There was no time

The far end of the VOA lake. October 8, 2013

When I walk around the lake at the Voice of America Park with Arthur, as I often do, I get about to the opposite end of the lake before my thoughts inevitably turn to Mom or Dad or both. Something about walking, or driving in a car, does that to me.

I never anticipated how difficult and painful it would be to lose my parents.

It’s been nearly nine months since they died and the pain of loss, when it hits, nearly knocks me off my feet. I had hoped to be better by now. And I suppose I am better if you consider that a lot of the time, most of the time, I am fine with no apparent pain and no tears. But the tears do still come, and often with surprise. I’m learning a lot about grief and loss.

The permanency of it all is starting to sink in and may be the reason I’ve backslid some on my grieving.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do when I can’t talk to you anymore,” I told my mom leaning over her Hospice bed with tears streaming down my face. “I’ll have to find another way to talk to you.”

“Yes. You will,” she answered.

December and the beginning of January were a blur of activities. Hospitalizations, legal paperwork, nursing home visits. Camping out on the hard hospital lobby sofa. Speech therapists telling me Dad wasn’t swallowing well enough to take anything orally. Questions. What now? Small notebooks with phone numbers. Larger notebooks with pertinent information that expanded daily. A couple baskets of Dad’s meager possessions labelled with his name. Dad’s first visit to the nursing home dining room. My parents’ bedroom with piles of clothes on the floor from frantic searches and chaotic packing. A cloth patch I hand-sewed on an afghan to label with Mom’s name. Dad’s visit to see Mom at Hospice. Wheeling my overnight suitcase through an icy parking lot.

By the time there was time to talk, Mom was under heavy medication for pain and nausea. And there wasn’t time.

So I don’t know what she thought about everything that was happening.

“I don’t know how you girls are doing all of this,” she said in one lucid moment.

“I’m going to be in that group of people who beat this,” she said shortly after her bleak diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, her indomitable spirit rising again.

“Sometimes you’re better off just getting through things quickly,” she told me as I drove her home from a doctor’s visit when her blood pressure was uncontrollably high.

We got through it quickly.  But somehow I don’t feel better off.

I miss my mom.


The big birds were out today – Birds of prey at the VOA

We no sooner set foot on the path around the lake at the VOA when a big hawk swooped out of a tree, flew close to the ground, and then soared away.

I was juggling my camera trying to get a shot, but the settings were wrong from yesterday’s trip to an amusement park, and I wasn’t able to get anything worth showing.

Not to worry.

I quickly spotted another hawk in a tree,

who stood his ground at first,

but soon decided to put some distance between him and us.

I suspect he was intimidated by our killer dog Arthur.

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I believe this is a red-tailed hawk, primarily because it looks like the pictures on the Cornell Lab’s All About Birds Red-tailed hawk page. Also because the odds are in my favor because, according to  Cornell, the red-tailed hawk is probably the most common hawk in North America. Also the behavior was right as the red-tailed hawk soars above open fields, slowing turning in circles. They have broad, rounded wings.

But one of the women in the park thought it was a peregrine falcon and said that they are becoming common here now.

Which is one of the reasons why, although I still think the first bird is the hawk, I think this bird that flew across our path as we were leaving was a peregrine falcon. It’s color was darker than the hawk. It’s wings were not as rounded. And its tail was longer, and straighter.

This looks a lot like the silhouette of the peregrine falcon in my Peterson Field Guide, and the photos of the peregrine falcon from All About Birds.

We weren’t done yet.

As we were driving away, I spotted this bird in a tree outside the park.

I thought it was another red-tailed hawk. There were several hawks soaring in circles in the general vicinity of the park. But I suppose you could argue that it was the same one we saw earlier.

I was a little uncertain about the identification because when the bird ruffled his feathers, the tail looked more square and not as curved as the one we had seen before.

I wanted to show you this lightened version so you could see the dark band on the belly. I think this is a characteristic of the red-tailed hawk.

I hoped to capture this bird in flight, but he was fairly incorrigible and wouldn’t be scared away by my shouting, Mark moving the car closer, or beeping the horn. Mark eventually opened the car door and closed it and the hawk took off. Sadly, my photography skills fell short. Not much help here.

This bird-watching stuff is not as simple as it looks.

Art for All at the VOA— Jacob Maris’ The Quay: A Dutch Town

I was taking Arthur for a walk this morning at the VOA (Voice of America Park) when I was greeted by this painting installed at the beginning of our loop around the lake. I wasn’t completely surprised because Mark had told me that the Taft Museum of Art is putting on the Art for All program and has installed 80 reproductions of its paintings around the Cincinnati area to celebrate its 80th anniversary. I just didn’t realize one was right here at the VOA.

