I Mean, Really, What Else To Do When It Is Blizzarding Outside?

For awhile earlier this morning I watched the juncos and a male cardinal raiding the feeders, although, the juncos spent more time sitting on the roof of the suet feeder than bothering to tug seeds out of the mixed seed feeder or the sunflower seed feeder; they didn’t even look at the thistle seed feeder. The cardinal steadily tugged at the sunflower seed feeder, sitting comfortably (?) on the horizontal rim that surrounds the feeder under cover of the clear plastic “umbrella” suspended over this feeder. Why do I not have protective covers over the thistle feeder and the mixed seed feeder as well? I don’t know. Perhaps soon I will.

We also have, I am sure I have mentioned, a resident cooper’s hawk. I will not detail his successes, only tell you, that he is persistent.

He sits patiently in the azalea bush, a favorite haunt of the sparrows, cardinals, juncos (when he is not there!)

The other day I had occasion to wander the banks of the Muddy River again. It was late in the afternoon. I caught sight of 7, yes SEVEN, great blue herons napping in the half frozen waters and among the reeds. I reported it on my e-bird daily sighting, and the algorithms that run that program immediately bounced back–“huh? (my rephrase of their automatic doubting response) Can’t be!” So I proved it!!

The actual photograph of the seven herons and some mallards and at the bottom of the picture some of the diverse footprints I also spied
The same photograph cropped to bring into clearer view the herons
And here’s a cropped photograph to show the range of bird prints –shape and size

Further along the river ten canada geese, four hooded mergansers, and four mallards were sharing one length of the water–the geese were drifting forward in a meticulous parade, the mergansers were diving and emerging diving and emerging around the geese and the mallards, the mallards were paddling in place–absolutely none of them was disturbed by the presence of the other in their space. Imagine.

And robins!! There were a couple dozen robins very busily nosing under the abundant leaf cover (mostly oak, which have such staying power that when I “mulch” my flower beds and shrub beds and vegetable garden in the fall, I first layer in birch and plum tree leaves, then dogwood leaves, and finally the oak leaves–the first three leaf types breakdown over the winter and become more of the dirt, while the oak leaves stay and are a cover all winter, which I rake up in very early spring so that the tiny buds can emerge and delight), nosing and chattering all along the sloped banks that rise on either side of the river. It was a sweet evening sound accompanying the setting sun.

So here we go. As I have typed this, this morning the snow has added probably another two inches to its depth; the weeping birch branches are swinging side to side under the winds and gusts; the sunflower bird feeder has become nearly inaccessible without pushing one’s beak through snowdrifts (despite the protective “umbrella!”); and I am second-guessing my original plan to go out and shovel periodically to make the final shoveling effort less. It is 16 degrees farenheit, the wind is wilding, the snow is so fluffy, why not wait? I think I’ll brew myself another coffee.

What, I wonder, would the best me of each of us be? Why is that so hard to achieve? Why do I find thoughts, actions, responses to regret each and every day? Then again, may I never not regret missteps.

Peace. I pray. Peace to you to all.

You May Wonder Why I am so focused on Raptors

Well, they are about in great number this winter, both in 2021 and 2022. I could, today, project from there, but instead, I will talk about my day, two weeks ago, when I was walking along the Muddy River in Boston and while pausing to escape a light rain that had started by standing underneath a beautiful, arched, stone pedestrian bridge I looked in the near distance and saw:

A Great Blue Heron watching over the Muddy River
A second, low-sitter referenced below. See if you can find it. (p.s., I wish I knew what the red flower? or leaf is in the foreground)

And this was not all! There were two others within eye contact of each, one standing on a long downed tree nearly invisible among reeds, and the third across and slightly upriver of the low-sitting one, who was perched in a tree and, while I watched, swooped towards the low sitting one and ousted it from the roost, then took over the spot. The routed out one simply flew up to the tree the third one had deserted.

Once I started walking again (the rain was not letting up, but I tired of stopping, so moved on) I saw dozing on thin ice or crystalized tufts of river grasses, or grazing within the flowing waters they paddled mallards–male and female, canada geese, and hooded mergansers–male and female. Overhead landing on and departing the multiple berry trees were abundant cardinals, blue jays, starlings, robins, nuthatches, hairy woodpeckers, and titmice (and probably chickadees, but they can really be quicker than the eye). Among the shrubs and skimming the ground were dozens of juncos. Pigeons wheeled territorially overhead.

