The struggle (the flying lesson struggle) is real

14 October, 2018            The struggle (the flying lesson struggle) is real

Wesson and me early yesterday afternoon at KBCB. Photo credit to my brother Shane. Thanks Wesson and Shane and Ernest!


I’m kidding, of course, about the “struggle” part – flying is a blast, 100% of the time.

My brother Shane took that top picture with me holding his son – my incomparable nephew – Wesson. Shane also took all pictures of the plane in flight. Plus hosted Ernest and me on short notice! 

Flying was extra  fun yesterday when my instructor Ernest and I took my first long cross-country (“XC”) flight. Our plan was to depart from our “home” airport (KOFP, Hanover County Municipal Airport) and fly down to KBCB (Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport) near my brother Shane’s house. Where my excellent sister-in-law Kristin of course also lives, the mother of my outstanding nephew Wesson and his lovely sister Teagan. I hoped I’d get to see all four of them but it was nap time and I only got to see Wesson and Shane. Wesson skipped his nap so he could come watch Ernest and me land! Wesson was relaxed and easygoing, much more than I am when I skip my nap.

Shane took this picture at 1:10 PM, just seconds before we touched down. My flaps are all the way down (30º) and we’re probably going around 50 knots or 57 mph. Ernest keeps a watchful eye on me but I’ve done over a hundred landings and I’m moderately competent: 

Moments before landing at Blacksburg on Saturday. I’m actually flying! Thanks again for the picture Shane:








90 minutes later, taking off to head home:







Here’s the sign in front of the airport: 

KBCB – Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport


We flew at 8,500’ for most of the flight so I got to take a handful of pictures from the plane. This is Smith Mountain Lake. On my phone’s GPS it says “Huddleston” which I see is east of the lake. The next pictures say “Moneta” which is still east of the lake but closer. Have a look:

Smith Mountain Lake from 8,500 feet (1.6 miles!):


We were only on the ground in Blacksburg for around an hour and a half. Shane and Wesson took Ernest and me out for a sandwich then Shane took all of us on a tour of his fascinating workplace, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute – Advancing Transportation through Innovation – Shane carrying Wesson


Well, a few more typical (read: predictable) blog post pictures before I sign off. Monday I had a fantastic breakfast before (and after) my early morning work and went straight to the pool and swam a mile. A bicycling friend of mine (Pat) offered to meet me for an early afternoon ride and we rode (possibly ill-advisedly, in hindsight) forty-five miles! It was an outstanding ride though. Monday evening I took Mackey and Turner for a five kilometer walk to finish off my “triathlon.” When Pat and I used to do long rides regularly, we’d ride out to Owens Creek Corner Store [[1534 Owens Creek Rd, Mineral, VA 23117]], so we did that ride. It’s 24 miles out there and 21 miles back. Here’s a picture of the store. It’s not beautiful but they have great stuff like peanuts and m&m’s and Gatorade and water and Mountain Dew and Starbucks Doubleshots, all the hi tech foods you want to help you make that long ride back. The store:

Owens Creek Corner Store, my bike on the right, Pat’s on the left. This place is an oasis on a long ride:


Here’s a picture a bit more beautiful. Evelyn’s loving attention ensures her roses continue to thrive. Check this out – I took this on Wednesday. That’s a rose and that was October 10!:  

Another of Evelyn’s roses. Every time I think they can’t get more beautiful, they get more beautiful.


Obviously I’m not going to let a week go by without a raptor picture. It’s always a prize for me to get a “double” red-tail. This is one of the highest likelihood spots for double Red-tails, the cross on top of Discovery United Methodist Church in the far West End:

Watching like a hawk:


I noted last week that I’d been reading a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by a man named Viktor Frankl. I hadn’t quite finished the book when I put up the blog post. I later read the afterword and the person who wrote it quoted Dr. Frankl saying “I do not forget any good deed done to me, and I do not carry a grudge for a bad one.” And I thought what a great motto that makes. Not always achievable, but a worthy goal.

