Today was a nearly perfect mid-September day to be outdoors; I had to spend the day in the office. During my drive, however, I stopped briefly to take in the brilliant sunrise over Baldwin Lake in Berea, Ohio. Baldwin Lake is really a wide section of the East Branch Rocky River. A little farther downstream the waterway narrows and flows over a stony dam near the center of town. This morning, in the open shadows, the waters actually looked more like ice as they flowed over flat rock near the edge. Streams falling and splashing on rocks below were reminiscent, perhaps of icicles. But we’re getting ahead here… it will be winter soon enough. My respite was all-too-brief; I forced myself to look away from the sun, the blue sky, the dark and reflecting waters. I packed up my camera and headed out for my day indoors: it was a great day to be outdoors; I was in my office.
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It was Labor Day today! We slept in this morning, got ourselves together at a leisurely pace, and decided to pay a visit to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio) through the Ira Road Trailhead. The access point is very near the heron rookery we visited several times this spring. Some of the offspring of this year’s matings have taken up residence — temporarily, at least — in the large wetland area just north of Ira. The young birds are not very experienced and are not very shy around humans so it is easy for noisy park visitors to get a good look at them. The big, though immature, birds also go about their business within easy reach of any photographer’s lenses. We shot scores of images, watching the herons as they perched on logs, preened, panted (it was a very hot and humid day), hunted, and flew; it was as if they were posing for a big photo shoot and not unlike Sunday’s cooperative dragonflies! Once we got our fill of heron studies for the day, we strolled along the expansive boardwalk. There were turtles, fish, dragonflies, and flowers to shoot along the way. Sweaty and ready for lunch, we finally headed out and after a fine sandwich at Bruegger’s Bagels, Hudson, Ohio, decided to take a stroll around Peninsula, Ohio.
The (now) tourist town was full of Labor Day visitors and is a hub for walking and, especially, bicycling on the CVNP’s Towpath Trail. There is also an excursion railway run by the Park Service that passes directly through town. We hiked up the rail line a way, chasing an image I had in mind (it looked better inside my head), then headed back toward town and the rail depot. Looking back over my shoulder, I noticed what appeared to be thick fog covering the rails behind us. But that didn’t make sense. Looking back again I could see that it wasn’t fog coming our way… it was rain; heavy rain! Luckily we only needed to pick up our pace a bit to reach shelter under the covered open-air waiting area for train passengers. Under shelter, we watched as the drenching rain arrived. It had been so hot and humid that most folks caught in the rain did not seem to be in a hurry to get out of it.
Those under shelter sat back and enjoyed the cooled air and watched as hikers and cyclists passed by. Not a bad way to spend a time on a hot afternoon. When we arrived home I began editing my photos from the day. Several of what you see here I also shared on Google+ as part of a special Labor Day event staged by the Canon User’s Circle — folks from around the globe all submitting photos on this day made using Canon gear — a very cool project! That, in a nutshell, was our Labor Day; one of the best I have enjoyed. The happy feeling might even make it through tomorrow when we go back to work!
I had trouble getting motivated and inspired to do anything today, picking up the camera and heading out into the cloudy, cool, and gray day was just the right thing. As I looked around and discovered quiet beauty and interest in so many places, I became energized. Ironically, it took what many would have considered a gloomy atmosphere to lift my feelings. Sometimes a cloudy day is just the right thing.
Sometimes I spy something special during my long commute to work. A morning fog was veiling the West Branch of the Columbia River so, after crossing the bridge, I swung my car into a pull-off. As I headed on foot back to the bridge to try and capture the image I’d seen in my mind’s eye, I noticed something else. Just off the path was the remnant of a fallen tree, well on its way to returning to the soil that once nourished it. The deep colors of the rotting wood were marvelous and, as it turned out, my river pictures were not.
Today was a day off due to the Memorial Day holiday observance. Our little town had a solemn ceremony at a local cemetery that is home to a war memorial. We spent the morning revisiting the Bath Road heron rookery and neighboring Ira Road/Beaver Marsh nature areas in and near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). The rookery continued to be noisy with the chatter of the many birds occupying nests high in the trees. Once in a while a bird would leave seeking food or arrive bearing it for the burgeoning young. It’s hard to spot the birds amongst the trees but those nests that are visible harbor several large birds these days. I did manage to capture one bird feeding another — a tangle of necks and feathers — though that was even harder to see! Human families, too, dropped by to see how their avian counterparts were doing. I think in many cases the parents were more interested than their children in what the birds were up to but I was heartened to see so many people out appreciating the show.
