Small Doses

“Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words And never stops at all.” ― Emily Dickinson


“Second honeymoon.” How can such a thing exist when the first one never ends? It was a week’s respite from classes for me, and for Gini a break from budgeting, meal preparation, housework and the myriad chores of a wife which are usually taken for granted and for which precious little appreciation is expressed. Gini was a new wife, whisked a thousand miles from her home, given no instruction manual on how to run a household much less how to handle a husband who she was convinced knew everything about everything but, alas, who only knew how to present a brave facade and actually was scared spitless that he wouldn’t be able to make this union work. (Update:  Forty-eight years later, Gini still takes care of us and I still don’t know everything. The honeymoon continues …)

Our week-long break in upstate New York was in a one room cabin on a small lake near the Finger Lakes region. The proprietor, with the improbable name of “Mrs. Fish”, demonstrated how to open the clamp of the rubber hose over the kitchen sink for water. We discovered the source of our water was a small, clear spring on a hillside just outside the cabin. The big feather mattress of the brass bed folded around us to form a warm and intimate sandwich each night. The pond was full of fish, the surrounding fir forest full of birds and deer and the two of us full of love. “I wish we could stay here forever”, I loudly declared. Ever the wise one, Gini reminded me small doses of extra special things in life would ensure we appreciated them all the more.

So, as much as I like peach ice cream, fried mullet and freshly-picked strawberries, I’ve tried to understand that too much of a good thing may not provide the continued pleasure for which I hoped. But when something so wonderful is available, a little is all that’s needed for satisfaction.

Lately, we have not been able to explore as much as in the past. A temporary situation. So when we do get a chance to be out for a bit, a little goes a long way toward happiness.

The other day, there were errands to run. I had some time between appointments and decided to visit a city park on the south side of Lakeland. Holloway Park is not large and was designed with cross-country running in mind. During the week, it isn’t busy and the running trails make for easy walking. From different points in the park, one can see a nearby high-traffic expressway, two “big-box” type discount stores, my doctor’s office, a business center and the sounds of a mid-size metropolitan area intrude constantly. With all that, a visitor can still find solace in a small section of woods which muffle rude noises, enjoy a small stream and pond, find wildflowers in any season, watch birds going about the business of raising families and surviving and come across innumerable insects which are easy to miss unless you slow down. I like to think one of the purposes of places like this is to provide a sort of “speed bump” for our hectic lifestyles. I spent less than an hour here, mostly kneeling near the edge of a stream watching an incredible array of life spread out before me.

It was a small dose. A little birding, a bit of insect discovery, some casual photography. And it was enough. No planning, no extensive driving or hiking, no supplies, no worries. I returned to my errands totally refreshed.

As I watched a dragonfly steadfastly patrol a section of shoreline, vigorously driving away all intruders, I found out there was something going on within me. I know it happens each time I’m able to enjoy nature’s beauty, but it’s usually a subconscious thing. Today, it was more like a clarion call. All of the color, beauty, excitement and experience of Life literally screamed at me:  “There Is Hope!”

We tend to become quite glum about our world sometimes and wonder what’s the use of trying to change anything since all is lost. But here I was in the middle of the hustle and bustle of an ordinary weekday with thousands of humans all around me doing what humans all around the world do each day, which is the same thing all the animals around me were doing, just trying to survive another moment – all of that intense activity – and yet there was so much pure beauty. Right in front of me. How could I see a young Bluebird in his first summer or have a purple dragonfly hover within inches of my face and not realize we all have at least one common thread in our existence – hope. Just reach out and touch it.


An immature Eastern Bluebird has learned how to catch a grub.

Holloway Park

Eastern Bluebird – Immature


The male Roseate Skimmer is a stunner in his colorful outfit! As with many dragonflies, the immature male resembles the female.

Holloway Park

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) – Male

Holloway Park

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) Immature Male


One of our larger dragonfly species is the Slaty Skimmer. The male is dark all over and at a glance appears totally black.

