The Spring Chicken In Winter

If I had a blog today I would write about the first snowstorm of the season.

Snow Day

Snow Day

It’s snowing. Real, heavy, stick-to-the-ground snow that’s been piling up since late morning, transforming our little valley into a winter jewel. I am glad the snow has come; not only because of its beauty, but because it justifies the three days of back-breaking work we’ve put in preparing for the storm.

November 15 - Frosty Morning

Frosty Morning

I love nothing more than getting ready for foul weather. There is something utterly satisfying about working your knuckles to the bone so your animals will be warm, sheltered, and well-fed with the snow begins to fall. Since I am the main farm-hand these days, I’ve  taken on most of the storm prep myself. I spent one whole day cleaning and bedding the horse-stalls, washing up the bowls in the the indoor automatic waterers and setting up water-heaters in the outdoor troughs. Once that was done, I set up a heater in the cat-room at the barn so Toby and Miranda can enjoy a balmy 60-degree environment and I placed heat-lamps over the chicken roost to protect my hens from frostbitten combs and wattles. I was a little concerned that by evening, I couldn’t walk or straighten my back when bedtime rolled around, but, I rationalized, “I’m just getting warmed up. Surely my muscles will get with the program in a day or two. After all, I’m still in my forties – a spring chicken you might say.”

The Storm Begins

The Storm Begins

Day two gave my “inner chicken” another run for its money. Early in the day, I took the big truck to town and got a load of straw to use for the hens, Edward the rooster, and Ferdinand the duck. Straw is much lighter than hay, but when one’s muscles have been compromised, unloading a pickup full of bales and stacking them in the barn can be a bit of a challenge. Bedding Ed and Ferdie is easy. Their domain is a box-stall at the barn and I had their bachelor pad looking good in minutes, but the hen house is big and it took two big bales to get their house fresh and clean. I cursed my aching back once the bedding was done, but watching my hens scratch for bits of wheat in the golden straw made it all worthwhile. If I could have called it quits at that point, life would have been grand, but, because farm-life takes no prisoners, I still had horse stalls to clean and horses to feed. By bedtime even my toenails hurt and I began to have concerns about that this spring chicken had passed her “sell by” date.

Day Three should have been a cake-walk: Regular chores with a quick detour to clean the silt out of the automatic waterers. The dirt that was clogging the water-flow came from repairs our plumber made to a broken water pipe. No big deal: Just remover the filters and we’re back in business. Not. The filters came out easily, and they were filthy, but when I turned the water back on, nothing happened. The little spigots were as dry as a bone. I got out the repair manual and my heart sank. “If cleaning the filter does not restore full-function to the waterer, remove the bowl, basket, and counterweight; open the control valve and clean thoroughly.” Egads.

Let It Snow

Let It Snow

And so began the six-hour siege. Dad and I disassembled each waterer, removed the control valve, cleaned it and put things back together again. Then we had to calibrate the waterers. This is an inexact process whereby one tinkers with adjustment screws and weight placement until water flows freely but doesn’t overflow the bowl. “Trial-and-error” really doesn’t do this tedious process justice. Not only is it frustrating and time-consuming, it requires the repair-person to stand hunched over for hours, utterly destroying one’s back, legs, and hips. In three days I had gone from spring chicken to stewing hen and a nice, hot soak in a crock pot didn’t sound half-bad. Dad and I crippled through the evening, faced off with chores this morning, and then, about ten o’clock, our labors were rewarded. It began to snow.

The aimless flurries that came first soon turned into a proper storm and I had to hurry to get the horses inside before they got wet. Moisture is not necessarily a problem to horses, but when the low is forecast to be eleven degrees, hypothermia can be a concern, especially for the fine boned and delicate Arabian horses in our herd. I wasn’t thrilled to return to the barn less than an hour after I had left, but once the horses were settled in their stalls, munching hay and drinking their clean, clear water, all my aches and pains seemed a small price to pay.  All across the farm, my babies were tucked in safe and warm while the beautiful snow fell all around. It was a Christmas card ending to a mid-November day.

