Caterpillars, butterflies and frogs

dog gazing across pond

Every morning I wake up with a general plan for what I’m going to accomplish that day and as my life is pretty predictable, things usually go as planned. Yesterday however, that was not the case as my life took a rather unexpected plot twist late morning that had me scrambling to rewrite the next chapter in my life. I’m a resilient, durable, determined and strong woman though and I always land on my feet somehow. I know that even with this new curvy hill in the path of my life, I’ll get my stride back and be just fine eventually.

After several hours of rewriting the outline for the next chapter of my life, I was feeling a bit mentally fried and decided it was time to walk Jazzmin. The temperature had warmed up to a more spring-like 55 degrees finally and my pup and I were quite ready to get out in the sunshine and fresh air. I walked Jazz up the farmer’s access road and into the open farmer’s fields beyond. That is my favorite place to restore inner balance and regain serenity. It’s a different world at the end of that access road as Jazz and I visit a land full of unending skies, clear ponds, rolling hills, sky-reaching trees and a chorus of bird songs.

Jazz loves to put her nose to the grassy ground where deer, turkey, squirrels, birds, raccoons and who knows what else has walked, so I call those walks with her “sniff walks.” When we’re walking the paved roads around my house, I keep us moving and don’t make many stops but “sniff walks” are different as it’s just us in the fields and I’m in no rush to go anywhere.

We walked up to the small pond among the fields and as we walked around its perimeter, I could hear the frogs who had been sunning themselves suddenly jump into the pond. They move so quickly, I rarely see them, but hearing them still makes me smile. I had no idea then that frogs would take on a new meaning by the end of the day.

Jazz and I spent at least a half hour in the fields exploring and enjoying the sights and smells and then it was time to head back home and resume my work.

A few hours later, I was feeling frazzled again and I knew it was time to take my solo walk of the day. The temperature was up to 60 by then so I changed from capris into shorts, got Jazz happily settled in her crate and headed out. With my newly downloaded music pumping into my ears, body and spirit through my earbuds, I set out on what I call the “big hill” walk that’s three miles long and contains the biggest hill near me.

Shortly after heading up the road I live on, I saw my first wooly bear caterpillar of the season moving quickly to cross the road. He was halfway through the oncoming lane but I knew a car could come up at any moment and end his journey so I carefully scooped him up in my hand and carried him safely into the shoulder. I set him down and he crawled quickly into the grass. Immensely pleased that I had finally seen one of my favorite kinds of caterpillars and managed to help it, I was smiling wide as I continued my walk.

I conquered the big hill with my usual determination and with a bit of upbeat tempo motivation from my music and walked 1.5 miles out before turning around toward home. I’m not out to set any time records when I walk but I do move along and my leg muscles were quite warm and already becoming sore from the previous walk with Jazz. I kept my stride though and was rewarded with another welcome, spring sight when I was halfway home.

I caught the sight of motion in the shoulder up ahead and when I focused on it, I saw that it was little white cabbage butterfly. I love butterflies and they have held special meaning for me since my father passed away so I was ecstatic to see the little white butterfly flitting around the dandelions growing in the shoulder. I stopped walking and just watched him fly along the shoulder and down the road until he was out of sight. The rest of the walk home I was so happy, I felt like I was the one who had wings.

I actually wanted to write this blog post last night but I was a bit too mentally and physically exhausted. That fatigue made it tempting to sleep in longer this morning but the sun was already up and shining at 7 a.m. so I did what I didn’t really want to do and got up, dressed, made my morning tea and started writing.

I can’t remember the last time I started my day writing a personal blog post. Usually I get up and take care of everyone else’s needs, whether it be my girls or my work, but today I chose a different path and decided to blog before doing anything else. Kind of like those frogs around the pond on my walk with Jazz, I took the leap into different water and created ripples that are already changing my life in a positive way.

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The return of familiar songs and soaring

Adult male Red-winged Blackbird

There was snow on the ground yesterday morning but today started out warmer than it had been for the last week and it just got better from there! The forecast calls for 50’s and 60’s all week with plenty of sunshine and the occasional rain. Rain is fine because we need it for things to start growing and to wash off the roads that are still white with salt.

When Jaycie and I headed out for the bus this morning there was a hawk soaring in the sky and he glided from west to east upon the breeze as we watched. I told her that I gauge the arrival of spring by when I see the first turkey vulture because they don’t stick around our area all winter. When turkey vultures return and start gliding through the skies on their huge wings searching for roadkill and carcasses, then I believe that spring is truly on its way.

Turkey vulture

A few hours after Jaycie got on the bus, a turkey vulture soared over the trees across the road and I smiled feeling as if the universe had heard my words this morning. Now that I’ve seen those familiar scavengers soaring in the sky I’m certain that spring is coming and that this nice weather isn’t just some cruel trick. I spent the morning working on my writing projects inside but by noon, I couldn’t resist the call of the beautiful outdoors any longer. I got Jazzmin strapped in her backpack, tied up my sneakers and grabbed a light sweatshirt because while it was 53, the wind gusts were making it a bit cool to go without a coat.

As Jazzmin and I walked, I heard the familiar songs of birds that had returned from their winter vacation to the south. I heard the songs of robins, red-winged blackbirds and killdeers. Although the “Winter Wonderland” song states “gone away is the bluebird” a few of my bluebirds never left and I heard their song all winter long. Now that it’s warmer, there will be more bugs around for the bluebirds to eat and they will be more plentiful,  which always makes me happy.

Eastern Bluebird

I feel a special connection to all the birds that frequent my feeders through the winter and into the spring and who make their homes on my property. Just through watching and listening to the birds in my yard an on our walks, I’ve learned to identify various species by their song, size and plumage. Quite often I hear birds but don’t see them and I feel a small surge of satisfaction that I can recognize them just by their song. I’m still not good at identifying the different types of hawks I see around because they’re not really fond of close observation, but eventually I’ll sort them out too.

Northern Goshawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Right now I’m just enjoying the return of the familiar songs and soaring of spring!

Bountiful Butterflies

pearl crescent butterflies

Fortunately for me, it’s been a very good summer for butterflies around my house. I started seeing monarchs in early July and there have been tons of little white and yellow butterflies flying around since late spring. One type of butterfly in particular has been especially abundant this year and while I call them mini monarchs, they’re actually called Pearl Crescent butterflies.

I think the butterflies like my property so much because I don’t mow as fanatically as my neighbors and therefore have a decent crop of “weeds” such as dandelions, clover, plantains and goldenrod. Thanks to consuming local honey in my tea every morning for the past year, I no longer have allergy issues so none of these plants bother me by their appearance or their pollen. The butterflies and bees find their pollen quite appealing and I’m happy to provide what they need to thrive.

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, the little Pearl Crescent butterflies love my driveway, especially the area around my car. Every time I go out to my car on a warm day, the little orange and black butterflies fly up in a cloud and “swarm” about in confusion as I navigate carefully to avoid stepping on them. There are also a large number of the butterflies in my yard whenever I take Jazzmin out and I can’t keep from smiling when they flutter about me as if saying “Hello!”

pearl crescent butterflies


pearl crescent butterflies

pearl crescent butterfliesButterflies have always been a positive sign for me as they remind me that those who have passed on, including my father, are always with me and are bringing great things into my life on their beautiful, delicate wings. I’m still struggling with the parting of ways I’ve experienced with my formerly close friend and seeing butterflies every day helps compensate for no longer talking to that person every day as I used to.

Sometimes it feels like the butterflies go out of their way to circle around me and make their presence known, monarchs especially, and I appreciate nature’s creatures supporting me through all the challenges I’ve faced in my life.

Feathered and furry, friends and family

swallow sunset

I imagine that compared to most people, my life seems pretty boring. It’s Friday night and I imagine most people have fun plans to go out with their friends while I’m sitting home writing up a blog before I get back to beading. I say “I imagine” because I don’t really know. What I do know is that I like my life and am pretty darn happy on a daily basis. Do I have my down days? Sure, everyone does but I always find the light eventually and remind myself how blessed I am.

