Monday, December 31, 2007
Or, maybe, you're less pathetic than I and are out doing something fun tonight!
I've always disliked New Year's Eve and that need to be doing something, anything, other than what I feel like doing, which is typically .... nothing. I've usually had enough of the running around associated with the holidays at this point and am starting to think about going back to work and some sense of normalcy to my days. And that makes me want to cocoon myself beneath a blanket and preserve the sense of peace I feel right now - no parties, no relatives, no loud music or false show of cheeriness for the sake of a random day on the calendar.
I would like to thank all of you who come by here to read my ramblings for sharing a part of yourselves with me and enriching my life this past year. Everyday I feel humbled by your generous spirits and so glad for the chance to laugh and cry and be silly with you all. That I should feel connected as I do, to you all and to your lives in some small way, continues to puzzle me as much as it delights me. Anyway... thank you friends.
My wish at year's end last year was that we should all find hope and beauty in the coming year. I was thinking then about how we sometimes come across those things in unexpected ways, or unexpected places, or even people, sometimes.
So I wondered if I'd done myself what I'd wished for us all to do... had I found hope or beauty in the unexpected? Had I been open enough to the world for that to be possible?
Looking back through the archives here I found these examples of having had my wish for the year:
January was full of beauty, mostly because I hosted the Good Planets show that month.
February brought the unexpected beauty of iceboats on the river.
In March there was hope for spring that came in the form of a witch hazel.
In April I visited the NJ Meadowlands and found beauty there too - certainly unexpected!
May was full of searching out wildflowers, and one special one that I finally found surprisingly close to home.
More flowers in June and the tiniest of beautiful butterflies.
July brought hope in the form of a little pup named Luka. God - was he ever really that small?
In retrospect, August reads like a month of transitions for me mostly, but there was some beauty from the garden, too.
September and the changing season brought a little surprise from the beach.
October had the beauty of skimmers, and buckeyes, and sanderlings. Not to mention the fun of meeting friends come to visit from afar!
There were sanderlings and the faces of friends in November, too and a beautiful day birding at Sandy Hook.
December's been mostly foolishness, but there was this bit of the unexpected that had me smiling.
So that's my year-in-review at the tail end of it. A good one, I think, full of nice things to remember. Some sadness, of course, but just enough to make the happy times be appreciated.
Stay safe tonight and be sure to find someone in time for that New Year's kiss!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
It was a day full of relatives and food and I've had my fill of both for a while, I think. I spent the morning at Christmas breakfast with my brothers and then had the in-laws and their babies and family friends and strangers they brought in off the street for the afternoon and into the night. I never would have thought my little house could hold so many! But there was one point during the night when I stood in my kitchen and looked out at the room full of laughing faces and was glad (mostly) for their company; glad at least that they were all together for the first time in a long while. I smiled at that.
I want to share two last things before wandering away for a few days: first a final example of quirkiness found at my brother's. Do any of you remember those old-fashioned tinsel trees? Well, Brian bought this one and has it decorated with bubble lights and antique Shiny-Bright ornaments he's bought off eBay or pilfered from my dad's garage and we all think it's the most beautiful thing.
Growing up, we had two xmas trees. The real one in the basement was for us kids; the one upstairs was for show and was a tinsel tree like this, but full size and with one of those color-wheel projection thingies that must have been all the rage at some point in history. God awful at the time, probably, but memory and nostalgia make my brothers and I yearn to find one like it again.
Lastly, a poem of sorts, sent by my brother Kevin. He had meant for me to include it here somehow, but it almost feels too personal to do so. I'll post it anyway, with the idea that most of the meaning I read into it may well go right over your heads. I'm counting on that anyway.
Early morning quiet
Waits, anticipates, overcompensates
Little girls feet
Cold crisp floor
To grow up
To do without
Lights not right
Tears at night
On top or underneath?
The tinsel last
One at a time
Ends folded wrong
Blue winter jacket
Holly hobby house
Stockings to brim
With girly things
An orange way down
No coal this year
One day, I'll be up to telling that story, maybe.
