By the age of ten changes as in transformations fascinated me. One summer day I ate a peach and buried the pit in the backyard. My mother planted tomato seeds in her garden. Cellular structures transformed the pit into a peach tree, and the seeds became Beefsteak tomatoes. Where did the power to make such changes come from? Yes, I wanted to know.

In the 2nd grade our class visited the Walker Gordon Farm, a dairy farm. In the circular “barn” with tall glass windows cows stood motionless on a rotating platform. Suction cups attached to their utters drained milk into hoses connected to storage tanks. Kids asked the guide questions: what do the cows eat, do they go outside, do cows sleep standing up, how much milk goes into the bag, do those “things” (the suction cups) hurt?

Back in the classroom, Miss Beck invited a Newark News photographer to watch six of us make butter. Publicity about our field trip might impress someone. (I still have the newspaper clipping.) For the photo shoot Linda Lott wore an apron and was first to whip the heavy cream. Five of us stood around the table looking bored and, eventually, took turns churning cream into butter. I was amazed that grass became milk, and cream transformed into butter.

Fast forward to many years later. I taught in the LEARN program at Pima County Adult Probation (Tucson). My students lacked a high school diploma and many had felony charges. To change things up a bit, I planned a Let’s Make Butter lesson that included some math. Students did not know much about fractions or the lines on a butter stick wrapper. The big whoop came when Carla, a GED student, transformed the heavy cream into a thick, greasy solid.

“I never knew where butter came from,” said one student after another. Some of the guys were good at dividing marijuana and other drugs into ounces. That day they learned one stick of butter weighed four ounces and could be cut into eight tablespoons. Best of all, they watched the transformation of heavy cream into butter.

Another phenomenon occurred in my childhood kitchen. Mother often baked lemon meringue pies. I learned why the egg whites and yolks were separated. Yolks went into the cooked filling; whites became meringue. My mother used an egg beater and the whites gradually formed bubbles, hundreds of thick bubbles. When stiff mounds of shiny white fluff filled the bowl, we had meringue. I was amazed and curious. Who thought of this I asked. “Martha Washington,” was her answer. Actually, Google credits Gasparini, a Swiss pastry chef who lived around 1720.

Sunday school introduced me to another transformation. In the Russian Orthodox Church children made their first Holy Communion around the age of ten. For the event my mother sewed a lovely white, dotted Swiss dress that still hangs in my closet. I spent hours memorizing the Before and After Communion prayers. On Saturday, the day before the all-important Sunday, I made my First Holy Confession. When I think about innocuous childhood sins like hitting my sister or talking back to my father, I roll my eyes and smirk. What are childhood sins, anyway? Was defending myself a sin? I had to say something to the priest. Playing with matches might be considered a sin. I did not have much to confess.

Holy Communion centers on accepting the body and blood of Christ. I had no idea as to it’s significance and still don’t. As usual, that Sunday parents and parishioners filled the church pews. The choir sang their repertoire of liturgical hymns and incense scented the air. The stained glass windows glistened from sunlight. I stood patiently in the Communion line and waited my turn.

When I reached the front, Father Stroyan bent slightly to spoon a little red wine into my little bird mouth. The wine had something to do with the blood of Christ. Beside the priest stood an altar boy who held a tray of Holy Bread. Those small pieces represented the body of Christ. After I swallowed the wine, I took a piece, put that into my mouth and returned to my seat. Now the blood and body of Christ were inside of me. The day was one of celebration, a rite of passage that continues in the Orthodox church.

Transformation occurs in science, religion, and life—all life. In the 1800s, a French philosopher with a long last name noted that the more things change, the more they stay the same. From my viewpoint, I do see things change. Most often they do not remain the same.

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Before the Digital Camera

Before digital cameras hit the photography market, I spent hours developing film, mixing chemicals, and printing images. My childhood Brownie was eventually replaced.  As we all did, I advanced to a 35 mm camera with lenses and filters. I still admire the work of early photographers who most likely never dreamed of a digital age. My post of a few black & white portraits deserve the light of day. Released from negative strips, contact sheets, and 3-ring binders out they go into the Universe. (Perhaps not quite that far.) The portraits are of friends, neighbors, and people I met along the way.

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1962 Bel Air Chevrolet – Rhyolite, NV

An easy seven miles on Route 374 separate Rhyolite, NV from Death Valley National Park. Set into the Bullfrog Hills, the mining town was abandoned in 1920. Still the site invites curious travelers to scout the area for whatever catches their eye. Chain link fencing surrounds the train station, an old caboose has nowhere to go, and the concrete shell of a bank building looms large. I gave all my attention to a ’62 Chevrolet with a rusted firewall.

The old Chevy has held up despite the affects of oxidation. Its firewall displays beautiful compositions in line, color, and texture.


A Beautiful Beetle

Since childhood I have been curious about creatures assigned to the insect world. I recall happy summer hours collecting bugs from Newark’s parks and backyards. Of course, our apartment attracted non-collectibles such as water bugs, flies, ants, mosquitoes, and roaches. My mother’s precious rose garden attracted Japanese beetles. A bug’s life usually ended with a squirt of Raid or the heel of a shoe.

Jumping ahead many years – Tucson has its share of insects. Two weeks ago I found a most interesting bug in the garage. Sadly, the palo verde beetle was dead. Trapped in the garage, the beetle could not escape the still, hot air. Dead on its back, almost 3″ long with a lustrous, armor-like body, the beetle became my focus. I’m finished taking pictures of Buster and wonder what to do with the him. For now, he’s on the dining room table.

Beetle Life – a rather simple first stage, egg to larvae. In the grub stage, the insect lives underground and feeds on the roots of palo verde trees. After a few years (2 – 4) in the dark and in the monsoon season, palo verde beetles surface and fly off to find a mate.  When the female deposits her fertilized eggs, she dies. (I don’t know when Buster beetle kicks off.) Life above ground lasts for perhaps a month, and the cycle begins again.

Palo Verde Beetle Images

Postscript: I wanted the images shown in slideshow format. Word Press in its infinite wisdom says I must use Java Script. Nuts to that! I’m not about to learn Java Script since I’ve used the slideshow format before.


Desert Nocturne


Sonoran desert animals are awake and busy in the dark of night. Except for an occasional coyote kill or an owl’s hoot, the cottontail rabbits, javelina, and bobcats move about ever so quietly. The animals that come for a drink take turns at the water dish. Javelina travel in packs. They will get pushy and jockey for the last drop. When that happens, the adults root into the irrigation hoses in search of more water. Life in the desert must have that precious liquid.

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As daylight fades, I take the field camera outside and wind the strap around a tree. An Ultra Plus 16 GB disc is in place. I flip the On button and cross my fingers. Some nights are really slow – typical of any watering hole.

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Sunny Puerto Rico

A week of sun and fun in Puerto Rico – when I lived in New York, I’d take 3-day weekend trips to San Juan. Lutece on the Beach, a favorite guest house in Ocean Park, is now just a picture on a postcard. Condo towers, hotels, and gated communities are the new normal. Still, the charm remains in historic Old San Juan, Luquillo, El Yunque, and La Perla. If you haven’t been to the island, I say, go and enjoy! We rented a car from Alamo and got right into stampedes of wild drivers. For all the recklessness, I never saw a collision.

Our first destination and reason to visit was the Arecibo Observatory. The internet has all the facts about the world’s second largest single-dish radio telescope. Nearby on PR-10 is Cueva Ventana with two small dry caves and guided tours. On the eastern end of the island is beautiful Luquillo Beach. We went back to El Yunque, a rain forest with hiking trails, waterfalls, and a zipline. The road down the back side of the mountain is still being repaired. Remember Hurricane Maria?

We stopped for a seafood lunch at Ernestina’s in Luquillo. Then on to lovely road that skirts the beach to Loiza. On a gorgeous Sunday people spread out on the beach, under trees, and in the water. We met a woman who after living in Miami for eight years has returned to the island. She’s happy with her decision. Life is good!

Old San Juan, another favorite place to explore. We scheduled a 2-hour walking tour with David Rodriquez (recommend). Since the Harmony of the Seas (6,000+ passengers) was docked in the harbor, streets were crowded with tourists. Ships stay for a day and sail on. Those tourist dollars sure help the economy. We had the rental car and slithered it through the narrow street of La Perla, and visited the cemetery. A 75 cent ferry drive takes passengers from the harbor over to Catano. We wanted to take a bus from Catano to Bayamon, but let that idea pass. The interior bus the windows were opaque – what was that all about? No view, no bus ride.

Explore Puerto Rico – the islands of Vieques and Culebra. So much to see and, indeed, tourist dollars will help the economy.  Enjoy the photos!

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