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

More is better

26 August, 2018           More is better 

More is better

I turned 57 on Thursday. I took this picture Saturday at sunrise looking across the Potomac River on Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. There is nothing – ever – that’s bad about watching the sun rise. I will never complain about getting old, because I get to see more sunrises, and more is better. Full stop. 

More birds and flowers are better too (again, with no exceptions) and Evelyn planted these milkweed flowers (or “Asclepius” or “butterflyweed” or “tuberose”) in front of my office window. Thanks to her research and green thumb I  photographed a hummingbird in my yard for the first time in my life: 

       First hummingbird I’ve ever photographed in our yard – Monday afternoon




Since I’d never seen one here before, she (that’s a female Ruby-throated hummingbird  (Archilochus colubris)) caught me off guard. Next time I’ll get a better image. I was just overjoyed to see her outside my window. Birthday week! Let me give you a better idea of why those flowers are hard for a hummingbird to pass up. I took this picture after the hummingbird left: 

If you were a hummingbird, you would totally not be able to pass this up:

My former instructor John was hired by a major airline and Tuesday afternoon I flew for the first time with my excellent new instructor Earnest:

Just after landing Tuesday (8/21) afternoon

More flying – Evelyn and I went out for an early birthday dinner Tuesday in Short Pump at Burger Bach and Evelyn pointed out this Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) perched on the edge of a building watching for an evening meal: 

Cooper’s Hawk in Short Pump:

To continue with the intermittent flying theme – this time back to a manmade “bird” – my friend Pat’s son Daniel is training to be a Marine Corps tactical jet pilot. He is currently stationed at NAS Meridian in Meridian, MS. He flew up with his training officer Friday in a T-45C Goshawk and landed at Richmond International Airport (KRIC). I took this picture when he was on final approach at 6:00 PM EDT:

Daniel about to land at Richmond airport Friday in his T-45 Goshawk:

This is a couple of minutes later when he was taxiing up to the airport:

Daniel taxiing to the ramp shortly after landing:

Pat and Megan and I all rode together to the airport to watch Daniel land. We left straight from there for Quantico – we were riding together in Pat’s truck and we all stayed in the same hotel just a few minutes from Quantico. We got up way way way before the crack of dawn so we’d get to the race for check in at 5:00 AM. I’d been awake for two and a half hours before I took that sunrise picture at the top of this post. Oy. Anyway, I had a wonderful race – I’ve never had a bad one – but it was Megan’s first triathlon! She was outstanding! And Pat got third place in his age group – a podium finish! Incredible. Here are the three of us post race: 

Age group medalist Pat on left, 1st time triathlon finisher Megan on right, very happy person in the center

This was at least the third time I’ve done this race, possibly more. And I’ll tell you – it’s just fun to be on base at Quantico. There are ospreys everywhere, and I usually see bald eagles but I missed them this year. Trains go by all the time, and the river – as you can see in the top picture – is beyond lovely. Plus check out this old tank. I leaned my bike against the front of it after the race. Our Dad – stop me if you’ve heard this – used to always put objects in pictures “for scale” so you could estimate the size. You’ve seen me do it with Evelyn’s spectacular flowers. Dad’s favorite “for scale” item – as I recall – was to put a quarter near a baby’s foot. He’d also do it for insects and flowers and all manner of other items where the size was difficult to determine. I thought of Dad and adding objects to pictures “for scale” when I leaned my bike against this old tank. Until just now I thought it was an American tank, but after a little research I think it’s a Russian T-62 main battle tank. I may be wrong – I am wildly ignorant in this area. If you know what it is, by all means put a comment in the comment box or shoot me an email or text. Anyway, it’s a cool picture: 


T-62 tank with bike for scale















Bike is on the side this time:
















Almost forgot – I got a picture of a Red-tail on the tower next to the Westbury Apothecary after our river hike this AM: 

More hawks is better too









Found some last-minute pictures! Still (for the most part) in the “more is better” theme. Pony Pasture flowers from this morning (more flowers is better): 

Such wonderful light this morning 












I also saw a toad at the river this morning – I haven’t seen a ton this year:

Toad at the river this morning – sorry no ID or item for scale













So anyway, I opened this blog post with what is (to me) the universal symbol of “more is better” – a brand new sunrise. You can just never have too many sunrises. Also included in the “more is better” category – and in this blog post – are more birds, more flying, more flowers, more fun, “more is better” is a big, big category. Thus it’s only fitting that I close with a picture of dogs at the river this morning – more hikes with dogs at the river is better too. Have a great week!:

Hikes at the river with dogs – more is better






Posted in accipiters, Birds, Cessna 172, Cooper's Hawk, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), triathlons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

 “Try to be a little kinder” – Aldous Huxley 

19 August, 2018           “Try to be a little kinder” – Aldous Huxley 

In back, from left, Kevin, Katie, me, Mom, Dad. Shane, Sheila and Tara seated. 28 October, 2012, Doswell, VA – Kevin’s living room

That’s my whole family on October 28, 2012 at my brother Kevin’s house in Doswell, VA, a few days before Halloween. Even though we were smiling at a camera on a tripod (as opposed to, for example, an actual human being), we were happy and relatively healthy. 23 days later, Dad died in his sleep, with zero warning. That’s the only picture I’ve ever seen with the seven of us together – maybe one of my siblings knows of another one. That’s Shane’s dog Tara standing warm-hearted sentinel in the lower right. She’s still standing warm-hearted sentinel, only at their house in Blacksburg. A little more later.

I got a lot of hawks this week – a lot – but no decent Red-shoulders (only Red-tails) and nothing that sticks out as a wonderful image. But they’re my ongoing fascination, and they’re always in my consciousness, and it settles my mind to locate one and photograph it. It’s practically a meditation. Of course, if they’re awake and it’s daylight, chances are they’re looking for a small mammal to kill or digesting one they’re recently killed. Here’s one I saw Monday afternoon near the Westbury Apothecary:

Fat and I suspect happy (well-fed, anyway) female Red-tailed hawk near the Westbury Apothecary

Anyway a friend and I share an August birthday so a handful of us get together for lunch every year, and my August birthday friend took me to task for having too much wildlife and not enough people in my blog!! It takes some nerve to say that, don’t you think? Is it just me? I’ll let you in on a little secret – people don’t calm me down – wildlife calms me down. I’ll let you in on another little secret – she’s not the only person who prefers pictures of people to pictures of wildlife. Unless I get a really spectacular wildlife picture, which happens maybe once every six weeks, the only time I get a lot of blog views is when I put up a picture with people in it.

Fortunately Evelyn puts a ton of work into our gardenias and I get to smell them and look at them and photograph them almost at will. Including this week. Here’s a beauty from Thursday:

I practically want to sniff the screen. You cannot imagine what this flower smells like.

Dad’s birthday would have been the day before yesterday (August 17). He would have been 83. Putting something in a photograph “for scale” was a signature trait of Dad’s. A quarter was his go-to prop “for scale.” For Evelyn’s stunning gardenia I doubled that and used a half dollar:

Smells like a million bucks

I thought about Dad a lot on his birthday. It’s never melancholy, but there’s always stuff I’d like to talk with him about, like flying and hawks and gardenias and books and dogs and photography. And about kindness, although kindness isn’t the sort of thing people have conversations about. Do they? Maybe they do. I’d also like to talk with him about people. I miss his insights. I miss Mom’s too. But it wasn’t her birthday this week.

Dad would have liked this picture. He would have liked to be there. I took it this morning at 11:35 at the northeast tip of Pony Pasture. Mackey is black, Turner in the middle, Yuki on the right:

Mackey, Turner and Yuki at the river this morning. I almost just typed “Dad would have been in heaven.” But I caught myself.

If Dad wasn’t doing something with his wife or children or grandchildren, his second-favorite thing to do (way in second place) was read. I’ve known voracious readers, but not like Dad. Fortunately Evelyn is a constant reader, and notices the books I enjoy, and finds new ones that are precisely the ones I’d choose for myself, if I knew about them. She gave me one for an early birthday present, Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography by Huston Smith. That’s where I got the title quote for this blog post. It reminded me of Dad. Like me, Dad was a person without religion. But he had kindness in his DNA, and it was impossible not to like him. I am clearly biased, but if someone had ever not liked my Dad, I would have noticed in an instant. Here’s the whole quote: “…It’s rather embarrassing,” he [Aldous Huxley] added, “to have given one’s entire life to pondering the human predicament and to find that in the end one has little more to say than, ‘Try to be a little kinder.’”

Dad didn’t give his “entire life to pondering the human predicament,” and he wasn’t an advice-giver. But I suspect when he was feeling other-than-kind, a voice in his head said “try to be a little kinder.”

My friend who chastised me having too much wildlife – as if there is such a thing – in my blog told me she liked the blog post I wrote two weeks ago called My only aunt (I have no uncles). I like writing that way too but it’s really hard. I can’t do it fifty-two weeks a year. But I can do it more often. I’ll do it again soon. Maybe more about Mom.

I’ll insert here – before this post ends – about writing about my parents. Go back up to the top of this post and look at the seven people there. Mom and Dad have been dead for a long time, the other five of us are alive and thriving. And if you asked Katie and Sheila and Kevin and Shane to describe Mom and/or Dad, they’d tell the story differently. But they’d tell it in clear, well-educated, precise English. They’d be kind. They’d be wearing clean clothes. They’d be healthy. Whatever story they’d tell about Mom and Dad, the five of us were left with health and intelligence and a precise moral compass.

Have a great week, see you (I hope!) on the 26th. All best,


PS Speaking of Dad and of flowers Evelyn grows, she has nasturtiums all over our yard (and our house) in Dad’s favorite color: 

Nasturtiums – Dad’s favorite color

The moon Thursday evening, just because I enjoyed taking this picture. Waxing crescent moon, about 36 hours before “First Quarter”: 

Posted in Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, James River, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Civic duty/ dumpster diver/ quick and dirty

12 August, 2018            Civic duty/ dumpster diver/ quick and dirty

Dumpster diver at Pony Pasture Tuesday afternoon:

When we get to the river, Mackey and Turner jump out of the car, and Mackey poops on the ground – first thing – before we’re a leash length away from the car. I perform my civic duty and throw it in the dumpster. Tuesday we were down there with our friends Andrew and Drew and their dog Kosar, and I went to throw the bag in the dumpster at Pony Pasture at 2:00 PM and that face was looking up at me. It didn’t look concerned, but we didn’t think it could get out. So we put a stick in there for it to climb up. We also let the park management know. When returned from our hike a couple of hours later, the grass was cut and the raccoon was gone.

There’s going to be a swimming water snake picture further down – snake-o-phobes, be forewarned.

And this is a quick and dirty post – more quick than dirty – because I’m late. I got red-tails yesterday and Monday, both near here, no great pictures, but I’ll post one.

This was the moon at 5:45 on the morning we saw the raccoon. It was a “waning crescent” moon, four days before it vanishes completely and becomes a new moon:

Waning crescent moon early Tuesday morning

Here’s a deer on the same day – not a brilliant shot – but we had a lot of dogs, including a new one (Kosar): 

1 deer in the center, another a bit less visible to the right

I also saw a Luna moth this week – although on Friday – at Starbucks. This one was alive, but not for much longer I’m afraid:

Luna moth near Starbucks Friday:

A picture of Dash from today in his jungle lair:

Dash, Lord of the Jungle

Almost left out a Red-tail from this week. This is Monday afternoon at 2:40 near Freeman HS:

Red-tail on the powerline at Freeman High School

Also I nearly left out the snake picture. It’s not great quality but it’s cool to see an actual Northern Water Snake swimming. Drew pointed it out or I would have missed it completely. Thanks Drew!: 

Northern Water Snake swimming at Pony Pasture. Thanks Drew!

