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Posts tagged “fall

Sunday Drive

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A late Sunday afternoon visit, the old-fashioned way!


Youth

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A much younger Hazer

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Hazer turns ten this fall. There, I’ve said it. As much as I’d like to think he has several good years still ahead of him, I can’t help notice how much he’s aged. Oh sure, he still wants to play Frisbee once or twice a day, but even that extracts a toll. And it’s the little changes I’ve seen that make my eyes mist up when I think about them. Like how he still lays on a nearby hill as I garden, but instead of overseeing his domain he’s sprawled out fast asleep. Or how he doesn’t always drag his sorry butt off my bed and come greet me at the door the minute I get home from an errand. And how he does the “old dog shriek” which is basically just noise that consists of yipping and barking at anything and everything simply because he can. But the most telling sign is that in his own dysfunctional way Hazer has grown affectionate in his old age. He wags his tail more often than he did when he was younger and he occasionally flops down at my feet to ask for a belly rub; something he’d never in a million years want before. In fact until now, general touching has not had any part in Hazer’s repartee at all. So it seems a bit odd to have Hazer milling about, trying to outdo the other dogs for my affection. He’s not very good at it either, never really sure if he wants to be pet or just plain left alone, thankyouverymuch. It’s a constant physical run-on sentence that says, “touch me, no don’t touch me, yes, touch me …. not!”

And then there’s those little marble-like bumps on his head. I gently feel them every day. Measuring. Worrying. Have they grown any bigger? Are they painful? Are there any new ones sprouting? You can’t see them, they’re beneath the skin. Lurking. Probably just fatty cysts, but I worry as time ticks on. His teeth are worn and getting nasty again. Should suck it up and drag his butt off to the holistic dental hygienist this fall? Although he does much better with this appointment than we ever dared hope (a tribute to her, not him), it’s expensive. Does he really need it, does it matter? To look at Hazer he’s doing great. He spends his day pushing his weight around when he can and shrieking when he can’t. He plays Frisbee, accompanies me to the barn where he snoozes in the sunshine, pretending to watch as I do chores. He still loves going to work with Dad on Saturday and jumping into my hatchback while I unload groceries. For the most part, life is good. Here’s to it staying that way for as long as possible.


Change

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Hibiscus

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It’s easy to tell it’s almost full-fledged fall. I get three distinct reminders:

 

  1. The horses start shedding their summer coats
  2. The dinner plate-size hibiscus burst into bloom
  3. The skunks make their dusk or dawn presence known

Twice in the last week I’ve been jarred out of sleep by the pungent scent of Peppy LePew wafting through my open bedroom window.  The first time it happened I could hear the low rumble of Gus growling in his crate. Gus typically doesn’t make a peep during the night, but his highly tuned nose put him on full alert. The scent wasn’t too horribly strong, but there was no mistaking that a skunk had wandered across our property. When this happens in the spring it’s usually the young skunks who don’t have full control over their scent glands yet. But when it happens in the fall it’s more likely a full-fledged adult, which is a little more worrisome. It’s been years since I’ve had a dog get skunked, but it’s something you never forget. The smell that you usually associate with a skunk meandering through the area is nothing like the full force stench of them using their smell for defense. It’s got to be one of the most gagging, God-awful, eye-watering smells on earth. And it’s dangerous too. The dog who got skunked took a close-range shot to the face and I’m still not convinced that didn’t contribute to his blindness just a year or two later. With that episode in mind I’m not taking any chances. At the first indication that a skunk might be nearby the dogs get leashed and walked and there’s no running about freely until we’re sure the coast is clear. The pups are a little put out by that, but it’s far better than the alternative!

There are other signs of the approaching fall. The hummingbird feeder has transitioned from a dull roar to the occasional passer-by. We’re on the migration route so I’ll continue to fill the feeder until a couple of days pass with no visitors. The cardinals are getting very vocal. I’m not sure why because they’re here all summer, but every fall they become more active and noticeable. Could it be one of their food staples has come into season and they get more competitive over that? I don’t know, but I enjoy seeing the colorful pairs. Crickets are louder. I always end up with a few that get into my basement looking for what, I’m not sure! And the days have grown noticeably shorter. Our mornings stay dark now until almost 6:30 and the late afternoon sun slips over the ridge across the road by a little after 7 PM. The changing of seasons happens so fast that if I didn’t have nature to remind me I might miss it altogether.


