Black Skimmers Feeding

An early morning revelation

I published six fine art prints from this photo session. Click this link for any photograph to visit my new Florida Gallery.

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.
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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.

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Black Skimmers are just as large a gulls.  Slender, tern-like, black and white bodies.  Recognize a Black Skimmer from the colorful red of the base of the bill.  If you view my Fine Art versions, notice the lower mandible is much longer.

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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.

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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.

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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

Tain Way Poetic Finale

A Poem to accompany our arrival at Carlingford

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

I

a crisis threatened an Irish village
men women children filled the meeting place
everyone participated especially the infants

Ram on Slieve Foy
The Tail Way descends from Goliyn Pass to the northeast, passing among commons grazing. I attempted to identify the breed of this ram, but gave up. I can say sheep on the Cooley Peninsula are primarily bred for meat and there are black faced breeds known for meat production.
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Ram in profile on Slieve Foy
The flocks of County Louth commonly carry paint brands to identify ownership. Paint branding lessens wool value. This is less of an issue if the livestock are primarily raised for meat.

in spite of it all a plan was arrived at
after the vote
from the back of the room a man called out

….you know the type…

THIS WILL BE OUR PLAN
UNTIL
WE FIND OUT WHAT IT IS.

Walls and Battlements of King John's Castle
The ancient portion of Carlingford. I called the top of the castle “battlements” in the loose sense, as the ruin now longer has a walkway.

II

my son John and I have a photo of him at 5 years
washing dishes
standing on a chair up to his elbows in rubber gloves
the caption reads “Two Men On Their Own.”

i had agreed to accept a divorce from helen
only if john was left with me

one night in particular stands out from that time
i did not sleep for planning what john and I would do

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Unbranded, perfect white marks this lamb among an extensive fern bed. Tain Way steepens on approaching Carlingford. Below is the residential Carlingford, the Greenore road running to the right. The large structure with two rows of dark windows is the Four Seasons Hotel where a substantial brunch is served Sundays.

III

seven years passed
not a long time
since then we’ve moved
found another a better life

Ram and Lamb in pasture
We descended below the ridge to pass into excellent pasturage. The growth of fern hides a lush grass pasture.
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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

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

a welcome
feminine voice in our home
“Little House on the Prairie”
and
“Little House in the Big Woods” twice.

Gorse against the slopes of Slieve Foy
Plants and livestock on these slopes of Slieve Foy contend with adverse conditions in the form of a constant east wind. The stress is evident in the stressed trunk, although this species thrives in this environment, as seen in the strength of bloom and the yellow patches on the slopes, all of which are gorse. Gorse flowers are edible; the entire plant can be used as fodder when crushed to the consistency of moss. In Scotland there’s a museum with a roundish boulder called a Whin Stone.

V

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.

Tain Trail Enters Carlingford
The trail detours around sheep pasture just before descending to the outskirts of Carlingford.

VI

we give so much to our children
what’s left over though
is ours

Red Poppies front a Fieldstone Home.
The first Carlingford home passed by the trail is a solid fieldstone home with a slate roof fronted by a natural garden featuring red poppies.
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William Carlos Williams wrote
it is difficult to get the news from poems
yet men diet miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there

Ruined Cottage, Carlingford
This ruin lies off the Tain Way as it descends through the outskirts of Carlingford town. Constructed of stones, mortar and what looks to be concrete. Long slate slabs protect the eves. It’s been abandoned for an age. What a story it must have, long slow and full of life.

it is not difficult to understand this
to live it is another matter

The Abby Bar
Named for the Carlingford Priory, a nearby ruin, the Abby Bar is located on Dundalk Street (R173), Liberties of Carlingford, Carlingford, Co. Louth, Ireland. Liberties of Carlingford might be called greater Carlingford in the USA.
 

you have to live it
in order to have something
left over

Metal Cover with Celtic Motifs
A metal cover, about 8 inches in diameter located in the sidewalk on the left side of The Abby Bar on Dundalk Street, Carlingford. The triple spiral triskelion symbol has become a Christian symbol of faith for Celtic Christians around the world, a visual representation of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and eternity. In Ireland, the symbol acquired its Christian meaning prior to the 5th century. The triskelion predates Christina and even Celtic culture as petroglyphs of the astronomical calendar at the megalithic tomb Newgrange (3,200 BC). The symbol is associated with Neolithic cultures throughout Western Europe.

VII

never the less
my emotional resonance in reading that piece
“Home”

Entrance with Calla Lilies, Carlingford
Caring touches to a well-tended home entrance along the Tain Way, Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

did not come from the sentiments Wilder so skillfully evoked
though I shared them it was that sharp part

Church of Saint Michael Grounds, Lamp Post
Lamp post on Church of Saint Michael grounds.

i did not agree with it lacking a reason
and so must have re-read
“Home”
fifty times a hundred
who knows

Church of Saint Michael Facade
The Church of Saint Michael is a Roman Catholic Church on Dundalk Street (R173), Carlingford.

so committed to speak today
and began to write
something was bound to shake loose

Church of Saint Michael Grounds

then those lines form Deuteronomy
gave themselves to me

Before you this day is set good and evil, life and death.
Choose life, that both you and your descendants might live.

Church of Saint Michael Grounds

“Home” was a twist of these lines

as long ago as 1923
Wilder was experiencing our present
contemplating the unthinkable

Wilder held her own experience as a shield
and denied such a tragedy
could ever touch her

for me the result
is a beautiful poisoned apple
innocently offered
by a treasured friend

Final Tain Trail PHotograph
Pam Wills and Sean Mills on the grounds of the Church of Saint Michael, Dundalk Road (R176), Carlingford.
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VII

life is a gift
not entirely under our control
Yes we must be careful
but for some this is not enough

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Michael Wills and Sean Mills on the grounds of the Church of Saint Michael, Dundalk Road (R176), Carlingford.

we must forgive others
and ourselves

************************************************************************

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Newlyweds and the Cruise Ship

Images of Newlyweds on the beach

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.

Wedding Immersion
Newlyweds on Cocoa Beach give rapt attention to a distant cruise ship, it looks like an elegant child’s toy.
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Pulling back the focal length a bit the reason for the bride and groom on the beach is clear.

Newlyweds and Photographer
Photographer approaches from left.
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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.

Newlywed Photoshoot
Bride and groom pose while photographer composes the shot, her assistant behind.
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Pull back to capture the entire environment.
Enjoy!!!

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Young, fresh and green

Hidden on the forest floor

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!!

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Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Dreams, Stories and Things from the Vanderbilt Museum

a spring day on the former gold coast of Long Island

The Dreams

For 32 years of work dreams about work visited occasionally, then when retirement approached and overtook me these became an almost nightly visitation.

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Last week, a few months into retirement, the haunting stopped, replaced by adventures by and on the ocean.  

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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.

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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.

The Stories

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.

 

Willy had a “thing” about the infant Baccus.  My first Vanderbilt Museum posting “A Taste of Gatsby: details from the Vanderbilt Museum”included the following depictions of the infant Baccus.  the name preferred by the Romans.

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.  

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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 Things

The statue and plinth are at the stairs into the garden.

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Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

References
Wikipedia “Dionysus” and “Willy Vanderbilt”

Details From Arcosanti

Paolo Solari’s Timeless Vision of a human environment

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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.

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Entrance and a Tower of the Crafts III building

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Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels I

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Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels II

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Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels III

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Bell and Panel from the Colly Soleri Amphitheater

Bell Casting was and continues to be a major source of income.

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View from the East Housing complex to the East Across Arcosanti

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View to the South with Cypress Trees from a Portal of the Crafts III Building

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Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Jack in full color with Red Trillium

The Brown Dragon

Brown dragon is an apt nickname for Jack-in-the-pulpit, captured here with Red Trillium on the forest floor of Fillmore Glen State Park. I was down in the mud for the closeup,

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Click me for a post with more information about Jack-in-the-pulpit. There is a great deal more information about Jack-In-The-Pulpit on my previous post, at the above link. Try it out!!

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Slieve Gullion Forest Road

Visit a viewpoint in southern County Armagh, Northern Ireland

Yesterday, I simultaneously published nine photographs on my ImageKind Ireland Gallery and Getty IStock (click the links to visit): nine views taken from the slopes of Slieve Gullion.

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.

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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.

North View from Slieve Gullion– CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

The Three Laughers of Tiger Glen

The Sound of Laughter Among Friends

In the midst of a pine forest

The name for this Japanese (also called Korean) Red Pine, “Tanyosho”, refers to this trunk branching. Once a year this specimen is pruned to maintain form. The bark is polished, as well. This species (Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’) is native to Japan, Korea, northeastern China and the extreme southeast of Russia. 

through the roots of the trees

Base Trunk - Tanyosho Red Pine Cultivar

the waters gathered

Stone Torrent in Karesansui-style Garden
A stone torrent element of the Morgan Garden, Cornell University, a karesansui-style rock garden intended to imitate the intimate essence of nature, not its actual appearance. In this way the garden can serve as an aid to meditation about the true meaning of life. 

to form a raging torrent

Stone Torrent in Karesansui-style Garden

bound by fire-formed rock.

Stone Torrent in Karesansui-style Garden
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Through this forest

Stone Torrent in Karesansui-style Garden

at summer’s end

Stone Torrent in Karesansui-style Garden

strolled three friends, Daoist priest Lu Xiujing, Confucian poet Tao Yuanming and Buddhist monk Huiyuan.

The Three Laughers of Tiger Glen
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Huiyuan, a recluse, had vowed never to leave the temple grounds they wandered.

The Three Laughers of Tiger Glen

His vow included the crossing of the raging torrent of Tiger Glen.

The Three Laughers of Tiger Glen

Preoccupied by their conversation Lu and Tao Cross Tiger Glen

Huiyuan and Tiger Glen

Huiyuan followed his friends

Huiyuan and Tiger Glen
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over the raging torrent.

Stone Torrent in Karesansui-style Garden

Tiger Glen is the border Huiyuan vowed never to cross.

Stone Basin

In crossing Tiger Glen Huiyuan leaves the temple and breaks his vow.

Stone Torrent in Karesansui-style Garden

As soon as they realized what had happened, the men burst into laughter at the absurdity of this transgression.

The Three Laughers of Tiger Glen
Click Link for another posting about Cornell, “Lib Slope Autumn.” 

These are my photographs of Morgan Garden of the Johnson Museum of Art on the Cornell Campus.SONY DSC

References and Further Reading

museum.cornell.edu/morgan-garden

museum.cornell.edu/collections/asian-pacific/japan/three-laughers-tiger-glen

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinus_densiflora

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Thin Leaved Sunflower

Farm Journalist

“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”

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Photography Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved