Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A mountain sunset

There's no direct way to get to West Virginia, I don't think. Or at least the major airlines would have you believe as much. Because I imagine myself to be an adventurous soul (and because it amuses my friends so much) I've taken a rather circuitous route to the New River Birding and Nature Festival.

Buying my tickets online, I realized I couldn't fly directly here, instead there'd have to be some third city involved in my arrival. The fun was in choosing which city I'd fly into... Cincinnati, D.C., Charleston, Detroit... and from which, I'd wander my way to the New River Gorge in W. Virginia.

So today there's just this sweet sunset from somewhere along the way.

Clearly I didn't fly through Detroit!

Any guesses?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My gold: marsh marigold

Peter laughed happily. "They are my gold!" cried he. "See how they shine! And they are full of golden meaning, for now I know that truly Mistress Spring is here to stay. I hoped I would find the very first one, and I guess I have." Once more Peter Rabbit kicked up his heels for pure joy.
--Thornton B. Burgess, The Burgess Flower Book for Children (1923)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bowman's Hill

I finally made it to Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve in Pennsylvania last Saturday. It's a short drive and a world away! This time of year is all about spring ephemerals and the wildflowers there were putting on a nice show.

There were a few wildflowers that I haven't been able to find in my haunts of the local woods, plus the more common ones were there in abundance. It was a real treat to see a pa
th through the woods bursting with Virginia Bluebells, Spring Beauties, Trillium and Trout Lillies. The preserve is smallish and the trails are short, but there was enough diversity, even this early in the season, to keep me occupied for a couple hours. It's the kind of place I can see myself visiting again and again, just to see what's in bloom each week.

There's a bookshop filled with goodies for the nature dork in me and I bought a great book I'd like to recommend -
The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History by Jack Sanders. I imagine I'll make use of its bits of folklore and poetry often here in my blog.

This pretty flower was a new one to me: Early Saxifrage. It likes to grow in cool rocky places that are wet in the springtime. I found it growing all along the little creek that meandered along the Marsh Marigold Trail. Its flowers are tiny, tinier even than spring beauties. Very dainty and sweet!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A tag back

A week or so ago I got this very official-looking letter from the United States Department of the Interior USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Turns out it was the anticipated Certificate of Appreciation for the tagged Mute Swan that I'd submitted sighting information for back in January of this year.

The banding data included on the certificate indicated that the bird was a male banded in Ulster Park, NY on 8/4/2006. The certificate also included the bander's name and that he was banding for the NY Department of Environmental Conservation. No other encounters were listed on the certificate, so I'm guessing this was the first time this band was reported.

People often ask me why bird banding is important; the statistics included on the certificate are pretty dismal... some 60 million birds have been banded in North America since 1904, yet only 4 million bands have ever been recovered and reported. 4 million is a huge number, of course, but tiny in comparison to the effort put forth to monitor bird populations. The data retrieved supports national and international conservation programs to restore endangered species, study the effects of environmental contaminants and set hunting regulations, for example.

Bird bands can be reported at or by calling 1-800-327-BAND.

It's easy enough to do and voluntary reporting is the backbone of any banding program.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Making room

This whole packing thing just defeats me. I start out well, but end up tossing things in the bag with little rhyme or reason. An added challenge is that I'm taking only a carry-on bag in an effort to avoid any more airport hell than is absolutely necessary. Then consider that I have no real idea what the weather will be like and that I can't decide which camera stuff I want with me most.

Anyway, I'd mostly given up and decided that I'd live without whatever it is that won't fit in that silly little bag. Except I remembered that I'd forgotten the raincoat. And the couple gifts I want to bring along for The Flock. And the DVD that Heather sent ages ago for me to share with them. And...

You get the idea!

There's no way the laptop will fit, so I've written a couple blog posts ahead so there'll be something here to entertain you until I can convince someone to let me use their laptop to post. If you don't see anything new for a while, it probably means that everyone left their laptops at home thinking they'd borrow someone else's. Or that we're so far in the mountains that there's no internet service.


It promises to be a great time. There'll be stories and photos, eventually. Enjoy the waiting along with me.

Now back to that darn suitcase...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No more work!

Yesterday was Administrative Professional's Day - were there flowers and chocolates for your staff?

We have a luncheon planned on Cinco de Mayo for our secretaries; once things have settled down and everyone is back from vacation.

Today was Bring Your Kid To Work Day. I wish I'd known ahead of time and could have brought my camera in to share pics of all the sweet little ones who were hanging around the office with us today. Sally's daughter colored pictures for each of us that said, "Go! Go! Go! You're doing a great job! Keep it up!"



