One early morning, just after dawn, Cocoa Beach, Florida, I had a revelation. My wife and I walk the beach four or more miles each day we are lucky enough to be in Florida for the winter. Yes, we are “snow birds” who flee the snows of New York for a few weeks, now and then.
We love to catch the sunrise together, have breakfast, pull together a lunch for a long walk. We catch the passing beach scenery, find a place to enjoy our meal, and return late afternoon.
The Black Skimmer (Scientific Name: Rynchops niger) literally stands out from the gulls. The individuals gather together in a large group. If there is a wind, most group members face into it. They are aloof and dignified, unlike the gulls who grift for food, obnoxious and bothersome if you make the mistake of throwing a gull a morsel.
My early morning revelation was how the Black Skimmer feeds, flying just above the surf, the lower mandible extended to fish by feel. Unless you beach walk early mornings, you will be most familiar with the habit of grouping together, facing into the wind. I captured this individual, a member of a larger group, just after sunrise, on Cocoa Beach. It was just me and the Skimmers.
Their feeding is successful enough to allow them to longue on the beach most of the day. I have only seen them feed early mornings. Here is another part of their feeding behavior. They feed as a group in long sweeping lengths. At the end, they turn as a group and head the other way. Here are three Black Skimmers in a turn.
One morning, after our sunrise view, I pulled together my photography kit for this successful photo shoot. Enjoy!!
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
To close our time on the Tain Way I offer a poem written and presented to the congregation of the First Unitarian church of Ithaca New York 25 years ago, 1992. Interspersed are final photographs from our walk on the Tain Way of 2014.
The poem content is not directly biographical / confessional although it draws upon my experience as a single parent in the 1980’s through 1990’s.
A Poem Read To The Congregation
a crisis threatened an Irish village men women children filled the meeting place everyone participated especially the infants
raising John alone was not part of the plan Its been just john and me helen gave birth to john to have a part of me in case of loss i felt the same way and she understood
a welcome feminine voice in our home “Little House on the Prairie” and “Little House in the Big Woods” twice.
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article by Wilder called “HOME” that has an emotional resonance for me dated 1923 Wilder was in her 50’s.
Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.
Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back. I realize that’s all my life the teaching of these early days have influenced me, and the example set by Father and Mother has been something I have tried to follow, with failure here and there, with rebellion at times; but always coming back to it as the compass needle to the star.
So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work. Especially did I wonder when reading recently that there was a great many child suicides in the United States during the last year. Not long ago we had never heard of such a thing in our own country, and I am sure there must be something wrong with the home of a child who commits suicide.
we give so much to our children what’s left over though is ours
With grandchildren in the Miami Area and a sister in Daytona Beach, Florida was on my mind this morning and memories of this beautiful experience on Cocoa Beach came to mind. After an eventful day touring the NASA launch control center, Pam and I took an evening walk during the golden hour, me with camera in hand.
Full in expectation of catching the passing scene with lots of shot I set to full size jpeg mode using a Sony Alpha 700 dslr with a DT 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens. The light was exceptional, so I did not expect much post production work.
My first impression was of the line of cruise ships heading south from Port Canaveral, the starboard side lit perfectly behind human denizens of the Cocoa Beach shore, in full enjoyment mode. A synergy of the images struck me. I took a few experimental shots then, as we progressed down the beach front this unusual tableau came into view.
The session proceeded smoothly and professionally, it was a pleasure to watch. I felt no compunction for capturing these private moments on a public beach, the transcendence of the images reflect well on all participants.
We can roam the woods and gorges this time of year to find these wildflowers camouflaged in their young, green foliage. Here are two images from a June 3rd afternoon in Fillmore Glen with a waterfall. Enjoy!!
It brings to mind, a few years ago Pam and I took lessons at Cornell’s Merrill Family Sailing Center followed by several seasons of memberships. We’d take out sailboats the size on the one enjoyed by the fellow above in Northport Harbor.
We’d spend entire days on the water, looking up at the people driving the hill up and down route 13. “How lucky we are here and not there”, I’d say.
Willy Vanderbilt named his Centerport estate “Eagle’s Nest” after his first yacht, “Eagle” that was anchored in Northport harbor along the estate shoreline. In 1932 the German Krupp Germaniawerft company build a new yacht named Alva, after his mother.
To the Greeks he was Dionysus. Also known as the “twice born” from the myth of his being carried in his father Zeus’ thigh after Hera, the jealous wife, plotted the death of his mother, the mortal Semele.
The infancy of Dionysus was perilous, with Hera plotting revenge Zeus found safe haven for the child at a place of earth called Mount Nysa, with beings named Rain Nymphs. The fascination of Vanderbilt with the story continued with the acquisition and display of a statue of the infant Dionysus with a protective nymph.
The statue and plinth are at the stairs into the garden.
