Blue

A male Gila woodpecker peeks out of his nest in a saguaro in the blue light before sunrise along the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2019

On that April morning we were up before the sun, he and I, one to mend a broken heart, one to feed his hungry children. Ordinarily I would have loved to watch the comings and goings of this Gila woodpecker and his mate as morning broke but Ellie had died a week earlier and standing still meant being alone with my thoughts, a place I was not yet ready to be. I quickly moved on but with each passing week I was able to slow down more and more until I could happily stay in the moment for as long as my heart desired.

The First of the Second

The head of a bobcat is visible as it peers over a large rock formation on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsale, Arizona in July 2019

One more bobcat photo, this is the first one I took of my second ever sighting. Though most of the sky was blue, there were low lying clouds in the east that were frequently changing the light. This morning it worked in my favor as clouds partially obscured the sun as I walked back to check out what initially looked like a coyote-shaped cactus. The clouds not only softened the light but made it more diffuse so that the left side of the cat’s face isn’t in such deep shadow. If I could only choose one I’d prefer the shot where it is peering over the rocks but I also like how here the bobcat’s lovely face is fully shown while it verified I wasn’t a threat before settling in for a nap.

Dressed in Blue and Brown

An environmental portrait of a bobcat peering out from the rocks atop the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in July 2019

If my former home in the the Pacific Northwest was a paradise of blue and green I could describe my current home in the Sonoran Desert as a paradise of blue and brown, but that would not quite be true. There is far more green in this desert than I was expecting, a dusty green to match the dusty landscape and not the lush blinding greens of the Columbia River Gorge, but green just the same. But it is true enough for this scene, the brown cat in the brown hills, the blue sky behind. There were three pictures I wanted to take on that summer morning, a close shot of the bobcat, this more distant environmental portrait, and an even wider shot showing the rocks down to the desert floor. The latter I didn’t take as since I’m only shooting with one camera I didn’t want to risk taking off the telephoto zoom in case the cat walked up onto the top of the rocks. Instead it settled down for a nap on the ledge in the middle of the frame, out of sight of both me and the rising sun.

The Hills Have Ears

The Hills Have Ears

There are moments on the trails you never forget. In the Tetons, when a black bear casually sauntered down the trail towards me. A gorgeous black bear I had to slowly follow up the path at Mount Rainier. A scrum of bighorn sheep rams in Yellowstone. My first Gila monster. My first bobcat, and my second.

I woke up far too early Monday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep so I went out for a short hike at a nearby trailhead. I was nearing the end of the Jane Rau Trail, hoping to see a spiny lizard I had spotted on a previous hike. My eye caught a pair of ears high in the rocks, or so it seemed at first glance, a cactus with the face of a coyote. The lizard wasn’t there but thankfully I had time to walk back to get a better look at the cactus as I couldn’t remember seeing it before. Looking through the telephoto lens I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw eyes looking back at me, the ears were indeed ears, pointed towards the heavens. My second ever bobcat. As the rising sun grew stronger the sleepy cat dropped into the shadows and settled down, time for us to part, time to get ready for work.

Even after a couple of decades of photography I can get a little too excited and not set up the camera or the shot properly. I didn’t realize it at the time but all those years she was training me for this moment, my sweet Em, to photograph beauty looking down upon me. Relax, breathe, enjoy the moment. Miss you Em.

Our black cat Emma looks down from the top of the cat tree in May 2012

Drip Drip Drip

Sap drips from flower buds at the end of a horizontal saguaro arm on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2018

Water seemed suspended in time as it dripped from the flower buds at the end of a horizontal arm of a saguaro, but I suspect the frozen drips must have been sap. I didn’t know saguaros budded like this when we moved here so I was delighted to discover buds fairly close to the ground that I could observe up close.