Gallery

Look up and Around, Birds, Birds, Birds

When we look up into the branches of the trees on property we see birds. They’re also on the ground, in the shrubs, sitting on  the sturdy stems of prairie plants. We garden for birds, providing food, natural shelter, and running water. They come to us for meals, to train their fledglings, and to bathe. This time of year, even natural enemies set aside their differences. Our stream will have three or four bird species bathing together. In spring, they defend their territory, and only hang with their own kind. It’s like school kids, the 3rd graders don’t get to play with the middle schoolers. Now, the field is open to all.

 

 

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge:Look UP

Charly Makray-Rice Photography @ Viewbug

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

 

Gallery

Sweet Earth Awakens & Crazed Creativity

We live adjacent to a shrub carr, a wetland edged by red-twig dogwood. Half our back yard is planted in mid-western prairie plants and grasses. Another portion is a rock garden and water feature for the birds to enjoy. The first happy signal everything is going to be okay, after a winter’s slumber underneath layers of oak leaves and pine needles, are the budding trees we planted. Apples we never manage, crab apples and cherries for the birds. Almost everything that grows here ends up in front of my cameras.

This time of year, my favorite toy is is my old Olympus E510. It has a lot of mileage on it. A couple of years ago, I started playing with old film lenses on my camera. I fell in love with the crazy blown out bokeh of a cheap vintage Russian Pentacon 100/2.8 that I always shoot wide open. I know there are others out there that make wonderful bubble effects, but they don’t fit my budget right now. One of these days, I’ll have to try this switched to the camera on B & W mode.

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

Sunrise at John Muir’s Fountain Lake

Prairie

Prairie view of Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. This was part of the original Fountain Lake farm of John Muir’s boyhood. Photo taken from the entrance to the John Muir Memorial Park, Marquette County, Wisconsin

 

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.

John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 438.

Sierra Club – John Muir’s Wisconsin

If this were 1849, I could put a canoe into what would have still been a small rice lake behind our house. The outflow stream would have taken me down to the lazy Fox River. Paddling upstream, I would have arrived at the Muir’s Fountain Lake farm in hour. Today, if I was a hawk or an eagle, I’d take the 7 mile overland flight and arrive, with a good tailwind, in ten minutes. The land between is bog, wetlands of mostly carr sedge, an occasional thicket of woods, but still undeveloped and roadless. Even back then, walking would have been difficult. Today, the drive takes around 25 minutes because I’m cautious of deer – and I do slow down and enjoy the scenery.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge:Half-light

 

 

 

 

Windsong

Windsong dances with all of nature. Unlike humans’, it bears no fickle heart.  No tree was ever passed over for a more favorably shaped canopy across the river. No errant bullies mutter, restless, while waiting in corners, for an undecided breeze to skip across the marsh and skate the thin shawl of ice the spring prairie.

Laughing, roiling about in muck boots, tripping, not lightly, atop a quaking sedge bog. I can’t remember? Is this how I learned to dance with my father, one foot on each arch, following his motions across the dance floor? Did he feel the pain I feel now, is mine even close? Do feet screaming measure up as my calves and thighs agonised? My brain yells stop this nonsense!

I so-see-do my partner, the shoot of an old willow. We allemande left into bracken and winter crisp Joe Pye Weed. I hear wood sprite giggles, their feet making a high squeal as they shimmy up the bark of bog birches. I know they’ll settle in with a few snorts of a fine vintage brew from a ’88 Pitcher’s Plant.

Dancing in wetlands is messy.  Photography shot in Marquette County, Wisconsin on the Mud River, Mecan River, and the Comstock Bog.

Weekly Photo Challenge:Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing in Public or How to Feel Naked Covered in Cameras

I’ve been struggling with change for several months. This is the year I gave myself the challenge to push beyond my normal range and find new directions for my photography. My muses, Eph n’ Murial, are never in agreement about the direction I should take. Murial, the traditionalist, is a woman of subtle landscapes and poofy flower sets.

Old Eph, bless his iron heart, must have been a biker dude in one of his former incarnations. He’s into boldness, taking changes, kicking things up, and making me nervous with glowing eyes and billowing beard. (That’s what I imagine he looks like, one elbow digging into my right shoulder.)

Here’s a few samples of the bipolar treatment I’ve been dealing with from these two the past month. I’m a changed person for this year’s challenge. I just don’t know if I’m complete, half-fast, spinning my f-stops, or stuck naked in the middle somewhere. I’m open to anyone’s feedback.

At this time, I feel like Grandma Moses spirit bonded with my seeking heroine, Andrew Wyeth’s, Christina’s World.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

An Improbable Scale

One misplaced finger on the keyboard and an entire prelude, poof. Of course, I have no notes. Muse, where art thou?

Of course, unbelievable, incredible, farfetched on a grand scale. Nothing could top the cake, plant the flag on the mountain peak, or jump the puddle, on a more absurd beginning than this.

Kickstarting my muse is akin to getting the polka band in tune, and the residents of Bogside Senior Living Center onto the floor to jig with Stadler and Waldorf.

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Scale gives photographic material an acceptable variation of density.  This image is a layered composite of four different photos; Birch bark and a layer each of a leaf of Shagbark Hickory, Quaking Aspen, and the top one, I really have no idea.  If anyone recognizes it, please let me know.

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I recently discovered our bog is actually a ‘Shrub Carr’. There are several types of wetlands. A bog has a layer of peat moss covering the bottom layer of soil. We lack that. We do have Red Twig Dogwood, small willows, various ferns, (a bracken or bract, something which resembles a fish scale in texture), sedges, and later in summer wetland wildflowers. The image above is two layers, each a couple of different ferns, Sensitive and Ostrich (my best guess). Dang, I missed the leaf shadow in the lower right corner. Oh, well, as a friend accidentally embroidered, “nobody’s pecfect”!

These are the improbable components in the scale of my life. Not likely to cause a major eruption on Facebook or other social media. I’ve been playing around with On One Perfect Photo Suite again, and recently added Topaz Labs ReStyle and Detail 3 to my collection. Still a seeker, more aha that’s interesting than oh my so boring again.

Thanks again for stopping The Less Paved. Let me know what you think of my experiments. If you’re playing as well I’d like to hear about your work.

 Weekly Photo Challenge:Scale