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Chet Baker Goes to Town

Thursday, October 30, 2014


 Today was an exciting day. First off, I saw Mether gathering my bed (well, one of my three beds) and my blankies (some of them) and a chew toy. I stopped dead and asked her what she was doing.

"Chet Baker you are going to go see David and Mary Jane today!" she said.

I boinged straight up in the air! When she pulled out my collar and leash I almost fell over from joy! Because that means I am GOING SOMEWHERE. And I know that that somewhere is CAMP BAKER!! I never, ever wear a collar and I never, ever use a leash but she puts them in my travel bag just to fill it up.

We drove down Fourth Street and it was all aglow with orange and red leaves. We stopped at Edward Jones so Mether could do something with some small pieces of paper. 

Because I am an esteemed client there, I naturally took a seat to wait. Mether says there are only a couple of places in town that I can go and this is one of them because they know me there, and nobody gets excited when I am being myself. She always says I do not even have a concept of not being allowed on furniture. She apologizes for me, but it is not necessary. 

Everyone likes me. They do not think I am a heathen. They know I am a gentleman.

After I checked out all the offices, and found no one in them, I returned to the main desk. Then I checked out the window to see if anyone was out there. I couldn't see much.

I studied the nice lady at the reception desk. She looked like she was good for a bikkit.

So I went up and asked her if she had anything in those cabinets that might be for a gentleman. Or a dog.

Or someone who is both a dog and a gentleman.

She was busy making phone calls but amazingly she produced a jerky treat especially for dogs who are gentlemen. I knew she would!

It was quite delicious. Not as good as real bacon, however. It was imitation dog bacon. Too much smoke accent. 
But much better than a Milk-Bone which seems to be the default dog treat with delivery people.

Those I take politely. I walk around with them in my jowls for awhile, then bury them after the delivery truck drives away. I would not want to hurt their feelings but you might as well give me a piece of wood as  a Milk-Bone. I would have to be very hungry to eat those gritty things. 

This fake dog bacon I gratefully ate, and made a mental note to ask to be taken back to Edward Jones when Mether has some more small pieces of paper to write on and then dispose of.

We ran a few more errands. Mether was never gone for long, and I did not worry. Then we drove to St. Mary's, crossing the river into West By God Virginia, to find my David!!

He sat in Mether's car and talked with her for a long time. About me. I love when people do that. Finally he was ready to take me home. Because my family is going to see Phoebe in Maine for a few days. And I cannot go because Mether says dogs don't fly. I have to wait until Christmas to see her. 

Occasionally I lie on her bed and think about her. Mostly on rainy days.

David got out of Mether's car. He loaded my things into his truck. I got upset because I thought he was forgetting me! I jumped up and pressed my nose against the window. 

He came back for me!!

I took one last look at Mether and we drove away to their cabin in the woods, where Mary rubs my back and I sit on David's lap and he often gives me two dunners and the chiptymunks are all dumb! 

These Grand Ohio Skies

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


 My entire trip home from Ithaca, all nine hours of it, was a sky show such as I've rarely experienced. Since I've bewcome such an avid iPhone photographer, I truly believe I appreciate clouds more. It's sort of like hunters say they love and understand deer (or whatever they're stalking) more because they hunt them. I see a magnificent skyscape, and I start plotting how best to capture it and keep it for myself. I watch for breaks in the hills and powerlines, good places to pull off, clear spots in the traffic. I'm stalking these clouds.

As breathtaking as the skies were in New York, Ohio had her cloudscapes all dressed up and waiting in the wings. And out they danced, one after another.

I have an absolute thing for anvilhead cumulonimbus. I adore this shot, with Ohio's omnipresent and iconic orange barrels standing watch. Really, it's time to take them down. They're a summer thing. It's like the buzzards returning to Hinkley. Summer comes, and ODOT rolls out the orange barrels to squeeze our already narrow highway passages down to one lane and make us all slow down to 55. That, or get ticketed. Which we do, we do.

But it was to get even more surreal, when a car bombed my next shot of this incredible autumnal landscape. 

 I was pulled over, just shooting away at these perfect hills and this killer sky. I wondered about everyone else, hurtling along. Were they experiencing an advanced and heightened state of rapture as was I?

The particular strength of the iPhone camera is its ability not to be so overwhelmed by bright sky that the land color and detail is lost. I remember so clearly my disappointment with my early Canon film camera, and later my Rebel, for its one-or-the-other approach to sky and land. A professional photographer explained it this way: Either you take your exposure on the sky, and capture that, with the land going completely dark, or you expose on the land and lose the sky, all its whites blown out. Later, I got a Canon GS-11, followed by a GS-12, and it was obvious that Canon had been working on that particular problem. I'm a little chagrined to say that the iPhone has rendered my blocky little Canon GS obsolete. I can actually do more with the iPhone.  Somehow, the iPhone knows that I want to capture both land and sky in perfect exposure. Sure, I have to do a little fiddling sometimes in post processing, which I never had before digital cameras came along. I'll sometimes open up the shadows on the landscape in iPhoto, but I do precious little fiddling. The iPhone 4S camera captures it all. And I love it for that. That, and the fact that it's always with me. No moment, no vista, goes unrecorded. Yay.

I kept my eye on that anvilhead,  rolled on a little farther, and BOOM there was the dilapidated barn and silo just waiting for me. All I had to do was compose the shot. Holy cow. Yes. Ohio is beautiful. You coast-huggin' people ought to give it a chance.

