Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mental Snapshots

The other morning as my son Alex was getting ready for work, and the cats were loudly demanding their breakfast, I stumbled downstairs to feed the felines and make a lunch for my boy. The first order of business was to give the critters fresh water. I stepped into the kitchen, barefoot as usual, and found that their water bowl was in the middle of the floor rather than against the usual corner of the room. There was also a small tidal pool of water surrounding the bowl, which has two little arches on opposite sides to ease lifting it from the floor. The cats watched me expectantly as I scolded them for making such a mess of their water bowl. I had to wonder what made them so rambunctious as to move it so far from the corner in the first place. Seconds later, I had my answer.

I lifted the bowl to empty it, and refill it with fresh water when I saw a small, wet figure in its place - standing stock still. I remembered the fluffy, grey toy mouse that we've had for years. My cats show occasional interest in it but tend to lose it behind a sofa or desk. It shows up again when I do a decent house-cleaning. My house must be quite overdue as I've not seen the fake rodent for many months. I figured that Alex had found it, and knowing that I'd be the one to tend to the cats in the morning, he'd hid it under the water bowl to jump-start my morning. I was about to curse him under my breath, when the tail moved. This mouse was real.

I'm an animal lover and have always felt uncomfortable with the notion of mouse traps. The one time I was aware of a wee rodent in my attic, I engaged a live trap and left cheese and peanut butter treats for the unwanted guest. He quickly obliged by feasting on his high-protein meal and I was able to release that mouse safely into the park. This was different. I had no trap. I didn't have anything close at hand with which to scoop him up. The poor, little thing was frightened and wet. It looked quite pathetic. I put my hand down on the floor in front of him, hoping he might decide to hop on for a ride. No such luck. He turned around and hesitantly scampered in the opposite direction, toward my floor-length venetian blinds, which he then tried to climb. While he was semi-vertical, I scooped my fingers around his mid-section and placed him into the palm of my hand, cupping my other hand over it to secure him. Alex opened the front door for me, and I walked across my deck and set him down on the front lawn. He stood there motionless. I gave him a small nudge from behind and he burrowed into the fallen leaves, and hopefully to safety. My cats, so preoccupied with anticipation of their morning meal, never even noticed what was happening, though they must have been aware of the mouse during the night - hence the relocation of the water bowl.

It was only after the mouse was gone and my hands were scrubbed, that I began to realize that I'd missed a decent photo opportunity. I suppose that there was no guarantee that he would have stayed still for a macro shot, or that he wouldn't have panicked as my camera zoomed in for a closer look. In retrospect, I would have been reluctant to risk losing sight of the mouse in my house, while I would have to find and set my camera up. I concluded that I would just have to place this non-photo alongside some of the other mental snapshots that I've taken over the last year or two - because of a forgotten camera, dead batteries or this slow-moving photographer.
I'd set this mental photograph aside with the one of the little, bright yellow bird which landed on a perfect magenta flower, the majestic Great Blue Heron lifting off in flight, the squirrel which had Velcroed itself to a tree because its body and tail were so covered in burrs, and the leaves which glistened from a steady rainfall, and exploded in colour when a small burst of golden sunlight escaped the heavy band of gray clouds. That little mouse should be quite at home in that environment.

With each incident of unpreparedness, I've become more resolved to have my camera with me, no matter where I'm headed. I'll never get the missed shots back, but keeping them in my private, metal album is not so bad either. At least there, along with all good memories, they're always in sharp focus and perfectly framed.

Below are a few shots that I didn't miss. Most of the autumn colours have diminished now, but the last couple of weeks still offered up some vivid hues. As I'm usually a few weeks behind in posting what I capture, the photos below have retained some of the season's gold. Please remember to click on each image to see it enlarged.

Golden sunlight filters though a semi-bare branch to reflect in the water below.

Red oak leaves are not ready to fall just yet. They seem to desperately cling to their youth. I can relate!

Brilliant yellow, orange and red maple leaves begin to blanket the ground beneath them.

These colourful berries belong to the Spindle Tree. The tree is quite ordinary throughout the summer but in autumn the bright pink pods burst open to reveal orange seeds. When more of the surrounding trees have lost their bright leaves, the Spindle fruit stands out like a summer flower.