I was entranced but my stomach was growling so I left the walk for a bit, bought a pumpernickel bagel with chive cream cheese, and returned to the walkway, but did not walk, rather sat on a bench and enjoyed my bagel (and, of course, a coffee). During this time I was given introduction to a flock of house sparrows, and a passing grey squirrel or three :-). Lunch in the urban wilds.

Today, early in this year 2022, I will finish this early afternoon delight with a picture of a tiny birthday gift from Mark.

My resident titmouse, whose tuft is disguised under a red-knit cap. (p.s., scratches on the desk top are cat created; Maria likes to view inaccessible prey from the window before the desk and me)

May our new year contain peace, love, and kindness.

Good Winter Afternoon

In this still, chill morning I chose to walk a few miles through the streets of this city. The stillness made it most easy, and brings to mind the sensory truth of the weather forecasters’ talk of windchill factors. My oh my what a difference is made when no winds oppose you, no winds toss icicly cold air particles at you, and still it is a timely winter day. I could walk forever in it. But I stopped at six miles.

Along a short portion of my route I encountered three large hawks, a confluence I have not ever seen before, except for seeing about 12-15 turkey vultures convening in the sand dunes of Provincetown one time that I was there, and six turkey vultures on a roof in Westport, and several bald eagles convening across the Wachusett Reservoir from where a bicycling friend and I stood on some country road. But here I was in the city, on a major thoroughfare and watched a red tail hawk swoop into the top branches of a maple tree above a local pocket park and a second hawk, could have been another red tail, I couldn’t catch his tail shape and color too well, fly just above the newly perched one and dipped briefly then continued on to the northwest, then two blocks on, a northern harrier whooshed behind me and rose up from almost eyelevel with me on into an oak tree above a corner location where met four homes, and sat back to the clucking blue jays and starlings and unflustered by the mockingbird that tailed him face to butt until he turned left to the corner tree and the mockingbird propelled in its forward thrust.

Red Tail in maple in park
Northern Harrier? Or have I fooled myself, and it is the same Red Tail Hawk from two blocks ago, following me? Look at the small inset above this photo, for a grainy blow up of the bird on the branch.

You know, the more I watch, the more I see what I don’t know. My days are full of guesses. It’s kind of fun.

And to catch you up on the beaver dam/lodge progress. Here are a couple of pictures taken two or three days ago, which when compared with my previous post’s photographs, show that their work continues….

This one is from reverse direction of the one just above
And some water’s edge work

I dream of peace and of harmony. I dream of health for all, every single participant–primordial to final.

I dream. May you find reason to as well.

Standing in a Slightly Better Place, or am I?

Not necessarily a great one, I am sorry to say. But outside and investigative, and receptive to the good that is.

Recently I took a walk that included wandering the not yet complete, but fully designated, demarcated, and delineated extension of the local rail trail. At one point along it, it is adjacent to a local brook. The path and brook also, at this juncture, are running alongside a parking lot to a small industrial complex on one side, and a parking and holding lot within a car dealership on the other side. Masking these two businesses from the brook are slender stands of trees–beeches, birches, oaks, and maples, an ash or two, and a willow. At one point, shortly off the cross street by which I entered the trail, I chose to clamber down from the trail to the water’s edge. Imagine my surprise when I saw :

These are the work of very busy, but while I was there, very absent beavers. Should I be delighted? They are doing what they do year in year out, preparing for the winter, building a home that will be warm(ish), dry(ish), and safe(ish). I am delighted. Should I be concerned? (1) They are taking down several of the not-very-many trees that stand between asphalt and water, and since the area is so built up the protections are limited and precious. (But in time some of the trees adjacent will grow and the natural cycle continue.) (2)A darker thought is that some public employee or private one may choose to or be ordered to prevent this lodge and dam complex from being built. The possibility is real: https: //www.mass.gov/service-details/prevent-conflicts-with-beavers

Why do we each take up/use up so much space relative to our individual physical size?

I am thankful for the sun that is goldening the birch leaves in front of me right now. May it, may it.

And, oh, may December bring light.

Thank you for reading.

