I love birds. I have a special fondness for the birds we see most often. For me that is obviously Song Birds.

As a lapsed biology major who is much more artist than scientist these days I am not strictly speaking in scientific terms of species, family, genus, order, etc. types of classifications when I speak of Song Birds. This is more of I know it when I see it kind of reverence for birds I think of as song birds. So scientists and hard core birders avert your eyes. The way I think about and talk about Song birds might make you squeamish.

I love Song Birds not because they are necessarily something special or spectacular. I love them because they are often average, normal, and mundane. They are often the kinds of birds we see and hear every day. They types of nature that just blends into our environment and we often don’t even see anymore.

Eastern Bluebird perched on a tree branch in New York.
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It is really hard for me to put into words why I love trees. There is just something magical and mystical about trees. Trees can be almost anything you can imagine. Take on any form, shape, or size.

No two trees are alike. A tree can be a 6 foot tall flowering cherry tree or it can be a two hundred foot tall sequoia. What even is a tree?

Is it a tree, or a shrub, or a bush? Is a grove of trees all one plant that has spread and grown underground only to emerge as individuals above ground for us to see? Or is each tree a distinct individual plant?

Tree in silhouette at sunset.
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I have not always been a morning person. It is something that I have actually been struggling with lately. For a good stretch of time I had gotten myself in the routine of going to bed at 10 PM and getting up at 5 AM every day. It was a good routine for me. Along the way in recent years something broke down. And I haven’t been able to find that fit again and it is really causing me to miss out on some things I have become a little more accustom to. And that is seeing the sun rise.

There was a large portion of my life where I would not have been able to tell you that last time I saw the sunrise. There were a few rare occasions where I would be on a trip somewhere and just happen to be up to see the sunrise. And then I would be able to take a photograph.

One of the first sunrise photos I took that showed me the magic of sunrise. Back in 2005 on a camping trip with my dad and brothers. I added a soft glowing effect.
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My wife and I have always loved dogs. Our mutual love of dogs is part of what we love about each other. And as dog lovers often do we can become attached to one breed of dog or another for unexplainable reasons. My wife knew that I secretly or maybe not to secretly always wanted a Siberian Husky. They are beautiful and amazing dogs. And one day my wife surprised me by bringing me home a Siberian Husky to add to our pack of dogs. I think Mojo might have been as surprised to go live with humans as I was to have him join us. It was so exciting for this Husky puppy to become part of our lives.

Mojo and his bright white fur was a beautiful dog. His bright fur was only outdone by his brilliant blue eyes that were always alert.

Mojo puppy ready for action

Mojo took full advantage of living where we do. Out away from town on the edge of the woods. Mojo would swim in our pond and run through the yard. Sometimes exploring more than we would like him to. Mojo hunted the animals in our yard with out lab Blake. Mojo has even been on a few runs with me, but I got into running to late in life and started trying to run with our dogs too late into his life for him to become a full time running partner. Mojo’s wild nature and personality was a perfect fit for where we live. I am glad he came to us. I don’t think he would have been happy if he ended up living in a more residential area.

It is funny because I say Mojo was wild and that might conjure in your mind a crazy out of control dog that caused all kinds of trouble, but Mojo was actually the opposite. Most times you barely knew Mojo was there. Mojo’s wildness is the wildness of an animal in the forest. An animal that barely knows domestication.

Mojo never really played with toys much except when he was young. I’ll never forget this. He even played tug-o-war with our other dog using this toy.

Our lives are shaped and changed by everything that is a part of them. And even a dog like Mojo that doesn’t demand much from us on most days shapes us. We develop routines and patterns of behaviors that accommodate each dog in our lives. It was no different with Mojo. even though I can’t consciously think of one thing that I did or had to do for Mojo that is gone now, all those little patterns that develop over time are there. And now my body goes to perform those little rituals out of habit and I realize that they are no longer a part of my life. And that hurts.

Mojo No Humans

Mojo was such a distinct dog. As I think we probably all feel about each of the dogs that pass through our lives. But Mojo was a little different. He almost wasn’t even a dog as many of us think about dogs in the contemporary sense. Mojo seemed like an animal out of time. Like he was cast through time from prehistory when dogs were first beginning to become domesticated. Dogs were just beginning to live along side human kind. Not living with the humans. Certainly dogs were not pets yet. From a time when dogs came or went as they pleased. Mojo was from a time and space where its like seeing a wild animal and if that animal blesses you with a moment of interaction you should count yourself as blessed because you never know when it may happen again.

Mojo hunted for catfish frozen in out pond.

We often called Mojo, Mojo No Humans, because he really did not care about us in the way we think of most dogs just drinking in every moment of human attention and interaction that they can get. Mojo was perfectly content to share a house with us. But, that is really where it started and ended for us. Mojo was going to live his life and we would live our lives. And if our separate lives crossed paths then occasionally there would be an interaction. But there would be long stretches where we didn’t see mojo and didn’t really know what he was up to.

Needless to say Mojo was not s snuggly cuddly kind of dog. Not blessing us with kisses. Mojo would agree to be petted when HE wanted to be petted and never for very long. But he would in his time walk up to us and linger allowing us to feel his soft fur.

Whenever we took Mojo places with us, inevitably people would want to pet him, but mojo would not allow it. Always dodging or hiding or running away.

It is funny because it might sound like I am describing an unfriendly dog, but that is not it at all. Mojo was never aggressive or mean to humans or the other dogs. He was just wary of humans the way wildlife is often warry of humans. And maybe that is for the best in all animals. It is hard to know if humans as a species is deserving of the unconditional love bestowed upon us by our dogs.

Good in a bad kind of way

Mojo was in many ways just about the most well behaved dog one could imagine. He never really caused any issues in the house. But, when Mojo was outside it could be an entirely different story. Mojo had a different way of seeing life.

Keeping Mojo safe as we felt is our responsibility was a challenge for a long time. If we left Mojo up to his own devices he would probably wander off into the woods never to be seen again. Or to live on the fringes of society as his ancestors did.

I totally forgot Mojo went through this stage of digging up rocks and carrying them around, much like his sister Brynn but not nearly to her level of obsession.

Mojo ate turkeys, battled porcupines, and did not believe he had a curfew. He would stay out all day and all night if it were up to him.

Mojo knew what he wanted and would go for it. When we had an electric fence he would charge through it to chase something. Then when he returned he knew it wasn’t worth it to go through the barrier to get back into the yard and would pace along the side of the road until we saw him and went to get him and removed his collar and brought him back inside the fence.

Mojo was too fast and if he didn’t want to come in the house he wasn’t going to. There was nothing you could do about it. He would avoid and evade all day. I am not sure a world class athlete could have caught him. On multiple occasions I stayed home from work just to keep an eye on him as he relaxed in the yard, refusing to come in and refusing to be caught. Even after our yard was fenced in he maintained that he would stay outside as long as he wanted. Even fenced in the yard was big enough that he could evade us unless we could coax him into one area where we could usually get ahold of him. Mojo was probably the only dog to ever be required to wear a leash while in the fenced in yard. The leash gave us the extra reach needed to get close enough to get ahold of him via the leash. And not your standard 6 ft leash a long training lead.

I even made a heavy duty lead out of rope for him, so we would be able to wrangle him at night when it was time to come inside.

Mojo wanted to be outdoors at all times. He did not care how bad the weather was or how many treats we had for him in the house.

A link to the past

Sometimes I think Mojo probably got along better with the animals in the house than with us just due to his nature.

Losing Mojo in some ways is like losing out link to the past. Mojo is the only other living being in our house that knew all the other dogs (12). He has known all the cats as well. Mojo has been there and connected to all of our companions throughout our lives.

Losing Mojo isn’t just losing Mojo it is losing connection. That last thread that ties us back to all the other animals in our lives from the first pack of dogs that came to this house with us to our current pair of young pups.

Thinking of Mojo allows us to think of all the other dogs we have had in our lives. A young puppy, Mojo meets our four dogs, Sierra, Black, Cami and Buck. And not too long ago a 15 year old Mojo shared the yard with Colton and River. Moving his old body around the yard as best he could as river streaks across the yard and leaps for a frisbee.

Mojo probably shares a frame with more dogs than anyone else. Even though he wasn’t as close to us as we would have liked, Mojo’s story is a part of the story all our other dogs share. It will be the strangest sense to one day bring a dog into our home who will not share this connection to Mojo.

Age comes for us all

Even though Mojo often did not want to share close physical space with him, he was fun to spend time with from a distance. Just being in Mojo’s presence you could see that vibrancy and vitality in his behavior. Mojo had that spark in him that was never going to go out.

And that is what has made this so hard. Mojo was not going to go softly into that cold night. Mojo was going to hold on for every last piece of life.

Making this kind of decision for any of our furry companions is never easy, but often there is a sickness, illness, disease, or bodily failure that can no longer be held at bay. Mojo stubborn as ever continued to have clean bill of health after clean bill of health. And yes that is exactly what you hope for in a dog especially as they age. Having lost too many dogs to cancer, I would never wish that on anyone or any dog. But, for my human mind the knowing it is time is easier to make peace with when you know your dog is being ravaged by disease and you can ease their suffering.

Watching Mojo’s slow but steady decline was a different kind of heartbreak. There was never this one big scary thing lurking to take him away from us. He had a neck issue that became progressively worse. He would make progress, then falter. Never emerging from the pain fully. Maybe that is just the way of things as we get older.

Mojo went through a time where he wouldn’t or couldn’t eat and got down to skin and bones. But he would eventually bounce back after we tried everything to get him to eat.

Watching Mojo’s mobility decline as his back legs became weaker and weaker was disheartening. He couldn’t get around like he used to. He would often spend time on a different level of the house from us because he liked his space. But with the loss of mobility it robbed Mojo of the ability to move between floors of the house most of the time. Maybe he didn’t really care about seeing us. Maybe it was fine with him to have one floor of the house essentially all to himself. Occasionally we would find Mojo had come to the same floor as us to curl up in a dog bed. And we’d think he was going to rally. On other days I would wake up to find him apparently stuck in the middle of the steps unable to finish going gup and unable to turn around and go down.

It was becoming more often that Mojo seemed dazed, or confused and unable to be aware of his surroundings. We would bump into things and get tangled up, and knock things down. He couldn’t tell I was coming down the stairs or know how to get out of my way when I got to the bottom so we would both be safe as I got to him.

It is just the accumulation of all the ailments that probably await us all. Mojo was alive, but was he truly living. Was he having a life that was worth having.

It is something that I think about a lot for myself. And I would want the people in my life to intervene if they saw me suffering in a way that would never end. I don’t know how dogs experience the world. All I can do is think through it from my perspective and do the best I can on their behalf. And I hope I have done what is right.

I really began to think that we were holding on to Mojo too tight. We were holding on to protect ourselves from having to make this decision.

I kinda hope no one is reading this part. It is just me trying to process things and assure myself we did the right thing.

It may only be fitting that Mojo, the dog requiring the least amount of attention ever, leaves our life around the time River, maybe the dog requiring the most attention ever, has become part of our lives.

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My photography typically focuses on nature, wildlife, and animals. On specific occasions like sports events I photograph people. Probably the least often subject I photograph would be any type of cityscapes.

I love seeing beautiful photography of cities. Skylines of cities can be majestic. Photography of life unfolding in the concrete jungle can be inspiring.

For me cities simply don’t inspire me to get my camera out, most of the time. I will leave this work to those who can do it better. Those who can make me enjoy looking at a city more than I do through my own eyes.

2019 Corning Parade of Lights in front of Vitrix Hot Glass Studio on Market Street.
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I am not really a beach goer. Not a fan of beaches really. At least I am not a fan of beaches in the way I think most people think of beaches. When people think of going to the beach for a nice relaxing trip or vacation. Sitting on the beach just lying there soaking in the sun.

I think that part of this is just a function of my personality. For me relaxation does not really equal fun. I like action and activity in my fun. I am at least a Type 1 fun and often a Type 2 kind of fun person. Fun for me can even include a little bit of pain. If I went to a beach to relax I would spend the whole time thinking “I could be DOING something else”. Relaxation is something I actually have to be more conscious of and plan. Relaxing and stopping the doing is a force of will for me often.

I’m not a beach person

Prints in the sand. Higley Flow State Park. New York.
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Ricketts Glen State Park is a beautiful park in Pennsylvania that I am only just beginning to explore. The challenge to exploring this park is that it’s most dramatic features are such a draw for me. I love photographing waterfalls. And Ricketts Glen State Park features a trail called the Waterfall Trail. So, most often that is where you will find me if I am at this park.

Ricketts Glen State Park might have the most bang for its buck in regards to waterfalls than any other state park I have been to. And maybe I am directly contradicting myself regarding something else I said in another post. I love photographing waterfalls and I love to write about them and share my experiences. And when I write it is about how I feel in the moment regarding that place. But, At Ricketts Glenn there is a trail that is probably longer than any other park I have been to that features more waterfalls along it than any other park I have been to.

Not only is there a longer trail with more waterfalls at Ricketts Glenn, but I also think there are probably more prominent/substantial/named waterfalls along this one trail than other parks as well. The trail is so long and photographing the waterfalls so plentiful that I usually spend an entire trip just photographing the waterfalls. And there is a whole section of the waterfall trail I have not explored because there aren’t any major falls in it.

Ricketts Glen State Park: Pennsylvania.
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I love zoos. We have had going to zoos as a tradition for us for a long time. I hadn’t been to a zoo in a while until recently. But, zoos were instrumental in shaping my love for animals and in developing and shaping my love and skills in photography.

There can be some controversy surrounding zoos and the lives animals have there. They can be very important things that we should all think hard about. But, I am not going to hash out those arguments here.

I will tell you my feeling about zoos, however. If protecting wildlife and their environment is important to you I believe that zoos play a critical role in making this a reality. People do not see it worthy to protect things that they do not love. People will not love things they do not know about. How do people learn about wildlife they never knew existed and their habitats? The zoo is a big part of this.

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We had planned on going to an arts festival today, but the forecast was for rain all day long. So, we decided to stay home and relax instead.

The decision to stay home ended up allowing me to create my own unique collection of art. I went outside to photogrpah our flowers that we have planted and it started to rain. It rained for a good long time, but it stopped well before dark. So I was able to go outside and photogrpah the same flwoers right before the storms and then photograph them again after the rain had stopped.

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I’m going to give it to you straight. I am not really a cat person. My wife might dispute this and tell you that deep down in the depths of my heart I am definitely a cat person. But I will refute that to the day I die.

So, you may be thinking, if you are not a cat person why are you writing a blog post about cats? I’ll take a minute to explain myself to you.

I don’t hate cats. Really I don’t hate any animals. I actually like cats very much. I just don’t want to live with cats. Growing up my fascination and love of wildlife in large part stemmed from my love of the big cats like lions, tigers, and cheetahs.

I never knew cat shows were a thing until we went to one in 2016.
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