“Dogtown Dance Theatre” – how could I say no? 

24 November, 2019            “Dogtown Dance Theatre” – how could I say no? 

Long zoom iphone image of my favorite costume of the evening: 


LOVE YOUR SELF” – that was my favorite thing, right from the start. What a perfect holiday message! What a perfect message for any time!

The picture below was from early in the show – the  younger kids came out first:

Joyful, joyful energy – what a treasure!

There were several groups – they all got together at the end:

Most of the people from the show. They were in such high spirits, it was infectious. I’m glad I was there!

Dogtown Dance Theatre presented an energetic holiday show yesterday evening.  Richmond Urban Dance put on a show called A Christmas Mixtape. On Dogtown’s website it said “Join us for a special performance featuring a compilation of dances set to favorite pieces of music by various artists of Christmas’ past, present and future.” But that sounds so dry. If you’d been there and described it to someone later, you would’ve expressed yourself differently. You would use words like “joyful“ and “ecstatic” and “engaging” and “vigorous” and “cheerful” and “bright” and so much fun! Evelyn and friends and I went and it was in every way entertaining. It was fast moving and energetic and warm-hearted and warm – the perfect place to spend a cold rainy late November evening. Check out their schedule! Catch another show at Dogtown – you won’t regret it. 

Even in November (maybe especially in November) I spend more time outdoors than in. This is an image I enjoy:

Red-shouldered hawk at Bryan Park Thursday, with matching background:

That Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) is from Bryan Park Thursday. A lot of what is written about hawks and other raptors portrays them as bold and noble. They appear that way to us, or they do to me anyway. They’re obviously (again, to me, anyway) great looking birds. My primary (and usually my secondary) source for researching birds for this blog is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You won’t find a more precise source of birding information. Here’s what they say about Red-shouldered hawks: “While a Red-shouldered Hawk was observed chasing a Great Horned Owl, its mate took a young owl out of its nest and ate it.” There is no nobility – it’s all about the calories. 

True story about the Red-shouldered Hawk stealing the young owl out of the nest and eating it. To learn that hawks steal baby owls from their nests and eat them, look on the Cornell Lab website under “Cool Facts.” Great Horned Owls obviously don’t read that website. 

Half an hour before I saw that hawk I saw a handful of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) on the lake. Hooded Mergansers also eat living beings, as it says under Cornell’s “basic description.” Their exact words are that it eats “fish, crayfish, and other food, seizing it in their thin, serrated bills.” Compared to the hawk eating the owl, that seems like nothing at all. It’s interesting (maybe it’s just me) that we feel real sad about a bird eating a baby bird, but we don’t even blink when we read about a bird eating a fish or a crayfish. Here’s a male Hooded Merganser from Thursday: 

Male Hooded Merganser from Bryan Park Thursday

I had Mackey and Turner with me there and got a couple of pictures but didn’t like the way they turned out. Now (I just looked at a few other images from that day) I realize I could have made a nice image with them. I took this picture from the causeway/dam that divides the two lakes: 

Upper Young’s Pond – Bryan Park

Of course I took Mackey and Turner to Pony Pasture with me this morning. We’re getting down there moderately (but not extremely) early but the sunrise is getting later every morning. That will stop a week from Friday (incredibly) and sunrise will get earlier again. But the sun wasn’t shining on the river rocks yet when we got down there at a little after 9:00. Mackey’s face was pure black – it’s a blob. But we took a real long walk with lots of breaks, and they were still energetic when we got back to the rapids 1.5+ hours later. So we hopped back down to the rocks and took a couple pictures in nicer light. Yuki was at the airport picking up a friend (human) so it was just my two boys and me. 

Mackey and Turner this morning after our 1.5 hour hike

Mackey stands and Turner lies down, but it’s not due to Mackey being less tired. Mackey’s old hips are pretty sore and he won’t lie down unless he knows I’m going to stop for a while.

Have a great week! Come back next week! All best, 


Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, Dogs, Dogtown Dance Theatre, Fun, James River, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Richmond Urban Dance, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shortcut at the finish line

17 November, 2019            Shortcut at the finish line

The two people with medals just ran 13 miles! In UNDER two hours!

The two people wearing medals in this picture are my brother Shane’s wife Kristin and my brother Kevin. The picture was taken a few minutes after Kristin and Kevin both finished the Richmond Half Marathon in under two hours

Also shown are my brother Shane, my nieces Phoebe and Teagan, my nephew Wesson and me. A kind stranger took this picture; I wish I’d asked his first name. It’s always nice to meet a new person. The two youngest folks in this picture were feeling the cold a little more than we were but they were troopers. And they recovered quick! 

Also note the CSX coal train heading east behind us. If we’d all looked to our left, we could see the spot where my friend Clark and I look for trains nearly every week. Clark and I were down there Wednesday afternoon around 1:30. This locomotive, CSX #3082, a GE ES44AC, was pulling an identical train in the same direction, three days earlier: 

GE ES44AC pulling coal at Brown’s Island Wednesday

So the top picture (family) has the river just a couple hundred yards behind all of us. The second picture (locomotive on tracks) is even closer to the river. Those pictures were close to the river downtown, but Mackey and Turner and Yuki and I were out on the river this morning at 9:00: 

There is no place I would rather be on a Sunday morning.

It’s funny – now – but it was way colder at Brown’s Island yesterday after the race than it was right on the water this morning. Mainly because of the wind – it was whipping across the river and the island yesterday and gusting around the buildings downtown and it was real hard to stay warm. But this morning at the river out there on those rocks it was real still, and the cold wasn’t awful. The river in that picture was 4.07’ deep, a tolerable and enjoyable level. 

I never saw the white squirrel this week, but I saw plenty of gray squirrels, both at Deep Run and here. And at Pony Pasture. This one is from Deep Run. I named the file (so I could find it) “1sq.jpg.” Which called to mind my mother and father (mostly my mother) and the way they and their dogs would act around squirrels. Mom and Dad had bird feeders on their back deck, and a picture window looking out on it. I don’t know who got more excited about squirrels – my mother and father (mostly my mother) or their dogs. But when a squirrel would come up on the deck, their dogs would get very, very excited. So would mom and dad – especially guess who. And mom would say – for years – in an exaggerated stage whisper “Mike – an SQ!” On the theory that if you pronounced the entire word, the dog would do something impulsive and unpredictable, possibly even crash through the picture window in an attempt to capture the squirrel. The “SQ.” I didn’t even have Mackey and Turner with me when I spotted this one: 

“SQ” in pretty light Monday at Deep Run

I got a handful of birds this week, but nothing I was thrilled with. This Red-shouldered hawk was glowing nicely in the morning sun Wednesday at around 8:00: 

Red-shouldered hawk warming up in the cold morning sun

I get up at 5:00 Wednesday mornings and eat and go to work then work until 9:00 AM. I go from there to the pool and swim for a little over half an hour. I come home and have something to eat then go back to work for a few more hours. This time of year the woodstove is burning 24/7 and by 7:00 PM I am about done. I lay down in front of the fire and Ev took this picture. I’m not sure where Turner is. When you’re tired, anyplace is comfortable: 

Warm woodstoves are irresistible on cold damp days

I need to write about this book, I recently finished it and it was a pleasure from start to finish. Arthur C Brooks was even handed and non-partisan in a manner that has become  very difficult (at least for me) to find lately. Here’s a link to the goodreads (not Amazon) page for Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt by Arthur C. Brooks. It’s a refreshing read. Here’s the cover:  

Love Your Enemies – How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt – Arthur C. Brooks, 2019

Shane and Kristin were not our enemies before, and I hope they’re still not. But Evelyn and I (it was Evelyn’s idea) gave Wesson this priceless gift Saturday. It obviously (to the unaided eye) didn’t have any moving parts or wires or lights or batteries, so Wesson wasn’t quite certain what it was. I reassured him – I said “this is going to change your life.” Unless they hid it from him and hoped he forgot about it, Kristin and Shane may be questioning our taste in gifts for four year old boys. But you just can’t improve on this. This is in the picture dictionary next to “timeless classic”: 

Evelyn’s thoughtful gift for Wesson. They just grow up too fast, don’t they? SMH

I just got to the end of this and read my notes and forgot – until this very moment – why I titled this “Shortcut at the finish line.” Hanging around the finish line of a big race like that is a shortcut to feeling great – you just can’t help it. You totally don’t have to run the race, although you get a lot bigger dose if you train for it. But everything at the finish line is triumph – you just can’t avoid it. There was a full marathon (26.2 miles) plus a half marathon plus an 8k (about five miles) all the same day. Well over ten thousand total finishers. Plus add their families and friends who come to see them finish. Every single person is happy. There’s pain and there’s tiredness and there’s blisters and shivering and hunger and thirst and all that but there’s undiluted triumph – it’s everywhere, it’s unavoidable – and it gets in the air and you can’t avoid it. It goes away. The race ends. But that joyful borderline ecstasy is real, real difficult to find for free anywhere, but it’s there. At the finish line. Check it out! And come back next week! 