Good Night Chickens

Good Night Chickens

It is dark now, the only light the soft glow emanating from the barn and hen house. All is calm. All is bright. As for the spring chicken, she is comfortable on the couch, heating pad and hot coffee in tow. Its been a heck of a week, but worth every ache and pain. That’s what love is all about.

The Quiet Season

If I had a blog, today I would write about the gifts that lie hidden in the leaf-bare November woods.

The Quiet Season

The Quiet Season

Over the weekend we had our first hard freeze. We’ve had a few chilly nights lately, but last night was the real thing: Twenty-three degrees; a certified hard freeze. Now the last hint of green in the pastures and fence-rows will turn to golden and the landscape will stretch before us like a somnolent brown beast, drowsing in the mellow sun. From now until spring, the only color will be the ruby red of rose hips and holly berries alongside the crimson and orange of ripened bittersweet.

I like this time of year, even though it is harder to find great photo-ops, but the dearth of stunning subject matter brings a type of relief. Now I have to concentrate, take my time, and become one with the land in hopes it will guide me to one of its hidden gems, resting among the crisp, brown leaves.

The Feather

The Feather

A few years ago I was on my Journey to the Solstice and came upon the feather of a great-horned owl, caught in the bare branches of a redbud tree. The pale sun lit the feather from behind, giving it a light of its own, as if a candle shone from within. I took several photos, then brought the feather home. It rests in my library now, reminding me of that day and the gifts that await those who are mindful as they enter the forest. Had the feather been dropped a month earlier, among the scarlet dogwood and golden hickory trees, I doubt I would have seen it, my mind filled with things bright and showy. It took a day without many options to bring the beauty of my feather to the fore.

In this season of thanksgiving, I am most thankful for this quiet time between autumn and the coming of the snow. It inspires me to look at the familiar with a different eye, to see more in a landscape that offers less. This is a time for listening, for watching, and for contemplating, for now the voice of Nature is most clear. As I take my evening walk up the lane or to the barn, I will be attuned to the whispering wind and unadorned trees. I am here, ready to receive the gifts that only the quiet season can bring.

Let The Games Begin

If I had a blog, today I would write about the perils of bird photography.

When I began taking photos of birds, some thirty years ago, I was embarrassed to share my work with others. Birds, I thought, were too easy a subject for a wildlife photographer in-the-making. Compared to the exquisite work of wolf-photographer Jim Brandenburg or those who stalk the grizzly bear, the cougar, and the wild game in Africa, my shots of juncos and titmice seemed rather insignificant. Songbirds were everywhere: In cities, on farms, and in the woods, my quarry was ubiquitous and unlikely to threaten life and limb, so I assumed they would be a stepping-stone; and easy way to practice my skills before moving on to “real” wildlife and real adventure. But that was before; before I knew what I was up against, before I knew I was facing the wiliest wild creature on Earth.

Birds are not stupid. They watch bird photographers as avidly as we watch them and not only do they observe, they plan and they plot, turning the tables to make us the key player in avian entertainment. Over the years, I have identified a number of games my feathered friends enjoy, keeping me on my toes whenever I enter their world (and by the way, its all their world).

The Tease (Savannah Sparrow)

The Tease (Savannah Sparrow)

First, there is The Tease: Rather than hiding the moment a photographer appears, birds coyly flutter into sight, landing on perfect, bare branches, singing their lovely songs, practically begging to be photographed. This gives the birdwatcher a false sense of hope, feeding her fragile ego and setting it up for a fall. A few good shots may be permitted, just to sweeten the deal, but then, with the skill of a confidence man, the real mind-games begin.

