Tuesday, November 18, 2014


It was cold—9˚F (-12˚C) by the deckside thermometer—when I got up at 6:00 a.m., added a fresh log to the fire, and let Moon-the-dog out for her pre-sunrise constitutional. And though the day since proved sunny and very bright, thanks to all the snow on the ground, even now—at what would typically be midafternoon's temperature high-point—we've still barely reached 17˚F (-8˚C); not much of a warming-up.  

Frankly, I'm glad I needed to stay in and work at my desk. Inside is a good place to be. The woodstove has a nice fire burning and is pumping out heat. And if I'd somehow have managed to not be so regularly distracted, my work would now be done.

Alas, I'm a sucker for distractions.  

Sometimes I was purely bewitched by the beauty of sunlight streaming through honey-brown box elder samaras, which still cling in multitudes to the branches of riverside trees. 

Alternately, I'd find my thoughts interrupted by the gabbing and honking of Canada geese, who decided to spend the day lolling about the pool and riffle directly in front of the cottage—and my window view.
But worst of all has been the kettle of sausage-and-potato soup bubbling on top of the woodstove. Garlic, onions, and fresh-chopped herbs add to the fragrant meld, as everything slow-cooks toward savory perfection. A streaming pot of strong coffee, on the ledge behind, is holding just shy of a simmer, its rich aroma another note to the mix. 

Predictably, these heady cooking smells now have me positively convinced I'm on the brink of starvation. A false notion, I admit, but one I'm unwilling to ignore much longer. Not that I ever ignore good eats. Still, I had hoped to get my work finished, then take the time to bake a skillet of spicy corn bread, before succumbing.

I may not be capable of such self-discipline. 

Ah, well…it won't be the first time I've been delightfully victimized by irresistible temptation.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Today's mid-morning view upstream.
When I exited the eye doc's office this past Wednesday morning, snowflakes were swirling about in the chill November sky. And they continued to fall and blow about for most of the day, waxing and waning as a series of modest squalls passed through. But they didn't stick. An all-in-the-air but none-on-the-ground event.

Technically speaking, I suppose you still have to give it credit as our first snow of 2014's autumn/winter season. However, to someone who loves the beauty of a snowy landscape, it was as unfulfilling as those tasteless red spheres the grocery stores keep insisting are actual tomatoes.

Last night, however, we got ourselves a genuine cover-the-ground-and-turn-the-world-white snow! The real thing, which piled up to a depth of perhaps four inches. And I couldn't be happier…though I know many friends and neighbors are dismayed, angered, and personally offended that the weather should presume to play such a dirty trick on them so early in the season.

I say, "Get over it! You live in Ohio, the Upper Midwest. A Great Lakes State. I look out my window and see sycamores and blue herons, not palm trees and flamingos. This is not the Deep South!"

Well, actually I don't say that, not usually…but I think it, because it's true. November snows are nothing new. Not if you've been around awhile, or read much Buckeye history. Snow is part of the package hereabouts.

A part I sincerely love. And like all loves, those which come first are special.

Friday, November 14, 2014


"Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." —Ansel Adams

Let's get two things straight from the get-go: I'm certainly not implying my photographic prowess ranks me anywhere close to Ansel Adams. And I have no doubt the above eagle photo is significant only to me. 

None the less, capturing such a shot, on the stretch of river flowing directly past my modest stone cottage home, is—in my scheme of things—a momentous event. I'm thrilled to have managed such a feat, and rank the image among the dozen best I've captured over the past year.

Eagles have been a rarity throughout Ohio practically all my life. Statewide, our historic bald eagle population began dwindling long before I was born, in fact, well before WWII, starting at least from the turn of the century; and the widespread post-war usage of the pesticide DDT, with its impact on fish and wildlife such as nesting birds, proved the final devastating blow. I never saw a single wild eagle during my entire growing up, or hear a report of one being spotted. It was rumored one or two eagles still nested along the shores of Lake Erie, but here in the southern portion of the state, eagles were simply long gone. Practically mythological birds.  

It wasn't until my early-twenties that I saw my first eagle—a distinctive shape, way up in the sky, winging southward during the autumnal migration. Not much of a sighting; more a glimpse of a sky-high traveler. I spotted another migrating eagle a year or two later. Then one day a year or so after that, while deep in the genuine wilderness of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, as I fished my way down a remote, jackpine-lined  brook trout creek a few miles inland from where it dumped its tannin-stained waters into Lake Superior, a magnificent bald eagle soared overhead, so low I could almost have touched it with the tip of my fly rod. An eagle sighting truly worth mentioning!

However, several years ago, a few bald eagles began slowly moving back into the Buckeye State. Their reappearance in an area where an eagle hadn't been seen in a hundred years was such a noteworthy event it almost always got covered by local newspapers and television. A few years back, a pair of eagles finally appeared here, on my home river. They built a nest a mile or so upstream, but were unsuccessful in hatching or at least rearing any young. And to my knowledge, the nest hasn't been used since.

I have, however, since spotted eagles on several occasions at various locations, near and far, throughout this southwestern quadrant of the state. So Ohio's eagle population is obviously still on the upswing. And I couldn't be more pleased.

Still, seeing an eagle wheel over a distant lake corner, wing across a field, or disappear around a far upstream bend, isn't quite the same experience as having one come swooping in, snatch a foot-long sucker from your "front yard" pool, then sit on a rock fifty feet away for several minutes while you frantically snap it portrait. 

Now that's a thrilling Ohio eagle sighting! 

Serendipitous, too, because I just happened to be looking out the front window. And lucky, because the day was very dark and drizzly, I was shooting through the window, and had to hand hold my 300mm (effective 450mm with the crop factor) lens and shoot at 1/125 second, hoping for the best. 

That it all worked out so well is a pure wonder…and in my photographic experience, wonder doesn't come waltzing in all that often and hand you such a gift. And you know what, I'll bet Ansel Adams would say the same thing.