Fall color

A tree in Autumn is a lovely sight. One tree alone can concentrate the beauty of a whole woodland, leaf by leaf and branch by branch, as one flower can give the essence of a whole garden. The beauty of the turning woods is not alone in the scarlet of a maple grove or the sun-gold glow of a hillside stand of beeches. It is in the subtle change that creeps along the leaves themselves, from point to point and vein to vein. A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least; but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart.

Watch even a single branch outside a certain window, and you are watching the color of change. One morning there is a spot of yellow on a certain leaf, yellow which has not yet quite achieved the glow of gold. Another day and that glow may be there. It spreads. The spot becomes a splash of gold, edged perhaps with a thin line of scarlet. It creeps down the leaf between the veins, and then across the veins; and the scarlet edging widens into a band and then a border. Meanwhile other leaves have begun to turn, some to gold, some to dull bronze, some to blood-red beauty. All on the same branch, yet no two alike either in pattern or coloration. And finally it is a branch as full of color as the whole woodland.

Thus comes Autumn, leaf by leaf and tree by tree; thus the woods become a hooked rug flung across the hills with all its folds and all its colors as they came to hand. But pause beside one tree and look, and you can see Autumn on all the hills. Pick up one leaf of those already cast adrift and you hold Autumn in your hand.
–Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons. Image grabbed from the Web and tweaked.

Do me a favor, will ya? Find a tree that you admire dressed in fall color. Take a pic of your hand holding a fallen leaf and send it to me. I’ll post them here to make it feel like Autumn despite the 75 degree temps. This’ll keep me occupied for the next few days while I anticipate the weekend in Cape May. But do it quick – deadline is Wednesday at 6 pm. Use the close-up setting on your cameras. It’ll be pretty. My email is lc-hardy at comcast dot net.

Luka, the graduate

We passed! We passed! We made it through puppy school! Without ever having to sit in the corner with the dunce cap!

Tonight was our last night of puppy class and we had our big test, every pup got a bully stick for passing with flying colors, got a silly graduation hat, and then had their pic taken. What fun!

We’ll be going back in another month or so to start the intermediate class and until then I think we’ll have some practicing to do. We really enjoyed the experience and I can’t say enough good things about the program at PetSmart. I’m not so nuts about other things they do, but this was worthwhile and fun.

I’m sure Luka will miss the doggy friends he made (especially Whiskey), but hopefully some of his classmates will be in the next level. The opportunity for them all to socialize and play in a safe environment was the most important aspect of the class, I think.

This last is a pic of all of us – just five dogs, but lots of people! Really, it was great to see the kids working just as hard as their pups.

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day when bloggers are writing about one important issue – the environment. All our blogs have different agendas and readerships, but the idea is to write a post which pertains to some environmental issue. To learn more or read other Blog Action Day posts, just click on the image to the left. Some friends from the blogroll who are also participating include Pure Florida, Hawk Owl’s Nest, and Dharma Bums.

Seeing as I’m not much in the mood for preaching at you about something you hopefully already feel is important, I thought I would instead reminisce a bit about one of the ways that, as a kid, I was introduced to the great outdoors. I grew up in the 70’s and most years we took family vacations that revolved around the water – either the ocean or a lake up north, often in Maine or upstate New York. There were no fancy hotels that I remember, just a cabin in the woods or, most often, our pop-up camper. Just looking at these pics brings back happy memories. I loved that camper! The drive to wherever we were going seemed to last forever, as did the anticipation for the trip. The morning of leaving, my dad always seemed to leave all the details of getting the camper ready to the very last minute – hitching that thing up to his beautiful shiny Cadillac was quite a feat and never seemed to go right. He was always very grumpy starting out on vacation.

I don’t remember very many specific details about any of these trips – only the feel of the sun, the sand that was always in my kid-sized bed in the camper, the year we drove to Florida in the rain with the leaky window in the Cadillac and those huge bugs! My mom loved to sunbathe and spent days by the water slathered in oil, while dad with his freckled-skin had to be careful. I tagged along with my big brothers, building sandcastles or tooling around in this big orange boat. Fun times!

When I was older I went camping with the girl scouts or later with friends. I haven’t been camping in years, but have all the gear in the attic, purchased years ago in hopes of getting the DH to give it a try. I love camping and think it’s a great way to spend time together as a family and enjoy the outdoors. There’s something about sleeping outdoors with all the sounds and smells of nature that is a great learning tool, I think, in that it replaces fear for the outdoors with comfort and curiosity. A good thing for kids today who spend so much time indoors or glued to some electronic gadget. Leave all the stuff behind and sit around a campfire and tell stories instead!

The NWF sponsors the Great American Backyard Campout each year in June. Pitch a tent or set up that old pop-up in your driveway and get a kid playing outside for a change.

Night sounds

Fall is slowly disrobing summer of her great green canopy and hushing the symphony of bird and insect life. Night sounds have diminished; there is only the slowing drone of crickets and the occasional soliloquy of a moonlit mockingbird. Instead of singing to an intended mate, as he did at night for most of the summer, his outburts now seem to be of complaint. I find myself wondering what it is that wakes him up like this, so indignant and bad-tempered. Is it the chill wind or is he startled awake by some unseen predator?

Very early in the morning, before dawn out with the pup, I sometimes hear the soft contact calls of the neighborhood cardinals and chip notes that come from the sky – no love songs these; they speak of cold and coming hunger. Within an hour the first chickadee is at the sunflower feeder and the mockingbird in his appointed place in the holly tree. Only the odd angle of the sunlight gives away that it’s no longer summer, no longer the season of growth and abundance and love songs.

Just dropped in

This carving was our splurge at the decoy show this year. The Blackburnian is my favorite spring warbler lately and I like the way the bird is perched on this old tool, looking like it just dropped in there. I can’t remember if I saw a Blackburnian this spring – it’s kind of nice to have one there on the mantel.

It might be hard to appreciate from this darkish photo, but the whole carving is of wood, even the tool parts that are made to look like metal. I think it’s called a *block and pulley* and is some sort of antique nautical tool. Neat, huh?

Help me understand this

I’m not a cyclist, so I must be missing something, but can someone help me to understand why the *serious* cyclists won’t use the multi-million dollar bike path at Sandy Hook? It’s plenty long and wide and has wonderful views of the bay and the holly forest and the ocean dunes. They even routed it through some of our favorite birding spots at the Hook – yet those darn people won’t use it and instead insist on putting themselves out in the middle of traffic like they own the road! Do they have some sort of a death wish? Is playing in busy shore traffic part of the allure of cycling?

Please help me understand.

Things to do at Cape May

Count the skimmers!




Black Skimmers stage on the beaches of Cape May in the fall and the flock grows to number in the hundreds as the season progresses. They are most often found resting on the beach during the day near the Convention Center – be sure to look for them, but keep a respectful distance for this endangered species, please!

Have you heard about the first-ever Bird Blogger Conference at this year’s Bird Show in Cape May?


In case you live under a rock (or are just not obsessed with birds like the rest of us) you can read the details here and here. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Think about joining us while there’s still time, okay? Cape May is not as far away as you might think and even if it is, it’s well worth the trip. I’m lucky to live within a two-hour drive of one the five best birding spots in the country, but there’s more to Cape May than birds and I’d love to see you enjoy the beauty of South Jersey before it’s all paved over and filled up with shopping malls.

The time around Columbus Day always finds me under the weather and in need of a bit of Cape May’s medicine. There’s something about the salt air and a day off from the routine that works wonders for my mood… so I made a quick trip today to be able to share some of the magic with you. Are you ready to join us yet?