Pat Futch   1929-2017

I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging. It’s something I enjoyed. But last spring I contracted pneumonia, then ongoing health issues, then work load increased, and on and on. I just never seemed to be able to carve out time for blogging despite my best intentions. I decided to begin again with the new year 2017. But life REALLY took a turn and blogging was the last thing on my mind. I spent the winter of this year helping Dad care for my mom during the last months of her life.

Momma had a few rough years beginning in 2014, or maybe it was 2013. She was diagnosed with cancer and had a mastectomy. After months of recovery she could boast of being cancer free! But not long afterward she fell and broke her hip. Again, after months of recovery and rehab she was back on her feet albeit with the help of a walker. She and Dad resumed their outings and Mom had great hopes of traveling once again. My parents were avid campers most of their married lives. But as fate would have it, Mom had another bad fall resulting in a crushed right shoulder. Recovery this time was slower and pain filled. But Mom was a fighter and she worked hard and continued to improve . . . slowly.

By Thanksgiving 2016 however, Mom began experiencing severe abdominal pain. By December and after exams and tests she was diagnosed with a ruptured diverticula, or something to that effect. In addition there was water around her heart and lungs. The only surgery Mom could possibly survive was a colostomy. As before, Mom fought hard to recover. She had good days, good enough to convince us all that as in the past, she would be traveling and enjoying all the things that brought her joy. But there were the bad days, too. On those days we worried. Nurses, therapists of differing modalities, social workers, home health, and a flurry of others began making their daily visits to help Mom recover and regain functionality. UTIs (urinary tract infections) were the bane of her existence and sent her to the hospital on more than one occasion. I made several trips back and forth spending weeks at a time in Kentucky helping Dad care for Mom.

Caring for Mom was a most treasured and humbling experience. In all honesty I do not know how to articulate the impact of that experience on my life. It was intimate. It was tiring, It was enormously loving. It was angering. I enjoyed conversations with Mom and Dad. I laughed. I cried. I was afraid. I knew exactly what to do and I did not know what the hell I was doing. I was patient. I was impatient. I had a meltdown once that to this day I have been unable to forgive myself for. I love, loved, and will always love Momma.

About Momma, she learned to fly a plane when she was 16 years old. Evidently there was a program during WWII where anyone who was old enough and was not fighting in the war could learn to fly. The thought was that in case of national emergency these young pilots could transport supplies for the troops cross country at a moment’s notice. Of course none of the newly trained pilots were ever called upon but it was Mom’s way of supporting the war effort.


Mom was the more adventuresome one between her and Dad. She met Dad in college at a motorcycle club. Harley Davidsons only. Two years later they married and for the first six or seven months of their marriage the motorcycle was the only mode of transportation they had. By then Mom was pregnant with twins, my brother and me. They had to get a car, but they never ever lost their love for motorcycles.

Their love of camping came about because Mom and Dad wanted to vacation to different parts of the country. Finances being what they were, camping was the only way they could swing it. By the time they started camping there were four of us “ankle biters.” Starting with a baker tent, our first camping trip was to Falls Creek Falls in Tennessee. And Mom and Dad discovered that camping was the only way they wanted to travel! Soon however, they knew that they needed a bigger tent to accommodate this family of six. So Mom ordered 60+ yards of nylon tent material and began sewing. Meanwhile Dad cut down a bunch of Pine trees on his Dad’s farm and they fashioned a Teepee modeled after the Lakota Sioux . . . mostly. From then on the family enjoyed camping across the country in that teepee and can tell many stories about it. Once when Dad was between jobs and we had no place to go (as in homeless) we headed to the high Rockies of western Colorado where friends had staked out a gold claim to homestead. We set up the teepee and lived there for four glorious months, frolicking in the mountains, driving into Crested Butte when necessary for supplies. This adventure ended when it was time for the school year to begin and we headed to Kentucky to stay with family until Mom and Dad secured jobs and we could get our own place. About a year and a half later (1968 or 1969) Mom and Dad bought a house that they live in to this day.

Once my siblings and I were grown and moved out to pursue our own adventures, the teepee was too large for just Mom and Dad. That is when they transitioned to backpacking. They backpacked from the Rockies to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, from California to Maine and even into Canada.  The two of them took youth groups on camping trips across the country, always learning about the area and the people they visited. In all their travels Mom never lost her avid desire to learn. She saw the world as a wonderful, awe-filled place to be.

