Momma told me so

I’ve been playing with this forever; trying to get an essay written that I can share with my family and that feels true and right. I even went so far as to make both of my brothers write one, with the idea that their memories might inspire some of my own. Theirs are great and touching, but they didn’t have the desired effect on my own writing… I’m still struggling along with it. One of these days, whenever mine is finished, I’ll share them all here.

Anyway… part of what that template causes you to reflect on are some of the stories that make up the history of your family. That started me thinking along the lines of the crazy things we were led to believe as kids. Those little lies our parents or older siblings told us to fuel our imaginations or to make us behave or to frighten us or even, maybe, to make the everyday seem magical.

The lies parents tell is a popular blog subject, apparently, but this post was a favorite among the many I came across.

I made a list of the things I could remember being told and would imagine that many of you will share a similar list if you were to think of it. Maybe you find yourself repeating the same lies to your own kids for the sake of convenience or whimsy.

– “If you don’t eat something, you’ll blow away in the wind!” (A favorite of my Grandpa’s.)

– “I promise I won’t let go.” – when the training wheels first came off.

– “Of course we leave the hall light on for you all night.” (I was especially scared of the monsters that lived under the bed.)

– “Your teeth will be ruined if you keep sucking your thumb.” (My oldest brother was probably in braces at that point and all those wires and rubber bands looked really scary to 7 year old me.)

– “Your face will freeze that way.”

– Sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyes.

– “You’ll catch a cold if you go out like that!”

– “You’re too young for coffee… it puts hair on your chest.”

– Fibbing makes your nose grow.

Mostly harmless, right? Little lies. Have any to add?

And then, of course, there were the real lies we grew up believing:

– “If you tell the truth you won’t get in trouble.”

– “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

– “It’ll only hurt for a second.”

– “I’ll be right here when you come back.”

White sweet May again*

A gentle breeze has been slowly dropping the petals of our neighbor’s black locust into our pond. I love the snow-shower effect of it in late May and their fragrance is so wonderful on a humid day like today. No wonder the bees and hummers are drawn to it – there must be some sweet nectar inside the flowers!

I’d hoped for a close-up pic, but it’s too tall. This gives you an idea, though, of why I like these weedy trees so much… the afternoon sun glimmers among the branches, full of late May light, and the flowers dance in the air. They’re somehow related to wisteria – can you see that in the pendulous flowers? Plus they have similar pinnate leaves, but locusts have thorns, too. Especially thorny are the young ones that like to come up everywhere in our lawn. They’re one of the very few trees that I can reliably ID at all seasons; their bark is dark and deeply furrowed and they tend to grow in waste places, in old fields, along the roadside. Like other members of the pea family, black locusts fix nitrogen in the soil which makes it possible for them to grow in the poor soil found in those places.

I learned something new from Wikipedia about members of the pea family: their leaves fold together at night or in wet weather. I wonder why that might be… anybody know?

*from “The Locust Tree in Flower” by William Carlos Williams

Nesting plovers

A problem cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness in which it was created.
– Albert Einstein

With my back to their nest scrape and its symbolic fencing, I spent yesterday watching the beach crowd grow around this one plover nest that I was charged with *protecting* and was struck most by contrasts: the natural dune grass and pebble strewn high beach where the plovers make their nest amid bits of drift sticks and broken clam shells and in front of me the ocean with its equally vibrant and churning masses of bikini-clad sun-worshippers.

It’s a wonder to me these birds manage to survive at all here in NJ, but survive they do. For my first 7 or 8 hours spent watching them, most everyone was respectful of the fencing, so long as they noticed it. Wayward balls and children tended to wander beneath it freely, but most responded nicely to my calls beginning with, “Sweetie… you can’t be in there!” – though there was this one little boy – crossed arms and all – who refused to budge. That’s when the teacher voice came in handy.


Those hours also gave me the chance to watch some bits of plover behavior that I’d not seen before. Mostly I felt badly for the bird left to set on those eggs in the blazing sun; I wonder what it does to occupy itself for all those hours. Every so often I’d notice there were two birds; switching duties, I guess, and I watched the other walk to the end of the fenced area and then fly off to feed in the intertidal zone among the kids playing.

Kite-flying was a problem, as it mimics predators like gulls, but I had a hard time convincing people to move far enough away to not frighten the plovers; plus that resitriction doesn’t seem to be posted anywhere on the beach that I could refer them to. Never mind that the plovers are invisible to anyone without binoculars… I could only find them because I had that stick near their nest to use as a point of reference!

It was a wonderful day at the beach… the osprey and oystercatchers kept my eyes to the sky… and the terns were the perfect background music as they fed just off shore. I’m spectacularly sunburned for my efforts and didn’t want to leave yesterday before the crowds of people did. Funny that I should feel so protective of these birds so quickly.

Where’s the beach?

Spotted along the drive on the interstate in Pa. to visit Delia a couple months ago

The shore traffic has started already; yesterday I got caught in a traffic jam on the Parkway out to visit clients… time to revisit the backroads to the beach and avoid the carloads of city people that take over here come Memorial Day. The boardwalk shops are open, boats have been unwrapped from their plastic winter protection, storm shutters are up and awnings come down… the summer solstice isn’t until the 20th of June, but this weekend is the real start of summer at the Jersey Shore.

I’ll be out in the morning at Sandy Hook to watch over the few plover nests that remain after last week’s storm washed most of them away. Wish me luck at that and remind me to put on some sunblock.


Things that are good

blackpoll warblers in the neighborhood, cupcakes, singing along with the car radio, Neruda’s poems of love and the sea, a little boy entranced by the wind, walking barefoot in the grass again, just ripe avocados, a new tin of Carmex, memories, Friday lunches with Deb, sleeping with the windows open, this song, moonlit trees, black raspberry ice-cream from that little place on the way home from the beach, saying hi, peonies about to bloom, penny stamps, talking on a friend’s porch, dandelions, bookstores, bunnies and the smell of hay, people on the street who make eye contact and smile, horses at the gate as I pass by, the lines on his face, being on time for a change, the shy laughter of new friends, that first cup of coffee, friendly pondfish, seashells in the bottom of my purse, unexpected magic, long holiday weekends with an extra day off, being trusted for advice, a birthday trip to look forward to, old people who tell racy jokes, the smell of a marsh at low-tide, having just enough of everything and knowing it…

Inspired… I paid attention to the little things… somedays there are a 1,000 things that are good, other days it might help to remember days like today.

What was good for you?

Twirling memories

Blame it on Mary, but I’m here with no clue what to write tonight and she wondered if we knew any majorettes and, well… I thought of this pic from a million years ago of my mom on a rooftop in Jersey City. She’s holding a baton, but in the funny way that my mind and eyes play tricks on me, I see a little falcon on her fist if I look too quickly. Do you see that?


Anyway… my mom was a twirler and my dad played the trumpet. Both of my brothers tried to play the trumpet growing up. Brian was pretty good, I think, but then I remember a story about Kevin smashing his trumpet on the dresser at some point in frustration at the klunkers. German temper, you know.

Me, being the only girl and having the responsibility to take after my mom… I tried to be a twirler. I was little and uncoordinated. The farthest that went was the Halloween costume my mom sewed for me one year – rust colored velvety stuff with the golden braids across the chest and the little skirt – just like in this pic – only my legs weren’t nearly as nice then. And there was no hat or cool boots. I remember practices in the school gym – trying to twirl, dropping the darn thing over and over, banging myself in the head with it – you get the idea. Not good! There was also a stint in marching band in high school that found me as uncoordinated with a clarinet as I was with a baton.

Clearly, I missed out on the coordinated and musical genes.


Name that decoy!

Have I mentioned lately how much I love shorebird decoys?


I’ve more or less run out of room for any more of them, which is probably a good thing! There’s avocets running across the tops of bookshelves, peeps peering around the corner of the tv stand, even a great egret skulking in the living room… never mind the various duck decoys that have found a place here.

This newish one is a favorite, though. Can you recognize it?

I only wish I could convince the relatives to shop for me at decoy shows rather than wherever it is they find all that kitschy bird stuff. Anybody feel like sharing pics of bad bird stuff they been gifted? I’d bet most of us have lots of things buried and hidden in closets! Maybe we could arrange a bad-bird-kitsch swap!