Sunday, November 30, 2008

All that glitters

It must be some sort of record that there's a tree in my house before December. It's only half-decorated, but I'm hoping early for some of the magic of the lights and baubles to improve what is lately a hard time of year for me.

At some point, the holidays became less about magic and hope and celebration and more about rushing around and obligations and ridiculous expectations. I feel terribly selfish for it, but I almost want to just skip the whole production.

Scandalous, I know.

The DH has had his radio tuned to the *24 hour-round-the-clock-make-you-insane-all-Christmas-music-all-the-time* radio station for two weeks now. I've growled at him often enough that he just quietly changes it to something less offensive in my presence. He reminded me the other day that we practically wore out a tape of favorite Christmas music on our honeymoon. Our Christmastime wedding, all hollyberries and seasonal cheer, guarantees that I should forever have the Christmas spirit, right?

Right?

I'm less confused by my change of heart than he, but can't easily explain the tarnish that's come over the season. There's a lot less innocent belief, less love for the ritual, less hope for the power of one day on the calendar to make things what we wish them to be.

What's left feels false. And forced. And not at all golden.

This horribly depressing post brought to you courtesy of days of rain and gray gloom. Rather than the twinkly lights of a Xmas tree... I think I may need a raging bonfire to improve my mood... or a short vacation to the tropics.

;-)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yearbooked

Dear Jayne led me to this bit of hilarity and I thought I'd share the results with you. The idea is to upload a pic of yourself and see the yearbook photo that might've been had you come of age in a different decade.


1950: Oh my god... I'm my mother.

1966: Meh. I can just imagine the gallons of hairspray that made this possible.

1974: Yes! The Marsha Brady hair I always wanted!

1980: Not a good look for me.

1996: Meh again. This is pretty much the cut I wear now, but for all the unruly curls.


Please note that I've left out anything too embarrassing or which too closely resembles some past reality... mostly those really bad 80's mall looks. If I were really courageous I'd post my real yearbook pic from 1988.

;-)

Not gonna happen!

Why not give it a try at Yearbook Yourself and share on your own blog? I won't laugh too loudly... I promise!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pie fixes everything

Remember doing this as a kid?

Can you imagine me pouting when the whipped-cream covered beaters went to the two youngest relatives gathered around the table and I wasn't one of them?

Pout.

There was also some pouting involved with having to sit with the grown-ups afterwards drinking coffee and discussing important issues (arguing over politics), instead of curling up on the floor in front of a movie.

Pout.

The pie made up for it, almost.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkey disguise 2

I've been chuckling and scratching my head as hits to this silly post from last Thanksgiving have steadily increased in the last month or so... what in the world are people looking for when they search for "how to disguise a turkey?"

;-)

I did a little searching of my own tonight and came up with
this site that has complete instructions for how to disguise a meatless product for your Turkey Day dinner.

Could that be it, do you think?

Have a happy, everyone. Keep the turkey and pass me the mashed potatoes instead.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Little joys

A rainy walk with the dog. A perfect cup of coffee. Baby pictures from a friend. Sunlit frost on the grass first thing this morning. Blue-winged butterflies. Crunchy tacos and guacamole. Memories of church bells. An hour with a book then a nap. Luka keeping my feet warm on the couch during said nap.

;-)

Today was a quiet day. A very ordinary day. They're nice, too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sundog

There's an old folk belief
that demands a sudden gift upon spotting a
sundog
and one that says it brings good luck on a long journey;
I have only words to toss into the chilly air of a November sunset
and this thought of you that stays
long after the turkey vulture, like a plane, disappears from sight.

Click on the pic for a bigger view!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday morning snuggles

Okay... let's all saw "Awwww" together.

;-)

Quirky Boomer loves to use his girlfriend as a pillow.

What quirks does your bunny have?

Friday, November 21, 2008

My sour gum

This little tree has only been here for a little over a year now and it doesn't seem to have grown at all, but that's the way with trees. I think we pay them lots of attention when they're first planted and then forget them. All at once they're taller than us and thick-trunked and a proper tree.

I was glad to see some of the nice fall color that sour gums are known for... though I waited too long to get a pic of it. If I remember right, last fall the leaves never showed much change in color before they dropped. It was nice to see a hint of red out there, finally.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Luka goes to the vet

Yeah, you can imagine what that's like!

Please note that sweet, handsome Dr. Heins is sitting on Luka in the corner. Need I say anything else?

This was the calmest moment of tonight's visit, actually. We were in for Luka's yearly exam and shots. He was weighed. He's now on a diet. Blood was drawn. That required the in-the-corner-tackle by the vet. His ears were cleaned of their yeasty goop. There's medicine for that.

Everyone survived.

We're new to
this vet practice, more or less, since Luka. I love Dr. Heins because he loves Labs and knows them inside and out. He takes his time with us and humors Luka's goofyness. Plus, he's extra generous with the cookies which makes Luka really really like him.

Anyone want to guess how much Luka weighs now?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How many days?

I wonder if it's a part of the closing down of the year that causes this almost resentful acceptance of time and distance.

Winter's coming cold brings the chance for rest and reflection... we're forced inside with time to ponder the duration of a sleepless night or the reach of one's imagination.

Plus, there's time to learn a new trick or two with PhotoShop, but very little daylight for the taking of photos.

I love Autumn most as it comes; in the subtle changes of a September day and the endless stars that fill an October night. November for me is a time for looking forward... forward to feasts with family and frosty mornings with the hope of snow by day's end. There's the sharp air and the deep, dark cold of December ahead to contend with and the summation of another year and all its memories to be remembered.

Today is the day to walk with Autumn and to know it in your eyes and ears and with your entire being. Here it is. Here we are. Here I am. Here are the owls dueting in the black locust out back as I type, announcing the season and their intentions for the future.

The days grow short as the nights grow long...

How many days till Spring?

;-)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bats

It's not easy to feel pity at the age of ten. You might feel admiration or fear, amazement, or scorn. But pity is an adult emotion, a little worn out, like a grown-up's heart. At ten, you love just about anything madly; the grass, the air, a friend, your very own hands. You don't pity anything, not even yourself.

I felt pity once when I was nine. I remember it with such clarity that sometimes the same sour and unpleasant sensation shakes me like a bolt of lightning. It wasn't a conscious pity, like what I'm capable of now, but I know that it was as sharp and deep as a voice that shakes the branches of a tree so delicate and green that anything could shatter it.

Behind our house, high in the mountains, were the Sestil caves. Those high reddish cliffs, like castles or gigantic fortresses, inspired a respect in us at dusk that felt like fear. We liked fear. We, and I dare say the majority of kids in the world, liked to be afraid. We climbed up slowly, our skin covered in goosebumps from the breeze of the advancing night. We trembled as we arrived at the mouth of the caves because a dark moistness hung in the air there and that great coldness that surrounds the unknown. Fear, the great fear of who-knows-what.

The bats lived there, hanging upside down in bunches. There is nothing that a country child hates, save for wolves, more than bats; they are the image of satan since time immemorial. We had caught that hatred, even though we only half understood it. Perhaps only in the spirit of imitation; that need we all have to not stand out; that thing that makes us do the same things as other kids. My brothers went into the cave with sticks... those long hazelwood branches that now, in the hands of other children, fill me with a strange nostalgia.

I knew what they were doing, but one day I saw it for myself. The older boys brought out a bat, suspended by the tips of its wings, spread like a fan. They were a group of six or more and, fascinated, I followed them. They crucified the bat and they tortured it. With a burning cigarette they forced it to smoke, they burned it and they cursed it with great hatred. They said things like, "Take that damned satan!"

Finally they left it alone and went on their way. Someone was coming or had called them. The animal was in front of me, nailed to the trunk of a black poplar with its wings spread wide, still alive. Suddenly, my fear and unhealthy curiosity disappeared, along with the old-fashioned hatred that had filled me. Something broke inside me: ideas that had been accepted without knowing how or why, slogans of good and evil, of justice, of what should and should not happen. I felt something so dark and intense that it made me remove the nails from the bat, screaming, overcoming my disgust, my fear, and my own self-pity. I left it stretched out in the wet grass and went far away to cry without knowing why.