The Towpath Trail, key to much of the popularity of the park, was seemingly busy as a freeway with families out riding their bicycles. Though a cyclist myself, I nearly forgot where I was and almost stepped into the path of an oncoming cyclist! Among the many visitors to these particular areas, however, were many birdwatchers. A small group of them, along with us, was surprised when a young Great Blue Heron alighted on a tree branch only about 20 feet overhead. After a quick preening, the bird glided down and landed in the shallow waters of the Ohio & Erie Canal, just south of the Ira Road Trailhead. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I quickly and quietly hiked down the trail to see what we might see. We were treated to close-up views of an apparent juvenile bird as it slowly waded in the shadows, seeking a meal. Though we were close, the heron seemed either not to care or was unaware of our presence as we took turns shooting photos from the bank of the canal. Plants and twigs blocked much of our view so when we felt we got as good photos as we could, we left the heron to its work and headed north on the trail.
We enjoyed the short walk along the canal and up to Beaver Marsh where nature-lovers were watching Tree Swallows, Wood Ducks (and ducklings), turtles, and fish. Nature watchers happily pointed out their discoveries to each other helping us, by the way, to see a Baltimore Oriole and her nest. The day was hot and humid so we sought shade and lunch around midday. It was, however, a fine day out once again and way too soon to be thinking about work!
Along about 9:30 last night, I began to notice Tasha acting strangely. Our cat was fidgety, meowing and yowling, then trying to pee on the floor. There were tiny spots of blood. Then I watched her repeatedly straining to urinate in her litter box with little to show for the trouble. Oh, yeah, I recognized those signs: cystitis – a urinary tract infection! Severe cases can be life-threatening and become so very quickly. Less severe and the kitty is really miserable and loudly lets you know. Either way, it could be a very bad night ahead for all involved. So, after watching her for a while and talking it over, we bundled her up in her special cat-carrying cloth bag and made the run to the Akron Veterinary Emergency Center. After examinations and tests, my layperson’s diagnosis was confirmed. We headed back through the rainy night, cat and antibiotic prescription in hand, arriving home in the wee hours. Tasha obviously felt better already, eating and drinking at her feeding station. This morning two bleary-eyed humans dragged themselves to work while the cat slept soundly in her own bed. It was a late night, but she’s all right.
A couple of days can make a tough week! On Wednesday I showed up at the office in the afternoon, expecting to stay an hour or three late to complete a system migration and movement of a large shared file on our staff’s server. I drove home at 4:00 AM Thursday, got maybe 45 minutes of rest after being awake for about 23 hours, then headed back into the office for about another eight hours on the job. While I don’t much like working all night, I was pretty pleased our users saw no interruption in services. Such is the lot of the “IT guy” — if you do your job right and everything works well, you labor in anonymity; if you blow it, everybody knows your name! So I guess I’m strangely pleased nobody knows I did anything. I got a solid six hours of sleep last night and went in today for an easy four hours this morning. As I headed out, I was treated to a glorious sunrise and, though in a hurry to get to work and make a final adjustment to the systems, I felt the need to stop, look, and picture. Welcome to the weekend!
Sometimes the morning commute isn’t so bad!
I hadn’t paid a visit to one of my favorite places in a long time so this morning, on the way to work, I stopped by David Fortier River Park in Olmsted Falls. It was quiet and dark under the clear, early-morning sky. I carried my little Canon G11 camera towards the rock-lined stream and river that converge in the valley park and gingerly stepped out upon the rocks. I photographed ancient, water-sculpted rock walls and flowing streams. I took images of the rich green colors and leafy trees, light and dark reflected in the water that led to the park’s stone bridge. It was beautiful and relaxing just being there for 10 minutes. Realizing it was time to resume my trip, I carefully stepped across the damp, slippery rocks, looking down to avoid water and a sure tumble into the shallow stream. Then, either at a glance or in the still-live LCD panel of the camera, a sight caught my eye: all of the elements I sought combined, in painterly fashion, in one image. I took one shot, made my way (still dry) to my car and headed off. Only tonight looking at the photographs did I see that, for all of those carefully-composed photographs, my favorite and the best of the morning was that “accidental” vision. Beautiful serendipity.
It continues to be a stressful and tiring time. Our mothers are facing health issues. Our cat, Tasha, has reached a health crisis of her own — hyperthyroidism. There’s too much to do, and too little rest. Still, it’s possible to find a respite in nature. Wednesday morning, before heading off to work, I took a brief, solo photo hike along a portion of Chippewa Creek. Calm now after the spring’s torrents of rain, the stream flows gently over age-smoothed stone in a gorge carved deep into bedrock. The stream is canopied by the branches and leaves of old trees. Mosses and ferns grow in tiny trays of moist soil formed in the rockface. Despite the location, near a busy street and business center of town, the scene is calm and soothing to the soul. Just what I needed.