We Try and We Don’t

This morning, late morning, atypical for my lifelong image and sensory memory of November. It is beautiful. It is 53 degrees fahrenheit and it is November.

What will we on earth lean towards? As it warms up steadily. Will we reduce our consumption, slow down the frenzy that is our world’s economies (either actual or dreamed of/sought depending in which place you are on this globe), and slowly, reasonably reduce the emission of carbon and the destruction of natural resources, until one day a future grateful generation will see what generations well before our own saw–a planet that can breathe, that has and can sustain remarkable biodiversity, trees aging gracefully some hundred feet tall some curled in an embrace of hundreds of years of miniscule life forms living within/because of them and delivering sustenance to them, flora–trefoils and queen’s lace and bluebells, remarkably brilliant hues reflecting and floating in free flowing waters and deep blues in the tall ices, sea dwellers finning their routes north to south and back, avians coursing and calling and touching down at will and lifting off in song, human species willing to trust and assist each other?

Or will we try to shoot bullets into clouds to make it rain more in the desert and hoist massive mileswide tarpaulins over rain sinks, tarpaulins somehow treated to bounce the rains back up before the can fall and satellite fans littering the atmosphere to blow them east or west or south toward the bullet laden clouds to “enhance” the cloud shooting activities?

I.e., will we continue to consume massively and meanwhile try to invent our way out of the outcome of our greed? Or will we charge the victims (of all zoological and biological stripe), ultimately pricing everything and everyone to extinction, and then, finally enable the earth to heal in our (at last, it breathes, phew) absence?

I have no photographs for this.

I have no hope.

Just Another Magic Morning

Well, I know that there was a song sometime in the past four decades that began with almost this title. I think the last word was Monday not morning. I also know, that once again, it is morning. And that is magic. It is morning, early, before the earth has tilted sunward in this hemisphere, thus it is night-dark. We are in the delicate privacy of predawn.

Yesterday, bicycling on yet another surprisingly warm (“record breaking” again, as so many weather events these days, these years) day, I was trying to count Herring Gulls perched on rock outcrops that line the Merrimack River both ahead of and after the dam at the Mammoth Street bridge. The number and, indeed, the girth of these rock outcrops varies depending on two major factors–weather (rain abundance or dearth), and humans (builders of dams and water-powered “power” stations and, of necessity because of the dams that have reconfigured the shape of the watercourse, fish ladders). I finally estimated 50 and left it at that. Fifty Herring Gulls and one Great Black Backed Gull. Eight Double-crested Cormorants-two of which sat body still but heads turning now left now right, in unison, in opposition, nonstop. Twenty Mallards, quacking, floating, or perching, the males with particularly deep purple heads, the females regal in their multi-shades of brown with a purple patch peeking out of their folded wings. A family of nine Canada Geese cruising east to west against the water flow in the center lane of the river.

Cormorants near bottom right of picture, at this point coordinated in their looking left
But here, near bottom center, one cormorant looks right and one looks left

Overhead and a little to the north of the river, four Turkey Vultures wheeled. Oh, who had they in their sights? I did not, I could not have, nor would have wanted to, pedal fast enough to reach the location to see. Had I want to I would have had to become airborne like the witch who frightened Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Or, these days, launched a drone.

Two of four Turkey Vultures

I would not mind having wings, at will, maybe not to carry about all day and night every day and night, maybe portable and stowable, but ever available and easy to don because I would not mind riding the air.

As I headed southeast from the river, on the way home, fairly low overhead a Northern Harrier flew; he was working, glide, pump, pump, pump, glide, angle downward a bit, soar, pump, pump, pump, glide. I did not follow him either. Nor did I photograph him, as I was pedaling alongside a heavily traveled street by then. I think I was passing Dunkin on one side and Taco Bell on the other at that moment.

And as I released my pedals and coasted into our driveway, a Coopers Hawk, caught in the act of perching on the back fence and casing out the songbird haven of the backyard, saw me, gasped-eyes widening measurably, and lifted up and off.

Within three minutes, after I had taken off my helmet, stowed my bicycle, and stepped up onto the back porch, two Mourning Doves, three House Sparrows, and a Hairy Woodpecker returned to the feeders and the grass filled with myriad tasty morsels. Even before I had the back door open, I heard a White Breasted Nuthatch announcing his imminent arrival from the west, and a Northern Cardinal called out from the arborvitae on the east.

My avian day. Yesterday.

May your today be bright.

On Another September Day-Rained In. Briefly.

He (there is a red spot on the back of his head that says, male!) toggles between the nyger seed (where he is perched) and the suet (the green house behind him)

Have you ever watched a woodpecker bop? Have you ever listened to a nuthatch crank? Watched a cardinal glimmer? Heard a titmouse scold? Seen a chickadee flit? Listened to a mourning dove chuckle? Watched a blue jay helicopter down to grass? Have you sat back in low morning sun and been serenaded by a finch high in the arbor vitae? Have you watched a community of sparrows emerge, dive down, zip up, burrow; emerge, dive down, zip up, burrow….?

Many is the bicycle ride I have delayed starting because I cannot bring myself away from the avian community that dwells with us.

But also, I am brought to mind the many table tops, laden table tops, that a tree comprises. The dogwood, for instance, from dawn to dusk hosts families of the above birds as well as chipmunks, squirrels, occasional cackling grackles and clucking starlings, all of whom store, stash, unearth, and consume seeds provided by the grass below, the multi-member vegetable/wild things garden also below, the neighboring fruit trees, the broadleaf and needle evergreen shrubs, the azaleas, the wildflowers, the very fruit of the dogwood, the grey birches out front, the neighboring mostly maples and oaks. I watch the chickadee tirelessly pull one nyger seed at a time from the feeder and tuck it under a fold in the dogwood bark, the nuthatch skewer a sunflower seed and find a larger fold in the dogwood for a safe, the wren, the titmouse, robins, once a family of cedar waxwings, once, and only once, just a couple of weeks ago, a blackburnian warbler! And on and on. I have also locked eyes with a cooper’s hawk, more than once, paused and still within the dogwood branches, undoubtedly sitting right on a chickadee’s breakfast table.

The cardinals, I notice, and the sparrows (oh the sparrows!) sit and eat their fill on the feeder perches. The cardinals, and only the cardinals, succeed in shoving the sparrows out of their way. Everyone else ducks around them or flutters nearby awaiting an opening.

Let me jump to another topic. (Note a word in this sentence is a hint.) Briefly, can you see what is in this photograph besides the pine tree trunk and needles?

Would you have seen it without the hint? I am so glad that there are means and methods to hide in plain sight.

The mystery. The beauty. The unfathomable structure of creation.

We may imitate. We may copy. We may replicate. But…..

“My heart is not proud,
O Lord
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with
great matters
or things too wonderful for
But I have stilled and quieted
my soul;
like a weaned child with its
like a weaned child is my
soul within me.”

Psalm 131:1-2

And September progresses

Although is not too far along, as I write this, on a sleepless night-September4th/5th. The quiet outside is larger than the tinnitus that constantly serenades me in each ear (since 1995, caused, I clearly remember by the opening amplifier-heavy wham!! from the local band that served as lead-in to Men At Work in a concert in the Middle Eastern restaurant downstairs in Central Square). I can hear the silence over it, and am glad. Beside me, Maria sleeps in level two of the three tier cat tower. I can feel behind me down the hall Stella’s gaze boring through my back. She is curled on a reusable shopping bag that she has commandeered. Petey purrs in the bedroom beside Mark. It is 3:44AM right now. Hopefully you are in dreams at your 3:44AM wherever you are. Good dreams.

How do we choose what next we do in our lives? In our days? Where do we turn to see what will be? Do we? How much of our attention collapses back to what was, or too often, what might have been, if… What can we do with what was or was not other than learn and, standing on, push off to next, to now followed by next based on now. Have you ever tried to count how many choices you make in a day? In an hour? In a minute? It is impossible. Each choice impacts the next one.

Each branch, each twig, a choice. An oriole chose to build a nest on one.

Impacts. Impact and intention. I had a conversation with a friend about this today. Your word; your action; your look; your shrug; your smile; your absence of word, response impacted me in this particular way. My intention, you say, was just that. Or, you might say, my intention was not that at all. If the latter. Do I give you room to explain what it was? Do you give me space to try to link up your intention and the impact on me? The concept of stating and discussing impact and intention is laudable. The intent too.

How do we step to the side of our own predisposition and study the disposition of that to whom we are speaking, with whom we may be at odds?

How can we not? There is no silence in our minds nor in the seat of our emotions, in my experience; not ever. But can we still the eddys, baffle the breezes, settle the dust, quiet the winds, swallow the roar, and take that choice and turn it toward trust–given and earned? Oh, that we lived to offer that–trust and the love that firmly-gently seats it.

For you.

With love.

It Being September 1st

And the day being drizzly, way earlier than predicted by the weather forecasters last night, I am at my desk, not, as planned when I awoke, on my bicycle, and not, additionally, checking in the beehive. Instead, writing notes to myself, reminders of tasks to accomplish and friends to reach out to.erDo you know what is amazing? Almost anything can occur almost anywhere. I wonder if the word “never” has any validity. Can never ever beOn Saturday, walking to the downtown along one of the multiple canals that traverse and once powered this city, which now accumulate discarded shopping carts, bicycles, pillows, bags-plastic and otherwise, paint cans, plastic toys, and which, periodically, are drained and emptied of such debris, and currently are running pretty nicely full of water, we saw a vulture. Not high atop a giant oak, nor, as they seem usually to be, among fellow vultures on a slanted surface such as a house roof or a sand dune, no, plonked in a medium tree along the canal, then flying a narrow circle out from and back to the tree, and resettled in that tree. Be careful small urban scutterers!! The vulture has an eye out for you.

We, way larger than the vulture, continued fearlessly on our way toward that gold dome in the background and then well beyond.

I had no more expected to see a vulture in this vicinity than I would expect to see a saguaro cactus growing. (But the way of the earth’s weather, that, too may in the near future occur, or water ever overflowing the barriers, or ice forming and melting on alternating days.)

One day last week, I watched a Cooper’s hawk in a swoop and one call, capture a blue jay, on my front porch. I watched and could not look away. Then I looked away and could not watch, nor stand to hear anymore. I walked to the back of the house. This, too, I had not ever witnessed before. This, I did NOT photograph.

So, never. I believe I have just shown to myself that never is a word with a raison d’etre. It is for negating the non-likelihood of an event, for saying instead, “you will never not have experienced this” again.

Here it is!! A dreary day, and Kate sending out a dreary message. May it not continue so.

So, I angle off and finish this way, toward the northwest of the backyard. And now and again in the course of the day these past few weeks, have had the joy of listening to a rooster crow!! Ugh, you may say. But not I. It is new in this neighborhood, and it is, each time, a call for me of morning. A new day beginning. A new day.

Someone else took this picture. No credit to me!

in just summer when the world is not so luscious

Sorry, this is a poor adaptation of an e.e. cummings poem, that begins “in just spring, when the world is mud luscious”…

Is it a love poem?

Is it a delight poem?

Is it a caring poem?

Is it a mean poem?

Is it a deep fear poem?

Is it a game? Is it a warning? Is it all of these?

This poem has wandered, or stepped, or fallen, or snuck, or danced, or laughed, or snarled, or hopped, or limped through my thoughts at will for years, actually decades. And perhaps this is the thing of a poem–it incurs a different response in me each time I read it. It is not prescriptive. It is also not proscriptive. It is also not simply descriptive.

It just is. It just “be’s” (To is or not to is, that is the question-another respoken quote of another accomplished poet).

What I take from it depends on what I am thinking about at the time it appears in my mind. It may depend on if I read something about e.e. cummings of late. It may listen to, but not necessarily buy into an analysis of, a lecture on it by anyone else, because, first of all, as I have mentioned at other times, I am an unwilling student–point me in a direction, give me something to consider and let me do so, but do not try to instruct me…

Enter the dialectic? Except, is there a certainly “right way” to see e.e. cummings’s poem? For that matter, based on what I noted before about poetry, is there a “right way” to see any poem? What do you think?

Is there a poet who gives you pause? Who? Why?

Is there a poem that gives you pause? Which? What about it catches you?

And so I finish my summer’s day thoughts, August 14, 2021. On a day when, as the title hinted, I don’t find much around on earth as humans have it, that is luscious these days.

So now I stop.


“Do not rebuke mockers or
they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.

Instruct the wise and
they will be wiser still;
teach the righteous and
they will add to their

Proverbs 9:8-9