…and many more


Today is Mary Jane’s 99th birthday. She’s one of my closest friends, someone who has taught me a great deal about life. I consider her a mentor and love spending time with her. She’s a year older than my Grandma would have been, and she was raised only 30 miles from my Great-grandfather’s homestead, so I suppose that she has some mannerisms that feel familiar to me. Like my Grandma, she is an excellent story teller.

I connected with Mary Jane the first time I met her. I live in the house her father built in the early 1920’s. I called her one winter day not long after I moved and introduced myself. I had been told that she was close to 90 and could tell me a lot about the my place. She had some difficulty hearing, but we had a nice enough conversation.

The next morning she was at my door – she had driven her convertible K-car through the snow and up my 100- yard-long driveway through the woods. When I first saw her, I assumed she was her 70 year old daughter. She was agile, sharp as a tack, and excited like a kid in a candy store to show me around my own house. We climbed up in the attic and down in the cellar. She told me my front door was actually the side door, that the strange molding in the attic was the missing plate rail from the dining room wall, and lots of other structural details. When she got to the porch she saw that I had re-hung some screen doors that I found out in the shop over the french doors. She got a little choked up as she told me that she had helped her father make them as a child.

We sat down in the living room and she told the story of her mother reading Better Homes and Gardens and seeing an article on the “California Bungalow of the Year” home plan. She fell in love with it so they ordered the plan for $25 and built it themselves from the rocks cleared from the land that they farmed. She even showed me a pile of surplus stone in the woods near the house.


Over the following weeks Mary Jane would pop in to visit and tell me more about the house. One day the following spring she called to ask if I would like to go for a “walk” – I agreed and we took off down what looked like an abandoned driveway off the dirt road we both live on. She took me down into the hollow and across the bench (her term for the limestone formation where springs form) to the spring several hundred feet below my house. She shared how they had used a hand crank to bring water up to the house from this spring. Next we went back down the bench in the opposite direction until we came to an amazing pivot rock formation – this is an old photo shot on that first hike with a cell phone – I hadn’t imagine we were going to see so much on a “walk”.


That day we did about 3 miles up and down and I learned one of Mary Jane’s secrets to health, not only is she a “walker” but she loves being out in nature. She knows about plants and herbs. She has an almost childlike love of wildlife. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of wildflower varieties. She told me the other day that her favorite thing in life is to “walk the earth”.

Over the years we have walked hundreds of miles together and she continues to amaze me. Here’s a shot of her at about 93 years old, “bushwacking” through the woods to find an old trail.


Something I have noticed about Mary Jane – when we get out into the woods she has no problem finding a place to sit and take a break. It’s almost like she is “one with the woods” – its truly her favorite place.





I’ve also noticed that she typically walks with a pole or stick – she has several at her front door. For her 95th birthday I gave her along one with a large top – when she carries it she looks like the queen of the forest.


This one is my monopod – high tech, low tech – no matter to Mary Jane, a broom handle will do.


Mary Jane had mentioned to me that she wanted to see Crystal Bridges – its an amazing new museum of America Art located in Bentonville, Arkansas. It’s nestled into a hollow over an active spring and was built with a eye to disturbing as little of the natural site as possible. It’s surrounded by gorgeous trails and hiking paths. Last month I took Mary Jane to see it, not sure if we were going to look at art or go for a walk. Once we parked she told me that she was much more interested in the outside than in the inside – so off we went.

She had never seen a tulip tree – you can see the wonder in her eyes as she sees her first.


She lights up when she is in the woods.


We took a break when we spotted a kitten in the woods.



We finished two trails, about a mile and a half. We came to a courtyard with gorgeous flowers that she had never seen before and discovered that they are called Mary Janes:)



At the end of our walk she told me we need to go back in the fall – she can only imagine how beautiful these trails will be in the fall.

I think that attitude sums up what makes Mary Jane the vibrant person that she is – she’s 99 and still has a sense of wonder and discovery, she still looks forward, and she still loves to walk the earth.

Happy Birthday, my friend.


Caption This

In my day job I design t-shirts. Sounds easy, right? Combine something funny or witty with some ink and cotton and “viola” – best seller! Not.

Over the years I have found ways to get my creative juices flowing. One of my favorite things to do is to look at random images and make up captions for them. Bonus points for sarcasm or irony – anything goes. After a day of shooting I will sort my photos and pull aside the ones that make me smile. I can’t take credit for all of these, I have friends who play along. Do you have a great caption for any of these? Share away, maybe I’ll make you a t-shirt!

Dude! What happened to your ears??

You look a little fuzzy to me…


Does this make my butt look big?

Duck. Duck. Moose.

It’s your nickel.

The beginning of the Zombie Apacalypse.

Where does the seed come out of this thing?



Wisdom teef

Man, you gotta get your head on straight.

Blue Steel

Back off!!

