February Fling: Part II…

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Did you catch February Fling: Part I? I escaped to sunny Florida to visit my Dad, leaving New England in its semi-wintery state and my home with its recently repaired furnace.

After spending a couple of days enjoying the wildlife of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and walking along the beach near Dad’s condo in Naples, I decided to visit the Naples Zoo. There, I took a short boat ride to their “Primate Islands”, caught the keepers feeding the alligators, and enjoyed watching others feed the giraffes. While the sun warmed me and the occasional bird sighting made it a pleasant trip, I came to the conclusion that I really don’t like zoos — too many caged, bored-looking animals. I’d say “sad animals”, too, but I don’t know if that’s true or if it’s just me projecting my own feelings on them. Anyway, here are a few shots from the zoo (click on any photo and view them as a slideshow):

After the zoo, I went back to the condo for lunch and a quick check-in with Dad. Then, I was off to Naples Botanical Garden.

A beautiful orchid display greeted me just inside the gates:

Walking the paved paths, surrounded by stunning flowers and foliage, I couldn’t help smiling to myself (and to anyone I passed).

In among their varied garden displays were awesomely intricate LEGO sculptures — an added bonus! Much better than the zoo, in my humble opinion. 🙂

In addition to these outings, I managed to accompany Dad to a couple of medical appointments, go out to lunch with him, watch a movie with him, and walk down to the beach once, too. Then, it was time to fly back home.

Back  home, I dragged my suitcase in the front door and was immediately struck by how chilly I was. Must be because I just came home from Florida…I thought. But, no, the thermostat in the living room registered 59 degrees. No heat!

Luckily, the temperature outside was fairly mild, but the forecast for the next few days was for colder weather. I left my suitcase in the front hall and called the same heating company that “fixed” the furnace before I left. They were able to come by, proclaim the first thermocouple burned out, replace it with a heavy duty one, conclude that they couldn’t get the pilot to stay lit, and declare that I needed a new gas valve, if not a whole new furnace. Sigh!

The furnace is twenty six years old, after all. Maybe that would be the smarter choice. A new gas valve for my old furnace would take three to five business days to ship…so no heat for the weekend! A new furnace could be installed in a day or two. How convenient! I told them I’d discuss the options with my husband and give them a call.

As soon as they left, I got a few recommendations from a Townie Business Referral Facebook page and made a phone call. Don K., from a local heating company, showed up, rebuilt the pilot, got my furnace running again, conceded that we should replace the gas valve, offered to do it for less than the first company’s quote, and didn’t charge me for his help! Whew!

So, exhausted, but warm, I dragged my suitcase upstairs to my bedroom and left the unpacking for the next day. 🙂

 

February Fling: Part I…

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My Dad winters in Florida. For several of the past years, my husband and I have trekked down from Boston, usually in March, to visit and enjoy the warmer weather. We planned no such trip for this year. Then, my neighbors, who recently bought a condo near my Dad’s, called. Were we planing a visit? We should get together in Naples, Florida. Well, you’d think we see enough of each other already, being neighbors here in New England. You’d be wrong. So, I booked a ticket for the end of February.

The day before I left, National Grid came to change the gas meter on our house. Evidently, this must be done every seven years. Why I said “yes” to scheduling anything the day before a trip is beyond me. To make a long story short, after it was done, the pilot on the furnace wouldn’t relight. I could’ve predicted it, since the thermocouple quits on us every few years, like clockwork. Anyway, that meant I had to get a heating guy here, in a hurry, to fix my furnace. All this while I’m trying to pack and leave instructions for what needed to be done in my absence. When I left for the airport the next morning, we had heat.

DSC_0394 (1)My Dad has been under the weather lately, to put it mildly, and has been pretty darned tired. Unlike the last time I visited, he wouldn’t be chauffeuring me around. Instead, he handed me his keys. I was on my own.

My favorite destination in Naples, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, was my first solo outing (after a visit with my neighbors, of course). The swamp is an amazing place to birdwatch. I spied several kinds of woodpeckers and warblers, many waders, a few hawks, plus raccoons, alligators, and snakes. Most of my photos are useful for bird identification, but not necessarily for publishing. Here are some of the better shots (click on any one of the photos to view them enlarged as a slideshow):

Some of these creatures were familiar to me, like the ibis, egret, anhinga, cardinal, raccoon and alligator. I’ve even seen pileated woodpeckers before, from a distance. But it was a thrill to catch them relatively close by and watch when one suddenly trounced on top of the other! (I should mention, that while I watched the woodpecker fight, a raccoon waddled through the swamp, climbed up next to me and proceeded down the boardwalk. A bit too close for my comfort!) Black and white warblers and yellow-rumps were new to me. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen the paler version of a red-shouldered hawk before. Beautiful! I’ve definitely never seen a painted bunting before! I actually visited the swamp two days in a row, arriving at 7:30am on the second day, to catch more bird activity. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Check out my trips to the Naples Zoo and Naples Botanical Garden (and the ongoing furnace saga) in Part II…

 

Thanks for visiting. 🙂

 

Photo Project: Wrap-up…

At the end of January 2015, I began this Photo Project. Now, I end with a few last photos and a bit of wisdom garnered from the experiment. Check out my first Photo Project post here. Or you can click on the Kitchen Window tab at the top of this page and scroll…all…the…way…to…the…bottom.

In my previous post, snow had arrived after higher than normal temperatures for Christmas Day. December’s snow almost disappeared by the second week in January.

Pardon the general fuzziness of these first photos…I’d been experimenting with new filters that I got for Christmas and must have left the camera on Manual Focus. Oops!

Then the snow came again…

and began to fade…again.

It snowed a few days later…but that was outside the scope of this project.

What I Learned…

My goal in all of this was to grow in my understanding of photography and to learn more about my camera in particular.  And I did…(while learning a few things about myself along the way). For example, I discovered:

I could choose my subject more carefully next time.

The scene outside my window is peaceful. But that translated into boring when I was hoping for a measure of entertainment! The birds and other wildlife didn’t show up much. And facing northeast at sunrise misses a lot of light and color happening just a few degrees to the right. Oh, well!

There are a lot of settings on my camera!

I’m fairly certain that the settings I ended the project with are not the ones I started out using a year ago. I’d make setting adjustments for other photographic endeavors and then forget to adjust back. Or I’d forget what the previous setting even was! This was definitely not what you’d call a controlled experiment. 🙂 I did learn a bit about the different “white balance” effects this way!

Remotely triggering the shutter is possible and easy.

The last time I “remotely” triggered a shutter, I was using a cable release. The shutter release button on my D3200 isn’t an open hole lined with threads to screw in a cable release. I didn’t know what to do. But I took the easy steps necessary to find a handy little remote device made for my camera and voila! (I should mention that when I first received the remote, I couldn’t get it to work. I complained to the seller and then poked around inside it, digging out a small piece of plastic that had slipped between the battery and the contacts, fixing the problem instantly.)

Change is not as gradual as I thought.

I expected to capture all the subtle changes of the seasons. What I found instead, were long weeks of sameness and then (Bam!) a frenzied week of change! The melting snow at the end of spring suggested a gradual change, but then I went on vacation for a week in May and came back to a fully greened landscape. The autumn colors seemed subtle at first, but then, within a week or two, they were blazing. And within a couple of rainy, windy days, all the leaves came down! The mild temperatures in the fall kept the grass fairly green…until it was all white with snow. In the past, I would’ve chalked up the sudden changes to my not really paying attention. Now, I know…all I have to do is blink!

A year is a long time…and a short time.

I found myself resenting the self-imposed mandate towards the end of the year. As a result, I got lazy. I’d “forget” to stop in the middle of getting breakfast or I’d decide that my sleep was more important and I’d stay in bed past 7:30am. But now, I can’t believe I did it for a whole year already! I won’t be starting another yearlong project anytime soon. I think shorter photographic experiments are in order this year. So, it’s a wrap!

And that about sums it up. Thanks for checking in. 🙂

 

 

 

New Year, New Adventures…

 

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Well, January has come and gone. How are those 2016 New Year’s resolutions holding up? Personally, I don’t like making them any more. I’m done promising myself that I’ll fix this or eradicate that in pursuit of perfection. Instead, I try to treat everyday as an opportunity to learn something or try something new.

This year, January brought two interesting new adventures. The first is still ongoing, while the second only lasted for a long weekend.

The first involves lower back pain. That, in and of itself, is nothing new. I’ve had back problems for years – probably more than half my life.  Degenerative disc disease, I’ve been told. It amounts to a chronically bearable level of lower back discomfort that flares up (becoming unbearable) once or twice a year. On the few occasions when I’ve bothered to involve my doctor in my misery, I’m directed to pain-killers, anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxants, ice and heat. Once, she actually sent me to physical therapy where I learned how to move correctly and, more importantly, how NOT to move. Somewhat helpful! 🙂

The flare-ups seem to be occurring more frequently these days, so when my back started complaining again a few weeks ago, I thought I’d try something new: a chiropractor. I know. Everyone has an opinion about chiropractors. And most people will share those opinions quite freely! (This doctor hurt them more than helped or that doctor is wonderful and made them feel so much better, etc.) A friend had recommended her chiropractor to me months ago. She liked him because of his medical background and incorporation of traditional medicine in his thinking and his practice. He’s a former EMT (emergency medical technician). That sounded safe to me.

I’ve now experienced electrical stimulation, ultrasound therapy, decompression, and minor “adjustments”.

I’m trying to keep an open mind, but pain can be a tiring thing. It’s been three weeks. A normal flare-up used to last me a week to ten days. I do admit that my lower back feels better, but now it’s migrated to my hip. This could be totally unrelated to the arthrosis, scoliosis, sclerosis, and any other -osis or -itis that might be going on in my back. All I know is that it still hurts. And I won’t blame “getting older”. That’s a cop-out! So, anyway, the jury’s still out on the whole chiropractic thing. I’m torn between cooperating with his treatment plan, which consists of two visits a week, and scrapping the whole idea. THAT has been my first adventure of the new year.

My second adventure was a LOT more fun! I joined my husband in Arizona, where the executives of his company had been meeting for a few days already. The whole company, plus significant others, spent the weekend together at the Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale. A beautiful place with an incredibly attentive staff!

Here’s the “adventure” part: we toured a section of the Sonoran Desert, driving Tomcars! (My chiropractor wasn’t too keen on the idea.) Similar to an ATV or a dune buggy– actually built as an off-road military vehicle– the Tomcar can drive over boulders, through ditches, and across uneven terrain with amazing stability. DSC_0031 (1)A few dozen of us rode two and four-person cars following a tour guide along trails on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Reservation. My husband drove and I rode shotgun. I even managed to take a couple of bumpy iPhone movies – sacrificing a pair of suede gloves to the desert out the car’s non-door along the way!

 

During the tour, we learned about cacti, local wildlife, and a bit of Native American history. We were even lucky enough to spot a couple of wild horses.

The scenery was breathtaking and so unlike anything up here in New England. And the variety of cacti, astounding.

I don’t know if anything will top that in 2016, but as February kicks into gear, I look forward to more beautiful (wintery?) scenery and more excellent adventures…

How ’bout you?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Circle…

In response to the Daily Post’s weekly Photo Challenge for this week…

A Christmas gift from one of my daughters, who is quite the photographer, was a set of “macro” filters to fit my lens. I call them my “cheat macro lenses”. I’ve only begun to experiment with them. 🙂

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This mug was a gift from another daughter. And the rooibos chai seen steeping within was a gift last year from this same daughter, who has taught me that THIS is not really tea!

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And the circle of life is ever present…

Photo Project: First Snow…

Mild temperatures here in New England made November and December feel more like an early spring than a precursor to winter. On Christmas Day, it reached sixty degrees (Fahrenheit)! The wind blew the leaves around quite a bit, but no snow fell.

Can you see our lovely raking job in November between the first and second photos above? If you look closely at the second one, you’ll spy one of many leaf piles waiting to be bagged…or jumped into. ; ) The last photo shows how green the lawn remained, even at the end of November, due to the moderate temps.

Instead of snow, we had plenty of rain! The combination of wet weather and mild temps resulted in a few foggy mornings.

Then, finally, on December 29th, it snowed.

It wasn’t much snow. And you can see that it’s fading away – on the lawn anyway. Today, January 5th, New England weather caught up to the calendar and the temperature plummeted. It was 12 degrees when I took that final photo above.

Maybe it really is winter…we’ll see how much more snow there is to come. This project will wrap up at the end of January with a few last photographs and a list of what I’ve learned (or what I’d do differently next time:)).

To those of you in this Northern hemisphere…Have a Wonderful Winter!!! (And the rest of you, enjoy the sun!)

Lesser Things…

The first lines of this poem emerged in response to an ugly family situation. The poem sat unfinished for months. Then I began to read the book Left To Tell, by Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan holocaust in 1991. Soon after, terrorists attacked in Paris. I finished reading that amazing book, which describes love and forgiveness in the midst of horror and hate, just before the mass shooting in San Bernadino, California. And we’re all  aware that in addition to the violent acts that grab news headlines, there are ongoing struggles in this country and in the world at large fueled by racial, social, gender-based and religious bigotry. This poem is my response to hate on all levels…

Lesser Things

There are lesser things
than love, my friend,
and we have tried them all:DSC_0738
retaliation,
righteousness,
striving to recall
every misalignment in
the history of time.
We carry
bricks of sadness
for a world of our design.

The feathers of a goldfinch,
are as gifted
as a hawk’s —
in daily plight and purpose,
beauty won’t be lost.
Who’s to say
which of these
is wholly the more blessed,
for each deserves
a liberal flight and each one
craves its nest.

A single act
can bridge a gap or magnify
a fault.

There are lesser things
than love, my friend,
and we have tried them all.