Mixed emotions

13 January, 2019            Mixed emotions

I had an experience – two experiences, really – on Monday, April 16, 2007. The dogs woke me up long before dawn today and, inexplicably, I was thinking of those two experiences. Evelyn is encouraging me to write more, and I’m reading about writing, and it’s stirring stuff up. That is undoubtedly why I was thinking of those two long ago experiences.

I’m going to pop a couple of pictures up here then put the “Mixed emotions” story at the end. So first, of course, the usual stuff. A lot of nice time outdoors this week. This morning I woke up real, real agitated from thinking – dreaming, I presume – about my two experiences on April 16, 2007. It was wet and cold outside but being agitated pushes me even harder than usual to the banks of the river. It was calming, as always. I took this picture shortly after we arrived:

Our wonderful James River this cold, gray January morning:

Monday morning on Patterson Avenue I saw a Red-shouldered hawk and a Red-tailed hawk perched in trees about five hundred yards apart. I love them both, but Red-shoulders don’t seem as confident at Red-tails. In my eyes, Red-tails always look confident – they perch and fly with swagger – and Red-shoulders always look a little concerned. Both of those assessments are what is called anthropomorphism – I am projecting my human emotions onto an animal. But that’s neither here nor there. Here is the Red-tail I saw Friday, at Westhampton Memorial & Cremation Park (it’s really called that, a “Park”) at 10000 Patterson Ave, Richmond, VA 23238: 

That bird does not appear to be worried. Maybe it is, or maybe they don’t have emotions. How would I knew? Great looking bird though. 

Here’s a picture of a Red-shouldered hawk, four or five hundred yards away: 

Red-shouldered hawk, a quick glide away from the Red-tail

I captured a fifty second video of a big female Red-tailed hawk in a tree across from my house Tuesday afternoon at 3:30. She had just flown into the tree carrying a mouse or a chipmunk or a mole or a vole – something small. By the time I went inside and got my camera and came back out, she had swallowed it. She stayed perched there for some time, then started moving her head around. I started taking a little video. It starts out bumpy but gets smoother. As an amateur ornithologist, her actions at the end surprised me. Hawks are true obligate carnivores – they only get their calories from meat. But she’s perched in what the Virginia Tech Dendrology department identifies as a yellow poplar. And in this video, she clearly consumes the seeds. She really starts eating them enthusiastically at around 40 or 45 seconds, right at the end. But it’s cool to see: 

Obligate carnivore consuming a plant

Deer are settling in at Pony Pasture for the short cold days and long cold nights. I hiked with some friends and their dog at Pony Pasture yesterday. I got this picture at 11:00 yesterday morning: 

A deer’s emotions in no way resemble a hawk’s. IMO.

Deer only eat plants. They don’t kill animals. Hawks are the opposite – they ONLY kill animals. Top of the food chain.

Yesterday that deer was looking at me, two other adults, and three dogs. It was for the most part unconcerned – there was an old fence in the woods and the dogs were on leashes. This morning the deer was looking at me and two dogs. They always assess risk. It’s always about energy. They get a certain number of calories (units of energy) from the plants they eat. They burn up those calories doing other things. If they run away when there’s no threat, they’ve burned valuable calories. And edible plants are few and far between in January. So it’s a foolish animal that burns needless energy. They stay around if they feel safe enough. Here are Mackey and Turner this morning, about twenty minutes walk (at my pace) away from those deer: 

Mackey and Turner are not fair weather hikers. They are all weather hikers.

Anyway enough with the pictures etc. Here is a bit about the thoughts that were troubling me before my two furry therapists and I went hiking at the river this morning. Have a great week, I hope you’ll join me here again next Sunday, all best, 


