LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - MARCH 2020 (previous months)
Little Bluff cabin cam March 31st - a delightful rain fell during the night - about .7" - now an hour after sunrise it looks like the sun may come out - another explosion of SPRING on the way!
After 45 years of work and more than 3 million photos taken, I got my 20th coffee-table picture book FINISHED and the 6-gigabyte file upload to the printer's server in California just before midnight last night - YIPPIE COYOTE! Expected delivery date will be mid-summer sometime - thanks for your patience.
Journal updated on the 30th
Print Of The Week special (above)
03/01/20 Is there something about a new month coming in like a lion or lamb, or vice versa? I was blown awake about 4-something this morning with a ROAR that seemed like it was about to pick up the cabin and toss it over the bluff. There wasn’t anything on the radar, and while there was a heavy band of dark clouds along the horizon, it was mostly clear above. I watched our weather station as the wind speeds jumped from about 20mph to 43mph, and bounced around for a while. Daylight was just beginning to break a little as I headed through the woods up to the gallery to fetch a new tub of the whey protein mix for my breakfast. The strong winds continued and it was kinda spooky hiking through the forest that was being tossed back and forth and all around. I was a little worried about the pups being tossed up into the air with the trees, but Mia had her head into the ground after moles, and Wilson has enough “mass” to keep him attached to the ground. Unlike most of the winds of late, the temp was pretty warm and so all in all it was a very pleasant hike. No dogs blown away, no trees or dead limbs on top of my head. MARCH is here, and I’m looking forward to each moment - SPRING has arrived - my fav of the year!
One quick note about a current chore I’m trying desperately to get finished - an update to the Buffalo River Hiking Trails guidebook. It has consumed almost every waking moment the past couple of months - not actually all that much time working on it, but mostly worrying about getting it done! My last and final deadline to do so is upon me, so I’ve dug in and will get it done in the next few days (where have you hard that beore?). And while I have a bunch of transcriptions of my recordings made while on hikes, here is an example of some of the reference material I’m using to make sure my facts are correct.
03/02/20 It was warm and wet as the pups and I made a quick trip around our one-mile loop trail at dawn today - first time I’ve made that loop in two weeks. The high winds of yesterday had blown themselves out (zero drops of rain though), and gave way to absolute calm this morning. With the damp leaves underfoot my progress through the forest was silent. A first few heirloom daffodils at the old root cellar site have finally bloomed, although only a couple dozen brilliant yellow flowers scattered throughout several hundred plants - many more to come this week I bet.
Our creek has run down to just a trickle with calm pools in between. Seems like we’ve not had any rain here in quite a while. But the air is moist and so boulders, bluffs, and stones are covered with lush yellow-green moss. And the dampness gives the air a soothing, soft quality to it. As we rose up and twisted around through our boulder jumble the sun began to peek through some broken clouds along the eastern horizon. By the time I completed the loop back at the cabin the forest had opened up and I got a photo of the pastel sunrise. It’s MONDAY, my most favorite day of the week - YIPPIE COYOTE! Hope you have a grand adventure sometime this week - or perhaps each day!
03/03/20 It was crisp and cool for our hike up to the office this morning at dawn, and for the first time it kinda felt like a spring day, although on the cool side. The forest had a spring-like aroma, more daffodils, and especially a lot more MUSIC in the air! Songbirds have returned, or woke up, or something, but their songs were drifting throughout the forest as a lovely lullaby. Spring is here and I intend to be a part of it - bring it on!
Most of my day yesterday was spent either at the computer or in the car. There is this wonderful overlook along the new section of the Buffalo River Trail that I’m working on and I needed to go back to the overlook and see what was in the view. Couple of hours drive each way, then ten minutes to hike to the overlook and record my visual memory. The view was not as wide open as my memory of it, but when my twin-lens hi-resolution camera zoomed in really close (aka known as my eyeballs), there it was - a towering 280’ tall limestone bluff that was about to be named for the first time in his long history, at its base an emerald pool of the mighty Buffalo River. I’ve never been to that pool nor bluff before, but plan to get there soon for a more intimate look.
03/04/20 Cool, calm, and cloudy at first light. We had a nice splash of color about 30 minutes before sunrise, but then it all faded to gray and the sun decided to nap a little while longer. The hike up to work was mostly brown - the ever-softening layer of leaves from last fall that cover the forest floor have been breaking down for months now and will eventually soak into the earth and become part of it - footsteps sink in easy and silent. More and more daffodils popped open yesterday and continue to be strong.
Speaking of these heirloom beauties that could be 100 years old or older, I got the following note from famed wildflower expert Don Kurz about them:
"Saw your comment about daffodils this morning and not seeing many in bloom. Bulbs are like that. Once a population has been established for awhile, they bloom less frequently. Instead, they produce offshoots and are content with asexual propagation. You may have come across a bed of dogtooth violets before and seen the same thing. Over the years the bulbs get crowded and are content just to show up and not have to flower. Flowering and seed production takes a lot of energy, which results in their spending a year or more recouping what they lost in food stores. That’s why gardeners will divide up bulbs after a few years to encourage them to flower again.
I am reading that this may be the earliest spring in 100 years".
(we publish and sell three of Don’s great guidebooks, including the very best one ever on ARKANSAS WILDFLOWERS - all ship direct from us within 48 hours! ILLINOIS WILDFLOWERS, and MISSOURI'S NATURAL WONDERS)
03/05/20 Another bright, crisp spring morning and the air feels GREAT! (the view from Pam's swing is below) I slept in a little this morning and didn’t catch any color that might have been before dawn, but there were layers of clouds lighting up as I stumbled out of bed at dawn - bands of pink and yellow and orange and red all against a brilliant blue sky. The pups and I lingered a little bit in the woods while hiking up to work - lots ore songbirds joining the chorus to begin the day, and a few more flowers along the way - but we still don’t have any wildflowers in bloom here yet. With temps expected in the 60’s today and sunshine I bet they will finally wake up to soak up some rays.
Most of yesterday kept me at the computer working on the trail map for the guidebook I’m working on - the first of four or five new maps, but by far the most difficult - simply because there is so much info I want to include on the map but not enough room. Here’s a low-res version of it. Today will be more of the same - working on maps, and then eventually a couple more descriptions for the guidebook. Hope you have a TERRIFIC THURSDAY!
03/06/07 A brisk, frigid wind slapped me in the face as I stepped out into bright sunshine just after sunrise. Don’t always believe your own eyes when you look outside from inside a toasty cabin that tells you it must be WARM out - temps were near freezing with a wind chill down near 20. Supposed to heat up and be in the 60’s later today, just right for more staining of the deck. I’m currently trying to recover from an injury to my back two weeks ago so won’t be able to help with the staining at all, but my bride will get it done I bet.
Is today FRIDAY already? I managed to produce two more new maps for the guidebook update and have a couple more to do before I call it quits. Then I’ll have to produce all of the descriptive text for those four new locations and then edit the original one I’ve been working on for months. Then it appears we may have some RAIN next week - or are they just crying wolf again. Hum, that reminds me - there is a new “Wolf Hollow” I mention in the guidebook that is not indicated on any historical or current map - I must do something about that... It’s the weekend ahead - HAPPY FRIDAY TO YOU!
Bluebirds have been active for the past month but so far only an empty house.
03/07/20 A little more chill in the air ad dawn today, but no breeze. I try to begin a hike just a little bit chilled because normally I will work up to and begin to produce heat after a bit of fast hiking. I’m taking baby steps at the moment and this morning my hike all the way down to our waterfall was kinda chilly, but as soon as my boots turned uphill along the trail things began to warm up with each step. And soon off came my hood, then stocking cap, zip open the jacket, zip open my pile vest, and finally remove my jacket just as I was topping out at Pam’s Swing at the top of the trail. I arrived just in time to take a snapshot of the first rays of bright sunshine streaking across the cow pasture in front. The cows were mooing, our pups were wagging, and it was a great start to the day!
Pam and her dad got the next part of our outdoor deck stained yesterday afternoon and hopefully will get another large section done today. These treated-wood decks do OK for a few years alone, but eventually they will turn gray and begin to rot away - despite whatever “guarantee” you see posted on them in the store. Now most of the chemicals have leached out of them after two years of brutal sunshine, so before the wood fibers begin to break down we’re putting a heavy dose of oil stain on them. Once they get the largest (western) deck done today, then all the other decks won’t be in such a rush to finish because they are all under porch cover. It will be good to get all of that completed - then it will be time for pizza on the deck!
I made good progress yesterday on the guidebook project - I can smell the finish line, although it is not in insight yet. More computer time today, so I will need to rely on YOU to get out and smell the flowers and sunshine for me!
03/08/20 You gotta have faith. While sitting in the prow of our cabin early this morning before dawn, I realized there would not be any color in the sky because it was perfectly clear, no clouds. A few minutes later I just happened to look up and out the window and BAM, thin layers of clouds were forming - and so was some pretty intense COLOR! So I ran out onto the deck and took a snapshot - and then as quickly as it arrived, the color drained away. Always have FAITH!
Yesterday we had a delightful group of young teachers from northwest Arkansas visit our gallery, and one of them had an official “selfie” stick and she got a great group portrait taken right in the center section of the display area (thanks Gaby!). We had other visitors yesterday as well - which reminds me to be sure and let you know that even though we only have the gallery open a few select days of the year, we are ALWAYS open whenever we are home and will be happy to meet up with you at the gallery. Just give us a call or e-mail to make sure we can be here to meet you - day or night.
Also yesterday my lovely bride and her dad got the largest of the cabin decks stained - the west side. I couldn’t believe they got so much done during one of my naps, haha!
