I’ve Been Vaxed!

Good news: today I got my first coronavirus vaccination. I received it at a vaccination event sponsored by The Clinic and the Pontotoc Technology Center where I teach photography. It was the Moderna brand. So far, the only side effect has been the most common: soreness at the injection site.

I feel very fortunate to get my coronavirus vaccination today. Maybe we are finally on our way out of the dark pandemic tunnel.
I feel very fortunate to get my coronavirus vaccination today. Maybe we are finally on our way out of the dark pandemic tunnel.

Abby is still in the hospital, but fortunately got vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer brand weeks ago, so hopefully she is protected in her situation. She sounded much better on the phone, and might be able to come home in a day or two.

In the meantime, her Chihuahua, Summer, is still moping.

Summer the Chihuahua lays on one of Abby's afghans yesterday. I tell her she's a good girl, but she still misses Abby.
Summer the Chihuahua lays on one of Abby’s afghans yesterday. I tell her she’s a good girl, but she still misses Abby.

My Turn to Wait

Abby is in the hospital, and she and I are both very stressed by the fact that I can’t join her. Like people across the globe, including Abby’s daughter just two weeks ago, hospital stays are in isolation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (a phrase I have learned to type in my sleep.)

I'd like to think I miss Abby more than anyone, but her tiny Chihuahua Summer has been curled up on one of Abby's afghans all day.
I’d like to think I miss Abby more than anyone, but her tiny Chihuahua Summer has been curled up on one of Abby’s afghans all day.

Abby is not in any immediate danger. It became necessary to call EMS this morning when, after several days of difficulty, she was unable to walk or even stand on her own. The initial diagnosis is hypercalcaemia (link)

The Wikipedia article says, “The neuromuscular symptoms of hypercalcaemia are caused by a negative bathmotropic effect due to the increased interaction of calcium with sodium channels. Since calcium blocks sodium channels and inhibits depolarization of nerve and muscle fibers, increased calcium raises the threshold for depolarization. This results in diminished deep tendon reflexes (hyporeflexia), and skeletal muscle weakness.”

She was tested for coronavirus and flu, and does not have them.

As she got sicker, she experienced some cognitive difficulty, but, as is often the case with her, intravenous fluids bring her right around, and on the phone just down she sounded clearer-headed, and aggravated with the situation, which I take as a good sign.

I’m not really eating or sleeping, which is what I do when I am stressed, though as I wrote this I made myself eat a bowl of soup.

She said a doctor said she might be there three days, so that tired clichéd Tom Petty song lyric, “the waiting is the hardest part,” is mine today.

Diet Notes

This was my meal of Alaskan pollock last night. Abby had shrimp scampi.
This was my meal of Alaskan pollock last night. Abby had shrimp scampi.

I recently elected to add some fish to my diet in hopes of getting my wife Abby to eat healthier, or in some cases at all. Important caveats include the idea that the fish is noted as nutritious on its own merits, is caught in a sustainable fashion, and is prepared in a healthy manner (as in not deep fried.)

Note: there is no such thing as a vegetarian who eats fish. Therefore, I am no long a vegetarian. Need to call me something? How about dynamic healthitarian?

With the stress of the Rona on Abby, who is already somewhat isolated, she tends to turn down my offers of food, saying she’ll just eat some crackers or that she isn’t hungry at all, but if I prepare a big meal with something she loves – recently it was Alaskan salmon, saffron rice, and steamed Brussels sprouts – it makes her smile and appreciate it, and, of course, eat it.

A new social media friend of mine, who showed up in my feed by posting a picture I took of her as a first grader in December 1988, says she wants to lose 50 pounds, and, “has been making excuses and displacing the blame from myself this whole time. But this time is different.”

I wish I had some genius to share with her, but I think my success with diet and weight discipline is more about who I am than it is about any tricks up my sleeve. It’s easy, for example, for me to stop eating when I’m full. I seldom desire foods that are outright bad for me, like candy, doughnuts, or soft drinks. But I know plenty of people, maybe even most people, who pass by the fruit tray at the sports watch party and dig in to the Doritos.

I am also very, very lucky that my current level of health allows me to move, work on my feet, walk dogs miles a day, and feel like it energizes me. Part of it is luck that I don’t have arthritis or bad feet, but part of it is that my choices lead to better outcomes. I don’t have type II diabetes because I eat right and exercise, and I am able to eat right and exercise because I don’t have type II diabetes.

I friended the person who is trying to lose weight after she posted a snapshot of this newspaper, The Ada Evening News from December 11, 1988. I had been at The News for just six weeks when I made those photos.
I friended the person who is trying to lose weight after she posted a snapshot of this newspaper, The Ada Evening News from December 11, 1988. I had been at The News for just six weeks when I made those photos.

Sunny Sixteen

A young photojournalist friend of ours, Mac Crosby, came to our home in early March 2020 to interview us for her writing class, and made some amazing pictures of us together.
A young photojournalist friend of ours, Mac Crosby, came to our home in early March 2020 to interview us for her writing class, and made some amazing pictures of us together.

Film photographers might be familiar with a handy rule from the days without automation or exposure meters: the “sunny 16” rule. It gives a rough suggestion for exposure, f/16 at the reciprocal of the film speed, which with 100-ISO film would be 1/100th of a second.

