The older we get…

“Seek out old people. When you find some, give them joy. Listen closely. Remember that each old person is a library. Listen closely. Be useful. Bring the gift of yourself. Be voluntary. Visit with magic. Try playing their game. Let wisdom seep in. Cradle your own future old person. Be gentle. Listen closely. Pay attention to an old person. The treasures will be revealed.” –Sark, A Creative Companion

I had a second visit with an eighty-something-year old client today; quite the character this man is! Today’s visit was a bit more enjoyable than our last in early January; he’s since been fitted for a hearing aid and we didn’t need to shout at one another this time. He’s almost practically blind with glaucoma so couldn’t read the letter I’d sent to let him know I’d be stopping by. I stood in the pouring rain for the ten minutes it took him to get to the door with his walker to let me in and then he couldn’t see me to remember who I was.


The real purpose of my visit was to make sure that his landlord had done some necessary repairs that I’d required, but I could have just as easily done that over the phone – but for all that shouting! – the fact is that I love to visit my elderly clients in person when possible. They’re often grumpy, but I love them anyway and usually end up feeling like I want to bring them home with me or at least adopt them for the holidays.

We had a nice visit and chatted about all his health issues and the problems he’s been having adjusting to the hearing aid. Then the stories started – that’s what I look forward to the most, you know! He told me about the jazz band he played horn in for many years – dixieland – and the time his band was asked to play at a funeral and had all the mourners up and dancing in the back of the funeral chapel. He also told about a half dozen bad jokes, but I laughed and he laughed and that’s what matters, I guess.

Most of the seniors I visit live alone and are too far from family to have any sort of support network in place. Plus, I imagine they’re really lonely and like the chance to talk with someone who’s kind enough to listen.

I know it was that way with my dad. I used to pity the poor telemarketer or grocery store clerk who met him when he was in a talkative mood – which was practically always! – he could go on and on for hours and mostly my brothers and I had already heard all of his stories at least a thousand times so had stopped listening, really. I regret that now, of course, and sometimes feel like I would give almost anything to hear my dad tell the story of breaking my mother’s Christmas angel or any of the hundreds of others he had saved up, just one more time.

I think the lesson for me in this is that it’s too easy to take your own family for granted; the old guy I saw this morning has a few sons around, but I wonder if they are able to delight in him the way I found myself doing today. It’s not easy to do, I guess, when other issues or emotions get in the way of just enjoying one another’s company, but I think courtesy, a lot of patience and some extra attention can go a long way in making the elderly feel like they have something to offer the rest of us. It doesn’t take much to be kind, does it? And they see far and know so much; we need only really listen.

Little toot

I roamed around for an hour or so on Sunday at the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, but spent most of the afternoon at the inlet in my car because it was freezing cold along the boardwalk. Lots of people out despite the cold. The draw for me at the inlet there is the chance to see loons up close – I have some awful photos, but wont subject you to them. Point Beach and the inlet, especially, is a favorite spot for locals, I think because of the chance to watch the fishing boats come and go. There’s a still thriving industry there and I get a kick out of seeing the boats and the interesting names people come up with for them. This was a favorite of the day.

8 month pupdate

His voice hasn’t completely changed yet and he still pees like a girl, but I’ve gone ahead and scheduled the appointment to have Luka neutered. The vet will keep him overnight one day in early March, so that’s at least a few hours of peace I can look forward to.

Yes, the honeymoon is over.


He is such a clown; when I’m not completely annoyed with him I laugh until tears stream from my eyes. I have more bruises than I care to mention from his flying leaps into my lap. He gallops through the house like a horse in miniature or a bull in a china shop. He insists on getting a carrot anytime the bunnies do. He steals banana skins from the garbage can. He pokes his head in while I’m taking a shower. He follows me everywhere and leers at me with that damn ball in his mouth from behind every corner.

And he sleeps next to me and keeps me warm at night. And is happy to see me when I come home. And he drags me outside for walks. And he makes me laugh.

Mostly he’s a good thing. Guess I’ll have to keep him.


Fire-fire, where-where, here-here…

I’m thinking today about the first time I saw an indigo bunting – on my first *real* bird walk – and the naturalist who was responsible for my seeing it and many other firsts that day. During the ten years or so since, I’ve thought back to how fortunate I was to have met Don and the rest of that little group of old folks that day when I was feeling so new to birds and, quite honestly, clueless.

I had this new pair of cheap binoculars that I hardly knew how to use and all the enthusiasm in the world. But I didn’t know anyone to teach me about birds, so I signed myself up for a walk around the nature center where I had also just recently agreed to volunteer once a month. I recall being embarassed with myself for knowing nothing and not seeing a familiar face amongst the group. But Don was leading and there were other friendly faces that I soon learned belonged to more volunteers at the nature center. We saw all the birds that were common to the neighborhood around the center (set in the middle of a cornfield, basically) and they were all wonderful and new to me then. The indigo bunting was the first bird I saw, and I mean really saw, and wow – I was just bewildered with its beauty and the seeming magic of the gentle man who pulled it out of the treeline, by its song alone, for me to see.

I remember his patience with me, the new kid, repeating the words to the song over and over, patience with me while I struggled to find that little blue bird singing from the treetops; “Fire-fire, where-where, here-here, see it-see it, put it out-put it out…”

As it turned out, Don was a neighbor, and I’d run into him on my walks in the woods near home, or in the grocery store, or in Cape May, or at the local Audubon meetings and we’d talk birds and share our latest good finds from the neighborhood. He often suggested that I call his wife and invite her along when I went looking for birds because he didn’t have the time to do as much birding as either of them might have liked.

The last time I saw Don was a few months back at the memorial service for another local birding buddy. Don wasn’t himself then; he’d been sick for a while, with something the doctors hadn’t been able to figure out. I read today that Don died this week from ALS that had only recently been diagnosed. What a terrible shock.

Do me a kindness and take a minute to read his obit and think a kind thought or say a prayer for his family. I’ll think of him and remember the bunting’s song and be glad to have known this quiet man who shared his love of nature so willingly with others.

Seeing spots

Have you seen this photo? Pretty amazing, isn’t it? I’d imagine those to be locust or apple blossoms that are camouflaging the fawn’s spotted back. Smart mama, I think, to leave her little one there.


(I have a migraine at the moment… hence the post title)

Weather report

Isn’t that a pretty sun
setting in a pretty sky?
Will we stay and watch it darken?
Will we stay and watch it darken?

–The Waterboys Church Not Made With Hands

It was 74 degrees today here at the Jersey Shore. 74 degrees on the 6th of February. Hmmm… the sunset was right for the season: a pink bowl glazed with gold and orange that quickly changed to deep purple and brilliant blue that deepened then to black.

The gulls and runners were out in force along the boardwalk, as they should be, both facing into the warm wind. The cabanas and empty condos are shuttered against blizzards that may never come this winter. The marina boats are wrapped in plastic and the motels empty among the blinking traffic lights.

Where’s the snow to fill the gullies in the jetty? Why isn’t the sand crunching underfoot? Why aren’t my eyes tearing with the wind along my raw cheeks?

What is wrong with this picture?


A year ago this week I was watching the iceboats on the Navesink, kids skating and playing *river* hockey. Today I put the air-conditioner on in my car and have most of the windows open here at home tonight.

This balmy weather is a treat, but I’m sure we’ll pay for it somehow. Probably with an Easter Sunday blizzard or the likes.


The interim

Hal Borland made me chuckle this morning with this:

“No matter what happens now, the year has committed itself, January is past, this is February, and up there ahead lie March and April. And May. But since man is man, not woodchuck, he has to live with the interim, not sleep it out and emerge into a green and vernal world. Incidentally, there weren’t any woodchucks out in this neck of the woods on Groundhog Day. If the alarm clock went off, they let it ring, as they usually do.

This is probably as good a time as any to remember that it is only 85 days until May Day, when violets will be in bloom and the lawn will need to be mowed again. And it is only 149 days till the Fourth of July, when the beaches will be jammed and sunburn will be as universal as sniffles are now.

And it is only 208 days till Sept. 1st. That won’t be the end of Summer by the almanac, but to all practical purposes Autumn starts with Labor Day. Back to the desk, back to work, back to school. And the next thing we know, it will be October and first frost and Columbus Day and the height of the color in the trees in New England. And before you can catch your breath it will be Thanksgiving. How time flies! If you really must know, it is only 323 days till Christmas. And then it will start snowing again.

Maybe we shouldn’t have brought the matter up to begin with. But it is February, after all, only 85 days till May Day.” — from Sundial of the Seasons

Day after day, year upon year I find a minute to read the day’s entry in this favorite of all my books. Hal Borland somehow always manages to speak to the things I know to be true and, more often than not, makes me laugh in the process.

I laugh at myself for longing to see my little pond alive again, like in this photo, rather than the sad gloomy mess it is at the moment. I almost can’t wait to have my hands in the dirt come Spring, though it will mean an end to the twice monthly manicures that have my fingernails looking pretty for a change.

That’s not to say that I’m not enjoying this time in between, but maybe that it’s the anticipation of the next that makes now enjoyable. Tonight it’s almost 60 degrees and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have found my way out to the farm field in back to see if the woodcock weren’t feeling that same anticipation.

My first love

A bunny from memory… my sweet Mr. Bean! He was my first flemish giant and I didn’t have anything big enough to keep him in, so his litterbox and other stuff ended up in the bathroom and he had run of the house. Mostly he liked to hang out behind a chair in the living room or here in the office with me. I never knew where I’d find him… under the spare bed, curled up under the little wicker coffee table like in this pic, on top of a pile of school papers. He was such a gentle bunny and made me a lover of flemmies for life, I think. Can’t imagine not having a few of them around the place, in fact. Giant bunnies are so very different than other bunnies… so laid back and affectionate. Lots of people are afraid of adopting a giant rabbit – imagine a rabbit the size of a small dog – but they are just the sweetest of the lot. And just look at the size of those back feet! Lots of luck there.


Around town

Saturday errands can be such a bore, but today was a lovely day to be out and about. It felt warmish almost and there were no signs of ice on any of the local waters.

I love living with so much water close to home; there’s always a little creek or river or the bay or ocean within sight. A water view always cheers me. And if there’s waterfowl in winter or herons and terns in summer, well… I’m sure to be smiling.

There were a dozen or more parasurfers out on the bay this afternoon, and foolishly I didn’t stop to photograph them before the wind died down. This guy had been windsailing and was just picking up his gear while I watched. Of course he insisted he was plenty warm in his wetsuit!

Even the ever-present Canada Geese are beatiful in the right light on a winter afternoon.

I visited with some gulls in a parking lot littered with broken clam shells along the river. My car and I almost ended up in that very river today due to a moment’s inattention. Foolish, but I had a good laugh at myself as a result.

Yeah… I was that close to going into the drink! Pretty view, but would’ve been hard to explain to the tow-truck guy (or the scuba team).

So… how’s the view in your neighborhood?