Thursday, November 1, 2018

Autumn at Last

Autumn at Last

The trees have been late in losing their leaves around here this season. Some leaves have turned a brilliant orange, some a subdued red, but for the most part the leaves in my neighborhood are still attached to their branches. At least until this week when some suddenly started to float down and coat the sidewalks.

I like Autumn.  I like the colors that brighten up the trees and the crunch of the leaves that have fallen to the ground. The slight nip of the wind in the air energizes my walk. Mostly, though, I feel my energy lift after the lethargy of the hot summer days.

This Fall, though, has been slow in offering up its charms. The summer heat seemed to last longer than usual. After a round of cooler days, we are back to temps in the 70s! I wonder if our winter weather will be different as well. Certainly different from my childhood memories of autumn.

But then so much, these days, has changed. Weather-wise there are more storms, more drought, more floods all across our nation and the world. There is more political animosity, more anger, more active hatred. I try to look at people in a universal way, hoping to see what connects us rather than tears us apart. I look for the joy in life even though I know there are times for grief.

As the leaves finally fall, it is easy to forget their beauty. But they will be back, vibrant as ever, as Spring comes around. I hope that we all remember that as the seasons can change, so can we. Let’s seek the kindness and beauty of life and reach out to share it with those around us.

How are the seasons figured globally?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hippos in the Aquarium

Hippos in the Aquarium
Here is an  amazing creature! No, he (actually she) wasn’t in my immediate backyard but she was close by in the Camden Aquarium. There were two hippos swimming around in a tank where visitors could observe.
Hippopotamus is Greek for river horse. The adult visitors were entranced by how such a large animal could swim so gracefully; a female hippopotamus weighs about 2,000 - 3,000 lbs. and a male can weigh 3,000 – 4,000 lbs. on average. The kids just wanted to touch the hippos as they came up to the glass. The hippos seemed as curious about the people as we were about them. It may have been that when they see people they anticipate getting fed and that is what happened. Large plant leaves were tossed into the tank and the hippos lunged for them.

It's hard to believe that these huge creatures are somewhat delicate. Their skin burns easily so they tend to eat  in the morning hours when the sun isn’t too strong and spend a good part of the day in the cool water. They are also vegetarian. But don’t let their gentle eating habits fool you. They are not always friendly and can be aggressive.

wary at the same time. It makes me think of how all aspects of nature resonates with the whole of

nature. Like a big, if somewhat diverse family. Perhaps if we can appreciate nature’s wide

diversity, we can do the same with people.

Lots to know about hippos:

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sparrows on the Bird Bath

Sparrows on the Bird Bath

We have a lively collection of sparrows here. They make their home in one of our bushes on the side of our house and several times a day visit the bird bath in back. They drink and bathe and fight and fly back and forth until all their needs are satisfied.

I’ve counted as many as a dozen sparrows on the bath at the same time. They flapped on and off in a flutter of feathers. When there was room, it looked as if one of them was swimming across the water!

Sparrows may be small but they have a lot of energy. Sometimes I see them having a lively conversation on the slanty part of our roof above their bush. They have been known to yell at me as I pull my car onto the driveway and disturb their private together time.

It’s interesting to observe nature’s creatures. We can see relationships, both friendly and not. We can watch them solve problems and sometimes create them. There are many behaviors that are reminders of our own people interactions. I wonder if they watch us and think the same things.

Lots to know about house sparrows:

Monday, July 16, 2018

My Surprising Garden

My Surprising Garden

My little vegetable garden often surprises me. We plant a variety of organic tomatoes and I marvel at how different each kind tastes. It’s a delight each summer to pick tomatoes and eat them while they are still warm from the afternoon sun.

Earlier this season I had found that a shallot in my fridge had started growing. I took a chance and planted it. Then I forgot about it, never really expecting anything to come of it. Then the garden surprised me. A tall stalk reached out of the dirt. I thought it was a wild onion and left it alone. It continued to shoot up and then there was an intriguing flower at the end of it. When I dug it up to see what was growing, I saw the shallot had grown and multiplied! Not only was the flower beautiful to see but the shallots were delicious to eat.

Now I see that the pea plant I thought was gone was doing the same thing as the shallot, reaching up with a stalk that has tiny pea pods slowly maturing. I am thrilled to see how the plants develop despite my farming ignorance.

Each year I look forward to what my garden offers. Even if I expect a crop, as I actually do with the tomatoes, I am pleased with whatever grows. And if something I plant doesn’t make it, well, who knows what surprises next summer will bring.
Shallots are healthy to eat:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Basil is a Great Herb

Basil is a Great Herb

I have to admit I love basil. It sits on my kitchen windowsill and I smile every time I see it. Why? For three reasons. First, the leaves are full and fragrant. I just brush my hand gently across them and I can smell the garden. Secondly, the taste reminds me of some of my favorite foods. And thirdly, the plant is exuberant. It just begs to be part of my day whether with sniffing or munching, but especially with cooking.

There are lots of legends wrapped around basil. It was once associated with hatred in Greece, then later with love in Italy. It has been revered for its health benefits and yet at one time it was associated with snakes and scorpions. Modern understanding of herbs places basil high on the list of healthful plants.

It’s a great herb to grow inside or outside. My windowsill has been its home for quite a while. And I am an appreciative receiver of its many benefits.

Basil legends and lore:

Want to grow your own basil?

And if you want to know about basil’s nutrients, health benefits and studies read on:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tulips in a Vase or on the Tulip Tree

Tulips in a Vase or on the Tulip Tree

I was the happy recipient of a gift of a bouquet of tulips this Mother’s Day. They held a place of honor in a vase on my dining room table for two weeks. But even though I had to say goodbye to my cut flowers, I can still enjoy a form of tulips outside in my backyard. The Liriodendron tulipifera, better known as the Tulip Tree, has been offering us its own bounty of flowers.

The Tulip Tree is related to magnolias and is indigenous to eastern North America.  It can grow to 90 feet of more! Ours started as a small trunk and proceeded to expand. We used to be able to reach the flowers on the lower branches but as the tree reached upward, so did the flowers. The flowers are called tulips because of their shape and color though they aren’t actually tulips. They are beautiful all the same.
Yet everything has its blossoming time. The petals are now beginning to fall, coating the back lawn with color. And now the rest of the garden is starting to expand. I am looking forward to the tomatoes we already planted and to the hibiscus that are just starting to peek out of the dirt. But meanwhile, I appreciate what I can see. When the flowers are all gone, the Tulip Tree will provide us with welcome shade. Ah, sitting outside with nature and being in the moment - another delightful gift.

Here’s more about the beautiful Tulip Tree:

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Snake Alert!

Snake Alert!

I’m used to a variety of wildlife in my neighborhood. We have squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, chipmunks, skunks, deer, the occasional fox, and loads of birds both residential and migratory. Every now and then, however, something appears that’s startling. Like the orange snake that slithered across the front yard of our daughter’s house just a few blocks away.

We didn’t know what kind of snake it was. Was it dangerous? Was it poisonous? Could it work its way up through pipes into the house? The township was alerted and we waited for someone to come and help us. Meanwhile, we watched it wiggle its way from the lawn, up over the front steps, into the bushes on the side of the porch. A police officer came by to assess the situation. He called the local Animal Control office and we waited some more. Meanwhile he kept an eye on the snake’s wanderings. It moved into the neighbor’s backyard and settled in under the back deck.

When the representative came, she identified the snake for us – an orange corn snake. It wasn’t poisonous but it also wasn’t local. It must have been someone’s pet that either got loose or was released by its owner. It seems that many people keep corn snakes as pets! It was a compelling creature but it needed to be relocated. She gathered it up into a container and drove it away, hopefully to be let back into the Pine Barrens, which is its natural home in New Jersey.

