Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: Wildlife Close to Home

I have been extremely fortunate to live in places where wildlife habitat was nearby and protected. For four years, I lived on land trust property, 56 acres of preserved land. Now I live on property that is on a forested mountain ridge; a creek runs down the valley. Black bears, mountain lions, wild turkeys, elk, deer, bobcats, skunks, raccoons, opossums, moles, rabbits, owls, bald eagles, and various other rodents and birds as well as a host of others make their homes here. I rarely catch them on camera, though, as the more exotic ones prefer to stay hidden and the common ones don’t compel me to run and get my camera. I admire wildlife photographers who have the patience to set up and wait for an encounter. I also imagine a zoom lens would make it more rewarding to try to photograph wildlife when I venture out.

That said, here’s a gallery of wildlife found living close to my homes in Wisconsin and Oregon:

Thanks to Anne Sandler for hosting this week’s challenge.

Mensch sighting!

In my post a few days ago, (Oh!  The Humanity!) I sent out a plea for examples of admirable human beings as an antidote to the kind of internet sensations who fail to inspire and instead make me nauseated.   You know what I’m talking about, right?  The rampant  dumbing-down of our species, “urgent” stories of greed and fear and violence and stupidity and pettiness and the like are probably a dangerous toxin to our culture.  Where are the role models who will help us do better and why aren’t we using our advanced media to promote them more often?  For every “Who Wore It Better?”, we could be viewing 5 “Who Lived It Better?” stories.  Why not?

I have enjoyed a morning at work in the kitchen and with the book business while listening to the music of my Mensch of the Day.  This is an artist who has inspired me since my pre-adolescent days, and I’ve only just discovered this live recording from 2 years before his death.  He is the recipient of the 1993 Albert Schweitzer Music Award and the only non-classical musician to be so distinguished.  His humanitarian efforts supported the National Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Earth, The Cousteau Society, and the Windstar Foundation.  The CD I have was a concert for The Wildlife Conservation Society’s 100th anniversary.  Ladies and gentleman…….John Denver: a singer and songwriter whose lyrics ring with authenticity and passion, whose music spans genres from country to pop to blues to rock, and whose commitment to peace and preservation permeated his career.  As a cultural ambassador for the U. S., he visited China, Viet Nam and the Soviet Union and recorded a duet with a Soviet artist, becoming the first American to do so.  In my mind, he follows in the footsteps of another hero of mine, Pete Seeger, who, at 93, is still active in the same kind of musical ambassadorship that promotes cultural tolerance and environmental responsibility.  I did have the privilege of hearing him give a concert for children when I was in my single digits. 

Who will carry the torch when he passes away?

To read more about the Schweitzer Award, see http://www.anchor-international.org/07.html.  For more about John Denver’s career, see http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper349.html.  For a good listen, go to “You Say the Battle Is Over”.


A Day is a Miracle

Because today was our day off from working at Old World Wisconsin, Steve & I decided to take a walk at Vernon State Wildlife Refuge.  This marshy wetland is a favorite place to visit in all the seasons to see the changes in flora and fauna.  I think the last time I posted pictures, it was November.  Today, it was sunny, 78 degrees and very breezy.   The Canada geese had goslings following them everywhere.  The Sandhill cranes were nesting.  We saw a group of 3 flying in formation.  Why three?  No idea.  We saw lots of red-winged blackbirds pairing up, swallows, American gold finches, a snowy egret and two new ones to me that I had to look up: the yellow-headed blackbird and the rose-breasted grosbeak.

Sitting on the bank of the river looking at the puffy cumulus clouds streaming sunlight through their crisp edges brought me to tears.  It seems to me that the world is an absolute miracle, every day, every moment, but usually, the miracle that strikes us is that we finally slowed down long enough to see it.  I wonder about how to arrange my life to put more of this experience in.  Perhaps the trick is simply to arrange it so that I’m not shutting most of it out. 


Enjoy the miracle of life!

Make Way for Duck Hunters

I’m new around here.  To Wisconsin, that is.  People here shoot animals at state nature areas.  And the DNR is okay with this.  They post helpful signs that indicate which recreational activities are allowed and that includes the hiker dude whom I recognize, and a hunter dude whom I don’t.  Well, I recognize him now.  I’ve been seeing more of him lately.  He’s up there next to the binoculars.  I can’t figure out how all these things coexist, though.  If you’re in a wildlife refuge area to view wildlife and hike around, and other people are there to shoot at the wildlife, what’s the etiquette for getting along?

Steve and I walked in the Vernon State Wildlife Area on Wednesday.  This was our fourth visit.  We’ve seen so many different kinds of animals there: birds and frogs and turtles and fish and muskrats.  I wanted to see how the place was changing with the season.  We walked down the gravel trail alongside the railroad tracks and heard 3 shots.  When we got to the other parking lot, we saw 4 pickup trucks with gun racks.  One of them had a sticker that said, “P.E.T.A. – People Eating Tasty Animals”.  Gun deer season was just over, I thought.  We walked out on the dike and saw decoy ducks on the water in several different places.  As we got nearer, people in camouflage gear appeared in the cattails.  I had my binoculars and my camera.  They had guns and a dog.  Steve and I were talking in low voices, wondering to each other, actually, what the protocol was for this seeming conflict of interests.  Were the hunters harboring ill will for us, thinking that we were maybe scaring away the ducks and geese?  Were we harboring ill will for them, thinking that they are killing the wildlife we’ve come to enjoy?  Were the water birds harboring ill will for all of us, wishing we’d just let them be?  We nodded greetings.  At one point, some birds flew over in formation while the hunters tooted away on their duck call devices, but apparently, they were too high up to shoot.  If they were any lower, would they have shot anyway, while we were standing there on the path??  I just don’t know how this is suppose to work.  Are we supposed to stay away during hunting season?  It’s not posted that hikers can only be there on certain dates.   We heard shots as we walked back to our car.

I’m still puzzled about this.  I have heard a few more stories from folks I’ve met about deer hunting.  People have great family memories about hunting traditions.  I imagine my favorite postal employee out there in the field, waiting 8 hours to spot a deer, and I suppose it’s kind of like fishing.  You get to sit quietly in nature and forget about business at the post office.  No one bugs you for hours at a time.  And if you see a deer, you aim and shoot.  If you hit it, you get to be all physical and field dress it and carry it away.  Sounds like a complete departure from stamping packages all day long.  I appreciate that.

As if Andy Goldsworthy had been here

There’s a particular stark beauty in the late fall landscape.  Trees are skeletal.  Light is low and angled.  Ice forms in geometric patterns.  It’s rather post-modern feeling.  It makes me moody.  So does the hunting scene.  In a way, it fits, though.  I guess I’m coming to a kind of ambiguous acceptance of it.  Survival, mortality, an uneasy coexistence with everything.  In the summer, this same drama is played out, except it’s covered in fecundity and green light.

Still, the universe is a complicated tapestry, as Steve said last night – a magic carpet stretching in all directions forever.  I look for a perch from which to see as much of it as I can.