Friday, July 31, 2020

Rippling Silence

Once glassy and still,
The water gurgles and laps
Breaking the silence.

Black ducks are puddling
In the shade and cool of morn:
A refreshing sound.

I bathe alongside,
Not just an imagining -
Trust and communion.

They whisper and peep,
Muted, continuous sound -
Intimate contact.

Done, they clamber out,
To face the warming sunshine -
Busily preening.

They begin to doze,
Standing like dumpy statues.
Now they are silent.

The ripples subside,
The water, like a mirror,
All trace of them gone.





Thursday, July 30, 2020

Fun with Words

I love playing with collective nouns. I have so much fun coming up with new and novel ways to succinctly describe a group of 'somethings'. Whilst flicking those pesky Japanese Beetles off my Virginia Creeper, and seeing how many appeared to be mating, I came up with:

An Orgy of Japanese Beetles


I thought it was pretty apt, and it made me smile. And then I remembered another that I'd thought of one morning when raucous Ravens were having an altercation:

A Riot of Ravens


I hope you will share some fun ones that tickle your fancy. If you don't have one, I challenge you to come up with one ...

Language is so much fun!



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Little Things are Big!

I sometimes get to the end of the day and think "Oh, my gosh, I haven't done anything all day." But the reality is, I'm counting the absence of 'achievement' things only, like vacuuming the house, the things that show, and are verifiable. But when I look back and evaluate what I've 'done' in that day, how I've spent my time, I'm often surprised at what I discover. While I may not have done the things regarded as 'achieving something' (like tackling the pile of dirty laundry or mowing the lawn), the ways I've filled my time are not exactly a waste of time either. It's just that we think of them that way in our achievement oriented lifestyle, and dismiss them as not valuable enough to be acknowledged.

Today, I stopped to look at a pink-red caterpillar in our lawn, picked some wild blueberries, and stood still long enough to watch a Hummingbird take a rest on a branch through my tall flowers - can you see it in this picture? It's in the enclosed dark space between the leaves of my pink Joe-Pye Weeds. 




I also answered a few emails and swam in our lake (multiple times). I sat for hours opening pdfs, wiki pages, and botany sites to see if I could correctly identify a new aquatic plant - for my own benefit and interest. Going down the proverbial Rabbit Hole out of curiosity is super fun - allow yourself to do it! The curiosity and wonder of childhood is still there, and we adults have been missing out.

My extended shelter-at-home time has allowed me to see value in what I thought were the small things, and to recognize them as worthwhile things to do, in and of themselves, and for no other reason. I've learned to give myself credit for spending time watching a duck family swim by, and for having heard their contact whispers to each other. I'm giving myself permission to learn and explore, just because I'm interested, not necessarily for a particular purpose. My only reason is ... because it's there, and it's been overlooked in the past.

The things I once thought were small are really the big things - they're what make me happy.





Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A New Angle


This photo of my home was taken by mistake as I stood up from photographing a mushroom in my lawn. I clicked the camera button on my phone without meaning to. Isn't it cool? Not all mistakes are bad ...

Here's the mushroom I was amazed at - its growth spurt was strong enough to tear up the moss.

 


It's hot and steamy outside today, with a heat advisory in effect. 71% humidity! I'm fortunate to have both the lake to cool off in, and AC in my home. It's hard choosing which one to be in!





Sunday, July 26, 2020

Fascinating Creatures

I brushed up against one of these on the water whilst swimming yesterday, and although I knew what it was, I still shrieked! It's a group of invertebrate animals living together in a jellylike community. They're filter feeders and keep our waters clean, so are good to have.





And then, a Haiku arrived in my head:

Bulbous and slimy,

Jelly-like Bryozoans -

Colonies of life.


Ok, that's not all. Today, as I reached down to pick up a beautifully patterned stone, the 'covering' lifted up and elongated itself into what looked like a 'sucker fish,' with one end still attached to the stone. I put it into a bucket to photograph the lovely pattern on its back. It's the Smooth Turtle Leech (Placobdella parasitica), native to these parts, and feeds on Snapping Turtles. It's nothing to be afraid of, it's just a worm that has 32 "brains" one on each segment - pretty neat.

 

The thin, narrow bit wavering around in the second photo is the head end, where the mouthparts are that attach to prey.

When I read on, I saw that some leeches are being used in arthritis treatment, by attaching them to the specific area of pain and swelling. Hmm ...

"Remember, the attitude you display towards living things affects other people around you. Over-reacting to icky creatures imposes these attitudes on future generations. So, please, just relax, pick off the leech and flick it back into the water. Live and let live."
http://www.naturenorth.com/fall/leeches/Leeches_2.html


Friday, July 24, 2020

Bold Display

I had yet another wonderful day in paradise (my home) today. I hope you did, too. There was lots of warmth, swimming, reading, crocheting, chatting, an interesting webinar, and a bottle of wine, plus peaches, cream and ice-cream, all from the comfort of my home! Hmm, talking of comfort, maybe I'm getting too much into that groove, since the pounds are piling on!

Being at home, passing time in my yard allowed me to find this beautiful moth - it was striking, and made me think of a medieval shield with a bold cross emblem on it:



Isn't that exquisite? I've found out it's called Haploa clymene, native to eastern North America. What a beauty!




And now, I'm going to hop into my kayak in another attempt to spot Comet NEOWISE from across the lake ...


Rant



💢


The D's of Donald:
Deranged, Depraved, Detached
So much to Detest! 


💢


Thursday, July 23, 2020

My Day in Haikus

Yawning is painful
Reluctant to chew and eat,
Too much discomfort.

Jaw ache forces me
To forget about COVID:
Dentist appointment.

After three visits,
Masks and hand sanitizer:
Diagnosis time.

Machine surrounds me.
NOT a pampering facial,
The scanning begins.
 

The images show
Jaw arthritis is a thing -
Why am I surprised?

Nobody 'owns' this,
Now to fight the insurance
To get some relief.

Martini diet?
Maybe that is the answer -
No chewing involved.


My day has brightened -
Cone flowers have opened up,
'Blazing Stars' are here.
 


 Floating in the dark,
Coyote group howl delights,
Comet's a no-show.


 
A deluge of rain
As I sleep my cares away,
A comforting sound.



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Morning Experience


Loon in the water,

Hummingbird on the Bee Balm,

Monarch at the 'weed.




 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Morning Joys

Quiet time on the dock

The morning, fresh and sparkling,

Coffee mug in hand.


 

Swirling and gliding

Busy Dragonflies flit by

Everything else, still.


 

Dishabille swimming

Womb-like, a comforting hug,

Primeval clothing.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Signs of the Times

Today, for the first time ever, I was offered 3 possible appointment times at my dentist FOR THE EXACT SAME DAY on which I was calling. Amazing. That is a new experience, and I think I have COVID-19 to thank for that. I'm guessing people are holding back on routine appointments like teeth cleaning and such (well, I am too) ... but I've had a jaw ache since March (and it's not from being stuck chatting to Dale), and I'm so tired of it. It feels risky going to the dentist's office. I mean, this is the place where they get you to unmask and they prod around and examine your mouth! It feels like this must be the absolute worst, scariest place to be. And to think I've been avoiding the hairdresser for 4 months - I think I've got it all wrong 😀


Other COVID signs I've come across, besides the unusual availability of dentists, are the inexplicable kinds of items in low supply at grocery stores:
- liverwurst
- pancake mix
- maple-flavored breakfast syrups 
- old fashioned oats
- canned beans
- pantry sized jars of M&Ms, sold out!

We've also been lured into the store for an extra grocery shop, by the 'to-die for' (I hope, not literally) steak specials, only to find out that the store flyer had an advertising error and they weren't honoring it. An entire outing, steakless, and therefore wasted!

Have you any COVID frustrations or peculiarities to share?









Thursday, July 16, 2020

Water Strider

Water Strider dance:
Legs like a needle threader,
Elegant and fine.





Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Word Whimsy

I find some words so interesting and usual, as to be uniquely rich and powerful, and definitely worth being used whenever possible. The magic and poetry of the word:

discombobulate


has always been my absolute favorite. I first came across this word whilst reading William Steig's 1985 book, Solomon The Rusty Nail, to my children. The three of us immediately fell in love with the sound and feel of the word. It certainly encapsulated the feel of how it is to be confused, an onomatopoeic sense of the mind's workings. 

Since then, I've always appreciated how wonderfully skillful Steig's work is in surreptitiously expanding the vocabulary of kids. He never shied away from complexity; didn't try to simplify. It made his strange stories magical and fun. He did cartoons and covers for the New Yorker during the Depression, and began writing children's books in his Sixties (he was the creator of Shrek!). He didn't try to 'dumb down' his language to get kids to understand. To me it shows a deep respect for children's mental capabilities, and to the potential of their minds to stretch and grow.

Another word I'm quite fond of is 

persnickety!


It's light and fun, and conveys everything we need to know about being fussy and fastidious about details (hmm, my self-reflective side is cringing here!). Okay, so yes, I'm probably a word-geek, and proud of it! Does this mean that words are my


bailiwick?


Do you have any words that you particularly like, or is it just me?




Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Book Pile




That pile of Recently Read (or should I call them Quarantined?) Books on top of my bookshelf is growing. That's what I have to show for 122 days in lockdown. It's been good for clearing my longstanding "To Be Read" books off my bookshelf.



Monday, July 13, 2020

Dreaming of a Nightmare

During my COVID-19 shelter-in-place period, I've been touting how well I'm coping and how this seclusion lifestyle suits me. I've said that in being isolated, and adapting our shopping strategies (our only contact with the outside world), I feel comfortable, secure and protected.

Ha! That seemed true to me. But I recently dreamed that I had the virus, and now I'm wondering if I've just been fooling myself about it being okay. I mean, my psyche, my unconscious mind, exposes the truth - right?

My dream was about a nurse confirming that I definitely had COVID-19. For some reason, I kept 'forgetting' and continued socializing with friends, turning up at their homes, and participating in activities with them. It was as if I was in denial ... Whilst in friends' company, I'd say "Oops, I forgot. I have the virus, and I'm not supposed to be here. Sorry!"

What? I don't think I'd be that irresponsible - that's not me. I'm anal about wearing a mask and social distancing in real life. So maybe I AM fooling myself that all is well. Maybe I DO really crave naked, face to face contact and hugs, and am missing these aspects of life. We shall see ...


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Thanks, COVID-19!

This week I recorded 120 days in isolation during which I've had no outside contact, excepting 5 necessary trips to a grocery store. It doesn't feel difficult or dull to me, living the hermit life in Maine, since it really is not all that different from my usual day to day life in retirement.

I am amazed, though, at how much more available it's made the world to me! Seriously. Instead of making me feel more distanced, it's brought me closer to the things I love by delivering them to me over the Internet, in my home.

For the first time, I have been able to buy tickets for my lighting-designer brother in South Africa's plays, and view them! Without taking a flight across the ocean, going through Passport control, renting a car and finding a place to stay. This year, his work for the Grahamstown Arts Festival was filmed and broadcast virtually. For once his work was available for all around the world to see. What a treat! That is something that I have to thank COVID-19 for ... weird.

It has also allowed me to participate in the Lake Stewards of Maine's programs and training events since they have became available online. I am now on my way to becoming a certified Invasive Plant Patroller (an IPPer, as they're more fondly known), a cause very close to my heart. It has broadened my connections with like-minded people.

Today I'm 'participating' in the San Diego Writers Festival on my phone, from my sun-room, overlooking the lake. I can watch the duckling families, Muskrats and Herons while learning more about the craft of writing. The costs involved in flying there to participate would have made me second-guess this opportunity. Sharing it online has made it a certainty for me this year.

The pandemic, and sheltering in place orders have made these things possible. It has expanded some horizons, while shrinking others. I know it's clichéd but yes, there is always a way to see the good in something - sometimes you just have to look a little harder or deeper to see it.




Friday, July 10, 2020

Roadside Raspberries & Blueberry Bunches

The bold red of ripe raspberries by the roadside attracted my attention on the walk to our mailbox this morning. Despite the oppressive humidity and heat, I felt I couldn't bypass this opportunity, and returned with a basket to harvest what I could before melting into the lake.

It was hard to restrain myself. I have previously bashed through the brambly, prickly tangle of shrubs without regard for my unprotected arms and legs. But now, as I age, my skin gets scratched more easily, and bleeds more readily, so I chose to only pick fruit at the outer edges of the thicket. And in days gone by, when I was young and seemingly invincible, I would certainly have tested the limits of the gravelly slope that dropped down into a stream below the culvert. Not today. I found it hard to turn and walk away from the tempting red fruits hanging voluptuously on the tips of the branches beyond my reach. But I managed to be sensible. "A man is getting old when he walks around a puddle instead of through it" (R.C. Ferguson) - came to mind. I'm not sure I like that sensibility!

I then turned my attention to the lowbush blueberries at the road edges. Their dusky, purple-blue rotundity contrasted with the sharp, green angularity of the leaves - they were easy to find. I was determined to pick enough to make a batch of pancakes spiked with fresh, wild, Maine blueberries, reminiscent of the treat we always associated with our family tent-camping trips of old.

I dripped so much sweat onto the bushes and ground that I felt I was contributing enough moisture to ensure next years' harvest! Each time, after thinking I'd exhausted the spoils of the bushes around me, I'd see the lure of yet another dusky blue fruit, deeper into the dark woods. Without a thought for ticks, I found myself wandering deeper and deeper through the undergrowth, further from the road, Red Riding Hood style! I didn't get lost though, and there was no wolf (or coyote, or bobcat) to accost me, so I was able to return home safely, to refrigerate my bounty. The lake has never been more welcome or refreshing!



Thursday, July 9, 2020

Storm Light

I love the aftermath of a potent thunderstorm. Everything is golden and gleaming afterwards - the world looks wonderful, and fresh! I couldn't help but enjoy this beautiful glow, and was pleased to see that my camera was able to capture some of the post-storm light I was witnessing.





















The Milkweeds

What exquisite Natives! What's not to love?


Swamp Milkweed buds opening



Butterflyweed


Butterflyweed before opening! Beauty before and after!


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Mission Accomplished

Today's mission was to take my camera across the cove (in my kayak), and photograph, and properly identify, a rose growing on one of our floating stumps in our cove. Since I had previously lost a camera to a kayak rollover, I'm extremely wary of taking my camera onto the water with me, especially since I'm partial to the kayak we fondly refer to as "Tippy." I wrapped my phone in a plastic bag and hard shell container to carry it across this time!

Interestingly, we had not noticed the plant before. Possibly because it hadn't flowered in the past? It's usually the bloom that draws me in to take a closer look at a plant. I had a cursory look at it whilst swimming yesterday (and was therefore without my trusty Field Guide or Plant App on my phone).





Off the top of my head, I guessed it might be the native Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris) because of its location, but last night's perusal of my plant books pointed to the possibility of it being Northeastern Rose (Rosa nitida), a plant of bogs. But without being familiar with the detailed terminology of the minutiae and morphology of roses, we became 'bogged' down. I resorted to posting pics and questions to a Native Plant group I participate in.




It has been confirmed as Rosa palustris, which is also very fragrant - I forgot to stop and smell the roses in my quest for an I.D.! Silly me! Back I go ...




Tuesday, July 7, 2020

I Heard the Owl


Shrieking and hissing,
Barred Owl eerily calling:
Chills run down my spine.



I heard the owl call
In the dark, through my window,
It wasn't my name!


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Flattered!

I'm SO excited! I found 2 new plant species growing in my cove that hadn't been there before. How lucky is that! Both are natives (of course!). I feel incredibly flattered by this 'progress,' since in my mind, it means I'm providing good conditions and habitat for them. I tell myself that my cleanly weeded and maintained shore have made it possible for these good plants to find a foothold. There's nothing like self-praise!

The American Bur-reed is new to me, and I had to use my field guides to help me identify it. It's known to be eaten by muskrats, and wildfowl, and is great for native pollinators, too. Plus .... it's an important conservation species because it can help reduce the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in lake bodies. And, it's quite beautiful - what's not to love? 






The other plant, the Bayonet Rush, is known to me from other parts of our lake, but this is the first time I've seen it in my cove. There are only 2 stems standing right now, but I'm hoping it will become a bigger clump over time. It provides great shelter and protection for wildlife in shallow areas. It's often overlooked as just another grass, but the color gradation on the stems are quite startling in the Fall, as you can see from the pic below:




Saturday, July 4, 2020

Zen ...

I'm almost finished reading 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'. It's an old book, published in 1974. It was on the 'recommended' reading list during our "Concepts" course at University in 1982. I started reading it like a good student, but couldn't quite 'get into' it, so put it aside early on. I picked it up again a few weeks ago, off my bookshelf - and now I'm close to the end! What a difference some life experience makes!

There's nothing really new in that book now - the ideas seem to have become part of the mainstream, or at least common knowledge to the mainstream. Not surprising, since the ideas are 46 years old. Though it no longer has that 'wow' factor, it's still worth a read - it likens taking care of our bodies and minds to that of taking care of the external and internal workings of a motorcycle, and shows that you can't focus on only one aspect if you wish it to function well for a long time.

The following quotes spoke to me. The first, for reminding us to look closer, open our minds, and to acknowledge blockages, and the second, for reminding us of the value of regular practice to get better at something (I had writing in mind):

"If you're plagued with value rigidity you can fail to see the real answer even when its staring you right in the face because you can't see the new answer's importance." (p 311)

"If you're a sloppy thinker the six days of the week that you aren't working on your machine, what ... can make you all of a sudden sharp on the seventh?" (p 325). Practice, practice, practice. And then practice some more!



Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Day in Vacationland

Today's weather was wonderful - so wonderful, in fact, that I was drawn outside right after breakfast, and have only just now sat down at my computer and it's almost bedtime. Huh! So much for yesterday's discipline and BICHOK wisdom!

I've discovered that in weather like this, lakefront residents need 3 swimsuits to get through the day ... in case you were wondering.

This haiku popped up in my head on the stroll to the mailbox:

Pine needle tidemarks

 along the roadside edges:

 a story of rain.


Tonight's Al Fresco dinner was accompanied by a young raccoon foraging in the yard, and an incredible display of fireflies in the darkening woods. Wow! It was gorgeous. 

Is this really my life? I'm pinching myself.


Fern shadow





Tall Meadow Rue reaching for the light

 




Wednesday, July 1, 2020

BICHOK-king

It's been almost 3 weeks since I took a step back from Facebook. I open the App most days, and scroll through posts, without engaging. It feels like a strange and weird thing to do - sort of voyeuristic in a sense. It does feel odd not to comment on friends' posts, but the less I comment, the less interesting and time-consuming it becomes. DUH! I'm getting to the point where my distancing from it doesn't feel like a loss, and I foresee a time when I won't even be viewing it regularly.

I can see now that I was using Facebook as a sink, a procrastination mechanism, for not getting down to more constructive and creative things I could have been doing with my time - like writing! Now I'm turning my Facebook soundbites into more coherent thoughts, and find myself eager and willing to practice writing, using my friend Shelley's recommended BICHOK method:

Butt IChair Hands OKeyboard

It works! Seriously. It's got to the point that I look forward to going upstairs to my desk, right after my coffee each morning, to write. And then before I know it, it's lunch time, and I don't want to tear myself away. Isn't that amazing?

It's the same as learning to get better at an instrument, or a sport - you have to practice, and regularly. Daily. If you don't get in the water, you won't learn how to swim. You've got to get your feet wet, at the very least. Every single published author's advice to aspiring writers is to sit down and write, to practice, to DO it.

Practice always seems like a grind, doesn't it? We often seem to have an unrealistic expectation of a great outcome, without wanting to put in loads of work and effort. Instant gratification is not a factor when you're learning a craft - the rewards and gratification are distant, and take time. I'm not good at that kind of discipline. I recall that my Mom gave up piano lessons as a youth because she didn't like practicing and learning her scales. She had a natural gift for music, and just needed some training and guidance. As an adult, she expressed regret that she had given it up. Sometimes we just have to grit our teeth and keep going, or writing, as the case may be. 

The DOING needs to be the gratification, the aspiring and learning the reward. I'm working on it.