impressions

This was one of those weeks that can only be described as a gift. The little coastal town I live near doesn’t get anything most people can call winter, but it gets cold enough. Even some snow and ice some years, just not this year. Not yet, anyway.

But apparently winter gave a reprieve to some areas this past week, here too. Days were 60s-70s and nights did not get much below 45. So electric bills will be lower. Abundant sun, expansive blue skies, wispy playful contrails and clouds decorating the air.

IMG_0870.JPGCape Fear, upriver

Mindful of Emily Dickinson’s lovely poem, “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” (…Winter afternoons–…)

IMG_0866.JPGRed oak clinging to what is left of autumn

IMG_0867.JPGa closer look at leaf veins with the sun behind the tree trunk

So according to askabiologist.com* the leaves turn when temperatures get colder and the tree starts “breaking down the chlorophyll into smaller particles”, leaving more room for other colors (carotenoids) to make the orange, reds and yellows. Other trees (maples) have anthocyanins that create red, pink and purple colors.

The theory I grew up believing was that leaf colors changed when the days got shorter and there was less sunlight to make green. So that always seemed plausible but days get shorter all over the world and leaves don’t change color in warmer climates. So the cold theory makes more sense now.

I just never thought about it.

It’s interesting when we accept ideas unquestioning. Especially when they are about non-personal things, like nature. Facts are applicable to everything but so much seems subjective. So my ideas about why leaves change color, that I have believed for years (evidently I didn’t pay close attention in botany class) has been corrected.

It makes me wonder how many ideas, theories, concepts I am still holding true without really having it right.

0.jpgPileated woodpecker, base of far left tree hunting insects

Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu always get things right. And they are generous in their opinions, whenever I am at a loss.

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https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/why-do-leaves-change-color

not the pumpkin

I can remember when I last participated in Hallowe’en. Fall 2008. I was living in northwest New Mexico. I had just adopted a new rescue dog, husky-mix Lily. She was the ideal dog! She knew all her commands– sit, stay, shake, lie down, treat, ride, walk and she could give you “five”.

Until Halloween night. I bought a huge amount of treats. I was so ready for this. Then the doorbell rang. Lily was apoplectic. She raced to the door, clawing at the door frame snarling, saliva flying– she was her own night of terror.  I had to find a way to hold her back, open the door and stick the bowl of candy out the door. Fistfuls were taken I am sure but I was so relieved to shut that door. Half a minute later the entire scene threatened to repeat but, though I heard Lily she was not at the door. I opened the door, gasped at the little monsters waiting their cavity-inducers and closed the door to see Lily standing on the baby grand piano barking in a complete frenzy.

Ok so this won’t work. I took the bowl, poured the other bags of candy and set it at the end of the walkway, turned out the lights and went to bed.

Lily was at peace.

So this year my son called me walking on his way home from work to let me know he would be nearby this weekend for a meeting and would like to come see me. I was so happy! But he sounded a little hesitant. The only reason I can think is because his live-in girlfriend and I have never actually found a common ground. Except my son, which she seems to lord over me. Why I have no idea because clearly, the relationship each of us has is vastly different. But the tension is there all the same. She is ‘New Age-y’, I am conventionally traditional. My son is stuck in the middle.

So we chatted about the weekend and he explained he was juggling a bag of groceries, the phone and a large pumpkin for Halloween.

That stopped me. The image I had was not the literal items he mentioned but the other things in his life– his girlfriend, his work, and me. So I said, “I don’t want to be the pumpkin.”

“What?!” he said.

I explained what he was doing right at that moment was kind of exemplary of other things he was also juggling in his life and I did not simply want to be something superfluous in his life that he would eventually throw away.

Sometimes my worry fantasies are a bit far-fetched. I guess this one was.

A little history: My parents were traditional in that they belonged to the country club, took the family to church (most) Sundays, every major holiday, saw to it we had a good education. Beyond that their lives were consumed with (Dad’s) executive jet-setting, Mom’s golf, book club, junior league, garden club, DAR, bridge club and travel with Dad. I do not take after them much at all. They were unconventional in that we the children fell in there somewhere but inconsistently. We weren’t the pumpkin but we were sometimes rather incidental unless and until we had trouble. My brother? Never. Me? often.

Anyway, sadly my son has nothing whatever to do with the life I knew growing up. He is innocent. Yet I carry this baggage around and sometimes say or think things totally irrelevant to a situation. Because of that history.

Insecurity factors in I suppose, but still.

I do not ever want to be the pumpkin

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Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.”   
 –Psalm 139:16

#capefearstrong

Chain saws, bucket trucks, wood chippers, hammers on roof shingles, semi trailers, disaster relief…. these will be here for a while.

The river is expected to crest sometime this weekend, maybe begin to fall Tuesday. Interstates are still closed, roads have collapsed, dams are failing.

The power of water.

And there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, like the wind.

IMG_0645.JPG  Trees appear to cringe against fear of more wind

Recovery is incremental at first… the winds and rains stop, electricity is restored, traffic lights flash, then hold steady, fuel and grocery stores reopen, limited hours, limited persons allowed to shop, gradually reopening to full hours. People venture out more, less afraid… has it really gone… ? Aftershock.

Life returns to a form of normalcy, people eager to complain impatiently about waiting in a check out line rather than humbly, gratefully in a line waiting for ice, water, MREs, tarps.

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Even nature is disoriented, seeking shelter wherever they can, emerging from fallen trees, crushed vegetation, where is home?

Water recedes, surges. the abnormal seems normal until it isn’t and you realize how awful it all really was. How grateful, fortunate you are it was not worse.

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Eventually the detritus of the storm disappears, flatbeds come and take it away. The chainsaws stop, birds sing louder.

Life as we knew it resumes, the same, but so different.

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When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”   __Isaiah 43:2

“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”   –I Kings 19:11, 12

chance, luck, coincidence

I don’t believe in that. When I was a little girl filled with mythical romantic fairy tales I did. I’m not jaded. We have turns of events in life that surprise us, none more humbling than as the result of things we contrived ourselves that failed. Or those that became real.

Maybe that’s why I cling to nature. It has its own rhythm. What happens there always has a reason. So even though this might not be their 7th year we have an abundance of newly hatched cicadas. Now. Not from May or June, now.

They crawl up out of the earth where the previous generation laid eggs and they grew into grubs. They crawl up tree trunks where they split their skins and emerge, these beauIMG_0534.JPGtiful googly-eyed insects 1-2 inches long and make a deafening song until they become ant fodder at their life’s end.

These abandoned exoskeletons are stuck all over different trees. They are not attractive larva. You seldom see them before they are empty shells. But this is their metamorphosis. Probably not painful so they  are not reluctant to go through this process, unlike people who resist change almost constantly. Until at least a certain age where we have either built up enough strength and resilience to survive it, with senses of humor, or indifference that hardens and encases us like the abandoned shells the katydids leave.

Caterpillars are the same. I can’t imagine snuggling into a cocoon is anything uncomfortable. But I wonder, are the caterpillars awake when they begin and complete their beautiful transformation to a butterfly?

IMG_0526.JPGanother swallowtail butterfly finishing off a stem of fennel

One of my favorite places to volunteer is a public garden here. It is 7 acres on property that at one time was a private elementary school. Several different sorts of gardens have been developed: native plants, veterans memorial, forest, herb and kitchen, children’s, rain gardens and several others. Each week stalwart souls gather in unimaginable heat and humidity to sweat among the weeds and flowers for 2-3 hours doing various chores. One of my favorites is weeding. There is something so gratifying about pulling a clump of nut sedge or chamberbitter or smilax root and leaving loose rich soil for the phlox, cone flowers, maypops and others. The garden spiders start quite small, and late in the summer become like this that I straightened from pulling weeds to see

 

IMG_0532.JPGharmless garden spider unless you are a fly

What I guess I marvel most at is that there are few anomalies in nature. Oak trees grow acorns, not cherries. Spiders eat flies, moths and other insects. Each living thing in the natural world has its own purpose and lives to fulfill it. But then there are no freedoms either. They do what they do because it is what they were created to do. We people were given freedom. Free will. A brain that we use to function, or allow to confuse us .

And then there are storms. Four actually, in the Atlantic right now. Each one is steered and guided by so many factors, the temperature of the ocean, wind and water currents, high or low pressure systems in the atmosphere. Like this one, named Florence

unnamed.png(https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at1+shtml/?#wcontents)Natl Hurricane Ctr

This may not have my little NC coastal town’s name on it but we are in the “cone of possibility”. Not strange. This time of year is the peak season for these storms. And we are told how and when to prepare in case it comes too close. There are no hurricane shelters here because no place will be safe.

I lived in different places in Florida from 2004-2006, 2005 being the year Katrina hit New Orleans and there were so many named storms that year they exhausted the alphabet and began over with AA, BB, CC. The season went long into December.

So last year was not a good year, either, with Harvey, Irma, Maria. I guess this year is catching up from having no storms in August. Maybe it’s better to get them all over with in one week.

Assuming that is, that we will.

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So while we batten down the hatches against whatever may or may not come, enjoy the last drops of summer. Notice the turning of the leaves. The bite in the air that is a harbinger of Autumn.

 

endings, beginnings

Today is the last day of June. Which brings the first of July. Each day ends and a new one begins following the night that divides them.

A butterfly lays its eggs on a host plant which, when the larva emerges, will feed it until it is ready to create its cocoon where it will magically end that life and transform into a butterfly, and begin again

IMG_0061.JPG swallowtail on fennel  IMG_0064.JPG

A plant wakes from winter sleep and emerges in spring and buds grow, bursting open with the sun’s warmth and spring rains

IMG_0067.JPG                                                         Hibiscus “Pinot noir”

IMG_0070.JPG                                                        macrophylla Hydrangea

IMG_0069.JPG                                                                  star gazer Lily

IMG_0073.JPG                                                                         Calla lily

IMG_0072.JPG                                                  Echinacea, shasta daisies

The joy of the wonders of nature overwhelms me. The colors, fragrances, designs, all grace this planet each spring. Fall comes and they fade, preparing for sleep, having offered their very best to us for a season.

They sleep, and then they begin it all again.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans.”                   Proverbs 16:3

 

 

writing

I doubt I would have even gone to college at all if my parents had not insisted on it. I really did not know what to study. My first choice of college was a school one of my (I thought) best friends attended. They were not happy about my grades. So another classmate suggested I apply to her choice. It made sense– at the time I was a New Jersey transplant and she was headed to North Carolina, my home state. As it happened my application was swept up because 100% of applicants were accepted to keep the little Quaker school afloat. And it is still floating.

Not surprising my freshman roommate did not make it past first semester. Had the school offered majors in marijuana and live-in boyfriends she’d have aced. So my second semester I went from endless nights sleeping on the commons area sofa to a single room.

But I digress.

Having no clear idea what I wanted to do with my life I declared an English major. For a reader it made sense. The critical thinking part I had to tweak a bit.

Likely the most difficult class was Modern Lit– D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Pretty sure I didn’t read more than a chapter or 2 of Ulysses. Probably the most senseless novel I read. Ever. Not only no punctuation but pages with nothing but doodles… Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was also completely lost on me. Somehow I managed to write coherent papers on these “works” but I’d have liked to’ve been a fly on the wall in my professor’s office just to see her try to make sense of my words. Especially with Woolf’s To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway. None of these books made a lasting impression on me. Certainly not like C. G. Jung’s Man’s Search for Meaning did freshman year.

Meaning? Seriously? I’d been raised to see the world completely differently, from the perspective of what I had to offer, not what it owed me. I guess my professors could see I was thinking just not as they intended.

C. S. Lewis (someone who makes infinitely more sense to me) in Christian Reflections said:  “Great authors are innovators, pioneers, explorers; bad authors bunch in schools and follow models.”

Well, these authors noted certainly did break all the molds which was why they were called modern I suppose. They broke free from the late 19th-20th century to be… themselves??

A few years after my divorce life started bunching up. Bills, behavior, responsibilities, jobs, all the obligations and processes single parenthood requires, in my case with little to no support. So realizing I would not benefit from any sort of therapy I bought a small electric typewriter and reams of paper and I wrote.

It was as if I tapped whatever the emotional lobe of the brain is and the words just ran. I filled pages and pages until I had 5 binders’ full of raw emotion. I am amazed they did not spontaneously combust in their box I had so much anger poured into them

Annoyance at the musty stigma of divorce, single parenting, lack of family support, a woman in what was then still largely a man’s world. I never blamed anything or anyone but first I had to establish the parameters of what I was up against before I could methodically, systematically start to tackle whatever blocked my way.

And I started to see those complaints, emotions, thoughts, anger, whatever, were all cries for help. Help that I would never find from people but did from God. So those words became prayers. And everything that I had begun to hide from, close myself to, strike out at fell away.

My perspective changed. My focus was no longer on my life, problems, dead ends but Someone else. Someone who made sense. Someone who could, and did, help.

Lewis goes on to say “…. authors are always ‘breaking fetters’ and ‘breaking bonds’. They have personality, they ‘are themselves’….”

I have not had the nerve to go back and read those journals since I packed them away, but I probably had better. At least to decide if I really want them around for someone else to find.

They came from the heart.

Picture0318181122_1.jpg“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”    Zephaniah 3:17

an early spring

So last week temperatures hit record-breaking levels here. People are actually playing in the ocean even though the water is much colder than the air, and the gulf stream has not returned to the coastline yet. Trees have bloomed, some even sprouting early leaves. Pine pollen is coating everything with a filmy yellow-green. The daffodils are in full splendor and tulips are right behind them. Even a few azaleas are starting to open buds.

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The Azalea Festival is a big deal here. It’s kind of an arts festival but there is a queen of the festival and she has a court. They look like antebellum debutantes! Yes, hoop skirts, parasols, and escort cadets from The Citadel in Charleston. Apparently the original mission of this Gala began with the restoration of an unattractive marshy area and it became so beautiful the city decided to celebrate it. Thus began the festival in 1948.

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I have never been.

The azaleas, camellias and bulbs all bloomed last year long before the festival, and it looks as if this might happen again this year. There’s a garden tour which makes for a difficult time if you have no flowers to show in the garden. But each year they persist by holding the festival in April.

At that point tourists have begun returning for the summer, dogs are not allowed on beaches, parking meters have been reinstalled for the busy season, storefronts have been restored and repainted, streets resurfaced, everything has a polish and hums with anticipation of a successful summer.

But I digress.

It’s still February.

Normal spring doesn’t usually start here for at least 2 or 3 more weeks.  And even then it’s been known to snow after the dogwoods have bloomed. So here we are looking at burgeoning life and the skimmers and terns aren’t even back yet to their favorite nesting areas.

I can’t get caught up in all of this. I have to keep my brain focused on the day, not what it feels like.

When does Daylight Savings Time start?

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“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” –1 Corinthians 1:27