Friday, November 30, 2007

Visiting with trees

"What did the tree learn of the earth to confide in the sky?" --Pablo Neruda

Another of Neruda's questions to ponder on a Friday night. This is one of the local trees that I keep track of and photograph now and again. Nice tree, nice view. I like to see it as the landscape around it changes. The fields just out of view have woodcock or meadowlarks in season. Maybe a bluebird or two. And harriers, usually, or a kestral. The day I took this pic I sat myself down in the tall grass there and watched a harrier for an hour or two with the sun on my face.

The leaves have finally fallen and there's talk of a bit of snow for the weekend. Only just enough to be a nuisance, though.

The Festival of the Trees should be up and running by the time many of you read this tomorrow. Be sure to stop by for a visit.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

(Still) Lazy Thursday

Topside - a somewhat more flattering view

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wordless (lazy) Wednesday

Bottoms Up - can you name it?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The sun's most gentle rays

The low light caught the velvet fur of Boomer's ear while he dreamed bunny dreams late this afternoon. His sleepy eyes smiled at my hand against his nose... and he nudged me... a persuasion to again run my happy hand through his dark coat.

I don't pick out sweet rabbits; they don't come here silly, jumping figure-eights at my feet. They're dumped, neglected, frightened. Or worse, like Boomer and some of the others here, sent to slaughter. I pass by that slaughterhouse on my way to work most days and wonder how many others come and meet their death in that place without ever knowing a gentle hand. I look away of course; I don't have the courage to see what actually goes on there or to do the really hard work of going in and choosing which rabbits to rescue. But I'm glad to be able to support a local rescue that does.

Boomer is a survivor! A Flemish Giant, bred for show but not perfect, so he was sent to slaughter and netted his breeder about $10. His sister and companion, Cricket, passed away last May. A new slaughterhouse Flemmie, Sunshine, found her way to me shortly thereafter and has slowly worked her magic on Boomer's broken heart. The big news here is that finally (after 6 months!) the two are spending the night together.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Where everything is smaller than usual

Firstly, get out your granny glasses because the type on this page has gone all wonky again. Why does Blogger do that?

In addition to the fire tower incident on Friday, I finally drove far enough south to see some of the damage from the Warren Grove fire back in May. There's a gunnery range there and well... an F-16 dropped a flare during target practice that set fire to 15,000 acres or so. Oops! It all ended well, with no one hurt, and the pines got a taste of fire again.

I took this pic along Rt. 539 and you can sort of get an idea of what the pine plains are like - those are dwarf pines growing in the distance - stunted and twisted from the d
ry, sandy, nutrient-poor soil to reach no more than 10 feet tall, but mostly they're shorter. The trees grow so closely together so as to be impenetrable, but here or there is a way in.

It's worth looking for an opening because there's a subtle beauty to the plains. There's pleasure in the absence of people and the stillness. The soil underfoot crunches with reindeer lichen and if you're patient enough to look for it, there's bearberry, a neat little arctic plant that stayed behind when the ice retreated.

I didn't spend very much time that day, mostly I was in a hurry to be somewhere else, but it was a worthwhile detour. I think my favorite time to visit the dwarf pines is in the middle of winter with a cover of snow and the company of a few chickadees searching the pine cones for a tasty morsel.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Spare me!

The pic has nothing to do with this post, exactly. Just my brother Kevin and I the other day after a pomertini or two. (Pomertinis are healthy and full of antioxidants, you know, or at least that's what my SIL said when she kept pouring them!)

Anyway, maybe it was the vodka, but at some point on Thanksgiving we got to talking and laughing about Christmas and gift-giving. Kevin has a way of making everything funny, yet the gist of what he said was pretty depressing. Each of us, in my family anyway, spend an awful lot of time stressing about Christmas and wasting money to buy each other stuff we don't need. We all make enough money. If we need something (or heaven forbid want something) we buy it for ourselves. Simple as that.

We wised up somewhat with gifts for my dad before he passed away. For a few years we rented a big stretch limo to take the bunch of us into NYC for dinner and a visit with the Rockettes, each of whom my dad was (not so) secretly in love with. Those gifts weren't about money, but instead time. Time spent with his kids and grandkids doing something that made him happy. Much more meaningful than a silly tie or gadget for his computer.

We often talk about doing something similar for ourselves. Just planning a day to do something fun together, rather than buying gifts, but we always cave in and end up at the mall in a frantic dash with the rest of humanity. Hard to resist, I guess.

