The Comfort of Bird Songs

In these troubling times, it’s easy to lose sight of the good stuff in life and get caught up in all the fear and anxiety. I am not immune to such feelings and I think it’s quite human to be afraid and uncertain about the future right now.

I am guilty of checking Twitter and Facebook for updates on COVID-19 far too often throughout the night because I’m afraid of things like lockdowns and shelter in place orders. Mind you, I already don’t leave my house much because I work from home and don’t have a social life to speak of, but somehow the idea of not being “allowed” to leave my house is unsettling. However, no matter how much tunnel-vision I periodically feel when reading the news, there’s always something that widens my view: the continuing arrival of spring.

There’s one thing that always helps to ease the fears I’ve built up overnight and that’s the coming of a new day. As the sky begins to lighten with sunrise, and even before sometimes, the birds begin chirping in the huge maple tree and pine tree outside my bedroom windows. The first birds are always the robins and they’re followed closely by the eastern bluebirds which stick around all year on my property.

It’s not just in the mornings that I hear bird songs, I hear them all day long and I know who sings most of them. I have a nice flock of goldfinches that are always happily chirping away, some cardinals that sing “pretty, pretty, pretty” frequently, blue jays that sing/screech in their unique way, red-winged blackbirds, wrens, crows, woodpeckers, nuthatches, tufted titmouse, a variety of sparrows, and many more.

Some of my resident goldfinches from a few years ago.

I’m happy that I’ve figured out as many bird songs as I have because I remember growing up that my dad knew lots of bird songs. I remember walking through a park somewhere and hearing a rather distinct bird song and not knowing what it was. Without even seeing the bird, my dad said it was a Scarlet Tanager. We walked a bit more and sure enough, we eventually saw the bright red body of a Scarlet Tanager high up in the pine tree branches.

Scarlet Tanager image courtesy of All About Birds.org

I remember being so amazed that my father knew the bird by its song and I promised myself that someday I’d have that same ability. I’ve spent years listening to and figuring out bird songs and now whenever I go on walks with my girls I can tell them which birds they’re hearing. I feel an immense sense of pride knowing that I’ve managed to follow in my father’s footsteps in that regard.

Hearing my feathered friends singing brings me great comfort throughout the day and reminds me constantly that the world is still spinning and life continues to renew with spring. When the weather permits, I will continue to go on daily walks and take in and enjoy the beauty of nature around me. Nature is receiving a bit of a break with less people driving their cars and such and I’m sure it appreciates it. We must never lose sight of the blessings around us and the fact that we’re just a very small part of a vast, unknowable universe.

The Sun Still Shines

blue sky

With the state of the world today, it seemed like a good time to start writing in this blog again. There seems to be so much, fear, chaos, anxiety, and panic that I can only hope my optimistic words will help somehow.

I live in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York and yesterday I received the news that my girls’ school is going to close for a month. While this has been happening across the country due to COVID-19, there haven’t been any cases of it reported in this county yet. I can understand the school districts wanting to take precautions to protect everyone, but it’s just so hard to fathom that something like this is happening in my lifetime.

Having seen the chaos and pandemonium at grocery stores due to fears about the virus and self-quarantine, I headed to Walmart before the sun was even up yesterday morning because I just needed basic groceries. I was most worried that I wouldn’t be able to get milk for the week but when I checked their grocery app it was still in stock so I was hopeful.

Although I was anxious to get my milk and other essentials for the week, I still took the time to stop by Canandaigua Lake and take some pictures. I think it’s vital that in these “dark” feeling times we still remember and see the beauty that remains all around us and that the light still shines strong. The only eerie part about my visit to the lake was the abundance of seagulls circling overhead but that’s really not unusual for them and perhaps they sensed something amiss about the humans around them.

When I shop early on Saturday mornings, there are usually very few people in the store and as a well-practiced introvert, I’m okay with that.

