Basking in nature’s unexpected gifts

Raining over the ocean.

I stood on the shoreline alone in joyous disbelief. This wasn’t supposed to be happening, and yet, it was, it did.

“This” was no ordinary sunrise. Our snowbird rental on the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Jacksonville, Florida, affords us striking views, especially at dawn.

The sea mirrored the sky as the celestial kaleidoscope slowly revolved from violets to pinks to oranges to gold to grays. I willingly allowed those siblings of earth and atmosphere to kidnap me.

My initial urge was to shout for joy, but that seemed irreverent, uncouth, and even sacrilegious. For once in my life, I stayed silent, sedated by the aura that engulfed me.

A renegade cumulonimbus cloud hovered miles offshore. Sheets of rain cascaded into the sea.

My eyes drew heavenward. The risen sun, hidden by clouds over the Gulf Stream, illuminated the universe, at least the part that I could see. It was heavenly, indeed.

With each degree that the sun rose into the clouds, the refracted rays altered the colors. As if someone had flipped a light switch, the violet hue transformed into orange, bathing everything it touched.

The scene was surreal. I felt like I had been pulled above the beach, the foamy waves no longer lapping at my feet.

It was then that I more fully appreciated the ocean’s contribution to this original, living painting. The gently swelling sea reflected both the water’s depth and the sky’s variable palate.

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Dabs of puffy clouds scalloped the sky. The ocean’s choppy undulating created a more linear composition. It was cottony above, corduroy below.

Though the consistencies remained the same, the colors continued to change. The wind scurried the dazzling clouds east while the ocean rolled west.

An instantaneous golden glow ensued when the sun finally peeked through the distant clouds hanging above the horizon. Overhead, the rain clouds just as suddenly converted the gold to gray unapologetically.

With the sky now spritzing droplets, I turned to retreat to the condo. And then I stopped to behold another divine marvel.

A brilliant double rainbow arched above our suntanned building complex. Once again, I was awestruck. I motioned for my wife to go look at the rainbow. She only waved back from the balcony. Desperate, I pointed to the sky, mimed a bow with my right hand, and pointed up.

This time Neva understood and rushed to the back of the condo. She returned before I could even begin to clean the sand from my shoes. Her radiance from seeing the double promise equaled that of the sky, which made me even happier.

By the time I made it back to the condo, the sky had darkened, and the rain pelted down. The morning’s free art exhibit was now washed out.

Other than the rain, none of this was expected. The official forecast had called for precipitation to overrun the northern Florida east coast overnight. But with the rain’s delayed arrival, we were treated to this transformative experience.

This ecclesiastical event seemed to last an eternity. However, the timestamp on the scores of photographs that I took showed only 10 minutes had elapsed.

The magical scene had changed so rapidly that I couldn’t take in all of the finite details as they occurred. A review of my photos revealed the dramatic, atmospheric sequence of changes in that short window of opportunity.

Appreciative is too small of a word to describe my gratitude for having viewed the wondrous display. But most grateful I am.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

Down on the Farm


The early morning sunlight is glinting off of the coffin red barn’s windows. The soft rays temporarily paint the white house pink. The laundry is hanging on the washline to dry. The cows are heading back to the pasture. The buggy horse is grazing among the Queen Anne’s Lace. Altogether, it is another August morning down on an Amish farmstead in Holmes County, Ohio.

“Down on the Farm” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Willet at Dawn

willet, Atlantic Ocean, sunrise photography, Fernandina Beach FL
Writing, birding and photography are a few of my many interests. When I can combine a couple of them into one fabulous moment, I am more than contented.

In the process of photographing a gorgeous sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean in northern Florida, a willet wandered into the frame. I love when those unexpected opportunities arise. The shorebird was merely out on its morning breakfast stroll, probing the wetted sand for any tasty morsels along the seashore. For me, however, having the bird enter the scene right as the sun dawned provided a spot of perspective for the colorful seascape. I couldn’t have been happier.

“Willet at Dawn” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

A sunrise that made my day

Ohio's Amish Country, Holmes Co. OH
The sunrise at its summit.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I sat in awe at the beauty unfolding before me. What I had seen compelled me out into the dawn of the day.

I had slept restlessly despite having been emotionally and physically drained by the previous days’ activities. I had returned to Ohio to assist our son in preparing to move before the professional movers would shuffle him off beyond Buffalo to upstate New York for his new job.

For two long, hard days, we sorted and packed his items, and cleaned the house he was leaving for a smaller apartment. I would also stuff our van with family heirlooms and thrift store pieces to take back to Virginia. It was hard to see him off, he and I both in tears.

With those emotions still stirring internally, I surrendered to what lured me outdoors. The day was dawning with a broken cluster of wispy gray clouds hanging in the eastern sky. A spot of pink hue peeked at the horizon, giving me hope of a lovely sunrise.

I sat in the morning’s coolness on the patio waiting breathlessly for the show to begin. Would those clouds enhance or hinder a brilliant sunrise? The answer found itself in patience, not my best quality.

Flowers reflect first light.
Nevertheless, I remained nearly alone overlooking Millersburg, Ohio from our friends’ place high on a hill. A light, feathery mist lingered over the hardwoods, farm fields, and commercial properties that filled the Killbuck Valley.

As the sky brightened ever so slightly, a menacing caw, caw, caw punctuated the morning air. I strained in the dim light to find the source of the harshness. Suddenly, a pair of inky figures, their black wings flapping furiously, repeated their raucous call.

The two American crows were on a beeline southwest in hot pursuit of another crow far ahead of them. It was like two undercover cop cars chasing a crook.

The only other sounds were human-induced, the distant hum of a few vehicles, and a dump truck on an early run from the gravel pit down the road. Neither crickets nor katydids had awakened yet.

Then it happened. A silent burst of radiance raised me out of my chair and freed me from my stupor. I danced barefoot into the dewy lawn. I soon found myself at the southeast corner of the yard where I had a better angle to view the sunrise and could ignore the obnoxiousness of an ill-placed cell tower, its red lights annoyingly blinking.

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Ironically, the only camera in hand was the one on my cell phone. So I hypocritically began snapping photo after photo of the stunning, flowing scene changing second by second.

Those once gray clouds now glowed gold, yellow, orange, red, pink, mauve, and crimson. In the foreground, security lights and streetlights twinkled below the incredible show. One would think I was observing my first ever sunrise the way I clicked away.

Still, I continued to capture the incredible drama before me, not for myself so much as for others. In such a setting, my joy comes as much in the sharing as experiencing the splendor. When the sun finally poked above the horizon, I walked back towards the house.

This sunrise had awakened me as no other had. I felt renewed and refreshed from the emotions and exertions of the previous days. I was ready to begin my journey home.

For most folks, if they saw it, this was just another sunrise. To me, it was a blessed miracle.

Millersburg OH, Holmes Co. OH
Even the northern sky flashed radiance.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

Silver on Green

glowing dew drops
Silver on Green.

One of the great joys of being a photographer is finding unexpected beauty in the simplest things. I went out one recent morning to capture the fog rising out of the hollows of the Shenandoah Valley. I rounded a curve on a narrow country road and found this scene. The bright morning sun illuminated thousands of dew drops congregated on weedy grass stems growing from an embankment. I thought the silvery effect was gorgeous.

“Silver on Green” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

A new way for this old guy to tell time

sunrise, Atlantic Ocean
Another day begins.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Years ago, owning a Timex watch was chic. At least it was from my adolescent point of view as influenced by the ubiquitous TV commercials.

The company’s slogan was as simple as their ads. “Timex: The watch that takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” They demonstrated various ways to challenge the integrity of their watches. The timepieces were stepped on, dropped from high places, and crunched by cars.

Those commercials stuck in my impressionable mind. I can’t recall if I ever owned one of their indestructible watches or not. I did wear a watch religiously as a teen.

Doing so was THE way to tell time unless you were in a room with a clock. I wore a watch for most of my adult life. Watches were the standard retirement gift. I got one when I retired as a school principal. I quit wearing it a few years ago for a more accurate way to tell time.

With the advent of cell phones, I stored my wristwatches with my grandfather’s gold pocket watch that my parents gave to me. I ditched the watches for two reasons.

First, wristwatches bothered me when I wore them. In the summer, I sweated with it strapped to my wrist. Other times the expandable metal band pinched my skin. Secondly, I could easily tell time by just looking at my cell phone. The date and time displayed prominently on the phone’s face.

The same was true when I traded in my flip phone for a smartphone. If I want to know the time, I just pull out my phone and glance at the screen. The time is universally accurate.

I realized, though, that time is more than just seconds, minutes, and hours. I also noticed that instead of a wall calendar or the electronic calendars that sync on my phone and laptop computer, I have begun knowing what day of the week it is in a much different fashion.

I use the calendars for the date. I use my weekly pill case for knowing what day it is.

pills, pillbox, medication
My pillbox.

Like many other baby boomers, I’m a walking pharmacy. I’m embarrassed about how many pills I take every day, four times a day, sometimes five depending on my health. I apparently didn’t inherit my parents’ best genes.

It’s sad but true. Every day before breakfast, I religiously bow to my seven-day plastic pill case. It contains four capped compartments for each day of the week. Just so I know where to begin and end, each compartment is labeled for the proper day of the week. And I thought these were just for old people.

I take so many pills that none of the compartments goes empty. I hate taking so much medicine. A lifetime of stuffing my body with gluten, which I unknowingly couldn’t tolerate, drives most of my various medical conditions.

I finally went gluten-free four years ago. But the compounded irritation damage of the gluten still has to be treated and supplemented. Consequently, my pill box is full.

Like it or not, it has come to pass that instead of an indestructible Timex or a handy-dandy smartphone, a utilitarian pill case has become my measure of time. And just like my old watches, don’t look for it on my wrist.

As I empty those pill compartments one by one, I can’t believe how fast the weeks fly by. I lament that it takes a pillbox to remind me of that.

sunset, Amelia Island FL
The sun sets on another day.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

sunrise, Holmes Co. OH
Morning Glory.

Yesterday’s sunrise was a beauty here in Ohio’s Amish country. It truly was a glorious morning.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

“Morning Glory” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016