Sea Hermit

Just a shell in the sand, worn away by endless tides and shifting stones, salt and grit and wind. Once the home of a sea snail, now open in the tail end, the dark stone-like outer covering eaten away to reveal iridescent mother-of-pearl, jewel of the sea. Tiny legs wiggle in the opening, nothing more than thin points with little black hairs. Now a pair of waving, flag-like antennae. Now two curious eyes.

Now the shell jumps up and is running away! Home held high in the water, certainly not dragging. This hermit is on a mission to outrun the retreating waves and make it back for supper by low tide.



Chicken After Strawberry

Ruby is a high-strung chicken, built like a bulldog with a heart yellower than a lemon. She was traipsing back and forth against the fence when I went out this afternoon, eyeing me and waiting for me to release her into the wilds.


She hung around behind me as I pulled grass, lamb’s quarters, mustard, and Queen Anne’s Lace from my treasured tomato patch. I offered her a tender clump of wood sorrel, and, interested, she came walking over for a peck. There happened to be some clover in the clump as well, which she also ate. She minded her own business, hunting for snails in the damp greenery near the stream in the backyard, while I continued to weed, one eye on her.

Growing bored of weeding, I turned to go see what Chicken was up to. I found she had wandered to another edge of the garden and was crouching there, half in and half out, near my pea trellis. What was she doing? After eyeing me for a moment, she turned her attention back to – a wild strawberry! The delicacy! She plucked it from the plant, laid it on the ground, and ate it with gusto. Then she stepped carefully away from that patch and walked slowly along the edge of the garden, searching with calm deliberation. I saw the next strawberry a moment after she started reaching for it. She knew I’d brought her out here to enjoy herself and didn’t suspect I’d take her strawberry. I didn’t. She pulled at it, smacked her beak when she got juice on her tongue, and finally had the whole strawberry down the hatch and was looking for more.

“All right, Ruby,” I said, patting my thigh and attempting to call her like one would call a dog, which, as usual, failed. She followed me for a few steps and then stopped, probably thinking, Yeah, I’d rather stay here if it’s all the same to you.

I walked back to her and reached for her, expecting indignant rebellion and loud squawks, but instead of flapping or jumping away she only mildly clucked her complaint. When I opened the coop door for her (after she’d flown out of my arms for the last time, but without comment) she walked right in, back to her friend Minerva, the aging and lethargic Buff Orpington.

Later I walked by to see Minerva and Ruby sitting together in the shade. Ruby wasn’t pacing back and forth by the door. She was at Minerva’s side, though that chicken rarely moves. Content to stay put.

Getting out for strawberries and sunshine is good for high-strung chickens. Good for people, too.

Communication & Mathematics: Essentially the Same

image17I have a Bachelor’s in communication with a minor in mathematics, and this duo makes perfect sense to me. In fact, I wonder why more communication folks, especially writers and designers, don’t see the beauty and meaningfulness of mathematics as it relates to their own fields. Mathematics, as well as writing, design, and other media, is all about representation and symbolism, as well as efficiency and pithiness.

For an excellent overview of the connections between mathematics, perspectives, stories, and understanding, take a look at Roger Antonsen’s TED talk here. (This is also a super example of illustrated oratory and unobtrusive videography.)

Old Path Home

Jennie tried the handle. It was locked. She shuffled back from the door, walked around to the side of the house, and reached for a flowerpot overflowing with petunias by the iron gate. She tucked her slender hands into the moist peat and pulled the pot from its nest.

There was no key.

She stared at the empty surface, feeling her heart speed faster in the late afternoon sun. Insects floated in the light breeze as she returned the pot, and, shouldering her book bag, walked slowly back to the unpainted road.

Jennie was small for her age, often mistaken for a grade school student when she was in reality entering the 8th grade. She stepped carefully around ruts in the sidewalk, walking slow to conserve her energy. The sun was beating down on her bare head. Unsure what else to do, she stepped off the sidewalk (it was crumbling anyway toward the dead end) and onto the worn foot trail down the hill.

The air was cooler by the creek, in the shade of the old willows. Jennie dropped her backpack in the dirt by a fragrant honeysuckle bush and sat down by the rippling water, shade creeping over from the far bank. She hugged her knees to her chest against the chill and watched the waterbugs dance around miniature waves.

Things hadn’t always been this way. Mother would have been home this time last year. He wouldn’t have been allowed to take the key. Mother hadn’t trusted him at first, but now, it seemed she listened to him more than her own daughter.

Jennie picked up a stone and sent it skipping off the shallows. Her pastime.

It would be long past dark before the sound of a car door jolted her awake, once she had finally found sleep on the cold, damp wood of the back porch.

5 Essential Tips for Photographing Wild Beasts

American robin in snow1. Dress for the Weather

You’ll thank yourself later and will be able to last longer out in the wild, which means more photo opportunities! If it’s cold out, dress extra warm. Nature photographers stay very still when at work. It gets chilly.

2. Get Comfortable.

Don’t stand, crouch, or sit in an awkward position as you wait for the perfect photo. Nature photography is a waiting game, and in order to win, you must be in a position you can hold, comfortably, for long periods of time.

3. Be Sneaky.

Let those critters come to you. Don’t fool yourself – you’re not going to run them down, especially with a clunky zoom lens. Know their habits, find their haunts, make yourself inconspicuous, and wait.

4. Get Candid Moments.

Now that you’re in position and your subject is nearby, wait. Wait and know when to shoot. Yawns, bickering, displays, and other interesting animal behavior and interactions will make your photo intriguing.

5. Use a Zoom Lens.

If you don’t have a zoom lens, restrict your photography to insects and friendly pets. And upgrade your toolkit.

Write a Letter

To an old friend:

Remember how often we’d write to each other, pen-pal? Your letters stamped from exotic places, arriving in the mailbox on sunny mornings. I would trot down the driveway to check the mail, sometimes disappointed with impersonal printed business, sometimes cheered with a wrapped message that promised to be a delight to read.

Remember how easily the words came in those days, before there was such thing as a word count, a “good story”, structure, and grammar? Pooh. In those days there were books. In those days we told each other true stories, and wide-eyed we’d read them like the most gripping young-adult novel, except- these were real, written just for us, for our eyes only.

We wrote to each other. We wrote freely, as we were moved to. Unsupervised, unrequired writing, pure joy. Before I knew that “it’s” isn’t possessive, and before I knew what paragraphs are good for. It didn’t matter. I learned, and my letters were plenty readable.

For years I wrote to you. You wrote to me. Preferring paper and pen to face-to-face talk, I would wander the hillside like Frederick the mouse, gathering colors and sounds, images of plants in the sunshine. I would bring them back, in my mind, my camera, my words. Forest air in my lungs, forest dirt on my boots, blackberry scratches on my knees, sweat on my forehead. Alone, I would gather words for my next letter, and when pen met paper I would tell you stories of the places I’d been.

Write back soon!

Your Pen-Pal


The smallest things can eat up your mind as soon as they go missing. A key, a book, a ring, a letter. All of a sudden we’ll forget everything else and go searching for that one offending item, turning the world upside down until the wayward object is found.

It’s not so easy when you lose a someone instead of a something. Someone you now know you’ve spoken your last words to and won’t be seeing again.

The missing things and missing pieces can eat us alive if we let them. Or we can realize the value of all we have left and the people we’re still surrounded by. It’s true you never know what you’ve got till it’s gone; absence makes the heart grow fonder because it rips a piece from your heart and promises to replace it later with stitches of love. The things and people that go missing remind us how fragile life is, and how quickly it can all change. It’s easy to live in fear, knowing this. Fear that sucks the joy and gratitude and every good thing from life.

“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.” -Shakespeare

We’re not made to fear. We’re made to live and love with courage, to thank God for what He’s given rather than fear what He can take away. Sometimes it takes a stab of sorrow to remind us that we can still feel, that we’re not numb and impenetrable as a medieval fortress. That life gets to us, and it matters.

There’s a verse in Switchfoot’s song Awakening: “I want to live like I know what I’m leaving.” To me this speaks about the goodness of life, the value of recognizing that goodness while we’ve got it, and the knowledge that one day we’ll be moving on.