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.

Wrong forecast, right day

spring dawn by JulieAnn Corbin

For the past few weeks if the forecast calls for overcast skies and/or rain, it’s pretty certain it will be overcast and/or rain. Even if the forecast doesn’t call for such conditions, it’s pretty certain they’ll arrive. Yesterday the forecast said fog in the morning then clearing and becoming mostly sunny. Well, it was certainly foggy in the morning but it never really cleared and I can count the times I saw the sun through the clouds on one hand. On top of that, the predicted high was 55 and it only got up to 46. I was rather bummed because I really wanted to see the sun after days of cloudiness and rain.

I didn’t have much hope for seeing the sun today as when I checked the forecast last night it was predicting rain and clouds all day long. However, when I woke up this morning, the sky appeared brighter than usual and lo and behold, when I looked out the window, I could see the sun! I was so happy I almost did a little dance! I managed to control myself though and went about the usual morning duties of waking the girls, making their breakfasts, packing their lunches and seeing them safely on the bus to school. You can bet I was smiling the whole time though!

plum tree in country by JulieAnn Corbin

Plum tree, my back yard and the farmer’s field beyond.

After I did a couple freelance blog posts, the clouds had returned but the forecast had changed from all day rain to chance of scattered thunderstorms. I considered that a vast improvement! As it wasn’t raining yet when I finished my work, I decided to tackle cleaning up and arranging my backyard bird oasis. I started the bird oasis two springs ago and every year it’s in the same spot, but always a little different. I put a little fence up around my bird feeder poles and I set planters of flowers around them with a fountain/bird bath in there somewhere.

After mowing the grass that had grown a foot tall around the formerly fenced border of the bird oasis, I then arranged the area, put the little fence pieces back in the ground and filled the fountain/bird bath. Unfortunately, when I turned the fountain on, it didn’t work so I’ll need to buy a new pump to get it running again. Not a big issue and the fountain can serve as a water holder for now. True to form, I hung my bird feeders, crouched down to fix a few things and then stood up whacking my head on the bottom of one of the feeders. I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do that at least once and it’s usually more than once…

backyard bird oasis by JulieAnn Corbin

Needs a few more flowers and feeders but otherwise good!

I usually move all of my bird feeders off the deck and into the backyard bird oasis, but I’ve grown so fond of watching the birds out my desk window that I’ll be leaving some on my deck this year. That means I have to get a few more for the oasis, but there are two hanging back there now and the finches have already found them and started feasting.

Once the bird oasis was arranged, I had some lunch and then took Jazz for our daily walk. The sun popped out a few times as we walked, which helped warm the day up further. After the walk I eagerly spread the comforter out on my deck swing, grabbed my beading supplies and settled out on the swing to focus on beading up flower earrings. I hooked Jazzmin up to the lead I attached to the deck and as it’s long enough for her to sit in the grass next to the driveway, she happily stayed there watching for squirrels.

Beading on that swing with the birds eating at the nearby feeders and Jazz on squirrel patrol nearby is one of my new favorite past times and I beaded away blissfully for a couple hours until I realized it was past dinner time. I wasn’t especially hungry yet, but I figured Jazz was so I brought her inside and got her dinner before assembling my own. Once I was done eating, I was back out on the swing, refusing to waste a single moment of warmth and periodic sunshine after being trapped inside for so many days lately.

beaded flowers by JulieAnn Corbin

My beaded flowers and new bead mail. Tons of happiness!

Eventually the sky turned rather dark, the temperature dropped and it started to sprinkle as a little rain cloud passed over so I decided it was time to call it a day and head inside the house. I took my beads inside and then went back out to fold up the comforter to bring inside and I realized that my cheeks were sore because I’d been smiling so much while I was beading. My mind, body and spirit had really needed the warmer temperatures, sunshine and fresh air that I got a huge dose of today and although the forecast had been wrong, the day had gone very right!

The Power of Sitting Still

downy woodpecker by JulieAnn Corbin

Yesterday was a bright, beautiful, sunny spring day so I decided to sit out on my deck swing in the afternoon. The swing is rather large and can fold down flat into a bed, something I used to do more often when I wanted to take naps outside on nice days. The swing was a Mother’s Day gift many years ago when I was still married and although it wasn’t easy to relocate from my ex’s house to mine, I wasn’t about to leave it behind.

