Category Archives: Small truths

Writing the whys

4-21-16I recently prompted our group of Comeback Bloggers (isn’t that a great name?!?) to think about why we each started blogging however many years ago. It’s an interesting question for me to think about because it relates to why I stopped blogging regularly and also to why I’m a bit hesitant to dive back in to it.

I could easily claim that blogging was solely an outlet for self-expression and a way for me to share my thoughts or engage with others. I might also say that writing helped me to understand myself better and that my blog provided a “scrapbook” of sorts to reflect upon. All of those things are true, or mostly so. I’ve certainly learned over the years that I write to find out what I think. Anybody who knows me personally will agree that I’m not usually a big talker; I’m never quick to jump in with my opinion. The process of writing, which I approach fairly methodically, helps me to clarify how I feel about things. Mostly I think that I write to find out what’s true.

Writing comes more easily if you have something to say. ~Sholem Asch

I started blogging on a whim and as a way to occupy myself in the evenings, but quickly found it to be a respite from what was otherwise a good, but disconnected life: a good job, a good husband, and good people that I called friends, but meaningful and thoughtful experiences were few and far between. The daily discipline of dreaming up something to write about or going out and doing something worth writing about ultimately led me to look into many a dark corner and to re-examine the choices I had made in life. As I came more and more to rely on the kindred spirits I had found through blogging, I felt the lack of depth in my real-time relationships even more completely. It’s a strange thing to discover that your blog is your own best source of information about yourself, as well as a catalyst to discussion for your loved ones. I found myself wondering why we all couldn’t just talk to each other without this electronic medium serving as an intermediary. It was also strange and pretty sad to realize that it was easier and safer for me to share my most important and deeply felt parts with strangers.

Blogging changed my life, honestly. Through blogging, I wrote my way out of one life and into another. These first couple years here haven’t been easy and I’ve not had the courage to write about it or the life I left behind. I’m afraid of what writing about it will tell me about what I think and really feel. I’m afraid of the turning inward that writing requires because it means I’ll be turning my back, so to speak, on the people around me, in favor of this anonymous platform. And the truth is, many of us are not so anonymous to one another anymore. I worry, too much sometimes, about who my audience is and what you’ll think about what I might write. I worry that I have nothing left to say. I worry that I take too many words to say nothing of importance…

😉

At any rate, I’m going to give this a go again, with a couple trusted friends for encouragement, and see where the reflection leads. Hopefully I’ll find myself somewhere good.

Do you miss blogging, too? Want to join us? Get in touch!

How to: have hope

Least Tern scrape
American Oystercatcher caginess
Waiting to be found

Just as the sun steps over the horizon, head east. Drive with the sun in your eyes until you hit water. Do not think about yesterday’s losses. Do not linger too long over what might’ve been. Do not wonder what you should have done differently.

Climb over the seawall and greet the Oystercatchers on their way to the river. Tip-toe through the wrack and nod towards the grumpy fishermen. Get down on your hands and knees to see what gifts the tide has left you. Do not mind the tears; the sand and the wind in your eyes are a good excuse.

See the Least Terns overhead: the brazen, bustling air-defense system of this beach. Let your eyes map their petite features: the quick wings, the black cap, the downward-pointing yellow bill. Count them by the dozens. Admire the simplicity of their nest: in a pebbly depression of dry sand, eggs 1 to 4, from pale greenish to dull drab, spotted with clear brown and some lavender.

Boardwalk reflections revisited

Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin. 
  ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

 

Reflection is the beauty of a time remembered, a daydream captured in a flash of sunlight and sea sparkle. Two selves connect at the photographer’s wrist on a cold October day by the sea.

I miss the boardwalk. I miss its opportunity for people-watching. I’d go there looking for things to photograph. I’d go there often to reflect and turn the world on end, to dive inside and peak beneath the ordinary world I faced everyday.

I gazed into windows searching for other dimensions. Through reflection, other worlds seemed to break free and be united. Nothing is as it seems in these photos. I love their dreaminess.

Photography is equal parts abstract art and truthful storytelling. Reflections provide creative control. Bending and twisting the world into something surreal and obscure, this tweaking of reality is incredibly freeing. And disorienting. And fun!

Reflection also grants a window into the mind. Like paint on canvas, there’s a glimpse of a loved one abstracted, but true. We might catch each other in passing, yet hardly recognize one another. These images mark a place in time: the confusion of life turned upside down and inside out, but also an honest mirror into reality.

All pix from what feels like a lifetime ago in Asbury Park, NJ.

Our carnival life on the water

“Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America — that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement… We never have the sense of home so much as when we feel that we are going there. It’s only when we get there that our homelessness begins.” ― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again 

Hurricane Sandy wrecked communities rich and poor in NJ, from the Staten Island-meets-Miami style multi-million dollar homes of Bayhead to the blue collar bayfront bungalows near where I grew up. Its images were unimaginable and unbearable to me: of trashed boardwalks pushed into the sea, of an iconic roller coaster dumped into the ocean, of a road leading into the tide where homes used to be. From a thousand miles away and desperate for news of what was happening at home, it looked as if my childhood had been washed away and that the entire Jersey Shore that I knew and loved was gone.

Eight months later, towards the beginning of last month, I went home to NJ for a couple days expecting to find a ruined way of life there, but also hoping, still, to catch a faint whiff of the competing aromas that signal “home”at the Jersey Shore: the fried dough of zeppoles just before the powdered sugar goes on, the sweet muck of a local salt marsh at low tide, the extra garlic on pizza slices and the salt spray coming off the ocean. All of these live deep in the soul of NJ for me. I found all of it, at once, and witnessed small moments in the sad seaside ritual of rebuilding the storm-damaged communities that I hold dear.

I can’t pretend to be untouched by grief at the total destruction of the shore towns that are a backdrop to a thousand stories in my life. But the Jersey Shore is more than a place; it’s more than its wood-plank promenades and town squares on stilts. It’s more than its carnival lights. It’s more than a staging ground for summer. For many, it’s an identity and an attitude. I love the shore best on foggy days when you can’t even see the boardwalk or the ocean, but can only smell it. I love the dampness and the feeling that you can almost lick the salt out of the air. I love the dampness in the sheets at night when you go to bed. You’d never put up with that anywhere else, but at the shore, it just feels right! When you walk around at night, you smell the boardwalk everywhere. There’s always a far-off murmur of traffic. It feels safe. It feels comfortable. It feels like home. All of these things, thankfully, remain.

*Photo of where a house used to be in Union Beach, one of the hardest hit communities in NJ.

*Post title from “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” by Bruce Springsteen

Stones

Stone cairns that mark the trail up Arabia Mountain

I have piled stones
on top of one another
for years now
stones of habit
stones of comfort
stones of refuge
stones to settle my heart
stones to mark the days of my journey…

It’s not uncommon to find stone cairns used as trail markers. These piles of stone help us find our way. They lead us somewhere and provide a tangible space to pause and recall. They offer a moment to get our bearings and seek direction. They hint for us to stop and listen for the whispering wind.

We may stand at a cairn and remember. We might dream or hope. Maybe we turn within to figure out the meaning behind this pile of stones. What does this place mean? What are its secrets? What are we meant to find here?

The happiness that comes to us

Disgruntled beginning birders were the theme at Sandy Hook Bird Observatory today; my first volunteer day since, oh… June, I guess.

Sitting behind the desk in that drafty building on the bay, on any given Sunday, promises a variety of experiences. Many days we see no one, but oftentimes we have a mix of visitors, full of questions, but hesitant to spend any money to validate our presence there.

Today, Donna and I managed to sell exactly one “Butterflies of Sandy Hook” checklist.

(Exactly sixty-four cents with tax.)

A banner sales day!

; )

Donna, who’s a librarian by day, is used to this sort of trading of information for the sake of visitorship. She recognizes our purpose there more readily than me, probably.

Me… I feel like I haven’t earned my keep as a volunteer if I haven’t sold at least one copy of the Sibley’s guide…

The folks who came in today or called to complain… about the birds not being Here now… or the birds not being There yesterday, were expressing a frustration that I imagine many of us feel…

We want what we want from the natural world, when we want it.

If we show up… we expect Nature will be there waiting for us, with bells on.

Right?

I’ve spent the last couple weekends at Cape May or at the hawkwatch in Montclair… looking for hawks, waiting for them to show…

They never did, really, not in any spectacular way that I’ve come to expect. Instead there was a huge passing of Monarch butterflies at Cape May and Buckeyes in the hundreds of thousands…

And a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that amused me for hours while waiting for Broadwings to pass, near invisible, overhead…

Opportunities fly by while we sit regretting the chances we have lost, and the happiness that comes to us we heed not, because of the happiness that is gone.

~Jerome K. Jerome, The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, 1889

When I didn’t know what hit me

I’m working on a different kind of list here in the last couple days before that birthday-which-must-not-be-named.

😉

It’s wanting to be a really long list and I’m having fun with making it. It’s a list that commemorates the unexpected things that can happen over the course of a year, little moments that I never saw coming, things I had no idea I’d do in a run of 365 days…

I can’t lie; it hasn’t been the easiest year. There’s been parts, in fact, that were so painful I can barely stand to speak of them.

But this is how you get over, I think: you make a list of the good.

So…

This year I:

watched an adult male harrier float over the red of an October cranberry bog

had dumplings in chinatown and alligator sausage in a cream sauce that’s to die for

went to a major league baseball game. my first ever. on opening day.

(and the home team won!)

shared black raspberry ice-cream on the first day of summer

realized that I need someone who’ll read poetry with me, or write it for me

😉

spent an afternoon photographing a coworker’s adorable babies

wished on a falling star in the mountains at Christmas

learned to like hugs from my big brothers

(well, almost.)

stood high above the New River bridge and then way down below it, again

hosted THE bird-blog carnival and survived

unknowingly started an airport postcard collection

had my hair blown wild as seaweed in a boat on Lake Superior

(and didn’t puke!)

got hooked on lavender lemonade and yoga on the boardwalk

watched lots of spectacular sunsets

found the singular most beautiful orchid. period.

got my first ever parking ticket and had my first ever car accident (today!)

(the good in that isn’t immediately obvious, but I’m hopeful)

learned to make an omelette and pump gas

finally got over some of my little-girl fears of swimming in the ocean

played poker for laundry money

learned what real heat and humidity feel like

found my 5th grade teacher on Facebook and she remembered me!

saw flamingos!

spent the better part of an afternoon lost on Rte. 3 and found myself at José Tejas

watched ravens weave invisible patterns with the wind

– – – – – – – – – – –

Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel. ~Author Unknown

I’ve been blessed this year, for sure.

Side of the road

You wait in the car on the side of the road
Lemme go and stand awhile
I wanna know you’re there, but I wanna be alone
If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you

I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind
If I stray away too far from you, don’t go and try to find me
It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it doesn’t mean I won’t come back and stay beside you

It only means I need a little time
To follow that unbroken line
To a place where the wild things grow
To a place where I used to always go

If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you
I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind.

A thousand miles there and back to spend a day with friends, old and new, gathered for the New River Birding and Nature Festival might seem crazy to some…

In fact, probably it was crazy to do, but the singing birds, the people, the chance to wander alone looking for wildflowers in those riotously rich West Virginia mountains … it’s all kinda irresistible to me.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Lyrics from “Side of the Road” by Lucinda Williams.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Photos:

(1) Windflower (Anemone sp.) Among my favorite wildflowers, Anemones are heartbreakingly beautiful and delicate

(2) Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis) I dragged Jim McCormac out in the near dark yesterday to show me where to find this beauty

(3) A giddy me photographing blooming May-Apples

(4) May Apple flower (Podophyllum peltatum) The parasol-like foliage of May-Apples is cool enough, but the flowers are especially lovely; more so cause you have to lie with your face in the dirt to photograph them where they hide beneath the leaves

😉

(5) Fire Pink (Silene virginica) So named not because of their color, obviously, but because of the scissor-like notches on the petals… thanks Susan!

Fire Pink and silly me photos by MevetS.