Looking Up

When I was a child, full of exuberance and heady ideas and more than one shattered dream, my tiny Hungarian grandmother sat me on a painted kitchen chair and said in her heavily accented English, “When you’re feeling down, remember take time to look up, and when you’re feeling good, remember take time to look down”. Being born a city child, her words didn’t make much sense at the time. All I saw looking down were discarded cigarette butts, wads of chewing gum, and fly-blown doggie doo. The only thing I noticed when I looked up was my playmate’s mother framed in the second story window. Grandma was usually a wise woman, but in this looking request I really doubted her judgement.

It’s been over forty years since my grandmother passed away, and almost as long since I moved to rural Wisconsin. Back then, I didn’t know anything about country living, I just knew I couldn’t live another day in Chicago. There had to be a better way to live, but rural life often proved difficult. Low wages, few job choices, and frequent unemployment plagued me for several years. Being often unemployed left me a great deal of time to wander the woods beyond my tiny home, seeking solace in the quiet trees.

Depressed and frightened about my future, I listened to my grandmother’s voice as it echoed deep within my anxiety-ridden brain, “look up! ” Following its command, I saw two red- tailed hawks circling the air above me. I watched them glide along the thermals, spiraling ever smaller, finally becoming an infinitesimal speck gobbled by the greedy sunlight. My spirit soaring, I whispered to the sky my thanks to grandma.

I dallied away another day slowly driving along a narrow highway which cut through the swampy backwaters of Wisconsin’s cranberry bogs. As faster traffic whipped around me my little voice again whispered, “look!” In a long dead tree, like harbingers of better days, perched two magnificent bald eagles, sunlight shimmering on the ruffled feathers of their regal white crowns. I slowed my car, spellbound by their beauty, and I knew then that I would never again be alone, someone or something wonderful was always going to be with me.

Today,I knew what my grandmother had been asking of me. In good times or in bad, ahead of place and time, her wisdom was now appropriate in my life. With her unseen guidance I had discovered my first pale, blushing, wild rose hidden deep within spring’s new grass, within two inches of being crushed by my heavily booted foot. Later that morning, just beyond my own pointing nose, I watched a waif-like ruby-throated hummingbird flitting outside the kitchen window.

In August of my first year of discovery, perhaps drawn by the bright polish on my toenails, a monarch butterfly rested on my big toe for over an hour. Was I a rest stop on his long flight to Mexico, I wondered? By October, sitting lotus style in a late mown field, I had learned to hold my breath in gleeful anticipation of nature’s surprises. A chipmunk fearlessly scampered over and stood up to its full six-inch length. Was it issuing a challenge by coming so close, or was I in the path of his lair and he had simply not been paying attention to his surroundings. It didn’t matter, I was his audience, and he was my personal entertainment. If only I could only have read his mouse-like mind, this brave six inch black-nosed Schwarzenegger wanna-be.

One afternoon, a confused nuthatch flew down and actually perched for a brief moment on my shoulder, until my expelled breath blew him away. Several times, a field mouse has scampered across my living room rug and paused while I knelt to stroke its tiny back. It has happened so many times through the years and yet I still have no answer for it. They seem to be waiting patiently, pink nose scenting the air, while I slowly rise, grab a can, scoop them up and return them, unharmed to the yard. I like to think they know I’m here to help. I haven’t the heart to kill a mouse after stroking its back.

In November the Aurora Borealis finger-paints the midnight sky in sometimes soft, sometimes garish palettes, but they are no competition for the artistry of the dying storms of summer afternoons which dilute the colors of the setting sun into pale watercolor washes that eventually slide beneath the western horizon, pulling down a curtain of stars to twinkle till dawn.

Winter nature throws her heavy snows over the pine trees, draping laden boughs like melted candle-wax hardened over a raffia-wrapped Chianti bottle. With great snow-quilts she hushes the countryside for sleep. On rare December winter mornings following a foggy evening, I’ve found hoar-frost hugging bare twigs of willow and dead blades of goldenrod like silvered pipe-cleaners in the crisp bright air of mid-morning, stalagmite branches of tall trees held aloft like glistening fingers covered in diamond rings, teasing the value of the mere turquoise gem of the morning sky.

