It’s Never Too Late To Grow…

Hello Friends! I hope the sun is shining for you today!

IMG_5557

It isn’t shining here in Evanston. We’re in for thunderstorms, and then rain for some days more. That cold wet chill has also returned. But our springs seem always to cling to winter’s hand until the bitter end!

This just means, I’ll have to make my own sunshine!

Fortunately, I’ve a knack for stirring up my own mirth and entertainment. Probably because I was an only child. Today I’m working on something fun that I’ll share with you soon…

 

For now, please excuse my piercing kissing noises in this video, but when this baby squirrel plunked his head down like he was pouting (I think he was trying to get a nap in), it was just a little too cute!

 

IMG_5505

And to the spider that popped out of my Kleenex box early one morning when I needed a tissue, scaring the wits out of me before I’d had any coffee

That’s not nice. I like spiders and all, but please don’t test my nerves.

Another nature sighting, a beautiful mother rabbit and her three babies…

IMG_5512

That’s my car. I had to move it the other day for street cleaning.

Are cities still ticketing if residents are supposed to be keeping to their houses? I wasn’t taking any chances.

IMG_5510

As I pulled up, I saw three itty-bitty-baby-bunnies pressing up against a street utility box. I thought, what a precarious place for a nest of bunnies. But as it turned out, there was a ground nest just beside the street. The babies were spending a little time outside the nest. Mama came back, and all the babies went to her and started nursing…

IMG_5513

Sweetest little things God ever made. I was glad I parked there. I don’t move my car much, so maybe it will give them a little block from the road traffic.

IMG_5460

I digress, but isn’t my mama’s painting so pretty. I wish I could paint whimsical little scenes like this…

IMG_5514

[Make your radishes swim in cold water in the fridge to keep them crisp and fresh.]

I further digress, but I think radishes are one of the most delicious things that grow in the dirt. I’m nuts for radishes. What’s your favorite veggie?

IMG_5515

I roam even further, but if you want the easiest supper ever, and like me, you enjoy a lot of green on your plate, do try avocado toast…

IMG_5516

Simple and made in minutes. I like to top mine with arugula, sea salt and ground pepper. Finish the meal with cookies, of course

IMG_5520

My best friend Jessy sent me a gift in the mail this week. A miniature library to construct and personalize myself! I’m going to have a field day with this one. Some of my own books might appear in miniature in this little library!

Don’t ya’ just love best buds?

IMG_5509

And then there’s my little indoor potted herbs. I’m disappointed to report that the cilantro is beginning to fail. Of the 4 variety herbs I potted, only cilantro and basil grew, and now I fear I’ll just have the basil left…

It’s for the best anyhow; I have a cilantro allergy. You know, it isn’t as easy as one would figure, trying to keep indoor plants alive!

I have a philosophy about that though. Plants weren’t really meant to be indoors. Outside, bugs visit, plant matter decomposes in the soil and brings nutrients, the rain adds its own magic elements I’m sure. Inside, a plant is just stagnant. That’s not right.

Sounds a little like all of us! We all need a bit of sun and fresh air ourselves these days, and visits with others, don’t we? People weren’t meant to be stagnant either

IMG_5529

Nonetheless, as I glanced over my basil the other day, I said a little prayer.

Bless my basil!

Wouldn’t it be glorious if I could get it to flourish?

And about that tiny prayer…

No matter how trivial or dire, small or great, He hears you…just sayin’.

IMG_5530

And here’s something, also so small indeed, but I thought it was special…

See the far left basil sprout? When it popped up, the hard seed shell and dirt never fell away, so that it could not grow. Only the stem stood. One day, I thought I could try to pluck it off with tweezers, hoping I wouldn’t pluck the whole sprout out. I did this ever so carefully, with success. But as I looked at it, I supposed it still wouldn’t grow. It was too late for this sprout.

But you know what? I was wrong. It spread two little leaves, and is now growing out more between.

I was inspired to think…given the chance, it’s never too late to grow.

Stay Inspired.

The Yellow Headed Blackbird

Hello Folks! I hope that you are well…

The weather here is looking lovely, and I’ve replenished my pantry with cookies and some extra cookies, so I’m doing just fine!

IMG_5518

I saw something very special this week, and couldn’t wait to share it with you…

As you may recall, I’ve been manning the ship for many weeks, sometimes all by my lonesome. This week was no different…

rain-84648_1280

[Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay]

As I began my daily walk in on Thursday, in a spring rain, I was rather contemplative. I observed that I was the only one trailing the sidewalk, something unique to my urban area. I peered in at a singular worker in a darkened coffee shop. Considered the inactive businesses. Wondered over the quiet. I was thinking…

And as I went along, past some homes with green and flowering lawns, all while the rain fell, I suddenly happened upon the strangest creature!

male-yellow-headed-blackbird-1427775_1280

[Image by Akiroq Brost from Pixabay]

One of these.

What was so special about this sighting, is that this is an extremely rare bird in this area. Not only that, but I had never seen one before, ever. And if you’ve met me, you know, I’m nuts for nature. I notice wildlife. I can hear a jumping spider whispering from 6 feet away (wouldn’t that be cool…can they even vocalize?…I need to look that up).

I notice everything when it comes to bugs and birds. And I’d never spotted one quite like this.

yellow-headed-blackbirds-936692_1280

[Image by 272447 from Pixabay]

I thought it was especially awesome for several reasons. First, I practically stepped on him. He was like a little firecracker near my feet!

As I passed a flower-box and ‘for sale’ sign in the lawns along the walk, I didn’t see him just beyond, right next to the way. He was standing just there on the grass, only a few feet from me. I looked down and halted and telepathically blurted, “Who are you?”

The bird tilted his head, ruffled his feathers, thoughtfully stepped away a bit and said, “I’m me. Who are you?”

rain-4421893_1280

[Image by Souvick Ghosh from Pixabay]

We must have both looked unique to one another. I with my towering umbrella, red raincoat, red purse, neon rainbow-colored sneakers. And the bird, that bird! You cannot imagine how rich the color of that mustardy-yellow chest-plume amidst its ebony wings with strips of white, against a dreary backdrop. He was like, pow-POW! Gorgeous! Oh my word!

Now, as the lone cat at the office, sort of needed to move along. But you know, I had to stop and have a conversation. I told that bird, aloud, how handsome he was, as he kept puffing up, dispelling the rain from his feathers. He just toed around the lawn a bit, tilting his head, listening for worms I suspected, which are ample in the rain. This bird did not hop, or fly off, he just passively and gently stepped about.

Love at first sight. And what if I never saw another like him again?

And did I mention that I was talking to a bird while hovering at the edge of a stranger’s lawn? If they were looking out their window that morning, they might have suspected that the times had addled that woman in the red raincoat’s brain.

IMG_5524

[A Guide To Field Identification : Birds of North America : Robbins, Bruun, Zim, & Singer]

Of course, I was eager all day to consult my bird book once I got home. While on the job, a colleague suggested on our collaborative online meeting, that it could have been an Oriole, but I said, “No…no, it wasn’t.”

IMG_5526

[A Guide To Field Identification : Birds of North America : Robbins, Bruun, Zim, & Singer]

I’ve seen, though only a few, Orioles. But this creature, was like a blackbird.

And it was.

IMG_5527

[A Guide To Field Identification : Birds of North America : Robbins, Bruun, Zim, & Singer]

A male, yellow-headed blackbird.

It appears where I abide is on the very cusp of where these birds may visit to mate in the spring. Further, this fella is locally endangered. Habitat loss, of course. Here’s some information about them regarding Illinois. And you must hear their alien rattle-buzzing song, found here.

IMG_5528

[A Guide To Field Identification : Birds of North America : Robbins, Bruun, Zim, & Singer]

It’s a real treat to see something undiscovered before. For, though this bird might be common elsewhere, I had never seen it, and it really took me by surprise!

The other thing special about it, was where my mind had been just a moment before. The times, the strange quiet, and that feeling of uncertainty in my gut. In an instant, I was riveted by something beautiful. It seemed, a gift. I’m glad to say that these sorts of things happen to me all the time, gifts, or so it seems to me.

With this particular gift, I suddenly felt right again. I rallied.

All of my best to you, friends…

Stay Inspired

You’ve plenty of grit, you’ll see…

Hello Friends. I hope this message finds you, above all, healthy. I also wish you a calm spirit, and enduring strength, as all the world’s fortitude is being tested…

I know that for many, life is very strange, strained, and scary right now. And I’ve of course, no more wisdom that anyone on how to find those moments of tranquility, which seem so very fleeting. However, for me, there are a few things that bring a snatch of daily peace…

IMG_4535

[Cheerful blooms I bought myself last year…just love the smell of fresh roses.]

Thankfulness. Thinking on those people in my life that I am grateful for. Remembering all the ways that I am blessed. Being content with small things, and thankful that I have them at all…

IMG_5434

[Ahhh…nut butter and jam! Bringing back those shelf-stable old friends.]

Remembering that ‘It is well with my soul’. I find personal peace in my beliefs, believing that through faith, prayer, and patience, we can endure anything. And at the end of the day, no matter what happens, I rest easier undoubting that my life is in God’s hands…

[New Apostolic Church Orchestra and Choir: Silvertown, South Africa]

Memories. Looking at all the beautiful parts of my life, and believing that it won’t be long before some normalcy returns, even if things look a little different for a while. That brings me happiness…

IMG_4626

[Milwaukee shoreline on Lake Michigan last summer]

Just pretend like you’re camping. Okay, this one’s from my Mama. I don’t know how many times she’s said that in my life. Maybe she doesn’t even realize she’s said that a whole bunch…

grand-teton-2101142_1280

[Image by jplumb from Pixabay]

See, we used to go camping when I was younger. Loved it! There’s nothing cozier than a campfire, and no better a night’s sleep than in the fresh air of the outdoors, and nothing more awe-inspiring than a starry sky…

marshmallow-525041_1280

[Image by skeeze from Pixabay]

But why has my Mama said that since? Maybe because sometimes in life you have to go without, and have a little less. And, you know, when you’re camping, you may run out of toilet paper and have to use leaves. Or eat beans and marshmallows for supper, instead of what you’d usually have…

This is certainly not to belittle hardship, nor the need for vital necessities. But, for so many of you who are staying in, and perhaps running out of the items you’re used to having, try to shrug your shoulders and pretend like you’re camping. Making a game of things in your mind sometimes softens the strangeness of a situation…

wild-turkey-583190_1280

[Photo by 631372 from Pixabay]

Humour. I’ve a story for you. Taking notice that one of their cats were acting oddly at the basement window the other evening, and assuming it to be another neighborhood feline on the prowl, my folks found to their complete bafflement, a wild turkey pecking at the window. What? At length, it strolled off into a neighboring yard. Though such wild fowl aren’t unknown in the surrounding farm country, certainly that was the first turkey in decades to be on such an adventure. Wish I could have seen that! No wonder the cat was acting a little strange. Never seen a bird like that before! The wildlife really is coming out while the towns are quiet…

IMG_4554

[Lovely pink peonies snipped from one colleague, and a piece of fruit from another, last spring. The smallest gifts can bring such joy to the heart.]

My little offering to say, I hope serenity for you today, in whatever ways are personal. And, I wish you all the grit there is as we wind through the seriousness of these current days.

You’ve enough, I promise you. You’ll see…

Stay Inspired.

Let Me Walk In Eden…

Good Day, Good Friends! Today, I am wishing you most well and happy! And, I am hoping, that you are ever finding ways to stay inspired!

IMG_5427

I found my inspiration yesterday, by taking a walk through a transcendent Eden. Three such wonderful gardens, in fact. Would you like to come along and see?

IMG_5304

On a completely impromptu whim, I found myself on an adventure at the Milwaukee Domes located in the city’s Mitchell Park…

IMG_5326

Three massive glass houses, each with a unique botanic garden: The Show Dome, The Tropical Dome, and the Desert Dome.

IMG_5338

The temperature and feel of the air was different going from dome to dome, the tropical dome warm and humid…

IMG_5343

In the tropical dome, there were glorious palms reaching for the sky, and vibrant flowers that were of course, very unique…

IMG_5339

Being that the sky was blue on this day, it truly made me feel for a time, that I had blessedly escaped winter…

IMG_5342

There were even birds singing at the tops of the trees, while the matted roots and vines clambered around the trunks below…

IMG_5353

I also immensely enjoyed watching large koi swirling together in a stream underfoot…

IMG_5354

Their bright colors mesmerizing…

IMG_5352

And their gliding like a dance…

IMG_5351

They almost appeared to me like little dragons, floating through the air…

IMG_5355

I now understand why these fish are so often prized! They were quite beautiful and relaxing to watch…

IMG_5314

The Show Dome had a cooler temperature, with much low-lying greenery…

IMG_5316

It was a cacophony of delightful scenes and plants…

IMG_5311

With many unexpected little bursts…

IMG_5307

And entertaining miniatures…

IMG_5318

Even Godzilla made an appearance…

IMG_5363

The Desert Dome seemed a little more arid, though without the blazing one would normally feel within such a zone…

IMG_5361

The armadillo considered it a temperate day.

IMG_5364

There were plenty of barbed little beasties, best to stay away from…yikes!

IMG_5365

This brought to mind, a recollection of a cactus my grandma used to keep when I was a child, and the several unfortunate brushes I’d had with it.

I won’t keep a cactus. It doesn’t want to be kept, and will be happy to remind you of that.

IMG_5367

I very much enjoyed this foreign view however, a desert scene being something completely alien to me…

IMG_5389

I even paused to coo at the tan-blue tinted doves, flying through…

IMG_5391

And for a moment, as if under a spell cast by the shifting of a late afternoon sun…

IMG_5392

I forgot just where I was. I had left, and gone someplace else…

IMG_5398

Small adventures are a gift to me. A respite from duty, and a forgetfulness from life’s pressures. A walk, through my own magical tales.

IMG_5403

And even if they are as short as dreams, just an hour or a single day, they are as indispensable as any sustenance.

Take your adventures, no matter how small! And as always, stay inspired!

Too Special For Words…

I saw something so special last week. Utterly special to me, because of my particular, lifelong love for insects. Living in an urban environment, you don’t see all that many interesting specimens. But sometimes, if you keep your eyes open like I do, you’ll see something that will amaze you…

IMG_4913

I was taking a brief bite of lunch out in the sun, and ran across the street to throw my apple core into a trash can. I soon almost fell over myself, coming to a halt. My jaw dropped and my chest stirred with excitement. FOR THE LOVE OF BUGS…A PRAYING MANTIS…standing there on the city sidewalk. My eyes were like two moons. I squealed out loud. I was so happy. If there had been anything difficult in my day thus far, it was over. Forgotten…

IMG_4911

Only then, I began to worry, for my mantid was posing so tall and proud on the sidewalk. He looked like he was ready to take on the world. Very confident. But pedestrians, and some with dogs, might hurt my beastie by accident. That would make me cry. So I hovered low, and warned a woman passing by…

IMG_4910

I thought to gingerly assist the beautiful animal into some building-side greenery. But then I thought, what if that creature’s sharp mandibles bite my finger? Ouch! Well, I guess I could stand such a pinch, if it meant saving the mantid’s life! Sometimes, we just have to be brave.

IMG_4902

Alas, as if reading my mind, the insect flew up over the walk, into blades of grass. It was amazing to watch it fly. Like a fairy. I gasped in awe.

IMG_4901

Safe, almost unseen, blending so well into the grass, there my mantid stayed to hunt his meal. His arms together, appearing in prayer, as praying mantis will do…

IMG_4907

I saw him for two days straight in the same cluster of grass, before he moved along. I of course had to look him up, and learn more about these bugs.

What did I find? A Chinese Mantis. According to Wikipedia, they are the most sizeable species of mantis in North America. I can attest…this beast was nearly as long as my hand, and when standing upright on the sidewalk, was quite dominant. Further, they are carnivorous (not just bugs, but aquatic creatures, reptiles…hummingbirds). They are also cannibals…

IMG_4914

Probably a good thing I was spared picking the creature up.

IMG_4907

I must say, I’ve only seen a praying mantis in Illinois once before, and that was some twenty years ago. That was especially why this encounter was so incredible. I’d like to have one as a pet. Only, he might eat all my pet jumping spiders bouncing around my house, which would be a conflict of interest. Some people do keep them as pets.

Of course, my heart tells me that what is wild, should stay wild…

As for you, Stay Inspired!

A Stunning Story, And What Goes Bump In The Night…

Hello All! How are you? I hope that you are very well, utterly happy, and wonderfully healthy today! What am I up to? Being my crazy self as usual! Crazy for bizarre fun facts that is! I’ve got a unique one for you today! In fact, it’s quite stunning

IMG_4423

Ok, so here I am, very late past my bedtime one evening a few weeks ago. I’m burrowing under the blankets, and I want to read a few minutes before falling asleep. However, I don’t want all the lights on. What do I do? Well, my mama gave me this handy-dandy little camping lamp, just in case the electricity goes out. Perfect reading lamp! Especially when it makes you feel like you’re in a tent in some remote forest in the middle of the night, and you are reading a book about Sasquatch!

Do you know what one of my favorite things about reading is? When I read things in books that I’d never heard of before, which always provokes me to go look things up. Do you know how many times I’ve read something and said, Is that really true? Well, once I ask that, there is no going back. I have to put on my reading glasses and go check it out!

IMG_4422

Now, I haven’t read Jeff Meldrum’s Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science in its entirety, but I’ve read enough to say that I like the book very much. It takes a scientific approach to Bigfoot, speaking on an array of animal study topics. Such as…comparing known animal behaviors to observations made during Sasquatch ‘sightings’, analyzing those mysterious ‘vocalizations’ heard in the wilderness, determining whether skin imprints can be found in footprint casts (dermatoglyphics), photo and video analysis, etc. The list goes on. In fact, I found myself absolutely fascinated by all the forensic science! Broke my brain. But this post isn’t entirely about Bigfoot…

sound-856771_1280

[Image by CSTRSK from Pixabay]

Among the fun facts I was learning about the animal kingdom, there was one item in the book in particular that really surprised me. Learning about infrasound.

Ok, this gets good. We humans can hear sound within a range of Hz (Hertz), 20 Hz being our general low point. (Note, I’m not a scientist, so click on my links if you are so inclined, and you can learn more.) Infrasound is the sound that lies below our low point. Sounds in our environment that we can’t hear, because they are out of our range. I knew these sounds existed of course, but never thought much of it…

breaking-the-sound-barrier-99684_1280

[Image by David Mark from Pixabay]

What might cause infrasound? Nature. A rumbling earthquake. Blinding lightening. Celestial bodies passing overhead. A rip-roaring tornado. Men make things that make infrasound too…aircraft that travels so fast, it creates a sonic boom. Explosives! Those incredibly massive wind turbines…

Some animals are able to produce it. Elephants, and whales, use it to converse from miles away from one another. And other animals chat each other up with infrasound too, like alligators. This may be one reason why people have witnessed animals freaking out, or fleeing, before a natural disaster. Maybe they’re hearing something we’re not? Once I started reading about it, I found it all so terribly interesting. But this gets even better…

three-dimensional-1541817_1920

[Image by intographics from Pixabay]

Though we can’t hear infrasound, you may feel those low level Hz. An intense reverberation? A dazed reaction? A feeling of unease? For instance, the tiger’s incredible roar (which includes low level Hz), can apparently arrest its prey, stunning it. Meldrum’s book asks (sparked by information folks have delivered after alleged encounters), could a Sasquatch do that?

Yikes! Can you imagine a mighty, growling call from out of a pitch-black mountain wilderness? An undiscovered species warning you away from their territory, using infrasound to trigger your fear? Ok, no more late night reading with a lantern for me…

forest-931706_1280

[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

Further intriguing, some researchers have begun to explore whether infrasound might not be the cause for some of our feelings of discomfort when we suspect something is going bump in the night. A.k.a., “I sense there’s a ghost in this house!” It might just be the eerie feeling you’re getting from low level Hz vibrations…

Am I allowed to raise my hand here, and ask whether these Hz’s are man-made (a diesel engine in the distance), or whether it’s just that ghosts speak at a volume we can’t hear? Spirits having conversation at the level of infrasound. Bwa-ha-ha…

I just scared myself.

forest-1030832_1280

[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

Love it! Terror-inducing Sasquatch calls? Ghosts blathering during the darkest hours, or just eerie vibrations? Giraffes carrying on infrasound gossip that humans can’t hear? Science is awesome. And, it proves again and again, that anything is possible…

Bigfoot might just be out there.

aurora-borealis-443978_1280

[Image by Rex Landingham from Pixabay]

By the way, the northern lights are an aurora, which can produce infrasound. Therefore, not only is this colorful, magical light display in the night sky beautiful…it’s also producing it’s own strange music, just out of range of your ears!

Stay Inspired Friends!

Run Little Dude! Run!

Have you had your dose of action and thrill yet today? Well look no further, for I have just the video for you! Last night while perusing Netflix, I paused over a short trailer for the nature documentary Planet Earth II. In it, an island iguana, just born, has to run his way from the sand where he was hatched to the safety of rocks above. He looks full-grown, but is apparently just a little guy. I have to tell you, I was so anxious for this creature! I actually squealed aloud, “Run! Hurry! Runnnnnn!

I watched the clip more than once, my knuckles up to my mouth. Oh my word! Have you ever seen so many snakes? What’s the name of that beach? Nightmare Sands? I’ve got to tell you, nature documentaries are seriously more thrilling than blockbusters! You can read more about the clip here!

Stay Inspired Folks!

Turn Out The Lights And Let Them Love

As I took a long walk last night, along the shores of Lake Michigan, enjoying the setting sun above the waves and the full gardens surrounding local homes, I got to thinking about the beauty of summer and how short it lasts in these parts. Such thoughts brought me to think of fireflies…

hand-2562086_1280

As many know, I have an absolute love for insects. I can’t help stopping to observe their busy little lives, and the careful design of their precious wings and unique bodies. I don’t kill spiders and winged intruders in my home, but gather them up to go outside. God gave them breath to live, I don’t feel it’s my place to take it from them if I can avoid it. But what brought me to muse about fireflies, besides the general splendor of their bioluminescence at dusk on a balmy summer night?

summer-2436242_1280

Did you know that when fireflies light up in the air over a field, they are wooing lady flies? It’s lovely. The fireflies floating along, blinking in the sky, are male. Further, they are not all of the same species. Each species has a different pattern of blinking. Some fireflies blink twice, go dark while floating along, and then blink twice again. Some light up to fly diagonally, in slanted streaks, then darken, and repeat. Others fly aglow in a J formation through the air, darken for a spell, and then do it again…

landscapes-1750130_1280

Meanwhile, the lady fireflies are waiting in the grass, taking in the lights, looking to spot what special glow might attract them. When one does, a female will light up in return, and two creatures aglow will chance to meet…

light-bulb-1209491_1280

If you go and sit quiet and still in a field at dusk, and watch, you will be witness as such careful courting unfolds. Enchanting are the blinks of the fireflies in flight, and the glowing returns from those who wait. You might even be able to make out some patterns, though I should guess that the glowing is quite beautiful enough…

dark-1845065_1280

Unfortunately, it is believed that firefly populations are diminishing. In our environments, we use a lot of chemicals to tame lawns and kill insects. This is something I think a lot about, as I take my walks and observe lawns being treated. And if it’s not good for the fireflies, I’m certain it’s not good for those baby bunnies in the park, or the birds fluttering in your flowers, or your dog, or you. Do consider using environmentally safe treatments, if you must treat your lawn at all…

night-2539411_1280

But chemicals aren’t the only thing to diminish the fireflies. Light pollution is also to blame. It disrupts the glowing creatures’ ability to spot one another. Those blaring porch lights in our backyards at night are making it difficult for them see each other! The tragedy! Who dares me to write a letter to my city to request a citywide lights out policy between certain hours just after dusk, on behalf of the declining firefly population?! It would begin…Turn out the lights, and let them love!

The Bird Of Prey Outside My Window!

I risked my life today, dangerously leaning way out of my open window several stories above the sidewalk. Why? Because I spotted another Cooper’s Hawk! So excited to share this with you! I’ve been keeping an eye out to capture some photos of these birds for some years now. I kept seeing them in the neighborhood, but because of the thick foliage, I can rarely get a good look before they fly out of sight. I’d sometimes wondered if I’d even really seen a hawk at all. But enough sightings convinced me that there is a rather healthy population round these parts. Remember the last photos I caught?

At first today, I thought there was only the hawk, so I started snapping photos. But then I realized, he’s just caught something. Yes, he’s eating his catch, a bird. Yikes! Can you believe I got such a great video?! Just outside my window?! I’m just nuts about nature!

Cooper'sHawk

If anyone thinks my identification is wrong, let me know. I’m no birder, but I’ve always got my handy-dandy Birds of North America nearby!

A Hawk’s Tale…And one fine striped tail it is!

For years now, there has been an elusive winged creature out back. I’d thought I’d seen a large hawk dozens of times, but it was so fast that I could never get a really good look…

IMG_3360

It’s not like when one flies across an open country road and perches for all to see on top of a telephone post. Our backyard abuts a dozen other backyards, all wooded, gardened and spectacularly green, so a bird, even a large one, can stay camouflaged…

IMG_3358

Earlier this summer, I’d gotten a pretty good look at it swooping over the alleyway between houses. And then last week, I was witness to it swooping down to try to snag a squirrel off a tree. No lie. The squirrel was a bit too big and skittish for the hawk to grab, but it was a gutsy attempt and certainly left my eyes round with surprise! The squirrel proceeded to squall in shock for about half an hour, (to the displeasure of my sensitive ears), an acorn still clutched in its mouth, completely unharmed but scared out of its wits…

IMG_3359

So, I’m making coffee this morning and looking out into the sunny backyard. I see something! Is it what I think it is? Is it the bird! I tear off up the stairs faster than Tiddo the cat on one of his running rampages, snatch up my camera and fly over to my bedroom window. First time I really saw it as not just a flash of wings, but as a sedentary creature! And let me tell you, it’s a big one. Larger than I thought. He (or she) is living off of chipmunk, bird, bunny and squirrel meat. These backyards are no slim pickings for this fierce hunter…

IMG_3361

Can anyone take a guess at what I’ve got? Perusing the pages of my North American bird book, it looks like it might be a Cooper’s Hawk, but I’d love your input! I’ve definitely been hearing a hawk’s strong kak-kak-kaking call all summer long. (You can listen to a voice recording of a Cooper’s Hawk on its wikipedia page here). Cooper’s Hawks are uncommon, live in wooded areas, and are newly removed from the Illinois endangered species list!

Don’t Eat That Ackee, Eve!

I’m fascinated by nature, and very much so when I’m traveling. The sight of a unique plant, or spotting unfamiliar wildlife, is always exciting!

IMG_3069

By the looks of the markings on this yellow bird, I believe I captured sight of a Jamaican Oriole while recently in Jamaica. Even from the first hours after our arrival there on a recent trip, I was in awe of the thriving bird life and all of the beautiful songs they presented…

IMG_3071

This hearty bird hopped about in the foliage so constantly (in search for seeds it appeared) that I could hardly get a proper picture of him. Only a few photos from many offered more than a flash of yellow…

IMG_3077

Though Indian Peafowl are kept in the U.S., to see this fella dancing about a potential mate (a peahen that fled from him into the bushes) was such a treat. Look how handsome he is! On several evenings, we noted a peahen taking safe perch for the night upon a thatched roof. It looked quite the comfortable nest…

IMG_3085

Hey little dude! Hunting for some juicy bugs? Carry on!

IMG_3057

Though Northern Mockingbirds can breed in Northern Illinois, they aren’t regulars. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen (or heard) one in the wild. In Jamaica, they are everywhere and their songs are simply incredible!

IMG_3090

Tropical flowers grew abundantly, their colors so vivid! They invited an army of hummingbirds to drink of their nectar…

IMG_3088

And when I saw this fruit ripening in a tree, my first thought was of how delicious it might be to pluck one down and take a bite! Any tropical fruit so pretty must taste divine! Good thing I didn’t follow my instinct…

IMG_3089

This, is the ackee (not to be confused with the acai berry), the tree of which migrated from Africa to Jamaica (most likely upon a slave ship) in the late 1700’s. It is the national fruit of Jamaica. However, to pluck it down and take a bite could prove fatal. At the very least, you would become very, very sick…

Akee

[Photo Credit: DocTaxon]

In order to eat of the fruit, it must first be fully ripe (splitting open on its own) or bad things will definitely happen. The fruity flesh is then to be removed away from the skin and seeds (these carefully discarded lest your beloved pet or child grab hold of the remnants and put them in their mouth). Next, the fruit is to be boiled for at least 5 minutes, or bad things yet could happen. The water is to then be immediately discarded, the fruit rinsed and then boiled a second time, because if not, bad things could still happen…this is one dangerous fruit!

IMG_4605

I therefore had to take a walk on the wild side and eat some. Ackee and saltfish is a traditional Jamaican dish. I had it for breakfast one glorious sunny morning to the sound of rich birdsong. With each bite, I had to wonder if this was like taking the risk of eating toxic puffer fish? I mean, what if the cook didn’t boil my ackee twice?

Just kidding! I wasn’t scared at all. What did it taste like? Like fish and fruit, looking like scrambled eggs masquerading on my plate. A little spicy, a little fishy, a little sweet. I liked it!

IMG_4606

Handsome on the other hand had pancakes made from a unique grain that morning. Fish for breakfast wasn’t quite to his taste, though he did take a nibble of my ackee and saltfish to see what it was like…

IMG_3117

How I love to travel, and how I love nature! However, I am ever being reminded to control my urges to simply grab out, or pet that cute insect (I think I was raised a little bit wild). Not everything is innocuous, some things are quite dangerous indeed. For instance, when I admired strands of cherry-looking berries hanging from one tree, a local said not to touch them, for the juice will burn the skin of your hand. Yikes!

Nature must be respected

IMG_3108

Of course, I still swam but a few feet away from a puffer fish while snorkeling in the shallows. He watching me, me watching him (terrified he might bring out the spines but too fascinated to swim away). And of course, I still had to get up close to this enormous insect nest, unable to live without knowing what was in there (I’m an entomologist in my heart)…

IMG_3107

But the point is, look don’t touch! Remember Eve of the Garden of Eden who grabbed out for that fruit? Nope, not every fruit is as sweet as it looks. Unless perhaps, you boil it twice!

Here is hoping you are enjoying your adventure today!

My Grandma’s Garden

My grandma lives in Southern Illinois, in a house that used to be a rural school house! She still has an outhouse standing in her backyard, which she uses for storing her garden tools. This time of year, I’m betting her garden is already beginning to wake, for Southern Illinois is far warmer than Northern Illinois…

img_0620

My grandma has always had a green thumb, producing plenty of healthful veggies and planting many beautiful flowers. I spent a great deal of time running around barefoot as a child through her garden when she lived up north. I was never concerned about snakes or ticks because that didn’t seem prevalent. In the warmer climate where she lives now however, I’d be more cautious in the garden. My grandma however, isn’t scared of anything…

img_0626

She has some beautiful grassland and woodlands just beyond her property. Frequently her wild and protective sidekick, Sally the dog, likes to run off for a spell into the field. I recall hearing a story about Sally coming back with a rotten deer leg in her mouth, snatched from a carcass and brought home like a trophy. Gross! Dogs will be dogs!

img_0647

In Southern Illinois, there are fox, coyotes and common forest animals. However, my grandpa had me quite shocked as he shared news of growing populations of bobcats and sightings of cougars (mountain lions). These animals are stealthy and rarely seen, but it had me a little nervous sitting out around the campfire eating s’mores one evening. My ears were perked for the distant growl of a fierce cat…

img_0649

There’s nothing like a beautiful countryside, the bees buzzing and grandma’s chickens clucking and fussing. They eat ticks, which is great! And what fresh and delicious eggs these free range birds produce!

img_0623

Reviewing these photos of grandma’s beautiful flowers and green, I can’t wait for spring to arrive and the sweet season of summer…

img_0619

Isn’t her mirror hung outdoors on the side of an outbuilding such a quaint scene? Upon closer look, there’s a little fellow who lives behind the mirror…

img_0645

A skink! A skink is a species of lizard that has a thicker neck and shorter legs. But for real, how long is that back toe? If you try to grab a skink’s tail, it falls off so that the lizard can make its escape. I wouldn’t try that though. Though not poisonous, they bite. I’ve never been bit by one, but I have been chased by one…

img_0646

True story. I went camping with my best friend and her family in Turkey Run State Park in Indiana when I was about 14. There were lots of skinks, which I’d never seen before, and I was curious. I spotted one on the ground on the trail and tried to get close to observe it. It didn’t run away, it held its ground and gave me the skink eye (tee-hee). He had a very proud stance. This was a courageous little lizard. And then, it ran toward me. I screeched and ran away, and it chased me. I was literally turning my head back as I ran, watching the skink continue its pursuit. I honestly thought it would bite me. I ran like the roadrunner…

img_0622

God bless grandmas, and their gardens, everywhere! And here’s wishing you many beautiful days with nature, and special glimpses of wildlife (from a safe distance)!

What Life May Bring, I’ll Bear The Sting!

I’m a vivid dreamer in my sleep. And usually having no problem remembering my epic-like dreams after I’ve woken, I’m regularly amazed by the places I visit, filled with unimaginable detail. It makes me baffled of our brains. How can they produce such landscapes?

tree-738816_1280

My dreams tend to be tangible too. Places that could be real places somewhere, nothing psychedelic. It’s like I’m making visits to new destinations. This week, I dreamt of an island with beautiful white sand that my feet sunk into. There were tropical waters, sunlight and open sky. Green, craggy peaks rose up out of the water at a distance…

bora-bora-685303_1280

I went wind sailing over the waters. My feet were bare and the salty water was spraying. It was beautiful, adventurous and warm. But lo! As I crossed over the water, I spotted a single jellyfish floating just below the surface…

jellyfish-698521_1280

Just a bit further along, I see three or four bobbing together under the water. As I skim along into deeper depths, there is soon to be seen a bloom of jellyfish below the surface so expansive, that there isn’t a spot of water where no jellyfish undulates. My vessel gliding fast through the waves scoops some up, and my feet begin to sting. Zap. Zap. Zap. I become nervous that I will topple into the blue. Falling into the water is unthinkable…

animal-21741_1280

Just then, I woke up from the dream. Handsome was on his way out for work and had planted a smooch on my face to say goodbye. The jellyfish were gone. As I later poured a cup of coffee in the kitchen, pondering those creatures of the deep, it made some sense why I’d be dreaming of a stinging swarm in the blue…

coral-reef-692957_1280

We are soon to embark on another trip into the tropics, amidst sprawling acres of wildlife and endless blue waters. These excursions are exciting beyond words for we room comfortably, but also embrace adventure. Walking a sleeping volcano, sweating though the jungle, mountain climbing (never again), swimming, snorkeling…

narrow-lined-puffer-586338_1280

My obsession is watching for wildlife, and swimming. I can swim hard, up and down to the ocean floor for a good span of time. I love it. I’m crazy about it. I get into the water and I forget that I’m a vulnerable human. I start believing I’m an invincible sea dweller, a crafty mermaid scouting the ocean floor for colorful fish and treasures…

fish-1918684_1280

Nothing will coax me to swim cautiously (not even handsome’s sweet and concerned finger-wagging), and nothing can get me out of the water until I’m good and ready (not even those sirens and helicopters once overhead while a mild earthquake rumbled. I thought those waves seemed a little turbulent)…

jellyfish-593157_1280

Nothing can pull me out of my water dance, except jellyfish. Have you ever met with a jellyfish? It’s mean. It’s shocking. It stings. It’s like lemon in a wound, and a bee sting, and an electric shock, all at the same time…

jellyfish-1582746_1280

The worst I ever got were some tentacles to the thigh. It was not only painful that day, but some weeks later I experienced delayed hypersensitivity reaction. Though most jellyfish touches are shocking, they’re common and rarely serious. Zip, zap, ouch!! (I’d just be wary of swimming in waters known for the most dangerous variety or when high concentrations in general are about)…

jellyfish-1343351_1280

On our last tropical snorkel, I found that I was having a rough time. It was more challenging than past swims. I felt strained, not as strong a swimmer as I know myself to be. I wondered if I just don’t have the stamina for more adventurous swimming anymore. Did I need to stick closer to shore?

Handsome acutely pointed out that it might not be physical. Hadn’t I been anxious swimming with the jellyfish? Yup! During that swim, little ones were having a sting fest on my exposed skin. They were just tiny little dudes, tiny little stings. Nothing to cry in my snorkel about. However, there were big jellyfish where we swam too. The size of salad bowls, with unique markings…

jellyfish-1231820_1280

When one was detected, it would look to be many feet away. But in an instant, it would be floating right past. Way too close for comfort you jellyfish, you! Keep your tentacles away from my flesh! (Those were not the words I uttered underwater, but this blog is PG rated)…

jellyfish-1185278_1280

The dream I had is clearly my subconscious working. Likely our upcoming trip triggered the tropical setting. I know I don’t have a jellyfish phobia (though they certainly make me uncomfortable). So perhaps more than a potential injury, that previous swim with the big bad jellyfish reminded me of vulnerability. That something can and might sting me in life, catch me unawares. My dream is the product of that simple worry. A worry we all have from time to time. That’s my best guess anyway, for I am no diviner of dreams…

california-1751455_1280

But why share my jellyfish dream with you? To remind you, as much as myself, that no one can predict life’s stings. You can’t stop dreaming. You can’t stop swimming. You’ve just got to keep diving in! Enjoy your adventure!

What’s Up, Chippy?

We have chipmunks living under our cemented front porch. I enjoy watching them race around and make unique chirping noises, and they love to get a handful of nuts or fresh berries when I’m feeling generous…

img_2828

This little fella spent the greater part of an afternoon hopping up and down on a little edge of the porch. He ate his acorns and watched me. I typed on a story and watched him. They’re adorable, but they will mistake your toes for nuts if you are wearing flip-flops like I was. I’ve had to holler for them to get away from my toes on more than one occasion (and no my toes don’t smell like nut butter). The last thing I need is to have to hobble the block down to the local hospital for a stitch to my big toe, and explain how I got injured…

img_2826

Chipmunks burrow paths under the dirt, where they sleep, have babies and store their food. A single chippy can store up to eight pounds of food! (If a disaster hits town and I run out of victuals, I know where I’ll be digging! Acorn soup it is!) They also don’t like other chipmunks hanging around their dens and will brawl and chase them great lengths from their burrow doors. I’ve seen them fight, they’re spunky for certain…

img_2824

Chipmunks are also known to be very clean, keeping their burrows clutter free. They make comfy nests out of grass and leaves, and though most people think they hibernate in winter, that is only sort of true. They do sleep quite a bit, but they rouse a few times a week to eat, run around the burrow and use the chipmunk amenities…

img_2819

I originally believed that they only ate nuts, seeds and plants. However, they also eat bird eggs, insects and frogs. I can attest that this is true, for my mom and I once watched one hold an earthworm in its little claws and munch it while it squirmed. Gross!

img_2825

They can birth two broods a year (early spring and early fall) with between 2-5 little chips in each set. Sadly, chipmunks don’t live long. About 2-3 years. No wonder they brawl, hoard food and zip around like race cars. With such short lifespans, they’re living life in the fast lane!

Here’s to living life to the fullest, and always having enough acorns in your burrow!

Making Friends

“Mom, mom, mom, MOM! This is my new friend I was telling you about!”

IMG_2382

“Yes Tiddo, who is this friend? Oh, I see!”

IMG_2379

“Mom, is he a cat like me? Can he come in and play? Can I go out and climb the tree with him? Can he come in for dinner? I’ll share my crunchy treats with him!”

IMG_2383.JPG

“Oh Tiddo, always so sweet. You and your friend can just talk from the window for today, ok?”

IMG_2381.JPG

“Pssst…hey, you there! Hey you cat! Got any grub? Got any chicken bones?”

IMG_2384.JPG

“Gotta go, my mom is calling me! Tonight, she’s teaching me how to sneak into garbage cans! I’ll save you a tuna can if I find one! See ya’ around!”