Almost forgot – I got a very small toad today at the river. I regret not adding anything for scale but it was moving quick. It was about half an inch long, possibly less: 

Petite toad from Pony Pasture this morning

Maybe more next week – I never know – have a great week! All best,


Posted in Birds, James River, Pony Pasture, Raccoons, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Snakes, whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My only aunt (I have no uncles)

5 August, 2018            My only aunt (I have no uncles)

Me (seated in stroller), my sister Katie, my mom (pushing stroller), her sister Janet (kneeling), and their parents (my grandparents), ~1962

My mother’s younger sister Janet was my only aunt, and I have no uncles. She died on July 13 at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, a couple of months before her eightieth birthday. She became a Catholic nun in 1960, a year before I was born, and that was how I always knew her. She was a Sister of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Her name as a nun was Sister Pauline. And she was a nun for fifty-eight years!

She had this picture in her room. The date on the back says “1962 or 63.” That’s Janet (Sister Pauline) kneeling down and talking to me in the front of the stroller. I’m thinking this was 1962. My older sister Katie is standing behind me on the axle of the stroller. Wearing white shoes. And my mom (Janet’s older sister) is pushing the stroller. Plus my maternal grandparents, all smiles.

Here’s a picture of Janet about 25 years later at my sister Katie’s wedding. That’s Janet (Sister Pauline) on the left, my sister Katie in the middle and her husband Jim on the right. They were married (or possibly had the reception; I don’t recall) at Camp Waredaca in Laytonsville, MD. Where all five of us were campers and counselors while we were growing up.

Janet, Katie, Jim – Camp Waredaca, 1987 – Katie and Jim’s wedding

We never lived far from our grandparents, so whenever Janet would visit them, she’d visit us. She was just perpetually cheerful. Exuberant even – always overflowing with energy.

There was a group of her fellow nuns and friends at The Woods when we were there this week – they were her “Band.” This picture is her Band, with Kevin and me behind them on the left and my sisters Katie and Sheila and Katie’s daughter Cappy on the right. That was the most cheerful group of people I’d been around in a long, long time:

Me, Kevin, Katie, Sheila and Cappy with Janet’s “Band”

Anyway, I’ll put in a few more pictures from our trip, though I didn’t get as many as I would have liked. My niece Cappy took this picture of my sister Sheila and me in The Shell Chapel at Saint Mary of the Woods:

Sheila and me in The Shell Chapel at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods

I took this picture a moment before, looking out of a stained glass window in the Shell Chapel. See the shells set in the walls to the right and left of the stained glass window?:  

Stained glass window inside Shell Chapel looking out. See the shells on the walls?

There’s a great little article about it here: Shell Shock: the Hidden Wonder of St. Anne’s Chapel

There was a lovely obituary for Sister Pauline (Janet) on the Saint Mary of the Woods home page. There was an interesting passage about how much she loved music, and I was especially touched to read this about her: “As for listening to music, Sister Huong reports that her top choice was “Bridge over Troubled Water.”” If you missed it, I wrote a blog post on May 20 – while she was very much alive – calledBridge over Troubled Water.” It’s sad that I didn’t learn until after she died that I wrote a blog post about “her top choice” – and neither of us knew.

Some may be unaware that I went to Catholic schools from K – 12, except for a couple of years in elementary school. I never took to the religion, but Janet embodied the spirit of all of my favorite teachers. Regarding Catholicism she was – in my estimation – irreverent but respectful.

I’ve been thinking about how to describe all this – I never know what to say. I was thinking about Janet and how cheerful she was and a phrase went through my head. I just checked back at a blog post I wrote after my Mom died. The blog post was on January 22, 2017 and it was called Downstream. I put in a picture of my mom along with a quote from one of her best friends. It was about mom, but it applies perfectly to her sister: ““I never heard her say anything bad about anyone; I never saw her cranky or cross.” – Liz A., 19 January, 2017

Anyway. I’m thinking too much. Mackey and Turner and Yuki and I had a relaxing hike at the river this morning. This is Mackey leading us back. Turner followed Mackey, Yuki followed Turner, I followed Yuki, all four of us made it back: 

You will never get in trouble following Mackey – that dog has an instinct for safety:

Have a great week, all best,


Posted in Dogs, People, Pony Pasture, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments