STYMIED! Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Stymie

Every once in a while, I discover one of the issues of autofocus and automated cameras. Normally, these are functions on which I depend. My eyes are not good enough to focus manually, so I’m obliged to depend on autofocus much of the time, especially for long distances.

In the old days, I would just focus the lens on whatever I wanted sharp. Those were the days when even with eyeglasses, I could see clearly. Not so much now. So normally, I’m very grateful for the automation. This was not one of those days.

I have discovered — repeatedly because I don’t give up easily — that it’s very hard to get a picture of a brown bird sitting on a brown branch in a beige or brown woods. And of course today, it’s not only all one color, but it’s also foggy and raining. I assure you that a Mourning Dove fits remarkably well into the overall brown of the trees and textures.

A pair of Mourning Doves

Autofocus was lost. Without a sharp edge on which to focus, it chose the closest “edge” it could find. Inevitably, it was a branch rather than the bird sitting on it.

Which doesn’t mean I didn’t get some good shots. I am determined. Overall, it was more frustrating than fun and I have given up. For now. Stymied by the brown of everything and the dripping of the trees. It’s a nasty day. Cold, rainy, foggy. A wet world with mud at the bottom and mist on top.

“I’ll take that seed to go, M’am.”

It wasn’t stopping the birds. They were eating up a storm, rain and mist and all. There were easily half a dozen doves that I could see and there were probably more of them. They blend so well with their natural habitat.

These are the ground feeders, like pigeons in cities. Actually, pigeons — city pigeons are doves. Rock doves that abandoned the stony ridges of mountain ledges and moved into town. You might say that pigeons are citified doves and Mourning Doves are their rural cousins.

Bottom end of a landing Nuthatch

I was ultimately frustrated enough that I put the camera down. It all began because I saw the big Red-headed Woodpecker on the feeder, but by the time I picked up the camera, he was gone. I hoped he’d come back, but he was gone. There was the usual flurry of Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Titmouses. Not all the same birds, even though the same kind of bird. There are at least two, maybe three nuthatches and half-a-dozen chickadees with various colors on their wings and breasts.

More doves

They were not stymied by the weather. For them, I guess, rain is part of life. Winter is cold and it’s nice to have food available. There are as many birds on the ground, cleaning up all the fallen food as on the feeders. That’s where the doves go. They like walking and pecking.

Uninterrupted, the eating goes on!

I keep looking out into the mist and sighing. It’s not really winter but it’s not anything else, either. Miserable weather.

Maybe I’ll try one more time. Just one more time.

MORE BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Normally, by this time of year, I’m taking pictures of drifts of snow. But there is no snow. It’s cold, but not as cold as normal and the cold only lasts for a day at a time, then it warms up. By this time last year, we’d already had two feet of snow and were working on a third. This year, barely a trace and that was early in November.

Diving Chickadee and a Nuthatch

So, no snowdrift. Birds.

Chickadee landing on runway 1!

The birds are more interesting anyway. In my memory, we’ve had a few winters with almost no snow … until the end of January and then we got buried. Until the daffodils are blooming, we will take a “wait and see” attitude.

White-breasted Nuthatch

It is unusually warm. There has been plenty of precipitation that would have been snow, but being so warm, we’ve had rain instead.

Nuthatch and Chickadee

I have mixed feeling about our lack of winter. Gratitude because the snow makes it hard to get around, but worry too because we ought to be having winter and we aren’t.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

At least we don’t have to dig our way out of the front door. That’s something. Climate change or just the vagaries of New England weather?

Around here, it can be pretty hard to tell.

INTO MEMORY – Rich Paschall

In Memoriam 2018, Rich Paschall

Many people go into our memories as the years go by.  Some will linger there always.  Some will pass by for a fleeting moment, remembered and then forgotten, as the years put clouds in front of them. Some memories we will cherish always, some not at all.

This past year, as in those preceding it, awards shows and year-end retrospectives highlight those we have lost through their “In Memoriam.”  This phrase is from the Latin term meaning “into memory” so it is into our memories we commend those who have left but meant much to us in our lives.

