Hello! How’s everybody doing? It’s been a while and with good reason. David and I finally moved. Yay! Needless to say, it’s been an extremely busy summer — hence the long absence from WordPress. Moving took a lot out of me, physically and emotionally; so I took a bit of extra time for myself. The new place is pure awesomeness because it’s exactly what I was holding out for — a gorgeous country setting! I’m so excited to finally have a yard that we can actually use and enjoy. I’m taking advantage of every opportunity to be outdoors, exploring my new surroundings. I’m also thrilled to have neighbors who are so much more respectful and courteous. A huge improvement over our last living situation.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) #1 Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) #2

Our neighbors have a puppy who brought us a gift yesterday morning while we were sitting outside enjoying the fresh air, an Eastern Box Turtle. Well… David rescued it from her. I stayed outside with it most of the afternoon to see if it was okay.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) #3

It was closed up tight in its shell, my guess, traumatized by its playful predator; so it took quite a while for it to finally open up and stick its head out — a female with the most beautiful brown eyes. She appeared uninjured, thankfully.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) #4

I took a few initial photos of her and headed inside for some water and fruit to see if she would eat. She wouldn’t. Maybe she just didn’t care for cantaloupe.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) #5

Before long she realized I wasn’t a threat and began to get antsy to be on her way.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) #6

One of the bonuses of this piece of property is that there is a small patch of forest with a creek running at the property line. The creek is only a short hike away; so I decided it would be best to free my new little friend down there, hopefully giving her a head start at evasion from her canine huntress.

Forest Creek

I stayed down there with her for the better part of an hour. At first, she remained closed-up tight in her shell. While I waited to be sure she made her escape, I stacked rocks in the creek — total Zen. It’s so relaxing down there (well, minus the mosquitoes).

Stone Balancing 8.16.14

I made it to 8 rocks again before Ms. Turtle decided to poke her head out and check out the surroundings.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) #7

It took her a little while longer before she was ready to move along, so I gave her some space while I photographed spiders and a number of Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (correct ID?). They were all over the place out there!

Unknown Spider Spider

Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)

I also had the pleasure of seeing a Pileated Woodpecker for the first time. I was in awe of its size! I’ve heard these birds ever since we moved in, but I wasn’t for certain what it was until seeing it yesterday. Honestly, their vocalizations cause me to imagine a prehistoric creature like a pterodactyl or they sound like something you would hear in a tropical rain forest. When I began researching what bird made this unique sound, my first thought was Cooper’s Hawk. After finally seeing it, however, I know for certain that it is a Pileated Woodpecker. I’m truly wishing I had a camera with a telephoto lens to photograph this beauty. I didn’t manage a photo of the woodpecker, but I did capture its vocalizations in a couple of video clips (below).

Eventually, this lovely turtle cautiously began her journey to wherever turtles go, swimming across the creek to the other side. I bid her farewell and thanked her for her patience with me. I hope she has a nice long life. Maybe I’ll see her again someday.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) #8


A Special Note: I made a mistake yesterday that I feel incredibly ashamed to admit now; however, I feel that it is important to mention it so that others do not make the same mistake. I tagged this turtle with a purple smiley face, so I would know it’s her should I see her again.

This is a VERY BAD idea!

Granted it was a small tag, and the paint I used should eventually wear off; but concern entered my mind immediately after I released her because I realized that it could possibly make her more visible to predators. If I ever see her again, I will make sure the paint is very carefully and completely removed.

It was an honest mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking. Okay, that’s the point — I wasn’t thinking! I had heard of people tagging turtles in this way and wasn’t thinking about the possible consequences of doing so. After researching the unwise practice today while writing this post, I was a little more than disturbed by the extent to which people are painting turtle shells, especially given the reasons for NOT doing so which include:

  1. making the turtle more visible to predators
  2. preventing the turtle’s shell from breathing
  3. preventing the turtle’s shell from needed UV rays that help it grow
  4. toxicity of paints used

I’m sure there are other reasons, but those are reason enough to pass this information along. NEVER paint a turtle’s shell.

