Over the past few months one bird has appeared very prominent in our backyard…the rascally bluejay. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the peanuts I put out to lure him in or the sunflower seeds placed strategically about. Whatever the reason, I’m glad he and his many cohorts are decorating the scenery with their beauty and are affording me many pictures of their antics.
I decided the blue beauty was worthy of his own post and looked through the many pictures I have of him to pair up with the following poem by Emily Dickinson. I hope you enjoy!
The Blue Jay – Poem by Emily Dickinson
No brigadier throughout the year
So civic as the jay.
A neighbor and a warrior too,
With shrill felicity
Pursuing winds that censure us
A February day,
The brother of the universe
Was never blown away.
The snow and he are intimate;
I’ve often seen them play
When heaven looked upon us all
With such severity,
I felt apology were due
To an insulted sky,
Whose pompous frown was nutriment
To their temerity.
The pillow of this daring head
Is pungent evergreens;
His larder — terse and militant —
Unknown, refreshing things;
His character a tonic,
His future a dispute;
Unfair an immortality
That leaves this neighbor out.
– Emily Dickinson
Until next time, if a jay’s in your corner of the world, buy some peanuts to welcome in this fun neighbor!
So, this week I officially enter a new phase of parenting…my youngest is now an adult, gasp, where did those years go??!!
I always said I could have bought a second home in the islands if I had a dime for every time I took my kids to the grocery store and an older mom said to me…”enjoy these days, they go by quicker than you know.” They would always look at my kids with longing smiles and eyes seeing long-ago made memories brought fresh to the surface at the sight of my little ones-and now, I am that mom.
Yes, I am guilty of saying that exact same thing to moms I see with little ones in tow. And as I’m saying it, I’m thinking to myself, when did I become that mom, the older one, with kids no longer with me as I shop or run errands. Yes, it does indeed go by more quickly than we could ever even begin to imagine.
With each stage of their lives comes a new set of joys and concerns….the joys hopefully outweighing the concerns.
I taught pre-school before staying home with my own children, and I have to admit, it was the irony little, rascally boys that always brought a smile to my face. When the other teachers were wringing their hands and shaking their heads, I was laughing just a little on the inside at their harmless, mischievous little antics, totally oblivious to what my future held. Oh yeah.
Be careful what you wish for it’s often said, and before long I had my own little rascally boys, and oh what a ride it has been! I am convinced, though, that God needs fun-loving mischievous little boys in the earth as well as proper little chaps, and He seemed to know just the mom to give them to!
This belief was challenged just a bit when high school rolled around and I was convinced the school office had my cell number on speed-dial. I’m sure my hair color consumption tripled as the gray hairs seemed to increase exponentially during these years.
But now here were are, four months from having high-school behind us as well, and like the other stages of their lives, I’m sure it too will go by in a blink. I will greatly miss sharing an afternoon cup of coffee with my younger son as he relates the tales of his school day, and the tears of laughter I shed as he impersonates some very colorful characters. Yes, for all the gray, I’m sure the laughter he inspires has added years to my life.
So to my youngest son, happy 18th birthday “little buddy.” The joy, love, and laughter you have brought to my life and others far exceed what I could put into words. Follow those big dreams, climb those seemingly impossible mountains, use all those talents God blessed you with to enrich the lives of others, and always, always carry a bit of that playful, fun-loving little boy with you, as time keeps marching on.
Those were the words that awakened me from my sound, cozy, oblivious to the -1 degree temperatures outside at 2 a.m., sleep. “What? Are you sure?” Yes, he was sure…and, he was, unfortunately, right.
A little back-story on Gabby…
She showed up one hot, summer day at our old home about 6 years ago, emaciated and timid, lurking in a row of trees behind our above-ground pool. My older son was the first to spot her so he named her Gabby. Now, I know the rule about not feeding strays, but I just can’t look at an innocent animal, half-starved, and not offer them a bite to eat. Not sure of her temperament, we put the food down and stayed at a bit of a distance, though we soon found out, that was how she was going to keep us anyhow.