All best, 


Posted in Birds, Dogs, Endurance, Fun, James River, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, richmond marathon, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels, Trains | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Memorable refusals // That tapioca, though 

10 November, 2019            Memorable refusals // That tapioca, though 

People with classic autism have difficulty expressing emotions clearly. But they’re good at deciphering other people’s moods, and they imitate the expressions others use to communicate their own feelings. I’ve heard some memorable instances in the years I’ve worked with people with autism. I’ll relate a handful of them at the end of this post. 

Also – read several paragraphs down – unrelated to either “memorable refusals” or “tapioca” – about Petersburg’s former “Central Lunatic Asylum.” It was actually called that.

The tapioca is unrelated – I just had some today and included it here (below) because it was so good. And so unexpected.

But I got a pretty Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) half a mile from my house on the way to the river this morning. I will always use a nice Red-shouldered hawk picture when they appear: 

Red-shouldered hawk at 7:56 this morning

Also – in wildlife news from today (birds specifically) I saw my first Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) of the winter season at Pony Pasture just before 9:00 this AM. I’d expected them closer to Halloween but they’re a pleasant sight whenever they appear. Summer is really, truly over for sure when the first Buffleheads arrive in the Fall, and Spring is 100% imminent when the last ones fly off the river in late Winter. Their arrival/departure dates (here in Richmond) are consistently within a few days of the first autumn frost and the last Spring frost. This pair was one of a dozen. That flock will get bigger and bigger between now and the end of December. It is really difficult (for me) to get close to them. The male is on the left: 

Bufflehead pair at Pony Pasture this morning

Plus Evelyn and I had brunch today at the Farmer’s Market Bistro in Petersburg, VA in the Historic Farmer’s Market Building, 9 E. Old Street. Here are pictures I took of the outside then the inside: 

Outside the Farmer’s Market in Petersburg today

Inside that building looking up (when I wasn’t looking at my food):

So I looked it up online. The original structure was built 1878 – 1879. I think this is the third incarnation of it. I found four old black and white pictures of it on the Library of Congress web site. I didn’t investigate as completely as I should have. But this picture is black-and-white and it shows the building with horses and buggies pulled up outside. Here’s the link: Old Market House. The picture is mildly interesting, but more interesting still was the text beneath it. Click on the link and read it yourself, but this is what the first paragraph says: “The dummy line begins at the western terminus of the electric line and runs out to the Central Lunatic Asylum.” My best guess is “the dummy line” is a dead end railroad or trolley track. As far as the “Central Lunatic Asylum” I suspect that refers to what is currently called Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie. I went on their web site a couple minutes ago and clicked on “about.” You can click that link and read it too if you want. In the “about” section I scrolled down to “the early years” and read this second paragraph. Cut-and-pasted in here: “In December 1869, a former Confederate Facility, known as Howard’s Grove Hospital, was designated as a mental health hospital for African-Americans. The name was later changed to Central Lunatic Asylum. In June 1870, the General Assembly passed an act incorporating the Central Lunatic Asylum as an organized state institution. When the Commonwealth of Virginia assumed ownership, there were “123 insane persons and 100 paupers, not insane” housed at the asylum.” I learn the most unexpected things when I research this blog. “Paupers, not insane.” Who even knew. 

I’m a terrible food photographer. But boy do I know how to eat. I think the bacon might have been the best I’ve ever eaten – and I’ve eaten a lot of bacon. It tasted like an actual pig, which is how bacon is supposed to taste. Add hash browns, fried chicken, omg, check this out: 

Best bacon I’ve ever eaten. Awesome hash browns too. And the remains of omg fried chicken.

And that tapioca – do not even get me started. It is so, so, so good. Smooth and creamy and cold and sweet-but-not-too-sweet and it’s perfect with black coffee. Do you eat tapioca? Do you get the opportunity? Run down to Petersburg and have some of this – preferably with coffee: 

Tapioca on the left. Almost like ice cream only not as cold, and with “pearls.” Try some if you haven’t.

