ramblings

A park in a city where  I used to live had such a Canada goose problem they hired border collies to get them to fly away. They usually came back the next day, so it took many tries before the geese got too discouraged to bother going back. Recently I rode my bike to the library to get some books and saw a flock of these geese milling around, with a librarian gently shooing them away.

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The point was, she said, to get them off the sidewalk. There are these sheet metal dog-shaped statues in the grass there that swivel and are supposed to frighten off the geese. But as you can see the geese ignore it.

I walk almost every day. Usually for an hour or more, now that the weather has (likely temporarily) cooled some. I don’t take rescue dogs Lily and Lulu now. Lily is still building her strength after her surgery and Lulu just doesn’t like to walk that far.   And generally not without her pal, Lily. So occasionally a neighbor sees me and asks after Lily. I am running out of things to say. No, she isn’t up to walking far, yet. Yes, she seems to be doing some better. But this recovery is incremental. So I am often surprised when I have this very conversation with a neighbor and just a few days later they are so surprised to see me without a dog. These are not particularly elderly people (which is relative, based on my own age. To a 20-year-old they’d be ancient.), so I wonder do they forget? Not hear me? Do I say it in such a way as to indicate recovery is imminent? So I explain, again.

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I have a tiny backyard. Maybe 40 feet by 20 feet. I over planted. Three fig trees, a hedge of lemon grass that’s hard to get around, an elderberry that is very happy where it is. There are many plants that I like but I have to be practical. Even though they do well it makes no sense to have them choking each other out. When they begin to die back I’ll move some, though I have no idea where.

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Same with house plants. This climate is almost tropical in summer so house plants and orchids love being outside. But some do so well they outgrow their pots and by end of summer I have to divide them into more plants. Philodendron and aloes are most, then Christmas cactus and arrowhead plants. These I divided into so many smaller plants I finally consolidated them into bigger pots.

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But somehow when it truly does get colder (for about 3 months) I have to find places for all of these plants inside the house. Which means spraying them for bugs and not overwatering or drying them out.

After hurricane season.

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preparation

Before Dorian blew by nobody knew what it would be like. We watched horrified as it sat over the Bahamas with high screaming winds and drowning storm surge and rain. We saw it cruelly inch away from the little archipelago toward the east coast. Until it had passed the North Carolina shores it took its sweet time moving by. I don’t think I have ever been through a storm during the daytime. They come at night when sounds are amplified by the dark.

A few days before we began preparing for it– brought bird feeders in, overturned bird baths, moved furniture, I noticed the milkweed had almost been eaten to nubs, even managed to get a picture of the monarch caterpillars I have so eagerly awaited.

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I have watched swallowtail caterpillars gorge on fennel almost all summer, and there were one or two still munching away

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But only more recently did I notice the Gulf fritillaries. I have planted passionflowers year after year and had no luck. They just would not grow. So a neighbor who was moving offered a trellis which I gratefully accepted and planted what I decided would be my last attempt at the maypop. It grew and attracted its companion caterpillar

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So I wondered, did these survive and move on to make their cocoons?

There are still a few butterflies even though it is late in the year for them to be laying eggs. A fritillary (not my picture)

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And swallowtail

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and monarch

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An angel trumpet, late bloomer since I only planted it end of June

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And an interesting moth discovered under the headboard on the backyard fence, I don’t know what kind it is

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So except for a couple more roof shingles, and Lily having to go outside once in the wind and rain most were fortunate the storm stayed largely off shore.

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focus

Husky-mix rescue dog Lily’s new injury has once again caused us to slow down. Our routine has changed. Not frustrating, rather a good thing. We notice things otherwise overlooked

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Even Lulu has helped me see things, a butterfly visiting

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Walking Lily in the yard I noticed a plant I’d bought a few years ago, planted and forgotten. Since I never saw it grow the logical conclusion was it had been dead when I planted it, not dormant. But it wasn’t

IMG_0031.JPGChinese Lantern

The past few mornings have been almost comfortable, at least 10 decrees cooler than normal so I’ve taken advantage of the welcome change and begun pruning some of the overgrowth. I was greeted by this little one

IMG_0030.JPGPraying Mantis

Early evening I realized I’d almost missed this surprise bloom. Several buds had dropped from the plant but not this one

IMG_0033.JPGPinot Noir Hibiscus

The humidity and showers from a tropical wave offshore have brought these guys out, but mostly heard, seldom seen

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An evening stroll with Lily around the backyard last night we found this little surprise

IMG_0044.JPGOncidium orchid

So In focusing not on the forest so many individual things of beauty, joys forever.

 

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test flight

One of my past lives was as a librarian. I enjoyed this work because I helped people chase their dreams, start small businesses, children learn the joy of reading, way more than telling people to “Shhhh” or sternly with thin lips accuse them of the desperate owing of library fines. I came into libraries by volunteering, then having to study for a masters, right about the time they began to digitize. Pretty exciting. Besides loving books and reading I am something of a trivia addict.

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Maybe all those other career pursuits I thought would happen but didn’t were just practice. Veterinary assistant, legal assistant, newspaper production, travel agent, and the many years as a temp so I could be home for my son after school. Some are born and just know what they want to ‘be’. I didn’t. So my working life was kind of trial and error. I don’t know that I ever earned my wings but I had many fascinating pursuits trying.

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This is one of those kind of scary large bugs that occasionally appear in great numbers but in off years there aren’t many. On their best years the sound cicadas make is almost deafening. For some reason this one was having a hard time flying the morning I saw it on the front walk. It welcomed my help and grasped my finger for a free ride. I suppose it didn’t know I wouldn’t eat it but climbed on anyway. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu were very interested until it started its loud chirring, then backed away. I found a thick bush where it climbed into the branches. Maybe a bird tried to have it for breakfast and it escaped, who knows.

This morning after the dogs had their breakfast I walked out to the porch to greet the day and immediately Lulu raced to a corner at the front of the porch and tried to get around the flower pots and chair legs at something. I looked over to find a  fledged baby cardinal that had flown in fluttering against the screen which explained the loud chirping and frantic flying of the adult birds just outside. I leaned over and gently grasped the little ball of fluff, its crest straight up and it stopped struggling momentarily. I walked outside to the fence where its parents darted back and forth chirping loudly, held it at the top of the fence and opened my hand. A flash of red swooped past and the baby immediately followed leaving no trace. A few moments later I saw both parents loudly chirping,  perched in the butterfly bush near where I had released their baby. Maybe they came back to thank me.

IMG_1229.JPGTiger Swallowtail caterpillars

I guess we all are here for a reason. Some of us just have our metamorphosis later.

 

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seeing

Eyesight is so taken for granted. When asked if you had a choice of losing hearing or eyesight (neither!), many prefer to keep seeing. Things we experience by sight are very hard to describe unless others have experienced it too. If the only star someone can imagine is a pentagram or stars in the night sky how do you describe a flower?

0.jpg“Texas Star” hibiscus

How would you describe the curl of an ocean wave, or the liquid gold surface of the ocean as  it reflects the morning sun?

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There are caterpillars that cause a lot of damage, destroying an entire tree, and borer beetles that destroy whole pine forests. There are other caterpillars that eat a plant to a nub, only to have the plant grow back because that is one of the things the plant was created for.

IMG_1109.JPGTiger swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on fennel plant

I can’t imagine not hearing the dawn chorus each morning, rain or shine, cold or hot. Or not seeing the bright red plumage of a black-masked male cardinal. Or floating on the scatter-brained song of a bluebird. The sound of wind in the pines, ocean waves crashing on shore, rumbling of distant thunder.

Offerings of creation.

 

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life on the river

I have never built a raft and explored a river. It seemed though wherever I lived (six states), I found myself near large bodies of water. With the exception of three and a half years in Tennessee. I can count the time I lived in New Mexico because the town where I lived, Farmington, is at the confluence of 3 rivers, The Animas, La Plata and San Juan.

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The other 4 states, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey and Florida are all coastal and each is  very different.

Here I have the bonus of a large river, the Cape Fear. Being a tidal river some days when rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I go there for our walk we can’t walk alongside the water but this morning the tide was out. Its mouth is near enough to the ocean that it is mainly salt water, not brackish and Lily forgets.

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Which is why I carry drinking water in the car for her. So normally we’ll see a few beached jellyfish, clam shells. As we walked up the bank there were hundreds of tiny scurrying objects that I figured were these centipede-like insects that hang around washed up driftwood. We got closer and they all darted into little holes in the bank sand which those bug things don’t do. They were tiny fiddler crabs.

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This is one hiding in front of a lump of sand. He does not have the fiddle claw, a claw as big as the crab.

IMG_1149.JPGLulu inspecting more closely

The larger claws look harmless but they actually have a powerful pinch so I avoided those with them. The others have tiny pincers which will cling on you but are not painful.

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I wonder what the little crab thought. Cornered by an unimaginably overwhelming creature that didn’t look anything like a crab. Anything that looks unfamiliar is perceived to be the enemy. Fight or flight. The little crabs all fled for their holes but those who got cornered  away from safety raised their little claws. Harmless maybe, but it was all they had. To another little crab it is a formidable weapon.

I am not often up against an enemy. I had the great good fortune to be born in the United States where life has been for the most part peaceful. Despite our differences I also had the good fortune to have parents who taught me to be responsible, never a victim. I was taught to put up my claw and fight when I needed to. Usually with words, calmly but with the strength of truth behind me. When I am wrong I was taught to admit my error and apologize if it was necessary and bear no grudge. My mother taught me to move forward without holding grudges. My dad taught me to be the bigger person in the event of an unfair difference and make amends.

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As I have lived more on my own, and raising a son I have better understood Holden Caulfield’s angst. Catcher in the Rye was not on the banned books list when I was in 7th grade and I understood why some books are worth reading if for nothing else than to emulate and be empathic in what pre-teens go through. Some don’t I imagine but most do.

And God. No matter what or who God listens. He sees. He knows and I can tell Him. I learned the value of His friendship in Jesus Christ.

Never alone.

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calm

There seems to be an increase in doomsday predictions. Naysayers. This is terrible! Focusing on something no one knows anything about except that it will happen loses sight of what’s important.

The here and now.

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No one knows the future. When people get all in a twist about something nobody knows will happen they make chaos.

Stop it.

IMG_1067.JPGLulu dozing in the shade

Being grounded takes a lot of effort for me. I am easily distracted. But doomsday people have never held any interest for me. Staying focused on what’s important matters. But the end of the world? Why stir everybody up over something no one knows?

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Maybe this is why I love flowers so much. And trees. They just are. Day after day, season after season, year after year. They are what they were created to be. Some become diseased and die. So do we. Some grow old. Very, very old. So do we. We have seasons. We change. But nature doesn’t freak out over an ice storm. It endures it. Or a hurricane. Their leaves are blown off, they may get drowned but if they live they put out more leaves.

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We replace siding, or shingles, or whole roofs, or whole houses. But mostly we face whatever disaster or trouble we get. We have to. Jumping the gun, skipping to the end when the end isn’t here yet, when we don’t even know when the end is, doesn’t make any sense.

IMG_1066.JPGLily staying safe under a bench

So I have to take the end is near people lightly. The end I don’t take lightly, but I have no idea when that will happen. So I need to keep on keeping on and trust God. He knows.

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That is all that matters. It’s His business, mine is to trust Him.

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indecision

One of those days.

I thought I’d sneak away for a while, just me and run a few errands. Dogs have radar for this. So no matter how nonchalant or casual I was about it I couldn’t get past the hallway to the garage door. Somebody’s nose would appear as if to say, “you’re not leaving without us, are you?”

It’s getting to where it will be too warm for Lily and Lulu to go for rides with me. We will be having our morning walkies before the sun rises and after it sets. So no errands.

Today has been the same. Rain squall, then almost sun, then grey. All day it’s been trying to decide whether to just all-out rain or not.

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Since the beginning of the Lenten season from Ash Wednesday I turned off the television. At first maybe about a week I have withdrawals. Strange how I can get so used to the noise and nonsense coming out of a large piece of electronics. Then I settle in to the silence. I hear birds more, breezes, crickets even now that it’s warmer. I hear neighbors laughing and talking.

I hear life.

Funny how insulated I can be inside a house with artificial noise. Without it time goes more slowly, things become deliberate. My head is clearer.

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Well, comparatively so. I read more books. I made some wind chimes out of those really large sea urchin spines.

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I made a bracelet with shells I have been finding on the beach in the shape of a heart. I discovered these are the “insole” part of a seashell called a lady’s slipper, but when the outer part breaks away it leaves this piece

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so I thought they’d look pretty in a bracelet. I don’t wear jewelry. At all, ever. So if I make these I’ll have to give them away or something. And I have thousands of these shell pieces since I have collected them for years and they are everywhere here where I live, though I have never seen them on any other beach.

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But somehow the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday has me in its grip. I can’t help but wonder how those disciples and followers of Jesus must have felt. Here was the One they knew was Messiah. And He had died. They watched it. Well, John and some of the women. How dark, frightening that must have been. Jesus tried to tell them He would rise and live but I don’t think I would have understood what He was saying either, even if I’d been a witness to His raising Lazarus.

I know how this story ends. With joy! Victory! Life and hope. Newness.

But Saturday. Somehow it helps me to have this day, dark as it must have been because I know what happens.

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a compendium

Since rescue dog Lily’s surgery in early January progress has seemed very slow. She was not permitted to use her leg for about 6 weeks after, then very limited. She was not allowed to go for her beloved car rides so life became uncomplicated, and rather boring.

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This week we have ventured out more. The azaleas are just coming into bloom which is really good because the famous Azalea Festival is this weekend, complete with the Azalea queen and her court of azalea belles (I’m not kidding), hoop skirts, Citadel cadet escorts and all. The parade was this morning and though we were completely awash with rain yesterday it held off today, just cloudy and very humid.IMG_0928.JPG

The fanatic dog was out in full force, with intrepid rescue dog Lulu eager to meet his challenges. Fortunately he did not get over his fence this time, either.

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All the rain has left many swampy puddles and try as I might I can’t keep Lily and Lulu out of them, nor can I convince them it isn’t real drinking water.

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The crazed wisteria vine must cover about half an acre and it is in full bloom. The fragrance is heady.

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Wild blueberries are in bloom! I miss them every year, the birds are way faster than I. Maybe I will get a sample this year.

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For years I have heard that the new growth on pine trees begins a few weeks before the Sunday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. As it gets closer they begin to resemble crosses just before. Here is a small native loblolly pine which I will try to watch and see.

Anyway, a relatively uneventful week, but progress.

Onward and upward.

 

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panic to peace

I live in relative solitude. Lily and Lulu, the occasional friendly neighbor to stop and make small talk. My family all live several states away, so my life is pretty quiet. Occasionally stirred by a frenetic morning.

So the routine usually is the same. Very little deviation from it. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu receive the first attention– they go outside, then get their breakfast, dental treats. Pretty simple unless my morning is strange.

I couldn’t get the order right today. Confusion doesn’t exactly ensue but I’m thrown off balance. Then the server disconnected except that every wireless device still showed they were online, only they weren’t. So the dogs and I went for our walk. Unlike most mornings when we go to the electric company’s property for something different

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we walked to an adjacent subdivision where the fanatic dog lives. He comes snarling down his backyard fence then hurls himself up to the top rail of the fence but never jumps high enough to get completely over, thankfully. Not sure what might happen if he did and I’d rather not know.

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We did spot this beautiful red-tailed hawk on our way out and he permitted me to take a picture.

So we got home and I called AT&T. First you go through their sales hurdle, no thank you, I do not want to upgrade. I’d just like for what I have to work. Then the service tech. They go through every test, pingback and process to determine what’s wrong. Then they have you unplug everything, wait 10 seconds, then plug back in and wait till it all reconnects. That worked. I’m writing that down so I can try it first if there’s a next time.

While I am on the phone my doorbell rings. It’s the neighbor who’s lost his wife before last fall’s hurricane wanting to borrow a step-ladder. He is building a house near one of his daughters and his ladder’s over there. So I go to get the ladder and find he’s gone into my garage and helped himself to another ladder.

?<<surprise>>?

I like to think I would respectfully ask if I could do something like that before doing it, but that’s just me. So after I hung up the phone I got the step-ladder and took it to his garage where he and his daughters are working and see them with my ladder. All I could think to say was , “I want that back when you’re finished!” They all casually nodded and kept working at whatever they were doing.

<<Neither a borrower nor a lender be.>>

This kept clanging around in my head until I was in a frenzied panic over a stupid ladder, absolutely sure it would disappear, eaten by the contents of their in-process moving. I have a tiny yard and most of my gardening is confined to plants in pots which I think can be very pretty, so I busied myself with potting up some planters.

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I tend to go to extremes about stuff, forgetting important truisms like “Love people, use things, don’t use people and love things.” So I keep busy.

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It helps take my mind off whatever I am fretting over but not usually for very long. So I wandered around the yard to take in what the warm spring temperatures were coaxing out

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More violets. While most gardeners I know think these are a horrible, invasive weed, if my whole yard was covered in these plants I’d be happy. Even when they stop blooming their lovely green broad-leafed leaves stay low to the ground and shine in the sun.

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A brown turkey fig that has started to leaf. It will not bear any fruit yet because it’s still too young but it is one of three and I hope someday to be able to pot up some preserves.

After all of this busy-ness one of my neighbor’s daughters returned the ladder. We chatted a bit about what this is like, the work of sorting through the tangible remnants of a loved one’s life.

And I am glad, however small, I could help.

 

 

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