Gimp On

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Hazer

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 I woke up yesterday to a three-legged lame dog. *Sigh* The more animals you have the more interesting life gets. In all truth, I didn’t notice the lameness until we went out after feeding horses to play ball and Frisbee. It’s possible the dog was hopping on three legs prior to that, but if he was it didn’t register with my brain. It’s more likely he was walking fine UNTIL we went out to run around. I dunno. I have three dogs, two balls and one Frisbee all going in three different directions simultaneously with a carefully orchestrated rhythm that insures no two dogs get back to me at the same time. It’s  a canine juggling act. Anywho, on the first return Hazer came back limping. Not just “ouch, my paw hurts” limping, but literally holing his left front paw up off the ground gimping. That didn’t deter his desire to play Frisbee at all, it just slowed him down some. Naturally, I took the Frisbee from him and looked at his paw. Cautiously. Hazer isn’t known for accommodating pokes, pries or … hell, Hazer doesn’t even like to be looked at. He tolerated some  exploration, but grew increasingly impatient with the fact that I wasn’t tossing his Frisbee again. My inspection of the suspect paw was interrupted twice so I could kick Neena’s ball again and lob the tennis ball for Gus. That didn’t do much for Hazer’s patience.

Cattle Dogs are notorious for their high pain threshold. Both Neena and Hazer have had some pretty serious boo-boos and both have showed complete disregard for their pain. As their human it’s my job to evaluate these situations carefully, not take their word for how they feel. They could be bleeding out a lung and if asked, would say they’re fine and just throw the Frisbee again, damnit! They’re like a four year-old child who wails and sup-sucks the entire way up the stairs, insisting they’re not tired and they don’t need to go to bed yet. Yeah, right.

The jury is out on the diagnosis. I made sure he had a very low activity day yesterday and that he did minimal stairs. He seems a bit better today, but I’m watching him carefully. Lyme disease can show sudden and acute lameness symptoms and he’s had Lyme several times. If he’s not fully recovered in a couple of days I may have him looked at by our vet. Time will tell.


Perspectives

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I’ve never had a fondness for city or town life. In my opinion, the best neighbors are the kind you can’t see or hear. Ever. Although my house sits on a small parcel of acreage, I’d be perfectly happy living smack-dab in the middle of several hundred acres. During the spring and fall I try to get outside to walk several miles every morning. I’ll usually say it was a good walk if I’m able to complete my hike without seeing a soul. That’s my idea of quality time.


Sunup

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An early morning sunrise over a local swamp. The sun had just barely cleared the treeline before it was overtaken by an onslaught of approaching clouds, leaving the rest of the day overcast and dull. The entire shoot lasted about ten minutes and served as yet another example of having to “be there” before the event happens if you expect to capture it!

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Discards

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And old broken-down, discarded vehicle sits abandoned, deep in the Salmon River state forest.


Golden Years

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Taken late in the fall of 2010 and late in their lives, this has become one (of a series) of my favorite photos of our horses. That I even stopped to take this photo was nothing more than a bit of a whim, a challenge to try to use the foliage as an artistic frame for the subject. I was a rookie and little did I know how fortunate I’d been that all the right elements for a keepsake photo had come together for a few magical moments.

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And just moments they were. I had been out shooting some early morning landscapes and as I walked down the road toward home I came across all three horses sunning by the gate. That morning was unusually crisp and the horse’s breath rose in smoky white puffs that mixed with the gently rising fog. It’s pretty hard to sneak up on horses. Tia heard my footsteps first, and turned her head toward the sound. Bullet, though barely visible behind a branch in the foreground on the far right, also heard me. His head popped up and his ears flicked forward. Beanie was sound asleep and so it took him a little longer to hone in on my presence. Seconds later he turned his head in my direction, eyes and ears alert and scanning for the source of alarm.

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I shot maybe all of ten frames, none of which were taken particularly well because I was, after all, just a rookie. But the photos I took have become my favorites. I lost Tia only two months after these pictures were taken and Beanie followed ten months later. There would never be another golden fall morning when I’d happen upon all three of my horses quietly sunning and snoozing by the gate.


The Right Stuff

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When I bought my camera in June of 2010 I’d never had any interest in taking photos. I didn’t own a smart phone and I hadn’t used a point and shoot more than a half dozen times in as many years. I simply woke up one day and decided I needed a new hobby, and settled on photography. I sat down at the computer and started doing some research on digital cameras, which is sort of hard to do when you don’t know the first thing beyond pushing a button and getting a mediocre result. A few years earlier I’d tried reading the instruction manual for the point and shoot camera we owned and it lost me after explaining how to turn the camera on. As a result, wading through the endless narratives about which camera and what brand would best suit me was a monumental exercise in frustration.

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I finally settled on the Canon 7D for no other reason than the fact that it was (at that time) a new model and most people were raving about it. I didn’t stop to think that I might be getting in way over my head rather, I thought I’d eventually “grow into” my camera. I reasoned that once I knew what I was doing it would be better to have everything I wanted in a camera than wish I’d bought the next model (or two) up, right? Well it’s been three years since I bought it and I’m still not sure if it was the right decision.

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The first year I had my D7 was a spectacular year for taking outdoor photos. I didn’t know that then, I just thought I had a big fancy camera and every picture I took would (therefore) turn out great! Wow. It’s kinda hard to believe I was that naive. Truth of the matter is, by sheer dumb luck I’d just happened to buy my camera at a very good time. I’ve since learned that great shooting conditions are rare and you can go an entire season (or year or two) and not have more than a few days where the conditions are great for shooting. I didn’t use to care about that and I took lots of pictures anyway, but they weren’t the same quality and I (eventually) knew it. As hard as it is for me to look out the window and see beautiful fall colors in the trees and surrounding landscape, I won’t grab my camera unless the conditions for shooting are just right.

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Perhaps that makes me sound like a snob or far more of a professional than I really am, but the truth of the matter is, I’m lazy. The days of taking a roll of pictures and dropping them off to be developed are gone, and while that gives me lots of creative license, it’s a huge time-suck to have to process my own photos. I’ve become far more discriminatory about when and what I’ll shoot and even which pictures I’ll keep. So the fact of the matter is, unless the conditions are perfect for what I want to shoot, I won’t even bother to try.

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I’ve watched the days turn into weeks, then months as my camera sits untouched. I admit, that makes me a bit uncomfortable sometimes. I worry that I’m being TOO discriminatory or lazy. I feel guilty about the money I’ve spent on equipment that isn’t getting used. But eventually I know I’ll wake up to a morning when I can instantly tell that it’s going to deliver everything I want: light, color, subject and the right conditions. The photo above was taken on one of those mornings.


Safe and Secure

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I’ve been reading Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. What I mean to say is that I’ve had my face buried in that book so much over the last two days that I woke up this morning with blurred vision. Literally.  The book is that good. And I didn’t think it would be. I ear-marked it for my reading list when it first came out, but then Oprah put it on her book list and that’s a total buzz-kill for me. I’m not an Oprah fan. And I don’t much like reading books that everyone is talking about. I like reading stuff that coasts slightly under the radar.

Based on what I was hearing I was ready to dismiss Cheryl as needy, narcissistic and shallow. Her mother died and her life fell apart. Boo-hoo. My father died followed two years later by my mother and my life didn’t come to a screeching halt. Granted, I wasn’t in my late teens or early twenties when they died, but still. I felt a disconnect with the whole premise of the book. That’s before I started reading it.

Wow. Just … wow. I was wrong.

Understand that I have an innate love and respect for the wilderness. I was an avid Scout growing up and our family did tons of hiking and back woods camping. I’ve been lost in the vastness of the Adirondack Park a time or two myself. Though I was admittedly only a few feet off the main trail when I was “lost,” that alone gives me a reasonable amount of respect for any woman who has the fortitude to try to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone, with no prior hiking experience or skills. Talk about not having a safety net!

But it’s not just the sheer audacity of Cheryl’s hiking tale that’s grabbing me, it’s the whole ball of wax: Her honesty. Her stupidity. Her strengths and weaknesses so carefully and truthfully exposed. There’s nothing gratuitous in this book at all. Well, the death of her mother’s horse was a little more than I could almost bear to read. But even that gut-wrenching story was frightfully authentic and contributed to the sum of the parts. Cheryl puts it all out there, lumps and all in a very readable, sometimes funny sometimes sad, but always sincere narrative.

I’m about halfway though the book. So far I’ve gasped, laughed out loud, cried, and had to set the book down to process the story more thoroughly before moving on. In other words, this book has made me THINK. Think about my past, my journey, my current life and my future. Think about how everything I’ve done in my past has made me who I am today, and how everything I do today will affect who I am tomorrow. All this from a story about a girl hiking a very long and remote trail all alone.

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We’re at that time of year when the leaves are falling fast and furious. I’ve been doing a lot of trail riding. Alone. (Hm. I think I see a common thread) And speaking of getting lost … I’ve been lost twice in the last two weeks. Not “Oh My God I’m lost!” but, “Dammit! I hope I can retrace my footsteps!” lost.  Either way, I HATE getting lost in the woods. I fear that moment when your eyes start to scan the landscape, hoping to fall on something you half-recognize. (Or try to convince yourself you recognize) Like the HUGE oak tree above. It’s hard to miss that beauty. Centuries old, still holding court smack-dab in the middle of a much younger crowd. She’s like an old friend, a lighthouse with a welcoming beacon for those who wander weary in her territory. “Come! Rest awhile beneath my canopy. Home is just over the next ridge.”

And so it is.


Color Me Pretty

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New England, dressed in beautiful fall colors.


Balance

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Certainly not my best effort, but I get a kick out of the symmetry of the Great Blue Heron and it’s reflection in the pond.


Country Road

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An early morning jogger on a colorful New England country road.