These passings do not only bring sadness for those who are gone, but they also remind us that we are entering a later time in the autumns of our lives. For this thought, we also have sadness for ourselves, knowing winter is near.

I will offer ten names that meant a lot to me in the past.  There will be no numbers.  It is not a top ten in the usual sense.  I looked over some lists and picked ten that have been committed fondly into my memory.  You may add yours in the comments.

Stan Lee

On the short list, I also had Sen. John McCain, although I disagreed with him often.  There was Stan Lee for creating the comic universe of superheroes. Also listed was Stephen Hawking, who had a beautiful mind locked in a diseased and twisted body.  The prolific playwright Neil Simon brought us many great movies and plays. Also passing was the former lead of Jefferson Airplane, Marty Balin, and the lead of the Irish pop group Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan, who died too young (46).

Waving a fond goodbye but staying forever in my memory:

Jerry Van Dyke, 86.  The younger brother of Dick Van Dyke began his career by playing Rob Petrie’s younger brother in a few episodes of the Dick Van Dyke show.  He is most fondly remembered as an assistant in the long-running sitcom, Coach.

Nanette Fabray, 97. She began her career in vaudeville.  I remember her as someone who appeared frequently on the early variety shows of television and later as a frequent game show guest.  She fought to show the importance of closed captioning in media, as she had been losing her hearing for many years.  Here she performs in the musical “the Band Wagon:”

Tab Hunter, 86.  The actor, singer, and writer became a movie star in the 1950s and ’60s.  He was a teen heart-throb to many young girls and a few young guys too.  He had a number one hit with “Young Love,” although this 1957 performance on the Perry Como Show may not have been his best effort.  At least you will get to hear the girls scream:

Harry Anderson, 65.  The magician and comedian scored two successful comedy series on television.  The first was the long-running Night Court where he played the judge of a Manhattan court at night.  Next up was Dave’s World, loosely based on writings of Dave Barry.

Burt Reynolds, 82.  Although he had many iconic movie roles as well as highly regarded television series, I enjoyed him most in the sitcom Evening Shade. My memory recalls it as a thoughtful, well-written program with a top-notch ensemble cast.

John Mahoney, 77.  The veteran stage and movie actor will be best remembered as the dad on Frasier (and Niles) on the sitcom of the same name.  Locally, John was often seen on stage in Chicago in productions of the renowned Steppenwolf Theater.

Roy Clark, 85.  The country singer and musician played host on the variety show, Hee Haw. Think of Laugh-In populated with country “hicks.” Having many southern relatives, we were greatly amused by this show and watched regularly.

Bill Daily, 91.  Daily was born in Des Moines, Iowa but the family moved to Chicago.  He graduated from high school in my neighborhood (long before my time) and went to the famous Goodman Theater school here.  He scored two successful stints as a sidekick on television, one in I Dream of Jeannie and the other was the Bob Newhart Show.

Penny Marshall, 75.  Best known for playing Laverne on the Happy Days spin-off, Laverne & Shirley, Marshall went on the be a well-respected producer and director.  “Big” is a favorite film, the first one directed by a woman to gross more than 100 million dollars.

Aretha Franklin, 76.  The Queen of Soul earned a lot of R-E-S-P-E-C-T in her life.  The talented singer and musician excelled in many musical categories and earned her place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The Chicago based musical Blues Brothers is a favorite with us and the following is one of the best numbers in the film.

THE LAST CACTUS FLOWER – Marilyn Armstrong

The Last Cactus Flower – FOTD – 01/08/2019

All of a sudden, in just two days, the last bud bloomed, the other flower closed up and I think by the end of the week, both plants will go into retirement for a few months.

On a more positive note, I have a new shoot coming in from my orchids. No buds yet. Just the tall, naked shoot.  It will be weeks before it turns into buds and more weeks until it flowers. It had two shoots, but one withered. The other looks healthy.

This one really is pink
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