So... I'm hoping to be spared the craziness this season. I just need to come up with some ideas for things we might like to do together. And I need lists for the kids... cause they shouldn't be spared and no Christmas is complete without at least one awful afternoon in a toy store.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Apple Pie Hill

Ever climbed a fire tower? Well... DON'T!

Wandering around the Pine Barrens today looking for a Northern Shrike or two that have been reported, I came across Apple Pie Hill. It's supposed to be the highest elevation in Southern NJ (at a whopping 209 feet above sea level) with a terrific view of the Pinelands. I'd always thought you had to hike in on the Batona Trail to find it, so hadn't worked up the courage to try it alone yet. I often get lost (every darn road down there looks the same - sugar sand and pitch pine - how can you not get lost!), but as often happens, I stumble across something I'd been meaning to find at one time or another.

Anyone care to guess how far up those rickety stairs I got before having a panic attack? Vertigo to the point that I was afraid to move? Very weird. The wind and the dog barking from the car below didn't help any.

Here's the view from the bottom of the tower (when I wasn't afraid to let go of the scaffolding and raise my arms to take a pic!). Worth clicking for a view of nothing but trees stretching all the way to Atlantic City 30 miles or so to the southeast and Philly 30 miles or so to the southwest.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey in disguise

I'm off visiting at your places tonight; but thought I should at least give you something to laugh at here. Have a happy tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

That girl thing

Despite what I love to tell people to the contrary, I do sometimes wish I had a mother to tell me what to do.

I lost my mom when I was just 11, so it was up to my dad and big brothers to look after my growing up. I've had to make do with snippets of female wisdom garnered wherever possible, be it from a neighbor or one of my brother's girlfriends, for most of my life. A lot of the people I might have expected to be there for me as a kid without a mother never were. I like to think of that as a testament to their confidence in my father, rather than proof of their indifference to me.

I figure I turned out to be a pretty good person, but wish someone had taught me to cook and iron and manage laundry properly. My mom must have done those things for my dad, so he had to fend for himself, too, when she passed away. He did his best to learn quickly and even managed to cook for us and was quite inventive in the kitchen. I remember just one occasion that might be considered a *cooking lesson* and it involved pie dough and a rolling pin, and a lot of yelling and cursing. Can anyone make a pie crust without cursing? Anyway, I sometimes feel that I lack a certain finesse for things feminine as a result. Shopping, decorating, hair and makeup - I'm clueless.

The older I get, the more I see the influence of my father in my personality and way of being. I blame him for my obstinacy and tetchiness. These I consider good, strong traits in myself, but I never thought of them that way in my dad. Oh he was stubborn and could hold a grudge for ages! I may be the picture of my mother, but underneath I am all my father, like it or not.

I've been blessed since adulthood by a few older women friends who've taken me under their wing when I needed help or guidance, or just needed help in learning how to do something that comes *naturally* to other women. Carol who taught me to tie pretty ribbons on packages and how to crochet, Joan who listened to me bawl and complain as a first-year teacher, Merry who modeled a life of quiet wisdom and acceptance, Kathy with her urgings to be independent and carefree in my love for the outdoors, Linda who shares recipes and beauty tips.

These may be little things in the making of a woman, but are important to the sense of self and to fitting in among other women. That's not ever been easy for me and for the most part, I won't be bothered with it. (There's that obstinacy, again!) I often wonder though what women cherish about their relationships with other women and with their mothers. I wonder if it's the same things that the tomboy in me as a child saw with such wonder.

I'm sharing another of what my brother calls *cheesecake* shots of my mom. Looking at her there, I'm reminded of something else I never learned: confidence in a bathing suit!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fall questions

If spring is born at the river's edge and the burning summer in the dust of the highway, then where do we discover fall?

Is it in the mothball-scented chests where the blankets are kept? In the hedgerow that vibrates with migrating birds? Or do you find it, like me, in the darkening sea and the immense sky of an October afternoon. Or in the dunes, scattered among the quick sweep of goldenrod.

I find fall when my shadow reaches out over the waves to meet the moon. In days that shrink before I'm done with them. In this time of anticipation, relaxing and enjoying the change, and the wait.

Yes...I'm still pondering fall while all the neighbors are perfecting their Christmas decorations!

Sunday, November 18, 2007









Friday, November 16, 2007

Finally a fix!

Boomer and I have a mutually agreeable arrangement on chilly evenings; he keeps my lap warm and I massage his ears and neck until he reaches something like bunny nirvana and rolls softly aside onto the carpet. Then I can go back to whatever it was that I was trying to do with him stretched out beside me. Boomer is a big boy and takes up all of my lap and stretches almost to my ankles if the massage is good. Sometimes if we're in a groove, I'll look up to notice that my feet and his ears are pointing in the same direction.

