Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day

My father, Robert Leighton Strong, was a 24 year old lieutenant when he landed on Omaha beach, known as bloody beach, on the coast of Normandy. Dad stepped onto France with his gun crew at hour 9. As he left England for the tense voyage across the channel and later as his landing craft maneuverd through the treacherous waters, his mother, Gladys, woke sobbing hysterically, and paced outisde her own parent's bedroom. She was tormented with a sense of ocean waves and motion sickness. For three hours she thought she was losing her mind. How many mothers were assaulted by premonitions of the sort grandma experienced, we cannot know.
I do know that my father, after long years of exhausting, lonely soldiering, his life and those of his men hanging in the balance, came home to Loudonville, Ohio to raise seven children with his bride, Ruth. I also know that many young American boys did not come home to live the fullness of the lives their families had dreamed of for them. This weekend we remember them all.
This weekend I also discovered dad's army knapsack hanging in my brother's office. Dad carried it through Europe and later, back home, carried it on camping trips with his son's boy scout troop. It's hard to think of dad. A little easier with time. It's hard to think of the young boys who didn't return and what they might have brought to their communities and families had they lived. We do know what they brought to a world menaced by fascism, by evil: freedom from tryanny.
Battle lines are not so easily discerned today as they were in the 40's and it seems that many are unwilling to name or are oblivious to the menace that only vigilance and valor will thwart so that future generations can live in the fullness of the promise of freedom.
I hung the knapsack on the cherry tree given to my brother and his wife when dad died. Just beyond it, in the verdant valley below, is the house where dad and mom raised a family and lived the shining dream of America.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What's That Bird?

I know of a young man in Las Vegas who is very good at identifying birds. This is a pretty tough id - made doubly so by my putting the picture in ACDSee to make it an oil painting. This little fellow was picking gnats out of a spider web festooning an outside lantern.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Add Image

That time of year.

Fins or Feathers?

What must the carp think of the object floating in the world above - he of scales and gills? If your DNA had to make another round, what would you choose? Bird or fish? If you answer anything but bird over fish we're going to have a serious communication problem :0)
(This carp lives? in the pond at the Toledo Botanic Gardens)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Practicing self-forgiveness

No, not this fellow - me. All was right with the world as I sat parked in my favorite spot in a local metropark. Breeze, happy dogs, the sound of children in the adjacent playground and birdsong - the perfect day, unitil . . . . this guy pulled up beside me where I sat with my feet propped on the dashboard reading the papers I'd been saving for a lull in the birding. The radio sounded from his open blue convertible. He backed into the space and my teeth started to grind as he turned off the motor, walked to the back of his car and left the radio on.

I don't listen to music - ever. This could require a whole post in itself, but - in short - music demands too much of me emotionally or is simply distracting. (Grand exception: live performances - it becomes spiritual when shared with others)

He then opened his trunk, pulled out the lime-colored lounge chair and arranged it on the grass. Next he produced a golf bag and dropped a dozen golf balls beside a picnic table. I'm thinking, "Idiot! You can't hit golf balls in this park around people and kids." More teeth grinding. He walked to his car and poured a little water onto a handkerchief and wiped at the edge of the the blue paint on the car door. "Car nut," I groused.

Then (My God!), he started to take off his shirt. Oh, yuck. I steadied my camera behind the newspaper that trembled in my aggrieved lap. I'd show the bastard - mucking up my perfect perch! I'd record his obdurate cluelessness, this epitome of graceless humanity.

He bent - half-naked now - over his chair to fan it into a receptive shape and as I readied my camera for revenge and he and his paunch sank onto the plastic webbing, I noticed the tags still attached and hanging beneath the chair (look just above the clubs). It was brand new. My finger itched above the shutter release, he settled back in the bright sun, I twiddled with the zoom feature (got you, you jerk!) and then he breathed a sigh, lifted his arms and folded them contentedly behind his balding head. I reflexively clicked the shutter as something clicked in my head and heart.

So, here's to you - whoever you are. From my contrite heart - may your time on this planet, in this too short life, have many more moments like this one I post today-of your moment in the bright spring sun.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Patch Of Blue

After 10 days of rain this patch of blue opened over the field where I sat finishing Alice Munro's "Runaway". Rain and Munro short stories can dampen spirits. She has been compared to Chekhov. Her short stories are exquisite. They are painful. I was happy for this little patch of sunny blue.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Finally, the Sun

After 10 days of obscuring clouds, our beautiful sun once again illuminated the treetops and the shadowed interiors of our hearts. My mother, sister Beth and I celebrated our stars re-emergence by birding, birding, birding. I'm so exhausted that I'm spelling worse than usual and will probably have to re-edit this post tomorrow. The pictures of the black throated blue warbler, oriole and golden winged warbler are very inadequate ehoes of a day of light, mystery and joy.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Thoreau's Dandelion

"A dandelion gone to seed, a complete globe, a system in itself." Thanks to Greg for the quote from Thoreau's Journal May 9, 1858. It would seem this beetle has found an adequate globe, or at least a convincing forest in a yellow nova of petals. (Click on the photo twice to see tree trunks)

Turdus Migratorius

That's me being channeled by an American Robin (turdus migratorius).
It's a tough job, singing all the notes - getting spring launched. So many rain-stippled puddles to monitor, blossoms to sift over baby goslings, midges to hatch, warblers to name, melodies to tease apart - the heart racing to keep apace. I'll be dragging back to reality when it's all over and pray that my solid friends and family have waited patiently for this little turdus to show a little consideration for less ephemeral, more sustaining things - like family and friends. Sorry.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

So Much Beauty

The month of May is exhausting. It's doubly so for birders. A narrow 'birdy' window of opportunity opens and closes around this month of blossoms and showers. Where to turn next becomes the issue of the day. Ah, the trials and tribulations of sunny, breezy, rainy, bird-laced -exhausting- May. In the 'oil paint' filter tool in ACDSee these mallards and blossoms and linden tree refelections became even more lovely.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


These eyes watched me last weekend, sitting on the hill above Loudonville, Ohio. I can't recommend cow watching. It's what turned me into a 'poulatarian' 5 years ago. Nuff said.

Friday, May 05, 2006


No words necessary, except that these attentive parents were photographed at Magee Marsh on the southern edge of Lake Erie, my haunt for the month of May, as the migrants drop in to rest before heading across the lake.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Little Swan Girl

I'd wanted to photograph this little girl as she fed the swan. A fairy-tale bird had come fanning it's wings to where it waited for the beneficence she showered from a sack. I hurried back to my my car for the camera, but she saw me and the ballet was over. My intrusion and her ensuing self-consciousness ended the magic. I wonder if there's a metaphor here for our human endeavors when we realize that someone is watching. Hmm. On visiting with her I learned that she had been tossing white petals she'd collected from under a tree because she knew that feeding the swan was forbidden. Things have been so strange the last few days.