Month: February 2024

Sextain

  1. Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
  2. From Blossoms
  3. Wild Geese
  4. The Peace of Wild Things
  5. My Gift to You
  6. Departing Spring
  7. The Skylark
  8. What a Strange Thing!
  9. Although The Wind …
  10. The Old Pond
  11. Spring Is Like A Perhaps Hand
  12. Hast thou 2 loaves of bread …
  13. Youth and Age
  14. A Postcard From the Volcano
  15. The Kraken
  16. He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
  17. There Is a Solitude of Space
  18. Because I Could Not Stop for Death
  19. Mad Song
  20. Answer July
  21. Success Is Counted Sweetest
  22. Hope Is the Thing with Feathers
  23. The Bluebird
  24. A Vision of the End
  25. The Crying of Water
  26. A Rose Has Thorns As Well As Honey
  27. Winter
  28. The Dark Cavalier
  29. There is no Life or Death
  30. Sheep in Winter
  31. To a Snowflake
  32. Sextain
  33. A Crocodile
  34. Sea Fever
  35. The Giant Cactus of Arizona
  36. The Coming of Night
  37. Going to the Picnic
  38. Moon Tonight
  39. A Southern Night
Snowdon From Pernsarn, a painting by Charles Thomas Burt

Snowdon From Pernsarn by Charles Thomas Burt. Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash.

The Heaven doth not contain so many stars,
So many leaves not prostrate lie in woods
When autumn’s old and Boreas sounds his wars,
So many waves have not the ocean floods,
As my rent mind hath torments all the night,
And heart spends sighs when Phœbus brings the light.

Why should I have been partner of the light,
Who, crost in birth by bad aspéct of stars,
Have never since had happy day or night?
Why was not I a liver in the woods,
Or citizen of Thetis’s crystal floods,
Than made a man, for love and fortune’s wars?

I look each day when death should end the wars,
Uncivil wars, ’twixt sense and reason’s light;
My pains I count to mountains, meads, and floods,
And of my sorrow partners make the stars;
All desolate I haunt the fearful woods,
When I should give myself to rest at night.

With watchful eyes I ne’er behold the night,
Mother of peace, but ah! to me of wars,
And Cynthia, queen-like, shining through the woods,
When straight those lamps come in my thought, whose light
My judgment dazzled, passing brightest stars,
And then mine eyes en-isle themselves with floods.

Turn to their springs again first shall the floods,
Clear shall the sun the sad and gloomy night,
To dance about the pole cease shall the stars,
The elements renew their ancient wars
Shall first, and be deprived of place and light,
E’er I find rest in city, fields, or woods.

End these my days, indwellers of the woods,
Take this my life, ye deep and raging floods;
Sun, never rise to clear me with thy light,
Horror and darkness, keep a lasting night;
Consume me, care, with thy intestine wars,
And stay your influence o’er me, bright stars!

In vain the stars, indwellers of the woods,
Care, horror, wars, I call, and raging floods,
For all have sworn no night shall dim my sight.

William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585 –1649) was a Scottish poet.

Mark McGuinness reads and discusses the poem in his podcast A Mouthful of Air, a podcast of classic and contemporary poetry. Podcast transcription is available.


To read more poems, click here.



All Art Is a Point of View 

In the car wash

You see a car wash.

I see beauty.  

All art is a point of view.


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It Is What It Is

White calla lily

A few days ago, a friend reached out to me for help. She was having a hard time after one of those unexpected things life likes to throw at you.

What did you do, she asked me? I used the ostrich method, I wanted to tell her. Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it. It is, I admit, not a suitable method of tackling life. 

Instead, I told her about acceptance. Strive for that kind of calm, peaceful mind that acceptance offers, but that’s so hard to achieve. Realize that life is what it is, and no amount of wishful thinking can make it otherwise. Things change, as much as we don’t want them to; people change, too, and catastrophes happen. Change and pain are constant companions in this world; the best one can do is accept them. Not surrender, but accept it. It is what it is. We spend too much time and energy refusing to accept things as they are and trying to change what we cannot. 

I told her about the Anonymous Alcoholics’ prayer; it’s a short but powerful reminder of how to handle life with everything it brings. (And before AA, the Stoics preached this, even though they didn’t really preach. Hence, my interest in Stoics).

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Yeah. Work in progress.

I realized that I was trying to help her as much as myself.


I try to remember Mark Twain’s words: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” The Stoics (Seneca) said that we suffer twice, once when we think about something that could happen and then again when it happens.

It’s enough to think about the things I was worried about only a few years ago, to say nothing about my youth. Most of them, if any, never happened, of course. Or they weren’t the catastrophes I thought they’d be. Instead, you have unexpected stuff thrown at you. (Think the last four years!)

So now I’m trying to make the best of what I have, which is not negligible; enjoy life because you never know what’ll happen in the future. I shouldn’t mar the lovely life we have right now with thoughts about what might happen. Then, I would have suffered twice.



To a Snowflake

  1. Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
  2. From Blossoms
  3. Wild Geese
  4. The Peace of Wild Things
  5. My Gift to You
  6. Departing Spring
  7. The Skylark
  8. What a Strange Thing!
  9. Although The Wind …
  10. The Old Pond
  11. Spring Is Like A Perhaps Hand
  12. Hast thou 2 loaves of bread …
  13. Youth and Age
  14. A Postcard From the Volcano
  15. The Kraken
  16. He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
  17. There Is a Solitude of Space
  18. Because I Could Not Stop for Death
  19. Mad Song
  20. Answer July
  21. Success Is Counted Sweetest
  22. Hope Is the Thing with Feathers
  23. The Bluebird
  24. A Vision of the End
  25. The Crying of Water
  26. A Rose Has Thorns As Well As Honey
  27. Winter
  28. The Dark Cavalier
  29. There is no Life or Death
  30. Sheep in Winter
  31. To a Snowflake
  32. Sextain
  33. A Crocodile
  34. Sea Fever
  35. The Giant Cactus of Arizona
  36. The Coming of Night
  37. Going to the Picnic
  38. Moon Tonight
  39. A Southern Night
Snow landscape with a bench by the sea and heavy falling snowflakes.

What heart could have thought you?— 
Past our devisal 
(O filigree petal!) 
Fashioned so purely, 
Fragilely, surely, 
From what Paradisal 
Imagineless metal, 
Too costly for cost? 
Who hammered you, wrought you, 
From argentine vapour?— 
“God was my shaper. 
Passing surmisal, 
He hammered, He wrought me, 
From curled silver vapour, 
To lust of His mind;— 
Thou could’st not have thought me! 
So purely, so palely, 
Tinily, surely, 
Mightily, frailly, 
Insculped and embossed, 
With His hammer of wind, 
And His graver of frost.

Francis Thompson (1859 –1907) was an English poet; he is best known for his poem “The Hound of Heaven.”

 


To read more poems, click here.



Photography Takes an Instant Out of Time

Black and white photo of a group of people standing in front of the clock at the Orsay Museum in Paris, France

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.

Dorothea Lange


Dorothea Lange
(1895 – 1965) was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist. She is best known for her work for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression.


To read more quotes, click here. To read more on photography, click here.


Sheep in Winter

  1. Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
  2. From Blossoms
  3. Wild Geese
  4. The Peace of Wild Things
  5. My Gift to You
  6. Departing Spring
  7. The Skylark
  8. What a Strange Thing!
  9. Although The Wind …
  10. The Old Pond
  11. Spring Is Like A Perhaps Hand
  12. Hast thou 2 loaves of bread …
  13. Youth and Age
  14. A Postcard From the Volcano
  15. The Kraken
  16. He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
  17. There Is a Solitude of Space
  18. Because I Could Not Stop for Death
  19. Mad Song
  20. Answer July
  21. Success Is Counted Sweetest
  22. Hope Is the Thing with Feathers
  23. The Bluebird
  24. A Vision of the End
  25. The Crying of Water
  26. A Rose Has Thorns As Well As Honey
  27. Winter
  28. The Dark Cavalier
  29. There is no Life or Death
  30. Sheep in Winter
  31. To a Snowflake
  32. Sextain
  33. A Crocodile
  34. Sea Fever
  35. The Giant Cactus of Arizona
  36. The Coming of Night
  37. Going to the Picnic
  38. Moon Tonight
  39. A Southern Night
Two sheep in the snow

The sheep get up and make their many tracks 
And bear a load of snow upon their backs, 
And gnaw the frozen turnip to the ground 
With sharp quick bite, and then go noising round 
The boy that pecks the turnips all the day 
And knocks his hands to keep the cold away 
And laps his legs in straw to keep them warm 
And hides behind the hedges from the storm. 
The sheep, as tame as dogs, go where he goes 
And try to shake their fleeces from the snows, 
Then leave their frozen meal and wander round 
The stubble stack that stands beside the ground, 
And lie all night and face the drizzling storm 
And shun the hovel where they might be warm.

John Clare (1793 – 1864) was an English peasant poet of the Romantic school, and one of the English literature’s finest nature poets.


To read more poems, click here.



Favorite Photos: January 2024

  1. Favorite Photos: January 2023
  2. Favorite Photos: February 2023
  3. Favorite Photos: March 2023
  4. Favorite Photos: April 2023
  5. Favorite Photos: May 2023
  6. Favorite Photos: June 2023
  7. Favorite Photos: July 2023
  8. Favorite Photos: August 2023
  9. Paris Is Always A Good Idea
  10. Favorite Photos: October 2023
  11. Favorite Photos: November 2023
  12. Favorite Photos: December 2023
  13. Favorite Photos: January 2024
  14. Favorite Photos: February 2024
  15. Favorite Photos: March 2024
  16. Favorite Photos: April 2024
  17. Favorite Photos: May 2024
Close-up of white calla on a light blue background.

Another year, another month, other photos. I took this photo of a calla back in July when there was plenty of natural light. I usually take a lot of shots during spring and summer, which I can later edit during the long, dark winter days.

For this particular photo, I decided to give it a cool edit to complement the winter season.

Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus) in the snow.

Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus), winter edition. I love how the few remaining leaves poke through the snow and add a splash of color to the wintery scene.

Wood nuthatch (Sitta europaea) striking a pose. Nuthatches have such a graceful way of landing and taking off, pausing for a few seconds while posing like a model on the catwalk!

Common redpoll (Acanthis flammea)

I photographed this common redpoll female (Acanthis flammea) back in 2022 but only got around to processing it now. When I looked through my photo library for an image to edit, I realized I hadn’t seen many redpoles last year. I’m not sure why. I do hope they’ll return that year; they’re so beautiful and always fun to photograph, especially the males; they have pink breasts!

Blackbird female (T. merula). I shot this in the darkest December last year at ISO 12.800. It was 11am, and the brightest light you could get was some kind of grayish twilight. You wait and wait for the daylight to appear, and then, suddenly, the sun starts to set, and it gets dark again.

As mentioned above, I rarely shoot in November/December because it’s too dark. As you can see, you can still get beautiful photos, but I find it’s too much work; it’s not worth it. I ran the image through Topaz Photo AI to reduce the noise and then Nik Color Effex to retrieve some feather details.

To get away shooting in low light with a high ISO, you do need to shoot to the right (of the histogram), as noise hides in the darker areas. It helps if you have a lens with a large aperture (f/2.8 or F/4) to let in more light, but unfortunately, I don’t. My Canon RF100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens’ largest aperture is f/7.1 at 500mm.

On the other hand, problems are good; they force you to get creative and work around them. As I always say, creativity thrives on constraints. Look past the issues and see the opportunities!


As an avid birdwatcher and photographer, I always try to capture the beauty and grace of these magnificent creatures. Birds are fascinating creatures that come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and taking their photos can be a challenging yet rewarding experience.

Overall, these photos are just a tiny glimpse into the incredible beauty of the natural world. By taking pictures like these and sharing them with others, I hope to inspire a love and appreciation for nature that will hopefully last for generations.

I hope you enjoyed these photos; there are more to come next month.


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