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Mixed emotions

In April, 2007 my dog Ivory and I had been visiting a friend with brain cancer for five years. Her name was Whitney and when we first met her in 2002 she was ten years old. She was lovely and had huge eyes and an even bigger smile and heart warmer than anyone else you know. She was as bald as a bowling ball but some people look even more beautiful bald, and she was one of them. She’d had a bad relapse and Ivory and I visited her again in the hospital on April 16 of 2007. She was fifteen when we visited her in 2007, and she’d loved dolphins her whole life. At some point during her illness the Make-a-wish foundation set up a trip to Florida so she could swim with dolphins. When Ivory and I visited her on April 16 she was wearing dolphin earrings. They were an inch long, with the outline of a dolphin in silver, around a smooth blue enamel dolphin. She was in a coma and she couldn’t swallow or hold her head up straight and thick foam pads on either side of her head held it up straight while she lay in bed. There was a little vacuum tube in her mouth sucking the saliva out. There were little humming buzzing hospital noises and Ivory and I were standing on her right side. And the blue enamel tail of her dolphin earring was vibrating just above the foam pads. Vibrating a tiny bit. I’m typing this twelve years later; I can see it perfectly in my mind’s eye. Hear that vacuum tube sucking out saliva. See the tail of that dolphin earring vibrating near the foam pad. Ivory was there to comfort her, or to comfort her family, or to comfort staff, but at that time he was only comforting me, a lot. Another thing I can recall perfectly is stroking Ivory’s soft fur. Since dogs don’t talk, they pay attention to other details, and intuitive dogs always understand the lightness or gravity of situations. Ivory breathed, like I did, and like Whitney did, except a machine was doing it for her. She died six weeks later. Her family had a blog/web site when she was alive, to update her friends and family about her progress. I found this entry from a couple of months after she died: Whit’s tombstone was delivered last Thurs. and it is beautiful. I hope she loves the dolphins on her marker.” Fifteen years old. That is just wrong. 

Get an image in your mind of a young person you know well and care for very deeply. Imagine that person bald and withered and under hospital room lights, which are not like other lights. Hospital lights have only light, they don’t have warmth. Imagine knowing quite well you weren’t going to see this person alive again. Imagine that blue enamel dolphin earring tail vibrating, just perceptibly.

It’s hard to do that – it’s really, really hard. I would say I can imagine how hard it must be for her parents, but that would be a lie. I can’t imagine that. I’m sure it was hard for Ivory too, but I’m also sure he didn’t keep reliving it after we left. I dropped him off at the house and drove straight to the Y for a long, long swim, because that’s how I make myself eat and sleep when my mind and heart are in turmoil. 

So I walk into the Y and a crowd is gathered and they’re all watching TV, so many people you can hardly even get past, and I was determined to swim, but I stopped and looked up, and I was in agony and wanted to get in the pool, where nobody talks to you and you don’t talk to anybody. And on the TV, a man with a mental illness had killed himself and more than thirty other people at Virginia Tech. My brother was in Blacksburg but nothing happened to him. Every member of our Y is connected to Virginia Tech in some way, either by friendship or academics. People were hardly even breathing. It was so still and quiet, except for the person talking on the television. I still had every single molecule of my hospital visit – I hadn’t even left an hour earlier – in my system. I knew what I was seeing was awful – that was true evil on that television – but I’d just been a foot from a real human being who I knew well, and I knew she wasn’t going to breathe much longer.

I was aware how crazy my mixed emotions were, how one of these things was not worse than the other. I knew that, of all the times in our lives we talk about having “mixed emotions,” there would never be a more appropriate time than that moment. Thank goodness I was able to swim.

This story doesn’t have an ending. My friend with the dolphin earrings is not any less dead, and neither are all the people at Virginia Tech. But it’s January here in Richmond and it’s snowy and wet and cold. If Ivory was still around, he would’ve loved to take a hike at the river today – regardless of anything else. Mackey and Turner and I had a great, wet, cold, quiet, peaceful hike this morning. I don’t know if they were grateful every single second of the hike, but I sure was.  

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Posted in Birds, Dogs, Fun, ice, James River, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Nobody yawns…

6 January, 2019            Nobody yawns…

Nobody yawns when they’re surprised by a free roaming eagle

I am embarrassed. I am acutely and painfully aware of the poor quality of this image. I took it. What stunned me about it – what is remarkable about it, IMO – is this magnificent animal was perched in a dead tree five hundred feet from a CVS pharmacy to the west, a Domino’s pizza to the east, an Episcopal church to the south. A couple of wingbeats and it could have landed on the roof of any of them. A Bald Eagle! The national bird and national animal of the United States. I was born in the early 1960’s inside the Beltway in the Washington DC area, and the idea of ever seeing a Bald Eagle was far-fetched. It simply (I believed) would never happen. Now here’s one perched practically in a strip mall. It’s a crummy image but what a bird to see in what an incredible spot. The black lines above it and below it are power lines strung beside Patterson Avenue 

I read up on them a bit afterward – I’d heard something about Benjamin Franklin being unimpressed with their character. I found this on a Smithsonian Magazine web site. The article says Franklin wrote: 

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly.” 

[Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/american-myths-benjamin-franklins-turkey-and-the-presidential-seal-6623414/%5D

Maybe they don’t make their living honestly – honestly I can’t say. I’m skeptical that birds have “moral Character” either way – they behave according to natural selection. They are at the top of the food chain. But they are spectacular to look at; you practically can’t turn your eyes away. You’d better believe you won’t yawn.  

Anyway, I’m still amazed. Hopefully the next time I photograph an eagle near a Domino’s, a 7/11, a CVS and a church I’ll get a better image.


From a more pedestrian point of view (in a manner of speaking) I was with my friend Clark at Hollywood Cemetery watching a trainload of covered hoppers moving east. These are probably full of grain or corn or something of that nature. I’ve been hearing and glimpsing mid-train locomotives for a couple of months, but Wednesday was the first time I’ve gotten a good look. It’s not exciting or award-winning photography but – like the strip mall Bald Eagle – it was unexpected and the first one I’ve ever seen: 

A mid-train locomotive

Thursday Mackey and Turner and I made it down to the river; it was muddy but not impassable. I believe the does that are going to get pregnant are pregnant, and they’re spending their mid-days bedded down in the woods. Chewing their cuds or “ruminating.” No great pictures, but here’s one: 

A white tail deer, a “ruminant,” ruminating at Pony Pasture Thursday morning

Just a few feet down the path I saw six gray squirrels at one time! If you’d drawn a 50′ x 50′ square in the air, a big frame, they would have all fit inside it. Plus there were probably more on the backs of the trees. I don’t know why or how that happened. Forget about photographing it – I don’t think it’s possible. Here is one of them; again a marginal image: 

Gray squirrel in view of deer at Pony Pasture. Part of a squirrel convention, IMO

I did have one image that came out well this week. It’s pretty tame, but it’s a Carolina Wren from Deep Run Park in western Henrico. My friend Kendall and I were hiking there Friday: 

Carolina Wren at Deep Run Friday

In quick succession from Pony Pasture this morning – because I’m tired and, not coincidentally, disorganized – three pictures then I’m done. 

A bluebird this morning, wearing drab winter colors: 

Bluebird sunning itself at Pony Pasture this morning

Second, a female turtle sunning herself on a log, while being ogled by two males – see their heads poking out of the water?: 

Two male turtles in the water, courting this female on the log

Finally, the river – I’m going to bed! Have an excellent first full week of 2019! 

Just look how beautiful our river looked this morning. It makes everything okay.

Have a great week! All best, 





Posted in Bald eagles, Birds, Carolina wren, Fun, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, squirrels, Trains, whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Used w/o permission” or “Happiest flies”

30 December, 2018            “Used w/o permission” or “Happiest flies”

“Used w/o permission” or “Happiest flies”






30 December, 2018 “Used w/o permission” or “Happiest flies”

We took that photo last night at our family holiday gathering at my brother Kevin’s house in Doswell.


This picture and blog post are called “Used w/o permission” because I didn’t ask any of those wonderful people if I could post their picture here. But they know how I roll. Seeing it on this blog will come as no surprise.

The subtitle is “Happiest flies” because if our Mom and Dad had been flies on the wall last night, they’d have been the happiest flies since the dawn of fly history. I’ll write a little more at the end of this post. Meanwhile, the stuff I usually put in blog posts, except I’m not flying.

Monday was Christmas Eve – it startles me to even type those four words – and Evelyn gave me excellent books for an early Christmas present. I worked early in the morning. Then came home and we sat in front of the fire and read all day! 

I saw lots of raptors this week – including pairs of Red-tails it seemed almost everywhere I turned. This pair was almost across the street from the house when we were coming home from dropping off Yuki after our hike at Bryan Park:

Pair of Red-tails on the cross at Grove Avenue Baptist Church


Speaking of raptors and our hike at Bryan Park, practically the moment we started hiking a Red-shouldered hawk flew from left to right across the lake and landed obligingly in a tree on the other side:

They watch, watch, watch. Red-shouldered hawk at Bryan Park today


This was Mackey and Turner and Yuki around that time:

My boys at Bryan Park today. I was standing on their leashes when I photographed that hawk.


