There are some wonderful ancient ruins in Co Laois at a place called the Rock of Dunamase and on a partly cloudy, blue-sky day, Inna, Erin, and I scouted it for a shoot the following day.

It was a little over an hour from our base in Limerick, and as Erin had business in Dublin that day, we planned the scouting trip to take place on our way there.

These particular ruins date from the 1200s, so they aren’t considered ancient by Irish standards. But they were built on a prior fortress dating from the 800s and before that, the belief is that early settlements date back into the era when the Fianna dominated Irish history in the 200s.

You could see why such a place was chosen for such a castle, as the elevation of the rock itself gave a panoramic view that seemed to extend forever across the plains of Co. Laois and Co. Kildare.

We spent the best part of two hours there imagining life in its heyday and while Erin’s obsessed over where the prisoners might have been kept and where everyone went to the toilet, Inna and I scoured different sections looking for possible shoot locations for the following day.

While there are far more reasons to want to be alive now than then, it was easy to lose ourselves in the romance of what life might have been like back then (unless of course, you are a prisoner or needed to use a toilet). We imagined how they entered the castle, where they lived, how they guarded, even down to where they kept their horses. It was a wonderful mental exercise and each of the three of us came up with original thoughts that pieced life together in a way it all made sense.

Along the way, I was taking pics and I have added them to the end of the blog (the color ones) for you to see. The second day, Inna and I came back just as the sun arose and we got our shoot done before the rains came and engulfed the whole area. Mostly black and white, some of them have been added at the end of the blog too. I hope you enjoy!

Anyway by the time all was said and done, my visit to Ireland was full of wonderful memories and central to them was Dunamase. Though it was less than ten minutes off the beaten track and I mean the main Dublin to Limerick road, I had never been there before.

Up until three months ago, I hadn’t even heard of it.

Bear in mind I had spent a million years living in Ireland before moving to the US and yet here was an amazing treasure that I knew absolutely nothing about. And why was that, I asked?

Therein lies the thought for today’s blog.

Like most creatures on the planet, humans like to live in routine. We create patterns of life for ourselves that allow us to run our daily lives without thinking.

We wake up at the same time, go to work at the same time, eat at the same time, watch TV at the same time, go to bed at the same time.

The older we get, the more routine we become, eating the same foods, going to the same places, mixing with the same friends.

Routine adds stability to our lives, which is why cats love it, for example. It gives us a feeling that we are somewhat in control. When something alters our routine, we begrudge it, maybe even resist it.

Routine creates a reluctance for change and is a bedrock of conservatism.

But when we step away from routine, we encounter things we haven’t met or done before and this step adds excitement and learning into our lives.

Yes, we may occasionally do something that we don’t like or enjoy but that falls into the “lesson learnt” category.

Like most things in life, a balance is essential to healthy living. We should establish for ourselves an accepted level of routine but then balance that out with steps from the beaten track that take us to new places and experiences.

These steps provide the color in our storybook and become the core memories that flesh out the value that our life has had. You see, a life built solely on routine isn’t just boring … it is one that stifles the brains ability to create new memories.

When on our deathbed, do we muse fondly over memories of the days we made it to work on time or that time we stumbled into an old ruin at Dunamase?

… just a thought!


Our second day in Mayo took us due west from Ballina (where we had spent the night) and we ended at the most westerly corner of Connaught, down at the very tip of a peninsula at Blacksod Lighthouse.

The drive itself was quite spectacular and we stopped many times along the way capturing more and more of the views rather than risk losing them to memory.

The whole Blacksod Bay portion of the drive was punctuated with incredible scene after incredible scene and then once we crossed the peninsula at the very end, we found ourselves staring out into the open waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.

We got some lovely views of the Inishkea Islands and in the distance, about five or six miles from shore was Blackrock Island with a lone Lighthouse and a building that housed whoever looked after it.

You’ll see a picture at the end of the blog of Blackrock Island in the distance. I think it ninth from the end.

I know I uploaded a bunch but hope you find something there to enjoy!

It was the island and the home on it that brought the thought for this morning’s blog to mind.

I imagine the solitude that must exist for whoever gets to spend time out there.

From a crowded or busy life point of view, we get to look out at it and let our minds play with the fantasy of such isolation. And it is a wonderful fantasy in so many ways.

Isolation from life, or even just stepping away for a while, for years has been a huge draw for me in taking getaway cruises. Abandoning the cell phone and email and turning inwards can give us a wonderful perspective on ourselves and on those important to us.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the craziness of issues we are dealing with in life that we forget why we are here and what it is that makes our lives worth the living.

This is why meditation works to isolate the mind from all the white noise and allows us to focus on the innermost kernel of what our life means to us.

