Saturday, December 30, 2006

Picture Imperfect...

I have been in the woods during the past two days, enjoying the white powder snow and the crisp, cold air. It's the first snow of the winter, following a warmer than usual season, and that probably enabled the spider and the snowflake to cross paths - something rare and unusual.

The photograph is of single snowflake, caught and suspended by a spider's web at the edge of one of the woods roads, glistening in the afternoon sunshine. Swinging in a light breeze, it made focusing the camera a nearly impossible job, and so the picture is less than perfect, hence the title: Picture Imperfect... But so incredible!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Diary of Sigmund Gnome 12/25/06...

Dear Diary,

It was a gray Christmas morning, one that followed a gray month of December, and the first time they had ever been alone together on that holiday. I watched them from a distance, not wanting to intrude the business of gnomes into their peaceful domesticity. After all, thirty-four is a lot of get-up-early-to-celebrate-that-Santa-came mornings.

She made her coffee, he made his Postum, and they had their usual repartee around the relative merits of the two drinks, laughingly agreeing that chocolate hazelnut biscotti taste good no matter what they’re dunked in. I was still sitting on a stump and sipping my mead when they emerged from the house.

“Good morning, Sigmund!” she called out. “We’re going for a walk in the woods before I have to start cooking for tonight,” and with that, they waved and headed up the path into the forest.

He often takes an axe for clearing downed trees from the woods roads, but today he just took her – and of course, she took her camera.

It was my day off, so I decided to go into the woods too, but I took a different path, and reaching Flower’s house, I found him still up and about after his night of foraging for food. When he heard she was coming with her camera he groaned a “not again” and decided – as usual – that he would not be a model on Christmas day. The Jay family heard him grumbling and flew off to alert the other animals, so that by the time the Wizened Wizard was deep in the forest, the only creatures to be seen were a pair of ruffed grouse who flew away with wings beating loudly (and were gone before she could even point her lens). Flower, being good at heart, left her a note on his message board.

After seeing this message and not seeing Flower, the Wiz'd Wizard apparently decided to see if Bucky and Simone d'Beavoir might be interested in a family portrait, but finding the shades drawn and the door closed at their house, she finally turned for home. I ran into Bambi and we chatted briefly, then I followed.

Of course, you just never know what that wizard will point her camera at, and so it wasn't too surprising to find her gleefully circling a puddle at the edge of the woods, angling and clicking. How anyone - much less a wizard - can get excited over some cold water and ice is hard to fathom, but I guess that's what makes her wizened. Later, at home, she would excitedly consider, crop, then drag all who would look to see the latest photographic wonder.

And you know, it's amazing how nice a cold puddle can look when she captures it! I like that picture, but my favorite is the picture she took of me a few minutes later.

It was just another day in the life of a gnome.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

'Tis the Day Before Christmas...

It's the day before Christmas. The clock radio jolts me from sounder-than-usual sleep just in time to make the trip to pick up my 4-year-old grandchild for the day. His mom is a nurse, and for the first time in memory, she will work today but not tomorrow. I quickly check my computer and find a sweet holiday wish left on the blog by Shaumi, then it's out into the sleety snow for the thirteen-mile drive to town.

The sleet has turned to rain and is diminishing by the time we return to the glories of play with Grandpa, and I build a fire in the fireplace. (Grandchild notes that it is nice to have two fires - one in the woodstove and one he can see). As train tracks are being connected and block towers built, I seat myself beside the now blazing fire to enjoy a cup of coffee and some homemade biscotti. As I sit, feeling the warmth of fire and cup, I think of Shaumi's posting of the list of things she is grateful for and I am overcome by my own feelings of gratitude:

  • For home, much of it built by my own hands
  • For the creature comforts of good food I have baked and warmth from wood cut and gathered by my husband and myself
  • For friends near and far, real and virtual
  • For family

Later we bundle up for a walk in the woods, taking a bag to gather "stuff" for making woodsy collages. Now it's become sunny and mild, and I think that if we can't have a white Christmas, then this is not such a bad substitute. Our little companion gleefully stomps through puddles, points out moss and peels some bark from a dying birch. Although many people would fail to see the beauty in these gray winter woods, our love affair continues and now appears to be passing on to this grandchild.

We have dinner in town (at the Great Wall Chinese Buffet there is a Christmas tree, but the food and service is no different than on any of the other 364 days of the year), then, knowing we're a little earlier than planned, we drive around the village marveling at the holiday light displays on lawns and homes. Grandson comments, "A nice final touching!" He is also sure he sees Santa up in the sky near the crescent moon.

My life is truly blessed.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Wish ...

As a recipient of one of this year's Eddie Awards, I feel that I have a responsibility to put my 15 minutes of fame - and the generous check - to good use, so I have purchased the two feet of beautiful, clean, white snow you see enhancing the photograph. (Many thanks to Sigmund's contact up at the pole and to all the other gnomes who gave generously of their time and energies to stack the firewood and set up the shot).

And I offer these words sung by Peter, Paul and Mary:

If I were free to speak my mind,
I'd tell a tale to all mankind
Of how the flowers do bloom and fade
Of how we've fought and how weve paid.

This weary world has had its fill
Of words of war on every hill
The time has come for peaceful days
And peaceful men of peaceful ways.

When all mankind has ceased to fight
I'll raise my head in thanks each night
For this rich earth and all it means
For golden days and peaceful dreams.

Peace be with you and with all of us -

The Wizened Wizard

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Seasonal Shift

A red October leaf floats on water; a December leaf is held frozen on a puddle.

By the way, the December picture is of the same puddle pictured here and here. (The October photo was taken at Lampson Falls on the Grasse River).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wizard of the Year
...and the winner is...

There seems to be some controversy surrounding my acceptance of this honor, sadly tarnishing the joy I should be feeling today as it is bestowed upon me. To my detractors I say, "GET OVER IT!!!" And welcome to my world! ( To see one additional award, click here. )

Monday, December 18, 2006

Brushing with Greatness

A blogger friend recently challenged his readers.
Craig D wrote:

I have a challenge for you, my blogging buddies... Have you had any "brushes with greatness?" I'll bet they're a lot more common than we might suspect!

Did you meet Bob Balaban at an IHOP? Does your cousin deliver laundry to Elena Verdugo's chiropractor? Did you once see John Lithgow drop his ice cream cone? Is Andy Devine your godfather? Did you once see Mitch Miller at a hotel swimming pool? Were you ever flipped off by Yoko Ono?

I thought about it. I remembered sitting next to Montreal Canadians hockey player Peter Popovich on a flight from Montreal to Detroit, which was exciting at the time but not terribly impressive now. I once had lunch at Katz' Deli on Houston St. and passed right by the actual table where Meg Ryan faked her orgasm for "When Harry met Sally" (there's a sign hanging above the spot, pointing it out). Yeah, right, me and how many millions could make that claim? And anyway, did that really qualify as "brushing with greatness?"

Then I remembered this: my father grew up on the same block as James Cagney. They reconnected later in their lives, and Cagney used to call our house. The phone would ring, my mother would answer it, and he'd say, "Hello, Dear," in that voice you’ve all heard on the big screen. She - a woman not easily shaken - would get absolutely school-girl flustered!

My dad and Jim corresponded regularly, envelopes from him never having any return address in order to insure his privacy and to prevent them from being stolen. (I have these letters). He never signed postcards because postal workers had made off with some for the “autograph.”

The thing that Cagney “gave” me – albeit unknowingly – is a wish. He signed an 8 x 10 publicity photo for my uncle “To George – All that’s good, Jim.” That seems to me to be a very fine wish, and I often end letters to friends with it. By the way, George (known as “Specs” because he was the first major league infielder to wear eye-glasses) was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals when they beat the NY Yankees in the 1926 World Series.

Jim’s autobiography contains a
poem written by my father. A photo of Cagney and my uncle can be seen here.

All that's good -

The Wiz'd Wizard

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mr. Rags

Mr. Rags (sitting up) with Josie

This morning I received a message from a friend:

Dear Friends -

It is my sad duty to inform you that Mr. Rags died during the night from complications of congestive heart failure. We think he was about 17. He was not alone when he died, nor was he in pain; he went the way we had hoped he would. The best memorial gesture one could make is to do something to help an abandoned pet, for that is what Rags was when he came to me 14 years ago. I will miss him terribly, but I know that his sufferings are over and he is at rest.

Thank you for your concern for him over the years.


Our pets understand us in ways our human friends do not. We share our deepest concerns and feelings with them, and in turn they give us unconditional love, share their joy in living, and stay loyally at our side through thick and thin.

Ironically, last night in the barn my horse Heidi's winter coat was slicked down from the rain (she loves to be outdoors no matter what the weather), and I noticed how thin she is despite recent generous feedings of grain. Her personality has changed ever so slightly as well, and those observations led my mind to the day many years ago when I first saw her standing proud and beautiful across an open pasture. I knew I was hooked, knew she was going to be part of my life. And I knew that day and that image was the high point: there would someday come the other day, the day when I'd have to say goodbye, very probably a day when I would have to say to a person with a gun or a needle, "Yes. Do it." Anyone who has loved a pet knows what a difficult and painful decision that can be, and I returned to the house somewhat heavy-hearted.

A dog's emotions are so freely expressed, so honest, so transparent. Perhaps that's why I can be sad but rational at funerals or upon the death of a human family member but cry uncontrollably over the death of a dog. Or perhaps that dog's last loving purpose is to allow us to release - as they do - our innermost feelings, to cleanse our hearts of sorrow stored in them.

Mr. Rags was blessed. He lived to a ripe old age with his people, knowing love, kindness and comfort. He asked for little more than company and kibble, and he gave his heart and soul in the way that only a dog does.

"Good dog, Rags."

"Sit. Stay. Stay here in my heart for the rest of my life."

My deepest sympathy to John and Joan.

Now go to: Musical Tribute to Rags

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Woody Allen’s thriller, Match Point, is about luck. (The protagonist’s baby is born and wished “luck” which, after sitting through the lengthy lead-up to the movie’s end, we understand is the best thing a person can hope for). Some people have it; some don’t. It seems to me that most of us are luck-neutral and pass through life’s ups and downs without much thought about them being more than “life” itself.

I have a child who is lucky. In many ways, he makes his own good fortune because he is brighter than most, a social mensch and in most other ways quite able. The world is his oyster. He never thought about any of this while he was growing up, for it no doubt seemed to him that he was no different than any of his friends and acquaintances. The awareness of his luck came gradually sometime during his twenties after a string of serendipitous events landed him in the enviable position of earning a six-figure salary doing a job he absolutely loves – despite being a history major.

Now, at age 29, he has begun to think about this girl called Lady Luck. Although previously taken for granted, he begins to appreciate her part in his life, and - like a lover who has become too comfortable in his love affair - begins to consider what it might mean to lose her. This new awareness doesn’t hang heavy on him, but perhaps it is beginning to slightly color his decision-making. Maybe that’s a sign of maturity. Maybe it’s a good thing; but if one stops taking good luck for granted - if one settles for present comfort rather than risking the unknown (and the chance that his luck will run out) - does life cease to be serendipitous?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Now You See Them...

Then you click the camera shutter...

...and then it's back to decorating the Christmas tree. Be sure to click on the top photo to see it enlarged. These two are really cute. (But of course you can't see all the brussels sprouts in their bellies).

This morning Dirk wrote, “It must be a surprise every time you open the door,” which reminded me of the night I opened the front door to put some cat food in the bowl on the top step and found myself face to face with a very chubby raccoon who was cleaning up the last of my previous fill-up. We were inches apart, and my instinct was to immediately (and quickly) close the door! Brain clicked again saying, “Hey – cool!” and I reopened it as rapidly as I had shut it, but in that nano-second, the raccoon was gone. It was as though I had imagined him.

One summer evening my husband also had a surprise upon opening the door. I was staying in the Ronald McDonald house in Buffalo at the time and had left him in charge of the horses. It was 11PM and he was just settling down for the night when he heard something large splashing across the pond behind the house. Knowing that was not a place the horses should be, he jumped into his jeans, grabbed a flashlight, and headed out the door in the direction of the racket, but once in the open air, he realized that things had gone quiet. He stood still, listening, and then heard the munching of leaves about fifteen feet from where he was standing. He focused the flashlight beam on the sound as he moved closer, and then, slowly, a large snoot emerged from the tree cover... More of it appeared, followed seconds later by a huge rack of antlers: he was face to face with a bull moose! Each of them had the same thought: Yikes! Husband beat a retreat to the house while Moose whirled and thundered off into the woods.


Who's there?

Deer and Moose.

Deer and Moose who?

Deer me, I Moose be going.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Well, Deer...

"Well, Deer, we each have our own perspective."

I just can't resist putting this one up here. You are seeing the view from just inside my porch door. The truck and snow are "real" (i.e. that's a true view of the scene in that direction), but the well (seen in lower right window pane of door) and the deer in the asparagus bed (upper pane) are reflections. Got it? If Blogger is in a good mood, you should be able to click on the picture to enlarge it. I have done no editing - this was the "reality" greeting me this morning.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Sometimes what is is better than what could be, sometimes not. I always strive to take a good photograph, one balanced in design and light, carefully framed in the lens, well-angled. And of course I am mindful of content. I do believe that editing and enhancing shouldn't be necessary. Well, most of the time...

With today's image management programs it is so tempting to "mess around" with a picture. Here are two images: the first is the original; the second, an edited, posterized version. (The shot is of the early Christmas morning sunrise last year).

And here's the "doctored" image:

Which do you prefer?

A Shaman friend writes...

morning light absent
cold wind finds open space
sweater too short in back

She of ancient rites and rituals, she of herbs and potions, creator of poetic snapshots, enricher of the enchanted forest.

A Mouse-click

I had such a terrible dream last night. City Mouse!

Where are you?

Are you okay?

No! No! Please say it isn't so!!!

Cartoon by A. Geisert, published by The New Yorker, December 1, 2006

Will somebody please go check to make sure this is just a nightmare?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wardrobe? Wardrobe? Is that you? What do you mean, Meander took all the good costumes!?!? Surely you have something left?!?

Photo by

Morning Conversation


“Ahhhh! Good!”


“Huh. Sure. Not ONASSIS. That’s probably the name of the terminal.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Good going, Wizard!”

“I still can’t get ‘Like some protective coatings’. There’s email from your sister you should read. Also a funny one from Skip." (At this point, Husband says he has to go to the bathroom, so Wizard proceeds to tell the joke in voce crescendo from outside the bathroom door):

An 86 year old man walked into a crowded waiting room and approached the desk.... The Receptionist said, "Yes sir, what are you seeing the Doctor for today?"

"There's something wrong with my dick", he replied.

The receptionist became irritated and said, "You shouldn't come into a crowded waiting room and say things like that."

"Why not? You asked me what was wrong and I told you," he said.

The Receptionist replied, "Now you've caused some embarrassment in this room full of people. You should have said there is something wrong with your ear or something and discussed the problem further with the Doctor in private."

The man replied, "You shouldn't ask people personal questions in a room full of strangers if the answer could embarrass anyone," and walked out. Several minutes later, he re-entered.

The Receptionist smiled smugly and asked, "Yes??"

"There's something wrong with my ear," he stated.

The Receptionist nodded approvingly and smiled, knowing he had taken her advice. "And what is wrong with your ear, Sir??"

"I can't piss out of it," he replied.

(Laughter from inside and outside of the bathroom).

A few minutes later Husband returns to the kitchen carrying the crossword puzzle book. “ANTIRUST,” he says.

“Yes!!! That’s it!”

“See ya, Wiz. Have fun with your blogging buddies.”

“Hey – don’t forget to take the mice.”

He picks up the two traps, gives the wizard a kiss, and our separate realities begin for the day. There are some wonderful things that come with more than thirty-three years of marriage. One of them is the comfort of familiarity.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


There are sounds that a person recognizes the first time they’re heard. The metal-on-metal crunching noise of one car smashing into another turns your head, but your eyes are not at all surprised to see what caused the noise. Although the actual damage may be shocking, you already knew intuitively what the sound was.

I once had a sound-recognition experience that I will always remember. It wasn’t the impact of metals, glass and plastics coming together, it was the screaming of a rabbit, and although I had never heard it before, I recognized it as such.

I grabbed my camera and raced toward the sound - not stopping to wonder why the rabbit might be screaming - and there, under my back porch, Nature’s plan was being carried out. The rabbit struggled but could not kick free of the mink's jaws. Death was swift.

The mink – beautiful though somewhat bloodstained – eyed me for a moment, moved closer as if to get a better look, and then went about the task of dragging the rabbit’s body to a protected place where he could dine on it as his needs arose. I watched from about six feet away.

Standing there, I suddenly understood the waning of the local mouse population. The mink had probably been hunting the area for some time, unseen and unheard as he consumed the deermice and voles, nature’s quiet Quarter-Pounders. But for the rabbit’s screams, I would never have seen him, and although sorry for the snowshoe hare, I welcomed this four-legged rodent trap.

A week later, the daughter of a neighbor dropped in to say hello. She was home on a break from her missionary work. I casually mentioned having seen a mink under my back porch, and with amusement, she told me about coming home and finding a mink in their yard, writhing in agony. Her father had poisoned it. Eventually bothered by its suffering, she got a friend to shoot it.

This young woman and her dad believe in Heaven and Hell, and being born-again Christians, they feel assured of a place in the former. I am not so sure. In fact, I hope that there might be a peaceful place, an eternity, where God’s innocent creatures could go about their business without ever having to cross paths with those who so blatantly disregard their beauty and their importance.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sucked In

There’s been a subliminal sucking sound. I’ve heard it and been drawn to it: call it fame, notoriety, attention, recognition, or maybe distraction.

I started to blog nearly seven months ago, and at first it was simply a wonderful creative outlet. Stuff poured from my brain through my keyboard and then materialized on my computer screen. I figured I would write a memoir of sorts, something that would speak to who I am (or was), something my children - and perhaps their children - might someday read. I felt I have experienced a few things worth sharing, and developed a wizard’s eye view along the way.

Soon I strolled around in Bloggerville, curious to see who else was in the neighborhood. I clicked on the “Next Blog” tab, landing randomly in blogs that usually were of no interest to me, although occasionally I’d find one worth bookmarking for some future exploration (so far I haven’t bothered revisiting any of them). I blogged on, "doing my thing” with photos and the occasional rhyme, creating an olio of humor and serious thoughts, mixing stories, memories and commentary; playing with words, images and ideas.

But several weeks ago, things changed. Where there had been 0 comments the day before, now there was 1. "Dirk Star" said he wouldn’t be dropping by for the drink of water I was offering... Who was Dirk Star?? Intrigued by this visitor, I went to his site, and I wasn’t disappointed. Other people were leaving him comments, so I went to their sites and found some people whose blogs are worth reading. Not all of them, but there are the funny ones, the ones with heart and humor; the amazingly talented ones; the ones who make you think or question or feel awed by their accomplishments. A sucking sound became faintly audible.

I began to leave comments on the blogs that seemed interesting, and I checked my site more and more often to see if anyone was returning that contact. I liked my new friends, and I made it my business to check their blogs frequently and leave messages for them. The more comments I left on blogs, the more bloggers came to leave comments on my blog. It was exciting! Strangers were reading my pieces: I had an audience! The sucking sound grew louder.

As this notoriety increased, I assumed the persona of a more common (and less wizened) wizard. I posted a picture of a steaming manure pile, and rather than write about the glories of compost, I challenged people to make metaphors. A gnome became my sidekick, and suddenly I wasn’t sure whose voice I was using to speak. (Sssssuuuuuccccccckkkkkkkkkk.......)

Trying to regain my balance, I turned off my computer. Hours later, when I returned to the streets of Bloggerville, the good guys were still there: Whim, Meander, Dirk, City Mouse, Craig D. and a few others. But as I had found back in the beginning, Bloggerville is rife with the immature and shallow, the bored folks, and the boring (juvenile, profane, inane, lacking in originality or substance) blogs that have to be sifted through while seeking the gems, and it was to this sifting pursuit of a readership that I had been sucked.

Then, just as the sound became a roar, a dear old friend commented to me, “I get the feeling that we are the only ones in this crowd who have any rural living experience. And we're probably the only ones over 35, too! Dreadful thought, eh?” And at that moment I knew my foray into Bloggerville was off course. I could hear my life in that place where you can almost see the end of the world calling me back. Yes, I’d love to have people read my tales and see my photos, but that’s not what I had set out to do with my blog.

I turned for the exit gates of Bloggerville, but perhaps not quite ready to leave, I made one last visit to Dirk’s site, the place where it had begun. It was the same exciting technicolor lay-out that it had been yesterday, but to my surprise, Dirk Star had been replaced – on this day – by Dirk B., husband and father-to-be. His “voice” was noticeably different than Mr. Star’s. Sure, there was some wit carrying the seriousness along, but this was the heart of the real man speaking.

I stopped. Perhaps I shouldn’t leave Bloggerville after all. Perhaps I could regain my true voice and intent without saying goodbye to those here whom I’ve come to care about. I am a wizard wizened by time and experience, by the woods and the lakes and the animals of the forest; I have worn a business suit, and I have driven a firewood truck. I am a gardener, a carpenter, a stone mason, a handyman; an editor, a photographer. I am passionate in my loves and my hates. I am an actress, a musician, and yes, I am a comic. I have watched Death and I have given life. Can I remain true to myself in this place?

I listen intently, but I can no longer hear it: the sucking sound is fading away. My decision is made. I will stay, but I will place the seriousness of my original intent above the temptations that Bloggerville offers, writing first and foremost for myself and for my children’s children. Sigmund and I will occasionally still make our trek to the taverns of Bloggerville (I just can’t help myself...), but mostly the Wizened Wizard will write her memoir far from the madding crowd. Will you still visit me sometimes?

Monday, December 04, 2006

And The Prize goes to... (pregnant pause)... The Judge!! Yes, it is the wizard's new well! The photo was taken from about three feet above the 6" wide metal casing, looking down at the water inside (which is what I focused the camera on). A Very Honorable Mention goes to Dirk Star, whose wisdom, insights, intuitive puzzle-solving skills and blog decor never fail to amaze!

The good news here is that water is actually FILLING all but about eight of the 300 feet of verticle hole, giving us a reservoir of nearly 438 gallons of water. The bad news is that there is no way to know if there's giardia in it... Would anyone like to drop by for a drink? (Ooops, not quite yet - this marvel of technology still isn't connected to the house).


What is it? Any guesses?
Hint: this is one of a pair... there is a good one, and there is an "evil" one... it was photographed near the Wizard's place in the enchanted forest... You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I Think that I Shall Never See
A Blog as Lovely as a Tree...

Wizened Eye photo of "Camperdown Elm" by Jacques Hnizdovsky

Mutants have caught my attention lately. (You might recall my posting about treating water with UV light to alter the DNA of giardia lambia... Little Things have also made me take note. (I don't think I ever mentioned my 43 spider bites). Well, here’s a happier story that combines mutants and little things.

Once upon a time (in the late 1830s), the head forester for the Earl of Camperdown discovered a mutant contorted branch growing along the ground in the forest at Camperdown House, in Dundee, Scotland. For reasons lost to history, the fellow grafted it to the trunk of a Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra), and henceforth every “Camperdown Elm” in the world sprouts from a cutting taken from that original mutant cutting, which is then grafted on a 1.5-2 meter Wych Elm trunk.

“So what,” you say, but this wizard says “Wow! What a cool tree!” (I had seen its picture).

Prospect Park is a 585
acre public park in Brooklyn, NY, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux after they completed Manhattan's Central Park. It’s a wonderful oasis of meadows, forests, ponds and small brooks. I know, because when I come out of the woods and visit New York City, I am drawn to such places - even when I could as easily be tromping in Times Square - and this Thanksgiving I wanted to see the Camperdown Elm.

In 1872 it was planted near the Boat House, and in recent years it has been lovingly tended by The Friends of Prospect Park (a non-profit, volunteer organization). It is considered the outstanding specimen tree in Prospect Park, but rather than towering high above the others, this oddity looks like an oversized bonsai. And a wizard’s tree it is: gnarly, arms outstretched and reaching, wizened by time, wonderful.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Time Recaptured

Friends in early childhood were situational, and they weren't really friends; you met them in the park or in other places your parents took you. Eventually you were old enough to venture out on your own, and then you could "make friends" with other kids in your neighborhood (this was before the world was such a scary place that real play was replaced by parentally arranged "play dates"). Again, initially you had location in common - which, as I think about it, has always been necessary to starting a friendship.

Eventually you were discerning and actually chose your friends. In your teens they were kids you "fit with," people like yourself; later perhaps you became friends with someone because you admired them and in some way perhaps you and the friend enhanced each other. Lovers and friends were more distinguishable then than in this generation, although throughout history and even in my youth (when the earth was still cooling) it was wise for lovers to also be friends.

Friendships most often seem to be killed by distance and time, or rather, the lack of time.

Lately I've been making friends from a distance. The Internet has removed that once-essential first step of friendship, Location. The irony of this is that while I have made a number of new virtual friends (some of whom I eventually got to know personally), the Internet has also reconnected me with a number of far-flung old friends from various periods in my life, friends who had been "lost." Yesterday I received these wonderful lines from one of them:

I've never felt pressured to write
By anything you've said or implied.
But yes, there is an urgency about it,
Brought on, no doubt, by my own sense
That time has been lost
And that writing is the only way
To try to make up for it.
It's simple - the more I send,
The more I get back.
And therein lies the time recaptured.

said, old friend. How delicious is the recapturing!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Make Your Metaphor!

Wizened Eye photo

Today is "Make Your Metaphor Day" on the Wizened Wizard blog. Here you see a nice big pile of steaming hot manure. Perhaps a politician comes to mind... or a false friend... or your high school cafeteria...
This pile makes me think of horses, but that's only because I'm thankful to them for producing it. But hurry: this offer won't last long! It's already beginning to smell sweet, and soon it will be garden loam, dull as dirt. Compost happens...

Monday, November 27, 2006

New York’s Finest

I’m a pretty good fire builder. Coaxing heat from logs is something I do well, and that skill is a blessing in the cold north woods that I call home. My husband cuts the trees, bucks up and then splits our winter fuel supply, we haul it home (either in the pick-up truck or using the 1952 Ford tractor and an equally old trailer), stack it for the wind to dry, and then move it into the indoor “woodshed” before the arrival of fall’s cool nights. It’s good wood, and we are warm.

This Thanksgiving we carried some kindling and a dozen or so pieces of beech, maple and cherry to New York City for a Thanksgiving day fire in my brother- and sister-in-law’s fourth floor apartment in “Nolita,” the neighborhood between Soho and the Lower East Side. Their place is newly renovated and spacious, with a nice view of the park that runs south from Houston St. just west of Katz’ Deli (you remember the “I’ll have what she’s having!” scene from When Harry Met Sally). The dining room table sits near a modern and attractive fireplace towards the glass-walled balcony end of the flat.

I laid the fire and lit it just as the afternoon hors d’oeuvres and wine were served, but when you ask a wizard to build a fire, expect the unexpected... The wood crackled and everything was cozy, although what had been some distant siren noise suddenly grew closer, and curiosity soon caused some of us to step out onto that balcony. Below were three large fire trucks and a swarm of firemen, all looking up. We looked up too, but as far as we could tell, there wasn’t anything to see.

The next thing we knew, the stainless steel elevator door into the apartment opened and three FDNY professionals in full active duty attire entered, looking for the fire! Someone had smelled our smoke and called 911.

They declined the hor d’oeuvres and a glass of wine, but – like us – were pleased that ours was a fire they had no need to extinguish. We exchanged greetings, and they left.

Here’s to these men who – on Thanksgiving and every other day of the year – work to protect and rescue us. Thank you, Fire Department of New York.

Law and Order: Criminal Intent

I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I’ve read enough whodunnits and seen enough TV to know that most criminals get caught. Sometimes they’re tracked down and a confession squeezed out of them; sometimes their guilt overwhelms them and they tell all as the investigator simply bears witness. Whether it’s Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, or V. I. Warshawski – they always get their man... or woman, as the case may be. I knew it, but that didn’t stop me.

It was a dark and rainy day, the kind that makes you wonder why you got out of bed in the first place, and as Lady Luck would have it, it was Parade Day. I stumbled from my bed, cursed the previous night’s wine and rich food, and groped my way to the bathroom. The mirror didn’t lie: I looked like yesterday’s leftover fish.

The TV was blaring, maybe left on overnight or maybe the others had seen it and gone out without bothering to silence it. I looked through the window down to the wet street reflecting neon and gathering dirty puddles: Turkey Day, 2006.

On the large flat screen, two anchors bantered of floats and bands and celebrity marchers, probably from some snug, warm studio, the parade projected behind them. ‘Easy for them to laugh, I thought.

The true criminal probably spends most of her time living a mundane life, thinking thoughts common to all of us. She sleeps, she rises, she makes her coffee, and only then perhaps does the evil, deviant plan begin to formulate in her mind. So it was with me. I picked up my camera, faced the flat screen and began shooting.

The rest of the weekend I tried to forget what I had done. The sun came out, and as I pushed my way through the crowds in Chinatown, I snapped some more photos. It had been the perfect crime, and a few outdoor NY shots (and editing the NBC logo out of the parade pictures) would cover it up completely.

And then I saw Vincent D’Onofrio coming toward me on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Glimpses of New York City, Thanksgiving 2006

A rainy Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Rockettes dance despite
the cold drizzle

A Saturday walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

Vendors and shoppers
along a Chinatown Street

Fish market offerings

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New York, New York

Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today
I want to be a part of it - New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it - New York, New York

I wanna wake up in a city that doesn't sleep
And find I’m king of the hill - top of the heap

These little town blues, are melting away
I'll make a brand new start of it - in old New York
If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you - New York, New York...

Well, at least for a few days.

This weary old blog, is needing a rest
While I chow down gravy and stuffing
Yams and cranberries, and turkey breast
If I can eat it here, I can eat it anywhere - New York, New York

I wanna sip joe in a downtown corner Starbucks cafe
Gawk at the people and lights uptown at 7th Ave. and Broadway

I’ll walk Prospect Park, sing karaoke at night
I’ll pretend I’m part of it – New York, New York
And when I’ve done my share, I’ll say goodbye to there
And come back to you - Upstate New York

Have a good week, and be well and thankful.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blogging: Take 2

I just took the plunge into the new version of, and a quick look tells me I have some work to do. We wizards like our stuff to be noteworthy, but it also should look good...

Making the switch from a comfortable, predictable (if sometimes ornery) platform to something called "Beta" is difficult for those of us who have lived through Dubbya, Nixon AND Santa Claus. We just don't trust. They should have at least called it "Nadine" or "Peggy Sue"- names that harken back to the days when our country was generally more right and we yearned for (and trusted) the way of the future.

'Good thing I'm a wizard.

Our Children’s Children

Today my husband and my four-year-old grandson built an elaborate tower of blocks. Their building was many stories tall, and on it they perched hard rubber farm “amals,” matchbox cars and a couple of old Fisher-Price Little People. It was an impressive structure and they delighted in its construction.

After completing it, my grandson picked up one of his small, metal, toy airplanes and “flew” it into the building, knocking blocks, amals, cars and people asunder. He laughed with childish pleasure at the destruction, obviously thinking it was a pretty good joke on Grandpa (and that they could now repeat the shared enjoyment of creation).

Stunned, I asked him if he thought that airplanes ever really fly into buildings. “Yes,” he said, “in New York City.”

So many of us once thought we could make the world a better place. So many magnanimous speeches contain the words, “so that our children’s children may have...” I am now one of those who knows a child’s child, and this is his milieu: a world where hatred and mass murder (although not yet understood for that) has become the play of pre-school children.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Whirled Wide Web

I am delighted to have one of my photos featured on Jeremiah McNichols' blog, Think In Pictures: Adventures in Visual Education. Here's the link:

To jump to my photo within Jeremiah's blog:

His site is a feast of images, and he has made a practice of featuring a wide array of artists and photographers. Here you'll find some interesting and thought-provoking pictures as well as links to the blogs/sites of many other artists. Enjoy!


My father didn’t earn a very big salary, and although we were comfortable and never felt we lacked anything, there were some things we just didn’t own. A TV set was one of them.

In my early childhood, TV wasn’t a common household item, and my father had loudly vowed it would not become one in ours. Back in those days, his aversion to the snowy black and white screen was reasonable: we could listen to a number of radio dramas (and did), and we could read. The radio sat beside our round kitchen table in the small apartment upstairs in my grandmother’s house, and our tiny family huddled close as Straight Arrow yelled “Kenneewah, Fury!” and galloped from his secret cave to capture the rustlers. It just could never get any more exciting or better than that – really and truly.

We moved to our own home in 1950, bringing Grandma with us, and my mother set about making repairs (she was the handyman of the family) as my father began turning the two acre yard into his own small version of Central Park. In the excitement of nesting, the first year or two must have flown by for them. I loved this new home too. There were neighborhood kids to play with, including some with TV sets, and I would regularly go to their homes to watch The Lone Ranger, Sky King and The Cisco Kid.

Fall came in the third year of our residency, and – perhaps sensing that he was losing his daughter to the neighbors - my father suddenly embraced the modern age: he announced we were going to get a television set. He purchased a small, used Philco, and we impatiently awaited its arrival. (In those days, apparently it was assumed that the average homeowner was not technically savvy enough to carry one home, place the “rabbit ears” on top, and plug it in). The delivery man/technician arrived in the knick of time: the Yankees were just taking the field, and we were all seated in a straight row of wooden chairs in front of the space prepared for the electronic marvel. It took the Bronx Bombers six games to beat the Bums from Brooklyn, and we saw every minute of it, animistically letting the TV “rest” between games.

With the exception of “The Two Ronnies,” “The Dukes of Hazard,” the 1980 US vs. USSR Olympic hockey game and an enjoyable run of “Northern Exposure” in the 1990s, I guess you could say the experience went downhill from there. These days, the TV “rests” between Netflix offerings, replaced by NPR, good music or just plain sweet silence. Whenever I drive through the Tug Hill region, I can pick up a station that plays the old radio dramas, and you know what? They are still great!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Skunks ... (continued)

A couple of you have told me that I ended the previous post a bit abruptly, leaving the reader to wonder whether the final score was Skunk: 1; Laura: 0 or vice versa. (A very good question).

It’s really quite simple. A skunk is a bit like a little boy with a squirt-gun: he’s loaded, and the first human being he runs into will be a target. With that clearly in mind, the skunk trapper holds up a good-sized blanket, being very careful to conceal hands, feet, and every other body part behind it as she SLOWLY approaches the trapped skunk. She gently drapes the blanket completely over the trap. Once under wraps, skunk, trap and blanket can be gently lifted onto the back of a pickup truck. In theory, you can now drive your skunk to it’s new home without incident, but good sense suggests that you probably don’t want to do this if your vehicle is the family sedan...

After driving to a suitable location (the yard of a good friend, the site of the church ice cream social, the wedding reception of your ex - there are lots of possibilities here...), it’s time to release the skunk. This will be made much easier if you had previously tied a long rope or rope/stick combination to the trap latch or door and practiced opening it from a distance... (I’ve found that rolling the trap onto its top allows the door to flop open, but I haven’t yet tried this with a skunk in it). Again, remember the little boy/squirt-gun analogy... Let no part of you be visible to the skunk!

And so Laura’s black and white friend has a happy home in a distant wood (twenty miles distant, that is), the porch smells like a rose, and all’s right with the world. Let’s sing a chorus of “I’m a WO-MAN, W-O-M-A-N! Say it again!"

I hear that Havahart has just come out with a husband/boyfriend size trap, and compared to the four-legged skunks, relocating those critters should be a piece of cake. The family sedan caveat won’t even apply.

Skunks and the Women Who Trap Them

My neighborhood – the large area between the Adirondack mountains and the St. Lawrence River – was wilderness until shortly after the Revolutionary War. People migrated through here, heading west; loggers came and some settled; small farms were carved out of the woods; trappers set their lines and sold their pelts; and all of these activities continue today.

The migration now is mostly our children seeking excitement or jobs in distant cities; machinery and fewer mills have reduced the number of jobs “in the woods;” small farms have become hobby or part-time operations or have been consumed by large free-stall milking parlor dairies; the trappers – at least the ones I’ve met lately - now wear bras (probably at least some of the time). Oh, sure, there are still the guys out there with their steel-jawed traps and their clubs, inflicting pain and death on the local wildlife population and presumably finding a market for the bloodied skins, but there are also quite a few women who have taken up the trade.

As you might expect, these women see trapping as part of their household responsibilities rather than some perverse or violent form of recreation or income generation: it’s a tough job and somebody has to do it. They usually start small, say with a mouse-size Havahart trap, but eventually they all move up to something that will catch a squirrel (the one who’s eating the birdseed in the feeders) or a raccoon who has become too fond of sweet corn. Of course, if you set a trap big enough to capture a raccoon, there’s a good likelihood that sooner or later you’re going to catch a skunk, and that’s why the conversation at an average cocktail party around here might run to discussion of what to do once that skunk is in your trap. So it was at the opening of the Frederic Remington Art Museum’s recent show: the curator (Laura), a past-president of a local theatre organization (Ellen) and I were discussing Laura’s post-opening chore of relocating the skunk that sat at home in the trap under her porch. We all know something about this.

Note: for a look at a medium-sized Havahart trap and a couple of animal-capture tales, see my July 12, 2006 posting “Having a Hart.”

Continued in the next posting...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


At the beginning, they came slowly. I noticed the first one near the front steps, slow-moving yet deliberate, it’s eyes still adjusting to the relative brightness. A life spent in groundwater hadn’t prepared it for even the overcast grayness of the day. I ran for the bug jar.

Captured and under the intense scrutiny of a kitchen halogen spotlight, it froze, squinting at the kaleidoscopic view afforded by the curved glass of its Ball mason jar prison. It seemed harmless enough, although a thorough search of Field Guide to Insects and Spiders failed to yield any clues to its identity. Curiously, it appeared to have grown slightly larger during the time I was scanning my bookcase for a copy of Pond Life. I released it near the back door, snapped a couple of photos, and went in to start cooking dinner.

It was fairly late and I was a bit groggy when I headed out to do the barn chores. The day’s drizzle was continuing and the night was black when I returned, and then suddenly I saw them: five or six of the same strange creatures, grouped together and moving slowly in the direction of the house. Stifling a scream, I raced past them and through the door to safety.

Sleep came with difficulty. Visions of pincers, round staring eyes, backs that resembled decorated armor, wings - all these haunted me and filled my heart with fear. There was also a strange new rustling sound cutting the night air, soft but audible, emanating from someplace near the well.

In the morning, all of my fears were realized. Just as Hamlin was overrun by rats, so was my front yard inundated with lobster-like bugs. They clambered from the well, scuttled across the flower beds, mounted the house walls and beat their pincers upon the window panes. I Googled for help but none came. I emailed the local public radio station’s host of “Natural Selections” and she in turn emailed her biology professor co-host, and finally came the answer: "Oooh, neat-o! It's a Giant Water Bug; they can fly and they do travel between lakes sometimes. Don't pick it up, though; they stab you with their piercing-sucking mouthparts = mega-OUCH."

And then around 10 o'clock, more quickly than they had arrived, they all took wing and vanished, leaving me to ponder whether the professor is right. Yes, I suppose they could have been Giant Water Bugs, but my suspicion is that they were giardia lambia. They came from my well, they attacked me... Surely if a beautiful monarch butterfly can emerge from a chrysalis, then these strange creatures could be the incarnation of microscopic giardia beasties. Life is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What’s So Funny?

Does anyone remember the “Chuckles the Clown” episode on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show?” She goes to the funeral of a beloved circus clown, and in the middle of the eulogy Mary gets the giggles. She tries to stifle it, but – to the horror of those around her – one little snicker leads to another and finally to outright hysterical, totally inappropriate guffawing. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on television.

How about Sweeney Todd or Fried Green Tomatoes? Don’t you just love the idea that people you don’t like could be made into meat pies or chili? The abusive husband, the annoying customer: Whack! Chop! Grind! Sauté! End of problem!

In the family values department, I prefer Addams family values, and I want a houseplant like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors. Since seeing Fargo, I can’t help smiling whenever I watch someone feed stuff into a wood shredder.

And guess what: I was recently discharged from psychiatric care. My analyst decided that one of us had had enough, or maybe she secretly agrees with my view of the world.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Several weeks ago I spent an interesting and enjoyable few days pooting around the Upper Hudson with a Toronto chum. Here, at the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga, she gets a better understanding of the lay of the land.

We followed the routes of ancestors, pored over old land records, visited museums and historic sites, stomped through old cemeteries and visited locks along the waterway connecting Lake Champlain and New York City. She taught me the value of "trying on" a locale to better understand one's ancestors; I taught her that ice cream cones are sold in Stewart's shops and can be found in nearly every village.

Here's to fun with a purpose, and here's to friendship!

Friday, November 10, 2006

"You Broke It, You Own It"

Barry Blitt's cartoon for this week's New Yorker magazine cover, used without permission.

Water, Water Everywhere...

Most in this country take water for granted: you turn the faucet, and out it flows. You use it for cooking, bathe in it, flush it, and drink it without any worries about its safety.

Where I live, water comes from the ground. There is an old stoned-up spring in my pasture that gushes an icy-cold, clear overflow even in the driest of summers; a 58’ drilled hole in the granite underpinnings of our hilly landscape has been supplying delicious, chemical-free water to my house for about thirty years.

Some time in July, our bodies became possessed by aliens. It took nearly six weeks to diagnose the “beaver fever” (giardia lambia) that gripped us, in part due to the fact that we had eaten some rare tuna on the night before getting sick. Ironically, the tuna was a red herring, not at all related to our malady, but for the first couple of weeks it was the prime suspect. We couldn’t look at food; our intestines roared and raged; we dragged ourselves around; we avoided social situations (giardia can make even the most swell person very bad company). We had our well water tested, and it flunked.

The summer of our intestinal discontent progressed into the autumn of my close acquaintance with the NYS Health Department, local and far away laboratories, and eventually what feels like a PhD in Water Quality Assurance.

I listened to the water treatment specialists, but the high tech methods of “purifying” water are so Rube Goldbergish as to be amusing, not to mention expensive. You can treat giardia with UV light – if your water meets a long list of criteria (turbidity, suspended solids, color, sulfide, metals content, hardness etc.) - and ours didn’t. No problem... you buy a large $1500 greensand filter, a $1000 softener, and then pass it through the $3200 UV light (a method that works as long as you don’t have a power outage, at which time the little giardia weasels infest your pipes and faucets...) Of course there is also the monitoring, hauling of salts to the softener, bulb and filter replacing etc., but here’s the catch: the UV light doesn’t KILL the giardia; it affects its DNA, so what you end up drinking after all of this treatment is mutant giardia. Sound yummy? The people promoting this method assure me it’s fine, but I remember when x-ray machines were installed in shoe stores so you could look at the bones of your feet for the fun of it. That was thought to be perfectly safe too. Okay, so add an $850 reverse osmosis 1 micron carbon block drinking water system with non-electric booster pump to keep pressure high enough. And oh yeah, you might need one of these for each drinking water faucet. Skol!

But here’s the real kicker: we don’t know if there is giardia in our well because you can’t test water for its presence. Tests have shown bacteria in our water, but that only confirms the possibility that giardia could also find its way in. We still don't believe we got it from our water because other people drank the water and didn't get sick.

So here you see a photograph of the well-driller and his rig boring a new, deeper, cased and grouted, up-to-State-standards well in my front yard. Will this solve the problem? Would anyone like to visit us next week and be the canary in the coal mine?

The rig arrived, the well-driller set it up, and drilling began. Rock dust filled the air, and within two hours the well was 60 feet deep. Soon it will be cased, grouted, and drilled another forty or more feet in search of a water source deep in the ground and - hopefully - clean and clear.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Pamily Wedding

Last Saturday, my daughter married. Her husband is a wonderful man who has been “Papa” to her four-year-old son, fixer of household things, confidante, occasional chauffeur, and all-around good guy – her “best friend” for many years. Everyone in the family is glad for them, for it is clear they love each other and will share happiness.

He is a widower somewhat older than she and has a grown daughter; otherwise, there are few relatives on his side of the family. The horde of her relations made the trip north from New York, Washington and Arizona - the usual jolly, hard-to-miss army.

The wedding was beautiful and personal. The best man, matron of honor and I each read poems written by other family members; her next-door neighbor sang beautifully as my next-door neighbor played the piano. The array of guests included many members of the local Bike Club (the couple met peddling) who feel a sense of surrogacy, the parents of one of my daughter’s patients, and many loyal and long-time friends and co-workers.

There was a simple but lovely reception held in the church, followed by a dinner for family and the wedding party, and on Sunday evening I hosted the final event of the weekend, a dinner for family at my house. As the bride and groom and their entourage were leaving, I hugged the groom’s grown daughter and warmly exclaimed, “Like it or not, you’re a fart of our pamily now.”

Yep. We’re now one big happy pamily, and each one of us is a special fart of it. And this fart needs some sleep!

Friday, November 03, 2006


I pushed him once too often. He needed the push, or rather, he needed to take action, but he couldn’t take the push. His exact words as he left my life are forgotten now, although I do remember thinking profanity wasn’t ever expressed more eloquently than in the irate oration of this man. My front door – no stranger to his exits – punctuated the sign-off message with a profound slam, and then there was a very long silence.

That was the surprising part: he didn’t come back. The almost daily visits of the past twenty years completely ceased, and I got used to days and weeks uninterrupted. He was still around, but even in this North Country where no one is a stranger, our paths didn’t cross for almost two years. He had a woman companion (no doubt the reason he was able to “give me the mitten”), and I was glad for that, and a woodpile appeared in his driveway, so apparently he did make the call I was suggesting when he lost his temper with me. I hoped he was doing okay, but frankly the relief of no longer being the best friend of a person suffering mental illness was a relief I savored. I just never thought I’d be savoring it for so long.

Today while weighing the relative merits of Keebler and Nabisco in the local supermarket snack-food aisle, I became aware of a shopping cart close to mine, looked up, and there he was. I don’t know how long he’d been looking at me, but his eyes were filled with tears, and instead of “Hello,” the words, “I’m so sorry” flowed from his mouth. We embraced, a long emotional embrace, causing shoppers to make U-turns and forego crackers rather than confront this soppy pair. I told him I don’t ever care if he calls me names or gets furious with me, but he if he ever again disappears on me for two goddam years, I will hit him right side of the head with a two-by-four.

As I drove home, my mind wandered over the memories of what nearly a quarter-century of this friendship was like. How many phones had he smashed? How many dents in the front door? I thought about the morning he discharged himself from the hospital - an I.V. line, a string of obscenities and me trailing behind; remembered the call (made in my absence, from my phone) to the crisis center to come pick up his body in half an hour; thought of being in his tiny cabin as he flailed his ax, committing murder on a block of wood in the doorway; considered the night spent with him in the emergency room, his hand slashed open by the propane heater he had raged against. And who could forget the Town Court appearance where he put on a drunken oration Richard Burton would have been in awe of. With him there would always be times like those, and there would not be apologies.

And yet, he is a wonderful friend. On the good days, no one has a better sense of humor, a quicker wit; no one is smarter than my friend, no one more fun to be with. He has nursed sick animals, maintained diabetic cats, and comforted me through the death of dear pets; it was this friend who introduced me to P.G. Wodehouse, Gilbert & Sullivan and led me to Randy Newman. Have a question? Just ask him, and if he doesn’t have an informed, insightful answer immediately, expect a typed, researched response left on your dining room table within 24 hours. Baseball, science, literature, music, history – choose your topic, and my friend will bring it to life with sensitivity, intelligence and often humor.

So here I am, back on the merry-go-round again. I know there will be days when I’ll ask myself how I ever got into this relationship again, but right now I am feeling a warm sense of happiness. Thanks, Keebler and Nabisco. There's been something missing from my life.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


An artists’ reception was held yesterday for exhibitors at the Frederic Remington Museum’s Amateurs Only! Juried Art Exhibition 2006. Only a few years ago I might have considered such an event with disinterest, and in fact even yesterday I went there with an attitude somewhat prejudicial toward the combination of “amateurs” and “art,” but I had to go (in fact, couldn’t wait to go) because this year I am one of those amateurs.

To my profound delight, the two of my photos selected for inclusion among the thirty-six now hanging in The Richard E. Winter Gallery are in great company. The Remington defined "amateur" as someone not making his/her living selling art, and apparently that includes some remarkable artists. I am proud to be a part of this great exhibition and (in the style of a theatre program) thank Bob, Kelly, John, Terry (of Fisher Design in Potsdam), and all of the others who have encouraged and helped me reach this milestone.

Photographs: American Wreckage (above); Web Designer (below).

The museum's website may be viewed at:

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Enough of Mickey, Already!

Photograph © Copyright 2006

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to “get the picture” in the field; sometimes you might have to bring the subject to the studio and work at setting up a shot.

This fall there was a stretch of time when the milkweed pods began to open and the weather favored the transport of their seeds on dry, silky bits of plant-fluff. Rain would end Wind’s opportunity, and so time to photograph these ephemeral fliers was also passing. I carefully gathered up a vase-full of stalks and seed pods - several already open and beginning to spew their contents - and brought it into the house. My plan was to keep them dry and then take them back outside for photographs when I had the time.

Yesterday I glanced at my “bouquet” on the window sill near my desk. The pods are empty! No, the seeds aren’t littering my floor... they were all eaten by the mice.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Autumn Snow

© copyright 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

Scary Stuff

I may have come a step closer to understanding the Bush administration.

Do you know that there are Evangelical Hell Houses staged this time of year to ward their youth from the perils of evil? “Come celebrate like the true believers this Halloween season at the most shocking and controversial haunted house you’ll ever visit!” states one website. Supposedly these EHHs were a brainchild of Jerry Falwell back in the 1970s, and - like bell-bottom pants - they haven’t gone away. (

You (or more likely your moronically Christian parents) purchase tickets for one of these events. On the chosen night you enter the Hell House and are walked through different rooms of evil scenarios (secular humanists sipping lattes, suicide, homosexuals dying of AIDS, pregnant cheerleaders) and finally hell. Ultimately you are saved by Jesus and asked to accept him into your life, and then you are brought to a Christian party with a live band, donuts and punch. The stick and the carrot have certainly taken on new dimensions.

All of this causes me to think about the Bush administration and the Republican party going on about Iraq having WMD, about taking war to the terrorists so they won’t take it to us, about Democrats somehow not being able to protect us from evil, and – although there are terrifying people and forces in this world – I begin to see how the G.O.P. may have come upon this idea of using fear to retain their grip on power. Can’t you just see young, drunken George W. Bush being scared sober? Can’t you just imagine Karl Rove’s glee when he realized the potential of the power of fear? Can’t you just believe that Jesus would cry if he could see what’s being passed off as his teaching?


The onions were pulled from the garden about a month ago and laid out to dry on the bed of the wagon in the tractor shed. The shed is open at both ends, and the prevailing winds whip through there, making it a perfect place for this process. When the tops are brown and beginning to shrivel and the roots no longer rubbery and vital, the onions are ready to be gathered in and stored in a cool, dry, dark place.

Holding the round head of an onion in my left hand, I firmly grasp its neck in my right, then twist the bulb around and around in a counter-clockwise direction until it severs next to my right hand. With each severing I think, “Take that, Dick Cheney [George Bush, Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Ralph Reed, Pat Buchanan, Bill O’Reilly...]”

Soon there are two bags full of the heads of those self-serving liars and hypocrites, and I move on to the day’s next project: mucking out Heidi’s stall. There's way too much shit in this world.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Private Lives of Bluebirds...

A female Eastern Bluebird watches as her mate takes a bath. He splashed around, he hopped out, shook himself off, and then they flew away. The temperature here today is in the upper thirties, and they are headed south for the winter.