I like the idea of “sunny sixteen” much better than the notion of “sweet sixteen” to describe our sixteenth wedding anniversary, as it seems much less of a cliché, and more positive. Sunny.

Abby and I were married on October 12, 2004 at Arches National Park. It was only one day, a beautiful, sunny one, that marked the start of this wonderful marriage.

You can see the story of our wedding day with dozens of images on our adventure blog here (link).

Abby and I pose for a photo on the Devil's Garden trail at Arches National Park the day before we got married.
Abby and I pose for a photo on the Devil’s Garden trail at Arches National Park the day before we got married.

Her Quiet

The road rumbles around us. Brilliant New Mexico sun shines through the windshield. Brilliant October blue sky surrounds us.

In the seat next to me, she sleeps. On the truck’s MP3 player is this song, Piercing Quiet by Tritonal. It resonates in me. Listen here as you read…

“The world’s in constant motion
And so are all of us.
You love the glow of sunrise.
My stars come out at night.
Your quiet pierces through me,
There’s freedom renewed.
It takes me to a place where
The solace drops right through…”

I reach over and push my fingers under her blanket to find her hand, her willowy, soft, pale hand. I take it, and as she sleeps, she takes my hand. In a second, she turns her head without opening her eyes.

“Where are we?” she asks, almost whispering.

“About an hour from Cuervo,” I say. She smiles, remembering in her half-sleep state a place we once visited, Cuervo, New Mexico.

She goes back to sleep. I find myself blinking back a tear. This moment together is so perfect in its intimacy, its simplicity, it’s identity. I cherish it, breathe it in, memorize it. I don’t know, after all, if it might be our last chance, our last dance. There is nothing I want more than her soft hand in mine, in a quiet moment in eastern New Mexico, with the wild road in front of us, and I don’t want it to end. Ever.

I see that she is asleep again. I look over my shoulder to see our Chihuahuas, Max and Sierra, are also asleep.

All morning long we chatted happily as home fell farther behind us. By noon we were in the Texas panhandle. By 2 p.m., we were in the mesalands of New Mexico. By sunset, we hoped to be in Santa Fe for the night.

I shift in my seat as another 400 miles of trucks and blowing sand and black coffee await. She shifts in response, and I watch as she pulls her newly-bought cowboy hat down to the bridge of her nose to keep out the sunlight streaming through the windshield. I lift my hand and place it on top of her blanket, and feel how warm the sun has made it.

45 minutes later, I hear her say, “Hi.” She stretches and yawns and looks back at the dogs.

“Are you hungry?” I ask.

“Yes, what do you want?” she asks back.

“A veggie burger sounds good,” I tell her. “Honey, do you remember your first veggie burger?”

She smiles. I knew she would. On our first vacation together, The High Road, we rode the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway to the landing on the crest of the mountain, then hiked for another mile to the restaurant at the very top. She only revealed to me very recently that by the time we got to the restaurant, she was famished. We both got veggie burgers, fries and iced tea.

Some memories never fade.

By the time we rolled into Santa Fe after dark, tired and dusty from the road, we stopped in the breezeway of our hotel and paused. We looked at each other. When everything else is busy and rough and noisy, she is quiet. She is the quiet at the end of every day. She is the quiet at the end of every road.

Aspens in Hillside, Chromo, Colorado, October 2014
Aspens in Hillside, Chromo, Colorado, October 2014

Know What? Chicken Butt?

This chicken wasn't at all shy about me being in the pen with her.
This chicken wasn’t at all shy about me being in the pen with her.

Our next door neighbor’s efforts to corner the chicken market seem to be coming along nicely. In addition to his 32 chickens, he recently added five guineas and a puppy that he says will grow up to guard the henhouse. They’re all fun and fun to photograph.

These guineas are sure to amuse us with their noisy chatter and tiny eggs.
These guineas are sure to amuse us with their noisy chatter and tiny eggs.
This chicken's feathers are fun to watch, and make an easy focus target for my cameras.
This chicken’s feathers are fun to watch, and make an easy focus target for my cameras.

The Delicate Arch Paradox

It’s not exactly a paradox, and it’s not exactly ironic, but it is frustrating.

How do I justify my love of exploration and photography in spectacular places like Antelope Canyon, Arches National Park, Yosemite, and White Sands, yet still feel contempt for the way these places have become desperately overcrowded?

You can't elope with an antelope's cantaloupe, and you can't really have fun in Antelope Canyon any more.
You can’t elope with an antelope’s cantaloupe, and you can’t really have fun in Antelope Canyon any more.

Part of my problem with this issue is that I feel oddly outmatched by the crowds photographically, not because they have more talent, but because they have diluted the landscape so much with geotags and armchair photographers, squeezing professional photographers and naturalists into an empty corner.

On the third hand, shouldn’t Abby and I have special Delicate Arch creds, since, after all, we got married there?

Am I being whiney because I don’t want to share its specialness, or has it been made universally unspecial by its discovery and overpopulation by the Instagram crowd?

I’ve been sitting on this post for a month, yet can’t quite solidify it. Help me work this out.

I photographed this passel of visitors at Delicate Arch in October 2005.
I photographed this passel of visitors at Delicate Arch in October 2005.

Just to Break the Tension

I’m not pushing this one to social media for inobvious, murky reasons.

I read, and I blew.

My sister says she despises the phrase “these uncertain times” and the word “unprecedented.”