We had our first fire of the season after I came home from my big adventure yesterday, and Dash took immediate advantage. I’ll sign off with a picture of him renewing his acquaintance with the woodstove. I hope you can be this relaxed at some point this week! All best,


Dash is under the spell of the woodstove. Believe me, it’s a powerful spell:


This just in. Dash later found the fire too exhausting, so he had to jump up on “his” chair to recover: 

Dash recovering from the exhausting effort of warming his old bones by the fire:



Posted in Birds, cats, Cessna 172, Flowers, Fun, People, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, roses, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

When there’s nothing to say… 

7 October, 2018             When there’s nothing to say… 

…it’s better not to say anything. No brilliant revelations or images this week, just the usual. Hawks (of course) and the moon more than a few times. And a couple of books since I’m thin on content this week. Here are the books I’ve been reading this week.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia Wildlife Book Club meets online on the first Tuesday of every other month. Tuesday of this week we read Zooburbia: Meditations on the Wild Animals Among Us by Tai Moses. It’s not my all time favorite book but it was adequate:  

Zooburbia – Tai Moses

I’ve also been rereading (and finished this week) an old favorite from Viktor Frankl called Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl died at 92 years old in 1997. He was a psychiatrist and a prisoner at Auschwitz and Dachau until he was liberated by Allied forces in 1945. He went on to become a psychiatrist again as well as a writer and a teacher and in his spare time he took flying lessons! Some of the people I work with struggle with this subject, and I struggle with it myself from time to time. A refresher is always good:

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

The third book I’ve been reading is A Love Letter to the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh. If your mind is not at rest, as mine is occasionally not, read anything Thich Nhat Hanh ever wrote – he is a wildly prolific author, and easy to read. The book I mention here is only about twenty pages long, so you can get through it quickly. His style and content is not for everyone, but it is gratifying for me 100% of the time:

A Love Letter to the Planet – Thich Nhat Hanh

If I only blogged about hawks, this would have been a big week – I photographed one or more than one nearly every day. This one appeared the first time I was driving after sunrise Monday morning. This was at Westhampton Memorial and Cremation Park at 9:25:

Adult female Red-tailed hawk at Westhampton Memorial & Cremation Park on Monday, 10/1/2018:

This moon was right behind her and I tried to combine the images but it didn’t work. I’ve been lucky with that a time or two in the past but it is really not a shot you can plan for. You always know when and where the moon is, but sometimes it’s cloudy, and often it’s night, and most of the time there’s no hawk around! Anyway. This was the moon at 9:40 AM Monday:

Waning gibbous moon, 60% full, less than 24 hrs prior to “third quarter”:

This was the moon about 25.5 hours later at 11:10 AM Tuesday:

25 hours later, the difference is slight but detectable:

That same day at 11:00 a pair of Red-tails surprised me as they passed high over my house. You can hardly tell this is a hawk at all, but the clouds look pretty behind it: 

Lone Red-tail soaring in the center of this image; I like the texture of the clouds:

For people who aren’t into hawks, I apologize. The fall migration is on and there are hawks everywhere. This one was perched on the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church Monday morning: 

Like cats, hawks are “obligate carnivores.” That means they only eat meat. That gaze does not look apathetic:

Red Bellied Woodpeckers probably eat lots of insects too. But they’re not averse to a little feeder time: 

Hawks won’t eat bird seed. Woodpeckers will:

I flew on Thursday, though not as effortlessly as any of the birds photographed here (or anywhere) do. We just practiced maneuvers; we’re planning on some longer flights this month. I’m learning to talk with Air Traffic Control on the radio while I’m flying, which is incredibly hard. Believe me – flying at a few thousand feet at 100 mph on a pretty day – even takeoffs and landings – is not really difficult. I’ve got about fifty hours piloting the plane and way over 100 landings and I’m competent. But doing that while talking to and listening to an air traffic controller is quite difficult. But it’s the next step in my evolution as a pilot. Here’s the plane I flew Thursday: 

“Cessna 9754 Foxtrot” – that’s how I identify myself to Air Traffic Control

Friday morning on my way home from work I saw three separate Red-tails! The first was on the cell phone tower behind Fire Station 13 in western Henrico County. It was a male. I got his picture at 9:15. As the hawk flies it’s I suspect around 750 yards to the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church (DUMC). The female was there. I got her picture at 9:18. And when I got home there was yet another Red-tail on the power line tower near Freeman High School, almost within sight of my house. This one was a male and I got his picture at 9:35. The light was bleak all morning and none of the photographs were great but you can get closest to the one at DUMC, plus you can choose the side you want. Plus she was a female so she’s around a third larger than a male, which makes it easier to get a good image: 

Female Red-tail perched on the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church

Forgive me for overdoing it on the hawks! And come back next week! All best, 


PS – Reading addendum: Thich Nhat Hanh comes with my unqualified recommendation; everything he writes is wonderful. But the tone and pace and subject matter is not for everyone. I first read Thich Nhat Hanh ten years ago when I was dog and cat sitting for a dog named Marta and a cat named Cole. I was lying on the floor and Cole was sitting on my chest purring and I didn’t want to get up. I reached over to a bookshelf and pulled a slim purple volume called The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh from the bottom shelf. Cole fell asleep and I was in no rush so I just lay there reading. It was life-changing for me. I bought my own copy and I’ve been reading Thich Nhat Hanh ever since. The way I read it, it was more about paying attention than it was about meditation. But whatever works. It’s a fast read – try it out if you’re so inclined. 

Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Fun, moon, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Wildlife Book Club, Wildlife Center of Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sort of like a road trip…

30 September, 2018            Sort of like a road trip

…except we flew

Tuesday my instructor Ernest and I flew to Tangier Island Airport (KTGI) because you can’t get there by car. You can take a boat to KTGI or you can fly but that’s it. Unless you’re a really awesome swimmer. We flew in our trusty 1997 Cessna 172R, N9754F. Here she is Tuesday afternoon at 1:51 PM as I was walking out to do her preflight inspection. Both her wings and tail are tied down; this is how we leave the planes after we land:

N9754F before takeoff Tuesday: 

In August of 2014, my friend Pat’s son Daniel flew the three of us to Tangier. We flew in a Cessna 172 that time as well; you can see it if you look at my old blog post. You can also see pictures I took that time; I was flying as a passenger so I got to take more in-flight pictures, including our flight out to and landing at KTGI: I went flying yesterday!

I took a lot of pictures on the island that day as well.

Tuesday I used my phone to take a lot of pictures on the island too. When we were leaving, I took off but Ernest flew circles so we could gain altitude over the island and I took a few images. Last time (according to my blog post) I took 120 pictures during the trip. Here is a selection from this trip. My favorite is the one at the top of this post, a panorama of the airport. Our plane is in the center. I took that picture at 6:01 PM, just a few minutes before we took off.

If you go to Tangier, you see cats. They’re everywhere. There were none around the runway, fortunately. I’m sure many were shy, but not all. This one walked right up and introduced itself:

First time we’d ever met. The cat just walked up and said hello. In its cat manner: 

Look at this sky. Notice the cat at the top of the ramp:

Feast your eyes on that sky and those tombstones and masts and the cat in the center of the image: 

We had lunch at the Fisherman’s Corner Restaurant, about ten minutes walk from where we tied up the plane. I don’t recall what Ernest had, except he shared some crab dip with  me that was out of this world. I got a steamed shrimp appetizer and a soft shelled crab sandwich; it was a treasure. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around leaving my house after lunch, flying to these “far away places” and getting home in time for dinner. We’d had a longer flight planned (to the south) but the weather wasn’t good down there so we diverted to Tangier. Great diversion!

Here are a couple of pictures I took while Ernest was circling the plane and gaining altitude before we flew back to Hanover:

About 1,500′ over the island. See the runway down there? 