Momma was a lab technician in local hospitals during her early adult life but by the time I reached high school she had “re-careered” to teaching middle school life science. She taught first in the “burbs” where she lived. After a few years however, she got restless and felt she could do more with her life. That is when she volunteered to teach in the Portland area, the “hood” in Louisville, Kentucky. Everyone told her she was crazy, it was dangerous, she was wasting her time, etc. But in hindsight the naysayers were all wrong. Mom made a great impact on many inner-city kids lives and was even awarded for her teaching skills and love of her students.

When Momma retired from teaching however, she still had more to give. She once again “re-careered” and became a naturalist at Falls of the Ohio State Park in Indiana, across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. She loved working there and was truly in her element in nature, teaching groups of school children about the geology and geography of the area. Mom stayed there for years, finally retiring when she was closing in on 80 years old.

Mom’s final years were quieter. She and Dad still traveled, but the trips became shorter and further apart. Day trips took the place of weeks-long camping trips. They maintained deep relationships with friends and family that were forged through years of shared experiences.  Life was rich and full to the end.  Mom left this world for another on the first full day of spring, March 22, 2017.


I discovered this unfinished blog today as I explore resurrecting my site, or maybe creating a new one. I was still raw from Mom’s passing when I started this blog, and was unable to finish it at the time. Since then, the family has grown through marriages and births. We’ve celebrated the joyful times and grieved our losses as well. The family continues to experience all that life offers, or at times throws at us. We are in the midst of a pandemic that has already claimed over 730,000 lives in this country alone. The country is torn by politics and ideologies based in, and goaded on by politicians who capitalize on our fear of “the other”, whoever the “other” happens to be. I’m glad that Mom doesn’t have to see this state of affairs. On the other hand, I imagine she would look beyond all that rancor and vitriol to see the wooded hillside, the crocus poking up through the snow, wild animals in their habitats, sunrises and sunsets. She would share the delight of hearing birds warble at the backyard feeder, or point out the various plants growing in her yard. It was her yard. Dad detests yard work but he loved Mom, so she pointed and he planted.  If she were alive today, Mom would be sewing doll clothes for the doll ministry that provides beautiful dolls and stuffed animals for children in hospitals and domestic violence shelters. Rather than wring her hands about the immigrant problem, Mom would be squirreling away money to send to programs that support indigents around the world.

My brothers and I wondered how Dad would get on after Mom’s passing. She was an extrovert who managed to find the positive in just about anything that came her way. Dad, on the other hand, can be melancholy as he ponders deep existential questions. He is the classic introvert. We needn’t have worried though. Dad is still going strong. He misses Mom and speaks at times of when he will join her, but he has clearly stated that while he is alive, he will continue to live. Dad takes day trips now, to parks and places of interest where he can hike and sightsee, or sit by a fire in a lodge somewhere enjoying a cup of coffee. He remains active in his church. And he walks a mile or two almost every day at the local Meier’s where he greets workers who know him by name. Dad will celebrate his 92nd birthday this winter.

We have been blessed, my brothers and I, with amazing parents who through the years demonstrated by their actions, how to embrace life, all of it. I started this post shortly after Mom died, and now, four+ years later, I’m not sure how to finish it. But maybe that is the way… Death is not the end. Life goes on, and death comes along as part of that experience. Dad continues onward, continues to live, and when he passes, others of us will continue the living. So I’ll end here, celebrating life and death and life. Remembering Mom. Enjoying time with Dad. Choosing, as did Mom, to seize ways to live more fully.


Monthly Photo Challenge: Urban Seasons/Cleveland, OH — February, 2016

This month was more challenging than I anticipated. Due to work schedule and other obligations I was unable to get into the city to photograph. However I was able to drive through a park on my way home from work one evening and took time to enjoy the winter wonderland. I hesitated to post in this forum because it wasn’t really the “urban” challenge I set for myself. But in lieu of city shots, I am posting these images of a metro-Cleveland park. After all, even urban areas have parks and forest areas set aside for human enjoyment and relaxation/rejuvination. A bit late, I know, but all shots are in the urban Cleveland area during the month of February.  Enjoy.


Please feel free to comment/critique/suggest ideas. Hopefully I will be able to shoot more urban looking photos in March. Have a great month everyone!

The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by


Monthly Photo Challenge: Urban Seasons/Cleveland — January 2016

Cleveland, OH: July, 2014 at dusk.