Newspapers struggle to survive, and soon we will get all our news from Snapchat. All reporters will look like puppies and baby deer.

A baby deer is called a deerling.

I despise the idea that corporate America is selling it back to me, and that our culture crashes when we can’t have the things I happen to think we don’t need at all, like indulgent entertainment and indulgent products, indulgent technology, indulgence.

All things are held in balance by circumstances we might never understand.
All things are held in balance by circumstances we might never understand.

Assuming you don’t have a real excuse (asthma, bronchitis, copd, ect.), you have no excuse for complaining about the mask. Can’t breathe? Look in the mirror. I’m surprised your lungs can lift all that fat off your heart.

Ouch. So cold and dismissive. Why can’t we all be perfect like Richard?

The racist name for the pandemic is “Kung Flu,” but I prefer, “Flung Pu.”

Fortunately, all covid news is fake, so we can go back to our gun shows.

If I could sneak headlines into newspaper? (Can I? Whoa. I guess I could.)…

  • Local dickhead steals Christmas
  • Oaklahoma changes name to Tinesee
  • Private parts now pubic (pube lick?)
  • Forecasters predict it will snow assholes all day
  • Sneeze guards added to pocket pullers
  • Deranged goat attacks two ex-presidents in one day
  • 15 college girls killed in tickling accident
  • Renegade vegan farts on supreme court nominee
  • A personal look at author I. K. Malloveru
  • Anus management clinic to remain open

Maybe The Rona is Oxlong Penal Camp 2.0? (Now regretting letting that URL expire.) The grey jumpsuits and dusty sunglasses are just one executive order away.

I am amazed by how many people really like me, and how many people really hate me.

Explosive decompression of my colon.

A “fortice machete” if you will…

  • It was a mistake to trim her coochie with a fortice machete
  • Fortice Machete had been named in the fraud case just a month earlier
  • Fortice Machete was Nicarango’s fifth underground nuclear test
  • The wolfhound cornered a raccoon trying to steal his dog food; I chased it away with a fortice machete
  • Fortice. Not fartus. Although, fortis machette literally translates to “cut the fart.”
  • The fourth Matrix, the one that overheated all the time so they had to stop for water at every other Texaco, was coded with fortice machete
  • Fortice machete is a video game centered around making your opponents orgasm
  • The fortice integument was stronger than sea panels for bulge control

When did being monstrously racist and sexist go from funny to unacceptable? I know it did, but I never got the email announcing it.

I think most people thought the end of the world would be a lot quicker, like a nuclear war, or a lot more fun, like the zombie apocalypse.

What is this, anyway?
What is this, anyway?

Another Flat Tire Sob Story

In my travels as a photojournalist yesterday, I drove down to Tupelo, Oklahoma to cover a baseball game, but found that it had been suddenly rained out by a rather spectacular, and spooky, thunderstorm.

It was a beautiful summer thunderstorm that left water standing ankle-deep on the Tupelo Tiger's baseball field.
It was a beautiful summer thunderstorm that left water standing ankle-deep on the Tupelo Tiger’s baseball field.

I turned around and head back toward Ada, thinking I would stop in Stonewall and photograph their softball game so the outing wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.

As I drove, the pop-up thunderstorms all around me got really interesting-looking. I saw a long shaft of rain to the south, and turned down a county road to get a better look. Just a few hundred yards down the road, I heard, “fsst, fsst, fsst, fsst…,” the tell-tale sound of a rapidly flattening tire. I turned around quickly and drove back to the intersection with the highway, and got out to find the left rear tire of our Nissan Frontier LE 4X4 Crew Cab pickup completely flat.

It turns out that I had never changed the wheel on our truck, so I actually had to consult the manual about a couple of things. By the time I had the spare ready and the jack set, the key for the anti-theft lug nut was nowhere to be found. This happened to me once before in 2010 in Utah, and on that occasion, a wrecker service actually chiseled it off. Fortunately, our friends at Ada Nissan drove out with a key, and I was then able to change the wheel. The tire was damaged beyond repair and will need to be replaced, and when they do, I will ask them to replace those stupid anti-theft lug nuts with standard ones.

I know everyone has some sob story about car trouble. I happen to think everyone should know how to change a wheel (not, as most people say, a tire, since it’s impossible to get a tire off a wheel by hand – so you don’t change a tire, you change a wheel), how to add coolant to the engine, how to jump start a car, and so on.

Yeah, I was a sad sad sushi roll, but I sucked it up, buttercup.
Yeah, I was a sad sad sushi roll, but I sucked it up, buttercup.

Life and Death in the Night

Hawken, our Irish wolfhound, cornered another opossum tonight, or possibly cornered the same opossum he encountered two weeks ago.

Our next door neighbors recently got chickens, and immediately had losses of the animals to wildlife like coyotes, racoons, and opossums.
Our next door neighbors recently got chickens, and immediately had losses of the animals to wildlife like coyotes, racoons, and opossums.

Hawken’s bark is unique to the situation: it is forceful, loud and urgent, and is meant to get the attention of the animal he is addressing as well as us.

I have no desire to kill animals like this, but I can’t have them stubbornly staking out Hawken’s food, and I am quite sure this animal or others like it are responsible for killing our next door neighbor Mike’s chickens recently.

I tried and tried to shoo it away, but it was too determined to dine on Hi-Point “Highly Active” 28/15 dog food, and would not retreat. I shot it with my M&P 15/22. Once it was down, I gave it one point-blank to the head so it wouldn’t suffer.

