Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Run to the Arbor Hills (Pic of the Week)


I snapped 26 pics of Ben while he sat on a rock and talked. He moved his head the whole time, and this was my favorite shot. (click to make it bigger and better)

Although I try not to be “that guy” who only writes about his kid(s), it’s a simple fact that I’m a modern father and my son is a large part of my life. I could never imagine a career that would fulfill as much as the job of father, nor one that is as difficult. Doing it well is important to me. What exactly that entails, and how much room it leaves for selfish pursuits, is debatable.

The beauty for me is that I love getting outdoors and going to parks. This is right up most kids’ alley, and my son is no exception. Put in cliché terminology, it’s a recipe for success.

Last weekend was no exception.

After the crazy Easter weekend shuffle, our little family was ready for quiet time to ourselves. My wife and I enjoyed a date night Saturday evening, and Sunday morning I went over to pick up Ben at my in-laws’ house. As his grammy and I worked to load a treadmill into our minivan (they had been storing it for us), Ben talked to the neighbor lady.

“We’re going to Arbor Hills,” he said. It’s a nature preserve several miles west of Plano that I’ve featured in a previous Pic of the Week post.

“Oh, really? I love that place. I go there to run with my friend all the time. Have you seen the bobcat?”

“Bobcat?” Ben asked.

“There’s a bobcat that lives out there.”

“No, we haven’t seen it,” I said.

“Early one morning, I saw a wolf, too. Crossed the trail right in front of us.”

Let me stop now to say that there are no wolves roaming the Dallas metro area nor its outskirts. She undoubtedly was talking about a coyote, which are so abundant and widespread that we often hear them from inside our house in the ‘burbs. The bobcat sighting, I’ll buy, but on the wolf claim I’m calling either shenanigans or ignorance.

“You did?” I said. I grunted as I shoved the treadmill clear of the hatch door. “Wow. That’s neat.”

Blue bonnets, the Texas state flower, greeted us at the park’s entrance. Other wildflowers of various colors and shapes waved in the wind as we tried to find a parking spot in the crowded lot.

To begin our hike, we quickly left the sidewalk for a trail that led us up a wooded hill. Apparently at least one idiot had done the same. As much as I hate to admit it, the colors of the Monster Energy drink can work well in this shot.

Let’s go to the one place we don’t feel like we’re in the city, and then leave our trash.

As I carefully chose the perfect stepping rock while making my way across the creek, Ben in my arms, I heard a low whump, SPLASH! from behind me. I turned and saw a teenager on a mountain bike, about 40 yards downstream, the water rushing around his tires and between his spokes.

“Whoa, I’m gettin’ soaked!” he said.

I looked to see who was listening. On the bank was another boy about his age, standing next to his bike. Both wore helmets.

Ben and I headed the opposite direction to check out our favorite spot from our last trip there. Despite the recent heavy rains, the water was lower than it was in February, but Ben still tossed in a few rocks for dramatic splashes. He stopped for more rocks as we headed back.

Holding Ben’s hand to help him stay steady on the muddy shore, I saw the source of the noise I had heard. The boys were riding their bikes off a wall about five or six feet high, then landing on a downward slope and rushing into the creek. I worried with so many kids around.

“Are those kids out of the way?” one of the boys asked as he sat atop his seat, his feet keeping gravity from doing its job.

That assuaged the father in me and allowed the kid in me to look on in wonder. It was just the kind of thing my brother and I would have done.


I approached the boys and let them look at my pictures.

“Can you e-mail those to me?” asked the boy the other one called “Mark.”


Meanwhile, Ben was running up and down the creek with a pair of spears he whittled out of branches, screaming, “Ralph! Jack wants to take over as leader! Let’s use my ridiculously thick glasses to start an uncontrolled fire that lays half the island to waste.” Or, just wandering around tossing the occasional pebble under my watchful eye. Take your pick.

I worked my fingers into every corner of my camera bag and came up with a Bic ballpoint and an old business card. It read “The Morning News.” Anybody who saw that card in this area would assume it was for the large, well-known local daily newspaper. What it lacked were the last few words of the publication’s name, “of Northwest Arkansas.”

“Daddy, I want to put my feet in the water,” Ben said.

I let him remove his shoes and rolled up his jeans so he could wade. Next time, I’ll join him. This picture is the perfect example of capturing the moment instead of fretting over lighting problems. I don’t do nearly enough of that.

The only thing that hit me wrong that day was a group of kids catching butterflies. I asked them to let my boy see their catch. One of the boys lifted a plastic zipper bag to show us five dead butterflies.

In a nature preserve. Hmmm…

Ben runs up the hill to the man-made playground.

13 Responses to Run to the Arbor Hills (Pic of the Week)

  1. Wow, we sure did create a beautiful child together!

    I’m sorry I missed the adventure at Arbor Hills. :-(

  2. Mark, I honestly think the pic of Ben with his shoes off facing the camera is the best of him ever.

    It shows the little boy in all of us… carefree, toes in the water, in wonderment.

    Amazing shot… absolutely breathtaking. (heck, I’d put that in a photo contest, it’s that good).

  3. That boy’s eyes are a very startling blue in such a close-up there, Mark. (Shan’s right; you did make a good looking lad.) Even if he was running up and down the creek bed, screaming and brandishing his ad hoc spears, he’ll be okay so long as he doesn’t start worshiping a rotting pig’s head stuck to a stick in the ground. (Those stuck to spikes jutting out from walls are perfectly acceptable.)

    One interesting thing about your conversation with the neighbour lady is that it reminds me that it’s nearly always a good idea to remain mostly noncommittal when faced with patently false information in a general conversation. Your pseudo wolf being a prime example. Unless you’re interested in getting into a debate or feel confrontational, just let it go; the person just wants to be heard, not argued with. I think your, “Wow, that’s neat,” is the way to go.

    When I went to China in junior high, one of our chaperones told of a discussion he once got into with a customs official regarding whether or not a small statue he was bringing back to Canada with him was, in fact, a Kiwi bird or not. It was, but the official’s opinion differed, and our chaperone saw fit to argue the matter on principle. He got stuck in customs for three extra hours for making a point. Sometimes you just have to decide what’s worth your while, you know?

    Like that time my best friend’s mom tried to convince me that the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) are caused by sunlight reflecting off the snow at the north pole. I just nodded and smiled.

    Hmm, that was all rather tangential. I think I’m just jealous of your warm and green weather. More snow here yesterday, still on the ground this morning, and I just raked the f–kin’ leaves in the backyard on Tuesday! Serenity now!

  4. Awesome pics, Mark. I really like the barefoot shot and the running up the hill one, too. The barefoot oen is obviously fun. But the running one captures the motion of a childs movement perfectly. It’s hard to look at that and not want to go running outside. I mean…just look what it did to poor Simon ;)

  5. For the record, Mark wasn’t going to post the pic of Benjamin with his feet in the creek – he said the lighting was bad (shadows and such). But when I was looking through his pictures from that day, I insisted he use that one! So it looks like my judgement might be a bit better than yours, hon (at least this time). ;-)

  6. Dave – I appreciate that. I’m afraid the lack of light on his eyes would hurt its chances.

    Thanks for the comments, all. We’re scrambling to get everything together for a camping trip — Ben’s first time to sleep in a tent outdoors. Wish us luck!

    So sorry about your weather, Simon. I hope you get warm soon. Reflection off the snow causes the Northern Lights. Hilarious.

    Moksha – Yeah, I loved that his feet show his running motion.

    Wife – And sometimes mother knows best, I suppose.

  7. Wonderful shot Mark.

    I often find myself trying NOT to post pics with my kids. The bottom line for me is that I am a mom and they are so much an inspiration to my photography on a daily basis that I have a need to share this side of my life with my readers…and so far, everyone just really loves these pics.

    Have a wonderful camping trip! :)

  8. Mark, how old is Ben?

  9. These are great pictures. The first one is a breath-taker. It kind of emcompasses everything that a little boy is all in one wonderful face.

  10. Mark, those pictures are excellent. And I agree with Shannon totally. Alot of the time it’s the expression on the face, or the body language that makes an image intriguing as opposed to the precise parameters. These pictures are a perfect example.

    Growing up, dad took countless pictures of nature and most of them are stunning. However, when Amanda looks at them, she’s always left asking, “Where are the people? I like to see people in the pictures.”

    I guess it all stems from your preferences, and I think there is room for both. I’m always of the opinion that if you can sneak a person in the shot, and still get the surroundings…then you’re good. And brother…you’re GOOD. I think I’ve told you that over the years, but if I haven’t ever expressed it, I figured there’s no better time than the present.

    Whatever that meticulous gene is that appreciates nature and stops to smell the roses along the way…you got both of ours. I got stuck with, “What’s next? Let’s get there as quickly as we can. How can I make more money?” gene. I wish I had more balance, and I like to think I’m getting better.

    I really think a good project for you would be to put together a photo album of your best shots. Naturally, I’d get Shannon to help, because she may have that “emotional” thing going that women seem to have over men often times. It would be great to see a whole album of just your “A” shots over the years.

    I didn’t comment on the little girl bubble picture from your earlier entry, but it’s one of my all-time favorites. Most people take pictures, but you work hard to make your photographs capture the moment by really concentrating on the elements presented. There’s a difference…and I think almost everyone would see that. A perfect example is your post back to your readers when you stated that you thought the lack of lighting on Ben’s eyes would limit the photograph’s potential. It’s a great photo, but you were thinking of what COULD have made it better.

    And brother, that’s one gene that we BOTH have. LOL

  11. Oh…and I couldn’t let the bicycle shots go unnoticed either. You’ll make those kid’s days by sending those pictures. I wish we had more pictures of some of our stunts, and I think it’s awesome that we’ll be able to capture all of that on Digital record for our kids. Now we just have to hope that none of them end with an ambulance coming to scene, which is miraculously something we always managed to avoid.

    My question are this though?

    Where’s those kid’s imagination? Everyone knows that they should have taken the time to judge their carry, mounded up some dirt, and created a landing ramp down there so that they could have gotten up some more speed and flown farther. From what the pictures shows, they were just barely clearing the wall. You gotta gets some distance on that jump right? I mean come on…what’s with these kids today?

    Oh…and the helmet? What? Isn’t that a bicycle. We would have never dreamed of that. Nowadays kids all have helmets, elbow pads, knee pads…we had scabs for pads.

    Our neighbor kids are daredevils. They’ll be up late skateboarding on rails, doing ramps…you name it. Amanda gets upset, and I just sit there thinking…”She wouldn’t have liked living by me when I was a kid.” And I also think…


  12. Anna – It’s a fine line, and I remind myself of it every time I see someone else’s kid do something believed to be cute. I think, “Well, that would have been cute if Ben had done it.” Maybe part of that stems from being a guy, too. The pics you include with your kids, though, don’t fall into that category.

    mal – Ben will be four in July.

    Linda – I was kinda partial to the first one myself. He was just looking up at people on a foot bridge, but the pics leaves it open to the viewer’s interpretation. Well, not any more. Oops.

    Charles – Thanks, bro. It is funny to me sometimes how alike yet how different we are. I know I would gladly accept a few of your strengths.

    The kid did like the picture, and he used it for his MySpace page main photo. I didn’t link to it because of something he had on his page, but that’s another story.

  13. I like the natural look in the wading photo. It really is like being there. You have got to love a day hiking in a nice park.


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