There is an old saying, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.” If that’s the case, then one must assume that the opposite is also true. And in the case of March, 2016…the opposite would definitely be the case. Bob and I were married on March first, and so we go to Thermopolis around that time to celebrate our anniversary. This year was absolutely beautiful!! It was warm with no snow, and our quiet little walks were just lovely. The groundhog had predicted an early Spring this year…and unusual prediction for him, so I was feeling very optimistic about the remainder of the Winter…or the lack thereof. Now it’s not that I’m superstitious, and I don’t believe that these predictions are superstition anyway, but rather God’s way of showing us little signs of His plans for the future. He tells the animals things that humans just don’t hear, like telling the geese when to fly south or to head north. We humans have somehow become so scientific that we fail to listen to the signs from God.
Of course, the scientists would say that they are able to predict the weather too, and perhaps they do listen to the signs of God, whether they admit that is what they are doing or not. Still, I find it odd that things like the groundhog not seeing his shadow on February 2nd, or the way March makes it’s annual entrance, can have such an impact of the weather over the next month or so, but they do nevertheless. One thing that many of us have come to look for is the time when the geese fly south. If they head out early, we have a pretty good idea that Winter will soon follow, but if the stay around into late fall, things could be very different for the Winter. They simply have been told that there is no hurry to leave. It is maybe the one sign from God that we humans have noticed over the years.
Be that as it may, we have arrived at the end of March in Wyoming. Enter Winter Storm Troy!! This Winter has been a relatively easy one, even though, the snow that fell in mid-December, didn’t leave the streets until mid-February. Nevertheless, I am pretty much over Winter after the first snow of the season, so I was looking forward to an early Spring. Now, with the end of March upon us, it decides to follow the old saying, and go out like a lion…since it came in like a lamb. That said, we are sitting here in Wyoming with about sixteen inches of snow on the ground, many businesses closed, and schools that would be…were it not for Spring Break. This storm is not supposed to hang around very long, but those unfortunate people in its path could get anywhere from 1″ to 47″ of the white stuff. I certainly hope we are not on the 47″ end of that scale. The snow is expected to continue through tonight and finally heading out around 6pm tomorrow. After that, look out, because when the temperatures heat up to the low fifties by Sunday, all this snow is going to melt, and become…a whole lot of water. I guess that is the April Fools Day joke in all of this weather prediction process.
Our family always loved having our Aunt Ruth Spencer Wolfe, her husband, Uncle Jim Wolfe and their kids, Shirley, Larry, and Terry come to visit. We always had so much fun when they came. It didn’t matter if we were playing with the kids or sitting around listening to the many stories Uncle Jim or Aunt Ruth told. There was always so many fun things going on when they were there. My dad, Allen Spencer and Uncle Jim kept us all laughing with their antics. Dad and Uncle Jim were always coming up with some new thing…from wild recipes to crazy challenges. There was never a dull moment when our two families were together.
When we were kids, the two families took trips together. A favorite was the South Dakota trip. Our parents were great campers, and they always made it a lot of fun. I also remember several trips to Casper mountain. The mountain was a long standing favorite, because it was close and yet we got to get out and camp, or at the very least, go for picnics. For a number of years, however, their family lived here in Casper, and that made it much easier to get together.
I gave us kids lots of time to play together. They had chickens, ducks, and geese, and for my sisters and me, all city girls, that in itself was a novelty. Of course, we didn’t have to clean up after them either. I think we were pretty prissy, and we would have probably freaked out at the site of the coop. They also had a garden, and in it was just about everything you could imagine, so I’m sure Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim found a few things missing from the garden after we all spent time outside at their house. They also had a tractor that Shirley would hook the wagons up to and take us all for rides. It was a great time. Of course all too often, it was more fun to be inside with them. Our dad’s kept things lively, whether they were together or all by themselves.
For Uncle Jim’s kids, he was a role model. He taught them how to shoot a gun, and go hunting, so they could provide meat for their families. Their training started as young as two years old, and that is something I agree with. If children know what a gun can do, and they are taught the value of life, they will gain a healthy respect for both life and gun. Shirley recalls fishing, hunting and camping with her dad, and with that came a great sense of camaraderie between the two of them. He was her hero, and she knew that he could do anything. I suppose that is part of what made it hard for her when his mind started to go. Suddenly the dad, who had always taken such good care of her and the family, needed her to take care of him. I know how she feels about that. It is a hard thing to know that your parents are aging, and all you can think is, “How can I stop this? I want to go back in time!!” Unfortunately, that can never be. We live the life we have been given, in the time we were meant to live in, and when it is time to go home to heaven, we must go, whether our family is ready or not. Today would have been Uncle Jim Wolfe’s 94th birthday. He left us almost 3 years ago, and we’ll always miss him. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Jim. We love you.
Sometimes, you have to do something that makes you happy. That is how I feel about photography. Not everyone sees what I see in my pictures…but I see it. They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and I always thought they meant finding love, but it really means any kind of beauty. My photography may not be beautiful or even unique to everyone, but to me each shot is an amazing expression of my own discovery. I say discovery, because most of the time, I don’t do anything, but see something that I think is photo worthy. Sometimes, I see other people who like the same kinds of things that I do, but just as often, other artists have very different styles than I do. And some seem very strange to me, as perhaps my photography does to others.
This past weekend, while Bob and I were in Thermopolis, we took the time to walk along the river, and up by the hot springs pools. The birds, including ducks, geese, and at least one Great Blue Heron, live in the area year round. It seems strange that they don’t migrate south, until you realize that with the hot springs, the river and especially the pools provide a warm climate for them. This makes migration unnecessary, and that is a cool thing for the people who love to visit the area. The birds, while not tame, are very much used to the scores of people who come to the area, and while they will not let you get seriously close to them, they are much more tolerant of people nearby…provided you move slowly. Of course, for the sake of my photography, having a child try to run up to the birds provides a perfect opportunity to try to get a good “flight” photograph.
Flight photographs are much harder to take than one would think. While all birds fly, and fly often, it is not that easy to take their picture doing it. They go very fast, and trying to chase them with your cameral lens and focus in time is not easy. Then, there is the problem of catching them in a position where they actually look like than a bird and not a ball of feathers. A tripod doesn’t work for this type of picture, obviously, because you have to be able to move. In reality, the best way to take this type of picture is to get your camera ready, and have someone move quickly toward the birds, making them fly away. While that may not be a spontaneous photograph, it is often the best way to get that coveted “in flight” shot. While I didn’t ask them to, there were kids who caused my birds to take flight. To me, it doesn’t really matter what made the birds take flight, but rather the fact that they took flight that makes the scene photo worthy.
It’s strange that our minds, even as small children can remember the things that most impressed us. Even as young as 3, or maybe even younger, those memories so clearly imprint themselves on our mind that we can see the event as if we were experiencing it still. Sometimes that memory is scary and we wish we could forget, such as the time I was tripped by a woman trying to get off of the escalator that we were on. I clearly remember falling, my dress being torn, and my chin and elbow being cut. Escalators bother me to this day. Other memories, like the first time we got to stay in a motel bring a smile to my face.
I’m sure that is exactly how my Great Aunt Bertie Schumacher felt when she remembered the fall days on the farm, after the wheat had been harvested, and the flocks of ducks and geese would begin their migration south. She remembers that the wheat fields seemed to be covered with a thick cloud, that was in fact the flocks of ducks and geese. Then the fields seemed to be alive as they went about looking for food as the evening neared. She recalls how her older brother, Albert would go out to the wheat fields and return with twenty birds in an hour. While Fred, Bertie, and Elsa watched with their mouths watering, Anna and Mina had to clean the birds, and even though they liked the end result, the cleaning was a lot of work, and they grumbled through every second of it.
Years later the family had a smoke house, and the meat that came from there was heavenly. Great Aunt Bertie said she could still taste that meat, while feeling quite sad that she had gone years without it by then. One of her fondest memories of her mother was one of sneaking out to the smoke house with a sharp knife and cutting off a bit of the meat whenever they needed a snack in the middle of the day. And the best thing is that it was allowed in their home, and not considered an offence in need of punishment.
So much of life is commonplace, and would maybe even be considered boring, but in every life there are moments that stand out…that, are labeled in our memory files as special and very important, even if, to other people, they would not seem so. It is the privilege of each person’s mind to pick the memories that it finds the most special and the most important…the sweetest memories. Then they are locked away, so they can be opened up another day, when something we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch triggers that particular file to reopen and pour out that sweet memory that has been tucked away there, so that we can experience it once again in our mind.
Sometimes in life, we get the opportunity to interact with nature is ways that are unexpected. Most of the time wild animals, want nothing to do with humans. We are the enemy, and they know it, but once in while, you find a situation where the animals have learned to trust humans. Such was the case when my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin took their son, Christopher to Denver with Kevin’s parents. Christopher’s other grandma helped Christopher to feed the geese some bread, and the geese loved it. Now, knowing my grandson like I do, I know that he was laughing with pure delight as the geese come up to him and took their dinner from him. Christopher has always loved animals. And when something got him excited, his laugh was amazing. I can just imagine the excitement he must have felt.
Some people have more chances to get to know nature up close and personal, like my good friend Becky, who lives on the mountain with her husband, dog, a number of deer and wild turkeys. The turkeys don’t allow her to get too close, but the deer are very brave. They will come right up to the camera…just to see what it is, even sticking their nose right up to it sometimes. Becky is treated to a side of nature that most of us never get to see. And, as she continues to live on the mountain, the deer will get to know her better. This picture of one of Becky’s favorites, Buddy, has him eating out of one hand while she took the picture with the other hand. She was nervous, but Buddy was a gentleman, so all went well.
Even in town, we have been treated to situations where nature and humans can interact. I know, because I have deer that come into my back yard often throughout the year. They are relatively unafraid. We can walk around the yard while they are there, and unless we get too close, they just watch us with curious interest. Maybe they, like we, each wonder what the other is all about. We aren’t too sure how close we can go, but we would love to be able to get really close…we just don’t know if we dare. Should we take a chance on a wild animal trusting us enough to allow us to get close? Most of us will take that chance. That’s why we feed the geese, deer and turkeys, and even the squirrels, like the one who bravely climbed up my grandson’s pant leg, until he realized he was very close…and then he ran. Those moments are special, and maybe even a little unnerving, but that’s what getting close to nature is all about.