Opportunistic animals of the night are part of living in the country.
Opportunistic animals of the night are part of living in the country.

Lost in New Mexico

I was cleaning up some computer files and folders recently when I came across images from our most recent anniversary trip, The Winding Road. I must have been hungry, because I gravitated to an image of a dessert Abby and I shared at our favorite restaurant in the world, Madrid, New Mexico’s The Hollar.

“Honey,” I said to my wife, who was crocheting in her recliner, “the whiskey cake!”

“That was so good,” she said without hesitation.

The whiskey cake.
The whiskey cake.

That’s how really great memories work.

A day or two later, a photographer friend on social media posted a moody black-and-white image of an abandoned store with the title Lost in New Mexico 2019.

I thought about all those great times Abby and I would open a map and just go.

Sometimes I get out maps and just read them. I think about all the places we would like to see.
Sometimes I get out maps and just read them. I think about all the places we would like to see.

Tomatoes to the Rescue

My garden hose, locked open, waters my new tomato plants last night.
My garden hose, locked open, waters my new tomato plants last night.

After a rather intense couple of days covering the news, I was able to pad my tension with a bit of good news: the garden center at Walmart had mature-ish tomato plants to I could replace some that I lost to cutworms or the weather. I was able to plant three Better Boy plants and two cherry tomato plants.

This is one of the tomato plants I got planted last night.
This is one of the tomato plants I got planted last night.
Flowers in the pasture take on late evening sun.
Flowers in the pasture take on late evening sun.
The sky takes on beautiful amber hues after sunset last night.
The sky takes on beautiful amber hues after sunset last night.

What Did I Want to Be? What About You?

This was my column for Wednesday, May 13.

This is me making pictures of rocks in a lot behind our house in 1978, using my then-new Fujica ST-605N film camera.
This is me making pictures of rocks in a lot behind our house in 1978, using my then-new Fujica ST-605N film camera.

I was recently honored to once again help jury some East Central University Mass Communications students’ senior presentations, specifically those students who emphasized visuals like photography, graphic arts and design.

It got me thinking about my college days and earlier, and about what I imagined I wanted to be as an adult – “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

This is a painting my parents had of my sister Nicole and me, painted when we were very young. I wonder what these two kids would think about what they wanted to be when they grew up.
This is a painting my parents had of my sister Nicole and me, painted when we were very young. I wonder what these two kids would think about what they wanted to be when they grew up.

In 1974, I was absolutely sure I wanted to grow up to be a pilot. I had a beautiful model of a Pam Am Boeing 747-200, an aircraft known as “the queen of the skies,” that inspired a whole generation of young people. Although I never did it professionally, I became a pilot in 1993.

In sixth grade, a teacher we all liked and admired, Mrs. Gerber, asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. When no one volunteered an answer, Mrs. Gerber got out her roll call book and started calling our names in alphabetical order, so I was first. I blurted out, “Farmer,” and the class laughed and laughed. But the next kid didn’t have an answer either, and also said, “Farmer!”

Eventually we had a room full of 26 would-be farmers.

That summer, my mom got me a part-time job working for an oral surgeon for whom she worked as an office manager. My job mostly involved mopping and cleaning, but I also learned how to clean stainless steel dental instruments and sterilize them using an autoclave, so for a while I had dentistry in mind.

For most of my life, I have loved flying and airplanes, and got my pilot's license May 1, 1993. Everything I thought would be great about flying was great.
For most of my life, I have loved flying and airplanes, and got my pilot’s license May 1, 1993. Everything I thought would be great about flying was great.

In 10th grade, I was fascinated with the weather, and even wrote down watches and warnings on my journal, so there was a short period when I wanted to be a meteorologist.

Made during the transition from film to digital in about 2003, this is the essential me: a professional photographer.
Made during the transition from film to digital in about 2003, this is the essential me: a professional photographer.

By 11th grade, I’d been keeping a journal for a while, and imagined I could one day be a novelist, albeit one without a plan for writing even my first novel.

As a senior in high school, I was taking pictures for yearbook, and got addicted to that. Around that same time, I started hanging out with guys who loved hi-fi stereo, so there was a period when I dreamed of working in a stereo store.

I asked my wife Abby what she wanted to be when she was young.

“I wanted to be a cowgirl when I was four,” she told me. “But not like Dale Evans. I wanted to be Roy Rogers.”

She wanted to be a mechanic, and actually did a fair amount of that kind of work as a hobby. She knows pretty much everything there is to know about internal combustion engines, even rebuilding one with her brother-in-law, Ralph Milligan, which she raced.

She played with being a math teacher, a child psychologist or a veterinarian. She worked in a veterinary clinic in the 1990s.

By my late college years, I had settled on being a photojournalist, in part because I was good at it, and in part because the equipment is pretty sexy.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Abby and I pose with a Cessna 152 I was renting in Shawnee in 2003. This was very early in our relationship.
Abby and I pose with a Cessna 152 I was renting in Shawnee in 2003. This was very early in our relationship.

Who Am I: The Idea of Identity

Street trash speaks directly to me.
Street trash speaks directly to me.

“Everybody in this town knows you, and knows who you are and what you do.”

