Letter to me

Country music is a guilty pleasure I’ll admit to. The sappier the better.

Throw your rotten tomatoes at me now… get that out of the way, first.

OK… so.

I had this great creative writing teacher in the eighth grade and then again as a junior in high school. Mrs. Cella had us write daily journal entries which she would comment on once a week when she collected our journals for grading.

It occurs to me now that Mrs. Cella would’ve loved blogging and the interaction between writers and their audience.

Most often she wanted us to *free write* about whatever came to mind, in whatever format we chose. Those were painful, difficult entries for me to make, faced with a blank sheet of paper.

Kind of like blogging sometimes.


In her comments in our journals she was a writing coach, but as is often the case when working with adolescents, it gave her the opportunity, I suspected at least, to get into our heads and act as social worker and therapist; an adult we could be honest with in a *safe* non-judgmental arena.

Every so often she’d give us an actual topic for our journal entries and usually I enjoyed those; enjoyed a guide with which to focus my thoughts.

I remember one of the topics she gave us was the opposite of Brad Paisley’s idea with this song of his; rather than writing as an adult to our 17 year-old selves, she had us write a letter to our grown-up selves.

I’d love to be able to put my hands on that old journal of mine. Buried in the closet in my childhood home, one of my brothers probably found it when we sold the place and is holding onto it to embarrass me with someday.


(Ramble, ramble.)

Mrs. Cella often criticized my rambling away from the point at hand.

I like the spirit of this song, for all its hokeyness and thought I’d have a go at a similar letter.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Dear Laura,

For Godsakes stop being so shy!

Stop thinking you’re too skinny!

Go with the curls; one day you’ll laugh that you ever wasted so much time trying to have hair like every other girl.

That guy: dump him. Quick! Don’t wait till just before the Senior Prom. That’ll feel sweet, of course, but…

The quarterback of the football team wants to ask you out… and a couple baseball players too, but instead you’re wasting your time with that jerk.

Those other quiet girls in your classes that you won’t give the time of day to even… take the time to make friends with them!  They’ll write the sweetest things about you in your yearbook and you’ll wonder how you never even noticed them.

Dad will not be heartbroken if you drop Calculus. Honest.

Speaking of Dad… give him a break. Enough of your moodiness. Enough of the silent loathing. You’ll regret it sooner than you expect to.

Mrs. Martin… tell her what a great teacher she is. Tell her even though you’re sure she must know. You’ll understand one day how nice those words sound coming from a student.

Smile in your graduation photo… you’ll be looking at that sad face years from now wondering why it looked like the whole darn world was on your shoulders.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Add something, if you would, of what you’d include in a letter written now to your teenage-self. Maybe just that one big thing.


I promise not to take points off for rambling, either.


There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
— Albert Einstein

Twinflowers are tiny! That I’d somehow spotted a miniature forest of them blanketing a spot of sun in the cool damp woods of Northern Michigan was the first miracle. Surviving the swarms of mosquitos long enough to get a couple shots was the next.

Three reasons I got nothing done today

Is there any sweeter distraction than that of baby birds?

Oh and don’t worry about the one in the middle… it does have a head. I think it might just have been mid-nap when I snapped this pic.

THE pic I missed was when a spotty-breast baby robin perched itself as the fourth beggar in the row and was rebuffed by the parent kingbird… made me giggle for a half-hour at least.


Two uses for a lily

Hmm… which is prettier?

This Eastern Kingbird considers himself the watchman of the neighborhood and since they’ve bloomed, has been landing amid the small patch of daylilies beside the courtyard here.

Whether he’s just appropriating a convenient hunting perch or instead has some aesthetic sense of his own handsomeness, I’m not sure.

What do you think?


The bird no one knows

Our nation’s list of imperiled species includes some celebrities… sexy ones like the Whooping Crane and the Florida Panther.

Most, however, are virtually unknown.

The Kirtland’s Warbler, one of the rarest of songbirds, is a specialist and nests only within a very particular habitat.

The habitat itself, even, is imperiled.

The scrubby, non-descript trees that emerge from sandy and fire-scorched terrain in isolated parts of Michigan are the bird’s touchstone. Jack Pines, like the Pitch Pines more familiar to me, require fire for regrowth.

Fire isn’t very popular in residential or commercial or agricultural areas, but the Kirtland’s depend on the mosaic of changes inherent in the destruction and subsequent renewal caused by fire.

They nest only in those areas where fire has created the conditions that select for early successional plants… plants that typify a pine barrens community. Without proper management, gradually the Jack Pines grow too tall, the canopy closes in and the grassy understory where they build their nests disappears because of low light levels.

The birds move elsewhere… or try to. Aggressive management has allowed for the hope of recovery and populations are increasing.

None of this has anything to do with what it felt like to wander in those pine plains searching for a Kirtland’s.

This is not a bird that I’d hoped ever to know.

The Kirtland’s is near mythic among birders and the makings of a pilgrimage for many.

I was just along for the ride.

Please click on the pic! It’s one of only a dear dozen or so and is especially sweet because he’s carrying food in his beak.

Yoga with an audience

I arrive at yoga class at the Y really early so I can stake out my comfortable spot way in the back left corner. The lights are low. I can hide there.

So… yoga on the boardwalk, in broad daylight, was a bit of a stretch for me.


I very nearly bailed when my sister-in-law called at the last minute to say she wouldn’t be able to make it to join me. Then I thought, “What the hell?”

I’m glad I did… it was a lot of fun. There’s something really humbling about practising yoga outdoors, with the sky and the ocean at finger’s reach and crowds of people gawking and pointing and laughing.


The class meets outside a little health food shop on the boardwalk and proceeds benefit Mary’s Place by the Sea in Ocean Grove.

Bad bird photo of the week

Can you hear the evil cackling from behind my computer screen?


I imagine there’s enough here for guessing anyway.

As to hints, well… the pic was taken roadside, behind a restaurant featuring pasties.

And I did eventually learn the proper pronunciation of that delicacy, but not before embarrassing myself with the waitress.

Without a map

Along the northern shore of Lake Michigan… a pic taken at a stop along the way to somewhere else… a chance to stretch our legs and see what there was to see.

I was struck by the familiar… the feel of the wind in my hair and dunes dotted with tansies. I filled the pockets of my jeans with tiny purple mussels cast ashore and wondered at a sea without salt and waves without a tide.

Explorers believed the world had an edge and they could fall off if they went wrong.

I think they were right.

This world is full of edges and falls. That horizon might be a new world or it could be a cliff.

Still, this is true.

I look around me and find the horizon is only a line drawn in the sky… a kind of dare.

For navigating… there’s the fear map that directs me back to shore where it’s safe and dry and comfortable. But following that map means going backwards. And backwards causes my heart to sink, really.

Always, there’s the straight line, the *I know exactly where I mean to be* map. I keep thinking I can somehow convince myself of this, so long as I keep both hands on the wheel and don’t let my hair become undone.

Mostly I’ve given up on that, lately. My record at trying to control the world ain’t so great, plus it makes my shoulders hurt.


Instead I find myself wandering willy-nilly, easily distracted and with too much play in the steering wheel as I look at the sky… my heart and my head in their own happy argument… an argument that’s sweetly wrong, but which pushes me into trouble at awkward times and which laughs me through disaster.

Who can deny it?

“Breathe,” I keep telling myself. Feel. See. It seems simple, but is so very, very hard.

I keep forgetting.

The sea reminds me. This sea. The waves pound it at me, each a different ride, each a different possibility of diving or floating, of swimming or drifting.

The world insists itself like a lover. “Take me. Take this moment… this, now.”

Naming the dragons

“What’s the use of their having names,” the Gnat said, “if they won’t answer to them?”

“No use to them,” said Alice, “but it’s useful to the people that name them, I suppose.”

— Lewis Carrol

A person who goes traveling to far-flung places with the express purpose of seeing things should, I guess, be concerned with the naming of those things.

I rather enjoy the mystery, and the magic, of meeting these fierce-looking creatures in their own strange paradise of wet meadows and sunny paths through the forest without knowing much at all about them.

Their names don’t much matter when I find them basking in the sun on a weathered plank bridge or stunned with the chill off one of the Great Lakes. Theirs is a world entire and to be allowed entry, however briefly with the lens of my camera, is enough.



Some are so beautiful, so otherworldly, their faces so expressive…

or their existence so threatened that even the shimmer of an iridescent wing is enough to inspire me to learn more.

For those of you Type A personalities that just HAVE TO KNOW (grin) each photo is tagged with a name, as best I can guess or remember. Click on each to enlarge.