Tomorrow I'm recording my voicemail message that says that I'll be out of the office until the fifth of May and to call poor sweet Rosie in the meantime with any emergencies. I hope my clients behave while I'm away or I'll owe Rosie big time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A week of Tuesdays

Glass art on display at Hot Sand on the boardwalk at Asbury Park

I often have to walk off the workday on Tuesday. Tuesdays feel something like setting up your desk for the day on a subway platform in Manhattan; at midday I tried a few laps around the building in an effort to get my head straight... it didn't help much, unfortunately. The end of every month tends to be crunch-time for me anyway, but whisper the word vacation and any facade of controlled chaos just falls away.

It feels almost wrong to vent about it here, but the first round of *bumping* that I'd mentioned in this post will take effect on the first of May. Sadly, a social worker with 24 years experience in my unit will be bumped to a downgraded position in another agency. We'll have to train the person that's taking her job, and a couple of us are consoling ourselves with thoughts of how we might best do that.

*insert evil grin*

She's a nice-enough lady, but it's been decades since she's been expected to have any real client contact. People in my profession get promoted so they won't have to deal with clients anymore, sort of like school teachers becoming administrators so they won't be expected to actually teach. I imagine she'll adjust soon enough, or maybe just retire a bit sooner than anticipated, but picture someone straight out of a Little House on the Prairie episode walking the streets of the South Bronx. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but you need thick skin to do this job well and you also need to project a bit of an edge when you're out there with clients and I have a hard time seeing anyone doing that in a twin-set and pearls and kitten heels. It should be amusing to watch, at least.

I'm working late more often the last couple months and today's rain had turned to sun and then back to thick fog and drizzle by the time I found myself walking the boardwalk early this evening. The bit of color on display there was a welcome distraction from an otherwise dreary sort of day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The world's worst dog

No... not Luka!

I finally sat still long enough to watch "Marley and Me". What a sweet movie. Most of Marley's antics felt very familiar, as I imagine they would to any owner of a Labrador.

I'd read the book years ago when it first came out and I think this is one instance where I enjoyed the movie more than the book.

Just don't watch the end.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

An afternoon at the park

Luka was all smiles at the dog park this afternoon. Most every time we go, there's a new pack of dogs to play with...

Today there were lots of smallish dogs, including at least half a dozen look-alike black pugs, one of which tried to take Luka's nose off. This little yorkie (?) was a sweetheart though.

There were a couple really big dogs, which are my favorites, though I'd hate to have to feed them. Look at this monster with the sweetest of faces!

Luka took to this dobie today and followed her everywhere... mainly because he really wanted that rope toy she's teasing him with.

Is there a dog park in your neighborhood? Can you mention it within earshot of your dog without having to take them for a visit?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are we there yet?


*checks calendar*

New River Birding and Nature Festival is just around the corner!

*rummages through pile of papers to find plane tickets*

*looks askance at very small suitcase*

*mentally juggles space requirements of clean clothes versus camera gear*

*wonders if farmhouse has a washing machine and linens and wireless*

*maid service, maybe?*

*briefly considers pre-writing blog posts but decides most everyone who reads this blog will be in W. Va. too*


Please tell me someone of us, someone responsible, HAS IT ALL UNDER CONTROL AND TAKEN CARE OF.


Cause me... my plans extend only about as far as getting myself there. I'm thinking of it as something like the first day of summer vacation. Remember how that felt? You're ten or twelve maybe, and school's out and the world is stretching itself out into one long basking day after another. Maybe your dad's driving the family station wagon to the beach house with his one arm hanging out the window, drumming his fingers on the car door.

I see myself sitting in the backseat (as the youngest, I always got stuck in the back), sitting on one folded leg to get a little height so I can be the first one to see the ocean as we go over the bridge. We're getting there, but I'm trying not to throw up from too much excitement and too much time in the backseat.

Only this time, the air won't suddenly begin to smell like salt and it won't be the ocean I'm aching to catch a glimpse of. Instead there'll be mountains and it'll be
Mary or Susan or Lynne (or one of the dozen-or-so others) that I'll be trying to spot first.

It'll be the heart of the day and the sky will be huge and blue. There'll be laughter. And birds singing, beckoning us into the woods. There'll be plenty of time, time enough to squander on pure silliness and the joys of friendship.

That last part may be a mixture of fiction and dream and desire, but I'm anchoring myself there. It's an idea I have inside me. The beach from my childhood that I keep walking on; the summer I keep longing for. That group of friends that belong only to summers past; the ones we built sandcastles and dreams and forts at the pool club with, the ones we watched pack up the family car and go back to real life until next summer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Pointing the way

A Spring Beauty shows off its nectar guides.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A quotable client

Outside a client's house, the yard consisted of dirt, cement and a dog on a tie-out chain.

Friendly-looking for a pitbull, his tail was wagging and he smiled as I approached to pet him. Ever the cautious dog lover, I asked my client if he was friendly?

"Oh he's friendly, but not like that."


That has me laughing, still, a week later.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Books say improbable things about Bloodroot like that it blooms in colonies and that its seeds are spread around the forest by ants.

If the ants were doing their job, Bloodroot would be easier to find. The woods would be carpeted with it, like they are with Spring Beauties and Squill, now.

As it is, I have to get my knees muddy searching for it. If the forest faeries are feeling a need for amusement, they'll send a couple teenagers along the path to find me butt-up and nose-down in the shady leaf mold.

Pride and decorum be damned, there's only so many spring days to find Bloodroot. I'm glad to have enjoyed it for another year.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter dawn

Sunrise at Ocean Grove 4/12/09

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Notice the crossing guard.


Image from
Red Bank Green

Friday, April 10, 2009

Celebrating spring

I feasted on some familiar delights today... daffs and crocus and forsythia, a beginner's yoga class that left me feeling competent for a change (!), a longish walk with Luka past the neighborhood raspberry fields with their huge clump of purple hyacinths blooming right in the middle, the soft fur on Boomer's cheek with his big ears drooping to meet my fingers, the local osprey pair rebuilding their cell tower nest after it was removed this past winter, newly arrived great egrets stalking the creek at low-tide... all brought a comfortable smile to my face.

How did you celebrate this day?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Of salt, in gray

Spring days used to always smell like this. Of seaweed-tangled mussels at low tide. Of cat-tail smoke and creosoted piers. Of salt.

And beyond the ticky-tack of the boardwalk, I'd wander the dunes until sunset. Blanket in hand, I'd crawl across the sand to lie in the sun's last rays where seagulls circled and circled overhead.

Returning to the faces that had worried away the afternoon, I'd offer up the day's harvest of sea glass, fingers aching with grit and salt, forgiven for not being lost.

But I was lost. Wandering after whatever it was in the cool spring air that made the gulls call to me, joyfully following their shallow tracks in sand and sky. Something... there was so much I wanted then. I didn't know what, only that when most alone, under the guise of beach walking, silence would tell me what I listened for.

I'm still wandering into spring afternoons after old scents and old sounds; as if one could open the past for me and let me find the girl that wanders there.

Today I thought about salt and how my life could be clean and simple if I reduce it all to salt; how I'll be able to talk to someone without going from pure joy to silence. And touch someone without going from truth to concealment. Salt is the only thing that lasts here at the shore. It gets into everything, your hair, eyes, clothes.

I like to think of myself turned to salt and all that I love turned to salt. To think of walking down to the beach, stepping on the backs of a million dead clams and how gray can be so beautiful. How if you aren't careful, you can just walk right into that alluring current and imagine what lies in a horizon you never knew was there, where the gray from the sky and the gray from the sea meet. Looking over the Atlantic at the edge of the continent, you can see all this crashing at your feet in cold rich foam, in salt, in gray.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Gack!! Kumquats... I won't soon be adding these to a list of favorites, but the trying was fun.

#18 in my
38 by 39.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

First beauty

"April can be lovely, spangled with bloom and the newest of young leaves. It can be, and usually is, melodied with the voice of song sparrow and robin, redwing and oriole. And the call of the Spring peeper is the very voice of April. But April can also be cold rain, raw wind and, on occasion, snow. The cruelest aspect of April's tantrums, however, lies in the way it sometimes frosts our hopes and expectations. We want to believe in that myth of gentle April. We want May in April. We are tired of Winter's cold leftovers. Given a taste of Spring in April, we want a full meal of it." --Hal Borland

Today was a lovely taste of Spring on an early April day.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The song of the white throated sparrow

The crystal clear notes
of a white throated sparrow
floated down through the trees today.
And then a mile further up the trail, another.
The first songs to come my way
in the spring forest.

I like winter
when white covers the earth.
I like summer
when the woods are green and warm.
But I love the wild forest
when things are changing.

Now, the first week of spring.
Still, some patches of snow linger
in the shade under the big trees.
The air warms then cools then warms
in the bright sun.
Trees with swollen buds, waiting.
The first birds are back.
Their songs celebrate what is
about to come.

We humans know four seasons.
I wonder how many seasons
the inhabitants of these woods know.
Maybe fifty-two.
Maybe each week is a new season
for those who go about their routine
deep in the woods.

The long, hard winter is over.
New life will soon fill these woods.
A flood of green, bird song, wildflowers.
And the white throated sparrow
sings its song anticipating
the change to come

--Rodrick W. MacIver in this week's Pause for Beauty

If you visit Heron Dance in the links on my sidebar, you can sign up for *A Pause for Beauty* which is a weekly email newsletter featuring paintings, poetry, and reflections. Check it out!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


The Carousel at Asbury Park

Today was daffodil day in this part of NJ... and the forsythia has plans.

Spring almost!

An interesting day in the field with clients... I saw the spoon man (how many of you can say you know someone who collects wooden spoons?!?), plus I got a kiss on the cheek from the sweetest little old Italian lady.


(There are rare days when I think I have the best job in the whole-wide world.)