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Photo Essay: Chincoteague and Assateague in 12 Shots

15 Nov

It’s hard to summarize my favorite relaxation spot, Chincoteague Island, VA in less than a several hundred photographs.  But because I know you don’t want to sit through an entire slideshow, I’ve chosen 12 (I tried to only pick 10) of my favorite photos from my trip last month to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague National Seashore.  These aren’t necessarily my best shots, yet they have captured my heart for various reasons.  I hope to show you more of my photographs in the coming weeks, but we know how I’ve been about blogging as of late… (Note: Click on the picture to view the image in a bigger format!)

Where/What is it?:  A view of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (CNWR) just after sunrise.

Why I Like It:  It’s the golden hour and it’s CNWR.  Need I say more?  It’s been my laptop’s wallpaper for a weeks.

Where/What is it?:  Mature Blue Heron, CNWR

Why I Like It:  The heron is just starting to take off or land (I can’t recall) and it looks like it is dancing with the wind.

Where/What is it?:  Assateague Pony on the Maryland side of Assateague (though they’re actually horses, but are called ponies due to their small stature.)

Why I Like It:  BFF Sarah and I just happened upon a group of five mares wandering along the edge of the beach campgrounds.  Before Sarah got out of the car, I had a moment to be with these wild creatures.  Plus, I got the iconic pony on the beach shots I was hoping for.  They’re  not running along the ocean’s edge, but this was still pretty special.  I dare say it was a holy moment given to me by God.

Where/What is it?:  Assateague Pony on the Maryland side of Assateague National Seashore (though they’re actually horses, but are called ponies due to their small stature.)

Why I Like It:  This mare was part of the group of five I mentioned above, but she seemed to take a special interest in going eyeball to eyeball with me.  There we were observing one another and I believe a little bit of respect and awe passed between us in the calm warmth of the day.  I have some more great shot of this girl!

Where/What is it?: A tree & a Sika deer (an Oriental elk introduced to the island by settlers), CNWR

Why I Like It:  Since I broke my foot, I haven’t had much practice with my Canon T3i so I didn’t yet understand all my settings, which is how I missed the Sika deer for the tree.  This picture would be perfect if the deer was in focus, but alas, she’s not.  Still, the photo is sort of artistic and makes me laugh.

Where/What is it?: Osprey, CNWR

Why I Like It:  This is one of my very favorite photo subjects!  After years of trying, I was FINALLY able to photograph a bird of prey and only on my second day at CNWR.  The funny part is that I was photographing a yet-to-be-identified bird on the logs below and I looked up into the tree and saw the osprey.  This is one of those pictures where my DSLR upgrade from the Canon XTi to the 3Ti makes a huge difference in the quality of the photograph.

Where/What is it?: Assateague National Seashore (ANS), Maryland side

Why I Like It:  It’s a  pretty underwater shot near where Sarah and I like to eat lunch in Assateague.  The shoreline was devastated and the area that used to be a grassy picnic area is now a sandy beach area.

Where/What is it?: Beach at sunrise, ANS (Virginia side)

Why I Like It:  Sarah and I got up very early to watch the sun rise on the beach and it was a beautiful experience.  I hadn’t planned on walking on the beach because I was being cautious about my healing foot, but I made it and this photo is the result.  I took a picture of the only other person on the beach.  I hope he doesn’t mind.

 Where/What is it?: Great Egret, CNWR

Why I Like It:  I had a chance to observe this bird for a while and got some pretty shots.  This is my favorite out of the whole set.

 Where/What is it?: Cormorant, CNWR

Why I Like It: These diving birds crack me up.  I love how this little guy just waddled out of the water.  I have better shots of cormorants, but this one makes me chuckle.

Where/What is it?: Delmarva Peninsula Squirrel (Endangered), CMWR

Why I Like It: Who doesn’t love squirrels?  And these particular squirrels are endangered, but this little fella was busy hiding nuts for the long winter ahead.  To me, it seems that these squirrels have extra fluffy tails.

Where/What is it?: Down by the docks in Chincoteague Island, VA (city)

Why I Like It: I enjoy watching the sun set down by the docks and here’s a little spot Sarah and I discovered last year.  This year crabbing signs have been added.


