#74 Solstice Photo Essay: Snug Harbor Nursery, May 2019

Solstice Photo Essay: Snug Harbor Nursery, May 2019.

Nothing beats a road trip with friends. These photos, some of my favorites from this past year, came from a wonderful day when we headed south, the roads free and clear before the annual visitors-from-elsewhere stampede. The stop at Snug Harbor Nursery in Kennebunk was spontaneous. In addition to fabulous plants and garden statuary Snug Harbor has a variety of birds running around their grounds. I had forgotten how much I really like chickens.

Whether it was the low light of the overcast day, or a camera to computer transference glitch, or goofs related to it being my first time using the new (used) camera, whatever it was the original quality of the images has been lost and what remains can be viewed on a screen but lack the quality needed to print.

As winter wraps around us, it’s most important to remember the Solstice marks the turn to more sunlight and longer days. Spring is just around the corner and that means tulips and more chickens. WooHoo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#64 Dump Run

 

 

 

Dump Run.

Each community has its own methods for collecting or hauling trash and recycling. The town where I live does not charge for these services however each household is responsible for getting our refuse to the Transfer Station which is open four days a week.  To make the dump run more interesting I often combine it with other tasks such as returning library books or going to the farm stand, a bit less boring and, hopefully more fuel efficient. Dump runs manage to be a fairly routine chore in all households.

On a recent dump run a young Red Tailed Hawk had perched on a light post beside the trash compactor. Thinking that it would take off at any second, I pulled slightly out of the lane to have a better look. The hawk had claimed the pole and wasn’t interested in budging and, joy, I had brought a camera. I snapped away, thrilled to be as close as I had ever been to one of these magnificent birds. My enthusiasm was not shared and one of the transfer station attendants came over to tell me to move out of the way because I was blocking the lane. The sting of reprimand stayed with me as I drove away understanding that the business at hand was not to be disrupted by the glorious proximity to wildlife.

For years I’ve talked about wanting a bumper sticker that declares “ Warning: I Brake for Birds”. I find myself ill suited to this rush-rush world zooming so fast and so caught in head thoughts, missing the world of nature that surrounds us.  Before I moved to Maine my work drive was always the longer route where open fields and woods hinted always of possibility. One frosty Fall morning a huge Eastern Coyote stood just inside a fence waiting for me to pass so he could be cross the road and be on his way. The field in which he was standing was filled with dried brown-gray grasses. The coyote was also brown-gray, and where he stood was in perfect harmony within light, white edgings of frost and those yellow coyote eyes. I stopped the car, without a camera, trying to imprint the perfection of the light and the creature in my mind’s eye. A red minivan approached and I waved my arm from my open window, an attempt to signal the driver to slow down enough to share this witness. The car was filled with children probably on their routine morning school run. I never knew if they saw the coyote.

Can you think of the magnificence you’ve witnessed from the windows of your car or house? Aren’t such memories of wildlife or landscape still with you?

I left the dump still stinging from the reprimand. I headed over to the marsh to see if a glimpse of a different critter could soothe my “you stepped out of line” embarrassment. Sure enough, there were shorebirds feeding in the last light of the day and the camera was still beside me.

Watching wild in all it’s beautiful manifestations always heals even if we have to step outside the acceptable bounds of the humans around us.

 

#62 Maliase

Malaise.

*Warning: Familiar Themes repeated here.

Is it because Fall is moving in, the colors everywhere changing to reds and browns and golds, leaving the vibrant greens for too many long months before they return? Fall is the favorite season of so many, but I find the transition–the colder nights, the dying plants, the disappearing birds–disheartening. There are oddities this year: the red and gray squirrels and the chipmunks disappeared a couple of months ago and they have not returned.

Monarch butterflies are on the move, headed south, gathering nectar for sustenance along the route from the last blooming rugosas, sedums, wild asters, and more. I’ve been watching them flutter by, mostly solitary but sometimes with one or two others, their purposeful migratory movements disguised by the way they seem to meander from plant to plant, so unlike hawk migrations. How do such ethereal creatures fly so far? How do they cope with cold nights and the increasing Fall winds?

