Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Ducks are the way to my heart.
Stand with me beside the bay on a freezing winter day, face streaked with tears from the biting wind, ducks bobbing in the distance and you'll have found a friend for life.
If it's June and there are no ducks to be had in NJ, find an excuse to be in ND and coast with me along deserted roads, bordered by great puddles filled with all manner of breeding ducks and I'll think you the best birding-buddy a person could find.
And if it's late September, when only the earliest of Northern Pintails can be found on some secret shallow marsh, go with me to the decoy show and let me anticipate the arrival of my most favorite class of birds.
Humor me as I agonize over which decoy I'll bring home.
Try not to be too impatient with me as my questions elicit yet another story about how an ex-insurance broker came to carve shorebirds and paint lighthouses in his retirement. Or how another came to copy the great carvers who made their living from decoys in the days of market-gunning.
Don't be embarrassed when I (too loudly) compare the antique animal traps at the taxidermist's "display" to barbarian torture devices. Be proud, in fact, that I don't back down from his smart-ass response to overhearing my comment.
This is a decoy and gunning show, remember.
And I'm a duck-watching, tree-hugging, dirt-loving fool.
For all that pains me about it, there is almost nothing that I don't love about the heritage this show represents. Historically an impoverished area of the state, the baymen who made their living there did so in cycles, commercial fishermen in season and boat builders or electricians or decoy carvers in winter. Cranberry and blueberry harvesters or chicken farmers on the side.
Collectible decoys are an artifact of tools that have outlived their usefulness. The draw for me is the workmanship; the finest of floating sculpture that was designed to be tossed in salt water and into the line of fire. Gone, mostly, are the days when decoys were used to lure ducks and shorebirds to the hunter's gun and then on to restaurants or the millinery trade.
The 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act put an end to the commercial hunting of wild birds and so we're left with a piece of history. A piece of that heritage remains in the decoy, more sophisticated now than the early carvings meant just to evoke the likeness of a bird and thereby bring the real thing into the sights of a hunter's gun.
Of course it's those primitive-style decoys that I prefer. I think it must be partly because they remind me of the way I experience ducks as a birder; old style decoys are all about field marks: cheek patches and tail shape and bill color. There's no time to see the fine-feather detail on the flanks of a Bufflehead as they bob like little rubber ducks in the frozen bay, anyway. Too much detail distracts my eye, makes me keenly aware that what I'm seeing is, after all, a decoy.
The Ocean County Decoy and Gunning Show continues tomorrow in Tuckerton.
Friday, September 26, 2008
match shoes to bag
make small talk
at baby showers
I can not stop:
trying too hard
it doesn't matter
laugh in spite of myself
(most often at myself)
see love and loss
- - - - - - - - - - -
There are days when I feel like I'm writing the same blog post, over and over, but with different words. And I wonder if you all notice?
(Blogging as free therapy)
There's some tangential relationship here to this post, I think.
What has me thinking about my mom tonight, some thirty years later, I'm not sure. Probably it has to do with this lady I work with; there's something about her and the way she carries herself in the hallway at the office. There's times when I catch sight of her; really, it's the sound of her shoes that reminds me of my mother - something inexplicable and familiar.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Everybody should own a tree at this time of year. Or a valley full of trees, or a whole hillside. Not legally, in the formal way of "Know all men..." and "heirs and assigns" written on a paper, but in the way that one comes to own a tree by seeing it at the turn of the road, or down the street, or in a park, and watching it day after day, and seeing color come to its leaves. That way it is your tree whenever you choose to pass that way, and neither fence nor title can take it away from you. And it will be yours as long as you remember.
Red maples are beautiful trees to own that way. They color early and the color steadily deepens. Find one that turns mingled gold and crimson and you have a tree of wonders, for you never know whether another day will bring more gold or more rubies. It will be a great treasure in any case. And a sour gum is a thrilling tree to own, for its reds and oranges are like those of no other tree that grows. A dogwood, too, is one to consider, for it not only rouges itself with some of the warmest reds in the woodland; it decks itself with berry clusters that outstay the leaves, if the squirrels are not too industrious. Or you may choose the sassafras, and cherish the choice until all the leaves are fallen. For the sassafras is like a golden flame with all the warmth of orange and red and even purple mingled in. No fire that ever leaped on a hearth had the warmth of color that glows in a sassafras on an October hilltop.
