Sunday, August 31, 2008

A day on the river

Okay so... this whole boat thing is kinda novel and the learning curve is pretty steep, too. Sitting here typing, I still feel myself rocking back and forth, kinda like you feel after a day spent rollerskating. Very disconcerting. I almost think I may be seasick. Is that even possible or did I just get too much sun?


Mention a boat and my brother Brian magically appears. Our idea today was to do some crabbing, so Bri found himself in charge of cutting bait, which I learned he's pretty good at.

I also learned he's really squeamish about these worms... nasty things he was using for the fishing poles. They made him squirm like a girl. Very funny.

I really need to do something with my hair. Could it maybe stick up in one more different direction?

I was surprised (boo hiss!) to find mute swans on the river...

Nice, though, was this oystercatcher feeding near a sandbar. They are such cool birds. It's very hard to take pics on a rocking boat... though at this time we were almost stuck on that sandbar.


Have I mentioned that my brother is a total goofball? You're suppossed to stay in the boat!

So... we didn't catch many crabs at all, but Bri did the goofy fisherman grin anyway. A bad day fishing.... (you know the rest)

He got the pretty blue claws, but I got this tiny little calico crab that didn't even try to bite me.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Change is...

This monarch caterpillar had been struck with an idea; uncomfortable in its own skin, it turned itself and its life upside down and waited for the inevitable.

By the next morning, the transformation inherent in that idea had begun; in order to gain the wings, the caterpillar had to lose the teeth and the fuzz and let go, trusting the process.

Ten days later found it still waiting, but showing outward signs of the body doing just what it should, unaware perhaps, of any memory of that earlier idea and the life it had shed.

I'd like to think that same intelligence, whatever it is that makes the monarch grow and change and fly, is at work in all of us.

From handsome caterpillar... to jade earring dotted with gold... to the most beautiful mosaic of colors enclosed in the thinnest of skins... to shutter-like wings flaked with fire, waiting on the warmth of the sun. The change complete... beauty to beauty.

A butterfly idea... what could be smaller or more frantic? Or more improbable in the mind of a caterpillar?

Does the butterfly wonder how or why or should I as it readies itself to fly away helter-skelter on new wings?

These pics are from a couple summers ago; I'm just as amazed with the process now as I was then, watching it day to day. Miracles like this play themsleves out everyday all around us. Sometimes we're lucky enough to have a ringside seat. I've not found any monarch cats in the garden since that summer, but this one continues to inspire my dreams for daring in the face of certain change.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Skywatch Friday

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. -- Jacques Cousteau

This weekend marks the 'official' end of the summer season here at the Jersey Shore; after Monday, the beaches will be free: free of outsiders and free of daily fees. People begin to flee. They leave the summer rentals towing their sailboats behind them. Birds flee; shorebirds depart as migrating ducks begin to arrive, egrets find maps in their pursuit of summer to the south.

We breath a sigh of relief because the beach can be ours again; ours for a quiet sunset walk along the bay or a day spent oceanside soaking up the September sun. After Labor Day is the best time here. Warm days and cool nights.

Horseshoe Cove at Sandy Hook is one of my favorite places to watch the sunset over the bay. I have hundreds of sunset pictures from there. That trio of similar forms silhouetted against the setting sun is what remains of one of the many coastal defense fortifications from WWI that dot Sandy Hook. In summer, there's always a tern or two perched there and some cormorants or gulls. Off in the far distance at the horizon is the pier at Naval Weapons Station Earle. There's often a battleship there on the bay.

here for more Skywatch posts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Never try to outstubborn a bunny

Everybunny here is shedding like mad or, as we like to tell them, "all your stuffing's coming out!" None will sit to be brushed though... not without lots of foot flicks.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Little killers free to a good home

Cat lovers cover your ears.

I used to like cats. Then I decided that I liked birds and other wildlife better.

What really happened is that I had a beautiful fat black cat that got sick and broke my heart when I was a kid.

So I swore off cats for good. I like other people's cats well enough, but I really don't like my neighbor's cats that are allowed free run of the neighborhood.

Some of my favorite people have *mostly* indoor cats that are *let out* each day to do whatever it is that their dear owners think is so necessary to a domestic cat's nature.

Kill birds and torture small furry innocent woodland creatures and HAVE KITTENS UNDER MY SHED!

Why are these kittens my problem? I don't own a cat.

Have I mentioned the free catch and release (to the SPCA) program we run here?


This was tonight's catch. 4 adorable and hissy-scared little killers. We're trying to catch their mother, but she ran the DH out of the backyard one too many times and he finally said uncle. What a protective mother!

I don't know the answer. I don't understand why this behavior is tolerated from cat owners. Jeez... I can't even walk my dog on a leash in the local park except for under the cover of darkness for fear that I'll be ticketed by the local police. My town is very serious about protecting our parks from dogs. I once had the police follow me home after walking my dog in the cul-de-sac that leads to the park.

Cats get a free pass. Why is that?

NJ Audubon has collaborated with the American Bird Conservancy in an effort to educate cat lovers to be more responsible cat owners.
Cats Indoors has lots of great info, but I'm not so sure that anyone will be so easily convinced as me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A note of thanks to a client

Dear D.

You humble me.

From the moment we first met, I've wondered at you. I'm not surprised anymore with the strength that you show; I'm astounded with it.

You have such astonishing resources of love and emotional resilience.

You let me see behind that mask of confidence on your face today; you admitted you were afraid and you cried long pent-up tears, but all I saw was your grace.

Today was your first step towards realizing some of your goals and I want to thank you for letting me play my part.

You are an exceptional woman. You can't see that yet, but I hope one day you'll have pride enough to match that self-confidence. It's been hard won. You've come this far with almost no support from anyone.

I hope you know I've been cheering you on and will continue to. You deserve your very own cheering section, I think. I'm so very happy for you.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This is the note I would've liked to tape onto the plant I brought D. as a housewarming gift today. The silly plant made her cry; I can only imagine what this note might've done.

Some people just have so much crap unjustly heaped onto their plates; others of us are so very lucky. I'm grateful that my job reminds me I'm one of the lucky ones and that there's a lot to be learned from the poor and others that society tends to discount.

On second thought, I may just send it... it might be good for her to hear.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A new bird list!

Circumstances beyond my control (a husband with a mind of his own) have necessitated the start of a new list: birds seen by boat. Not just any boat, either... THE boat... our boat, apparently.

(Men and their toys!)


An osprey scared from its nest just when I thought I finally had the perfect photo opportunity - a nest at eye level, just outside of the river channel. I love all the found stuff osprey include in their nests. Also interesting is the rope ladder up to the nest... I guess somebody bands these guys.

I have no idea what this bird is. I'd thought it was a tern, but its back is reddish. Help anyone?

A tree full of great egrets, waiting out the tide, I guess. I know these pictures are awful, but I was too scared of having to swim to shore to bring the good lens. (The boat is something of a fixer-upper.)

Storm clouds full of gulls... who cares what kind; they're just gulls!


Conversation following inaugural boat tour of the river:

"So... are you happy with it?"

"Um... I didn't want a boat."

"Yeah, but... are you happy with it?"

"Um... it's a boat."

(I might get to see some good birds though.)


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lying in wait

Finally a photo to go with this story.

New to the blogroll

Just thought I'd point out an addition to the blogroll for those of you that might like to follow bird news from Cape May: View from the Cape.

I wish I'd found the site sooner. Perusing the archives I found this
recent tribute by Pete Dunne to a birding buddy from CMBO. Just unbelievably sad... George was a great guy and a friend to all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Skywatch Friday

You have to know how to look at this country. You have to slow down. It isn't pretty, but it's beautiful.
--Kent Haruf in West of Last Chance

In the weeks before I went to North Dakota in June, I spoke to a couple people out there and the weather always came up in conversation, mainly the hope for rain to "green things up some." Green it was, but every so often we'd come across a view like this of a pale ocean of prairie grass laid out to the horizon. More often than not there weren't any trees to mark the edge of vision, the sky and clouds a kaleidoscope of moods, the play of sunlight on the land the only thing to distinguish one moment from the next.

Visit here for more Skywatch posts.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bad bird photo of the week

Guesses anyone?

(Silly me thinking these bad pics won't come in handy!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I lifted 325,719 lbs. and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!

It's a slow day here in blogland, so I'll use the excuse to toot my own horn a bit. Indulge me.


I've been going to the Y for months now and have actually (gack!) learned to enjoy exercising. I love the Y. I'd thought of joining a gym in the past, but could never get past the idea of all that spandex and lycra and all those muscleheads and really skinny blondes. Not my sort of scene. Not to mention what you have to pay to a gym for the torture of lifting weights or taking a spinning class or whatever.

I looked into the local Y (
mostly for yoga classes) and found that they offered a really great discount for volunteer firemen and their families. Bingo! $31 a month and I have use of the whole place and the pools and the hot tub and whatever classes I like whenever I can manage to drag myself there.

I was really, really good about going for months: 4 or 5 times a week plus two evening yoga classes. Then the weather got nice and I found other things to do. I'm the sort of person that has to be regimented about this type of thing; any slacking off, even just a little bit, leads to a total collapse of my commitment. That's pretty much what happened for most of June and July. I was lucky to get there twice a week.

But the Y is smart. If you'll allow it, they'll send you congratulatory emails when you're making progress or nastygrams when you're slacking off. I'd been getting these nice emails telling me that I'd lifted the equivalent of 5 African Elephants in the past month and burned enough calories to eat 3 ice-cream sundaes. Then I got a couple of those nastygrams that intimated that I'd not been trying very hard and that left me feeling like a lazy bum. So I started going again, every day, and now I'm feeling really great about being committed to it again. Plus, physically, I feel so much better! There were those days, in my first week back, that every muscle in me ached, but that only lasts so long.

That sort of inclusiveness, regardless of your level of fitness or commitment, is part of what I love so much about the place. There's senior citizens there and a musclehead or two, plus that awful grunting guy I'd mentioned before, and ordinary people like me just trying to be healthier, one stomach crunch at a time. Plus, they send nice emails when you're trying hard, with animated balloons and stuff. Today I'd finally lifted enough weights and spent enough hours there to earn a t-shirt as an incentive to keep going. A silly thing, really, but you shouldn't lift the equivalent of 38 elephants without someone noticing.

(Plus I've finally got muscles enough to open my own pickle jars!)


Image from National Geographic

Monday, August 18, 2008

How to bliss-out a bunny

I had planned a photo session this afternoon with Freckles the bunny so I could do a post about her turning 7 years old this month, but in the midst of trimming her nails and brushing her coat out, this happened and these photos are way cuter than any I took in the back yard.

Freckles has always been a very laid-back bunny and at 7 she is even more so. Nothing bothers her, nothing freaks her out and that probably explains why she's always been so healthy. (Knock wood!) Bunnies are prone to stress, of course, and that stress leads to all sorts of health problems.

Anyway... trimming her nails is easy; I just roll her into an almost ball on my lap, facing away from me, and trim away.

After the nail trimming was done, I turned her around in my lap to face me and worked the magic of the bunny whisperer. This mostly consists of rubbing the fur on her belly.

As she relaxes, I gently run my hand over her face and draw her ears behind her. This really, really relaxes her and I don't have to hold her at all.

Her front paws go up in the air with her back legs in a perfect imitation of a dead bunny. She'll stay like this forever too, so long as I stroke her face every now and again.

Freckles also likes to sleep this way sometimes, causing untold numbers of near heart-attacks in those not familiar with the *dead-lop-flop*.

Rabbit experts will tell you that there is no magic in this gentling of a bunny. We call it *trancing* and it's probably based on an instinctual response to being grabbed by a predator. Some people use this trick to trim nails or give meds, but I don't trust it enough because the bunny can wake up in a flash and twist off your lap and hurt itself. Freckles is the only bunny here I'm able to trance, even though I never need to.

What about your buns? Can you hypnotize them - do you need to?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pausing (tern)

Most of the weekend was spent within view of the ocean, on various benches along the boardwalk. That's a pretty nice way to watch the world go by, I think.

Anyway... I noticed that some of the Laughing Gulls seem to be pulling back their summertime black hoods in favor of a more undistinguished (or is it indistinguishable?) look. The terns still look the same, though I could imagine this one suddenly remembering an appointment someplace to the south.

There were small flocks of peeps feeding back of the jetty and flying, fragile bits of silver and pale russet, among the beachgoers. Telling one from another is impossible, because even among the normally *easy peeps* like sanderling and semi-palms, no two in a dozen look the same at this time of year. They're all a scraggly mix of winter gray and spring red. Shorebirds just escape my abilities!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Skywatch Friday

Write in your heart that every day is the best day of the year.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Part of the joy in taking photographs, to me, lays in the discovery of simple and familiar things seen in a different perspective. Today that joy was from the summer sky above the delicate blossoms of Queen Anne's Lace.

here for more skywatch posts.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Be glad of life

Cape May, December 2007

Be glad of life because it gives you a chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars. --Henry Van Dyke

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Migratory restlessness

There is always something to savor at Cape May... any day, in any weather, at any season... something is always making its way through the skies overhead.

The time that holds the greatest interest for me is from late August until the middle of November: the fabled fall migration period. The variety of habitats: ocean and bay, salt marsh, freshwater ponds, dark swamps, woodlands and upland fields all attract a diverse array of migrants... hordes of butterflies and dragonflies, hawks and falcons, shorebirds, songbirds, bats, seabirds, owls - you name it!

Conveniently, the
New Jersey Audubon Society throws out the welcome mat at one of the best times to experience migration at Cape May for its Autumn Weekend this year on October 24, 25, and 26.

Some of The Flock are getting restless and making preliminary plans to attend.
Susan and KatDoc are driving from Ohio (and will hopefully avoid a stop in Camden), Lynne, I think, will cash in the ticket she bought last year and fly all the way from Minnesota (Yay!).

Other Flock members are saving their pennies for
New River in April, but maybe they can be convinced otherwise. Mary, Delia, Susan, Nina, Ruthie, Jayne (can that be? Really, you're gonna come?) - why not join us in Cape May, too? That farmhouse in W. Va. is gonna be pretty crowded and loud I think!

I'm also thinking maybe we should harass
Larry into making the trip or Dave (hey - Alaska's not that far and we could all get to meet Ghost!). Maybe Bobbie could join us for lunch and what about Heather in Pa.? The more the merrier!


I'll sneak away there at least once before October - for the Monarchs that breeze past the lighthouse or the falcons that scream down along the dunes. I just can't resist... there's something in the air.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Parlor tricks

Labs are nothing if not trainable...

Luka knows to sit, stay, wait, speak and shake hands on command. He can also do all those things with just a hand signal. He goes to his crate when we tell him to and will mostly stay there of his own accord. Down, off, leave it and drop it are things we're still working at.


Let's face it though; these tricks are limited in their usefulness. It's nice at dinnertime to be able to send him to his crate so he's at least begging from a few feet away, nice when visitors come so he'll be calm and not underfoot, helpful when I'm vacuuming so he's not able to wrestle the hose out of my hand.

On walks, he knows to sit and wait at intersections before I tell him it's okay to cross with me. He sits and waits to let me go out or come in the door before him. He sits and waits for his dinner. Good manners, I think, are important. Luka and I went to 16+ weeks of obedience school to learn the basics that I've since applied to our daily lives around here so that we can live together fairly nicely.

My husband teaches him parlor tricks.

We remove his collar whenever he goes into his crate for safety reasons. The DH taught him to retrieve the collar from the dining room table when he's let out of the crate for his mid-afternoon walk. He reaches up, mostly without putting his feet on the table, grabs the collar and then carries it to the back door to sit and wait to go out.

Very convenient, right?

Only... he does it all the time now, whenever he wants attention. For example, this morning I was up late for work, had just stepped out of the shower and was sitting on the bed in a towel... and there he was in the bedroom doorway with that damn collar in his mouth, wagging his tail at me!

Pick up the phone and there he is with it, suddenly wanting to go out. Have your hands in a sink full of dishes? Luka's rattling his collar at your feet.

He also likes to prance around with it and not give it up when you're finally dressed enough to take him out. A great game when you're already late for work, don'tcha know?


Silly dog!

(Silly DH for teaching him that trick.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

You want me to put my tongue where?

Is it just me or do you imagine how it must really hurt to walk around on a coneflower?

I think I must be working too hard or need a nap or something. I've gone off the deep end... I'm channeling butterflies.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sailing weather

Autumn comes at night, I think. It creeps in on soft footsteps in the darkness after days of thunderstorms and billowy clouds. Its telltale creaks on the stairway are the katydids, rasping at the edges of the night and shaping the season from August to September, to Autumn.

Autumn is my favorite time of year and I'm happy for the hint of it the last couple nights have brought. The air is almost crisp and there's a tinge of ripening apples drifting in the open windows; the stale humid air of summer is a memory on nights like these. It makes me want to head out the door after midnight, down the road and to the beach, to feel the cool sand underfoot and to look at the moon and the stars and the sea with its ever-changing moods.

During daylight hours, it's still high summer. Wet shells shine in the noon sun and the air smells of coconut oil; the slap of flip-flops is the soundtrack, the atmosphere like an amusement park. Nights though, and Autumn, bring relief. Relief from all that energy and heat and all these people. The beach can be mine again.

Cropped out of this pic is the ice and snow that decorated the bay on the January day it was taken. Also cropped out is any sense of scale; this is a remote-controlled toy sailboat. I watched a bunch of *grown-up* men playing with them in the midst of a snow squall... proof that many of us are so enamored with the coast and its many pleasant pastimes that seasons or weather can hardly keep us away; we pretend our way through the meantime.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Are we hot yet?

Who in their right mind makes chili in the middle of summer?



I've been looking for an excuse to make
this recipe for a while, but it didn't turn up until today. The peppers were cheap at the market and there's still those sweet onions I plucked from the dirt a couple weeks ago, so all I really needed to buy was some chicken to roast and shredded cheese to drown everything in.

Why, BTW, is chicken so expensive? $13.00 for 4 split breasts... jeez. Good thing I don't eat meat very often; I could hardly afford it.

Anyway... this chili is nice; not a traditional spicy chili, but something lighter and sweeter. I added some kidney beans and served it with rice... and had an avocado on the side. Delicious.

I like hot stuff, but traditional chili can easily end up tasting like dirt if you're not careful with the spices. I usually make something like
Cincinnati-style chili, sweetened with cinnamon and served over spaghetti. That's probably my favorite way to have it. Susan keeps promising me an authentic recipe. Hint, hint!

While I've sort of veered away the last two weeks from the intent of
Vicki's Saturday Shopping Challenge, a good by-product is that I'm paying a bit more attention to what I spend and I'm actually spending some time in the kitchen on weekends. Generally, I'd rather do anything besides cook!

So... what was on the menu for you tonight?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Skywatch Friday

Taken two months ago (nearly to the day) a few miles southwest of Carrington North Dakota. The *ridge* or what passes for one on the prairie, seen in the far distance where the radio towers are barely visibe, is a couple hundred feet above the surrounding plains.

Visit here for more Skywatch posts.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Prescription for a summer's day

(how to play hooky from work):

hot hay-scented breath in your face brings on fits of giggling...

homemade peach ice-cream fixes a belly-ache...

busy bees fly off with your troubles...

pausing to admire a ladybug is sure to make you smile...

silly puppies with their first-ever bandana will cure anything that ails you!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mid-week bunny fix

No... not one of my pampered housebunnies, but a wild one caught freeloading in the veggie garden.

The neighborhood cottontails seem to know they can get away with it here. The groundhogs still haven't figured out they're not welcome, after many years of well-aimed flip-flops tossed in their direction.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Relax, Susan.


Silly me didn't plan far enough ahead to schedule visits for this week; which means I'm chained to the desk, to this view, for the whole long week. It's a good thing, really. I'm feeling almost caught up now, ready to cope with whatever curveballs my clients try to toss my way.

I sort of moved in today, finally, after a year at this desk. I brought some things I love... things to make me smile, things that comfort me, things that let me feel content in this place without a view of the outside, things that remind me of happy times spent elsewhere. Honestly, I'm coveting the recently-vacated window cubicle, tho the view is far from spectacular; at least there is sight of the sky and some green and growing things. I'll stay here anyway, on the aisle, subject to whoever happens by with something to amuse me. The distractions are constant... homemade brownies! ... bochinche (gossip) that I'd missed... the boss asking me into her office, the phone forever ringing.


What I'd really like is to be free of all of this... to have the summers I remember as a kid... the sun and the sand and the ocean. Freedom... freedom from being responsible to anything but what brings joy and makes me smile.


This morning, on my hike from the parking lot, there were coworkers gawking and pointing at the dozen or so turkey vultures warming their wings on the roof of the building, waiting for some warmth to lift them aloft... waiting for something to carry them away from the needs and obligations of their mundane everyday life.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sunday Market

Blogger was behaving badly this weekend and rather than fight it, I gave in to my occasional tendencies to be a lazy bum and didn't even bother trying to post anything. Summer doldrums, maybe.

I made it to the Farmer's Market in town this morning - that's were I found this drop-dead gorgeous crocosmia - I love the burnt orange flowers. I hope this one'll fare better than the one I planted years ago; the nice lady who sold it to me said it's winter hardy if well-mulched. We'll see. The hummers should appreciate it as long as it lasts.

The Red Bank Farmer's Market is an odd mix: part traditional market, part craft show, part kitsch. Today there was a huge display of silk (plastic?) flowers next to a table with the sweetest organically grown herbs, a vendor peddling a dozen varities of pickles, someone selling tacky t-shirts, etc. all surrounded by fresh Jersey produce. All I bought with my $20 was the crocosmia; the rest went towards one too many cups of coffee in the park down by the river. Plus, I got sunburned, again.


Cucumbers and eggplants and squash and peppers are in - as are peaches! No donut peaches, yet. Ever tried them? They're a favorite in my house - the flesh is white and the skin really thin - and they're very juicy (definite kitchen sink snack) and they taste just slightly of almonds. Yummy. Maybe next weekend.