Paolo Soleri passed away eight years ago, April 9, 2013 at the age of 93. I was fortunate to attend a University of Arizona lecture by Dr. Soleri in the 1970’s. He was at the height of his accomplishments that afternoon and for an hour we vicariously shared his vision and philosophy. What most impressed me was Dr. Soleri’s openness and humanity. Solari’s vision was of an architecture of a dense occupation of humanity that has a minimal environmental impact, Arcology was the term he coined for this idea. I remembered that hour and Arcosanti, his desert village north of Phoenix since then.
Thirty years later my personal project of reconnecting to the University of Arizona brought me for the first time to Arcosanti. In that time, Dr. Soleri’s trained thousands of students and his desert village grew slowly. Arcosanti is now a vision that achieved a center while events which seemed to pass it by, actually are stones with the strength of Dr. Solari’s ideas and humanity.
Here is a sampling of architectural details from Arcosanti, a place that is real enough and quite charming. To find the site, head north on US Route 17 in Phoenix, travel about 67 miles to Cordes Lakes and take Arcosanti Road to the site.
Pam Checking Her Equipment prior to our visit the summer of 2008.
Click any photograph to visit my “Arizona” online gallery.
Entrance and a Tower of the Crafts III building
Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels I
Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels II
Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels III
Bell and Panel from the Colly Soleri Amphitheater
Bell Casting was and continues to be a major source of income.
View from the East Housing complex to the East Across Arcosanti
View to the South with Cypress Trees from a Portal of the Crafts III Building
Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills
Sunday, May 25, 2014 was a happy day for Pam and I. It was the first full day of an eighteen (18) we filled with Ireland, travelling in a loop of the island following the coast from, naming the counties where we spent time on the ground, Louth, Armagh, Dublin, Meath, Wicklow, Cork, Kerry, Claire, Mayo, Antrim, Down and back to Louth. The counties of Northern Ireland are in italics. Indeed, at this time the politics allowed us to travel freely between the Republic and the North. That day, our morning was spent in Louth attending mass, enjoying our first meeting with the family over a substantial mid-day meal (click the link for my Facebook album of the meeting). We split off that afternoon to visit the home of my cousin, Mary and her husband Joseph in County Armagh, just over the border. When Joseph offered to drive us over to Slieve Gullion it was totally new to us, we had no conception of the place or what to expect.
It was such a gift, we are grateful to Joseph for this experience. Only in 2018 when, at 64 years of age and retired”, was I able to research the place and spend time developing the photographs for publication. Two of the photographs illustrate this posting, to view the others in my online gallery, click either photograph.
Slieve is the Irish language word for “mountain.” Slieve Gullion is a lone eminence, one remnant of volcanic eruptions about 60 million years ago during the rifting of continents that produced the Atlantic Ocean. Around the mountain is the Ring of Gullion, a string of hills, 26 miles by 11 miles, surrounding the mountain and formed from the ancient collapse of a volcanic caldera. The technical name for it is a Ring Dyke and it was the first of its kind to be recognized and mapped, well before the nature of the formation was understood of be volcanic. The name Gullion is derived, in one formulation, from the name of the metalsmith, Culann. In Irish Myth, Culann’s home and workshop was on the slope of Slieve Gullion. A wealthy and respected personage, Culann invited Conchobhar mac_Neasa, king of Ulster to feast. During his approach to the mountain, passing through the surrounding plain, the king stopped to watch boys play hurling. Among them was the future hero of Ulster, the young Sétanta. Impressed with Sétanta athletic abilities, the king invited him to join in the feasting at Culann and the boy promised to follow after the game. Later, while climbing the mountain to fulfill his promise Sétanta was attacked by the guard dog of Culann. The myth says the dog was killed by Sétanta in self-defense. Never the less, in compensation to Culann, Sétanta committed to rearing a replacement and to act as guard dog in the meantime. In this way he became known as Cu Culann, “the dog of Culann.” Click for more about Cu Culann.
On the summit two cairns north and south of a small lake, tangible proofs of ancient peoples and beliefs. The north cairn is a more ancient passage grave, 90 feet wide, 16 feet high, the opening aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice. The cairn north of the lake is less ancient containing two cist burials. For our visit Joseph drove us along the 8 mile drive. The following is an image of a viewing platform and the road. Just beyond, on the right, where the ridge meets the road, is the trail to the 1,880 foot summit of Slieve Gullion. Our arrival disturbed sheep resting on the asphalt. I’d have loved to spent a day climbing the summit, but it was not to be this trip.
The way is part of the Slieve Gullion Forest Park. Throughout are turnoffs to admire the view. It was during our frequent stops I pulled out the photography gear to grab the views. Here is one, looking southwest. For the other views, click either photograph to visit my Online Gallery of Ireland.
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
“Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart,such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, withher gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.”
from “Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist, Writings from the Ozarks” edited by Stephen W. Hines”