Darkness arrives early and stays longer, its rapid increase from day to day quite apparent. Sunrise is more spectacular, if I can rise to it before daybreak when it is most vivid. Fall light is edged as the sun rises or sets, the angled light sharply defining rooftops, trees, grasses. Sometimes the light is strongly tinged pink or gold infusing everything it touches. The other evening traveling home as the sun was setting, the porch of a house, geraniums hanging in pots, rockers still in the coming evening, were bathed in strong rose colored light making the ordinary into a vivid, magical place if only for a few fleeting minutes, the whole scene glowing as if someone had pushed an alternate universe button.

I suppose it would help to keep the radio and the social media turned “off” in this time of wind-downs. The air waves are full of malaise, foul stories keep coming in a steady drumbeat, illustrating the lack of Humanity in the human nature of our beings. Fall brings hurricanes, damaging homes near or far, destruction and devastation. These magnificent, destructive, behemoths always felt powerful and dangerous but now, with Climate Change evidence abounding, our vulnerability feels enhanced. What will be destroyed next? What lovely palm-treed place of winter refuge, of tropic promise, will next be forever altered? Refugees, from storms or political upheaval, on the move everywhere. When might you or I be among their numbers?

It feels to me as if the Grifter mentality has spread like a plague, insatiable money hunger accompanied by power dreams, shoving us ordinary folk to the edges of forgotten and unimportant. The media pushes a constant supply of stories of cronies doing wrong and getting caught as the rest of us wonder how so many can gather more than their share of resources now becoming scarcer. So many of us do not care about the accumulations of wealth or power, preferring our lives to be filled with care and love of family, neighbors, friends, just getting by, content to notice what is beautiful in our lives–like sunsets and sunrises, and fleeting wings departing, while we steal off for one or two more moments of beach time., savoring every last moment before the oncoming cold.

 

#61 Seasonal Adjustments

Seasonal Adjustments.

The newly enlarged flock of Common Eider ducks have been swimming in a sort-of formation, back and forth, looking like morning and afternoon drills to teach this year’s hatchlings proper Eider Behavior. Twice yesterday this close-to-shore “parade” was mirrored by a fairly large group of kayakers who, a bit further out, paddled up then back, parallel but distanced from the Eiders. From my window perch it seemed as if the kayakers were also in training, learning proper Kayaker behavior perhaps. For the Eiders their formation swimming is most likely based on survival tactics for the rough winter waters to come, that time of year the kayakers are absent. 

Polar fleece and sweaters are now preferred afternoon apparel of the tourists. Down the road, die hard beach lovers sit wrapped and shivering, in 60 degree temperatures as the sun sets. It’s easy to visualize the glee of Native Northerners as they reach for their jackets; finally, the temperature is reasonable and the roads will soon again be drivable in the ways that seem Maine appropriate. It isn’t as if tourists are exactly unwanted. It’s more like the natives (and not-so-native year rounders) are weary by August’s end. Perhaps their longing is for a return to stretches of water unblemished by the presence of too many humans. Perhaps they are now able to return to the clam shacks for the preferred Maine cuisine of fried sea-somethings served with coleslaw and fries because now it might be possible to find a parking place and a table.

Many summer birds have all ready headed south. There are egrets still out in the marshes, their beautiful white bodies so visible in flight or on the ground but their days here are numbered. The marsh grasses now are topped by wheat colored seed pods as the marshes transform from lush summer greens into varying shades of russet.

A dear friend pointed out how odd it is for someone (me) who hates the cold to live this far North and the simple answer is “economics” but I dread shivering for next ten months, chilled to the bone until once again the tourists and the birds flock back to this wonderful place.

#55 Familiar Territory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Familiar Territory.

Waking from dreams both In the night and in the morning there is a vague knowing that the dreams are familiar territory. These are reoccurring dreams but I don’t retain specific or detailed memories from them but only the whiff of the known, the sense of having been there before many times. Such sense has also occurred while traveling in real time. When visiting a new place more than once I have had the feeling that I’ve been there before. 

There are daily mysteries all around us. It is the time of year that some of the birds disappear, headed towards their winter homes so long before it seems necessary. What are those long distance flights like for them? Do they relish their travels? Are their flights filled with a joyous sense of visiting familiar places or are the dangers of their migratory patterns filling their awareness? 

This summer, all of the red squirrels disappeared. About the time I noticed their absence, the gray squirrels also disappeared. The cardinals, blue jays, the hairy and downy woodpeckers, the occasional titmouse all stopped coming to the feeders. Will they return? The summer residents are the goldfinch and the sparrows. They fill the small trees from which the feeders hang, chirping madly at times. I think of them as my “twitter feed” (which is as close to that medium as I want to be).

#32 Together. Alone.

Together. Alone.

Starlings swoop over the roof of the house, a whirl of wings and motion, coming to the feeders all at once, together, cramming as many bird bodies as possible into the fairly small swinging platform, heads bobbing up and down, emptying it of seed as fast as possible.

Finches arrive in smaller groups, as do the sparrows, lightly perching on the sunflower feeder, taking turns flying to and from the small trees nearby. Other species, Bluejays or Crows, seem to arrive in various small groups or parings. The woodpeckers, Downy or Hairy or Red Bellied, come alone. In summer, Hummingbirds also seem to be solitary as they zoom by.

The Common Eiders have come together, moving in large numbers, the striking black/white males numerous among the brown females, all strongly swimming back and forth in the currents just off shore. They will stay gathered this way until they pair off, then separate, while the young are growing, months of banded mothers minding their ducklings together, males out of sight or watching from afar.

I’ve been a single woman for many years. I often travel alone whether over distance or on daily errands but I see most other women in pairs or groups, with friends or families. I am often aware that my seemingly solitary life is strongly different from others, this awareness both visual and vocal, over a long period of time and circumstance. When times are good, like now, I am privileged to have both single and married women as friends and we share life stories in thoughtful conversations allowing a wider way of understanding both the past and present of our lives.

Long ago, when paired, I took for granted that “paired” was how the world worked best. That was followed by years of seeing myself as an outcast then, at last, coming to feel joyous for the freedom I had with time and space, alone  enough to become an observer and thinker about such things. It is never that being alone, being paired, or tied tightly with others, means one way is preferable to all others but rather, the flow of being or watching is what gives meaning, allows understanding, makes life’s progress rich and deep.

I watch with interest the activity at the feeders or in big box stores. Who shows up and with whom? And why?  Solitary individuals versus those who prefer to move in groups–I wonder if there is a way to see bird or human activity in any kind of comparative way, furthering understanding of either, or both?

#30 Just a Regular Day.

Just a regular day.

Returning home in late afternoon I noticed that a passing hardwood seemed to have grown a large lump. I pulled the car over and walked back to where I could get another look at this tree. I couldn’t see anything sharp or distinct but, keeping my distance, I walked around to change perspectives. It was clear there were feather patterns to this rather substantial “lump”. The camouflage was quite amazing. I was looking at my first Barred Owl, right there in late afternoon daylight, just sitting in a bare tree branch out in the open. My eyes had picked out an anomaly from a routine passing of a mundane tree clump beside the road in a neighborhood yard. What mysterious vision function enabled that?

My morning had started out badly as I tried to tackle an iCloud password problem and lost an hour I did not have to spare. Lately the subject matter of my entertainment (in the form of DVDs and books) had clumped into a category I’d call “Obvious Screw-ups”. There seem to be quite a number of these in my life and, as if there was a magnetized center, various and seemingly disparate screwy elements I’d noticed pulled together all at once. And then there I was, standing in the shower under a stream of hot water, laughing my head off. I was having a melt-up. Somehow my response to this craziness was not depression but rather hilarity, the convolutions of life  suddenly seen in another light. My response to absurdities came in the form of riotous laughter. What mysterious mind function enabled that?

Really, isn’t all this craziness around us laugh-your-butt-off funny? And then, this shift of the oh-so mundane, the daily slog, the truly silly, gave way to awe in the form of feathers. What mysterious function enabled that?