Due to daily assault from sun, wind, rain and sometimes snow, I’ve already had to replace the seat cushion and the original canopy ripped through a couple years’ ago. The current seat cushion is starting to rip too so I cover it with a bedspread when I sit out there and a few days ago I had the clever idea of using plastic tablecloths as a new canopy. I’ve used a sheet in the past but that doesn’t keep the rain off if it’s sprinkling lightly and I want to stay outside, but the plastic tablecloths offer some protection, come in various colors and patterns and are easy to replace when they wear out. Jordan helped me put on the two new plastic tablecloths I purchased from the dollar store yesterday and I attached them to the canopy frame with some tablecloth clips and duct tape. Never underestimate the power of ingenuity and duct tape!

After placing a nice, thick, seashell-themed bedspread on the slightly ripped seat cover, I sat down on my swing and enjoyed the gentle rocking motion in the warm sunshine. I had a small notebook with me to jot down ideas for my jewelry designs and business plan and so I opened that up and started writing things out in cursive. I usually print my writing, but I periodically write in cursive so I don’t lose a writing ability that schools don’t seem to want to teach anymore. Both my printing and cursive are nearly impossible to read because I’m left handed and my teachers didn’t know how to teach a lefty, but I can usually decipher it or make it more legible when I write slower.

As I was writing, I started hearing little scraping sounds on the deck railing and I looked up to see a downy woodpecker hop-flying from one railing post to the next in an effort to creep closer to the suet feeder without me noticing. I have the frame from a child-size cushioned swing on my deck and although the seat part is gone, I hang bird feeders from the frame so I can see the birds when I looked out the window next to my desk. My cats love sitting on top of the bookshelf by that window to watch “Bird TV” too.

Sitting on the deck mere feet from the feeders, I continued to watch the male downy with his spot of red on the back of his head and I remained very still as I watched. He eventually felt confident enough to fly to the suet and begin eating and I smiled, happy to be able to watch a bird so closely.

A few minutes later Jaycie came outside and wanted to sit in the swing with me. She sat down next to me and I told her that if she sat very still, the woodpecker or other birds might come back and eat. Although Jaycie managed to sit quiet and still for a few minutes, no birds came to the feeders and she eventually grew bored and went down the deck steps to swing on the swing set (her favorite outdoor activity.) I didn’t really expect my 9 year old to be patient enough to wait for birds, but I’m sure someday she’ll appreciate the merit of sitting still.

Eventually Jaycie went back inside the house and I remained on the swing, writing in my little notebook. The longer I sat there, the more comfortable all sorts of birds became with me and within an hour, there were chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, goldfinches, purple finches, blue jays, and downy woodpeckers frequenting the feeders. A pair of cardinals flew into the nearby trees, but they weren’t brave enough to come to the feeders and the male chose to sit in a branch and scold me for daring to sit near his feeders.

Although I wasn’t sitting perfectly motionless because I continued to write in my notebook, the birds were no longer as afraid of me and I could quietly observe them as they came and went from the feeders. Chickadees are by far the bravest birds and a couple of them came to the feeder hanging on the big swing frame within arm’s reach of where I sat. Someday I hope the chickadees trust me enough to eat from my hands, but that hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure with patience and perseverance, it will.

sparrow goldfinch and nuthatch by JulieAnn Corbin

Goldfinch on top left feeder, sparrow on middle blue feeder and nuthatch on deck below feeders.

Sitting still on a swing may seem like a waste of time to some people who feel the need to always be on the go, but to me it’s a necessity. I need my quiet time in nature to recharge my spirit and refocus my energy. Moreover, I was still being productive as I worked on ideas for my jewelry and practiced the dying art of cursive. You don’t always have to be moving and in a rush to accomplish great things, sometimes taking some time to sit still can carry you further on your journey than you imagine.

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!

New feathered residents

image

Waxwing (Silkitoppa)-3-E by Sindri Skúlason via Pinterest

For the several days I’ve been seeing cedar waxwings in the trees of my front yard. I love the colors of these birds and how dedicated they are to eating berries so I was quite happy to discover that they’re moving into my property.

