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

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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.

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Anxiety, life’s surprises, and remembering to exhale

I suffer from Intention Deficit Disorder. The best of plans fall short, come off half-baked, or if successful, the credit always goes to someone else.  After the bottom fell out of the fortieth rebuild on my life a few years ago, I’ve been figuratively sitting in the last row of the theater watching life pass by. Sighing a lot, I’ve noticed a nasal whistle-like sound as I exhale. I was born into a stress filled life and have never been able to shake it.

I wake to a belly tightened by adrenaline and force myself to inhale. Anxiety causes difficulty breathing. Most times I’m not aware I’m holding my breath as if I were trying to slow the forward forces of life while I figure out my next do-over. My last ‘life’ ship took ten years to build and sank with several irreplaceable portions within four short months.

After a five-year dry land existence. I’m building a new ship. Most likely. this one will always be a leaky work in progress. Perhaps I’m just feeling time running short.  I’ve lost competitive and marketable skills.  Creatively and financially when something goes kaput it’s a long time before a replacement comes along. The strength to move obstacles just doesn’t exist.

As change creeps in, time heals, even if the scars remain. I’m gradually learning it’s necessary to inhale and exhale even during times of tension. A boat will break its bonds if kept tight at all times.  Line allowed to give against the pressure of the water will keep the boat in place.

I stood in the rain on a rural highway bridge over the Fox River in Marquette County, Wisconsin. My husband waited patiently in the car while the property owner looked on (I told him I envied his bit of heaven).  I took a few pics with my pocket camera. When I processed the wetlands photos this one left me breathless.  Please leave a few words and let me know, did you inhale or exhale?

SAM_2305OOblog

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/daily-prompt-safety/

WHAT IF …

Wild Lupines at Summerton Blog

Wild Lupines at Summerton Blog

 

I wanted to step back in time a hundred years and visit a couple of wetlands before two families of farmers parted the tall sawgrass like a Saturday haircut and walked behind a couple of oxen bought on the cheap from departing sodbusters, and butchered as stringy beef steak after the first plowing.

Summerton Bog

A 1919 Plat Map of Marquette County, Wisconsin shows land allotted to a variety of Summerton kin, Frank, William, Milford and J.L. At least the bog kept the surname of, if not, the original land owning family, most likely the one that contributed the most to the Nature Conservancy. It’s not a difficult location to find, but like many smaller Nature Conservancy sites parking is minimal and not well maintained. Parking was one narrow mowed down slope site with no turnaround.

Summerton Bog

I’d walked the bog before, in winter, when I could clearly see the artesian springs bubbling to the surface where dead sedges and saw grasses draped over on themselves like laundry fallen off the clotheslines. In late spring the tallest grasses were tickled by rivulets, most lush and nutrient fed by the constant flow of water. I was homo-stompus trying not to blunder through sedges dressing me to mid-thigh like an inverse kilt. Carefully placing alternating ugly size eleven black rubber boots, (this was no place for America’s Top Model), only thick corrugated soles lapped the tannic bronze water seeping through last year’s decaying mounds.

Summerton Bog

In mid-step I flashed back to a misadventure into another bog where my heel wouldn’t sink a couple of inches every few feet and bounce along for another step. Unreasonable fears of encountering a human-eating bog-thrasher flipped my anxiety into overdrive and I hurried back to Summerton’s entrance. My original plan was to photograph the bog’s wildflowers, not to set a new record for trail gaiting through a wetland. As I sped past, colors’ kissed their neighbors with bravado and laughed in the breeze. My eyes were weaving patterns from shades of grasses and textures from highlights and shadows. Amazing tidbits of prairie and bog flowers, ‘Made in the USA’, rich colors and sweet memories were simply Splenda in the grass. And even some of the grasses are invasive!

The original flora I was seeking no longer existed in this place, at this time in late spring. Perhaps only one flower, the Wild Lupine, photographed on this trip was a native plant. The rest were European-American wildflowers, originally planted by settlers in their gardens and now common and sometimes invasive escapees on bogs and prairies. From my conjured step back in time I was able to bring forward several of the native grasses and sedges, woodlands, and the artesian springs. Perhaps at other times during the year a greater range of native perennials will put in an appearance.

Closer to my heart, what if the bog out back of our home was still the small lake local Natives gathered wild rice in fall? Now it’s a silted over sedge bog, with two narrow trickles of water running through it, well on the way to joining encroaching woodlands. Not even a hint of wild rice remains.

An unknown farmer lived on this land before us. Late one day in the 1930’s, having finishing his upper field he started driving his tractor toward his lower work across the bog. That tractor had been fairly new, still a nice hunting shade of bright orange. He steered the ironed wheeled behemoth down the backside of the wee slippery slope one moist day when the monster gulped and the tractor entered the bog never to plow again. The deep, acidic, muck won every attempt to wrestle that tractor free. The tractor would celebrate more than seventy years of mockery in the war over man versus wetlands.

Long into the future, an old codger with a long memory and a hankering to rebuild a piece of his youth showed up with a couple of husky young friends and two strong, late model John Deere tractors. They started early one morning with a backhoe, three men on shovels, and two tractors hitched together. Just about dusk they finally uncorked the old tractor loaded in onto a trailer and hauled it off. It was in amazing shape for having been digested by Moby Bog for over seventy years. Bogs must have a very slow metabolism.

The following spring I went looking for a few worthy photos and noticed a beautiful group of Marsh Marigolds growing in a shallow pool of water where the old tractor had been. Carefully stepping through the still black water that reflected the marigolds and with one wrong step I was stuck above the knee in the bog with my left foot pointed southeast and the corresponding hip rotated north seeking terra firma. Like quicksand, when I tried to pull my foot out it went in deeper. Somehow I managed to save the other foot and the camera.