Most people are accustomed to seeing me like this, behind a camera, and that's not going to change. Just don't be surprised when I ask you for a quote to go with the photos.
Most people are accustomed to seeing me like this, behind a camera, and that’s not going to change. Just don’t be surprised when I ask you for a quote to go with the photos.

The 2020 coronavirus crisis has had a crippling impact on the entire world. Entire industries have collapsed. One that comes to mind is the airline industry. Travel has plummeted beyond crisis levels. Some airlines have parked 95% of their fleets, and laid off thousands of workers.

My profession, print journalism, has struggled for more than a decade, and the outbreak has ripped away much luxury, and even some necessity, to the craft of delivering the news.

Readers might notice that in print, I have a new title, Senior Staff Writer. The reason for this is that corporate entities don’t see a need for photographers at struggling, small-market newspapers. Our hope with this title change is that they see me as a multi-role staff member with feature writing, column writing, internet, videography and photography skills, which I absolutely am.

I don’t anticipate taking fewer photographs, and I am already writing quite a bit at my paper. It’s a move intended to do more with less.

No one in my community will think I am no longer a photographer, their photographer.

Fellow photographer Courtney and I are married to our identities as photographers. But she and I have more duties that just taking pictures. Her's is running a business. Mine is writing features and columns.
Fellow photographer Courtney and I are married to our identities as photographers. But she and I have more duties that just taking pictures. Her’s is running a business. Mine is writing features and columns.

Considering the Facts

I photographed the next door neighbor's iris again last night. They don't stay in bloom very long, so I wanted to photograph them while I could.
I photographed the next door neighbor’s iris again last night. They don’t stay in bloom very long, so I wanted to photograph them while I could.

There was a time in my life, around my college years, when I imagined that total isolation, on a mesa in a home built into the cliffs at the end of the Boys Ranch Road northwest of Amarillo, would be the way I wanted to live.

*** As I wrote this, the phrase “no contact with the public at all” floated by through a television program. ***

But I am not that college kid any more.

Abby had a brief doctor visit last week. We pulled into the parking lot wearing our Rona masks, and the nurse came out and gave her an injection.
Abby had a brief doctor visit last week. We pulled into the parking lot wearing our Rona masks, and the nurse came out and gave her an injection.

There are news reports of people feeling isolated, and a lot of people are creating memes for social media that express isolation.

But for Abby and me, and the next door neighbors, the Nipps, life hasn’t changed all that much. They cook out and cut the grass. The next day, I cook out and cut my grass. I walk the wolfhound and the Chihuahua past them as they put ribs on the grill, and we chat or a few minutes. Mike is building a chicken pen, and plans to get some chickens, which I look forward to naming and photographing.

Summer Time Lane, our Chihuahua, rests on one of Abby's afghans.
Summer Time Lane, our Chihuahua, rests on one of Abby’s afghans.

What has changed dramatically for me is work. I still have a job, but everything about it is different, because of what my newspaper covers. Sports have stopped. There won’t be any graduations this month. There are a lot of parades and gatherings designed to get people together, yet keep them far apart enough to check the possible spread of the coronavirus.

At an evening event I covered Thursday, 15 people called me by name.

There don't seem to be any food shortages, especially if you are like us, and eat from the bottom of the food chain. Today I made red beans and rice.
There don’t seem to be any food shortages, especially if you are like us, and eat from the bottom of the food chain. Today I made red beans and rice.

At Walmart today, in the egg aisle, with both of us wearing Rona masks, “Hey, aren’t you here to take pictures?”

My community knows me, which I love. It’s also something that lets me do my job better.

So, here we are, May 2020. We are trying to “reopen” America bit by bit while the pandemic still rages, and while I hope for the best and prepare for the worst, I expect something in between.

Your humble host holds our young Chihuahua, Summer Time Lane, and Abby's cane "Raisin."
Your humble host holds our young Chihuahua, Summer Time Lane, and Abby’s cane “Raisin.”

Openings and Closings

Water bubbles in my kitchen sink. We still have clean water.
Water bubbles in my kitchen sink. We still have clean water.

There is an effort underway to reopen the world after shutting everything down due to the pandemic. Is this going to work?

I’ve been mute recently. I encourage my friend Mac to write more on her blog, but at the same time, I don’t. Maybe I’m discouraged.

Abby had a couple of dangerous health scares this week that I had to deal with rather urgently, and my office wasn’t happy about it. But Abby will always come first. She’s okay now.

The weather is weird tonight. The forecast was for sunshine, but the atmosphere was turbulent. In the midst of it I walked both dogs, then walked down to photograph the irises.

We are all turbulent.

Summer the Chihuahua stays close to Abby, but certainly loves to be with me, too.
Summer the Chihuahua stays close to Abby, but certainly loves to be with me, too.

Compartmentalization and Integration

Mom and Dad kept this shadowbox in the breakfast nook at their home in Florida until they passed away. It contains nicknacks representing everything from their travels to Alaska to their swap meet visits after they retired. When Mom died in 2009, Abby and I took it, and have it on display in our home.
Mom and Dad kept this shadowbox in the breakfast nook at their home in Florida until they passed away. It contains nicknacks representing everything from their travels to Alaska to their swap meet visits after they retired. When Mom died in 2009, Abby and I took it, and have it on display in our home.

We have all faced stress in our lives. My sister Nicole, for example, lost almost everything she owned when Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans. She seemed to handle it well, and bounced back to be the first to rebuild in her neighborhood, but I know it must have taken an emotional toll beneath the surface.