Watchful

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Hazer and Neena often jump inside my garden cart when I’m working around the yard. On this fall day I happened to catch them not only sitting inside the cart, but they both looked up at the same time to track a low flying plane that was passing overhead. Hazer often looks up …. at birds, planes and weather vanes, but Neena seldom does. So it was kind of unusual that I was able to catch a picture of them both watching the sky.


Perspective

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Sometimes all we need a slightly different perspective.


Still Water

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I almost didn’t post this picture because the resolution is absolutely abysmal unless you click on the picture. I don’t know what’s up with WP, but this format is making me not want to blog. What’s the point if the resolution stinks?

This photo reminds me so much of the Adirondack Mountains that it makes my heart hurt. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there. I miss it terribly.


Old Soul

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 The crooked apple tree by the pond is beginning to drop it’s fruit, a yearly signal that another summer has passed and fall is slowly approaching. If I look around, I can see other signs too. Crickets and cicadas buzz with increased intensity, spiders spin webs that sag heavy with morning dew and swamp maples are starting to glow with the golden-orange promise of more color to come.

When I pause to watch the dogs root for apples in the damp grass, a twinge of melancholy creeps up on me. I’m reminded that they’re growing older too. In September Neena and Hazer turn nine. Young, by Cattle Dog standards, but no longer adolescents. I don’t see much change in their demeanor unless I think back several years to all the activities I used to do to channel their drive and energy. Daily long hikes in the woods. Herding and agility classes. Hours of Frisbee and ball tossing. Today, all but the latter have been left behind.  Even the backyard games have been honed down to a couple of ten-minute sessions a day that bear little resemblance to the flurry of intensity of years gone by.

Whether it’s  the adolescent dog in the group that makes the seniors appear older or having to attend (another) wake for a parent of a good friend, I’m acutely aware that time passes much too quickly.


Memory

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The Consequences of Falling by K.D.Lang from Invincible Summer

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I remember that feeling …. the one that sits now, deep in the woods like a rusty old hunk of discarded metal.


Hibernate

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Another day of sleet and rain. How many does that make in the last two months? No photo ops today! In fact, none in weeks. Depressing. I feel like crawling into a cave and hibernating until spring.


Family Swim

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Image

Weathered

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Blending In

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Gus is doing a fine job of blending into our family. After months of being a demur, goofy little tyke, he’s just now starting to grow into his adult personality. Gus is still sweet as the day is long, but he can be determined and even a little pushy (in a totally different way than I’m used to seeing) when he wants something. Gus always has a big grin on his face and he just loves to snuggle. This is a dog who wants to be right where the action is, but doesn’t create his own drama. And he’s QUIET, which after living with Hazer the last eight years, is a Godsend. If I could clone Gus I’d take another Rat Terrier just like him. I can’t wait to see how his hunting skills develop as time goes on. Right now he’s very fixated on all the bird feeders that attract droves of pesky red and gray squirrels. Hopefully, it won’t be long before he catches his first varmint!


Discards

 

 

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An old dirt bike, left abandoned to rust since the mid 80’s. When I hike or ride by, it always makes me wonder why it was left behind?


Change

 

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Fall to winter, day to night, mild to cold. Last night change rolled in on a magenta sunset. As we finished up a nice trail ride the sky started to form what l though might shape up into a nice sunset. I grabbed Gus and hit the road with my camera and gear, thinking that if I got lucky I might find a nice shot lurking not too far from home. I thought I had at least a good forty minutes to get someplace and set up before the sky started to really put on a show, but much to my dismay a front decided to come in riding low, dark clouds. Not quite ready to accept defeat, I kept searching. My local region doesn’t have the long, wide vistas one needs to catch the sun slipping over the horizon. Instead, we have nooks and crannies and deep valleys that hide the setting sun, and offer only a hint of a spectacular scene …. someplace else.

They say you should always wait until the final curtain goes down, so with darkness moving in I quickly searched for a sweet spot that might offer one last glimpse of what should have been a gorgeous sunset, but was fast turning into vivid ribbon of color against a dark sky. In a last-ditch effort I pulled off the main road onto a seldom-traveled side road that runs parallel to a big swampy area. I’d driven this road months before, hoping to find better access to shoot the swamp, but I never found the right vantage point. I kept one eye on the winding road and glanced at the setting sun every few seconds. I knew I didn’t have a minute to waste: I either needed to find a magic opening in the trees right now, or turn around and go home. I slowed the car as I drove into a sharp bend and suddenly, there it was, the picturesque view I wanted! The spot wasn’t anything special and in fact, I’d  have to do a bit of creative maneuvering to work around some junk in the foreground, but if I could manage to do that then it just might work. In the five minutes that it took for the sun to slip below the treeline I shot a handful of pictures, then blowing on chilly fingers I packed up my gear and headed home. Not too shabby for ten minutes work!