Last week’s trip to the Englewood was an escape from the madness that has been all-consuming these past couple of months.

Being overwhelmed with work, financial, and a myriad of other issues has become the new norm of these past few months and there was a sense of leaving things behind as we climbed into the car and headed off down the I-75 with Tampa firmly in the rear view mirror.

By the time we hit the beach and began the task of shell-collecting, the storm clouds that had been firmly positioned above us had largely dissipated and our minds shifted away from the dark realities that they carried within them.

By the time we had watched the sun decline below the horizon we had spent hours collecting the gulf’s wonderful bounty, dined and drank in the company of a most special friend, and returned in time to watch the sky perform its golden dance before it settled on a blue blackness that would persist until the next morning came.

We three spoke of things that were important and trivial, amusing and serious and by the time we adjourned to bed, real-life seemed much further away than the mere couple of hours to Tampa.

We got up early the following morning and resumed the shell collecting and by the time we left we had a genuine stash of interesting shells and shark-teeth to remind us of our mini-getaway.

I have included some pics at the end of this blog that progress from the early moments after arriving until the sunset that closed out our evening. I hope you enjoy!

In any event, the thought for this blog formed around a conversation that we had the prior evening over a few Coronas. It was at a momentary pause in our discussions that I used the word “Refuge” in describing how this getaway had felt and we all agreed that there was a sense of peaceful escape from life that had soothed our minds and engulfed our souls.

You see, when we find ourselves dealing with life’s challenges and difficulties on a frequent and sustained level, it can become our norm and have very real impact on our general outlook and health.

When our level of happiness and our outlook becomes a casualty of the life we are living, we often don’t even notice. We just wake up one day and find that life is such a struggle that we question its worth.

These depths, when sustained, can form the basis for a truly low phase of our life.

And one of the best solutions to dealing with a low phase, is to step away and realign your thoughts away from the problems that have formed the clouds.

Seeking refuge, no matter how momentary, is a valuable mechanism that shouldn’t be under-rated.

Our minds have a way of dealing with things that keep current and important things in the front of our thoughts so that they can be dealt with. When there are too many thoughts and issues to deal with where our brain goes into overload, we are left with a feeling of being overwhelmed.

There are moments in most of our lives when being overwhelmed with the situations we are in becomes a reality and the problem with that occurring too often or even just across a sustained period of time, is that our mind then has no space to acknowledge the good things of life that are happening around us.

We don’t think about our good state of health, the love of those around us, or even just the soft breeze and blue skies that are doing their best to lift our spirits.

No, we become focused on the negative and the serious and at that moment in time can be forgiven for thinking that this is what our life has become.

This is where finding a tiny refuge away from all the shit affords us the chance to breathe in some of the good aspects of our life and appreciate where we are at this point in time.

Incidentally, such a break also allows us to refocus so that when we return to the rigors from whence we fled, we often do so in a more competent and positive manner. But this is a by-product and not really my point.

My point is this. When we are at a point in life where we are so lost in the trees that we can’t see the forest, we NEED to step back and breathe in the better parts of life. Keeping perspective is the difference between thinking we are living a good life or a bad one.

… just a thought!


We’ve been going to the south shore of Lake Parker most evenings for the past couple of weeks. The draw for us is that there is a mommy alligator patiently waiting by a mound of earth in the water for her eggs to hatch.

Each time we go, I bring my 600mm lens and it brings me up closer to the action than I can see with the naked eye.

There was nothing happening with the alligator nest. We’ve been doing this for several weeks now but we don’t know when they might hatch, how long she has been waiting there already, or even whether she is just fucking with us and the mound of earth is just exactly that. Not a nest at all.

But it’s all good because each visit seems to see some scene playing out in front of us that we later digest and talk about as we pore through the images.

I often strain to see what is going on and then don’t know for sure until later when looking at the images and seeing a detail I wasn’t even aware of.

For example, there were moments last night when a heron caught a little fish, a grackle caught an insect of some sort, an anhinga came up empty with some vegetation on his beak, and that brown patch in the distance turned out to be a lone rabbit. Talk about choosing a tough place to live out your life!

Then there was that moment when Inna pulled on my arm and said “what bird is that?” as something flew high above us with something clutched firmly in its claws that clearly was about to form the basis of an evening snack.

I didn’t immediately know. All I knew was that he wasn’t an osprey as he was smaller and darker in color. So, I walked closer to where he had alighted in a tree and tried to get some shots before he took off again.

I could tell he was a raptor of some sort but in the camera the few shots that I got were too dark for me to identify him. I only knew that he was not an osprey or a hawk. Seemed a little too small for a falcon but that is where my guess remained by the time we headed home.

It was only when I got to see the pics on the big screen that I realized he was a kite. A Snail Kite to be exact. And his prey that he carried to the tree branch was indeed a snail.

I saw little metal rings on his legs and imagined that he must have escaped from captivity but on closer look the rings were numbered and clearly it was a conservation trap, release, and track, by well-intentioned conservationists.

The Snail Kite is, in fact, an endangered species and I was thrilled to finally see one. I have been shooting here for many years and never had such an encounter. It was such a special find.

I chose to take a time out and read a bit about them and their population is endangered because man (go figure) has removed so much of their environment from them. With their food source dwindling, their numbers are far fewer and by the time I finished the read, I was sad (once again) at the impact that we continue to have on the world around us.

Before I share the thought that developed from this endangered aspect, I have placed a number of the shots at the end from this visit and I hope you enjoy.

It was really after I checked out the images on the PC that the whole endangered thought crossed into my mind. You see, initially I saw the metal rings on the Kite’s legs and I thought that this little guy had escaped captivity somewhere.

But when I read the article on them being endangered and realized that this number was part of a catch and release program, I paused. I began to get angry at the whole notion that humans are causing such damage to the environment on a level that the collateral damage is being inflicted on species that most of us aren’t even aware of.

I mean, the classic example of extinct species is the dinosaur but that was attributed to a celestial happening and not involving us. However we don’t have to look very far to see the numbers of species that are being wiped out by over-hunting, over-fishing, environment destruction, and a myriad of other slaughters.

But the average Joe doesn’t give a shit. Those of us who read or think are aware that bees, for example, are highly vulnerable and colonies are being wiped out without regard to what this does to the entire eco-system. But do we really think the average Joe is aware of this. And if he is, does he even care?

The Kite is endangered primarily because the environment that his food thrives in is being destroyed. So, to arrive at an understanding of what we are doing to a creature like the Kite we would have to be cognizant to the environment that their food thrives on.

And frankly that involves thinking, which the average Joe doesn’t seem to have the capacity to do.

On our way along the shoreline last night, we passed by a number of people sitting at a bus stop engaged in some kind of family gathering. And then a bit further up from there we saw a middle aged guy sitting alone on a bench playing on his phone and drinking a coke from Wendy’s.

By the time we walked back in the opposite direction, all were gone. At the bench where the lone guy had been sitting, his half-empty cup of coke was sitting on the ground, straw protruding. Not more than five feet from an empty trash can.

When we neared the bus-stop, they too were gone and the debris left behind them consisted of old clothing, packaging, drink containers and papers that probably occupied six or seven cubic feet.

In complete dismay I looked beyond where they were sitting into the waters of the lake shore and could see at least twenty or thirty pieces of garbage and plastic floating in the water or half-submerged in the muddy shore.

Around this debris field, little creatures (mostly birds and alligators) tried to maneuver their way past them in order to find something to eat. One little gallinule came out of the water and was pecking through the garbage left on the ground at the bus stop. A heron in the near-distance attempted to spear a fish with his beak but his head came back up from the water with a large plastic bag wrapped around his beak.

If wild creatures could voice themselves to us, they would surely ask why we don’t care. And frankly, if I was being asked that, I wouldn’t have an answer.

We don’t care about anyone other than ourselves. That has been obvious to me for years.

But do we not understand that when we have poisoned the environment enough, we too will become endangered?

I guess not. You see, that would require thinking ; a trait seemingly beyond most of us.

… just a thought!