I thought of this on this Easter Sunday as I watched a video from a fellow professional photographer Nic Coury (from whom I bought an 85mm last year), who came to us via Facebook live video from his henhouse with his pet chickens, encouraging us to do what we have to do to survive, but also to pay attention to our feelings and how this unprecedented situation must be effecting them.

I have always been pretty good at deferring and compartmentalizing my feelings. I do that partly so I can do my job when it gets rough (just this week, I covered a double-fatality car crash that killed a two-year-old), and as a pillar for my wife Abby, for whom I must care.

Nic’s video and the ever-increasing bad news about the pandemic got me thinking: am I just going to fall apart one of these days? I can’t just switch off compartmentalization and fully integrate my feelings; I’m not constructed that way. I guess time will tell.

One thing that keeps this crisis bearable, and for which I am so very grateful, is my marriage to my amazing wife Abby. Mac Crosby made his image of us in March just before the coronavirus crisis exploded.
One thing that keeps this crisis bearable, and for which I am so very grateful, is my marriage to my amazing wife Abby. Mac Crosby made his image of us in March just before the coronavirus crisis exploded.

Are We Still Here?

After 15 years of marriage, there is still no place we would rather be than at each other's side.
After 15 years of marriage, there is still no place we would rather be than at each other’s side.

Friday, April 3, 2020.

No, this is not a suicide note or an autobituary.

In the current scenario of risk around us, it is entirely possible that we could be at risk of illness and death.

I thought of this in February when I had the flu. What will become of my intellectual and creative content, the embodiment of everything I ever photographed and written, if I die?

And how would anyone reading my website, for example, know if I had shuffled off this mortal coil?

I thought about how to keep my family and friends updated about how we are without going through the eternal train wreck of social media, and finally settled on a widget at the top of our home page, on the right. I will update it as I am able, and if one month, three months, six months goes by without an update, we can all assume the worst.

Visit this page (link) to see the widget, or, if you are viewing it on a smartphone, click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page to see “How Are We?”

Coughing My Fool Head Off

This is the curio cabinet turned into the camera cabinet.
This is the curio cabinet turned into the camera cabinet.

I am presently coughing my fool head off, but don’t worry. I don’t have the covids or the amtrax. I do, however, have a face full of dust after completing a task I’ve been avoiding for a couple of years: moving Abby’s mom’s curio cabinet into my dressing room and making it into a camera cabinet.

I actually accomplished this while Abby was napping, a variant on the saying, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission,” though when she woke up, we were all happy with it.

This started with me seeing a dusty camera, dusting it off, then seeing I couldn’t set it down again without dusting the spot where it sat. There was a lot of dust, then a decision, then action.

I sometimes wish all our actions could come about so organically.

The only remaining task is to find a new piece of glass for the front door, which was broken while moving it here with a bunch of other stuff.

The cameras on display in it are items Abby bought for me at various thrift and antique stores over the years.

These cameras mostly work, though many of them require film that hasn't been made in 50 years.
These cameras mostly work, though many of them require film that hasn’t been made in 50 years.

Potatoes for Abby

I shared this image on social media this week. I am kneeling next to "Frog Rock," an anonymous art installation on Lightning Ridge near our home.
I shared this image on social media this week. I am kneeling next to “Frog Rock,” an anonymous art installation on Lightning Ridge near our home.

In the midst of this pandemic , I heard from panic-stricken social medianites that potatoes were sold out everywhere. This did not encourage me to panic-buy potatoes, but it did remind me how much Abby and I love these nutritious tubers. So I went to the store to find them plentiful and cheap, and bought a reasonable amount, our usual amount in fact (five pounds of red ones, five pounds of white ones, and four sweet potatoes), for some upcoming meals.

Potatoes are more nutritious than most people think, since most of the ways people consume them have been deeply corrupted by gluttony.
Potatoes are more nutritious than most people think, since most of the ways people consume them have been deeply corrupted by gluttony.
Food for Thought
I want to know how, in just a couple of generations, we go from a society in which some people didn’t see fresh eggs or fresh fruit in a year (The Great Depression, both World Wars) to a generation that rides electric scooters in big box stores to buy 500 rolls of toilet paper. How do we go from a single 13-inch black-and-white in the living room to 20 high-definition devices in every corner of our homes? Who have we become, and what will we look like when we emerge from this crisis?

Cooking for my wife is wonderful, since she often has no appetite, worrying me that she might be malnourished, and when I can get her to eat, especially when I can get her excited about eating, I feel I am taking good care of her, which is more critical than ever right now.

Few things add more nutrition to a meal than broccoli.
Few things add more nutrition to a meal than broccoli.

Abby and I live in relative isolation most of the time. Our house sits back about 100 yards from the road, which is situated in a somewhat sparsely populated small town. I still work, and that puts me in contact with the public. As a result, I have never hated hand sanitizer more, and I am practically washing my hands off. But I am well, we are well.

Our baked potato lunch is ready.
Our baked potato lunch is ready.

Better and Best

Our dogs need us and we need them. Hawken and I both missed our daily walks.
Our dogs need us and we need them. Hawken and I both missed our daily walks.

This is just a quick aside to let my friends know that I am on the road to recovery from influenza.