This experience only reinforces my contention that making a habit of photography makes us much more sensitive to beauty. It turns us into artists and composers. More importantly, it turns us into true appreciators. And the best part is you don't have to have "talent." How many times have I heard, "Oh I wish I could paint like you. You're so talented." Well, having started out as a kid able only to scribble, I believe that talent is more or less equivalent to hard work, and yes, we have to work and study to learn how to paint. We can't just wish it into being. On the other hand, anybody can paint like this, because we all have eyes, and almost everybody reading this has a cameraphone these days.

There were some very special things happening with sunbeams, brilliant green hills, and dark clouds. I started shooting through the windshield as I often do when seeing something amazing.

Rolled down the window and went for the unencumbered shot.

And boom! there was a green hill, and a beam spotlighting it, pointing to I don't know what. I always love the dark clouds that cross white ones, the violet-purple ones marching along the horizon. It all makes me want to get out of the darn car and walk those hills. It also makes me want to paint them. I have a fantasy where I chuck it all and just start painting watercolor landscapes, using these ephemeral photos as inspiration. It's nice to have a pipe dream. It's cuddled up against the one about having a specialty mail-order greenhouse growing odd little plants that I love. I think the growing would be a lot more fun than the order fulfilling. Maybe I could grow them for someone else who had an established business.

Soon, I came to our exit (these were all taken along I-77 South in Ohio) and I raced along our ridge to catch the last sunlight on sugar maples.

It's all so ephemeral, so quickly gone. I have to roll around in it while it's here, this light, these leaves. 

I'm thankful for sugar maples and cerulean skies, for slanted evening sun, for whatever basket of beauty the day brings.

By the time we reached The Three Graces, the light was gone, gone like the moa is gone. Color drained out of the landscape. The Graces all decided to go with understated Homecoming gowns this year. They didn't want to upstage each other. Red Maple (left) took it easy, as did Sugar Maple (center). And even gaudy Tupelo (right) decided against flaming red, her usual choice.

Whatever they choose, they're perfect and always beautiful.

Montezuma Refuge in the Wind

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Ithaca was windy, skeins of Canada geese beating their way through the turbulent skies,

 ring-billed gulls blowing about like memo paper, lifting off

then landing again

but Montezuma Refuge was being beaten about the head by a gale. There's not much to stop the wind that far north along Lake Cayuga. Yes, I went into this pronouncing it Ky-Yoo-Ga. Say it "Kew-ga" and people will think you're a native. It was clear that it wasn't only my doofy pronunciation that made me stick out like a sore thumb. A woman in the natural foods co-op stopped dead, stared at me and commented on my all-over tan, which by my standards has faded completely away. Tan? What tan?
I realized that Ithacans are a pallid people, living as they do under a nearly year-round cloud cover. When the sun did come out they almost danced for joy. I thought about starting up a happy light/greenhouse business in this beautiful city, then decided it was a dream for another person. I do like it there, very much, but I think that longterm I'd be starved for sun.

Montezuma was sunny, thanks to the gale that blew the clouds away. The soup du jour was Pintail/Greenwing, served on a bed of organic duckweed. See the brilliant green speculum on the little duck on the left? This is three pintail hens and two green-winged teal.

Teal burst out of the water, straight up, mostly because they can. No pattering on the surface for them! These are all green-wings.

This teal's flying over one of the 61,000 muskrat lodges at Montezuma. Man, do they have the mushmice there.

I love this shot. You can see the duckweed clinging all over his bill and neck. I say "his" because he has a telltail line of bright chestnut-buff undertail coverts coming in, telling me he's a young drake, born this spring. Well, that's an interesting typo. Going to leave it. 

It's always fun to scan big flocks of Canada geese, looking for the oddballs. There were a few smaller, darker geese that were probably cackling geese from the Aleutian islands. 

There was an oddball, bigger than the rest, which looked to be a Canada x domestic greylag hybrid. See the flesh legs, orangeish bill and white chin patch, the bulky body and scaled gray flanks?

He is a mutt.

I scanned some more with my spotting scope, my appetite for the unusual whetted after having added vegetarian tuna to my life eat list. And I found another oddball goose.

It was of slender build, and had almost no white on it at all (don't be fooled by the undertail coverts of the Canada standing behind it). 

I was taken by the satiny dusky gray-brown plumage. What was this bird?

 It scratched and preened, and when it finally went to stretch and turned its head just so I caught the faintest outline of a chin strap.

I concluded that this was a melanistic Canada goose, lacking any white feathering. But a Canada goose. I hope some normally plumaged Canada finds it attractive. I certainly did. I showed it to a lovely gentleman working in the refuge visitor's center. We combed the books to make sure it wasn't some Eurasian stray, some charcoal bean goose or whatever. Nope. There's nothing out there without any white on it.

While there I noticed that they had The Bluebird Effect on their shelves for sale. That was really nice.

 Way up at the top of the refuge there's an impoundment with long fingers stretching into marshy fields. And here there were nine sandhill cranes hunkered down in the wind, too far away to photograph, but there, and we could make out their velvety red crowns in the scope. Here, too, were a pair of American avocets, well out of range, and a great blue heron lying on its belly to get out of the wind. Things I hadn't expected to see, things that made me smile. The colors alone made me smile

 as did the living leaves on this starling tree. The whole tree was singing, peals of squeals and whistles, the ever-changing evocative shortwave of Sturnus vulgaris.

Speaking of vulgar...I'm not sure how this bit of camp art has stood up to the strong feminist wind that blows through Ithaca. How bizarre. You see things...sometimes you never find out what they mean.

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