Wednesday, December 29, 2021



The Holmes Lake Calendar – 2022 

Now that the pandemic has evolved into an evolutionary biology lesson, with variants cropping up in various places around the world and mutant, as well as competing, wacko treatment ideas also cropping up, and I’m not only fully vaccinated but also boosted, I figured it was okay to go back to Walgreens, masked, of course, and six feet away from the other people, and have the regular calendar pictures printed. So this year instead of the Samathon type 2021 calendar, you get a real one, although because a couple of you appreciated last year’s comments about the monthly photos, you’ll get a narrative accompaniment to the 2022 edition, too.

Trust me, there is a connection between this year’s calendar and the Chagrin Valley Camera Club whose members live generally south of Cleveland, Ohio. My sister Teresa, who lives in the area, is not only a member of that club, she’s also the newsletter editor, and sometime in the past couple of years, she suggested that I join CVCC because at the time it was free and I seemed to take a lot of pictures. So I did. Well, CVCC has a Monday morning critique and review session, with about a dozen or so hard-core photographers, and like an unsuspecting newbie, I dropped in. To make a long story short, these Monday morning folks are good, and sophisticated, but ultimately helpful. Thus I ended up needing to take some pictures, and Holmes Lake seemed like a logical place to use for that purpose, especially because I have a kayak and on calm days in summer and early fall I sometimes go over there, with, of course, a Canon SX700 in tow (not a major disaster if it falls in the water). But then, needing material for those Monday mornings, I started going over there with all the rest of my equipment and trying to actually take nice pictures. Of course when it comes to photographs, “nice” is a relative term. Oh, and Holmes Lake is only about a mile from our house, which makes it a nice lake.

There’s no guarantee that the calendar pics for 2022 are fine art, but they do represent an attempt to show the various faces of an urban park lake in the upper Great Plains. The park surrounding Holmes Lake has a lot of dramatic native vegetation and the lake has a nice population of waterfowl, sometimes a heron, and in the fall, migrating sandpipers. Some of these images were taken from the kayak, but others from the shore, using my other cameras: Nikon P900, Nikon D610, and Nikon Z7-2, and lenses including the Sigma 150-600mm telephoto. My camera purchase history might be of interest, mainly because it’s a study in causality and awareness, or maybe awareness as causality. When I went on that Searcher whale watch trip to the Gulf of California, in 2004, I borrowed a digital camera from the lab. After watching other folks on that boat use their high-end cameras, I bought a Nikon D70 the day I got back from that trip (my version of “high end” at the time). When we went to Africa in 2013, I borrowed a Canon S3 from the lab, and the day we got back from that trip, I bought a Canon SX50. A day or two after we got back from the 2015 trip to Tanzania, I bought a Nikon D610 because it seemed like I needed a full-frame machine. And eventually I bought the Z7-2 because everyone else seemed to be getting mirrorless cameras with high megapixel sensors. As one of the really astute members of CVCC told everyone one day, on the subject of new cameras (he’d just bought a really high end one): “You’ll still take the same pictures you’ve always taken.” He was correct. So you can think of this year’s calendar as a study in technology.

Eleven of these photos were taken in the months in (on?) which they appear; I didn’t have any from April so I picked one from early May. Ten of the photos were taken in 2021; November and December are from 2020.

(See my monthly Facebook posts for the monthly write-ups and pics.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021



The Words that Will Affect your Life

Be not the slave of Words.

—Thomas Carlyle (Sartor Resartus, 1833)

The words I use

Are everyday words and yet are not the same!

—Paul Claudel (La Muse Qui Est la Grace, 1910)

Here are some words that defined your world the day you were born: abortion, immigration, Trump, American, Republican, Democrat, climate, liberal, Nazi, terrorist, Black, White. Here is a word that defined your world a couple of years later, as I am trying to finish this hundred-page letter: COVID-19. Those are words used to define enemies and are readily attached to human beings; other of these words are linked to choices, behaviors, consequences of those choices, and beliefs that drive human behaviors. Some of those words may still be significant features of your environment when you are eighty-two.

If you are lucky, you will remember reading about these words in history classes, maybe even in college, and wondering how they could have been so important. If that happens, you can look in the mirror and say to yourself: Ashley, you are one exceedingly fortunate young woman—alive, healthy, smart enough and wealthy enough, or at least with enough available credit to float a loan, to end up in college, perhaps planning a career as a physician or attorney, during which my vocabulary will be expanded by several thousand new words, all of them with variable meanings, depending on who is using them and for what purpose they are being used.

I cannot begin to imagine the words that will define your world when you are my age, eighty-two, but I will try to do that later on, because without those words this letter cannot be finished. A whole lot of your words, at the age of eighty-two, will not be pleasant ones, and will not make you think of wonderful, happy, prosperous times, safe times. Why do I know this about the words that will surround you eighty-two years from now? I know about these words because they are the same words that have been used for at least the last thousand years, and probably for two or three times that long ago, although I’m referring to the meanings of sounds and symbols, not the sounds and symbols themselves. They are words with which I am familiar, with which my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were also familiar. I promise that at the age of eighty-two, you are not going to like the sounds of those words, and they will be especially painful if you have loved ones—your parents, your children, your grandchildren—who have suffered, and maybe died because of them.

So just for the sake of discussion, and comparison, here are some of the words that have defined my time on Earth, my parents’ time, my grandparents’ time, my great grandparents’ time, and in one case, my great great grandfather’s time. “War” is the most common and persistent word through all of these times. On the day you were born, the Iraq War was in its fifteenth year and American military personnel were killed in that war during the year. Two years earlier, the Afghanistan war started as a result of men flying airplanes into New York City buildings, killing thousands and injuring thousands more. And when our soldiers are not actually shooting at and killing other people, they are preparing to do so in seventy different nations around the world.

These wars are real ones, not the kind your parents can see in movies, or in video games, in which there is a whole lot of killing and destruction but in the end, nobody really gets killed because the people are only electronic signals of some kind inside a machine. What doesn’t get killed is the idea of killing as a solution to some problem. When you study the Iraq War in history class, you may discover that like the Vietnam War before it, the Iraq War was a contrived one, sold to the American public and their elected representatives as a war of prevention. The Iraqi leader at the time, Saddam Hussein, was supposed to have had a supply of something called “weapons of mass destruction.” For some vague, but probably explainable reason, our nation decided it was our duty to prevent Hussein from using such weapons, although there was little evidence, other than his oppressive behavior toward some of his own citizens that he was planning to use them. And officially, we as a nation didn’t care anything at all about Iraqi citizens, especially the women and children among them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


(I decided to post this excerpt after driving across Oklahoma, from Braman to Thackerville, for maybe the 400th time.)

We need to ask what we’ve learned about the world, and our rapidly changing place in it, by studying Oklahoma from noon on April 22, 1889, to 9:02 AM on April 19, 1995.
As a starter, in between those two dates, Oklahomans discovered the Oklahoma City field, installing derricks throughout residential areas and on the state capitol grounds, another powerful metaphorical description of our nation’s addictive dependence upon fossil fuels. These now lifeless steel frames enforce the symbolism, answering the question “who am I?” Legislators peer out their office windows at iconography, not having to ask what it means to be an Oklahoman. The state’s petroleum industry was a source of pride and identity that evolved quickly into a sense of entitlement followed just as quickly—in historical terms—by a sense of “what do we do now?” with the development of Middle Eastern, Venezuelan, and Alaskan oil fields.
Once I got old enough to engage in oil talk, I heard this question constantly from my father, even on rides to school in the 1950s. Interstate 35, linking Braman to Thackerville, is a window through which you can get a veiled peek at this century of history in a three or four hour period. Driving south across the state, only periodically do you see an active rig in the middle distance; sometimes vertical stacks of drill pipe signaling a bit change. These rigs are likely to be portables, regardless of size. Gone are the archetypical steel frame derricks with their “crow’s nests.” Pumping units are rusty; like herbivorous dinosaurs surrounded by barren dirt and a chain link fence, they nod, or sleep, waiting, perhaps, for the call to war that requires fossil fuel from heartland reserves. Collecting tanks are rustier still, looking like miniature versions of some high priority Superfund cleanup site.
Had I known enough to ask my father what the oil business would look like in the Third Millennium, he would have again linked “foreign crude” to the lonely pumpers north of Edmond. We’ve learned, from studying Oklahoma, that oil is where you find it, not where you want it to be, and that great nations rise and fall on their energy supplies, their energy policies, and their wisdom in the management of their natural resources. We’ve also learned, from studying the geographical expansion of Oklahoma City, that humans will build, and build, and build, like termites run amok, with nary a thought to the long term consequences. Within Angie Debo’s century, Oklahoma City grew from a founding population of about 4000 to a sprawling metroplex covering four or five counties with nearly 1.3 million people, but in this sense is little different from most of our nation’s 100 largest cities, including, if not especially, those in the arid west. As a model for our evolving nation, this expansion epitomizes the “growth is good” mentality; at some point, the lesson that exponential growth cannot be maintained over the long run, especially with resources that are fixed—read “oil” and “water”—will be learned, again, and all indications are that this time it will be a painful experience.

BERNICE AND JOHN is available as an e-book on all readers.