Category Archives: Wonder

Sharing the moon

A dreamer is one who can find his way by moonlight. ~ Oscar Wilde

The tall, lithe woman walked gracefully, like a dancer, across the sandy beach, kicking off her shoes when she was halfway to the shoreline. As she walked, she stretched her arms out wide, slowly swinging her right arm up & behind her shoulder and rolling her head slowly from side to side. The sun had set an hour before and it was only the distant light of the next house on the beach that allowed me to see her silhouetted against the white-capped sea. The moon, having traversed across the sky unseen during the day was nearing the horizon line. Now a bright, slim sliver, it reflected a narrow path across the water as it hung low in the sky. The woman reached the shoreline and began to walk in the surf as if in a marching band, raising each knee high and kicking the water slightly. She moved from side to side, rhythmically, and seemed to be beckoning to the incoming waves. Without moving from my balcony, I watched her performing a dance: two parts exercise, one part worship. After a few moments, she stepped into the moon’s faint beam on the sand. She seemed to bow towards the moon although she might just have been picking up her shoes. She turned, and, after looking back at the water one more time, walked to her car and drove away.

The Yoga-Dancer's Moon

I picked up my camera and wandered out onto the beach, setting my tripod up away from the lights of the houses. I focused and opened the shutter, then sat quietly. About halfway through one exposure, I noticed a bright blue-white light moving down the beach. I saw the small, energetic dogs first, their masters next, as they approached. Turn around before you get near me I thought. Or turn off the flashlight. As they were almost directly opposite me, I heard one of the men say Is that someone taking a picture?. They stopped for a moment and looked out across the water without saying a word. One then stooped to pick up after the dogs and turned around, flashing the light my way for just a moment. They left as quickly as they came, trailing a light, marking their return path.

The Dogwalkers' Moon

I started again, as the moon, now a ruddy orange, hung for a few more moments above the outer barrier island. Just enough time, I thought. A few seconds later, a boat, returning late, turned into the channel, heading towards the marina. Like the dogwalkers’ torch, it trailed a steady light across the horizon, as it pulled into its evening port.

The Boat Captain's Moon

One more time I aimed the camera. As I waited, I stretched like the yoga dancing woman. I finished the exposure, and, before I picked up camera and tripod, I gave a slight bow to the water and said goodbye.

Alone by myself with the Moon

What’s on the beach today?

Beach Catch

Not everything on the beach is pretty — crushed coke cans, cigarette butts, the fat naked guy who thought that the mangroves provided his own secluded beach au natural, starfish trying to scoot back into the salty brine, dead fish. Sometimes it is sobering to think that every shell on the beach once housed a marine animal.

Even the things that are pretty can have hidden dangers:

Anemones are not everybody's friend.

All amazing to me!

Moon and Starfish

Philosophy begins in wonder ~ Plato

Sponges grow in the ocean. That just kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn’t happen. ~ Steven Wright

It was still dark outside when my alarm sounded this morning. Usually, when on vacation, I don’t use the alarm unless I have a plane to catch. Today, though, I wanted to catch the full moon setting, the low tide, and sunrise, just before 7 am.

The sky was just beginning to lighten when I walked out on the beach, wondering if my fleece jacket would be warm enough. The moon was glowing in the northwestern sky, looking like a giant Japanese lantern hanging over Sanibel. In Colonial America, the January moon was called the Winter Moon; the Cherokees called it the Cold Moon; the Celts, the Quiet Moon; and the English referred to it as the Wolf Moon. On a subtropical beach, just before a warm winter day, only the Celts seemed to have captured this particular January moon.

January Full Moon: Cold, Quiet, Wolf

I turned towards the south and headed towards the shoreline. The tide would still be moving out for another 20 minutes. The shorebirds had positioned themselves at the very edge of the water; the little squeaky sandpipers running when a wave reached back towards the sand; the larger terns merely lifting one webbed foot as if they couldn’t be bothered. Some of the more industrious birds bobbed for fish or cracked open shells. The less energetic ones merely lowered their heads into the surf, as if they had already had their fill at the morning tidepool buffet.