The Foil (Yellow Rumped Warbler)

The Foil  or Can You See The Bird in This Picture? (Yellow Rumped Warbler)

After The Tease comes The Foil: Somewhere out there exists a book on photography written by the birds, for the birds. This Rosetta stone teaches all birds the basic needs of the photographer enabling them to foil us at every turn. For example: Birds know exactly how strong a telephoto lens is so they can alight just outside this boundary, appearing as small, indistinct shapes regardless of the power or quality of one’s equipment. Birds also know how long it takes to set exposure and focus and they use this skill so they can flit merrily away or ruffle their feathers into an incomprehensible blur just as the shutter closes. This move is usually followed by the “tail-flip,” which is, in the truest sense, giving me “The Bird.”

The Icarus Immitation (Lincoln's Sparrow)

The Icarus Imitation (Lincoln’s Sparrow)

If The Foil gets boring, birds opt for The Icarus Imitation: Birds clearly understand the importance of good lighting in a photograph and do their best to position themselves so as to manipulate the sun to their advantage, not mine Woodpeckers, for example, always light on the shady side of a tree trunk and colorful birds, like robins and bluebirds, will leave a bare branch, in full sun, to glower in the crook of a limb the moment I appear on the scene. At times I suspect the sun is in cahoots with the birds, as it often disappears behind the only cloud in the sky just as my shutter closes.

The Reward (Red-Headed Woodpecker)

The Reward (Red-Headed Woodpecker)

Some individuals may see these behaviors as merely survival skills. Birds are vulnerable and humans with guns have done nothing to improve our standing with the avian world, but the regularity with which these particular actions occur makes me think there’s more going on here than meets the eye. Short of finding the Bird’s Book of Photography, I don’t suppose I’ll ever know the truth of the matter, but I enjoy my fantasy nonetheless. I know birds are smarter than we give them credit for and, to be honest, I think its only fair for them to toy with humanity when they have the chance. After centuries of predation and environmental destruction, we deserve far worse from the natural world than we get. And so, when I venture out on my bird walk tomorrow, I will take the frustrations in stride, knowing even if I fail to get the photo of my dreams, at least I have given the bird-world a few hours of well deserved mirth. Its really the least I can do.


The Mystery Bird

If I had a blog, today I would write about the importance of The Mystery Bird.

The Mystery Bird

The Mystery Bird

The ultimate objective of birdwatching is, of course, identifying what you have seen, but this year I have come to realize that the best sightings are the ones that defy identification. A few days ago, Mom and I hiked down to the river and as we approached the field we call Big Valley, a flurry of activity in the wild rose bushes caught our attention. Mom was on point with her binoculars and I homed in with my telephoto lens, trying to make sense of the shadowy forms flitting about among the thorns. We identified two cardinals, a brown thrasher, and several sparrows, but then a flash of orange and white caught our attention. The bird was robin-sized, but robin’s have no white. The body was black or dark brown, but the shade of the underbrush made it hard to tell. Was the white on the wing or the breast? Was the breast orange or was it the wing?  I took a couple of  less-than-stellar pictures to look at when we got home, but until then, identification would have to wait.

Mom and I continued along the path Dad created in the swampy river bottom and there were birds at every turn. Goldfinches picked apart the seed-pods of poppy mallow, field sparrows gleaned the tall meadow grasses, and woodpeckers chattered at us from the trees at the edge of the valley. As much fun as it was to see our well-known bird friends, my mind kept turning back to our Mystery Bird and every time I thought of him, I could feel endorphins flooding my brain. There was something magical about seeing something unknown, something that didn’t quite make sense.

On the walk home, I thought about the rapture I felt when confronted with even a small slice of the unknown and it occurred to me that we need mystery in our lives as much as we need air to breathe, food to eat, and water to drink. The desire to explore, to learn, and to understand is part of our DNA, part of what makes us human.

