Tall ship angles

tall ship, peacemaker, abstract photography

Tall ship angles. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I had a chance to board and tour a tall ship docked at St. Marys, GA earlier this year. I enjoyed the tour and took several photos of interesting subjects and objects onboard the ship. However, I thought this photo, with its many shapes and angles, was the most interesting. The patterned sky of white and blue provided a distinctive background for the ship’s main mast.

“Tall ship angles” is my photo of the week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Filed under architectural photography, Photo of the Week, photography, travel

Spring’s arrival doesn’t guarantee spring weather

Amish buggy, first day of spring

First day of Spring 2014. © Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Spring has arrived, finally. Didn’t we say the same thing last year at this time?

A year ago after a long, cold, snowy winter, we looked forward to spring’s promise. It was long in coming.

Well, here we are a year later, virtually in the same situation. We’ve endured an even more brutal winter with record-breaking extreme temperatures, dangerous wind chills, and snowstorm after snowstorm.

East of the Mississippi River, it was a winter of biblical proportions. Where three or more gathered, complaints, exasperations, and unmentionable utterances about the lousy weather could be heard far and wide, even in church.

Amish farm, early spring

Waiting on spring. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Schools closed or delayed opening for a multitude of reasons a multitude of times. Local businesses suffered financially.

Even when it wasn’t snowing, the long string of gray days coupled with the dark, frigid ones weighed heavy on people’s spirits. It got so bad that rumors circulated in the statehouse that the all-knowing and all-seeing state legislature was ready to adopt a new motto for Ohio. “I can’t take it anymore” had its second committee reading when Old Man Winter’s grip finally loosened.

Thanks to the second consecutive polar vortex, snow, ice, cold and stinging winds affected folks not used to such stuff. Winter reached far into the southeastern United States.

Snowbirds got their feathers frosted a time or two. Wind chill advisories reached all the way to the southern tip of Florida. Even Key West wasn’t spared.

Amish farmer, plowing

Plowing the snow. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

With the air temperature in the 40s and the winds blowing off of the ocean at gale force, it was cold. Floridians aren’t asking for or expecting any sympathy cards, however.

It is prudent to focus on the passing of the vernal equinox and hope upon hope that the spring weather of 2014 will not repeat this year. My farmer friends need no reminder.

Spring a year ago lasted as long as the frigid winter had. Fields were unapproachable, and crops couldn’t be planted on schedule, not even by horse drawn machinery.

The first cutting of hay for some farmers didn’t happen until early June. I think that was when the last of the snowplow glacial piles finally melted. That’s how cold and wet April and May were a year ago.

Keep calm sign

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Let’s hope that there is no replication of that weather pattern this year. Everywhere this winter’s weather pounded, good people are ready for a regular, normal springtime. Nobody can blame them.

It’s nice to see sunrises and sunsets straight east and west morning and evening. I’ll enjoy their slow inch north, and hope that clouds, precipitation, and cold fronts don’t weaken the sun’s warming influence.

Spring will arrive. Forsythias and azaleas have already reached their peak where frost and ice briefly ruled in the south. Crocuses have already bloomed in southern Ohio. Our turn will come.

crocuses

Crocuses. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I’ll keep my excitement subdued when the buttery daffodils trumpet their glory. I have too many memories of enjoying their sunny spirit one day, and watching them droop from the weight of heavy, wet snow the next.

I hope that doesn’t happen again this year. I also hope that spring behaves itself and brings us the weather we should get.

I realize that severe thunderstorms, hail, lightning, tornadoes, frost and flooding are all part of that package. I also know that daylight will linger longer, and temperatures will gradually warm to near normal.

To get there, however, we’ll simply have to be patient and hope that fairer weather will prevail.

rural sunrise, foggy sunrise

Foggy sunrise. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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A sign of spring

gulf fritillary butterfly, sign of spring

Gulf Fritillary butterfly. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

With spring set to arrive officially on Friday at 3:45 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, I thought a splash of natural color would only be appropriate. I captured this Gulf Fritillary butterfly flitting among sand dunes on Main Beach, Fernandina Beach, FL in late January. The white spots on each wing indicate that it was a male.

“A sign of spring” is my photo of the week. Let’s hope we all see many more such signs in the days and weeks ahead.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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In words and deeds, a President humbly true to his faith

Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter

With Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Humility, service, love, family and faith are vital pillars of any stable community. My wife and I enthusiastically witnessed these highest of human qualities at a little Baptist church in Plains, Georgia.

We knew we wouldn’t be the only ones who would want to hear Jimmy Carter teach Sunday school. When the former president is scheduled to teach, the tiny congregation of 30 swells to 10 times that amount, sometimes more.