Tuesday evening when the dogs and I went for a walk we saw a squirrel in the street that had gotten hit by a car. Wednesday when I was coming home a turkey vulture was cleaning it up. It must have gotten full and it hopped up on my neighbor’s roof and yawned. I’ll put a picture of that first. After that I’ll put a picture of the vulture cleaning the squirrel. Some people may be un-fond of that image so I’m giving you advance notice. But it’s not particularly gory. Oak leaves take energy from the sun and make acorns. Squirrels eat that energy and become a different form of energy. Then if the squirrel gets hit by a car, a vulture comes down and turns the squirrel into yet another form of energy. Sunlight > oak leaves > acorns > squirrel > vulture. Who knows where it will go next. “The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.

Vulture getting sleepy with a belly full of squirrel


Vulture filling its belly with the aforementioned squirrel. Energy is neither created or destroyed. Remember that. You’re energy too. 

Anyway, the holiday schedule has me less organized than normal, which may imply there’s such thing as negative organization but anyway I’m signing off. For 2018! But I’ll be back the first Sunday in 2019! I hope you will be too! Happy New Year!

Meanwhile, enjoy this little blurb about the world’s happiest flies. And have an excellent week!

All best,


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“Used w/o permission” or “Happiest flies”

All five of mom and dad’s surviving children, 80% of the spouses, six of their seven grandchildren, many, many dogs, plus cats and horses not in the picture but nearby. Mom and dad met in the mid-1950’s (possibly even the 1940’s) and married on June 14, 1958. Dad was an only child and mom had one sister who was a Catholic nun. Their plan when they married – they were twenty-two years old, think about that for a minute – their plan was to have twelve children. I can assure you, and my siblings would say the same, they were entirely serious. But they decided the five of us were the right number, and IMO they were correct.

On June 14, 1958, if someone had said “Mike and Jude, if you stay married for half a century then die, what would it make you really happy to leave behind?” They would have stated it more elegantly than this, but their reply would have been “lots and lots of happy children and grandchildren.” If they’d been flies on the wall at Kev’s house last night, they’d have been the happiest flies ever.

Kevin’s house is clean – there are no flies, or anyway not in late December. But if they’d been in there, they would have landed on Wesson’s volleyball at the top of its arc as he passed it back and forth with his cousins. Or they would have perched on the edge of Teagan’s crib and watched her in real life while the rest of us watched her on the baby monitor. They were never big on TV anyway. If there really were flies around last night – if mom and dad had been around in fly form – they might have been up at the barn while Jenny went up and fed the horses. Mom and dad would have been happy to see Jenny and to see the horses too. I’ve never known a McLaughlin who was unhappy in a barn. Some of us spend more time in barns than others, but I believe the five of share the sense of safety that is palpable in every barn.  

I’ll write more about my family in 2019. More than likely, anyway. See you then! 

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

Stuart Little and the third definition of religion

23 December, 2018            Stuart Little and the third definition of religion

Thanks for the picture Elizabeth! Flying and dogs – how much more fun can a person have?


I just liked starting this blog post off with that picture. We didn’t actually fly that day. Mackey and Turner and I went to Hanover County Municipal Airport (KOFP) Thursday to drop off a Christmas present (Highland County Virginia Maple syrup, of course) for my long time flight instructor Ernest. He wasn’t around so we dropped it off at the front desk. My friend Elizabeth works at the front desk and Mackey and Turner convinced her to take that picture. The maple syrup was from my favorite Highland County maple syrup operation, Back Creek Farms. Click on that link and order some from them – or better yet, visit. Or go to the 61st annual Highland Maple Festival the second and third weekends in March – you will not be disappointed. I’ve been going for ages and it gets better every year.

My nephew Wesson and my brother Shane (Wesson’s father) reintroduced me to E. B. White’s classic children’s books such as Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan and Charlotte’s Web. Reading them inspired me for this blog post. We exchange passages we’re particularly fond of. While Evelyn and I were riding the rails south from New Jersey last week, Wesson and Shane noted a passage in The Trumpet of the Swan that caused them to prick up their ears (in a manner of speaking):

“Sam always felt happy when he was in a wild place among wild creatures. Sitting on his log, watching the swans, he had the same good feeling some people get when they are sitting in church.” – White, E. B.. The Trumpet of the Swan (p. 249). HarperCollins.

I thought how happy I am when I’m in a wild place – if Pony Pasture counts – among wild creatures. Pony Pasture has deer and eagles and snakes and toads and snails and salamanders and frogs and skinks and squirrels and chickadees and tent caterpillars and barred owls and grasshoppers, butterflies, ospreys, raccoons, opossums, foxes, mosquitoes, bats, lightning bugs, bees, flies, eels, goldfinches, bluebirds, ospreys, wrens, robins, and chipmunks, plus at least one or two I’m leaving out. I’m always definitely among wild creatures when I’m at Pony Pasture. Pony Pasture definitely counts. Like Sam in The Trumpet of the Swan, I always feel happy when I’m in a wild place among wild creatures.

Monday morning I was still tired from our New Jersey Adventure but I had to get up at 5:00 and work. My morning job was more challenging than normal, and when I drove home I was relieved to see a Red-tail on a cell phone tower. I stopped and settled in and slipped into a photography trance and started taking pictures and a brief video while it was being mobbed by crows. All my travel-tiredness and work-stress vanished – like they’d never existed – when I focused on those birds. That was when I felt happy “in a wild place among wild creatures.” I am certain I experienced “the same good feeling some people get when they are sitting in church.”

I didn’t take this picture that morning, but I took it later this week – and I still had “the same good feeling.”:

Red-tail sparkling in the early winter sunlight


I thought about “the same good feeling” and I looked up “religion” in my American Heritage  Dictionary. Here’s what it said:


re‧li‧gion rĭ‐lĭj′ən n.
1. a. The belief in and reverence for […]

  1. The life or condition of […]   
  2. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion: “a person for whom art became a religion.”

[emphasis added]

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition Copyright © 2011-2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


Photographing raptors is an activity I pursue with zeal that might sometimes be called obsession. “A person for whom raptor photography became a religion.”

I pursue flying with joy and obsession as well, but I’m going to take a short break. One sign at an airport where we landed said “Flying is the 2nd greatest thrill known to man. Landing is the first.” I’m looking forward to getting back to it in 2019 at some point. Ernest and I had a great flight Tuesday. We flew for over five hours (total) and landed at eight different Virginia airports, including Hanover when we got home that evening. Here’s a selfie of Ernest and me shortly before takeoff Tuesday morning:

My flight instructor Ernest and me just before takeoff Tuesday:


One of our many landings was at Luray Caverns Aiport (KLUA); we stopped for lunch in Luray. I wish I hadn’t cut the bottom of this picture off but oops. Dulles is a Virginia airport, and so is Luray. They’re less than an hour’s flight apart, but it’s an entirely different world: 

Luray Caverns Airport. You just cannot beat this kind of flying.


A guy named Danny was the airport manager and he recommended a few great places to eat and drove us into town in the airport’s big old white Ford Crown Victoria. We first ate at Uncle Buck’s Family Restaurant, where I had scrapple and eggs on a bagel for lunch. We used to make scrapple when we slaughtered hogs at our cabin up there (in Page County) when we were younger. As my brother Kevin reminded me, scrapple is a.k.a. “Pond Horse” though at this time I do not know why. But you can google it. I was grateful to be there. Really, really, really far from the madding crowd for sure. Here’s the sign on the side:

Uncle Buck’s Family Restaurant, 42 E Main St, Luray, VA 22835


We went to a fantastic coffee place right next door called Gathering Grounds and had coffee and a little more to eat. Because why not. Here are two pictures I enjoyed from inside Gathering Grounds:

Zen Turner. This is the kind of thing you find when you go flying. This and scrapple. 





Can you figure it out?



Our friend Ariel had us over for dinner last night and she was serving lamb. Evelyn is a vegetarian but I love lamb; not least because it’s served with mint jelly, and when else do you have mint jelly? I couldn’t find any at Kroger or at The Fresh Market and Evelyn didn’t find any at Ellwood Thompson but on her way home she stopped at Yellow Umbrella and found this treasure:

You can’t really eat lamb unless you have mint jelly


This is how our plane looked when we got back to the airport. In weather like this you just want to fly and fly and fly some more. Even if you don’t like flying, look at this. See the moon rising back there? You just cannot imagine how much fun this is:

Look at that. See the moon back there? Rising over the mountains? Scrapple for lunch? How much fun can one person have? It is beyond compare. 