I'm missing the days when I could let the bunnies
roam around the house for play. Buddy was mostly scared of getting in trouble for being too near to them; little Luka is all mouth and danger to a bunny. So the bunnies have been kept in their separate room and I haven't had much chance to take pics of them; hence the lack of mid-week bunny fixes lately. Finding the time to exercise a pup is challenging; finding time to exercise 5 rabbits also is impossible! Boomer and Sunshine get lots of time out (though they hardly exercise - the big lugs!) - it's the little bunnies here that aren't getting the attention lately that they're used to.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


A gift from the spring garden.

Cathy at Looking Up is sharing the nicest sort of meme on her blog and I thought it might be nice to play. The idea is that I'll send along some little gift to the first three people that comment here, so long as you continue the giving by posting the same meme on your own blog. I'd like to think up some way for people who don't have blogs of their own to play along, as it seems you all are always left out of the fun, so maybe I'll dream something up for that possibility.

Cathy explains that the gift needn't be of any real value, but should instead be motivated by the beauty of sharing some small part of yourself, or something you make with your hands, or grow in your garden.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gratitude 11/13/07

I noticed the sad smiles of the nurses and the way they left us finally alone with him; the discarded socks; the empty lobby; the absence of any doctors.

I heard the silence of the useless machines; Sinatra singing about easy street; sirens wailing somewhere off in the darkness; the phone ringing too early, my brother apologizing for the hour, but "Come" he said; the rush of hot water on my heavy head.

I admired his grace and final acceptance; making it easy for us, for me, by not coming home to die; his concern always for someone else, someone worse off than he.

I was astonished by the snow in mid-November; by my brothers surprised faces that I should take my time in getting there; astonished that our last real talking had been about that damned car just a week earlier; that we would end this day scrutinizing his tuxedo and its cigarette burns.

I'd like to see that sunrise again, over the ocean, with the snow falling outside the window; him at the coffee pot or brooding over his computer; that light he kept in his eyes for me; his feet stamping and anger that used to frighten me so.

Most tender was Brian holding his hand and our laughter with the funeral director that afternoon writing his obituary; my friend Cathy standing off in the back, uncomfortable.

His quiet sleep was most wonderful, most deserved; seeing the men from his lodge that came out for him, so many that do this as routine; an end to the pills and eating cardboard; an end to the slow deterioration and loss of him.

I thought it was another setback, not the end. Really, I should have seen what was happening; his tears the day he left here; his fear at being alone in the world; his confusion of my life with another's; his quietness; his surrender.

Mary Oliver fans probably recognize the format of her poem, "Gratitude", borrowed here without any poetry. I had wanted to write something for my dad yesterday and couldn't, but this poem helped me today to examine my memories of the day he died. Last year I had a little more fun remembering.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The long way home

"Or you could be the one who takes the long way home
Roll down your window, turn off your phone
See your life as a gift from the great unknown
And your task is to receive it
Tell your kid a story, hold your lover tight
Make a joyful noise, swim naked at night
Read a poem a day, call in well sometimes and
Laugh when they believe it"
--Mary Chapin Carpenter from "The Long Way Home"

I'm calling in well tonight.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Yes, my friends were surprised to see me at 7 on a Sunday morning. I've birded with these two for years, but lately have been very lazy about getting up early enough to do it. Of course I got to Sandy Hook late and missed seeing the day's kestral at Plum Island, but the nice color the early sun brought to the marsh and their faces was enough.
It still looks like summer on the beach side of the Hook; the only giveaway to the morning chill was the fishermen in their wet suits. We pulled a few gannets from the ocean, but no loons yet.
We walked all morning, to North Pond and South Pond, Horseshoe Cove and the Fishing Beach. Off Gunnison (the nude beach,in case Susan is paying attention) we found a nice flock of sanderling and two black-bellied plovers. I should have known them by their size, but it was their fluting toor-a-lee, like a melancholy sea bluebird, that gave them away.
I don't think I could ever tire of watching sanderlings and was glad to see such a large group huddled together against the wind. Have you ever seen sanderlings hop on one foot before the surf, rather than running like they normally do? Funny - that sight was my delight this morning!

I apologize for the odd shaped pics, but I had lens issues and had to do some serious cropping. Please do click on the pics for a (somewhat) better view.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Another snapshot

Susan, Delia, Sharon the Birdchick, and Jay of birdJam fame.

