Thunder then and now

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Thunder and white strikes of blinding light wake me. I can’t sleep now as my mind goes to how you always protected us.

On summer camping trips, when the storms came, we never got wet. There were canopies on picnic tables, tarps as rain drenched, hot soup, snug sleeping bags and always a dry deck of cards for play.

Loud crashing sounds now, and I lie endlessly awake, waiting for the storm to move into the distance. I wonder if you hear the thunder now, too. There was a time I knew what you thought about. I’m not so sure anymore. Time steals many things from us. One is our ability to think, remember and respond to all that is around us.

You will be back home in a few days, and a new normal will begin. The family will warm the soup, fluff the pillows and mind your every step to keep you from danger.

I’ve been keeping my hands clear from metal tent poles for years now. I’ve held flashlights in my sleep in case I need to move in the night. I’ve practiced taking care of myself for a very long time. Still, approaching storms make my heart race and wish for my father to tell me that everything will be all right.

Photo from Pixabay.

Celebrity birding

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Meeting Rick West was like meeting a phenomenon of nature itself. The boyish enthusiasm and energy permeated his 80-something body. A restless and exacting man arrived at our apartment at around 6:30 one Saturday morning in May a couple of years ago. We were about to go on a bird observation and count in my general neighborhood.

Who is Rick West? He is a bird-enthusiast and former chemist out of Tallahassee, Florida who holds a claim to fame of championing the Delaware State bird atlasing some years back. When we met, he was in the driver seat to do the same in his native Florida. A bird never had a more relentless friend and advocate than Rick.

How did Rick arrive from Tallahassee to my neck of the woods (Everglades) to do a bird count? My youngest daughter met him in Tallahassee while attending Florida State University. She was doing medical volunteer work, and encountered Rick. In conversation, he learned where she grew up, and he shared his interest in birds. She mentioned her mother was “interested” in birds. Rick was looking for amateurs in this part of Florida for the records he was collecting.

Before I knew it, I had a three inch thick book from Rick titled “Birds of Delaware” and a laminated parking pass to show that I had special parking permissions for the task I agreed to take on. Bird atlasing is a counting of species observed in certain areas during non-migratory parts of the year. I gave myself a crash course on the species that I might observe. I had to ratchet up my “interest” to a reasonably informed observer in my neighborhood.

Months before Rick arrived at our doorstep, I visited endless parks and nature spots in about a 10 mile area. I wanted to at least be able to show him where the various species were observed by me. This paid off in dividends.

When Rick arrived, I think he and his grandson were surprised that my daughter and I had mapped out the route to observe the birds. It was an efficient plan to move methodically around the area and hit the spots when the birds were most likely to be observable and abundant. Rick timed himself for about three minutes at each of a dozen sites, observed and listened, noting his observations on a clipboard. He had a GPS drop of each location he made observations on.

He wanted to hit the everglades before about 10 a.m. The plan was to hike out on the dike about one mile in. We were in search of a yellow-throated warbler (or was it yellow-rumped)?! Anyway, it was a bird that there was concern about. We did manage to see one in a bush. Along the way, we saw red-winged blackbirds. Living only about two miles from that spot, I was surprised I hadn’t seen any outside of the preserve zone. Rick said it had to do with spraying that is done. That species eats the insects that the insecticides kill in developed areas.

Along the way, we passed an alligator about 20 feet below the dike and the footpath. My daughter and I were reluctant to pass, but Rick kept trudging. “My mother taught us not to be afraid of wildlife that doesn’t see us as food.” We weren’t so sure, but kept following Rick anyway.

Our bird observation day gave us sightings of ibis, herons, purple gallinules, crows, mockingbirds, shrikes, cardinals and a few other species. I learned that ordinary observers can contribute to the greater good when matched with leadership like Rick’s. As we came out of the everglades area, we had to squeeze under and through a fenced area. We asked Rick if he needed any assistance. “I’m not planning on using my age card any time soon,” was his response. No kidding.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

 

Affection for colleagues

team-spirit-959269_1280I’ve observed how quickly new colleagues become part of the fold in the workplace. A common project or goal helps weave a strong collective spirit.

Another observation is that when a colleague leaves, the ties that bind loosen. Instead of berating myself for a lack of social graces or inability to sustain bonds when others depart, I’ve had an epiphany.

It’s built into our survivalist makeup to need others and work towards a common cause. When things shift a little (or a lot), we have the capacity to create new bonds and thrive again. It is a natural occurrence for the “new” to fill the void.

The oil painting: A parable

A young woman went into the market with a plan to buy an art canvas. She was new to painting, and needed an old canvas for practice. Her eyes were really just learning to discern beauty. She saw a dark canvas being sold at a good price. She thought that two or three coats of base would cover the old image. 

Looking closer, she saw a glimmer of blue in the corner. She knew something beautiful could be beneath. If she painted on top, after two layers of whitewash, she would never know what that picture was.

This parable was gifted to me as I prayed for discernment to a matter my younger daughter shared with me. The reason that the matter is so challenging is that we are looking at a surface layer. Many difficult questions require meticulous and painstaking probing to get passed. Which layer holds beauty? How deep do we need to go for clarity?

The peace left behind

The last time I felt
Peace was standing
Under a grey November sky
We walked to see the beavers
Who were building a dam

At 15, and old enough to
Appreciate naked trees
And rocks with seed pods
The beavers built by
Transporting mud slowly

My father pointed out
The progress of the dam
Some things can be measured
The grey sky muted the light
And the New England breeze chilled

I was comfortable in this skin once

Today my thoughts spin so fast
That a lassooing wrangler
Must tackle them at night
As they run, like cattle
At breakneck speed

Each day, bright lights
Dripping sweat, blinding sun
Slammed down by blunt force
No pooled waters of
The life I left behind

 

 

A red fox family

red-foxes-62941_640When I was little, my father killed a red fox because of a fear it could be rabid. I remember it came out at dusk behind our barn where we had some food scraps composting. Foxes will behave that way normally.

Others find foxes ruthless because they kill chickens. I’m sure I would be heartbroken if I owned chickens and the foxes snatched them. I know many farmers are very clever with fences and coops.

If I had a farm, I might compost food material far away from my house or contain it well. Cats and small dogs might need to stay inside mostly. I’ve read that foxes are quite smart and a bit on the lazy side. They’ll find food in the easiest way that they can.

Let’s think twice about how we can safely co-habitate with wildlife. Foxes are predators of other wildlife you might find even more bothersome.

Last night I dreamed I was running with the wild animals. We had a common purpose and I wasn’t afraid.

Dream

In morning fog
Dream fragments still wake
Through solid doors
A crack finds its place

Young love burned hot
Ice buckets with age
Snuff the embers
With dreams the last stage

Lakes were colder
Steep cliffs ragged shear
Pine needles sharp
And the waters clear

Few thoughts retained
With East rising sun
What I can’t touch
Is proof it is done