By choice, or by chance, country dwellers do have an advantage over city dwellers. When I take the time to look up and look down, there is usually something very beautiful awaiting my senses. Although grandmother is gone her wisdom and her priceless legacy lives on. She knew that the world was a sometimes difficult, but always beautiful place to be, if only we would all take a little extra time to look up and to look down.

Originally published in The Inditer.com c.1998. The Inditer was one of the first online ezines, long before blogs, newspapers, and what we now know as everyday life on the web. The entire collection of tne The Inditer is archived in the Library and Archives of Canada

Charly Makray-Rice Photography – Viewbug.com

 

Daily Post Photo Challenge: Looking Up

 

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Leave No Trail Behind

I was trying to sort out a two-word anagram while in half-sleep Sunday morning. Bouncing off the hollow space within my brain, two young girls ran about in their circa 1950’s church-best clothing. Full shirts, petticoats, ankle socks and patent leather shoes, small straw hats topped hair that curled to their shoulders. The anagram was floating away while the two girls pushed me forward and out of my dream. The imps reminded me of two dolls I’d played with as a child, one was the good girl, the other was the bitch.

In my slumber, I tried to arise from bed and find paper and pen to write out the two words. I’d figured out the spelling of the anagram and the solution. Of course, by the time I actually awoke the words were gone, along with the girls. The answer haunted me all day.

For three years I’ve been working my way through my husband’s family tree. His genealogy is extensive. While still a child, he’d been brought up on an oral tradition of stories and history passed along by his grandparents and the elders of his large family. His family roots were planted long before the extensive research available on the internet. When I started an Ancestory.com membership and began work on his family, those stories, did in fact, point to the very places in his family’s oral traditions. They had kept the stories alive for more than four centuries. Geneology is my addiction. I’m heavily invested in all types of research. Once uncovered, facts are to proven. Additional research, outside of Ancestory.com is opened, with scribbled penmanship, notebooks, outlines, beginnings, endings and do-overs. Researched notables and historic side adventures diagramed.

I time-traveled early 3,000 years into the past and wondered what did these people talk about, dream about, wonder over. Did they even think they would leave a legacy that centuries into the future hundreds, thousands, of their descendants would be curious about? Did they know they were creating historical moments in time?  Were they capable of knowing there would be such a thing in the future as the study of  their history?

The past has become more important to me than the present. My husband’s past is my present. My past only extends to my grandparents. They left no photographs, no notes, no names. With extensive research I’ve only managed to uncover the names of the towns they were born in and their birth dates. They’re from Eastern Europe, ravaged by wars, small villages, records lost or not yet uncovered and posted online. I have an emotional connection to their past but I can’t access it. Although I’ve tried to find it. It remains illusive. I long to know these long gone people who can’t possibly connect with me. In knowing their past I  find comfort from my lack of acceptance with my own present.

In real life, my past was closed down, pulled from me, taken away, or unattainable. My life, as that of my own family genealogy, mirrors a life of no trail left behind. Less than ten photographs of me exist prior to me by the age of fifty. I remember each one, even those not in my possession. I don’t even appear in my high school year book. Since then there are a few photos of my back, a couple of carefully crafted telephoto shots, some highly Photoshopped pics, and a couple of professional engagment photographs.

I have no problem with the difficulty the two dream girls faced attempting to pull me into the present. It’s been several years since I lived in the present. The past couple of years I’ve fallen even deeper into the past, distancing myself from any possibility of leaving a legacy of accomplishment in anything.

Unlike the genealogical deep roots of my husband’s family tree, my family planted seeds of maladjustment that rooted firm and unshakable. Two years ago I set my goal to give one last shot at hitting my life’s target goals. When the deadline passed a year ago, I wavered and let myself ride through it – knowing nothing was going to develop. Midway through last year I started this blog.  I found a way to use a small bit of my old talents, brush off my rusty skills, and push on. When the past year ended, after thirteen years, I closed my business website and its Facebook page. I’d finally accepted that a family clash a few years ago, that ended my  photography business and its income, had  also ended any hope for a future as a photographer.

My legacy is to always lose what I’ve worked towards. There has always been someone stronger, wealthier, more popular, or connected, to shut me out, down, steal, lie, or ignore my contributions. I’m terrified of being noticed, acknowledged, having nothing to say. I’ve become an empty vessel,  a waif unto myself.  I’m further down the trail by learning how to cover my tracks. No one will know I passed this way. I will leave no trail behind. I will move silently among the stream of internet transfer information and only that trail could show I actually existed. It will be rare indeed that anyone will ever seek it out and follow it back to it’s source.

