Late spring weather report

Is this the coldest, dreariest June ever? Or does it just feel that way here at the Jersey Shore? I feel like I live in London, or somewhere out on the coast of Oregon with all this fog and dampness and rain.

It’s kind of depressing.

There have been moments of light and magic… the rain clicking and tapping its song on the roof… the porch and its electric, marshy yellow-gray smell of storms before they get here… the big flag up the street snapping in the wind and the curtains blowing like ghosts in the night…

There was an hour or so on the beach at Spring Lake yesterday at sunset, after crab cakes for dinner at the inlet with the fishing boats going by with their escort of laughing gulls…

A bit of magic despite the gray, but I’m tired of wearing sweaters and long pants.

Is it summer yet in your part of the world?

Nice is just nice!

Susan would say this type of thing happens to me cause I’m tall or cause I’m cute, but I’d rather like to think that sometimes, occasionally, once in a while, people are just nice.

Three teenage boys made my day today!

I’d had a photograph and this little Northern Pintail painting that I’d been carting around with me while I looked for suitable frames. Both were matted to odd sizes which would ordinarily require custom framing.

If you’ve ever paid for custom framing, you know that’s not anything to be undertaken lightly.

I’d gone to a couple arts-and-crafts type stores but couldn’t find any frames to fit, nor could I dream up a cheap solution. Tonight, almost desperate, I went to the custom framing desk at AC Moore and presented my problem and asked the young kid if he had any ideas for what I might do without spending a fortune.

His pimples and the smirk on his face as he approached left me pretty doubtful.

Before I knew what was happening, he’d amassed the rest of his team: Louis came along and began searching the aisles for the perfect color frame to complement my prints, Kevin joined us for the math and measurements to cut each mat down to fit standard-size frames, while Mike did the actual cutting and framing up.

Those boys spent better than an hour with me. All the while I kept saying, “This feels an awful lot like a custom frame job, boys!”

I’d started to worry that they’d misunderstood me. I’d started to worry what all this attention was going to cost me.

Turns out, frames are 40% off this week and my nearly *custom* framing was free, on these adorable boys who, apparently, needed something to do tonight, or needed practice, or just felt like being nice.

Imagine that.

The total cost for both was less than $25. I’m thrilled. I’m wondering at my good fortune. I’m wondering what one does to repay the kindness of strangers, especially considering the unlikely source of that kindness.

My brother just scares me

This from his Facebook profile.


He called me today, while he sat in traffic on his iPhone, to wish me a Happy Birthday. Said he felt bad that there hadn’t been cake; felt bad that he hadn’t called.

Anyway… he mentioned that he finally got himself on Facebook and that I should look for him.

I had to ask if there was a picture and if I’d recognize him.

“A bearded one,” he said.

“Your Osama Bin Laden pic?” I asked, referring to his profile pic here on Blogger.

“Not quite,” he said.

Of course not. This time it’s My Brother the Christian Crusader.

I’m wondering how many more uses he can dream up for that silly fake beard.

Another look

A toad’s facial expression doesn’t seem to change much from moment to moment.


Easy for me to say, right? I’m not about to become its next meal.

This pic shows a bit more detail… the three or more warts on the largest dark spots that help to differentiate between the Fowler’s and a plain old American Toad.

There’s also some rubbish in books about the shape of cranial crests and their nearness to the parotoid glands that helps distinguish one toad from another. I know Fowler’s by their call, first. It’s a long, “Waaaaaaaaa” that sounds almost like a baby crying. Not as sweet a sound as the first Peepers of spring, but a welcome sound in the Barrens nonetheless.

Happy Lucky Idiot

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself yesterday… it was my birthday and it poured rain all day and there was no cake and I had to work…

Can you hear that tiny little violin playing there in the background?

The day after, a couple hours in the sunshine, a walk on the beach, the neighborhood kingbird, and this little poem and all is right with the world again.

If you have time to chatter
Read books
If you have time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
sing songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot

–Nanao Sakaki

Nature stark naked

Every new flower’s my favorite for a while… so bear with me here. Turkey Beard is a characteristic Pine Barrens plant and, according to all my books, quite common and easy to find.


The knowing where to look is key, apparently.

Mostly I just wander on my own when I go there; a precarious thing considering my poor sense of direction and how easily one might get lost among the intersecting sand roads. My always-turn-right strategy has served me well enough so far, but one of these days…


It must be the strange, hard-won beauty of the place that captivates and distracts me so… the craggy pines and impenetrable scrub that holds the promise of something new at every visit. I don’t always find something new, of course, some days I just wander aimlessly and get eaten alive by skeeters and deer flies. Or practically freeze to death in the winter. Those things are pretty fun, too, when done in the spirit of exploration.

There is something grand, charming and desirable in this vaguely despised country… the sand, the pines… it is Nature stark naked.” –Phillip Vickers Fithian, a Revolutionary War chaplain

Captured: A moment

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” –Victor Borge

Photo by Nina.

It had been six months or so, that first night at Smokey’s, since Susan and I had had a chance to catch up, face to face. There was lots to talk about and some to laugh about, too.

Some, who like to tease, might compare her to another, more easily recognized birder-blogger, but I know better. She and I are like opposite sides of the same coin.

I’ve said that before, I know.

We’d toasted to our gathering, had dinner with old and new friends, and then, like the bad kids in the bunch we aspire to be, slipped outside during the evening’s program to laugh together and goof around without any audience. We did that a lot during our couple days together in W. Va.

The tables turned

Consider the cunning necessary for a plant – about the slowest-moving life form on earth – to lure, capture and consume a fast-moving insect.


Sundews set their insect traps well below where their flowers bloom and lure prey by means of a sticky substance secreted by hairs on each of the leaves… it glistens in the sunlight and serves as a beacon to passing insects (and wandering photographers).

I was surprised to find spatulate-leaved sundews, as well as thread-leaved sundews, outside of a bog in the mostly dry sandy soil near the Speedwell entrance to the Franklin Parker Preserve.

Here is a bloodthirsty little miscreant that lives by reversing the natural order of higher forms of life preying upon lower ones, an anomoly in that the vegetable eats the animal.” –Neltje Blanchan