Mama Mallard’s eggs hatched on June 19th. I went by in the morning to say ‘hi mama’ on my way to the lake and she was just sitting there as usual - fluffed, still – just waiting under the Peony. But by afternoon she had dropped her wings down over the nest and if one was patient, the little babies would make an uncertain appearance. Tiny fluff-balls with wonder in their eyes, looking at the big world from under mama’s skirt.
I apologize for the video which is sideways (pilot error) but the babies are on right side of the picture, they are only a few hours old. This morning, Thursday, she had taken them away under the cover of a very early sunrise. I kind of miss our morning talks, her and I.
I could write a whole blog on this little family but really – what could I possibly add to such a beautiful moment?
Hope you enjoy the video.
We tend to think of our lives in terms of success and successes for many are quantified by what we have; in other words, material things. Do we have a newer vehicle? Are our house kept up and the mortgage under control? Are we making enough money? Do we have a retirement plan? Is there enough in that retirement plan? These are all good questions and certainly comforting physical, albeit fleeting, things to possess as we traverse life. And it admittedly does require a great deal of work to reach this ‘success’. If asked, most people would respond that they worked very hard to get where they are and would probably add ‘sacrifice’ to the list.
But what if we described success in life as joyful moments rather than things? Do we work as hard at obtaining laughter as we do about new siding? Do we spend as much time watching a sunrise as we do putting in overtime at work? Do we make a plan to attain a few minutes of quiet in the back yard with the same determination as we plan for retirement? Do we sacrifice television or computer time for a moment to appreciate the sunset or the peace of the evening as darkness drifts down?
In our haste to collect the physical, do we forget to collect the metaphysical, the moments of joy, with equal importance? Perhaps success has less to do with what will happen tomorrow and more to do with what was created today.
Being aware of the daily joy that surrounds us are the seeds to our success in many ways. So I am leaving my readers with some seeds I borrowed from my lake walk this morning in these accompanying pictures. May it bring you a brief smile or a moment of calm – and success in the moment.
Side bar: No nest action yet. There is egg turning and stick weaving, but no hatchlings as of this writing. Stayed tuned!
During my travels for spring planting (for my balcony and my sister’s yard) to various gardening spots and pop-up nurseries, I discovered a lot of nurturing going on not exclusive to the plants. There was a considerable amount of fauna amongst the flora. And in some very weird places. At least they are weird to me but evidently not to the occupants of these new constructions.
While looking for herbs and ‘some kind of pink flower’ at Fleet Farm (I needed pink to share a pot with the really cool white-spotted purple petunias in the photo, which I ultimately decided should stand in her own space anyway) we ran into a robin mama sitting on her nest right there on the eye-level shelf of mixed marigold seedlings. Robin sat motionless on her the little nursery of grass and mud even though plant shoppers (apparently unaware of her) picked up the seedlings only inches from her. I suppose she knows what she is doing but it looked like a fairly questionable building sight, not to mention what is going to happen when the babies arrive.
While we were still hunting the pink flowers in the same store we rounded the corner and found a baby cottontail rabbit, still sporting the little white spot on his head, eating the profits near a flotilla of pallets loaded with various ‘greens’. Baby scooted under the pallet as soon as he stopped munching long enough to discover us, even though we had no intention of telling the staff they were losing product in aisle nine. I’m not sure if the plant section was actually ‘home’ but it was an enclosed space so Cottontail was using it as such, much to our delight.
Mama Mallard has determined that the flower bed directly adjacent to the apartment entryway was the best place to nest. She chose a lovely (albeit busy) strip of land five feet wide, between the sidewalk and the tenant parking spaces, under a nice peony plant. Again, not sure where they are off to once the babies hatch, but I’ll try to keep an eye on them.
Speaking of keeping an eye on things. Cooper mama is still on her nest in the crab tree keeping the eggs warm through torrents of rain and wind, while dad brings snacks for her. If Cooper dad isn’t timely with the snacks, Cooper mama sits and screams for him – and I do mean ‘scream’. She has a very distinctive voice. Now, sometimes he is not always lucky enough to find a meal in which case he brings her a stick. I guess as a peace offering of some kind. It must satisfy her though because she spent quite a bit of time placing it just so among the other twigs.
Then there are the Red Squirrels in my sister’s attic, but that’s a story for another day.
Every one of these nesting/nursery sights seems, to put it kindly, not too well thought out. It seems to me they could have chosen better (though I am not a Cooper Hawk or a Robin or a Mallard hen). In the long run, it doesn’t matter what I think of their new homes of course because they, like us, find nothing quite as nice as their own space.
Proof once more that home is where the heart lives. Yes, I changed that quote. I think this is more accurate.
So nice to see everyone again! It feels great to be back at the keyboard. Some of my readers have known for some time, but for those who didn’t, I have recently moved– built a new nest if you will – and it has taken me a bit of focus to gather and settle in, hence the absence from my writing. But I am back on track now. Almost.
As to why I made the move? Well, sometimes we outgrow our surroundings or we find new interests or we just want a change and any or all of the former can apply to me. Opportunity knocked and I answered the door. I have moved from a house to an apartment, little city to big city (although I have lived in many big cities during different periods of my life) and embraced known with unknown. I am not alone in new beginnings however, I have a friend who is doing the very same thing.
Cooper’s Hawk and her mate are in the process of constructing a nest among the blossoms of a lovely flowering crab tree, just outside the balcony of my new apartment and I watched with fascination as we each built a very different home but in much the same manner. Cooper chose a tree and began by places the larger sticks roughly in a fork of the trunk and I chose an apartment and placed all the furniture in a pleasing way. Then came the smaller twigs or, in my case, the rugs, dishes in cupboards, unpacked boxes into drawers, etc. The final stage for Cooper was the lacing on fine twiglets and grass to line the nest. This is the point I am at – dressing the house to make it my home by placing my personal items here and there. Of course Cooper is much more efficient at this process and much pickier. She spends hours weaving and unweaving a thread of grass among the twigs until it is just so, then a few feathers to soften and she is done. I will not be done for a bit yet but I am making progress.
It is interesting how many things we Humans do that reflect the very same processes we observe in the rest of the animal world when we step back and really notice what others are doing and how they do it. Interesting, but not surprising when one remembers we are part of the animal world and not apart from it.
I love the changes happening in my life and feel some new energy swirling about – always uplifting! I’ll keep an eye on Cooper and keep everyone apprised of their progress as they hopefully raise a new generation of hunters.
Note: I waited a week after writing this in hopes of getting a better picture. This is the best I could do, shameful I know. If you look real hard you can see her sitting on her nest in the center of the photo. Well, her head and eyebrow anyway…
We have had a lot of snow of late covering the landscape. Food sources for our wild friends are buried beyond where they can retrieve it so I have been diligent about keeping my feeders full (in between shoveling sessions – of which there have been many). There is a family of Crows I feed salmon trimmings to and if I don’t see them, I yell out my door, ‘Crow! Crow I have fish for you!’ This is normally not an issue since at many times my call comes at predawn but shoveling copious amounts of snow has put a hitch in my timetable and I happened to have yelled it out my door at 9:00am.
And my new neighbors caught me.
It is certainly not the first time I have had a ‘witness’ to my life of nontraditional existence, but I do like to be a bit discreet about talking to animals, trees, grass and so forth. Yet every once in a while I am deep in conversation and do not see the now alarmed person walking by or brushing the snow off a car. I admit it ought to be somewhat embarrassing to get ‘caught’. There is no way to justify what I’m doing to a layman but after spending decades hiding myself and the very things that make me ‘tick’, I have chosen to embrace who I am and what my reason for being here is. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been uncomfortable moments. The price of living your life sometimes requires less comfort and more boldness. Something I think we all could benefit from. Boldness. Fearlessness. There is a quote I think of often and it asks, ‘What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?’ I do not remember the author, but those words certainly makes one consider our desires and what keeps us from living life to the fullest, unencumbered by labels others and ourselves have placed on us.
What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail
No big surprise here, but I LOVE animals. All sizes, all shapes, and all colors. Which is why I have been watching an interesting show on BBC America, titled ‘Dynasties’ and if you haven’t partaken in the festivities I would recommend that you do. Each week the show invites the viewer into the life of one animal that is the cornerstone of their pride, troupe or family unit.
This last week we were following the life of a Bengal Tigress named Raj Bhera who is trying to raise her 4 cubs in a tiger preserve in India.
