozens had bloomed in past years. The Rattlesnake Masters are also gone, their blue-grey spiked globes hovering above waving grasses like minute alien aircraft. Perhaps it’s too early, but I can’t find my usual stand of Big Blue Stem prairie grass either. August may end up being the month we intentionally kill off half our prairie, necessary to replant and restore balance to our small re-creation of lost Wisconsin prairie. It’s been a very long time since I posted … I’d hit the blogger wall of indecision and over questioning; why was I doing this, what did I expect, and who am I? I’m back where I started, still haven’t answered any of those questions, but I have completed another set of photos to post. My site also looks different. I messed with my theme during my renewal and found I couldn’t upload my backup. Still working on THAT one! My apologies to those that I may have lost in the process … my links are also gone. Please contact me if you haven’t heard from me in a long time – I’m literally lost in WordPress land!

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OMG – I’m officially a senior citizen or Live long enough this happens

My mentor!

It took less than thirty seconds to realize I was now a senior citizen. Not that I didn’t already know that my birthday had put me into that category. Renewing my driver’s license this August and looking at my new seven-year mug shot firmly drove that home.

Each visit to my doctor’s office requires the explanation that I’m not paying my bill with Medicare part D. My husband’s younger than me by several years, still working, and I’m covered by his employer’s medical insurance plan. The law states they can’t throw me out of their coverage because of age. One added benefit of having married a younger man. I’m more Miss Kitty at 100 than cougar.

Last summer I reunited with a Ohio cousin I hadn’t seen since I was eleven. We met at the house of a third cousin who hadn’t seen the Ohio one since she five or so. Our paternal grandmothers’ were very close sisters, but the families drifted apart sometime after my grandfather died in 1956. That would have been shortly after the three families had last visited.

While looking through the old photo’s we had each brought, stories exchanges, genetic similarities, and attempts to trace our ancestors, my long lost Ohio cousin looked at me and said I resembled my mother. That was the aching proof that my youth was gone forever. For the majority of my life, I’d resembled my father. Until he’d reached his late sixties, my father was tall, lean and physically fit with a youthful face younger than his years. When he did age, it seemed to happen overnight.

My mother already appeared to be old by the age of thirty. I only remember her laughing once during her lifetime and there are no photos of her smiling. Until now, the only part of me I inherited from her was her over-sized, Belgian-French nose, which is a direct genetic link to my material grandfather. I’ve since been told by distant cousins that the ‘nose’ did appear in other branches of the family, but in mine it only landed, like a piece of Mount Rushmore, in the middle of my face.

I grew up with dad’s sorta roundish baby face, plump lips (before they were stylish), and a body built along the lines of a couple of six foot long 2″x 4″s nailed together. I was also thin before that was fashionable. I guess I was years ahead of the curve, or the ‘curve’ was years ahead of fashionable me!

When I was in my thirties I was turned away from bars with an legitimate drivers license. In my mid-forties people were still asking what college was I going to. Applying for jobs (back in day when it was still required to put your age on your application), I would be turned down for lying about my age. I’ve had a couple of friends, one who was a few years younger than me, that were asked numerous time if they were my mother (ouch).

There’s something about aging that seems to hit innocently from the young. Mine was the first time the bag boy at the grocer called me mam.  Possibly he was simply raised to have good manners, but I hadn’t been told in a couple of years, “no, you don’t look that old!”. Time was creeping up.

A few years ago I attended a photographers weekend getaway. It was the second year in a row I’d gone. The previous year I’d had a terrific time, lot’s of laughter, new friends to make, great photography. The second event seemed to drag on forever. Their was a lot less laughter, the weather sucked, people were not inclined to friendships, and the photographs were terrible.

One of the weekend organizers took candid shots of the breakaway groups during sessions and I saw myself in a couple of them. I was so shocked at how much I’d aged, how much time I’d spent trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear that I gave it all up. It would be the last time in my life I’d waste time trying to ‘look my best’. Since looking at those two photos I’ve only bothered to wear makeup once or twice a year. Now my hair is almost always in a ponytail. I’ve given up trying to battle gravity, genetics, and things that need fixing but aren’t in the budget.

Yesterday, a Tuesday, I drove north forty-five minutes to another town to shop for groceries.  Our normal shopping town had a very nice, high quality, meat, fish market and deli. Unfortunately it closed a few weeks ago. The next town north supplied some of his products so it became the logical place to replace some of the lost products. One of the disadvantages of rural living, nothing is convenient.

