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Cloudland Cabin Cam November 29 - cool, clear and BEAUTIFUL

• HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE tomorrow, November 30th (**we added an online gallery of all canvas prints available - click here)

• Journal updated Tuesday the 26th

• See our SLIDE PROGRAM schedule here


Print Of The Week - Golden light and wild trumpeter swan, Boxley Valley

11/01/13 It is cool, CALM, and crisp outside this morning at dawn. First time in several days that the wind has not been howling. I bet we lost billions of leaves yesterday - or rather they packed up their bags and blew away to a new location.

I spent a couple of hours on top of a tall limestone bluff along the Buffalo River yesterday, at times holding on for dear life as what seems like 30-40mph winds buffeted the bluff, me, and my camera gear. I take that back - a lot of the time my camera gear was packed up and hiding in my camera bag - it was actually too windy for normal picture taking.

But the view and experience up there was magical the entire time. And I had dozens of Cloudland Moments. Most of them centered around the blowing leaves - or in many cases the floating leaves. Since conditions were not too good for photos, I got to just sit back and take it all in - something I rarely get to do when I'm out shooting. And often an individual or group of leaves would catch my attention, and I would watch them for a minute or two. The sun was shining brightly, and all those leaves were like brilliant red or orange or yellow jewels just floating by out there in space. Many of them were going past horizontally, but a number were actually floating UP, up, and away! I found myself lost in their journey, and floating right on along with them. We were about 250 feet up in the air from the river, so I did have to pay a little attention to my surroundings, and make sure I was securely grounded while on my mental journey with the leaves, otherwise I might slip off the edge.

I say "we" because I was on top of this bluff with another photographer, good friend Jay McDonald. He spent most of his time hunkered down inside a little nook in the bluff, shooting away most of the time we were there. Although at one point I looked over and realized that he was either taking a nap, or had died of a heart attack - he was all wrapped up and looked quite comfortable, with his eyes closed and seemed so relaxed. Fortunately he did move a few moments later - to grab his camera and continue shooting!

There were also a few buzzards up high with us, frequently soaring close by and just below our position.

It was a delightful time being up on the bluff with Jay, the spectacular scene, the buzzards, and all those blowing leaves. In fact I spent nearly the entire day yesterday out shooting fall color, which was quite amazing all over the place here. We got rained on and soaked a bit too, but that was part of the fun. The big issue was the wind - lots of it and non-stop all day long.

This little note is for all the photographer wanna-bes out there who think it is so easy to just run out and take great pictures every time - I shot hundreds and hundreds of photos yesterday, in three or four beautiful locations during the peak of fall color with extremely RICH and saturated colors (due to the wet conditions). And after looking at my images last night, I did not find a single "keeper" that I liked. Not one. 'Tis the nature of the beast - sometimes it is the journey and the process of finding and taking pictures that is the greatest joy of my job - not always that I come home with good pictures. (In fact many times I don't get any good pictures at all - I just have to get out and keep trying and trying and trying until something works.)

CLEAR AND BRIGHT for the next few days, with blazing fall color in many places throughout the High Ozarks. We've got so much work to do to get ready for our first program in Greenwood on Sunday that I probably won't get to venture out much - so I'm hoping that YOU will get out and do some leaf-peeping for me this weekend! Thanks in advance for that....

11/03/13 We've had a spectacular fall color season here in the High Ozarks - at times it's been blinding out there and difficult for me to drive around without stopping around every turn. The past couple days of brilliant sunshine have baked a lot of color out of the trees and so we are now past peak in our area.

We had a pair of visitors to the cabin yesterday - the wild Billy goats came walking right down the driveway to the cabin, and then on over to the gallery. If I had left the door open we figured they would have walked right on in and looked at all the canvas prints on the wall. One thing both of us noticed - these guys look a lot smaller up close than they did when we saw them down inside the gazebo in Mom's meadow. They seem fat and healthy and happy.

There were TONS of visitors to Hawksbill Crag yesterday - a record crowd for sure. When I went out to get the mail I counted 80 vehicles parked on the Boxley side of the trailhead - strung along the road for nearly a half mile. No telling how many cars were at the trailhead itself, or along the road on the other side. I've heard reports that many other trailheads in the Ozarks were packed as well - GREAT to have so many people getting out to ENJOY the great outdoors!

We've been spending most of our time gearing up for our program season which begins TODAY with a show tonight in Greenwood - it will be the official world premiere of the new Buffalo River Beauty show. It took strong man Jason Weaver to load up the "bookmobile" full of book cases and program equipment yesterday (THANKS Jason!). Pam's dad, Ron, will be with us for many of our programs to unpack the van. We'll have about a ton of books, calendars and prints with us for each program.

Our cousin, Joseph, will be moving into the basement of the cabin today and will be here for the duration of our program season - it will be great to have him watching over things while we are gone. Each time he moves in we have to remind him about our limited water supply though - no hour-long showers cuz!

I made a trip into the wilderness on Friday afternoon in search of fall color photos for probably the last time this year. It was one of those bright, sunny days full of blue skies but also very harsh light. I wanted to explore the Buffalo River upstream from Boxley Valley, and wound up a mile or more upstream. There were many quiet pools with nice reflections, but also several rocky areas with a little bit of flowing water. The river was lined with a multitude of multi-colored trees of many different species.

I splashed around for a couple of hours going deeper and deeper into the wilderness, but didn't shoot too much because the light was so harsh. As evening approached I made my way back downstream a bit to one of my most favorite shooting locations - it was filled with giant boulders and deep water. As the sun started to set the area came to life with side-lit sunshine, and even a few puffy clouds floated by. The quality of the light changed minute-by-minute, and I found myself shooting a lot of pictures of two different scenes - one looking downstream, and the other looking upstream. Back and forth, back and forth - I had to pick up my tripod and change positions for each location, but fortunately they were only a few feet apart.

As the light changed so did the wind - sometimes totally messing up the reflections. And then a few of those clouds started to gather over on the western horizon. When that happened my light would go completely away, and I was left with a scene that seemed quite drab in comparison to the brilliant side or back lit trees and reflections. Eventually it got to the point when it was mostly cloudy with no light. And then every now and then the sun would pop out and light up the scene once again, and I would go into a mad scramble mode, trying to shoot both directions before another cloud blocked the sun. I could not actually see the sun or the clouds so I could not tell when I would have sunshine or not. This went on for about an hour, and then I finally gave up when the wind seemed to kick up for good, and it remained cloudy for a while. So I packed up and left, hopeful that I'd captured at least one really good image of fall color on the river.

As I was crossing the river to head back to my car, I spotted a deer up on the hillside in front of me. She was looking directly at me, frozen in time just like the rocks. We exchanged glances for a few moments, trying to see who would flinch first. And then she did something that was quite remarkable. She turned and looked away from me, and gazed back upstream to where I had just been - then she looked at me again, and then again upstream. It was as if she wanted me to look upstream, and of course I always try to do what deer want me to, so I did.

SON OF A GUN, The far hillside had flooded with brilliant sunshine, the wind stopped, and before me was one of the most amazing fall color scenes I'd ever seen - and I was getting ready to step into the woods and leave it all behind! I would have never noticed this if not for the deer. Knowing the history of the clouds and wind, I scrambled to get my tripod and camera set up before it all went away, holding my breath the entire time - "please, PLEASE stay just like THIS for a few more minutes!"

I got a single picture taken and then the sun disappeared. I looked over at the deer - who had moved a few feet back into the woods - and she was still looking at the scene, so I figured I should stick around a little while longer too, and so I did. During the next ten minutes sunshine swept across the far hillside three or four more times, lighting up the trees and also the reflection of them in the water. Since the sun was moving so fast, each image I shot was unique. These are the types of moments that I live for in my career, and while the perfect situation was fleeting, I felt like I'd captured the essence of the spectacular fall color season we'd just been through. I was able to breath once again, and I looked over at the deer and we both smiled. Then with a single flip of her white tail, she turned and disappeared into the forest - THANKS young lady, for your encouragement and direction!