Take your choice among these and many others. Make one your own, and know Autumn in a tree that not even the birds can possess more fully. It's yours for the finding, and the keeping in your memory.
The pic is of a tree that I like to think of as my own, one I keep track of. I'm not sure what kind it is, as I don't think I've ever seen it with leaves; I'll have to pay a visit this weekend before it disrobes itself again for the winter.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
1348 and lots of those are bird songs (frog calls will be added soon!)
2. What music would you want played at your funeral?
I don't think I want a funeral.
3. What magazines do you have subscriptions to?
Vanity Fair and that's just piling up lately.
4. What is your favorite scent?
Fracas by Piguet
5. If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it?
It would take me a long time to spend that much money on myself; it would be wasted on me and just sit in the bank.
6. What is your theme song?
Lately it feels like Alanis Morissette's "Ironic"
7. Do you trust easily?
Probably not, but I'm one of those people who likes just about everyone.
8. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?
Definitely a thinker, but I'm trying to get out of the habit of that so much.
9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days?
10. Do you have a good body-image?
(Laugh) Yeah, it's great.
11. Is being tagged fun?
It is usually, yeah.
12. If you had more hours in the day, how would you spend that time?
I'm up half the night as is, I really couldn't handle any more hours in the day!
13. What have you been seriously addicted to lately?
Mindlessly staring at the ocean.
14. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
No one tagged me, but I stole this from Jayne and she's really sweet and kind.
15. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head?
Ray LaMontagne's "Hannah"; that fiddle just grabs my ear and sticks.
16. What’s your favorite item of clothing?
Jeans, jeans, jeans.
17. Do you think Rice Crispies are yummy?
18. If you had $100 to give away, who would you give it to?
I know lots of people who need way more than $100. Off the top of my head, there's a disabled vet who needs money for a security deposit on a new place. I'd really like to find that money for him.
19. What items could you not go without during the day?
Coffee. Music. Carmex. A window to look out.
20. What should you be doing right now?
I should be at the Y or at least thinking about going...
And yes, you're tagged!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
If only they could talk, right?
The DH covers for animal control nights and weekends and generally is smart enough to not ever mention anything about stray bunnies to me. Someone had called about this white bunny that was in their yard for a couple days...
You know how the rest went, but at least try to picture me resisting those blue eyes.
I'm guessing someone dumped her outside because that's what mean people do.
Isn't she pretty?
Monday, September 22, 2008
Anyway so, she's pretty dirty as she's been roaming the neighborhood for a while, but she's eating and thumping up a storm.
I've always wanted a red-eyed white bunny, but I had visions of a big 'ole Harvey-type bunny. Her eyes are the palest of blue and her ears remind me of the inside of a seashell...
More pics on a day I won't need to use a flash on those sensitive eyes.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
When I was a student there it was still just a college and not a university like it is today. That change is mostly superficial, I guess, yet I went there fully expecting that I wouldn't recognize the place for all the new buildings that have been constructed since I graduated. I was happy to find that the core of the campus was unchanged and that the feel of the place was the same to me. It does feel much more grown-up somehow, though, with a cafe attached to the library, a diner right on campus and its very own train station.
I spent an hour or so sitting on the familiar benches outside Partridge Hall, which used to house the Department of Spanish and Italian, where I spent the majority of my days for those four years. It was only twenty years ago this month that I started there as a freshman, after all.
Cripes! Where did twenty years go?
In the blink of an eye...
I'd started college as a Political Science major, of all things, but mostly C's and a D or two (plus the riot act from my dad) convinced me that Poly Sci most probably wasn't where my talents were.
How exactly I ended up as a Spanish Translation major is less clear in my memory, but I suppose I might have been influenced by the mission-style architecture of the campus, or my Spanish-born uncle, or more probably that I mostly always got A's in Spanish without very much difficulty.
Anyway... Spanish was a good fit for me. Not as easy one, as Montclair State is blessed with a diverse population and an excellent faculty that hardly ever cut me any slack as the only non-native speaker in most of my classes. One of my professors often 'complimented' me on my 'creative' use of the language, in fact.
I never was able to make a living doing the type of translation work I love - literary translation - nor was the year spent doing legal and medical translations very lucrative, but I think I've been lucky since then to be able to make use of my undergraduate degree in most all of the jobs I've held over the years. That's probably more than can be said for my friends who stuck with Political Science.
Of course I'm denying the fact that I had to get a graduate degree to be able to make any real money (as if!) but that's another story, anyway.
It was nice to spend a couple hours there and see myself 18 again with the whole world for my imagining.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Our group of twelve enjoyed the restless voices of Robins and Catbirds in the woods, had a nice look at a Cooper's Hawk gliding through a swarm of Tree Swallows high overhead and had a demonstration from our field trip leader of the explosive seed dispersal technique of jewelweed after a brief glimpse at a hummingbird feeding among its flowers.
We ended our walk puzzling over the identity of a quickly departing flycatcher while a fawn of the year emerged from the jewelweed and goldenrod at our feet. Two Common Yellowthroats and a Downy Woodpecker were found feeding in the same area. While there didn't seem to be many birds present today, the warm sun and all that goldenrod made up for the lack of migrants.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Finding hawks at a ridge site, as opposed to a coastal watch like Sandy Hook or Cape May, is really difficult and requires a lot of patience and much better eyesight than I have. We were looking at speck birds for most of the day! I did get to see a few kettles of Broadwings way up in the clouds (yesterday they counted 4437 Broadwings), some Osprey and Sharpies, a couple Kestrals and had a nice look at a Peregrine.
We had to be glad for all those clouds in the sky cause they gave us landmarks to help locate the birds soaring high above. A fun day, but I prefer coastal hawkwatching that doesn't require quite as much imagination!
I met this guy there who has some fantastic hawk pics on his Flickr site.
Visit here for more Friday Skywatch posts.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Bad idea! Maybe your dog is like Luka: you know, you spend money on toys and stuff for them and they just destroy whatever it is for them that you buy. Luka did that this week with the nice soft bed we bought for his crate. I was concerned with his elbows on the hard metal all day long, but he tore it to shreds on Monday morning. $40.00 wasted!
This time he decided to save us the trouble of that intermediate step of buying something with the money and then shredding the purchased item. Instead he just shredded the money straight away. How considerate! The DH had left an envelope of money and checks from FD t-shirt sales on the dresser and Luka grabbed it and spread it out across the kitchen floor. Thankfully, only one check and a ten dollar bill were actually shredded beyond repair.
At least I think so anyway.
And then there was the chasing him through the house, laughing, camera in hand, for the sake of that Ben Franklin...
I'm not sure I want to imagine what he'll do to top this.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Stop laughing - I have been known to wear an actual dress on occasion!
Two appointments later I was thinking about lunch, but instead went for a little stroll in the sand by the bay. There was a sweet phone call and laughter with a friend. Then sometime after 1 pm things went south.
My exceptional scheduling skills had me in two places at opposite ends of the county at the same time. Impossible to accomplish. I made a decision to see the client that lived in the worst neighborhood first (I like to be in and out of certain parts of town before the hoodlums are awake and standing around on the corners) with the idea that I would have my office call the other client to let her know that I'd be late. Well... another client beat me to the punch on that one and called my office to complain that it was 2:30 and she'd cancelled her dialysis treatment and sat home all day waiting and I still hadn't shown up. I mostly straightened that mess out, though I don't think I made a new friend with that lady. Pfft!
I juggled and drove in circles and that damn lady wasn't home when I got there.
Then I had a wonderful couple hours at the Y doing yoga and paying attention to my breathing and lifting weights to vent the pent up crankiness.
I came home to a crowd of neighbors standing around in the driveway with the sweetest teenage boy who'd lost control of his parent's car and ended up somewhere in the middle of my lawn. Poor kid! He was okay, but apprently the parent's car was not. Thankfully the tow truck and the police cars were gone by the time I got there. The kid had come back to apologize for messing up the lawn and was met first with my crazy neighbors who teased him to no end.
I sat down here, finally, to fill out my registration for the Fall Weekend, only to be interrupted to help the DH catch an injured gull down by the boat ramp. That went surprisingly well.
Gulls smell very fishy. Maybe not everyone knows that.
It's after 9pm and I still haven't eaten a single thing. All day.
Drank about a dozen cups of coffee though. Can't you tell?
So... I'm officially signed up for a couple days in Cape May next month and a boat tour that I hope won't be rained out like last year's. I got some other stuff done that I'd meant to do this weekend.
There's still a dozen emails staring me down.
I think I'll have a nap.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
There was no food on offer, so I'm not sure just what his interest in me was about. Maybe he was feeling companionable and thought I looked lonely at the beach all by myself yesterday. More likely he hoped I had a pocket full of potato chips! Gulls really are quite pretty when you stop to look at them. Not that I'm ready to do very much of that.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
The Omnivore’s Hundred:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
1. Venison (I'm pretty sure I was tricked into eating this)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
7. Cheese fondue
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari (For the first time last weekend)
13. PB&J sandwich (Ick. PB is much better with bananas)
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
24. Rice and beans (Red beans and yellow rice is one of my favorite things)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
47. Chicken tikka masala
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
51. Prickly pear
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (This is something of a point of pride for me)
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
60. Carob chips
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (I love good churros)
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (Apple, preferably)
79. Lapsang souchong
81. Tom yum
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
90. Criollo chocolate
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
95. Mole poblano (I made my first mole in high school)
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
I'm not very daring when it comes to food, obviously... especially seafood. It was fun reading about all the food items I've never even heard of. Most didn't do anything for my appetite though. I guess I'm not much of an omnivore.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Anyway, I digress...
These were my prairie life birds:
American White Pelican
Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow
I'm still holding onto most of my North Dakota stories like precious little pebbles in the pocket of my favorite pair of jeans. Every now and again I pull one out and turn it over in my hand and decide if it's polished enough for telling yet. Most aren't, but I'm beginning to remember and still enjoy just sitting with those memories.
Each of the birds on this very modest list has a story of its own; its own sweet memory. I'd forgotten, I think, how nice new life birds can be. A couple of them aren't technically life birds for me, but I'm a little quirky about claiming life birds and would just as soon wait to check a bird off that list as not be able to really remember seeing it for the first time. These are all firmly set in my memory of a wonderful couple days spent wandering in the middle of nowhere.
#16 in my 38 by 39.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
There would be no dance,
And there is only the dance.
I often find my stillpoint, my chance to reconnect with quiet and beauty, by the ocean. Things in my life begin to unravel and I find that I'm drawn there, to some favored cove or quiet bayside beach where I'm able to check-in with myself again. It's not anything that I do consciously, exactly, but rather something that I find has changed in me after some time alone with my thoughts and the company of nature.
A funny thing, really, that projecting my experience outward, toward noticing the soft lullaby of the waves lapping at the sand or the dancing flight of terns, would bring me closer to the clarity of what I need to know, but that seems to be the way of stillness and contentment. A quiet sort of magic.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
My local Audubon chapter has been struggling for volunteers for as long as I can remember. I think someone assigned me a job at the very first program I attended, but I was eager to get involved and to learn about local conservation issues and participate. That doesn't seem to be the case with a lot of birders. Our chapter has a healthy enough membership, but getting those people who come to the programs and field trips to step up and get involved is just impossible.
A fair number of our membership are excellent and active birders, but their interest ends in the field, it seems. The rest of our membership are people I would never recognize with a pair of binoculars around their necks; in fact I think they come to our monthly programs just for the free snacks afterwards!
I wonder where the young people are, the beginning birders, the people with fresh ideas and energy. Our club needs them. Our volunteers are a dedicated group, with diverse skills and interests, and many have held the same committee chair position for years on end, or served as president multiple times. What happens, though, is that we get tired and frustrated with the lack of support from our membership and then we end up losing those volunteers who care the most about the organization and who do the most work to support it, simply because they've burned out.
It happened to me almost; after volunteering to be hospitality chair (to rescue another woman who had been stuck with the job for years) - I found myself doing it and became annoyed after a couple years at being the first to arrive and the last to leave the meetings, cleaning up alone, listening to members complain about the way I made the coffee, etc - pfft! Come early and fix the coffee yourself if you don't like it! Donate a box of cookies for once! I quit volunteering and became another of those anonymous faces in the crowd at the monthly meetings for a few years. Then my guilt got the better of me and this year I'm the chair for two committees.
Again I'm taking over for two dedicated people who simply got tired of the lack of cooperation from the membership. Funny is that one of my jobs is planning and scheduling the club's field trips for the year... anyone that knows me at all knows what a poor planner I am. So far, the rest of the board has taken my *fly by the seat of my pants* approach with a good bit of humor; we'll see how long that will last. My point is that I'm clearly not the best person for the job, but I'm the one willing to do it and if it weren't me, it would be one of the other people who's already wearing three different hats, you know?
So... if there's a local bird or nature club that you care about, please find a way to become involved. Introduce yourself to one of those familiar faces you see at every meeting; maybe the geeky guy who always sets up the slide projector and makes sure the microphone is working, or the lawyer-type lady who brings neat things for the raffle each month, or even the blessed soul who toils away in the kitchen to get the coffee just right for you. Offer to help, maybe. Just once, even. Ask what you can do. We need you.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
All the usuals for late summer were there and things are happening just as they should; I guess to most, September belongs to Autumn, but for me it's still Summer and the best part at that. It's hardly ever too hot and the nights have a faint chill that hints of what's to come. The skimmers were barking and dancing over the cove by the jetty while we played in the surf as the sun set down along the bay...
We crossed paths with a box turtle looking for shade from the hot sun at Hidden Valley among the balled up fists of Queen Anne's Lace going to seed and the ripening greenish-purple berries of Porcelain-berry Vine. We didn't spot any of the hunting hawks that I know to look for there, but instead found vultures pitching and banking among the few clouds overhead.
I can't go to Cape May and not remember other times there; other September days with hordes of migrating monarchs and dragonflies, clouds of sanderlings flying in a lane close to the edge of the ocean like distant twinkling lights as they turn and flash their underparts in the sun, wheels of hawks rising together over the Point and then setting their wings and streaming south.
The sanderlings this weekend were doing their thing on scurrying feet, up and back with every shining wave, alone or in twos. The egrets congregated in big groups at Bunker Pond in front of the hawkwatch, entertainment for the lack of hawks, despite a merlin spotted feeding on a swarm of dragonflies. Of course there's no picture of that; the best memories somehow manage to always escape my camera.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
but the ocean looks like this and I'm hunkering down inside instead.
Anyone else having a hurricane party today? Any good beach plum jelly recipes to share? Stories? Storm jokes?
Friday, September 05, 2008
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
There is the certainty of fire in the maples, now evident in the coals and brands of the sumacs. The coinage of October is now being minted in the elms, and the ripeness of the grape is forecast in the big New England asters, purple as amethysts. The certainty of Indian Summer's mists is there in the thistedown and the finespun silk of the milkweed. The frosts to come are foreshadowed in the froth of small white asters at every roadside.
The crows now know the certainty of their own tenure and proclaim it loudly. The jays no longer make any secret of their presence or their coming inheritance. The cricket and the katydid tell the darkness the certainty of time and its implacable demands. The whippoorwill and the owl exchange confidence in the night, reluctant companions in the slowly shifting eternity of starlight.
There is the certainty of sun and evening light, which mark the time of change in the breadth of a shadow, the depth of dawn and dusk. Two more weeks and the compass can set its needle by the morning sun. Yesterday's new moon will wax toward the fullness that will double the certainty of the equinox.
September makes its own commitments, abides by its own inevitabilities in the decisions of time.
--Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons
If I were to make a short-list of favorite nature writers, Hal Borland would probably be at the top of it. I love the way his writing so often sounds like poetry, yet gently teaches me things about astronomy and botany and phenology.
Do you have a favorite nature writer? Can we share short-lists?