The Molt

I love “my” birds. Even when they’re molting. Actually, especially when they’re molting.

Young cardinal in molt.

They look a bit pitiful—but really, they’re just getting on with it. There’s probably a life lesson there, yeah?

Advertisements

Pumpkin Harvest

Last week I met “in the middle” with a client, which meant I found myself in tiny Nolensville, Tennessee. This one was made easier because sometime in the last year or so Veterans Parkway was completed, which means if I’m headed west, I can get to the interstate (I-840, which will cross I-65 and eventually hit I-40) without ever going into town.

I always enjoy a new drive, and this one, in particular, had some items of interest that caught my eye. So I took Gerry back a few days later.

We bought a pair of Amish-made Adirondack chairs at Smucker Farms (delivered later). They’re made out of “poly”—recycled material (including some wood) that will last for decades, we’re told.

And then we stopped at Fast’s Nursery in Arrington because I couldn’t resist the vast array of pumpkins.

Fast's farm shop in Arrington, TN.

Fast’s farm shop in Arrington, TN.

Just look at these things! A vast array indeed!

The names are fantastic: Porcelain Doll, Giant Cinderella …

The names are fantastic: Porcelain Doll, Giant Cinderella …

The colors are beautiful on these Porcelain Dolls …

The colors are beautiful on these Porcelain Dolls …

Even this classicly shaped pumpkin—a Giant Cinderella—has a hint of pink in it.

Even this classicly shaped pumpkin—a Giant Cinderella—has a hint of pink in it.

I nearly swooned over these: Warty Goblins! Blue Dolls!

I nearly swooned over these: Warty Goblins! Blue Dolls!

The sun was very bright.

The sun was very bright.

Ghostly Blue Dolls …

Ghostly Blue Dolls …

I have no idea what these are called, but as far as I’m concerned, they embody the spirit of Halloween.

I have no idea what these are called, but as far as I’m concerned, they embody the spirit of Halloween.

But wait! There’s more!

But wait! There’s more!

Yes, I bought a couple pumpkins. Who could resist?

’Tis the season!

’Tis the season!

The days are cooler, and the nights are definitely cooler. We’re heading into autumn, y’all.

 

Wanderlust Bites!

In my real life (as opposed to my travel daydream life) I edit books for a living, and I recently edited a wonderful book about a family who spent the better part of a year traveling around the world. (With young children! And it’s not science fiction!)

It inflamed my wanderlust. My wanderlust is off the scale right now.

The stories in the pages of the manuscript made me want to go places I have never, ever had any real desire to see. (China? No. Whiny music. Too much fish in the food. And, you know, evil empire. Someplace in Africa? No. Too hot. Special medical requirements. And I like my creature comforts. But the author made these locales sound appealing, interesting, desirable.)

Just look at this! There are a lot of places/things I’d like to see someday … (Photo from Wikipedia. Baobab trees.)

Just look at this! There are a lot of places/things I’d like to see someday … (Photo from Wikipedia. Baobab trees.)

The travelogue about the young family really moved me.

And this one too: An American couple who lived (separately) in Amsterdam, met, married, and had their child there, return after a stretch of years for a visit to a place they’ve loved well. They spend their vacation living along one of the canals in a home owned by friends. Which is the best way, really, to experience what a place is really like. A hotel can be very sterile, but a private home or apartment drops you right into the life of the place. This New York Times article is a lovely commentary on Amsterdam, and it makes me want to go.

Now, dagnabbit. I’m ready.

Then just this morning a good friend sent me a tweet. “What was the name of that book (from, like, two years ago) set during the war? You loved it.”

Now, I’m good, but I read a lot of books. “Ummm,” I tweet back. “What war?”

“Balkans, orphan girl, hospital, doctor woman—”

“Oh, of course!” The tweets are flying fast now. “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.” I loved that book. Loved it.

Turns out my friend had just spent two “magical” days “in DC in an Airbnb Georgetown flat hosted by the warmest, most interesting woman who lived through the Balkan war. If you and G ever get to DC, stay here! She is now an interpreter and expert in war-conflict resolution.” I read the comments in the link—the owner of the flat gets rave reviews.

Why the Marra? My friend wanted to “imagine her world.” Clearly this Airbnb host made quite an impression. And clearly this is a bedroom I need to sleep in, yes? I’m already wondering how soon we can start planning a visit to our nation’s capital. (We have a couple trips, short ones, already planned. Watch this space.)

In the meantime, I am trying to discern what it all means, the convocation of the manuscript, the article, the message from my friend, all in the space of a couple days. Since, you know, I can’t just quit work and take off every time I get bitten by the wanderlust bug!

What Happens in the Woods Stays in the Woods

The family of a good friend of mine has some farm property (she calls it a 150-acre deer sanctuary) out in the country. They’ve set up a wildlife cam to see what happens by the nutrient block (when I was a kid we called it a salt block); my friend says they see the deer, but also turkeys, rabbits, raccoons, and, once, a bobcat.

Every so often, something purely magical turns up on the feed. Like this.

Deer

Remember, you can click on this to enlarge it.

What are they doing? My friend tells me the does are sparring for territory. I say it’s just proof they dance when we’re not looking. 🙂

The Zen of Balanced Rocks

My sister lives on the West Coast, in a small town. The house she and her husband live in is not far from the beach, and every day she goes down to the water. To walk the dog. To get some exercise and fresh air. To meet up with friends. (To meet new ones, too, but you can’t exactly plan that.) And so on.

She often takes photos of the things she sees. Usually the dog. Friends. Her kids. Or beach art.

Beach art takes many forms. Sometimes people make something with the sand. Sometimes seaweed arranges itself artfully. Sometimes there’s a stack of rocks.

Sunset …

Sunset …

My sister has a whole collection of these photos. I didn’t realize that rock-balancing is a thing. (But then, I work too much.)

Simple, pyramidal.

Simple, pyramidal.

Stacking rocks, of course, has been around for centuries. A human-made pile of rocks is called a cairn; they have been used as landmarks or signs, trail markers, even as gravesites. Probably a lot as burial sites.

And as art.

This one looks like a bird perched on a square rock, don’t you think?

This one looks like a bird perched on a square rock, don’t you think?

It’s a creative outlet. People go down to the beach just to do this.

Seriously, I can’t even imagine how this one is balanced. But there it is.

Seriously, I can’t even imagine how this one is balanced. But there it is.

A nice mixture of large and small.

A nice mixture of large and small.

If I lived near a beach, I suspect I might try it too.

This one looks pretty tall!

This one looks pretty tall!

Sometimes my sister participates; sometimes she just photographs.

It’s a family affair. SIL and daughter on the left, husband and dog on the right.

It’s a family affair. SIL and daughter on the left, husband and dog on the right.

The tide, of course, washes most of them away.

Getting tricky. See the one on top?

Getting tricky. See the one on top?

Again, I can’t imagine how this is done.

Again, I can’t even imagine how this is done.

The tide won’t take this one down.

The tide won’t take this one down.

And yet, every day … another stack of rocks appears. Think about that.

Same rocks, different angle.

Same rocks, different angle.

New every day.

Silhouette.

Silhouette.

And then sometimes … there’s something different. My sister didn’t know what this was, but thought it was special. Perhaps it was someone’s swearing-in ceremony.

A swearing-in ceremony on the beach? Don’t know.

A swearing-in ceremony on the beach? Don’t know.

What do you do when you go to the beach?

NOTE: All photos taken by my sister, Jill.

In Our Suburban Backyard … We Had a Hawk

We were just finishing breakfast and Jesse looked out the window. “Is that a hawk?” he said. It was. This is not something one sees in one’s suburban backyard.

Just perched right there on the fence, probably 30 feet away.

Just perched right there on the fence, probably 30 feet away.

So I grabbed my little camera (Canon S120—just a point-and-shoot but with a powerful zoom; I use it to take photos of the songbirds birds at the feeder from inside the house) and started shooting through a window with a SCREEN on it (thus the soft focus! ha).

It was his breakfast time too.

It was his breakfast time too.

The hawk was eating something—a small bird or a mouse—holding it clamped against the fence as he tore it into pieces. He ate all of it. Then he cleaned his beak and feet, stuck one leg up under himself, and rested.

Wind blowing his feathers.

Wind blowing his feathers.

He sat there so long I snuck onto the deck and took a few more. He was very comfortable there, and I have a couple dozen shots taken during this time.

For perspective.

For perspective.

Then I thought—duh—I should get out my big camera (Canon EOS 70D). Well, the battery was dead. And it’s brand new to me so I haven’t actually used it yet. So I frantically changed the battery, switched lenses (to a 300mm zoom), and snuck back out onto the deck.

He preened a little.

He preened a little.

What’s that? He could hear the camera clicking.

What’s that? He could hear the camera clicking.

Look up, look down …

Look up, look down …

… look all around.

… look all around.

He was beautiful.

He flapped a little.

He flapped a little.

Oh, wait, that was a practice run. Oops.

Oh, wait, that was a practice run. Oops.

Hope nobody saw that.

Hope nobody saw that.

I knew he was about to fly and was trying to be ready, but still, this isn’t focused. I was a second too late.

I knew he was about to fly and was trying to be ready, but still, this isn’t focused. I was a second too late.

I know now that this was a sharp-shinned hawk—and a juvenile.

Later, I walked out on the driveway to see what I might see.

Well, I know now it wasn’t a mouse he was eating.

Well, I know now it wasn’t a mouse he was eating.

A random death.

A random death.

It was a little shocking, the feathers scattered everywhere.

It was a little shocking, the feathers scattered everywhere.

It was a bird from my feeder, probably a sparrow. I’ve learned that the sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks commonly prey on feeder birds, and there’s always lots of activity at our bird table. Easy pickin’s.

Three days later and it seems we may, indeed, have a lurking hawk. This afternoon I found all the feathers and nothing else of a something larger than a sparrow (a mockingbird, I think) on the lawn, right under a tree branch where the hawk would have sat, pulling it apart. It was almost a perfect circle of soft gray. This was not a feline-induced death, which does sometimes happen in this yard; the cats leave the body, though—for them, all the charm is in the hunt.

I’m very much of the opinion that all God’s creatures gotta eat … but … I’d prefer that this beautiful young hawk go out to the fields that surround our subdivision and eat mice and voles and other rodents. I may have to stop feeding for a while while he forgets us.

IMG_0331