Daily Prompt: Don’t you Forget About Me

Please Fence Them In

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Give me land

lots of land

under starry skies above

keep your dogs

and your cats

in your homes

and your yards

please fence them in

While I ponder

why my garden

once again

fails to thrive

the tartar-yellowed dog

dully, duly, dutifully

crosses from his pristine yard

to mark his pissted cross in mine

what say you

when spring comes

snow leaves

ice melts

on leaves

piles

November December January

February and March

his gifts to me

will be returned to sender

Daily Prompt: Good Fences? 

Someone Needs a Good Ass Whooping

The Whooping Crane is the third most endangered bird in North America. A mere average of 380 birds remain alive in the wild today. About a hundred are reintroduced birds that migrate between Wisconsin and Alabama or Florida. The majority are a natural flock that summers in Canada and winters on the coast of Texas.

The most malevolent killer of these stately, five-foot tall, white birds with their seven-foot wingspan, are not bobcats, alligators, or bears, but humans with guns. The birds aren’t predators, they pose no harm to domestic animals or farm crops. The birds spend most of their time foraging in wetlands and the edges of fields. In Kentucky, two more Whooping Cranes have been murdered.

Historically they were hunted for their for their brilliant white feathers. Today they’re killed for sport or plain ass stupidity. In 1950 there were less than 50 alive in the entire United States. Sixty-four years later not many more are around. They don’t breed every year like most birds. They raise their young for the first year. They mate for life. The environment today presents new dangers. Power lines, pesticides and poisons, loss of habitat, danger from oil spills and water shortages. The easier access of man to smaller territories inhabited by Whooping Cranes.

When cranes fly, they’ll catch a thermal and rise like a spirit into the heavens, gone from view within the tenth of a second used to measure who wins a race. Those lucky few that watch the near illusion are left standing in awe, wondering if they’ve actually seen a Whooping Crane or an miracle.

I’ve watched a Whooping Crane glide along the tree tops, following the path of a small creek through a protected wetland. Creeping along a highway shoulder at 35 miles an hour, I saw that brilliant white  bird from more than a mile in the distance. It disappeared when it came to ground after the third mile. Although I turned down the first road to the left, I  had no luck finding it, although, its distinctive whoop could be heard from the marsh.

Listen to the unique call of two Texas Whooping Cranes …

Approximately mid-March in Wisconsin, I open the bedroom and porch windows. I do it so I can listen for the sound of birds returning north. Canada Geese arrive first, followed by the mated pair of Sandhill Cranes that return to the bog behind our home. When the neighborhood hooking settles down, it’s time to separate the Sandhills from the possible Whooping Cranes. They might arrive separately, or they might arrive together. It depends. These are still young birds, they haven’t established permanent territories or picked out lifetime mates.

A few years ago, a young female Whooper broke ranks during the Florida UltraLite migration and flew off with a flock of Sandhill Cranes. When she returned, she was leading the flock, was the loudest, and the Sandhill Cranes were following her. I didn’t see them. We live between a hill and the Fox River  they were navigating over. I certainly heard them.

That same year, a single bird flew over and disappeared for the entire summer. Again, I heard him but couldn’t see him. When I heard he was missing, i suspected where he might be, but there was no way I could get in there. Eventually, in late summer, early autumn, he was located by an air search in the expected area. He’s well and with the flock in Alabama this winter.

Not so with the couple of birds that decided Kentucky would be a good place to mate and raise a family. They nested and produced their first egg this year. It was the first egg from the White River Marsh birds. It wasn’t viable, but it was a hopeful sign. Our birds had learned well, they were acting like wild birds, no attachment to humans, doing what they were trained to do. Go, leave, live naturally in the wetlands of the eastern fly-way.

In late November, someone decided it would be fun to shoot two Whooping Cranes wintering in Kentucky. Our magnificent Wisconsin birds have been murdered.  Please help us find the killer or killers of our young birds.