I am having an indescribable amount of fun flying, but it’ll be good to take a break. It’ll be even greater when I get back in the air.

I need to go to bed! Until next week – which will be my final blog post of 2018 – have a great week,


Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, coffee, Dogs, Fun, highland maple festival, James River, klua, kofp, moon, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Tecnam | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

People + trains + planes = maximum fun

16 December, 2018    People + trains + planes = maximum fun

Jose, Jackie, me, Evelyn – Copper Canyon restaurant, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, Friday, 14 December, 2018


That’s Evelyn’s longtime friend Jose on the left, then her sister Jackie, then me, then Evelyn Friday evening at dinner. We all wish you could have joined us! But it would have been a squeeze – the restaurant was not sprawling. “Cozy” is a much more appealing adjective on a cold December evening, and that’s what it was. We were having dinner at the Copper Canyon Atlantic Highlands, the restaurant inside the Blue Bay Inn.

These stones were holding open the pages of the guest book at the Blue Bay Inn:

Caption unnecessary – just read the words:


The next morning was cold and damp and gray but no rain, so we went out walking on the piers. We looked at buffleheads (seriously!) and seagulls and dogs and water and boats and people and shattered clam shells the gulls drop. We took a break mid-pier for a selfie:

Evie’s warm heart takes away the chill



We also celebrated over the course of our wonderful weekend with several other friends and family members. I wish I’d photographed them all! Besides Ev’s sister Jackie and their friend Jose and me we visited Evelyn’s Mom (also Evelyn!), who graciously hosted us all in her home. The same home where Evelyn was born and raised! Evelyn took this picture in their backyard Tuesday morning:

Evelyn’s Mom’s backyard – #noplacelikeit



We met Evelyn’s friends Lynn and Ben Saturday for  a snack at a place called The Flaky Tart (hard to beat that name), also in Atlantic Highlands. I don’t recall what this was called, only that I thought “OMG” when I looked at it, and the entire time I ate it. Sadly, I was unable or unwilling to restrain my voracious appetite and it didn’t last long. See how awesome it looks? It tasted like 1,000x better. It was worth the trip by itself:

From the Flaky Tart. I have no idea what it’s called. Make up your own name. It is beyond compare.










I left a picture out! This was inside The Flaky Tart:

Wise words inside The Flaky Tart:

Evelyn’s  friend Ben makes handcrafted soap, body butter, and lip balm. Everything is created with his family in mind so only the purest ingredients are used. It all smells fresh and amazing and is a joy to use! This is a picture of his white tea and ginger soap (Ev’s favorite) from his web site. Look on his web site to see this and more at Tropical Bath and Body:

Ev’s friend Ben’s Tropical Bath and Body white tea and ginger soap


There were (of course) trains involved too. I snapped this picture as I crossed the tracks at Amtrak Staples Mill station around 8:00 Friday morning:

Ready to leave Richmond early Friday morning.


And it practically seems like another lifetime on another planet, but I took this picture before I went flying Tuesday morning:

Tuesday morning before engine start. Planes fly better in cold air – not even kidding


We’d planned a lot of landings – we had nine airports on our flight plan. But some small airports hadn’t cleared their runways after the big snow. We’d come over the airport at around 3,000 feet and see a long unbroken white stripe – an unplowed runway – and shrug and fly to the next airport. Where generally we’d see a long unbroken black stripe – a plowed runway – and we’d land. I immediately thought “black runways matter.” Because that’s the only kind we could land on!

Here’s a picture flying over Buggs Island Lake:

Flying over Buggs Island Lake


Chase City Municipal Airport had a black runway (thank goodness) so we landed and I went in to get a stamp. There was no one at the airport – I don’t know who plowed it – but I went in and got my passport stamped. The stamp is always inside. After I stamped my passport I turned around to go back to the plane. I took this picture before I made a second set of footprints heading back out to the plane:

Path to the plane


Flying is phenomenal every single time I do it, and so is riding Amtrak. But spending a wintry weekend with Evelyn and her sister Jackie and her mother Evelyn and their friends Fred, Jose, Larry, Lynn, Ben was indescribable – “all true living is face to face.” Thank you Evelyn! And everybody else! I hope to see you again soon!

Much love,



Posted in Fun, ice, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Trains | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Peace and love, goat stew, Farmer’s Market, snowstorm – wow!  