Also, to reiterate an earlier post from a few years ago, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency:

“In Tennessee, no one is allowed to keep any animal as a pet taken from the wild, which to many people’s surprise includes tadpoles, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, baby birds, squirrels, raccoons, and young deer. If the animal is injured, call the nearest of TWRA’s four Regional Offices for a list of permitted rehabilitators, who will keep the animal until it can be returned to the wild. If it cannot be returned, the rehabilitator will turn the animal over to someone with a special Educator’s Permit, who may be able to use the animal in a classroom or teaching setting.”

6/12/2014 @ 11:07 PM CST

6/12/2014 @ 11:07 PM CST — 6 second-long-exposure

I popped outside real quick to snap a few photos of the moon tonight because it’s so beautiful. Look closely at the photo above. Can you find the trail of a lightning bug? That was a happy accident. ;) The one below wasn’t one of my favorites (the other two are) due to the slight blur; but it was the only one I snapped at exactly 11:12 pm which was the “official” time that I found for the moon to be at its fullest. “For anyone living in or eastward of the Eastern time zone, it falls on Friday the 13th.” [Source: Tomorrow's Friday the 13th full moon is so rare, it won't happen again until 2049]

Full Moon on 6/12/2014 @ 11:12 PM CST

Full Moon on 6/12/2014 @ 11:12 PM CST — 5 second-long-exposure

 6/12/2014 @ 11:14 PM CST

6/12/2014 @ 11:14 PM CST — 3.2 second-long-exposure

Cat Hunting Blackbird

Cat Hunting Blackbird
Mixed Media – Primarily ballpoint ink pen with a small amount of colored pencil and yellow marker
Size: 8.5″x11″

I began this drawing last Thursday with a very quick, rough sketch while exploring recent photos on Flickr. A couple of photos I saw by two different people, close together in the Photostream — almost side-by-side — sparked my imagination. The coincidental placement of these two images inspired me to combine what I imagined to be happening into one drawing.

The result is a kind of massive Zentangle, brightly colored with a slight abstract quality that I’m very pleased with. I spent a total of 18.5 hours on this drawing over the course of the last week. This was so enjoyable that I find myself at a loss today with nothing to work on. Onward to find more inspiration!

And speaking of Blackbirds, I have to share Kary Johnson‘s video that I ran across last week also titled simply, Blackbird. Enjoy! ;)

Orchard Orbweaver #1

Every year we get these beauties on our north facing porch. The family grows each year. Right now, there are several this size (about the size of a nickel, legs included) and a few spiderlings, no bigger than an eraser tip. The spiderlings are lighter colored. They almost appear white, until you look very closely. They were much too small for my camera to focus on, but I got a few decent photos of the adults.


 Orchard Orbweaver #2

These are commonly known as Orchard Orbweavers. I’m fairly certain that this particular species is Leucauge venusta, but both Leucauge venusta and Leucauge argyra are very similar. I may have to go out and take a closer look again to be completely sure. I’ll have to wait for the next sunny day, though, which from the look of the forecast won’t be any time soon.

Orchard Orbweaver #3

Although this image could have been a bit crisper, I’m pretty pleased with this photo of the colorful underside. Oh, what I would give for the capability to take macros of arachnids and insects. They’re quite beautiful when you take the time to look. ;)

Narceus americanus/annularis complex #1

Hiking at Burgess Falls over this past weekend, David and I saw a countless number of these millipedes (Narceus americanus/annularis complex). I think this was the first one that he spotted. After that, it was like a scavenger hunt, calling out to each other, “Found another one!” Seriously, we lost count of how many we saw out there. They were everywhere! I thought these two photos fit the Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist.