The thought of spending time in retreat on Blackrock Island took on instant appeal to me and had my mind musing about how I could arrange to get there, even if just for a week or two.

The practicalities, of course, is that I never can but that doesn’t stop me fantasizing about it.

Whatever island we manage to get to, even if it is no more than a dark soundproof room away from the madding crowd, it is really important to do so.

Many of us in the modern era live a life that is fraught with stress and pressure. Our lives become a sudden rush of things from the moment we get out of bed until we get back in it. We hurry ourselves throughout and typically even add to the stresses by how we are handling it.

“I’m in a hurry to get things done. Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun. I’m in a hurry and don’t know why. All I really gotta do is live and die.” – It’s the opening lines of an old song by Alabama.

Damn, I just realized I must be hitting the bottom of the barrel; I am quoting songs from country music. Good grief!

So, anyway, you’re forgiven if you don’t know that one. But the sentiment is exactly correct. We rush ourselves.

Life has its stresses. Its pressures. But it is us that takes them onboard and rush our way through the rest of life in order to cope with them.

That is such a wrong approach and one that makes so many of us miss out on what life is all about.

The Meaning of Life is not a Monty Python movie. Nor is it some deep religious significance, guiding us to a place up in the skies.

The truth is much simpler than that. Life is what we are living, here and now. It is the way we impact those around us, how we share a love with someone or something. It is how we breathe in the moment we are in and add meaning to it. It is how we pass through moments of happiness and sadness and grow with each.

Politics, wars, religions, work, wealth, they all have nothing to do with life. And when they start impacting our life, we need to find that island and run away there.

In reality I will never make it to Blackrock Island but in my mind I hope to one day. So should you. Grab your boat and with back to shore, leave the craziness of life behind and just take the time to focus a little.

Your life will be all the better for it and when all the screams and stresses die away in the distance, you will end up living more fully once it is done.

… just a thought!


I just got back from Ireland again the night before last. And just as before, we spent much of the time traveling around different places that extended beyond the normal path of such visits.

This time, we headed north and west from our Limerick base and reached into the furthermost corners of Co Mayo. We had two destinations in mind and this one, Achill Island, was the first. That being said, our destinations completely played second fiddle to the journeys themselves as our eyes feasted on the ever changing surrounds and our hearts feasted on time with each other.

The drive to Achill was spectacular and after passing by mountains and lakes, we emerged onto a coastline and then hugged it all the way to Achill.

The skies obliged once again and it is truly difficult to imagine a more beautiful coastline. The amount of time I had spent in Mayo was while I was a child and could be measured in a thimble. And as I had written about Achill in the third part of my Fianna trilogy, I wanted to make sure that some of my memories were factual.

Towards the end of the drive as we made the final leg along the edge of a steep mountain, we marveled at the beauty but were conscious of the danger of veering slightly to the left and landing in the ocean below.

I doubt if I will ever forget this drive as every second already seems etched into my bank of favorite memories.

I have attached a number of images at the end of this blog. I hope you enjoy!

There will be other posts this week from this Irish trip along with photos from a trip to the end of the road in Blacksod and a wonderful spot in Co. Laoise called the Rock of Dunamase. So, do check back!

In the meantime, the thought that I had from this particular journey was how easily memories can get created when you are with someone special.

I have visited many amazing spots and witnessed some stunning moments in Florida but have done so, mostly on my own.

As such, with few exceptions, most of these memories rely on pictures that I have taken as some kind of a capturing of what I have seen and felt. There has often been the hollow feeling associated with not having a fellow witness to share the moment with.

For example, I had the most amazing alligator experience of standing just a few feet from a monster alligator while he crunched his way through a seriously large catfish. With no one there with me, I have struggled to relay the feeling of awesomeness and power of what I witnessed to those in my circle.

But in this instance, I had Inna with me and being able to point as something and express a wonder, to be immediately greeted by a similar response, made each moment more vibrant and meaningful.

We are social creatures, us humans, and try as we might otherwise, it is important to share at least part of our journey through life with someone special.

It is one of those most unusual conundrums that you share something with someone only to get more, not less, of what you are sharing!

Try to think of another situation where that happens.

And so the memories created when you have someone with you on such experiences are more than you could create on your own.

When they talk about getting to the end of our own road and looking back at the journey we took, the rich life lived is one that recalls a genuine string of meaningful memories that made life worth having lived through.

Each of us has the chance to live such a life and we don’t all need to be on the Mayo coastline to achieve it. We only need to have someone that shares our journey. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, or lover … friends work together in creating such memories each day.

And the memories don’t have to have spectacular scenery in order to be special; smiles shared over coffee mornings and funny stories can also form the basis of such memories.