I returned to work yesterday after missing six work days, unprecedented for me. I can still feel some weakness and malaise, but I am back in motion.

The most legitimate sign that I am on the mend: I walked Hawken the Irish Wolfhound yesterday afternoon. Our dogs are our best friends.

“What’s She Like?”

Someone recently asked me about my wife Abby. “What’s she like?” she asked.

I don’t know the real motive for asking a question like this, but I do know what she’s like.

She has bright, complex, intelligent eyes. She is confident. She is thoughtful about everything, and compassionate about everything.

Abby smiles for my camera recently. I never get tired of her face, the sound of her voice, her ideas, her smell.
Abby smiles for my camera recently. I never get tired of her face, the sound of her voice, her ideas, her smell.

Abby and I have never gone a day without saying “I love you.” We’ve never spent more than a day mad at each other. When I leave for work, she always tells me to be careful, and she always tells me I look nice. When we watch movies she cheers out loud for the good guys. When we watch sports, she cheers out loud for the home team. Sometimes she gets carried away and cheers for anything that’s happening in the game.

She is tactile and affectionate in just the right proportion as I am, which is very. She never turns down my hand or my kiss.

Abby loves animals of all kinds, and is abundantly kind to them. She cries when they suffer or die.

Abby loves sentimental anything.

Abby and I are in our 16th year of marriage as I write this. By any measure, that is a long time to be married. It has been the times of our lives.

Home

In 2011, Abby spent a week in Baltimore right after our grandson was born. I picked her up at the Dallas airport. We found each other in the crowd and moved together, holding each other close. In my arms, she said, “Now I’m home.”

In that crowded airport amidst thousands of people, we were home.

2020: The Year of Perfect Vision

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is certainly fond of wading into the pond and getting a big sloppy drink of water, winter and summer.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is certainly fond of wading into the pond and getting a big sloppy drink of water, winter and summer.

I don’ t know if any of you ponder New Year’s Day, but I don’t. The year 2020 is only significant because we sort of started counting 2020-ish years ago. The winter solstice was December 21, and the spring equinox isn’t until March, so those two clearly more significant celestial benchmarks have been largely ignored.

So, 2020. Meh. I’m not 2020, Abby’s not 2020, the dogs aren’t 2020.

From the "Special Projects" bin...
I asked a friend, who I think should be writing, to start the new year by writing just one sentence. She texted, “She didn’t believe me, at least not at first.”

When I was young, 2020 sounded like science fiction. “By 2020, we’ll have bases on the moon and Mars.” NASA says right now they expect to be on the moon in five years, and on the way to Mars after that. But who are we going to beat to the moon? Who thinks it’s a good idea to spend 5% of the GPD on NASA? Look up this entry in five years and see if we’re on the moon.

Abby and I watched the Tournament of Roses Parade on The Hallmark Channel this morning. It’s comforting to see how archaic and underproduced the coverage is, and how much this event is just like it was when I was a kid.

Abby and I toasted the new year with sparkling apple cider. "So raise your glass to sorrow, And drink to all the pain, Tie a silver ribbon around, The pieces that remain..." ~Butterflies by Natalie Imbruglia
Abby and I toasted the new year with sparkling apple cider. “So raise your glass to sorrow,
And drink to all the pain,
Tie a silver ribbon around,
The pieces that remain…” ~Butterflies by Natalie Imbruglia

 

Some Monday Fun

Hawken and I walked three miles over some fairly uneven terrain yesterday. He knows the way well now, and I follow him as much as he follows me.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is as smart and affectionate as any creature I've ever known. He relishes our long walks as much as I do.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is as smart and affectionate as any creature I’ve ever known. He relishes our long walks as much as I do.
During my shooting session, I was ambushed by corn, oysters, and beef stew. My tactics prevailed.
During my shooting session, I was ambushed by corn, oysters, and beef stew. My tactics prevailed.

Later I got out a pistol and a rifle and put about a hundred rounds of .22lr downrange. It was fun and relaxing. I feel like I shot well.

Winter sunshine. Dogs. Hobbies.

I shot my Smith and Wesson M&P/15-22 rifle and my Ruger SR-22 pistol. I also brought my Radio Shack HTX-202, an amateur radio handheld that ranks among the hobby's best.
I shot my Smith and Wesson M&P/15-22 rifle and my Ruger SR-22 pistol. I also brought my Radio Shack HTX-202, an amateur radio handheld that ranks among the hobby’s best.

Limb-Lopping and Knee-Kronking

The Fiskar limb loppers are the key to this whole operation.
The Fiskar limb loppers are the key to this whole operation.Richard R. Barron — richardbarron.net

With a weekend during which I am not teaching last Monday and a period of warmish weather, I decided to prune my fruit trees for the first time in a couple of years. This task became more significant due to last summer’s nearly perfect growing season, which made my trees grow wildly.

You might intuitively imagine that pruning back branches to stumps is harmful to trees, but a fair human analog might be trimming your fingernails.
You might intuitively imagine that pruning back branches to stumps is harmful to trees, but a fair human analog might be trimming your fingernails.

Fruit tree owners know that keeping your trees cut back is a good idea for several reasons.

  1. Shorter, stouter branches can hold fruit better during windy conditions and as fruit weighs branches down.
  2. Fewer fruit on shorter branches mean individual fruit will be bigger.
  3. Trees taller than about eight feet require a ladder or lift to harvest, whereas short trees can be harvested by anyone without any additional equipment.
  4. Pruned trees have space between each other for moving and harvesting.

