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Various shots from yesterday afternoon and evening at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park … in no particular order:

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Deer Profile

Deer Tongue

Deer Looking

Sunset Fishing

Sunset at Rend Lake

The other evening, in the midst of the ceremonies honoring the fallen firefighter, I get a call from a co-worker telling me she’s heard From Reliable Sources that Oprah is going to be in Sesser for the visitation.

Yes, that’s right: Oprah. As in Winfrey.

Which is not completely out of the realm of possibilities because Oprah’s show originates in Chicago. Which is approximately 5 hours away from Sesser by limo, less than 90 minutes by private jet and then limo from the closest airport. Geographically, it’s definitely do-able.

Plus, for the last year or so, Sesser has had this “Oprah, call Sesser!” campaign going on as part of some book promotion. Signs bearing that message are up throughout the community, and some residents have bumper stickers on their cars and SUVs asking the popular talk-show host to call their town.

So, I go to Sesser and stake out the church that’s hosting the visitation.

Sadly, no Oprah.

In fact, even though it’s in season, I don’t see any okra growing anywhere in Sesser, either.

I do make a couple of passes by the Sesser Opera House, but even that place shows no signs of The Big O.

I head back home, just after sunset, and as a deer darts in front of me and then scampers, harmlessly, into the almost-darkness, it occurs to me how many drives across the lake I have not made this summer — at least compared to the last summer or two. And I also realize, as it’s just past 8 but almost dark, already, that I’ve somewhat missed out on the extended daylight hours of summer. I’ve pretty much not seen any sunsets and moonrises, for reasons I cannot explain except to say I haven’t really been looking for them.

I don’t feel particularly sad about any of this, but perhaps I’m a little wistful. In the same way that, occasionally, I wish I could be 8 or 9 again, riding my bike until it’s dark enough outside that cars (almost) can’t see me or playing pitch and catch in the yard with Debra until Mom yells, for the third time, that it’s time to get inside.

Thankfully, the crickets and other evening noises still sound the same.

This is the hummingbird I “adopted” over the weekend. (I’m not the one holding the birdie, but I did get to let it fly from my hand after I took this photo.)

My Birdie

I think this is a female ruby-throated hummingbird, based on what Master Permit Bander Vernon Kleen told us at the sixth annual Hummingbird Festival. (I have to admit, I was concentrating on taking pictures more than I was on listening to what Vern had to say.) Male ruby-throated hummingbirds have … well, ruby-colored throats — once they’ve matured, anyway. Females and young males do not have ruby-colored throats. Apparently, you can also tell their gender by their tail-feathers, and one way to determine a younger bird from a more mature bird is by whether their beaks have ridges.

Young hummingbirds have ridges or tiny notches on their beaks — basically, from having their beaks smooshed whilst the baby birds are still in the egg, according to photographer David Brewer! The ridges get worn down, however, as the birds dip their beaks into flowers and feeders and what-not; hence, older birds have smoother beaks.

Anyhoo, I dig hummingbirds. Can’t help it.

Hummingbird & Sunflowers 1

Hummingbird & Sunflowers 2

Hummingbird & Sunflowers 3

Hummingbird & Sunflower 4

And along the lines of SNL’s “Find the Pope in the Pizza Contest” from the 1970s: How about a “Find the Hummingbird in the Rose of Sharon Contest”?!

Humminbird & Pink Flowers

Horses 1

Horses 2

… but I do! Especially when they land long enough for me to shoot them — up close and personal, even.

Dragonfly 1

Dragonfly 2

Dragonfly 3

I swear this dragonfly looks like it’s smiling! And it reminds me a little of E.T., somehow.

Kids on the Beach 1

Kids on the Beach 2

Kids on the Beach 3

I decided to take a drive out to the lake Saturday evening. It had been a long day — good, but long … one that included a trip with Kameron, Kendra and The Lovely down to Grandma Margaret’s to feed the fishies and go to Toys R Us, followed by a stop at Little Caesar’s that was essentially to pick up a pizza but ended up being a pizza party (large pepperoni, garlic breadsticks, a 2-liter of Pepsi and 2 balloons — all for under $10).

Once the kids and their grandma were safely returned, I buzzed by the lake to shoot a couple of pictures of a gospel singer who was performing at the amphitheater. Part of the aptly named Sunset Series.

I ventured behind the stage and saw some kids playing along the shore.

For a few seconds, I wanted to return to a time when I was that young and that carefree.

Of course, the only reason I’d want to be that young again is because, in theory, I’d have more time. (I was never that carefree.)

One kid is throwing sand in the third picture. You can see it if you look closely.

Dragonfly

Once upon a time, I was kinda smart. Mostly book-smart, I guess, but more in a “love to read/hate to study”-kinda way. I mean, you might not know it to look at me, but I actually believed, for several years, that I was halfway intelligent, even.

The older I get, the less I cling to that belief. In fact, by the time this next decade of my life comes to an end (God willing), I fully expect to have regressed completely back to the state of being blissfully unaware of almost everything around me that I no doubt enjoyed when I was, like, a couple of months old.

My sister decided to come visit me last Saturday. I was excited about this because she hasn’t been down for a while, and we’ve gotten to the point that we basically see each other only during major holidays. Over the past few months, though, we’ve been spending lots of time utilizing our free long-distance minutes by calling each other, so that’s been very cool.

Anyhoo, I decided to get (some of) my spring cleaning done (yeah, I know: so soon?!) so the house would, at the very least, be presentable for Delra and her pal, Karen, who also was coming down — in part to see me, too, but also to visit one of her friends who has recently moved to the area. I also decided that I would grill steaks for Debra and me (Karen had lunch plans with her other friends).

Come Friday evening, I was in good shape. I’d gotten (most of) the cleaning done, and I’d also found some ribeyes to go with the pasta salad I’d made the night before. Everything was going exactly according to plan.

Once work was done and all my running around was finished for the night, I returned to mi casa and decided that I also needed to trim the branches that were hanging in my usual path to the kitchen door. I didn’t want Karen to scratch up her Highlander trying to park under the leaves, nor did I want my guests to get smacked in their faces while they were making their way toward my house.

I ventured into the back yard, armed not with a machete or anything like that, but with some utility scissors that I was pretty certain were adequate for the job. Ten minutes and 5 or 6 branches later, I was back inside the house, cranking the AC and settling in for the night.

Saturday morning went according to plan: I showered, dressed, ate breakfast and made a quick run across town and to Wally World, then returned home to watch the Wimbledon women’s championship match. Venus Williams was just finishing her victory over Marion Bartoli as Debra and Karen arrived. Karen soon left, then Debra and I headed over to The Lovely’s to have lunch — including the aforementioned steaks, which Debra proclaimed as “the best ever.” Afterwards, we hung out for a bit, drove around some, went and got ice cream, talked and laughed a lot. Later, Karen returned, and we took a drive out to a nearby lake.

Sometime during the afternoon, I noticed my left wrist was itching. And my left eyelid.

“I think I’ve got poison ivy again,” I told my sister, who had battled a pretty nasty case of it herself, way back when we were kids.

I tried to put it out of my mind, but by the time Debra and Karen left and evening rolled around, I was itching pretty good on both arms. I tried to tell myself that it could be some kind of allergic reaction to the strawberries I’d eaten earlier; after all, I did have a very slight bump on my lip immediately after eating that strawberry sundae Sandy at work bought for me for my birthday a few months ago.

When I woke up Sunday morning, my left eye was swollen almost shut and I had splotches on my arms, neck and thighs, as well as on my forehead and just above and below my lips. I started self-medicating with my beloved Benadryl and spent most of the day in a half-conscious state — I swear I even missed the end of the second set of Roger Federer’s triumph over Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon men’s championship match in all my grogginess!

Monday morning, I had gone from bad to horrible. Now both eyes were swollen, and the thought of staring into my computer at work was more than I could bear. I knew I had to get to the doctor, too, so I called in sick at work, popped a couple of Benadryl tablets, passed out for an hour or two and then called the doctor’s office. Nurse Renee called me back, asked where all I had the rash, then told me they could squeeze me in at 1:45.

On my way to the car that afternoon, I took a closer look at some of the branches I had trimmed. Seems they weren’t exactly tree branches — Oh, no! They were mostly thick brown vines entwined in this big tree (an elm, perhaps?), hanging down, all of them with clusters of three leaves.

I. Am SUCH. An IDIOT!

See, I know right where the big patch of poison ivy is in my back yard, so I go to great lengths to avoid it, always. However, did it ever occur to me that the vile weed or vine or whatever the heck it is might be growing next to and all throughout a tree? Again: Oh, no!

The moral(s) of this story:

1. As I mentioned before: I’m not as smart as I look.

2. It’s a good idea to look UP once in a while … if for no other reason than to pay a speck of attention to your surroundings. (I will never make it as an outdoorsperson; it’s probably a blessing I quit Brownies after a few short weeks and never attempted the whole Girl Scouts thing.)

3. When you think about doing something nice for someone else — for example, trimming branches: Resist that urge.

So, now I’m on my fourth day of Prednisone. Which, I have to say, has pretty much kicked the poison ivy’s ass. Apparently, Prednisone is a steroid — not the kind of steroid that will grow hair on my chest or make my voice lower or get me kicked off the tennis team, but one that suppresses the immune system. Which sounds like a bad thing, in most cases, but when your skin is being ravaged by poison ivy and you are driving yourself crazy because nothing will sooth the itch, it’s like almost instant relief.

My doctor put me on a nine-day, 6-6-4-4-2-2-2-1-1-1 course of medicine. The good news is the rash has mostly dried up and the itching is almost gone; the bad news is, according to Dr. Latta, any time I get poison ivy from now on, my reaction to it will be even worse. (Something about antibodies and T-cells and stuff that would probably make sense if I were as smart as I used to be — which, clearly, I am not.)

He also told me that Roundup makes an herbicide specifically made for getting rid of poison ivy in the ground and on trees, and he encouraged me to get some. Pronto.

And I will, of course. Knowing me, though, I’ll probably manage to set the back yard on fire or something.

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