We continued putting food out for Gabby, and she continued to keep her distance. I noticed she would follow me, however, whenever I would go into a certain area of the yard and soon found out why. I was taking care of our pet chickens one afternoon when I felt eyes on me. Amazing how we can sense that, anyhow, I looked up and saw two pairs of the most adorable blue eyes staring back at me through the bushes to my left. Gabby was a mom!
And, what a devoted mom she was! I was ever so glad I ignored the well-intentioned advice to not feed a stray, and she immediately gained my “mom” respect for taking such good care of her kittens even in her half-starved state. As time went on, I continued to feed Gabby, and her kittens, now weaned, would come out to eat as well. Only one of the three would allow me to pet her, and she quickly became my favorite. She was so pretty we named her “Pretty Kitty” and her sister, the shy, feisty one, we named “Bittie.”
Fast forward many months… my precious “Pretty” sadly died and my sweet dog, Princess, was now an accomplice to murder. Gabby was just allowing me to barely touch her, and Bittie, a.k.a. “Miss Pris” or “Fussikins” was slowly warming up. I tried to find homes for the remaining two, as I am more accustomed to dogs, but quickly found out that cats are very hard to find homes for. I got them both neutered, up on their shots, and added them to our menagerie of two dogs, seven chickens, and one rabbit, oh my.
Bittie soon showed she had no street smarts, literally, so was held captive inside for her own good.
She has adjusted quite well…
Gabby would have none of it, so has remained an outside cat to this day.
She earned the nickname “Gladiator Gabby” after we moved into our present home. We have a circular stone area below our back porch, and Gabby soon took to bringing her found objects of prey into the “ring” where she commenced to perform her gladiator show. I and my sons have rescued what we could by a quick knock on the window, and I have to admit, I have secretly cheered as well when a battered mouse or mole escaped her clutches.
Though she is now trusting of us and sweet, her love of hunting and the feeling of freedom has kept her from wanting to ever be confined to a house. Last night, however, I gave her no choice. With temperatures predicted to dip to below zero, I lured her in, untrusting that even her heat lamp could keep her warm in that cold.
I have to wonder if those in the mid-west, or north-west states laugh at our reactions to these temperatures and snow. It reminds me of a Texan friend I had while attending college in Missouri, where it snowed in November and the ground remained white until April. On our first snowfall as freshman, we, that is those of us not accustomed to such snow amounts, were sure that all college classes would be cancelled. Not so. Leaving the dorm, my Texas friend fussed and fumed as we carefully picked our steps down the sidewalk to our classes. This was not until after she had called her mother, reporting the un-Godly conditions, that she, her daughter, was forced to face. I’m not sure if she thought her mother could call the college and convince them to cancel classes or if she was just so overwrought she needed to vent…either way, we were soon on our way to face the elements. Now please don’t be offended if you’re from Texas. I love the grit and spunk of Texans, but my dear friend just happened to have a strong sense of fashion, and heels, not snow-shoes (though she didn’t own a pair, thus the dilemma) were more her style.
But, back to Gabby and her 2 a.m. escape. She was put into a large, portable fenced area with a cozy blanket, food, water, litter-box, and a cloth covering to surely keep her from thoughts of escaping to wander the house. She has, in the past, “claimed” a piece of furniture in a way that neither I nor the furniture appreciated, thus the enclosure. Unfortunately, the fence was no obstacle for Gabby, and in the wee hours of the morning she was off to find another couch.
After coaxing her back into her enclosure, my son and I were quite the early-morning team of “walking” the fence to the nearest bathroom, with Gabby following along inside. Despite her howls of protests, and a few more escapes, she, and I, eventually fell back into sleep. I, dreaming of warmer days, and she, I’m sure, of future outdoor adventures.
Today I woke to -4 degree windchill, but it warmed up to a big °15 by 2:00. School is cancelled for a third day tomorrow, and I’m off to get a much needed 2nd cup of coffee. Gabby got her way and made it out today to play in the snow and has refused all invitations to come back inside, sigh. She is a gladiator afterall.
Well, Thanksgiving is behind us, and though it is not officially the end of fall, winter doesn’t seem too far off. I love living in a place where I can enjoy each of the four seasons, and quiet mornings, sipping coffee, seem a wonderful way to savor them.
Once again, I have gathered those pictures from my morning photo shoots to relive the moments. With fall being very hectic I missed October’s post so am combining the two months…I hope you enjoy.
Woodpeckers like these are the reason I ask my husband to leave the smaller dead trees on our property standing.
The net was put on the pond in October, and the frogs put on quite the show as they bounced on it like a trampoline. There is a large opening allowing them access into and out of the pond, and one was actually observed bouncing, then doing a backflip into this exposed area…Nadia Comăneci would have been impressed.
Taking a break from gymnastics….
The squirrels enjoyed raiding the peanuts and sunflower seeds from the bird-feeders…
Downy woodpecker is a frequent visitor to the bird feeder area, especially enjoying the suet…
Another favorite at the feeder is the tufted titmouse, such a friendly little guy…he flys off to nearby branches to bang open the sunflower seeds.
Sparrows and chickadees were also in abundance, however, the chickadee was not very photogenic;) Though I think the below sparrow is a white-throated one, I am not confident of that-feel free to educate me!
Of all the birds I enjoyed watching in the last two months, I was more than thrilled when the typically seen cardinal reappeared after more than a months absence. His presence one morning in the tree below made my day!
I tried to convince myself the cardinals were not around the feeders because of the abundance of fall seeds, but after seeing red feathers on the ground, and the character below on at least three occasions near the feeders, I was beginning to worry.
I’ll be the first to admit, though I admire nature more than most, I am not at all a fan of hawks!!! If I saw them flying with a snake dangling from their mouth I may feel differently, however, I have only ever seen them zooming by with poor, helpless songbirds in their clutches.
Lastly on my trip down photo memory-lane… I was able to photograph the raccoon below as he neared the creek at low tide, then nimbly walked across a newly-fallen tree to the peninsula on the other side. I wish I could have gotten his front, but he is still a beaut from behind.
It was an adventurous two months of coffee-time scenery, and I enjoyed many other nature moments and firsts not captured on film. Though it’s hard, sometimes I resist the dash for the camera and force myself to simply sit still and treasure the moment.
Until next time, may you have many memorable nature moments as well.
…The thread of our life would be dark, Heaven knows If it were not with friendship and love intertwined; And I care not how soon I may sink to repose, When these blessing shall cease to be dear to my mind.
by Thomas Moore
Of all the holidays and gatherings, I think Thanksgiving has to be my favorite. It is a time set aside to remember all we have been blessed with, giving thanks to God for all the bountiful gifts and blessings He bestows on us in so many different ways. It is simple, unpretentious, not bogged down in commercialism…just a beautiful season of gratitude, because, in each season of life, we always have things to be thankful for.
A few year ago I decided I would like to have a “Friends Thanksgiving” to celebrate the wonderful friendships in my life. I am so grateful to be surrounded by family, and we have our day of celebration on the actual holiday, but during this season I am also reminded of the absolute blessing that real friends bring to our lives.
Over the weekend we had a gathering of our closest and dearest friends along with their kids who are now treasured friends of our kids…double blessing! It was a night filled with much laughter, good food, and just plain fun. Among my dearest friends is one I have known since first grade. We could spend hours laughing till we cry reminiscing over past memories. She is my fellow nature lover, photographer, and incredible artist who hasn’t met an artistic medium she can’t conquer. She is a teacher any parent would love to have for their child because of her caring heart and common-sense approach. Long ago school days, ice-skating on frozen ponds, hiking through woods, cycling nature trails and kayaking all while solving the world’s problems then laughing hysterically are all cherished memories with this incredible friend. Knowing my love for plants, she brought me the beautiful rosemary plant pictured below, which Kitty has adopted.
Another treasured friendship is from my single, college days. This is my very practical friend, also a nature/animal lover and the one who taught me all a dog owner ever needed to know about cats. We call her the cat whisperer as she is the one who first dared hold the wild cats that showed up in our yard that we have since adopted and love…yes the one above was “wild.” I have so many fun memories of silly things single girls do and then the memories continued as we both went on to get married and have kids within the same few years. As our kids grew up together we shared play-dates in the park, baseball games, basketball games as the crazy moms on the top bleacher, family cycling days, campfires, beach days, and more recently, hikes through West Virginia. She gave us all a scare this year with a cancer, but thankfully she is well, and it was another reason to set aside a day and give thanks for her friendship.
