I love the idea that abstract art is a kind of joke in the same way that a Zen koan is a joke: you project your expectations of the familiar onto a new object and it throws it all right back in your face. This is not a thing made to look at, especially, but a thing to make you ask, “what is actually happening when I look at things?” Confounded by the lack of a subject our habits direct us to find one anyway, so people might say, “it looks like a such-and-such.” Like finding faces in clouds.

Much of Buddhist mind training centers on destabilizing this habit of clinging always to the conceptual. When you understand this, the entire facade of Modernism comes home like a punchline and then you can have a good laugh. Or you could try to sound smart and cook up some interpretation of what you think the artist is trying to say.

Photo (CC BY-SA) 2021. Wood scraps staged temporarily for the photo, with further graphic effects.

Puzzling Evidence

“You got the CBS and the ABC, Time and Newsweek, they’re the same to me…” from True Stories soundtrack, David Byrne and Talking Heads. I liked this film and soundtrack so much my friends were beginning to wonder about me. Just kidding. They always did wonder about me.

April 24th, 2021 (Bird Photos)

Significant fallout on Saturday as heavy rains fell the night before. Drove to Galveston early and spent the day gathering migrant bird sightings and photographs. The east end of the island was blanketed with Baltimore Orioles and scores of other species. April had been comparatively weak until now. Bird postings to decrease in frequency henceforth.

Painted Bunting
Indigo Bunting
Gray Catbird

Indigos and catbirds are a safe bet each spring, the catbirds were especially numerous. Happy to get a decent shot of the male Painted Bunting, much less seen than its brilliant blue cousin.

Wood Thrush

Underexposed photo of subject in the shadows, not taken in moonlight! I love all the thrushes.

Northern Waterthrush
Yellow Warbler

I took a break mid afternoon and then checked out the East End Lagoon and Apffel Park, both packed with migrants. Parked by a mud hole along Apffel Road and it was like attending the theater. Yellow Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole.

Yellow-breasted Chat

The chat did NOT want his picture took, no sir.

Summer Tanager
Blue Grosbeak

Imagine stopping to rest after a great journey, exhausted and sopping wet, and then people line up to take your picture. I was happy that the weather did not give strong headwinds this time as this causes extreme fatigue and fatalities. Rain is enough to bring them down at landfall. Given clear skies and a tailwind, they generally head further inland to more isolated fields and forests. Pretty much the story of this April with so many inactive birding days.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Black-throated Green Warbler

Happy to log a female, which I had never seen before.

Warbling Vireo -or- Philadelphia Vireo

My take is warbling, but I could be wrong. Opinions welcome, please comment below.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Five-lined Skink (male, breeding)
Houston Ship Channel

I drove down before sunrise to avoid the traffic and to enjoy the feast of color and light that greets us most every day on the gulf. Thanks, as always, for looking!

All photos (CC BY SA) 2021, Galveston, Texas. Corp Woods, Lafitte’s Cove, & East End locales.

Earth, Wind, and Water

Captivated by the imagery produced in sand by the wind and water I decided to curate a little show of its work. Water or air moving over loose sand will produce a matrix of interlocking dune forms reminiscent of the cords of gray matter on the exterior of a brain. Dappling from raindrops adds texture to the mix. Some of these are combinations of all three effects. The photo captions serve as titles and attempt to gather loosely into a poem.

the spirited appearance
evacuating the scene
in a weathered relief
of birds and blown leaves
driven to compete, compelled to conform
echoes the style of clouds
in a collated cycle of day and night


Cropped and minimally edited photos of Gulf Coast beach sand made with a Galaxy S9 over several days. (CC) 2021

Birds, Early April 2021

Northern Harrier, Bolivar Flats, TX

Harrier indulged me with some close-up poses in the early AM out near Bolivar Flats. There’s been a pair of them hunting the fields between the highway and the beach.

Green Heron, Seawall Blvd., Galveston
Sora, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston
Ring-billed Gull (immature, 2nd winter), Bolivar Flats
Forster’s Tern, Galveston
American Avocet, Bolivar Flats
Whimbrel, Bolivar Flats
American Oystercatcher, Bolivar

All photos (CC-BY-SA) 2021, G. Paul Randall. April on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Oh Yellow, Little Fellow

It is peak birding season here on the Texas Gulf Coast, so please forgive the excessive posting of bird photos. This Prothonotary Warbler stayed with me for a good 30 minutes giving ample photo ops. At one point it was foraging so close that the telephoto couldn’t focus. You have to see this bird in person to appreciate the intensity of yellow. It is like the archetype of all yellows, uncapturable by photographic means. This is at the Snuffy Smith Memorial Bird Blind (not its real name) hidden away within the Corp Woods Nature Preserve in Galveston, TX.

Red-eyed Vireo
Worm-eating Warbler
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Black-and-white Warbler (female)

The shear cruelty of the natural world is on display here as a warbler snags a pair of mating moths.

All photos (CC-BY-SA) 2021, G. Paul Randall