I don’t have any ripe berries at the moment, but the black raspberries will be plentiful soon and I’m sure the waxwings and I will be competing to pick them. I’m not worried though, I’m sure there will be enough for all of us and I certainly don’t mind giving up some sweet berries in exchange for some new feathered residents. =)

Counting Hawks

red tailed hawk in flight

Ever since my father died in 2009, I’ve paid close attention to the sky. I think of him and miss him every time I see the moon because it was special to both of us. Sometimes when I see it in the sky I say, “Hey, Dad” and smile because I know he’s listening.

I also look to the sky for something else: hawks. For me, hawks are a sign that my father, my ancestors, and the universe are watching over me, guiding me, and helping me on my path. I often ask to see a hawk sitting or flying as an answer to a specific question or problem I’m having and quite often, I see the hawk in response. Sometimes I see hawks when I’m feeling especially down and just the sight of their powerful, regal, feathered form is enough to reassure me that the universe hasn’t abandoned me.

While I’ve paid closer attention to seeing hawks and purposely started looking for them over the past few years, it wasn’t until last spring that I decided to start counting how many I see a day. I tend to see more when I’m out driving, but there are days when they fly right over my front yard at the exact moment I look out the window and to me, that’s never coincidence. In the summer when I’m working at my desk, I have the window next to me open and I quite often hear a hawk cry in the sky and I then go dashing out onto my deck. When I look up, I quickly see the hawk (sometimes there’s more than one) and I thank them for making themselves known to me.

In my years of hawk spotting, I’ve learned to tell the difference between hawks, crows, and turkey vultures. They each have a unique shape, size and style of flying. While many people seem to mistake turkey vultures for eagles due to their size, I know by now that most clusters of broad-winged, soaring birds in this region are turkey vultures. It’s amazing what one can learn just by looking up into the sky every day.

I see the highest number of hawks when I’m driving out to New England on my road trips. I’m sure that has to do with it being an almost 7-hour drive over 420 miles, much of it through heavily treed and hilly terrain. Last summer, the most hawks I saw was around 20 during the drive out with my girls in August for our vacation on Plum Island. Seeing 20 hawks felt pretty impressive to me and I figured that was probably the highest number I’d ever see. My most recent trip to New England proved me wrong.

As I headed out last Wednesday morning to drop Jazzmin at the boarders before getting on the thruway, I didn’t see any hawks until I realized I’d forgotten my ticket to the MCNAA Anniversary Dinner and turned around to return home. Shortly after I turned onto my unexpected detour home, I saw a hawk sitting in a tree and I knew that for whatever reason, I was meant to go back home. Later on in that same return trip home I drove by an open field and saw three hawks circling together above it. I’m certain that my unexpected delay happened for a reason and that it was protecting me from something that would’ve happened if I’d remembered the ticket and not had to double back.

Once I had the ticket, I headed back out, dropped Jazzmin off, grabbed my usual Dunkin Donuts coffee and breakfast sandwich, and got onto the thruway heading east. Shortly after I merged into traffic, a great blue heron flew lazily above me and I took that as a good omen that I was heading out at just the right time. Within a half hour of driving, I saw my first hawk and the counting continued.

I drive past Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge on my trip and while I usually see geese, ducks, and perhaps a heron, I’ve never seen anything that I couldn’t see just by looking out my back window at home. As I neared the refuge, I saw a bird with a large wing span fly over the overpass, through the trees and into the refuge area and I thought at first that it was a heron. Driving closer, I realized it didn’t have the long neck of a heron and I could tell by the way that it was flying that it wasn’t a turkey vulture either. Much to my thrilled amazement, I realized by its wing span and shape that it was an eagle of some type, either a golden eagle or a juvenile bald eagle because they look very similar (bald eagles don’t get their full adult plumage including white heads until around 5 years old). It flew majestically over the thruway as I passed under it and I felt truly blessed to have seen it!

