Rock On

Horses 1(s)

I’m a sucker for any type of bizarre road side attraction.  Balls of twine, reptile ranches and giant rocking chairs; these attractions seem to have some type of gravitational force field that draws me in.  So when a friend of mine told me about a rocking horse graveyard not far outside of Boston, my ears perked up and my sense of intrigue overcame all rational thought.  I simply had to find this place.  A few inquiries, a little bit of online detective work and I was set. Armed with directions from Google earth, I headed out one evening after work towards a farm field in Lincoln, Massachusetts to witness this gathering of cast off childhood memories for myself.

Horses 8(s)I had navigated down the back roads for several miles, passing through small towns, plowed corn fields and pastures, thinking perhaps I had the directions wrong, when I rounded a corner and there they were.  Dozens of them, grazing in the setting sun, partaking in different social scenarios.  Some circling a Christmas tree, others attending a tiny tea party.  A herd of rocking horses were being led by an aged but Horses 3(s)pretty palomino crowned with a silver and pink rhinestone tiara. Two horses decorated for the holidays, their rocking platforms long discarded, reared up against the pasture fence as Horses 2-1(s)if longing to be free to rock once more.  Perhaps they are all holding out hope that Santa will come and magically transport them to the island of misfit toys.Horses 6-1(s)

This is certainly the stuff that legends are made of.  Why this particular field?   How did they get there? Is there some sort of rocking horse “call of the wild” that draws them here?  If you were to venture down this lonely road after dark, would you see new comers rocking across the moonlit countryside, slowly making their way to this pasture in some sort of bizarre nocturnal equine migration?

Of course it’s more probable that actual people are bringing them here.  Someone must be the self-appointed ringmaster of this strange little circus, tasked with moving them about and configuring their social circles. As once beloved toys, they are deserving of a final resting place where they can wait out their remaining days with others of their kind, eventually being overcome by the elements and a few harsh New England winters. 

For me this is not a graveyard. Lacking the grimness of a nursing home, this is more of a retirement village or an assisted living facility.  I imagine them engaging in ice cream socials, making holiday crafts, playing bingo, Parcheesi and shuffleboard.  Occasionally there will be one, damaged beyond repair, who will have to be put out to pasture. Their loss will be mourned, their life reflected upon.  But until the time each one is called home to the great toymaker in the sky, like the rest of us, they will continue to rock on.

Horses 7(s)

On a Wing and a Prayer – Eagle Quest 2016

 

Eagle 2crop wide

It seems whenever winter comes along, I often get nostalgic for the seasons of my youth.  I remember when it began snowing in November and didn’t stop until March.  You didn’t have to dream of a white Christmas, it just was.  Snowmen, snow forts, snowball fights and snow angels were an everyday occurrence.  With all of this wonderful winter fun also went the wonderful winter wildlife.

For the last two weekends I have embarked on what I am now calling “Eagle Quest 2016.”  The quest began in Clarksville, MO.  Locally known as an eagle hot spot, hundreds of eagles are said to winter in this area and pluck fish by the thousands out of the water beneath the dam.  Surely this is eagle nirvana, and it sounded like the perfect spot to embark on such a quest. 

When we arrived in Clarksville we immediately noticed the lack of eagles at the dam. Where were they? This was not the eagle Shangri-La I had dreamt of.  Where will my ultimate eagle shot come from? Where will I go from here? Slightly shaken but still undaunted, we drove to the visitor’s center to ask the local eagle guru what’s up with the lack of eagle activity. 

At the visitors center we learned that because of the mild weather the eagles don’t have to venture this far south to find open water to feed in.  In previous years there had been hundreds of eagles on the dam, but this year not so many.  The last weekend he counted 70, this weekend 30.  Next weekend is the big Eagle Day festival and it’s going to be 60 degrees. I wonder how many eagles will be in attendance.  Don’t they know they’re the guests of honor?