The lack of curiosity I see in the world today troubles me. We work, we shop, we watch television, and we sleep. That is the daily round of most people. Weekends are for sleeping or watching sporting events or trying to catch up on chores. It leaves little time for awakening the part of our brain, of our soul, that craves exploration. We rush to and from work under a canopy of stars, yet we have no interest in the vastness of space. We mow the lawn and fill bird feeders, but we don’t identify the birds who depend on us, and we venture into the natural world with the goal of calories burned or miles traversed. Exploration is a dying art and with its death goes part of that which makes our species unique and beneficial to the world.

In all honesty, my 90-Day Journey to the Solstice is my way of staying awake to the world. I am as guilty as anyone of letting my “To Do List” rather than my “Bucket List” run my day, so I try to combine the two and give myself an opportunity to explore my own little corner of the world. Once I’m out in the woods, I feel dim parts of my brain light up as dormant neurons fire back and forth across their synapses; I feel life infiltrate every part of my body and, for a time, I feel part of something that defies description: A universe so vast and so full of mysteries it staggers the mind and scintillates the soul. For a time, I do not feel alone.

As it happens, our Mystery Bird was a Rufus-Sided Towhee. They are fairly common in our part of the country and both Mom and I have seen them before. On the same excursion we also identified two other newbies: The Lincoln’s sparrow and the clay-colored sparrow, also common migrants this time of year. Despite the fact that we had not discovered a new species or seen a migrant from Timbuktu, we counted our journey a success. You see, it is not the answer to the question that is important. All that truly matters is to have the willingness to ask.

The Voice of the Wilderness

If I had a blog, today I would write about the healing power of the natural world.

October 11 - White Throated Sparrlw

White Throated Sparrow

It has been a hard week. On Friday, I lost a dear friend: My nephew-dog, Hank the yellow lab. Hank was with us for thirteen years, most of them spent living next door to us with my brother and sister-in-law. For the last four years, we were Doggie Day Care for Hank when his people were at work, so his absence from our life has left a great empty place, a place even our own dogs, Owain and Bree, can never fill.

Yesterday it was chilly and overcast, the weather making my sadness deeper. I tried reading, watching a movie, and even attempted some writing, but I couldn’t focus; couldn’t stop my mind from going deeper into dark places that pronounced life nothing more than a long string of sad goodbyes. I felt hopeless and depressed, too bereft even to sleep, so about noon I packed up my camera gear and went for a walk in the woods.

Given my state of mind when I started, I figured my walk would be short, but I thought maybe some fresh air would do me good and I needed a photo of the day, so I headed down towards the little valley just beyond the barn. When I got to the gate, I felt a little better and decided to go a little farther.

Down by the creek, I came upon a gathering of cardinals, white-throated sparrows, and juncos – all feeding on rose-hips, the berries of the multiflora rose. I took a few photos, then a few more, and before I knew it, two hours had passed and I was watching kingfishers down at the river.

About mid-way through my walk, I started to feel better. The dark cloud in my mind lifted as the sun peeked out and warmed the landscape with it mellow light. I still carried the weight of grief, but out in the woods, it was a weight I could bear, and I realized as long as I have Nature, I have refuge from life’s heavy-handed blows.

I can’t put my finger on any one event or sensation that eased my pain, so I can’t offer a ten-point plan to finding peace in the natural world. All I can tell you is: Being surrounded by the beauty and abundance of life made me feel part of something larger, more eternal, and more substantial than fragile, mortal life.

I returned home in the late afternoon, sweaty, tired and covered in stick-tights, but my mind was quieter, my thoughts less troubled. As I tended the barn-cats and chickens, settling them in for another night, I had hope – hope for myself, for my loved ones, and for the future. With that hope came thoughts of a passage from one of my favorite books, The Singing Wilderness, by naturalist Sigurd Olson. In it, Olson writes:

I have discovered that I am not alone in my listening; that almost everyone is listening for something, that the search for places where the singing may be heard goes on everywhere… We may not know exactly what it is we are listening for, but we hunt as instinctively for opportunities and places to listen as sick animals look for healing herbs.


