14 February, 2016 Change your evil ways
I was kicked out of the dorms at VCU for starting a fire then out of VCU itself for my poor academic performance. Late 1979 or early 1980, I’m not sure which. I was eighteen years old and deeply immature even when compared to other eighteen year old males – and that’s saying something. My ways weren’t “evil” – I just like the song Evil Ways by Santana – but I needed to change them. Baby. More at the bottom.
I don’t take enough good pictures to have a “Photo of the Week” but I got a beauty this week – this Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) eating a frog at the eastern edge of Huguenot Flatwater in Richmond:
How that bird located a living amphibian in the frozen wasteland of Richmond this week is beyond me, but I suppose it helps if you have eyes like a hawk.
Alert readers may notice the pictures I normally post are of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). The bird pictured above is not quite as common as a Red-tail but is by no means rare. You’ll notice his (possibly her) breast and shoulders are more buff and orange than a Red-tail. I have photographs of the local Red-tails below. Their breasts are mostly white with chocolate speckles. Here’s this week’s Red-tail. I didn’t get beautiful pictures of Red-tails this week, especially not compared with that Red-shoulder. But there was a pair on the tower (it’s a great time of year) and just as I clicked the shutter on yet another marginal image, one began to fly. So here is (I believe) the male still sitting on the tower, an instant after the female took flight. Her wings are on the down-stroke, in the center of the picture, just below the top of the tower:
Birds taking off was the theme for that day. After the hawk flew, I took flight myself and headed home. I rounded a corner and parked again; there was a bluebird gleaming on the branch of a February-bare dogwood. I rolled down my window again and flicked the lens cap off; when the shutter clicked, this is what I came away with:
It’s getting late (a little bit) and I’m going to be cleaning snow off my car in the cold and dark way before sunrise tomorrow morning. And I want to sit in front of this fire for a few minutes before I go to bed. So enjoy (hopefully) these few pictures and this next brief foray into memoir writing. It may come as a surprise unless you’ve known me really well for a really long time. It’s remarkable how life changes. In my own case, fortunately, they’ve all been positive changes – so far! Have a great week,
An empty glass beer pitcher stood on the window sill of my seventh floor VCU dorm across from Monroe Park. At the time I owned a calcium carbide lamp and a bag of calcium carbide. If you mix calcium carbide with water – say, in an open pitcher – it gives off acetylene gas. It makes a bright, visible torch. In this case, a broad yellow flame about a foot tall. It can be seen from far enough away, as luck would have it, to get you kicked out of the dorms for good. When you grow up enough to be that person’s father (or grandfather – I’m somewhere between those ages now) you realize how fortunate it was that nothing worse happened. To yourself or to anyone else.
They let me hang around VCU for a few more semesters after that, but I was too immature to be an effective college student. So no housing and no school, I chased odd housing and odd jobs around The Fan and around Richmond for a few years before I finally got some traction. It’s been a twisty, twisty path that got me to this desk in front of this computer, editing these photographs and typing. And once in a while taking a break to put a log in the woodstove and bounce ideas off of Evelyn.
Fortunately I’ve never been in jail and I’ve never hurt anyone badly or hurt myself badly. Except for being hit by a car, which is in a separate, weird category. The more I think about this the more cliched it sounds, but my family and upbringing is what’s gotten me through all this stuff. I got married, I got divorced, I bought a house, I sold a house, I did a lot of stupid stuff but none of it so stupid that I was unable to finally land on my feet. More or less.
I’ve had some twists and turns. More in future blog posts.