Narceus americanus/annularis complex #2

Bonus: a short video clip. One of these days, I’ll learn to hold a camera still while taking video! At least, I hope.

I love to watch their legs move. They’re like waves. This one was quick, and I kept turning him back around, trying to get a better photo. I thanked the millipede for its patience with me as we parted ways. It was last seen crossing a three-inch gap between rocks, back end on one rock as the front end grabbed the other. Fascinating creatures.

Snail on Moss Covered Rock

Small. Snail. Slow glide. Hunting, searching, foraging. Alien eyes peering all around. Do you see me as I see you? Carrying your home on your back to hide from any who may attack…. (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13….)

Feel free to continue the sequence in the comments below. ;)

Carpenter Ant with Slug

I don’t often use the black and white setting on my digital camera. Anytime I do, like in this photo, I have to adjust the blacks and whites post-production for better contrast; so this one has been edited. I was in the mood to try something different. I’m fairly pleased with the end result.

On a side note, the slug and ant looked as if they were conversing. The ant never touched the slug, just stood there for a while before moving on down the log.

Red Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk
Mixed Media – General’s Charcoal White pencil and ballpoint ink pen
Appx. 8″x11″

Source Image by MONGO, located at: Red tailed hawk and snake b 8.9.2008.jpg

I finally completed this one today. I think in all, I spent approximately 7 hours on this one. I really enjoyed drawing this. I still might put in a background, but I thought I would share what I have so far. I’m pretty pleased with it. I’ve loved Red-tailed Hawks for as long I’ve seen them flying in the sky. When my therapist asked me the question, “If you could come back as any animal, what would you choose?” I answered either an Eagle, a Red-tailed Hawk, or a Hummingbird. After that session, I went for a drive out to Rock Island State Park. It was too hot to hike that day, so I just hung out for a little while looking at the waterfall. Coincidentally, I must have seen 3 different Red-tailed Hawks that day! One was sitting on a utility line as I drove back. Since there was no traffic, I slowed way down to get a good look at him. He looked me straight in the eye. That day inspired this drawing, so I have to change my answer to a Red-tailed Hawk. ;)

Grammatical lesson of the day: As I was typing this I couldn’t figure out whether it was “a utility” or “an utility.” I found the best answer on Yahoo! Answers by someone calling himself House M.D.:

The “u” linguistically functions as a glide, which is a consonant sound and would thus be preceded by “a.” Stating that “an” comes before vowels is too simplistic; “an” comes before vowel sounds.

Sounds good to me! And yes, I think about things like this, LOL.


Mixed Media – Watercolor, colored pencils, and ballpoint ink pen

As·pi·ra·tionnoun /ˌaspəˈrāSHən/: 1. a hope or ambition of achieving something. [Google definitions]

I have tried to write out a blog post for this art piece ever since I finished it on April 18th. Lord have mercy; there have been a lot of distractions this past month! These distractions led to a much more serious bout of depression than I would like to admit and anxiety that has me questioning my sanity. It’s during times like these that hopelessness sets in, and I struggle to see the good in life due to feelings of despair and negative thinking.

Let me reiterate here that telling a depressed person to “just think happy thoughts” is probably the worst advice ever that someone could give. Not only does it invalidate what the person is feeling, statements like these can cause that negativity to spiral out of control when the person finds that this seemingly simple solution can’t be achieved due to, you guessed it, more negative thoughts. It’s a vicious cycle. A much more productive response, in my opinion, is to remind the depressed person that all of life’s problems are temporary and change is inevitable as nothing ever stays the same.

When my therapist spoke with me about doing a piece of artwork for a mental health publication, I knew I wanted to participate; and the above image is the result. The topic or art prompt he gave me was “Inspiring Hope” or “What gives a person inspiration of hope?” Coincidentally, back in January, I had posed a similar question to this on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

January 15, 2014, on Facebook and Google+:

“I’m going to throw this prompt out all across the board to all of my social media networks: What physical representation means “HOPE” to you? Tell me or draw #hope.

