Pair of Pileateds

2015-12-23 08.35.50

Just before Christmas, this amazing couple made a joint appearance at my peanut butter suet feeder in the backyard. I felt extremely fortunate. Pileated Woodpeckers, Ohio’s largest woodpecker species, usually don’t frequent close to buildings. Apparently, the grove of trees that line the western boundary of our property provide enough protection for this pair of Pileated Woodpeckers that frequent the suet feeder. Seldom, however, do they feed together. The female is on the left, the male on the right. Can you make the distinction?

Fortunately, the Pileateds usually announce their arrival with a loud call meant to discourage other birds away from the feeder. That also allows me to grab my camera and be ready for just the perfect picture.

“Pair of Pileateds” is my Photo of the Week.

Happy New Year!

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Humans did their part to make 2015 another goofy year

Snow, Ohio
Snow for sale.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The main headlines of this tumultuous year may have overshadowed some lesser but still noteworthy news. Here are a few I logged.

January 2 – A North Walsham, England man paid a veterinarian the equivalent of $460 U.S. to do surgery on his three-inch pet goldfish.

January 24 – The leader of a pack of Boy Scouts, ages nine and 10 on a nature hike, accidentally led his troop onto a beach of nude sunbathers near San Diego, California.

February 10 – The European Space Agency reported that the Hubble telescope spotted a galaxy that resembled a smiley face.

duck in swimming pool
Obeying pool rules.
February 24 – Kyle Waring of Manchester-by-the-sea, Massachusetts, who began selling snow from his yard, 6 pounds for $89, said he would continue doing so until people stop ordering.

March 7 – An Amish farmer in Sadsbury Township, Pennsylvania accepted a $597,000 state agricultural grant to stave runoff from what one official described as his “barnyard mud hole.”

March 10 – The Utah State Legislature reinstituted the firing squad as a means to carry out the death penalty.

April 1 – The world’s oldest person, 117-year-old Misao Okawa, died in Tokyo.

April 6 – The world’s oldest person, 116-year-old Gertrude Weaver, died in Camden, Arkansas.

bank sign, Pennsylvania Dutch sign
Money anyone?
May 2 – A 22-year-old Eastlake, Ohio woman shot a squirrel with a bow and arrow, telling police she killed the animal for dinner.

May 29 – A 17-year old Ann Arbor, Michigan teen stole a new car from a dealership by posing as an FBI agent, and was arrested when he crashed the car in Toledo.

June 16 – The typical American family throws out $1,600 worth of food every year, according to a news report.

June 25 – An updated U.S. Census report showed that the fastest growing age group in Ohio was the 85-years-old and older population.

July 14 – The last of a giant snow pile created by Boston city workers removing snow during the winter finally melted.

July 21 – Nigel Richards, the winner of the French Scrabble contest, couldn’t speak French.

August 8 – A 16-year old girl vacationing in the German Alps found a gold bar worth $17,900 at the bottom of a lake.

August 11 – For the first time in Major League Baseball history, all 15 home teams won their game.

Amish buggy, Holmes Co. OH
Holmes Co., Ohio.
September 3 – A report showed Americans used 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, and only 23 percent of them were recycled.

September 21 – A nine-year-old boy was injured when his mother jumped out of her moving car because a spider was on her shoulder, and the car crashed into a school bus.

October 14 – A report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy showed that Holmes Co. was the most generous county in Ohio in 2012 with a giving ratio of nearly six percent.

October 21 – A three-year-old Oklahoma City, Oklahoma boy took the wheel of a pickup truck and steered it safely across four lanes of traffic after his drunken mother fell out of the vehicle.

November 27 – A Georgia man standing behind a target at a shooting range in St. Augustine, Florida was accidently shot by his brother.

November 28 – Sorters at a Goodwill store in Winfield, Kansas found a live grenade among a large pile of donations.

December 3 – Seattle police arrested a 73-year old man for snorting cocaine during a routine traffic stop.

December 10 – Hazmat crews in Yarmouth, Maine responded to a suspicious liquid leaking from a tank truck and discovered the substance to be milk.

Hopefully, 2015 was a good year for you and yours. Let’s hope that 2016 will be a “sweet 16” year for all of God’s global children.

Cleveland Indians, Progressive Field
Even the Indians won.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Being vigilant reaches far beyond Christmas

nativity display, nativity scene, quilting, wall hanging
Nativity display. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Vigilance is one of the main themes of the annual Christmas story. It shines as bright as the star of Bethlehem far beyond that ancient event.

For Christians around the world, the season of waiting for the Christ child, Advent, is nearly over. It is a glorious time of hopeful expectation that is renewed each year as winter approaches.

I have always found it a mystery and an appropriate model that the first folks to see the long awaited Christ light were generous foreigners and lowly shepherds, not saintly religious leaders or puffy politicians. The kingly entourage from the East persisted in their long travels to find the meaning of the glowing light in the night sky.

nativity scene, Christmas, hope
Nativity. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

A heavenly host appeared to the shepherds, not exactly the highest class of citizens even in today’s social mores. Even as a child, I wondered why other folks never noticed what the wise men and the herders plainly saw.

Old and New Testament scriptures alike urge worshipers of God to be on their guard, to be alert, to watch for the light. Asked when that would be, even the adult Messiah said no one would know. The key was to be ready.

As a child, the holiday season meant a lot to me. First came Thanksgiving, the family gathering, and fun and amazing food. Next was my birthday, which always falls three weeks before Christmas.

Just as I knew then, I know now that Christmas is upon us. As a child, those were exciting days of expectation going from unwrapping my birthday present to the anticipation of opening too many gifts beneath the Christmas tree.

Now all those years later, the joy and excitement of Christmas remain, but hopefully for more mature reasons. As a grandfather and mostly retiree, I try to savor and share the mere moments of each day. It’s why I write. It’s why I photograph. It’s why I live.

Amish buggy, Christmas presents
Heading to Christmas.

As I have aged, I realize just how gracious life has been to me through all the experiences I have had. Best of all, most of those blessed moments have been with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and sometimes even strangers who happen to love the same joys in life as me.

To me, the idea of Christmas is to use our senses to absorb, inhale, appreciate, touch, smile, share, and reflect the goodness given to us. Our gift to the world is simple. We are to use each and every opportunity to make the world a better, brighter place, one thought, one kindness, one word, and one person at a time.

From my perspective of living nearly seven decades, there is no higher calling than to make someone’s day, to help where help is unexpected, to give even when it’s your last dollar, to smile though you are hurting.

The first Christmas likely wasn’t December 25. Those poor sheep and their tenders would have been mighty cold. No matter. I like that we flow so smoothly from Thanksgiving to Christmas and on into a New Year in one holiday season.

My goals in life are simple. I try to awake every morning with a keen sense of the unknown. I cherish comfortable rest at night from a day well spent in service to others. Each day we renew the process all over again until our last breath.

Best of all, we know not the hour or the day or the season. We only know to live vigilantly.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Christmas, anticipation, expectation
Christmas anticipation. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Hanging Out

Carolina Wren, bird feeder
Hanging Out.

More often than not, Carolina Wrens are heard rather than seen. One recent sunny morning, however, I found this Carolina Wren taking a dip in the backyard birdbath. After its morning bath, the wren flew to the feeder hanging on the back porch. It stayed there for several minutes, satisfied to let the sun dry its earth-tone feathers.

“Haning Out” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Breaking a long tradition for a heartfelt reason

cuttingthechristmastreebybrucestambaugh
The perfect tree.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I made an impromptu, important decision. We broke a long-standing tradition for the perfect reason.

For the last 40 years, we have always had a live Christmas tree grace our home. That won’t happen this year.

The live tree always stood centered in front of the living room windows for most of December. This year an attractive, used artificial tree retrieved from a local thrift store fills that spot.

Our first live trees weren’t cut either. They still had their roots bound in burlap. After Christmas, we transplanted the trees in the yard of our first home we built four years after our marriage. When we moved to our present home 36 years ago, we switched to live, cut trees.

Christmas tree, opening gifts, family
Christmas morning.

Both my wife and I had grown up with fresh cut trees in our homes for the holidays. My family often took excursions to select just the right tree. Dad used the saw, and us kids would help carry the piney prize back to the car.

We continued that Yuletide tradition with our children. We loved the family experience, the exhilaration of the nip in the December air in Holmes County, Ohio.

My favorite Christmas trees growing up were the Scotch pines. I loved their long, soft needs as opposed to the stiff, prickly ones of the Colorado blue spruce species.

In recent years, my wife and I tried Fraser, Douglas, and Concolor firs. They all kept their needles longer than other species and filled the house with a pleasant, conifer fragrance. Their soft, bluish-green coloration added a festive flair, too.

With all of these positive traits, why would we change now? The truth is, we hadn’t intended to switch.

We went looking for a Concolor that would serve a dual purpose. We would again get a balled tree first to serve as our Christmas tree. After the holidays, we would plant it to replace a mature blighted blue spruce removed from our side yard last summer.

Concolor, memorial tree
The Jenny tree.

We found a small, balled Concolor at our first stop. It was hardly three-feet tall, much smaller than we had in mind.

Then we got an idea. We bought the little tree and planted it where the stately blue spruce had been. We chose this lovely fir to serve as an evergreen memorial to our dear friend, Jenny Roth Wengerd, who died on Sept. 11 from a brain hemorrhage at age 47.

The tree was about the size of Jenny when we first met her at age three after her adoption from South Korea. Neva and I witnessed her naturalization as a U.S. citizen.

We often cared for Jenny and her siblings while their parents were away. She and her family stayed in our house the day their home burned down. We mourned with the family when Jenny’s brother, Steve, died of cancer at 25.

We had been through a lot together.

Jenny was as beautiful and compassionate as a human could be. She radiated love and joy to all who knew her. Planting a tree to her memory only seemed fitting.

Only a single ornament adorns this extra special Christmas tree. A simple, translucent angel watches over this dedicated evergreen.

We will celebrate Christmas with a fake tree this year just as joyfully as if it were a fragrant, beautiful fir. Outside our Jenny tree will sink its roots into the earth, a living memorial to our gregarious friend who died much too soon.

Paul Roth family
The Roth family.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Sunset Symmetry

trees at sunset
Sunset Symmetry.

Clearly, this sunset was worth the wait. It exceeded all of my expectations. However, the reflections were what caught my eye. The line of trees and white fence reflected perfectly against the glorious sunset. This sunset shot required no filters and no editing.

“Sunset Symmetry” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015