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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Yesterday, Bob was outside the front door doing some weeding. Our raised bed of vegetables is on the south side of the house, not within the confines of our fenced-in garden. I was stringing a few pearls together in my first pandemic necklace when I heard him yell, “Honey, come here, quick.”

He told me all about the fat and healthy red fox that had just strolled around the front corner of the house under a holly bush. They were an arm’s length away from each other. Of course Bob saw him (or her) the very second his hand was pulling up a weed – as they locked eyes I’m sure they were both shocked! The fox immediately took off across our not/so/busy street and around an apartment building.

Imagine that, in a city of a million and a half people, nature can still find a way.

This is day #13 of quarantine. I’ve stopped watching the White House Pressers about the Coronavirus, they only serve to bolster Mr T’s fragile ego. He is selling us a fool’s paradise, and I for one am not buying his lies.

But I am crossing off the days on my old-fashioned paper calendar, eager to put each day behind me. Luckily Ms Bean requires a slow-walk each and every day, sometimes three! And now that the sun has returned and Spring has arrived, these meditative walks are a kind of salvation.

They are a way to still the noises in my head, all the “what ifs” and “if onlys.” A stroll around the neighborhood tethered to Ms Bean keeps me here, grounded in the Present. This morning, the sun has come up and the temperature will climb to 80 degrees. The rain has stopped for now. And while drinking coffee and reading my online papers, I noticed a tiny headline: “Yale Happiness Course Takes Off.”

It seems that since December, this online course titled “The Science of Well Being” has enrolled 1.3 million people worldwide. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52055242

Now, when over half a million people around the world are infected with the Coronavirus, and everyone is isolating themselves to flatten the curve, and the Bride is donning her PPE and caring for patients in her ER, and the Groom is planning to make ICU beds appear all over his hospital, and we can’t visit Great Grandma Ada and Hudson, and we can’t hug the Love Bug or tickle L’il Pumpkin…

Now more than ever, I have to keep hope alive.

“People in these situations tend to either look backwards for solutions or ruminate about possible futures: Will I go back to work? Will I be able to afford getting sick? Can I support my family if they get sick?

“While both those abilities are very adaptive in solving immediate problems or challenges or an immediate threat, they’re very harmful in situations like the one we’re in the middle of where the threat is ambiguous, the duration is unknown.”

It’s important to mention that only here, in the US, are people worried about hospital bills. Only here, in our great country, would someone not seek emergency medical treatment because they are afraid it would bankrupt them.

While waiting for the spike of this curve, we have to keep hope alive. And one way to do it is to stay in the PRESENT. Mindfulness isn’t easy during a pandemic. I notice every little flower on my walks, every flowering vine that threatens to engulf a mailbox. I would usually bring my phone with me, to take pictures, but it’s better if I leave it at home and stay present.

CONNECTING WITH OTHERS is another way to support our sanity. We’ve been Facetiming with the Rocker and Aunt KiKi. They have dueling desks set up in their California home and have had Zoom conferences with colleagues. The Bride turned me onto Marco Polo, an APP that’s like video texting, and we’ve been having fun with friends just capturing a snippet of time each day. Steve sent us video of a huge hawk in his yard yesterday! And of course, we talk on the phone too.

Yesterday we walked around the Bride’s neighborhood looking for teddy bears in windows. It was so hard to stay ten feet apart, to not touch the children.

The third linchpin of well being is a daily PRACTICE of GRATITUDE. Bob and I have been doing this on a pretty regular basis before bed. I can’t watch the news at night these days, but I can recall small pleasures during the day, things that bring me joy. Sometimes it’s just the sound of Ms Bean snoring, or a tulip that popped up under the cherry tree. Sometimes it’s the young man who delivers a restaurant meal. We can always name three things we’re grateful for.

Like the red fox foraging under the holly.

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While eating a burger at Bob’s flying club last week, I happened to meet a young entrepreneur. Eric Walden was all decked out in a uniform, with wings on his shoulder and his cap. Then much to my surprise, I saw him again last night on the late night local news. The anchors’ hook was something like:

“Have you ever wanted to fly like the rich and famous?”

For the vast majority of people, commercial flights are the only option, but Albemarle County pilot Eric Walden is hoping to change that by making private flights an option for people who aren’t among the richest in the world.

“There’s a whole lot of other people that have the need and the desire to travel privately, but a lot of them don’t know that it’s available,” said Walden.       http://www.newsplex.com/content/news/New-Charter-Flight-Company-379228591.html?

With expectations high for more airport delays and missed connections this summer, I’d say he started the right business at the right time. Walden owns a turbo-prop Daher TBM 850 that can carry up to five passengers. He can fly higher and faster than Bob’s Piper Arrow, and if say five people wanted to split a ride to Nantucket, the price compares favorably with commercial tickets – AND there is no time lost waiting in TSA lines!

Walden has been flying for 25 years and comes from a long line of aviators; his great-grandfather first flew a monoplane in 1909. The name of his charter flight company is Little Hawk Logistics.

And speaking of birds, I’ve had a bluebird battering my windows lately. He, or she, is staying at the back of the house for the most part, on the first floor. One day I was using Bob’s computer to do some book editing, and between the bluebird knocking and the generator recycling itself, I could barely think! In researching this problem, it seems it is male birds fighting off their reflective rival, and once a female is attracted and a nest secured the window battering should stop. Unless it’s a cardinal?!

Here are some ways to prevent this behavior:

  • Decals or paper shapes placed inside or outside the window
  • Strips of tape, plastic or paper arranged in an irregular pattern
  • Soaping the outside of the windows either fully or in a pattern
  • Placing non-reflective screen outside the window 2-3 inches from the glass
  • Adding one-way transparent film or opaque plastic to windows
  • Repositioning an outdoor plant or flower basket to block the window view
  • Closing outside shades or blinds if possible

It’s another rainy day on the Blue Ridge. In fact the headline before the story on Little Hawk Logistics was, “Rain Fifteen out of Last Seventeen Days!” I guess I am not alone in feeling like mildew is spreading at my feet and rust is clogging up my joints.

So let’s dream for a moment about the sunny future of aviation this weekend. If you’re anything like my hubby, you will love this story out of Germany. It seems they are developing the Lilium Jet, a small helicopter-like plane for private use – think The Fifth Element! It will be to aviation what the Tesla is to the auto industry.

“The company’s aircraft concept promises flight without the flight infrastructure. It will require an open space of just 225 square metres — about the size of a typical back garden — to take off and land. The Lilium Jet can cruise as far as 500km (310mi) at a very brisk 400kph (248mph), and reach an altitude of 3km (9,900ft). And it recharges overnight from a standard household outlet.” http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20160512-the-flying-machine-in-your-back-garden

Here is the Love Bug preparing to go over her Checklist for departure to CHO!

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We were not leisurely shopping on Cyber Monday. Oh no, we were desperately trying to make our way home via Key West airport. For some inexplicable reason, Southwest decided to cancel their flights out of our tiny island. One couple managed to score a Delta flight, while the Love Bug and her Mama hitched a ride to Miami with another Big Chill couple. The Groom left us a little early to start his ICU rotation. Only US Air delivered us on time back to the Blue Ridge.

I thought I would share some Tuesday morning quarterbacking memories with you. First of all, there was the butterfly. Or I should say thousands of butterflies http://www.keywestbutterfly.com

Right in the middle of Duval Street – a veritable hub of humanity with every imaginable language you could think of – we strolled into a magic garden; “50 to 60 butterfly species from around the world, along with over 20 exotic bird species, all under a climate- controlled, glass enclosed habitat.” The Bug was enchanted. The moving sea of fluttering colors caught all of us off guard, it was as if we were a part of a living and breathing terrarium. I turned to Bob and said, “This exceeded my expectations,” and it did!

Then there were the chickens. IMG_2235We spotted a rooster when we first got out of the car on our little lane, and every day after that the search for chickens continued. Our 15 month old toddler loved to find hens with their chicks and red-combed roosters lingering nearby. These gypsy chickens are free-roaming on every street and nest in the trees at night. It seems the combination of outlawing cock fighting in the 70s and buying chicken in neatly wrapped packages at a grocery store led to this laissez faire attitude toward poultry. They are so tame, they will eat out of your hand and let you pet their chicks!

We hopped on the Conch Train for the 90 minute tour of Key West. Keeping the Bug occupied and safe meant I only heard pieces of the island’s colorful history but we enjoyed the ride and the ice cream stop especially. Later, the Bride stayed home with the baby and we took in a drag show at 801 Boubon. Our MC was Desiree, and she was a grandfather! Instant connection, I have to admit, since we are both redheads. Hysterical night, including the part where Cait and I did a little back-up singing! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/travel/09hours.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

What more can I say? There was La Creperie and croissants galore. Salsa dancing and delicious Cuban food. Art galleries on every corner, and Serbian rickshaw drivers. Key West is a melange of Vegas, New Orleans, and Miami and I didn’t want to click my heels together.

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I was listening to a program on the plight of the helicopter parent vis a vis sleepaway camp. One would think that summer presents the opportunity for a reprieve; parents might relax and let go just a little. Instead, camps today employ photographers who are tasked to just wander around the campgrounds taking pictures of kids being kids – preferably happy and smiling campers – to be immediately uploaded to said camp’s social media pages! And so the phone calls begin to camp directors: “Why is junior’s shirt so dirty, didn’t he get my care package?” Or worse yet, “Why are there no pictures of my kid?”

For many years, I dreamed of my camp experience. These were my most cherished memories. I attended Camp St Joseph for Girls at the age of ten for a full 2 months, and went back every year until I was finally a counselor-in-training (CIT) and waterfront boating and canoeing counselor on the lake my 16th year. In the years before Title IX, this was the one place that allowed me to excel at sports. It may be hard to imagine, but PE at Sacred Heart School consisted of jumping jacks next to our desk, when we weren’t practicing hiding under them in case of a nuclear attack.

Most school days found me just sitting at my desk, hands folded carefully in front of me, counting the bricks in the wall of a car dealership across the street, and the days left until summer, dreaming  about camp. About the first frozen chill of the crystal clear lake water, about the sound of jacks being played on the cabin’s porch floor, about the pungent smell of the auditorium at a basketball game. And about nuns singing Ave Maria in a sun dappled procession to Mary’s Grotto in the woods.

It was a place to forge friendships, to be empowered when I was shuttling back and forth between two homes. I guess I was sent there since the Flapper had to work, because in those days, only kids from “broken” homes or those who’s parents were so wealthy that they were always flying around the world went to sleepaway camp. So it was a mix of the well-to-do with the down-and-out. And at camp, we were all equal, our best and only competition was the color of the team we played for, each year.

We never received phone calls or packages from home. I might have been homesick the first week a little, but I don’t remember that. My only memory is crying my eyes out at the end of each season. I never wanted camp to end. One day was set aside for Parent’s Day, I remember one summer the Flapper bringing her new husband, the Judge.  We were  expected to perform our duties raising the American flag, horse back riding, shooting arrows, playing tennis or basketball – my personal favorite. The nuns were large and in charge, no one would dare ask for special treatment. We went to mass every morning of every beautiful day.

Camp was a haven, the one place in a changing world that expected the best of its girls, where the rules were clear and laughter was the our constant companion. Here is a montage of the few pictures I could muster up this morning, One at an ice cream parlor, a treat with the Flapper outside of camp. She is standing in the dark sweater, while I’m petting a puppy. I wonder if 11 year old girls today like having their pictures posted all over Facebook from camp? I feel sorry for parents who can’t let go, and let their children grow up.

I am 16 in the picture with the flip, and the confidence you can see is all due to Camp St joseph. Just don’t ask me about the altar boys, and the golf course between the boys and girls camp…

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Here in the South, children go back to school very early. Maybe it’s our agricultural roots, but for some, backpacks are already packed, the yellow buses are rolling, and all the papers that must/be/signed have been returned to the school administration. I wonder if parents still have papers to sign, or have they gone paperless too?

For all my Northern friends, who insist that summer will last through Labor Day goshdarnit, here is a six worded memoir of summer so far.

My butterfly tree is done blooming, but the white hydrangeas are alive with golden monarch wings: Breathtaking photo copy

Sometimes, a Grandpa misses his little Love Bug, he takes to the sky for a quick trip to Nashville: Enchanting photo

On these wonderfully crisp mornings, the sleeping porch becomes an oasis of bird song and sun:  Musing IMG_1480

To prove that aging isn’t a dirty word, one Great Grandma tackled the wonders of the digital age:  Gratifying photo copy

Not wanting to be left behind, the local sport club’s pool beckoned for fun joint-pain-free exercise: Energizing  photo copy

And a fifth tooth has appeared in my dose of almost daily Baby Bug pictures, with bagel/on/nose: Captivating  photo copy 2

Hope your summer has been wonderful so far!

 

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In this heat, you’ve got to start your day pretty darn early. It takes me about an hour to water the gardens. We also have newly planted figs and an evergreen that needs daily care. If I’m not done by 9 am, the #heatwave knocks me out. Just checked my phone, yep it’s 83 and it “feels like 90” at 10 am. The windows are perpetually covered with condensation, and my glasses fog up as soon as I open the door.

But this day started at 5 am, when I woke up and finished reading my book, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. It left me thinking, instead of sleeping for another hour. She is one of my favorite writers, and this story is a not too subtle attack on climate deniers. However, it’s woven deftly into the everyday dynamics of a young farming family in TN, and the mother Dellarobia, is our protagonist. It touches on poverty, on women and independence and on class bias, all while trying to figure out why a million beautiful monarch butterflies have decided to roost on Dellarobia’s mountain.

So of course I had to do some research, and they did only just discover this roosting behavior almost forty years ago in 1975 which is pretty new in the world of scientific discovery. nat-geographic-cover-e1295402536266Roosting is a wintering over, a sort of dormant time for the butterflies when large clusters hang from trees and hibernate in plain site. Normally they will migrate and roost in the mountains of Mexico, but in this fictionalized version they’ve arrived in Appalachia like a miracle from God to the poor people living there. http://texasbutterflyranch.com/2012/07/10/founder-of-the-monarch-butterfly-roosting-sites-in-mexico-lives-a-quiet-life-in-austin-texas/

The monarch is our state insect and sometimes they will land on my shirt! Unfortunately while watering this morning I came inside with your normal everyday tick attached to my leg. I’ve learned not to panic when I see these critters sucking their way into our dogs, our children or my leg. We’ve probably dislodged hundreds over the years with our bare fingers – I find that much easier than trying to use a tweezer. But now I do keep the tick around for Bob to look at when he gets home, just in case. In order to transmit Lyme Disease, the tick must stay attached for 24 to 36 hours in order to transfer the LD spirochete, http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml so a good rule of thumb is to always do a tick check when you come inside.

Here is a picture of my butterfly tree, as seen through the sleeping porch. It is currently buzzing with honey bees!    photo

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It’s another beautiful morning, a second day of sun and no rain. I’ve finished my conference call with my brother Jim and my sister Kay, and I’m about to head down and water the fig trees we planted. We’re looking forward to 3 weddings in the coming months and I’m determined to start doing water aerobics. Yes, you heard me right, there’s nothing I’d like better than dancing in a pool!

I started this day by listening to a podcast in the early morning light on our screened-in sleeping porch. NPR’s Snap Judgement is new to me, it’s kind of like Ira Glass’ This American Life, only it tells more stories, with extra “hip” music and is trying to reach a younger, more diverse audience than the usual white guys over 50. So it helps that the curator of Snap Judgement, Glynn Washington, is black. And now, I’m under his spell. http://snapjudgment.org

The theme was Isolation, and not to give anything away, we are taken down into a cave for months with a French geologist, and into the basement with a guy who is quarantined because his treatment for thyroid cancer has left him radioactive. But the most poignant story is about a priest who visits prisoners that the world has forgotten. And one thing he said struck a chord;

When hearts have no place to break…they become harder.

Then of course I had to check Twitter before writing and Joyce Carol Oates posted about an essay by Oliver Sacks on the joys of old age (no kidding), without a link, so I just had to Google it…http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/opinion/sunday/the-joy-of-old-age-no-kidding.html?_r=0

“At nearly 80, with a scattering of medical and surgical problems, none disabling, I feel glad to be alive — “I’m glad I’m not dead!” sometimes bursts out of me when the weather is perfect. (This is in contrast to a story I heard from a friend who, walking with Samuel Beckett in Paris on a perfect spring morning, said to him, “Doesn’t a day like this make you glad to be alive?” to which Beckett answered, “I wouldn’t go as far as that.”)”

Feeling this holiday weekend, as I watched newly minted citizens take the Oath of Allegiance, barbequed with friends on our deck, and listened to a podcast on my iPhone, very grateful for this life. And still looking forward, as Sacks’ so eloquently said about his 80th, to my 65th birthday in September…even though I’ll be eligible for Medicare.

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