The Clearwater Festival is an annual event; the state’s largest and oldest environmental music festival. I usually always find an excuse to go, even if it’s just for an hour or so to stroll among the vendors or listen to the music at the circle of song (pictured here).

I first remember going when I was in high school and back then the festival took place at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook, right along the bay. A much nicer setting than where it is now, I think.

Anyway… there’s always an interesting mix of people to make for fun people-watching: hippie-types straight out of the sixties, kids with their faces painted like butterflies or flowers, today I even saw a young couple, multiple tattoos and body-piercings among them, strolling along with a rather large and vocal parrot on the woman’s wrist.


A coffee story

I read the sweetest little book by Julia Alvarez yesterday evening… A Cafecito Story: A Story of Love, Coffee, Birds, and Hope.


My coworker Linda, mi pana, is from the Dominican Republic and has been trying to sell me on Julia Alvarez for months. Mostly she writes something like historical fiction that spans the divide between her childhood in DR and her adult life here in the US. I enjoy the poetic way she often writes and this little book suited my short attention span of late.

It tells the story of one man’s love affair with a good cup of coffee and how the challenge of growing coffee under the shade of trees, where songbirds come to sing over the ripening coffee beans, ultimately inspires an organic shade-grown coffee company and a community. Cafe Alta Gracia is the name of that company and their coffee is available for sale through the Vermont Coffee Company.

Anyone tried it or have a favorite to recommend?

Blue-eyed grass

BLUE-EYED grass in the meadow
And yarrow-blooms on the hill,
Cattails that rustle and whisper,
And winds that are never still;

Blue-eyed grass in the meadow,
A linnet’s nest near by,
Blackbirds caroling clearly
Somewhere between earth and sky;

Blue-eyed grass in the meadow,
And the laden bee’s low hum,
Milkweeds all by the roadside,
To tell us summer is come.

Mary Austin

I love the contrast of the yellow throats with the purple petals! Another from the Chiwaukee Prairie in Wisconsin.

Birds at the beach

I wish there were something prettier to follow up that last post with, but…

I spent an hour or two at the beach after work yesterday and as much as I love it, I’m kinda scared to swim in the ocean and so mostly I just wade in a ways and try not to drown. The lifeguards here are so militant anyway, I guess because of the riptides, that they hardly let you go into the water deep enough to actually swim.

So I sat in the shallows with the gulls, letting the ocean fill my bikini bottom up with sand, just like a little kid. Fun! Gulls are pretty tolerant of people in the summertime, especially if they think you have food. They’re interesting to watch; the way they eye you over as you approach, how they watch each other and give chase if another finds an interesting morsel in the surf. They especially like pizza flavored Combos and will swallow them whole. Something really cool I saw yesterday was a bunch of those little fish the terns catch started jumping up out of the water… I guess to escape some predator down below (maybe a bluefish?)… and the gulls all got up at once and were grabbing those tormented fish right out of the air! I’ve even watched the burly gulls try to sneak up on a lone sanderling… explains why sanderlings are so flighty, I guess.

Terns are my favorites; probably I could watch them all day. I guess their young have recently fledged and the parents are still feeding them while they learn to fish for themselves. It seemed they were fishing in pairs and the adult would return to the sand with a fish in its bill, young one following behind, and land to feed the baby… sweet! Anyone else ever see that? I would think terns are acrobatic enough to be able to do a fish exchange in mid-air and wonder why they bother to land at all.

The laughing gulls are starting to look all disheveled… the summer’s drawing to a close, I guess.

Anything interesting happening with the birds in your neighborhood?


Add this to the list of Things I Didn’t Need to See

(but had to blog anyway)
(fair warning: it’s about to get worse)

(grateful for having laid my towel sidewards of him)

Can we girls offer some advice like, “No. Don’t ever. Please.”

A doorway into thanks

For terns and their fast wings
and the silvery fish that vanish beneath them.

For the little that I have
and less now, even, that you left me with.

For the oddly striped and sunblocked
and our ritual weekend-wash in the sea.

For my books
and your eye that didn’t discern their value.

For this memoried vessel
and its wealth of beauty in bloom.

It draws my eye from what’s been broken and dusted over;
a greasy black powder to name my fear.

For the comfort of neighbors
and the part of me, despite this, that wants to feel ok here.

For the perfect pink end to this day
and its voices that animate the darkest corners of my heart.

For your lack of any real malice
and the small brown bunny left in peace to be a witness.

For all the familiar things that mock me, unseen
and the Kingbird’s solemn regard.

For having no one, really, to run to
and surviving, anyway, this first of disasters.

*This post was created on a Mac!… the only happy result of my laptop and most all of my camera gear being stolen early this week. I’m working my way through being angry… and trying to find that thankful place in my heart again.

Free from the forest

I stumbled across an assemblage of mushroom geeks today (prior to our local audubon chapter’s summer meeting) and showed them this pic of a day-glo orange cauliflower shaped mushroom I’d found in the woods in Michigan…

They all looked very excited and started licking their lips…

It would not occur to me to eat anything this flourescent, honestly.

But Chicken of the Woods, as it’s known, is quite tasty according to those in the know.

Can anyone here recommend it? Have a nice recipe to share, just for fun maybe?

Under a prairie sky

It seems to me nothing man has done or built on this land is an improvement over what was here before.

An example of one such place, land that hasn’t ever been tilled for agriculture or improved in some way for development, lies halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. A genuine tallgrass prairie, the Chiwaukee offers a delightful mix of native grasses, uncommon sedges and drop-dead gorgeous orchids among the many wildflowers that bloom within its swells and swales.

It’s an excellent place to test your plant identification skills. I was fortunate to have a botanist and walking-encyclopedia along with me to identify plants. I’d point and Jim would spit out a Latin name. Kinda Pavlovian and fun.


I was tickled to spot this beauty first, after he walked right past it.

The Prairie White Fringed Orchid is a federally threatened species and like most orchids, rather mysterious in its growing habits… some years there’s lots, others not so many. We found just two, I think, on the small portion of the Chiwaukee’s 225 acres that we walked through.

Swaying back and forth among the grasses… delicate and exquisite… and tall at about three feet, it was easy for me to see why there are volunteers sufficiently enthralled with this particular orchid to stand in for their hawkmoth benefactors and pollinate them by hand, with toothpicks, at various sites within their range. So beautiful were they that I hardly saw any of the other wildflowers that surrounded them.

Pristine as it may be, the Chiwaukee and all its wonders are surrounded by houses and sprawl and represents just a small fragment of the native prairie that once existed in that part of the country.

It’s hard for me to imagine anyone plowing these under to grow corn or soybeans or heaven-forbid-Walmarts, but that’s not my reality. Far removed, I see only the interplay between an ancient prairie threatened by people, even as it’s watched over and appreciated by others.