Your turn – caption this…


Two little birdies, sittin’ in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g…

My grandparents had a set of salt shakers like this on their TV in the living room. They would rearrange the figures and joke that Grandpa must have really messed up, because Grandma was not even willing to look at him. In truth, the salt shakers were about as angry as I ever saw them get with each other. I would scoot the figures closer and closer until they were kissing once again.

Yesterday I was sitting in my mud room shooting birds at the feeders when I saw romance in the air. Buntings flying back and forth in pairs. Brilliant blue males escorting their chocolate brown mates through the air on an invisible dance floor. Occasionally another male would try to cut in, only to be rebuffed in a mid-air tumble, with the lucky fellow returning to his mate without missing a step.

As the evening light started to slip away the dance suddenly stopped and I spied a pair getting close on a branch just off the porch.

“He’s kinda cute.”

“Quick, look away! Can’t get caught looking at him.”

“Maybe I should play hard-to-get.”

“Ooo, she’s cute. Think I’ll scoot a little closer.”

“She won’t notice if I get just a little bit closer.”

“Hello Beautiful, wanna dance?”

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you must be at the Peabody


I flew into Orlando with some co-workers on Friday. I was in town to set up a booth for a tradeshow. I was glad to see that we were staying at the Peabody Hotel right across the boulevard from the convention center – so much walking at these events. The Peabody has an ancient tradition – each morning at 11:00 a red carpet is rolled out from a private elevator. A man dressed in enough red and gold rope to be confused with a guard at Buckingham Palace steps out and marches a small flock of ducks from the elevator through the lobby to a marble fountain. The one time I got to see the pageantry and spectacle I was unfortunately without my camera, so my description will have to suffice. Anyway, the ducks stay in the lobby feeding and swimming in a fountain until 5:00 in the evening when they once again march with the “Duck Master” down the red carpet back to the elevator that takes them somewhere so exclusive that guests are left to imagine it’s splendor.

I know it sounds quaint and even silly, but these ducks are not to be missed. Even if you stay at someplace without exclusive access to ducks, you owe it to yourself to stop by the Peabody if you are in Orlando, Memphis, or Little Rock – because these are not ordinary ducks – these are Peabody Ducks!



I know’ you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal – looks like a duck…” Well nothing could be further from the truth. These ducks do more than waddle about and poop in a fountain – these ducks can’t wait for you to take their photo. They are on display and they love it – and the camera loves them.

As you approach the fountain this girl tosses you a pose, then another, and another…


Shot after shot she would reposition herself reaching for the light. It’s almost like she was schooled by Tyra Banks – hoping for a spot on America’s Next Top Model.



Of course, unlike ANTM, there are no cat fights, no binge drinking, no tears. Just a hard working duck giving the camera her all.



Is she “smizing”?




Elongate that neck – watch your angles!



Of course there are other ducks in the fountain. It’s not all about little Tyra. This drake was really busy preening – maybe getting ready for his close-up?



Back to the star…. Find the light girl. Give us more light in your eyes. Hold it….



That’s it, stare down the camera. Nice! Now give us something different, switch it up!



Amazing! Bellisima!! Give me more!




She’s a star – and she knows it!!


The Buffet Line Starts Here

I’m officially addicted.

I read in the paper that it was a good idea to put out a birdbath during this drought. My bowl was broken because it has been frozen and thawed to many times – I added a cookie sheet and a washtub to the old ceramic base – voila, water for some thirsty birds.

I have been challenging myself to shoot photos of birds this summer – so I thought I would pick up a feeder. This would set up some photo ops and I was thinking food must be scarcer too during drought conditions. I picked a wooden one thinking it would look cool in photos and waited for the birds to land and take advantage of my hospitality. I have several pairs of cardinals living in the woods along my drive – maybe this could get them to come out where I could get a shot of them. Cardinals seem to be a bit shy. I would love to take some shots of cardinals up close and personal! I love their color and shape – I’m helping wildlife and coaxing those cardinals close to the house!

I hung the feeder. A day passed – no birds. A week passed, nothing. Two weeks, not a seed on the patio. Finally, just short of three weeks there was a flurry of activity – dozens of birds vying for one of the perches. This bossy chickadee usually wins the battle for the perch at the bottom.


Of course, this signaled the need for more feeders to accommodate more birds. So I bought two more cedar ones and a couple of suet feeders. The clerk at the hardware store, seeing my growing addiction recommended the suet as something that would attract the cardinals that live in my driveway to come closer to the house. The suet feeders do see lots of action – not from cardinals though…


The next week the same clerk told me that I needed some black oil sunflower seeds – cardinals can’t resist those! Of course you need a special feeder for this. So I picked one up – it’s cool and red and looks like it’s made of chain-mail. So now I have 3 kinds of food in 6 feeders. The birds are eating like crazy! Cardinals don’t seem too impressed the new feeder though.


