Cloudland Cabin Cam December 31, 7:33am - a beautiful last day of the year - HAPPY 2011!


December 2011 Print Of The Month: PEACE ON EARTH - Boxley Church, Stars, & Moon

~ JOURNAL UPDATED Friday the 30th - GREAT light before dawn

12/01/11 'Tis a wee bit nippy outside this morning, even though the temp is a full 20 degrees warmer than had been forcast for today just a couple of days ago - no need for Mocha to wake me up - just step outside in my underwear to take a picture and I was blasted awake! (actually I had been awake and working since 3:10, but my eyes were getting a little blurry so the cold took care of that)

12/04/11 It is raining with fog and cool temps - in other words, HEAVEN to me! I'm headed out for a short hike around the mountain to give my tire feet and my old dog a little exercise. Later today I plan to visit a waterfall or two and take a few pictures. We've had wonderful folks at our programs the past couple of days - so GREAT to see all of you! We'll be in Ft. Smith on Tuesday, Springfield on Thursday, then Little Rock on Sunday - plus our last open house at the gallery here on Saturday. It is going to be a fun week as always - I hope you get to one of the programs, and also get to spend some time out iun the woods chasing WATERFALLS!

12/04/11 When I got up a couple of hours ago (quite dark outside), there was a flock of geese flying low and circling the cabin, honking as if saying "Get out of bed you lazy head, it is MONDAY, and there is SNOW on the way!" A little while later it began to sleet - I don't know of any other sound that is quite like sleet hitting the ground. And then a half hour later - just as the darkness of night faded and daylight started to creep into the landscape - it started to snow, in fact HEAVY snow. The ground was beginning to look white within about 15 minutes. I LOVE snow, and Mondays - today is going to be a great day in the wilderness!

Lucy and I made a quick trip around the mountain yesterday - Aspen stayed back at the cabin to protect my lovely bride in case of bear attack. The weather seemed warm, although the temp was in the upper 30s. There was no wind, but it was raining pretty good - great big drops of wonderful water, YIPPIE! The forest was saturated from hours of rain, the ground underfoot soft, and there was water standing or running all around. It was an easy and very quiet hike through the woods. We saw about 20 deer in twos and threes - all does that I could tell. They would stop and stand and stare at us as we passed, but we never made it completely by a single deer before they gave up and bolted off into the forest. Lucy seemed intent on keeping her route intact and never bothered to give chase, nor even give them the time of day. Deer are pretty much just part of the landscape out here these days, although I always stop and stare at them myself and always love seeing them.

Most of the forest and meadows were shades of browns or grays with just a hint of green moss on rocks here and there. But once we entered the old Faddis meadow there were brilliant REDS - deciduous holly trees covered with ripe berries! No doubt a flock of birds will discover these treats when other food sources run out, and all that red will disappear in a couple of hours. For some reason these berries are not their first choice, but normally are eaten before the end of winter.

The rain stopped by early afternoon, mostly, and a thick layer of heavy fog settled in on all the ridgetops. We could see waterfalls flowing from our cabin that only flow during really high water, so I figured that I had better get out and take a few pictures. I decided to make a quick run into Jasper and bring back dinner for my lovely bride from the Ozark Cafe, and along the way I could stop at a couple waterfalls and see how they were running.

Triple Falls at Camp Orr was running at full tilt, and looked really nice. But even before I reached the classic shooting location I stopped and spent about an hour down on the creek below the falls. There is just something about seeing all that moving water spread out in front of me, and then as I raise my eyes I can see the big waterfalls thundering. I only saw one group of photographers come and go while I was down on the creek - I bet they got some great images. After spending a few minutes shooting right in front of the waterfall, I headed towards the Ozark Cafe. I had planned to continue on through Jasper and stop and photograph another waterfall on my way home, but the moment I got back into the car with our dinner I realized I had made a big mistake. Have you event spent time in a vehicle when you were hungry, with a package of fresh, hot, and quite aromatic FOOD?



I stopped along Hwy. 7 and hiked down into Fern Falls - this is one of the 74 new waterfalls in the ARKANSAS WATERFALLS GUIDEBOOK update that was just published. Pam was with me a couple of years ago when we first visited this waterfall - that was right after a big snowfall and we actually got to do a bit of frolicking while there. There was lots of water in the drainage yesterday and I knew the falls would be flowing well. The first part of this hike was not too bad, although I had to climb over or under several large down trees (from the big ice storm three years ago). Once I headed steeper down the hill the ice damage got really bad and it took longer to make my way around all the downed trees. I've been to this falls several times since the ice storm so I knew what was coming, but for some reason I always thing it is going to be easier this time, ha!