Eventually my husband noticed I didn’t return to the house and found me out back. After laughing himself silly, he tossed me a stick and I was encouraged to lean my weight on it and pull myself up and out. However, it was, literally, a stick. Being heftier than the catbird chirping in the Red-twig Dogwoods at my back, I crumpled back into the oily morass. My shit-kicker boot was rapidly filling with a thick peaty ooze as my foot slid ever farther toward the next town beyond us or in my mind, rapidly took aim at my chin and my unwelcome meal of mud pie and inevitable extinction.

Hubby, the woodworker, finally sorted through his collection of fine lumber, found a satisfactory slab to bear my weight and gave an accurate heave-ho across the sides of the pit from hell. At last I parked my oh-so-weary ass and cocked my free leg sideways above the clutches of the muck and sobbed. The sinister bog was still chewing away at my foot, trying to pull me into its ancient mire of extinct mammoths, bison herds, lost deer, and the old iron-tired tractor that had been stuck since the early 1930’s.

Devising several inspired contortions not shown in the Kama Sutra I finally managed to remove my leg with the foot intact. I swear the damn bog belched as it swallowed my rubber barn boot and soggy sock. In early September, when the morning mist comes on early, just before the sun rises, I still imagine the old tractor’s lonely farmer cussing up a blue mist over the bog and through the trees that have overgrown his fields. All these years I assumed the bog only got his tractor.

Swamp Thang

Swamp Thang

Lawn Mower Man

Several years ago an elderly man in Baraboo, Wisconsin was hauled into court on criminal trespass charges. He had been previously warned to cease and desist his actions, but he continued to ignore the Sheriff’s warnings. His violation? After his weekly mowing of his own five acre lot he moved on to the neighboring properties and mowed their lawns. We’re all familiar with criminals who commit a crime and cut and run; this is the only instance I could find of anyone being charged with only cut and run.

I have a lawn mower man for a neighbor now. Fortunately, he stops short of mowing my property, but only by a quarter-inch at most. He jealously guards the property line which, over the years, has become quite indistinct. Twenty years ago it was a couple of young trees which are now giants. He calculates from our side of the trees’ edge and I figure that mid-tree width would be most proper. Of course, our use of the property ends a good ten feet inside the trees but that’s just too close for his glazed eyes – so we silently bear his daily scrutiny of us from either the window over his kitchen sink or slowly simmering in the doorway of his distant barn.

He’s up thrice weekly by six a.m., sharpening the mower blades and testing the grass for moisture. I can always spot Old Will, like Peanuts Pig Pen, in a massive cloud of churning dust captured within a miasma of oily motor exhaust. As he lowers his wide overall-clad buttocks into the steel saddle he whips the throttle into a frenzy and dreams of the days past when his rust-colored steed could gallop across his two-acre lawn. Now it just wheezes and coughs like a foundered old plow horse.

This week Old Will sprung for a new hat – a shiny corn-colored straw twenty-gallon pseudo Stetson, minus a hatband. I figure that he’ll retrieve the tail from the first chipmunk he grinds into buzzard-bait and dangle it over the back of his hat for flair. Old Will likes flair. He’s a proud man and God forbid the visitor that mentions that he missed a bit of grass. His grandson did that last month and Old Will sent him out to the back forty to retrieve the mare that hasn’t been ridden in ten years, but she got papers that prove she’s registered, by gum, and give the old horse a treat – let her eat grass on the lawn to show what a generous, benevolent man, is Old Will. It took his grandson an hour and twenty minutes to snare the snakey mare and being innocent of horses he had himself a frustrating time. But then, grandpa knew it would go slow. There was a reason that horse hasn’t been ridden in ten years.

As I write this essay the lawn mower man dips into the road ditch and clips vagrant green slips from the verge. I turn my head towards the road as I hear gravel being ground into sand, and I watch as Old Will dives into the grass sea until only the tip of his yellow hat bobs through the waves of two-inch deep road drift. He emerges gasping from the ditch and heads for the three-year old tree-stump he’s been trying to have our landlord remove . It bulges above his smooth landscape, wayward tiger lilies and thistles crowd both the stumps old splines and Old Will’s mindscape. He hates its presence, its reminder that he can’t tame the western lot of his neighbor, and that he can’t control the people outside his own family.

Six hours later, six long hours of mower noise, and get the hell outa here, damn dog, and fumes, and grinding, and dead little critters, Old Will drives into his barn and turns the mover off. Ah, I breath clean air again and take a short noise-free break. I know it’s not over yet. Out comes the push mover and off to trim around the house and barn he goes. No fair lads and lasses, Old Will has yet a third trick up his sleeve. The hand mowing finally finished, Old Will sits for a well earned spell and shouts encouragement to his wonderful, long-suffering wife of fifty years, Ruth, as she presents the final flourish to Will’s day well spent – the weed whacker. Smack, smash, slap, it goes as she seeks out the wayward weed attempting to strangle the grapes and the phlox.

Anything that dares to grow taller than two inches is not his concern. If it were up to him there would be no flowers, no gardens to tend, and no trees to shade the yard. Yep, Old Will’s a flat-lander, and the flatter the land the happier he is. His long day is ended, his chores are done, he goes to the barn and gently strokes the bow of his new fishing boat. And regrets that he just hasn’t found the time to put it into the water.

Originally published on the Inditer.Com July 25, 1998.  I felt it was appropriate to reprint in honor of my neighbors’ that drive two hours for a weekly shave of the lawns of their vacation homes for a 48  visit. The photo is my ‘Oh no, no mow, backyard prairie reconstruction.  Being early June, so far only the Lupines and a couple of other plants have flowered. By the end of month this will be a full palette of colors.Image