Living twenty miles from Operation Migration’s Whooping Crane summer site, makes the killing of these birds, very personal  We must find this person, or persons and turn them over for investigation and prosecution.  This was a joy killing, a criminal offence covered by the Federal Endangered Species Act. The reward recently doubled to $15,000. Someone needs a good ass whooping for what they’ve done. Please share this blog and pass the word along.

The Today Show updated and rebroadcast their recent feature on Operation Migration and the Wisconsin to Florida flock to include the killing and reward for our two birds.

Watch the NBC Today Show visit Operation Migration in Wisconsin…

http://www.today.com/video/today/54174987

Read the Kentucky Courier Journal about the national reward…

http://blogs.courier-journal.com/watchdogearth/2014/01/24/reward-for-killed-cranes-doubles/

Please get the word out and HELP. Thank You.

Link

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Bites and Bits

FW270122OOblog

The only certainty in life in that all electronic devices have a beginning and an end. Mine have had productive, if not always sensible lives. When not flailing around attempting to create a photographic legacy, I wandered for hundreds of hours through imaginary worlds of online gaming. Friends and family eventually moved on to other games that didn’t interest me. Exploring solo, lost in unfamiliar lands, hoards of monsters and zombies quickly swallowed me far too often for my comfort levels. I parked my winged dragon, lion, and flying horse and cancelled my monthly subscription.

I don’t remember how I discovered Korean dramas. I know I quickly became addicted to the genre preferring it over American television. I muddled through the learning curve until  watching while reading sub-titles became second nature. The first one I watched was an epic, action spy adventure, ‘Iris’. In the best of the Bond flicks, it offered up tension, thrills, action, international sets and the ever-present love-hate relationships of nuclear warfare. I followed it with a vast historical sweep with 152 episodes. Once bit by the altered reality of Asian media, I settled into a love affair with Kdramas  it was the average sixteen episodes that kept me coming back for more. It felt like settling down to a good book – there was a beginning and an end. I watched all the episodes on my laptop.

My working electronic devices currently number two, my laptop and my dumb phone. My desktop computer died a couple of years ago. I bought a used backup identical to my current laptop a couple of years ago because it had Windows 7 installed. An upgrade from the safe, sane but outdated Windows XP. I wanted  the spare to hook up to my desk monitor for photo processing. Unfortunately, being eight years old it lacked the capability to process the bits of larger photo size now available. The stress of too many attempts and overloads blew out the hard drive. Two dead computers on my desk and a drooling vulture circling overhead.

Last summer I purchased new batteries for both laptops. The batteries have a 3 year life span. Of course, Friday, the battery on this laptop died. I figured 3 years doesn’t take into consideration that an idiot like me is chewing away at something 18 hours a day. I think I used up those 3 years in the past six months. I also burned out one of the two identical chargers I bought at the same time.

The hard drive on this computer is making grinding noises like a chainsaw ripping through a frozen log. This may very well be the last posting I get out of this sweet reliable, near vintage, laptop. They don’t make laptops like this anymore. Well, maybe they do, but not in my budget range. It’s a Dell Precision M90 and all the parts are replaceable. I figure between the twin laptops, it’s possible, I might be able to cobble one that works.

I’m running Windows XP on this laptop and, as of January 1, everything started to go wrong. I’ve been locked out of Facebook! I can click on my image, but I’m thrown over to the log in page, where it brings up my alternate email address. When I enter my correct information it throws me out again. It also won’t let me log out. I was using my favorite standard Facebook format until I ordered a smaller Chromebook on January 1 to replace this ‘puter for blogging. My Facebook page immediately switched to the Chrome format with no input from me. ‘pears the Chrome Facebook is incompatible with XP.

My homepage also popped up with recommended Chrome downloads and I’m getting Chrome notifications in my email. I know I can’t email photos from XP to Win 7 or Win 8. They show up looking like a virus. This hiccup shouldn’t be a surprise.

The instant I hit the place order button Google fed a big cookie  to my computer which seems to have stopped the stomach grinding noise that signaled approaching death. I use do not track, delete history, all the protection modules on my computer. I’m beginning to realize nothing is private, certainly not our computer use.

While the rest of the month unfolds I’ll be learning how to process photos without my reliable Photoshop Plugins from OnOneSoftware. In the meantime, a friend has given us his desktop, which has plenty of photo and game processing capability, if we can figure out why it crashes after twenty minutes. It goes into the shop next week and I’m hoping it’s repairable, and that the repair is affordable.

