3 August, 2014              Neighbors!

My neighbors were out of town recently and I had the great good fortune of spending time with their excellent dog Lucy and their fabulous cat Gerald and their beautiful, beautiful garden. It’s full of flowers, several bunches of which are gracing my living room and dining room and back porch. It’s also full of herbs, which went into the gazpacho Evie made earlier. Yum!


An unanticipated gift was a picture I took in their garden while Lucy and I were hanging out in the backyard. A large patch of zinnias is just over the fence and I brought my camera along and snapped away while Lucy played outdoors for a while. I take a lot of pictures that make me happy but once in a while one comes along that goes straight to the top of the list. Look at this picture:

One of my favorite pictures ever.

One of my favorite pictures ever.

I should add this caveat. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I take a lot of pictures. And if you take, for instance, 1,000 pictures and delete 990 of them, you’re going to have ten beautiful pictures. Sometimes when you take a lot of pictures you get a great one. Look at the pollen. And the wings. I’m thrilled with this one.


I was thinking about (not to say obsessing about) that picture for some time after I took it. After I looked at it on my monitor. It’s a beautiful picture, and the picture – the bee in the photograph – seems more real than it seemed in real life. Which is odd. Maybe I need new glasses or something. Probably it’s because even on a small monitor such as e.g. my iphone, the bee is ~4x as big as a real bee. And on my computer monitor it’s about as big as a robin. And I look at those fine yellow and black hairs and see the little grains of pollen in them and think “if I had a tiny comb or brush I could brush those right out.” Whereas in the first half century of my life I didn’t even know they had those little hairs. Peculiar.


It’s rude of me to introduce an insect before I introduce the guest of honor, the breathtaking Miss Lucy:

Turner on the left, Mackey on the right, Lovely Lucy in the center

Turner on the left, Mackey on the right, Lovely Lucy in the center

She’s a great addition when Mackey and Turner and I go to Pony Pasture. Very ladylike and very enthusiastic, the perfect complement to the boys. And she loves to swim!


It’s easy to take pictures when I just have Mackey and Turner with me since I know what they’re going to do and they know what I’m going to do. Lucy stirs things up a little which is great – it keeps us from getting set in our ways. I had to stand on three twitching  leashes and stand still to get this pretty damselfly:

I don't get tired of these damselflies. There are so many.

I don’t get tired of these damselflies. There are so many. And they’re all so different

Just when I thought I’d stopped being rude, I’m talking about bugs again. Just FYI, I’ve been chatting online with a few entomologists – I’m not even making this up – and they prefer the word “insects.” Rather than “bugs.” Anyway, I’m talking about bugs before I talk about the great extra animals I’ve spent time with this week. Gerald (the cat I’m helping out with) and Lucy are close, close buddies. And when the family’s away that house gets mighty quiet. Gerald stays usually within sight of Lucy’s crate. It must have been really quiet when we took Lucy out. When we got home, Gerald made clear he wanted to go with us next time, and even gave us this wordless but unmistakable suggestion:

Gerald thinks this car seat might be re-purposed.

Gerald thinks this car seat might be re-purposed.

That is not a staged shot – he just likes to sit there. Speaking of other unstaged alternate uses for car seat situations, another one came up – still not making this up – the same day. Old friends were in from Oregon and we only had a brief visit while they passed through town. We were outside and it began sprinkling and one of their kids used a car seat – a car seat that looked remarkably similar to Gerald’s – as a rain hat. Same day. Totally didn’t see that coming. I regret that I was unable to photograph it.


If you look through the first three or so years of this blog, you’ll see a bug picture or two, mostly butterflies, but not that many. For some reason in 2014 I just began looking at bugs and the more I look at them, the more I see. I was meeting Pat to go for a ride this afternoon and as I walked out the door I saw this beauty on my front door:

On the front door of our house this afternoon. Amazing. It looks like it's made of colored ceramic tile with black grout.

On the front door of our house this afternoon. Amazing. It looks like it’s made of colored ceramic tile with black grout.

I got a nice look at this Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) at Pony Pasture one morning:

Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans)

Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans)

It hasn’t been all bugs this summer; just a lot. I managed to juggle three leashes long enough in the back field at Pony Pasture to catch this goldfinch glancing our way:

Gazing goldfinch

Gazing goldfinch

Of course if you’re photographing bugs (insects) you’re often photographing flowers. Part of the treasure of spending time in my neighbors’ yard was looking at their flowers. With the profusion of zinnias in their yard, if you’re looking at bees you’re looking at flowers you’re looking at bees. Another zinnia:

No wonder the bees can't leave them alone. I can hardly look away myself!

No wonder the bees can’t leave them alone. I can hardly look away myself!

I need another obsession like a need a hole in my head. So I’m going to post this one moth picture I took with their zinnias. And not stay up for hours learning what it is. And about the cool loopy thing that may be its tongue. So much fun though:

Everybody loves these zinnias!

Everybody loves these zinnias!

And to describe their morning glories as merely glorious is a blatant understatement – feast your eyes:

These are unretouched - I just point and shoot and post. Astonishing.

These are unretouched – I just point and shoot and post. Astonishing.

Hopefully I’ll be posting again a week from today. Until then, all best,


Jay and friends


About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Neighbors!

  1. kara says:

    What an honor to read Jay-the only thing missing is our incredible gratitude for your total commitment to a favor-thank you for taking such beautiful care of Lucy, Gerald and the garden-please come pick zinnias and herbs anytime…seriously-clearly we have plenty!! What a joy to read and a lovely glimpse into your busy week with “neighbors” If I were to write a blog in response I would title it, “Gratitude”.

    • Thanks Kara – what an honor to spend time with your wonderful animals and looking at your beautiful yard! I could write a post about spending time there – and it would also be called “Gratitude”! Sorry for the delayed reply and thanks for the opportunity! Talk with you soon,


  2. Katie Phalen says:

    The butterfly is a silver spotted skipper. Moths have feathery antennae and hold their wings flat. Butterflies sometimes have their wings flat, but this one’s are vertical, and butterflies have clubbed antennae. Skippers are a huge family. I remember that species from the Vitzthums’ butterfly bush.

  3. Thank you! Bugs in the summer used to irritate me; this summer I finally began paying attention. It is an entirely different world. I remember Mr. Butts saying that for every human on earth there is something like nine tons of insects. Or something like that. Locusts and cicadas I love the sound of. Odonates are my new big fascination. I have a LOT of learning to do. Thanks for the info! Talk with you soon,



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