August 3rd, 2008

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Lake Ray Hubbard, Garland, Texas USA

Today my brother, my sister, my sister's children, my wife and I gathered at my father's home in south Arkansas to celebrate my father's 75th birthday. It's good to have time together with loved ones. The day went smoothly. When my niece, my nephew and I walked around the property near my father's home, we saw lots of blue jays. I like blue jays because they are common yet lovely, because their call is a wonderfully obnoxious "jay! jay!" and because they always have the air of someone hoping to get to the fruit market in time to purchase the last persimmon of the season.

On the way home, we stopped in Garland's massive Bass Pro Shop, the chain store located on large Lake Ray Hubbard. This Bass Pro outlet is the only one which, in theory, allows one to test drive boats out the back way, though in fact I did not see this occur.

My wife enjoyed two recent guided fishing trips she took, leading her to want to get proper bass fishing equipment. My fishing is strictly of the low-cost, Shakespeare and Zebco variety, leading us to seek out a consultation with an expert. Our particular expert was a charming man who explained his products simply and with aplomb. Soon she had an elegantly light and responsive rod and a capable and attractive spinning reel. I am sticking with my Zebco. She will be ready for our next trip with the kind of outfit that lasts one for 20 years, while I continue to fish the kind of gear that lasts for 20 months.

We ate grilled walleye in the little fish cafe in the store, and enjoyed the view of Lake Ray Hubbard from the back patio of the store. I bought a kind of digital camera favored by hunters that only snaps shots when critters move nearby. I want to use this to create photos and perhaps video of birds at our feeder.

The time has slipped past 1:30 a.m., but I am still inwardly driving past lovely north Texas fields filled with cattle, horses, donkeys, egrets and signs for cold welds, cowboy churches and Hope watermelons.

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Cardinals in Cedars

Texas Sky in August, originally uploaded by gurdonark.

I rose early today and drove a few miles north to McKinney's Erwin Park. I usually visit this park on cold days in winter, when I share moments of solitude under December skies with vultures, crows, and robins.

This morning I arrived just before the time the park opens at 8 a.m. The parking lots were full of cars. Errwin Park's main draw is as a single-track bicycle place. Although we have no mountains in Collin County, a riparian woodland offers the cyclist the chance to roll up and down into little ravines, in between jaunts under amber skies through yellow fields.

I found a parking space in one of the more remote lots, where only a car or two was parked. The wonderful thing about Erwin Park is that it has such a broad expanse of land that even moderately heavy usage by other hikers does not impact the sense of "alone with nature" that I long for when I visit a park.

I stood by a small forest where a warbler sang from a tree, taking a voice recording of his song. I watched a cardinal saunter from bare branch to bare branch of a tree above me. I watched little fish make little zipper marks on the surface of a pond. I listened to the lowing of cattle, often placid, but one calf had an urgent compliant to raise.

I had my little Mikona DV-8 camera, whose .3 megapixels gives a mildly lomo effect to each snapshot it takes. This camera has no "view screen" and no "smart card". It has a tiny flash memory which holds 25 small pictures. I filled the camera.

When I drove to exit the park, I saw a lovely hot air balloon framed just above a horizon of woodland. I hurriedly cleared a picture off the camera, so that I could snap a shot. After a wrong button-press or so, I finally had 1 picture left to shoot. I turned to the horizon, just in time to see the lovely balloon go down. This is the photographic equivalent of the "one that got away".

I like open spaces in which so many thing shappen, but only if you watch and listen subtly for the changes and events.

When I drove home, I saw the parched heat has shriveled the local corn fields. Farming is a giant lottery, and only the Summer knows who wins.