The good folks at Maranatha Baptist Church know what to do. They are ready for the ensuing onslaught. So are the authorities.

When we arrived at 8:30 a.m. at the modest church that damp, gray Sunday morning, a police dog checked every vehicle entering the property for bombs. Though we were plenty early, a line of people already stretched from the front door, down the cement sidewalk to the parking lot.

By now, former President Carter has developed quite the reputation as a teacher, humanitarian, and world-renowned peacemaker. At age 90, he and his equally gracious wife, Rosalynn, are still putting their faith into action.

Noble Peace Prize, Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize medal. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

My wife and I joined the queue to enter the red brick building. A stern looking woman popped onto the church’s front porch to announce the procedures for entering. She spoke loudly and resolutely so everyone could plainly hear the specific instructions to make everything go as smoothly as possible.

Secret Service agents greeted us inside the door. We emptied our pockets onto a table and removed our coats. Another officer checked everyone with a wand for any suspicious objects.

We sat in a pew about two-thirds of the way back from the pulpit. Promptly at 9 a.m., the same drill sergeant like lady walked to the front of the church and introduced herself as “Miss Jan.”

Miss Jan spent the next 45 minutes kindly but firmly going over all the rules of conduct. Included were not standing or clapping for the president and no photography during the class or worship. We could take pictures during Jimmy’s brief introduction.

Miss Jan continued, “If you want your picture taken with the President and First Lady you must stay for both the Sunday school and the worship.”

After a brief break, Miss Jan, who had taught the Carter’s daughter, Amy, in elementary school, had us all bow our heads for a prayer. When she said, “Amen,” Jimmy Carter surprised the congregation when he rose and began addressing the crowd. He and his Secret Service guards had quietly sneaked in during the prayer. We hung on his every word.

Miss Jan kept watch over the assembled. She occasionally hugged or bent down to shake the hand of a Secret Service agent, as if she were welcoming them back to a family gathering. The affection they shared was for more than themselves. Their common assignment of protecting the president they loved and admired expressed their uniform devotion.

Jimmy Carter, Sunday school

Jimmy Carter was making a point during the introduction section of the class. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The topic was loving God and your neighbor. Jimmy humbly shared how organizations he supports, like the Lions Club, Habitat for Humanity, and The Carter Center in Atlanta, help him put this charitable concept into global deeds for peace and human rights.

Jimmy used the word “humble” several times, pronouncing it the old-fashioned way, without the beginning “H” sound. It modeled his southern, gentlemanly hospitable manner.

After the service, Miss Jan resumed command, dismissing us by rows to have our pictures taken with Jimmy and Rosalynn. When she came to our row, I told her she must have been an excellent teacher. Miss Jan winked, smiled, and quietly thanked me.

Miss Jan had instructed us not to either shake hands with the Carters or to talk to them so that everyone could get through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible. When the lady taking the photo with my camera clicked the shutter, Rosalynn whispered to Neva that the flash hadn’t gone off.

That was so thoughtful of her. The picture was fine, just like Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, and Miss Jan, too.

The communion cup of love, faith, family, humility, and service generously overflowed in Plains, Georgia. We were grateful to have been partaken.

Jimmy Carter quote, Bruce Stambaugh

A quote from Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Liquid striations

Ruddy Duck, duck on pond, art photography

Liquid striations. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

When I snapped the shutter, I thought I was taking a photo of this male Ruddy Duck in its winter plumage. When I downloaded it to my computer, I realized I had much more than a duck on a pond.

The long lens, the lighting, the ripples in the pond all contributed to my Photo of the Week, “Liquid striations.”

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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This baby boomer is aging gracefully or not

fishing, baby boomers, retirement

Baby boomers like this couple can relax with hobbies like fishing, if they can get out of the chair to reel in their catch. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I and two other couples, all baby boomers, sat around the table playing dominoes. Besides the antics of the game, we laughed at the anecdotal stories we shared about our particular infirmities.

None in the group of six was sick. We just chuckled at our ailments brought on by our aging.

Beyond the stories of goofiness and crazy interactions, a common theme arose. Though we all agreed that we still thought young, clearly, we weren’t teenagers anymore. In fact, we were all grandparents.

While laughing at our gradual frailties, the game almost became secondary to our gathering. And yet, I felt a certain relief that it wasn’t just me that was feeling his age.

Keep in mind that those of us in the baby boomer generation had the reputation for thinking ourselves invincible, clutching college degrees and armed with an ironclad arrogance that we could somehow save the world. Now that I need help buttoning my shirts, I know that mindset was a bit over the top.

grandkids, creativity

It’s nice for some of us boomers to practice our creativeness with our grandchildren. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The lack of dexterity is probably my biggest frustration. I have the hardest time picking up small items from flat surfaces.

Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife who at least saves her chuckling about my dilemma until she is out of earshot. At my age, that isn’t too far.

My hearing seems to be fading fast, although I’ve had two different doctors check it with the same results. I’m right on the border of needing hearing aids.

I’m holding off with the purchase. Man that I am, I prefer to cup my hand up to my good ear to hear conversations. Besides, the hardest frequency for me to detect is that of my wife’s voice.

I’ve had bifocals for years now and get along just fine. My good optometrist ensures me that all is well physically with my eyes. I’m glad for that, as long as I can remember where I put my glasses.

pills, pillbox, medication

My pillbox. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Memory was probably the number one issue discussed around the game table that night. There was universal agreement that our recollections were slipping. We all confessed to walking from one room to another room to retrieve an item, only to forget what we were after once we got there. Misery loves company.

To help me keep track of what medications I have to take and when, I use something at which I recently scoffed. I fill a pillbox, four slots per day, with my medications. None of the spaces goes empty.

Filling my personal pharmaceutical dispenser has an ancillary benefit besides organizing my pills. Every time I restock the thing I realize another week has passed. It works better than a calendar.

The table talk revealed that I was fortunate compared to others. I usually have no problem sleeping. Other seniors wish they could, or require machines to keep them from inadvertently holding their breath at night.

Of course the evening I wrote this, I couldn’t sleep. See what I mean?

I won’t mention the gray hairs, or in my case, baldness that foretells our age. I only see the wrinkles and crows feet on the faces of others. Mine is smooth as a baby’s.

Officially defined as the years after retirement, the Golden Years usually begin at age 65. Now that I’ve crossed that demarcation, I feel a little tarnished.

I’ll age as gracefully as I can. After all, I need all the grace I can get.

kayak, sunset, Bruce Stambaugh

The sun is setting on the baby boomer generation as they paddle into retirement. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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After the rain

raindrops on berries, color contrasts

After the rain. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The gray, rainy day drove our little group into the local history museum. We enjoyed our 90-minute tour but were ready for a tasty lunch from one of the excellent restaurants in historic Fernandina Beach, Florida. We exited the museum and discovered the rain had stopped, at least for the moment. As I turned the corner of the old brick building to head to the car, these bright berries quickly caught my eye.

I loved the way the glistening raindrops, ready to drip, made the berries shine. Their fire engine red brightened the dull day.

“After the rain” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Seaside musings help while away winter

breakfast on the beach

Snowbird breakfast. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

A Bonaparte’s Gull landed in the salty water near where the grandfatherly gentleman stood focused on his seashell mission. The man didn’t notice the majestic bird still in its winter plumage. Instead, he gazed downward as the nearly calm ocean lapped at the shore.

Like so many other beachgoers, this human being searched for treasure. He pursued colorful shells, starfish, and shark’s teeth uncovered from their sandy hiding spots by the steadily moving waters.

The ocean glistened in the late morning sun, still not strong enough to fend off the cold north wind. That didn’t deter the gem hunters.

The joggers or walkers, often with a dog or two attached to leashes, also plied the sandy shoreline. The canines either forged ahead or got pulled along.

Click on photos to enlarge them.

At sunrise, the Black Skimmers fed in their fashion, beaks skimming the water’s surface for seafood fare. Later they huddled on the warming sand, preening, resting, readying for their next expedition.

The magnificent Northern Gannets displayed a different approach. They flapped their long narrow wings, black tips contrasting sharply with the rest of their ivory feathers. The gannets sailed and circled. Once spotting their targets, they dived kamikaze-style into the ocean where they sat and swallowed their catch.

The Brown Pelicans mimicked the gannets in style but lacked the grace. The bulky birds sailed on the breeze until they spied their meal, then hurled themselves head first into the water. Their steam shovel-like bill had scooped in their prey before the birds righted themselves and downed the fish.

Trawlers trailed giant nets up and down the waters offshore snaring shrimp and fish. Scores of gulls, terns and gannets swirled madly behind the boat, hoping to catch any escaping seafood.

The ocean itself had split personalities. Sometimes tranquil, sometimes angry, the waters either licked or pounded at the shoreline depending on the ocean’s mood. If gale force winds accompanied high tide overnight, the gritty beach yielded.

What once was a gentle slope to the sea had had a makeover in the new moon darkness. The sunrise beachcombers had one, two or even three terraces to step down to the shore for their strolls.

Black Skimmer. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Black Skimmer. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Helicopters shuttled to and fro from a nearby Naval base just the way a pair of Ospreys zipped and hovered above the beach. The main difference was the birds weren’t practicing. For the Ospreys, a successful hunt meant survival.

Tiny Sanderlings scampered along the shore, too. Probing for nutrition, they zigzagged along the foamy sea edge as it ebbed and flowed.

Youngsters tossed a few gulls bits of bread. It didn’t take long for the boys to wish they hadn’t.

Shore fishermen cast their lines far out into the water, letting their live bait attract the fish they sought to reel in. Until then, they stuck the handle of the rod into a sturdy holder secured in the sand and took a seat.

Others only wanted to warm themselves in February’s sun, using the backs of their beach chairs for windbreaks. They read or were content just to be.

When the waves occasionally called their names, locals dressed in wet suits carried surfboards, waded into the water, and paddled out for the perfect wave. When they got a good one, they rode it until the curl collapsed.

In dawn’s golden light, pods of dolphins coursed the waters for their breakfasts. Their bobbing dorsal fins foretold their way. They were mesmerizing to watch, a model of all activity along a winter’s beach.

full moon, Belt of Venus, Atlantic Ocean

A full moon rises above the Belt of Venus on the eastern horizon of the Atlantic Ocean caused by the sunset on the western horizon. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Florida Oranges

sunset, Florida sunset

Florida oranges. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

When we vacation on Amelia Island, Florida, my wife and I usually head to the pier in downtown Fernandina Beach for sunsets. The assortment of ever-changing colors that glow in the western sky and reflect in the waters of the Intercoastal Waterway are fabulous unless it’s cloudy.

We were invited one evening to have dinner with friends at the south end of the island away from the water. Still, I checked on the sunset from the rear of their fourth-floor condo. I wasn’t disappointed. The sun’s rays illuminating the evening’s high, thin clouds created an amazing sunset. The Nassau River was a mere ribbon of orange, snaking through the saltmarsh beyond the canopy of live oaks.

I couldn’t remember seeing so many warm shades of orange. “Florida Oranges” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Any kind of weather suits me just fine

snowy woods, winter woods

Snowy woods. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

I can’t exactly tell you when the weather bug hit me. All I know is that the weather just fascinates me.

Maybe it started when I was a youngster. A summer thunderstorm would force the neighborhood gang of kids onto our front porch. Rained out of our outdoor mischief, we passed the time oohing and ahhing at the vivid streaks of lightning dancing across the sky.

College invigorated my interests all the more. Geography courses answered questions I didn’t even know to ask. My weather appetite intensified.

After I had graduated, I took a teaching position at Killbuck Elementary School and joined the volunteer fire department after moving to the village in the valley. When I learned that the National Weather Service depended on first responders as severe weather spotters, I was elated. I took the required course to become a trained spotter. Doing so enabled me to combine two interests into one, firefighting and weather.

fall clouds, dappled clouds, dappled sky, cumulus clouds

Dappled sky. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Both my school days and my volunteer firefighting days ended years ago. However, my obsession with the weather continues.

I keep an eye on weather forecasts for good reasons. The lives of others might depend on it. In today’s electronically connected world, I get the word out about potential severe weather through posts on social media just in case a few people don’t hear about the impending storm.

I likely won’t ever outgrow the desire to watch the weather. When the National Weather Service posts a storm watch near where I happen to be, I go into proactive mode watching various radar and severe weather pages on the Internet.

Thanks to technology, a spotter’s approach to watching for severe weather has significantly changed over the decades. Instead of going to the highest hilltop with the best vantage point and viewing from a vehicle, I can stay in the safety of my home. There I track the storm on my computer and by watching out the windows for rotating clouds, hail, and any flooding I can see.

cumulonimbus clouds, storm clouds, cloud reflections

Cloud reflections. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

It’s a little different story in the winter. Spotters help out the National Weather Service by measuring the snow the old-fashioned way, using a ruler. Of course, the measurement has to follow protocol. Spotters measure snow depths that accumulate on a board elevated above the ground.

Morning and evening, the local weather service office receives reports of new snow totals from dozens of snow spotters across the coverage areas. Doing so helps the professionals in evaluating their forecasts and even in issuing weather advisories. After all, frozen precipitation is the hardest type for career meteorologists to predict accurately.

Like many of the other community activities I’ve done in my life, being a weather spotter is a voluntary position. Knowing I am only one of many who help the weather service get the weather word out to citizens is all the pay I need.

Between tornadoes, blizzards, flash floods, damaging straight-line winds, and lightning strikes, I’ve seen a lot of wild weather in my lifetime. It may sound a little strange to say this, but I enjoy reporting what I find.

I suppose I do it both for the thrill and the necessity to relay what I have observed. Helping the official weather forecasters, even in some small ways, gives me great satisfaction.

I guess I’m just a weather geek at heart. I’ll gladly wear that badge of honor as I forge into the next snowdrift.

wheat shocks, striaght line wiind damage

Wheat shocks toppled by straight line winds from a severe thunderstorm. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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