“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.

Unapologetic Hippie

Stephen Bruno while photographing wildlife and nature.

I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. 
Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken

Recently I visited the local medical office which included a nurse drawing blood for routine tests.

During the procedure, she noticed my shoulder-length hair, beard, and loose-fitting clothes.

She asked with a measure of innocence and curiosity, “Are you a Hippie?”

I smiled and responded, “Yes, I’m an unapologetic Hippie.”

I still favor long hair and casual, often unconventional, dress including tie-dyed shirts with peace signs. I continue to wear a beard and long ago gave up my Birkenstocks sandals. I gave them to a woman to share how it felt to ‘be in my shoes.’ I adopted a strict vegan diet based on unprocessed foods, supported animal rights. and I practiced holistic medicine all of which I am recently revisiting.

I would have attended the 1969 Woodstock Festival near Bethel, New York, from August 15 to 18, 1969, which drew between 400,000 and 500,000 people if I was not already serving my 14-month tour of duty in the U. S. Army in Vietnam.

Some hippies “sold out” and became part of the materialist, culture. I’ve done my best not to sell out. I still embrace the Hippie values of peace, love, compassion,  idealism, and Zen philosophy. I believe in trade or barter and sliding scale fees.

Like Frank Zappa, I avoided drugs and preferred the “natural high,” through photography, writing, listening to music, dancing, camping, and other natural activities.

I am old enough to have earned every wrinkle in my face, puffy eyes, scar on my body, all the silver in my receding hair, and nose marks from my eyeglass frames.

And yes, I remain an unapologetic Hippie.

 

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

It snowed the morning that I moved into my new home and there was a large Mule Deer Buck that casually walked across the street as the movers unloaded the truck. Later in the afternoon, a family of Mule Deer Does and Fawns came by to welcome me as I connected with them and took a few quick photographs. It was wonderful that the wildlife visited me first.

Mule Deer family 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Nearly every day I have enjoyed being visited in my backyard by a friendly Mule Deer family.

Mule Deer Fawns 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I loved connecting with and photographing these two adorable, affectionate Mule Deer Fawns who came together and were eating the last of the apples from the tree in my backyard in between cuddling.

American Robin 2019 © Stephen Bruno

American Robin 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of numerous American Robins who visited me in my backyard.

When the weather allows me to travel higher up the Grand Mesa, I plan on sharing time with the Black Bears, Mountain Lions, Moose, Mule Deer, Bald Eagles, and other animals and birds that make the mountain their home and taking their photographs at the more than 300 lakes.

 

Preparing for Snow in Cedaredge

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Rescued Mountain Lion 2014 © Stephen Bruno

Somehow, I have managed to live to be 70 years old, and I want to be in as good a condition as I can to continue my passion for wildlife and nature photography. I am looking forward to moving to Cedaredge, Colorado in a few days and I’ve decided to walk every day from my home in Cedaredge and build up my endurance for continuous hiking higher up the mountain later in the new year.

Not having an all-wheel-drive vehicle I need to park and then hike into remote areas to visit some of the lakes. I’m planning on camping and occasionally renting isolated cabins on the Grand Mesa. I want to get up early and observe and photograph the Black Bears, Mountain Lions, Moose, deer, and other wildlife living in the mountains.

Cedaredge is already experiencing some snow, and it could snow on the day I move into my new home. I sense that this will be a heavy snow season. It was time to get some quality snow boots. Today I found Sorel Men’s Conquest Boots that I believe are going to work well for me. They will support me in 3+’ deep snow and -40° conditions while keeping my feet warm and dry. They also will be a benefit during the summer for hiking around the Grand Mesa.

Sorel Men’s Conquest Boots 2018 © Stephen Bruno

I’ll post photographs of my walks around charming Cedaredge and on my visits to the surrounding small towns in addition to my photography adventures on Grand Mesa during each of the seasons here and more images on my Stephen Bruno Photography website.

I photographed the rescued Mountain Lion, who I found to be gentle, at an animal sanctuary and I had the opportunity to connect with it and pet it. I took the image of the new snow boots with my compact camera.

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.

Compassion & Perspective Makes a Difference

‘Window Dressing’ 2007 © Stephen Bruno

Many years ago, the city where I lived considered me a suicidologist and I was interviewed on television networks by reporters after someone killed themselves, especially if the individual was a teenager or younger.

The same major television network reporter frequently interviewed me and, we struck up a working friendship in spite of the traumatic circumstances. She was always very professional and directed her questions about what people can do to prevent suicides and how to help loved ones when a suicide occurred.

She was one of those reporters you probably have seen with her hair coiffed, perfect attire, attractive in the classic TV personality way, and always expressing a professional attitude. She had the ‘window dressing’ composure and style.

Uncharacteristically after one interview on camera, she pulled me aside away from the television crew.

“I don’t understand how someone can become so distressed and depressed that they want to kill themselves. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

I shared my thoughts behind the reasons that people can become so despondent that they view suicide as their only acceptible alternative.

“I don’t think I will ever understand how someone would throw away their life when there are always alternatives and possibilities with support to help them move forward in their life.”

I offered her my professional experiences working with people who had reached their mental and emotional limits and viewed suicide as their last resort. I could tell that she was unable to relate to their desperation and she was interpreting their behavior from a more intellectual perspective.

A few months later I was again interviewed by the same reporter after someone in the city committed suicide. She was as usual very professional and objective in her television interview questions, but I sensed something was different.

The interview took place in my backyard near where our horses lived, and she asked if we could walk around the paddock and away from the camera crew. I was curious about what she wanted to talk about, and I waited patiently as we silently walked together.

“I get it now. I understand how someone can reach such a level of despair that a person does not feel it’s possible to ever get past the feelings of desperation and helplessness.”

She then haltingly described a recent family situation that shook her to the core resulting in her feeling for the first time in her life suicidal. It was an amazing transformation of this always professional person who prided herself on perfection and control, now privately exhibiting her vulnerability in all of her honesty and sensitivity.

I supported her with compassion on moving beyond her traumatic reactions and finding ways to embrace the changes necessary so that she could move forward in the natural, grounded way.

The next time she came to interview me about a young person who had killed himself, I noticed that her interview approach was different. There was a depth of compassion and understanding that had not been there before. Her questions were more meaningful and her responses, while still professional, were more personal and thoughtful.

We never spoke about how she was different, and we didn’t need to have that discussion. It was a life transformed by trauma, compassion, and perspective. Every interview from that day on was embraced with the sparkle in her eye emerging from her soul and the partial smile that said it all.