I can’t say I’m a snake fan but I meant it no harm and I learned that it wished us no harm either. It reminded me of the variety within nature, how sometimes we have to leave our natural homes and learn to adapt elsewhere. It’s not easy for any of us. I wished the snake well. 

Corn snake facts: 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rabbit in the Bush

Rabbit in the Bush

Look who was camouflaged underneath last year’s hibiscus bush. The rabbit blended in so well I had trouble seeing it at first. Its coat picked up the gray of the broken branches, the brown of the fallen leaves and the white of the small stones scattered throughout the patch.

This must have been a teenage rabbit, smaller than an adult but not newborn. A baby bunny pranced nearby but was chased away across the yard by this rabbit who then returned to its comfy resting place.

The little one will learn the tricks of survival before long, I’m sure. It will learn how to become part of the landscape so that it can peacefully munch on the grasses. It will discover its place in the world and how to be who it is among the variables. It already knew how to zip along, turning quickly to disorient its pursuer.

Seeing the rabbits made me think of how we all adapt to our environments. We learn to accept some things we are given and change others. We can shift our perspective to create a safer space and blend in when necessary. We, and the rabbits, are fast learners. It helps us to live and to thrive.

Cottontails and camouflage:
Wild rabbits:

Monday, April 2, 2018

Seasons and Changing Climate

Seasons and Changing Climate

Two weeks ago Spring arrived in an unusual way here in the northeast - we had four snowstorms. We also had crocuses hiding under the blanket of white. Last week we had atypical temperatures in the high sixties - and daffodils. Today it was back in the 40s and the flowering plum tree in our front yard was, well, flowering.

I have always respected the inner sense of nature with its seasonal consistency. It has traditionally provided focus in our world. But lately I am concerned; our weather is changing. The seasons are shifting with winters becoming shorter and summers becoming longer, in weather terms. We have been experiencing more floods and extreme storms. Islands are becoming flooded and unlivable. Forest fires are fiercer and more prolonged. Glaciers are melting and animals are losing traditional habitats. I wonder how our food supply will be affected as well as our health.

I hope that we can preserve our beautiful planet for future generations. It is truly an amazing place. And as Spring moves toward Summer, I will plant some vegetables as I do each year. They will each take their own time to grow and hopefully produce their offerings that will be so appreciated in our family. There is nothing as delicious as a handpicked and immediately eaten tomato!

How is climate changing?

And more: 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Snow in Spring

Snow in Spring

It’s Spring! Normally I’d be thinking of crocuses and daffodils and waiting for the hibiscus to send out thick buds that will turn into giant red flowers. But this season has started off strangely. The bushes in our backyard are showing puffs of white instead of the colorful promise of hydrangeas. Branches from the pine trees are touching the ground with the weight of wet snow.

What is going on? This is the fourth nor’easter we’ve had this month, bringing snow and sleet at a time when we should be having a gentle shift into the next season. We speak about global warming and yet we see snow in Spring?

I remember the saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I also can recall one year that we had snow in the beginning of April. So things do sometimes defy expectations. However, we are in a time of large shifts in our climate.  It’s hard to ignore the changes that are taking place across the world. The atmosphere is heating up, causing glaciers to melt, oceans to rise, more floods, and fires in drier lands. And yet, we can still have snow at the beginning of Spring.

What we do affects things, whether it is personally or globally. Our climate has changed over the millennia but we seem to be hurrying things up lately. I hope that our current leaders work to minimize climate changes rather than take a short-term approach for political gains. Our planet is a marvelous place; let’s try our best to support it.

U.S. Spring forecast:

NASA evidence of global warming:

Monday, March 5, 2018

Broken Tree

Broken Tree
This past week was full of a variety of weathers. It was raining. It was snowing. The wind was blowing like mad. And then the sun came out, lighting up the sky as if nothing had happened. But plenty had happened. It was a nor’easter that affected lots of people. Some people lost power. Neighborhoods all along the coasts expected flooding after the wind moved out to sea and would probably affect the tides coming in.

Our backyard trees weathered the onslaught but our neighbor’s Bradford Pear tree wasn’t so lucky. A large branch broke off, spreading wood and the buds of new leaves across both our yards. The downed branch fell onto a bush that has been in our yard for over forty years, each summer sending flowers and new stems as a reminder that summer was approaching. But it left both our roofs untouched, thank goodness.

It reminds me not to take anything for granted. Trees are so strong and impressive yet they, too, are part of the progression of life. It’s important to appreciate the present because that is all we truly have. Even as we plan for the future we can live moment to moment along the way. Which is good to remember because another rain/snow storm is expected tomorrow.

How the nor’easter affected the Boston area:

Monday, February 19, 2018

Turkey Vultures in Our Neighborhood

Turkey Vultures in Our Neighborhood

My neighborhood consists mostly of houses, a local elementary school, well-tended lawns and a variety of trees. It’s like most suburban developments except for an occasional aberration like I noticed yesterday. It seems that a clump of trees has become home to a bunch of turkey vultures.

I’ve seen these birds soaring overhead more frequently this year. Sometimes they come fairly close to rooftops and float over backyards. They usually come in groups, tilting their wings to catch the updrafts and maybe spot some carrion to eat. They aren’t exactly cute but they are impressive.

Why are they here? These birds used to be seen mostly in the southern states but since our climate has been warming, they now have moved into the north and have even been spotted in Canada.

The world of nature is shifting as we can see by the weather forecasts this season. We are expecting temps in the 70s for the next few days! I wonder what the birds will think of that. Perhaps we all need to be flexible as our world changes.

All about turkey vultures:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Groundhog Getting Ready for Winter

Groundhog Getting Ready for Winter

Back in September we saw this groundhog munching on the leaves of our peach tree, filling up in preparation for its winter hibernation. It wasn't planning on a long trip to get to its diggings, just a short hop past our property line to squiggle under our neighbor's deck. We have seen it enter and exit between the nicely planted shrubs many times during the other seasons but it would usually skitter away when it became aware of us. At this point, though, it was too busy to care.

With Groundhog’s Day coming up soon, everyone will be watching for that special animal known as Punxutawney Phil. The holiday started in the 1800s but is still the traditional weather predictor. If he sees his shadow, it means the sky is cold and clear, a prediction of six more weeks of winter. If there is no shadow, spring is on its way. For Punxutawney Phil it is not about seasons. It is all about reproduction. If it is too cold he will go back into his burrow for some more sleep and return in more comfortable temperatures.

Our neighbor knows the groundhog lives there but chooses not to evict it. Everyone, even a groundhog, needs a place to live.  Sometimes the place we imagine will be our forever lodgings, whether it is a particular house or neighborhood, state or country, ends up being temporary. It is not easy to move even if it is warranted. So many people today are on the move.

The groundhog next door is lucky. I admire our neighbor for being so caring. I hope the people who need to leave their special places find new, caring places to resettle, and others who will understand how hard it was to go.

General groundhog info: 
Groundhog Day info:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Geese and Growth

Geese and Growth

It’s another winter, another year. So many things in nature shift with the seasons. Geese remind us of the coming cold as they honk their way south. The geese have moved to warmer climates by now, which is a good thing. We have had some record cold temps lately. I know they’ll be back in spring but as I watched them take off, I kind of missed them already.

People respond to the change in seasons as well. Someone I know says she is not a winter person. She hunkers inside during the winter weather and waits for the warm summer’s embrace. Another friend relishes the snow and cold and looks forward to getting out her skis. I kind of like the snow myself, even when I have to shovel. We each try to adjust in our own way to what Mother Nature brings.

As I looked at the geese honking their way south, I thought about this past year. It hasn’t been an easy time for me but, like the geese instinctively know, I sense it is time to move on. Come the spring the geese will return to familiar surroundings with a new perspective. It sounds like a plan for me, too.

As I watched the geese fly off, I wished them well and knew I would look forward to their return.

And now I wish everyone a healthy and happy – and rejuvenated - 2018!