3 minutes later – and 1,500 feet higher: 

Anyway, I can’t resist (of course) a couple of hawks. As I was walking out the door of my morning job Monday, a Red-shouldered hawk flew directly toward me, swooped up and landed on the entranceway peak just above my head. I turned around and took this picture:

Hawks ignore us (I’m moderately certain) but this one swooped directly toward me Monday morning and landed directly above my head. Posed while I took this picture: 

Two days later there was a Red-tailed hawk, in much better light, a stone’s throw (literally) from my house. I had to walk to take this but it’s real close:

See what a difference nice light makes? Plus, compare breast colors between these two. That’s how you tell a Red-shoulder (top picture) from a Red-tail (this picture) 

I took all three dogs to the river this morning but it was nearly fourteen feet deep and most of the trails were underwater. We walked for half an hour or so but we headed back before I took a picture of all three together. But Yuki was my copilot on the drive home, and he doesn’t look too unhappy about leaving early. I took this picture just as we started back:

Spend more time with dogs. You’ll get happier right away. Check out this handsome, happy boy: 

Evelyn and I had late lunch/early dinner at our favorite restaurant Fresca on Addison yesterday. In nice weather we walk from there to Bev’s Ice Cream in Carytown for dessert and yesterday was spectacular. As you walk west late in the day the sun shines brightly on those south facing walls (on your right) and the plants love the sun. There were gardenias – incredibly – plus these passion flowers. Take a look at the bee on here:

Bee on a passion flower

One more picture (at least). I was hiking with my buddy Kendall at Deep Run Friday and we saw this highway safety orange fungus growing alongside the path:

Dad loved to say “there’s a fungus among us.” Mom and I loved to eat mushrooms but Dad always called them “toadstools.” He wouldn’t have been able to resist commenting on this orange beauty: 

More next week! I hope! Have an excellent week,


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“Sorry to write such a long letter… “

23 September, 2018            “Sorry to write such a long letter… “

“…I didn’t have time to write a short one.” – Oscar Wilde (I thought). But one web site I read said that quote “…has been attributed, variously, to Pliny the Younger, Mark Twain, T.S.Eliot, Cicero, Voltaire and Proust.” Who knows. I like the idea. Read on. Please! 

Evelyn’s father John, Monmouth Co. NJ, ~1985 or 1990 

The man in that picture is Evelyn’s father John, who I never met. He died around ten years before I knew Evelyn. Ev guesses this photograph was taken about 1985 or 1990 but she’s not certain. He was outdoorsy and a reader and I have a book of his called “John of the Mountains: the unpublished journals of John Muir“, 1938. I picked it up the other day and it has a bookmark with an old fraying string and a photograph of a soulful looking Dalmatian sitting on a black and white checkerboard tiled floor.

I just – while I was putting this blog post together – stumbled across this sentence in an article called John Muir, Nature’s Witness: “The founder of the Sierra Club [John Muir] worshiped the outdoor world.” Worshipped. That’s a strong word.

The bookmark is on page sixteen, and it’s on Chapter 1, in a section called “At Smoky Jack’s Sheep Camp” [December, 1868]. The January 18 journal entry ends on that page, followed by January 19 in its entirety, and the beginning of January 20. I reproduced them here, without permission:

January 18 […] “…Another glorious day, full of light and joy and life. A purple evening.

January 19 Clouds in transparent flakes. Warm, balmy life in every sunbeam. Perfect harmony in all things here.

January 20 Purple morning and evening. The evening lark song is ‘Queedli boodle.” […]

When I read the January 19 entry, all three sentences, all sixteen words, I thought “I use way more words than I should.” I pay attention to using fewer words but it gets away from me sometimes. Possibly this demonstrates the truth of that.

So anyway, here’s one of Ev’s roses. The gardenias are spectacular, but this is difficult to improve. I took this picture Friday afternoon, next to our garage:

Words will degrade this image: 

In addition to using too many words, I use too many pictures of hawks. But Friday I got a “double” Red-tail, two perched at the same time on the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church:

Red-tail pair at Discovery United Methodist Church

It occurred to me that this is the only time of year (up until early Spring) when I photograph two at once. I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect when there are eggs or young on the nest, one adult stays there. Adult Red-tails don’t have predators in Virginia – they’re at the top of the food chain. But all manner of opportunists (especially raccoons, and I’ll bet snakes) prey on the eggs and young. Whatever reason, it’s always fun to get a “double” Red-tail.

