skipping seasons

Well it’s happened again. Winter ends abruptly in summer. We never really had a winter here, this year. Four, maybe five days with early morning frost. No ice or snow when generally we see a couple of flurries. But what happened to spring?


A couple of mornings started out with a chill only to melt it off in a few short hours. The petunias I planted were perky with bright, full blooms. By afternoon the heat wilt had melted them into a vegetative heap. The cultivated spring flowers have burst through the soil and daffodils (they are first) stand cheerfully announcing tulip’s arrival. Before they are gone the azaleas bloom. Tree leaves are just now budding, the mighty oak leaves are tender, tiny and baby soft and seem so vulnerable for such a formidable tree.


I think I enjoy the wildflowers most. This comes up each year at a nearby park and it colonizes. This plant was on its own but next year will likely be a family. I have collected a seed pod or two but it does not grow for me.


There is another park where pathways are well-defined in winter months, and rescue dogs Lily and Lulu love pioneering through the trails. In summer the undergrowth and smaller trees make the paths undefinable so we stick to the paved walkway. Also we miss out on surprising an occasional snake which works for me.


Yesterday we sat on the riverbank before the day was too hot and were treated to this sailboat venturing out to sea. I often wonder where people go.

So we still enjoy watching trees wake up and giving cool shade. Anoles are thawing and can move faster than Lily and Lulu already. The carpenter bees (bumble bees when I was little) are busy in what flowers we have and finding some wood to lay their eggs. I have seen butterflies emerge from cocoons, even baby earthworms warming up, but I never saw a carpenter bee hatch.

5EE0C213-CBBC-4888-B9DE-53B8EED77293Robert Louis Stevenson, “XXIV Happy Thoughts” from A Child’s Garden of Verses


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.






spring fervor

Normally it’s fever. This year somehow the garden centers suddenly have exploded with all manner of shrubs, trees, bedding plants, vines and border plants. The stars (perennials and annuals) have not made their appearance yet, maybe not until May. But the colors! Bright reds and magenta, pinks, blue, lavender and vibrant green in every shade imaginable.

And the pollens!

Everything is coated in a dusty yellow pine pollen film. We had a good, hard soaking rain a few nights ago and most of the pollen dust washed away but it’s never ending until after April. Sneezes going off everywhere. Anonymous “Bless you”s quickly follow.

This morning on our walk Lily, Lulu and I went rogue off our neighborhood property onto the adjacent electric company’s property. We followed the rutted road as it curved around a retention pond, and amongst the bramble and blackberry tangle found an unkempt wild wisteria vine


I brought a cutting home to see whether it would root. This is a maniac of a vine and will easily take over an arbor in a summer or two in this climate but if tended properly is very pretty with pendulous, grape-like, heavily scented flower clusters.

I was given some pittosporum seeds a year ago which I started in small pots. It’s a pretty shrub with a lovely creamy white flower that has a light fragrance. So far I have a few that have rooted but are not yet ready for the unpredictability of the outdoors

IMG_0901.JPGMaybe next year, if I can keep them alive through another winter inside they can be planted.

I have scattered more wildflower seed since nothing came up last year, I have tomatoes, some herbs, coleus and other plants for flower pots. But we are warned of yet a few more nights of maybe frost or close enough, so I’ll wait another week or so.

Meanwhile, Lily has let me know it is time for walkies.


So planning and plotting where I will plant things, place flower pots and trellis tomatoes will have to wait.

For now.




So the past couple of weeks I have been happily tearing out shrubs and nondescript bushes around my house and replacing them with plants that I feel have real character… native plants. Plants that will do well here once established because, well because they grow here.

I do not understand why nurseries and big-box garden centers persist in stocking (and selling) flowers and plants that grow well in zones where there is no humidity (that’s not here), or the night temperatures never exceed 60* (not here, either). I fell for that. I’d see an exotic or beautiful plant and snatch it up, carefully reading its little happiness parameters– whether it liked sun or shade, dry or damp soil, but completely ignored that it could not survive in sandy soil (definitely here). I would be deeply saddened as I watched this lovely flower slowly succumb to its inevitable demise.

So I planted many things, tiny presently but which will, in only a few years, I hope grow into their natural mature states. Carolina allspice (sweetshrub), clethra (I cannot find a common name for this fragrant little shrub). Elderberry, sweet bay and red buckeye which are all understory trees, or trees that do not grow much more than 10 feet or so.

Then I planted native flowers– echinacea, blackeyed susan, butterfly weed (aesclepias), fennel which swallowtail butterflies lovcaterpillar-562104_640.jpge. That’s the wonderful thing about native plants. There are often insects or caterpillars that have a symbiotic relationship with them. A milkweed (aesclepias) plant can be completely denuded of leaves and blooms by a monarch caterpillar.

(not my picture)

After it has eaten its fill it happily goes away to make its cocoon and become its beautiful butterfly self gran-canaria-171555_640.jpg (also not my picture) while the host plant grows back.

I planted gaillardia (blanketflower) because I love its warm orange and yellow and red colors and because it is probably the most native of all coastal flowers here. And it spreads (hence its name)  images.duckduckgo.jpg(public domain image)

I also planted some hibiscus which you never know what color their flowers are until they actually bloom for the first time. Anything from pink to red to white, purple or blue. And oxeye daisies. I recently learned these are considered weeds. How anyone could call a daisy a weed I’ll never know. But there they are, nestled among the hydrangea and wildflower seeds I scattered- zinnias, among other annuals.

So we’ll see. I live in a neighborhood that prides itself on its homeowner’s association’s perfection. Well, they can have their perfection in my front yard. But the backyard is mine.


Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”   –Matthew 6:28


I can’t speak for every teenager but I was not a morning person those years. I relished occasional late night movies, “Creature Features”, “Thriller Theater”, anything that riveted my adrenal glands. So after the last one ended at 2 a.m. I toddled off to bed unless my dad had already gotten up to shoo me away from the television. So my mornings  started around noon or later.

After my son was born that all changed. Life was lived for a higher purpose and early mornings were part of it. Then I worked and until I became a librarian morning started where life’s mission was to get my son up for breakfast and in the car to get to school. Library days  started at 11 a.m. a couple of days a week when I worked 2nd shift till 9.

Now I am retired. I am managed by two rescue dogs, husky-mix Lily and terrier-mix Lulu. Mornings are the most important part of the day. The sleeping quiet of the pre-dawn, 4 or 5. Hearing each bird sing its wake up song. Walking our favorite paths before anyone or anything has made its mark– people, cars, even the sun. So this morning we saw in the earliness a primordial mist clinging to a nearby field


and Lily and Lulu take note


It’s early too for woodland spring flowers, these being ones I do not know what they are before they open

Picture0414180713_1.jpg   Picture0414180734_1.jpg

except wintergreen. Easily identifiable for its tri-leafed form, and a tiny flower bud at the center that will become a brilliant white 5-petaled flower, which will then become the brightest red berry


Later a different trail turned up wild blueberry bushes absolutely loaded with blooms which will soon be luscious, sweet berries


Payback for a long, very cold winter… an abundance of spring, newness, refreshment and food. If I am lucky I will be early enough to have some before the birds eat them all.

“Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.”   –C.S. Lewis

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever, amen…” –Ephesians 3:20, 21

dog hair and dryer lint

So when I was little my dad commuted every week to New York from our sleepy little southern town, and sometimes out of the country. One trip took him to Scotland where he bought for me a West Highland puppy. This was way back when airline travel was considered pretty fancy and before the nightmares of rushing, impatience and danger for animals. I don’t imagine animals traveled overseas much back in the 60s, if at all.

Dad put this little puppy in his overcoat pocket. When the stewardess saw her she melted. So Dad kept the puppy with him the whole flight home.

I was a very shy person. I did not have a lot of friends when I was growing up and loved reading books. Piper became my dearest and closest friend. As we got older I took more responsibilities for her and grooming, though not a favorite of Piper’s, became one of those responsibilities.

“Leave the hair clippings in the backyard,” my mom told me, “The birds can use them for their nests.” So I left this puffy blob of white dog hair in the yard.

Dad came home later that day and looked at the fluffy pile. “Did Piper eat something?” he  asked, absent-mindedly. Well, no she hadn’t but his comment must have put some sort of dark juju on that pile of hair because the birds didn’t touch it.

So now finally we are coming to spring here. Nature’s cruel joke of an early spring back in February is almost forgotten. Though people up north are still fighting off winter and we are even warned that temps will once again plunge into the 30s overnight I truly believe (silly me) this is the swan song.

Husky-mix rescue dog Lily has been shedding enough fur to fill several pillows or a small sofa. I brush her hair to try and stay ahead of the dust bunnies.

Picture0407180635_1.jpgmany little piles like this are drifting around my backyard

Somebody also once told me birds like dryer lint to make their nests soft and comfy. “Won’t they object to the human smell of it?” Silly me.

Picture0407180636_1.jpgdryer lint stuffed in the notches of a crape myrtle

Birds don’t much notice a human smell apparently. So when people find baby birds out of their nests and thoughtfully replace them the babies won’t actually be abandoned. This is good to know. Besides which, when babies are out of their nests they generally have not fallen but are fledging and learning to fly. The parents know exactly where they are and are watching.

I know this from experience. My dad also had an English setter when I was little. She was too smart to actually be a hunting dog (you can fetch those dead feathers yourself, she’d often say, so my dad said), but one spring she did find and eat a baby mockingbird out of its nest. From that point on I understood the word vendetta very well. That mockingbird pair would sit in a nearby tree limb waiting for Runt every morning when she’d be let out for her daily ablutions. As soon as she appeared the birds would dive-bomb her, forcing her to race from the back steps to under Dad’s old buick, from there into the unsafe open garage. Somehow she would accomplish what she needed to do then dash back into the house, hoping someone was standing with the backdoor open and not leave her vulnerable to the assaults of angry birds.


Dad loved mockingbirds. He claimed their song was the most beautiful song of all birds. I once challenged him that they really did not have a song of their own, they could only copy other birds’ songs. “Oh no,” he said. “You have to listen carefully to hear it, if you are fortunate enough, you will.”

I do not believe I ever saw Runt (or any other dog) eat another baby bird.


“He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.”   –Psalm 91:4



This is an interesting word. We have shoulders at the tops of our arms. They are susceptible to strange injuries, like rotator cuff tears or bursitis, arthritis, dislocation. then there are shoulders on roads, a place where drivers can pull off the road for whatever reason, relatively certain nobody will come along and hit them.There are shoulder pads sewn into some women’s and men’s clothing, I don’t know, to make them look more imposing, more angular I suppose.

And shoulder seasons.

That indiscriminate time when it isn’t really winter/spring/summer/fall, or it’s far enough along in that season where you can sense the beginning of the next one to follow but you aren’t really in it yet.

That seems to be where winter is right now. There are no leaves on the trees but (where I am anyway) we are far enough out of the dark, grey sky months to see light coming. The daffodil bulbs have pushed their leaves up and some of them are blooming. Trees are budding and blueberry bushes have a reddish tint to the tips of their branches where they are waking up and will have flower buds soon. Forsythia, that shrub that my mom’s housekeeper broke off branches whenever she threatened my brother or me when we were little that she was gon’ switch us, and she did not mean have us trade places. Well the forsythia is usually the first to bloom, bright yellow flowers on a bare stem. After the flowers are spent the leaves grow. This has not yet decided to awaken.

The wintergreen plants in the woods that had tiny delicate white flowers last fall are now covered in bright red berries but for the most part the woodland floor seems to still be dormant. We had a couple of weeks here recently where everybody was sure winter was over, balmy temperatures, bright sunshine only to be plunged back into sub-freezing this weekend. Some people call it a false spring where sleeping plants and trees are convinced it’s time to wake up and start pushing out their little leaf buds.

From what the Farmer’s Almanac tells me we’ll be warm/cold here for a few more weeks, with one weekend the middle of this month getting real cold again, snow about 100 miles west of us, but that’s about the end of it. I hope anyway. And the beginning of the pull into springtime. No more shoulder season. Full on spring.

But then spring around here can be pretty short, no “shoulder”, no warning that hinge-melting temperatures are just days away and will last for weeks.

I know the groundhog saw his shadow (hope nobody dropped him this year) but those 6 more weeks of winter only seem to apply to the places north of here that have winter in earnest. I mean more than 3 or 4 inches of snow through the winter where it doesn’t melt and finally goes away sometime in March. April maybe.

Though I love snow, like seeing its beautiful transformation of the world with  white softness nobody down here can drive it it much less rain either so I’m just as happy if we don’t have any. Or if we do have any people have the good sense to stay home.

At least if I’m out on the roads. But then I learned to drive in New Jersey.

Not sure which is worse.


Spring surprises

So I would have pictures but the only camera I had with me when we saw the snakes was my phone. I have a stupid phone, flip phone actually, so I can’t get the pictures from the phone to here.

The first snake we saw I texted to my son and he swears it was a copperhead. Probably 4 feet long. I did not think this was what the snake was. My dogs didn’t even notice it. It had little diagonal boxes on its back with darker spots inside. Of course, it could have actually been the typical cross-hatched markings but my eyes chose to see it differently. Whatever. The snake just lay there. Eyes open, tongue flashing out. Even when I went back to take its picture, didn’t move.

The next snake really could have done damage. We were walking on the trail behind where I live and Lulu (now a part of our “pack” only 2 weeks) leaned over the side of the creek embankment, sniffing something. I saw the grass move quickly and heard a splash. Looked down, sure enough a water moccasin quickly squirming its way across the clear creek bed. That one gave me shivers. Those are deadly. I can remember my mother shrieking at my brother, probably about 10 or 11 when she learned he and his golfing friends were wading around the water hazards on the club golf course looking for lost golf balls. These guys didn’t sell them, they used them. They were the championship foursome in those days.

So the last snake was greenish and yellowish vertical-striped, probably around 5 feet long. Lily, stepping over it actually bumped it with her paw. It flinched but did not go after her. Doing a little research I turned up garter snake. These snakes usually eat fish, tadpoles, frogs, and carrion. This snake was nowhere near any body of water so it must have been either waking up out of its hibernation, lost, or eating something dead.  They also are non-poisonous.

One out of three is good I guess, since the first 2 basically ignored us.

One thing that has really bothered me since I moved here. I should point out this move was something of a dream come true for me. I have loved the wildness of North Carolina’s outer banks for many years. Though only near the lower barrier islands I am still closer to those islands than before and am quite happy to be here. I did not think, though, that there was anyplace on this planet that had no lightning bugs. Maybe you call them fireflies, but they’ve been something of  a harbinger of sultry, hot breeze summer nights for me as much as crickets and cicadas since I was a child and I cannot imagine life without them.

Last year I saw not a single lightning bug.

I canvassed neighbors, newly-made acquaintances. No one could recall seeing them, not in the recent past. No idea why. Salt air? No one knew. I refused to believe it.

So rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I went for a walk, braving the early dusk since likely snakes were not sunning themselves on creek banks, on the little trail here in my neighborhood. I almost ignored the brilliant yellow flashing dots and mentally dismissed them. No… could it be?? It was!

Lightning bugs. Dozens. So maybe they aren’t in backyards but at least I know where I can find them.

Sans water moccasins, I hope.

New friends, old places

My husky-mix rescue dog Lily and I have a favorite walking place just a few miles north of where we live. It is a huge nature preserve next to a farm-animal rescue. So as we begin our walk we are likely to hear any manner of farm sound– sheep bleating, goats arguing, donkeys braying, horses whinnying, ducks, geese, chickens, pigs… you name it. If it belongs on a farm likely they have them.

We used to visit here only a few times a week but now that dogs are no longer welcome on the beaches for the summer season we have been visiting out there more frequently. This afternoon we found dappled sun on the trails and new leaves sprouting on the cypress that circle a mill pond there. As we started across the bridge over the pond a small dark sheltie dog trotted out to greet us. You’d have thought we were long lost friends. He was so courteous, so cheery in his greeting. His person was sitting looking out over the pond and we struck up a little small talk, all the while his little dog prancing and stepping in and around as we chatted. We continued our conversation as we began walking the last part of one of the trails back to where the cars were parked, stopping now and then to encourage his little dog whose name was Riser I learned, to keep up.

He was having none of it. Happy to continue on at his own pace. He showed no concern for being left behind. At one point his person saw no trace of him looking back on the trails so we waved a farewell as he set out to find where his dog had got to.

That’s the way to enjoy a walk. Not a care about who is where, or are you within sight. Just meander. Look at this flower, sniff under this new leaf… wonder where this little pathway goes…

Being lost in the beauty and majesty of nature.