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A poem I wrote on the plane home about 6 am of some of my experiences visiting the Vietnam Wall the first time in Washington on Veteran’s Day 1979 , after 20 years serving a 14-month Vietnam U.S. Army tour of duty.  As powerful as this portion is, I will present a more extended narrative of the incredible total pilgrimage to the Vietnam Wall in another post. The image is of me, and Jo as I was getting something from my backpack to leave at the Wall, photographed unknown to us by one of her friends. She mailed the photograph to me about a month later. 

Bewilderment detachment; solemnly praying,
Ceremonial Presidential Wreath’s a-laying.
Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown,
Honoring the loss of Americans we bemoan.

Taps painfully playing; hearing a solitary bugle,
Accompanying the rat ta tat tat; the drum so regal.
Cascading tears bathing my flushed cheek,
The longer I stand, the more I’m growing weak.

Jo, a Vietnam Memorial Wall volunteer,
Recognizing the familiar gleam of fear,
Offering help up that emotional climb,
“Some vets don’t make it their first time.”

Pausing beside a letter, set against cool black marble,
Words piercing my heart like pieces of shrapnel.
A dispatch from Jo, to her husband, Bill,
The message passionate: my body expels a chill.

Reflections casting shadows over Bill’s name,
On the polished granite self-proclaimed.
We are weighing the wounds of war,
Comforting each other, and too many before.

Jo, Whispering, “Welcome home,” without pretense.
Feelings welling inside me with a vengeance.
Moving, moving without belonging: needing to roam,
Two decades passing; maybe now coming home.

Fourteen months of duty, then 20 years shutdown,
Jo hugging tightly: our tears kissing the ground.
Tracing names for many a veteran friend,
Too few years left; too much to mend.

A silver POW/MIA bracelet placed on my wrist,
“I’ve never taken this off,” exclaims Jo in earnest.
Col. Robert L. Standerwick Sr., the bracelet proclaims,
On the Wall a diamond, the uncertainty of his remains.

Pacing a moonlit path, painfully alone,
Endless names bathed in light: etched forever in stone.
Haunting Vietnam memories revived,
Endless names survive.

Emerging from a deathlike dream,
Eerie consciousness in an audible stream.
An unforgettable song latched in time and space,
“We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.”

Feeling drawn to a crying woman looking askew,
Tearing a piece of my last dry tissue.
Sharing a tender offering,
Each new song reviving memories of warring.

This woman expressing calm enlightenment,
Hugging me with abandonment.
Tears mingling in loving suction,
A reprieve of war’s self-destruction.

A hand from behind grabs my shoulder,
I know the reach; it’s from a former soldier.
Reminding me when life was bloody.
He calls out, “Welcome home, buddy.”

An unplanned march to the Laotian Embassy,
Protesting the POW/MIA conspiracy.
Needing to go not sure how or why
Must go for those names that will not die.

Faces painted symbolically white,
Carrying burning candles of spiritual light.
Singing fervent songs and chanting,
Embassy personnel: concealed–not recanting.

Waiting to hear from Lynn, a hush in the air,
Protesters listening with rapt attention.
Sharing of her father’s loss in Laos while flying,
Shear strength keeps her from crying.

Speech over, Lynn now sitting silently,
Near the steps of the Laotian Embassy.
Pushing past the Washington police,
I’m sitting beside her now, near release.

Illuminating the bracelet drawn by the dim light of her candle,
Staring into the eyes of each other, more than either can handle.
Name on the Bracelet…that of her father,
An hour and then- embracing each other.

Back at the Wall of war; seeking a touch of peace.
Nearly one a.m.; will this dream ever cease?
Time; that unforgiving nemesis,
Oh God! Release the genesis.

Three A.M. and God-forsaken,
Writing a grieving letter–twenty years and still so shaken.
Pinning it on the Wall with a twig, wet and broken,
The message is profound, the gesture…. a token.

“Grande Dame of Costuming”

Kay Hirsch, courtesy of Prescott Center for the Arts

In March 1991 I interviewed Kay Hirsch, the costume mistress for the Prescott Fine Arts Association (now PCA). This was intended to be a theater piece for the Arizona Literary Review, published in Prescott, Arizona. It turned out to be much more. She was such a fascinating woman that I wanted to share this interview.

I met her at the Prescott Fine Arts Association in Prescott, Arizona. At the time of the interview, I wore faded jeans and a t-shirt with a creative design and had long hair.  (I still dress the same and still wear long hair). She was an eloquent lady and very proper in her greeting. Carefully, yet politely, looking me over she asked if it would be wise to confirm the interview with my boss at the magazine. When I told her that I was the Publisher and Editor she graciously motioned me to sit next to her at a dressing table without a pause.

I began the interview with her in the fitting room near a large walk-in closet full of many styles of shoes. Behind Hirsch, was a large clothes rack, full of period collarless shirts and suits ready to be fitted for a forthcoming play, which added a touch of theater. Her mood was alternately upbeat and serious as she reflected on the public and private events of her past 50 years.

“I grew up in a theater-going family in London. At that time, we had the very young, John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, and Ralph Richardson. These actors are now all ‘Sir,’ but not at that time. All these people were all in their 20s and 30s, and it was a wonderful time to attend the theater. There was a program in which Alec Guinness played a sword-bearer. Margot Fonteyn-the famous ballerina), the same age as I am, was just coming along. That’s why I became interested in the theater.”

“I could sew well, so this was my entrance to the theater. I had no desire to be on the stage, but I wanted to work in theater. I fit into the seamstress role.”

She attended the Croydon School of Fine Arts and in 1938 became a member of the costume staff at the Westminster Theatre, London which was roughly equivalent to Off-Broadway in America.

“We did several plays a season. A year and a half later, World War II began and the theaters closed down for a while in London.”

Not only did she perfect her profession through experience and hard work, but she seems to have inherited a good dose of talent from her grandfather who was a very exclusive lady’s dressmaker in London.

“He made dresses for ladies to be presented in court back in the late 1800s. I sometimes think that my grandfather would be tickled that his daughter’s child is often making replicas of dresses he made many many years ago.”

When the theaters reopened, she was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) of the Royal Air Force. While most other women requested duty near home, she asked for a transfer to Ireland. She wanted to experience something new and different. She was assigned as a weather observer to the British weather office at a weather station at Nutt’s Corner, Northern Ireland, not far from Belfast. This was the first landing for the B-17 Flying Fortresses, after crossing the Atlantic. The aircraft were then dispersed to different units. This was one of the very few, if not the only airfield that was half British and half American. Hirsch was assigned as a weather observer to the British Weather Office.

“My future husband was sent to the American Weather Office and that’s how we met in August of 1943. With our mutual interest in theater, we spent our free time with the stage and concert party on the base. I was doing the costumes and he was acting or directing skits. That’s how we really got to know each other.”

The two young lovers entertained the American and British troops at Nutts Corner, took bicycle rides on their time off, and talked about the theater.

She applied to the WAAF request for volunteers for the Air Transport Auxiliary, never expecting to be accepted by the RAF for the WAAF. Then, in 1944, the RAF recruited Kay and 1,000 other women for single-engine flight training. Kay was one of only 16 who qualified. She was selected and passed the course.

“For the last two years of the war, I was flying aircraft that had one engine from one field to another, or from the operational fields back to the factory. I ferried Spitfires, Hellcats, Hurricanes, Tiger Moths, Swordfish and Barracudas on visual flying with no radios.”

From 1944 to the end of the war, Kay was Third Officer Ferry Pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary. There were only about 162 women ferrying aircraft in non-operational flying.

“She and Zach married on June 5, 1945, in Croydon, England.”

At the time of their marriage, Hirsch was a ferry pilot for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Zach was in the weather service branch of the U.S. Army Air Corps, which became the United States Air Force.

In 1946, she joined her husband in America. Eighteen years later, they moved to Minnesota where she worked for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, which Sir Tyrone Guthrie had founded. She remained on the staff until 1972. She also worked as a senior costumer for the Minnesota ballet, Minnesota Opera, Minneapolis Children’s Theatre and Chanhassen Johnson Theatre.

“The Guthrie Theater was and still is famous for good quality costuming.”

After the war, Kay resumed her costume design career, and Zach joined the professional service of the Boy Scouts of America and became a national leader.

When the family transferred to New Jersey, she became a member of the costume staff for the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ for five years.

Then she moved to Dallas, Texas in 1979. There she sewed for Six Flags Over Texas, was senior sewer for the Dallas ballet, Dallas Opera, Shakespeare in the Park and the drama department at SMU.

“It was fun working all those different places.”

When he retired in 1984, she and Zach traveled to Phoenix to look at homes but fell in love with Prescott.

“We heard about the Prescott Fine Arts Association and quickly got involved with the PFAA.

“When we arrived in Prescott in 1986, we recognized a need to do costuming. I had never done community theater before.”

Hirsch found or sewed costumes for the performers. She mended and cleaned costumes during the run of the show. She was also the dresser, assisting performers with costume changes.

She designed and made costumes for over 110 main stage and Family Theatre Prescott Fine Arts Association productions in her 26 years as a volunteer resident costumer. One of her favorite shows as a costumer was Kiss Me Kate.

“A lot of people tend to think costuming is just throwing fabric together. It’s exactly the reverse because in community theater you’ve got clothes you perform in night after night. The wear and tear on them are much more than on a normal piece of clothing.”

The theater provided the Hirsch family the opportunity to make new friends, including young people.

“The high school kids coming through – meeting them and getting to know them, keeps us in touch with young people. Where else can you have a group of people from six years old to sixty plus, and everything in between? Where else, but in the theater?”

Hirsch was convinced that many people would enjoy the plays if they would only attend them.

“My husband and I are extremely impressed with the quality of the performances here. They are more professional than your average amateur production; the scenery and lighting are extremely well done.”

Kay Hirsch, the “grande dame of Prescott costuming” passed away on Sunday, October 17, 2010, at the age of 90 after an accidental fall and an ensuing infection.

My Artistic Renaissance

For more than five decades, my photography included wildlife, birds, nature, black & white film, humanitarian, travel, macro, documentary, fine art, headshot, and photographic artistry. I continue to teach aspiring wildlife and bird photographers on how to respect and photograph without intrusion. I embrace the essence of each wildlife in my images!. People tell me that I photograph with an artist’s eye. I believe that it comes from my naturalist’s heart.

I have decided to begin this birthday year also supporting my artistic renaissance. This includes experimenting with different new and used cameras, lenses, subjects, settings, filters, lighting, and other photographic procedures. I’m planning more astrophotography, abstract, surreal, black and white, and creative techniques.

Here are a few early samples of my photographic artistry from my original images taken over the years. There are powerful stories behind each of these images.

Brown Bear © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Wildlife Safari, Winston, Oregon

Carousel Horse © 2019 Stephen Bruno, San Francisco, California

Pyramid Lake © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Paiute Tribe Reservation, Sutcliffe, Nevada

Classic Aircraft © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Reno, Nevada

Classic Car © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Reno, Nevada

Classic Car © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Reno, Nevada

Tiger © 2019 Stephen Bruno, San Francisco Zoo

Barn Owl © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Seattle, Washington

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Graffiti & Flood © 2019 Stephen Bruno, San Francisco, California

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Golden Gate Bridge © 2019 Stephen Bruno, San Francisco, California

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Bellingham Bay © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Lake Padden, Bellingham, Washington

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Mountain Lion © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Prescott, Arizona

Milan Peter Witt Trolley © 2019 Stephen Bruno, San Francisco, California

Sunset © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Seattle, Washington

Blood Moon © 2019 Stephen Bruno, Prescott, Arizona

Girl Hailing Trolley © 2019 Stephen Bruno, San Francisco, California

Whether it is wildlife, birds, nature or photographic artistry, I continue my photography to be surprised and delighted.

Grand Mesa, Colorado Adventure

One of the beautiful Grand Mesa lakes 2019 © Stephen Bruno

One of the beautiful Grand Mesa lakes 2019 © Stephen Bruno

One of the beautiful Grand Mesa lakes 2019 © Stephen Bruno

One of the beautiful Grand Mesa lakes 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Last week, after a picturesque drive up the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, I spent several days on the Grand Mesa for the first time since I moved to Cedaredge, Colorado last December. I was celebrating my 71st birthday which I wanted to do in pristine nature with diverse wildlife. It was incredibly beautiful, with numerous lakes and reservoirs surrounded by trees and vast meadows. I stopped at a few of the crystal blue lakes to take some quick photographs mostly with my compact camera.

Black Bear Mug 2019 © Stephen Bruno

My next stop was at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center. I spoke with a well-informed forest ranger about wildlife. She mentioned recently seeing a Black Bear on her hike and of course squirrels and chipmunks, large Mountain Lion tracks, a big Coyote who stood his ground and, Yellow-bellied Marmots. In the past, I have photographed each of those critters, but I have never observed a Yellow-bellied Marmot. I purchased this Black Bear mug at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center as a reminder of my birthday adventure and to contribute toward their work in supporting wildlife.

Alexander Lodge 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I checked into the Alexander Lodge and received the key to my small cabin, The family-owned lodge prepared the cabin several hours early knowing I would arrive before 3 pm check-in.

My Cabin 2019 © Stephen Bruno

After receiving the key to my cabin I unloaded the car and walked to the nearby lake.

Bald Eagle 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I observed a large Bald Eagle flying over Cobbett Lake within walking distance. It was too high to get reasonable photographs and was beautiful to watch it soar higher and higher while looking down towards the water for fish to catch. I was told by a woman from Altitude Outdoor Adventures near the lake that the Bald Eagle visits several lakes periodically and has been observed swooping down and catching large fish from the water.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I was enchanted by an adorable friendly Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel who was missing one ear. He posed as we connected. Although I was told he was not friendly for most visitors he came out to say hello whenever I was near the lodge. He was one of the highlights of my birthday.

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Forest Trail 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I took a leisurely walk along a trail adjoining Cobbett Lake and I enjoyed being in the cool mountain forest air reveling in the sounds of nature. I did get bitten by a few mosquitoes. I brought some mosquito repellent but never felt the need to use it. I applied a little witch hazel to help with the itching in the evening. I didn’t experience swarms of mosquitoes that have been reported in the Grand Mesa area, and they were more than tolerable. I embrace them as I do all wildlife, and that seems to make a difference.

Yellow-bellied Marmot 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Yellow-bellied Marmot 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Yellow-bellied Marmot 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Yellow-bellied Marmot 2019 © Stephen Bruno

While exploring Eggleston Lake, I was captivated by a large Yellow-bellied Marmot. Marmots are large rodents with characteristically short but robust legs, enlarged claws well adapted to digging, stout bodies and large heads and incisors to quickly process a variety of vegetation. Marmots are the largest members of the squirrel family. Total length varies typically from about 18 to 28 in and body mass averages about 5-10 lbs. If alarmed, the Marmot often chirps or whistles. As I embraced and connected with each Marmot I encountered,  I was blessed to never have them exhibit a chirp or a whistle.

Alexander Lake Lodge 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Polish buffet 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I was invited to eat at a special Polish buffet in the Alexander Lake Lodge. I sampled a little of everything, and it was delicious.

American Robin 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Pine Squirrel 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Pine Squirrel 2019 © Stephen Bruno

To walk off the meal I photographed wildlife at several lakes and reservoirs including Alexander, Baron, Big Creek, Island, Ward, and Hotel Twin. I walked along lush meadows of grass and wildflowers and stands of Aspen, Englemann spruce and Douglas fir.

Trees across a meadow 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Wildflowers 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Relaxing meadow 2019 © Stephen Bruno

One of the beautiful Grand Mesa lakes 2019 © Stephen Bruno

One of the beautiful Grand Mesa lakes 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I explored Trickel Park Reservoir from the boat launch. I  enjoyed the old-growth forests, aspens, and meadows and took a few photographs mostly with my compact camera as I continued driving to Bonham-Wells Reservoir on the way to Collbran. I learned that unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle or at least a truck and possibly an ATV, there are limitations in where you can explore. With my car, which is very low to the ground front-wheel-drive, I pushed the limits by driving on washboard dirt roads until it became clear that it was time to turn around. Getting away from the populated areas present me with a different perspective being in the mountain, forests, and lakes with sweeping panoramas. I took a few photographs of the scenery and lakes.

Cobbett Lake 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I sometimes took creative photographs in between observing wildlife. This view was striking and the photograph does not do it justice

Creek 2019 © Stephen Bruno

As evening approached I appreciated the cooler nighttime temperatures and I slept well in the fresh air and sound of the creek running behind the cabin.

One of the beautiful Grand Mesa lakes 2019 © Stephen Bruno

My stay in a cabin was a memorable 71st birthday in the Grand Mesa, Colorado.

Visit Stephen Bruno Photography for more photos of the Grand Mesa adventure.

 

 

Six Of My Photography Prints on Display and for Sale at a Cedaredge, CO Gallery

My photography prints for sale at the Appleshed in the High Style NXS, 250 S. Grand Mesa Drive, Unit H, Cedaredge, Colorado. Image 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Recently I was asked to display some of my Fine Art Photography at a gallery in Cedaredge, Colorado. Currently, I have six prints on display for sale.

Three of the prints are wildlife. The other three include blood moon, San Francisco carousel with a creative rendering, and one of my favorites is a hippie sitting at the corner of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, California.

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My photography prints for sale at the Appleshed in the High Style NXS, 250 S. Grand Mesa Drive, Unit H, Cedaredge, Colorado. Image 2019 © Stephen Bruno

This is the first gallery showing of my photography in many years. The gallery is located in a large building known as the Appleshed, which has a café and wine tasting along with many high-quality galleries of photography.

These prints represent my previous photography style. I knew that when I moved to Colorado and especially in the mountains that I would dramatically change my photography approach and style. Given the geographical area that I now live in, I will continue to photograph diverse wildlife and nature, including lakes, mountains, rivers, and landscape.

I want to photograph subjects that stimulate curiosity, emotions, and wonderment. This includes people in nature, wildlife and birds in action, and trees and flowers from an unusual perspective, and much more.

I am a wildlife, nature, and humanitarian photographer living in the small charming mountain town of Cedaredge, Colorado. I teach aspiring wildlife photographers on how to respect and photograph wildlife without intrusion. I photograph to be surprised and delighted. For over fifty years, I continue to embrace the essence of each wildlife in my images! People tell me that I photograph with an artist’s eye. I believe that it comes from my naturalist’s heart.

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone” – The Kingston Trio

My new acoustic guitar 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I had a guitar in the early 1970s, and I was teaching myself how to play while a counselor at a free clinic in California. After guiding a young man from committing suicide, I loaned him my guitar for inspiration. It must have worked as he never returned it, and I felt he needed it more than I did.

It is 49 years later and time for me to follow that initial passion of mine. One goal is to learn how to play meaningful songs on the guitar and lead the diverse groups that I teach in singing folk songs, including some of my original songs telling relatable stories and fusing some with other genres.

Yesterday I purchased an acoustic Breedlove guitar and took my first one-hour lesson. An injury to my shoulder and surgery on my thumb creates an obstacle that I am embracing. Yes, and being 70 years old while learning how to play the guitar perhaps poses another challenge.

I believe that my passion is greater than the challenges, and in time, I will be joyfully singing along with the people in the gatherings while playing the guitar.

The Opposable Thumb

 

The day after thumb surgery 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Perhaps you’ve heard about the opposable thumb that we humans share to a degree with all primates. I have known this relationship with primates since I was a child. Of course, as a naturalist, I understood the importance of the opposable thumb. However, it took an unexpected injury to learn just how significant our opposable thumb is to us, humans.

One morning I awoke intent on performing my countless routine tasks and getting out in nature to photograph wildlife. I quickly realized that whenever I moved the thumb of my dominant right hand in a specific direction or touched something too hard, I experienced intense pain.

I can’t recall having a trauma that created this unexpected situation. I had recently moved to a charming small mountain town and for the first time in many years had to shovel snow on my driveway. I thought maybe that was the cause, but I don’t remember the thumb being painful soon after the snow shoveling. I can’t think of anything that had occurred within a few weeks of the pain that I had done to create this condition.

I could not easily turn the key on and off my vehicle, write using a pen or pencil, brush my teeth, open jars, and at least twenty other normal activities. It soon became apparent that how this occurred was not as important as how it had suddenly and dramatically changed my life.

The intensity of the pain was distracting, to say the least not to mention how restrictive my life had suddenly become. I’m certain that if any of you have experienced what I’ve described some of this is not new to you. Each day I am amazed at the new tasks that I could no longer do without pain.

This month I had surgery on my thumb, and I continue to encourage healing. I remain optimistic in my prognosis.

Throughout all of this and in spite of the pain and definite limitations, the majority of my thoughts are a wondrous curiosity about the power and influence of our opposable thumb and how vital it is in our daily life. How could I have missed this obvious awareness?

Perhaps, it’s true that we don’t fully appreciate something until we no longer have it. I will look at other aspects of my life that I’ve taken for granted with equal dismissal.