Categories
Critters outdoors Photography

In praise of lurking

Yesterday, when out walking I came upon a group of deer, including a young male who was using fallen trees to break off parts of his antlers. Luckily, this time I had a camera and could get pictures–including the male who alternated aggressive behavior toward the does, with insecure wariness of me.

deer6

The males with their antlers and full, proud stances may make for better photos, but I hold the quiet, shy does in my heart. Their soft, sweet eyes and careful curiosity has accompanied me on many a trek through Powder Valley. Sometimes when I walk at dusk, I can feel them all around me, hidden in the shadows. Yesterday, though, for whatever reason, when I stopped and held very still, they entered and crossed the road around me–appearing back-lit by the setting sun, in a display of beauty and grace.

deer5

I have found if you wear sunglasses, deer will approach you more closely than if wearing clear lenses or no glasses at all. I think it’s because they can’t see your eyes, and they translate this into not seeing them. I have had deer, wild deer, approach within feet of me when wearing sunglasses.

My favorite interaction, though, is when the deer will remain in the bushes and when you look at them, they’ll hide their faces quickly behind a tree. They think they’re hiding from you because they can’t see you, but their entire bodies are out in the open: torso, legs, and especially, white tail. If you wait just a minute, they’ll peek back and when they see you still looking at them, back their head disappears behind the tree again.

It is humorous and endearing, but also a little sad.

deer3

I can empathize with the deer; to be in the woods and thickets and looking out, knowing, or think we know that we’re not seen.

My desk at home is in front of a set of screened, double windows on a second floor on a hill overlooking a large section of our housing complex. Sometimes during the day after I’ve had my shower, I’ll sit in my chair at my computer, naked, water falling from my wet hair, slipping down my back and across my breasts.

I’ll watch cars drive by, the mailman on his rounds, and people walking their dogs or going to the laundry room, and know they can’t see me sitting here, in my chair, in the shadows.

Of course, at night or very early morning, before the sun has risen, I can be sitting in front of my window with the lights on and be just as back-lit as the deer yesterday. When I start to get undressed for bed, I look over my shoulder just to make sure both windows are tightly covered. Even when I see they are, I undress and slip into bed quickly–not quite trusting the shadows I cast against the blinds. The only time I’ll open them at night is during a thunderstorm, when I can open the curtain and lay in bed, watching the light flashing against the rain blurred window.

deer2

Writing is a little like being the deer hiding in the woods, or sitting naked in front a window on the second floor of a house on a hill. We may think we’re in control, and that we’re exposing just as much or as little as we choose. However, sometimes curtains open a crack, or the light falls just right and our shadows give us away.

There is something to be said for taking time to lurk–to pull back deeply into the dark and watch, rather than be watched. To be still, and just listen. To appreciate others dance in the sun.

deer4

Categories
Writing

The Eagles have landed

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Today I finally found the eagles. I am both exhausted and exhilarated. I have photos, which I have to go through to see how many survived both the sunlight, speed, camera shake, and distance. When the five or so out of 300 have been found, I’ll post them and their story online.

In the meantime, O’Reilly has been trying out different publication business models, including a new type of book experience called Rough Cuts and publishing smaller works, online, for less money.

Rough Cuts are pre-production releases of books focused on new, and hot, technology while the book is currently going through final revision and production processing. You pay less money, download PDFs and also, hopefully, provide feedback for the final book. With this, O’Reilly hopes to get books on hot tech into the hands of the readers that much more quickly.

One of the books is Ajax Hacks, which I helped tech edit this last December. Lots of helpful tips and tricks when working with Ajax in this book. It’s this book that inspired me to dive, happily, into Ruby on Rails.

As for the short publications, yours truly wrote one of the first for O’Reilly, on none other than syndication feeds. Per Derrick Story at O’Reilly:

O’Reilly recently commissioned Shelley Powers, a specialist in technology architecture and software development, to create a comprehensive PDF document that would help webmasters manage their incoming and outgoing feeds. Shelley produced nothing short of a must-have reference for online publishers, titled “What Are Syndication Feeds.”

