Lunchtime


I caught this male northern cardinal chowing down on safflower seeds that I had set out for the few birds that will eat them. European starlings and common grackles won’t touch the seeds. So if they are hogging the other feeders that contain black oil sunflower seeds, the cardinals and other songbirds help themselves to the bleach-white offerings.

“Lunchtime” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

In like a lion, out like a lamb, or not

March snow in the mountains.

March is famous for its variable weather. After all, the familiar saying, “In like a lion, out like a lamb” references the month of March.

There’s a good reason for that. It’s easy to imagine our log cabin ancestors being more than ready for spring after enduring snowstorm after snowstorm. However, pioneer-era folklore was based more on hope than meteorological compilations.

They professed that if March began with yet more lion-like elements, then it had to end with gentler, calmer, warmer, more welcoming weather. Who could blame them?

It’s only natural to want more appealing weather than another cold spell. In animalizing weather, it’s much safer to deal with a lamb than a lion, especially if you were a 19th-century settler with a bad case of cabin fever.

Likely, there was more to it than that. Those hardy people believed in a balance of life. Aristotle’s “moderation in all things” was their mantra. So, they logically applied that theory to the weather as well. If March was harsh in the beginning, it should be mild by month’s end.

Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t work that way. We take what we get, and given what we have gotten in the past, March’s weather could be a doozy. A lot of factors come into play.


March’s normal weather, whatever normal is these days, has historically played hijinks with global societies. March is known to deliver every variety of weather in its 31 days, and not always where or when you might think.

My family has personal experience with March’s fickleness. Seven years ago, we traveled from Ohio to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to babysit our three grandkids, then ages eight, six, and three. Their parents went on a much-needed vacation to Florida.

Shortly after we arrived, a strong cold front moved through the eastern U.S. causing chaos. While Florida froze, the storm dumped a foot of heavy, wet snow on us. Babysitting was never so much fun as we frolicked in the winter wonderland. Sled riding, building snow forts, and snowmen filled much of our time.

When we returned home a week later to Holmes County, Ohio, the weather was dreamy. Under sunny skies, Amish farmers were plowing fields with horses. Now those seem like the good old days.

When we arrived home.

It’s easy to be nostalgic about March. I always thought of the third month as the bridge between winter and spring. Hoes and rakes replaced sleds and ice skates. The snow on the daffodils never lasted long.

It’s much harder to face the reality of the Marches of the 21st century. Now, severe storms are occurring more frequently and are much stronger than in previous times.

More than a hundred years of industrialization have drastically changed global climate patterns. Tropical areas that usually receive regular rains have been drought-stricken, resulting in catastrophic wildfires. Think Australia and California.

Globally, the last 10 years have produced nine of the warmest years on record. In fact, this January was the warmest ever. That could explain in part why many skiers, ice skaters, and ice fishermen far and wide had to feel abandoned by the nearly winterless winter weather.

That said, March will still be March. It just might be wilder than in olden years. Our forebearers rhymes may have had some wishful reasoning to them. The reality in the early 21st century may deliver more dramatic climatological results.

If we are fortunate, perhaps the meteorological lion and lamb will lie down together peaceably. That might bring spring weather of biblical proportions.

The signs say it all.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

Defending Momma


Looks can be deceiving. This second-year alligator appears to be warding off any potential threats to its mother and siblings. In reality, momma and her crew were merely warming themselves in the the afternoon sunshine in Egans Creek Greenway, Fernandina Beach, Florida.

Still, I thought the young alligator’s pose was worthy of being my Photo of the Week. “Defending Momma” is just that.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

Technology can be a pain in the neck

The view from my Florida “office.”

For good or for ill, technology has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives.

Robots began to invade the workforce assembly lines when I was a youngster. Never could I have imagined how far they would be integrated into our daily lives. Technology is advancing so rapidly that as soon as you buy a new cell phone, for example, it becomes obsolete.

We are so dependent on technology that we become exasperated when it doesn’t always work. If the power source goes out, we are stymied. Our electronic gizmos seem to be controlling us rather than the other way around.

For all of the promises of making life simpler, easier, and more rewarding, technology can be a pain in the neck. In my case, the pain was real.

I recently took my laptop computer in for its annual checkup. I believe that it’s good to have a trained technician clean up your technology every now and then. That assumption turned problematic.

The railroad’s version of a pain in the neck.

Skipping all of the gory details, let’s just say the guy pushed the wrong buttons on my keyboard. Consequently, a newer operating system unintentionally replaced my old one. I was unaware of the far-reaching ramifications.

When I began writing in the word processor, I found myself typing in the cloud, wherever that is. Thousands of my photos disappeared along with hundreds of research bookmarks.

The techs were baffled. My mind raced, fearing all the negative possibilities. The good guys at the computer shop felt just as bad.

They said they would uninstall the new system and reinstall the old one using the info backed up on my external drive. The techs thought that would restore my lost data and photos. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Which cloud was I in?

I silently implemented my meditation breathing skills to stay calm. Apparently, I need more practice. I woke the next morning with a stiff and painful neck. I attributed the previous day’s stress as a likely cause.

I realize technology has done wonders for global societies. Thanks to solar power developments, remote third-world villages can generate power for their community water well. That ensures local residents have safe, clean drinking and cooking water.

Where would the medical field be today without the technological advances in equipment and practices that have simplified radical surgeries? Technology also allows medical personnel to communicate remotely, saving time, money, and, more importantly, lives.

Firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and police depend on high tech equipment to help them do their jobs better, more efficiently, and more safely. Thermal imagining cameras, for example, help first responders locate trapped or lost people.

Smartwatches and smartphones allow society to instantly communicate person to person or group to group. People once geographically isolated from world events now follow global news as it happens.

There are drawbacks as well. Universities have to paint warning signs on sidewalks for students to look up when they come to a crosswalk at a street corner. Why? Because nearly all of them are walking and talking on their cell phones, oblivious to their surroundings.

Don’t get me started on the misuse of social media, phone apps, or even the Houston Astros.

My world improved when the technicians were able to reinstall the new operating system and updated word processing software. I once again began typing on my computer instead of somewhere out there. Most of my photos were restored as well.

However, the irritating pain in my neck remained. I’m still working with technicians of a different sort to get that repaired.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

Savoring the Sunset

2020-02-11 18.39.03

There is nothing particularly spectacular about this photo. Yes, it’s a pretty sunset, and yes, I captured two photographers snapping pictures of it.

I chose to feature this photo for personal, even sentimental reasons. It was the last colorful sunset we had before we left Florida to return to Virginia. It was also one of a handful of decent sunsets we had in the six weeks we wintered in Fernandina Beach.

The marina there is a gathering place for amateur and professional photographers to view the sunset. After a lengthy delay in repairs, it had only reopened a few days before this photo was taken. Winds and high water from Hurricane Matthew severely damaged the marina on the Amelia River in October 2016. It was great to be able to once again meet with friends and strangers and share a lovely sunset at the water’s edge.

This sunset gave us roses and yellows, and the wavy clouds added a soft, pillowy effect to the sky. The river served as a fuzzy mirror to all that unfolded.

As I was leaving, I turned back for one more shot and saw this scene. My friend Carollee had her point-and-shoot camera, while the other photographer was taking time-lapse shots of the sunset.

“Savoring the Sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

It’s always good to be home

A new day dawns in Ohio’s Amish country.

Home. It’s a four-letter word that conjures up both good and sad emotions. It all depends on one’s circumstances.

I was fortunate. Returning home has always been a rewarding, meaningful experience for me.

I have no recollection of living in my first home on a channel of a lake near Akron, Ohio. But I recall many stories told to me in my adolescent years. I still get chided for grinding up coal cinders from the driveway. Apparently, I thought they tasted good.

My earliest childhood recollection was when I was about four years old. My father handed me a cold Coca Cola while I sat overhead on a rafter of the house my folks were building.

I spent my formative years in the little red-brick bungalow in Canton, Ohio. Baby boomer families like ours filled that middle-class neighborhood. Pick up Whiffle ball, baseball, and football games were commonplace, along with hide and seek sessions that went long into warm summer evenings.

That modest home was always a welcome sight returning home from college. Though the house was sometimes filled with shouting and disagreements, I always felt safe there. It was my home and my family, after all.

All of that changed once I graduated and started teaching in Killbuck, Ohio. I met and married my wife, and we built our own home just out of town next to an old cemetery. My school principal built right next to us. I loved to tell people that at least we had good neighbors on one side of our home.

We spent 10 incredible years there. It’s where our daughter and son learned to walk, talk, and play. Oh, the stories I could tell of those good old days in that hardscrabble town. For now, it’s best to let them remain dormant.

After I became a principal in East Holmes Local Schools, we moved to near Berlin, Ohio. The house we bought was on an Amish farm, and all of our neighbors spoke Pennsylvania Dutch as their primary language. That wasn’t a hindrance at all.

Just like when I grew up, our daughter and son had plenty of children to play with. They often met at the giant old black oak tree across the road from us. It was a joy to be able to watch them interact and quickly solve any squabbles without an adult having to intervene.

We lived there for 38 years, longer than any other place, including our childhood homes. Our neighbors were friendly and helpful. Amazing sunrises and sunsets enhanced the already beautiful views that we enjoyed.

Despite our deep roots in the community, we decided it was time to be nearer to our three grandchildren, who were growing all too fast. We found a home only five miles away from them in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

We bought and remodeled a little ranch house amid nearly 500 other homes. Just like their owners, each one has a personality all its own. Instead of being in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country, we now live in the heart of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

We can watch our high school grandson strike out batters in a baseball game. We enjoy a middle school concert in which our other grandson plays the French horn. We watch and listen with pride as our granddaughter sings in a prestigious children’s choir.

In the words of Maya Angelo, “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.”

Indeed, it’s good to be home, wherever that is. I hope that’s true for you as well.

At home in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

Trailing the Trawler


The timing couldn’t have been better. With the late afternoon sun shining brightly, this shrimping trawler headed for port to unload the day’s fresh catches. Clearly, the boat and its crew weren’t alone.

An assortment of gull species, Northern Gannets, and other sea birds followed along, hoping for an easy meal as the crew pitched unwanted catches overboard. It was unusual for the trawler to be close enough to shore to zoom in for a decent shot.

“Trailing the Trawler” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020