Where/What is it?: Down by the docks in Chincoteague Island, VA (city)

Why I Like It: White waiting for the sun to set, I couldn’t help but write a message in the sand.  I can just imagine a grizzly fisherman coming across it, can’t you?

Photo Essay: Marvelous Migration

3 Jan

The snow geese have hit the Lehigh Valley.  After hanging out with a friend and filling up my gas tank, I spot the whirls of white along Lower Macungie Road right across from the middle school.  I only have my point-and-shoot, but I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to capture this wonder.  Well, at least try to capture it–how can a lens capture the majesty of thousand of white birds with gray bills and the sound of their honking?  Needless to say, I’m going back tomorrow armed with my DSLR.  Hopefully, they’ll still be in the area.

Click to view larger.

Click to view larger.

Click to view larger.

When a Dove Cries

8 Jun

Yesterday while musing on paper, I noticed a turtle dove land near my neglected garden and disappear under the tangled weed/rose bush mess that I desperately want the lawn crew to excavate. (Remember how I contracted cellulitis in my finger from trying to cut that beast down?  I have permanent joint tenderness from that infection.  I greatly dislike that rose bush!)  After a few minutes, I noticed the bird just sitting under the plant monstrosity, so I decided to see if she was injured.  As I walked over, the dove took flight and I searched for a nest amongst the twisted branches of the weed/rose bush. 

But her nest was not in the bush. 

Instead, what I mistook for a bundle of dead weeds carelessly tossed on the ground was actually this dove’s nest.  Intricately woven together with sticks, grass, leaves, and her own downy feathers, the nest lovingly built by this bird and her mate was torn into five large pieces—never to be used.

Then it hit me.  On the previous day, the maintenance team cleaned out the gutters, which is probably where the doves built this nest.  If there were eggs or chicks, they were scattered now.  (Though I hope our maintenance men wouldn’t toss out eggs or chicks.) 

I was overcome with sorrow.  Liquid formed in the corners of my eyes and began dispelling.  How could someone do this?  How would the dove survive?  What would she do now?  She just sat by her nest in confusion…what happened to the dream she had?  And where was her mate in all of this?  In retrospect, I thought about how utterly alone she looked!

I told my mom about this horror, wondering how could humans learn to live with animals, and why did the world have to be so fallen anyway.  Obviously, I was overreacting.  My mom gently reminded me that the dove was probably building a new nest because nests are damaged all the time by high winds, falling branches, predators, and humans.  Using the materials from the now useless nest, the dove was building a new nest, a better nest, and hopefully one that wasn’t in the bulding’s gutter. 

She took the materials from what was old and broken…and used them to build something new!

In my personification of the bird, I only saw her ruin, devastation, and suffering.  However, the dove is not capable of complex emotion, and so she did was what only natural to her survival and the survival of her species.  She began rebuilding so she could lay her eggs and once the eggs hatched, raise her young.  This bird didn’t have time to cry over what was lost (though apparently I did).  She did the next thing, and beautifully, used pieces of the wreckage to craft a new home.

I want to be resilient like this dove, who greets the dawn with her sweet cooing, who reminds me of the promise of God’s peace and the Holy Spirit.  I want to sift through the wreckage I still cry over and take the sturdy pieces of those ruins to build something new, something better, something more solid that can be used for God’s glory. 

From this simple bird, I learned that sometimes it’s not about mourning (ironic considering turtle doves are also known as “mourning doves” for their cries sound “mournful” to some).  Sometimes it’s about surviving, even if that means building a new life from the ruins of the hopes and dreams contained in the old life.  Oh, the process is painful and slow and frustrating, but only when it is completed can it yield fresh, new life. 

How has something that is broken/ruined in your life brought forth something beautiful?  Or new?  What do you think of a dove’s song–beautiful or sad?  Or beautifully sad or sadly beautiful?  Share because you care!