This eDoc, as O’Reilly has termed it, is focused primarily at those newly exposed to syndication feeds and needing to understand what they are, and how to use them. It’s not focused at developers; it is focused at end users, regardless of degree of technical experience. It also doesn’t cover any of the history or the politics, as folks newly introduced to syndication feeds don’t need to know about either of these. RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, and Atom are all featured.

I also noticed that O’Reilly used a bird for the colophon on the eDoc. Rather timely considering my recent successful quest for eagles.

Categories
Critters Photography Places

Wintering

Recovered from Wayback Machine.

Time was slipping by to catch the wintering eagles. I haven’t spotted a one on any trip, and the season will be ending in a few weeks. Today, then, I headed to the Lock & Dam 24 in Clarksville at sunrise–supposedly one of the most popular eagle fishing areas.

Clarksville is a very charming little town located directly on the Mississippi. It’s celebrating its Eagle Days this weekend, but today I was the only person looking for the birds in the viewing stand built above the locks. It was a beautiful day: sunny and clear skies and the Mississippi looked deep sapphire blue located just above the confluence of both the Ohio and Missouri. But cold! The winds were so cold and dry, and my eyes teared up so much, when I got back into the car, I had rings of salt around them–something that’s never happened before.

There were flocks of seagulls and other birds, but no eagles.

flock of pelicans, seagulls in river

I was disappointed, but the rest of the view was so nice that the trip was more than worthwhile. I love funky small town, and Clarksville is that. It’s not very big, but many of the buildings have all the gingerbread of their Victorian beginnings, and there’s plenty of places to explore.

photo of Clarksville steeple church

Still, I was after eagles, so I stopped by at the Lock & Dam 25 near Winfield, on the way home.

This Lock & Dam has a park near it, and a slough that parallels the Mississippi river, but the actual locks themselves are behind barbed wire and fairly stringent security.

Locks

I couldn’t see any eagles at first, though I did see white pelicans, the ubiquitous seagulls, and other birds. Finally, after walking around about an hour, off in the distance, I saw one eagle. One, and too far to photograph.

And cold! It was so bloody cold! As nice as it was to be by the river, I was becoming numb. I was getting ready to leave when I noticed a man standing by the bridge over the slough, camera pointed to the trees near my car. I hadn’t even noticed–the eagles were in the trees.

Bald eagle in tree

There were six adults and one juvenile. They would take off every once in while, circle about and fish, though I didn’t manage a photo of any of the birds catching a fish. Actually, I didn’t have a chance to get any really great photos of the eagles. I’m not used to bird photography, and my inexpensive 400mm doesn’t take the best of photos. Add this to the bright light of midday and fast moving birds, and an elegant blur is the most one can hope.

eagle in flight

I am inspired, though, to get better at bird photography, including buying a better 400mm lens someday–maybe even a 600mm (yeah, dream on).

I had a wonderful time taking pictures of the birds. Especially when one headed straight over me, with me frantically trying to adjust the exposure, focus, and take pictures. The following is my favorite of the eagles, even though it’s not that sharp. To me, it shows the essence of eagle. I call it, “I am the fish”.

bald eagle directly overhead

My three favorite photos from the day were not of eagles, though. I like the one I took of the VFW Hall in Clarksville. I am thinking of starting a collection of photos of VFW halls in the various places I visit, because each represents the community in some way. They are the true Americana of America. The day the VFW halls disappear is the day when our country will have lost much of its heritage.

VFW Hall

I also liked two photos I took of seagulls. One was at Clarksville, and features a boat full of fishermen in front of a flock of gulls taking off.

fishing boat in front of trees surrounded by seagulls

The second was at Winfield, and again showed a flock of gulls taking off–backed by a dark and tangled wood. If the eagle represents pride, nothing represents joy of flight more than seagulls.

gulls in flight