Cockles: Not a Hard Shell to Crack

As I walked gently through the blubbery sand, I looked at all of the creatures left behind by the retreating waves. I don’t know how they survive, or even if. Are the ones that are exposed by the tide the ones who are living their last moments? Or will they be rescued when the tide pushes back towards the beach, the water trying to reclaim its rightful inheritance and dominion over the planet? I am witness to the struggle near my feet: a starfish has left tracks in the sand; a whelk seems destined for someone’s shell collection — why I think would anyone want one of these? how out-of-place would it be sitting on a shelf or in a basket, bereft of sand and salt and the smell of the sea? — when the shell’s inhabitant extends itself out. A quiet wave washes in and removes more sand from beneath the shell. The mollusk continues to show itself. Suddenly I realize that it is righting itself, repositioning in order to burrow further down into the wet sand. I turn it over with my foot to look at it once again, but immediately feel guilty for doing so. I pick it up and loft it towards the sea. You’ll live to swim another day I think, and then wonder, noticing that the beach is beginning to be populated with walkers and bikers, if I said the words aloud. Later, when reading about the sea creatures I photographed, I learned that the word whelk may have come from the Proto-Indo-European root for “turn or revolve”. It is as fitting, I decide, as calling them gastropods, the larger classification of this sea snail. I wonder about that word too, and the very idea of a “stomach-foot”: is it the ultimate in efficient design to have one appendix to capture your prey, to eat and to move?

Star paths

Left by the tide

Not Quite High and Dry

Turn, Turn, Turn

I didn’t wander too far down the beach before the sun started to rise. I now had more light to shoot, but the bright, rising sun, still low on the horizon brings other photographic challenges. I turned to head the other direction. Although I knew the time of moonset, it surprised me that the moon had retreated so quickly. I see a few more interesting creatures, mostly sea anemones and heart cockles. I click away, happy that the sun is bouncing off of the pearly nacre, in awe of what marvelous mysteries the sea has deposited at my feet this morning.

Shiny Sand Scoop

Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself. ~Annie Leibovitz

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. ~ William Shakespeare

Noticing unusual, beautiful things

About a year ago, after random sightings of  unusual things on my way to work — a flock of turkeys in a suburban front yard, for instance — I began to think that there should be some blog/twitter feed/tumblr-like thing similar to “The S*** So & So Says”, except for spottings of wonderous things.   I know how to be snarky — I used to take pride in being able to have the most succinct cutting retort — but at this point in my life, I prefer to NOT be that way; it takes too much energy.  Instead, why not focus on those odd things that are probably right in front of your eyes all the time, but only on occasion truly seen for the amazing creations that they are.  Besides, experiencing something of beauty is so much more fun that dishing out snark.

That was before I started blogging again.  I had thought about calling it “By The Side of the Road”.   But, I never did anything about that.   What I did do, though, was to try to be more aware of things that I passed everyday — while still keeping my eyes on traffic if driving! And, the rewards have been great, even if only measured by number of smiles.

The more I photograph, the more I think I’m becoming attuned to finding the unusual. Maybe it has nothing to do with the camera but has every thing to do with being open to finding something that will amaze and delight you. Today, when I was on a walk — without my camera — I came across the most remarkable thing: I’m not sure what it is — a seed pod of some sort?   I’ve walked this part of the greenway for 4 out of the last 5 days, but never noticed this.   This morning, the deep maroon color jumped out at me from about 10 feet away, contrasting with the light wheat-colored grasses, the dark brown trunks of the ash trees, and the beige, green and white bark of the birches.  I immediately left the trail to investigate.

Beauty by the Side of the Road

This shot was taken with my just-a-step-beyond-rotary-dial camera phone. It isn’t obvious from this photo, but this purple pod was in the middle of a thorny stem. It is as is a stem grew upward, developed a seed pod, then continued growing out the other side and down towards the ground. I will have to walk back this with with a camera in the future.

