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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It gets better

Winter in the Mid-Ohio Valley is not one of my favorite things.Cold, damp weather does not agree with my arthritis, and our "F" score on the Lung Association's particulate matter scale does not agree with my breathing (and while some of us around here joke that breathing is overrated, it is an activity that is generally necessary). Snow is pretty, but there is nothing pretty about the ongoing mud season that has been with us since Halloween or so. The last few years, I've been threatening to move back to Florida, where it's warm (when it's not oppressively hot) and I can breathe (at least when not stuck in traffic).

My spouse's truncated holiday break did not improve my mood. A major snowstorm is bearing down on Toledo, so he headed back today--on Tuesday--so as not to be stranded away from a mandatory Friday meeting. (Weather Underground is threatening a foot or more of snow between now and Thursday, and we have become quite the weather wimps when ice is involved.)

But then, filling the feeders, I noticed a heavily-striped LBB perched on a lonicera near the compost pile. If it was what I think--a fox sparrow, though I didn't get that good a look--it was my first. A life bird, literally in our own backyard.

The neighborhood was noisy today as well. The wrens were caroling from the top of the American holly, chickadees were making their cheerful chickadee sounds, and assorted chirps were coming from the bushes. Being grumpy around wrens and chickadees is probably not possible.

One of the Black Squirrels of North Parkersburg decided to pay a visit, as did the leucistic cardinal first sighted last spring. Another cardinal variation--this one an orangey bronze--showed up at one of the feeders.
Maybe I'll survive the winter.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Today's Sightings

This was not a particularly exciting day, but when our surroundings are gray, rainy, and 42 degrees and we are stuck inside with the usual winter respiratory crud, we take what we can get. So, today brought:
  • cardinals
  • house finches
  • at least one wren
  • and a quick glimpse of what I hope was Stumpy the squirrel.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The turning

Today was the shortest day of the year, tonight the longest night. For those of us with a tendency to photosynthesize (as my long-suffering spouse says I probably do), this is the real New Year, the time after which the days get longer and the light returns. I don't do resolutions, but here are some hopes for the next year.
  • Less restlessness. As the number of days behind me increases, I find myself wanting to experience more of the lives I haven't lived. This is not necessarily a problem, as long as I don't get too distracted to enjoy the perfectly good life I have.
  • Less time on the computer. A good start is the fact that I have no online classes this term, for the first time since 2009.
  • More time with friends. Most of the time, grading papers can wait a few more hours. The humans in one's life should always not be squeezed in around work.
  • More time outside. 
  • More wildlife. I am hoping for the pileated woodpecker to put in another appearance in our oak trees--and if this year's snowy owl irruption found its way to Parkersburg, that would be a great beginning for the New Year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I like squirrels

I know that serious birders are annoyed by squirrels, but, luckily, I seem not to be a serious anything. I like the way that squirrels manage to find their way to the choice tidbits they want, regardless of the difficulty. (Yes, those are upended resin chairs in the background. I've been too lazy to right them, since they'll just blow over again and we've no garage in which to store them.)

 Who could not like that face?
 They show up on gray days when there's not much else going on.
 And they have cute butts.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Waiting for the light

This has been a hard winter already, and winter isn't even officially here yet. Among our immediate acquaintance, there have been two deaths of mothers--both elderly, but still a difficult transition. A friend's spouse, barely 60, is receiving hospice care and unlikely to live into the new year; in the same family, the eldest child, born with a neurological disorder, is failing. Another friend is providing care for two invalid parents at home; her father is fading rapidly. A church friend is bedridden from another neurological disorder and drawing near the end, and just this morning, a neighbor died unexpectedly. His wife was out of town, and the fire department was called to break into the house when he failed to show up for work and she couldn't reach him by phone. I can only imagine the horror of her trip back to our valley.

Enough already. The sun has come out for what seems the first time in days. The solstice can't bring the light back too soon.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A shortage of cardinals?

Blogger and artist extraordinaire Julie Zickefoose has noted a decline in the number of cardinals near her Whipple, Ohio, home. Given that final exams have just ended, my last grades were posted last evening, and the weather today was cold and miserable, I've not been spending a lot of time outside. Embarrassing as such a thing is to confess, some days I didn't even check the feeders. When I have, though, there have been cardinals somewhere about, sometimes two pairs at a time, so our neighborhood seems to have been spared the shortage..

Is anyone else missing any of our lovely redbirds?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A calm before the (predicted) storm

The weather forecast is reminding me of what I don't like about winter: rain turning to ice turning to snow--maybe five inches of it on top of ice by Saturday morning, just in time for the student-sponsored energy efficiency expo at which our group is supposed to staff an informational table. Any weather prediction involving ice reads to me like the universe telling everyone to Stay Home. (I'm a serious weather wimp.) Sigh.

But yesterday and today have been a whole 'nother story--temperatures in the low sixties, prompting the playing of hooky from grading, at least for a while. (The student portfolios wait so patiently, after all.) Some of the welcome sights and sounds:
  • a horde of robins feasting on tiny red crabapples
  • the murmuring of starlings seeking high trees in which to roost
  • the front yard semi-tidy after I (finally!) whacked back most of the perennials
  • a wren perched on the chimney announcing its presence to the world
  • something that may have been a pileated woodpecker excavating a large hole in a sycamore in the city wildlife refuge--the bird just wouldn't cooperate by lifting its head out of its work.
Now if the snowy owl irruption just gets to Johnson T. Janes Park, I might even make peace with winter.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

So much for that

After yesterday's sunny loveliness, today turned gray and brought air about as damp as air can get without rain actually falling. At least, temperatures are predicted to stay mostly above freezing for the next few days (even if there's not much sun in the forecast), so we can be grateful for the universe's small favors.

But--the pink muhly grass is still sort of pink (even though it's looking scraggly), the abundant seedheads on various wildflowers predict plenty of seed for the birds and lots of flowers for next summer, and the winter birds are trickling in. Life could be worse.