This morning I’m finishing up the last of five new maps that will be in the updated Buffalo River guidebook - I’m so weird in that I want each item on the map to be as perfect as can be - I believe in the most accurate info and detail in both the text and maps. Makes me crazy sometimes. (Pam will often look at me and say “what is going through your head right now?” whenever I make funny faces to myself - usually my answer is “thinking about this or that map!”) I will continue to be weird and buried in my work...
03/09/20 Kinda gray day with hopes of much-needed RAIN this week. There were at least three “rain warnings” that came in during the night, but of course we never got a single drop. There was no mention of high winds, but it was blowing a steady 45-46mph when I got up to watch the dawn happen. We get wind gusts like that from time to time here, but not STEADY.
The sky was filled with a multitude of gray clouds moving around and it looked like gray would be the color of the day. Another rain warning came through just as I headed up to work, but the forest remained dry and crackling underfoot - very low moisture in the air. At least we could see and breathe - yesterday all the controlled burns got pretty heavy and I know a lot of folks had breathing issues as a result - took a toll on my eyes.
Amber and Anthony stopped by and Pam’s parents brought brownies and cookies and ice cream to go along with grilled burgers and we all gained a pound or two (except for Amber). The kids were headed out to find JenLenFalls - using only rough directions and GPS coordinates I’d provided them with. Several hours later they checked in with a report of COOLEST WATERFALL EVER!!! My thoughts exactly - that is one of the more unique and beautiful waterfalls in Arkansas, but pretty tough to get to. If you have the new Arkansas Splendor picture book you can see this waterfall on the last page.
Today I’m back at work on..... Come to think of it, seems like every time I mention I’m working on this project here in the Journal I never get anything done with it - so maybe I’ll try and not mention it and see if that helps. See ya tomorrow! Perhaps we’ll get some rain too...
03/10/20 There’s a heavy cloud hanging just above our cabin this morning and seems to go on forever - probably clear blue skies above. That cloud layer must have a grip on the wind, because today there is nary a whisper of a breeze. Temp is down into the 30’s, and it FEELS great outside, especially when taking deep breaths to fill the lungs.
We had ROARING winds all day long yesterday - in the 35-40mph range - with blowing rain much of the time - and the grand total of rainfall for the day was only about 1/10th of an inch. A beautiful full moon woke up a couple of hours after it had risen, and with swirling clouds and darkness it was kind of spooky. While I spent most of the day up at the gallery office working at the computer, the pups and I did manage a few trips through the woods, always a friendly and calming avenue.
Our first personal impact from the Chinese virus hit during the day. I was scheduled to give a major program at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville on August 7th as the local contempoary photographer to go along with the Ansel Adams exhibit that will be on display all summer. The Bentonville Film Festival is being moved due to virus concerns and so now too my program will be moved to another date (August 14th is confirmed). Unfortunately that new date will be when I had a trip planned to Idaho. I’ve managed to tweak that trip a little bit so I hope to still make everything work, but it will require me to make a 24-drive almost straight through after my show. I used to be able to do that sort of thing all the time in my younger years, but not so much anymore so we’ll see.
TODAY we begin the process of getting signed up for Medicare and the new healthcare services. Up front it appears to require a nuclear scientist to be able to figure it all out, but I have a feeling it really isn’t all that complicated. One funny note about medicare - when I tried to set up an account online I was locked out of my account right off the bat - “you have to go to your local social security office to get an access code.” OK, so I did that, but then when the local office wanted me to complete my account setup at their place, their computers were not working, hahahahaha! I did finally manage to get my application accepted, but not yet approved. And then - within 48 hours of being told over and over by social security that they would NEVER call me to ask for any personal information, I got an e-mail from social security thanking me for the application and saying SPECIFICALLY that they WOULD indeed be calling call me to get more personal information! (if it was a spam e-mail, that's how long it took Social security to sell my personal info to a spammer, less than 48 hours) I love our government.
03/11/20 We were sitting in front of the fireplace last night when I happen to look up and saw the sunrise - BRILLIANT ORANGE. But wait, I had just hiked down from the gallery and it was pitch black. Oh yes I forgot - the brilliant orange was actually the MOON rising! One of the most intense-colored moonrises I’d ever seen!
One thing we discovered yesterday was that all the Medicare health insurance stuff was sort of like a fancy digital camera - most of the hundreds of things we’ve already received were just junk - the entire program is really quite simple and easy to understand, once you realize that most of it is junk (just like on a modern digital camera - you don’t need 90% of what you pay for!). By the end of the day I had been ACCEPTED by medicare (thanks guys), and also had the health insurance all figured out.
AND I even snuck in a short hike - actually the first “wild” hike I’d been on in more than a month. It was late afternoon and I hadn’t done any work on the new guidebook all day, so I decided to make a run down to Balanced Rock Falls (that I had been to several times before) with a tape recorder. Ten minute drive. Twenty minute hike, and I was there. It was a spectacular early spring day in the woods, with wildflowers everywhere and a babbling brooke. Well the creek needed to be making a lot more noise for this waterfall to be running well, but it was mostly a documentation trip for me so no flow needed - I didn’t even bring a camera (other than my phone). CLICK HERE for a short video of reflections on Leatherwood Creek.
The hard part was that I had to sit down after getting home, transcribe all the data I had recorded during the hike, then write it all up in language folks could understand and be short enough that it would fit in the allowed two pages in the guidebook. I got it all done just in time to sit down with my lovely bride and a sip of grape juice - and watch the sun/moonrise.
03/12/20 At 6:45 this morning I was all laid out and fully encased by an MRI machine at UA Medical Center in Little Rock. I was not only the first appointment of the day, there was no one else at the facility other than the desk clerk and MRI guy - MY KIND OF PLACE! Anyway, by 7:15 I was done and on my way back home in time to beat the rush-hour traffic. I had spent the night in the Bass Pro parking lot so only had a short drive to UAMS. (I'm having severe spine issues again, but on a good note for those who think I'm too skinny, I've gained five pounds due to all the steroids they've had me on - that stuff really makes ya want to EAT!)
This evening we had one of the most incredible CLOUD shows I’ve ever seen, which included more than dozen lenticular clouds spread across the scene - I’ve only ever seen two here in Arkansas before in my life. These are the weird disk-shaped clouds that are associated with big mountains and really high winds. Each cloud would grow and move around a little bit, then another one would form over there and divert our attention. Then a double-decker one would appear and, well, it was tough to get anything done than just watch the clouds. I joked that our current home has really been an even greater CLOUDland than Cloudland was - mostly because we have a larger view of the sky. As the sun sunk the light show really got started, and all the clouds stacked up along the southern horizon put on quite a show.
03/13/20 Only one note today - why is everyone so obsessed with hoarding toilet paper? ‘Nuff said...
03/14/20 COLD rain early today - the sort that feels a little like dull needles hitting your face. It was almost frozen, but not quite. And the rain would continue much of the day - usually just light rain - but we could predict when a downpour was about to happen. Not because of an alert on the phone. But whenever I suited up to head out to the mailbox or down to the cabin - it would begin to pour as soon as I stepped outside and continue until I arrived under cover again. The first time that happened I just buckled down and leaned into it. The second time I walked faster and tried to outrun it. The third time I just started laughing out loud, leaned my head back and my face towards the sky, and soaked it all in - the cold rain felt GREAT!
Today it was time for me to finish up with the guidebook and send it to the editors - ‘nuff whining about it. And so I did - but not until darkness fell. As I’m typing this my team of editors is neck-deep in trail descriptions, going over each map using a spy glass. It feels as good as that cold rain on my face to finally be at this point, hahahaha.
03/15/20 Ever since the time change it’s been dark outside for my morning wake-up half hour while sitting in the Prow. So I usually don’t get to watch the amazing sky color at dawn as much as I have been doing - duty calls at the office up the hill where there is no view. Today I was all ready to spend that extra hour before dawn to do something else (hike) and then be back at my seat in the prow for the light and color show. Of course we were all fogged in and could barely see the twin pines just past the deck railing. No matter, the pups and I enjoyed not one but two laps through the forest around the southern side of our little trail here.
Hiking in the fog is one of my most favorite things to do. Especially when it’s still kinda dusky-dark like it was this morning. I can’t see as far into the woods, but as trees do become visible they move from nothing into silhouettes quicker (since they are closer to me when they come into view). And sometimes when that happens I find my pace picking up a bit - I want to see the next wave of trees, and the next, and the next. It’s a mental rush motoring through the dark, foggy forest like this and I just LOVE it! I highly recommend hiking in the fog every chance you get.
TODAY I will go through all of the edits that my crack team of editors have flagged in the new guidebook, and with any amount of luck, by the end of the day I’ll start the process of uploading the file to the servers of the printing company in Chicago. And then atd last, I can breathe easy for the first time this year.
Oops, I almost forgot. I have not selected a cover for the book yet. Well actually I have - I’ve picked four of them. One is a runaway winner that would help sell a TON of these guidebooks. But I’ve come to the conclusion that it would not be prudent for me to use that one. Another top choice may be out because I want to possibly use it on another book cover coming up. Same with #3. Hum, I guess that narrows it down to #4, which actually was my first choice so long ago. But heck, I still have daylight left so who knows what it will end up being - but I’ll post it here tomorrow since I have to make that decision later today.
03/16/20 YIPPIE COYOTE! The new guidebook files were uploaded to the printer’s server late last night. “I can breathe easy for the first time this year.” Did I really say that? Well that won’t last too long - my deadline for completion of the next book project is MARCH 21st - and I haven’t even started on it yet. (I'll begin right after lunch) But it feels great to have finally completed the guidebook update. I have no idea what took me so long, but I will tell you there are six new hikes in the updated guide with descriptions and maps:
- Balanced Rock Falls
- Steele Creek Overlook
- Roark Bluff Overlook
- Hedges Homesite
- Smith Creek Nature Preserve
- Buffalo River Trail from Grinders Ferry/Hwy. 65 to South Maumee Road, 17 miles of brand new trail! The description of this one is 11 pages long, and contains a lot of the actual, unedited transcribed dialog from my audio recording (in print of course, not actual audio).
PLUS the RED color for trails and parking areas is back - we were forced to use all-black maps for the past year with this guidebook only - but we found a new printer in Chicago which is giving us the same quality and a quicker turnaround time (more expensive though) than our previous printer in Michigan (they went out of business).
We expect the new books to be available about April 15th. The current edition will remain in print and available until the new books arrive.
We wanted to update everyone on what our corporate policy during the virus crisis is going to be. ALL of our staff is being quarantined to either our cabin, the gallery, Pam’s studio, the road to the mailbox, or any part of the loop trail around our corporate headquarters - until further notice. We will accept visitors to the gallery in small groups only, especially if they bring money (or pre-packaged and sealed chocolate). We think we are OK on toilet paper and whiskey. In other words, things will continue pretty much as usual around here. WASH YOUR HANDS AND DON’T TOUCH ANYONE!
03/17/20 Here are my lovely bride's two newest pastel paintings that she just finished - they are on display and for sale at the Buffalo River Art Gallery in Gilbert - their Facebook page
03/18/20 1.5" of rain overnight and MiaWilson Falls is running well - YIPPIE!
03/19/20 My lucky number today is 19 - that’s the number of years I’ve been married to the most wonderful person on the planet! My lovely bride to be had just suffered a terrible back injury and was unable to do most normal things, yet her mom drove here to Cloudland from Missouri and left her in my care, while I then drove her to the spot we had met the year before - at the Lake Leatherwood trailhead in Eureka Springs. The Justice of the Peace was late and it nearly killed poor Pam - she was in so much pain. But when the time came she gathered all her strength and was able to stand for our vows, then collapsed back into the car. She has always been my hero every day since. To the light and love of my life - THANK YOU for giving me so much!
As for the rest of life here at Little Bluff, life goes on pretty much as normal for us - we rarely go anywhere socially, and the only person we ever see during the day is the UPS guy. I have turned my attention from the guidebook to the new picture book, and have been spending my day and some nighttime hours at the computer picking through the some 4,000,000 images I’ve taken the past 45 years to come up with the “greatest” 130 to go in the book. The process is going well - most of those 4 million were not very good, and it’s been easy to cherry pick. I’m under a strict deadline that’s a lot sooner than normal due to the first program in August at Crystal Bridges - it takes 4-5 months to get a book of this size and quality printed and delivered (this is not being printed in China). It's looking pretty good so far... (the first batch of selections)
Our online store is still open, of course, and Pam is processing orders for shipment within 24 hours as always. We don't have bulk toilet paper for sale, but you can pick from the largest selection of Arkansas outdoor guidebooks, maps, and picture books - all fresh from the original bulk containers from the shipping company. ARKANSAS TRAILS ARE OPEN - GET A GUIDEBOOK AND GO HIKING!
Another little project is also taking up my time - we are preparing for a major print exhibition at the Ft. Smith Regional Art Museum that is scheduled to open in a month and run through the summer (shhh don't tell anyone yet). That means I’m having to print and stretch 33-something large canvas prints for the show - not an easy task when I’m well. It will be a glorious exhibit and the largest I’ve done of my work since my Wilderness Reflections exhibit at the Walton Arts Center in 1996. The Art Center has been closed due to the virus, and they may have to push back the opening until May, but the show will be ready and packed up and moved from our gallery here to Ft. Smith on April 9th no matter. EEEEEKKKKKKK!
On another note, and with a giant gulp of regret, I had to cancel ALL of my photo workshops. It was the right thing to do.
It’s also killing me not to be able to go forth and chase waterfalls that are right now running at peak and beautiful, but even without the big projects that have me tied to the office, I’m so far unable to be in the woods anyway due to my back issue. Just yesterday thought I was able to do the full one-mile trail loop here for the first time in the month since my back injury. The only other woods trip I’ve made was the short and easy trip to Balanced Rock, and that was under heavy sedation. My back will get back to the way it has been the past couple of years we hope, I just hope it does so before all the waterfalls run dry, hahaha.
BACK TO TODAY. We’ve had 1/3” of rain overnight with more on the way, and the clouds have lowered just now at daybreak and engulfed the cabin. I think that means I need to break the six-foot distance rule and go grab my still-just-as-lovely-of-a-bride-as-ever and hold her tight!
03/20/20 We had a delightful anniversary lunch yesterday (take out from Low Gap cafe - always great! In fact we have four wonderful places to eat nearby - Ozark Cafe, Blue Mtn. Bakery, Cliff House (when open), and Low Gap Cafe just down the road. I’ve not seen another person but UPS man in almost two weeks, so it was kinda scary reaching out to pick our lunch bag (Smokehouse Sandwich and fries - DELICIOUS!!!). I survived and my bride was a happy camper.
Later, as I was carefully pouring the one sip of cheap whiskey and miniature full-octane Coke that I’m allowed a day, the TORNADO WARNING blasted on both of our phones, AND a tornado siren in JASPER began to wail - we didn’t even know there was one in Jasper, but friend Kevin Middleton reports it is right across the street from his house! Jasper is several miles away and on the other side of a giant mountain from us and down in the valley, but we could hear it. A tornado had been reported in the area of Cloudland and was headed our direction - ironic. We spent the next 15 minutes out on the back deck - turns out we have a commanding view for 15-25 miles from both inside the prow and outside. We could easily see the front that contained the bad weather and it worked its way towards, over, and around us. It wasn’t just the clouds that were moving in different directions - at time the entire SKY would rotate. The light was WEIRD, the sound was strange, and we had a few anxious moments as it was obvious when the heart of the storm was about to hit us. I thought we were so smart to be able to see everything clearly, and would know the moment a funnel rotated right on down out of the black mass above us. I was still sipping my cheap drink - and it tasted so good - when an absolute WALL of rain appeared at the edge of our property and came tearing right at us 50mph. We ran for the safe room and bolted the door just as the wall slammed into the cabin.
And while any damage to house, property, or surrounding trees would not be good, the first thing that entered my mind was - oh my gosh, I had just left my entire new picture book with each of the 130 little pictures in very precise order that I’d just spent most of the day working on - sitting unprotected on top of our big work table, Bubba. And one gust of wind would sent them all tumbling into a mess!
Turns out the brunt of the storm remained up in the clouds as it passed over us so there was no damage, but it did eventually drop and do considerable damage a few miles downwind (including the Bruno-Pyatt School, where our HikANation group of 50 backpackers camped in the winter of 1980 while backpacking across the United States). WHEW! We celebrated our 19th successful year dining on ramen and veggies - some big spender my lovely bride’s hubby is!!!
It had been a long day working on all those little pictures, carefully matching them up two-by-two - that’s how people view a picture book - always looking at facing pages - and that’s how I’ve always done my layout - now for the 20th book of mine. I want each two-page spread to “go” together with each photo complementing one another and bring a smile or moment of AWE to the viewer. That’s how my job comes full circle. Taking the picture is just the beginning of a long process for me, one that 99% of the time remains unfinished. Not until someone else on the other end is moved in one way or another to what the camera has captures is my job done.
BUT I did get to make two round trips of our loop trail during the day and enjoyed our waterfalls AND finally some WILDFLOWERS - the first we’ve had on our property this year - a very slow start to spring indeed. POPcorn trees were popping all around (see photo below), and it’s always great to see them (cool weather ahead might slow them down again). Rainfall total so far this week - 2.95”. A GREAT time to get out and explore some WATERFALLS in Arkansas - enjoy, keep your distance, and be safe!
03/21/20 SUNSHINE!!! The clouds cleared early and a brilliant and warm sun shone almost all day. My lovely bride spent almost the entire day out in the sunshine doing yard work - picking up hundreds of limbs from the recent storm, working on her flower bed, feeding the birds, and picking up large pieces of our Rubbermaid tool shed that has been blown apart and put back together at least a couple times a year for a decade. Twice Jeff put it back together with dozens of screws. Always the high and twisting winds both at Cloudland and more so here have ripped the building apart and scattered the walls, doors, back, top, and bottom, leaving all the tools that used to be inside out in the weather. Yesterday Pam hauled all those pieces to the recycle trailer, and made new homes for all the tools inside the garage. It’s a job I’ve been dreading for a long time, but with her SUNNY spirt yesterday, she had it done in no time (well, no time for me, but quite a struggle for her I bet!). Anyway, by the end of the day she was aglow after her day in the sun (or was that sunburn, haha!).
I spent most of the day working on the new book and making slow, but steady progress. I have all but a couple of the photos placed now, and worked on the captions and dates (trying to figure out when a particular slide was taken 30 or 40 or more years ago with no documentation has proved to be sometimes a long chase of paperwork and memory - I’m usually short on both! All of them since 2000 are EASY - that’s when I switched to digital and there is a clear record of the exact moment each photo was taken.
I will continue work on those captions and dates today and hopefully get started sizing and processing each image. Looks like it’s going to be cold and rainy all day - normally an OUTDOOR day for me that I LOVE! But the book has to come first. I heard yesterday was pretty crowded on some area trails - after all it is spring break - but I suspect there will be much more social distance on the trails today. We remain pretty much confined to our 66 acres with one trip to the grocery a week (our usual). Stay safe - stay away from others - wash your hands...
3/26/20 Just a quickie today - I’m SO FAR behind! In fact the #1 work project that I had to get done - the new picture book - due to a variety of issues has not been worked on a single minute this week. But that ends as soon as I upload this post. I think. I hope.
ALL orders from our online store are being filled and shipped by the boss (my bride) either same day or within one business day (next day’s mail). Since we are the publisher/warehouse/distributer/sales for all of our books, we have them all right here stacked up three pallets high in our book warehouse that is about 15’ from this computer. I saw one order come in the other morning that was placed by the customer online, processed, packaged, and IN the mailbox within 10 minutes* (I had to hustle a little out to the mailbox but I made it in time!).
TRAILS CAN BE CROWDED - STAY AWAY FROM CROWDED TRAILS. Spring break, all schools are out. Many adults have lots of free time. And we are being told to get outside - that’s good for you, but it is NOT GOOD FOR YOU OR ANYONE ELSE if you hike on a crowded trail. So PLEASE, pick a trail you’ve never heard of, one that might be farther away, maybe even a little more difficult than you are used to - hike slow and enjoy the flowers along the way, rest often, and don’t go too far too fast. Or heck, why not just hike 200 yards and stop and enjoy. Most trails in Arkansas never see a hiker most of the time. If you arrive at a crowded traihead, pick another location - or heck, maybe even just enjoy a drive in the country and through the forest - but be careful getting gas!
On a personal note, I’m officially a GEEZER now - got my Medicare card and supplemental insurance/drugs, etc. I won’t be able to retire and begin receiving cash benefits anytime soon, but the insurance relief is a big relief.
In the meantime, you will be the first to know once the new book is finished - I am holding my breath...
One wildlife update - actually two - we have far fewer squirrels in our forest here than just a week ago (hum, I wonder why?), BUT they have been replaced by cottontail rabbits that are, well, multiplying like RABBIS! Mia and Wilson are chasing each and every one of them they can find - luckily for the rabbits, there is always a pile of brush/logs not too far away and all have survived.
And BUZZARDS have become the dominent big bird in the sky, and I must say that are just AMAZING to watch ride the wind currents, darting back and forth, and how they navigate the sky. But then this morning - an hour before sunrise - I watched a large hawk hover in place for more than five minutes - he remained withing the boundary of a single pane of our prow glass all that time.
OK, GET TO WORK! (that is for ME). For you, STAY SAFE AND STAY HOME (or find a remote, unpopular trail)!!!
*QUICK ORDER UPDATE: An order just came in from our online store for a waterfall guidebook. I grabbed the book and shipping envelope from the shelf while Pam processed the order, ran the credit card, and printed out the customer receipt, handing it to me. This was a personalized order so I autographed the guidebook, sealed the envelpe, and applied the shipping label that Pam was processing and printing while I was packing the book. I rushed out the door and hiked about 200 yards to the milbox - TOTAL TIME from the moment the customer pressed the "ORDER" button to the mailbox was 6 minutes and 22 seconds - that's gotta be a record!
03/27/20 Got a ton of work done on the picture book yesterday again at last - worked until late in the night and had to use the tiny light on my watch to find my way home in the dark! Back at it today, tomorrow, the next day and until I get done. If you go hiking please find a trail/location you've never heard of before and if there are many cars there keep looking until you find an empty trailhead - BE SAFE out there! Our plum trees are all blooming and their sweet aroma fills the air...
03/28/20 86 degrees here on Thursday and I was in shorts at work. All that sunshine pumped LIFE into the forest and spring began to ramp up in the trees, grasses, and wildflowers. Lots of little huckleberry bushes springing up too - I think it’s going to be a great early summer for homemade huckleberry ice cream. Hum. My bride is making plans and collecting seeds and a big starter kit for fresh veggies and herbs, and will be developing one of her large flower beds in the front of the cabin for food production. The Beatles song was really about my love for stir fry anything fresh - EIGHT DAYS A WEEK!
Work has gone well on the new picture book these past two days, and by 10pm last night I shut the computers down after making a backup copy of the FIRST DRAFT - that is always a great moment inside of me when I reach this stage. Still a ton of work to do, but the book is now something continuous from cover to cover, except, well, for the actual cover - it’s not been finalized yet, but we do have an idea of how it’s going to work. Later today I will make one more run through of the draft and make a few tweaks, then it will be off to the editors for their close inspection. I’ll turn my attention to the sizing, cropping, processing, and conversion of all the photos for final placement in the book. Due to some software issues I’ve been having to jump through more hoops than normal and use multiple computers/monitors/harddrives at different stages to make everything work, but great progress and fingers are crossed.
My eyeballs can only stand so much strain at a time and so I’ve been taking every opportunity to get up and away from the computers and OUTSIDE. My back has been playing nice and I’m able to hike all of our loop trail now, which is GREAT for the body, soul, and spirit. Normally I just hike one half of the loop or the other en route to the cabin or office/gallery, but sometimes I’ll start out and just keep on going until I get back to where I started from. But I also end up at the cabin on the back deck with ice pack on my back, caffeine in my cup, and feet up in the air - time to study the endless procession of birds working the airwaves. Have I said this before (?) - buzzards are ever bit as beautiful in flight, graceful, stealthy, acrobatic, as any hawk or eagle. It is just amazing to sit and watch. Others tiny iphone screens, but give me a full blown live view of the sky and I’m a happy camper.
Yesterday morning the big hawk returned, just a few minutes before sunrise, hovering for minutes at a time, studying the forest below him intently. He would only have to flip a wingtip one way or the other to move his position a few feet left or right, up or down - never needing even a single flap, only a tip flip.
One more note about the book project, sorry. Since this is a “greatest hits” collection of pictures, they all have been in books before. I’m writing captions for each - sometimes just the dry facts. Other times a note or two from the field. But I’ve also gone back through every page of all 19 previous picture books of mine and plucked some of the text, notes, stories for many of the photos. After all when you buy a John Denver, James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, or other favorite artist greatest hits albums you kinda really want the music and lyrics to be the same. I discovered that for some of my images that have appeared in more than one book where I have written up the story of that particular image, I sat down and wrote almost exactly the same thing. Many of those will end up in this book. Other photos will just have simple subject or location, but all will have something new - the year the photo was taken - from 1975 to 2019. It feels good to scroll through the entire book and see so much ARKANSAS that passed before me all these years.
It’s gonna be a long weekend at the computers, but I’m really getting excited to see the finish line! Hope you have a great weekend and are able to get outside, even if only in your own backyard.
Hey, we made the local paper! (this was during the gallery visit last month - GREAT KIDS!)
03/30/20 Redbuds are exploding here - we’ve got 40-50 between our cabin and the boulder jumble along the trail, but all of them are “woods” redbuds and not out in the open where they really get full and lush. We can see couple dozen from the cabin and it’s GREAT having that special redbud color! *Nice sky color at dawn this morning -
The overall view from here has been changing hourly the past two days - the naked-tree landscape has become fuzzy trees as far as we can see - the trees are beginning to bud out and the landscape changes from winter brown to spring green. And along with that is the pollen that fills the air - and comes inside covering everything if the windows and doors are left open. Fresh growth, a renewal of LIFE and spirit!
Yesterday I got up at 3:20 to get up and take my 4am medication - I would probably get more sleep if I used an alarm, but my natural rhythms have me waking up at 3-4 each morning this week. I sat in the prow sipping a cup of Iceland java, then realized it would be better use of my time to be sitting at the COMPUTER working, so I laced up my boots and the pups and I headed out into the darkness. But it wasn’t really dark, and even though there was no moon I could easily see my way.
As we approached the gallery area a pack of coyotes that must have been listening to and perhaps even watching us sprang into action, filling the forest with yips and yells and high-pitched howls, and it sounded like they were splitting up and running in all directions. It was light enough for me to see to walk around, but not so much that I could see out into the woods and locate a pack of hungry coyotes that might be interested in our pups. So I clicked into survival mode, yelled and screamed for our dogs to COME and we turned around and high-tailed it back to the cabin.
As I approached the cabin I saw the bright and clear Milky Way arching overhead - the clearest sky we’ve had in 2020 - and knew I must take a picture. 30 minutes later I managed to find my camera (battery was dead so I hooked up an external power source), a small tripod, a perfect lens to use (that I thought I had already sold), and I set up in the front yard with only a few minutes left to take a picture before the approach of dawn makes the stars begin to disappear (this happens about 90 minutes before sunrise).
It was later on that I realized Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were all clustered together just below the Milky Way and right above the outline of our prow in the sky - BONUS! The sky glow along the horizon is not the advancing light of dawn, but is actually the light dome from the greater Russellville-Clarksville metro area, but it photographs as an orange glow.
OK, picture done, coyote attack adverted (I locked the dogs in the cabin), and it was time to get back to work. Things went well all weekend on the book project - working all day and into the night is often when I do my best work. And by late last night I had 99% of the entire book done - with all images processed - and two drafts had been sent to and returned from the editors and corrections made. We switched gears with the front cover, and while it’s not done yet, we do have a pretty good one.
And I’ve only got ONE paragraph left to write - the Introduction, which I always save to the last for some strange reason. And since I decided to fill this book with as many photos and it would hold - but no more than one per page, with 17 2-page spreads (the most ever), I did not have any room left inside for the introduction. So it will be on the back cover. Kind of weird, but it’s long been known that customers will first pick up a book because of the front over, then almost immediately turn it over to read what is on the back. That is almost always sales talk, but in this case it will be the introduction. But it is the most difficult part for me to write, so of course it only gets done last when I have no choice.
Oh, and I’m still working on the next-to-last-page of the book. I thought it might be nice to show the front cover of all 20 of my coffee table picture books, along with the year published. So many folks discuss which books they have or are missing - now they will have a complete visual reference to all of them right there on page 143. It took me an hour just to figure out the size and placing, and then another couple of hours to come up with a tiny version of each cover - but I was only able to get 15 of them. I still have to photograph the remaining five books (the first five I published - before the digital desktop era) before that page will be complete. *UPDATE - done with that page - see photo below!
And then write that gosh darn back cover introduction. Maybe, with a little luck, I’ll be done with the project and begin the upload process by the end of today - the files will be something like 5 gigs worth of data and it takes a while to upload. If I’m able to get all of that done, maybe I’ll sleep in a little bit tomorrow - 4:30 maybe?
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