What have you seen today that amazed, delighted, caused wonderment, made you smile?

Happy New Year!

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

May you have a wonderful 2012 and find wonder in all that surrounds you.

There may not be a white Christmas here, but you can still look at “Snow”

Earlier this week, I found an amazing blog, Gwarlingo. As Michele Aldredge, the website’s creator, explains, “Gwarlingo” is Welsh for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before it chimes–-the movement before the moment. Gwarlingo’s purpose is to highlight inventive work in writing, performance, visual arts, film, and music, as well as to provide a place for creative people to connect, explore and share resources.

What a great idea! I love a clock’s gwarlingo sound: I never knew that there was a name for that moment of movement before the moment the clock sounds. Since I’ve tried earnestly in the last several months to be in the moment — including those moments before what one may be anticipating — I especially like that I have found Gwarlingo. It seems fitting.

Today, Michele shared this video, a sand animation by Corrie Francis Parks. Though there may not be a moon shining on new-fallen snow where you are tonight, take a few minutes before you settled down for a long winter’s nap to watch this and enjoy the moment, and all the moments of your day!

Snow from corrie francis parks on Vimeo.

Happy Holidays! Happy Saturday! Happy Day!

You never know what you might find






Roy G Biv



Leaf Rainbow

Leaf Rainbow: Deconstructed

Leaf Rainbow Reconstructed

The small unnoticed things

Been thinking a lot about the value of not grumbling about things that we must do. Attitude makes a difference.

Not grumbling about it, didn’t mean that I didn’t put it off. But, when I finally dragged myself outdoors with the leaf blower today to tackle the last of the beautiful autumn leaves, I was determined to do two things: 1) complete the entire task and 2) take notice.

Take notice I did and in doing so found a simple peace in what had been a daunting task. It was fun, a bit of harmonizing with nature, to take notice of the various leaves. They weren’t all “just brown”, but various shades of brown. I checked an online thesaurus that listed 27 different words for various shades of brown: amber, auburn, bay, beige, bister, brick, bronze, buff, burnt sienna, chestnut, chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, copper, drab, dust, ecru, fawn, ginger, hazel, henna, khaki, mahogany, nut, ochre, puce, russet, rust, sepia, snuff-colored, sorrel, tan, tawny, terra-cotta, toast, umber. I think each of those shades could have been found in the leaves on the driveway. Noticing the colors meant I didn’t notice how many times I walked up and down the hill, nor how my back ached, or worrying (aka “grumbling”) about how my arms would later hurt from trying to blow the large wet fallen leaves into one pile at the bottom of the steep drive.

Afterwards, I went back into the house to get my camera to capture some of the little, usually unnoticed things, in a large pile of brown leaves.

Murmuration (A Collection of Starlings)

This is beautiful. That it can be described my mathematics is mind-boggling. To witness it must be awe-inspiring. To be sitting under it? Probably a bit creepy.

Read about the science & mathematics used to describe the synchronized movements of starling flocks in flight here.

Leaf Dance

I remember the first time that I saw it happen.

I was about eight, staying home sick with one sort of ailment or another; a fever, a cold, a sore throat. The remedy was always the same: some sort of disgustingly sweet orange syrup that couldn’t hide the metallic taste of the antibiotic. Kept in the refrigerator, its coldness only added to its unpleasantness. My mother hadn’t started to work outside the home yet, but she was out of the house for a short time, probably taking her turn at kindergarten carpooling for my younger sisters.

I loved those brief periods of time left alone in the house. Although we were suppose to stay in bed if we were “too sick” to go to school, I would sneak out as soon as I heard the car wheels spewing the gravel into the street. The house had a quietness that was more than just unusual for a house full of seven kids, two adults, and a lazy dog who would only come to life to bark at the afternoon paperboy. The silence was exciting, mysterious, and a little bit frightening, yet exhilarating.

