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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A long hiatus

March 2015 definitely came in like a lion around here, though the "going out like a lamb" part remains to be determined. March has been a busy month, between helping students cope with snow days, illnesses, and a variety of personal crises, constantly revising lesson plans, and--oh yes--moving.

Yes, we have now officially left Chipmunk Ridge, though the property has not yet found a buyer, so we will be going back for a while (and besides, there are still a couple of closets' worth of "stuff" to be gone through--so we need a little time). We are enjoying the new space, which is very Seventies (not my usual aesthetic, but I do love the big windows and all the natural light) and in one of my favorite locations. I can literally walk to everything I normally do--except work, that pesky thing necessary to most of us.

Not many of the plants put in last fall have done anything yet, though daffodil leaves are emerging and at least one of the grasses is showing a green shimmer, so we are hoping that roots got put down before this winter's cold set in. If everything lives, our small yard will be a showstopper.

The critters are already making their presence known. It took about two hours for the neighborhood chickadees to find the sunflower seed feeder, and they have now been joined by cardinals, titmice, and house finches. Unfortunately, a cat has been spotted hanging out in the side yard maple, but we will hope that he hangs out less often as the human activity increases.

Then this morning brought a real welcome-to-the-neighborhood: a pileated woodpecker leisurely making its way up the lawn strip tree looking for insects. Having gone fifty-five years before seeing one of these handsome creatures, I did not expect to see one in the middle of town and am taking its presence as a positive sign. We can indeed share our spaces with interesting and beautiful non-human life.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sigh of relief

It occurred to me yesterday that I had not seen any squirrels since the really nasty weather hit. Unlike some other mammals, the eastern gray squirrel does not hibernate, so I was a little surprised that no neighborhood rodents showed up when the sunflower seed reappeared in the feeders on Monday. This was a good year for acorns, so it is possible that everybody has plenty of goodies stashed away, but nearly a week with no squirrel sightings is unheard-of around here.

A look at the snow indicated lots of activity of something besides birds, but I am no expert on smeary tracks
.

This afternoon, though, any fears of a squirrel shortage were relieved: a black squirrel on the oak tree, and one of the usual suspects raiding the sunflower seed. All is back to normal--except for the weather.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Random Musings

Home with a cold and trying to prevent bronchitis on a day when asthmatic, Florida-reared lungs should not be breathing the 0-degree outside air, I sometimes do things I don't do on busier days, like check my old blog posts to see how many times they've been viewed. The record is still held by a 2012 post about a mostly white skunk, which is up to 306 views. Alas, the skunk is now deceased, having surfaced in front of a neighbor's very territorial golden retriever. Way behind in second place is a post about leaves, demonstrating yet again that one never knows what will strike people's fancy.

On the topic of fancy (in the 18th-century sense of that which is fanciful), this morning my children's literature class of pre-service teachers joyfully joined in an online discussion of modern fantasy for young readers, demonstrating that the internet has not been the ruination of Civilization as We Know It. Despite the damage that people have been known to do with this particular tool, it also enables classes to go on even if the participants are not in the official classroom (but many of us, I suspect, home in our jammies). I must also say that the children of this upcoming generation (at least in our area) are likely to be in good hands: the education majors at our institution, having maintained at least a B average, completed major community service, and passed a national qualifying exam before being admitted to the program, are as bright and committed a group of humans as I ever need to meet. Just an ongoing delight.

After my last post, in which I contemplated heading out ahead of the storm to replenish the birdseed stock, a Facebook friend urged me to do so, which I had already done, anyway. The pitiful, fluffed-up chickadee poking at the frozen remnants had me feeling too guilty. My effort (even though it did result in mild frostbite, given that I had to park in the very last space in the frozen tundra of the Kroger lot) has been rewarded, with all feeders mobbed by feathered diners. 

 A bonus: entertainment for bored cats.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Oh no!

All schools in our area, including the college where I teach, have called off classes today because of Winter Storm Octavia, currently heading our way. Thus far, we have had only the teensiest of snowflakes, barely visible, but more will almost certainly arrive. Bitter cold has kept me indoors since Friday night as the blood flow to my hands and feet has a tendency to shut off whenever I breathe cold air, but watching our feathered friends flitting around our empty birdfeeders is making me think of braving the cold before the snow arrives.