I got a white squirrel (I still think the only white squirrel) at Deep Run this week. But no stellar images. A gray squirrel posed for a few minutes in better light. I knew exactly what this squirrel was doing, since I was wearing shorts and doing the same thing – trying to stay in the sun. It was really cold and the wind was whipping off that lake: 

Gray squirrel keeping warm in the sun on a blustery morning

I got to spend some time with a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Bryan Park this week. For some reason my heart is never in these Great Blue Heron images. I always enjoy seeing them, but images I enjoy are rare. My favorites are when I photograph them in trees. That’s always an unusual image. This one is adequate: 

Great blue heron stalking something at Bryan Park this week

Speaking of adequate – this bluebird perched on my feeder Tuesday and watched me while I photographed it:

Bluebird holding its head just so, so I could capture its best angle

Facebook offers up a lot of old crap regularly and I delete it in short order and try to keep it from happening again. But Friday morning (11/8) it put in a ten year old (that day) picture of my mom and me that my dad took. It was at the finish line of the Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon in Wilmington, NC in 2009. 2009 was my seventh Ironman finish in seven years. I would continue doing an Ironman a year through 2013 when I finished my eleventh and final (at least for the time being) Iron distance race. I’ll keep doing the short ones for the foreseeable future. Here’s mom (RIP) and me ten years ago, photographed by dad (RIP): 

Screenshot of a Facebook image of mom (RIP) & me from 10 years ago, taken by dad (RIP)

I’m going to finish up there on the picture part and include a little writing here. And come back next week! All best, 


Wait! I got a picture of Mackey and Turner and Yuki at the river at Pony Pasture at 8:30 this morning: 

Mackey, Yuki and Turner on our wonderful James River this morning

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Memorable refusals

People with real classic autism have a difficult time expressing their emotions clearly. For many years I’ve offered options to people I work with, and been refused in unusual terms. I wrote several of these about seven years ago in a blog post called Echolalia

Years and years ago I was walking at Pony Pasture with a young man who has true classic autism. He likes to be outdoors walking around (or at least doesn’t complain about it) so we do that a lot. He can mutter short sentences about what he wants to do or not do, but he only says things he’s heard before. He’s never known who the president is – or what a president is – or even the name of this country. But he’s charming and likeable and never – ever – whines or complains. On the day were walking in Pony Pasture, a person was coming toward us walking a large, clean, friendly dog on a leash. My friend and I stopped and the person walked up to us and smiled and said “Do you want to pet the dog?” My friend stood ramrod straight and clenched his fists tightly at his sides and shouted “It’s not gonna’ happen!” That’s effective communication! 

A year or so later I was working with another young man with autism. His parents were going through a contentious divorce and I know he’d heard some memorable expressions of frustration. He loves to watch trains from nearly anywhere, and so do I. This particular day we were deciding whether we’d watch them from Brown’s Island or from a hill in the park at Maymont. I knew he wanted to go to Brown’s Island (you can get really close to the trains, which he loves) but I wanted to go to Maymont since we were pressed for time. He’d indicated clearly he wanted to go to Brown’s Island, but I told him we were going to Maymont instead. He leaned forward and furrowed his brow and said “Lord God JESUS!” 

I worked for several years with a guy named Thomas who was in elementary school. He didn’t seem to have even a vague idea of how to make his emotions clear, but his parents and the staff at his school were working hard to help him understand and communicate his emotions. We used to swim at a big outdoor pool in the summer and he never even wanted to get out of the water – he was free and happy all the time when he was swimming. One day we’d done about half our usual swim when I told him we’d have to get out early since he had to go to a doctor’s appointment. He stopped in mid-splash and frowned in a complete caricature of a frown you might normally expect to see on the face of a person his age. Every feature of it was overdone, from the downturned corners of his mouth to his downcast eyes to his knitted brow. He wasn’t sure if I understood how he was feeling, so he immediately informed me: “Thomas is making a sad face.” 

These guys – and most of the other folks I work with – are honest. They don’t say one thing while they’re thinking another. I never wonder where I stand with these guys – they always tell me, in clear, unmistakable language. It may be the thing I love most about my work. Everybody’s so honest 100% of the time, they spoil me! I am so grateful. 

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Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, buffleheads, Dogs, Endurance, Fun, James River, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My editor is out of town! 

3 November, 2019            My editor is out of town! 

So if there are any errors on this blog post, I won’t be able to blame her. I’ll keep the writing to a minimum! 

I try to get at least one image I really like every week; I’m not always successful. Fortunately this week I heard this Red-shouldered hawk screeching in a loblolly pine at 8:30 Monday morning. The air was so clear and the sky was so blue and the light was so spectacular I started the week off with a pretty one: 

Red shouldered hawk Monday morning. That sky could not possibly be any more blue.

I got a nice Red-tail less than thirty minutes later but it was on a cell phone tower. It’s a much less appealing background than a tall pine tree so I’ll skip it. But this week – on Halloween – I looked up from my desk and saw this handsome guy perched on top of the bird feeder pole outside my office window. Fifteen plus years at this house, feeding birds effectively since Day 1, and I had never seen a Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) . Until 3:30 in the afternoon on Halloween, 2019. Amazing and beautiful: 

First male Red-winged blackbird I’ve ever photographer here. In 15 years!

Nationwide they’re quite common, and even in central Virginia. But there’s no significant water near here – I’m not sure how he ended up there. But I was happy to see him! Maybe next time he’ll be in nicer light (and I’ll be less flustered!) and I’ll get a better image. I was just happy to see him. 

I saw the white squirrel at Deep Run later on Monday. And again later this week. I’m wondering if there is more than one at Deep Run. If not, this one covers a lot of ground. I’ve seen it across a wide area of the park. Squirrels are gathering nuts everywhere right now. The days are getting shorter and shorter and the average temperature is slowly drifting down. Here’s the white squirrel (or a white squirrel) gathering nuts this week at Deep Run Park and Recreation Center

Crumbs show up a lot more on white

Remember, white squirrels are the same animal as gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis carolinensis), just a different color. This more conventionally hued gray squirrel was gathering nuts this week at Bryan Park

Compare to previous image

I took those two pictures twenty-four hours and twelve miles apart, just random images. But look at the similarity between their poses. This stuff never gets boring.

The gray squirrel link above (should you choose to click on it) is to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries page about gray squirrels. That page says that “The daily movement is mostly within about 200 yards.” I only read that this moment (Sunday afternoon). So next time I’m at Deep Run, I’m going to be peering around to see if I can spot two white squirrels at the same time. We’ll see. 

I also glimpsed a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) on a tall pine this week. On my next picture (this coming week if I’m lucky) I’ll post a clearer image. But they’re nice looking birds and I always smile when I spot one: 

Male Northern Flicker this week.

I just learned (possibly for the second time, or more) that this is a male Northern Flicker. See that black mark below his eye, just at the base of his bill? Females are otherwise identical but don’t have that black mark.

Monday was October 28; it is real, real late in the year (IMO) for a hibiscus to continue flowering. It’s getting much colder now; this may be the end for 2019. But maybe not! This is from Monday. Every one is like a miracle: 

These hibiscuses (is that the correct plural?) are beyond compare

Evelyn tells me roses will keep growing much later. You just can’t get tired (maybe you can; I just can’t get tired) of looking at these. This one is from Tuesday: 

Possibly words don’t fail you; they failed me! OMG:

The river was a little high (just over seven feet deep) this morning, so we couldn’t get out on the rocks. Plus it was super, super muddy – the color of coffee with way too much cream. The four of us stopped for a quick break near the golf course: 

Mackey on the left, Yuki in the middle, Turner on the right next to the muddy James River this morning at Pony Pasture

One hazard (self-imposed hazard) of waiting until Sunday afternoon to put this together is I leave out some images. Here’s a Red-bellied woodpecker chowing down on the feeder yesterday afternoon at 1:00:

Red-bellied woodpeckers are big birds with big appetites

And here is the moon yesterday evening at 8:30 PM (EDT):

5.8 day old moon, waxing crescent, 36% full:

Have an excellent week! Come back next week! Evelyn will be home; the editing will be better. All best, 


Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, love, moon, Northern flicker, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers, roses, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


27 October, 2019            Birdbrain

His name is Mango. Possibly thinks I’m a birdbrain. Photo by Evelyn (who may also think I’m a birdbrain): 

Ev and I went to an open house Saturday at one of the places I work. It was called “Palooza Internacional” and it was even more remarkable than that name might suggest. I wish I’d gotten more info, but they had “rescued” birds there, and this was one of several. It’s a Moluccan or Salmon-crested cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis) appropriately named “Mango.” He (pretty sure he was a he) was engaging and personable and had a distinctly easygoing and relaxed. No one could be anxious with this guy pacing back and forth across their shoulders. He was so obviously trusting, so completely accepting it automatically made you feel better about the world. If you get an opportunity to have a bird like Mango perch on your shoulders for a little while, I encourage you to take it. I felt good already, but I felt even better when Mango was there. 

I didn’t take any pictures of the man performing magic there, but I wish I had. If you have the opportunity to see him live – or even on youtube – check him out. His name is Alain Nu and he just refers to himself as “the man who knows.” Take a look at his web site: Alain Nu: The Man Who Knows . I am one of the world’s great skeptics. But I sure couldn’t figure out how he did some of the tricks he did.

Back to the “Birdbrain” part of this blog post. The chickadees on our street might do that (perch on my arm) after a lot of effort, though I’ve not yet been fortunate enough to have it happen. A wren has perched on the steering wheel of my car (I took its picture) but not on my shoulders. Hawks on our street, zero percent chance. This one was directly across from our house Tuesday morning at around 10:00. Probably looking for a little early Halloween treat scurrying around down there in the ivy: 

Red-tailed hawk perched on a Halloween decoration

A moment later it hopped up on our neighbor’s car and took in the view from up there: 

Probably four feet higher than its earlier perch:

I think it was just feeling the breeze when it got up there. It stayed for less than a minute: 

That car roof was no place for a hawk:

Next month, incredibly, will mark seven years since my dad died. I don’t think of dad often, but if I’m a hundred years old and see a bluebird perched in a dogwood tree, dad will be the first thought that comes to mind. I didn’t move from photographing that hawk to photograph this bluebird. Just zoomed back and focused in our front yard. Dad’s favorite bird perched in Dad’s favorite tree: 

Bluebird in a dogwood – Dad’s favorite bird in Dad’s favorite tree

The moon will be “new” (100% invisible) tonight at 11:40. Which means it’s invisible now, no matter how clear the sky is, and it’ll be invisible tomorrow too. But I took this first picture at 6:48 Wednesday morning when it was 29% full and slowly shrinking (waning): 

Moon 35 minutes before sunrise (6:48 AM)

I took this picture not quite two hours later. It was 28% full and a bit higher above the horizon: 

Same moon, same day, an hour and 45 minutes later. And 1% smaller!

I’ve had a lot of fun this week even by my standards, and that’s saying something. I don’t ride horses, but I like spending time with them, and I had an opportunity to help some folks out this weekend. So I got to spend a couple hours out in Powhatan at a great place called Mesa Vista Farm. On their website (see for yourself) it says “We warmly welcome traditional and therapeutic riders to our beautiful farm!” I am neither a traditional or a therapeutic rider – unless you count bicycles – but they welcomed me to their beautiful farm just the same, and I am grateful for the opportunity. This is their enormous beautiful indoor ring. See the horse/rider/side walker teams over there on the left? I was the side walker for a few of the kids. About half were verbal. I was a side walker for a young semi-verbal guy who was riding that the smaller white horse closest to the wall on the left. His name was “Cloud” and the rider and I were looking out the windows at the clouds outside and comparing them to the horse’s color:  

Horseback riding at Mesa Vista Farm today. “Cloud” is the white horse closest to the wall.

There were fifty (or more) stalls lining the sides of the arena. They’d let anybody in those stalls!

Happy as a pig in… sawdust

These donkeys could have walked right under some horses. It was like comparing Dash to Mackey

This guy could have even walked under the donkeys – but you could hear him wherever you went:

Small size but LOUD voice!

It was a fun, fun, fun place to be. I need to get to sleep! But – of course – before I go. Recall if you will that Friday will be November 1! I photographed this rose and this hibiscus in our backyard at noon today: 

Backyard rose at noon today:

Hibiscus same time. Same plant I’ve photographed all summer – it turned orange!

Have an excellent weekend! Come back next week! All best, 


Posted in Birds, disability, Dogs, dogwood, Flowers, Fun, love, moon, People, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blown out/casting about 

20 October, 2019           Blown out/casting about 

I had a long flight planned for Thursday but it got too windy so we cancelled. We were blown out! I wanted to write about that flight but that will be a future blog entry. Now I’m casting about for subject matter! But it’s been such a nice week anyway. 

Buffleheads will show up at Pony Pasture soon and outdoor flowers will disappear until  daffodils open in March of 2020 – five months from now. But Evelyn’s hibiscus is sending out the season in a glow. Maybe more next week – we’ll see. This is from Tuesday just before lunch: 

Hibiscus OMG – look at that petal, that shadow, that sky, those trees – beyond compare

I just realized we have blooming flowers in front too – we’ll see if they keep going. Stay tuned! I’m beginning to get some improved raptor images. Red-tailed hawks are around daily but Red-shouldered hawks are currently less plentiful. And they’re always a bit more colorful. I saw this one (Red-shouldered) in western Henrico Friday morning: 

Red-shouldered hawk perched in a loblolly pine in front of a crisp blue sky

I got another raptor picture this week (a bunch really, naturally) and it’s far from my best but I’m always thrilled when I get a “double” Red-tail. And this was on the power line across from DS Freeman HS; I could have walked from my house to the corner and taken this picture: 

Better light would have been nice, but any “double” Red-tail picture is a prize

Part of being “blown out” this week means I’m relying more heavily than normal on raptor pictures, which I realize are not everyone’s favorite. But I got one in the woods at Pony Pasture yesterday while I was hiking with Mackey and Turner. No one will be surprised that I spend a lot of time in Pony Pasture, but it’s quite rare to see a Red-tail in the woods. This isn’t the first one I’ve ever seen there, but they’re non-typical. Yesterday afternoon at 2:00: 

Red-tail in the woods at Pony Pasture, 2:00 PM yesterday. They are a lot harder to photograph in the woods. Autofocus is not always your friend. 

No moon viewing tonight (Sunday, 10/20/2019) here in Richmond – solid clouds. But it was full seven days ago and it’s been waning all week. It was 100% full Sunday; now (if you could see it) it’s ~60% full and shrinking. I’m learning lunar features currently – many are naked eye visible or binocular or telescope or telephoto lens visible. We always see the same side of the moon – it’s always turned toward earth. There are some enormous craters like “Copernicus” and a few more that you can see on any clear night when the moon is full or near full. Copernicus is almost sixty miles wide! Think about the blast that would make a crater so big it would stretch from Richmond to Fredericksburg. And it’s not as if the destruction ends at the crater’s edge – it must have continued for miles. Think about if that hit DC. It would make an atomic bomb seem like a firecracker. 

Anyway, here’s an image I took Monday evening, October 14 at 9:40 PM. At this point (according to an app called “world clock” and another (more precise) app called “Sun Surveyor,”) this moon is 98.5% full and it’s been 16.3 days since it was a “new” moon:

Waning moon, Monday evening at 9:40:

At the risk of sounding too nerdy (because this is too nerdy), this is some data about this moon. At that time. It had risen at 7:23 PM; this is two hours and twenty minutes later. It rose a tiny bit to the north of east (80º) and in the two plus hours it had been up moved to an equal distance south of east (100º). In that brief period of time it had diminished from 98.7% full to 98.5% full. Tonight at 9:40 (if you could see it) it will be all the way down to 55.1% full. Seven nights from now – even if there’s not a cloud in the sky – it’ll be invisible. It’ll be a “new” moon, less than 0.2% full. So if the weather clears up tomorrow night or the next, go outside and have a look at the moon. It’ll disappear (clouds or no clouds) on Friday and won’t become visible again until Wednesday: 

Relevant (if you’re a nerd like me) data about the precedeing moon picture from Monday

This just in (in a manner of speaking). Ev and I went out a couple of hours ago and when we returned home it had stopped raining and was light enough for me to photograph the front flowers. So in addition to the spectacular and un-shy hibiscus at the top of this post, we also have these asclepius – the ones that bring monarch butterflies and monarch butterfly caterpillars and hummingbirds and more. Though I believe those insects and birds are gone for 2019. But the flowers are still here!: 

Asclepius in our front yard (outside my office window) this afternoon at 4:30:

And what would a blog post be without dogs at the river! Our pal Yuki is on an extended road trip; I’m not sure when he’ll join us next. But he’ll show up on this blog! Have a great week, 

Jay (and Mackey and Turner!) 