Wearing very old, worn hiking boots, over-sized wool socks with the tops slouched down, black leggings and a hooked parka left over from the days I was 45 pounds heavier, I grabbed a shopping cart and entered the store. I’m currently in my Buddy Holly stage of life. Trying to find glasses that look good on my lopsided face is a zero return so I’ve opted for plain black frames that darken in bright light. Of course, they never lighten either, so I figure wrinkles and bags under my eyes are pretty well hidden most of time. I recently cut my own bangs, and I’ve cut them crooked. Trying to correct the problem made it worse. Oh well, at my age, what does it matter. I had to untangle my pony tale from the snap on the back collar of my coat so most likely it looked like half a dozen dogs have just come from greeting one another in the park.

My husband wants me to wear a sign pinned to my back while shopping that reads, ‘medicated for your When I get oldown protection’. I tend to get frustrated with the people that park in the middle of narrow isles and ignore oncoming traffic. At least early on a Tuesday afternoon, there weren’t any children playing gotta have, gimme this, where did momma go, or the family of seven all shopping using one cart with separate check-outs in line. It actually was pretty simple. I actually laughed at the bellowing cow mooing over the store speakers in the product section as I entered. Why the cow moos in produce and not meats I’ll never understand. Is it related to manure, makes fertilizers, which grows healthy produce? Doubt it.

Shopping done and ready to check out I’m actually directed by a young man to a empty isle. I think this is a first for me. There’s even get a second person bagging my purchases. This is service. The cow is still mooing in produce. I’m telling the young man how pleased I’m am with my shopping experience and the wide variety of products they had available, that it will help with my love of Hungarian cooking. He explained his school trip to Austria last year. The first day they served his class Austrian food and he loved it. He was looking forward to experiencing more European cuisine. The second day he sat down to dinner and they were served chicken nuggets and french fries. The remainder of the class trip all they got to eat was American cafeteria  meals. He was so disappointed. Probably the only trip he’ll make in his life and he’ll only have one memorable meal.

As my grocery bill  totaled I noticed a credit popped up on the bottom of the screen. He tore off the receipt and handed it me. “Have a nice day,” I said to him and walked to my car. After placing the bags in the trunk I opened my wallet to look at the receipt and figure out what the credit was for. My regular grocery store states, “Amount saved today” – this read, “Senior Discount 5%”. OMG – I’d been caught in public, not even asked, blatantly exposed,  the best days are behind me, I qualify without asking … I’m over the hill!

Wikipedia defines Senior citizen as: It is used in general usage instead of traditional terms such as old personold-age pensioner, or elderly as a courtesy and to signify continuing relevance of and respect for this population group as “citizens” of society, of senior rank.

Autumn leaves or winter’s coming

Living enfolded within nature, I cut my season’s, pizza-like, into manageable, daily, slices of color. A grey day on Wednesday, sunny beige on Thursday, gentle and calming mauve on Friday. Dropping through the branches of the oak tree a sunbeam gently prods Smokey, our garden dragon peering out from his small rock cave. I stopped and gave him a pat on his worn concrete head. While some people seek God in a book or in a building, I believe I’m touched as he touches all his creations: gently prodding us to just hold to our best, to bend when the burden proves heavy, and to renew with each season. 

Looking for variations in light is second nature to me. I seek it in the underbrush and find it unexpectedly in a fern frond lit from below during a sunset. I’ve found sunlight temporarily imprisoned within opalescent beads strung to needles of a white pine after a gentle rain.  I was there when the rising sun turned an ordinary frosted leaf into a blood-red shield for the armory of the wee forest people. Light is a reverse chameleon, changing the environment instead of matching the scenery.

Aspens’ pay their dividends in late September, showering the earth with shimmering golden coins. In the marsh in the elbow of the Fox River,Tamaracks blaze bright yellow-orange candles, flaming against an azure October sky. In autumn, sunlight strengthens on the horizontal and landscapes clash beneath deep blue or rainy day drab and dreary gray.

Reds’ become umber, burgundy, and scarlet. Yellows’ turn to alloys, becoming gold and brass and copper. The colors of a languishing landscape define dimension. It’s like looking through binoculars; one flattened layer succeeds another; they appear lined up like a cardboard diorama with each successive layer growing smaller unto the horizon.

With winter coming, evening tugs down the shortened length of day. Faint glimmers’ of far-off galaxies sparkle, sending pale grey-blue notes to glitter on December’s coming snows. Between areas of light pollution, especially by moonlight, the frosted landscape becomes my grand idea of nature’s dining table. Set for special guests only, silver and edges of cut-crystal will gleam across the candle-lit prairie. I’ll pause and give thanks for the invitation to feast my eyes, while awaiting another year of autumn leaves.

Somewhere over the rainbow, horizon, pavement, whatever …

You must learn day by day, year by year to broaden your horizon. The more things you love, the more you are interested in, the more you enjoy, the more you are indignant about, the more you have left when anything happens.
Ethel Barrymore

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