I stop into the hardware store to pick up some seed and see a bell shaped block of seed – I think this will be a excellent addition and will be a great spot to get cute photos of the birds – it looks just like one ones you give a parakeet only super-sized!


I know I have blue jays, but they seem to stay just out of reach. The clerk tells me the key to attracting them is to get a peanut feeder. So I oblige. I also love peanuts and these are pretty tasty – the jays are in for a treat. Unfortunately they are not at all interested in hanging out on the porch with me at the buffet. Honestly, I think I’m the only one eating peanuts. This titmouse tried for about 15 minutes to get one out of the feeder and gave up.


Last week I decided to go to Lowe’s to see if I could pick up some birdhouses. I heard that birdhouses will encourage the birds to settle in and stay close to the house – I put up 4. Of course the cardinals could care less and the jays look down their beaks at them, so far nothing has taken up residence.

I stocked up on all 4 types of bird feed and saw this cute little swing – what a cool idea and it should look great in photos – plus I can put berries in it to attract cardinals! Not. Seriously, I love the swing and so do all the birds except cardinals.



So now I have 4 birdhouses, 9 feeders, 4 types of seed and suet, berries, and I have bought enough swing set chain to outfit a large public playground. Cardinals and jays aside – was it worth it? Take a look at some of my new friends and decide for yourself.

My Little Chickadees


This guy takes his seed to the cross dowel and cracks it open



Suet King


Watching over us all


Sassy Tufted Titmice


This guy is sure this solar light is another feeder – like I need another feeder. He has learned that tapping the plastic on the other feeders makes the seed come out – on the solar light all he gets is noise.



Titmice also hold seeds in their feet to crack them. I call this guy Blue Legs.



Blue legs on the two-sided feeder


Bright eyes


Nutty Nuthatch
This guy is tougher to catch. He darts around a lot. I thought he was a tall chickadee at first, he tends to crawl across vertical surfaces instead of flying and he likes to walk upside down.



A Bunch of Buntings
Buntings are a bit shyer than the chickies or titmice. It took several days of sitting inside my mudroom barely moving for them to decide it was OK to eat with me there. There are two pairs. The males are a brilliant blue and the females are brown. The females spend a lot of time foraging on the ground while the males prefer the feeders.

This is Shifty – he has a hole on his left cheek. It doesn’t appear to bother him. He shifts from side to side when he spots me. I am totally intimidated.




This is Shifty’s Girl


This is Not Shifty. Not Shifty is far more comfortable with me and throws me poses right and left.




Finally, this is Not Shifty’s Girl – a rare shot of her at a feeder. It’s hard to get shots of her that are interesting on the ground because she’s pretty much the color of the ground.


I’ve decided the cardinals can just stay in the driveway. If my buffet is not up to their high standards I’m happy to entertain the diners who stop by every evening. I keep the water fresh and the peanuts are outstanding!


In Lieu of Fireworks

Like much of the south and midwest – the Ozarks are in the middle of a heat wave. In the last couple weeks we’ve had only a couple of days when the temperatures were under the century mark. I’ve run out of wildflowers to photograph – the heat has claimed them. it’s so dry that all fireworks have been banned and all of the shows have been cancelled.

For a shutterbug, this is serious. No shot at those once-a-year fireworks over the water photos, no summer greenery, no roaring rivers. I still carry my camera everywhere, but I mostly get shots of thirsty deer or birds at the feeder on my porch.

Last night my 99 year old neighbor, Mary Jane called. She told me that there were some blackberry lilies in the “old garden” – I should come shoot them now and when they go to seed In a couple of weeks. When I got off work I decided to head over. It was 105, but I was desperate for something colorful and alive to photograph. Mary Jane took me into the woods, past some old debris to a small clearing – everywhere there were these gorgeous lilies – smaller than the native tiger lilies – only about the size of a half dollar.




I never knew there was an “old garden” – I learned that it was planted by Mary Jane and some young people who came to the area in the early 70s for a Folk Festival. In the years after Woodstock these kinds of events attracted young 20-somethings and when Mary Jane met them, she was happy to let them camp on her property and even live in her parent’s abandoned house. To this day these flower children are a part of her life – she cared for them as young people and now many of them return the favor. Anyway, once I got past the brush at the perimeter it’s clear that this was an amazing spot. Lilies, passion flower vines, redbuds – all following the contours of a draw as it slopes down the hill. Right now the deer bed down at night in the clearing, you can see their tracks and that the brush has been compacted where they rest – but winding throughout it all are these rich and colorful lilies, growing in this shady spot.




Before the lilies open their petals are twisted together in a spiral.


The centers of these flowers are very thin and delicate.


Needless to say, these small lilies were as exciting to me as a fireworks display on the 4th of July. Truly, nature is full of wonders. I had given up on finding anything beautiful to shoot and now I have the “old garden”. I think this will help me make it through the heat wave – i can only imagine it’s beauty when we finally get some rain.