Creation in a new light

Since February 1 of this year, I’ve been taking photos from our backyard looking northwest. More precisely, it’s probably west-northwest.

I take each photo ten minutes after sunrise. Sunrise on February 1 was 7:35am Central Standard Time, and sunrise today was 6:52am Central Daylight Time.

I’ve titled this series — which by no means includes each day but rather does include multiple days from each week since the start — #10MinutesAfterSunriseInTexas. If you go to Instagram and do a search for similar posts, you might find a series called “10 minutes after sunrise,” but there are only four such photos, and they don’t announce mornings in the great state of Texas but rather in places like Maine, where the sun actually rises only about seven days a year, in late June.

So I became interested in what I could learn about the sunrise here.

Previously, only a spectacular sunrise or sunset would earn my attention. It dawned on me that because I pick and choose what I want to see, I might be missing something even more spectacular.

See these two galleries below, followed by an observation I had. I’ll save others for later.

  • Gallery 1 is four photos from the first half of February. (Earliest is upper left and moves clockwise to later dates.)
  • Gallery 2 is two photos from the first half of February contrasted against two from the first half of May. (Earliest is upper left and again moves clockwise.)

To the naked eye, we can see differences, especially when sunrises are separated by a few months.

The camera — machine #1 — picks up differences further still. One day, I was sure it was an overcast-gray only. But the camera picked up more blue than I had noticed. The camera didn’t operate on preconceived notions about what it wanted to see.

It just reported.

Then, I added a second machine to see what I might be missing and to “say” what the camera didn’t have the tools to.

Adobe Capture is an app that allows you to create various patterns from photos. It also can compile a “swatch” of five colors that it deems dominant in that photo.

The series on the left is from early February — February 1 at top, February 14 at bottom. The series on the right, like the gallery, shows the first two February photos at top and the last two May photos at bottom. Move the vertical slider back and forth by clicking and holding the “< >” to compare and contrast.

On left is a machine impression of the February photographs. On the right is a machine impression of the first two February photographs (on top) and two photographs from this month (on bottom).

There are six conclusions I’ve made so far from looking at the photos over time, not through my eyes but through the eyes of two unbiased machines, that of my camera and Adobe Capture. I’ll share just one for now:

The sun doesn’t make the difference; the clouds do.

This was my problem at the start. My idea of a “great” sunrise or sunset not only was that it was sunny, creating a “golden hour,” but also that it was brilliantly so. Nothing wrong with that, granted.

But it is the clouds, playing off the sun, that create various shadows and shades of blues, browns and greens that I had missed until I filtered them through these two machines.

#10MinutesAfterSunriseInTexas is my way of seeing creation in a new light.

More to come.

Apparently, 16 minutes is necessary

Lunch break is not bringing me solace. Maybe I am reading the wrong news feed.

Because in my Feedly, there’s a story in my Texas folder (which comes after my Philippines folder) of:

  1. A toddler in Abilene being bitten by a rattlesnake…
  2. A man in Corpus Christi being bitten by a decapitated rattlesnake (this is 15 minutes after he severed it with a shovel and the out-of-control head released even more venom than usual), AND
  3. Karen knows someone who’s brother is recovering from a rattlesnake bite.

Isn’t it likely that it’s just a matter of time before one slithers up the toilet pipes when I least expect it? I mean, even a snake head can swim a short distance if we’re on the ground floor.


Multiplied Pain

snake in toiletThe snake tale has been confirmed again by its source.

I didn’t want to believe it, but Karen laughed–again, as we drove off the grounds of Comanche Trace.

There must be something about those oak trees forming a gauntlet, or the ubiquitous deer, or the sprinklers, that tickles her about my near-deathly fear of the creature about which God said long ago, “Cursed are you more than all cattle” (Genesis 3:14), but God also said, “And you [the snake] shall bruise him [the man] on the heel” (later in verse 14). Believe me, God ain’t talking about no “bruise.” A bruise I can take. It’s those fangs I worry about. Specifically, those fangs near a part of me a bit north of my “heel.” Because let’s face it, parts of Genesis are metaphorical, and God really didn’t want to lay the truth too bare for Adam and Eve–I mean, they were still pretty new to the Real Life Department–like that this cursed snake is going to swim up the toilet pipes of their descendants when one of them–a kind, middle-age man who grew up in New York City–is dealing with personal issues in non-heel areas.

Apparently, there are places where the sun don’t shine but the snake do bite.

Yet, Karen laughs.

That’s ok. God “multiplied her pain in childbirth.”

Exposed to snakes

So apparently we have a snake in our garage.

This was one of the worst nightmares of my early days of youth, right up there with the glow-in-the-dark Dracula model that I’d made and stupidly had displayed on my brother Jim’s desk. Staring down at me eight feet away in this tiny Manhattan bedroom we shared.