9 December, 2018            Peace and love, goat stew, Farmer’s Market, snowstorm – wow!  

I am totally using this image without permission. I took a screenshot of my niece Aileen’s instagram page. Aileen drew the pictures of the foxes – probably foxes from near her family home in rural Maryland. I know nothing about this picture or this quote, except that she drew the pictures of the fox, and she chose this wonderful quote from the late, great, Johnny Cash. Check out this level of talent:

Thank you Aileen! I hope you don’t mind that I used this!


This was the first thing I saw at work Wednesday morning – this great blanket:



And we went to Whole Foods to get coffee, and the guy sitting next to me was wearing this hat, and I showed him the blanket picture (above) and asked if I could photograph it. He enthusiastically agreed:



Evelyn and I had a late lunch/early dinner at Fresca that day and went window shopping down the street – and saw this mug. This is a wonderful season:



It’s a wonderful season for flying too. Ernest and I had a great flight Tuesday, we went to Franklin, Suffolk, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Newport News. It was flawless weather and we saw new sights everywhere we landed. Including in Norfolk, our lunch stop. The flight service there, Signature Flight Support, loaned us a car. We went to the MP Island Cafe in Norfolk and I had goat stew for lunch. Because they were serving it, and when will I have that opportunity again?

I took this picture when we were flying above Newport News:

4,500′ over Newport News Tuesday around lunch time


I took the picture above at 12:10 on Tuesday. Twenty minutes later we were walking near the runway at Norfolk International Airport (KORF) and looking at some military surplus aircraft parked behind a hangar. This is an old North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco:

Northrop Grumman OV-10 Bronco at Norfolk airport Tuesday


Our next stop was Chesapeake Regional Airport. Since I often indulge the geek/nerd aspects of my personality (they’re never far from the surface), I wanted to do a closeup of this fascinating plane that was parked in front of the airport. I have closeups but also limited blog space. And I could not resist the sky in this image. The plane is in the foreground in the center. It’s an Aerofab Inc. Lake 250 Renegade seaplane. I love this image – the plane and the clouds and the sky:  

Lake 250 Renegade seaplane Tuesday at Chesapeake airport. And look at that sky! 


And Mackey and Turner and I went to the South of the James Farmer’s Market here in Richmond to pick up maple syrup from our favorite Highland County maple syrup operation, Back Creek Farms.

Mackey, Turner and me at the Back Creek Farms maple syrup stand at the South of the James farmer’s market yesterday


I got a GIANT Oatmeal Cream Pie (they call them “OCP’s”) from tABLEspoons by the next move program. It fueled me up to go home and cut the grass for the last time in 2018. Mostly to mulch in the leaves. So check out this OCP:

They say “OCP”; I say “OMG”


I gobbled it down and cut the grass. Here’s my front lawn yesterday afternoon:

My front yard yesterday afternoon; I just cut and mulched it, fueled by OCP OMG


Same picture almost precisely twenty-four hours later:

Grass cutting to snow shoveling in <24 hours


Anyway. So in between those two pictures, Mackey and Turner and Yuki and I took a quick, snowy three mile hike at Pony Pasture. This was before the snow began in earnest:

Mackey, Turner and Yuki at the river this morning. “Yuki” is Japanese for “snow” – seriously!


There was a moderately large herd of whitetails stamping around in the snow near Charlie’s Bridge. The photography conditions weren’t great; this was the only image I got. Maybe next week will be better. If I don’t say that every week I certainly think it every week:

Snowy whitetail at Pony Pasture this morning


I hope your week’s been wonderful! I hope next week is even better! All best, 



Posted in Birds, Dogs, Fun, goats, James River, Pony Pasture, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


2 December, 2018            Cheerful 

It’s hard (for me, anyway) to look at this picture and not feel cheerful.


That’s my old friend KD; we were hiking at Deep Run Park in western Henrico County Friday before lunch when we came across that sign in the woods. You may recognize KD’s kind smile from a blog post where it was featured prominently in 2014. If you missed that post or want to see it again, it has nine more images of KD; he’s smiling that much or more in most of them. Take a look again, it’s like the sun comes out: smile

The title for this post came from a chat I had with my brother Kevin many years ago when his three daughters were very, very young. I’d been hiking with them or running around outside or something and I remarked to him later that they were fun kids to be around. He just nodded and said, “they’re cheerful.” That is a nice, nice adjective. They were indeed cheerful, and KD was cheerful, and the thing about being with cheerful people is, it makes you cheerful too. What’s not to love?  