We have all heard statements about the tapestry of life and the threads we use to create ours can come from a broad base of memories. We just have to spin them.

Each day in our lives gives us the opportunity to do something with it. We can choose to let it pass by or get caught up in the stresses of work and monies and such. No one will force us to have fun, or to get off that sofa. No one will beat us at the end of our day for lying down and closing our eyes on a day we did nothing with.

But we should. The “one life” concept is very simple and in recognition of it, we need to embrace every breath and every experience and treat it as if it is our last.

Because one day, it probably will.

… just a thought!

The Right Place

Work has been at an all-time lull and it would have been easy mid-afternoon the day before yesterday to just slink back home and wait for darkness to fall so I could go to bed.

But it was a lovely day outside; blue skies with a smattering of cloud and plenty of time before the sun would go down. Admittedly it was a bit hot (somewhere around 90) but that only reinforced my thoughts for grabbing the camera and heading to Circle B.

You see, I imagined that with such heat in a mid-afternoon moment, there weren’t likely to be very many others on the trails there.

And I was right. There was only a smattering of cars in the parking lot and most of my walking on the trails was spent in the company of only my shadow.

In fact, I remembered musing to myself at one moment that if something large were to emerge from the waters and take me, no one would even know until the alarm went out about a car in the parking lot that hadn’t been moved in days.

I am almost never on these trails at this time of day, so I sensed that it would be a different experience as morning feeders had gone for a siesta and evening hunters hadn’t yet emerged from their own moments of rest. There were definitely some familiar creatures still there as herons and egrets hung around by the fish-laden waters ready for a mid-afternoon snack.

But as anticipated, the heat brought out more reptiles from the cooler waters as they looked to heat themselves up in the the bask of strong sunlight. Turtles and alligators appeared much more plentiful than at my normal timeslot and that only reinforced my mild-fears of becoming an afternoon snack; not so much the turtles, but the alligators seemed to be all smiling at me!

By the time I hit the end of Marsh Rabbit Run, a trail that cuts a straight swathe through marsh waters on both sides, I had already taken more than enough wonderful shots to make this trip worthwhile. I even got a shot of a one-eyed alligator who seemed to lie in wait for me to stumble just a little closer towards the waters.

But it was really on the way back that two of the most amazing things happened to me that will hold this particular journey in my mind until I die.

Firstly I spotted what looked like a small rabbit in the tall grasses near the edge of the trail. On first sight I would have bet money that he was in fact a rabbit. But it turned out to be a Florida Salt Marsh Vole and not only was he a little guy that I had never seen before, but it turns out he is an endangered species and not imagined to be in this area at all. So this was genuinely a rare sighting.

I watched as he ran out from the side, grabbed a little worm for a snack and then ran back to the protective cover of the grasses again.

After I passed him by, I admit that I was walking faster and with purpose to get back to my car and ultimately home so that I could sort through my images on something bigger that my camera viewfinder. I was in hope that my shots had come out in focus and that question drove each forward step.

The second thing took place only about ten yards further up the trail. To my left in the waters just off the trail, I spotted an alligator very close to the water’s edge but having shot a couple of alligators at almost that same spot on my way down the trail, I paid him no thought and just continued my speedy march.

Then, suddenly, he emerged up the embankment right in front of me and came to an abrupt stop. As did I … very abrupt.

As we stood there looking at each other we were only about six feet apart and he seemed as shocked to see me as I was to see him.

He was about nine or ten feet, I guess, and could have possibly had me for lunch if he wished, except for one big thing. There in his mouth was a rather large catfish. Perhaps two or two-and-a-half feet long. It was already dead and he had clearly decided that he wanted to eat him on dry land rather than in the water.

As I decided not to move and began snapping shots, he was so close that my lens was having difficulty focusing. So, I took a half-step backwards and knelt down so that I could shoot him at his level rather than mine. He still wouldn’t budge; just stood there smiling at me.

So, I figured I should give him a little more privacy and stood up again and took another step back. When he saw I was no threat he then stepped further onto the trail and ate his catch. The ferocity of what I was being treated to was humbling. His strong jaws were repeatedly crunching the poor fish until it was almost jelly in his mouth. Mud and blood just poured out from the side of his mouth until he finally swallowed his lunch and then looked back at me.

I had videoed the entire eating ordeal and lowering the camera by my side, I spoke to him, telling him what an amazing creature he was. I am not sure if he understood my words but I am confident he caught the intent in the tone of my voice. Then he slowly reversed down the embankment and back into the water.

I watched as he swam away, still in awe that I had witnessed something so powerful in such close proximity.

Then I walked faster back to the car so that I could get home quickly and see if I got what I hoped I had. The only stop of note on my way back was when I saw a baby alligator out in the sun and I took a couple of shots of this innocent little predator that hopefully one day will grow as large and powerful as his neighbor. The weight of the contrast wasn’t lost on me.

I have placed a bunch of images at the end of the blog so I hope you enjoy them. The video came out awesome and while not for the squeamish, I will happily send it by email to anyone wanting to see it. Just drop me an email and I will reply in return nronan@nevilleronan.com

When all the excitement settled down a little, it was really this morning that the idea for this blog came to me. We often go through life talking about the one that got away, or how something almost happened but didn’t. But It is important to recognize that sometimes we are in the right place at the right time.

It may not happen very often but when it does, we need to be ready for it. That is why some people have been in the right place at the right time, an opportunity arose, and they were able to take it. That is the recipe for success.

It isn’t simply a matter of hard work or pure luck. You not only have to be there when the opportunity comes knocking, you have to be ready for it and able to take advantage of it.

Seizing the moment is a wonderful idea but it is only useful if the moment arrives at a time when you are able to seize it!

For my little moment, it all boiled down to me having a camera that could capture both video and stills and for the moment to happen when the alligator and I hit the same place on the trail at the same time.

In our lives, we often bemoan our missed opportunities. “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody.” Marlon Brando moaned in On The Waterfront.

Coulda means nothing. Taking life’s opportunity when it comes … that’s what stops us describing life in a one-that-got-away story trying to impress our audience.

One life. Live it. Seize it.

… just a thought!

Blood Moon

I climbed out of bed around 11:30 last night and for the next hour fought off mosquitos, listened as creatures of the night moved in the scrub near me, and basked in the increasingly red glow of the moon as it went through a total lunar eclipse.

Was it worth getting up in the middle of my night for? Absolutely!

There are many wonderful pieces of this universe that just scream out to be noticed and I am so glad I got to witness this little one.

When you feel highly flawed as a person or a photographer, like I do, you always wonder if your pics are going to do it justice. So I was pleasantly surprised that the shots showed what I wanted them to.

I have attached a few pics showing the transition to total eclipse at the end of the blog. Hope you enjoy!

As I went back home and climbed back into bed to resume where I had left off in my dreams, there was a lovely sense of accomplishment attached to what I had just done.

There was also a lovely feeling of insignificance as I lay my head on the pillow and realized that no matter how big any one of us thinks we are, in the grand scheme of things we are insignificant.

And in an instance like this, that is not a bad thing.

We all seek significance. We seek relevance. And when speaking in terms of how we affect those around us, those are good goals to have.

But it is also important to remind ourselves every now and then that the universe doesn’t even know we exist. And when we are gone, the universe will be the exact same without us.

Thus our perspective of what is important is skewed inasmuch as we worry about things and reach for things that are largely irrelevant.

Yes, indeed, there are things to worry about and we need to give them the weight that they deserve when we prioritize or extend ourselves. The people we love and care about, the little creatures that are affected by our actions, the environment of the planet that we live on.

These are all hugely important to us and to the world. And we owe it to ourselves to make sure we do our best in each of those things.

But as I looked at each star last night, I realized that the light that traveled from the most distant stars in the universe has taken over a thousand years to reach here.

And at this moment in time, we are often therefore looking at stars that don’t exist any more. They might have exploded 500 years ago!

So, now imagine you are on one of those distant stars looking at earth. The light from our planet will take the same thousand years to arrive there and so to someone standing there and looking at us, we may not even exist by the time they see the light that leaves here today.

As a distant planet, we might have died off many hundreds of years ago.

So, how significant does that make us!

And that is only considering the one universe we are in. How significant is our universe itself even when stacked up against the millions of universes out there?

I am not trying to blow your mind on a Monday morning, but just wanted to help you realize that whatever worries the week brings you, try to keep it in perspective.

Only worry about what you can actually accomplish and let the rest of it fade away. We have but one life; enjoy the ride!

… just a thought!

The one that got away

I had an awesome day at the beach with Vel yesterday. We just hung on and watched the birds, and listened to the waves as they gently beat onto the shore.

It was very therapeutic and we both commented how you could just close your eyes and listen and even that would have been enough.

There weren’t a lot of people on the beach but those that were there were having fun. They were swimming, snorkling, surf-boarding, para-sailing, and some were just sunbathing.

It was another clear-blue-sky-day on Florida’s gulf coast and a perfect reminder on why I chose this place as where I will live out my life.

At the outset, it was the birds that caught my attention and their camouflage against the sands and shells was amazing. Sandpipers, Sanderlings and a few others, were wandering along the shoreline, checking in the sand and under the shells for morsels to eat.

I have a number of pics of them at the end of the blog. Hope you get to check them out!

It was Vel that caught the initial splash of something large about 200 to 300 feet off shore and it turned out to be a large fish that had been hooked by one of those wonderful sports-fishing patrons.

We watched him for a half hour, reel-in and tire out his catch and it was a true david vs goliath experience as the team on board made sure that Mr Wonderful was going to be able to take home with him a wonderful catch story to impress his friends with.

His wife/partner/whatever eagerly captured the whole thing for him on her phone so that they had a fabulous record of their amazing fun time in Florida.

Thirty minutes it lasted. And apparently the only person not enjoying himself was the fish on the end of the line.

He fought like crazy against the line that had him hooked and I am sure that in their mental descriptions of the upcoming story to their friends, they were probably going to give him credit for making it such a tough catch.

Because it was incredibly tough for that poor Mr Wonderful, seated comfortably in the boat, drinking his Nat Light, and having to put up with all the support of his cheer squad. Must have been even more awful when they put a brace around his waist and secured him to the boat so that he wouldn’t be pulled overboard. The bastards were taking away his freedom.

His god-given right to fall off the boat if he should so choose to do so. Don’t they know this is Merica!

You could see the strain on the rod and poor Mr Wonderful’s arms as that radical socialist fish refused to come easy. OK, so there might have been a corresponding level of strain in the fish’s mouth caused by the hook, but everyone knows fish don’t feel pain. I mean poor Mr Wonderful’s arms must have been seriously aching.

I felt for him and all of us on the beach wished we were on that boat so that we could help our fellow-brother pull in that slimy commie.

But brave Mr Wonderful had to do it all on his own with his god-given boat, good-given rod and tackle, god-given support-crew, and of course his god-given Nat Lite.

Suffice to say that when at the very end, that slimy left-leaning rapscallion refused to give Mr Wonderful his winning photo moment and aided by some radical-left traitors hiding from sight, the line broke.

Well, at least they would like you to think the line broke. Those commie bastards. This is definitely a case of Fake News put out by the liberal media as they seek to undermine our god-given right to kill whatever we want. Except the babies of course. Those little fetuses need to be protected at all cost. Unless of course they were swimming in the sea, then it’s our god-given right to kill them.

Oh no wait, sorry. Can’t kill the fetuses, under any circumstance. Doesn’t matter if it was rape or incest, because it might be a god-given good rape. Ya know what I mean?

OK, if I haven’t made my point yet, then stop reading and don’t bother with this blog any more.

It is stunning to me how innocent little creatures can be killed for fun. It is the most immoral act I know.

So, when I saw the line break yesterday, my heart smiled and I was thrilled to catch the look of disappointment on the would-be killer’s face.

These murderers are nearly always men, have you noticed? And I strongly suspect white men at that.

Their right-to kill has been ingrained into them since they were children by their killer fathers. And they will in-turn raise their own little brood of killer sons.

These NRA card-carrying murderers see nothing wrong with taking an innocent life, as long as they can wash it down with a cool Nat Lite.

These are not people who hunt for food. They are not reliant on what they hunt in order to eat. They may eat what the kill (some of them) but that is entirely different from having to hunt in order to eat. But, they will never see that difference. Because they are ignorant of the world around them and only know what their killer-pappy told them.

Ingraining respect for natural life and for the environment, seems like a redundant concept. I have seen the most wonderful parents make this point to their children growing up. But why should they need to?

Why is is not a natural behavior, like breathing or sleeping? Why do we have to train kids not to kill creatures for fun?

It’s a simple answer really that comes in two parts; firstly humans are inherently a selfishly flawed creature and secondly others around them display reckless abandon in their murdering of the innocents and destruction of the planet.

Am I the only fool who thinks that is sad?

… just a thought.


Went over to Jax’s place yesterday afternoon and hung out with a number of gorgeous chicks for a while.

It was difficult to keep a focus on any one in particular; the distraction level was huge as we spread a blanket on the grass out back and everyone just did whatever they wanted.

At one stage I had a couple of them cuddled up against me resting their heads against me but most of the time it was a free for all. Wall to wall beauty.

One of the chicks turned out to be a bit of a cock but seeing as how this is FL, I am not supposed to mention anything that could be construed as gay … there were kids present.

I caught much of the action on film (so to speak) so there are a bunch of shots at the end of this blog, if you like that sort of thing.

Anyway, it was really on the way in to Jax’s place that the thought for today’s blog occurred to me.

You see, each year in her class, Jax takes her students through the entire process of egg-embryo-life and so each year a whole cluster of little chicks get born into a friendly and loving environment.

They all eventually find homes and live out their lives in a caring and loving environment outside of the food chain.

My heart is so happy for the little guys and the thought I had was along the lines of how lucky they are to be part of a science teacher’s learning process as opposed to being born into a factory farm where they are manhandled, abused, and ultimately destroyed.

The two life styles couldn’t possibly be any different and it really made me question how much luck is involved and why their little souls should be subjected to little more than a coin toss when determining the lives they have ahead of them.

We of course, have something similar to a certain extent when we first open our eyes as a baby. Are we born rich or poor. Born into a loving environment of destined to be abused? That kind of stuff.

But nothing we go through even remotely comes close to the lives that animal newborns risk entering into.

Most of the negative that could possibly shape the lives of creature newborns are a result of something humans do. We might eat them, steal their environment, experiment with them, abuse them, hunt them, eat them, … oh wait I said that already.

Some people and groups argue for humane treatment of animals but the sad truth is we already treat them humanely. This is what humans do to animals. All the above and worse.

Most of them would be better off if we treated them inhumanely. Inhumane would be to show love and compassion, deference, respect, concern, and care.

Humans routinely don’t show any of that to animals.

Don’t get me wrong. Some humans do. Some humans are wonderful advocates for animals.

But humanity isn’t.

Humanity has elevated itself (in its own mind) above all living creatures and therefore the creatures don’t have rights on the same level we do.

We impersonalize them by grouping them as one and enabling us to treat them impersonally. They are all the same. Bird brained. Fish don’t feel pain. They all look the same. They are merely a commodity. They don’t have feelings like you and me.

We are conditioned to not treat them as individuals because then they become a person. Yet look at the pics at the end of this blog and tell me they aren’t all different. Each little guy came out of the egg, big-eyed, innocent, with hope and dreams.

But in factories they are manhandled in their hundreds and thousands, tossed onto conveyor belts as though inanimate objects. But that’s ok. Those guys came out of the wrong egg.

If god had wanted that little soul to be treated OK, he would have put it into a pet poodle that was born in a puppy farm for rich folks. God cares about puppies. Couldn’t give a shit about chickens apparently.

… just a thought!

Carolina Wren

This time of the year, a friendly addition to the birds that arrive each evening when I put out the food, is the Carolina Wren,

Of all the birds that come, these little guys are the most energetic and adventurous, flitting in and out of the feeding area even when I am close enough to intimidate some of the others.

I watched some of them yesterday at feeding time as they picked up bits of the bread. While the Blue Jays and Cardinals flew in, grabbed a full piece of bread and flew off to eat it in the trees, the wrens hung around on the ground and picked pieces off the cut bread, eating it where they stood.

Then one of them even wandered over to where the possum and raccoon food was and helped himself to some of the cheesy cat food mix that I had put out in bowls.

I managed to get a number of shots as they kept one eye on me and one on the prize and I only left when I feared I might attract the cats to what was going on.

They are at the end of this blog … hope you enjoy!

Growing up in Ireland, I was quite familiar with the wrens. There was the childhood story told to us all of how the wren, through his ingenuity became the king of the birds. And of course, there was wren-day which was the day after Christmas when the Wren Boys went from door to door singing tales of the King of the Birds, dressed in old rags, dirt on our faces, and begging for money.

I had to look it up for the full words (my memory isn’t what it used to be) but here is the song we would sing:

The wren the wren the king of all birds,
St Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze.
Her clothes were all torn, her shoes were all worn
Up with the kettle and down with the pan.
Give us a penny to bury the wren,
If you haven’t a penny, a halfpenny will do
If you haven’t a halfpenny,
God Bless you!

I doubt if I was more than ten the last time I went out singing that and I am sure the tradition has long since faded but it brought a smile to my face yesterday when I remembered it.

Which actually brings me to the idea behind this blog. In many ways the wren is seen as one of the least significant of birds and yet, the symbolism attached to him is far larger than his physical self.

They are seen as the harbinger of spring and rebirth and their many qualities can inspire us to become better and happier versions of ourselves.

To a casual observer their coloring and size can make them appear less significant but their ingenuity, sociability, cheerfulness, and contentment serve as wonderful reminders to us when we question our own insignificance.

Perhaps you believe that birds’ faces are emotionless but I don’t. I can see when a bird is happy or fearful, upset or calm.

I recall a couple of years back when a lovely little wren landed on my arm and spoke to me for a short while before hopping off again and continuing about his business (even got a video of that one with my phone).

There is an inner peace that comes from humility and you can see their simple contentment, if you take the time to look.

Meanwhile, we drive ourselves, our parents drive us, work drives us, society drives us … the forces on us always seek to make us look for more.

Achieve more.

Get more.

Need more.

These are forces which don’t just drive us forward but they create a sense of dissatisfaction with what we have and where we are. So, we lose our feeling of contentment and nothing ever seems enough.

You will see it in yourself, family and friends, neighbors .. .everyone running around aiming for higher and better as if we are all engaged in some kind of competition.

Even the ultra wealthy and ultra powerful crave more to where their present wealth and power are insufficient for their own feeling of contentment.

There is no end to that kind of game. Only death brings the escape from it and even then we are often guilted at the end for not having done enough.

There is a life within us and around us that holds all the moments, the loves, the joys, and we need to recognize them as they happen; not crave more.

There is an old Irish saying that a wren in the hand is better than a crane out of it. Meaning we should celebrate each moment, each small win, instead of always chasing after something bigger.

Native Americans used the wren to symbolize something very similar. They looked at the arrival of wrens into your life, particularly when sad and depressed, as a reminder to find happiness even in the smallest of things. In so doing, it can take root and grow into true peace and contentment.

Find a wren and let his peace and happiness warm your self and if you can’t find one, then become one. Happiness doesn’t come from our brightly colored feathers and loud songs. It comes from our inner peace and the ability to feel the value of each moment we live.

… just a thought.

Making Time

To say that things have been overwhelming these past weeks/months, would be an understatement. And with one or two exceptions, most of the overwhelming has been negative.

I think, like most people, when I encounter such times, I shrink back my activities into a prioritization level and it isn’t about what I want to do as much as what I have to do.

I won’t go into the specifics of what has been happening but suffice to say that when I woke up to another Monday today, I was a tad sorry that I woke up at all. For a moment, I lay there thinking “not again”, as I faced into another week of this shit.

But then something happened … Rocky had been sleeping at my feet most of the night and sensing that I was awake, he came up and started kneading the blanket beside me (making biscuits) and gently purring in my ear.

His presence made me roll out of bed and begin it all again. How could I delay everyone’s breakfast just because of my own mood? So, I got the four house kitties fed, then went downstairs and fed Tetsuo (who is a lovely little feral guy that waits at the bottom of the outside stairs for me each morning).

He was his normal talkative self. I often wonder if he is reporting on all the shit that I missed out on overnight with possums and raccoons. But then again, he might just be complaining that I am late.

Then I opened up the office and fed the five little babies down there before letting them all meander out into the darkness of the early morning.

It was somewhere in that whole process, that I decided to head to the lake for twilight and so I accelerated all my actions at each stage trying to make sure that I could get down to the lake to catch any colors that the sky might offer.

Even though I had gotten out of bed at 5:30, it was still all I could do to get off my driveway at 6:07. I did so without coffee or breakfast of any sort, deciding I could always pick up a coffee on my way back, anyway.

I needed to be at the lake no later than 6:20 and it was exactly that time, as I pulled into the parking space, grabbed my camera and walked briskly to the shoreline.

Truth is that it turned out to be a rather weak twilight. The sky was too clear and the temperature was wrong, so pretty much nothing happened.

I took a few quick pics, hopped in the car and picked up that coffee at McDonalds on my way home. Made it back onto my driveway by 6:52, just 45 minutes after having left it.

Not the most stellar excursion ever but the truth was that I needed it nonetheless. In the midst of all the craziness and the prioritization of needs as opposed to wants, I have mostly lost myself in the mix.

There are a couple of pics from the lake at the end of the blog and I have supplemented them with some pics of four of my office-babies that I took over the weekend. Hope you enjoy!

I did enjoy it. And that is the bottom line in what I was trying to do this morning; find some enjoyment for myself. It didn’t need to be enjoyment on a grandiose scale. I didn’t need to scale new heights and see fireworks. I just needed a small (and very welcome) break.

And that is what gave me the thought for today’s blog. The whole notion of making time for ourselves.

Some people make their whole lives about “time for themselves”. So, if you are one of those selfish bastards, don’t bother reading the rest of this.

A normal person and particularly those with responsibilities will prioritize others before themselves and that is a healthy behavior that adds more value to our life and to those around us.

Our wants should always come last.

Prioritizing our wants ahead of anything else is playing to the selfish trait in our character and so, placing it on the end of our prioritization list is a healthy character-building exercise.

But here is my point … there comes a time when we have to recognize that satisfying an occasional “want” is in itself a “need” and the only thing to do is jump to the bottom of our list and do something self-serving.

When I decided that, this morning, I used the phrase “making time” in my head. I said to myself that I have to become better at making time for myself and for those who are important in my life. When I get overwhelmed, I often feel like it is an all-hands-on-the-pumps moment and unfortunately I only have two hands.

But then as I drove down to the lake, I realized that the phrase “making time” is a fallacy. There is no such thing. We cannot make time. Time is one of the most important elements in our lives that we have absolutely no control over. It will happen without us. Time existed before us. Time will exist after us. And while we live, time will roll along regardless of our thoughts on it.

All we can do is prioritize the time we have. Assigning our efforts to each moment as it passes is the extent of our involvement.

And what I have realized is that during tough times, during times of being overwhelmed or under duress, we tend to allow time itself to run rough-shod over our wishes, our needs, and most definitely our wants.

This has happened throughout history and will no doubt happen throughout the future. A phrase familiar to all of us is how “Nero fiddled, while Rome burned”.

It is said as a ridicule of Nero but what if the truth was that Nero needed to fiddle? Perhaps it had been an unsatisfied want that had been put off forever until finally for his own sanity, he broke out the fiddle and played a tune.

Rome would have burnt anyway. All things have their moment in time and fiddle or no, they will come and go with or without us.

So, occasionally grab your fiddle … if that is what you want.

… just a thought!

All that we can do

This past few weeks I have been trying to wrestle with little animal issues that are challenging in the extreme.

I have an open-yard policy to any creature that would like to be fed and try my best to make sure that no animal is left behind. So every day I feed my cats, any stray cats that come on for a meal, raccoons, possums, birds, and squirrels.

It’s a commitment and one that I feel very lucky to be able to meet. It takes a genuine slice of my time to do this but I made the commitment a few years back and until I fall over dead, it is my intention to always be here for these little guys.

The money impact is probably only equivalent to a pack of cigarettes a day, so it has no real relevance. But I also keep a small stock of cat food in my car in case I see any strays while I am out and about. For example, last week at Walmart, I fed seven little cats there and they all seemed happy to get a meal.

I wish everyone in the world would just help little creatures a little. And indeed, there are many like me that give it a try. Unfortunately most of humanity just take from animals and don’t seem to have the soul to give. I can understand that. It isn’t in their nature.

Some of humanity goes out of its way to abuse animals and that, I will never understand.

But the biggest issue with helping little creatures is that sometimes it brings a person right up against their own limitations. You give it your best shot and just come up short.

Sometimes we give it our best shot and it works. Like Rocky (two images of him today at the end of this blog) … he arrived on my property one or two years back as a small kitten and his tail had been completely savaged off by a dog. He was such a brave little kitten and after two very difficult surgeries and quite a bit of post-surgery care and worries, he is doing great.

He lives indoors with me and despite having no tail, he is the most brazen and feisty of the four cats that do. He has a wonderful attitude and knows no limits. He sleeps at my feet most nights and wakes me up in the morning before the alarm goes off to let me know it is time for breakfast. Theirs, not mine.

I love the little guy so much.

I was also able to help take care of a lovely lady raccoon who was severely damaged in a fight and could barely walk and after months of getting her fed before everyone else, the improvement was noticeable. By the end of it all she was as right as rain and roams freely now somewhere.

I’ve had major problems like Coco being bitten by a snake and Beauty almost losing an eye. Not to mention normal injury repairs to some of the other guys.

Unfortunately for each success story there are several abject failures.

There was the poor crane that I encountered a month back with a really badly broken beak that still had part of the offending PVC pipe attached to it, that was responsible for the break.

Right now I struggle with TC who hasn’t been able to walk on his paw for over a week. He is a stray and won’t come within ten feet of me. And there is Fighty who a week or two ago had most of his tail savaged off by something and I can’t get within 20 yards of him.

I really struggle with being able to take my hands off and realize my own limitations. I keep stretching my mind as to what I can do. I feed them and maybe even over-feed them. But I need to make sure that while they are fighting what has befallen them, that at least they don’t have to worry about food. I hope that just like the lady raccoon I mentioned earlier, that a steady food supply will give them the strength to win their battle.

Realizing our limitations is a very humbling experience. In case we didn’t know it already, we are not gods and therefore there are very real limits on what we can achieve.

It hurts my heart at times like these but regardless of how wishful we are and how sustained our efforts, our impact on the world around us is not boundless.

I think it is important that we try. Not trying is akin to not caring and we humans should care. Each creature on this planet deserves a chance of life and I would even argue they deserve a good one.

Our impact on creatures lives has been one of habitual use, abuse, torture, and killing. In the court of world justice, humanity would indeed be judged a villain.

While we won’t ever be able to completely undo the damage we have done to creatures, their habitats, their lives, we do have the ability to mitigate this damage.

All it requires is a bit of caring, a bit of love, and a bit of effort.

Though we may be parasites on the animal kingdom, we are intelligent parasites.

This means that unlike the fleas and ticks that makes animals’ lives miserable, we should know better.

Which ultimately means that all we can do is the least that we can do.

… just a thought!