Walking around my neighbourhood park one day, I paused on these stone steps to capture this image of disheveled oak leaves and stem. The textures appealed to me.

Taken from a bridge, this creek which carries salmon and trout upstream during their respective spawning seasons, flows out to Lake Ontario.

This lovely pond sits out behind the house on the farm that Frank's in-laws have owned for many years. The late afternoon sun appeared though the otherwise-overcast day to cast a golden hue upon the water.

The sun's reflection peeks out from behind this beautiful, weathered old tree.

On our way home, we stopped a couple of times to have a look around. As the sun continued to set, it created interesting shadows, colour and angles on this simple wood fence.

The amber lamps which light up our park paths at night lend their warm hues to the autumn leaves. There's magic to be seen at night.


Sandra said...

Hilary -- You have such a wonderful photographers eye! These are all just lovely. You are one of my inspirations to become a better photographer.

The way you described your missed opportunities said it exactly right. While on our trip to Tulsa, I missed many neat shots, but especially I regret missing the duplex outhouse! As soon as it was past I took note of what town it was close to, so that I can look for it the next time we go! Hopefully it will still be there and I'll get a rare "second chance." :)

Jo said...

Hilary, you painted such a wonderful word picture of your encounter with the little mouse, a photograph would have just been an addition to the story. I can see him perfectly in my mind's eye. What a great story! Poor little mousie! But, you saved him.

Frank Baron said...

Boy am I ever glad you found the mouse when I wasn't there! Standing on a chair with my apron pulled up over my face and shrieking, is not a good look for me.


Great shots. Especially like the first pond shot and the pathway at night. And those mental snapshots are the best. They last as long as we do and never fade. :)

photowannabe said...

Hilary..You are such an artist in both word and picture.
I loved your mental snapshot of the mouse and the golden glow autumn photos, especially the fence.

Zuzana said...

Hilary, your pictures are like pages of a dairy; they follow the seasons and slowly I can sense in them that winter is approaching.
And I know all about the fake mice, I have lost plenty of them in my house; they are like missing socks in the drier, I so wonder where they go.:)
Mental images and snapshots are the best; they stay with you forever, they never fade, they do not get damaged, they do not need storage place. They are always in the corner of your mind, ready to be enjoyed and looked at any time you please.

Anonymous said...

I must say you made up for not taking a mouse picture with all the others. The picture in my head of the soaked mouse is neat to think about.

Anonymous said...

you are so talented.
both in photography and words.

color me jealous.

(and color me missing fall...)

Mental P Mama said...

Beautiful as always. That fence shot is spectacular.... By the way, I can picture the mouse perfectly thanks to your story!

Leah J. Utas said...

Loved the mouse story. The critter would not have been treated so kindly in my house.
Great pics, and the amber forest is magic.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

Oh yes, I love the oaks too, hanging onto their leaves as long as possible!

the Bag Lady said...

Loved your story about the little mouse, but have to admit, he wouldn't have gotten that kind of cadillac treatment in my house, either! (Hanta virus comes immediately to mind.....)

As I was scrolling through your photos, I kept thinking "ooh, this one is my favourite, until I looked at the next....and so on and so on. They are all fabulous!

Suldog said...

I know the feeling. There are some wonderful memories, of both people and places, for which I wish I had photographs.

Of course, the photos you do take are magnificent, whereas mine are muddy, blurry messes. My "mental snapshots" are no doubt far superior to what I could have captured of them :-)

Sandi McBride said...

Okay Hilary, I went outside and got Mac and made him come in and read this. I was not going to start yelling "SEE SEE, I told you I wasn't the only one who saved mice from cats!" LOL
The photos are so beautiful and the last one is my absolute favorite...

SK Waller said...

Our cats bring in all sorts of frightened little creatures that I can almost always set free. Unless they're no longer moving, which always makes me sad.

Beautiful photos! You make me want to take my camera out for a walk.

Chica, Cienna, and Cali said...

the last image....reminds me of Van Gogh's quote "The night is more alive and more richly colored than the day"


Hilary said...

• Thanks Sandra. A duplex outhouse? I'd be sure to ask for the upper unit! I hope you find it again one day. It would make a great shot. Thanks so much for your kind words. :)

• Thanks, Jo. He was a cute little thing, all wet and frightened. I hope he was strong enough to continue on his way, and NOT backtrack into my house! Thanks for the kind comment. :)

• You're right, Frank. That wouldn't have been your best moment. Maybe if you didn't wear those frilly aprons...

You take excellent mental snapshots - especially those that become a column or blog post. Your beautifully crafted words bring them into perfect focus. All that, and you even take a decent real photo. ;)

• Thanks very much, Photowannabe. That fence really caught my eye. There was a creek nearby and some beautiful scenery which I eventually turned to, but the fence with its demanding shadows drew me in first. Thanks kindly. :)

• Protege, I'm pretty sure that fake mouse is behind my (very heavy L-shaped) desk and I'm in no hurry to find it. I'm in less of a hurry to find the real thing though. I like what you and Frank each said about mental snapshots. True, they never fade. Maybe some things are just meant to be shared verbally. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks, Abe. I guess in that respect I did have a mouse pic to share after all. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thanks very kidly, MizFit. You must have seen some autumn colours on your trip to Chicago recently... or was that city too windy to retain much of the foliage? Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very much, MPM. I guess he was recorded after all. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks very much, Leah. I'm surprised... I just can't quite see you handling the mouse in any other way. I had no doubt you'd love the trees though. :)

• I'm glad you liked the oaks, Gary. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks for the always-kind words, Baggie. I'm glad you liked the pics. I'd never even heard of Hantavirus and so I Googled. It sounds deadly, but so far, there have been no documented cases east of Saskatchewan. It had never even really occurred to me that the little thing might bite until Frank told me later that I was lucky it hadn't. I hope there won't be another one, but if there is, I won't try to catch it that way. Thanks for the info. :)

• Thanks, Sully. Your mental snapshots translate into word masterpieces. Everything you write comes from your mental snapshots or videos, revealing the artist in you. You're a fine mental photographer. :)

• Too funny, Sandi. I don't think I was even considering saving the mouse from my cats. They're indoor and clawless so they didn't entice the little guy in. I think he gained entry somewhere and happened upon the wrong dwelling. I'm glad my guys didn't injure him. They just frightened him and tried to drown him. ;) Thanks for the kind words. :)

• Thanks, Steph. I know of lots of cats who do just that. I would have a really hard time coping with it too. I'm glad that mine are mostly clueless and get low marks in predatory instincts. ;) Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. Now go take that walk! :)

• Moi, you're hired as my quote generator! Thanks for stopping by. :)

Michele said...

I enjoyed reading your post and your photography. Always feels like a good novel when I'm here at your blog... =)

Dr.John said...

Great pictures. Sorry you didn't get one of the mouse.

Cedar said...

Loved the pics as usual, the picking up the mouse thing...not so much. I am going to go now and wash my hands.

Dianne said...

each one so beautiful

I love the mouse story. I once saved a giant spider from Siren while he literally jumped on my back to try and get to my hand

and the way you describe a mental snapshot is perfect.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Not only are you a brilliant photographer, apparently you are a mouse whisperer--better your house than mine is all I can say.

Oman said...

what a wonderful story. i wouldn't catch a mouse, i will let someone do it lol.

the golden sunrise is just pure bliss.

Dave said...

I liked your sunset-lit fence and amber-lighted path photos Hilary. And well done you! for saving a mouse. A nice feeling huh? Funny how we often see the best photo-opportunities when we don't have our cameras. - Dave

RiverPoet said...

That last photo is breathtaking! Wow! You are talented.

And as for the mouse, though I'm an animal lover, too, I could never have done what you did. You're a rare woman.

Peace - D

Unknown said...

Those are some amazing photographs.
I too always stumble on something and think 'I wish I had my camera on me' and then when I take it out I never find anything which inspires me to take a shot!

I didn't think I minded mice and then once we went camping and a tiny mouse took up residence behind the loo and I screamed like a big girl!

