Kids, Cameras, & Captures

One of the things I love about photography is it gives me a handy place to hide and watch people.

This is a big difference between me and Paul: though both introverts I find people fascinating, while his personal jury is out (I’m being kind).  It’s a difference that binds rather than dividing us, as both find the other’s perspective amusing, in the way one finds a crazy relative endearing. Auntie Martha may be mad as a hatter, but damn is she ever funny.

Kids are awesome to watch and photograph until they become conscious of the camera and start posing for every shot. The instant gratification of smartphone cameras has made this worse, I fear. It’s hard to get a good, candid picture of our seven year old granddaughter, who now vogues for every shot. Capturing her when she’s just being seven and fully engaged in life is the best, because it’s when her sweet, curious, dare-devil heart shines the brightest.

Jackie Summons 16 x 9
Jackie summons the Gulls

Not long after we met our now daughter-in-law, Sarah, I got this shot of her and Sean, Paul’s youngest son.

IMG_1435 (3)

I have no idea what he was saying but man is she ever listening to him. The lens captured what Paul and I had happily noted: she really likes him! They were so gooey-newly-in-love, each inquiring if the other was enjoying the meal. It would have been revolting if it hadn’t pleased us so, and we drove away saying to each other, “She gets him! She loves him anyway! And she’s nice, and smart, and pretty!” because really, what else is there for parents to want when meeting an adult child’s intended? Scrape away the need for income and being practical and tidy and not an ax murderer, and I believe we all just want our grown children to love some worthy person who also loves them back. Will have his or her six when needed. Gets them, in the fundamental, important ways the rest of the world may (and often does) miss. We already know all the wonderful quirks about our children that make them lovable but the wider world is a hard, impatient place, and folks are far more likely to see our babies’ flaws than finer qualities. It’s a gift to parents when you see a sensible and pleasant person clearly besotted with your offspring.

look of love, b & w

Flash forward a couple years and Sean and Sarah have a little one all their own. When lucky (and on high speed continuous shooting), I get a shot where one or the other of them are in their own little world with their little man, and it makes my heart happy and also makes me wish all children had parents who love them as much as these two love him.

SJ & Sarah pattycake 5 x 7

Paul’s namesake has a new girlfriend. She’s been a while in coming but clearly worth the wait. She’s smart, sweet, practical and makes him happy. Here he is feeding her a line of BS a mile wide and twice as deep, as a good Irishman does:

Alice & PD3 5 x 7 color

See it? She gets him, and loves him anyway. Plus dimples.

It’s frustrating when I don’t get the technical stuff right, or think I and my equipment are faster or better than we are but, hiding behind my camera I sometimes see things others maybe don’t and when the Force is with me, I can capture it.

Alice & PD3, 5 x 7 (2).jpg
Blather on, lucky man. She loves you anyway.

Gotcha!  She gets him.


Weekend Coffee Share: Cowpens Edition

If we were having coffee, it would be an afternoon coffee since Paul and I just got back from a trip out to the Cowpens Revolutionary battlefield. It is said the war was fought in the North but it was here, in the South, where it was won, specifically here in South Carolina at Cowpens, where an outnumbered conglomeration of Continental Army local Militia men turned the tide of the war.

IMG_1289 (2)
The Monument

As when we went to Stones River in Tennessee, I am always amazed by the beauty of the terrain and the peace. It was summer then, too, and like today the grasshoppers and random cicadas were singing away. Hard to image the bloodshed of the past. Yet it is hallowed ground, and I felt the reverence of Cowpens. Here, men fought for their sweethearts and wives, their land and homes, for noble ideals of self-governance, independence, and freedom. Here, Daniel Morgan had moved among his rough militiamen the night before battle, reassuring, bolstering, rallying them to fight, and after they did he chased their routed officers down the Green River Road the next day.

I couldn’t help offering the fallen an apology for how badly we’ve mucked it up since.

IMG_1313 (2)
Monument to William Washington’s Forces
IMG_1308 (2)
No idea what it is, but how pretty!



Family lore had it there was a Kelly ancestor who fought in the Revolution, and I know my branch of the Kellys came through the Virginia colonies. Was there a blonde, blue-eyed Kelly among the rough militiamen native to the Carolinas, or did any come South with William Washington? I’ll never know, but it’s nice to think maybe yes, one of my ancestors fought for this land.




We walked the well-marked loop and saw where the armies had faced each other, where the first line of sharpshooters fired off their shots then raced around behind the second line, who stood their ground and waited until the British were in “killin’ range,” approximately 40 – 50 yards away. My God, how brave were they?

IMG_1320 (2)
Wonder what the ghosts think of this?

We saw where the British Cavalry and the hated Banastre Tarleton had waited hoping to spring a trap on the Americans, in the trees, sure of victory. But after Tarleton’s brutality at Waxhaws, the Continentals and Militia, shouting, “Waxhaws Quarters!” were only stopped from butchery by the gallant Morgan, who ordered no retribution to prisoners.

Such fine and brave people formed this country. I wonder if we shall ever see their like again?

Towards the end of the loop is the Scruggs home, carefully restored to what it looked like in 1820. There were eleven children raised in this house. E l e v e n. When did Mom and Dad have enough privacy to make babies five through eleven? Oy vey!

I’m going to look at this picture every time I find myself thinking my 1,700 square foot home is small.

IMG_1375 (2)

There is a tiny gift shop and information building, with a short film on the battle and a fiber optic display showing the battles leading up to Cowpens and troop movements. With no entry fee, beautiful grounds, and a well-kept picnic area, the Cowpens National Battlefield park is a lovely and educational way to spend a day.

Then it was back in the car with only a quick trip through Abbott’s fruit market for fresh peaches, blackberries, and tomatoes, and finally home, where fresh coffee awaited and a full hour before the afternoon thunderstorm began.

Three Things Thursday: Blanca

Blanca Chases Ball



Three Things Thursday, an exercise in gratitude, an idea stolen (with permission) from This Nerd’s Life, with which we spread some Happy in a needy Universe.

This time all three of my things are Blanca, as in her amazingly expressive face. Here are three photos of my Blanca, showing only a little of her complex character.



I worked at 6A and 5A High Schools and have seen, thrown, and received some serious side-eye and yet, I think Blanca could hold her own against even the snarkiest teenage girl, don’t you?

IMG_0582 (2)
Oh puhleeez! I invented side-eye

She is an intellect, as you can see below her questioning nature. She’s asking Life’s big questions: Why does Kitteh object to my fascination with his butt? If pine cones are not for shredding on the bedroom floor, what is their ultimate purpose? Do all balls roll under the furniture, or just mine? What will become of Flipper the Dog on Mr. Robot?

IMG_1062 (2)
Asking the Big Questions of Life, The Universe, and Kitteh Butts

But I think what I love most about Blanca and all dogs is they’re just generally very chill, open to any and all new things and people. She’s delirious with joy when the doorbell rings – Postman, UPS guy, repairman or neighbor, anyone, no matter his or her color, creed, or national origin, is a friend to Blanca. She is unfailingly pleasant to all around her, even Ivan the (recently) Terrible,  whose rejection she just plum refuses to acknowledge, though not in an icky, stalkerish way, more in the completely accepting, friendliest way possible. (And I wouldn’t say this within his hearing but secretly, like waaaaaaaay down inside that furry fury, I think Ivan occasionally experiences something akin to affection for her, too.)

IMG_1074 (2)
Keep Calm, and Blanca On

During bad days at my last school when there were multiple fights and extra police had to be brought in, I found myself occasionally considering that if Staff were allowed to bring their friendly dogs, everyone would benefit. It’s hard to be a jerk when you’ve got a friendly dog putting his head in your lap, or gently begging you, with a paw on your leg, to fetch her ball from under your seat. Just as babies and dogs give manly men an excuse to act like lovey-dovey fools, perhaps the strategic deployment of dogs would go a long way to mending our sad, cynical, troubled old world. Because it’s hard to disagree with those around you when you’re all laughing at the dog who is surprised, for the 37th time that day, to discover the cat objects to close-range inspections of his butt.

Arboretum Fail / Garden Win

There is an arboretum in Columbia, tucked away in the middle of a residential section and open for free every Wednesday. Except this Wednesday, when I arrived an hour after opening to find padlocks across the gates. I could only peer in at shaded, winding trails of lush vegetation I’d hoped to capture with my new lens.

Not to be thwarted, I stopped by Trinity Cathedral’s old cemetery and wandered for a bit. The tiny, old gravestones of babies always make me a little sad, knowing that in the days they were born there was no penicillin or respirators, not for them or for the young mothers who sometimes lay in graves close by.

Because Columbia is an oldish city in the Deep South, one will find veterans of the Civil War (or, as some might call it, The Recent Unpleasantness betwixt the States).


This gravestone struck me not for its historical significance but because it has been incorporated right into the stone wall separating the church graveyard from the school next door, where small children were playing, laughing, and shouting as I walked the paths. I hope he or she doesn’t mind being stuck there between the two worlds; maybe it’s a good place to get the gossip from both sides of the veil.

IMG_0713 (2)

Not too far away, but in such a place I couldn’t get a good shot at it, was a child’s blue play bucket that must have gotten tossed over the low wall. Both it and the wall-gravestone seemed designed to remind me that though I walked among the tombstones, life always finds a way. Whatever ghosts inhabit that old churchyard, I think they must be happy to hear the children; do they wonder if they are their children’s children’s children? Do they care? Is the presence of new young life joyful enough that the spirits watch over any and all who play there? I like to think yes, definitely.

Headed for the freeway and home, I spied with my little eye a sign directing me to the Historic Houses Museum, or the direction of it, anyway. Finding Good Shepherd Episcopal on the right, I pulled over for a closer look and found the Hampton-Prescott house sitting serenely to my left. Hampton as in Wade Hampton from the graveyard, and whom I first heard of in Gone With the Wind, the historical commander of the fictional Charles Hamilton, first husband of Scarlett O’Hara.

There were a number of Hampton graves in the Episcopal cemetery and now here I was at the house they might have lived and loved in, wandering the gardens they once did, laughing at the antics of the great-times-one-hundred grandchildren squirrels of those Wade Hampton himself might have laughed at.

Hampton Preston House front

IMG_0836 (3)There were beautiful flowers sitting obligingly still, showing a bit of wear but lovely even in the heat of a mid-summer day, and a variety of birds which I was too slow to capture. Flowers are easier.

IMG_0893 (2)
Rear of the house with the requisite row of Magnolia trees.


I wonder if I can find the plans for this bench on Pinterest?

Hampton garden branch bench

I almost missed the arch at the end of this walkway, but some birds flew overhead and while I fumbled and focused and failed to capture them, my eye found it. Need to remember to thank those birds next time.

Hampton garden arch

Ending my picture tour back at the cathedral with this one, to remind myself that though I began the day feeling frustrated at a padlocked gate, I yet found an open doorway and many things worth seeing.

IMG_0696 (2)

Weekend Coffee Share: Doggy Door Edition

If we were having coffee, I would excitedly tell you or better, show you that at seven months old Blanca has finally mastered the doggy door! Well, mostly. Thursday she woke up from a long nap having seemingly forgotten and had to be pushed through, but since then she’s done it all on her own, the exception being when Ivan the Terrible plants his commodious bottom directly and purposefully on the other side of it. Then she wisely whimpers, whines, and grumps for us to open the larger door. She’s maybe a slow learner, but not stupid.

She is also increasingly vocal, causing us to wonder if there isn’t a bit of Husky in her clearly complicated genepool. It would account for the soft white coat, though not the black-spotted mouth or ears. But she growls and whines and yips  about everything, but most especially “ballmergencies” when one of her 8,594 tennis balls rolls under the furniture just out of her reach. This necessitates one of us fetching and using “the magic stick” which is actually one of those telescoping dusting tools for ceiling fans but which other function, we’ve discovered, is handling ballmergencies.

IMG_6054 (2)
Why carry one ball when you can fit two?

Hopefully I wouldn’t spoil your coffee telling you that Wednesday, out of the corner of my eye I spied Blanca outside, throwing something up in the air, then retrieving it. It wasn’t a ball, not even Ratty Ball, which cover she’s torn off for the express purpose of throwing it in the air and chasing it. Closer inspection turned up a lizard, no longer playful. It wasn’t a good day for lizards, as Ivan also felled one. So this week it was Household Critters = 2, Lizards = 0.

If we were having coffee I could tell you how much I love Google, because a Monday afternoon Google search of local parks turned up a little jewel of a park almost literally around the corner from my house, and a perfect place to get some shots for my photography class. Tuesday I was up and out chasing the sunrise, but I didn’t take coffee with me, having to cart around my camera bag and tripod, and fully aware of my own klutziness. I had to wait for the sprinklers to stop and so missed a pretty pink sunrise but I think the shot of the gazebo and amphitheater-style terracing was nice even without it. It was a lovely, serene sort of way to spend the early morning hours.

IMG_5948 (2)
Irmo Town Park, just after sunrise

Maybe one day we’ll take a thermos of coffee to the park and watch the sunrise behind the gazebo.

IMG_6073 (2)
They await a noble fate

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that next time I will make scones to go with the jam I am about to start making as soon as I hit “post” on this, having been up and out early again this morning, this time to visit the Strawberry Lady in the Petsmart parking lot. I’ve got a lot of washing and hulling and chopping to do but my reward is listening for the POP! of each jar’s lid assuring me it is perfectly sealed. Like the sound of walking on gravel, a baby’s sleepy sigh, or my husband laughing out loud in the kitchen at a joke I tucked into his lunch bag, that POP! is one of my favorite sounds.

And finally, if we were having coffee I’d ask for your prayers, or sending of White Light if you’re more a secular humanist than religious, for my best friend and his sister, who are saying goodbye this morning to a good and faithful dog. Sweet Echo, who has faithfully stood by them through all of life’s travails, has reached the point where the best they can do for her is help her cross to the other side, where she will once again know where she is, free of pain and once again agile and active, reunited with her brothers who have gone ahead.