I was on my way to the kitchen when Cleric and my Gypsy trudged through the door from the deck.
“Welcome home. Dragon told me you two went over to see Anna and Colton today. How’d everything go?”
My Gypsy shrugged. “I was able to convince Colton to meet Blue, so I guess that is an improvement. But the pony did not seem interested in meeting his new owner. He allowed the boy to pet him but did not respond the way I had hoped. He did not nuzzle the boy or even nicker at him. After a few minutes, he just walked away. Colton was very disappointed. I had just convinced him Blue needed him as much as he needed Blue. Then the pony showed no interest in being friends with Colton.”
Cleric lowered her eyes and tugged at her robes. “I did my best to communicate with Blue. I told him about Colton’s disability, and I stressed how much Colton needs him. The pony seemed indifferent. The only picture he kept placing in my mind’s eye was a little girl in a wheelchair, whom I assume was Casey, his former owner.” Cleric’s cornflower-blue eyes were wet with unshed tears. “Oh, Mistress, he misses her so much! I wonder if there is room in his heart for a new owner.”
“Well, I certainly hope there is. Colton misses Peaches as much as Blue misses Casey. If they give each other half a chance, Colton and Blue might be able to help each other cope with their respective losses.”
My two characters nodded glumly.
I looked at my watch. “But right now, you’d best get ready for dinner. Miles should have it on the table any minute now.”
They nodded again and headed off to clean up for dinner.
At dinner, I announced that I would be going on a nature hike the next day, weather permitting. “Anyone wanting to join me better be in the car and ready to go by 7am. And because it’s been a while since our last outing, I’ll remind all of you now – if you are coming with me, there will be no robes, cloaks, suits of armor, etc. You will wear the modern garb of the realm and leave all weapons, staffs, wands, and magic paraphernalia at home.”
“Pfft! It is not our first rodeo, Mistress.” My Gypsy laughed and waggled his eyebrows the way he always does when attempting to be a comedian.
“It is a hike, not a rodeo.” My Arrogant One sneered.
“I know that. It is not my first rodeo is just an expression, meaning that the person saying so has experience in whatever situation they are discussing.” My Gypsy quoted what I had told them the other night on the way to the auction. He raised one eyebrow at my Arrogant One and gave him a superior look. “You really should attempt to learn some of the idioms of this world.”
My Arrogant One blushed scarlet and was about to reply, but his sidekick, my Bounty Hunter, cut him off. “Mistress, are we to be allowed some time tomorrow to use your magic box, the thing you call a camera? You have permitted it in the past.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/magic-or-technology/
“Well, I don’t know.” I stroked my chin as if considering the possibility. “I haven’t had much chance to take my nature photos this spring. The weather and other circumstances have precluded any hikes. I’m not sure I want to share my camera this time out.”
Most of my characters looked disappointed, but Dragon grinned at me as I continued. “Of course, if you all had your own cameras, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Our own cameras?” Everyone’s eyes widened.
“Yes. Mistress and I discussed the possibility of me creating illusory cameras for each of us. I believe I can have them ready by tomorrow morning.” Dragon smiled.
“Oh, Mistress! Dragon! That would be wonderful!” Cleric’s eyes were shining as she looked from me to Dragon and back again.
“Okay, then, whoever’s coming, I’ll see you first thing in the morning.”
* * *
Bright and early the next day, every one of my characters stood by the car, shifting around and fidgeting impatiently. Each was properly garbed, and each had a camera hanging around their neck.
“Where are we going today?” My Foreman opened the car door and waited for the others to get in before he took his seat.
I got behind the wheel and started the car. “We’ll go to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum today. We’ll start at Spring Peeper Meadow and then go to the main section of the Arboretum. The weather is forecast to be warm and sunny all day, so I’m sure we’ll get a lot of great pictures.”
During the short ride to Spring Peeper Meadow, my characters inspected their cameras and discussed the basics of photography they had learned when I had let them use my camera on another hike. When we got there, everyone was chomping at the bit to get out and hone their skills.
* * *
Back home that night, I downloaded the photos from everyone’s camera onto my computer so we could all view the results of the day’s photo hike. I moved the computer into the conference room where there was more space, and Miles joined us.
“Did everyone get some good shots?”
“That is what we are about to discover, Master Miles.” Cleric fidgeted nervously with the cord on her robes.
“Can everyone see the monitor?” I looked around the room and saw everyone nodding. “Okay, then, let’s get started.”
The first image that came up on the screen was a Gray Catbird. I nodded in approval. “Nice! Who took this one?”
My Old Dwarf raised his hand. “Thet be one I be takin’. I been fass-kee-nat-ed! Thet durn fool birdie been thinkin’ it be a kitty-cat.”
I laughed. “It’s called a Gray Catbird – gray, obviously for its color, and catbird because it can mimic perfectly the mewing of a cat.”
There were two more pictures of the catbird, and then two of an Eastern Chipmunk.
“Them be sum udders o mine.”
My Young Hero nudged my Old Dwarf and smiled. “You always find the furry critters.”
The rotund figure grinned.
“Then these next two must be yours as well. Nice shots.” I displayed images of two different Red Squirrels.
“Aye!” My Old Dwarf looked pleased.
“Is this yours as well?” I brought up the next image, a White-tailed Deer.
“No, that is one I took.” My Foreman furrowed his brow as he looked at the photo. “It is not as clear as I had hoped. I have to work on my focus.”