I remember looking out the window, thinking I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I tried to write a poem about the clouds. It was, as you might imagine, a quite horrible, the sky-is-blue/the clouds-are-white kind of thing.

Then it happened. There was no wind on that Fall day. The large tree in the neighbor’s yard that shaded my parents’ driveway had turned that shade of sunlit yellow that midwestern oaks turn in October, just before the grey days of November. Slowly one leaf drifted down to the ground, trying its best to twirl in the too calm currents of air. If it had had wings, it might have stirred a slight breeze, remaining in the air for a moment longer.

As if it wanted to join its compatriot, a second leaf danced down to the dirt. Then a third. Then leaves four and five, followed by six, fifteen, twenty-three. All the leaves began their dive dances to the ground, cheered on by those already massing on the driveway and the thin strip of grass between the two houses. “Join us” they seemed to chant. The falling leaves began to create their own thermals, joining the sound waves from those who had departed the branches before then.

It was over as suddenly as it began. Only a few lone leaves, the last guards of the outpost who would hang around on branches until pushed down by January snows or March ice, remained.

When my mother returned home, I wanted to show her my poem about the bright sun and the billowing clouds in the blue sky. “That’s nice, honey” she said. “Reading it makes me feel like it is warm outside. Good thing you are indoors.”

“Look at the leaves on the driveway”, she said. “Your brothers will need to get busy raking this weekend.”

“Do you know that poem by Joyce Kilmer? I think that I should never see, a poem as lovely as a tree… Go find the book of poems and look it up. Your grandmother said he was related somehow to your father. And get back in bed!”

I did. It confused me that “Joyce” was a man. I didn’t know if he had seen a Leaf Dance, and I didn’t know if my mother was trying to tell me that I was a fool, or to encourage me. I didn’t care too much for his poem, even then, but I think he was right about the majesty of trees.

Poems are made by fools like me…

My grandmother always claimed lineage to people she admired. I can only guess that was the case with Kilmer. She said he was a good Irishman, but in fact, he wasn’t Irish at all. About the closest my grandmother’s family came to Kilmer, I think, other than perhaps reading his poem anthologized everywhere, was that they lived in Chicago, not too far from the school in Rogers Park named after him. I would guess that if one had challenged my Grandmother on Kilmer’s non-existent Irishness, she would have said, trying to mimic her mother’s Irish brogue, “But he was a good man, with a good sense of humor who loved God. So he’s Irish with me and that’s that!”

I forgot about the tree shedding all of its leaves at once, although I do recall a few times when we had to unbury a car parked there at an inopportune time. I don’t know if anyone else ever saw that tree decloak so quickly, but many years we knew that it was full in the morning, and naked by dusk.

Now, sometimes, during Autumn, when the wind blows and the oaks begin to shed their leaves, I think about that tree, about how glorious it is to see an entire tree emptied within a few minutes, as if the limbs whisper to the leaves “We’re good now. You can go on your way.” Leaf removal in my woods is a continual process between mid-September and mid-November. I spent three hours Monday clearing the driveway; having only scattered leaves on it this morning, it is nearly covered this afternoon. The leaves have been raining down in quick showers since about 10 am, but they are carried by the wind to various places and you cannot tell from which trees they have fallen.

There are many bare trees now, but still many more with leaves yet to fall. I don’t know of any tree in my yard that commands all of its leaves to abandon ship at once, though I think if I listen closely enough, I may hear the command to the ash trees, then a few weeks later to the maples and hickories, to set sail on the wind. Last to leave their airy ports are the oaks, which will embark in stages, for the next few weeks, on their swift journeys to the freezing ground, as the tall masts of the trees go to sleep until Spring and we are left to marvel at the piles of glittering golds, purplish reds and burnt orange leaves ornamenting our walks, drives and neatly manicured lawns.

Delightfully Dancing Glittering Gold