Mackey and Turner rock-hopping at Pony Pasture yesterday at 12:30

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

“First, be a good animal” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

13 October, 2019            “First, be a good animal” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

When I sent this picture to Ev (from the river this morning) she said “That’s the same photo you sent last week!” Which, scroll down to the first picture from last week, you can see why she said that! Same dogs, same rocks, same river. She then added “Ha! Same but different”. There’s an expression that says “you never bathe in the same river twice.” It was the James River last week and it was the James River this week but a lot of water has come down from upstream. And gone downstream: 

I hope you don’t tire of these pictures; I never tire of taking them:

Those are good animals, they’re really the best animals, but that’s not what this blog post is about. I have friends who are caring for a very ill child. Actually the hospital is caring for her. She’ll pull through but it’ll take a while and it’ll be difficult. I thought about the necessity of the parents to take care of themselves. That’s what Emerson was referring to. As humans we have great qualities such as compassion and caring and empathy. But if we allow ourselves to get sick and exhausted and weak – if we’re not good animals – all those great qualities are the first thing to go. The healthier you are – the better animal you are – the more able you are to express your more “human” capacities. 

We continued to be good animals when we hiked for an hour or so after that. We see all sorts of cool stuff in the woods. The keys here are officially “for scale,” but they’re a good accessory for this image: 

When we were young (this is true) we called this “shelf fungus”

It finally cooled off enough to have our first fire this week. All the animals in our house are drawn to it – two legged and four legged! It’s not cool enough to get my firewood conveyor belt in gear (that’s what it feels like in real cold weather) but it was nice to take the edge off Wednesday evening. Dash beat everybody to the prime spot: 

He who has the sharpest claws gets the fire:

I’ve mentioned in the past my difficulty in photographing Evelyn’s pineapple sage. They’re gorgeous and we have big patches of them in front of the house and behind the house. Ev took this picture and sent it to me. Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), grown and photographed by Evelyn: 

Pineapple sage, grown and photographed by Evelyn

I got a nice Red-tail at the cemetery this week, and I’ll put that picture here in a moment, but I’m currently on the theme of plants Evelyn has growing in our yard so I’ll continue. I took a picture of her hibiscus Friday afternoon around 3:00. A ray of sun was shining on the back of the petals; it lit up like someone had turned a switch. Grown by Evelyn, photographed by me: 

Look at that glow. Luck of timing, but still – what a spectacular flower

I’m not seeing a ton of raptors at the moment – I’m uncertain why. But this female reliably perches in the same tree most mornings at Westhampton Memorial Park on Patterson Avenue: 

Red-tailed hawk perched above the cemetery on a gray morning

I did get a single bird feeder picture I enjoyed this week. This female Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) was about to fly off with some bird seed: 

Female Red-bellied woodpecker with a seed

Speaking of birds this week – there was one in the creek bed at Pony Pasture today. We’re getting some rain (around 7:00 Sunday evening) as I type these words but central Virginia is parched. So when the dogs and I came up to Charlie’s Bridge this morning on our way back to the parking lot, there was a great blue heron below us in the creek bottom. It didn’t notice us for a while but I wasn’t composed enough to compose a good image. It flew up in a nearby tree a moment later. I got a marginal shot but not the one I’d hoped. But still – always fun: 

Great blue heron in a tree at Pony Pasture this morning

Emerson’s suggestion to “be a good animal” has always resonated for me. When I’m tired and/or don’t eat right, it is so, so, so difficult for me to think clearly and make good choices. When my friend was telling me about his child in the hospital, I immediately thought of the parents. I trust this hospital; it’ll take care of their daughter. The parents need to take care of themselves. Because to be a good parent, first, you have to be a good animal. 

Have a great week, all best, 


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Being a good animal means eating right and sleeping right and getting a little exercise. It is uncomplicated. And whatever else you do in your life – whatever else you do – you’ll do it better if you’re a good animal. If you’re a parent, a sibling, an athlete, a student, a reader, a writer, a conversationalist, a photographer, a ship captain, garbage truck driver, cancer patient, minister, doctor, lawyer, sales clerk, stenographer, engineer, the roles are infinite but the same story is true for every one of them. If you’re a better animal, you’ll be better at whatever else you do. Plus it feels really great! 

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Posted in Birds, Dogs, Emerson, firewood, Flowers, Fun, fungus, James River, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment