they chose me

“Didn’t know you were such a dedicated bird photographer!” My response is always a surprised….“Neither did I!”

I survived last Fall/Winter (in a cast boot and rolling on a jaunty scooter) by dreaming of standing in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park.

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Visualizing the crisp air, the bellowing bison, the pristine river valley and me knee deep in all of it, I planned the trip when I wasn’t certain I would be walking unaided. I assembled my group of fellow-dreamers. My diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy transported me to a new normal. Doctors stressed the chronic and progressive nature of this disease. No cure. The pain, the fatigue, the barrage of puzzling symptoms laid me low. My nervous system was shot. Did I have any role in designing my new reality?

I knew I needed a new camera. My last trip to YNP involved shuffling lenses. I never had the proper lens. A rainbow!….quick get the wide-angle on! A bear…..OMG!where is the long lens? I drove the Texan crazy and exhausted myself with equipment requirements.

Since I wasn’t able to do much but nurse my wounds on the bedroom sofa, I researched new cameras. It was time to fold my lens poker hand. I won’t go into detail now, but I purchased the Sony RX10M4 to take to Yellowstone. I spent weeks scouring the manual trying to learn to take a decent photo. Where IS that ‘on’ button? (I won’t write about it now, but if anyone would like to know more about this camera or read a review of it, I’m happy to oblige.)

Now….back to the birds. As I gained mobility, I practiced with my new camera. I walked in the country and pointed the lens at birds barely visible to my naked eye.

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As I exercised my doxy in the front yard, birds dive-bombed me. Birds….longing to be photographed! I had no idea avians were such attention-seekers. A kite dive bombed me while he was hunting. He landed in a tree and let me snap photos while scarcely 5 feet away.

blackshoulderedkiteI had multiple close sightings of a red-tailed hawk calmly displaying his beauty and proclaiming his affection for Amarillo.

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Thrashers were hovering over cholla, scissor-tailed flycatchers were swooping, quail were partying in my backyard and there were cardinals perched on my roof.

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Look up!….look at me!….they sang in unison.

Boy…did I ever notice! A hawk parent with 2 babies to feed.

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An eagle regally perched on a tall dead tree on….Independence Day! He let me get ridiculously close before flying away.

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I observed the lanky blue heron as he shyly revealed himself to me. Had me crawling and creeping through the brush…adorned in camo…to watch him fish and fly and to get a decent capture. He was a model of patience.

The sweet momma on the side of our cabin sitting on her eggs every day. She taught me a lesson in devotion.

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The towhee who energetically ate insects off my parked car. He was an industrious superstar and exuded energy.

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The birds were everywhere. I witnessed a colorful parade every time I raised my chin. I felt like a breathless 6-year-old seeing these wondrous creatures for the very first time.

That’s the story of my bird photography. They present themselves and I try to observe. ‘Oww….my foot is feeling crushed today….oh look, there’s a meadowlark!

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‘My feet and hands are in the fires of hell and I’m scared!…..oh wow, did you see that falcon!?’

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‘My back won’t let me get out of bed……you say there’s a pair of kites copulating in the front yard?? I’m getting up!’ ‘This relentless, annoying ringing in my ears is making me batty. Now I know why Van Gogh chopped off his ear. I think I understand the motive for suicide now….but look at that rufous hummingbird!’

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The birds are my ‘SQUIRREL!!’, I guess.

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This fondness for the birds can make me….how should I say it?….a wee bit strange. During my last two golfing attempts…..while trying to tee off….

“Kathy….what are you doing?”

Can’t you hear THAT?

“What?”

There’s a hawk calling!

“Hit the d*** ball!!”

But the blackbirds! The blackbirds are telling me they’re on the reeds by the pond!

“Will you please address the ball? There’s a group behind us!”

My aim is not to take professional quality photographs, although I’m doing my best and learning along the way. I’m simply observing these gorgeous cheerleaders as I wobble along my meandering path. I’m making impossible decisions about my health and my body. The birds remind me to keep my gaze fixed skyward. I can be like a sticky, annoying 6-year-old shoving my latest artwork in your face. But, perhaps your path is uneven, steep, shadowy and your stride is tentative and stumbling. Maybe you could use a glimpse of something insignificant yet impossibly glorious as you begin your day’s journey.  I admit it….I want you to feel astonishment that the God who created the eagle, the flycatcher and the dazzling rufous thought the world needed one of you, too.

That’s my bird story. Time to go…I hear a blue quail calling.

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6-year-old love to all.

if I was your cell phone

I’m pretty sure you’d be demanding a refund. After dropping your phone, you noticed some glitches and they’re making you spew expletives.  *&+##*!! How could a gentle doink produce so many problems? Didn’t you just dress it in the newest and sportiest camo Ballistic cover?!

After being diagnosed with a stress fracture in September, my foot was put in a boot and I was told to be non weight bearing. I used a sporty scooter to ambulate. Problem was…..the foot became more and more painful. It wasn’t healing. One day I noticed my entire right leg was bright red and my foot was swollen and icy cold. Water droplets from the shower were like needles piercing my skin. After being lectured by the podiatrist for 4 months I was being overactive and continuing to injure my foot, he finally diagnosed me with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy CRPS/RSD. A condition so nice they named it twice. “Whatever you do, don’t Google it. You need an appointment with a pain clinic”. I Googled it. My nervous system is shot. No cure. Your phones’ motherboard is no bueno.

You’ve dutifully changed the battery, but your phone either doesn’t work or it pursues a devious purpose all its’ own. When you call your love-interest, it insists on calling your minister. 50 times! That’s when you take the battery out and stomp it. When you get the new battery installed….and the phone is blessedly working….the first received call is from your pastor. “Are you OK?! I’ve been getting calls from you ALL DAY!”

CRPS causes a myriad of unusual symptoms. A pain in the hip, a twinge in the knee, a muscle sprain in the back. Your toenails/fingernails take on a ridge-y yellow, thick cast and even seem to quit growing. Your hair falls out. (I’ve taken to wearing a weave….that can be a stand-alone blog post)

 

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The fabulous Johnny Plant making it look like I have thick, glossy hair!

 

 

The worst symptom for me is the speeding freight train of full-body small fiber neuropathy. Imagine a pitcher of ice-cold water being slowly poured over your head. The frigid water begins meandering down your spine. It picks up speed as it grips your arms all the way to your blue fingertips. It completes the journey as it trickles down your legs and pools at your fragile feet. No cure….just gabapentin or lyrica to try to ease symptoms.

 

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reading the lyrica side-effects info

 

 

Oh….and of course….a good dose of antidepressant. Gotta get more serotonin in the brain! On bad days the frigid water over my nerves is incessant and makes me upset, confused and grumpy. On good days, I feel like my feet and hands are periodically held over a smoldering campfire. S’mores, anyone?

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Your dropped phone doesn’t play videos very well now, either. Oh….you can see them, but sometimes they blur and the sound is crackly. So much for your Netflix subscription and your THE CROWN addiction.

I’m grateful for my sight and I take special care of my eyes because of the problems from Sjogren’s Syndrome. But sometimes I wonder whose glasses I’m wearing. Details aren’t always crisp and clear. My hearing seems to be OK, but there’s been this constant high-pitched screeching in both my ears. Well that is, until last night. Told the Texan I woke up several times in the night thinking the ceiling fan motor was on the fritz as it had developed an annoying, rhythmic whirring and whooshing sound. Problem is, when I turned the fan off the annoying whirring, whooshing sound is now being produced in my right ear. Hey….I can hear it now! We don’t need a new ceiling fan, but you desperately need a new phone.

Sometimes your bestie complains that your calls are dropped. She states she can hear your voice through the microphone, but sometimes the sound is muddled.

I used to sing quite a bit. I suppose it’s natural to lose your voice as you age, but my voice is ‘like a box of chok-lits….you never know…….’ Yeah right. Blah, blah. I still try to offer my muddled and misunderstood voice to folks at the area nursing/veteran’s homes on Monday mornings with my senior choir from church. Nursing home residents mainly only care if you wear a smile and offer a warm hug and handshake. I can’t count on the quality of my voice, but I’m an enthusiastic hugger.

Finally, let’s explore the camera function of the dropped phone. Believe it or not, it takes pretty decent photos. You enjoy the editing choices, as well. A newer model phone might have a slightly bigger sensor but you’re pretty satisfied. Even though most of the functions of the phone are unreliable, the camera is still working pretty well. How about that?

I’ve enjoyed taking photos with my new camera (Sony
RX10m4….another whole blog post) every evening. I go out just before sundown to check on horses and look for photo opportunities.

 

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the common killdeer

 

 

The wiener dog waddles along and helps me with equipment. She’s really good at sniffing out possible subject matter, too.

 

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a recent hawk sighting

 

I’ve become the John Muir of the great West Texas mesquite forest or the Thoreau of the playa lakes. No detail is too mundane during the golden hour. I’m officially obsessed. I can hear the birds over the ringing and swooshing and I can still amble with my CRPS leg. Not too shabby. The scooter, wheelchair and walker are in the attic.

 

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An example of Muir-ing and Thoreau-ing on my golden hour photo tour

 

Thanks for hangin’ in with the phone analogy. I’ve been thinking of how to describe what is going on with me without being pessimistic or ‘poor me’. I’ve been having some great days and blogging and oversharing help me laugh at these dumb chronic diseases. The pain doc has been my godsend. She tries to keep me going. I’m probably not the person you want to engage in conversation about the opioid crisis or legalized marijuana. More blog post subject matter? Maybe so.

Know you are coping with your own issues. Keep laughing and don’t fall into a hole while looking at your cellphone.

Ernestine….’one ring-y dingy…two ring-y dingy’ love to all.