I had two big flying milestones this week, but only one was really photographable. Because Tuesday I did my first night flight! We took off around 8:30 PM and flew to Charlottesville (KCHO) and I landed in the dark! KCHO is a much bigger and brighter airport than Hanover (KOFP) but it’s still night when you land. A lot of night flying (mainly the landing) is like learning to fly all over again. But it’s fascinating. I love every minute.

I was supposed to fly in the afternoon and I went to the airport. But you can see in this picture the clouds were beginning to stack up. The weather was turning ugly so I went home. And came back after it cleared up and went night flying! Here’s the plane I flew in the afternoon before the storm:

The calm plane before the storm

Here’s the moon that evening at 7:30, an hour before takeoff:

Moon in early evening (7:30) 

And again at 11:30, after I got home from the airport:

Same day around 4 hours later (11:30) 

Wednesday I got a couple pictures of Ev’s gardenias and nasturtiums. Here’s a gardenia inside – with keys, “for scale”:

Ev’s gardenia magic, with car keys for scale: 

Ev’s prize winning (IMO) nasturtiums in Dad’s (my Dad’s) favorite color: 

And Thursday I got to fly again! Only this time to Luray Caverns Airport (KLUA)! I took way, way, way too many pictures – it was so incredible. I’m looking over our path, it took us over Ruckersville, Stanardsville, Elkton, Shenandoah, Stanley, Luray, all the little towns that surrounded our cabin when we were growing up. We were right between Shenandoah and Stanley. I took this picture when we were flying back. I’m not sure what our altitude was right there – probably around 5,000 feet. Our property is close to the center of this image, but I can’t say precisely. That muddy brown river is the flooded South Fork of the Shenandoah. You can barely make out the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks in the lower right. I’ll get better pictures next time I fly up there:

Flying – me flying – a Cessna 172 over our property in the Shenandoah Valley, with the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in the foreground: 

Here’s the wind sock at the Luray Caverns airport, with the mountains in the background:

Windsock at Luray Caverns Airport, Luray, VA

When we landed the airport operator came on the radio and said “do you guys need any gas? Or do you want to borrow a car so you can visit the Caverns?” We were running late so we thanked him and declined, then taxied back to the runway and flew home.

It was disorienting. When I was young, going up there was a big deal, lots of preparation and excitement, etc. We had to do a lot to get ready, and as much or more to come home. Thursday I ate lunch at my dining room table, went to the airport, flew to Page County and landed. Took off and flew home. And had dinner at my dining room table. Even as I type it now a few days later it’s hard to wrap my head around it.

I ate another pawpaw at Pony Pasture this morning while the dogs and I were hiking. Every week I think I’ve had the last one. They are a treasure.

This week has also been a treasure – I hope yours has too. Until next week (I hope!),


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Ivory and Nicky and Unknown Cat, by Karen Gammon, Richmond VA SPCA

I am a dedicated nostalgiaphobe. I have no use for nostalgia. The past is just fine exactly where it is. The moment we’re alive – this very instant – is the best one ever. “That’s why they call it ‘The Present,’” a wise friend told me – “it’s a gift.”

But Evelyn and I were near The Diamond Thursday shopping for floor tile. I saw the Richmond SPCA a few doors away. A talented woman named Karen Gammon’s artwork decorates their training a rea. And she did portraits of my first two dogs! And they’re both on the wall!

This is the wall of the exercise area at the SPCA. You can see Ivory’s picture toward the right, just above the little green tabletop between the two sets of blue stairs. Nicky’s picture is to the right of Ivory’s, directly above the fan sitting on the floor. 

Ivory on the right, just above the green platform. 
Nicky to the right of Ivory, above the fan on the floor. 

Here’s an image of the two of them on the back stoop of my old house on Three Chopt Road. This picture was taken maybe 1998 or so. I hadn’t learned to photograph black dogs at that point – all you can see is Nicky’s tongue. And his pointy ears. He was handsome, but he could be intimidating. Ivory was incapable of intimidation. 

Ivory & Nicky on my back stoop, Three Chopt Rd., late 1990’s:

I’d never owned dogs before I owned Nicky and Ivory. I got Ivory in 1995. I was thirty-four years old. So all the time you see me with dogs today, I knew zero about them while I grew up. I knew about companion animals (we grew up with cats) and about the outdoors (between our cabin and Camp) but but Ivory and Nicky taught me everything I know about dogs.