But yesterday morning there were more people than usual and indeed, the toilet paper, tissue, and paper towel aisles were completely empty. Fortunately, I bought a package last week that will last me and my girls a couple of weeks. Hopefully, by the time we run out, people will have regained their sanity.

I was able to get my gallon of milk and the other essentials I needed for what I thought would be a relatively normal school week. There were odd things missing from shelves such as frozen pizza, pasta, dish detergent, and macaroni and cheese. But when I went to the vitamin aisle, the only vitamin that seemed depleted was vitamin C. Also the bread aisle was nearly as empty as the toilet paper aisle.

While I did my shopping, there were employees dashing around fulfilling grocery pickup orders and people filling their carts. There was a sense of nervousness and uncertainty in the air and I tried my best not to let it infect me. To perk myself up a bit, I bought a colorful spring-themed bedspread and some flowery bell-bottom pants that are far too young for me. But in these trying times, a girl does what she must to lift her spirits.

When I finished shopping, I headed to my mother’s house for the usual Saturday visit which involves doing laundry and watching The Good Witch or something else we can find streaming. I usually play World of Warcraft too and my mom and I have interesting conversations.

Neither of us is panicked about COVID-19, we’re just being smart and taking precautions. My mother is in her 70s and has underlying health conditions so she’s at a higher risk but I pray to all the powers that be every day that she stays healthy and that this all blows over eventually and life can return to normal.

As far as the whole social distancing thing goes, as an introvert, I’ve been doing that for years without an issue. I work from home already so I’m fine with having my girls home from school. I do worry that more people working online might mean less work for me, but time will tell how that plays out. I’m hoping the work from home surge will actually benefit Rev.com and their online transcribers like myself.

I’ve been spending time by myself for many years because on days I don’t have my daughters, it’s just me and my four cats and one dog. I tried being more of a social butterfly in the past but it really wasn’t for me. The only social events I seem to thrive at are the pow-wows hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) and I’m hopeful those will resume and continue when it’s safe.

One of the most important things I do for my mental and physical health is to take the time to stop and appreciate the world around me. I go for walks, I sit outside on my deck, or I even just watch the birds out my window. Today the sun is shining and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. The world hasn’t stopped spinning, the sun still shines, and I have a lot to be grateful for.

I don’t know what the next few weeks and months will hold, but I remain optimistic and hopeful and always try to find the upside of any situation. Just last week I was grumbling about the time change and how the early school mornings were dark again. Well now there is no physical school for a month and we can all sleep in until it’s light.

By the time school resumes-and it will resume, I have faith in that-the mornings will be light again, it will be spring, and life will begin its annual blooming. I don’t know about you, but I plan on enjoying every moment and focusing more on the light than on the dark.

A Broken Spring

Thus far, this May has not felt very consistently spring-like. We’ve even had snow!

The trend seems to be a nice warmish spring day followed by several days of winter temperatures and it’s been rather frustrating.

Fortunately, it looks like the weather is finally warming up and staying warm. They’re even predicting 80 this coming Sunday. After the unpleasant May we’ve had thus far, I’ll believe it when it happens.

Even with the up and down temperatures and rain and clouds, I’ve still managed to get walks in with Jazzmin. I relish every moment of the nice weather because it seems so fleeting but hopefully soon it will be here to stay for more than one day.

Something Must Be Better Than Nothing

A view from our afternoon walk on 5/8/19

I feel somewhat guilty that I’ve let writing in this blog fall by the wayside so I’m going to start posting again. They probably won’t be lengthy posts like before, perhaps just some pictures and some inspiring words.

I do still write quite often, just not here. Life has gotten rather busy as my daughters grow up and I continue to work as a transcriptionist to pay the bills.

But with the handy dandy WordPress app I should be able to post a little something a few times a week. After all, something must be better than nothing. πŸ˜‰

Wingspans of Imagination

turkey vulture in the sky

Turkey vulture soaring on today’s walk.

Whenever I see turkey vultures soaring in the sky on my daily walks or when I’m out driving, they remind me of a time when I imagined them as dragons. That might sound odd, but hear me out. It was during a time of my life where I felt trapped in an unhappy situation and I just wanted out, but I didn’t know how to get out. I remember being in the car as a passenger and looking out the window to see turkey vultures soaring in the distance, their great wingspans impressive even so far away. They were soaring further out of view and as they did so, I was able to envision their shapes as not those of turkey vultures, but of dragons.

You see, I believe in magic and I’ve always believed in magic. And in that moment of rather deep despair, I really needed to believe that those turkey vultures were dragons because it meant that they were magic. In believing in magic, I find hope, strength, and power. Believing in magic helps me hold on to the idea that anything is possible if I just put my mind and spirit into it and send the right energy out into the world. Seeing those turkey vultures as dragons soaring out of sight helped me believe that I too would somehow soar out of my then unhappy situation and be free again.

Freeing myself of that unhappy situation didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. It took longer than I wanted it to, but it’s behind me now and I’m able to soar free in ways I couldn’t even fathom back then. The wingspans of imagination on those turkey vultures was much greater than their five to six foot physical wingspans. For me, the wingspan on those creatures extended beyond reality, as they transformed into dragons that helped carry me to new breadths of imagination, hope, and happiness.

Crisp Breezes and Hot Coffee

adirondack coffee mug lower quality

One of my favorite mugs for drinking coffee.

The weather has turned cool and crisp with the arrival of autumn. Well, at least right now it’s cool and crisp, I don’t really know about tomorrow because the weather has been all over the place lately. Autumn has arrived according to the calendar, but that doesn’t mean the temperatures are going to cooperate. Yesterday it was warm and humid and I was wearing shorts. Today started out the same temperature-wise but turned rainy and cool, with glimpses of sun here and there.

I’ve put warmer blankets on my bed and started using my humidifier instead of my fan at night when I sleep. I’ve also kicked those warm blankets off and torqued up the fan when it didn’t get as cool at night as I expected. I’d say this is typical autumn weather for where I live, but with climate change, I’m not sure “typical weather” is even a thing anymore. I just take it day by day and see what surprises await me.

When the air is actually cool and stays that way, I enjoy drinking coffee hot. In the summer or hotter weather, I drink it cold. The point is, I love my coffee. I like whole bean coffee that I grind myself, ground coffee from a can, and even instant coffee. I take my coffee, hot or cold, with flavored creamer of some kind. The flavor depends on my mood, the season, the cycle of the moon, and so on. There are certain flavors I avoid, but I like to experiment with new taste sensations occasionally. I always stir the creamer in with an iced tea spoon that I then leave in even while drinking my coffee. It’s a quirk of mine. πŸ˜‰

As I work from home, I usually drink my coffee at my desk, enjoying sips as I type away on my current transcription job. I tend to have more than one cup of coffee a day, but I am usually at my desk when drinking it. I drink it while I’m playing World of Warcraft or writing in my latest story, or as now, writing a new blog entry. I always have a cup of water alongside my mug of coffee to stay hydrated because coffee isn’t exactly a thirst quencher.

I heard something the other day about coffee that made me evaluate my perception of coffee. Someone said that people don’t like the taste of coffee, but they put up with it for the caffeine element. I thought about that and realized that no, that doesn’t apply to me. I do actually enjoy the taste of coffee. Would I drink it black? I have in the past and while a bit bitter, it wasn’t horrible. I don’t however, drown the main flavor of coffee with my creamers, I just sweeten it a bit.

As far as drinking it for the caffeine content goes, that’s somewhat true, but since I’ve been drinking coffee since I was 16 or so, it really doesn’t keep me alert like it used to. I have even been known to drink decaf coffee just because I wanted the taste of it without the caffeine. I love holding the mug of hot coffee in my hands, inhaling that familiar aroma, and then sipping at it. I like it hot, not tepid, but sometimes I make it a little too hot and can’t hold the mug without burning myself. Obviously even after so many years of making and drinking coffee, I still don’t know what I’m doing aside from just enjoying it.

Thinking deeper about my enjoyment of coffee, I believe one of the reasons I love coffee so much is because it reminds me of my father. I think the very first cup of coffee I ever had was from a pot he made and as I recall it was orange flavored. It was probably some specialty coffee ground from the store, but I remember that taste so vividly on my tongue. I remember it was during a family trip to a cottage in the Adirondack Mountains and I remember waking up to the smell of that orange flavored coffee brewing in the early light of morning. The air was cool and smelled like pine trees as it always does in the Adirondacks, and I recall that that hot cup of coffee helped warm me up on a chilly morning.

To this day, hot coffee warms me up on cool days and makes me smile as I think about my father and how far I’ve come from that first cup of coffee to the amazing life I live now. Wondrous that such a simple seeming thing as drinking coffee can hold so much meaning.

Turning Over Familiar Leaves

Canandaigua Lake, September 1 2018

Winds whipping the leaves of a tree on the shores of Canandaigua Lake, New York

As I imagine most parents know, summer break from school tends to create some notable schedule changes. I am fortunate that I work from home as a transcriber for Rev.com because I get to spend time with my girls when they’re home. I do however still have to work and it can be challenging finding a balance between family and work during the summer when they’re home all day. Even so, I love my girls and I do my best to work just enough without having them think that all I do is work. Not easy, but I try.

Nonetheless, summer break doesn’t last forever. I’ve enjoyed every extra moment I’ve had with my girls, but school starts up for them again this coming Tuesday and it will then be back to the usual school year routine. I do my transcribing work while they’re at school Monday and Tuesday and then focus on them when they get home. For the remaining days of the week they go to their father’s house and I focus fully on transcription and college work. While I always miss my girls when I don’t have them, I know that my days without them serve and important purpose.

Along with school starting soon, my favorite season of autumn will also be starting soon. We’ve already had a couple of days of pre-fall weather here in Upstate New York and I enjoyed the cooler temperatures and ability to turn the air conditioning off and leave the windows open. Summer weather has currently returned to my area, but I know fall will settle in eventually and I look forward to it with enthusiasm.

As the familiar predictable school schedule returns and the leaves begin to turn, it’s time for me to turn over some familiar leaves. By this I mean it’s time for me to get back into blogging more regularly. With all the things I have going on in my life, writing tends to get lost in the chaos and I can’t continue to let that happen. Writing is a big part of who I am and most of the writing I’ve done over the summer has been for college courses.

College writing is very important of course and it’s earned me some wonderful grades, but I know that writing for pleasure is also essential for my creativity. My creativity is what gives me the ability to take subjects I struggle with (or even dislike) and mesh them with subjects I’m passionate about to write some pretty astounding papers. I say astounding because I am usually astounded with what I come up with.

Fortunately, I’ve already got a jump-start on flexing my writing for pleasure muscles thanks to being given the opportunity to play World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, when it was in beta testing. I’ve never played a beta version of World of Warcraft before so I was very excited to receive such an immersive first look at a game world that I already love. Playing Battle for Azeroth Bet was an amazing experience for me and I loved having even a small impact in the final release of the game that was released on August 13th of this year.

What does World of Warcraft have to do with my writing? you ask. Well, playing in that new world with its beautiful settings and interesting new story lines inspired me to start writing about new characters in my Warcraft based books. I base my characters off the “toons” I play in the game because to me, they all already have unique personalities and stories to tell. That comes from being a writer perhaps.

I’ve already written several chapters in what will eventually be a complete book that follows a handful of rather diverse characters as they journey through Azeroth. I don’t really know what will happen with the book or what can happen with the book, but that’s not going to stop me from writing. It took me so many years to get my muse back after my father died that I’m not about to let her slip away again!