I got a picture this morning at the river with my phone that came out better than I’d anticipated. Unfortunately, our big buddy Yuki (the white German Shepherd) who normally joins us for our Sunday hikes was unavailable so it was just me, Mackey, Turner and our two friends Lola and Luna. The only color here is Turner and Lola (both on the right). Everything else is black or white or somewhere in between: 

Monochrome river this morning. Mackey on the left, then Luna, then Turner then Lola.


Earlier this week I was going to title this blog post, “I got to fly a new plane this week!” and use this for the first picture:

Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor at KJGG (Williamsburg Jamestown airport) 


I just didn’t get to fly that new plane. I got to fly this new plane:

Tecnam P92 Eaglet – I actually got to fly it!


And when we landed at Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport (KJGG) the T-34C was parked on the ramp. The pilots were inside in their flight suits, having lunch at Charly’s Airport Restaurant. Ernest (my flight instructor) and I ate there too – you should go if you’re in the area. If you’re in the vicinity, you should stop for a meal – even if you’re not flying. Just drive in if you’re going to Busch Gardens or William and Mary or something. Great place to eat. Great view of the runway too. 

The first plane is a Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor, a Navy and Marine Corps flight trainer. Civilians don’t fly it. The second plane – the one I did fly for the first time – is a Tecnam P92 Eaglet and it was really fun to fly. The Cessna 172 I normally fly is really fun too – there’s nothing about flying I don’t love. But it was a great experience to apply the seventy or so hours of instruction I’ve accumulated to a new type of plane. It was also fun to land at a new airport and eat at a new restaurant – what’s not to love?  

The light this morning at the river (as seen in the picture of the dogs) was monochromatic from start to finish. I took the picture of the dogs not long after we arrived, at around 9:00 AM. Between hiking and photographing deer and birds and dogs and more, the hike took just over two hours. The fog had not burned off even a little bit. When we got back to the parking lot, these two crows were perched in the top of a tree. Perfect day for shooting all black birds:

Two crows at Pony Pasture this morning. I should have tried a cardinal.


Yuki did come over later today – after Mackey and Turner got home from the river. I think he was hoping they’d play but they fell asleep in front of the fire. I almost did too! Yuki’s a shepherd; they keep an eye on things. Thank goodness our front door is red – a little color!:

He barks at the UPS truck but not FedEx. I think the white truck looks more familiar.


The next meeting of the Wildlife Center of Virginia Wildlife Book Club will be Tuesday (the day-after-tomorrow) evening at 7:00 PM. It meets every other month on the first Tuesday at 7:00 PM. You should log on Tuesday night and check it out. Especially if you’re a reader or an outdoors lover or both. You don’t have to be a member of anything, there’s no cost or log in fee, no passwords, nothing. You also don’t have to read the book – you can just “lurk” and see what it’s like.

Our book for Tuesday is Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird by Katie Fallon. I’ve just loved it and I’m really looking forward to Tuesday. Some of the books I don’t love that much and I skip book club but this one is excellent. If you click on Wildlife Book Club you can scroll down and see the list of the 26 books the club has read since August of 2014. It’s a nice list, very creative and comprehensive – I’m always excited to hear what they come up with next.

I’m a little thin on content this week, I apologize. I just scrolled down here and realized I have a pano of when Ernest and I were at Williamsburg Tuesday. They warp the perspective but in bright light (unlike today) with a lot of space (like at an airport), the results are good. I’ll close with it in a second.

The first time I flew into (and out of) Williamsburg airport with my friend Pat’s son Daniel – as I’ve mentioned umpteen times. Daniel was an instructor there and we flew from Williamsburg to Tangier in a Cessna 172. Pat and I were passengers on that trip; I was fascinated by flying but mostly by watching the ground and water and sky go past, and by the experience of flying in a light plane – it is 100% delightful 100% of the time. That blog post has twelve pictures on it, and a variety of different subjects. But mostly flying and Tangier. Have a look here: I went flying yesterday! . Meanwhile, a bright pano from Tuesday, and I hope I’ll see you next week! All best,


Williamsburg Jamestown airport – KJGG



Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Dogs, Fun, James River, People, Pony Pasture, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Wildlife Book Club, Wildlife Center of Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments