Friday, October 31, 2014

Leaf Peeping With My Peeps

My son, daughter-in-law and grandson live in the city and even though they love it, every now and then they need a getaway to the country. During my visit this month, we planned a trip up to see my sister and brother-in-law in the tiny town they live in in Massachusetts.

Little Luke tested out his new(ish) walking skills in all those open spaces and checked out the pretty leaves he found on the ground.

I got to enjoy some autumn color.

We took little Lukey apple picking for the first time. We found a low-hanging beauty, pointed him towards it and then we all jumped back to take pictures. Photographing a one-year-old is a lot like photographing wildlife. You have to just snap away and hope you get a decent shot.

Once Luke got his apple off the tree, there was no getting it away from him. He carried that same apple around for the rest of the day.


A pretty yellow apple couldn't even get him to drop that red apple.

And yes, you can drive a tractor clutching an apple.

Mommy can have a bite, but that's it!!.

Since he wasn't sharing, great-grandma searched for her very own special apple.

Enjoying the fruit of his labor.

Safe to say, the city-folks had fun in the orchard.

Those low, red bushes at the orchard are blueberries!  Not in season right now, but aren't they pretty?

Luke was a good little guy all weekend at his great-aunt's house but we did have to keep a keen eye on him. He was fascinated by the stairs and we had to run interference if he toddled near the wood burning stove.

Though they were very welcoming, I'm sure my sister, her husband, the dog and all the cats were relieved to see us strap that tiny bundle of energy into his car seat and drive off into the sunset.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Getting Wild in Canada

One of my favorite things to do in the Canadian Rockies is to hunt for wildlife to shoot. With my camera, yo. (Good one, me) So when we drove back to Calgary this summer, we scheduled a few extra days for a visit to Jasper National Park. Jasper is about three hours past Banff National Park and is a bit more wild and less touristy. You never know what you might see.

The best way to spot animals during your drive is to constantly scan the trees for movement. But since that just makes me carsick, I prefer the second best method: watching for other cars pulled over on the side of the road. But here's a caveat: one stopped car almost always means the driver is looking at a map. More than one? Hot dog! Get your camera ready.

Wildlife usually moves fast, so I always set my camera for an action shot, pump up the zoom and prepare to capture whatever part of the animal is visible in the branches. We look at the people first (this is not a joke! repeat, this is not a joke!) to see where they're looking and then I click, click, click in that direction, producing fabulously sharp images of the sky, the road, the backs of people's heads and- God willing- fleeing wildlife.

Our first sighting this summer was a friggin' black wolf. Boom! Cars were pulled over and excited tourists were running along the shoulder of the road, looking up into the trees. I usually stay in my car, preferring not to be mauled (by the animal, I mean. The tourists can have at me!), but I got out and asked someone if it was a bear. "A black wolf!" he replied, with an English accent. "Very rare." We were all staring at a break in the trees, because someone saw it headed that way. And while that poor Englishman turned around to answer someone else's question, the wolf darted by.

He missed the shot but I got him! We all watched the woods a bit longer, standing in excited silence. I found myself worrying that the wolf might suddenly fly out of the trees, landing on one of us. It was foolish to be out there. As I made my way back to the car, I passed a man climbing down from the top of his RV. "Is the wolf gone?" I asked. He answered in German, gesturing further up the hill. We decided to move on.

The rest of the drive was uneventful. But the next day, right outside the township of Jasper, we saw a blonde bear and two cubs run across the road. (Technically, it would be called a blonde black bear. I ain't kidding. Look it up.) I told Greg our trip had been made: two unusual sightings and OK photos from each.

Now that that was out of the way, we could relax and just enjoy. Without much effort, we bagged photos of the usual elk, big horned sheep and a black bear.

Well, hello! This guy was on the side of the road and when I rolled down my window to take his photo, he was RIGHT THERE.

And this elk was eating leaves along a path we walked on. We kept our distance, not wanting to disturb him. Don't forget, I was using a zoom lens! We aren't idiots. OK, keep your opinions to yourself.

Despite these animal sightings, the visit was starting to feel routine. Jasper was our go-to place for company during the 3 years we lived in Calgary. We were starting to feel like we had seen it all- a few times- until I read that we might be able to see salmon swimming upstream. Holy Halifax, Canada! There are always new things to see!

Here's the thing. Watching the salmon throw themselves hard against the water and the rocks and then seeing all the dead ones upstream was really sad. I started a blog post in my head titled, "It Sucks to be a Salmon" but abandoned the idea because it was too much the bummer.

Salmon don't eat for like, a month, before spawning. They put everything they have into making it against the current and up the falls they encounter. We never could get a shot of one in the air because it happens too fast but this red guy in the photo was resting after an attempt.

We followed their journey to a spot upstream where a salmon expert/volunteer explained the whole grizzly business. After spawning, the salmon die. Their decomposing bodies provide nutrition for the new little salmon babies. "Thanks, Mom and Dad! You died giving me life and now I"m gonna EAT you!"

I'm glad we experienced salmon running upstream, but it isn't the beautiful spectacle you see on TV. Wait, what am I talking about? Those poor bastards on TV usually wind up being torn to shreds by a bear. Thank God I didn't see any of that carnage.

I think I'll concentrate on my pretty photos of  living, healthy animals and believe they live in Disney's version of forest life- dancing, happy animals like Winnie the Pooh, Donald Duck and Bambi. BAMBI?? Damn.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Working the Twerk

I came across a scrap of paper today on which I wrote potential song titles using variations of the word "twerk." It may seem odd that I would spend time brainstorming and actually writing down this list but that ain't nothing compared to my odd compulsion to create a blog post about it. Hey- you never know when this list will come in handy. Welcome to my brain.

So, without further ado, here's the list:

We Can Twerk It Out
Twerking 9 to 5
Twerkin' in a Coal Mine
Twerking for a Living
She Twerks Hard for the Money

Feel free to add your own in the comment section! Or is twerking already yesterday's news?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Green Gates Park

When I was a kid, my Mom would occasionally take us to Green Gates Park to feed the ducks or walk the trails. In hindsight, she was probably losing her mind at home with four kids and needed a place to let us run around. I have vague, happy memories of the place.

Since we're here on Long Island for the summer, I wanted to find Green Gates again. My sisters and my Mom don't remember it at all and when I gave them an idea of where I thought it was, they came up with the name of a completely different park. A google search produced nothing. I started to wonder if my memory was wrong.

I turned to Facebook, asking my old hometown buddies if they remember a park named Green Gates. Arthur came through. He gave me the exact location AND it's new name. So yesterday when Greg and I were hanging around not doing much, I suggested we check it out.

Oh, and by the way, a resident sticker is required and dogs are not allowed. I spoke to a park ranger on the phone before driving 30 minutes over there. He gave us permission to walk around since nothing special was going on in the park and the gloomy weather was keeping people away.

Green Gates has been renamed "Bill Richards Memorial Park." And in the thirty years since I walked it's dirt paths, the foliage has grown and grown and grown. (Imagine that!)

Walking around the pond wasn't easy in spots because of the low hanging branches and marshy areas. 

But most of the trail looked like this.

And there were swans!

It was a pleasant enough hour or so but not the park I remember from my childhood. Maybe you need to be 5 years old and chasing a sister to appreciate it. :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Letting Go

We finally got to move into our lake house when Greg retired in December. It was originally meant to be a weekend retreat while we were living outside of Houston but before construction even began, we were transferred to Canada. We went ahead with our plans to build it but decided to put it into the rental pool rather than leaving it to sit empty for three years.

It rented sporadically all year but was booked solid every summer and showed little sign of wear and tear to boot. A management company handled everything and our profit helped pay the mortgage. Can't complain about that!

So here comes summer again and even though this house has become our permanent residence, we've decided to open it up for renters. I know a lot of people couldn't do it for a lot of different reasons but it bothers me not a wit. The main reason is because it may be the only way I'll get to move back home to NY, even if it is just for the summer. 

But there's a sub plot going on that I didn't anticipate. After being in a rented apartment in Calgary for 3 years and renting out our house, I feel no strong attachment to our stuff. It's wonderful. Of course, we have family heirlooms and personal items locked up in an undisclosed place, but I've been able to let go of everything else: furniture, bedding, towels, kitchen wares, books. I feel very light and free.

I like it. Stuff can weigh you down. Your life can become so consumed with organizing, cleaning and rearranging your stuff that the joys of living pass you by. I didn't realize that until now. I'm letting it all go...allowing strangers to worry about my stuff so I can get out and live.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thinking is Overrated

I haven't written in a long time. I took the move from Calgary pretty hard. I still miss it, truth be told.  I was dealing with that while in NY last summer, waiting for my first grandchild to be born when my Mom had a seizure. Meanwhile, my husband was back home alone, preparing to retire. Everything turned out fine, but geez! Writing was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn't want to think anymore than I had to.

I focused more on photography. You don't have to face your feelings when you're trying to figure out a camera's settings or the best way to frame a scene. 

But the thing is, when you're a writer, the blank page nags at you. Unfinished projects are there, in the back of your mind, kind of weighing you down. I want to write on my blog, I want to work on my book. I want to write a friggin email!

But, if it please the court, I don't want to think. It's too hard. If I think, I'll remember the day Mom had the seizure and I thought she was dying. Or wondering if a baby would be safe in my son's house. Or worrying about my marriage in this new phase of our lives.

Everyone is fine. Really. Mom is doing very well. My son and his wife are wonderful, devoted parents. My husband and I are having fun now that he's retired. Deep breath. Exhale........

And hey- in the meantime, I got some nice photos:

Hmm.. they're all at night. What's up with that?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Birds of Our Boat Ride

I have no story to tell. We took a boat ride. We saw birds. Enjoy!

(Click on photos to see them larger)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tony Bennett Live

"Can't wait to hit the stage and perform for a beautiful audience in Austin." -Tony Bennett via twitter.

Last night I saw one of the legends in music do his thing. Tony Bennett is 87 years old but still puts on one of the best shows I've been to. His voice is strong and he's got more energy than I expected of a man his age.

The show started with what I considered to be a cruel joke: the lights dimmed, the four piece band started to groove and a voice boomed, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Tony Bennett!" A young woman stepped from the wings. I heard a tiny bit of laughter from the audience. Confusion rippled around me, as people looked at one another, their eyes saying, "who is she and why has she hijacked the show?" She began to sing and I wondered if she might be a back-up singer getting us primed for the man himself. Nope, she sang four songs before she mentioned how much she was enjoying touring with her father. Ooooooohhhhh!!!

I kind of, sort of, thought I heard "MISS Tony Bennett" when she was introduced, but it was drowned out by the music and applause. I think she would have been better received if she had clarified who she was after the first song. Specifically: Antonia Bennett, Tony's youngest daughter. Anyhoo...

MR Tony Bennett took the stage after her short set, startling us with the power of his voice after all these years. "I've been in show business for fifty years," he said. "Well, if I'm being honest, it's sixty." Laughter and wild applause filled the auditorium. He sang for about an hour, accompanied by stellar musicians who proved their right to share the stage with- to quote Frank Sinatra- "the greatest singer in the business."

The set list came straight from The Great American Songbook: "The Good Life," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Smile," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "The Best is Yet to Come," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" among others. He bounced along with the bass notes, did a little fancy foot work here and there and threw in a spin or two.

Then, as if we weren't amazed by his vocal abilities enough, he sang his second encore, "Fly Me to the Moon," without a microphone. His voice reached every corner of that 2,000 seat venue. The crowd listened in stunned silence.

I have to admit that this trek to The Long Center in Austin happened only because it was a Christmas present to my Mom. But after seeing Tony Bennett live, I realize how lucky I was to experience this rare talent in the flesh. A must see.

Here's a video from another concert of the song he does with his daughter. Tony Bennett squared, if you will: