Sandy Hook Sunset

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” –John Muir

Well… I can’t quite concur with Muir, but it was a fine sunset today at Sandy Hook. The bay was like a mirror all day and the light this morning when I arrived for my volunteering at the bird observatory would have been phenomenal for photography. By the time I was done and could scan the shoreline for ducks there was nothing but glare on the bay, but that glare led to this sunset with the distant calls of oldsquaw arriving with the gentle waves at my feet.

Anybody want to ID the bird standing on the rocks?



“She was all in black but for a yellow pony tail
that trailed from her cap, and bright blue gloves
that she held out wide, the feathery fingers spread,
as surely she stepped, click-clack, onto the frozen
top of the world. And there, with a clatter of blades,
she began to braid a loose path that broadened
into a meadow of curls. Across the ice she swooped
and then turned back and, halfway, bent her legs
and leapt into the air the way a crane leaps, blue gloves
lifting her lightly, and turned a snappy half-turn
there in the wind before coming down, arms wide,
skating backward right out of that moment, smiling back
at the woman she’d been just an instant before.”
–Ted Kooser

I was delighted to come across a newly released book of Ted Kooser’s poetry – Valentines – and have been challenging myself to find a new favorite of the 23 poems each day – this one is today’s favorite.

Image by photographer Jeff Maion.

Disorganized like me

I came across an interesting article yesterday at the NY Times website (link) that sounded so familiar to me – as I’m sure it will to the rest of you teachers out there; but I wonder if those of you who parent boys won’t find it to ring true also.

One of the major challenges that I have working with my college-age male students is a lack of organizational and study skills. I saw the same in the few years I spent teaching elementary and high-school boys. The article talks about the need for these kids to visit tutors in order to learn those skills, which, let’s face it, are so basic to success in school that I wonder why they’re not ever taught as part of the regular curriculum.

Teaching kids how to learn seems so… basic; yet the assumption is that kids just know how to do those things that make success at it possible. That I or any other college professor should need to spend time, week after week, showing the same boys how to organize a binder or how to keep a record of when assignments are due – how silly, I think, considering all the *more important* stuff that schools are so focused on.

The funny thing is that I’m not a very good role model for the type of behavior I teach and my students sometimes see it. Too often they get a peak into my messy school bag filled with last semester’s final exams, grocery store receipts and that great new poetry book I picked up weeks ago and then immediately misplaced.


Do as I say, not as I do – right? Thank God no one ever sees the state of my desk here at home – the piles of bills mixed with the piles of books and the blotter still stuck in April of 2007 covered with fragments and whispers and book titles and phone numbers important enough that I won’t turn the page.

Anyone willing to fess up along with me to being a disorganized girl?


Seven month pupdate

Suffice it to say that Luka continues to grow in direct proportion to his ability to try my patience! Mostly, he’s a doll, but he’s learning about independence and the value of selective hearing. I think it’s in that area that our training classes come in handy the most; when he’s too focused on misbehaving I simply distract him with a sit/stay and generous handouts of cookies. What’s really neat is that he’s learned hand signals for all his commands, so that I needn’t even raise my voice to scream at him.


This toy that has him all googly-eyed is the only one recently that he hasn’t destroyed within minutes. Anything that’s slightly soft or has even the tiniest bit of give is torn apart and strewn across the floor somewhere. This yellow rubber jack thingy he just drops (repeatedly) at or (more likely) on my feet – or even more annoying – under the legs of a chair or the dining room table out of his reach and then he sits and woofs at it until someone comes along and retrieves it for him, only to bounce it right back under whatever again. What a PITA!

We’ve taken to calling him ‘Wiggles’ lately – he greets everyone with his whole body in a side-to-side sway. And he is a master at stealing my spot on the couch should I get up to answer the phone or something; the thing that makes me forgive him that is that he is a true lap dog (except for his size, I guess) and seems to love having someone near to snuggle with!

First of 2008

Today is the day when even common birds can be new and exciting again – if you keep a “year list” – that is! I had to hide my eyes from the house sparrows and other feeder riff-raff this morning so that my first bird of 2008 wouldn’t be the same as every other year, but was happy enough to settle for this mallard as the first of the new year. The next couple birds were canvasback, hooded merganser, and bufflehead found in the little creek that runs through my hometown.

A New Year’s tradition that I hadn’t managed for the last few years is the annual beach walk around Sandy Hook sponsored by the American Littoral Society – a great group of people who love the coast and work to protect it – plus, they have the best cocoa after a chilly hike through the dunes! That walk added a few sea ducks and a loon to my little list already.

So… what was your first bird of the new year?

Tail end

So… it’s New Year’s Eve and the time to reflect on all that’s happened this year and to look forward to whatever may come to pass in the new one.

Or, maybe, you’re less pathetic than I and are out doing something fun tonight!

I’ve always disliked New Year’s Eve and that need to be doing something, anything, other than what I feel like doing, which is typically …. nothing. I’ve usually had enough of the running around associated with the holidays at this point and am starting to think about going back to work and some sense of normalcy to my days. And that makes me want to cocoon myself beneath a blanket and preserve the sense of peace I feel right now – no parties, no relatives, no loud music or false show of cheeriness for the sake of a random day on the calendar.

I would like to thank all of you who come by here to read my ramblings for sharing a part of yourselves with me and enriching my life this past year. Everyday I feel humbled by your generous spirits and so glad for the chance to laugh and cry and be silly with you all. That I should feel connected as I do, to you all and to your lives in some small way, continues to puzzle me as much as it delights me. Anyway… thank you friends.

My wish at year’s end last year was that we should all find hope and beauty in the coming year. I was thinking then about how we sometimes come across those things in unexpected ways, or unexpected places, or even people, sometimes.

So I wondered if I’d done myself what I’d wished for us all to do… had I found hope or beauty in the unexpected? Had I been open enough to the world for that to be possible?

Looking back through the archives here I found these examples of having had my wish for the year:

January was full of beauty, mostly because I hosted the Good Planets show that month.

February brought the unexpected beauty of iceboats on the river.

In March there was hope for spring that came in the form of a witch hazel.

In April I visited the NJ Meadowlands and found beauty there too – certainly unexpected!

May was full of searching out wildflowers, and one special one that I finally found surprisingly close to home.

More flowers in June and the tiniest of beautiful butterflies.

July brought hope in the form of a little pup named Luka. God – was he ever really that small?

In retrospect, August reads like a month of transitions for me mostly, but there was some beauty from the garden, too.

September and the changing season brought a little surprise from the beach.

October had the beauty of skimmers, and buckeyes, and sanderlings. Not to mention the fun of meeting friends come to visit from afar!

There were sanderlings and the faces of friends in November, too and a beautiful day birding at Sandy Hook.

December’s been mostly foolishness, but there was this bit of the unexpected that had me smiling.

So that’s my year-in-review at the tail end of it. A good one, I think, full of nice things to remember. Some sadness, of course, but just enough to make the happy times be appreciated.

Stay safe tonight and be sure to find someone in time for that New Year’s kiss!