I nodded. “It’s hard with a point-and-shoot camera. It tends to focus on whatever is in the foreground, and the deer is behind some branches . . . which you will notice are in perfect focus.”
As I brought up the next two images, my Foreman frowned again. “These Wild Turkeys are in better focus than the deer, but neither bird would look up at me.”
I laughed. “You needed Cleric to sweet-talk them into posing.”
Cleric blushed. “I would have helped, but I guess I was too preoccupied with my own photography to notice that anyone else needed help.”
The next image on the screen was a male American Goldfinch.
“Wow! Who took this one?”
My Arrogant One stood up, held his head high, grasped his cloak in both hands, and rocked back on his heels. “That would be one of mine.”
He smiled and bowed.
“Is this one yours, too?” An image of a Yellow Warbler filled the screen.
The elf nodded smugly. “He, too, was in favorable light when I took the photo.”
I nodded. “And the Yellow-rumped Warbler? Yours again?”
“He is.” My Arrogant One frowned a bit. “The lighting was not as good for this one, but I still like the image.”
The next two images were of a male Northern Cardinal. My Bounty Hunter tilted his head and studied his photos. “He was a bit far, and difficult to find, even with so little foliage on the trees. I heard him singing for the longest time before I found him. I suppose the images are acceptable.”
“I think they’re quite good. Remember, you are all just learning to use the camera.”
I brought up an image of a Song Sparrow. “Nice!”
My Bounty Hunter didn’t agree. “I took that one only because the bird was singing, as a Song Sparrow should. I think the second image of him is better. He’s closer and the lighting was better.”
I brought up the second image and we all agreed with the photographer’s assessment.
The next image was a Chipping Sparrow. “Yours again?”
“No, Mistress, that one is mine.” My Young Hero cleared his throat. “The lighting was poor, and I should have waited, but I liked the bird. I took a second photo of him as well, when he flew into a tree. I think that one is better.”
I brought that one up on the screen and nodded. “Oh, this is a nice image. You can see the mouthful of nesting material the bird has gathered.”
The next image was a male Eastern Bluebird. My Young Hero smiled. “I took that one as well. It was a bit far, but I think the image is sharp enough. I remembered how you said to try to blur the background for a nice effect, too.”
I smiled. “Very nice! You’re learning a lot!” I brought up the next image, a Palm Warbler.
“I did the same thing for this image, too.” My Young Hero looked pleased. “But I could not do it for the second image I took of this bird, as he flew down onto the grass.”
I looked at the second Palm Warbler image. “That’s okay, you got a good, clear shot of him.”
I brought up the next image.
“Eeek! No doubt who took that picture!” Cleric shuddered at the image of a Garter Snake.
My Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “I found him just for you.”
“Oh! He is so big!” Cleric shuddered again as I displayed the second image of the snake.
My Gypsy laughed at Cleric. “He is just a wee little thing, and he does not bite.”
“Why can you not stick to images of creatures like these?” Cleric pointed to the photo of two turtles on the screen.
My Gypsy grinned. “That is one of my images as well. And the next one, when they were on the log in the pond.”
Cleric tilted her head as she studied the second turtle photo. “Oh, I think I saw you take that photo. I was trying to coax a pair of Canada Geese into showing off their goslings.”
“You mean these goslings?” I clicked onto the next image, two adult Canada Geese swimming with a line of five goslings between them.
Cleric smiled broadly. “Yes, that is the image. I also got a closer shot of the same five goslings on land, and a single adult goose in the water.”
I brought up Cleric’s other images and nodded my approval.
“Are the images of the male Wood Ducks yours as well?”
Cleric nodded. “I did not like the first one. That duck would not pose nicely. But the second one seemed to understand what I was looking for, and he swam right in front of a rock that was reflecting in the pond. I think it created a very nice effect.”
I brought up the next photo, a beautiful flowering tree.
“That is one of my images.” Sorceress pointed. “Dragon and I decided that a trip to an arboretum demanded some images of flowers.”
Dragon nodded, then giggled. “Besides, flowers do not fly away and hide when you try to photograph them.”
As we viewed the images of the flowers, Sorceress identified hers. “Besides the flowering tree, my images include the purple and yellow pansy, the bleeding hearts, the yellow daffodil, and the two-toned columbine.”
Dragon introduced the next images. “I took the photos of the two-tone daffodil, the orange-accented yellow tulips, the purple tulips, and the frilly orange flower, which I believe is also a variety of tulip. And, of course, my namesakes, the snapdragons.”
“Wow!” I looked impressed. “Your photographic skills are as good as your knowledge of flowers.”
Sorceress and Dragon blushed with pride.
“Well, I guess that just leaves my images. I managed to get two shots of my nemesis bird, a male Common Yellowthroat. Usually they just call from the undergrowth and reeds, and never show themselves when they see me with a camera.”
After the yellowthroats, my next image was an Eastern Phoebe. “The Phoebe only stayed around for one image. It was the same with my last bird, a Black-and-white Warbler.”
When we had finished discussing everyone’s images, my Arrogant One surprised me by asking, “May we do this again soon? It was a most enjoyable day!”
“I don’t see why not, as long as this fickle Minnesota weather cooperates.”
My smile turned to a frown as Miles announced, “The ten-day forecast calls for seven days of rain.”
I picked up a pillow from the sofa and chucked it at him.
Be sure to come back and enjoy the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.