Tuesday, February 28, 2006



I’ve caught the flu bug…
Ooops… perhaps it’s the other way around…

I guess the flu bug has caught me...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Parker National Wildlife Refuge

February 11, we went out to Parker National Wildlife Refuge. Drove clear out to the end of the road at parking lot seven. All along our route we find sand dunes and tall Fragmities Grass. There is a stark bareness to this winter landscape. Much of the beauty is in the patterns of the ice and where wind has blown over the dunes. One of the things we discovered at the very end of the road that we think worth remembering is the public outhouse. It is always important for serious birders to make note of these valued landmarks.

We walked on crusted sand out to the ocean but it was cold, very cold, with a lot of wind… well everything considered, you could even say it was very, very cold.

Birding couldn’t qualify as good today. Mallards, Rock Doves, Crows, Canada Geese, Swan, Mocking Bird, Greater Black-backed Gull, Red-tailed Hawk, Robin.I followed C out to the beach where hopefully we got a couple of good pictures but I got so cold that all I wanted to do was get back into the car. One of my fingers and my right thumb still hurt. CM didn’t come down and I thought it was because he was taking photos but when we got back to him, we discovered his heel was hurting so severely that he couldn’t walk on it. He did manage to hobble back to the car and with visible relief clambered in and got the pressure off his foot.

We talked to a few fellow birders who mentioned there was a snowy owl out in a field not far from parking lot four. On the return trip we saw a group of people staring out into what appeared to be a field filled with not much beyond scraggly grasses. We stopped and discovered that they had found the snowy owl. They let us look through the scope; the Snowy was sitting atop a Canada Goose, resting quite comfortably on his feather luncheon pillow while munching away at his leisure. C and I had wonderful views through the scope. We called to CM and he hobbled back to take a look. Our view of the Snowy Own really made our day! Although we could see the bird through our binoculars once we knew where he was, we would never have found him without the benefit of the scope.

The evening light was lovely; lots of warm color against indigo tints of sky and cloud. There is a lovely silvery afterglow. Pale indigo clouds seem backlit and glow against the darker indigo sky. Low on the horizon rose tones add a faint touch of color and provide a delicate background for the silhouetted hills and trees. By the time we started back to our rooms it was very dark. There is a lot of traffic on the surface roads. They weave in and out like they were dodging double parked cars in New York City, although there are no parked cars anywhere in their vicinity. I don’t find the exit or on ramps to be either well marked or well light which makes it a bit uncomfortable getting off and on the freeway.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Plum Island

Plum Island - Cape Anne, Massachusetts
We visited the Audubon Nature Center.
Caught these mallards just beyond the center.
Massachussetts Audubon Society

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Vacation - Making a Start

Having identified some of the things that make a good vacation --- Let me reflect on our experience and see if we were able to include any of the elements – Good food, adventure, change of pace, something different, something new:

--- Actually I had to return my new camera so had to make a trip into Manhattan before we could even get underway. I was delighted to discover the people at B & H Camera were helpful and even sympathetic --- they were able to solve my problem in less than an hour.

We spent the night on Staten Island. The next morning our “adventure” began. We drove down to a new market that my daughter and daughter-in-law have been raving over. Toward the end of 2005, Cindy and Simon Chang opened a large asian foods super market, K. M. Food International, 2040 Forest Ave., Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, NY. As we enter there is a huge produce section with lots of exotic fruit and vegetables. We were after some dumplings that we wanted to take with us on our trip. Of course we got caught up in exploring all the fascinating items on the shelves and came back with several bags of groceries. We found the dumplings and a sauce for them, some vegetarian duck rolls and some vegetarian chicken rolls. Hope to have these for dinner this evening. I also saw some Pineapple rolls, bean curd rolls and Pineapple/bean curd rolls; got one of each and thought we could share so we each could have a taste of the different rolls. Yummy.

C bought lots of exotic things at the market and we have been trying them out one at a time: dried sweet olives – which say they are just olives and salt but they taste like there is lemon in them – quite tasty. I think one or two is the quota but we all like them. Dried plum – good at first but so-o-o-o-o-o salty when we got into the plum and they set us off to coughing. Pickled papaya which actually tastes like sweet gherkin pickles. Again, tasty but only part of a piece at a time. I think I might enjoy it with a rice or noodle dish. Some kind of a green tea candy that begins to taste like bees wax and alfalfa but changes flavor as you are eating it; quite an gastronomic experience. Preserved mandarins C’s comments: “the most interesting one so far. --- Looks like we are going to have to find thirty people to give a sample to. --- oddly enough, it grows on you, at least it does on me, -- I think it is addictive.” - The taste is salt, sour, bitter, sweet, and then the mandarin comes through. C’s comment; “there are only five servings per container – so someone hasn’t eaten their share.” (Dried plum, sugar, potassium, sorbic, sodium, saccharine, f d and c red.) Wow these are potent… I think one taste may be enough to satisfy my curiosity.

About three thirty we arrived at College Town Inn, a bed and breakfast in Massachusetts where we stay a number of times every year. Charlotte and Jack left a note on the front door with a key and a message telling us to go in and which rooms we could choose from. They gave us some wonderful options. It turns out that because of the expected snowstorm, we are the only new guests arriving today so we have a pick of rooms. We picked one of the suites where we have a kitchen.

When our hosts, Jack and Charlotte, returned they invited us to have dinner with them, but I had already started our meal so we switched the invitation. One of those synchronicities --- the food came packaged for six. Guess how many people were scheduled for dinner… We put together a true gastronomical adventure from our purchases at the K & M Food on Staten Island. Some very new tastes but it turned out well.

Friday, February 24, 2006

List Friday - Splendid Necessities for Travel

Checking favorite blogs today and discovered that I am not the only one thinking about travel and Vacation…. Sacred Ordinary and Pomegranates and Paper have lists of “Splendid Necessities for Travel” that provided the inspiration for the following list:

  • Canon cameras (lenses, tripod or monopod depending on location and space)

  • Laptop (with wireless)

  • Extra batteries, battery charger, perhaps adapter for differing electrical service, extension cord, small surge protector.

  • Moleskine Journal

  • Sketch box: which includes assorted drawing pencils, small scissors, ruler, x-acto knife, kneaded erasers and other useful things.

  • Watercolor pad

  • Travel box of watercolors

  • Comfortable backpack for essential field supplies

  • Memory foam pillow (space allowing)

  • Comfortable shoes!

  • Tylenol

  • An emergency sewing kit

  • One paperback book I have not yet read

  • One old favorite book that I can depend on for a good read

  • Clothing (varies with season and location)

  • Hat (to keep heat in or out…)

  • Personal care kit (I have kept this packed for so long I am not certain what it holds, but if I take anything out I am sure I will need it)

  • Almond Roca

  • A couple of body stash money holders (with travelers checks and cash)

  • Passport (if needed)

  • My imagination

  • A positive adventurous attitude

Hummmm --- now what else did I take out of the car when we unpacked this morning?

Thursday, February 23, 2006


During a few moments of quiet reflection while out on vacation I began to wonder if there are answers to the questions we have been asking ourselves for the past few weeks:
How do you plan for a really good vacation?
How will you know if you had a good vacation?
Are there any consistent elements that are essential for satisfaction?

An Internet search for information about vacation planning, needs, strategy, psychology or implementation brings me to advertising, and more advertising with a lot of hype and very little substance.

After looking through dictionaries, encyclopedias, Wikipedia, Psychology Today and interviewing a host of patient friends and acquaintances I came up with some information if not a lot of insights:

  • Vacation is - A period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation, especially one with pay granted to an employee

  • Recreation is - Refreshment of one's mind or body after work through activity that amuses or stimulates; play. Also therapeutic refreshment of one's body or mind. Recreation is often distinguished from leisure. Where leisure is, or ought to be, restful, recreation is refreshing and diverting

  • The act of recreating, or the state of being recreated; refreshment of the strength and spirits after toil; amusement; diversion; sport; pastime.

  • Leisure - can also be interpreted as a specific action, resulting in relaxation and rejuvenation of the individual.

  • Synonyms: breathing space, fiesta, furlough, gone fishing, holiday, intermission, layoff, leave, liberty, long weekend, recess, recreation, respite, rest, sabbatical, spell, time off

Psychology Today suggests “Americans are experiencing a vacation deficit disorder.” By: Hara Estroff Marano

“In a nine-year study, Brooks Gump, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York, Oswego, found that men who skipped vacation for five consecutive years were 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week's annual leave. Even skipping one year's vacation was associated with an elevated risk of heart disease.”
“Researchers aren't sure why people who take more vacations are less likely to die of heart attacks, but they have three theories: the time with family and friends; the escape from everyday worries; and the simple anticipation of a few stress-free days.” Psychology Today, July-August, 2004 by Richard A. Lovett

The following is a compilation of the elements I collected in my mini survey
  • Adventure (but not too much)

  • Change of pace

  • Different

  • Good food

  • Inspiration

  • Natural beauty

  • Peace

  • Pretty

  • Quiet

  • Recreation

  • Refreshment

  • Rejuvenate

  • Relaxation

  • Renewal

  • Solitude

  • Something new

  • Time to think

  • “Being in some inspiring and peaceful place where I get relief from crowding and pressures and get inspiration and physical activity.”

What do you think are the elements of a good vacation?

Your most important carry-on item? The mind-set you bring to the trip.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bowl of Life

In my early teens I complained to my uncle about how busy I was; how I couldn’t get everything done. Now, I knew that my uncle was a very wise man. He had his PhD., had been a college president and was now the head of a department in a nearby university. I don’t quite know what advice I expected but he invited me to sit beside him on a bench and he told me this story of a young Buddhist monk:

The young monk arose each morning,
spent time in meditation,
picked up a large empty bowl
and journeyed out around the countryside.

As he travels from place to place,
people come out to him and
place things in his bowl.

Some days his bowl is very full
some days his bowl is empty
every day, he eats the food that people have put in his bowl

When night comes
if there is no food in his bowl
he goes to bed hungry
if there is food left in his bowl
he eats it all --- nothing is to be wasted.

He is to begin each day
fresh and new
with an empty bowl
and accept what the day brings.

My uncle did not explain the story. Obviously, he was not really talking about food. I began thinking about my bowl of life.

As a teenager I wandered around examining my bowl, wondering a lot about the bowl, not necessarily holding it out but keeping it to myself, thinking about what someone might put into it.

During my college years, I did let a few things slip into my bowl, rather than using them; I continued to examine not just the bowl but the things that were inside, wondering what I should do with them. I wanted to understand…. From my bowl I hoped to find answers. Admittedly, I didn’t know the questions but I did want the answers.

When I was a young mother, I found my bowl so full that I turned it upside down so no one could put anything into my bowl.

After my children left home, I discovered that my bowl seemed to have grown clear. Everyone could see the contents of my bowl. Regularly people, even strangers, would approach and tell me what they thought about the things they saw in my bowl. To my amazement, on occasion, someone would walk up to me, remove what they wished from my bowl and replace it with something else.

My boss gave me a ring that fit on the edge of my bowl. It was fitted with hooks all around the sides, where people could attach the myriad of things that would not fit inside.

Suddenly I became ill; too ill to carry my bowl, it dropped and shattered. Some people tried to help me pick up the pieces but there were too many. Finally the contents of the bowl were distributed to many people.

Today I have a new bowl. Although tempted to carry the bowl upside down again, I do carry it right side up but I find myself carrying a bowl with a small opening so that I can choose what I will let people put inside.

What is happening to your bowl of life?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Tagged- The Artist Way

Four wishes dreams and desires

  1. I want to move to a spot where I have lake, mountains, sunrise, sunset, birds, animals coming to my house each day and get paid for photographing and writing about them.
  2. To travel and take photos.
  3. To have more health and vitality.
  4. To live in a house that doesn’t need remodeling, a new driveway or… So I can simply enjoy the rest of my life.

Four Imaginary Lives

  1. Professional nature photographer.
  2. Watercolor artist.
  3. Have enough money to set up a writers and artist retreat (in that dream place)
  4. A published writer.

Four things I should change

  1. Get rid of STUFF (Surplus Things Useless to Frantic Folk) Why is it that when most of the time we have too much stuff and not enough money, we keep using our money to get more stuff?
  2. Find a way to live in an environmentally safe house.
  3. Walk more.
  4. Spend more time painting and writing.

Four people I admire

  1. Hillary Clinton – for her ability to keep going under cruel and unrealistic criticism and pressure.
  2. Eleanor Roosevelt – A woman who made a difference in spite of opposition, criticism and being given tasks that seemed impossible.
  3. Mary Guthrie – Prison camp, challenges, difficulty --- through them all she remained a caring gracious lady and a wonderful friend and mentor.
  4. My dad – for his intelligence, creativity, patience, kindness – he was a good friend and neighbor. He championed my creative self-worth.

Four things I like about The Artist Way

  1. Morning Pages. They help me clear my thinking and get on track.
  2. All the inspiring creative blogs.
  3. The encouragement of the AW members.
  4. New ideas that are generated as I work through some of the exercises.

Four things I still hope to get out of the Artist Way

  1. Continuing connection with creative people.
  2. Courage to send some of my material to a publisher.
  3. Inspiration.
  4. The ability to tap into creativity when I don’t necessarily feel inspired.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker - Dryocopus pileatus
You can pronounce pileated two ways, with a short i-sound (pill-ee-ated) or a long i-sound (pile-ee-ated).
About fifteen inches long, nearly as large as a crow, the pileated woodpecker is one of the largest woodpeckers found in North America. Its loud ringing calls wake me most mornings. I can often find where it has been working by the huge, rectangular excavations left behind in dead trees.

It has a black body, a red crest, white stripes on its neck and black and white stripes on its face. Yellow bristly feathers over its nostrils keep out wood chips. It has a long, sticky tongue; a long, sharp pointed bill and yellow eyes. Their foreheads provide the clues to the males and females: males have a red forehead, while the females have a gray to yellowish brown forehead.

Although the pileated woodpecker is designed for clinging to the sides of trees, it is a strong flyer. It "drums" on hollow trees with its bill to claim territory.

A large part of the pileated woodpecker’s diet is made up of carpenter ants and beetle larvae, although it will also eat other insects, fruits and nuts. Using its sharp bill it will pull bark off a tree to expose ant colonies. Then uses its long, sticky tongue to poke into holes and drag out the ants. It also digs out large rectangular holes in trees to create roosting and nesting spots and to expose insects.

The other day when the pileated pulled a large chunk of bark off a white pine snag he provided dinner for dozens of small birds, other woodpeckers and woods creatures who share his taste for ants and larvae.

A Pileated Woodpecker pair stays together on its territory all year round. They prefer large trees in a wooded area for nesting. Once they have chosen their territory they will defend it against all comers; although they are a bit more tolerant of floaters during the winter months.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there were a bunch of tiny frogs.... who arranged a running competition. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower. A big crowd gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants....
The race began....

Honestly: No one in the crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. You heard statements such as: "Oh, WAY too difficult!!" "They will NEVER make it to the top.” or: "Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!"

The tiny frogs began collapsing. One by one.... Except for those, who in a fresh tempo were climbing higher and higher.... The crowd continued to yell, "It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!"

More tiny frogs got tired and gave up....

But ONE continued higher and higher and higher.... This one wouldn't give up!

At the end everyone else had given up climbing the tower. Except for one tiny frog who, after a big effort, was the only one who reached the top!

THEN all of the other tiny frogs naturally wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it?

A contestant asked the tiny frog how he had found the strength to succeed and reach the goal?
It turned out....
That the winner was DEAF!!!!

The wisdom of this story is:
Never listen to other people's tendencies to be negative or pessimistic.... because they take your most wonderful dreams and wishes away from you -- the ones you have in your heart!

Thanks to my friend Nelly for sharing this story by e-mail today

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Word Cloud

Make your own here Via Changing Places
Thanks to Watermark for sharing --- http://www.sbpoet.com/

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

One of Those days

Today has been one of those days…. Something caught up with me and my body went on strike. I knew I had been overextending but had very real plans to escape the consequences.

Why is it that the moment we feel over-tired, stressed or ill our worlds turn upside down and it seems there is some nebulous unidentifiable thing that bites our world to pieces? A promised shipment doesn’t arrive, someone is late for their appointment, repair parts aren’t available for several days, you receive the wrong item, phone line cuts out in the midst of an important conversation ….

At other times we might take these things in stride but today I found myself ready to crawl into a corner and let this “nebulous indefinable thing” take over.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Meet Charlie Grouse

My friend Joan has been e-mailing me for the past week or so about a bird she encounters on her daily walks
Let me share her description. “He is truly gorgeous, brown and white stripes and dots and plaids – everything in a gorgeous pattern, with a flat long tail with a brown band at the end, whitish underbelly, a bit of a crown at the top, not a long bill, short to medium, pointed. He is so talkative… he gobbles and gurgles at me and then softly coos and mourns a bit like a mourning dove.”

Today Joan, Nina and I walked through the woods above the Delaware River, following a narrow country road. Just before we reached the top of the hill we could see movement back in the trees. Running out of the woods came Charlie Grouse: Joan called to him and he came right up to her feet. To my delight he posed for pictures before a car came past and we went on our way.

Ruffed Grouse Bonasa umbellus

Stokes Field Guide to Birds states: "Ruffed Grouse can at times be very tame. They occasionally approach humans and may even act aggressively."


Sunday, February 05, 2006


The sun rolls behind the hills
color tints the clouds
twilight time

The last bird calls
stillness encloses the forest
banners of darkness close away the light.

There is a quieting
a time of contemplation
the day is done.

The hopes and dreams of the morning
have been fulfilled
or drifted away

As swift clouds
move out of sight,
they disappear into the night

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Artist Way Week Four

A very difficult week; my sketch illustrates many of the feelings I experienced this week. Since a major portion of my day involves reading at one level or another, filling the void, or the opening, of time was very difficult. Especially difficult was the sense of needing to work beyond what felt to me like a dysfunctional barrier in my world.

I doubt there could have been a more challenging time for me to try to experience reading deprivation. Although I enjoy solitude, this week I was totally alone, power was off on several occasions --- and - - - no --- reading!

I made a deliberate choice to read a few things: my handbook for my new camera, the instruction manual for my photo editing software and one book.on writing, “Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction” by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola. I did answer my e-mail and make some limited visits to a couple of special blogs. Since I usually read a number of books every week I still found that limiting my reading opened up plenty of time in my schedule for other activities.

My morning pages went well. I never did figure out what to do for an Artist’s Date although part of the time I did enjoy the solitude…

Friday, February 03, 2006

Rainy Night

Sipping my tea, I slowly became aware of the rain pounding on the roof, the smell of the wet leaves and the crushed pine and hemlock. Moving to the skylight I pushed it open, hearing more clearly the sounds of the rain and the other night sounds. From the woods to the south-east of the house comes a sound --- almost a grunt --- the call is repeated hu hu hu --- the tone is even, not much of a rise or fall in pitch. Now the call again hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu a rapid series of sounds. It is answered from the other side of the clearing. There is something sad in the sound. It touches cords of longing in my soul. Raising again a quiet yearning.

I stand savoring the night taking in deep breaths of pure air from the passing wild winds. The trees and the river pulsate with sounds pouring out their music into the deep stillness.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain--and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-by;
And further still at an unearthly height
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
--- Robert Frost

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Day is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of night
As a feather wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of the day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of time.

For, like the strains of martial music,
Their mighty throughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
And tonight I long for rest.

Read from the humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read the treasured volume
The poem of my choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

--- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rain Drops - Traveling

Rain patters on the roof …. Melodic rhythms. On the shingles there is an even patter. Drops landing on the skylight have a splashing sound that echoes ever so slightly. On the gutters more percussion pinging like the xylophone.

I was reading that in moderate rain, such as today, the large drops are 2.6 millimeters in size, the smaller ones probably only 1.0 millimeter. Small raindrops are nearly spherical. Larger ones are flatter somewhat like hamburger buns; the very large ones are shaped like parachutes. Even in a heavy thunderstorm the large drops are only about 4 millimeters in diameter. Now in really serious storms the droplets are even larger but today this is simply moderate rain.

Falling from the clouds, the smaller drops travel slower --- about eight miles per hour--- while large ones may be dropping at a rate of seventeen to nineteen miles per hour.

These tiny drops leave the billowing clouds and splash onto the pines and hemlocks or on the barren branches of the oaks or maples. Some cling for a few moments before sliding down to the leaf-covered ground. Perhaps the first few soak into the ground but soon they are joined by thousands of other tiny raindrops. Collectively they gain momentum and begin their journey down our hillside, sometimes along the top of the leaf mat, at other times rolling under the leaves, even moving them out of the path. Soon these tiny raindrops begin to carve a trench in the leaf mat and then into the earth; a small freshet is born. Rolling over and around rocks they move on down the slope of the hill. The freshet becomes a small stream cutting deeper into the earth and gaining even more speed. It cuts a trench along our garden boxes. Following the contours of the land, it moves past the house and down the driveway. Now this newly formed mass of raindrops open large chuckholes in their wake. Moving, ever moving, they rush on down the hillside to join millions of other raindrops filling the Mongaup River, smoothing rough stones as they race together on their way.

From my perch up here on the hillside, I can hear the sounds of them gathering together in the river. Not a quiet peaceful sound but a roaring as they clash against the rocks. Like the clamor of thousands of voices, each speaking their own language, all that is heard is the roar of sound. Not far from here the Mongaup joins the Delaware River and these millions upon millions of tiny drops now gather leaves, twigs, branches and even logs moving them seaward. They rush and tumble, sending thousands of droplets spraying into the air, only to return to join in the race to the sea. The Delaware River becomes thirteen miles across at its widest point when it joins the ocean in Delaware Bay.

I think of those tiny drops joined together under the ferry as we crossed between New York City and Staten Island. Who can count them? Who can calculate their numbers? --- Certainly not I….