Friday Faves: The Surprise! Edition

27 Apr

Aren’t you elated?!  It’s been months (or at least a month) since I did Friday Faves (FF) and I didn’t originally plan on putting together FF today, but some days I just surprise myself as well as my readers!  Since I just gave you an update on my life, I thought I’d share an amusing anecdote to fill up some space because just jumping into a bunch of links seems so impersonal.  However, I spend a lot of time sitting on my couch with my broken foot propped up on pillows, so it’s not like there are all that many stories to share.  Although when I  was using Stella the Walker to hobble up the stairs after returning from a doctor’s appointment this morning, the UPS man asked if I broke my foot after falling from drinking too much.  I informed him that I’m not a drinker (except for that wine cooler on New Year’s Eve).  He said that maybe I should start.  So, yeah, my UPS man encouraged me to become drop down drunk.  I guess what’s what brown can do for you.

What is up with our culture’s obsession with drunkenness?   I can think of several movies where drunken people get married or have one-night stands…and hilarity ensues.  I don’t understand the humor behind promiscuous sex or “accidental” marriages.  I mean, alcoholic drinks are expensive, so getting that sloshed isn’t cheap, especially if you can’t remember the “good time” you had last night.  Plus, I’ve heard about the upchucking and killer headaches that follow.  It makes me just want to stay home and watch “Fraggle Rock” on NetFlix streaming.  I am grateful to state stores for supplying me with free moving boxes. 

Oh, and for those of you who want to argue about the merits of drinking in biblical times, remember this–Apostle Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach, not become rip roarin’ drunk during a toga party.  The key is moderation, friends, and not to take advice on drinking from your UPS man.

A story and a lesson on morality–does Friday Faves get any better than this?

So, onto this week’s linkage…

*Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sara Groves, particularly her latest album, Invisible Empires.  Those of you who have been listening to her for years are thinking, ‘Yeah, Amy, we know how awesome Invisible Empires is….where have you been?”  I decided to share the above video of Sara singing “Obsolete,” which is one of my fave songs from the album because it’s all vulnerable and emotional.  I think Sara paints beautiful word pictures with her lyrics and I like her gentle melodies.

*If you’re under 21, sometimes it’s hard to get find a pal (or UPS man) who will buy you alcohol.  Therefore, some teens have decided to make their own “moonshine” using hand sanitizer.  Yes, hand sanitizer!  My friend, Shari, who is a dedicated child care professional, first told me that the two year-olds in her classroom weren’t allowed to use hand sanitizer due to its alcohol content.  We laughed, thinking of all the moms who rub it on their kids like sunscreen.  But, apparently, the Pennsylvania Department of Health wasn’t too far off with this one.  For more information, on this alarming trend check out this article from The Morning Call.

*What do you get for the paparazzi who has everything?  A vintage camera fashioned into a tape dispenser!  It’ll only set you back $21.  Other vintage items available from A Mano Trading include an Ultraman Piggy Bank (sorry, it’s sold out!  What a hotseller!) and a needlepoint squirrel.  Personally, I like this closeout bag.

This is Big Red laying the eggs. Currently, all three eggs are now hatched.

*Finally, I want to tell you about a unique opportunity to spy on a red tail hawk nest thanks to CornellVia this link, you can check out Big Red and her mate, Ezra, as they  care for their three eyasses.  I spent a good hour watching Big Red feed her babies a vole carcass.  It sounds gross, but it makes for fascinating viewing. (Click here to view additional videos of the eyasses hatching, eating, and fighting like siblings do.)

As always, have a great weekend!

Because I just adore your comments, here are some discussion questions…I’m going to a book sale and church–what are you doing this weekend?  Have you ever tried to drink hand sanitizer?  With your UPS man (or woman?)What is your favorite Sara Groves song?  Which do you like best–Sarah, Sara, Sarai, or some other alternative spelling of the name?  What do you think of the goods at A Mano Trading?  Any good gifts for Mother’s Day?  Speaking of mothers, what do you think of Big Red’s parenting skills? 

Photo Essay: To Be Born Again

20 Mar

While I can’t remember its writer or its title, the lyrics of this song ring through my head, “Everything must die to be born again.”  Fall is that death and in winter it seems that life will never burst forth from the frigid, frozen earth.  But the snow always melts, the buds always come in brilliant greens.  Tufts of grass shoot up as the robins return to build their nests.  Flowers shyly peek out of the ground, ready to unfurl their glory.  Ah, spring!  There is so much hope, so much life, so much pollen…yeah, I could do without the pollen.  Here are some images of spring I’ve captured over the past week in celebration of today, the first day of spring! (Though it’s an early spring here in the Lehigh Valley due to unseasonal warmth.)  And don’t steal my photographs…or the goonies will come get you! (Always ask permission.)

This is my favorite photo in the essay.  The vibrant purple flower with its bright yellow center and green leaves with the deadened background.  Truly, life coming out of death.  This image is currently the wallpaper on my desktop.  It gives me chills.

I almost deleted this picture of the daffodil bud about to open,but then I noticed all the texture, shadows, and various shades of green (with a twinge of yellow).  To me, this is the essence of life becoming!  Something is about to happen here!

This is why I always try to carry a point-and-shoot camera with me.  I found this flowering tree by the mailboxes at my mom’s apartment building.  I don’t like to crop my photographs, except for artistic purposes, but in the case of this picture, part of my freckly arm was visible.

I love obscure close-ups, and that was the only way to adequately capture the buds on this tree.  They’re still tight, not ready to open…but soon.  Admittedly, my other Canon (the one in the company of BFF Sarah) takes better close-ups than my current point-and-shoot and my DSRL (perhaps if I had a good close-up lens, that would help.)

Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed that I have a growing fondness for the color “yellow,” which used to be one of my least favorite colors in the wheel.  But a vibrant yellow, like this daffodil, is enchanting, isn’t it?  Daffodils are my favorite spring flower…dark, yellow ones like this.

Texture, I adore texture!  I know that most people will never understand my fascination with bark, moss, rocks, sidewalk cracks, shadows, and rusty things, but I love texture and finding beauty in what’s broken and/or common.  Come on, you have to admit that this moss is beautiful! My camera did a surprisingly good job on this close-up!

One final image of the tree that captured my attention, this time from underneath the branch with my camera pointed at the clear blue sky dotted with puffs of white.  What a beautiful world You have created, Lord!

Hurricane Irene Update: Attack of the Shadow Puppets

28 Aug

Photo by Russ & Reyn Photography

Just wanted to give y’all a quick update on how Hurricane Irene affected my area here in the lovely outskirts of Allentown, Pennsylvania.  The governor is asking the President to declare several counties, including Lehigh County where I live, Federal Disaster areas, which means FEMA can move in to help us out.  Apparently, there is a lot of flooding, downed trees, and power lines with high winds expected to continue until this evening as the back end of Irene moves out of our area.

From what I can tell from inside my cozy apartment, there is no flooding in my immediate vicinity, just a few tree parts here and there in the backyard, and my vehicle appears to be OK (despite some neighbors ignoring the apartment mandate to remove items from their porches).

Still, BFF Sarah and I have a cooler full of ice (and drinks.  You don’t want to see me go through a power outage without Diet Coke) and a tub full of water in case our electricity does go out, which is still a possibility.  I mean, how will we watch “Dr Quinn” if that happens?  My mom and my friend, Shari, both lost power, but it has been restored.

No one is SUPPOSED to be out on the roadways, but apparently people are driving around all over the place.  I’m not going to risk my life or my vehicle just because I’m stir-crazy and curious.  Why put the rescue crews in additional danger because I’m an idiot?

So, we didn’t even need to use the flashlights I bought (see “Friday Faves: Hurricane Irene’s A’Coming Edition“).  Well, except for the shadow puppet show I performed on the ceiling last night, which was met from a low growl from Cassie the Peekapoo, who thought the shadow puppets were an imminent threat.

Update 8.2811,  7 PM-ish:  Hurricane Irene has now passed into New England.  It’s a bit blustery out, but the sun is shining and our garden is ruined (see photo essay tomorrow.)  Please continue to pray for people in the area affected by storm damage and flooding (rivers are expected to crest tomorrow afternoon.) 

Let me know how you’re faring, share any prayer requests, or tell me what you’re up to on this Sunday afternoon while I am trapped in my apartment.

Photo Essay: Driving in a Downpour

25 Aug

Last Friday while driving home from Lancaster, we were caught in a torrential downpour.  Naturally, I pulled out my camera and had a photo shoot–to the amusement of the rest of the car. (I also videotaped myself singing “Leave the Pieces” by The Wreckers, but I have destroyed the evidence.)

Do you like to drive in downpours like fearless BFF Sarah? (Actually, she did pull over twice.)  Would you rather see pics of Amish buggies from Lancaster County? (I don’t photograph the Amish and Mennonites since they don’t like it.)  What was the worst storm you ever drove through?  Was there a rainbow?

Updated Review Policy and My Love Note to the FTC

10 Mar

Hear ye, hear ye!  I have updated parts of Backseat Writer’s Review Policy and added a bit of plain speak to my FTC Disclosure.  Read on, you know you want to…


Request for reviews/interview/marriage proposals can be sent to

Why, yes, I would love to review your album, book, movie, or product!  Due to time restraints, that book I’m eventually going to write, and my personal preferences, I may not be able to honor all requests for reviews, interviews, or Nigerians who want to wire me money.

Before you hit me up with your latest and greatest, please note that I will only accept music for review (and artist interviews) that is downloadable or send to me via snail mail.  Additionally, I will only accept books that are readable on Kindle or sent to me in hard copy format (again, in the mail).  My reasoning?  I need my music and reading material to be portable—to go with me where I need to go.  That’s how I live life and that’s how I review materials.  I cannot be chained to my computer listening to music or reading books.

Additionally, I retain the right to accept or reject all materials based on quality of content and whether or not I believe the materials fit in with the vision of Backseat Writer.  Usually I can tell whether or not something is a good fit by the press release and I will tell you so before you send materials, so feel free to send your queries to

I also added this to that terribly interesting FTC Disclosure or what I like to call “My Love Note to the FTC”…

I do not get paid to do reviews or interviews (though if anyone wants to hire me for freelance work, I’m listening.)  I do not accept money in exchange for posting press releases or endorsements.  All content is generated for the pure love and joy of writing!

Links included in posts are for informational purposes only and are never composed for the purpose of including advertising.

No record company, publisher, publicist, band, artist, hobbit, or gnome will ever influence the content, topics, or posts made in this Backseat Writer, though they may inspire a few!

Any time you want to review parts of my publications policies, you can click on the “About Backseat Writer” tab and read your little heart out.  It is slightly more interesting than watching paint peel.

Photo Essay:: Oh, how I love you Chincoteague & Assateague!

15 Jun

If you’re a regular reader of Backseat Writer (and why wouldn’t you be?), you know that there’s no place I’d rather be than in nature, even though it makes me sneeze, gives me sinus issues, and makes me sick.  Still, I love you, nature!  Anyway, despite our turbulent relationship, my current favorite place on planet Earth is Chincoteague, VA (although Assateague, MD) is a close second.  See, this National Wildlife Reserve (NWR) stretches from Maryland to Virginia and is the home of semi-wild ponies believed to be the sole survivor of a Spanish shipwreck.  No one really knows how the ponies got there or why they have chosen to live in a swamp full of mosquitos, but they do and they are beautiful, beautiful creatures.

During my recent trip to Chincoteague Island, I was able to visit both ends of the NWR.  That’s right, both Chincoteague and Assateague.  The funny thing is that that they are only four miles of beach apart, but it takes a little under an hour to traverse to Assateague from Chincoteague and vice versa due to the roads.  But I am glad we made the trek–twice!  Here are some shots from my trip, and if you leave lots of lovely comments, maybe I’ll do another photo post for you wonderful readers.

Read “My Heart’s Home,” another post on Chincoteague.

Photo Essay:: Nature’s My Refuge

23 Apr

Disgusted by the inhumanity of humanity, I sought refuge among the wild things—a babbling stream, frolicking songbirds, lush green vegetation, and the flowers of spring.  Sometimes people and situations are so dirty, so marred by sin, I forget this world is beautiful, too.  Breathtakingly beautiful.  And through the healing power of God’s creation, I hope to recapture my writing voice and my mo-joy.

I couldn’t resist playing with the colors on the photo.  Even though I gave this dandelion an “autumn” look, I still enjoy this picture.

This picture and the one below it are from this broken down house next to a car graveyard.  Even though the property is in ruins, all these beautiful flowers grow in this heap of junk.  Isn’t it just like God to put His beauty in even the most broken of places?

As I sat and jotted down some thoughts in the parkway with only the songbirds and fishermen as my witnesses, I saw this pretty little purple flower and just had to snap a photograph.

I didn’t see any mad dogs, but thought this sign was pretty funny and needed to be included into this photo essay.

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