I live in the country hills of Upstate NY. When I look west from my deck I have a lovely view across the valley and surrounding hills. I spend my days writing freelance blog posts for a variety of companies while being kept company by animals. I don’t just mean my dog Jazzmin and two cats Avi and Owl. I mean the birds, bunnies, woodchucks and deer that live around me. When I don’t have my girls, I talk to either myself or the animals. I don’t say a lot out loud really but I’m constantly thinking.

The feathered and furry creatures I watch on my property and near my house on a daily basis are the friends and family I see the most. As I sit at my desk I watch the male and female bluebirds make the rounds around my house going from front wire to side wire, to tree tops and back again getting worms and bugs for their newly hatched babies.

Male bluebird on my pear tree

Male bluebird on my pear tree

Male bluebird on the wire

Male bluebird on the wire

The tree swallows are swooping through the air all day long catching bugs for their babies and sometimes when one of them and the male bluebird sit upon the same wire, a brief and nasty bird fight ensues.

Tree swallow on the wire

Tree swallow on the wire

Swallow on the left, bluebird on the right. Shortly before the ruckus

Swallow on the left, bluebird on the right. Shortly before the ruckus

I hung two hummingbird feeders on the swing outside the window closest to my desk and the adorable swift-winged birds visit several times a day. Even when I’m typing away I hear their approach, their wings buzzing in a sound like an oversize bumblebee. I then stop my work and turn to watch one of them as he sips.

I have at least two ruby-throated hummingbirds and while they never drink at the same time, they visited today at the same time. One waited on the wire while the other drank.

One hummingbird on my swing frame, the other waiting on the wire

One hummingbird on my swing frame, the other waiting on the wire

I think they’re both males because they sometimes take off in furious flights, their long beaks reminiscent of swords and their face-offs reminding me of the beginning of fencing matches. One or both of them is even brave enough to visit the feeder when I’m standing out on the deck. I never knew they made little squeaking chirping noises until I was able to be this close to them. They truly are amazing creatures!

Hummingbird perched on my feeder

Hummingbird perched on my feeder

Hummingbird drinking

Hummingbird drinking

Hummingbird flying

Hummingbird flying

Hummingbird on the wire

Hummingbird on the wire

In the evening, I often see a bunny or two hopping around the yard. Yesterday a baby bunny hopped out from behind my shed and did some awkward hops before bravely venturing out further into the grass.

Resident bunny

Resident bunny

Another resident bunny

Another resident bunny

Babies are being born and hatching all around my property and I can hear the baby bluebirds chirping in the birdhouse at the back of my property all the way from my kitchen window. After dinner tonight I watched a mother robin and her baby hop around my back yard, the baby chirping as it followed its mother around and eagerly accepting the worms she yanked out of the ground for him.

Mama robin and her fledgling

Mama robin and her fledgling

This afternoon on my way into town, I saw two small brown animals playing around the yellow line in the road in front of me. As I drove closer, I realized they were baby woodchucks/groundhogs. There was no one else on the road so I stopped my car, put on my flashers and got out to shoo the little rascals out of the road. They didn’t move quickly but they did eventually get over into the grassy shoulder. When I tried to shoo them further into the tall grass, one of them actually ventured closer to me and I said to him “I’m not your mama, baby. Go find your mama.” I do wonder where their mother was…

The baby woodchuck/groundhog that came toward me

The baby woodchuck/groundhog that came toward me

I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I have so much interaction with the animals around me. Far too many humans have lost touch with nature and forgotten the fact that we’re all connected. I never forget our connection, I feel it every day and do my best to reflect the positive energy I receive from my feathered and furry friends and family. Beautiful things happen every day when you slow down, take a breath and open your eyes, ears, mind, heart and spirit.

Creating beyond words

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I’ve been swamped with freelance writing work this week and that’s a very good thing! By the end of the day, I’m mentally exhausted and my ability with words nearly depleted. That’s when I busy my fingers with enjoyable endeavors beyond the keyboard and start playing with clay. Eventually my creative experimentation will evolve into more polished pieces but for now, it’s just a meditative process and a constructive way to recharge my imaginative energy.

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