Stepping Out On Faith

If I had a blog, today I would write about my further adventures in pursuit of a stronger faith in The Universe.

White-Tailed Twins

October 8 – White-Tailed Twins

My Uncle Bruce, who is a Christian counselor, had one admonition for those of us seeking to grow spiritually: “Be careful what you wish for. If you pray for long suffering, you might just get it.” Well I managed to dodge that particular bullet, but I did plunge off the deep end when I asked The Universe to help me have greater faith. In so doing, I forgot Uncle Bruce’s advice and the basic tenet of spiritual growth: If you ask The Universe to give you something (faith, courage, patience, etc.) it won’t wave a magic wand and give you that power. Rather, it will put you in circumstances that give you the opportunity to develop the skill you aspire to possess. Today was proof of that, to be sure.

Normally, I work in town on Tuesdays, doing payroll and the book work at Dad’s dental clinic. Yesterday I had to postpone my sojourn to town because my labrador nephew Hank was ill. Dad did the payroll, but I had to go in today and do the rest of the accounting. I knew something was up with The Universe as I drove to town this morning, because everywhere I looked I saw flocks of migrating birds. Catching the one or two days in the fall when the warblers and other small songbirds are coming through is a high-point of my photographic year and I just knew I was missing out; and I was right. Mom took a two-hour walk this morning and saw all kinds of warblers, sparrows, and even golden-crowned kinglets. I didn’t begrudge Mom her sightings, but I have to admit I was a little irritated at my Higher Power for messing up my big day.

As I went about my desk-work, I was struggling not to be in a foul mood. “Missing one day of warblers is a stupid thing to be upset about,” I chastised myself. It is true, but I had to dig deep to find confidence that the order of the day was as it needed to be, however unfair it might seem.

I got home around 2:00 and took a long walk, but all I saw was a couple of blue jays and two very argumentative squirrels. I let it go and spent the rest of the afternoon helping Mom identify the Magnolia and Nashville warblers she had seen during the morning. Every time I started to feel jealous, I repeated my mantra, “Things are the way they are supposed to be.” It helped some, but I was definitely struggling.

White Throated Sparrow (2009)

White Throated Sparrow (2009)

After dinner, I gave birding one more try and went up to the High Field where our native grasses are heavy with seed. Clouds were gathering in the west and I was losing valuable light much faster than usual so I knew I had to make any photo-op count. As I passed by a row of cedar trees I heard a chirp and stopped to investigate. Using my long lens, I peered into the depths of the brush and saw, much to my delight, the first white-throated sparrow of the season. My spirits lifted immediately. White-throats summer in Minnesota then visit us for the winter. I love hosting these visitors from my beloved North Country and catching their arrival is every bit as thrilling as a warbler sighting.

October 8 - Stepping Out on Faith

Stepping Out on Faith

I walked back down the road with a spring in my step, content with my birding experience for the day, when I saw a movement near the woods’ edge. There in the twilight were two lovely young white-tailed deer. Children born this past spring, the twins were still small and very dainty. I snapped a few pictures and was about to wrap things up when one of the deer walked towards me. She was very alert and very confident; stopping every few yards to stamp her foot and let me know she was not to be trifled with. I stood stock still, taking pictures as fast as I could. Before the little deer satisfied her curiosity, her mother appeared in the pasture, snorting and stamping in alarm. Both young ones took their mother’s warning seriously and retreated to her side, vanishing into the woods without a trace.

Driving back to the house, I thanked the deer and I thanked The Universe for my gift of the day. As I thought about my close encounter, it occurred to me that the fawn who approached me was an example of new faith: She walked towards me with head held high, confident in herself and confident in me. She stepped out on faith and in that moment, made both of our lives something beautiful. We don’t need perfect faith in the beginning, only a willingness to take a few steps forward without knowing what happens next.

