Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rocks with pictures worn

Rising from stormy waters and crowned by old forests, the sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks stretch for 15 miles along Lake Superior's southern shoreline.

Historically the land of the Ojibwa, the rugged beauty of Pictured Rocks makes it easy for one to imagine a world shaped by unseen spirits, when in fact the formations are a work of nature, carved by water and time.

A couple hour boat ride from the little marina in Munising is the way we saw them today and despite the choppy seas and cold temps (50 degrees!) - any discomfort was quickly forgotten once I had a cup of coffee in hand and stable ground underfoot.

The pics speak for themselves, I think. Michigan's Upper Peninsula is remote, but breathtakingly beautiful in so many ways that make the trip worthwhile.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bad bird photo of the week

Here's a hint: pic taken today in Northern Michigan at a state park's feeder. Happy guessing!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Back soon

am currently having an adventure... think Kirtland's Warbler!

back soon, friends. in the meantime... have a happy 4th.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The flower salesman

I know the faces of most of the homeless in the town where I do my field work; many have sat across the desk from me at one time or another and others I just recognize from seeing them around town.

But I was caught by surprise with his flower-laden hands; the roses stolen, I'm nearly certain, from a streetside bush. "I love your hair!" he shouted at me as he crossed the street while I got in my car. Polite to a fault, I smiled and thanked him and closed the car door in his face.

Then I realized he meant to give me some of those flowers. Or so I thought.


Inwardly cursing my good manners, I rolled down the window and smiled some more and listened to his story. Because there's always at least one good long one. Something in my face brings out the storyteller in people.

Really, I think I must have *I'm a social worker. Tell me every last one of your troubles, please!" stamped across my forehead in ink that everyone but me can see.

Turns out he's a Vet that lives in a tent in the woods beyond Deal Lake in Asbury. Has a small army of children that eat up the majority of his VA pension with child support. His mind is still mostly somewhere in Vietnam, as he referred over and over to what his Captain says, as if that weren't forty-some years ago.

I'd guess it was about 10 minutes into our conversation, when he wanted money for the freely offered roses, that he regretted ever throwing a compliment my way.

Cast aside was the smiling white lady who might have money in exchange for a sad story. She was replaced by the social worker with suggestions for where he might find a place to stay for a while, a list of phone numbers and more unsolicited advice than he cared to listen to.

I left him finally with my business card, some change from the bucket I keep in the car for tolls and a bit of inside information that might just make some real difference in his life.

The application list for rental assistance opened in Asbury today. Only today. People wait for years on those lists, wait for decades for the list even to be open. Most people find out after the fact, when it's too late. Many of the people who need rental assistance never read a newspaper where the announcement and application are published.

I told him to take the money I'd *paid* him for the flowers and buy himself today's paper so he could submit the application right away and have it postmarked in time.

He thanked me and ambled away across the street, not realizing I was watching him from the intersection while I waited for the light to change. He crossed Main St. and went straight to the liquor store with my money in his pocket.

I'm hoping he bought today's paper and not a bottle.

Answers come, I suspect, in the form of angels sent to us unaware. So often we're upheld by giants of Kindness and Hope, by the kind of people who you pass on the street and feel sorry for because they are poor or uneducated or unable to speak much English. Together with the burden of all the sad stories I hear, I like to imagine the benefit of understanding and knowing deeply that true treasures wait here, that a certain kind of strength and confidence resides in the exact places and in the very people you’d least expect.

His rose, suspended in a small ceramic vase on the fridge, will remind me of that for the next couple days.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


All afternoon, Sir,
your ambassadors have been turning
into lakes and rivers.
At first they were just clouds, like any other.
Then they swelled and swirled; then they hung very still;
then they broke open. This is, I suppose,
just one of the common miracles,
a transformation, not a vision,
not an answer, not a proof, but I put it
there, close against my heart, where the need is, and it serves

the purpose. I go on, soaked through, my hair
slicked back;
like corn, or wheat, shining and useful.

Clouds by Mary Oliver

I wonder if it'd been raining for a month straight when Mary Oliver wrote this poem.