One of my favorite pics from a weekend that feels like years ago already. Happy people playing at the beach, each in their own little reverie...

Friday, November 09, 2007

The world is an orange

A visit to the beach at any time should be restful, but at sunset, for me, it's often a time of rest without rest. I'm inclined to lie down in the dunes and read or to watch the sun go down between sleepy eyelids. But my thoughts are soon invaded by memories, by tiny moving clouds, by a trifling and dry rain - a shower of sand that itches behind my eyes. It's a restless, poorly delineated time. I can't concentrate on what I've read, the mosquitoes buzz, the sun is half friend, half foe. And if it rains, the water has an odd murmur that makes me uneasy because I can't understand it. And a fog at the ocean brings the ghost of melancholy.

As kids, a day at the beach meant simply, radiantly, freedom. The adults napped or chatted in their beach chairs high above the tideline. It was our time and kids aren't afraid of the sun. Half-naked, free, oblivious we ran beneath the sun and in and out of the waves like sea creatures. We carried on, stepping on broken seashells, the evil shards waiting among innocent clam shells to pierce our bare feet. The distant dunes full of beach plum and the marsh behind, always the marsh and the bay. Something was always lost in our flight there: a sandal or some small toy. Something that we couldn't go back to look for because we were afraid of repeating the adventure to get there. The marsh grasses were crushed underfoot because the dog was following us, panting with his tongue hanging out and his eyes full of tiny sparks of gold. The neighborhood boys with their jars filled with jellyfish, bottlecaps, found treasures.

Friendship is a great discovery at eight, at nine, at eleven. Larry, the one with the gaps in his teeth. Will and his copper hair sticking up over his ears. Maria with her big round eyes. Lisa, Toni, Greg, John. So many names, the bay behind the marsh, and the sea:

"What is the sea like?"

And we would spread open our arms:

"The sea is..."

The sudden laughter, the punches and jabs. Something pulled from the muck slipped in our unskilled hands, the shirt was lost.

"What is the world like?"

"The world is like an orange..."

The afternoon was coming to an end and the fear was beginning: the lost sandals, the drenched clothes, the scratched knees.

Now, at the beach, I almost don't even think. Voices come to my ears, and even on a fall afternoon there is a distant warmth on my skin, a strong and fresh fragrance on the wind:

"The world is an orange..."

Thursday, November 08, 2007


My idea tonight, to mark the passing of two years of blogging, was to select a favorite post from each of the past twelve months. Reading through the archives this evening I found I couldn't possibly do that, as some months were so full of wonderful things and others full of sadness of some sort or another, and other months were filled with posts but empty of any real thoughtfulness... and how do I choose among them for a favorite?

Being easier on myself, and not so much in the mood for making all those links, I thought instead I'd post just twelve favorite photos from the past year, but I can't even seem to do that. Most of the photos I share here are so essentially tied to the mood of the posts that I can't really separate them.

I can say that my enjoyment in blogging hasn't diminished, although my enthusiasm has waned from time to time. I'm still glad you come around for a visit now and again and hope you'll continue to share your friendship here with me. I do wonder what we'll dream up to ramble on about in this next year.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

In the neighborhood

Vicki at A Mark on My Wall likes to refer to the people in her blogroll as her *neighborhood* and I'm stealing her jargon to point out some interesting posts you may have missed.

I don't know about you, but when I decide to peruse another's blogroll, I tend to start at the top and may never find my way down to the very bottom of the list. Because my list is alphabetical, I worry that you may be missing out on some fantastic blogs.

Way down at the end of the alphabet is Whorled Leaves, the nature reading blog I contribute to. We've been pretty quiet of late, but I have to suggest a book to the group in another month or two and would love some ideas from you all of a few good, nature-inspired books for our group to read and blog about together.

Walking the Berkshires is written by Tim, a friend at Whorled Leaves, and he recently wrote about a walk in the November woods that I found very beautiful. He's starting a new blog carnival that he's calling Cabinet of Curiosities to showcase the oddities in your attic. Tim's blog is great fun for the history buff and I can also imagine Donna enjoying his occasional tales of his time spent in Africa.

Dave at Via Negativa recently wrote about a golden eagle that dropped into his family's property in Pennsylvania. Check out the curve of those talons in the opening photo - spectacular! Dave stops by here from time to time and of late has been leaving haiku comments on the blogs he favors. Gotta love a poet!

FC at Pure Florida writes about all things.... well... Florida and this post momentarily (mostly that opening photo) made me think he had paid a visit to NJ. I love visiting his blog for the chance to read about *our* birds that have gone away, plus he finds the best things on his adventures.

Did you catch the current issue of the Festival of the Trees at Windywillow? (Scroll down as the there are two posts for this issue). The deadline for the December issue is the 29th of November. Submission guidelines can be found at the festival's homepage.

Lastly, I'm obliged to mention that Mike at 10,000 Birds has a book giveaway offer for Bird: The Definitive Visual Guide which he reviewed here. Stop by to read the giveaway rules.

Whew - it's a busy neighborhood!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Send mittens

I'm working on a theory and need you to play along with me here. Given my history with phone issues, I think there must be some sort of conspiracy at work in my life: I'm convinced that all the phone companies are out to get me, even the cell phone companies.


Why can't I sit on my couch and make a call on my cell phone? Should I really have to drive or walk halfway to the next town to be able to hear the person I'm talking to? How is that fair?

So tell me. How many bars do you have at home? Do I maybe need to switch providers (again) and hope for better service? Cave in and pay AT+T for long distance to avoid shivering in the cold this winter? Give up my faraway friends?

Do tell. And send mittens.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fall pond

Long Afternoon at the Edge of Sister Pond

As for life,
I'm humbled,
I'm without words
sufficient to say

how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these
and over and over,

and long pale afternoons besides,
and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
still unhatched

though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen -
a tree angel, perhaps,
or a ghost of holiness.

Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.
It suffices, it is all comfort -
along with human love,

dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about

stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,

and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death,
I can't wait to be the hummingbird,
can you?

Mary Oliver, from Owls and Other Fantasies

With time enough for a long walk in the woods and a visit to this hidden pond, my mind quiets with thoughts of the edges where things spill into each other and become their opposites. Looking at things inside and out there is no concern for success or failure or how to make things permanent. Every moment is the perfect moment. Joy is elusive and disappears as we approach, and oftentimes the distance feels enormous and the effort overwhelming. Yet, joy waits, and longs to accompany us.

I try each day to find some means of joy or comfort or delight. My delight today was in the reflections of fall color in this little pond in the woods. Where was yours?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mostly wordless Sunday

This was my view for the better part of the afternoon...
and these are Brant. In case maybe, you know, you'd never seen one.

Incoherent, I know, but it'll make sense to someone. Hope everyone had a nice weekend.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


This is what happens when you put a bored kid with a camera in the backseat while you and her mom drive around looking at scenery. She also took pics of the contents of my purse. And the sandy floor mats. Lots of pics of sandy floor mats.

Don't forget to set your clocks back tonight. (Yes, I'm doing the happy dance because of that extra hour of sleep!) Although now that I think about it, it means that Luka will have me up at 4 to pee.


I'm at the bird observatory tomorrow so there'll be beach pics for those of you missing the shore.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Are we there yet?

The others may be done talking about our weekend in Cape May, but I'm only just getting around to sorting through my photos from the trip. Most are dreary and awful because, well, the weather was, but maybe I can salvage enough to offer up something that you haven't already read about on their blogs.

I'd intended to get down to Cape May early in the morning on Friday, but decided instead to take my time and stop at a few places on the way south that might make the best of the stormy weather. I visited The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor to dry out some around lunchtime, but mostly because I knew there'd be nice congregations of great and snowy egrets feeding in the salt marshes along the causeway. I took this pic from their parking lot; you can see through the gloom the type of development that is typical on the barrier islands of the Jersey Shore. The habitat loss has destroyed nesting sites fo
r birds and other critters. The Wetlands Institute does a lot of work to restore habitat for diamondback terrapins and it was this that interested me. Just out of sight in the foreground of the photo is an artificial nesting site created for them as an alternative to nesting on the embankments along the causeway.

About the time that Susan was making a wrong turn on the Atlantic City Expressway and heading for Camden of all places, I was at the Sea Watch in Avalon. Seawatching isn't for everyone, especially in the pouring rain, but the scoter show was phenomenal on Friday - 158,000 birds passed the counter, most of them scoters! Of course I couldn't really see them through the rain and the foggy windows of my car, but wave after wave of migrating seabirds is spectacular, no matter the weather, really. I also spotted some newly arrived brant; they've been here at Sandy Hook for two weeks or so, but I'm not ready to hear their wintry calls just yet.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bird bloggers gone silly

I dont know, maybe Delia can explain what we were doing. Me, I think we're both a little camera obsessed.