Welcome to a new year! As indicated in my last post, this year I will be focusing on urban photography. Besides expanding my skills by delving into new territory photographically speaking, I hope to learn more about this, my adopted city. I grew up in the south and am told I still speak with a bit of a southern drawl. Relocating to Cleveland, OH,  a city situated on the shores of one of our great lakes, Erie, is a culture shock to say the least.  I work in the city but at times still feel like a stranger. Choosing to focus on the seasonal changes in the city seemed like a no-brainer for me. Little did I know how very different nature photography is from photographing city sights!

Unlike the organic lines, lights, shadows and shapes found in nature, urban landscapes are a juxtaposition of straight lines, harsh angles, crisp shadows, and all things concrete and metal. As you will see, I found it difficult to frame shots that didn’t look wildly distorted, tilted, and/or contrasty. I intentionally shot some photos at angles to hide the fact that I couldn’t get a good perspective no matter how hard I tried.

Another challenge to me was simply where to begin. I quickly discovered that going out to shoot photos in the city bewilders me. There is simply too much of everything: buildings, interesting streets, storefronts, lights, automobiles, etc. This month’s post is a hodgepodge of photos from different areas of the city. The black and white photos of the bridges and tavern were shot in an area known as “The Flats.” The color photos (with b&w thrown in) were shot in “Little Italy” and “Cleveland Heights.” Going forward I will choose one area of focus and concentrate in that area or on one subject. Otherwise I will get flustered and too discouraged to see this through to the end. Yes, this year will be quite a challenge. I hope you will feel free to offer constructive criticism as the year progresses. This project is a work in progress and is truly a learning experience for me. In other words, HELP! 😉

The photo that heads this post was shot a couple of years ago from a lakeside park looking east toward Cleveland after the sun had set. My plan is to use this as the header of each post in this challenge throughout the year, unless of course I get something better.

I hope you enjoy this months photos. I have mixed feelings, but look forward to improving with each month’s post.

As indicated last month, with this 2016 challenge I will highlight one photograph to “play” with, try something new, or edit in some way that will help me grow as well as enhance the image. This month I chose to experiment with the image I shot looking through the front window of my car (while stopped at a traffic signal). The window was still frosted around the edges as I peered at the red car in front of me.

I downloaded Picassa, a free post-editing program that I think will enhance my post editing skills, experimented with it and the following photo is what I came up with. Of course I never wrote down the steps to achieving the following photo so can’t comment much on it. I just fiddled with a few settings and here you see the finished product. Next month I will take better notes. Let me know what you think.


My first post processed print using Picassa!

As you can see, I have a LOT to learn this year. I look forward to reading your comments and seeing your images, too. Have a great 2016!





Monthly Photo Challenge: North Chagrin Reservation — 2015 Addendum!

I stated in the previous blog that I was not going to post a “final” edition of this 2015 challenge. I changed my mind. Following are some of my favorite photos from each month of this year. I tried to make them representative of both season and location. Enjoy!

























This is a wrap! Hope you enjoyed the changing seasons at North Chagrin Reservation as much as I did this year. I look forward to what this challenge reveals in 2016. Happy New Year!

The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by


Monthly Photo Challenge: North Chagrin Reservation — December

You will notice this month that the images look more like a chilly autumn day than a blustery December winter. I am told that the unseasonable weather is in part due to the El Nino phenomenon. I suspect that global warming plays a role in the changing weather patterns as well. Usually by this time of year Cleveland, a city that sits on the shores of one of the northern Great Lakes, has seen quite a bit of snow. But this year has been unseasonably warm with a mere dusting of snow here and there thus far. Despite the uncharacteristic weather, the reservation is as inviting and beautiful as ever. I hope you enjoy these images as I wrap up this 2015 challenge.




A final post with the best or most representative photo of each month was suggested as a way to wrap up this year’s challenge. While the suggestion is an excellent one and would be a fitting way to end this year’s challenge, I am choosing to pass on that. To be honest, my mind and imagination is already at work planning and plotting how to approach 2016’s challenge.

For the coming year I plan to do something drastically different! I am a nature photographer, however my work takes me into the city everyday, most often the “hood” or what we used to call the “slum” areas. I prefer the term “hood” because it suggests places where people live and go to school and raise their children. I have never attempted urban nor have any experience with street photography. But when I am in the city, even in the low income, dilapidated areas, I see beauty. Maybe it’s in the intersecting lines of bridges and architecture, or patterns of light and shadow, or contrast between shabby and opulent, or even the surprising abundance of nature that is found in places where concrete and asphalt appears to obliterate everything natural. At any rate I am looking forward to stretching myself by expanding into new areas of photography. I will use the same format as I have used this year with the exception that from each month’s carousel of photos, I will highlight one photo for experimenting a different processing technique, hopefully something I’ve not done before. I hope you will join me on this journey into a new year’s monthly challenge.

May you have a wonderful new year. I hope to see you here in 2016!

The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by



Monthly Photo Challenge: North Chagrin Reservation — November

It is hard to believe that we have reached the penultimate month of this wonderful photo challenge. November reveals stark changes from the lush, vibrant summer and early fall posts. Trees are denuded of their foliage, verdant colors have transitioned to golds and browns, and the wild life is sparse as birds fly south and mammals start preparing for their winter hibernation. Yet, beauty still abounds. I hope you enjoy this month’s entry in the challenge. I hope, too, that you get a sense of the magic of this place. Enjoy.

The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by
The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by

Monthly Photo Challenge: North Chagrin Reservation — October

Wow. What a change a few days makes! We are now definitely into the fall here. The temps have begun to drop. We saw our first snow fall of the season yesterday and it has still been “spittin’ ” snow today though there is no accumulation. The jackets and coats have come out and the thermostat was turned up to warm the house. Personally I experience a little grief about this time every year. I thrive in the spring and summer months, so this transition into fall (and eventually winter) triggers a bit of melancholy. Having said that however, spending time at the reservation reminds me of the glory of every season, which boosts my sagging spirit. I really tried to capture the fall feeling and gorgeousness of this place this month.

As an aside, today is my birthday. I don’t do big parties or celebrations. We tend to find simple, meaningful ways to mark life events around here. With that in mind, my birthday treat to myself was to drive out to the reservation and spend hours this morning roaming, meditating, photographing, and rejuvenating. Some of the photos posted today were taken this morning. What a wonderful way to start the day! I hope that you, too, find meaningful ways to spend your days. Enjoy this month’s collection.



The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by
The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by

Monthly Photo Challenge: North Chagrin Reservation — September

It is hard to believe that we are already to September with the Changing Seasons Monthly Photo Challenge. I took time to review the preceding eight months of going to the reservation with the intent of “noticing” the changes, photographing what I noticed, and sharing images with you in the hopes that you, too, would fall in love with this wonderful, magical place. This month witnessed the apex of summer — North Chagrin is as lush as it will get, the flowers are going to seed, the first hints of autumn are emerging, birds are beginning their migration south — but it’s beauty and wonder never wanes for me. I tried to capture the feeling of this transition to autumn in the photos this month. Exciting for me is the fact that I saw and captured fowl that I have never seen before at the reservation. What fun! This month I organized the images into two galleries simply because I could not limit myself to just 20 (or less) photos of this place that I love so much.  Please forgive my self-indulgence. North Chagrin Reservation is THE place I go to when I can (2 or 3 times weekly) to revive my soul and energies. 😉

First are images of the end of summer flora and fauna found at North Chagrin. Enjoy!

The second gallery depicts the profusion of birds that make North Chagrin Reservation their summer home, or maybe a “passing through” place between the wilds of Canada and points further south. I am excited to share these photos because there are many that are first time photo ops for me. One, the Green Heron, I have tried to capture (photo-wise) for years. This was the year for that beauty! But you will also see multiple shots of an Osprey, also a “first catch”, as is the Cormorant. Then there are the beautiful usual geese and Great Blue Heron (that has already headed south by now, I believe). The Red Winged Black Birds are ubiquitous year round.  Enjoy!

So that does it for September! Next month will be full of autumnal colors, I am sure, as October will be the first full month of Fall. Thank you for stopping by and perusing the photos of this wonderful place. I hope you have enjoyed it.

The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by
The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by


Monthly Photo Challenge: North Chagrin Reservation — August

It has been a wet, cool summer; the wettest on record I am told. Despite that however, the Reservation is lush and lazy as one would expect in the month of August. I found it more challenging to photograph this month. There were many other demands on my time. But I think these photos will give a sense of how the changing seasons continually transform this special place. And you will notice that the frogs are back! They are in a different location, but even so the kids love to crawl on the sculptures, frogs and snake. Enjoy!

The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by
The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by