Of the many memorable scenes and narrations, one made a very deep impression on me and even though I knew this information, it still alarmed me.
Seventy years ago there were over 100,000 wild tigers throughout the world in their various habitats. Today, there are 4000 remaining in the wild- we hope there are 4000 remaining in the wild. I hate this statistic. HATE IT! I am sixty years old so basically in my life time, up to this point, we have successfully extinguished them for all intent and purposes. That is sad beyond what I can write here in this space.
I am mystified as to why our world is not held in more esteem. Why we as a whole consider the wild to be a luxury, the animals to be expendable and Mother Earth’s resources ours for the taking. At some point will we not see that all pieces of our world were designed to work in communion? That each part of the whole, no matter its size, needs to be there in order for all who live upon it to flourish. And while some humans may ponder the need for Polar Bear, Tiger or tiny Shrew – others realize the obvious fact. They were put here, in each of their environs’, because they were needed by the whole. Each is a small but important piece of the puzzle that is life. It may be that we humans do not yet understand why these pieces and Beings must remain where they were put, but ignorance does not lessen their importance.
I am only one of many who believe we have the power to change our current trend of greed, our disrespectful stewardship of those around us, but we have not the will I’m afraid. Not yet. I wonder what Mother Earth will become in the future. Will she be green and bright and whole – or will there be only Human Beings in a grey unbalanced world? I have not the answer, but I do know one thing.
If we are the only ones left, what is the point?
I’m having a day. One of those unfocused days. Not a ‘bad’ day by any means (I don’t believe in such things), but one of those days when I just cannot latch onto a thought for more than a few moments before I’m spinning off on to something else. I had a number of chores on my list right from the get-go this morning so no coffee in the morning yard, no stretch on the floor, just a list of must do’s in my head, which means regrettably, I did not take a few minutes to meditate and this was the result…spindrift…a familiar condition of mine to which many will attest.
Back in the day when my girls were home (my Leonberger Dogs) I would remedy the situation by hanging out with them, not necessarily playing with them, but just being with them as they did their fascinating doggy things. Since my girls are no longer home I watch squirrels, bunnies or whoever is gracing my yard.
This ‘taking a break’ does not and never did not solve my issue – nor does it jump start my brain into being productive – but the comfort of animals doing their thing sure made me care about little else except watching them. Animals are a salve for the Human woes we perpetrate upon ourselves. They bring us peace just by being. A friend comes to mind. A woman, who after a brutal day (her words), goes and sits quietly in the barn and listens to her horses munch hay. She doesn’t interact with them. She finds just being in their presence calms her mind. She gains a new perspective out there in the warmth of the stable. Jamie loves nothing more than to curl with her cat, letting that purring engine wash away her troubles. I know a cockatoo that can make his guardian laugh out loud without even trying, no matter what the emotional state of the guardian.
They are miracle medicine draped in fur or feather. What magic our animal companions are blessed with, to change our world and our lives by merely being present.
So when the day seems overwhelming, when you have created your own spindrift, remember the animals are there to minister to you. We just have to decide to receive their Sacred Medicine.
Let’s talk Pigs. And Dolphins and Whales. A Cats and Dogs. And Chimpanzees and Prairie Dogs. And the very interesting lives they lead.
Did you know Cat can drink saltwater with no ill effects? Tis true! Her kidneys can process out the salt and retain only the water. That would be handy on a life raft, wouldn’t it?
Did you know Pig can recognize himself in the mirror, and spend quite a bit of time admiring himself? He displays to himself just for fun. An image of another pig displayed in the mirror gets rebuffed.
Humpback Whale will defend not only Beings of her own kind but come to the rescue of others Seal, Dolphin and others from Orca. According to Science Magazine, in 90 percent of the reports of Humpback defending against Orca, she is defending another species. That makes Humpback pretty important to the hierarchy of the oceans. She is the sheriff out there in the world of water.
When Chimpanzee is taught chess on a video game venue – he beats his Human opponent 2 to 1 and can anticipate future moves better and quicker than a Human Being. (Maybe Planet of the Apes wasn’t so far off!). He also understands the Rock, Paper, Scissors game of hand signals – and doesn’t always take losing very well.
The alarm whistle of Prairie Dog identifies the town intruder in shape, size and color specifically by different nuisances of the whistle, letting others in the community know exactly what is afoot. He doesn’t scream ‘run and hide!’ but ‘run and hide from the brown, banded slinky thing in the east corner!’ That’s better than most home security systems.
Sea Otter is the gardener of the seas. She and her pod maintain huge kelp beds that benefit hundreds of species and Hawksbill Turtle are indispensable in maintaining coral reefs. It makes one consider the value of having all species present on Mother Earth, since we seldom understand or see the big picture.
Speaking of coral reefs, Clownfish has one of the best tricks of all. She is the matriarch of the school, but when she makes her transition, her male mate takes over the school – and becomes female! Now I don’t know whether to say she or he! But that is an amazing swing is it not?
The things we don’t yet know about everyone else on the planet is mindboggling.
And one day the world of science will prove the animals are talking, just like us.
And then what will we do?
There is an evolution happening among our friends the African Elephants.
As we are all very aware, the poaching of elephant tusks has decimated herds across Africa but Elephant herself, with the help of Mother Earth, has made her own decision to safeguard her kind against the inhuman Humans by evolving into tusk-less pachyderms. And she has done so very quickly. We are watching evolution in the making, in real time, before our eyes. The time frame of elephants with tusks and elephants without tusks took a mere 50 years.
The entire evolution is not complete but the statistics are moving in the direction of the more desirable tusk-less genes growing within family herds that are under stress of poaching. (Families not under poaching threats are developing as usual, meaning with tusks). There is a real threat of a time in the near future when Elephant and her children no longer have tusks, thus protecting them from poachers. Male elephants are not going tusk-less, but are producing smaller tusks.
This may seem like a win but is it?
The tusks of Elephant serve multiple purposes. They are very handy in digging for water not only for them but for other African species. Following behind Elephant and family can virtually save the lives of numerous animals during times of drought which occurs for months at a time in parts of Africa. Tusks are used for moving objects, downing trees and digging for food, defense and determines the desirability of mating. Even if one were to throw out the problems of food and water (not small problems!), the situation could be dire for future generations if the best of the bulls have no way to complete the hierarchy of breeding rights.
Is the choice to remain tusk-less truly a benefit? Or is it a predetermined extinction for new generations? Only time will tell.
The questions presented bother me. These are the foundation of life, changing right before us, and sometimes we become to concern with other (and in my opinion) less important things. I am not the only one. Biologists have the same concerns for this evolution caused by man and not nature. What does the future hold for other species dependent on help from Elephant? What about Elephant herself? And us? Who is to say what happens when the balance of life is disrupted?
One thing is certain. If we could stop poaching none of these questions would have to be answered and Mother Earth and Elephant would not have to take such drastic steps to ensure their children live until tomorrow.
Here in the middle of Wisconsin there blows a stiff wind and low temperatures, which I kind of like. Now, that is different from many people of the area, but not all. I enjoy all the seasons. Not saying I might not change my mind at some point but right now I love Winter’s arrival.
He doesn’t come in small steps like Spring. Spring, she comes quietly, softly. A bit of thaw here, a promising twitch of a warmer breeze, a taste of Mother Earth on the tongue. These are beautiful things in themselves, but I also love the bold. The ones that announce themselves – like the clear unbridled north wind of Winter on a day in December. That immediate ‘Wow!’ when you step outside for the first time in the morning. Winter grabs you and envelopes you then plants a kiss on your lips that sucks the breath from your body and rattles through your body right down to your toes. Your eyelashes frost, your breath releases in visible plumes. There is no wondering when he will come. He has arrived with the clarity of a tsunami. And, like my first stolen kiss of youth I ever shared, it leaves me smiling.
I love that. I love the passion with which Winter arrives, nothing small or meek but large and consuming. Where would we be without passion in our lives? Life would be safer, more predictable, maybe more comfortable but would it be the whole experience? The best experience? Or would it be an abbreviated ghost of what could have been?
Passion thumps the heart; heavy feet suddenly dance and it leaves a whisper of a smile on the face. Passion feeds the soul. Sometimes passion does not seem readily available but that is an illusion created by a tired mind. It is available everywhere - if only it is sought out. One must mine it like a precious gem; look for the many ways to celebrate it every day.
Grab hold of passion the way Winter delivers a kiss. Unquestioningly. Bold. Irreversible.
A beautiful life is sure to follow.
Here we are in Saqqara, Egypt in the midst of discovering a new tomb.
OK. We are not in Egypt, but if we were we would have found an undiscovered tomb filled with dozens of mummified cats – and Scarab beetles – that are thousands of years old and would, as the owners of the tomb hoped, accompany us into the Afterlife. Engraved on the tomb’s door were the names Subek Sekt and Mafy and among the treasures found around their mummies were gilded statues of Lion, Cow, and Falcon and of course, Bastet, the cat goddess. In all there were (at the time of this posting) seven tombs found, three contained mummified cats. And though we do not truly know what went through the minds of these ancient peoples we can be sure that at the least, animals were important in their lives just as they are today in our own.
It makes me wonder what future people will think of our community, the animal/human connection that is a large piece of my life, as it is with many of my readers. Will we be a mystery to those who find our little doggy costumes and will they think we were not able to have children and so then we dressed our pups to take their place? How about all those organ meats, turkey necks, and deer legs in our freezers? Will the discoverers think these were traditional delicacies of our society? What might they deduce from birthday party pictures with sausage cakes? Puppy gates in doorways? Would they think we were the ones restricted in the household - the living room belonged to them? Kitty and doggie beds strewn about the living quarters? Homes with more toys than furniture? Urns and paw print memorabilia in honored places?
We think we know why this particular society of Subek Sekt and Mafy mummified their companions. We believe that they believed that only those things preserved in some way would make it to the next life, so they took steps to insure that process. We hypothesize they worshipped their companions in some way different from us, but if we look around our homes, are we any different? If someone just stepped into a house in an unearthing discovery thousands of years from now what deductions might be made of our society?
It is possible that Subek Sekt and Mafy motivation was simpler than we suspect and they adored their animal companions and couldn’t bear the thought of being apart from them, physically or spiritually. They want to be as near as possible to them for as long as possible, even to the Afterlife.
Maybe our science guys have it wrong and we are more alike than we think.
The Morning Glory seed. A tiny bit of a triangle. Drop it on the ground and soon there is a fifteen foot vine, with flowers that bloom bright purple that give up their beauty later in the season to create another little triangle of a seed. Think about for a moment. Everything the Morning Glory is and ever will be, springs from a tiny little seed. Isn’t that a miracle? Oh there is cell division and photosynthesis and what not, but the fact that so much beauty erupts from almost nothing is a true miracle.
We think of Miracles as large events, grand scale, move the mountain type of things but most are quiet and small. They fall into the category of ‘the things we take for granted’, the things we expect rather than the wonder of a Miracle in bloom.
That little Morning Glory seed, it can become something or it can blow away in the wind, land where it is forgotten or even when planted loving in Mother Earth does not guarantee it will thrive – it takes a quiet little Miracle to produce a bloom from almost nothing. Maybe we see it as an act of science, maybe we expect the end result and so we think it does not belong in the Miracle category – but it is a Miracle none the less. A quiet one.
Look into the eyes of your dog. She takes in your moods, your faults and turns them to love. She forgives lies, all your shortcomings and every bit of human ignorance and forgives you completely. How is that not a Miracle? A dog. A tiny bit of seed. A sunset. A soulmate for our heart.
We are surrounded by Miracles every day; we just have to have the desire to see them.
The time has come to let go of what was. The trees have told us so with the dropping of their leaves. No more are we to hear the chorus of Robin, Thrush and Vireo in the quiet of predawn; instead we awake to the scream of Blue Jay, the nasal squeak of Nuthatch and Cardinal’s cheerful chipping. Cricket and Frog have gone to ground, replaced by the rattle of leaves dancing their way across the streets and dry brush. But there are still sweet songs to be had and, to me, one of the most beautiful is the hollow honking of Canada Goose and family.
Their song can be heard at any time – in the dark of night, early evening or just at dawn, on a sunny day or in the midst of rain – as they sweep through the skies the constant rambling conversations between the extended family are easily identified even if the telltale ‘V’ is hidden in the clouds. (Their chatter always reminds me of family at a holiday dinner.) Not all travelers have to announce their mission. Snow Goose and some others are not quite so talkative and more businesslike in their migration. And Swan hardly utters a word; if one’s eyes are not skyward at the right time, they will slip by in silence, unseen and undiscovered like an apparition in the mist. But Canada Goose always tells of his intentions, loud and clear.
I know winter is not far behind their journey. Their music tells me it is time to put away the patio furniture, time to thank my potted plants for the beauty they brought to my yard before I release them into the compost and back to Mother Earth from which they came. Fall does bring gifts of her own, nuts and apples and wood smoke and clear starry nights. With the release from the humid nights of summer one can once again enjoy bonfires, hot chocolate, flannel shirts and pumpkins. Misty mornings kissed by a chill. An occasional errand snow flake. An interlude of cleansing, of quiet.
The change of season is a thing I am grateful to witness. I love to see Mother Earth in all her many moods and colors. So when that beautiful song drifts down from the sky, I thank Canada Goose and family for the music and wish them safe travels in their long journey - while I step into my own journey of a new season.
Here in central Wisconsin we have been having what my dad used to call duck weather; that is to say gray, soggy skies with little hope of getting over 42°F exasperated by stubborn northwest winds. Perfect duck weather. This made me think – if I were a duck – I wouldn’t mind this winter pre-course. After all, Duck likes rain, or at least he doesn’t mind because everything rolls off those beautifully oiled, weather proofed feathers.
Of course there are other advantages. If I were a duck, I would be a very good swimmer, which I currently am not. I’m what you would call a sinker, a stone, an anchor of the highest quality. I am the first one to put on a life jacket in a boat. Though I can stay afloat for a few minutes, my true calling is non-buoyancy. So you can see where being a duck would be a worthwhile ambition if I were to spend much time on the water.
Then there is flying. Who wouldn’t want to fly? I’m not one much for heights but I wouldn’t be concerned about that if I could fly. Heights aren’t really the problem when all is said and done – it’s the abrupt landing that is the bothersome piece of it. Eliminate that and no one cares how high they are, am I right?
But the real beauty of Duck are those feathers, which he preens and primps like a fourteen year old girl getting ready to take a selfie, though he has a little more riding on the results given the sinking and abrupt landings and whatnot. Those feathers are priceless. Not only for the aforementioned reasons but because the feathers let everything roll off Duck. No matter what storm has happened upon him, it affects him not. Rain, sleet, snow, perceived insults, ill-born mood swings, personal attacks and politics…
If I were a duck, I could learn a lot about letting go, about letting things just roll off me.
Maybe it is duck weather - and time to spend a bit more time on my own feathers.
Let me tell you a little story about the wild heart, one you may not have heard.
Maggie was 78 and lived in northern Minnesota in a home she was born in. For all those years, she drew her own water and she and her husband put up wood for winter, filled their larder with hunted and gathered gifts from the earth, and lived in accordance to what Mother Earth dictated. As time moved forward, they saw no need to change their way of life. Even after her husband transitioned, Maggie refused all attempts by her family to move to a place closer to town, a place where life would be a bit easier. She was happy in her small cabin in the wildwood.
But the day came when her wishes were overridden by family because she could no longer safely take care of herself. For a short time, Maggie lived in an assisted living facility but it did not last. She had trouble adjusting and would become confused by her surroundings, couldn’t sleep from the intrusion of noise and light – and the utter boredom drove her to a place where appetite and interaction had no meaning. Soon she went to a full care nursing home.
Maggie was the grandmother of my friend Lisa and the day came when Lisa asked me to attend the memorial for Maggie who had finally made her escape from the world she no longer understood.
Lisa relayed how difficult the weeks previous to the memorial had been. One night, when the spring moon was full, Maggie had slipped out unknown to her caretakers, became confused and walked to the river 2 miles away. According to the search and rescue dogs, her trail ended there and her body was not found, though divers searched the water for many days. There were lawsuits and lawyers and finger pointing. There was guilt and anger and what if’s and should have’s.
But none of that was necessary. Each party that touched Maggie’s life was trying to help her, to comfort her, to keep her safe. It was Maggie who made the decision.
I doubt she was confused. I doubt she had broken with reality. I doubt there was not Divine Intervention to help her open that window she used for her escape, with the moon lighting her way, with the unseen path that led to the river.
Lions and tigers and bears. Whales and wolves and birds of prey. And Maggie.
Some wild things can’t live in cages.