Sort of like a road trip…

30 September, 2018            Sort of like a road trip

…except we flew

Tuesday my instructor Ernest and I flew to Tangier Island Airport (KTGI) because you can’t get there by car. You can take a boat to KTGI or you can fly but that’s it. Unless you’re a really awesome swimmer. We flew in our trusty 1997 Cessna 172R, N9754F. Here she is Tuesday afternoon at 1:51 PM as I was walking out to do her preflight inspection. Both her wings and tail are tied down; this is how we leave the planes after we land:

N9754F before takeoff Tuesday: 

In August of 2014, my friend Pat’s son Daniel flew the three of us to Tangier. We flew in a Cessna 172 that time as well; you can see it if you look at my old blog post. You can also see pictures I took that time; I was flying as a passenger so I got to take more in-flight pictures, including our flight out to and landing at KTGI: I went flying yesterday!

I took a lot of pictures on the island that day as well.

Tuesday I used my phone to take a lot of pictures on the island too. When we were leaving, I took off but Ernest flew circles so we could gain altitude over the island and I took a few images. Last time (according to my blog post) I took 120 pictures during the trip. Here is a selection from this trip. My favorite is the one at the top of this post, a panorama of the airport. Our plane is in the center. I took that picture at 6:01 PM, just a few minutes before we took off.

If you go to Tangier, you see cats. They’re everywhere. There were none around the runway, fortunately. I’m sure many were shy, but not all. This one walked right up and introduced itself:

First time we’d ever met. The cat just walked up and said hello. In its cat manner: 

Look at this sky. Notice the cat at the top of the ramp:

Feast your eyes on that sky and those tombstones and masts and the cat in the center of the image: 

We had lunch at the Fisherman’s Corner Restaurant, about ten minutes walk from where we tied up the plane. I don’t recall what Ernest had, except he shared some crab dip with  me that was out of this world. I got a steamed shrimp appetizer and a soft shelled crab sandwich; it was a treasure. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around leaving my house after lunch, flying to these “far away places” and getting home in time for dinner. We’d had a longer flight planned (to the south) but the weather wasn’t good down there so we diverted to Tangier. Great diversion!

Here are a couple of pictures I took while Ernest was circling the plane and gaining altitude before we flew back to Hanover:

About 1,500′ over the island. See the runway down there? 

3 minutes later – and 1,500 feet higher: 

Anyway, I can’t resist (of course) a couple of hawks. As I was walking out the door of my morning job Monday, a Red-shouldered hawk flew directly toward me, swooped up and landed on the entranceway peak just above my head. I turned around and took this picture:

Hawks ignore us (I’m moderately certain) but this one swooped directly toward me Monday morning and landed directly above my head. Posed while I took this picture: 

Two days later there was a Red-tailed hawk, in much better light, a stone’s throw (literally) from my house. I had to walk to take this but it’s real close:

See what a difference nice light makes? Plus, compare breast colors between these two. That’s how you tell a Red-shoulder (top picture) from a Red-tail (this picture) 

I took all three dogs to the river this morning but it was nearly fourteen feet deep and most of the trails were underwater. We walked for half an hour or so but we headed back before I took a picture of all three together. But Yuki was my copilot on the drive home, and he doesn’t look too unhappy about leaving early. I took this picture just as we started back:

Spend more time with dogs. You’ll get happier right away. Check out this handsome, happy boy: 

Evelyn and I had late lunch/early dinner at our favorite restaurant Fresca on Addison yesterday. In nice weather we walk from there to Bev’s Ice Cream in Carytown for dessert and yesterday was spectacular. As you walk west late in the day the sun shines brightly on those south facing walls (on your right) and the plants love the sun. There were gardenias – incredibly – plus these passion flowers. Take a look at the bee on here:

Bee on a passion flower

One more picture (at least). I was hiking with my buddy Kendall at Deep Run Friday and we saw this highway safety orange fungus growing alongside the path:

Dad loved to say “there’s a fungus among us.” Mom and I loved to eat mushrooms but Dad always called them “toadstools.” He wouldn’t have been able to resist commenting on this orange beauty: 

More next week! I hope! Have an excellent week,


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“Sorry to write such a long letter… “

23 September, 2018            “Sorry to write such a long letter… “

“…I didn’t have time to write a short one.” – Oscar Wilde (I thought). But one web site I read said that quote “…has been attributed, variously, to Pliny the Younger, Mark Twain, T.S.Eliot, Cicero, Voltaire and Proust.” Who knows. I like the idea. Read on. Please! 

Evelyn’s father John, Monmouth Co. NJ, ~1985 or 1990 

The man in that picture is Evelyn’s father John, who I never met. He died around ten years before I knew Evelyn. Ev guesses this photograph was taken about 1985 or 1990 but she’s not certain. He was outdoorsy and a reader and I have a book of his called “John of the Mountains: the unpublished journals of John Muir“, 1938. I picked it up the other day and it has a bookmark with an old fraying string and a photograph of a soulful looking Dalmatian sitting on a black and white checkerboard tiled floor.

I just – while I was putting this blog post together – stumbled across this sentence in an article called John Muir, Nature’s Witness: “The founder of the Sierra Club [John Muir] worshiped the outdoor world.” Worshipped. That’s a strong word.

The bookmark is on page sixteen, and it’s on Chapter 1, in a section called “At Smoky Jack’s Sheep Camp” [December, 1868]. The January 18 journal entry ends on that page, followed by January 19 in its entirety, and the beginning of January 20. I reproduced them here, without permission:

January 18 […] “…Another glorious day, full of light and joy and life. A purple evening.

January 19 Clouds in transparent flakes. Warm, balmy life in every sunbeam. Perfect harmony in all things here.

January 20 Purple morning and evening. The evening lark song is ‘Queedli boodle.” […]

When I read the January 19 entry, all three sentences, all sixteen words, I thought “I use way more words than I should.” I pay attention to using fewer words but it gets away from me sometimes. Possibly this demonstrates the truth of that.

So anyway, here’s one of Ev’s roses. The gardenias are spectacular, but this is difficult to improve. I took this picture Friday afternoon, next to our garage:

Words will degrade this image: 

In addition to using too many words, I use too many pictures of hawks. But Friday I got a “double” Red-tail, two perched at the same time on the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church:

Red-tail pair at Discovery United Methodist Church

It occurred to me that this is the only time of year (up until early Spring) when I photograph two at once. I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect when there are eggs or young on the nest, one adult stays there. Adult Red-tails don’t have predators in Virginia – they’re at the top of the food chain. But all manner of opportunists (especially raccoons, and I’ll bet snakes) prey on the eggs and young. Whatever reason, it’s always fun to get a “double” Red-tail.

I had two big flying milestones this week, but only one was really photographable. Because Tuesday I did my first night flight! We took off around 8:30 PM and flew to Charlottesville (KCHO) and I landed in the dark! KCHO is a much bigger and brighter airport than Hanover (KOFP) but it’s still night when you land. A lot of night flying (mainly the landing) is like learning to fly all over again. But it’s fascinating. I love every minute.

I was supposed to fly in the afternoon and I went to the airport. But you can see in this picture the clouds were beginning to stack up. The weather was turning ugly so I went home. And came back after it cleared up and went night flying! Here’s the plane I flew in the afternoon before the storm:

The calm plane before the storm

Here’s the moon that evening at 7:30, an hour before takeoff:

Moon in early evening (7:30) 

And again at 11:30, after I got home from the airport:

Same day around 4 hours later (11:30) 

Wednesday I got a couple pictures of Ev’s gardenias and nasturtiums. Here’s a gardenia inside – with keys, “for scale”:

Ev’s gardenia magic, with car keys for scale: 
Ev’s prize winning (IMO) nasturtiums in Dad’s (my Dad’s) favorite color: 

And Thursday I got to fly again! Only this time to Luray Caverns Airport (KLUA)! I took way, way, way too many pictures – it was so incredible. I’m looking over our path, it took us over Ruckersville, Stanardsville, Elkton, Shenandoah, Stanley, Luray, all the little towns that surrounded our cabin when we were growing up. We were right between Shenandoah and Stanley. I took this picture when we were flying back. I’m not sure what our altitude was right there – probably around 5,000 feet. Our property is close to the center of this image, but I can’t say precisely. That muddy brown river is the flooded South Fork of the Shenandoah. You can barely make out the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks in the lower right. I’ll get better pictures next time I fly up there:

Flying – me flying – a Cessna 172 over our property in the Shenandoah Valley, with the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in the foreground: 

Here’s the wind sock at the Luray Caverns airport, with the mountains in the background:

Windsock at Luray Caverns Airport, Luray, VA

When we landed the airport operator came on the radio and said “do you guys need any gas? Or do you want to borrow a car so you can visit the Caverns?” We were running late so we thanked him and declined, then taxied back to the runway and flew home.

It was disorienting. When I was young, going up there was a big deal, lots of preparation and excitement, etc. We had to do a lot to get ready, and as much or more to come home. Thursday I ate lunch at my dining room table, went to the airport, flew to Page County and landed. Took off and flew home. And had dinner at my dining room table. Even as I type it now a few days later it’s hard to wrap my head around it.

I ate another pawpaw at Pony Pasture this morning while the dogs and I were hiking. Every week I think I’ve had the last one. They are a treasure.

This week has also been a treasure – I hope yours has too. Until next week (I hope!),


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Ivory and Nicky and Unknown Cat, by Karen Gammon, Richmond VA SPCA

I am a dedicated nostalgiaphobe. I have no use for nostalgia. The past is just fine exactly where it is. The moment we’re alive – this very instant – is the best one ever. “That’s why they call it ‘The Present,’” a wise friend told me – “it’s a gift.”

But Evelyn and I were near The Diamond Thursday shopping for floor tile. I saw the Richmond SPCA a few doors away. A talented woman named Karen Gammon’s artwork decorates their training a rea. And she did portraits of my first two dogs! And they’re both on the wall!

This is the wall of the exercise area at the SPCA. You can see Ivory’s picture toward the right, just above the little green tabletop between the two sets of blue stairs. Nicky’s picture is to the right of Ivory’s, directly above the fan sitting on the floor. 

Ivory on the right, just above the green platform. 
Nicky to the right of Ivory, above the fan on the floor. 

Here’s an image of the two of them on the back stoop of my old house on Three Chopt Road. This picture was taken maybe 1998 or so. I hadn’t learned to photograph black dogs at that point – all you can see is Nicky’s tongue. And his pointy ears. He was handsome, but he could be intimidating. Ivory was incapable of intimidation. 

Ivory & Nicky on my back stoop, Three Chopt Rd., late 1990’s:

I’d never owned dogs before I owned Nicky and Ivory. I got Ivory in 1995. I was thirty-four years old. So all the time you see me with dogs today, I knew zero about them while I grew up. I knew about companion animals (we grew up with cats) and about the outdoors (between our cabin and Camp) but but Ivory and Nicky taught me everything I know about dogs.

Ivory was easy – he was so easy – he was the perfect first dog. He was jumpy when I first got him but he calmed down in no time. 

Here’s an excerpt from my journal on January 8, 1996: “…an enormous amount has happened since I last wrote. The Blizzard of ’96, mainly, and boy has it been a doozy. Drove back from Kati’s [in Maryland] in it on Saturday night, left there at 2045 with no precipitation, finally arrived here at 0015 Sunday morning in mid-blizzard. Had two dogs with us for the whole trip, Kelsey and about a 10-month old Husky named Ivory. My talisman against the blizzard.” Then there’s a journal entry from June of 1998 that says “Ivory and I recently returned from our first visit to the MCV Children’s Medical Center as a pet therapy team.” Twenty years ago this summer, remarkable. I was working on my MS in Rehabilitation Counseling at MCV in the mid-1990’s and began studying Pet Therapy for a special project. And kept doing it at MCV for eleven more years! And still do it now, with another generation of dogs, but we don’t work in hospitals. 

Nicky was more challenging. He arrived at a good time. Ivory was from AARF, the Animal Adoption and Rescue Foundation, and so was Nicky. They called me and asked if I’d pick up this dog; it was an emergency. I got him; he was a mess. I wrote at the time he was like “a skeleton with fur.” I kept him overnight and they got him to a foster home. At the foster home he bit someone and they asked me to take him back. I already had Ivory. I got Nicky back, and he bit me once and my renter once. AARF is a non-euthanizing group but they said Nicky would be the first dog they’d euthanize. 

If I hadn’t been living with Ivory, he probably would have been. But Ivory had such a powerful and confident personality, it spread to everyone around him. And Ivory’s personality helped Nicky calm down. 

Never let anyone tell you that an “alpha dog” is one who shows other dogs it’s the boss. Ivory was the purest alpha animal I’ve ever met, human or non-human, and the “alpha” quality was just confidence. There is no swagger, no growling, no aggression, no teeth baring, nothing. Alpha animals don’t act like they have anything to prove. It’s confidence, and nothing else. 

Here’s a journal excerpt from October of 1995, when I was in graduate school at VCU. It goes well with the “nostalgiaphobe” theme of this blog post: “Life is a series of collisions with the future, it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be” -Jose Ortega Y Gasset

Here – unrelated except it’s in the same journal – is another quote I enjoyed. Though it’s not particularly instructive: “Nothing’s impossible, but you’ll never wear skis through a revolving door.” 

Mister Floyd – 2008 

Mister Floyd came along later – over ten years later. I’ll write about him in another blog post. That was not a dog for amateurs. He came along after I’d had a lot of experience. I believe Mister Floyd did not have a joyful life. We didn’t know each other for a real long time but we formed a strong, strong bond.

Ivory was the first dog I ever owned. He taught me everything, and taught me to teach other dogs. And to teach other people. Ivory made it into a book about dogs in 2009. Here it is: To the Rescue: Found Dogs with a MissionElise Lufkin, Diana Walker (photographer), 2009. 

Here is a picture of “Ivory’s” book (though his is only one of 53 chapters) and a picture of the beginning of Ivory’s chapter, Chapter 53, page 135: 

Excerpt from the book (I wrote this chapter; it’s Chapter 53, the final chapter of the book: 

“…Over the years I have tried to emulate Ivory’s best characteristics and make them my own. It’s not always easy. Once we were in the pediatric ICU visiting a teenaged girl. She was really, really big and bloated, probably due to medications, some of which can produce severe weight gain. Her hair was greasy and matted, her skin was horrible, her face slack, dull, and uninterested. I’ve been seeing kids in the PICU for ten years now, and even with the really sick ones, even in a coma or something, you can tell that they’re normally happy, healthy kids who are just in a tough spot. This girl was not like that. She looked like she’d never been happy; she looked like she’d never been cared for. Ivory, of course, went straight up to her bed and shoved his nose up to greet her. When she reached out to pet him, I saw that her hand had six fingers. I have always fancied myself an open-minded and poised person, accepting differences in people and taking things as they come. And on the surface I was that person, making friendly conversation with this girl just like I do with everybody. But I was faking it; she didn’t know that, but I did. Ivory was most definitely not faking it – he was as genuine, real, and present as one being could ever be with another. He would have stayed all day.

I  thought about it for the rest of our visit, the whole way home and all that day, and I still think about it. I realized that I had to raise the level of my compassion, care, and empathy to be equal with a dog. With a dog – not with Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela, but with a dog. That was an immensely powerful lesson for me.

I am undeniably a better human being as a result of the years I’ve spent with Ivory. He’s an incredible animal, and I’m just so happy I’ve been able to have this time with him. There will certainly never be another Ivory. He’s probably only got a couple of years left with me, but he has changed the course of the rest of my life.” 

So beginning with Ivory in 1995 I went from no dogs to this: 

Only two of those live at my house – Turner with the ball in his mouth (he always “has a ball,” both literally and figuratively) and Mackey, solid black, you can barely see him there left center in the image. But Yuki (the big handsome white dog) is a regular hiking buddy of ours. And Luna (bottom, black and white, smiling) and Lola (licking my ear) are also regular companions, and Sonny (top left, yellow Lab, looking soulful) hangs out at Yuki’s house regularly. They’re neighbors. 

A couple of images from the river this week: 

I can’t go a week without a hawk. I almost did. But I saw a female in the drizzle at the Westhampton Memorial & Cremation Park (corner of Patterson and Gaskins) on my way home Friday morning: 

Wet female Red-tail early in the “hurricane” activity – Westhampton Cemetery, Richmond, VA 

A couple of images from today. On the left, Mackey, Turner, Yuki, Lola and Luna in the warm rain at Pony Pasture early this afternoon. On the right, Dash, making clear his keen desire to join them the next time they venture outdoors: 

That’s all for this week! I hope you’ve had a great week and next week is even better! 

All best, 


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Random – but fortunately a hawk came to visit

9 September, 2018            Random – but fortunately a hawk came to visit

Red-tail landed in my backyard while I was cutting grass!


Some weeks I don’t get any pictures I love (except gardenias) but this week a young hawk landed in the backyard. Right while I was mowing my yard! Flew in and landed above my head! I was mowing the grass – gasoline mower, noisy and rattling, everything. I saw the shadow fly over so I stopped and looked up and there it was – perched directly over my head. This next picture shows where I stopped the mower and looked up and saw the hawk. I said hello, dropped my gloves on the ground and went inside and got my camera. When I came back out, the hawk was still there. I sat on the chair in the lower left to take this picture. 

The hawk was perched on a branch high up on the right side of that pine. I sat on the chair to take this picture.



Our gardenias attract me, and this week they attracted a visitor I’d never noticed before. I relocated it to a Rose of Sharon (hibiscus) in another corner of our yard. It sprayed my gloves with what could be called gardenia leaf colored saliva. I’m not sure what that was meant to indicate. Anger or fear or anxiety or some combination. Always good to have a new visitor in the yard. Check out this camo – incredible:

Look at the remarkable camo on this gardenia gobbling caterpillar:


When I told Turner about it, he offered to “stand” guard near the gardenia, but he sometimes lies down on the job. You don’t need lightning reflexes to catch a caterpillar, so Turner conserved his energy:

Turner guarding potted gardenia on right side of image:


Gardenias aren’t our only flower – as you’re aware. It’s night now and I’m in my office, but I think you may be able to stand next to the gardenia and see this rose:

I can look one direction and see a gardenia and turn my head and see this:


This is a picture of the gardenia plant from Wednesday. The scent from a single one of those buds will fill up any room. It’s amazing there are so many. You can’t even see them all in this picture. No wonder those caterpillars are around:

Look at that. 4 visible in 1 image. It’s an embarrassment of riches.


Here are two pictures from the river this morning. Same fungus:

Iphone on fungus – see my image?



Camera on fungus






I normally take a lot of dog pictures, but I overdid it this morning, even by my standards. You’d think I could do better than this. But I ended up with five dogs this AM. They’re fun but the leash/camera/phone juggling act is more than moderately challenging:

Dogs making “Cat’s Cradle” out of retractable leashes


Ev’s got another new (to me) flower growing outside my office window, a lantana. It’s a camera friendly flower – look at those colors and textures – but I haven’t gotten an image I love yet. But this is a good start: 

One of many different lantana buds:



Beautyberry almost shading the lantana







Have a great week! I’m up way too late! All best, 



Posted in Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, fungus, Gardenias, Insects, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why isn’t there anything in holes?” – O. Henry

2 September, 2018            “Why isn’t there anything in holes?” – O. Henry

Butterfly I saw at Pony Pasture today (sorry for the lack of ID)


The quote is from a story by O Henry called The Ransom of Red Chief. It’s unrelated to this blog post. I was riding in the car with a buddy on Friday and heard a song called Talking Straight by a band called Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. One line (two lines, really) said, “I wanna know where the silence comes from.”

Where space originates.” When I heard “I wanna know…where space originates” I immediately flashed back to The Ransom of Red Chief and the questions the little boy (“Red Chief”) tormented his kidnappers with. Such as, “why isn’t there anything in holes?” and “how can a road go both ways?”

My Aunt Kathleen – really my Dad’s Aunt Kathleen – gave me a thick volume of O Henry short stories when I was much younger. I still recall many of the stories – many folks are no doubt familiar with O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi – but “Red Chief” was a favorite for me. Not least because of Red Chief’s inscrutable question.

Here’s a picture of the moon from yesterday morning shortly after 6:00. It was 68% full and waning. When I took this picture it was 63º above the horizon. For reference, the horizon is 0º and directly overhead is 90º. And it was at 200º on the compass. 180º is directly south, so the is just a few degrees west of south. Anyway. Pardon my foray into intense geekiness. Here’s the picture:

Waning gibbous moon – 68% full – 9/1/2018 – 6:00 AM



The flower Ev attracted a hummingbird with last week attracted a different winged visitor this week. This was looking out my office window Wednesday morning at 10:40:

Ev’s gorgeous plants attract another gorgeous visitor


I’ll put in a gardenia picture before I close this blog post. They are on a rampage. Our little tree currently has three huge blooms. But her roses are also magnificent, especially this spectacular flower from Wednesday morning: 

It’s hard to look away from



She posted a picture of one of her roses earlier this week accompanied by this poem:


Did the rose

Ever open its heart

And give this world

All its

It felt the encouragement of light

Against its



We all remain



It’s a big leap from roses and mystic poets to general aviation and Cessna 172’s but that happens on this blog from time to time. I won’t fly at all this week, unfortunately, but last week I flew Tuesday and Thursday. These pictures are both from Thursday, one before and one during preflight. One picture is obvious (the plane) and one I stood just in front of the prop spinner while I was checking the engine cooling inlets and air filter and prop and spinner. This is the spinner – the center of the propeller:

The center of the action – the prop spinner of the Cessna 172 I flew Thursday


This, of course, is the rest of the aircraft:

Behind the prop spinner!


There are lots of insects now, as you’re seeing from the butterfly pictures. I saw a really huge spider at the river this morning. I regret not putting something in the image for scale, but this girl (males are ~⅛ as large) was close to 2” long. My sister Katie tentatively identified it (from my cell phone picture) as Argiopes auratus or a Black and Yellow Garden Spider. It is an attractive insect; I regret the poor quality of this image:

Black and Yellow Garden Spider


Pony Pasture, by the way, is filled with pawpaws – they’re everywhere, and will be for the next two or three weeks. Have a taste! They’re spectacular! Once they’re gone you won’t get a chance again for nearly a year.

Gardenia to close with – I have so many pictures:

I like whipped cream a lot – that’s probably why my mouth waters when I look at this.








Have an outstanding week! Go to Pony Pasture and eat some pawpaws while you can – they’ll be gone before you know it. All best, see you next week (I hope!), 



Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, Insects, James River, moon, Pony Pasture, Rivers, roses, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Spiders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

More is better

26 August, 2018           More is better 

More is better

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

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

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




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

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

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

Just after landing Tuesday (8/21) afternoon

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

Cooper’s Hawk in Short Pump:

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

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

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

Daniel taxiing to the ramp shortly after landing:

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

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

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


T-62 tank with bike for scale















Bike is on the side this time:
















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

More hawks is better too









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

Such wonderful light this morning 












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

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













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

Hikes at the river with dogs – more is better






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

 “Try to be a little kinder” – Aldous Huxley 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smells like a million bucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Nasturtiums – Dad’s favorite color

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

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