The sky cleared early this evening and the light was just gorgeous the way it lit up the tips of the oak leaves, the white of the kingbird's tail feathers, the sand at the edge of the ocean.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

There will be a Father's Day post, but right now it feels like pulling teeth.


Hope it was happy for all and was spent in whatever way made you happiest.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Skywatch with horses

Yep... it's still raining here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

ABC meme

Stolen from Lynne on Facebook. Play along if you like!

A - Age: 39
B - Bed size: Queen
C - Chore you hate: Balancing the checkbook
D - Dog's name: Luka (also rabbits named Boomer, Sunshine, Peeper, and Freckles)
E - Essential start your day item: Coffee.
F- Favorite color(s): Green
G - Gold or Silver: Platinum!
H - Height: 5'10"
I - Instruments you play(ed): Clarinet, Piano, Pennywhistle
J - Job title: Housing Coordinator/Social Worker Bilingual
K - Kitchen wish list: Lessons, maybe. ;-)
L - Living arrangements: Close to the beach!
M - Mom's name: Claire
N - Nicknames: BLT (coworkers), Lauralie (family), Legs (high school)
O - Overnight hospital stay: None
P - Pet Peeve(s): That fuzz under the bed (where does it come from?), bossy people, product packaging that's impossible to remove
Q - Quote from a movie: I don't do movies
R - Right or left handed: Depends on the task at hand
S - Siblings: Two (I'm the youngest and the only girl = spoiled)
T - Time you wake up: 6:30 ish
U - Underwear: Usually, yes. ;-)
V - Vegetable you dislike: Cauliflower
W - Workout style: Weight training and yoga
X - X-rays you've had: Lots of my teeth
Y - Yesterday's best moment: Finally getting iTunes to cooperate after 4+ hours of fighting with it!
Z - Zoo favorite(s): I've never been to a proper zoo

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

First steps

We have a student interning with us for the summer... a sweet girl from my alma matter who I got to drag along on field visits with me today.

I have to give her credit... so far she seems unfazed by anything she's seen. What she's heard about during downtime late on Friday afternoons hasn't scared her off, either.

I admit to being careful in the selection of clients we saw today; I don't suppose I needed to do that. But some things and some clients just make me too uncomfortable to have to deal with, without a student watching every bumbling move I make.


So rather than treating her to the guy who routinely answers the door in his underwear (!) or the lady in the house without a single place to sit or any of the really shady parts of town, we met with mostly regular clients and one who likes to talk. Alot. About everything imaginable. Inappropriate things, even.

It was fun. She barely raised an eyebrow

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Beauty is where you find it

I know, I know... it's a horse's a$$, but it's freckled!

Yes, I'm giddy with having found sunshine and a field full of horses all in the same day.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Late spring weather report

Is this the coldest, dreariest June ever? Or does it just feel that way here at the Jersey Shore? I feel like I live in London, or somewhere out on the coast of Oregon with all this fog and dampness and rain.

It's kind of depressing.

There have been moments of light and magic... the rain clicking and tapping its song on the roof... the porch and its electric, marshy yellow-gray smell of storms before they get here... the big flag up the street snapping in the wind and the curtains blowing like ghosts in the night...

There was an hour or so on the beach at Spring Lake yesterday at sunset, after crab cakes for dinner at the inlet with the fishing boats going by with their escort of laughing gulls...

A bit of magic despite the gray, but I'm tired of wearing sweaters and long pants.

Is it summer yet in your part of the world?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nice is just nice!

Susan would say this type of thing happens to me cause I'm tall or cause I'm cute, but I'd rather like to think that sometimes, occasionally, once in a while, people are just nice.

Three teenage boys made my day today!

I'd had a photograph and this little Northern Pintail painting that I'd been carting around with me while I looked for suitable frames. Both were matted to odd sizes which would ordinarily require custom framing.

If you've ever paid for custom framing, you know that's not anything to be undertaken lightly.

I'd gone to a couple arts-and-crafts type stores but couldn't find any frames to fit, nor could I dream up a cheap solution. Tonight, almost desperate, I went to the custom framing desk at AC Moore and presented my problem and asked the young kid if he had any ideas for what I might do without spending a fortune.

His pimples and the smirk on his face as he approached left me pretty doubtful.

Before I knew what was happening, he'd amassed the rest of his team: Louis came along and began searching the aisles for the perfect color frame to complement my prints, Kevin joined us for the math and measurements to cut each mat down to fit standard-size frames, while Mike did the actual cutting and framing up.

Those boys spent better than an hour with me. All the while I kept saying, "This feels an awful lot like a custom frame job, boys!"

I'd started to worry that they'd misunderstood me. I'd started to worry what all this attention was going to cost me.

Turns out, frames are 40% off this week and my nearly *custom* framing was free, on these adorable boys who, apparently, needed something to do tonight, or needed practice, or just felt like being nice.

Imagine that.

The total cost for both was less than $25. I'm thrilled. I'm wondering at my good fortune. I'm wondering what one does to repay the kindness of strangers, especially considering the unlikely source of that kindness.

Monday, June 08, 2009

My brother just scares me

This from his Facebook profile.


He called me today, while he sat in traffic on his iPhone, to wish me a Happy Birthday. Said he felt bad that there hadn't been cake; felt bad that he hadn't called.

Anyway... he mentioned that he finally got himself on Facebook and that I should look for him.

I had to ask if there was a picture and if I'd recognize him.

"A bearded one," he said.

"Your Osama Bin Laden pic?" I asked, referring to
his profile pic here on Blogger.

"Not quite," he said.

Of course not. This time it's My Brother the Christian Crusader.

I'm wondering how many more uses he can dream up for that silly fake beard.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Another look

A toad's facial expression doesn't seem to change much from moment to moment.


Easy for me to say, right? I'm not about to become its next meal.

This pic shows a bit more detail... the three or more warts on the largest dark spots that help to differentiate between the Fowler's and a plain old American Toad.

There's also some rubbish in books about the shape of cranial crests and their nearness to the parotoid glands that helps distinguish one toad from another. I know Fowler's by
their call, first. It's a long, "Waaaaaaaaa" that sounds almost like a baby crying. Not as sweet a sound as the first Peepers of spring, but a welcome sound in the Barrens nonetheless.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Happy Lucky Idiot

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself yesterday... it was my birthday and it poured rain all day and there was no cake and I had to work...

Can you hear that tiny little violin playing there in the background?

The day after, a couple hours in the sunshine, a walk on the beach, the neighborhood kingbird, and this little poem and all is right with the world again.

If you have time to chatter
Read books
If you have time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
sing songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot

--Nanao Sakaki

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ducklings in the rain

I broke The Rules today and fed the wildlife... only to entice the peepers a little closer to my lens.

It was whole wheat, at least.


Mama looks quite pleased with her progeny, I think.

Click on the pic to see her smile.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Nature stark naked

Every new flower's my favorite for a while... so bear with me here. Turkey Beard is a characteristic Pine Barrens plant and, according to all my books, quite common and easy to find.


The knowing where to look is key, apparently.

Mostly I just wander on my own when I go there; a precarious thing considering my poor sense of direction and how easily one might get lost among the intersecting sand roads. My always-turn-right strategy has served me well enough so far, but one of these days...


It must be the strange, hard-won beauty of the place that captivates and distracts me so... the craggy pines and impenetrable scrub that holds the promise of
something new at every visit. I don't always find something new, of course, some days I just wander aimlessly and get eaten alive by skeeters and deer flies. Or practically freeze to death in the winter. Those things are pretty fun, too, when done in the spirit of exploration.

"There is something grand, charming and desirable in this vaguely despised country... the sand, the pines... it is Nature stark naked." --Phillip Vickers Fithian, a Revolutionary War chaplain

Monday, June 01, 2009

Captured: A moment

"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." --Victor Borge

Photo by Nina.

It had been six months or so, that first night at Smokey's, since Susan and I had had a chance to catch up, face to face. There was lots to talk about and some to laugh about, too.

Some, who like to tease, might compare her to another, more easily recognized birder-blogger, but I know better. She and I are like opposite sides of the same coin.

I've said that before, I know.

We'd toasted to our gathering, had dinner with old and new friends, and then, like the bad kids in the bunch we aspire to be, slipped outside during the evening's program to laugh together and goof around without any audience. We did that a lot during our couple days together in W. Va.