With my spirits newly lifted, I continued my hawk counting and by the time I reached my hotel in New Hampshire, the final number was astounding. I’d seen 61 hawks that drive! They’d been sitting on poles, in tree branches, and soaring through the sky throughout the drive, sometimes in groups of up to three hawks. It was a lovely, mostly sunny day so I’m sure it was great for hunting but in all my trips out there since I started counting, I’d never seen so many! I took that number as an extremely positive sign and seeing the eagle was an added bonus!

I continued to count daily hawks while visiting New England and there was only one day when I didn’t see any hawks. It was an especially dreary, snowy day so I don’t blame the hawks for seeking shelter out of sight. I counted hawks on my drive home and I’m sure I missed some while I was navigating Monday morning traffic, but I counted 15 by the time I was almost at the exit for Canandaigua.

When I neared the exit I said aloud “If I see one more hawk that will make it 16, the reverse of the 61 I saw on the way out.” As I entered the exit and began to loop around, I spotted a red-tailed hawk flying up from the ground and just as I neared, he flew up and landed atop one of the directional signs pointing around the bend. If I needed proof that the universe was always listening to me, I received it quite vividly in that moment! I was so grateful and pleased that I smiled, laughed, and thanked the universe for my unfailingly faithful feathered guides and guardians.

An inspirational beginning

winter rainbow

There are two rainbow pieces in the sky, one on either side of the sun. My phone camera didn’t do it justice.

I went to bed around 9 p.m. last night and while I was awake briefly around midnight, I didn’t turn the TV on to watch the ball drop. The New Year began without me needing to watch a countdown and I was happier warm and asleep than awake and staring at a TV screen.

I lingered in bed this morning until the sun started peeking through my curtains and Jazzmin’s pathetic eyes finally convinced me to get up and take her outside. The kittens were content to cover me with their furry bodies and try to keep me in bed, but I slid out from underneath their sleeping bag warmth and began my day.

There were some freelance projects in need of my attention so I completed them by the afternoon. The WeatherBug app on my phone told me it was 18 out with a wind chill that made it feel like six and I didn’t envision Jazzmin and I walking in that. Even so, I decided I’d at least take her out with me to get the mail and once outside, I realized it wasn’t quite as frigid as it had been in the morning.

While I successfully posted a blog post every single day in December of 2014, I was unable to stick to my vow of walking Jazzmin every day. I couldn’t walk her while I was sick and getting back out in the cold lost its appeal after that. Regardless, I realized I really needed to start 2015 off right with some sort of walk, so I saddled up Jazz with her backpack and booties and dressed myself in warm clothing.

Despite the wind whipping about, the sun was out and somehow that helped combat the chilly temperatures. I decided we’d take the walk up an adjacent road to a certain black mailbox because it was a bit longer distance than we’d gone on since I recovered from being sick.

As we walked down the first little hill, a hawk alighted from the branches and flew across the road a ways in front of us. That’s always a good sign and told me that walking had been the right decision. We were making our way up the next hill when I just happened to glance to the right and see a raptor flying over the trees. I paused to watch him and figure out what exactly he was (I wasn’t sure if it was a hawk of bald eagle after the bald eagle appeared in my field) and as I watched, I saw a second raptor flying near the first. The way the sun was catching their wings and the distance between us made it difficult for me to determine if they were hawks or eagles and I believe I expressed my confusion aloud.

Much to my amazement, the two raptors immediately started soaring closer to me, as if they’d heard me wonder what kind they were. As one drew close enough, I realized he was indeed a red-tailed hawk and I watched with wide eyes as he flew right above me and then across the road. His companion called to him from a bit further back and while she never came as close to me as the first, she came close enough to show me that she was a red-tailed hawk too. I was so astounded by their behavior that I never thought to get my phone out and try to take a picture. My phone’s camera wouldn’t have done them justice anyway and I think it was far more important that I enjoyed the moment.

Elated by the experience, I continued the last bit to the mailbox and then turned Jazz back around toward home. As I turned to look toward the sun, I received yet another surprise as I saw a small piece of rainbow in the bright halo around the sun. I then saw a second piece of rainbow in the sky on the other side of the sun and I’m certain that my joyful smile was bright enough to match that of the sunlight. I’ve seen a full circular rainbow around the sun before on cold winter days and I’ve also seen the little rainbow pieces as I saw today. Any type of rainbow is a positive sign and omen and considering that I’d noticed them right after the hawks, I felt doubly blessed!