The Quay is the first painting I saw and posted, but it is number 51 out of 80 on the Art for All website.

The Quay: A Dutch Town, probably 1880s, by Jacob Maris (1837-1899), Dutch

The Quay: a Dutch Town was likely painted in the 1880s by Dutch artist Jacob Maris. Here is the information on posted by the Taft Museum about this particular piece of art:

“Much of the Netherlands is bordered by the sea, and most of the inland areas are situated below sea level. The famous Dutch windmills and canals served as pumps and drainage ditches to keep Holland above water. This busy seaside scene illustrates Holland’s dependence on the sea for trade and fishing. Views of land and water, industry and architecture, abound…at your Taft Museum of Art.”

The Art for All open-air gallery is a gift from the Taft to remind the public of Charles and Anna Taft’s donation of their home and art collection 80 years ago. These gems belong to everyone.


Ducks in a tree – getting to the bottom of it

My laptop’s desktop is crowded with folders of bird photos. I started my lifetime bird list several months ago, and then fell way behind in posting the photos. I hope to catch up little by little in the coming weeks.

One of my folders I titled “Ducks in a tree.”

I first saw ducks in the trees in March of 2010, our first spring in this house. I assumed they were Mallard ducks, and the poor quality photo I managed to take did little to discount that theory.

I saw the ducks in the trees again this year and I was going to put together a post with recent Mallard duck photos from my walks at the Voice of America park, and my photos of the ducks in the tree that I took about a month ago.

This time I was using my new zoom lens, and the ducks accommodated me by landing in a big Sycamore tree close to our house.

I’m not bird expert, as you’ve probably guessed by now, but even I could tell upon closer examination that this duck with its white markings did not look like the Mallard ducks I had photographed at the VOA.

This explains to some degree why people were surprised that I saw ducks in the trees. I’m not sure Mallard ducks perch in trees.

But Wood Ducks do. And if you look closely at my photo from 2010, you can see the white diagonal marking on the side of the male duck in the tree. I believe this is the same pair who stopped here before, although I’m pretty sure the garden inspectors I posted about in March are Mallard Ducks.

Like most species, the female Wood Duck isn’t nearly as colorful, although she does wear an interesting mask.

I’m wondering what the feet look like, but from here they look like regular webbed duck feet. It’s amazing that they can stand in the trees.

The female moved around a little bit, gradually getting closer to the male.

I love this photo where she flies up to join him.

It almost seemed like they were speaking to each other. And if truth be known, like most other creatures, they must have a way to communicate. I love watching animal pairs, animal parents, and animal families. Amazing.

Here’s one for my lifetime bird list.

Breakfasting with four families of geese.

Early in the morning, the geese families wake and make their way to the water where the feeding grounds lie. If you look closely, you will see that there are two geese families here: at the back of the group are two adults behind an older gosling. There is another adult near the front beside what looks to be another old gosling, and the babies are on the right front of the group. I suspect there may be a single parent here with the older goslings.

Two adults herd the babies across the water.

The youngest of the goslings are very soft and fuzzy and still look a little yellow. These babies are a little slow to form into a line.

Another family with goslings that are a little older moves into the water. These goslings are a little bigger, a little less yellow, and their necks are a little longer. The adult appears to be organizing the goslings into a single-file line.

He or she is successful. This is the formation we see other geese families use to move across the water: an adult at the front and back with the goslings in line in between. Where are they going?

To the feeding grounds across the lake. We see what looks like two ducks, seven adult geese and three age-groups of goslings hanging out at this spot near the water’s edge. I wonder what happened to the mate of the single adult.

The adults are adept at diving for food.

The oldest of the goslings are large in size and gray in color. They have lost most of their fluffiness.

They are able to find their own food and dive with competence.

The adult floats nearby completely unconcerned.

The middle group of goslings stays close to the adults.

They are hunting for their own food under the watchful eye of the adult.

They have learned how to dive,

and seem to want to practice.

The youngest of the goslings are shepherded between the two adults who gather food for them.

They move as a group from one adult

to the other, seeking food.

They huddle close to the adult when food is brought up. I couldn’t see the adult actually place the food in the babies’ mouths like mother birds do with their young. I’m wondering if the adults drop the food at the top of the water to teach the babies how to gather their own. I may need to look this up. Do you know?

Meanwhile, in the center of the lake, the childless singles, take to flight

and head for the skies.

Geese facts from Take Flight Goose Management, LLC:

Did you know that geese:

– eat more than 1-5 pounds of grass per day
– produce about 1-2 lbs of waste per day
– average about 5 goslings per year
– weigh 20 to 25 pounds
– mate for life and will stay together
throughout the year
– are federally protected by the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act

You can read more about Canada geese at  National Geographic.

Pictures taken at the Voice of America Park in Butler County, Ohio.

A windy morning at the VOA

The wind is brisk. It chills the early May morning air and bends the tall grasses bordering dense fields of lavender clover.

Ducks are slow to wake

at water’s edge.

But the geese are ready to start the day.

A little house sparrow already hunts for food.

And an American Coot is out on the water.

Nature’s garden paints a picture in lavenders, white, and yellows.

A robin turns her head to watch me pass.

Another finds a worm.

While red-winged blackbirds

guard the fields

from tops of trees

and stems.

A juvenile learns his trade.

High in the sky birds chases a hawk

Eventually driving it to the ground.

The wind flips leaves on a young oak tree, bends the reeds, and ripples the water.

Geese with their goslings head for the water.

A robin scavenges a dried, stiff worm from the walk, keeping her eyes on the little white dog

who merely watches.

The man and the dog both stand and watch.

The dog-walker making it possible for me to share this walk with you.


Photos taken at the Voice of America Park – Butler County, Ohio

Crazy Cardboard Regatta with a Photoshop Blur

The Crazy Cardboard Regatta is back at the Voice of America park this weekend. Contestants build boats out of corrugated cardboard, concrete or cement sealer, and duct tape. Spectators can vote for the People’s Choice Award on Friday night, and then the boats are raced on Saturday. A course is marked off on the lake at the park, and contestants are timed as they paddle their boat, one at a time, around the course.

This boat looks like an aircraft carrier. A lot of people were walking around so I blurred the background to protect their identities (since I didn’t have release forms to publish their photos.) In this photo I used the Photoshop blur tool set at 75 and manually blurred the background.

This boat is called the Nautilus. It has a distinctive shape. For the blur, I did a simple select of the background area and tried a Photoshop shape blur.

Here’s the entry from the Rotary Club of West Chester/Liberty. It is actually two boats sitting side-by-side. I selected the shape of the boat with a lasso tool, inverted the selection and applied a radial blur filter with a radius of 10. It looks a little like this serpent was caught in a whirlpool.

This aircraft carrier is embellished with planes. I was told by a passer-by that a part of the deck can be removed to allow the captain to paddle the ship. I was able to crop the people out of this photo except for a random leg here and there. I eliminated those using the Photoshop stamp tool and covered the legs with grass.

Tub Time was designed, built, and will be raced by two young men, according to their mother. How fun would that be? To protect the identities of individuals in this photo, I selected the boat with the polygon selection tool, inverted the selection and then applied a box blur filter at radius 10. I had to separately select the bottom half of the young man in front of the boat and apply the filter.

This one I particularly liked. Last year it was something of an achievement for a boat to just to make it to the finish line without sinking. The creators of this boat had a sense of humor when they named it, “Float S’More.”  Using the Photoshop polygonal selection tool, I selected the boat, inverted the selection and then applied the box blur at radius 10.

This was the first boat we saw. If you look closely, you can see I need a little practice with my polygonal selection tool. I inverted the selection and applied a lens blur, radius 54 to the background. This boat looks a lot smaller in this photo than it is in real life. It can easily accommodate two adults side-by-side. My youngest son looked at this and said, “Have you ever heard of tilt-shift photography?” Apparently, it’s photography that uses blurring to give the optical illusion of items in the photo appearing much smaller, or toy-like. You can read more about tilt-shift photography and see examples here. I think this is pretty interesting and may have to try my hand at it.

This is the entry by the police wives. Like the photo above, the car looks much smaller, miniature really. I selected the top background using the polygonal selection tool and applied a box blur filter with a radius of 50.

This was one of the simpler, and smaller entries that we saw, although like the others, it would easily hold two people. Like the last one, I selected the background and applied a box blur filter with radius 50.

This large and unwieldy boat  may be lucky to make it around the first bend in the course. I applied a Gaussian blur at a radius of 5.

A sailor with a sense of humor will undoubtedly pilot the “Knucklehead.” I’ll bet he or she gets a fair share of laughs. The blur is done with a box blur filter at 25.

The boats are racing  in 88 degree weather as I sit here writing in my comfortable air-conditioned study. I wanted to go. I think it would have been worth a good laugh. Maybe next year. Maybe we’ll have a boat next year, if I can convince my husband to paddle it.

Or not.

Maybe I can talk my son into it. . .


Team Prevent Alzheimer’s:   Suggestions for prevention of Alzheimer’s.

Physical Exercise — This morning I tried to walk around the lake at VOA park again and my bum leg gave out. I probably only made it about half a mile. So I came home and pedaled on my recumbent bike for 30 minutes. Yesterday I was largely sedentary, so I really wanted to get some exercise today.

Eating Healthy — I did not  buy a funnel cake at the VOA park last night, even though they are one of my most favorite treats. I got a creamy whip ice milk instead. I ordered a plain dish of it and not  a sundae. Small, baby steps.

Mental Exercise — Today, as evidence by the above post, I have been working with Photoshop and learning about the different methods of blurring and blurring tools.

Let me know how you’re doing.

The Birds of Voice of America Park

The Voice of America Park, where we walked yesterday morning, is listed as an Ohio Ornithological Society birding site. This site described the following birds of interest that you might see there in the summer: Bobolinks, Henslow’s sparrows, savannah sparrows, eastern meadowlarks, occasionally breeding sedge wrens. I was able to snap a few photos of birds there. Most I recognized, but the many varieties of sparrows are a little hard to track down. I accept any and all offers of help or corrections with the identification of these birds.

This little baby was sitting on the spouting of the park office when we arrived. He has brown on his head. I don’t know what kind of bird he is.

We walked around a small lake that was ringed with cattails on this side.

This was my first sighting of a red-winged blackbird.

Ducks are abundant in the reeds along the water’s edge. Sometimes they are alone and sometimes in groups of three or more.

As we walked by with Arthur, sometimes the ducks would waddle down the shallow bank and into the water.

I tried not to take it personally.

Here’s a better shot of a red-winged blackbird.

A bird, I think it is a robin, emphasizes that we are in an important bird area.

When we saw this bird from a distance, we thought it might be a brown-headed cowbird. But looking at it now, I don’t think so. It looks something like a sparrow, but it’s belly is dark. I’m going to have to figure this one out.

Here is the same unidentified bird in flight.

The red-winged blackbirds are abundant. They perch on the tops of things.

They are stunning in flight with their flash of red.

Unlike the red-wing blackbird that commands a post at the top of tree, this little bird hides among the stems of the thistles and wildflowers.I think it is some kind of sparrow. You might notice there is a black bird hiding here too.

This bird got its feathers ruffled. I know what that feels like.

When it smooths things out and turns around, I can confirm it is a robin.

These baby ducks are getting getting big.

Queen Anne’s Lace is one of my favorite wildflowers. It grows abundantly here.

There are also fields of thistle here, which I think the yellow finches like. In the background you can see the road that borders the park. Without the background drone of traffic, this park would be a true oasis of nature indeed. As it is, the cricket chorus and bird song provide a welcome distraction from the surrounding hustle and bustle.

I think these are a type of sparrow as well. They could be a thrush of some sort, perhaps.

Another bird I need to look up when I have the time.

See what I mean about these red-wing blackbirds? They’re everywhere.

I believe this is an American Goldfinch.

If you are faint of heart, you might not to look closely at this photo and just keep moving on. I didn’t realize it at the time when I was just trying to get a nice shot of the red-winged blackbird. I snapped a series of photos. Once I got them on my computer I could see what I really shot was a small little drama in nature where the dragonfly meets its end at the beak of a bird. I’ll spare you the rest.

On our way out of the park again, I was trying to capture the flight of what I believed to be swallows. They have a distinctive pointed shape. But they darted around so quickly, never landing, that I was unsuccessful. I did see this bright little cardinal, however.

And the baby bird is still here. I sure hope everything works out okay for this little guy.

For more bird photos, see my bird page under the wildlife tab above.


Go team Prevent Alzheimer’s  Thank you Lisa, for the catch phrase. If you are reading this and are clueless, see my last post Suggestions for prevention of Alzheimer’s.

This morning I walked for 35 minutes. I don’t know how far that was, but it was up and down hills, so I think it counted.

Yesterday I did not eat any desserts. No cookies, donuts, ice cream or anything else that is clearly not healthy. I did eat a plum and a salad. I really need to increase my intake of fruits and vegetables.

Let me know how you’re doing.