Tomorrow is another day and will present its own opportunities for growth. It scares me a little to put my trust in a being other than myself, but I will remember my lessons from today and I will pray to be as brave as a little white-tailed deer.

Rooting For the Underdog

If I had a blog, today I would write about my deep compassion for vultures.

October 7- A juvenile vulture sits in the morning sun, warming his wings before flight.

October 7- A juvenile vulture sits in the morning sun, warming his wings before flight.

In keeping with the All Hallows season, today I want to write about a bird that has a truly undeserved bad rap. The bird is the turkey vulture. In mid-America, we call them buzzards or just plain old vultures, but their name is important because world-wide, there are 23 species of vulture, inhabiting every continent but Australia and Antarctica. Admittedly, the vulture was created to fill a rather gruesome niche (i.e. feeding primarily on rotting carcasses), but without them we would be in trouble. Without the vulture, every landscape would be littered with decomposing carnage and disease would run rampant. Not only do vultures do nature’s dirty work, but their stomach acid is strong enough to kill nightmare bacteria such as anthrax, botulism, and cholera, preventing it from entering the environment and infecting otherwise healthy creatures (humans included).

Outbreak prevention aside, turkey vultures are also dedicated parents who mate for life (40-50 years).I witnessed their dedicated parenting skills this morning when I encountered a young vulture standing on the ground, soaking up the morning sun. To conserve energy, vultures lower their body temperatures at night. The downside is: In the morning they have to warm in the sun until they are warm enough to fly. Apparently they young bird I came upon hadn’t quite got the hang of his morning warm-up and continued to idle on the ground long after his parents had taken flight. The juvenile’s concerned parents circled continuously above him until he finally got up the gumption to fly. I admire that kind of dedication in parenting and it made me smile to know that all young creatures struggle on their way to adulthood.

This alone would be enough to earn my admiration, but there’s another reason I like vultures: I always root for the underdog.

Throughout my life, regardless of the situation, I have always been on the side of the social pariah. I was a nerdy kid who didn’t fit in at school (or in any other social setting), so I developed a deep compassion for others who shared my plight. I champion a wide range of causes, some social, most environmental, but my deepest feelings are for the creatures we humans have cast our lot against. In addition to vultures, I support snakes, spiders, a variety of lizards, and any predator given a bad name just for eating meat – a trait, I might add, shared by a two-legged species I know. I rescue earthworms from the sidewalk on hot summer days, guard nests of lizard eggs I find in our sawdust pile, and rescue bats that get trapped in the house. I know I’m a soft-touch, but it makes me feel good to support my fellow outsiders.

So, as we travel the road of autumn towards the festival of All Hallows Eve, let us remember what is fact and what is fiction. A vulture may look sufficiently scary on a tombstone, but he is not an omen of death. The vulture is our protector and sanitizer, working behind the scenes to keep death at bay. The next time you see a vulture at work on the side of the road, call out a hearty “thank you!” and wish him a Happy Halloween.

Ode to the Woolly Bear

If I had a blog, today I would write in praise of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar.

October 5 - Woolly Bear Caterpillar

October 5 – Woolly Bear Caterpillar

For as long as I can remember, the appearance of the woolly bear has been a cause for great excitement in our family. Not only are these dashing caterpillars pleasing to the eye in their black and russet coats, but they are one of the first creatures to hint at the severity of the coming winter. As a child, I appraised every woolly bear I encountered, examining the number of rusty bands in his coat with scientific accuracy. The more rusty bands (most have 5 or 6), the milder the winter (and the deeper my disappointment), but to find a woolly bear with 4 or fewer bands meant a chance at my dream come true: A winter of deep snow and biting cold.

My dreams of a hard winter stemmed from the thrill of being free from school on “snow days.” Living in central Missouri, where snow is more the exception than the rule, any chance at a good winter storm was cause for excitement. I remember well, listening to the radio on a snowy morning, my brother and I holding our breath until Rolla Public Schools were added to the school closings. Once reprieved, the first thing I did was call my Granny Ruby. She’d pick up the phone and I’d burst forth with my pronouncement, “No school today!” Those mornings were as wonderful as Christmas and the whole world was wrapped up as our present.

