Mom’s vase

Even after 13+ years of marriage, it’s still sort of awkward-feeling for me to call my mother-in-law *mom*, but I’m getting better about it. I never felt comfortable calling my father-in-law *dad* or even *Hank* as he would have preferred it, instead it was always the formal Mr. followed by our family name. That was just as well, I guess; he couldn’t often seem to even remember my name, and instead called me *girl* with the sweetest Southern drawl. The rest of his daughters-in-law were not so tenderly regarded as I.

She’s been bugging me for the last year or so to choose a piece of crystal from her china cabinet that I’d like to have. I’ve avoided doing so, partly because I have no need of any crystal, but more because I understand the thinking that’s behind her wanting to give away these treasured things. She’s been thinking and talking that way for a few years now since my father-in-law passed away. For a very long time she was depressed and talked of wanting to go be with her dear Hank. Her first great-grandchild seems to have turned her around and I’m glad for that, but still she has this need to give away her things.

So I relented yesterday and took this Waterford crystal vase and filled it with roses. It’s the perfect size for a small bouquet of very short-stemmed flowers, yet seems out of place in my no frills early americana style dining room. I like that sort of contrast and how it reminds me of her and how different our lives are. I chose it because rather than being something to be treasured and tucked away, it’s a beautiful thing that I can put to use. And my taking it made her happy.

Cranky bunnies

It’s been a full day – full of relatives and food and too many sweets. The bunnies are in cranky moods for being left alone all day to fend for themselves. Missy is hunched up in a corner and doesn’t want to eat. I’ve got 10 different things to do before bed, but won’t do any of them until the bunny is feeling better. Can’t have a sick bunny on Easter!

I’ll leave you with this pic of Cricket who was not interested in playing with the giant Easter egg. Her tummy was full of salad and she just wanted a nap.


Easter memories

Here’s a silly Easter photo from 1973. Maybe I just finished tramping through my mother’s tulips and that accounts for why I look so gleeful! Although it’s probably hard to be anything but merry when you’re not quite 3 and full of candy.

Looking through old photo albums, most Easter photos were posed on this side of the house with a few bedraggled tulips in the background or my brothers and I were posed beneath the blooming crabapple that was on the other side of the house. There’s not much blooming here in NJ now besides daffodils, so I wonder what parents will do in the morning after church for photos.

Growing up, the night before Easter was when we did eggs. I remember my mother had a particular pot she always used to boil eggs in – it had some type of white coating on it – and I remember the house filled with the smell of vinegar. We were always very anxious to get started, but she never was and now that I’ve colored eggs with little kids a few times, I understand her reluctance to have to clean up afterwards. By that time we were bored with eggs and she had the mess to contend with.

The Easter Bunny always brought baskets of candy and hid our colored eggs. There was usually an egg hidden in my slippers and the baskets were usually hidden behind the drapes in the dining room. The rest of the eggs might be hidden anyhere in the house and I wonder how my parents kept track of all of them in case we didn’t find a few. After our Easter egg hunt we got dressed and went to church, came home for photos and then made the long trip to my grandparent’s in North Jersey for dinner with the relatives.

If you click on the little pic at right, you ought to be able to read a letter I wrote to the Easter Bunny when I was nine. My brother Brian found it when we were cleaning out my dad’s house and thought I should save it. I get a laugh from reading my not so subtle suggestions about how much I liked candy on Easter!

Wishing a joyful Easter to all. What will you be doing? Feel like sharing any Easter memories?

Just a minute

“Just a minute,” said a voice in the weeds.
So I stood still
in the day’s exquisite early morning light
and so I didn’t crush with my great feet
any small or unusual thing just happening to pass by
where I was passing by
on my way to the blueberry fields,
and maybe it was the toad
and maybe it was the June beetle
and maybe it was the pink and tender worm
who does his work without limbs or eyes
and does it well
or maybe it was the walking stick, still frail
and walking humbly by, looking for a tree,
or maybe, like Blake’s wondrous meeting, it was
the elves, carrying one of their own
on a rose-petal coffin away, away
into the deep grasses. After awhile
the quaintest voice said, “Thank you.” And then there was silence.
For the rest, I would keep you wondering.”

— Mary Oliver

Spring surprises

Two weeks or so ago, back when it felt like spring and I was inspired by the sunshine and its gentle warmth, I spent a Saturday afternoon wandering down some of the back roads that surround one of my favorite parks. There’s a few scenic farms and some great trees that I like to keep track of. There are also some beautiful horse farms and ridiculously large estate homes, but these are tucked away at the end of wooded roads that are marked *Dead End* even though they may go on for miles. Clearly, they don’t want visitors. I sort of appreciate that those folks aren’t flaunting their wealth the way some do.

I ended up back at the park with the idea that I might find a few phoebes or some bluebirds and I was hoping for my first mourning cloak butterfly of the season. I visit this park pretty often, so know what to expect there, but it’s large and there are many trails and different habitats. Usually a surprise or two somewhere if I walk far enough. I walked through the wet bottomlands near the lake, drawn by the screaming of the peepers and flushed a few woodcock along the way. Not so much a surprise because I go there to see their courtship displays, but I was surprised with how easily they flushed! Each few steps flushed a new bird, who would fly just a bit further ahead, only to be flushed again as I walked along the wet trail. Woodcock are very colorful birds when you see them in the light of day. I also managed to flush a deer without realizing it until I saw it bounding across the cornfield uphill and towards the road.

The peepers that I went looking for went silent with my approach.

I visited a favorite tree and walked along the grass pathways that surround the farm fields here. There were no bluebirds, but I did hear a familiar song that I couldn’t put a name to right away. The song seemed to be drifting from every direction, but I wasn’t able to spot the birds singing. I’ve become very lazy lately and head out with just my camera and without binoculars. My ears are much better than my eyes, anyway. After listening for a while the words to the song I was hearing finally popped into my head, “spring of the year” and I realized there were meadowlarks in the fields surrounding me. I couldn’t see them, of course, but I knew they were out there because I recognized their song.

A hawk caught my eye drifting low and lazy over the fields and the meadowlarks flushed ahead of it. If I’d had my binoculars I might have been able to appreciate their lemon yellow and black markings as they finally made themselves visible above the stubble. Instead I watched the harrier as it flew gracefully over the field, pausing briefly and hovering for a longer look here and there, or whirling on a dipped wing to backtrack. I didn’t see it land, so guess it didn’t catch anything and finally it roamed out of my view. Before very long the meadowlarks were singing again and I went on to look for other surprises.

I think there’s a lot to be learned from visiting a place repeatedly and at different times of year. We might think we’ve seen all a place has to offer, but really, one or two visits give just a snapshot of what may be. The same can be said for our own backyards, because only by knowing what’s usual and normal can we get a sense for how special the unexpected is. Of course, the usual may be special too, but it’s nice to be surprised once in a while.

Early sounds

It’s still chilly, but I sleep with the bedroom window open just enough to let in the morning sounds. It’s early in the season still, so that every birdsong feels like a luxury. I’m a heavy sleeper, but the robins and cardinals rouse me from the warm covers in a much better mood than the blaring alarm clock does.

I think the robins are the first to begin with tentative calls before the sun has brought very much light to the morning. Then it’s the cardinals and the sparrows who call. As the light increases and the birds are encouraged by one another, calls turn to song. This morning I heard a white-throated sparrow singing his “Old Sam Peabody” and smiled to myself as I enjoyed a last few moments of slumber.

The rest of the morning routine is done in haste. I might spend a few minutes standing by the kitchen window with a cup of coffee watching the birds at the feeder, but by that time the house sparrows and starlings are up as well and any singing from the more talented birds is drowned out by their arguing over a perch at the free food buffet.

New birds and new songs will add themselves to the dawn celebration in the coming weeks; to the point that it becomes difficult to distinguish any one voice from the chorus of birds echoing one another in the gala that is spring. Maybe there’s one in particular that you listen for to know that the season has finally arrived, or maybe you enjoy the effect of so many voices singing the same song of delight but to a different tune. I could tell you what I think, but I’d rather know what you like to hear outside your window that says Spring.


Spring song

pink moon rises full
shadows cast through my window
say something of spring

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“Tonight’s full moon is known as the Pink Moon and also as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon. Historically, Native Americans living in what is now the northern and eastern United States kept track of the seasons by giving a distinctive name to each full moon. This name was used to refer to the entire month in which the moon occurred. With some variations, the same moon names were used throughout the Algonquian tribes from New England to Lake Superior.” – from The Old Farmer’s Almanac

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For more Spring/Fall Songs go to One Deep Breath. Links to poems should be updated tomorrow.

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Sandy at Gardenpath wrote about the full moon and included a gorgeous composite image yestderday in this post which is what got me thinking about the moon and the many names we give it.

April foolishness

I’ve been waiting to receive something appropriate to share for April Fool’s Day from one of my email buddies, but they haven’t come through yet. Last year Michelle sent me these crafty photos of ways to torture your coworkers while they’re away on vacation. Yes, it’s an old post, but worth a laugh today at least.

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Speaking of foolishness, I bought this carton of Easter-colored birdseed eggs and hung them outside today just before it started to rain. I’m sure the house sparrows will appreciate all the millet while it stains my sidewalks. Of course I had to buy them (not!) because the sign above read, “Easter’s not just for the bunnies – think about the birdies, too!” – well, so I did and didn’t think about it until after I saw what I had paid for them. I’m a sucker for cute and useless bird stuff.

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I got pulled over by a policeman for the first time in fifteen years today. I was making my usual frantic last-minute dash to arrive at the bird observatory on time. No I wasn’t speeding! But my car was throwing sparks because the cover of my catalytic converter decided today that it was tired of hanging on after months and months of rumbling and plunged itself to the pavement and dragged along in plain view of the policeman. I was just picking up the phone to curse at my husband because he’s put off fixing it for months when the cop turned on his lights to pull me over. I thought for sure he’d give me a ticket for being on the phone while driving. He actually asked me if I realized I was dragging something. Hello? You don’t think I could hear it? He was very sweet though, and assured me that my car probably wouldn’t catch on fire so long as I was careful. He even got down on the pavement to have a look. When did they give badges and guns to fifteen-year-olds? Goodness, I feel old.

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So, the day at the bird observatory was very quiet because the weather was cold and damp today. But I finally have a co-conspirator (fellow volunteer) to keep company with after years of volunteering alone on Sunday afternoons. Hi Pat! The two of us were like caged lions waiting to be set loose to see the Osprey flying by outside the windows as they go about their courting and housekeeping in their bayside nests. We closed up shop a little early today and took a short walk together to visit one of the ponds on Sandy Hook where black-crowned night herons like to hang out. We only saw one way across the pond, but like a true shutterbug, Pat was snapping away with her camera. I hope we’ll find an excuse next month to do that again as I’m sure the Hook will be much more birdy come the first week of May.

Come walk with me

I spent a few hours wandering around some nearby farmland that was purchased in the last few years to become part of the county park system. I’ve only been there once before and today it was just as deserted as on my prior visit. There’s no soccer fields or playground here, so it tends to be very quiet but for a few runners or dog walkers.

There is a small wooded hillside on the property that was bursting with trilling juncos today. The remainder of the area is farm fields, some of which are leased out to grow corn mostly. It’s a good spot to visit in summer for butterflies. Today when I stepped out from the woods to the edge of the field above I immediately heard insects humming and saw thousands of these flying about low over the field.

I have no idea what they are, but they look like some sort of bee. The fields edges were covered with holes that looked like anthills, and when I got close enough for photos I saw the bees going in and out of the holes.

They weren’t at all concerned with me. Thank goodness because there were lots of them. Anyone have any ideas? I haven’t looked in any of my insect guides yet, but doubt I’ll have much luck sorting these out.

At the edge of the property is a small brook that one can walk along for a few miles. Most of the land that this brook runs through is protected as a *greenway* and it connects a few different county parks that I visit. I thought I might be able to find some wildflowers blooming so I walked in the wet woods along the brook for a ways and found these blooming – I think they’re spring beauties?

I found great patches of periwinkle in the shady woods. At least, that’s what I think it is. It reminds me of the vinca that people plant beneath large trees in their yards, so these pretty purple flowers must be escapees invading the woodlands.

I also found many patches of these beautiful purple flowers, but haven’t been able to sort out what they are. I took lots of *artsy* photos, but none to help with ID. Maybe someone will recognize it anyway.

I could have walked for hours today, but worried about running out of light on the walk back to my car. I didn’t see another person until the very end of my walk, when I came across a group of very muddy kids with their mom, sifting for shark’s teeth and other fossils in the brook. Looked like fun, but a bit too chilly for me! It was just nice to see kids out doing such a thing, and it reminded me of something we might have dreamed up to do as kids on an early spring day.