With the computer vulture hanging around I shoo, fly, git, my arms toward the sky and hope he’s had his last feeding frenzy at my home. I’m starting to hope there is a possibility that last year’s goals might be attainable this year.

… and having typed that last sentence I realize a lack of confidence peppers my prose – ‘starting to hope’, ‘there is a possibility’, ‘last year’s goals’, ‘might be’ …  I need to take a bite out of my insecurities and begin work on my confidence building as well as my photography goals.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning
Video

If I had a time machine or woulda, coulda, shoulda

Dr. Evermore's Forevertron

Ah, how interesting blogging becomes when patterns develop. The post I added yesterday, ‘Shut up, or communicate, please’ was so far off my radar and by far my most embarrassing and outlandish work ever. Had I waited a few hours I could woven it into today’s Daily Prompt, hit the publish button, and somewhat skillfully combined the two and been done with it. Too late.  I’ll  hope my readers release me from my rant and understand pure vexation. My second choice would be a quick trip south to Sauk City, Wisconsin to hurl myself at Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron and hope for a short back-flip into Friday. That would be fantastical blogging but would I be writing in past tense?

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/daily-prompt-free/

Shut up or communicate, please

My father taught me focused driving on the streets of Chicago with a single statement that still sticks fifty years later. “Always drive as if the OTHER GUY IS DRUNK!” That was decades before I’d heard the term defensive driving course. I’ve amended that statement since the ubiquitous use of cellphones and texting while driving.  “Always drive as if the other person is DRUNK, DEAF, AND BLIND! No talking was allowed while we were in traffic.  Totally pay attention, shut up and drive.

Fifty years later, robo-phone zombies attempt to cross streets, push shopping carts, park cars, eat in restaurants, travel, and download and play games designed for jogging or walking and cheat death by driving. I think cell phones actually make more sense as  wristwatches.  Two things could be done at once while talking.  Think of a hurried upper management office filler, stuffing their face with a hot Cinnabon and talking simultaneously with a full mouth. You could plan that week long visit with your mother-in-law while running short on time and drying your hair on the high setting.

Certain people tend to talk with their hands.  If the phone could also transmit video the person receiving the call could choose to cut it short, or remember to take daily Dramamine. I think it would be convenient for dog owners. The loved one on the other end could share in the joy of Spuds repeated barking while waiting for the shush of the successful Frisbee fling in a November gale.

Go ahead, scratch your face, itch your scalp, pick your nose, boil water, wave to the neighbors and keep on talking. Billions upon billions of words – invisible symbols of language hanging in cyberspace waiting for an electronic signal to coalesce into communication, or numbing mindless chatter.

No video yet but getting closer.

Why am I so off center from a nature blog and into a rant? We’re in the middle of having our house re-roofed. I mean a total rebuild of our four-seasons room and a portion of the house roof. The damaged structure has already been removed and is open to the sky. Going on four weeks, four voice-mails, and nine emails over schedule. Finally, one subcontractor showed up a week ago. I could tell something was wrong. The two guys that were working the roof were jumpy, they didn’t want the whip around. This week we got some rain and 4-1/2 hours work our of the two regular guys, plus a visit from the whip who talked to our insurance adjuster, and then disappeared again.

During the entire process I’ve been stressing communication, communication, communication. Just call me and let me know what is going on, are the contractors coming out, not coming out, what’s the hold up, where are we going?

These are not the only people I’ve scheduled with this week that were supposed to follow up and failed. All this advanced technology, instant communication, wasted time,  while society remains firmly attached to cell phones, but accomplishes nothing. Is the cell phone the new excuse for malingering, hiding, or wasting employers time and money?

What about a lack of social skills? People are actually walking around pretending to talk into silent phones simply because they don’t want to appear out of place or unwanted. Come on, how many people does it really take to manage our modern lives on a daily basis. How many humans are being micro-managed to death via constant contact through smart phones.

Personally, I preferred the old way.  I  called a company and a live person answered the call. Someone cared about the company image, product, or my concern. If this really is progress. I really want a watch phone able to record and transmit video.  I want someone to finally answer their smart phone with video capability when I call. I want them to see which part of my anatomy is giving a shit because they can’t shut up or communicate, PLEASE!