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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - August 2016, Part B (part A is here)

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sunsetpano

Cloudland West Coloado Campsite Cam, August 28 - evening thunderheads

Journal updated on the 28th

**Two NEW** Fall color photo workshops page HERE

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08/15/16 When we arrived home at Cloudland Saturday night after a 16-hour drive across New Mexico and Oklahoma, the forest was screaming at us! It was cool and breezy and felt wonderful. But the trees were filled with cicadas, crickets, tree frogs, and assorted birds all singing at the top of their lungs. It was a wall of sound! So WONDERFUL to be back home at Cloudland once again!

We awoke Sunday morning to gentle rainfall - had all the windows and doors open. The rush from the Buffalo River far below rose up through the forest like waves on the beach. I'm afraid that I overslept until at least 6am, then sat on the back deck sipping some java with my feet propped up on the back deck. Clouds swirled all around and blew through the trees, giving glimpses into the wilderness spread out before me. Then I took the puppies on a hike - not quite the same altitude gain as in previous weeks, but they got to run full steam ahead through the meadows and visit old friends.

Gentle rainfall continued all day Sunday and today - not always actual rain, sometimes just dripping out of the trees much of the time. More baby clouds were born below, spent time playing with each other, then rose up and moved onto new landscapes to explore. Temps remained in the 70's and even down into the 60's - so cool, damp and LUSH all over.

While on a hike this evening we found the forest floor covered with fresh mushrooms - little ones, bit ones, short ones, tall ones, white ones, RED ones, mushroom of all shapes and sizes. I think they kind of like Arkansas in August - is that possible? We usually have a ton of them in early July, but usually not in August.

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And the first sumac bushes have begun to be kissed with fall color. If you look close, late August and early September are great months to find the first waves of color in the underbrush (sumac, young black gum trees, and other bushes), and ground cover (like Virginia creeper and poison ivy - yup, a forest floor covered with red and orange poison ivy can be quite beautiful!). And some fruits are beginning to ripen - I saw some unknown BLUE berries on one busy, RED berries on another.

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Overall, the Ozark landscape is quite healthy and lush right now, and the cool temps make wandering through the forest quite a delight. Waterfalls and creeks are running with emerald pools.

While outside late Sunday night I heard noises - not critter noises, but sounded more like a tree groaning. Soon it began to crack, and then a loud CRASH echoed throughout the wilderness! It wasn't until this morning that I discovered a giant red oak had finally given up. It was home to many squirrels over the years, with an entrance to their home facing towards the cabin. I've heard this grand old beauty singing louder than high winds many times. The lower part had become hollowed out and the weight of the solid limbs above finally twisted it too much and it toppled over. The tree might have been trying to tell us something - it waited until we were back home, then came crashing down across the driveway - we could not get out! It took some work with our little chain saw to open up a narrow path - my goodness the wood was solid and heavy! Later in the day I noticed the wood glowed red a little bit - I wonder if that is why these are called red oaks?

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Our new gallery/warehouse building near Jasper has begun to rise, with all four walls up now and the trusses and roof to follow soon. It won't be anything fancy - just four walls: one section within will have art; one section will be my printing and processing room, plus a space for workshops; a third area will be book storage. We're not sure yet if our fall workshops and holiday open houses will be in the new building or at Cloudland this year - all depends on progress of the building.

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NEW ARKANSAS PUBLICATIONS UPDATE. Our three new publications have been printed, YIPPIE! We'll see printed copies of both 2017 Arkansas calendars (wall and weekly)and the new Arkansas picture book next week. Once we give final approval, they will pack everything up and begin shipment to us. We expect to take delivery sometime in early-to-mid October. Our first slide program from the new book will be in Hot Springs Village on November 11th, but we'll begin shipping calendars and books as soon as they arrive in October. I'll keep ya posted...

SWAN UPDATE. It appears the last swan in Boxley has a new neck band - much shorter than before, with shiny numbers. (Or maybe the old one tore off part way?)

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08/17/16 Pam has completed her third quilt - one with a beach theme, complete with dolphins, sea turtles, whales, starfish, and lots and lots of sand dollars! It was delivered to our good friends, Ray and Susan, in Little Rock yesterday. I hope that I get on her "good little boy" list and in line for one of her quilts some day!

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It is quite lovely outside tonight - the air is cool and sweet - about as wonderful as you could ever ask for. All the night bugs and critters are singing aloud. And there is a hushed roar from the Buffalo River far below, still running down there in the darkness.

The chainsaw worked a bit of overtime this afternoon and the big tree is now cleared from the driveway - the squrrel home remains intact!

I didn't get a chance to shoot a photo this morning for the deck cam as it was still dark when I left to head over and have a look at construction progress. The same will be true tomorrow - the puppies have an early appointment for a haircut in town and I may not be able to get a photo posted. But I will when I get the chance. Aren't these the dog days of summer? They are mostly "burrrr days" for our pups - five minutes back in Arkansas and they were covered with BURS! We've managed to untangle and remove most of them, but it will be much easier after getting them shaved tomorrow. Oops, I hope they are not reading this - if so, I might have trouble getting them into the van...

Trusses are now on the new warehouse building -

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08/21/16 My lovely bride drug me away from the computer early this morning to go on a hike with the puppies. Fog had already engulfed the cabin and it was cool and damp. Actually the air was very sweet - is it really AUGUST? We walked and talked and had a roving business meeting. Not sure why, but we frequently discuss business while we're out hiking - 'tis the nature of the beast when the job is on your mind 24/7/365. In fact, we make a lot of decisions this way - somehow the air and exercise help to clear minds and often makes the process easier.

We hiked out of the fog and into brilliant sunshine, turned around, then as we got back towards the cabin the air began to fill with fog again. Fog and sunshine. And then we walked right into one of the greatest cathedrals you'd ever want to visit - the forest all around us was filled with SPECTACULAR God Beams! I kicked into photo mode and began to take pictures - the scene changed with each press of the camera's shutter (each of these beams was moving around, so the entire scene was quite fluid).

The beams multiplied and grew more intense - it was one of those times as a photographer where you don't really know where to point the camera or how to compose because EVERYTHING is so beautiful! I tend to forget/ignore any "rules" of the game and slip into auto mode - or rather into a shooting mode where I AM the camera, not just the operator - the lens becomes my eyes, and I zoom and focus and crop and press the shutter to try and capture what is registered on my brain. For a few moments there was no place else on earth, just my bride and puppies and the wilderness filled with God Beams (see them all in the photo below). And then just like that the fog evaporated and the forest was left behind. A Cloudland Moment has passed, but I believe had been enjoyed to its fullest by us all. (As often happens - sunshine, thunder, or rain - we paused for a moment to embrace and note how much it means that we have each other to share such moments with - I remain the luckiest guy in the world...)

I hope you and yours are able to get out and enjoy your own moments like this sometime this week, next month, and for years to come. The wilderness is there for us to experience and appreciate - those go hand-in-hand.

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08/26/16 Couple of days ago it was downright chilly in the morning - light-jacket weather for the end of August in Arkansas! Yesterday it was 96 degrees in Jasper. I spent one very long day inside the new book warehouse and gallery building working on getting it ready for foam insulation. They got all the walls and rafters up, outside covered with plywood all around, and finally wrapped with waterproof paper top and sides. Most of the electrical wiring is done. It's beginning to LOOK like a building now both inside and out. Was good to be there for a full day and on into the night - a first for me. Everything feels right there. There is still a ton of work to be done before we can turn the lights on, but we are making progress. We do plan to have an open house at the gallery there sometime in November. Oh my aching back just to think about that...

Looks like a record year for hickory nuts up here on Cave Mountain - not only in size - I swear some trees here are producing nuts the size of my fist! But other trees are also dropping hundreds and probably thousands of hickory nuts already - of all sizes, from giant to small. Seems to me that the outside of the nuts themselves are nearly white.

I remember one warm afternoon many moons ago hiding behind a tree in the Faddis meadow watching a young black bear. I was stunned at what I saw and heard. He was grazing in the meadow beneath the big hickory trees there - munching on hickory nuts! And he made a lot of noise. You've probably busted a hickory nut with a hammer - the edges are VERY sharp all around, and I stood there wondering what must be going on inside his belly. Turns out a bear's diet is mostly vegetarian - a lot of grass and nuts - with a few million ants and grubs thrown in now and then. We've not had any bear activity here in a while - oops, I should not say that. I wonder who "Jinks" was and how he came to get such a thing named after him?

I took pictures early the other morning of a sea of clouds covering the canyon below. The sky was bright BLUE, and full of stars - the moon was lighting up the entire wilderness. I noticed the main winter constellation had already risen - Orion, The Hunter. It will be our almost-constant companion until spring. I know the sumac and sassafras colors (and poison ivy is looking nice too!) signal the beginning of fall here, but really it is Orion's arrival that does it for me. Won't be long now before we're longing for the warmth of summer - well, maybe NOT! 'Tis been a pretty nice August though, if only we can hold on a few more days...

08/28/16 I was just outside early this morning wandering around (about 3:30am). The air was crystalline with a coal-black background and brilliant silver stars EVERYWHERE! And if you listened really close, you could hear the actual moment that a tiny sliver of a crescent moon rose above the eastern horizon. Can you really hear the moonrise - of course not. But it is a moment in time that does tend to make an impression on a guy standing alone in the wilderness in the middle of the night, and there just seems to be a sound to the feeling one gets. The sound of that feeling penetrated the soul as the moonlight spread across the landscape, illuminating the great beauty of the wilderness.

Then a group of coyotes let out yips and howls and chatter - they had to have been noting the rising of the moon as had I. You can almost hear the joy in their hearts. Seems like there are more coyote chorus sessions this time of year, and I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact there is fruit on the trees getting ripe, perhaps overripe, and maybe fermenting a little bit (persimmons and pawpaws come to mind). Coyotes love to munch on wild fermented fruit, and their nightly jam sessions do sound a little like a group of high school boys that have gotten into a bottle or two of fermented grape.

Late last night as daylight was slipping away there were storm clouds roaming about, and thunder rumbled across the valley. For some reason I had a desire to look straight up into the sky. There was motion - coming straight down towards me at a high rate of speed. I didn't have any time to react, though life did seem to go into slow-motion mode. My eyes locked focus when it was about 20 feet up, and in a split second later there was impact - SPLAT! A giant raindrop landed on my cheek. And instantly I was engulfed with that sweet, unmistakable aroma of Ozone* - that's the chemical that is produced during thunderstorms, and this single raindrop was packed with it. Ahhhhhh - a "moment from the clouds" (vs. a "Cloudland Moment).

* An explanation from the intergalactic spider web: "The smell before a thunderstorm is a consequence of the electrical charge present in the atmosphere. This causes the splitting of some oxygen molecules in the atmosphere into individual oxygen atoms, which can then combine with other oxygen molecules in the atmosphere to form ozone, O3. Ozone has a sharp odor, compared by some to that of chlorine, or of burnt wires. It’s unstable in the lower atmosphere, and is usually only found higher up – however, the downdrafts of wind produced by a storm can sweep it down from the higher atmosphere, making it possible for us to detect it, and giving the calm before a storm that ‘pre-rain’ smell."

FYI, we've added TWO NEW one-day fall color photo workshops - see the details here. These are especially suited for novice shooters - you don't have to be advanced nor have a lot of camera equipment! Any basic dSLR or mirrorless camera will do, with at least one zoom lens and a good tripod. I'll teach how to set up whatever camera you have and show you how to get the very best photos possible from it. These workshops include a couple of hours shooting in the morning, lunch at Cloudland, and an afternoon of digital processing (NO experience needed!). You will leave with much more confidence then you ever thought possible, an autographed copy of my newest picture book (ARKANSAS IN MY OWN BACKYARD), and a beautiful 11x16 color print from a scene you photographed that morning! LOVE IT - your you get all your money back. Limited space available...

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