So for the last few days I’ve been using a Fiskars® brand limb lopper to cut back as many runaway branches as I was able to reach. It’s been pretty effective, and most of the work is done.

However, during an attempt to remedy an extra-high, extra-thick branch tonight, I pushed a little too hard, and mistakenly relied on a branch that immediately collapsed, kronking the sh!t out of my left knee.

Yeah, that’s going to leave a mark.

Hawken says he saw the whole thing, but he's not willing to implicate anyone.
Hawken says he saw the whole thing, but he’s not willing to implicate anyone.

Did I Go Dark?

It might seem like I haven’t been writing or blogging lately, but that’s because I have been piling on to several angry rants in my drafts folder, none of which seem like they would be a good idea to publish. This, along with the fact that I am very proud of my recent travel blog post (here), have been teaching extra much in the past weeks, and have been in the process of moving my old work office to my new work office, it might seem like I have gone dark.

I assure you I am just as bright as always.

Summer Time Lane sleeps on me as I nap earlier this week. She is one of the sweetest creatures I have ever known.
Summer Time Lane sleeps on me as I nap earlier this week. She is one of the sweetest creatures I have ever known.

Adding Three Minutes to My Commute

We moved out of our old building surprisingly quickly. Pictured is my old office after I removed all the "mission critical" items.
We moved out of our old building surprisingly quickly. Pictured is my old office after I removed all the “mission critical” items.

Readers of my newspaper are probably aware that we moved to a new location this week. Our old building was no longer a good fit, especially since we no longer have a press (our paper is printed in Norman). We’ve been looking for some time at a better-sized location that would not only save us some money, it would be safer, cleaner, and less expensive.

We’ve been in the new building for just a few days, but so far, I like it a lot.

When I first came to Ada in 1988, I got an apartment downtown, which I kept for 16 years until I got married. My daily commute for all those years was just three minutes. After we got married in 2004, my commute from Byng to Ada took about 10 minutes.

Our new office is … get this… half a block from my old apartment. It’s a small-town thing, I guess. Moving here added just three minutes to my daily commute.

My new office is just a space right now, but soon I will make it my own, and home to the photography department of The Ada News.
My new office is just a space right now, but soon I will make it my own, and home to the photography department of The Ada News.

Home from the Winding Road

Abby and our Chihuahua Summer prepare to leave for our anniversary trip last week.
Abby and our Chihuahua Summer prepare to leave for our anniversary trip last week.

My wife Abby and I are home after a week on the road celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary.

The full trip report, The Winding Road, is available now (link).

Our journey took us to New Mexico and Colorado and back, and went without a hitch. We had a great time.

Here is an early edit of an image I made of the San Juan Riverwalk at dusk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
Here is an early edit of an image I made of the San Juan Riverwalk at dusk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

I Feel Like a Lumberjack

(Please, nurds, don’t sing that Monty Python song. Thanks.)

This is my Rio Grande omelette, complete with fried okra and Texas toast given to me by Abby.
This is my Rio Grande omelette, complete with fried okra and Texas toast given to me by Abby.
Summer the Chihuahua wears a new sweater Abby made for her this week.
Summer the Chihuahua wears a new sweater Abby made for her this week.

Abby and I had a few items to tick off in town Monday, including getting her truck serviced. As we often do, we had lunch at what has become our favorite place to eat in Ada, Prairie Kitchen, also known around town as Prairie Chicken. I have one favorite go-to item, their Rio Grande omelette, since it is vegetarian, and they make it well. The last time we were at the Chicken, Abby had liver and onions, but Monday she got a Monterey mushroom steak.

Like a lot of married couples, we have each other comfortably figured out, and that includes dinner. We both know, for example, that when a waitress asks Abby what bread she wants with her meal, I answer, since she doesn’t eat bread. (If you want to know why, ask her.)

Yesterday she ordered fried okra “because I knew you’d like some.”

Abby digs into her Monterrey steak. I look at this picture and think what pretty hands she has.
Abby digs into her Monterrey steak. I look at this picture and think what pretty hands she has.
Abby smiles as we look at a Harley Davidson motorcycle at the Nissan place today while we waited for her truck to be serviced.
Abby smiles as we look at a Harley Davidson motorcycle at the Nissan place today while we waited for her truck to be serviced.
The long-promised cell tower antennas are getting installed this week.
The long-promised cell tower antennas are getting installed this week.

In other news, the antenna crew finally arrived to install the antennas and 5G LTE transceiver equipment that will allow customers like us to use the service. It appears they are installing three pairs of 65º 12-foot panel antennas. The installer told me they are also putting in some kind of repeater for first responders. I walked Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, and they met him and liked him.

Speaking of Hawken, last night he cornered another armadillo, which I shooed away and shot. I don’t like killing them, but I can’t have these animals harassing our dogs.

I capped this big ugly beast at about four this morning, using my Smith and Wesson M&P 15/22 loaded with CCI Mini-Mags. I had a cheap laser on the right rail that worked like a charm, but died during the hunt, so I need to replace it.
I capped this big ugly beast at about four this morning, using my Smith and Wesson M&P 15/22 loaded with CCI Mini-Mags. I had a cheap laser on the right rail that worked like a charm, but died during the hunt, so I need to replace it.