There was a happy lightness in my step as we walked back toward home and Jazzmin was quite pleased to have gotten out for some exercise. I was a few strides from my driveway when I saw another hawk fly through the trees in the distance and my spirit lifted further at the sight of my fourth hawk on such a short walk. The powers that be were determined to start this year by reminding me that I’m never alone and to inspire me as I continue the ever-predictable and wonderful journey of life.

Whoa! I should have worn a sweatshirt!

This was one of the really windy spots on this afternoon's walk.

This was one of the really windy spots on this afternoon’s walk.

 

Sometimes things in my life don’t turn out as I hoped and I’m left feeling confused, disappointed, lost, and all sorts of less-than-positive emotions. The most effective way of dealing with such times in my life is to go for a nice, long walk! Honestly, any type of exercise can help create a more positive perspective because the endorphins start flowing and energy begins surging, but for me, walks work best!

As I took a rather short walk yesterday due to the cooler, more turbulent weather, I decided that today Jazzmin and I would take a nice loooong walk! Our long walk is a total of four miles and involves traveling all the way down to the local farmer’s huge storage barns, but I had a lot on my mind and I knew I had to work it all out with a properly exhausting walk. Sweet, lovable, loyal Jazzerboo would walk forever if I let her, but she’s limited to what her pack leader (me) can handle, so four miles is our longest walk (so far).

On this lovely autumn day, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was bright blue, and the wind was once again whipping across the hills. Even so, I thought I’d be warm enough in just shorts and a tank top. By the time we reached the end of my driveway I thought, “Hmm, I might want to put on a sweatshirt.” I then talked myself out of that by deciding the long walk would warm me up and I’d just end up tying the sweatshirt around my waste. I was wrong!

While I usually break a sweat on longer walks, it wasn’t even possible today because the wind cooled off my body before it could get hot. After we crested the tallest hill, I was tired but not hot, my arms and legs had goosebumps, and I was feeling rather numb.

Scolding myself for not wearing a sweatshirt, I continued on the walk and looked forward to the areas where trees bordered the road. Usually I like those spots because the tree shade cools me from the sun, but today I loved them because the trees blocked the wind! Wherever the road was open to farmer’s fields and treeless hills, the breeze blew so strong that I’d see tumbleweeds roll across in front of us. The wind was so strong that butterflies were struggling to stay on course, turkey vultures were having a ball kiting through the air, and leaves were flying off the trees!

One of the upsides of being so chilly was that I was walking rather briskly because I was eager to return home and swim in some hot coffee! While on the walk, I rescued five wooly bear caterpillars and a praying mantis from certain death beneath car wheels. I also saw a merlin, a hawk, and three monarch butterflies. The monarch sightings were a pleasant surprise because I thought it was too cold and windy for any of the lovely orange and black butterflies to be up north still.

When Jazzmin and I returned home over an hour after leaving, we were both quite pleased with ourselves. Jazzmin was pleased because she’d sniffed out every squirrel, deer, raccoon, and chipmunk that had ever crossed the road and I was happy because I’d worked off my negative feelings and replaced them with positivity and hope. There’s no denying the benefits of walking because I experience them first hand whenever I take Jazz out. Even on days when I just want to crawl back into bed and nap because I’m feeling down, I’ve discovered that going for a walk helps my attitude do a complete 180 spin into happier, more upbeat and perfectly positive feelings. I’m also positively feeling that I really need to wear a coat next time it’s as cool and windy as it was today!

Things that make you go “Awww!” in the night

Red and gray Eastern Screech-Owls

For the past couple months, when full dark has fallen, I’ve been periodically hearing a very cute sort of cooing whinnying call coming from the trees that border the huge farmer’s field behind my house. I’d done a few Google searches for things like “cooing sounds at night” and all that led me to was mourning doves. I have mourning doves flying all over my yard, I call them flying battleships, and I know quite well what they sound like. Not to mention that mourning doves are not nocturnal.

My next thought was that it was some type of owl I was hearing at night, but when I went to sights like AllAboutBirds and Audubon, none of the sounds I listened to was what I’d heard. I was beginning to think I’d never know what creature was making that noise.