I was considering the thought of creating a drawing series based on responses I receive. In doing a quick Google search I’ve run across the usual symbols: a dove, an anchor, a swallow; but I think it would be more interesting to hear and see individual responses given the personal nature of what hope might represent to others. For me, the first thing I thought of was butterflies (because they are so fragile yet travel such great distances) or maybe, the infinity symbol (because to me, infinity also means all things are possible through time and space – this one’s a little harder for me to explain).

Sorry to be so philosophical, but this thought crossed my mind. My curiosity got the better of me, so I thought I would ask.”

And on Twitter:


Failing to get any responses, I promptly forgot about it and moved onto other things. Yes, my failure to interact with people is as prominent online as it is in real life; and yes, it was also a “look a bunny” kind of thing. I had, however, intended at that time to sort out this concept in my mind to better understand how others experience hope since it is such a hard concept for me to grasp. My struggles with depression and anxiety often leave me with a loss of hope, as I’m sure these types of mental health struggles do for many.

I can’t really make up my mind as to whether hope is an emotion or a belief or something else entirely. “Hopeful” is often listed as an emotion, but I’m confused by “hope.” I could just be over-thinking it, as I often do; but it is my experience that I analyze something to death in order to gain an understanding of it. However, when I think about hope, expectation and disappointment also factor into the mix. One can’t exactly hope for something without a certain amount of expectation that this hope will somehow manifest. If that hope does not, then disappointment is a likely result.

Hopenoun /ˈhōp/: 1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. 2. a feeling of trust. verb: 1. want something to happen or be the case. [Google definitions]

On the day my therapist gave me this prompt, I had the topic of “Inspiring Hope” stuck in my head while I hiked at Burgess Falls after our appointment. Thinking about “what gives me the inspiration of hope,” I spotted a couple of beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtails. At that moment, I knew that a butterfly had to be a part of this piece because for me, butterflies are the perfect symbol for “Hope.” I would have preferred a Monarch butterfly to work from, but those are becoming a rare pleasure to see. Instead, I worked from one of my favorite photos I took of an inquisitive swallowtail that I photographed last August.

While working on this art piece, I thought more about the topic and came to the conclusion that I think hope is finding your passion and setting it free. My passions are drawing, painting, photography – creating art – and nature. These are the things that give me the most hope because these are things that I love to do and want to share with the world to inspire others.

What gives you the inspiration of hope?

On Top

I was back out at Burgess Falls today hiking and had in mind this week’s photo challenge. My photo really does not do a 130 foot drop justice. Luckily, there were a couple of tiny people down at the bottom to put it into perspective. My fear of heights is lessening; and this is the closest I think I’ve ever gotten to the edge of the gorge. It was an easy climb both down and back up, as the rocks weren’t nearly as slippery as they were 3 weeks ago.

From The Top

There was a Great Blue Heron at the waterfall today. As I sat waiting patiently to see if he, not sure if it was male or female, but I’ll use the male pronoun for ease of writing, would come closer, I balanced a few stones. Unfortunately, he never came close enough for a good photo, waiting just outside the scope of my camera’s lens.

While I Wait...

 Sandhill Crane

The one above is NOT a great photo; but the best I got. He was very leery of me and waited until I climbed all the way back up to the top before returning not even 20 feet away from where I balanced my stones. I had to laugh because I couldn’t blame him for wanting to be left alone. Heck, that’s why I was out there; but I wouldn’t have minded his company.

Update: I forgot to add this short video clip of Burgess Falls with an interrupting bumblebee.

And Correction Update: It’s not a Sandhill Crane, but a Great Blue Heron. I have no idea how I missed that because I know the difference; but thank you, Mary, for pointing it out to me! I even mis-labeled it on Flickr. In my defense, I have been very tired and distracted lately; so please, forgive my mistake. :)