He invited us to look through a spotting scope at an eagle’s nest across the river.  There, on a limb not far from the nest, sat the symbol of our great country. The majestic predator was perched atop the tallest tree just as he perches at the top of the avian food chain.  With the cloudless blue sky as a Eagle Nest 2back drop, the wind ruffling his dark brown feathers and his stoic white head aglow in the late morning sun, Eagle 1(s)he was the very embodiment of dignity and freedom.  God Bless America!  With a renewed sense of patriotic pride, I knew that my Eagle Quest must go on. The eagle guru remained hopeful, too. He was sure there would be a cold spell next month and the eagles would return to Clarksville in even greater numbers. We thanked him for his time and then forged ahead northward, undeterred in our quest, but humbled with the new found knowledge that this endeavor was going to be more challenging than first imagined.

We continued on for the next two weekends. Exploring the river roads, crossing the swiftly flowing semi-frozen waters by ferry, navigating down muddy gravel tracks, skirting barriers in search of eagle nests.  Wielding my long lens as if it were a sword, my own personal Excalibur, the quest went on.  And the eagles were there after all.  Soaring majestically above the bluffs that surround the rivers, perched Eagles flippedhigh on trees along the shore watching the ice float by, intently waiting for the perfect opportunity to snag a fish.  I was able to sneak Paparazzi like upon a few as they sat unsuspectingly high up in the trees, and I even got some decent shots before they took to the wing.  We witnessed some activity as well.  Two eagles, locked talon to talon, tumbled through the sky.  A lone eagle swooped down on Joyce Shooting Eaglehis mighty wings with ease to pluck a fish from the murky waters.  Yes, these were amazing moments, but did I capture them as I had hoped?  Well, sort of…  I captured them, but not as I had hoped.  There were the usual issues – distance, lighting, etc. – the bane of any photographer’s life.

But alas, the quest is not yet over, it will continue.  Like the hopeful eagle guru in Clarksville, I too believe that the eagles will return in greater numbers and I will be right there with them, at just the right moment, to capture that spectacular perfect shot!

So the Journey Begins…

This is me, “the last one home”, eking out the last few rays of sunlight in search of the all elusive “perfect shot.”  Yes, I’ll admit I have a problem. I’m addicted to photography.  Mild mannered IT consultant by day; keen eyed documenter of all that surrounds me the remainder of the time.  Just like the postman, neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night will keep me from my goal.

But the question is – what to do with the byproduct of my obsession?  All of the thousands of photographs, terra bytes of data spanning multiple hard drives?  Most of it digital clutter for sure, my deepest fear is the delete key.  But what about those ‘almost’ perfect shots?  I have entered some in juried shows and contests to mixed reviews.  I’ve posted more online on Facebook and View Bug. I give them away to unsuspecting friends, who kindly cannot refuse my thoughtful gift.  However, in my mind they deserve more than this.  My photos? … Each little pieces of my heart and soul, memories of my life, products of countless hours behind a lens and in front of a computer.

The goal of this blog is to create an online journal of my journey through life.  The places I go, the things I see, the ideas and emotions behind my ‘almost’ perfect pictures.  Tomorrow I turn 51, a half century of my life on this planet is behind me.  My hope is that some day when I’m old and gray, I will look back at this journal with fondness and remember that I didn’t spend my life sitting on the couch watching TV, I went out and explored the world.  I had adventures and experiences. I stayed up hours past my bedtime, I drove around barriers, ignored “No Trespassing” signs and climbed over fences. I got off the beaten path, trudged through snow, sloshed through mud, lived my life to the fullest and had a blast doing it.

I know there are still more adventures to come, I know I will keep clicking away. But I don’t want all of those moments and memories to be hopelessly trapped in the digital wasteland.  I want for them to be organized, documented and shared.  I know in my heart I will never get that perfect shot, there will always be another one, a better one around the corner.  So it goes that I will never be satisfied, I will always be a slave to that one perfect shot waiting just outside of my reach, and to me that is the definition of addiction.

Joyce Sheldon Shooting in car