It wasn't until I got back home later and looked at those last few pictures I had taken that I realized how magical the light was on not only the backlit hillside of trees, but also on the boulders in the river - those were all in shadow, but somehow they have a glow and feeling to them that is just wonderful (get discounted prints of this one for the next couple of days here). After a long month of seeking out beautiful scenes for my workshop students to photograph, and then having just a couple of days to do so for myself, I ended this great color season being a happy camper - YIPPIE COYOTE!!!




11/05/13 Cold, rainy, strong winds, and lots of fog early this morning - I LOVE these kind of days! We still have a good amount of color in the forest as well, which is much richer due to the increased moisture. Some of that color came floating to the ground yesterday and I hiked slowly through a maple forest nearby - "leaffall" was in full swing, and it was beautiful. I got a rare chance to stop and stare and soak it all in for a few minutes. I was in a fairyland.

And then a GIANT bird came screaming through the scene - it was a barred owl, with a wingspan of what seemed like six feet. I was a little concerned about Lucy next to me - that big old owl could have easily flown off with her in tow. But the owl was after smaller critters - or perhaps he just came by to say hello. He flew through the scene and landed on a limb right at the edge of my sight. It was one of the more remarkable scenes I've ever been part of in the wilderness - just imagine a majestic bird like that flying through those thousands of colorful leaves that were floating to the ground.

We had a great program in Greenwood the other night - wonderful facilities and people and FOOD! It turned out to be a very long day though - in fact I worked 24 hours straight. I had gotten up at 3:30 Sunday morning, worked for a bit at the computer, but when I looked up and saw it was only 3:15, I realized that I had actually been up since 2:30 (time change). While on our way back from the program the cell phone rang about 11pm. Pam's parents had been to Greenwood with us helping with the program, and hit a big deer head-on - it nearly totaled their car, and left them stranded in the middle of the night. We were able to detour over to where they were, picked them up and got them home safely. It was about 2:30 by the time we got back to the cabin - so a full 24 hour work day for me!

Our next program is in Hot Springs Village this coming Friday at 10am. This program is FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Just tell the guards at the gate that you are coming to my program and they will let you in.

We'll be scrambling all this week trying to select and process canvas prints for our first open house on November 16th. Next week we have programs in Shreveport, LA and in Conway - then we have FOUR programs the following week!

Overall color in the landscape around here is greatly diminished, although I hear there are some good things happening down in the Ouachitas - and maybe even a waterfall or two if the rain predictions come true - however it takes a LOT of rainfall to get things flowing at this time of year.

Our online gallery web page continues to be offline. I'm scrambling trying to find some other software that we can use to rebuild this gallery site with from scratch that we have full control over. The problem is that the guy we hired to build the site originally years ago abandoned us and no longer supports his own web pages, and I'm only able to do a few simple changes myself other than uploading new images. I hate being handicapped like that and forced to depend on someone else for things to keep working. We have another IT guy trying to get the site back up and running, and we're hopeful some form of the site will be back online soon. In the meantime, we can always get print orders done the old fashioned way - send us an e-mail with any questions, and we'll get prints made for ya.

11/09/13 Cool and windy this morning, with heavy clouds roaming around. I think we'll have a blast of winter temps next week, which will probably send the last of the fall color to the ground. Right now we still have some nice color hanging around in places - especially around the greater Jasper-Mt. Sherman metroplex - some stunning color! Much of the rest of the forest in our immediate area has dulled down quite a bit and bare trees are beginning to show up. FYI, I LOVE bare trees in the winter - they have a great deal of personality!

We left the cabin at 5am yesterday for our program in Hot Springs Village. I had to put on my horse blinders and concentrate on the road as we drove through the Arkansas River Valley south of Dardanelle - there was a thick layer of fog and the sun beaming through it all around, and then as we slipping down into the Ouachitas there was more fog, sun beams, and beautiful trees! I needed to stop about every mile and take pictures, but I could not as we had a room full of people waiting on us. VERY frustrating to drive right on pass wonderful picture opportunities, but 'tis the nature of the beast. I continue to laugh every time someone says something about how wonderful it is to be "paid" to just to out and take pictures. I don't get paid a cent for taking pictures - only when we sell a print or a book. And about 95% of the nature photography business is the BUSINESS end of it - there are only a few rare hours each year that I actually get to go out and take pictures, so I have to make those count.

We had a great crowd at the Village and I hope everyone enjoyed the show. I was great to see so many faces we knew, but also a lot of new faces. Our next program is at Centenary College in Shreveport, LA, on Tuesday the 12th. We just found out yesterday afternoon that they had to change the location of this program - it will be in the Kilpatrick Auditorium in the Smith Building on campus. We'll be there all set up and selling our publications and prints ON SALE at 6pm - the program starts at 6:30pm, and like all of our programs - they are FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. We'll need a lot of warm bodies to fill this room, so if you know someone who lives in the area and might enjoy seeing the great beauty of the Buffalo River, be sure to let them know about this program. It is sponsored by the Ozark Society.

Soon after we arrived back home last evening (a 13-hour road trip), we got a call that two hikers were lost in the area - it was after dark, so not a good situation. While the search and rescue guys got geared up and headed this way, I drove the road between their car at the trailhead and our cabin, honking the horn in case they were lost near the road - to let them know there was a road just uphill from where they might be. Then I got out and searched around the edge of our property - which was the direction they seemed to be headed for (they had cell service for a short while and called 911). The search folks probably did not want or need me out in the dark woods looking for the lost hikers, but it is tough to just stand by and do nothing when you know someone is out there in the cold, dark woods like that. My lovely bride also spent the entire time calling out and looking for them near our cabin. You just never know. I am HAPPY to report, that the search and rescue folks were able to establish cell phone contact with the lost hikers, and Glenn Wheeler was able to talk them out of the woods and up to the road where they were able to make it back to their car - way to go Glenn! Moral of this story - seems like cell service is getting better and better all the time, and while you should not COUNT on being able to call for help, I think it is good now to take a FULLY-CHARGED cell phone with you when hiking, even if for what may seem like a short day hike. Also be sure that EACH PERSON IN YOUR GROUP carries a WHISTLE, matches and a bic-style lighter, and of course a flashlight with spare batteries - all of this at an absolute minimum. Many thanks, as always, to no telling how many search and rescue folks answered the call last night, and to law enforcement and park or forest service folks too - the search and rescue community in Arkansas is the BEST in the country!

My lovely bride is becoming a pastel artist, and today she will deliver her second painting to be hung in a public show (Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale). I will be mounting and framing her new piece this morning. It is a pastel of the old Whitely swimming hole on the Buffalo River, a scene that she photographed just after sunrise a year ago last fall. I LOVE the water in this painting! Then I'll get onto my own chores of building frames for my canvas prints, making more canvas prints, and beginning the long process of stretching my canvas prints - all for our first Holiday Open House here that is just ONE week away on November 16th! I also have to make more canvas prints today, spray them tomorrow, then stretch them later next week. Our gallery is kind of taken apart right now as Pam's dad adds a new coat of paint to the walls. So later this week we'll be putting the entire gallery back together for the open house. Just a note that ALL canvas prints will be on sale for HALF PRICE!!!

OK, time to get back to work. With some nice color still hanging around the Ozarks, I hope you get the chance to roam around a bit and enjoy the color - should be a nice weekend. Just a reminder - it is the opening weekend of the gun deer season, and while hikers are not in season and most of the normal hiking trails are open to hikers, if you are outside of a state park (where hunting is not allowed), it might be a good idea to wear something bright - yellow or orange. And don't look or act too much like a deer!

11/11/13 THANKS VETS!!! While I think every day should be Veterans Day, it is nice to have the entire country stop on this special day and recognize the sacrifice that our heroes and their families make - without you, we would not be free...

We had a bit of high drama at the cabin this morning - which included a fight, hostages, and more than the normal amount of hanky-panky. Fortunately Lucy came to the rescue! As I headed back over to the gallery early this morning to continue making canvas prints for the upcoming open house (on Saturday, hint, hint), I noticed something odd in the woods just a few feet away - there was a five-point buck just standing there looking at me. I had to do a double-take to make sure he was not made out of cardboard, and sure enough, he flicked his tail and winked at me, but didn't seem to mind my hiking by one bit. He did keep careful eye on me until I entered the gallery building.

When I came out to go get something from the cabin and hour later, the buck was still right there at the edge of the woods next to the driveway - and with the glow of the first rays of sunshine hitting him in the face. It was a great photo opportunity, although I didn't have a single camera to grab. Nor did I want to disturb him by walking by - so I stayed put at the gallery. More time passed, and the buck milled around a bit, but would not leave. He seemed to be very interested in something over the hill, but I could not see what. I called my lovely bride and had her watch the buck a while. Then I felt a little silly - why should I let the little buck keep me from going about my business? So I decided to go back to the cabin - and I stopped when I got about 30 feet from him. He just stood there and looked back at me.

This went on for a while, and I went back and forth several times. Then Pam figured out what he was so interested in - two does stepped out from behind the carport and started walked right out into the middle of the driveway in front of the cabin - the little buck got a lot more interested then! But just as he started to make friends with the does, another gentleman appeared - it was a GIANT buck! And then the fun began.

For the next long while both my lovely bride and I stood in the kitchen and watched through the window as the two boys jousted for the right to court the ladies. It was fun to watch, but after all the action ended, something odd happened - the big buck turned and ran off, leaving the smaller buck to have his way with both does.

We continued to watch the romancing until Lucy decided she was tired of the deer getting all the attention - she ran out the back door and chased all three deer far off into the woods! When Aspen was around, the two of them would take off after a squirrel or two, and even a deer now and then, but Lucy has not been the least bit interested in other critters since we lost Aspen. But I guess all ladies have the breaking point. She came prancing back to the cabin with her head held high and a smile on her face!

I've mostly been making prints these past few days for the open house - printing, spraying, building frames, and stretching. Pam and her dad and Amber have all been putting in long hours too working on the gallery and support materials. I hope when it all comes together and we open the doors Saturday morning, that folks who make the long and dusty trip out will find it was worth your while.

In the mean time, we're off to do a program in Shreveport, LA tomorrow, then back home again for a program at the library in Conway this Thursday. Friday will be one of those marathon days trying to tie everything together. for the open house on Saturday. Hope you can make it to one of the programs or to an open house!

And to the vets and their families - THANKS again...............

11/14/13 Quick update early this morning before we are on the road again - SLIDE PROGRAM IN CONWAY TONIGHT, 7pm, at the public library. My lovely bride will be all set up with all of our publications ON SALE beginning about 6pm (hint - it is much better to get there early to buy all of your Christmas gifts than wait until after the show ends - bring a LIST for me to autograph!). Pam's mom and dad will be with us as well - her mom, Judy, will have two bins filled to capacity with a fine selection of our famous Black Mat Prints (only $50 each at the program!). I've made up extra prints for this program - more than we've ever shown before - but only one of each, so HURRY for the best selection!

We had a very long but wonderful trip into Cajun country Tuesday and Wednesday to give a program to the Ozark Society in Shreveport. Always great to see our friends down south across the border. It was a seven-hour drive to get there, plus about five and a half hours to unpack, setup, give the program, and get everything packed up again (THANKS for the guys from Ozark Society who helped get everything loaded up again!). We drove a couple of hours headed home, then spend the night in the luxury suite at one of the rest areas along I-30 - thank GOODNESS for our bookmobile van, which kept the freezing temps at bay! (Lucy was all snuggled in between us during the night as well, so she helped a bit - or was she keeping warm because of US?)

We've got a ton of chores to do today before we head out at noon for our program in Conway tonight - we won't get back home after the show until midnight, unpacked by 1 or 2am. Friday will be a long one as we prepare for the first open house of the season on Saturday - we've not been able to do much advertising for this one, so don't expect many folks to be here - which means it will be a great time for folks to make the trip up and see the gallery without a crowd of folks around you! We'll open the doors at 10am, and will be here until 4pm. On Monday we begin a marathon of six programs in eight days - really? Who sets up this schedule!!! We ABSOLUTELY LOVE doing these programs - that hour and a half of pure energy and excitement is great! Hope you enjoy them too.

Cold and clear early this morning with a brisk wind - I suspect wild critters were bundled up tight during the night, but brilliant sunshine and a little warmer temps today will spread smiles across the landscape. I'm not sure we had much of an official "leaffall" this year - mostly the leaves have been dying and falling off a few at a time, or been blown across the way and through the forest. There are piles of leaves all over - just the kind that is great for sitting down in and then rolling around all over - 'tis a great way to connect with old Momma Earth!

Hope to see folks in Conway tonight, or here on Saturday, or at any of many places next week..

11/18/13 When I stepped out of the cabin early yesterday morning at first light I was nearly blown over - literally! The wind was howling in the 40+mph range (according to our weather station on the roof), with gusts even higher. I had to fight to stay upright. It had been blowing like this for a while, and the road and forest floor were littered with limbs that had been torn off during the night. I saw a few squirrels scampering around as I did a three-mile hike out to get the mail and take down our gallery directional signs, and even the squirrels were sticking pretty close to the ground. I bet more than one of them had been transformed into flying squirrels when trying to hop from limb to limb!

With the temp 73 degrees I was wearing SHORTS, and it felt really great! But 73 degrees in mid-November? Must be Arkansas.

This was the first time I'd been out in the woods since the lost hikers a couple of weeks ago, and it felt good to put the hammer down and hike as fast as I could. This time of the year with our hectic schedule is terrible on my body - I may work 20 hours a day for weeks on end, but I don't get any real exercise in all that time. And it shows on my body as muscle turns to fat, and I just feel bad most of the time as a result. So I'm going to try and force myself to get up and out and do some fitness hiking as many days as I can - of course, all the delicious homemade cookies that Pam's mom brings to our open house the day before did not help any!

Speaking of that, the open house we had on Saturday was a great day, and we had a steady flow of folks from the time we opened until almost closing time - but never had really big slugs of people at the same time that sometimes clogs up the gallery. But I was perhaps more unprepared for this event than any other in the past - I just had so much left to do when I arrived at 3:30am, with not nearly enough time to do it all. By the time daylight started to creep into the landscape, I had made four large frames, stretched all of those prints (three of them were 3 x 5 feet), made up about 50 title cards, installed overhead track lights in our "deck room" in the back of the gallery, and TRIED to get those track lights wired and ready for use. My electrician skills failed me though, and I never did get power working to the lights, so I had to keep that back room closed up during the open house.

By closing time that afternoon I had been on my feet from 3:30 in the morning until 4pm, and never got time to eat anything - other than a handful of granny's cookies - those were GREAT! I was an exhausted mess by then, and about that point I realized that I needed to get out and EXERCISE every day no matter what. And then the wind started to blow.

We had a great crowd for our Conway show last Thursday - a smaller group than normal, but they filled most of the seats and didn't throw any rotten fruit. We got to visit with old friends and meet new ones, and I got to speak "photography language" with several of them. It was midnight when we turned onto Cave Mountain Road for the final leg of our trip home. They had just graded the road, and it had just rained, but the road looked in good shape. A short while later our 10,000 pound bookmobile went sliding out of control as we headed down a hill, and I nearly lost it as we fishtailed back and forth. I managed to get it stopped before we crashed into any trees. The road seemed fine, but what the heck had happened?

The same thing happened just a little while later, only this time we were on level ground - the read end just started to go its own way. When I got out and looked I realized what was happening. CLAY. There were a few spots of clay on the road, which got stirred up by the grader and wetted just enough to become sticky. All six tires were nothing but clay balls, and not only was the tread on all of them filled in with clay, but there was about a full inch of clay blanket on top of each tire, all the way around. We had tried to call the caretaker that is staying at the cabin to come help (I've got one bad arm at the moment), but did not have cell service. It took me nearly an hour to scrape off all that clay down to bare rubber (using my one good arm and a long-handle ice scraper I had). Then I put on a set of tire chains that I just happened to have thrown in the week before, and we were able to creep on home and made it back to the cabin just before 2am. We've never been SO HAPPY to see the cabin before, ha, ha!

The alarm went off at 6am and I worked in the gallery as long as I could stand up trying to get it ready for the open house, but finally gave up sometime around 9 Friday night. 'Tis true that my old age is getting the best of me and I can't do so many marathon days as I used to be able to, but I also think me being a tad fat and out of shape contributes! I will say that I rebounded well after the long day Saturday, and I put in about 14 hours in the gallery Sunday, then sat on my fanny and watched TV for a couple hours last night.

This week we will have our most aggressive program marathon ever - six programs in eight days - YIKES!!! But at least we will have Pam's parents helping out with most of the programs, and they really take a lot of the heat off us. We also worry less about being gone so much with our caretaker living here and watching over the cabin and property.

For now, I can begin to see dawn breaking in the wilderness around the cabin, so it is time to strap on my boots and hit the trail to try and walk off some of granny's cookies!

MORNING UPDATE. Lucy and I just got back from a brisk hour hike through the woodlands and meadows. The giant full moon was setting in front of us just as the sun was rising behind us. It was very peaceful, quiet, and calm - NO WIND! The frost in the meadows was reaching the melting point and was changing from frosty white to clear and wet. There were a few critters out enjoying the brilliant sunshine that lit up the landscape. A wonderful way to begin a new week - I hope you have a great one!

11/21/13 There was a freight train running wild through the wilderness landscape around here yesterday - high winds were winding and twisting through the trees, tossing them all over the place like a bunch of hula dancers. And there was a lot of noise. Lucy and I were on a fitness hike trying to burn off a few calories, and sometimes were had to burn extra ones just to make an uphill push against the powerful winds. Of course, I bet we got pushed along by those same winds a time or two, taking a ride through the beautiful forest without hardly a calorie spent!

Lucy as decided that she likes french fries. Especially those from Arbys and McDonalds. Her entire life she has been little than skin and bones, even though she has always had all the food she could eat here all the time, but she does like to keep her girly figure. A couple of nights ago as we were coming home from the program at Dardanelle, we stopped at a McDonalds to get her a little bag of fries (McDonalds won't allow vans like our to go through their drive-thru windows - 'tis a shame). As I went into the front door my lovely bride noticed several police cars arrive, then officers fan out and surround the building - one at each door all the way around. While I was placing my order for Lucy's french fries (and an iced mocha for myself), a police officer came in and stood next to me, then kindly asked to see the manager. He then asked the manager if he could speak with a particular employee, which just happened to be the one that was taking my order at the register. The officer then stepped behind the counter, and asked my order-taker to come with him. It was all done quietly and swiftly, and then it was all over. When the young lady got outside they cuffed her and took her to a patrol car. I don't know what she had done, but I do know that it took a while to get Lucy's french fries!

OK, back to the wilderness. While waiting for a batch of canvas prints to dry after I had sprayed them with a coat of clear varnish, I headed off into the woods for a short power hike, up the hill as fast as I could go. It was sunny, with a light breeze, but a little chilly, and I had to maintain a quick pace to stay warm. I came upon three oval impressions in the deep leaves - deer beds. I had seen a couple of white tails a few moments before, and while I hated to have disturbed the ladies, it is always kind of neat to find their beds in the forest. I put my hand down in the middle of one bed and found it to still be warm - yup, it was a fresh bed from one of the deer I had just seen. So I did the natural thing - I laid down and curled up in the little deer bed. I felt a deep connection with the earth somehow at that moment, and looked around to see the scene that the deer had been seeing. She had a good view of the landscape all around, looking down on two or three benches below - so she could see other critters approaching - like myself.

Remember the bobcat trees we had over next to the gallery several months ago, the ones that made a "meow" sound whenever the wind blew and rubbed them together? Those trees quit meowing several months ago, but a pair of goosed moved in nearby. The new trees make a sound that I swear is just like a goose honking - the pitch and volume will change with the strength of the wind, but it is a goose! I have not had the time to locate which trees are the goose trees, but they are somewhere next to the little parking area in front of the gallery building. I must confess that the first time I head them I was a little startled. It was very late at night and I had just shut down the print room and was starting to hike back to the cabin. It was pitch dark, no light anywhere, and I was inching my way along the path, feeling the way forward with my feet, hoping not to run smack into a tree. And then the goose started to honk - if it had been light enough you would have seen me JUMP! Took me a few seconds - and a few goose honks - to figure out exactly what the heck the noise was. The sound still startles me a little bit at night, but then a smile - I get the music of geese without all the goose poop!

Speaking of running into things. Just before I went on stage to begin a program the other night, my lovely bride came running up to me with a Hello Kitty band-aid (my favorite). I had banged my head into a corner cabinet in our bookmobile van while unloading some stuff for the show, and I guess there was blood pooled up on top of my head and getting ready to stream down my face - probably not a good impression to start off a program with. So my bride patched me up and I don't think anyone knew there was a kitty-cat band-aid under my hat!

The winds are light early this morning, with a few raindrops during the night. It is a little on the chilly side, but after being nearly 80 degrees the other day, the cool temps feel pretty good. We're off for a program in N. Little Rock tonight - it is in a large church and there are plenty of seats if you happen to know anyone in the area who wants to attend. Springdale on Saturday at the Shiloh museum. Then Sunday at the Fayetteville library - we really need a LOT of folks to come out for that one - although I would recommend that you arrive early to buy books or prints - we'll be short-staffed and it might be a crowd right after the program ends. That is often the case anyway - always best to arrive early to buy stuff. And we'll finish our little mini marathon at the library in Benton Monday the 25th. (With all of this time on the road, Lucy will be getting a lot of french fries!) Hope everyone will be able to make one of these programs - and I hope my head doesn't require any more Hello Kitty band-aids!

11/26/13 We awoke to a frozen landscape yesterday morning, with more freezing rain coming down. The ice was not very thick, but it sure was SLICK! I was unable to walk on the driveway as I went back and forth to the gallery a dozen times since it was so slick - I had to always step on frozen leaves to keep from falling on my fanny. The road and forest remained frozen until early afternoon, although nothing much ever built up in the trees, so there was no ice damage.

Early on we were having discussions with the library folks in Benton about our slide program there, and it was decided the winter weather advisory for that area was enough to postpone the program, which was schedule for yesterday evening at the library. I think this is the very first time in more than 1500 programs that it has been postponed. While I hope everyone got the word and no one made a wasted trip to the library, I think it was the right choice to postpone it - the weather was supposed to have been rather nasty at program time, and I know a lot of folks would have not attended, or would have not had a fun time if they did! So the Benton show is now scheduled for December 9th (also a Monday).

It remained misty and foggy here all day, and we worked into the night just playing catch-up. Some folks think we get to "rest" on days we don't have programs, but quite the opposite - Pam still has to keep our business running, and make up for lost time! And I spent most of my day working over in the gallery for our upcoming Holiday Open House this Saturday. At least we got to get to bed before midnight, so that helped our bodies recycle from the marathon we are in the middle of - YIPPIE!

No ice this morning as the temp hovers just above freezing. We'll have to throw another log on the fire tonight though with temps down into the teens. The is calm and remains moist outside, and it actually feels pretty good out there - I love cool, moist air, especially when indoors is often so warm and dry (I know, I'm kind of odd preferring damp and cool instead of warm and dry, but you probably already knew I was not normal!).

Lucy had a great day this past Sunday - she got to spend it at granny's house during a Thanksgiving feast. And from the reports I got, she spent every single moment not only eating ham, turkey, and yeast rolls, but also being loved up by lots and lots of people - she returned home not only fat and happy, but kind of spoiled too. I did not attend since I had a program in Fayetteville that day, but I did get a plate of turkey from grandma's - YIPPIE! We had a terrific crowd at the library for the program, with Jay and Judy McDonald, and Carolyn Crook helping with the sales tables and loading/unloading/setting up/taking down stuff - THANKS everyone who attended!

So our next big event is the open house this coming Saturday. There will be lots of granny's homemade cookies, hot cider, and coffee on hand, plus more than 60 canvas prints that will be on sale for HALF PRICE!!! We will also have all of our books, calendars, and Black Mat Prints ON SALE at program prices. If you are in the neighborwoods hiking off your turkey dinner, be sure to stop by and linger a while - directions are on here...

25 PRINTS OF CHRISTMAS. We will once again be offering our special 24" x 36" print promotion from December 1-25th. There will be a different image available for one day only at a very special price. Once the day is over, a new print will be added - 25 of them in all. I'll post the link in the December Journal - get ready, it will be fun!

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