Four years old, I used to lie in bed at night and freak out because I was certain that if my arm slid off the side while I slept, a rattlesnake would bite me. Sure of it. My dad would come in, gently sit on the edge of the mattress near my waist so that I’d tilt toward him, feel his weight next to me, feel my smallness, and he’s say, “Howd, you don’t have to worry about any snakes in New York City. Besides, we’re six floors up and how would they push the elevator buttons?”

Today, those calming words dispelling childhood myths are meaningless. We live on one floor, with lawn and wildness outside all doors and windows around us. The house is porous. There is no elevator or 6th floor button to act as buffers. I can handle city muggers, crazy cab drivers, and tourists from Iowa, but snakes I cannot abide. No matter that early reports have the reptile measuring at 9 to 15 inches. No matter that it’s a garden snake. This means nothing. It’s alive. That’s everything.

What’s worse is that after trying to talk through my fears with Karen and telling her about the childhood nightmares again, she tells me that there are reports that “they come up through the toilets.”

“Alligators, you mean? Yeah…everyone knows that New York City myth.”

“No,” she retorts. “Snakes.”

“Snakes? In New York City plumbing?!”

“NO!” She’s laughing now, covering her mouth, hiding either the awful truth or a terrible tease. “Here. In Comanche Trace!”

“WHAT??!! Snakes coming up through our toilets?!”

This simply can’t be. I’m already dealing with hemorrhoids.

This is no time for benign neglect. I must take the fight to the asp in its current home, before it gets me in mine.

My new favorite business name?


Seen outside Gibson’s, practically my favorite store on Planet Earth:


How could I not navigate over to its website, if only to see the handbag beauty behind the brains that came up with the tagline for concealed-carry couture. One bag is called the Aphrodite, so if you’re feeling mythical and want to make sure no bad demigods toy with your immortality, this is the accessory for you. One of the most popular items is an evening shoulder bag, available in black or tan leopard. So if you’re at the Cailloux Theater listening to the symphony, and during intermission some joker tries to make a move on your tailgate, you go all cross-body with your .38 special and pump him full of timpani.

This is Texas, and if you can’t be deadly and look dressed-to-kill, well then, you best be on your way back to Oklahoma.

H-E-B 101

I will never be “a Texan” like I was “a New Yorker.” Not that I wouldn’t want to be a Texan. I’m simply not allowed to be.

Of course, that’s not exactly true, as many on Quora and elsewhere point out. Being “a Texan” is more a state of mind that, for instance, compels the non-Texan to say, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could!” It’s a willingness to identify.

Perhaps I’m experiencing Statehood Dysphoria.

People who come to the Big Apple, on the other hand, consider themselves New Yorkers after some quirky milestone or major event, such as:

  • They find themselves no longer looking up at the buildings.
  • They take the subway more often than they take cabs, and they never take the bus unless forced to, because it slows you down.
  • They find themselves annoyed when tourists who are walking on the sidewalk drift left or right out of their “lanes” and into their paths. (So annoying. “Get the F@#K out the way!”)
  • They lived through 9/11.
  • They fold their slice of pizza lengthwise and eat it while walking, quickly, careful to avoid the drifting tourists who are busy looking up at the buildings. They never order pizza with broccoli or pineapple on it.
  • They got mugged and still renewed their lease.
  • When going to their parents’ house outside the city for the holidays, they return to the city, throw their keys onto the coffee table, flop on the sofa and think, “it’s good to be home.”

There is a length of time or an event or series of events that will cause the transplant to say one day, “I am a real New Yorker.” Some of these will stay; some will move. Of those who move, most will cease to call themselves “New Yorkers.” They might opt for, “Oh, well, you know—I’ve lived all over.”

For a non-Texan to move to Texas, it’s like a foreign word coming into the French lexicon. It happens seldomly. At least not without a full background check on pedigree or certain qualifying attributes (one was born here but as an infant was whisked away criminally, etc.). I mean, “Le Breakdance” really doesn’t sound French now, does it? Is it possible that occasionally the State agencies at work might make a mistake and let in a forever-foreign element? I worry.

When I first came to Texas, I apparently needed an introduction to the way things are done. Or, more to the point, what real grocery stores look like.

My fiancée at the time, Karen strolled me up and down row after row of copious food and copious people. Our cart was the size of a Chevy Suburban. The aisles’ end caps were wider than the span of Bevo’s horns. Karen recalled and lamented the narrow New York City grocery store aisles with shoppers inching toward each in a slow-mo game of “chicken,” and then we came to the dairy section. In front of us was a forty-foot long refrigerated case filled to the brim with Pillsbury products. Orange rolls. Croissants. Grands. Etc. and etc. I imagined a polite, red-shirted stockboy must have come every couple minutes to replenish the inventory. Labels were facing out. The case itself was clean and humming.

“Now this,” she pronounced with a sweep of her arm, “is a biscuit aisle!”

Jimmy Dean sausage, rarely found in New York City grocery stores, plentiful in Kerrville, TX.