Goodtime Charly’s Got the Blues

I’ve expended a lot of physical and emotion energy the past few weeks. My memory is foggy, my movements slow and uncertain. I turn around and find myself falling, uncertain of my own surroundings. I’m drained. Vampires’ sucked the joy, laughter, summer dreams, and future successes from my carotid arteries like my dog’s canine teeth broke through her favorite butcher treats.  Chronic fibromyalgia loads me with an entire textbook of linked problems that those of us with invisible disabilities silently deal.  I feel like a worm trying to cross a mountain.

Even my camera is giving out its last spitting clicks. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep posting from my not so reliable pocket camera, and use archived pics to fill in my future blog posts. More important things need fixing first. I AM feeling blue and misty-eyed. I really need a good cry, but I tend to hold stress close, where it is familiar.  A couple of days ago, my old friend, Ma Nature, knew my mood when she gave me this sunrise. I was on my way home from one more of too many problems to deal with. Hope your misty blues are all short-lived and as beautiful as these.





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.


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.”


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.


So he leaned against the second tree.


“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

all photography copyrighted, all rights reserved, Charly Makray-Rice 2014

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…

Read the Kentucky Courier Journal about the national reward…

Please get the word out and HELP. Thank You.

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


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?


Water Music

Google Maps developed a capacity to fly to places I could only imagine visiting. I’m filled with childlike curiosity, exploring adrenaline-rushing areas unreachable by my aging body with a raging distaste of receiving a 30 point rating on the Zagat Insect Guide to Mammals – a movable feast for blood-sucking life forms. Physically my butt is comfortably established in a reclining chair while my mind soars as a two-year old Whooping Crane over the myriad wetlands a short flight from White River Marsh where I pretend I  fledged.

Geeze, last year’s chat-room time may have affected my thinking process. Google Mapping Green Lake or Marquette Counties shows a vast difference in land-forms and environments in its wetlands. The Fox River is the watershed for the eastern half of south-central Wisconsin. Unlike the majority of American Rivers, the Wisconsin Fox flows north into Green Bay, eventually to spill over Niagara Falls and into the Atlantic Ocean.

White River Marsh is north of the Fox River in Green Lake County, with a small section in the northwest extending into Marquette County. South of the Fox River, adjacent to White River Marsh, lie the Princeton Prairie and the neighboring Puchyan Prairie State Natural Areas. There is a strip of unique land flowing southeast of these two prairies called the Snake Creek Fen State Wildlife Area.

I focused via computer on an isle on the Fox River approximately halfway downstream from the outlet of the White River and upstream from the outlet of the Puchyan River. Both rivers  look like exemplary examples of topography from a couple of worms.  Perhaps a vigorous earthworm undulated the White River, broader, curvier strokes – deeper, at times and maybe navigable by canoe if you’re patient with obstacles. The Puchyan, hurried along by a slightly meager red worm, impatient by its thin water over melon-sized glacial rocks among the riverbed. The Snake Creek looks like a blunder by a sloppy cartographer after a night of heavy drinking. It’s a gray-green swath of watery smudge applied to the landscape and given a poor attempt at erasure by a giant slug using that portion of the county to skate slime.

The map’s colorful layers whisper stories of the Fox River – it gossips in a more complex language than its cursory cousins. If the Fox were human it would be an egotist, not for its attractiveness, which has long since lost to the ideals of man’s need to reconfigure for purpose and management. Oh how this river must have looked running wild a couple of hundred years ago. What songs it must have sung as it tumbled over rapids and falls long since buried under a system of locks and dams that leave it sounding like a phlegmy centenarian.

In spring this is a capricious river, a river of vast floodplains, channels, currents, overflowing banks, and prayers that my car won’t leave the road for flooded ditch or plunging riverbank. It’s not the widest, or the longest, or the mightiest, but nature knows it has a purpose, it has an “I’ll be damned attitude”, and when allowed it may appear a mouse but thinks it’s a mongoose. Google shows topography that looks like a wild night of tossed bedding in a whore house room shared by the Hodag and the Hoop Snake on a brief stay over before heading up north.

There is a bridge over the concrete remnants of a boat lock long abandoned. The gates are gone and the river runs freely through it, the river current taking time to sing around one of the remaining abutments in lieu of a set of rapids that perhaps once sat there. The Fox took umbrage with the boat lock, several times in fact. The lock must have become useless in a fairly short time because it cut another channel north of what was once solid land. It then carved a large oxbow into the land above that channel as if to fiddle away man’s folly in building a lock in that position. Another oxbow, nearly dry on the map, sits directly downstream and south of the lock. Clearly the Fox River would choke the life out of the man-made structure that attempted to impede its natural course.

On a sunny afternoon after studying the Google Map I drove to the real location and let the river tell its story. I was unprepared for the water music it had composed.  I fumbled and shook when I realized my camera should have been set to video with sound. A brief conversation between a Sandhill Crane couple and a still single Whooper was over by the time I’d turned the dial.  An elusive Whooping Crane had, once again, teased me and moved on. He flew upstream where he let out one more faint bugle before leaving.

The three successive, heavily wooded riverbanks, cut during the period the lock stood, now guard the territory between the last oxbow in the river where it’s scoured to marshland. Non-accessible marshland. Safe territory for endangered Whooping Cranes being raised and trained at White River Marsh to return and raise their future families.

Map of County Highway J – Princeton to Ripon, Wisconsin

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family