The woolly bear I found in the yard this morning had between 5 and 6 rusty bands, so he predicts as fairly “normal” winter and that’s ok with me. Although I still love a good snowstorm as much as ever, I am lucky enough not to need the weather to free me from the bondage of life indoors. I work primarily from home and, once chores are done, I can go a-wandering any day I please. These days, the changing of the seasons are reunions, a time to reconnect with old friends like the woolly bear and the snowbird, a time to reminisce about days gone by and to add new chapters to the book of my life. Whether the winter ahead is stormy or mild, I will have my stories to share and my memories to keep me warm as a woolly bear on a perfect autumn morn.

Wren Magic

If I had a blog, today I would write about one of my favorite birds: The Wren.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

When I am out on a photo shoot, it is always a pleasure to encounter a wren. Though they are one of the smallest birds in the forest, they are fearless. They seem happy to let me set up camera and tripod in plain sight and will let me do so at closer range than any of their avian cousins. When They aren’t watching my antics with the camera, they flit about through the underbrush, flipping leaves and darting in and out of the bracken with fierce pleasure. The set of their upturned tail, the gleam in their eye all speak to the wren’s unshakable confidence. If I happen to get a little too close for my subject’s comfort, the wren does not flee, but rather zips a few feet away and scolds me for my impertinence. Chastened, I back away until Her Ladyship feels I’ve shown the requisite obeisance, then she is back at work, and so am I.

October 3 - House Wren

House Wren

On my walk this morning, I encountered two of family Troglodytidae: The winter wren and the house wren. Both were kind enough to let me take the pictures I wanted and I felt my spirits lift just watching these intrepid ladies go about their work. Wrens bring me joy not only because they are lovely, but because they possess traits I lack. I struggle to be self-assured; to speak my mind without fear of reproach, to stand up to the world and proclaim myself worthy of respect however eccentric I may be. I would like the wren to teach me how to set unimpeachable boundaries that allow me to do what I love without feeling self-centered; without questioning my motives a thousand times over and I would like the wren to teach me to sing, to express myself in my voice, however strident and brazen it may seem.

Druids and Celts believed wren feathers were wards against drowning and people often collected cast-off feathers to wear as amulets of protection. I am a good swimmer, but I could use a wren feather to save me from drowning in the ocean of worry and fear. As I survey the future and the inevitable loss of those I hold dear, the waves come crashing, pulling me out into the dark waters of the unknown. I know I must tread these waters, but perhaps with the help of the wren, at least I know I will stay afloat.

Sedge Wren

Sedge Wren (2013)

If tradition holds, the wrens will be busy along our fence-rows for weeks to come and I will be in their company daily as I take my autumn walks. I will remember to stop and make medicine with the wrens and ask if they would care to pass on their wisdom to a lowly human being. I have hope that a creature who is undeniably certain of its power will accept a me as a willing pupil and perhaps the coming of the Winter Solstice will find me strong of voice and master of my fears. If there is a magic that can guide me to safe harbor, it is Wren Magic that can give me what I seek.


Check Out My New Gallery Page

If I had a blog, today I would announce the unveiling of my photo gallery page, featuring the images I have selected for my 90-Day Project: Journey to the Solstice.

The reason I have decided to showcase these photos on their own page is to give me freedom to blog about subjects other than the photo-of-the-day, while sharing my special photographs with all of you at the same time. I’ll be adding one photo to the gallery each day through December 21st, so visit the page often to see what’s new.

To view the gallery, click on “Journey to the Solstice 2014” at the top of the page, then click on any image to get a larger view. Once you are in “slideshow mode” you can exit by pressing the Esc key on your keyboard.