Ivory was easy – he was so easy – he was the perfect first dog. He was jumpy when I first got him but he calmed down in no time. 

Here’s an excerpt from my journal on January 8, 1996: “…an enormous amount has happened since I last wrote. The Blizzard of ’96, mainly, and boy has it been a doozy. Drove back from Kati’s [in Maryland] in it on Saturday night, left there at 2045 with no precipitation, finally arrived here at 0015 Sunday morning in mid-blizzard. Had two dogs with us for the whole trip, Kelsey and about a 10-month old Husky named Ivory. My talisman against the blizzard.” Then there’s a journal entry from June of 1998 that says “Ivory and I recently returned from our first visit to the MCV Children’s Medical Center as a pet therapy team.” Twenty years ago this summer, remarkable. I was working on my MS in Rehabilitation Counseling at MCV in the mid-1990’s and began studying Pet Therapy for a special project. And kept doing it at MCV for eleven more years! And still do it now, with another generation of dogs, but we don’t work in hospitals. 

Nicky was more challenging. He arrived at a good time. Ivory was from AARF, the Animal Adoption and Rescue Foundation, and so was Nicky. They called me and asked if I’d pick up this dog; it was an emergency. I got him; he was a mess. I wrote at the time he was like “a skeleton with fur.” I kept him overnight and they got him to a foster home. At the foster home he bit someone and they asked me to take him back. I already had Ivory. I got Nicky back, and he bit me once and my renter once. AARF is a non-euthanizing group but they said Nicky would be the first dog they’d euthanize. 

If I hadn’t been living with Ivory, he probably would have been. But Ivory had such a powerful and confident personality, it spread to everyone around him. And Ivory’s personality helped Nicky calm down. 

Never let anyone tell you that an “alpha dog” is one who shows other dogs it’s the boss. Ivory was the purest alpha animal I’ve ever met, human or non-human, and the “alpha” quality was just confidence. There is no swagger, no growling, no aggression, no teeth baring, nothing. Alpha animals don’t act like they have anything to prove. It’s confidence, and nothing else. 

Here’s a journal excerpt from October of 1995, when I was in graduate school at VCU. It goes well with the “nostalgiaphobe” theme of this blog post: “Life is a series of collisions with the future, it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be” -Jose Ortega Y Gasset

Here – unrelated except it’s in the same journal – is another quote I enjoyed. Though it’s not particularly instructive: “Nothing’s impossible, but you’ll never wear skis through a revolving door.” 

Mister Floyd – 2008 

Mister Floyd came along later – over ten years later. I’ll write about him in another blog post. That was not a dog for amateurs. He came along after I’d had a lot of experience. I believe Mister Floyd did not have a joyful life. We didn’t know each other for a real long time but we formed a strong, strong bond.

Ivory was the first dog I ever owned. He taught me everything, and taught me to teach other dogs. And to teach other people. Ivory made it into a book about dogs in 2009. Here it is: To the Rescue: Found Dogs with a MissionElise Lufkin, Diana Walker (photographer), 2009. 

Here is a picture of “Ivory’s” book (though his is only one of 53 chapters) and a picture of the beginning of Ivory’s chapter, Chapter 53, page 135: 

Excerpt from the book (I wrote this chapter; it’s Chapter 53, the final chapter of the book: 

“…Over the years I have tried to emulate Ivory’s best characteristics and make them my own. It’s not always easy. Once we were in the pediatric ICU visiting a teenaged girl. She was really, really big and bloated, probably due to medications, some of which can produce severe weight gain. Her hair was greasy and matted, her skin was horrible, her face slack, dull, and uninterested. I’ve been seeing kids in the PICU for ten years now, and even with the really sick ones, even in a coma or something, you can tell that they’re normally happy, healthy kids who are just in a tough spot. This girl was not like that. She looked like she’d never been happy; she looked like she’d never been cared for. Ivory, of course, went straight up to her bed and shoved his nose up to greet her. When she reached out to pet him, I saw that her hand had six fingers. I have always fancied myself an open-minded and poised person, accepting differences in people and taking things as they come. And on the surface I was that person, making friendly conversation with this girl just like I do with everybody. But I was faking it; she didn’t know that, but I did. Ivory was most definitely not faking it – he was as genuine, real, and present as one being could ever be with another. He would have stayed all day.

