Saturday, August 10, 2013

What I Learned Over My Summer Vacation

My husband and I have been traveling a lot. Seems like I haven't been home for more than 2 weeks all summer. Just when I get unpacked and tidy up the house, it's time to go again. After our visits to New York and Maine, we turned around and drove to Arkansas, and wrapped up the road trip with a few days in New Orleans on the way back home. What a whirlwind! While on the road these past few months, I have made some observations.

1) I do better with a Taoist approach when trying to get great photos. I'm almost always disappointed when I go out with the intention of getting a specific shot. It's so much better to just go and see what I can see. Go with the flow. I made this same observation last year in this blog, but I never seem to learn. When I was in Salt Lake in June, I determined before I got there that I wanted to see a Western Tanager. People reported seeing them this spring here in Florida, where they were unusual. I wanted to see them where they were more common. That never happened, but instead I stumbled upon a Lazuli Bunting when I least expected it, and it was wonderful! The same thing happened in Maine. When we were planning our trip, I decided that wanted to see Puffins, but it turned out that they were much further north than I'd thought. But while I was moping about Puffins, the Eider Ducks were happily swimming off shore at every beach I walked on. It happened again during our trip to Arkansas. My friend (and exquisite photographer) Barbara, visited Mt. Magazine State Park in Arkansas a few years ago and took marvelous photos of Diana Fritillary butterflies. I wanted to get some photos of them, too, and I figured that since I would be in the area, it would be worth a 2-hour drive to a place where they were supposed to be a sure bet. As you probably expect, I didn't see any Dianas. But there were nests of hungry Barn Swallow chicks all around the lodge and Narrow Leaf Sunflowers along the paths through the forest. Rather than let myself be disappointed about missing the Diana butterflies, I need to be happy about what I did see.
Barn Swallow Feeding Hungry Chicks (Mt. Magazine State Park, AR)

Narrow Leaf Sunflower and little spider (Mt. Magazine State Park, AR)

2) Just because I didn't photograph something doesn't make it less special. Reading up on Mt. Magazine, I saw that, in addition to Diana Fritillaries, one might also see Roadrunners! In Arkansas?! Scanning over the park's bird checklist I saw that they were listed as "uncommon" for all seasons, so I didn't actually expect to see any. So imagine our surprise when, as we were driving out of the park, we spotted a Roadrunner. In the road! In Arkansas! It ran off the road and into the bushes before I could get a picture. But I will remember it fondly. I have to remind myself of this, because sometimes I get into "collector" mode and convince myself that my excursion was not successful because I didn't get photos. The experience is what matters most.

3) I'm learning that I love telling stories with photos. I feel like I can share what I love and do with images. As I've become more accustomed to carrying a digital camera with me, I find myself looking at scenes and wanting to capture and share them with other people. I study photography in magazines and movies and I am a lot more appreciative of what is interesting, attractive and illustrative. I hope to put this to use in my blogs, etc.
Musicians Playing French Tunes in our Restaurant (New Orleans, LA)

4) I'm almost always happier when I'm around nature. We drove and visited a lot of places this summer and I found myself gravitating to the locations with greenery, flowers and animals wherever we went.  Watching for hidden rattlesnakes as I walked up the path in the foothills above Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake. Standing on the Maine coast, breathing in the fresh ocean air, listening to the sound of the gulls and the crashing waves. Walking above the city streets on the High Line in Manhattan and looking at the cars below through a curtain of purple flowers and bees. Stooping to try and catch a tiny frog on the park path in Arkansas and laughing as it hopped out of reach. Peeking through the thick glass at the elegant Seahorses and Jellyfish at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans. Nature in those places made me feel revived, relaxed and connected.
Seahorse (Audubon Aquarium, New Orleans, LA)

5) Nature connects people. When I stop to look and take photos, often people notice and want to know what I'm doing, and it gives me an opportunity to meet someone and share my love of nature. One afternoon in Maine I was on the roadside crouching down to get a good picture of a Jewelweed flower when a woman stopped and asked if I was seeing any neat little bugs. I told her that I was trying to get a good shot of the Jewelweed, and that, by the way, it was supposed to be a good antidote for poison ivy. She told me that as a kid she remembered touching the seed pods and making them explode. I've done that, too, and we laughed about how much fun it is. We connected for just a moment. And it happened again just last week while driving home from New Orleans. We were stopped in a Florida rest stop. As I was walking back to the car, I happened to look up and noticed a perfect Luna Moth, resting under the eaves of the restroom building. I aimed my camera phone just as a woman walked by. She asked what I was looking at and I told her it was a Luna moth. She had never seen one before and was very excited. She told me she was going to get her daughter to show it to her. In that brief encounter, we shared a special experience. And she passed it on. For all I know, maybe it kept passing from visitor to visitor all day long.
Luna Moth (Highway Rest Stop, I-10, Florida)

6) I have really enjoyed my trips to other countries, but I always like to remember that the U.S. is a wondrous and diverse country, with fabulous cities, parks and natural areas. We have superb historical sites, museums, regional food, music and culture. Our state and national park system is extensive and excellent and the broad expanses of wilderness are astonishing. We have unique plants and animals that people from other parts of the world go out of their way to come see. Things like Bison, Alligators, Prairie Dogs, Sandhill Cranes, Diana Fritillaries, Giant Sequoia, Pitcher Plants, Red Cockaded Woodpeckers. We have ancient and mysterious ruins and ceremonial sites such as Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Serpent Mound and the Toltec Mounds. No matter where I go, every new species I see, every new place I visit serves as a future reference point and helps me understand where I am in relation to the rest of the world. I think it's good to have a broad perspective.
Toltec Mounds at edge of Cypress Swamp (Little Rock, AR)
(Mississippi River Valley archeological site, ca. A.D. 700)

7) Traveling is fun, but it's really nice to come home again.


  1. Glad that you learned over your summer vacation. I also find a things to learn whenever I spend my summer vacation and I write it to to my diary hehe. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Looks like you had a great summer time with your husban! Love the photos and the post :)

  3. Glad to see your post.I think you really enjoyed your vacation.Thanks for sharing.