Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Dried Beauty

 Some coneflower seeds are still attached 

And cast an ominous looking shadow

This cone is empty

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Chittering Beeches

I love the sight and sound of beech leaves trembling and swirling on their petioles as I walk through the woods. Listen to them in my video in the link below (turn up the volume to hear them over the breeze):

Curled beech leaves tremble,

Chittering and scritching

In spring's light breezes.

What does it sound like?

Lazily burning embers,

Or trickling water?

The disturbing sound

Of snacks in a cinema?

What do the birds hear?

Monday, March 29, 2021

Golden Glow

This beautiful golden glow greeted me as I came downstairs to start my dinner prep. The cold white through the window contrasted starkly with the inviting warmth of the setting sun. 

Amber and gold glow
Contrasts against the cold white
of the wint'ry pane.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Creatures are Living Here

A request from your local rabid naturalist - yes, that's me (hmm, that would make a great, feisty name for my blog - - instead of the wimpy 'vignettes'!): 

Please stop killing our young invertebrates!

The insects we need to pollinate our flowers and crops also need a place to develop and mature, so give them a chance to finish their cycle and hatch. Don't clear up your yard of hollow stems and thatch yet - it may look untidy to you but it's a long term investment for these little creatures, and the payoffs contribute to our futures too. Wait a bit longer before 'sanitizing' your yard and picking up winter debris. The twigs, leaf litter, hollowed stems and seed pods are their wombs, their homes - try not to destroy them, and be patient, waiting till we have continuously warm weather to have allowed them the conditions they need to hatch and emerge.

We get upset about habitat destruction that displaces polar bears and jaguars. I'm sure many of us would hesitate to deliberately kill a freshly hatched chicken, or burn a village to the ground, because we can see, relate and empathize. When things are miniscule, and not obviously visible to us, we tend to act as if they're not there. And yet there is a whole secret community functioning right under our noses. Every year we decimate entire habitats with our rakes, blowers, fires and mowers. Different from rainforest destruction, how? Being more mindful of the insect world might hold us back from destroying their habitats so injudiciously.


Refraining from clearing your yard requires personal sacrifice beyond avoiding plants infused with neo-nicotinoids. You will get to see and appreciate an amazing diversity of insects if you learn to view the debris as functional and useful, part of the process, and of ensuring a healthy future for all of nature. If you can't bring yourself to wait, and are focused on neatness, select a portion of the yard, at least, that you'd be willing to 'sacrifice' as the hatchling nursery. Maybe that area will expand each year as you see results ....🤞 I choose to feel flattered that a diverse community of insects have chosen to grace my yard and make it their winter home.

This is what ( has to say about it:

"Chrysalides still cling to last season’s dried standing plant material. While you may begin to see bumble bees and ground-nesting bees emerge as flowering trees and shrubs burst into bloom, they still need cover during chilly nights and when “April brings the sweet spring showers, on and on for hours and hours.” While mining bees, mason bees, carpenter bees, and bumble bees may be out and about by early April, other species such as sweat bees are still hiding out, waiting for the warmer days that arrive in May. Meanwhile, last year’s leaf litter is still providing protection for both plants and invertebrates against late-season frosts."

Ok, time to get off my soapbox ... oh, wait, maybe not yet ...

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Nature Collecting

I noticed a long, fleshy looking and speckled tail at the edge of the lake on my boardwalk stroll, and used a stick to lift it out. When I turned it over, I saw that it was a beautiful water snake, thoroughly frozen and dead. It was interesting to see how square its body had become in this rigid state.

Now, I have a treasured collection of snakeskins, seashells, lichens, feathers, bones, exoskeletons and seeds in my nature cabinet. I have a few different skulls, too.


So naturally, I began coveting this poor unfortunate snake's skull and vertebra for my collection.  I placed it carefully on a rock in the sun, hoping it would dry out and I'd be able to collect the bones at a later date when the flesh had decomposed.

But ... oh woe! On the second day of me checking back on it, it was gone. It'd probably been taken by a scavenger (silly me for naively thinking nothing but me would be interested in a decomposing snake!). I'll know better next time.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Getting Jabbed

You know your life has become weird, when you look forward to your vaccination appointment with excitement, akin to what you'd feel going on an overseas vacation (well, maybe not quite - I guess I'm prone to exaggeration sometimes 😀).

We got our Pfizer vaccines together, same day, same time, which was unexpected, but welcome. The level of efficiency in making the appointments was impressive. We were told to wear short sleeves to assist the vaccinating process. HOWEVER, on the day of our appointment, it must have been one of THE coldest days of the year with frigid 22mph winds ... well, I am usually a rule-follower, but I draw the line when it comes to my temperature regulation and comfort-level.

We waited in our car, as instructed, waiting for the phone call 5 minutes before our appointed time. The caller spoke to each of us, going through a list of questions about our health and exposure to COVID, and then instructed us to enter the building, wearing masks. No problem. Except that, to our puzzlement, the volunteer we encountered inside the entrance told us we had to remove our masks and put on a clean, disposable one provided for us. What??? This struck us as rather bizarre - this meant that for some moments, each new arrival breathes out, unmasked, into the air where strangers are assembling, albeit 6 feet apart. It really struck me as odd. Okay, I get that they wanted people to wear CLEAN masks, but heck, wouldn't donning a clean disposable one over a cloth mask do the job even better? I prefer my triple layered home made one to the flimsiness of a mass produced disposable one, anyway. I didn't make a fuss, though, beyond my initial taken-aback-ness and questioning the procedure, and followed directions.

Dale took his gloves off to take this photo whilst in line

Thereafter, the entire operation, both of labeling (floor spacings, dirty and clean pens, directions through the labyrinth) and the volunteers' efficiency and helpfulness was a very smooth and faultless operation. We were given a card listing the time we could depart after waiting the required 15 minutes, post-stabbing. We saw volunteers wiping down chair seats, backs and arm rests as people got up and left. Volunteers stepped forward and helped people find their way without leaving them to wander aimlessly around.

We had no side effects, aside from a tenderness at the vaccination site, and yes, we may have slept in a little longer the next morning so perhaps we were a tad fatigued. Our second Pfizer shot is already scheduled - can't wait!

What a well-run and efficient operation the whole process was!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Memorable Events

Five yeas ago, we said our final goodbyes to my Dad, after 3 years of him living with Dale and I in Maine. What follows is not a sad recollection, but a celebration of cherished memories.

When we arrived at the airport to pick him up in June of 2013 to start his new life with us, he'd already got help disembarking and claiming his bags, and was waiting in the lobby for us, thinking he'd been stood up, poor man! I felt awful - we were so used to planning for disembarking last with a wheelchair, long customs lines and taking forever to pick up luggage at Boston, Logan, that our timing was awry for a little jetport like Portland. As you can see from the pic below, he just took it in his stride - no harsh words or chastising. It was very courageous of him to leave everything he'd ever known, and start again on a new continent at age 80 without his life-long partner, my Mom.

Oh, we had our differences! I was not the conventional woman he expected his daughter to grow up to be, and he was more traditional than I could swallow at times. After all, we'd lived apart, on different continents, experiencing different cultures and expectations for 25 years. We not only made it work, but created some fantastic new memories.

Here's a pic of Dad and I enjoying our last Thanksgiving meal together a few months before he passed. By this stage, it was easiest for him to eat with a spoon from a bowl, and with an apron to keep his shirts clean. He used a water glass with a handle that he could grip. Making use of little adaptions like this meant he could still be in control and feel independent. The little folding table in the background was there so he could make himself a cup of tea when he felt like it, with his water and medications handy. Over time, he developed lymphoma, to add to the list of other conditions he endured, and chose not to pursue treatment.

At the beginning of 2016, we noticed that he was sleeping for extended periods, and was awake less during the day. He was feeling weak, and listless, and was losing interest in his usually engaging jigsaw puzzles. His red blood cell count had dropped to the point that was usually recommended for a blood transfusion. Since his body was no longer able to produce enough red blood cells, this procedure would only offer a temporary, and ongoing, reprieve every 2 weeks or so. It would be disruptive and could cause him some discomfort. It was not a fix. It was a very tough decision to make, and to commit to, but he ultimately decided to embrace his journey and forego the stopgap intervention. He missed my Mom terribly, and wished to be rested, like her.  

He assured me that he was ready, and was not afraid. He did ask me to do whatever was necessary to alleviate his pain, and was confident that I would do as he asked. He so very bravely stuck to his guns to die peacefully, without intervention. As the hospice nurse was setting us up for his care in our home, the local priest visited for his Last Rites. He passed a week later. Visitors came from near and far to say their goodbyes: from next door, to New Hampshire, Florida, England and New Zealand. It was a busy week of ferrying relatives to and from the airport at odd and uncoordinated hours - a task Dale took on without hesitation. He rigged up a 'virtual vigil' camera for relatives who couldn't visit in person, to sit by his bedside and spend time with him. We coordinated Skype calls and held the phone for him to talk during the day. It was busy! We had people stay with us on and off for the entirety of his last week with us, so setting up extra beds and meals happened in the midst of his care. We had meals together, laughed, disagreed, and bonded.

The expression on his face when he passed was so incredibly peaceful - he looked sweet and angelic. He was alone in his bed, with three of us chatting at the breakfast table in the next room. I hope this doesn't sound macabre, but it was quite beautiful. Though it was hard to stand by (I had to put on my detached, nurse demeanor), I'm happy to have given him the end he wanted.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Windy wisps of snow

Unable to reach the ground,

Dissipate'round me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Fun with Sausages

We received an electric grinder/sausage maker from Home Depot in exchange for an unbiased, honest review. It led to a fun activity for my husband and I to enjoy together one afternoon: making boerewors (pronounciation: BOO-ruh-VORS), the traditional South African sausage, flavored mostly with coriander, cloves and allspice, and no garlic or onion.

It's been some years since we savored boerewors. Best I can work out, we last had some in 2016 when we visited South African friends in the U.K. It was memorable enough to photograph on the grill as one of our holiday snaps!

Dale also made some at our home in Massachusetts using a hand grinder one year, with our son. That was back in 2002. Making it then was an incredible amount of hard work, muscle-power and a lot of mess for an 11 year-old, so we didn't repeat it. At the time, I recall it was difficult to find the hog casings, and I'd felt fortunate in locating some at Whole Foods in Bedford, MA. I'd kept the leftover casings in the freezer.

Mixing the sausage ingredients together, and using an electric machine this time around was a great way to do it. We tweaked the recipe and blended things based on how we both recalled the flavor to be - mostly, MORE coriander. I even found the 19 year old hog casings in my freezer, carefully labelled and cherished all these years (remember this silly post? They were still good! Even with an electric grinder and sausage attachment, it needed the two of us to coordinate the task of pushing the ingredients through and supporting the sausage as it filled sensuously into its skin (one recipe on did admit that 'grabbing hold of a second pair of hands at this point makes wors-making less traumatic.'). We only had one blowout!

We felt pretty satisfied and accomplished, and couldn't wait to sample our creation, but we followed directions and left the boerewors to rest and settle in the fridge for a day. And, this is what we had for dinner the next night - bliss! It was delicious, and made all the more so because we made it ourselves! And we knew exactly what was in it - no soy flour, natural flavors or corn syrup, with the taste of home!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Losing It!

I recently wrote down a book title that was recommended on a Zoom call, for future reference. The title didn't seem familiar to me. In retrospect though, it's pretty obvious that it should have been ...

I heard and wrote down "Kinda Sly." It sounded like an interesting story, so I Googled: kinda sly book review. The book titles it produced, were 

I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly & the Family Stone
Pretty Sly (the second book in a trilogy) 

but neither matched the description I recalled. No other useful results were found. But yet the book was described as current and trending, and getting great reviews from other New York Times bestselling authors. I was sure I'd written the title down verbatim, and did so as I heard it, not retroactively.

So I dug around through my notes to see if I'd written down the author's name - and, yes, I had! Lo and behold, when I added her name to the search, I got a hit! The title of the book was actually 'The Kindest Lie," by Nancy Johnson. 

Funnily enough (or maybe, worryingly so), I had listened to Nancy Johnson speak about her novel at its launch some weeks ago, and I also had her book in my Audible 'Wish List'! And yet ... ! Seeing the author's name didn't ring any bells for me, but it surely should have ... 😟 ... it's not as if I hadn't familiarized myself with the title.

I wish I had made the connection - I feel really foolish! I mean, Kinda Sly is not far from Kindest Lie! I guess it depends on where you place the emphasis ... Eek, not only am I losing my hearing, but some of my brain function and ability to make connections, too. I don't like this ...

(I'm SO excited for the discussion between Nancy Johnson and Jodi Picoult on 'Fiction and Race in America' on Zoom tonight, hosted by the Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH.)

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Spring Evening

Look at this beautiful evening - March, in Maine! It definitely calls for a BBQ, don't you think?

So, we did! We thought we'd better make the most of the warm weather before the frigid temperatures forecast for our next few days set in (we've been able to go for the past 4 days without the woodstove running 😀). And we disguised the milk, stamped 'use by 03/05,' that might possibly have been spoiling slightly by 03/12, with a potent White Russian ...

I love how the red coals' reflections dance on the stainless steel back of the BBQ.

This is how laid-back our BBQ was:

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Sun Exposure

Sitting outside on the deck is warmer than being inside the house some days! Sunglasses and hat needed - now that's what I call progress ... The leafless trees provide no shade or shelter from the sun, which reflects harshly off the snow. I'll take it ...

This is my version of Where's Waldo (Debbie)? I just liked the mosaic-y look to this image

It sounds as if I have a babbling brook in my yard, but it's only the sound of the snowmelt from our roof dribbling down onto the metal roof of the next level below.

The lake is still mushy and white. It could be a layer of clouds filling in a deep valley below if I didn't know any better! The snowmobile tracks have become little channels filled with snowmelt. No open water yet for the waterbirds to return to, but it's coming ... hang in there, mergansers.

The chickadees are advertising their availability, with their almost-mournful 2 note call, saying "swee-tie". You can hear it perfectly in this clip from Lesleythebirdnerd on YouTube

Friday, March 19, 2021

To Listen, or Not to Listen

I love my Audible subscription, but there are some little 'snags' (limitations) to such a membership that aren't immediately apparent. My annual subscription gives me 12 credits, which amounts to about $10 per book, which when you think about it, is pretty reasonable (I usually borrow actual books from libraries, but have stopped doing that during the pandemic). But basically, they're not really free, merely paid for up front.

Some book titles are available and are truly free (i.e. don't use up a credit or require payment), but they're usually not new releases, bestsellers, popular, or 'must-reads'. I've been lucky in finding a few in this category that might be worthwhile, so I've stacked them up in my virtual library: Joan Didion's 'The Year of Magical Thinking,' 'Blackbird House' by Alice Hoffman, and Kenn Kaufman's bird book on the world of spring migrations. Michelle Obama's 'Becoming,' and Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste,' will use up my next 2 credits, so I'll be down to 5 (out of 12), just 2 months in!

It's definitely worth experimenting with a free trial from different apps before committing (you still 'own' these books afterwards, so can listen to them again after your subscription ends). I tried both Audible and Audiobooks' free trials. There are many free public domain titles (usually classics) available on Apps like LibriVox that are read by volunteers, so no financial commitment is required, but their delivery and narration is not as professional. Other apps like Scribd (pronounced /skribbed/) also offer some titles for free (not new releases), and their subscription is cheaper than Audible. Chirp comes highly recommended, though I haven't yet tried its offerings ... next free trial?

Some narrators are truly awful. Some over-act. Some try to use foreign accents or other genders, unsuccessfully. Some mis-pronounce words. But, in general, most are wonderful, especially if it's the author reading their own work - that is magical! I love hearing books read by British narrators, since it feels very comforting to me - I can hear my Mom and my Gran, and it feels like I'm at home.

It is possible to return a book if you're not enjoying it (in theory), though I haven't tried this as yet.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Sunny March

March! It's sunny! It's beautiful. It feels SO warm, though the high temperature is only 35°F.  I got my feet wet, literally. I ventured outside on a whim, without a jacket ... in my Crocs, to enjoy the mild warmth and sunshine. But the warming had been melting a lot of snow ... And my walkways are boggy with snowmelt - not a smart move in holey Crocs. But I'm so giddy with excitement at this progression.


Sitting at my writing desk in one of the sunniest spots in our house, I've had to remove the long-sleeved shirt I'd started the day with, on a number of occasions. I'm even worried about sunburn! My sunroom makes me feel as if I might be a tomato ripening in a greenhouse ...

With so much warm sun, it feels like the perfect time to barbecue. I also WANT to hang my laundry outside - it just feels right. There's still snow everywhere, and the lake is like a mushy-slushie. We watched a raccoon slink along the bottom of the yard, foraging at the water's still icy edge, and then sink every now and then, into the soft mush. Its gait looked so awkward and undignified, more cumbersome than effortless. The chipmunks have been appearing frequently after their hibernation, and the red squirrels are interacting aggressively with each other. One has lost an ear, earning him the name Vincent. The chunky grey squirrels seem so much larger than all the other rodents that they're almost like elephants lumbering about on our deck. 

The light is so much better for macro photography

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Green Ideas

Seeing as it's St Patrick's day, traditionally associated with the color green (either to make one invisible to leprechauns, or as a reference to the verdant green of Ireland), I thought it appropriate to talk about 'green' ideas like reusing and recycling. I'm particularly interested in finding multiple uses, as opposed to single uses (disposable) for bountiful items, that are produced in great amounts and thrown away injudiciously.

Do you re-use the (green) plastic velcro-like strips that come with some vegetables from the grocery store, or do you throw them away as a single-use item? I just can't bring myself to throw them away ... these 'free' items seem to be loaded with potential, awaiting a second use, so I keep them coiled in my kitchen 'oddments' drawer, ready for the time when a use speaks to me.

Making use of items like this is 'green,' by using them multiple times instead of just once, and then throwing into the landfill as if it were a disposable or compostable kind of item. I've been using them to keep electrical cords on my appliances neatly in place.

I've used them to attach plants to a stake to keep them upright.

And we used them to mark the trail we'd picked through the woods before making our boardwalk.

I've also used them to label, and keep items in the freezer bagged and closed securely ..

Here I've used them to keep my yoga mat rolled up, and to keep my hand weights together in my gym bag.


I'm looking for more creative and diverse ways of using these give-aways - what do YOU do with them?

P.S. My desire to use items that come my way freely may also be connected to one of the teachings instilled in us by the nuns at my school. We were 'coached' and 'coaxed' to always pick up a pin, or penny, or paper clip on the ground because 'someone made it.' It was intended to instill an appreciation and respect for the work put into products for our use; and to not overlook the bounty available to us. It's stuck with me, and I can't stop picking up and re-using.

So, have a GREEN St Patrick's day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Crazy for Books

I'm currently in a book daze. Or is it craze? Maybe a book haze, since my head is almost always elsewhere when I'm in the middle of a book ... I know people talk about Crazy Cat Ladies (People), so I guess Crazy Book Ladies (People) is also a thing?

My daze/haze/craze started with a gift for a subscription to an audiobooks program, a form of "reading" that I detested before the pandemic. I'd been wanting to find better ways to spend my indoor winter-time at home other than relentlessly watching TV, or having nothing to do with my mind whilst I crocheted, so I tried a few free trials. I listened to Barack Obama narrating 'A Promised Land,' with a free trial, which was particularly awesome.

I found that it was very freeing. I could get my at-home, and running-the-household chores done whilst listening to a book at the same time. It felt like listening to an interesting talk, or drama, on the radio in the background. I can hang laundry, unpack the dishwasher and cook whilst advancing my story. Since I have a good set of headphones, I can also continue listening whilst I do the vacuuming! I can crochet endlessly without going nuts (though the jury is probably still out on that). I can play Scrabble on my computer whilst listening. 

Sure, sometimes I lose my concentration, but I just go back a little, something I'd have to do with a physical book I'd read silently to myself, anyway. There are also a few things I can't do whilst listening to an audiobook - writing my own stories, or blogging, folding loud paper bags, and running water in my sink.

A bonus for me is not having my eyes feel tired and strained if I read for a long time. (However, the converse is also true .. that an audiobook can sometimes put me to sleep, especially if for once, I'm not busy doing something with my hands, or if the narration is particularly hypnotic). And secondly, I can get the mundane stuff done whilst doing something interesting for myself at the same time. 

I'm not necessarily touting audiobooks as a 'must have,' but for me it's been a life-saver during the pandemic. I like "owning' these books, whilst not having to find space for them on a shelf, and feeling like I'm not a mindless consumer of resources.

I'm embarrassed to say, I haven't got into exploring our library's collection of audio books yet, but it's definitely on my 'to-do' list.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Ides of March ...

Patterns of change come.

Our senses alert to flux

'Tween lion and lamb.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Rewards of Simplicity


“If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Taking Stock

    In reflecting on an unusual, and out of the ordinary, year I've tried to sum up what I've learned, and how I've grown, during the pandemic:
    Generally, I've learned to be self-reliant, not lonely, and to be comfortable with just my husband and myself, almost undiluted, 24/7.
  • I learned how to knit again (not my forte) and follow a pattern on YouTube. I completed a few knitted items, despite them taking forever to grow
  • I learned that it's comfortable not wearing a bra
  • I learned how to create my own blog page, and have been posting daily and enthusiastically for 270 days 
  • I learned that I have too many clothes - some haven't been worn at all in the past year
  • I completed an online plant ID course, and became a certified Invasive Plant Patroller for the Lake Stewards of Maine
  • I learned to dilute my wine with club soda
  • I listened to all the authors presenting writing lessons in the Masterclass series
  • I learned to give my husband license to trim the back of my hair regularly! (... and experimented with some tips on cutting it myself from YouTube videos)
  • I grew not only psychologically and academically during the pandemic, but I'm embarrassed to say I also 'grew' physically- i.e. put on weight! I didn't do well with committing to formal exercise, even though I posted publicly about starting a new regime. I couldn't keep it up despite thinking I would be accountable after going public! Much of what I was 'doing' was done whilst ... sitting
  • I continued (virtually) participating in my writer's group and in new book launches on line to expand my mental reading library/wish list
  • I learned to make pastry for a homemade meat pie; to use olive juice as a brine for slow-cooked roasts and how to make candied peel
  • I discovered and accepted that I really like my own cooking
  • I adapted to listening to audio books
  • I learned the ins and outs of ordering groceries online
  • I weaned myself off social media
  • I accepted that I'm easily addicted to some TV series and struggle not to binge-watch
  • I didn't paint the room I'd intended re-doing last spring, and am now feeling the same stirrings of interest in getting it done
  • I learned to occupy my own mind and find things to do for the day when my Google calendar declared that I had no events for that day (which is most days 😀)!
  • I learned how important it is to be in control of your own narrative

    Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.
    – Chinese Proverb

Friday, March 12, 2021

Around the House in 365 Days

I have completed an entire 365 days at home during COVID 19 (I've been counting the days on a desk calendar in front of my keyboard). We've left home for what we've considered essentials: a few doctor visits, postal service needs, a mostly contact-less car purchase, and bi-monthly shopping trips (which have now segued into online shopping and contactless pick-up). No voluntary social interactions or family visits. Zoom has kept us connected. And soon, we'll be vaccinated. Life will change again. Maybe B.P., previously referred to as Before Present, will specifically be referred to as Before Pandemic.

March 11 last year was the eve of our trip to Munich. It would have been our first return trip since we left there at the end of 1993 with a toddler and a babe in arms. Last year, we'd packed our bags, passports and excitement to revisit the city in which we'd begun our family 29 years before - we were ready ahead of schedule, no last minute to-do's left to do. But Europe had become the active center of the COVID pandemic, reporting more cases than the initial China outbreak. Italy had recently gone into total lockdown. Most tourist attractions and transport services in Munich were cutting back on opening hours and operations due to the surge of cases throughout Europe. There was talk of the US closing its borders to travelers from Europe - how would we get back home if that happened whilst we were away? (We didn't understand at the time that U.S. citizens would obviously have been allowed to return home.)

Just before checking in for our flight, after an anxious evening of constantly checking for updates and definitive information, we both decided it would be best to back out. We felt devastated, and yet relieved at the same time, having put the unknowns and decision-making 'what-ifs, ands or buts' to rest.

We've basically been 'at home' ever since. I had been an 'at-home Mom' when my children were young (which had a lot more freedom than our current set up), so my lifestyle has historically not been frantic, striving for productivity goals, or busily involved in the corporate world. I've learned this year, though, that there is an even more languid, non-rushed flow to life than I'd already known! 

I was determined not to let my choice of physical separation during the pandemic control me psychologically and make me frustrated and miserable. After all, it was temporary, and I could choose how to use this time - how often in our lives do we have the opportunity and occasion (nay, the luxury) to stand back and reflect while the world is in limbo and waits to re-start? I distinctly recall the feeling of losing a loved one, and wishing like crazy that the world would just stop and pause, that it would respectfully halt and take a breath with me in recognition of the huge impact my loss had on the world. 

And now, we had that opportunity ... so, without specific goals of what I intended learning or achieving during the pandemic, I decided to go with the flow and make the best of the opportunities that presented themselves during this time. It was hard sometimes, and not always plain sailing, but there were also lots of positives and ways to grow.

/to be continued ...

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Freezer Song

I still haven't found what I'm looking for ... Classic, great song by U2. I think I've finally understood what it's really about ...

It HAS to be the anthem for anyone looking for something in their chest freezer. It's SO hard to keep track of, and get things out of the depths, especially when you're on the short side - it gets quite cold hanging half of your body over into it. Even though I use wire baskets to organize and categorize items, I sometimes have to walk away, not having found what I was looking for, and not being able to describe where 'it' is to my husband.

Never mind spiritual yearning, this is freezer searching. Thanks, U2! Something pleasant to think about when I'm bending over into my freezer.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Marmalade Sparks a Memory!

The flavor of marmalade on my toast at breakfast sparked an incredible sensory memory ... of the thick, yellow and citrus-sy multi-vitamin syrup my Mom would give us as kids. She wasn't big into medications or supplementary vitamins, but the clinic she visited every month would hand it out, so she dispensed it. We loved the taste - it was very sweet and orangey.

There was a monthly well-child clinic held at a local church hall or other such community space, where all the families would stand or sit in line for their turn at one of the nurse stations set up in the stark, wooden floored hall. No appointments were made - you just arrived, stood in line, and waited your turn. There were about 6 or 8 different stations set up in the open hall, without curtains or privacy. 

It was a challenge for the mums to keep 3 or 4 toddlers, and a baby, in check with no stimulation or distraction provided. My Mom didn't take us there with books or snacks (never mind video games), just each other. She simply dealt with the fighting and melt-downs, as did all the other moms. The sounds of children stomping, chasing each other and shrieking as they slid and hit their heads on the floor, and landed in a heap, was a familiar sound. Despite there being a lot of crying, screaming (especially during vaccinations) and giddy laughter, the wooden floors would echo and creak initially as we made our way to the folding chairs lined up around the outside of the room. 

When our name was called, we were ushered to one of the temporary stations, and each child's development recorded. Babies were weighed in large, scooped metal scales, cold stethoscopes were pressed against chests, and vaccinations were given. Wellness checks and vaccinations weren't done at a doctor's office as it is here in the U.S. Each child had a registration card where details were recorded. Watching some British shows like 'Call the Midwife" had scenes that were somewhat reminiscent of this, as shown here: 

The nurses were available to discuss any concerns, and gave advice to new mums about feedings, problems, and stages of development. They provided milk powder and multi-vitamin syrup to their patrons. I recall being seen for what were described as 'blotches' on my upper arms - inexplicable round, white looking patches of skin in only that location. They weren't itchy, just visually noticeable. It was recommended that I eat lumps of ... BUTTER ... to fix it! I was given a chunk of it every now and again, and have no idea what it was meant to have done or what the condition was. I must report though, that I no longer have white blotches on my arms.

These clinics were offered during the sixties and seventies in White suburbs during the Apartheid era. In my understanding, this was a mobile community service in which no money or insurance information was exchanged. Though separate clinics were available for the Black population in the rural and remote areas designated to them, services there were hopelessly inadequate - overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed - and not necessarily within walking distance.

I think that I remember more about these clinics than my siblings, since I was the second eldest, and I was 9 when my youngest sister was born, so I was actively involved (and very interested) in her care. My Mom had some surgeries after the youngest was born, and it fell to me to take on my Mom's role to help out, much to my delight. I do recall a horrible feeling of guilt once whilst carrying my baby sister in my arms to the car to visit my Mom in hospital. I slid and lost my footing on the long smooth grass-stalks that were lying over the sloped, rounded curb where the car was parked on an incline and she and I fell to the ground. I've never forgotten her distress, and the feeling that I was to blame.

On a visit back to South Africa in 1994, with my own daughter around 10 months old, I visited a similar such clinic to get her weepy eye seen to - they referred me to a surgeon for a small surgery on her tear duct (something I had done as a baby too).

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Bird in the Hand

Windows! Essential to my home! The amount of light and warmth they provide is incredibly uplifting, especially during the winter months, but sadly they are a major hazard to birds. Despite knowing this, I still can't bring myself to fill my windows with decals or hang drapes and blinds across them. Having sunlight and uninterrupted views out of my home is something I desperately need. It's perhaps my biggest indulgence, and it pricks my conscience every time I hear that thud.

Birds can mistakenly fly into one of the reflective surfaces, not knowing it's a hard barrier. And if they're flying at speed, the impact can be deadly. In a 2014 article published in The Condor, the rough estimate of annual window fatalities ranged between 0.1 to 1 billion in the United States. That's a huge impact on our avian world, and is particularly hazardous to migrating populations.

This gorgeous red-bellied woodpecker was found on its back in the snow after we heard a loud thud on one of our small side windows. Not wanting the cold to settle in and compromise its recovery, Dale picked it up and held it comfortingly and warmly in his hands. It seemed alert and intact, but maybe a little stunned. It didn't squirm or try to wriggle out of his grasp at all - it was very calm.

After the formal photo session, he placed it on the railing of our deck and watched as it slowly regained the awareness that it could fly. It looked pretty clumsy sitting on such a broad substrate as opposed to a twig or branch that its claws can grip onto, but it eventually flew off into a tall oak, flying normally.

Phew! What a relief. It was a beautiful sight to see this exquisite bird up close.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Wind Storm

Trees sway viciously

Twigs collide with window panes

House beams moan and twist.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Voluntary Simplicity

This quote resonates with me, so wanted to share it. I hope it speaks to you, too ...

“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Creating is Life-giving!

How weird it feels to analyze what I'm doing with a piece of thread ... I'm 'knotting' or weaving it in such a way as create a whole piece of fabric, stitch by stitch, row by row. It's such a simple and basic thing, and yet gives me so much satisfaction. And then, when I stop to look at the product of my labor, I can appreciate and value the outcome of my time spent. I love creating!

When I first revisited my ability to crochet about 3 years ago, I practiced on all manner of leftovers and oddments of yarn, satisfied that I was able to create a recognizable and useful product. As time has gone by though, the desire to work with a yarn of my choice, both in color and texture, and with the luxury of quantity, has brought me even more fulfillment than I could ever have imagined.

The act of creating is amazing. I feel accomplished and proud to be creating a 'whole' from pieces of yarn, of crafting a story from  pieces of language, of producing a meal from pieces of produce, or of composing a photo from pieces of light.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Find the Wonder


Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

- William Martin, author of The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

I grew up in a family of 8 (Catholic, need I mention), where only one parent earned a salary. There was a girls' bedroom and a boys' bedroom. Our moderate means and humble lifestyle were not only influenced by our financial situation, but also by my parents' can-do, make-do attitude, where 'enough' was perfect, where striving for MORE was not even a goal. Being rich meant having all your basic needs met, and no more. We had no expectations of grandeur or luxury; no sense that we were entitled to something better. Our lives were uncomplicated and simple. I grew up not wanting or desiring material things, but wishing for a satisfying, fulfilling life. I never felt that I deserved a new bike (a hand-me-down was exciting and 'new' to me), or that I might own a radio or one day have my own camera. 

I'm so lucky that my upbringing instilled in me the ability to appreciate and value small things. It has helped me understand that little things not only matter, but count for something, and amount to a lot. These, added up, are what transform the ordinary into extraordinary.

I have an extraordinary life!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Lichen Shedding

I noticed a small piece of lichen lying under our dining room table a few days ago, and I contemplated this weird thought ... what if we became so slow-moving in our old age, that there'd be time for lichen to start growing on us? (Please don't call the insane asylum and have me committed - I'm just having fun)

The lichen had actually fallen off a piece of firewood we'd brought in, which happens often ... and drives me up the wall! I don't know why, since I really don't consider myself to be a neat-nick, but seeing firewood debris lying across the floors definitely gets to me (maybe that's a good thing, since it does prompt occasional vacuuming!). It's something I really dislike about having a woodstove do the housewarming in winter.

Earlier that week, we'd also noticed dry scaly bits of lichen scratched off the trees and lying at their bases in fresh white snow, so I guess I had the concept of lichen-shedding on my mind. 😄

And yes, I know I'm sounding a little cuckoo! I can blame my isolation ... perhaps!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Flip-ping Hell!

I recently watched an interesting TV show called Bushmen: Hunting for their Survival on my Amazon Prime account.

Since then, I haven't been able to shake the wildly insane scene of the researcher, Dr. Flip Stander, flying a microlight craft with a drugged leopard strapped onto his back! Seriously, I'm not joking. In case you don't believe me, here are some shots I took of my TV screen:

Who would do such a crazy thing, I wonder? Coming from southern Africa, the general area where this took place, I can relate to the common mindset of " 'n boer maak 'n plan" (literally, a farmer makes a plan, or a farmer will find a way to make things work. It's basically the same as 'necessity is the mother of invention'). Circumstances sometimes force novel solutions to be devised.

During the Apartheid era in South Africa, when embargoes and boycotts isolated academics, artists, researchers and scientists from international exposure and collaboration, we got used to having to develop a work-around - this inadvertently sparked new avenues of research and development locally. It encouraged resourcefulness, creativity and resilience. I think this is what this crazy, insane mission speaks to - a leopard was caught killing cattle and needed to be relocated, so this is how they figured it out, independently, and without asking for funds or help! This solution seems particularly wild and dangerous, though.

Here's a link to the show about this Flip-ping wild researcher:

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Seussian Word Play

H A P P Y  B I T H D A Y,  D R.  S E U S S !

I was watching snow flurries swirl and float lightly in circles as I ate my lunch, when a brilliant new word formed in my head (well, I thought it was brilliant!).

Swirligigs = snowflakes flying in circles, just like the whirligig beetles that look as if they're spinning on the lake surface.

Swirligigs on my shoulders make me happy ... (move over John Denver!)

Talking about inventing new words, did you know that the first documented use of the word 'nerd' is from Dr. Seuss in 1950? Actually, it's not known if he created the word, or just came across some little-known slang that he incorporated into his story If I Ran the Zoo. The verse goes like this:

"And then, just to show them,
I'll sail to Ka-Troo
and bring back an It-Kutch,
a Preep and a Proo,
a Nerkle, a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!"

The context for the word 'nerd' is not quite the same as we use it today, but nevertheless, next time you hear of a Swirligig, remember, you heard it here first! 😀

Monday, March 1, 2021

Water Forms

Solid and liquid -
Water shows some of its forms,
But none are a gas.