Maggie May said...

You are far too kind to your mice. You would hate me for doing what I do to rodents.
It would be difficult to take a photo of a mouse, I think.
Love your photos!

Missicat said...

Wow - those are SO beautiful! You definitely have "the eye"...
Funny mouse story. Wonder what my two critters would have done...

Sus said...

Wow what wonderful photography. Came via Woman in a Window and am very glad I did.

G. Harrison said...

hi hilary,

i enjoyed your comment back at carmi's most recent post.

big stores are taking over, though in Wortley Village, London, we can still grab a coffee and browse at the local bookstore.

bring your camera. a mouse might make an appearance.


gord h.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Loved your mouse-in-the-house story! I, too, have an album of "not-taken-photos." You've expressed the feelings of missed opportunities very well.

The posted photographs are beyond lovely. The last one of the amber light in the trees is stunningly beautiful.

Thanks for sharing.

Cheffie-Mom said...

I love the colors in these photos. This is my favorite time of year! It sounds like the mouse made a new friend. (:

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Michele. What a nice thing to say. Much appreciated. :)

• Thank you, Dr. John. In retrospect he was pretty ummm ratty looking, all wet and cowering. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks, Cedar. But it was so cute! But yes, I scrubbed. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thanks, Dianne. I'm less inclined to want to touch a spider. They really do give me the creeps but neither would one upset a bowl of water.. I'd hope. Thanks for the kind words. :)

• LOL, Jenn - a mouse whisperer. Thanks very much for the kind words. :)

• Thanks, Lawstude. I didn't think I would either but nobody else seemed willing - other than my cats, I suppose. And that would have been wrong. ;) Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very kindly, Dave. I did have my camera - just not my presence of mind. ;) Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks RiverPoet. Truthfully I really didn't think beyond getting this little beast out of the house before it decided to move in permanently. Or perhaps I simply didn't think at all. I was lucky it didn't bite - perhaps it knew it was being transported to safety. I kinda hope that's the case. Thanks for your very kind words. :)

• LOL, Tara. I can picture it. I really would have preferred not seeing this little thing in my house and I hope he and his family oblige by not returning. But I just didn't have much choice. Had it caught me with my pants down, I'd have screamed too. ;) Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thanks, Maggie. I wouldn't hate you - I do understand what pests they can be. I'm just hoping this was a fluke visit and that there aren't any more running around inside. Maybe this one will spread the word that cats live within. Thanks for your kind words. :)

• Thanks very kindly, Missicat. Let's hope you don't have to find out how your guys would react. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thank you, Sus, and welcome! I'm glad you came by too, or I'd not have found your fine post today. I hope you'll be back sometime soon. :)

• Welcome to you too, Gord and thanks for the visit. I'm sure decent bookstores can still be found most anywhere. They're just fewer and farther between. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks so much for your always-kind words, Pat. I'm glad you like the photos and mental snapshots. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thank you, Cheffie. I can enjoy that mouse's friendship a lot more from a distance. ;) Thanks for stopping by. :)

Daryl said...

The fence is my absolute fav... and I think your perfect un-taken pix are brilliant as well .. we've all got mental albums like that ..


Shrinky said...

That last shot is simply breathtaking. And I salute your courage scooping up that wee critter to saftey. I am not in the least afraid of mice, but even I would hesitate to be so bold as to pick one up!

I do so love your posts. Smile.

david mcmahon said...

My favourite is the fence shot.

Tink said...

As if I haven't told you a billion times already... Your photography is amazing, girl. I just love the colors! My eyes eat them up like food.

As for the mouse- I'm not scared of them, I used to have pet mice when I was a kid. BUT, I'm not sure I would have responded as well as you had if faced with one unexpectedly. I'm sure he was grateful.

Russell said...

Yes, there are so many times I wish I'd had my camera close by, but... then again... take solace in the fact you did have the opportunity to see such interesting things and, more importantly, remember them.

The other day I was driving to work and saw a large buck deer - complete with a huge rack of antlers - just standing to the side of the road in tall grass. I had never seen such a thing other than in wild life paintings. He was most majestic and in a perfect setting.

I was so disappointed I did not have my camera with me ... and then I realized I had seen something special. Sometimes are mental photo album is the best one of all.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

Ah, that was such a great story, I pictured the poor wee timorous mouse hiding, shivering under the waterbowl. Your pictures are as always superb, the last one is favourite.
Up the airey mountain
Down the rushey glen
We dare not go a hunting
For fear of little men

Sandi McBride said...

Just a pop back in to say Congrats on the Post of the Day mention!

Shonda Little said...

Now I'm in an autumn state of mind. I just need chicken wings, football and beer.

French Fancy... said...

What beautiful photos and I can't even select a favourite, although I suspect the final lit park view sneaks in past the others.

I loved the story of the liberated mouse and think that inhumane traps should be outlawed. How lucky for this little creature that your cats didn't get him (or her).

thanks for popping over to see me. I'll be back to see more of your lovely stories and photos.

Merisi said...

the moments you managed to capture are of great beauty! The little mouse story warmed my heart. I would have done the same, tried to save her. Thank goodness, your cats are way too domesticated to recognize a treat under their paws! :-)
Imagine, my daughter lost her rat (!) in the house (well, apartment, this is in the city, after all)! She let her run free in the family room, and when she remembered looking that little rascal was gone, never to be found again. Or so it seems, several weeks later. I dare not think were she ended up. Maybe I should read the Vienna restaurant reviews more closely, in case there are any interesting developments in any of their kitchens! Ratatouille may have been only the beginning of a trend. ;-)

Lulda Casadaga said...

Lovely as usual...I especially like the leaves on the stone stairs. Love the mouse tail...just think the kitties missed a good snack!! :D

I have some mental pics too...I have to really try harder and have that camera ready and carry some extra batteries! Well I guess that can be our New Years resolution. ;)

Country Girl said...

All beautiful. All made me sigh out loud. And the last photo, the one with the lamplights . . . breathtaking.


Louise said...

Oh, this is a great story! And the photos, as always as spectacular. (My favorite--crazy me with this shadow hang-up right now--is the one of the posts with the shadows on them.)

I have a lot of mice stories. I have one in my head for a post, and I actually got pictures recently. I don't have all the pictures I would like, but I'm not sure I could stomach the ones that would fill in the gaps. I will say I am the same about little rodents. I have fed them (in an office until they became a nuisance) and was even bitten by one once when rescuing it from my cat. (Then I realized it might not be the smartest thing to come to its rescue!)

Chi said...

I just love the fall. The lamp shining through the trees onto the trail is worth an award of some sort.

Hilary said...

* Thanks muchly, Daryl. I suspect you have a number of those mental snapshots, especially those taken on your bus rides. I mean.. it's New York! Thanks for stopping by. :)

* Thanks very much, Shrinky. If I had given any serious thought to picking that critter up, I might not have done it. I just knew I didn't want him taking up permanent residence. And he was really small. And kinda cute. And I hadn't had coffee yet. ;) Thanks for the visit and for your always-kind words. :)

* Thanks, David. And thanks for the POTD mention on your wonderful blog. Very much appreciated. :)

* Thank you so much, Tink. That means a great deal to me. I'll bet you would have done the same thing with the mouse, or at least call Hoop in to do it while you'd have had the presence of mind to take pics. Thanks for the kind words. :)

* Russell, what a wonderful sight. Would you believe I only saw a deer for the first time(other than at zoos) a couple of years ago? It's not that they aren't around, and haven't been spotted by others all the time. I just never looked in the right direction at the right time until then. Then I got two for the price of one. A buck would make an incredible metal picture. Thanks for sharing. :)

* Thanks very much, Moannie. For the kind words and the poetry. I'm glad you liked the mouse tale and the photos. Thanks for stopping by. :)

* Thanks, Sandi and right back at you! :)

* Welcome, Shonda and thanks for the visit. Make mine chicken cordon blue, a comedy and some wine and I'm right with you. ;)

* Welcome, and thanks very kindly, FF. I'm uncomfortable with the thought of traps that kill or maim them too, but can kind of understand the need when there's a more serious rodent problem. Catch and release really wouldn't deter a family intent upon taking up residence. And you'd have to be really diligent about checking live traps lest they die a worse death in there. I'm just glad that this particular mouse is out. Thanks for stopping by. :)

* LOL, Merisi. Ratatouille cracked me up. Your daughter must have been pretty distressed about losing her pet like that. Rats are a lot smarter than I had once realized. Hopefully it found its way to another good life. Thanks for the kind words. :)

* Sounds like a good plan, Lulda. I hope my cats miss out on all of those meals. They're fed well enough not to go for dessert. Thanks for the visit. :)

* Thanks very much, CG. Yes, I touched a mouse. You're a country girl and that surprises you. I'm a city girl and I touched a mouse. What's wrong with that picture? Thanks for the kind words, Kate. Much appreciated. :)

* Thanks kindly, Louise. I do realize that picking it up wasn't the smartest thing I've done, but it was more of a "what else can I do?" reaction. I'm looking forward to reading about your mouse story. Thanks for the always-kind comments. :)

* Thanks, Christopha. Your kind thought is and of itself a lovely award. Thanks for that. :)

Cath said...

Magic indeed Hilary! They are gorgeous shots. I too have an album of non shots. The one of the squirrel velcroed to the tree made me burst out laughing! I know I shouldn't, and I know you will have rescued him, it just sounds so funny!
Great post. Love your photos. I couldn't pick just one out - they are all great.

G. Harrison said...

thanks for your visit, hilary, to It Strikes once again.

re your comment; mea culpa as well. the boomer generation has lots of explainin' to do re the current 'correction'.



Indrani said...

There is always magic in your posts too! :)

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Oh I adore that leaf shot, the perspective is stunning Hilary.

Tricia said...

I agree with what so many have already said, you described the scene so perfectly a photo of the mouse would have only been the cherry. I adore that you are so kind-hearted.

The fall photos are beautiful. We've had spectacular colors in GA this year, unlike anything I've seen in the 10+ years I've lived here.

Latin Lupe Lu said...

So funny...I just saw a small, grey, dry mouse on my kitchen floor licking a spot by the stove that I must of dripped dinner on.

There is NO WAY I would try to pick it up. I told the dog to go after it and she just looked at it as it ran under the stove.

This is what you get with a 130 year old house - I resort to poison - although I don't like it, I also don't like mice in the kitchen...I wish they would just stay in the basement!

BTW - GREAT amber lights in the park and you captured it so beautifully.

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Cath. The velcro squirrel actually happened quite a few years ago. I was walking home through the park and a woman had been watching the poor thing and pointed him out to me. He kept trying to leap from one branch to another but his tail wouldn't let go of the tree bark, so he'd end up hanging upside down and swaying. Then he'd right himself and try again. It was both sad and comical. I have no idea if he ever got anywhere. There were dozens of burs in his tail. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks for the return visit, Gord. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks kindly, Indrani. :)

• Thanks very much, MamaGeek. It's the only perspective I could have had. The branch was several feet above me. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks so much, Tricia. Autumn was also particularly nice here this year. It must have been all the rain we had through the summer. Plant life just flourished. We're in a bit of a deep freeze now though.. ugh! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very much, LLL. I don't like the idea of poison either, but can understand if there is a bigger rodent problem than the occasional stray mouse which I'm sure is worth the joy of living in an old house. I don't blame you for not picking the little critter up. I most likely wouldn't have either had I given it any thought. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Jennifer S said...

Your photos always take my breath away. You always capture the beauty of those places, but make them into something more, also.

As for the mouse, and missed photo opportunities, I'm a firm believer that it's sometimes better to have the memory, on its own.

Great story, by the way! You were much calmer than I would have been.

Hilary said...

Thanks kindly, Jennifer. I was much calmer than I would have been, had I given it any thought beforehand. ;)

As for the missed photo opportunity, I think you're right. He was a wet, sorry looking, wee thing. It wouldn't have been a pretty picture. I like my mental snapshot much better. Thanks for dropping by. :)

Mike Qian said...

Very nice a blog!