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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

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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

 

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

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Travelling the Express Route on The Road Less Paved

Sitting in the bog in back of my house. My ass is wet, it’s cold but not freezing. I’ve just learned that deer leave an amazing amount of poop in the woods. They must back up and, like dump trucks, use the same site every morning. I know there’s a joke about bear business in the woods, if anyone knows one about the common whitetail deer let me know. I managed to avoid all mountains before I sat.

I’m trying out my second new camera of the year. I sent the first back. I learned the problem with manufacturers stuffing ever-increasing pixels onto compressed sensors. On a full size screen it looks like a toss-up between finger painting, and an old chipped mosaic tile floor. I had better results fifteen years ago when cameras only had 5 to 7 pixels.

I didn’t get everything I wanted. The high hopes for a respectable point and shoot went out the window. The only cameras that serve my nitpicky needs are still well over a thousand dollars. Not in this lifetime. I ended up with a Nikon D3200. I bought a camera bag that looks like a big tote bag, so it will serve to tuck and go, point and shoot.

These are first shots out of the new toy. I’m processing with Photoshop, OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 8.1, and trying out a couple of the Topaz plug-ins. I’d like to try more, but my laptop crashes when it tries to open them. Thanks MS for making crappy onboard graphics processors that won’t talk to programs.

I’m certainly happy to have an entire day to spend expressing myself – breaking out of the mold and moving in the direction I want to go. Thanks for stopping by the road. Please leave word on what you think of expressions.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge:Express Yourself

 

Warm Heart, Cold Nature

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Warm and fuzzy happens when my brains clears its anxieties, and stumbling stones. A year ticked past since I cancelled and deleted my photography website. I haven’t used Photoshop in three years. I felt a wind blowing from a new direction up the road, but I hadn’t yet walked into it. 2014 started with a hint of foreboding and a cold heart.

Today I downloaded the monthly Photoshop/Lightroom package, and surprise, the old familiar, organizational friend, Bridge is back. My bloated computer is going to belch occasionally, while my work freezes and implodes into another dimension. I’ll have to remember to save often, and work from copies of originals. Been there, made those mistakes before.

I replaced my point and shoot camera. My goofy horse knocked the last one into the sand during a video session. She thought the round pod bag I use for support was an apple. The last couple of days, into the next few weeks, pics taken will be in on a learning curve. While enjoying the old processing favorites in Photoshop, I’m blending them into my love affair with OnOne Perfect Photo Suite.

Warm and fuzzy came just in time to keep me occupied. Bitter cold weather returned, my brittle temperament feet first to the heating source. I finished two photographs today. Shooting nature is cold, but the work is from my heart and that warms me. I’m finally headed into the wind that’s whispering my name.

Thanks for stopping by again. Let me know what you think. Have a very Happy New Year!

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Weekly Photo Challenge:Warmth

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Mellow, butter, goldenrod, lemon, cream, canary, primary, and get my sunglasses, yellow

Less than sixty minutes remain of the winter solstice. I don’t celebrate Christmas or New Years. I’m among the group of people in which holidays hold nothing but bitter memories. As mid-summer passes into fall, I count down the days until December 21st of each year. I’m starved for the individual flavor each additional minute will bring to my evening table.

The solstice means I’ve made it through another year. I’ve survived the worst of my imagined and real terrors. Except for the weather, hopefully everything will continue on for another year. There was a time in my life when yellow was my favorite color. I couldn’t be miserable wearing yellow. My living quarters, even without southern windows looked sunnier with a touch of yellow on the walls.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I really don’t look good wearing yellow. Decorating with yellow looked dated past the 1970’s. As life moved on I shifted my love of yellow to flowers, admired golden sunsets on the prairies, and on rare days when I woke early, appreciated the butter soft glow of a misty sunrise.

Today I’ve taken time to break all the rules about photographic placement, color, form, and size. I’ve gone back into my vault and overhauled a few old favorites taken at a Pow Wow in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin several years ago. The yellow were everywhere. I stopped short of pulling out the yellow-green.  It was a close call, but I’ll save those for another day.

Feel free to let me know what you think of my solstice madness.Enjoy your own mid-winter, or mid-summer holidays, depending on which half of the planet you live on. Thank for stopping by. See you next year!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge:Yellow