Julie's last couple posts about the discovery of a red bat she had the pleasure to share with some Ohio schoolkids reminded me of this, written years ago and based ever-so-loosely on Ana Maria Matute's "Los murcielagos". Yes... the tone is dark, as in so many of her stories of children, but the message is always one that I find uplifting.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The genie in my iPod



Dont bother clicking up there! Just when I thought I had YouTube fooled and tricked them into letting me embed the video. Pfft! A link is at the bottom of this post.

iTunes has this new feature called Genius which creates playlists from your library of music. For someone like me who has some 1400 songs on her iPod, but listens to the same dozen or so over and over again, it's a nice feature, I think. I've tried creating playlists based on my favorites, but that's not exactly worked, either, because I'm still listening to the same bunch of songs all the time. I need something to outsmart myself, I think.

For example, if I choose this favorite song from Justin Nokuza, the genie in my iPod will make a playlist for me of *similar* songs:

Lucky by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat
Till It Happens to You by Corinne Bailey Rae
Say by John Mayer
Realize by Colbie Caillat
Last Request by Paolo Nutini
Hold You in My Arms by Ray LaMontagne
Taylor by Jack Johnson
You and I Both by Jason Mraz
Why Georgia by John Mayer
Everybody Hurts by REM
Your Heart Is an Empty Room by Death Cab for Cutie
Run by Snow Patrol
American Tune by Paul Simon
Just Like Heaven by The Cure
Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard
You Are the Best Thing by Ray LaMontagne
Hook by Blues Traveler
It's Okay to Think About Ending by Earlimart
Wild World by Cat Stevens
Save the Last Dance for Me by Michael Buble
Golden Train by Justin Nozuka
I Don't Trust Myself by John Mayer
Adia by Sara McLachlan
Told You So by The Guggenheim Grotto

I've no idea what the genie thinks these songs have in common and frankly, I don't see the similarities, but I'm glad for some forced variety in what I listen to. The Genius feature will also recommend songs for purchase from iTunes, but I've not trusted it yet to do that.

Has anyone besides
Jayne tried this out yet? Thanks for the heads up, Jayne!

Oh and do have a listen to Justin Nozuka, please. Let me know what you think?

Friday, November 14, 2008

This sand and what crumbles

Castles made of sand fall into the sea, eventually.

Or at least that's what we're made to think.

I'm not buying it though.

I imagine the best is yet to come.

I expect impossible things.

I know that I don't know and that I'm not alone in that.

I anticipate answers from surprising places.

I believe trust is the face of courage.

I dare to love myself first.

I choose risk and its joys and unexpected pain.

I accept dreams as a guide to what's possible.

I remember everything that my heart already knows.

What about you?

;-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sculpture interpretation 101

Big question mark from me... it's called Moby Dick. Does that help? Anyone?

;-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The parts of a dog

The whiskey-colored eyes, full of impishness or warmth or wisdom or innocence.

The soft petal-shaped ears set high on that big head, keepers of many whispered secrets and dreams.

The formidable tongue, the big jowls so often rubbed in mud and stubble and then across the leg of your pants or the arm of your couch. And that nose, cold and wet, when (and where!) you least expect it.

Webbed like a duck, offered in exchange for cookies. Responsible for countless muddy footprints on the kitchen floor. Prone to leaping and darting like a fool.

At the very end of that stout body lies this weapon of destruction and infectious bringer of happiness.

I'm not sure which is my favorite part. Probably it has to do with the way he leans against me sometimes, or the weight of his head in my lap as he snores, or the sight of him across the dog park, wrestling and dancing with his canine friends, as he realizes I've wandered away and leaves his fun and runs to me to check that I'm okay.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Bunny

I'm feeling a bit like Boomer today. You bunny people will know what his gesture to Sunshine means...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Yes... I can do this!

I was writing this post in my head yesterday as I sped down the parkway to Island Beach State Park and expected to have to title it, "How Not to Lead Your First-Ever Field Trip". First on the list was to be, "Be on time for once!" but I was already late when I'd thought of my post title.

Anyway... you might remember me mentioning here that I'm now responsible for planning field trips for my local audubon chapter. It's gone well so far, but I couldn't find anyone able to lead our November trip to Island Beach. I was even almost begging near strangers at the hawkwatch in Cape May two weeks ago. Remember Lloyd? Yeah.. he said no, too. I never found anyone, so short of canceling the trip I thought I'd make a go of leading it myself and hoping no one showed up.

;-)

The weather was awful... rainy and foggy... so zero participants seemed like a real possibility. It turned out there were seven people waiting on me to get there, and thanks be, all were beginning birders, as is typical for these field trips. Beginning birders are easy to please and, luckily, don't know gulls any better than I do. We just agreed at the outset to ignore them! We saw some of my beloved sanderlings on the beach and I struggled with some terns that were lazing among the fiishermen, but I decided they were Forster's and (laugh) they all believed me!

Being *the leader* imparts a certain authority that I'm not entirely comfortable with, but other people who lead trips have told me that pretending confidence is half the game. Whatever. Here is the second of three shorebirds that I can identify in winter. Funny how Black-bellies are so wary compared with the sanderlings... I had to stalk this guy up into the dunes for a pic.

We spent some time scanning Barnegat Bay and came up with a couple groups of Bufflehead and a couple Loons, but that was it. Island Beach is a barrier island and has a wonderful maritime forest like Sandy Hook; we found some Kinglets and Yellow-rumps, but ended up watching the feeders at the nature center to escape the rain for a bit and actually be able to study some common birds. The beginners liked that, I hope, plus I got my first Junco of the season.

The show of the day was the Northern Gannets in a feeding frenzy just off the beach. What cool birds! Sadly, I don't think Gannets are easy for beginners to appreciate. They all kept asking me, "How can you tell they're not gulls?" I guess their crappy little binoculars didn't help any. I remember feeling the same way the first time I saw Gannets... the field trip leader pointed out back then that the Gannets were refrigerator white and pointed at both ends, so I just repeated that back to the group. Plus, the way they drop like arrows into the water is just the coolest thing and unique to Gannets, maybe.




Have a look at this video I found on YouTube to see what I mean. The music is pretty annoying and its filmed on a boat, but pelagic trips are where one expects close views of Gannets. On lucky days they're close to shore, but I've not ever seen them feeding as close as my little group of beginners got to see yesterday.

I also got to ramble on about the huge stand of beach heather that Island Beach has, plus all the other nerdy stuff I know about plants. Nice to have a captive audience, I guess. Reminds me of being in the classroom in front of a group of sleepy 20 year-olds. Anyway... I'm encouraged and think I might be able to do this again sometime. In a pinch anyway.

;-)

Oh! This is especially for
Susan. There was an older couple with us who are world travelers... going to Borneo to bird in a couple weeks then to some other exotic-sounding place. We got to talking about spring warblers and they said that THE place to be is Magee Marsh in early May. So I believe you now, Susan. Ohio's on my list for someday.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Through the looking-glass

Just a short pause to pat myself on the back for three years of mostly consistent blogging... it's been quite a ride!

I love this little place we've made together: me alternately skipping or stumbling with the things that make up an ordinary life; you there beside me or imagined quietly looking over my shoulder, commenting on this or that or something I might have missed.

Having someone to write for, to share stories and memories with, has made this worth doing every day. Life, mine and yours, is much more interesting when shared and reflected on in this way, don't you think?

So... a heartfelt thanks for three years of friendship and for meeting me here most days to laugh or rant or even cry at the wonder of ordinary things.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Behind the scenes

I wonder if you're like me: inclined to play with all the toys that make noise, preoccupied with lifting up the table skirt to understand how the trick works, tempted to wander where you shouldn't, add various other forms of polite misbehavior to the list...

;-)

I'm not quite sure what I stumbled across here at the Grounds for Sculpture the other day, but it stopped me in my tracks as quickly as it tickled my imagination.

Can you imagine the fun to work in a place like this? Have characters instead of coworkers? Be able to tell a story by simply moving the frisbee player in front of the painter? Next to the guy with the camera?


At first glance it looked to be a loading area for newly arrived sculpture or something of a temporary graveyard for retired pieces...

But I couldn't help feeling as if someone had arranged them just so for the whimsy of passerby... like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting... maybe a groundskeeper who secretly wants to study art history and tries his hand at creating a tableau from discarded stories.

Creepy! With pitchfork in hand, these two guarded the entrance to this place I wasn't meant to see. At least I don't think I was meant to see it...

;-)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Letting go

Mother, I'm letting go.
It's what you did a year ago
Now I know how, I swear
Walking so long in the dark, I arrived
To this now.
I don't have to tell you
The forces that were my life,
You know.

You who could describe the moon
With so much care
And spoke everything - but not of your fear of dying
You knew why flowers grew on grass
To say, "I'm born"
Or that they might spring from crevices of rock to dance with the wind.
Sometimes your words split darkness the way you crack open a rock
Nothing diminished or unseen.
Like the time we described the good and happy life of a friend
And you said, "I know, I know, but he's a hurt person."
He'll never know how you saw into him.
What Thoreau said he longed to do, you did -
Speak "first thoughts,"
While ours lay like cocoons spread in confusion

You never said the reasons for failure - why we get lost
Only that we are, and whether your thoughts spilled like butterflies into air
Or cut like an axe
You never lost the knowledge of center
That the failure to love ourselves deeply enough
Is more or less fatal

Well, the eventual is now
And I am broken like the moon,
Driftwood in the sea of my own drowning

Let me feel the attention you gave
To this world.
(Were you afraid of dying in case what came afterwards took less?)
With the same care you gave all along.
Safe with yourself.
I'm turning now to that shore.

--Constance Greenleaf

Bits of this were bouncing around in my head as I watched this scene, but it took a happy accident yesterday for me to come across the complete poem. It feels presumptuous to think I know anything of what was going through Lynne's mind that day on the anniversary of her mom's passing, but I liked the spirit of this poem, anyway, and was very touched by Lynne's trust in sharing some of her grief with us.

Hugs to you, Lynne.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Grounds for sculpture

Art, especially contemporary art, is not really my thing. It's not ever felt accessible to me. It puzzles me, mostly, or makes me laugh sometimes, but I've always felt that I'm somehow missing the point.

Save for a few pleasant experiences in Spain, sculpture displayed in stuffy museums or galleries doesn't interest me. Set that artwork against a backdrop of autumn's finest colors and well... I'm there!

I took advantage of the day off, overpaid government employee that I am, and, after doing my civic duty, visited the
Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton. It was a perfect day for a stroll through the grounds to enjoy what is also a fine garden and arboretum. The fall colors were gorgeous.

Here's some favorite views:

This made me smile!

October Gathering by Joan Danziger... I really liked this one, though the scale was tiny compared to many of the others.

Gorgeous colors in the background here...

On Poppied Hill by Seward Johnson

Lintel by Emilie Benes Brzezinski

More pics to come...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Afternoon visit

I nearly missed him standing there beside the dogwood, but he spotted me quickly once I stepped outside with the camera. In case you're squinting at the fuzzy focus (what's new?) I counted six points on this buck... a trophy to some, I'd guess.

I followed him through my little woodland garden of mountain laurels and viburnum, trying to get close enough for a halfway decent pic, but he spooked and was off with a snort and a flash of his white tail to the park out back where he makes his living. Usually I see him there at night on walks with Luka, one shape among many in the moonlight, disappearing into the shadows.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Looking ahead

Look who dropped in among the newly arrived Brant... Buffleheads! Can Hoodies be far behind?

;-)

A chilly wind floats a Harrier above the scarlet hues of poison ivy at Plum Island on Sandy Hook... and I'm imagining Short-ears at dusk.

Anyone else looking forward to winter birds? Which ones?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

From kings to grooms and Luka in between

It's been a busy couple of days here that involved lots of picture-taking...

Thursday there was a retirement party for my boss, whom we thoroughly embarrassed for his 38 years of service with a cape and a crown and plenty of mostly-good-natured roasting... He's worked at social services for as long as I've been alive. Jeez.

Nice was the time to chat with coworkers without the pressures of ringing phones. This is my friend Anne who works in personnel and makes sure we all get paid on time and Cathy, one of my favorite people in the whole world; she and I used to work together, then she got promoted and I got promoted and now we don't see much of each other anymore.

My buddy Pete and I; we're neighbors and got to work together for a short time last summer while I was assigned to the homeless services unit. He was transferred to my building recently, so I stop by his desk a couple times a week to talk birds and photography.

On Halloween morning, there was a parade of trick-or-treaters through the office. Click for a peek at the Christmas tree costume - I love it! Note person at desk in background actually trying to work...

;-)

I had to bribe him for it, but Luka will do most anything for a Haloween treat!

Finally, last night, there was a nephew's wedding to photograph. My camera needs a few days off, I think.

Now to catch up with comments and all of your blogs...