Raising Arizona (Hummingbirds)

In the 1987 Coen Brothers classic Raising Arizona, Criminal Herbert I. “Hi” McDunnough (played by Nicolas Cage) delivers one of the cult classic’s most memorable lines when he philosophized,

“Sometimes it’s a hard world for small things.”

That may be true, but I’ve found this spring and summer that: “Sometimes it’s a hard world to photograph small things.” This has been particularly true in regards to my efforts to digitally capture the escapades of several speedy hummingbirds–none seeming much larger than my index finger–that we seem to be raising in our Arizona backyard these past few weeks.

I often combat sleep challenges by investing time and attention to my plants and garden at the crack of dawn. More often than not, I am almost immediately greeted by one of ‘my birds.’ They seem to particularly enjoy hovering over our small water feature whenever I draw near.

I liked to think they enjoy the cool Sonoran Desert morning air as much as I do. It sure sounds and looks that way to me. The little guy pictured here even seems inclined to join me in giving thanks for the splendor of another new day.

The hovering signal they radiate and their frequent songs are as excitedly distinctive as a high pitched train whistle on a misty Flagstaff morning. Click here for a sample of hummingbird sounds that are strikingly similar to what I (and, often, other early risers in our neighborhood) hear.

There is an abundance of great hummingbird information available from trusted sources of online avian information. One of my favorite resources, and the one that provided the above audio sample, is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Because there is a plethora of easily accessible information, I’m not going to cover the many intriguing facts about these aerodynamic wonders in this writing. Instead, I simply want to communicate the joy that our ‘new neighbors’ have delivered.

They are truly fascinating…


occasionally humorous…

and always a great source of photo-remedy (when you can capture them in focus!)

Hummingbird shows us how to re-visit the past for the purpose of releasing it instead of being caught in a permanently backward flight pattern. It also helps us to see that if we step aside we may see our life differently. Hummingbird teaches us to transcend time, to recognize that what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future is not nearly as important as what we are experiencing now. It teaches us to hover in the moment, to appreciate its sweetness.

Constance Barrett Sohodski

Stopping and Smelling the (Saguaro) Blossoms

The blessings associated with slowing down continue to roll in for me.

Before we begin, it must be pointed out that I’m certainly not the wisest or the brightest. I did not have the wisdom to say, “I’m running too hard and too fast, I’m going to change my life so I can better appreciate my awesome family, incredible friends, and much more of our wonderful world.”

No, for me, it took my body saying, “No mas, amigo.”

While I am not thrilled with having so many of the things I loved in life (like biking, hiking, playing any kind of ball, or even spending a single day pain free) being removed at what many might say is a far too early age, I am eternally grateful for the many blessings associated with ‘new eyes.’ New eyes and a very bad back!

But, arguably stimulated by my bad back, I am seeing old things in new ways. A great example of this is illustrated by my springtime focus on photographing Arizona’s ancient saguaros.

While I have loved and appreciated the magnificent splendor that saguaros add to our inimitable Sonoran Desert landscape, I never benefitted from a close up look at them.  This year was different as I focused, in particular, on the spectacular blossoms that the mature saguaros bring us each May and June.

It is easy to see why In 1901 the saguaro’s blossom was adopted as the certified territorial flower. Then, in 1931, it was confirmed as Arizona’s official state flower. The blossoms were being appreciated by desert dwellers long before then; they had to be because it takes up to 75 years for a saguaro to develop a single side arm.  What I missed by ‘drive by’ appreciation of these tree-sized cactus species was how they truly spark the Sonoran Desert circle of life.

This year, I got up close to the blossoms. Really close. So close I couldn’t distinguish whether the noise is my head was my labored breathing or the bees breathing down my neck. I guess logic would have told me the blossoms would attract bees, but I had no idea how a close up look would reveal that virtually every single flower was adopted was by a single eusocial bee colony.

Bees are the major type of pollinator in ecosystems that contain flowering plants. It has been said the Sonoran Desert is arguably the most flower-abundant desert in the world. It sure seemed that way this spring.

It is estimated that one third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, most of which is accomplished by bees. As a result, the spark of life for much of the Arizona food chain begins at the saguaro blossom.

Seeing the world around me in new, more personal ways has been a staggering, mind-blowing miracle. I just pray that our readers get the same opportunity, and that it doesn’t take a devastating event for ‘everything to be made new’ in your life. And, if you have experienced tragedy or tremendous loss, I pray that you too zoom in on the blessings that follow.

Photoart by Greg

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All Roads Lead Home

In our January 28 post, I talked about how my native Kansas (often contrary to uninformed opinions) is a great place for travel photography. I wrote, “If everyone could see what I’m seeing through my camera viewfinder, it would be clear that Kansas was indeed a great destination to see and experience.”

That point was reinforced, again, recently when we returned to Cloud County. The area, I believe, represents a great slice of Kansas. Heck, it represents an impressive slice of the entire Midwestern region. More ambitiously stated, it is Americana.

I was blessed to have a couple of opportunities to wander the back roads looking for the local flavor while we were there for Mary’s mom’s estate sale and auction in May. A few of my favorite photos from those excursions are featured here. Additional sample are offered on our Exploration Communication website.



On my road trips, I found beauty in the burgeoning wheat fields, as they seemingly reached for perfectly painted skies.The comeliness was there even in the livestock, who were curiously attracted to my lens and were oblivious to the possibility that they would soon become photoart. I suppose that I should be a bit embarrassed that while they were so freely offering me photo-remedy, I was thinking, “Boy, I’m going to have to get me a big old porterhouse this trip!”

I’m a bad, albeit hungry, man.The truth of the matter is there was beauty in the unexplored…

in the lovingly maintained…in the forgotten…

and even in the quiet reminders that, eventually, all roads will lead us home. – Greg