Let it be

Is it possible to will away poison ivy, do you think? Ignore it away, maybe? I’ve been trying to not see the funny little blisters that are replacing the sunburn on my arms and shoulders from a morning at the beach last weekend. First I thought they were blisters from too much sun on my winter-white skin. Then they started to itch a bit and I decided them bug bites. But I know better, I think.

I forget that I can’t be so cavalier in my approach to poison ivy anymore. Getting it once should have been a good lesson, but the sun and a warmish breeze off the bay at Sandy Hook conspired to make me absentminded. I was more concerned with scratching up my bare legs among the beach plums, apparently, than minding what the rest of me touched. Foolish with spring-fever, I’ll pay the price by itching until Memorial Day.

I got poison ivy for the first time only about five years ago. It was the end of the school year and I was teaching high school at the time. My classroom that year was a *modular* one (makeshift would be a better word) – school construction had a number of classrooms relocated to the gym. There were walls to separate each classroom from the next, but no doors and no proper ceilings. You can imagine the fun a group of freshman boys might have with that set-up. I always knew if there was a substitute teacher in one of the adjoining classrooms because all manner of things would come flying over the walls, hitting my angelic students on the head while they toiled over their Spanish textbooks. Great fun. At any rate, there was no air conditioning in the gym, of course, and poor poison-ivy covered me couldn’t hide my calamine-lotioned skin under long sleeves or pants for fear of fainting in the heat at the end of June. School ended and I went off to celebrate in the Adirondacks and was eaten alive by black flies on top of my poison ivy. Talk about misery!

Poison ivy is impossible to avoid at Sandy Hook – it grows in great impenetrable thickets – and this time of year it’s not looking nearly so pretty or obvious as in this pic from May of last year. There was nothing but branches with just a hint of leaves… how dangerous is that?


Don’t tell me. I’m pretending not to notice, remember?

Branching out

Late April in NJ is when one might expect young GH Owls to begin exploring outside the confines of their nests. They’re not yet able to fly, but are too big to sit still in their nests so begin to *branch* in nearby trees and test their wings until their flight feathers come in. This one was found tonight on someone’s deck and the smart people who found it called the police. (Wouldn’t have been my first call, but whatever!)

The DH picked it up (and got footed for his trouble), took it off to a local vet to be sure it was okay, stopped home to pick up the photographer (me!) and it was back in this birch close to its nest tree within an hour or so.

Have a look at those feet!

This firefighter wears pink

Tonight I just want to share this pic of my friend’s daughter… yes that’s a (gasp!) girl under all that firefighting gear – as if the pink nomex hood isn’t a dead giveaway!

Of course, she’s been teased mercilessly for this pic, but the root of the teasing is about more than her fashionable turn-out gear. Rumor has it that the guys in her company won’t allow her to drive the firetruck because she’s a (gasp!) girl. Okay for her to go into burning houses, though. Harrumph, I say! (Well… not just that, but I’ll leave it alone.)

Full story and more pics here.

Getting away

Here’s one that wouldn’t sit still long enough for a photo.


In the on-going saga of our bathroom remodel, we’ve reached the point where we (I) needed to get away… the tile for the tub and floor is down, but we can’t use either, so we’ve packed up the dog to some hole-in-the-wall-hotel for the night. I’m not sure that Luka meets the requirements of a “well-behaved pet” exactly, but that’ll be our little secret.


I’m just hoping he won’t destroy anything in the middle of the night.

Useless bird photography tips

Tip #1: If you find yourself lacking in either good equipment, skill or interesting and flamboyant birds to photograph, it always helps to take pics of birds in places one isn’t used to seeing them. This will make up for your lack of skill, somewhat. Maybe. Probably not.

Example #1: Robins belong on grassy lawns or in muddy nests, not sandy beaches. The odd habitat distracts the viewer from the less than stellar exposure and the soft focus from your long lens that is sooo darn slow.

Example #2: Eastern towhees should be skulking on the ground in leaf-strewn forests or scratching around beneath blooming beach plum bushes or in poison ivy tangles. They are almost never seen perched in trees. This from-below view is interesting for its novelty and may keep the viewer from noticing the poor composition and soft focus of your photo.

Coming soon: Tips for taking pics of any bird that sits still long enough!

Position available

Wildflower Enthusiast:
There is a temporary need for a part-time wildflower instructor willing to traipse around in the woods and point out and identify pretty flowers. Availability primarily on weekends and late afternoons during the Spring season. May also be needed for summer day trips to the NJ Pine Barrens.

Must be able to discern weeds from wildflowers and recognize garden escapees. Infinite patience with the beginner is desirable. Resistance to poison ivy helpful. Must not be deterred by wet feet, muddy knees or mosquitos. Love of rock-eating black labs might prove useful, as would a good sense of humor.

There is no salary; good company is the only thing on offer. Possibility of barter is negotiable. To trade: above-average knowledge of birdsong, organic homemade rabbit fertilizer (by the ton), best local pizza, free-range mixed baby koi/goldfish, familiarity with essential inferior poetry.

To apply, simply state the name of the flower pictured herewith. Serious inquiries only, please.

Scents and memories

My mother had one of those mirrored trays with crystal perfume bottles that she kept on her dresser… very shiny and fancy and exactly the type of thing we kids were never supposed to touch. After she passed away my dad tried giving it to me, to put on my little girl’s dresser, and I remember throwing a crying fit because I was so afraid to have it for myself. Imagine if I ever dropped one of those gorgeous bottles of perfume!

Eventually I convinced myself to take it from my mom’s dresser and put it in my own room. It never quite fit with the pink canopy bed and I still haven’t gotten over the ambivalence I felt about that damn perfume tray. It’s probably in storage somewhere or up in the attic. I don’t dare throw it away, but I don’t want to have to look at it everyday, either. Silly how an object can be tied up with so much emotional baggage more than 25 years later. I guess maybe I feel like I still haven’t grown up enough to use anything so… elegant, so classy, so like my mom.

Part of my ambivalence might also be associated with the particular perfume my mom liked. I don’t necessarily remember her wearing it – I can’t remember the sound of her voice, never mind what she smelled like – but I do remember the scent in those bottles.. Chanel No. 5. Overbearing, flowery, full of vanilla … ick. The perfume itself had probably gone over years before and that made it even more awful-smelling and heady.

I’ve never been one for perfume anyway (any wonder why?!) but many years ago I was given the tiniest bottle of the most perfect scent – bergamot and jonquil, jasmine and mandarin… in an understated black rectangular bottle. Perfect. That little bottle went quickly and I spent years trying to find more of it. Turns out it was discontinued. It reappeared a couple years ago at a ridiculous price and I’d refused to buy it. Until today. Today I spoiled myself and bought the big bottle.

I don’t do it often, but it feels nice to be spoiled once in a while! And having that scent on my wrist again makes me smile and feel happy. Happy except that it reminded me of my mom’s perfume tray collecting dust somewhere.


So… any favorite perfumes out there? Any that you love to hate? I’m hoping none of you are big Chanel No. 5 fans.

Please note: Someday this will return to something resembling a nature blog. I feel like I’ve been “off-topic” a lot lately!

Got rocks?

One by one he’s determined to remove every last rock from his personal wading pool (a.k.a. our little backyard pond). There’s no interest in the dry rocks on the shore; he prefers instead to snorkel for the choicest rock.

He runs around with it in his mouth like a prize, tail high in the air, before settling down for a good chew. (Yes, he eats rocks.)

He might even roll on his back some with it. Thank heavens he hasn’t discovered the joy of burying stuff yet! As it is, the DH’s patience is running thin.

Makes Luka pretty happy, though. I think he’s pleased to amuse and entertain us. (Well… me anyway.)

This is the fresh face I get should I be silly enough to reprimand him between fits of laughter. Have I mentioned lately how nutty this dog is?