The falls were running just great, but also the area was socked in with heavy fog. It was kind of spooky being down there back under the bluff overhang with all that fog. Heavy fog produces its own rain sometimes, so things were extra wet and I had to use an umbrella to protect my camera.


At one point while I was waiting for a long exposure to complete, I looked down and noticed there were ferns growing all along the inside wall of the bluff. This waterfall is named for the lush sea of ferns that grow in the springtime around the falls, but those were all gone by now - the little ferns at my feet were a different species - maidenhair ferns, which were the subject of the very first picture of mine that was published by National Geographic back in the early 1980's. These ferns always seem to have a smile on their faces, and it was as if they were looking up and telling me not to worry about the spooky fog - and they did indeed make me smile!

And then after a brisk and steep climb back out to the highway, oh my goodness it was TORTURE getting back into the car - I was soaked to the bone and cold and really hungry - and oh my goodness that food smelled HEAVENLY! But I knew if I wanted to keep my marriage intact I would need to avoid the temptation, and so I did, and arrived back home with all the food untouched - but five minutes later it had been consumed in its entirety.

TUESDAY we will be at the Ft. Smith library at 7pm for our slide program, then we'll be in Springfield on Thursday for two shows at the nature center (5pm and 7pm - there are already over 125 signed up for each show, but there are still plenty of seats left - you just have to call the center to get a spot). Our last open house at the canvas gallery here will be on Saturday. And finally, we'll have a slide show at the Central Arkansas Nature Center in LITTLE ROCK on Sunday the 11th. Sale prices on all books and calendars before and after all shows as always! Hope to see ya there!

Heavy snow continues here, and the ground is solid white now. No wind, and pretty mild temps. I think I'll see if I can get Aspen out of bed so that we can go make some tracks in the snow. HAPPY MONDAY, and I hope you have a grand week! (there should be hundreds of great waterfalls to see all over Arkansas this week)

AFTERNOON UPDATE. We just had a lovely hike around the mountain this afternoon - almost the entire family went (the trail cat decided to stay home, but the Fat Cat was with us about half way, and both dogs led the way the entire time). The snow quit mid-morning but did not melt off as much as I figured it would. It was soft and fluffy and beautiful. Trees were lined with snow and the north sides of some were completely covered - a white forest! We hiked through 4-5 inches of snow in some areas in the woods, about 3 inches in the open meadows. We crossed the paths of many deer, including one that spent a good bit of time during the previous hour digging for acorns in the snow.

The RED holly berries in the Faddis meadow really shone brightly, about half covered with the white stuff. Come to think of it, that was about the only color that we saw the entire trip.

On the way back towards the cabin we followed along the outer edge of a tall bench, and while Aspen's pace picked up a bit, mine slowed to a crawl - the landscape all around me was just so beautiful and peaceful, and actually quite visual as well. I stopped and got to looking around at all the patterns. The trees directly in front of me were wide black forms that stood tall and went far up and out of sight above. Just beyond them the hillside slopped downward at a steep angle - this part was covered with deep snow but with many jagged, gray boulders sticking up through all the white. Down below and beyond the boulders the flat bench leveled out and was quite smooth white with hundreds of thin black lines - trees. The forest was pretty open in this area so we could see out into it a long ways. At the far edge of the lower bench, where the land dropped off and out of sight, that snow-covered contour really stood out in front of a sea of thousands of trees and branches behind it - those were all thin black and white lines. It was a striking visual to me - and of course I did not have a camera! Oh well, some of the best scenes in life are mental photos.

LATE NIGHT UPDATE. I forgot to post this photo taken yesterday of the little covered bridge at the edge of Ponca. It was destroyed by the flood last spring and the land owner is rebuiling it slowly. We've still got lots of snow on the ground here tonight, but it is melting a little bit - I know that because every time I walk over to the gallery or back to the cabin in my house slippers my feet get wet! There is a 3/4 moon above that is shining down through a layer of clouds and lighting up the nighttime landscape pretty wellwith lots of soft moonbeams - it is easy to hike around and see where you are going without a flashlight.


12/07/11 Just a quickie here before the sun appears and I have to run up the hill to get to work. The landscape remains covered in a frozen blanket of white - the snow has melted little and is 3-4 inches deep, but no with a crusty top. The trees are beautiful with black silhouettes and white coatings - even after some hash winds yesterday. I have a feeling some of the north-facing slopes will remain snow-covered for at least several more days after the rest slowly fades away.

We had a TERRIFIC group at our program at the Ft. Smith Library last night, and got to practice our ice-skating skills the last 30 minutes of driving home once we hit Cave Mountain Road - the road was still mostly ice. Not sure what it is about Ft. Smith but we always enjoy giving programs there, and this was our third one of the year. We're headed up to Springfield for two shows tomorrow - 5pm and 7pm. I think there are still a few seats left if you call to reserve. We'll be there all set up with the book sales table by 4:30, and that will continue on through both programs until after 8pm. Saturday is our last holiday open house here at our canvas gallery, with half price prints - with SOME canvas prints going for almost nothing ($50!). And then SUNDAY we'll have a slide program at the Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock - our first time to visit this great facility right next to downtown. We're excited about all of these and hope to see ya there!

Oops, there is some SUNSHINE so I must to point my camera into the wilderness and record scene....

12/14/11 Cold and rainy here early this morning, and the cabin is engulfed with THICK fog with very low visibility. Oops, I guess it is only 3am so I probably should not be able to see very far anyway! Although it IS really foggy - the pea-soup kind. If it were daylight I would love go head out and wander around the mountain, drifting through the fog past the silhouettes of trees that take on new life and character this time of the year in deep fog. The snow has finally disappeared completely from the landscape here, but it hung around for almost a week - the longest I think I've ever seen 5" stick around here, at least in a very long while.

CAUTION: long post ahead, with zero wilderness values!

I relate my following situation not looking for sympathy, but actually to inject a bit of humor into your life today - as I find it quite funny, and so does my lovely bride at times!

Towards the end of my back-to-back programs in Springfield last Thursday evening (GREAT crowds at both programs - THANKS so much all for coming!), I could feel something going wrong, and by the time I had hit the city limits heading home my throat was stinging with sharp pains and I could hardly speak, even to myself. I figured it was just too much talking and my vocal chords had finally worn out. The next day I started to feel miserable all over (spent most of the day in town doing chores), and by the time I got up at 4-something AM on Saturday I knew a bug of some sort had taken hold of me.

I tried to keep myself locked in the back corner of the gallery print room all day during our open house, wearing white gloves to remind myself not to shake anyone's hand (to keep from spreading whatever I had), and to curtail my normal ramblings to all that would listen. (WOW, we had many more folks show up for the open house than we ever imagined - so once again, THANKS to all who came!) By the end of the day I was exhausted and ready to collapse. My lovely bride had collected suggestions from several folks who volunteered special remedies to help with my ailing throat, and so she insisted on preparing this concoction for me before I went to bed. Turns out they were all various forms of a WHISKEY SOUR, and it did indeed taste great! I was unable to consume the amounts that she was told to give me though - I am a light drinker - but I took as much medicine as I could stand.

I was once again up early on Sunday to get prepared for a program in Little Rock - not really knowing if I would be able to speak at all or not. This would be a new location for us and we had no idea what to expect in the way of the facility or how many folks would show up. Turned out the Central Arkansas Nature Center was TERRIFIC, and the house was packed for the show - THANKS to everyone who came to the show! I managed to muddle through the first part of my presentation, but when I got up to begin taking questions after the lights came back on again, my voice was just about GONE. Even though it was a small theater I had to turn up my microphone all the way in order to be heard (I don't like using mics to begin with). I felt terrible about not being able to converse with folks in a normal voice - SORRY!!!

And then it got worse. Just as I signed the last book and things were packed up for the trip home, my voice had disappeared completely - I could not say a word! That was Sunday - this is Wednesday - I've not uttered a single word since - the first time in my entire life I've been totally speechless.

I guess this happened at the best time - three complete days in the schedule for recovery before my next program, and then three programs in a row and then I'm done. We worked most of the day on Monday trying to catch up on orders since things had been so skeptical, and I spent a good bit of time in the print room as well. I got to take a quick hike with the pups around the mountain in the afternoon, and then the rest of the day I spent in bed, not talking, and of course following "doctor's" orders to consume some honey-lemon-whiskey shots as needed.

Tuesday got off on the wrong foot, literally. Pam was leaving early to visit our daughter at college, and so we were up early processing orders and doing other chores before she left. On the way back from the gallery just before sunrise, I stumbled and busted my ankle and went crashing to the ground, tearing a spot or two of skin on the gravel as I bounced. But the pain from the tears and from the busted ankle were minor compared to my arm.

First an update - the left shoulder that I had surgery on a year ago is about 95% recovered - and thanks so much for everyone who has been asking about it. The surgery was about as good as it gets and while I still have some pain at the extremes, it is a giant leap forward from my previous condition.

I guess I'm beginning to fall apart in my old age - first that bad shoulder last year, then this summer one and then both of my knees gave out on me and I was pretty much crippled for a couple of months and am just now getting back to being able to do some hiking with camera gear without too much pain. And then a month or two ago my OTHER shoulder started to give me fits. The surgeon took a look at it and could not find the cause (probably not rotator cuff like my other shoulder), and the first round of treatment failed - the pain continued to get worse. Most of the time my shoulder is fine - actually it is my upper arm - and I am able to lift boxes of books OK. But there are some motions - even tiny ones - that send shots of blinding pain up and down my arm - so much so that it stops me cold and I'm unable to move as I clutch my arm and try to twist it away from the pain somehow. This only lasts a minute or less, and then the pain is mostly gone. I have learned to avoid most of these motions, but it only takes a tiny twitch to send me back into the extreme pain mode.

Anyway, guess what, whatever motion I go through while flying thru the air after tripping is the absolute worst thing I can do for my arm, and when I fell yesterday morning in the front yard I was blinded by some of the worst pain I've ever felt in my life - the kind that robs even your breath.

So there I was on the ground, clutching my right arm and trying to twist it or squeeze it or do something, ANYTHING to help the extreme pain lesson some. I could not stand up because the pain was so intense - I even tried rolling around side to side in order to get a grip on my feet (of course the pain in my busted ankle was also throbbing). I could not even yell out for Pam to come help - I had no voice. And then it hit me - oh my gosh, I HOPE that my lovely bride does not look out the window and see me sprawled out on the ground rolling around like a mad man! (I found that part rather amusing.)

The pain went away and I got up off the ground and finished the orders and got Pam on her way and so I was ready to try and spend the day getting over whatever this was I had. But then I discovered that our water system was not working and we were almost out of water - YIKES! We have a teenage daughter about to land back home for an entire month and we REALLY needed a full tank of water!

After fiddling with stuff for an hour or two I decided that I would have to drive to St. Paul and fill up our big 500 gallon water tank (to transfer into our holding tank that feeds the cabin). But first I had to load it up onto our big haul trailer. You should have seen this one-armed guy trying to load that huge tank onto the trailer - there are NO handles, and I could only use one arm and my body to try and push the monster onto the trailer - add to that my two bad knees, throbbing ankle - and I COULD NOT EVEN SCREAM OUT CUSS WORDS! I was laughing at myself inside the entire time though. In the process of trying to load the beast I discovered that the drain valve was busted and could not be used. OK, just a minor detour - I would have to drive into Harrison and get the parts, and so I headed into town.

It became evident pretty quickly that I was rather handicapped not having a voice. Try cashing a check (to pay for the parts) at a bank when you can't talk! No way to use a drive-thru for dinner either! I thought it would be OK to walk into the grocery store and pick up something from the deli - and I tried, but I was unable to communicate what I wanted to the clerk so I walked out empty! How embarrassing. And then I remembered our favorite Chinese restaurant - their drive-thru speaker does not work and so you get to order face-to-face - they still could not hear me, but I knew they had a daily special that is posted on the window so I knew I could simply point at it to place my order - and it worked, YIPPIE COYOTE! Turns out that Pam was also in Harrison at that time on her way back from Missouri, only I could not call her, and she is unable to receive e-mails from my phone for some reason.

Anyway, I was able to get the parts and made it back home just fine - you don't really need to speak much at Home Depot, but I did manage to find one gentleman in another department that could help (I needed five different parts and could only find four of them myself - the fifth one was in another isle). I was able to point to the contraption that I had assembled in my hands and he could see that I still needed that one valuable missing part.

I SO MISS Pam when she is gone! There a number of phone calls that I needed to make yesterday but could not - like for instance to call the DOCTOR to schedule an appointment. We had other issues going on at the cabin that required phone calls, but I either muddle through them or did without the info. As widespread as the internet is there are still very large segments of society that are not connected, or setup to take full advantage.

Anyway, it has been a real eye-opening experience to walk a mile or two in someone's shoes who can't speak. Sometimes the situations you put yourself into are downright funny, other times are not so much so. Bottom line is that most of the time you just figure out a way to deal with it - just like normal LIFE! Boy I MISSED MY LOVELY BRIDE YESTERDAY!

FYI, I've been unable to answer the phone obviously - e-mail is ALWAYS the best and preferred way to contact us anyway. I know of at least one business that tried to call and leave an order yesterday - they did not leave the order on the answering machine and I don't have their e-mail address. Oh well...

So today I will fix the big tank and make a couple of runs into St. Paul to get water (takes 43 quarters to fill the tank - there is an automated water machine in a field there). And I'll work on another water issue too - our deep-water rehab tub has not worked since we got back from Utah in October, but it was not until yesterday that I had the time to mess with it much and discovered that the water heater has gone bad. So somehow I have to saw through the water pipes and pull the heater out and send it back to Minnesota for repair. I REALLY need the deep-heating therapy right now.

TOMORROW we begin three programs in three days and I have no clue if I'll be able to say a word or not - I'm going to wait until just before the first show to try out my vocal chords to see if they work - and then I'll consume a mixture of hot water and honey during the programs - sans the booze (a tip from a performing musician friend of mine, Jay McDonald). We'll be at brand new locations for us the first two shows - in Dover on Thursday (high school) and Clarksville on Friday (school district fine arts center) - so it is going to take us extra time to scope out the situations and get everything set up. We will be there early with the book sales table ready to fill out your Christmas list - I can STILL WRITE and am happy to personalize all the books you can carry! Then we'll end our holiday program season on Saturday in Springdale. It is going to be an interesting three days...

12/20/11 It was dark with a thick blanket of fog surrounding the cabin, woods, and Aspen and I as we headed out for an early-morning hike today. It rained a good bit during the night and the woods were soaked through and through, and the ground was soft underfoot. The wind was blowing at a pretty good clip - seemed a lot harder since it was blowing the fog right along with it so the forest was in constant motion. There was other movement all around me as well, and it took me a few hundred yards of travel to realize there was a flock of small birds sort of skipping along the ground - ground sparrows for a lack of any other id. They seemed to be out for a little morning exercise just like my faithful hound and I.

We made the loop around the mountain almost non-stop, with the exception of a pause for us to examine a half-grown deer that bounded off. By the time we had reached the half-way point and were headed back to the cabin, all the fog had been blown away, and the landscape around us was muted hues of browns and greens and grays. It was a delightful and refreshing start to the day - and it was especially GREAT to see Aspen out and about! (he does not get out much anymore, but I'm hoping to change that - for me too)

We made it to the end of our slide program marathon on Saturday and got everything cleaned up and packed away for next year. There is always a mental letdown when our programs are over - I absolutely LOVE giving these and getting to meet and speak with everyone - and we met thousands of wonderful folks the past six weeks. But now the high-octane tour is silent, and it is back to business as usual. Funny that so many folks have been saying that now we can REST with all of the programs over - HUH? Rest? Is that a joke? We have three businesses that continue to run 24/7/365 and we are the only employees so there is really ZERO downtime for us. The only difference during program season is that we have to do all that work and still be on the road most of the time. Now with less road travel we will have more time to work on the rest of our business and try to catch up a little bit - at least for a few more days - we're working on three new books in 2012 and will spend a great deal of time on the road - we wouldn't have it any other way!

Just FYI - we process orders hourly here this week and while we can't guarantee what the post office will do with packages once they leave our mailbox, we ship all orders either the same day (if ordered in the morning), or by the next day, either by Priority Mail or by UPS. This includes most print orders. So if you need a last-minute Christmas gift you've still got a day or two to sleep on it!

12/23/11 Cool and clear outside early this morning a couple of hours before sunrise. Crisp, still air is great for your lungs and for your soul!

While on my way over to the gallery yesterday the dogs insisted on hijacking me for a hike, and since Aspen doesn't stray too far from the cabin these days I was eager to take him up on his offer and head into the woods. It was chilly air - a lot like this morning - with a good breeze making it feel cooler, and I was chilly when we first headed out - in fact I had to zip up my light jacket and pull the hood as closed as possible. Actually this is always the way I like to begin a hike in cool weather - with me being slightly chilled at first. I will almost always warm up while hiking, and if I dress warmly to start then it won't be long before I have to stop and remove things. So starting cold is a good idea.

We wandered out through the open forest with no particular place to go or way of getting there - a ramble through the sunny landscape. As I started to warm up I took my hood off to let heat escape. A little while later as I continued to warm up I unzipped my light jacket. The goal when in layer model like this is to maintain your body temp just below the point where you begin to sweat - sweating is not good in the winter! If you cool down too much then just zip up a little bit or add a hood or hat - whatever it takes to maintain a good comfort level.

Other than the dogs and my footsteps, and the muted breezes, there was not much in the way of sound. Lucy was investigating a small bluff overhang when all of a sudden a GIANT squirrel bursts out from under the ledge and came running right at me full blast, with Lucy in hot pursuit! I can count the number of squirrels I've seen out here in the past two years on one hand, so this was quite a surprise - especially coming from under this little bluff! He was a fat guy, and looked more like one of the big red squirrels you find at city parks. Just when the squirrel was about to reach me, he jumped up onto an equally-impressive (very large) red oak tree and ran up the opposite side all the way to the very tip top of the tree. We were perhaps the first dogs/humans this guy had ever seen and so he was not taking any chances. It was a great event for Aspen - he got to "tree" a squirrel for the first time in a very long time, and he spent a few minutes running around the base of the tree calling out with his deep voice.

I investigated the little bluff overhang and found a good supply of stored acorns back in there, but I suspect those were put in by a pack rat rather than the squirrel, but no telling. Either that or the squirrels out here are becoming bluff dwellers!

A little farther along the bench we were hiking on the land levels out into a big flat area - lots of big towering trees and open forest all around. It looked like the entire area had been scoured by deer looking for acorns, and they found plenty of them - at least they left plenty behind - I saw hundreds of acorns all over the place where the deer had pawed the ground up looking for them. I also found several piles of bear scat around - bears don't hibernate here like they do in the far north, and they will often come out and wander around during warm spells, and they might have been feasting on some of the acorns themselves.

It was a delightful ramble, and we returned via a different route an hour or so later. My zip-unzip system worked just great, and I was never too hot nor too cold. The only issue I had was the fact that I was only wearing HOUSE SLIPPERS! Next time Aspen gives me that look I need to make sure I'm wearing proper footwear!

We have decided to open up the gallery for a few hours tomorrow in case anyone happens to be out this direction and needs to pop in and pick up a few last-minute Christmas gifts, or you just want to spend some quiet time browsing though all the large canvas prints in the gallery (we only expect a handful of folks all day so you will probably have the gallery to yourself while you are here). OPEN FROM 10AM - 2PM. It won't be an official "open house" with refreshments, but I will be on hand to sell and sign books and answer any questions. Everything will be on SALE, with canvas prints being 50-75% off, and all books only $20 each, plus the calender only $10. And for those who did not make the last open house, you should come just to see the three new METAL PRINTS we have on display - OH MY GOSH, they are incredible! No other type of print in the world can match the burliness nor luminous quality of these prints - they are in a class of themselves, and they seem to GLOW from within! They also are mounted on a special frame and so they literally float off the wall. Come see them for yourself!

EVENING UPDATE. While doing a lens test tonight I started looking close at the photo of our tree in the cabin and noticed that I had captured a pair of stories along with all the ornaments. First, the note from Santa. Many moons ago there was a single mom trying to make due with very little. I don't know the entire story, but I know the times were hard and pennies were being dug out from under sofa cushions to pay for food and utility bills. Mom was working a full-time job by day, going to night classes at the local college by night, and all the while doing an absolutely terrific job of raising her young daughter. Anyway, one Christmas when there were few pennies to dig out, and the prospects for any presents under the tree were bleak, a "Secret Santa" delivered this note, along with $100. I believe this single act of kindness from a still-unknown person turned night into day, and paved the way for two lifetimes of great memories. To that hero - you have no idea how MUCH this gift has meant! The fact this original note has been kept for so long, and is the most important treasure on the tree, will give you some idea of the meaning. Mom has since delivered a few notes and treats of her own (as a Secret Santa) to other single moms through the years - and spread the true meaning of Christmas farther on down the road. Perhaps there will be few more Secret Santas this year...

Right next to this note is a handmade little bear ornament with scarf and stocking cap (note the tiny maple leaf emblem) that was sent to us from one of the very first Cloudland Journal readers - a young lady from the far north in Canada. For many years she was the only way we knew when to celebrate Aspen's birthday because she would send us a unique birthday card for him. Then one year this ornament arrived - she used fur from her own puppy that she collected from brushing him over a long period of time to create it. We have to hang the ornament high in the tree since Aspen took a liking to it right away and we had to keep it out of his reach!


As everyone gathers around your tree this weekend I wonder what wonderful stories you may have to look at with fond memories?

Oh yes, the lens passed the test with flying colors - and you will be seeing many great images from it in the years to come! (At least I hope so!!!)

12/24/11 Here is a small Christmas gift to you folks who could not make it to one of our slide programs this year - a clip from the ARKANSAS PORTFOLIO III slide show and picture book - this is a five-minute, 37mb quicktime file (click here to watch it), but I think the quality is better than the version I posted on Facebook. This clip features one of the piano solos from our friend Joel Sebag's new Serenity Of The Ozarks CD - available on iTunes. The entire program contained eight musical selections, 160 photos, and ran about 30 minutes in length (too long to post online).

I won't be posting here on Christmas day as we will be offline, but we are wishing each of you the greatest of joy for you and all of yours. Spread the spirit and do something nice for a total stranger this weekend!

12/30/11 I just love the break of day. There is just something about it that soothes and soul and lifts the spirits - everything is new and fresh and is getting off to a brand new start - kind of like a spring day. And oh the COLORS are often the richest and brightest of the entire day, even before the sun arrives. Pinks and oranges and reds and purples, and many shades of blue. And even the blacks of silhouetted trees and other objects against a painted sky are wonderful - everywhere is a kaleidoscope of shapes and color and ever changing - look away for even a few seconds and the scene is a new one (seems like this happens more often in the winter). It can be a difficult time to be a photographer since I often don't know which way to point the camera. In times like this my gut feelings kick in and I just point and compose until what comes into focus in the viewfinder seems just right. But there is also another composition to my left that is great too; and another above, and below, and behind. Standing there in the middle of all this like I was today in my bathrobe and slippers is like a kid in a candy store - there is so MUCH available - you just gotta reach out and grab it!


We woke up early on Christmas morning at a state park in central Missouri (we dropped our daughter off at her dad's place the night before). It was 21 degrees and rather frosty right next to the creek. The air was filled with moisture, and the creek was pumping fog out all over the place, with a slight breeze moving it around. I was in place hiking along the edge of the river well before sunrise, and got to witness the beginning of another new day in grand style. Not only did I get to enjoy the type of visual music that I described above, but it was all multiplied by the reflections in the water. If you ever get the chance, greet the new day standing next to water - you don't even have to DO anything - just be there, and experience the great raw beauty of Momma Nature at her best. If it is 21 degrees though - be sure to take a warm coat!

While I was outside this morning taking pictures at dawn, a wild turkey was roaming the woods not too far away. For years we've had many turkey hunters drool at the location of our cabin, thinking that we can hear turkeys gobble all the time. But we almost never hear a turkey gobble here - even though we can hear all sorts of other critters quite distances away - their sounds seem to be magnified sometimes. But no turkeys. So it was refreshing and odd at the same time to hear the turkey this morning - they don't gobble this time of the year I don't think, but this turkey was making quite a fuss and moving fast. Someone in search of a belated holiday dinner perhaps?

One thing about the break of day that is not good is the fact that the better the color is the shorter it lasts. The pre-dawn sky can light up and dance around for an hour or even longer before sunrise, and then right at the moment the sun breaks the skyline it can light up the surrounding landscape with some incredible light - but that magical light normally only lasts a few seconds, a few minutes, perhaps even five or ten minutes if you are lucky. You can stand there and watch the color the tree hillside or tree trunks or rocks change right before your eyes - from red to yellow to just plain and ordinary. That is my clue that the light show is over, and it is time for me to move on in search of other great light if I can find it. Note that in Alaska or Iceland or other northern areas the angle of light is much lower and so this beautiful light can last a lot longer - the higher the light is generally the less-interesting the light is.

OK, light lesson over for today! 'Tis the weekend almost upon us and I hope you are able to get out and ENJOY! Be sure to sneak around and get up early and see if you can find some of that magical light!

November 2011 Journal

October 2011 Journal

September 2011 Journal

August 2011 Journal

July 2011 Journal

June 2011 Journal