Simplification – A Goal

Header Image: Great Blue Heron

We married young. Too young, “they” said. With our 20-20 hindsight, Gini and I have determined we married at the exact time the universe had scheduled the event. Our life continues to be infinitely rewarding.

In those early days, we had little “spare” money. (Times haven’t changed much!) What we had an abundance of was curiosity – about everything. The military life had its challenges, but a nice side benefit was the new places it flung us every few years. Different cultures, languages, foods, environments – we were like sponges and soaked up all we could absorb.

Time marched on and we were blessed with the two best children which have ever been born. The money poured in. And leaked right back out again. Thanks to Gini’s frugality and detailed planning, we socked away a few coins. Eventually, we reached a point where we thought we could afford a “luxury” now and then. A better Tee-Vee set, a stereophonic system, nicer toys (for those children, you know).

Camping equipment was a “necessity”, we convinced ourselves. Exploring nature required binoculars (for those children, you know). The military camera club had a sale too good to pass up and, after all, seeing all that stuff is one thing, but to have it recorded for posterity (for those children, you know), well, another “necessity” was checked off the list.

Sigh. Those children. Long ago, it seems, they fledged, as they were bound to, and forlorn parents simply had to do something to maintain our balance in life. Upgrades! That’s the ticket! The digital world beckoned and the siren song of sending those children‘s children instant gratification of their grandparents’ exploits could not be denied.

Meanwhile, in the real world of our present reality, we have a lot of stuff which has not only accumulated over many years, but, I swear this is true, it has found a way to multiply when we aren’t looking. How else can one explain all the camera bodies, lenses, tripods, packs, batteries, memory cards, ad infinitum, spread out over the living room floor??

Our typical birding day-trip includes renting a small moving van to haul the requisite equipment one must have available to adequately capture the essence of an avian subject resting upon a twig. After all, THIS might be the one which will motivate National Geographic or Sir David Attenborough his own self to contact us concerning our upcoming fame and fortune!

Last Tuesday, in an outright display of unacceptably irresponsible and reckless behavior, I left the house with only one camera, one lens and one pair of binoculars. I know. I should have been reported.

A strange thing occurred. During the next hour-and-a-half at the local park, I observed nature. Right here within the city limits. Standing on the shore of the lake, I actually saw the sunrise. I don’t mean I looked eastward and there was the sun at 0710 as scheduled. I mean – I watched as the horizon turned pink, then orange and the bright arc of our sun moved slowly upward and became the fiery ball which keeps us all alive. Water droplets gathered on the flat lily pads. Fish broke the water’s surface as they fed on floating insects. Calls of birds filled the air.

It was – exhilarating.

There was no urgency to record anything. Being there was enough.

(Habits are difficult things to ignore. Images were made.)

Water on the lilies resembled shards of broken glass.

The white face and bright eyes of a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) greeted the rising sun of a new day.

This is a city park where well-meaning people indulge in feeding the birds. The resident population of Purple Gallinules has learned to head straight for humans when spotted knowing they will likely be rewarded with a soggy bit of hot dog bun or handful of potato chips. Yum.

The tops of trees throughout the park are now filled with resident and migratory birds in their non-stop quest to consume fuel for their journey further south. This Blue-gray Gnatcatcher seemed to inspect every single branch.

Park personnel thoughtfully placed a bench at the lake’s edge for weary White Ibises to rest.

Northern Flickers tend to feed in an “un-woodpecker-like” manner by hopping along the ground, where they often target ants. In the eastern United States, the Yellow-shafted form of this handsome woodpecker is prevalent while in the west there is a Red-shafted form. Once upon a time, they were considered separate species. But then – science happened.

Bright early morning sunshine highlights the latest trend in hair style for modern Red-bellied Woodpeckers. This may be a result of late molting, “bed-head”, no coffee yet or simply a reaction to seeing me standing under its perch.

Thick, hooked bill and yellow “spectacles” help identify the Yellow-throated Vireo. This beauty breeds in our area but its numbers increase as fall migration progresses.

The large Brown Thrasher with its golden eyes is an accomplished singer with a vast repertoire exceeded only by his cousin the Northern Mockingbird.

More often lately, we tend to eschew the moving van of paraphernalia and instead grab the bins and camera and head for somewhere local. We are exceedingly fortunate to have superb birding venues mere minutes away. The storehouse of equipment will still come in handy. Just not on every trip.

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

25 Comments on “Simplification – A Goal

  1. Wally, You don’t ever tell us of those weird and wonderful places you visited in your” job”. Perhaps you worked for the CIA and so barred forever from divulging information? Similarly, I latterly worked for HMG and so am bound by The Official Secrets Act and not at liberty to tell anyone my age or whereabouts at any given moment.

    Have you been peeking in our understeers cupboard? There you would find a similar pile of outdated and/or obsolete bins, tripods, cameras and other “vital” stuff. Just the other day I took a laptop to our local second hand shop and the guy gave me £10, a sum that was pretty quickly claimed by you know who to spend on Xmas presents for those other unmentionables – THE KIDS.

    Must admit, when I go birding I always take three cameras, one short lens, one zoom and my little Sony for landscapes, in of those large backpacks just in case Sue decides to raise more money for the Xmas gifts.

    Looks like the park was devoid of people wanting to sit down, either that or the ibis have priority in FL. Yes, I remember those flicker woodpeckers that rarely peck trees and would always be found pecking ants, just like our Green Woodpecker.

    Stay cool and look after those pennies. And Gini.

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    • If I told you about that “job” in faraway places, I’d have to – well, you know. And the world would be saddened at the loss of such a prestigious birder/ringer/all-’round nice fellow. Now, we wouldn’t want that. Would we?

      I strongly suspect the better alternative to repairing the optic and electronic leftovers would be to sell them to a scrap dealer for melting down and made into decorative light fixtures. Besides, I don’t even know if I could find 35mm film, but I’m reasonable certain I would not be able to afford it.

      The Ibises discovered if they leave some sort of special coating on those benches most humans are reluctant to make use of them.

      Long, long ago I learned that taking care of Gini was vastly more profitable than taking care of pennies. Besides, she can count beyond ten, a feat with which I still struggle.

      Sun is up! Cool outside! Let’s go birding!

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  2. Your post was a very welcome break – I smiled all the way through. I agree with your other commenters: I’m very glad you took that minimalist hardware with you, so you could share the experience.

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  3. We both have major stashes! Miriam is the fabric champion of the Northern Hemisphere, and I will soon be able to rival the National Library with books. However, we have not given even a moment’s thought to what might happen to it all. It used to be that when we went on our walks we both took a camera. Now it is rare that I take one, and we make a concerted attempt to cut down on the pictures we take. Neither of us are really fond of the downloading and editing that is required afterwards. If ever I were to stop blogging, I am quite sure that we would virtually cease to take pictures. As for your images on this post, they are as always, smashing.

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    • Gini’s favorite quote lately has been: “With age comes wisdom.” I can’t argue with her but now I need to know when the “now I will throw this stuff away” stage begins!

      We certainly enjoyed your recent exploits and the narrative and images were sublime!

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  4. I sometimes experience equipment envy, since my inventory is only my Canon Rebel and three lenses. There’s no tripod, no 500mm lens, no fancy gizwhitches or geegaws. Heck, I don’t even own a pair of binoculars. But I have eyes, and curiosity, and they’re pretty easy to tote around! Besides, when I come across the photographers pulling wagons filled with equipment down a trail, I think: “…???…!!!…”

    Your comment about what you saw on your minimalist morning reminded me of this, from Annie Dillard:

    “there is [a] kind of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied. The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut.”

    And now, for a swerve into practicality. Do you have any advice for cleaning poison ivy/oak oils off a camera and lenses?

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    • Yes, equipment envy is a perpetual problem with us humans. And as I get older, there are conflicts of what to get rid of, what to keep – ooohh, look at THAT (newest technology thingie)!

      Love the Annie Dillard quote. Quite apt.

      If the soiled lens area isn’t too large, I might try any approved optics cleaner. Apply some to the affected area and let it sit for quite awhile then use very gentle circular wipes with a lens tissue. Same should work for the camera body. If the spot on the lens doesn’t feel like it is removing easily, I’d stop and take it to a professional. Good luck!

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  5. Wally If you never took another photo, I would read your posts. Your humour is frighteningly immensely funny to me. They say laughter is good for you and your quips etc have certainly made me laugh out loud. Now as to hoarding!! Well I did horde however a few years ago another blogger suggested if we were hoarders, perhaps we should read a little book to help us de clutter. I live on my own adn my 2 girls do not live in N.Ireland so when I pop my socks basically they will not want much at all (they tell me) so I thought it would be very unfair of me to leave all this “stuff” for them to sort adn probably get rid of. So I read the book and slowly over time de cluttered and I have to tell you I have missed NOTHING. As far as equipment for birding goes I also decided to ditch long heavy lens as heavy bins round my neck as I knew eventually that was going to cause some health issues if I continued so I bit the bullet and bought a bridge camera (I hear you crying – NO No NO) but yes I did and have never regretted it. No matter what equipment you have , it will never always get the shot you want and for me knowing that makes me very content with what I have. Being out in nature in the good fresh air and enjoying and in good company is the most important thing to me nowadays. Now as always you photos are excellent. The first shot is very artistic and the header is superb Wally. I love the sun on the Woodpecker hair and your writing about that. I think I better stop other wise this is going to turn into a novel!!!! Please send my regards to your better half, Gini and hope you both have a wonderful birding week ahead.

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    • Well, Margaret, now I have to walk around all day pretending I can write! Thank you for the very kind words.

      You hit on the most important thing which summarizes our attitude. Being out in nature, fresh air, good company. What else matters more?

      Gini sends her best and so do I!

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  6. Hello,

    Beautiful bird photos and lovely nature scenes. The Purple Gallinule is a favorite. Hubby and I are lucky to grab our binocs and my Canon SX60 for my photos. I can’t imagine having to pack more for an outing. Have a great day and a happy new week!

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  7. Enjoyed your post, Wally, as we know, after the children fledged, it is all about spending their inheritance with more camera equipment! I’m working on that now myself. 😉 Fabulous captures as always, fun post to read, with an additional giggle with the White Ibis on the bench. I love unique shots, you nailed one there!

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  8. Wally, I’m glad that you took at least one camera and lens with you so you could share your outing with us. I think it was the right camera and lens too, judging by your all your wonderful photos. And I agree with Richard that your header image is again sensational.

    Take care and don’t get rid of too much stuff. Sometimes we do and then have to go get it again!!!

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  9. Enjoyed your post and photos! After 4 years of medical practice at age 31 with 3 kids I was drafted and commissioned in the US Public Health Service for an unexpected career. Since the government paid for our moves, we also accumulated a van-load of stuff in boxes which sometimes went unopened for years. Old items included generations of optics, including a cheap pair of binos granted when we bought our first Datsun. Now we are in the de-cluttering stage.

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    • Thanks, Ken.

      We would return from a few years overseas, have the stuff we put in storage delivered and it was like Christmas opening all those boxes of things we had forgotten about!

      We hope you are doing well and it is very, very good to see your comments today.

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  10. Another sensational header image there, Wally! That water on the lily pads shot brings out the true artist in you too.

    I too have taken to travelling light when out birding or dragon hunting these days – it’s a weight thing in my case (the kit, not me!). I’m also wondering what to do with life’s accumulation of STUFF. Started a life-laundry process about four years ago and am still working on it – just put about 50 DVDs and 20 CDs to one side for disposal today as I know they’d never see the light of day again if left where they were.

    I suspect that if those White Ibis ever relinquished their posession of that bench, humankind would not be over-hasty in reclaiming it.

    Loved your image and comment on the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

    Best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

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    • Thank you very much, Richard.

      It appears “accumulation” may be a universal human malady!

      We’re doing great and wish you and Lindsay all the best!

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  11. Smiling. Rather a lot of things multiply here too. I am sure that the books in particular breed (and prolifically).
    Thank you as always for sharing the wonders and delights of your day.

    Like

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