Hope it was happy for everyone and that Santa brought all that you'd hoped for.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Once it was dark today I took a break from the kitchen and drove through the downtown to admire the glittery lights and be glad that I wasn't one of those people still out shopping for last-minute gifts. There's been very little in the way of that this year, for whatever reason. Not in the mood mostly, but there's a part of me that feels empty in buying gifts when so many need something that can't be tightly bound with a red or green bow.
I was home in time to hear the sirens far enough away in the distance to know that I hadn't missed Santa on his firetruck prowl through the neighborhood. Funny that I should look forward to that each year like I do, but there's a certain childish eagerness on my part for seeing him arrive with gifts for the kids who live behind us; I can't help but wave as he goes by and remember the sound of sleigh bells from my own childhood. Someone, most probably my brothers, made a point of my hearing them from the front yard bushes before bed on Christmas Eve. Brothers, I think, are one of those gifts that takes years to appreciate or find a use for.
So now I look forward to that particular quiet that comes only after midnight this day, after the preparations are done and there's no traffic on the road, the house dark and quiet but for the lights of the Christmas tree and rivaled only by the shimmer of winter's brightest stars.
- - - - - - - - - - -
is the pathway
is the temple
is the offering we bring
is the gift we are given."
-Joan Walsh Anglund
I wish for you peace and the simple joys that only this day can bring.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
A drunken Santa...
Just a little too much... Cheers!
The favorite... stolen from the neighborhood.
Happy Christmas everyone.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I never got around to signing the bunnies up for their usual xmas card exchange and we're all really missing the fifty or so cards that come each year. Loads of bunny cuteness in the mail every day - imagine! - but we did get this one card today by mistake, sent by someone who forgot to remove our names from last year's list.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Is it me or is this not your normal family xmas pic? Before you think anything too untoward, be reminded that this is my brother Kevin and his wife and daughter. And yes, those are real chickens they're holding - their chickens! I can just imagine the scene with my SIL bringing those little banties into the photographer's studio along with all her other *props*.
This was last year's card and the one for this year hasn't arrived yet, but I had some hint of the *theme* for this year's shoot a few days before Thanksgiving when the SIL wanted to send me on a shopping run for matching aprons to complete the cooking concept of this year's pic. I honestly don't know how she comes up with the creative energy to think these things up and then the time to carry it through so well. How could I not look forward to receiving a card like this?
I'll admit to being terribly bored by most xmas cards and think them to be a waste. Most I throw away immediately. (Shame on me... I know!) The ones I keep secreted away in a special box are ones like this, or those with photos of my friend's kids, or the handmade ones, or the ones from special friends or family who take the time to actually write something meaningful. Cause, let's face it, often it's the only time we hear from a lot of people and if you're going to take the time to send a card, couldn't you also be bothered to write a little something in it as well, besides your name?
Every year I look forward to a card from Joan who mentored me as a first year teacher. She doesn't write much besides an update on a few of the kids we taught together and the fact that she's almost (but not quite) ready to retire. I recognize her deliberate teacher's block print on the envelope and smile at the thought of what news her hand will bring me.
There's always a handwritten note tucked inside the card from the director of the bird observatory where I volunteer; Pete's sure to wish me well in the new year and thank me for volunteering for them for more years than either of us can remember.
I don't know... I feel like cards aren't worth the effort if they don't communicate something beyond the standard greeting pre-printed on the inside. What do you say? Any in particular that you anticipate each year?
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
*My camera - it's fine I think, just something wrong with the memory card, but that means spending money on a new one or sorting out what to do with this one and really do I have time for that now?
*Street signs - why don't towns maintain them for dopey social workers like me who go out without a proper map? And why don't people put numbers on their damn houses?
*I locked myself out of the house... again. Only the second time in a month, mind you.
*I still haven't done any Xmas shopping! What the devil is the matter with me!
*It's a little chilly here and my mother-in-law ran out of oil to heat her house and didn't mention it to anyone. (I won't mention the two brothers-in-law that live with her and who also didn't mention it nor did they mention there was no money to buy more oil.) Hello? Are my relatives particularly nutty or do yours do this type of thing, too?
(And I see the ridiculousness of worrying over xmas gifts when the MIL has no heat.. I do!)
*Speaking of relatives (I should probably just stop before I really get on a roll, but can't resist just one more tidbit) - digging around in the closet this evening looking for cookie tins, I found Xmas presents from last year for my nephew, all wrapped pretty and waiting for his dad to show up for them. I guess they'll still be there this Xmas if he ever bothers to let me know if he's planning to come for dinner!
Hmm.. that's probably enough. So how was your Monday?
It'll be better in the morning... I know.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
At any rate, I should mention that I'm still holding out for more quirky xmas decoration pics as I've only received a few. So please send them along, if you'd intended to.
Have a nice Monday!
Friday, December 14, 2007
Here are the rules:
Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
Share 7 random or weird things about yourself.
Tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
So here goes:
1. I have a newly-minted relative. Here's his pic. Can you tell he's not from my side of the family with that dark hair! His name is Giovanni.
2. The only magazine I subscribe to and read regularly is Vanity Fair. At the moment, I carry three issues to and from work with me every day, but clearly don't find the time to read them.
3. Speaking of work, my cubicle-buddy Linda came back today after being out on maternity leave since early September. Linda is Dominican and it's so nice to have someone to share *bochinche* with and chat in Spanish again.
4. I still haven't really started my Xmas shopping. Can you say denial?
5. My favorite place to bird in Cape May is Hidden Valley Ranch. We never even got there when the flock was here in October, but the habitat is similar to Higbee's (pictured here on a very birdy morning) except that there's also a nice bit of wet woods and oftentimes Barred Owls (and horses)!
6. I finally had to buy Luka a new collar because he's outgrown the old one. Of course he wouldn't cooperate for his picture and insisted on sitting on me while I tried to take it, but the collar is a pretty shade of blue with neon green alligators on it and reminds me of the preppy ties I like to buy for my brothers from Vineyard Vines.
7. Ever wonder what brings the most visitors to this blog from Google searches? This post and its pic of bunny poop. Go figure!
Susan, of course, at Susan Gets Native
Rabbit's Guy at A Houseful of Rabbits
Dave at Bird TLC and Around Anchorage
Trixie at Trixie's View
Ruthie J. at Nature Knitter
Jennifer at A Passion for Nature
Larry at The Brownstone Birding Blog
Thursday, December 13, 2007
It might be something as simple as strings of popcorn and peanuts, cranberries and grapes, or something as elaborate (and pretty) as this wildlife tree at Longwood Gardens. The NWF suggests thin apple and orange slices, as well as pinecones coated with a mix of peanut butter and cornmeal then dipped in birdseed. Zick dough might be yummy too, I'd bet. And remember that your discarded xmas tree makes a great sheltering spot for birds and can be used as the base of a brush pile to attact other wildlife.
I took this pic last Christmas at Longwood and swore I'd make it back this past summer - didn't happen. I wonder if anyone is going this Christmas? Heather in Pa. - is this tree a staple of the display? Do you know if the decorations are handmade?
Something else to add to the holiday to-do list.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
*End of weather report*
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I had a special love for certain animals that in the opinion of many were quite disgusting. I remember a toad. It lived under the rocks near a little creek that was close to where I grew up. I called him Sam the Mindreader, and although I can't seem to remember why, the reasons behind any of these names for plants and animals were vague and intangible to begin with. And if we loved some of these, we also hated others, such as the thistles, pastel purple flowers born among the weedy fields that signaled the coming end of our summer vacation. When the purple flowers appeared we would squash them furiously with our heels or cut them from their roots.
One day someone killed Sam the Mindreader. I found him squashed and dried up. I stayed there for a long time just looking and listening to the creek running across the rocks. Suddenly I was left with a name in the emptiness, a name I didn't know what to do with. A strange feeling came over me then. I remember that I went away slowly; it wasn't sadness that I felt, but the emptiness of something that had fled, like a bird or a memory. I felt this loss to the point that for days I went around repeating to myself now and again "Sam the Mindreader" without understanding it well any longer.
Many times since I have felt the hollowness of a word that, in reality, never existed. But then, for the first time, I became aware of certain words or echoes that leave a hollow in our thoughts that neither hope nor memory can overcome.
Monday, December 10, 2007
I've only ever done these where you have to go out and buy a gift to participate, but at our holiday party at work tomorrow we're doing a white elephant with *unwanted or gently used* items from home. Ought to be interesting, I bet. Of course, I throw anything like that away (can't stand the clutter!) - so I wrapped up a little box of Godiva chocolates received as a freebie for spending a bit too much there of late.
I'd love to hear of any wacky gifts you may have received (or gotten rid of) in a similar gift exchange. Stories, please!
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Lynne is still quietly floating the idea of the flock visiting frozen Minnesota and Sax Zim Bog (which sounds really, really neat - Great Grey Owls!), but the frozen part is a little scary.
Mary in North Carolina? Delia in Pa.? Susan at Lake Life in North Carolina or is it Florida now? Pam in New York? Want to tempt us your way? Anyone else have ideas?
Friday, December 07, 2007
I remember being bothered, to begin with, mostly by the lack of any similarity of values with my clients. It seemed like everyone was having kids with just anyone with no concern for how they were to be supported. Fourteen-year-olds having babies really bothered me. Women staying with the same abusive guy for years. Teenagers having abortion after abortion.
For most of these fifteen years, it's all been stories on paper or over the phone, with very little direct face-to-face contact. Other than an occasional visit to a little old ladies' home to complete paperwork, it's all remained very abstract and I've been able to pretend a certain distance from the people I work with.
Not so anymore.
If anything, in all these years, I've learned that there's really very little that separates me from my clients; us from them. Values and chance are what I think it comes down to. Big factors, but easy to explain away by circumstance or luck.
Something else I've discovered recently is that nothing shocks me anymore. This hasn't been a sudden thing, I don't think, but the accumulated weight of years of sad and twisted stories. I do wonder that I've not become cynical or jaded. Maybe my own values have just slipped along the way; who knows.
Two days a week now I'm out there snooping around in people's homes and poking into their private lives, all in the guise of making sure that their living situations are safe and sanitary because you and I are paying a portion of their living expenses each month. Most live just like you and I do; others, well... it's not anything that is really polite to discuss in mixed company.
But discuss it we do; usually late in the afternoon when any sort of productive work is well beyond possible. It's a good sort of release and a good time to laugh at ourselves, mostly, and the things that still bother us. Not shock us, just bother us, or make us afraid. Child abuse, bed bugs, gang shootings, cockroaches, sex offenders.
This afternoon after I sent a letter along to notify a client that I would be visitng in the next two weeks, I took a minute to look through the case file. Oh boy! Do I really mean to go there alone? Safe-enough neighborhood, but the client has a history of drug use (not just that, really, more like a history of running crack houses) oh and look there! - a police report about prostitution and confining women in the home against their will, and just last month an arrest for crack possession (again) and buying alcohol for minors.
So I went to the big boss and asked if we shouldn't just terminate any sort of assistance to this guy and do I really need to go into his house... please? Well, the fact is, he hasn't been convicted of anything yet, so I need to make the visit.
I think I must have sat at my desk for an hour trying to come up with a way to sell this visit to any one of my more experienced coworkers - a trade maybe? Fresh-baked muffins everyday for a month, perhaps? In the end I just asked if anyone had the time to accompany me on a visit to a crack house and dear sweet Susan, who sits across the way and is totally overburdered with her own work, volunteered to go along with me. How two blonde German-Irish girls are to make each other feel safe I'm not sure, but she assured me she's not fazed by it. She's sat across the kitchen table with the mothers of murderers and knows that these people, our clients, the ones we mean to help on their way to self-sufficiency, really like us and mean us no harm and are glad for the intrusion into their lives.
I'm not convinced of that yet, but wonder if I shouldn't have offered fresh-baked muffins everday for two months instead, or just taken that job on Wall Street so many years ago.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
It's still too early in the season for there to be great numbers of waterfowl, but I enjoy keeping up with whoever's arrived in the neighborhood. On my days in the field, I plan my lunch hour around visiting a few of the coastal ponds that dot the north shore of the state. For whatever reason, the local ponds don't attract the variety of the more southern ponds, but last week there was this nice group of hooded mergansers, a canvasback or two, some coot, and I think I may have imagined a ring-necked duck. Of course, the good ducks never get close enough for a decent photo, but there's plenty of canada geese and mute swans to practice photography with.
There's a lake along the ocean at the base of one of the senior citizen buildings that I visit that always has lots of gulls. I'm not often of a mind to sort through the ring-bills, herrings, and great black-backs but when the lake is frozen there may be bonaparte's or a lesser. Mostly I have to be really bored to give gulls that much attention, but some birders are into that sort of mind-numbing exercise. I prefer the pretty ducks.
The ocean and bay have their own treasures; loons, grebes, oldsquaw, ruddies, bufflehead, harlequins. The marshes have harriers and short-ears, and rough-leggeds - the list goes on and on. But I'm getting cold just thinking of it.
So.. what birds get you outside in the winter? Or is it just the ones that wait beside the empty feeder?
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
"It happened I couldn't find in all my books
more than a picture and a few words concerning
the trout lily,
so I shut my eyes.
And let the darkness come in
and roll me back.
The old creek
began to sing in my ears
as it rolled along, like the hair of spring,
and the young girl I used to be
heard it also,
as she came swinging into the woods,
truant from everything as usual
except the clear globe of the day, and its
Then she stopped,
where the first trout lilies of the year
had sprung from the ground
with their spotted bodies
and their six-antlered bright faces,
and their many red tongues.
If she spoke to them, I don't remember what she said,
and if they kindly answered, it's a gift that can't be broken
by giving it away.
All I know is, there was a light that lingered, for hours,
under her eyelids -- that made a difference
when she went back to a difficult house, at the end of the day."
Some cold and gray snowy days it's nice to be reminded of spring and trout lilies.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
I'm thinking about this now because it occured to me today how happy I am to be working with a new group of people and in a new position. I took quite a leap into the darkness with this job and it's worked out okay and I'm finally feeling sure that I made the right choice. The job itself is far less glamorous than my old position (that's a laugh) but I'm seeing the benefit of surrounding myself with good, smart, professional, self-assured people. I'm also enjoying that none of them are too very interested in me or my life outside of the office - it's nice to be anonymous! Also wonderful is that we're all too busy for gossip or that chattiness that makes me nutty about women who work together. Oh and my new boss (who retired just last week) visited today and brought each one of us (20+ social workers and our small army of secretaries) a bouquet of roses as a thank you for sending her off into retirement in such a nice way.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Luka has unofficially arrived at that stage of puppyhood considered the beginning of adolescence; the haphazard sum of many parts: nose, elbows, long velvet ears, and heart, all fueled by a limitless supply of enthusiasm. Brains, so far, appear to remain optional.
Suddenly he's big and strong enough to go all day dragging me along behind him, but lacks judgement and any sort of focused concentration, like most teenagers. This time in raising him requires lots of patience and the challenge of seeing past the immediate irritations to appreciate the dog he'll one day mature into.
At least Luka, like all Labs, comes with the built-in means of endearing himself to those around him, no matter how trying he often is. He always manages to convince me that he never intended any harm. He radiates charm, even as he spills a full cup of coffee all over my iPod (ruining it) and then pulling the same trick a few days later by jumping into my lap and sending another cup of coffee all over the laptop. One day soon I'll learn not to drink coffee around him! Most of his antics do not produce such destruction; instead they make me laugh in a way that begs an official pardon for his misdoings.
The beginning of his adolescence marks a period of transition that will last for at least the next two years. Right now he's little more than an overgrown puppy, all random energy and unfocused enthusiasm, but if he ever matures (god help us!) he'll be a wonderful and playful companion. Hopefully he will have learned something between now and then, and will be trained well enough to resist the temptation to misbehave. For a while, at least.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Signs of Christmas are popping up everywhere but here at home; there was snow on my porch pumpkins this morning and on the red peppers and gourds that I haven't gotten around to picking from the garden yet. I'll catch up one of these days, honest I will!
I've dreampt up another assignment for the camera happy among you. Find something festive and quirky that makes you smile. Send along a photo and we'll laugh together at the goofy ways peole like to display their cheer for the season. Would two weeks be long enough? A deadline for Friday, December 14th? Quirky is the key word, please!