Yes, we are officially Out of Birdseed. I generally buy the stuff in 50-pound bags, but because we are moving in a few weeks, I did not replenish the stash, and it is GONE. We have left a lot of stems standing, so the yard is not devoid of food (given the variety of grasses, asters, and coneflowers with seeds remaining), but the birds want those nice fat black-oil sunflower seeds. So--do I dare venture out?

A reminder from last February
Must check radar.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day is for the birds

Or so thought fourteenth-century poet Geoffrey Chaucer (whose work we were discussing in Brit Lit this week). His 1381 Parliament of Fowles popularized (at least in England) the idea that birds choose their mates on February 14. In the poem, a character falls asleep and dreams of love, is disappointed by the Temple of Love and Beauty, and eventually discovers the hillside temple of the goddess Nature, where birds are having a romantic Parliament, akin to the Courts of Love popular in some aristocratic human circles.
  And in a launde, upon an hille of floures,
  Was set this noble goddesse Nature;
  Of braunches were hir halles and hir boures,
  Y-wrought after hir craft and hir mesure;
  Ne ther nas foul that cometh of engendrure,
  That they ne were prest in hir presence,
  To take hir doom and yeve hir audience.

  For this was on seynt Valentynes day,
  Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,
  Of every kinde, that men thenke may;
  And that so huge a noyse gan they make,
  That erthe and see, and tree, and every lake
  So ful was, that unnethe was ther space
  For me to stonde, so ful was al the place.
 
 In case you don't read Middle English, the poet A. S. Kline has thoughtfully provided a modern translation of the poem.

And in a clearing on a hill of flowers
Was set this noble goddess, Nature;
Of branches were her halls and her bowers
Wrought according to her art and measure;
Nor was there any fowl she does engender
That was not seen there in her presence,
To hear her judgement, and give audience.

For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Of every species that men know, I say,
And then so huge a crowd did they make,
That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake
Was so full, that there was scarcely space
For me to stand, so full was all the place.

 Whoever first decided that February 14 is the date when young birds' fancies turn to thoughts of love, I've no idea, and despite Chaucer and his pals at the Courts of Love, I doubt that many of the birds in our frozen Northern wonderland are thinking of anything but staying warm today. The wind has been fierce, the temperatures are dropping, and any potential nesting materials are covered by a fair amount of snow. But. . . .

Something has had red-shouldered hawks flying through the neighborhood for the last several days, emitting their unmistakeable hawk screech. Last summer there were so many looping about overhead that we wondered if the wanderers were adolescents checking out nesting sites, and 2015 seems to be shaping up to be another Year of the Hawk. 

Maybe love is in the air.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

An interlude

The world news is horrible. So, for those days when one despairs of humans, some cat pictures.

Mirabel wanting something

 Mirabel being mysterious

Mittsy and Feraldine refusing to speak to each other

Miss Kitty on her throne
 the late, lamented Mister Cat relaxing
 
and a flower.



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Survivors

I have always had a fondness for survivors, those beings that manage somehow to keep going under less-than-favorable conditions or for really long periods of time. Given the fascination so many people have with ancient plants like dawn redwood and gingko, I suspect that I am not alone. Followers of this blog may remember my fondness for Stumpy the semi-tailless squirrel (alas, missing for more than a year now and presumed dead)--and of course, for all the weedy plants about which I have waxed rhapsodic at various times.

Yesterday's snowfall brought another new survivor to the yard. Watching all the action at the backyard feeders (here's a sample),


 I noticed an unusual bird, a female cardinal missing the crest characteristic of the species.


a female with her crest, visiting at the same time

Our crestless lady seemed perfectly healthy and frisky and was indeed one of our larger birds, so whatever predator or parasite caused the loss of her plumage evidently caused no serious damage. (I would like to know her story, though: did she barely escape one of the neighborhood hawks? Did Scooter the Maine Coon get too close? The bird wasn't telling.)

The snow also transformed the yard, giving new interest to the grass garden I loved so much in the late summer. Not all grasses, even of the same species, respond to snow in the same way. The little bluestem at center right refused to lean over, while a clump closer to the street separated into a vase shape that bowed to the ground, as did most of the shorter grasses. The white also gave some variation to what had become a (to my eyes) monotonous brown landscape (this winter thus far being short on sun).


 As wonderful as the lushness of summer is (and the older I get, the more issues I have with winter, which does not agree with my bones or my breathing), it is good to be reminded that every season brings something to learn and has its own beauty, if we can take the time to look.