First Bloom.

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “First Bloom”. As with all of feature images on my copies can be purchased by following the instructions at the bottom of the page.

Tonight we’re having a little cold snap and as expected there is ice, snow and cold rain all on the same day. But I’m actually encouraged by the turn in the weather because historically there’s always a couple of snowy days before winter actually ends. Today’s snow means there’s only one or maybe two snows left to deal with. The next sign will be the emergence of the Serviceberry. Also known locally as Sarvis tree Serviceberry is probably the first thing to bloom in the Appalachian Mountains. As I understand it, the name comes from the old days when traveling during the winter months dangerous at best. Oftentimes when a person passed away in the winter the body was burried whenever it could be and the memorial service was delayed until Spring. There was little in the way of flowers to bring to the grave and thus the bloom of the Serviceberry tree filled the need. The tree would have been planted near churches and graveyards to ensure that flowers were available for those who came to the service. There’s other stories about how the tree got it’s name and there’s a long list of names for this family of trees. If I remember correctly from my forestry classes ( 20 years ago) the trees do hybridize frequently making exact identification of species and strains best left to tree nerds.

Because of the early bloom these trees are an important source of food for honeybees. It’s a mistake to think that honeybees sleep the winter away. They are busy all through the winter keeping the hive warm with their bodies and that means that they need fuel. A quick Google search says that a hive might need as much as thirty pounds of honey to make it through until Spring. TALK ABOUT A SUGAR BUZZ! By the time the weather warms up they’ll be ready to resupply and a good crop of Serviceberry bloom is just thing to tide them over until the rest of the flowers wake up. Honeybees feed the world so if you’re the kind of person who plants ornamentals and your local environment will support Serviceberry then you can do something that will actually make the world a better place by planting Serviceberry. Not only will you feed the bees that pollinate crops that feed the world but you’ll be rewarded with crop of your own. The Serviceberry fruit is edible and delicious! When I was a kid we would eat the raw when we could beat the wildlife to the berries but there’s a whole list of puddings, pies and preserves that use the berries.

I’m betting that some of my fellow Appalachians have some wonderful stories about picking Serviceberry fruit in late Spring and early Summer and I’d love to hear about your memories in the comments! If you’re reading this in one of the Facebook groups that have comments turned off then come on over to the Lloyd’s Lens Photography page on Facebook and tell me your story there. The weather is bad outside but we can look forward to seeing those delicate white flowers soon. The feature image for this post was taken in the last week of March a couple years ago.

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All About The Christmas Holly

Well by gosh by golly, tonight’s post is all about holly!

One of the more familiar icons of the Christmas season in North America holly is a direct analogy to Jesus Christ.

Obviously the red berries are said to represent the blood that was shed for the remittance of sin. Only innocent blood could break the curse of Adam.

The prickles on the leaves are in relationship to the crown of thorns. In Roman Times the highest honor a leader could receive was a crown made from the grass of the battlefield where he had just gained victory. Because the thorn is a symbol for the curse of Adam a crown of thorns could be seen as a symbol for Christ’s victory, awarded to him by the sinners who He was born to save.

Holly is evergreen representing eternal life bestowed upon us by Jesus.

The wood produced by holly is white and symbolizes purity.

On a side note, if you want to have pretty red berries on your holly tree you need two trees. Holly comes in male and female trees. Holly grows wild in my area and before I understood why I would be disappointed to see one without berries.

In addition to that, one of my Forestry instructors would tell us that “holy wood will guide you right”. The wood is very fine grained and somewhat oily. Because of this it was once used to make guide pins for saw mills.

Even though Christmas holly is evergreen there is a type of holly tree that is deciduous. It has bright red berries like it’s festive Christmas cousin but the leaves turn bright yellow in the fall and drop in winter.

The berries of all hollies are poison but beautiful to look at making them great landscaping for the drab backdrop of winter.

That’s pretty much it for holly as it relates to the Christmas season. I hope that you have enjoyed this post.

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Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Christmas Holly 2018” and is available for purchase by usingthe Contact Form on my website. ( just click the picture of the bell below)

The second picture is titled “Deciduous Holly 2018” and is also available for purchase by using the Contact Form on my website.

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The Secret At The Top of The Staircase

The last remnants of snow seep into the forest floor revealing the old staircase. The vines and litter that coat them make for a slippery climb to the top. Taking care to be aware of my foot placement I started to ascend. My heart began to race about one third of the way up. I began to sense a trap. What would it be? Poison darts or would the huge log ahead of me dislodge itself and come rolling towards me? Or maybe the steps would just fall away and drop me into a snake pit. Nervously I take another step. There’s a creaking noise from somewhere near the top and I freeze. The tension in my legs tells me that I’ve instinctively prepared myself to spring out of the way. I began to suspect that the the trap must be that the trees will all come tumbling down and crush me. I look more closely at the next few stairs and make certain that there’s no trip wires or secret switches. Slowly but surely I take the next step and the one after that. I’m well past the point of no return as I make my way over the logs. I paused for a moment and adjusted my fedora before taking the last step and learning the secret that waits at the top. Do you want to know what I found? Can you guess the secret truth that was revealed to me? Well then, I’ll share it with you now. What I learned was… that I’ve seen way too many Indiana Jones movies and there’s nothing at the top of this staircase but creaky trees. Adventure is a state of mind that keeps us young. Thank you for joining me for this one!

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Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “What’s Up There?” and is available for purchase by using the Contact Form on my website. (Note, I do not share or sell contact information. EVER)

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The Little Dragons

I have to admit that I never met a lizard that I didn’t like. Of course that might all change if I ever run into a Gila monster or a Komodo Dragon. Here in the Appalachian Mountains they don’t get much larger than this little guy in tonight’s feature image. The Five Lined Skink. The largest one I’ve seen was one about six inches long but in the eyes of a little kid with a vivid imagination it was a living dinosaur! I was never able to catch one but I always wanted to make a pet out of one so I could teach him to play Godzilla with my toy soldiers. In those days home movies were still shot on film but I had visions of setting up the scene shooting my own monster movie. It was during this endeavor that I learned about the trick tail. I was hunting for a big one that I had seen out by the barn. I was cautiously lifting up old wood an pieces of bark with a stick in case of a snake when I found him. My hands moved like lightning and I caught him! However the lizard had a surprise in store for me and the blue tail broke off in my hand. I looked down and saw the empty tail wiggling in my hand and started crying because I had broken my lizard. My kind and loving grandfather explained that it lets go of its tail on purpose and that the tail grows back. (Of course as a child I thought it grow back instantly like magic). At one point there was one with a forked tail living close to the house. It’s tail had not completely detached and the new one grew in next to the old one.

As an adult I smile and even speak to the little lizards on my property. I try to save some space for them on and around my property and in return they help keep the insect population in check. It seems that I got my pet lizards by simply leaving them alone and letting them do their thing.

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. You’re also invited to follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook. If you don’t want to miss a post then you can sign up for email alerts on my website at the bottom of the Welcome Page.

Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Guardian On The Bridge” because he lived on the wooden foot bridge of my former home. Prints are available for purchase by contacting me on Facebook or by using the Contact Form on my website.

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The Hunter (part 2)

Hello Friends, before I continue my prehistoric fiction story inspired by the rocks at Beartown State Park in West Virginia I wanted to invite you to make sure that you read Part one first. The Hunter (part 1)

The hair on the back of the hunter’s neck stood up . He strained his eyes trying to penetrate the shadows as he prayed for strength. The thumping of his his heart was so loud it was drowning out the growling and hissing from the back of the cave. His voice cracked as his prayers grow more audible. He moved slowly as he leaned to the right and groped the dark cavern floor for the shaft of his spear. He could not break the lock that the beast had with his eyes. Instinct told him that if he looked away that the creature would pounce. He kept his movements subtle and deliberate. Finally he felt the bite of the spears stone tip against the palm of his hand. He drew the shaft forward projecting that razor sharp obsidian blade towards the danger. With his main tool now in place he braced the butt of shaft with his foot and waited for the terror in the shadows to make its move. His eyes widened as a shrieking howl burst forth. The noise sounded almost like the screaming of a woman. The eyes moved lower as something slinked his direction and paused. Another scream shattered the cavern air and the hunter tightened his grip on the spear. As the firelight fell on his opponent his worst fears were confirmed. The jet black cave lion drew it’s hind legs in tight and sprang forward. The hunter gasped as the cat became airborne and for a split second it seemed to hover in mid air. The hunter felt the full impact of the cat’s weight as it fell motionless across his body. His spear had found it’s mark at the last second. The cat was nearly as large as he was. His muscles strained as he pushed the animal off of himself. He he quickly scanned the cave to make sure that there was no mate to avenge the first cat. Satisfied that he was once again alone he picked up his discarded flute and renewed his song of thankfulness to the creator.

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The Hunter (part one)

The crisp breeze gently shakes the trees. Brightly coloured leaves rain softly from the canopy. The rustic boardwalk welcomed me foreword and with the first step the outside world disappeared. The rock cap ferns form a thick mat in the leaf litter atop each crag. The rocks at Beartown State Park form a Labyrinth with tunnels and canyons that wind their way through the forest. I imagine that Millenia ago this was a large cave system. Perhaps some prehistoric hunters took shelter here while tracking a primeval beast. In my mind’s eye I can see him unroll a bundle pelts with all of his treasures tucked away safely inside. Wrapped up in the leather pouch at center is the dried meats and wild roots that sustained him on this journey. His fire kit is bound in a separate pouch. Not just any dry sticks will start the fire. The twigs were selected with great care. This was magic and must be treated with the utmost respect. With ritual precision he places a stick in the notch and begins to sing the fire song and spin the evening fire. Soon the smell of smoke rises up from the joining of the wood. He knows not to quit yet and keeps his efforts in time with the fire song. Once the last verse has ended he shakes free the ember from notch and places on a dry mushroom. He remembered the words of his father when the magic was passed down to him. “The fire is a living thing and like all living things it must breath”. The hunter kindles the ember by passing on the breath of life. Again his father’s wisdom speaks to his memories, “living things must be fed slowly so that they do not choke “. The hunter starts to feed the fire fluffed leaves and then small twigs. He progresses from step to step when the fire was strong enough he began to cook his meal. He doesn’t require much. Just a thin stew from his provisions. After the meal he thanked the creator by playing his flute. He had a lot to be thankful for. Good shelter, a warm meal and a rich heritage to keep him strong. As he played something stirs in the back of the cave. Something that is not happy about the noisy music in the cave. The hunter whirls around and comes to one knee. Deep within the shadows of cave the greenishglow of eyes in the firefight glare back at him.

To be continued…

The Hunter (part 2)

Hello Friends and hope that you’re enjoying tonight’s fiction. If you enjoyed this post please like and share my work on your social media and follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook. Each post features a photo taken by me along with original writing. Sometimes fact and sometimes fiction but always inspired by the feature image. On my homepage at www.lloydslensphotographyllc.com you’ll find a subscription link at the bottom of page if you sign up for email alerts you’ll never miss a post.

Overcoming Produces Beauty

I’ve said it before about how much I love twisted and crooked, gnarly trees. The curls sweeps of the wood speak of challenges that were overcome to survive. I’m not sure what caused the arabesque in the trunk of this one but the moment I saw the double curve I fell in love with the tree. No doubt that it had to have carried the weight of at least one or maybe two larger trees as it grew. I also have no doubt that it’s unique shape prevented it from being harvested at some point in its history.

Sometimes God allows us to go through struggles that we don’t understand. We might wonder how much longer a situation will last. We might think that the burden we carry will pull us down. But if we just keep going and we don’t give up we can make it. Sure, there’s going to be scars and we may not stand as tall as some of our contemporaries. But, that doesn’t make us any less beautiful. It makes us overcomers and it makes us unique.

As I looked around at the surrounding forest there were hundreds of trees that were straight and tall. Some of trunks were so thick that you and your best friend couldn’t reach all the way around them by joining hands. But they all faded into the background. The only one that stood out and begged to be photographed was the one who was unique. One day this tree will fall just like the rest of them. As a woodworker I can imagine some bent wood furniture being made from crooked trunk. If it ever happens it will be a centerpiece in someone’s home where the others couldn’t compete with the graceful curves produced by overcoming the struggle. Don’t ever give up. Bend and adapt to overcome and you’ll grow into something special.

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