I  thought about it for the rest of our visit, the whole way home and all that day, and I still think about it. I realized that I had to raise the level of my compassion, care, and empathy to be equal with a dog. With a dog – not with Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela, but with a dog. That was an immensely powerful lesson for me.

I am undeniably a better human being as a result of the years I’ve spent with Ivory. He’s an incredible animal, and I’m just so happy I’ve been able to have this time with him. There will certainly never be another Ivory. He’s probably only got a couple of years left with me, but he has changed the course of the rest of my life.” 

So beginning with Ivory in 1995 I went from no dogs to this: 

Only two of those live at my house – Turner with the ball in his mouth (he always “has a ball,” both literally and figuratively) and Mackey, solid black, you can barely see him there left center in the image. But Yuki (the big handsome white dog) is a regular hiking buddy of ours. And Luna (bottom, black and white, smiling) and Lola (licking my ear) are also regular companions, and Sonny (top left, yellow Lab, looking soulful) hangs out at Yuki’s house regularly. They’re neighbors. 

A couple of images from the river this week: 

I can’t go a week without a hawk. I almost did. But I saw a female in the drizzle at the Westhampton Memorial & Cremation Park (corner of Patterson and Gaskins) on my way home Friday morning: 

Wet female Red-tail early in the “hurricane” activity – Westhampton Cemetery, Richmond, VA 

A couple of images from today. On the left, Mackey, Turner, Yuki, Lola and Luna in the warm rain at Pony Pasture early this afternoon. On the right, Dash, making clear his keen desire to join them the next time they venture outdoors: 

That’s all for this week! I hope you’ve had a great week and next week is even better! 

All best, 


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Random – but fortunately a hawk came to visit

9 September, 2018            Random – but fortunately a hawk came to visit

Red-tail landed in my backyard while I was cutting grass!


Some weeks I don’t get any pictures I love (except gardenias) but this week a young hawk landed in the backyard. Right while I was mowing my yard! Flew in and landed above my head! I was mowing the grass – gasoline mower, noisy and rattling, everything. I saw the shadow fly over so I stopped and looked up and there it was – perched directly over my head. This next picture shows where I stopped the mower and looked up and saw the hawk. I said hello, dropped my gloves on the ground and went inside and got my camera. When I came back out, the hawk was still there. I sat on the chair in the lower left to take this picture. 

The hawk was perched on a branch high up on the right side of that pine. I sat on the chair to take this picture.



Our gardenias attract me, and this week they attracted a visitor I’d never noticed before. I relocated it to a Rose of Sharon (hibiscus) in another corner of our yard. It sprayed my gloves with what could be called gardenia leaf colored saliva. I’m not sure what that was meant to indicate. Anger or fear or anxiety or some combination. Always good to have a new visitor in the yard. Check out this camo – incredible:

Look at the remarkable camo on this gardenia gobbling caterpillar:


When I told Turner about it, he offered to “stand” guard near the gardenia, but he sometimes lies down on the job. You don’t need lightning reflexes to catch a caterpillar, so Turner conserved his energy:

Turner guarding potted gardenia on right side of image:


Gardenias aren’t our only flower – as you’re aware. It’s night now and I’m in my office, but I think you may be able to stand next to the gardenia and see this rose:

I can look one direction and see a gardenia and turn my head and see this:


This is a picture of the gardenia plant from Wednesday. The scent from a single one of those buds will fill up any room. It’s amazing there are so many. You can’t even see them all in this picture. No wonder those caterpillars are around:

Look at that. 4 visible in 1 image. It’s an embarrassment of riches.


Here are two pictures from the river this morning. Same fungus:

Iphone on fungus – see my image?