Holloway Park

Slaty Skimmer – Male (Libellula incesta)


A mature male Needham’s Skimmer can be very bright reddish-orange. It’s difficult to differentiate them from the Golden-winged Skimmer. One distinction is the upper portion of the hind legs of the Needham’s is brown as opposed to black in the Golden-winged.

Holloway Park

Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) – Male

Holloway Park

Needham’s Skimmer ((Libellula needhami) – Male


A male Great Blue Skimmer can appear similar to the Slaty Skimmer above except for a white face. I think this is an older female Great Blue. Younger females have reddish-brown eyes which may turn blue in some older specimens.

Holloway Park

Great Blue Skimmer – Female (Libellula vibrans)


This is a new species for me: a Two-striped Forceptail. The thin abdomen curves when in flight.

Holloway Park

Two-striped Forceptail (Aphylla williamsoni) – Male


One of the few butterflies which held still long enough for a photo op was this dainty Sleepy Orange. I got dizzy in the mid-day heat following this one through the telephoto lens hoping it would land.

Holloway Park

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)


Another young bird. This Red-bellied Woodpecker played “peek-a-boo” from behind some Spanish moss.

Holloway Park

Red-bellie Woodpecker


A stately looking Tricolored heron asked for a portrait as I prepared to leave. How could I refuse?

Holloway Park

Tricolored Heron


The trip was short. There weren’t many photographs taken. Not many birds were about. It was a small dose and for today it satisfied. A reinforcement of the concept of hope provided my system with renewed energy. Life is good.

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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21 thoughts on “Small Doses

  1. So true– it is the journey and the solace of being with nature that refreshes the soul, not the big list of sightings and the multitude of photos. Here in south Florida we could really use a few cool days in the mountains. Thanks for taking us on that visit to the little patch of wildness.

  2. As most of those who visit regularly notice, my sister, Beth, makes really nice comments and, honestly, I don’t even pay her for it. If you would like to enjoy actual writing talent from the laid-back longleaf pine forest in the Florida panhandle, I highly recommend visiting her at:

    Hope you like dogs.

  3. Hi Wally. I just realised that I read the text of this post on my tablet, yesterday, but the tablet wouldn’t show the images, so I intended to return when I was at my PC so I could look at the images. Then events overtook me!!

    I loved your narrative, which seems to have exceeded all your previous wordsmithery (I get the impression that it must be in your genes, as Beth seems to have the same talent!). Your photos, however, make me somewhat envious again of the fantastic diversity of wildlife you have in your area. Some of your dragonflies, in particular, are so different to species we see over here. I still drool henever I see one of your images of a male Roseate Skimmer.

    Hoping that you are settling into normal life again – you’re in my thoughts. Best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

    • Thank you so much for the really kind comments, Richard!
      Sorry you’re having issues accessing the blog. Not certain where the problem is. If it continues, let me know and I’ll try to work through WordPress for a resolution.

      Talk about diverse species, though! After thoroughly enjoying your recent adventures in Scotland, I believe I’m the jealous one!

      We hope you and Lindsay are preparing for a wonderful weekend!

  4. Hi Wally. I can’t add to the words of Beth. She hit the nail on the head. I sincerely hope that both you and I continue to enjoy the little things in life but also see the bigger picture. Stay with it pal. I’m depending on you for some Florida sunshine.

    • Thanks, Phil, but Beth is an unpaid co-conspirator and is required by heredity to say nice things about her big brother. Or else.

      As I grow older (by the second, it seems), I confess my concentration is drawn more to the little things and I’m trusting the generations which follow shall take care of the bigger picture. Sure wish I had helped teach them more. Sigh.

      We are getting soaked almost daily here lately, but that’s normal this time of year. The sun is out this morning and the sky is bright blue and last night’s rain has left the air clear and fresh. Time to go birding!

      But first, I must post this envelope full of sunshine bound for Lancashire.

  5. Beth

    Your post here, Wally, is the style of three-dimensional essay that I love to read but seldom see. It is meditative, inspiring. It engages the heart and conveys deep truths, all while telling a story rich in detail (like “Mrs. Fish” — the kind of thing that actually happens in real life but would be a conceit in fiction).

    “The big feather mattress of the brass bed folded around us to form a warm and intimate sandwich.” What a richly textured image — gets my vote for best sentence in the memoir/creative nonfiction category. So sweet. So real.

    As for Gini’s wisdom about “small doses” — are you sure her name isn’t actually Genie?

    When you wrote about the time you spent between appointments at the small pocket park/nature buffer, and all the rich life you found there, I immediately thought about a book I read and wondered if you have read it: “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature” by David George Haskell.

    Your dragonfly series is exquisite. If I were forced to choose two favorites, they would be the male Roseate Skimmer and (#1) the Two-Striped Forceptail. Just look at those baby blues.

    Your work moves my heart, big brother.

    • That’s it. You’re hired.

      I really appreciate your wonderful review and glowing comments! I don’t even know what a “three-dimensional essay” is, but am proud to apparently have done one! Not sure I’ve heard about the book you mentioned but will cruise online and take a look. Those dragons were neat. There were a couple more new species (for me) I couldn’t get a photo of so I’ll have to go back. – 🙂

      About Gini being a Genie – you know her and you therefore know the answer. (Look up “common sense” in the dictionary and, yep, there’s her picture.)

      The only thing that would have made the outing more special would have been to share it with you. Soon.

      Love you!

      • Beth

        Don’t look for the book — I’ll share my copy; will send. Lou and I learned a secret this morning: if you just go ahead and walk even after it’s raining (which is pretty much all the time now), the mildew can’t stick to you. 🙂

      • That’s a good secret to know. Now, if I can just figure out how to scrape the stuff off my camera and binoculars……

  6. Beautiful photos – I especially like the juvenile bluebird that has caught a grub in its beak.
    Thanks also for the reminder that hope is there – if we look for it – and things will get better! All the best to you and Gini.

    • Thanks, Mick! I took a few pics of the bluebird and its two siblings as they hunted but the light was horrible. As I tried to move around to get the sun behind me they bolted for the tree tops. Oh, well. At least there were dragons to chase!

  7. Hello Wally,
    What a magnificent hymn to the love you share with Gini.
    How lucky you are to grow old together and still feel the same after 48 years!
    Wonderful and so precious 🙂
    Lovely series, a pleasure to look at your dragonflies, especially the Two-striped Forceptail, what a beauty!
    The 3 coloured heron is a stunner too!
    Keep well and enjoy your outings!

    • We will keep exploring and enjoying life and each other as long as possible! We fully realize how fortunate we are. I was excited to find that forceptail and actually saw two additional species that were new for me but couldn’t manage photos. So, I’ll be returning to that spot soon!

      Hope you are having a great week! We are having rain each day lately which has pushed the humidity even higher than normal.

  8. HI Wally Sorry there are so many mistakes (well more than normal) in my commnet above but I have broken a finger in 2 places adn I am sure I should not be typing at all!!!

    • Oh no!! We hope you heal quickly and for goodness’ sake don’t try typing to us until you are well! Our prayers are with you.

  9. Thanks for this post and reomnding us how important the ‘little things’ arein life if we only take time to stop and look. YOu Gini, the ‘wise one’ is right in that the ‘little things’ are the special things in life. The Dragonfly shos are fabulous but my favourite shot today is that beautiful Heron that was so kind to pose for you. I hope whaeven the tempory difficulties you are experiening will soon be over, My thoghts will be with you and Gini.

    • That is one of our common herons hereabouts and I’m afraid I overlook its beauty much too often. We are doing very well and things shall return to “normal” soon!

  10. The little things are huge in my world (and heart). Thank you so much for sharing the magic of yours.

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