Last, but not least, is a more recent friend made when our kids were older elementary-aged. She is also practical, but fun-loving and a loyal, trusted friend. We, too, have shared cycling trips, field trips with our kids, coffee time on our porches, pool days, Easter egg hunts and tears and laughter as we tried to figure out the crazy teen years together! She is an incredible mom, as are my other dear friends, and I have been blessed with her wisdom and understanding as I navigate through the stages of motherhood.
As I look at the fading beauty of the mums on my porch, I am reminded that the beauty of true friendships never fade. As I tell my sons, if you have even just one true friend in life, you are blessed- someone you can laugh with, cry with, be yourself with and be loved through the good times and bad…in essence, “family.”
May you treasure the beautiful friendships in your life!
I came upon this poem while reading some fall poems earlier. It reminded me of a recent picture I took of a frog by our pond surrounded by fallen leaves and acorns. I can only imagine his thoughts may be something close to what the poet penned.
Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joys
This is September.
Ah, beautiful September…how did you pass so quickly?
October is my favorite fall month, but September begins the beauty of it all. Now that it is behind us I feel like I somehow missed it…like I blinked and it was over. I have spent many hours inside with my nose buried in math and Spanish curriculum, but on the bright side, I’m sure it’s a wonderful Alzheimer’s preventative.
I have given myself permission to take the day off from curriculum and enjoyed a walk with my dog Princess earlier this morning. I have missed writing so much I decided I would also take the time to enjoy doing just that when I returned from the walk. Already six days into October, it was past time to pull up my September morning-time pictures.
Thinking about writing a new blog post I asked myself, like probably many bloggers do….why on earth do I think people really want to see pictures of my flowers, birds, dog, Harold….or read the ramblings and memories of a mom going through beginning empty- nest stages?
And yet, I continue to write, because like other bloggers I enjoy the creativity it allows and the connections formed with other bloggers along the way. The latter was something I was told would happen by a friend of mine, whose blog I have admired for years, but I really had no idea what she meant until I started blogging myself.
I find myself thinking of the people whose writing I have connected with….the elderly widow who writes of her granddaughter and grown sons and her transition to a smaller home, leaving the place where memories were made as she raised them; the writer who has written her first book and has found a purpose to enjoy in her newfound retirement as she plans another book; the man who so artfully writes of the beauty of childhood memories and an almost forgotten time of past societal innocence; the teacher who brings nature into the lives of his young students, reminding me of my own former joy of teaching little ones; the many gifted artists in photography and drawing, who bring beauty to my world and others by sharing their talents…all these people and many more have enriched me in many ways.
Though I will most likely never meet any of them, I am grateful for their presence…
They have enlightened me, inspired me, entertained me, and like the nature I am surrounded by, have added beauty to my life in many different ways.
Sometimes the best things in life are found right in your own backyard…not literally mybackyard in this case, but close enough!
We have recently discovered that it isn’t always necessary to get in the car and drive to a destination two days away, or hop a flight for a trip half-way across the country, or even out of the country for that matter, we are surrounded by incredible beauty in our own little corner of the world…and for that, we are very thankful.
One of our favorite places to visit lately has been the Delaware seashore and the quaint little town of Lewes. Founded by Dutch settlers in June of 1631, and named Zwaanendael, which means “swan valley,” it was the first European settlement in what would later become the first state, Delaware.
On our last trip we arrived shortly before sunset, and walked out on the long pier just inside Cape Henlopen State Park. The park is one of my favorite cycling destinations, and is also where my husband and I had our first date:)
The lighthouse is visible from the pier, and I can’t look at it without remembering a kayak ride I took there with a dear friend. She had a tandem kayak and on her last trip out she was surrounded by a pod of dolphins and wanted me to enjoy the same experience. I was all for it, until we got close to the lighthouse and I started to realize kayaking on a bay is a whole different story than kayaking on a creek. The waves (I tend to get seasick-that’s an understatement), lack of dolphins, and visions of getting swept out to sea made me wimp out and our trip was cut a bit short.
From where we stood, we were able to see a Cape May-Lewes ferry coming back from its 17 mile journey across the bay to Cape May, New Jersey. We made a few trips on the ferry when our children were younger to visit the Cape May zoo. It is a fun trip for kids and adults alike. It is also a top spot in the fall for bird migration, and I hope to be able to experience that for myself someday soon.
It is very hard to walk away from a beautiful sunset…
But eventually we pulled ourselves away and enjoyed strolling the streets of Lewes. We talked with an exceptionally nice man who worked at The Inn at Canal Square, and he gave us the grand tour. He also told us about a few movie stars who stayed there, or rather one…the other refused (she shall remain nameless) because she did not think that Delaware was up to her standards. I really don’t care about movie stars or their opinions, but I did find it ironic when walking through town later, we happened upon this beautiful sight…
and then read the sign just beside this view…..
We also discovered a cafe on a side street that warrants another trip back…
Just before we headed home I found one more thing to make the night just that much more special…
It was on a bench where we sat overlooking the canal, but I didn’t know until we got home that I was supposed to re-hide it to bring a smile to another person. I guess that just makes one more reason we’ll have to go back very soon!
Until next time, I hope you enjoy all the beautiful treasures in your little corner of the world!
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain
In the aftermath of a storm like “Harvey” that my fellow Americans in Texas have recently experienced….the losses, the grief, the pain, one could easily ask, where is the beauty in this? As with all natural disasters, there is beauty to be found in the kindness, courage, and the love of strangers reaching out to help those in need. That kind of beauty takes precedent over any nature photos I may share this week. I hope you are inspired by the images, reminded to pray for the families affected, and continue to spread kindness and love in your own little corner of the world.♥
Love helps the young…
Love helps the elderly, weak and frail….
Love sees no color…
Love sees neither male nor female….
Love rescues the helpless, human or beast….
And sadly, sometimes love gives the ultimate, one’s own life…
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13:13
Younger than the mountains, Blowin’ like the breeze.”
The above lyrics are from the song “Country Roads” by John Denver, and if ever a state deserved to have a song written about it for its beauty, West Virginia is certainly deserving of that honor.
My younger son and I were blessed to have a week to explore some of its beautiful trails, gorgeous in their own right, and leading to breathtaking views at the end. Pictures will never do it justice, but I will attempt to share bits of the beauty we enjoyed.
Although Blackwater Falls (pictured above) is probably the biggest attraction, we preferred the idyllic views of:
Not far into the hike, it felt as if we had stepped onto the set of a magical Disney film or a Lord of the Rings set. From the moss-covered rocks and trees to the abundance of ferns, blooming rhododendrons, mushrooms, and the babbling brook leading to the waterfalls, it was truly like stepping into another world.
Lindy Point was another place we explored. Hiking this trail was like taking a stroll through the jungle….rhododendrons hugged the path as we made our way to the top where we were met with this view:
In the Monogahela National Forest we hiked part of the Dolly Sods Wilderness. It boasts incredible views from the top and has terrain of bog and heath ecotypes more commonly found in southern Canada.
summer before senior year
The rocks are extremely fun to navigate, and the scenery is simply spectacular. While resting on a large rock formation taking in the views, I looked to a nearby evergreen and was delighted with a sighting of one of my favorite birds, the Cedar waxwing.
It was the first time I had ever been on equal altitude with this beauty!
The drive up to Dolly Sods is quite long, but the beauty along the way makes the journey as enjoyable as the destination. A variety of wildflowers, butterflies, and a scenic creek adorn the trek, making a non-stop drive all but impossible to a camera-wielding, nature enthusiast.
Queen Annes Lace
And, of course, what drive in the country would be complete without a good ol’ barn-sighting…or a house that looks like a barn, not sure, but charming, nonetheless.
After a hike at dusk one evening, we saw this adorable woodland creature…
Growing up near the shore I will always be a fan of the ocean, but I am always grateful for a trip to the mountains where I can hike and relish a different kind of beauty…all a part of this glorious gift we have been given called nature.
This post is dedicated to our dear friends Ed and Denise….thank you for introducing us to the beauty of this often overlooked state, but mostly for your gift of friendship!
For your listening pleasure, the song behind the post:
I hope you find your own country road to explore and take in the wonders around!