Camera on fungus






I normally take a lot of dog pictures, but I overdid it this morning, even by my standards. You’d think I could do better than this. But I ended up with five dogs this AM. They’re fun but the leash/camera/phone juggling act is more than moderately challenging:

Dogs making “Cat’s Cradle” out of retractable leashes


Ev’s got another new (to me) flower growing outside my office window, a lantana. It’s a camera friendly flower – look at those colors and textures – but I haven’t gotten an image I love yet. But this is a good start: 

One of many different lantana buds:



Beautyberry almost shading the lantana







Have a great week! I’m up way too late! All best, 



Posted in Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, fungus, Gardenias, Insects, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why isn’t there anything in holes?” – O. Henry

2 September, 2018            “Why isn’t there anything in holes?” – O. Henry

Butterfly I saw at Pony Pasture today (sorry for the lack of ID)


The quote is from a story by O Henry called The Ransom of Red Chief. It’s unrelated to this blog post. I was riding in the car with a buddy on Friday and heard a song called Talking Straight by a band called Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. One line (two lines, really) said, “I wanna know where the silence comes from.”

Where space originates.” When I heard “I wanna know…where space originates” I immediately flashed back to The Ransom of Red Chief and the questions the little boy (“Red Chief”) tormented his kidnappers with. Such as, “why isn’t there anything in holes?” and “how can a road go both ways?”

My Aunt Kathleen – really my Dad’s Aunt Kathleen – gave me a thick volume of O Henry short stories when I was much younger. I still recall many of the stories – many folks are no doubt familiar with O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi – but “Red Chief” was a favorite for me. Not least because of Red Chief’s inscrutable question.

Here’s a picture of the moon from yesterday morning shortly after 6:00. It was 68% full and waning. When I took this picture it was 63º above the horizon. For reference, the horizon is 0º and directly overhead is 90º. And it was at 200º on the compass. 180º is directly south, so the is just a few degrees west of south. Anyway. Pardon my foray into intense geekiness. Here’s the picture:

Waning gibbous moon – 68% full – 9/1/2018 – 6:00 AM



The flower Ev attracted a hummingbird with last week attracted a different winged visitor this week. This was looking out my office window Wednesday morning at 10:40:

Ev’s gorgeous plants attract another gorgeous visitor


I’ll put in a gardenia picture before I close this blog post. They are on a rampage. Our little tree currently has three huge blooms. But her roses are also magnificent, especially this spectacular flower from Wednesday morning: 

It’s hard to look away from



She posted a picture of one of her roses earlier this week accompanied by this poem:


Did the rose

Ever open its heart

And give this world

All its

It felt the encouragement of light

Against its



We all remain



It’s a big leap from roses and mystic poets to general aviation and Cessna 172’s but that happens on this blog from time to time. I won’t fly at all this week, unfortunately, but last week I flew Tuesday and Thursday. These pictures are both from Thursday, one before and one during preflight. One picture is obvious (the plane) and one I stood just in front of the prop spinner while I was checking the engine cooling inlets and air filter and prop and spinner. This is the spinner – the center of the propeller:

The center of the action – the prop spinner of the Cessna 172 I flew Thursday


This, of course, is the rest of the aircraft:

Behind the prop spinner!


There are lots of insects now, as you’re seeing from the butterfly pictures. I saw a really huge spider at the river this morning. I regret not putting something in the image for scale, but this girl (males are ~⅛ as large) was close to 2” long. My sister Katie tentatively identified it (from my cell phone picture) as Argiopes auratus or a Black and Yellow Garden Spider. It is an attractive insect; I regret the poor quality of this image:

Black and Yellow Garden Spider


Pony Pasture, by the way, is filled with pawpaws – they’re everywhere, and will be for the next two or three weeks. Have a taste! They’re spectacular! Once they’re gone you won’t get a chance again for nearly a year.

Gardenia to close with – I have so many pictures:

I like whipped cream a lot – that’s probably why my mouth waters when I look at this.








Have an outstanding week! Go to Pony Pasture and eat some pawpaws while you can – they’ll be gone before you know it. All best, see you next week (I hope!), 



Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, Insects, James River, moon, Pony Pasture, Rivers, roses, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Spiders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments