The Collie with a twinkle in its eyes …

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Years ago, I took 15 people on 50-foot houseboat personal and spiritual retreats to Lake Powell in Arizona year-round. On one trip returning to Prescott from Page,  Arizona, I was driving a large van on an isolated two-lane rural road with several of the retreat participants and no other vehicles in sight for miles. I was driving rather fast on the long straight flat road, and I continued looking farther up the road for safety when I noticed some movement.

I slowed the vehicle down without waking the passengers in the back. The person in the front passenger seat and I were mesmerized by what we observed on the road in front of us.

I pulled to a stop and observed two beautiful Collie dogs, each one facing the opposite direction of the road. In the middle were many sheep crossing from one side of the road to the other. There were no people anywhere to be seen.

It was an amazing sight to observe these two majestic dogs independently shepherding the sheep across the road, standing defiantly against any vehicles that could harm their flock. The focus and intensity of their herding instinct reminded me that domesticated dogs are decedents from wolves and use the circling and grouping moves I observed in the Collies.

It wasn’t until the last of the sheep crossed into safely that each of the dogs took one long look down the road and then followed the sheep.

The Collie facing our van looked me straight in the eyes, and I don’t believe it was my imagination that it had a twinkle in its eyes and a half-smile as the Collie jauntily continued its way towards its responsibility with the sheep.

The experience touched my naturalist’s heart and soul.

 

 

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

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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.

Loving My New Home Town

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Historic Downtown Cedaredge 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I love the charming small mountain community with its three blocks of historic downtown, one traffic signal, minimal traffic, two banks, a community art center, shops, restaurants, Cedaredge Town Park, and about 2,266 residents to mention a few wonderful things.

Cedaredge Town Park 2019 © Stephen Bruno

It has been a little over a month since I relocated to the Cedaredge, Colorado at an elevation of 6,264 feet, and my friends have inquired about how things are working out. They know that one of the primary reasons for moving to the mountains was that as a wildlife photographer I wanted to connect with and photograph the diverse wildlife and nature.

Mule Deer Buck 2019 © Stephen Bruno

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Baby Stephen

Baby Stephen, at Humane Society of Ventura County

I received a wonderful early Christmas gift by email with this photograph this afternoon from a good friend.

The message said:

Donations were made in your name at Rancho Relaxo for Baby Stephen, at Humane Society of Ventura County for the animals affected by fires and, one hundred trees were planted in your name. Knowing you, this is closer to your heart than any material gift.

How touching to know that the potbellied piglet is cared for at the shelter and adoption Humane Society of Ventura County and a donation to care for him in my name. I’m going to continue donating for his well-being.

I also value that 100 trees are planted in my name to grow tall and strong for all the forest critters and people to experience.

Teaching the Essence of Wildlife Photography

 

Beaver photographed in darkness across the lake May 2018 © Stephen Bruno

I am frequently asked about my approach to teaching wildlife photography. I have a different perspective on teaching photography classes and workshops. Drawing on my writing, art, and photography background my teaching emphasis is on spontaneous natural creativity and systematic technology.

I believe that it is the craft of ‘process,’ that creates the art of photography. Regardless of the technical acumen, the camera cannot tell the photographer what to include in the composition. No matter how advanced the camera is, it cannot create a connection with the subject nor show when to press the shutter button.

I teach The Essence of Wildlife Photography for beginner, intermediate and newly professional level photography enthusiasts primarily for people with DSLR cameras and compact cameras that offer some setting options. People with point and shoot cameras without setting options will still learn many valuable photography principles.

Included in the easy to learn field instruction on wildlife photography are natural non-threatening wildlife approaches, and camera settings (ISO, white balance, shutter speed, aperture, shooting modes: manual vs. aperture and priority vs. shutter priority, etc.). Instruction also includes learning how to hold the camera steady, obtaining clear images of birds in flight, using a variety of background effects, and creative use of the composition.

I teach wildlife photography in a patient, compassionate, and thorough manner with easy to follow instructions using lecture, demonstration and hands-on approaches tailored to the students. I photograph to be surprised and delighted!

The emphasis is on practical field practice. I share numerous professional tips and techniques from my many years’ experience of wildlife photography from film to digital. Students are encouraged to bring their digital camera, owner’s manual, plenty of charged batteries, and extra storage media.

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Wildlife Print Adoption

2017 © Stephen Bruno

I created this blog, Curious Wordsmith, to share my miscellaneous musings, writing, and more in thought-provoking, intelligent, informative, humorous, and entertaining posts. Curious Wordsmith is now the foundation for my memoir.

I’ve been rather reluctant to write a memoir although I have had some fascinating experiences to share. I finally agreed to write a memoir when my daughter implored me to write about my experiences when I was in the US Army stationed in Vietnam for my 14-month tour of duty. She especially wanted my granddaughters to know what it was like for me in Vietnam.

It wasn’t that much of a stretch to think about including nonmilitary experiences which of course are the greater part of my life. With more time available since I recently withdrew from all my social media except my websites and this blog, I’m going to write blog posts more frequently.

As most of my faithful blog readers are aware, a year ago this month I moved from Prescott, Arizona to Grand Junction, Colorado. In a few days, I am moving to the small charming mountain town of Cedaredge, Colorado. Moving in the winter can have its challenges. However, I can’t think of a better season to cuddle up in my Pendleton shirt jacket with a hot cup of tea and edit some of my books in preparation for publication next year.

In my current home, I had mounted some of my framed wildlife photographs to enjoy and share with friends and visitors. Soon after I found my new home in Cedaredge, I knew that although I had these framed wildlife photographs for quite a few years, they were not going to come with me this time. In the past, I’ve had offers from fine art photography lovers to purchase my prints from my photography website or when I had gallery shows. This time I knew that I didn’t want to sell them. I wanted to gift them to people who felt drawn to the images and who would receive pleasure having them in their home.

I wasn’t quite certain of the logistics in sharing the framed prints on my wall at home and who would receive them. It’s been fascinating to observe the process of how each print finds a home. The people who adopted my wildlife prints include a FedEx driver, a Reiki Master Teacher who recently graduated from one of the certification classes I taught, a family that receives my Life Coaching, a grocery delivery driver from Safeway, GrubHub delivery driver, pizza delivery driver, and a house cleaner. Now all of my framed wildlife photography has found a caring home.

It has been an unexpected pleasure in learning how my wildlife prints have found the right family home where they truly belong. I believe that this is the beginning of a tradition that I will continue.