Last night I heard the sound again when I took Jazzmin out for the last time until the morning. I listened to it very carefully to memorize it and because I just love the way it sounds! This morning I did another Google search for “cute cooing sounds at night” and that led me to a discussion board. On the discussion board, someone included a link to a site called eNature. I’d never visited that particular site before so I clicked on the link and scrolled down until I found the link for owl sounds.

I clicked through the first few owls listed but none of them sounded right. Finally, I clicked on the one labeled Eastern Screech-Owl and the sound was exactly what I’d been hearing! I was so happy I actually giggled and did a little chair dance! I love owls and to discover that the mystery sound belonged to an adorable little feathered friend made my morning!

Reading about Eastern Screech-Owls, I got a warm fuzzy feeling when I learned that they usually mate for life. What a sweet idea! Knowing that the cute little 10-inch tall, feathered fluffballs are out in the trees fills me with an indescribable inner light and contentment. Their presence makes the things that go bump in the night a bit less scary because I know the scary stuff doesn’t stand a chance against so much awwwwdorableness!

New season, new outlook!


9 23 14 walk3

Today was the first day of my favorite season: autumn. I don’t particularly like the season that follows autumn but as I’m working on enjoying the present and focusing on the here and now, I’m not going to worry about that particular aspect of the future.

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous with a cloudless blue sky, gentle breeze and enough sunlight to banish the cooler temperatures of yesterday. Once I’d finished my morning freelance work, I grabbed Jazzmin and we headed out on our daily walk. As I was curious to see how quickly the trees were changing along the farmer’s road, we headed that direction at a brisk pace.

My pup and I had just turned the first corner when I spotted something small and bright green in the center of the closest lane. I peered closer, realized it was a praying mantis and quickly but gently picked him up out of the road. He was the first non-squished praying mantis I’ve seen this year and I was happy to help him travel safely across the road.

The moment I picked the mantis up, he pointed in the direction he wanted to go and I carried him there as he held firmly to my hand.

That way please, Miss!

That way please, Miss!

Now place me gently down there. Thank you!

Now place me gently down there. Thank you!

Once safely on the opposite side of the road, I gently set him down in the grassy shoulder and he quickly blended in with his surroundings. Pleased with another successful creature rescue, I led Jazz onward to the farmer’s access road to continue our walk.

Even though there wasn’t as much color change among the trees as I’d hoped, it was still a lovely walk among dragonflies, butterflies and birds.

9 23 14 walk5

 

Colorful vines climbing up the trees.

Colorful vines climbing up the trees.

A fallen oak branch filled with acorns.

A fallen oak branch filled with acorns.

This year has also been very good for grasshoppers and everywhere I walk, the ground springs to life as multiple grasshoppers jump swiftly out of my path. I tried to take a picture of the little bugs in action, but they were too fast!

I led Jazz to the end of the canopy of trees over the farmer’s road and up a bit further before turning off the gravel and onto a path of flattened grass created by the large tractors that mow those fields. We walked in the shade of the large trees along the path and paused by a rather large and obviously frequently-traveled deer path. I took a picture to capture the feel of the trees and shadows.

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After that, we stepped out of the shadows and cut across the grassy field toward the little pond we visited earlier in the week. As we approached, a handful of deer went bounding away from the water’s edge and quickly disappeared into the underbrush of the distant trees. A higher up motion caught my eye and I raised my gaze in time to see a hawk flying out from the trees beyond the pond. Wearing a huge smile, I watched as he soared along the tree line for a short way before swooping upward and out of sight over the treetops.

By the time we finished crossing the field, I think Jazz had smelled every animal that had ever traversed the grass. We walked along the far tree line as I searched the ground for red tail hawk feathers. I found a small turkey feather but alas, my hunt for red tail hawk feathers continues.

Turkey feather I found today.

Turkey feather I found today.

Jazzmin and I returned from our walk quite satisfied by the exercise and our adventures. She took a quick snooze while I showered and then it was off to pick up Jordan and continue the normal routine of the day.

This evening was just as beautiful as the day so my girls and I took a short walk up around the corner to the nearby stream. Jordan had a chance to practice her pack leader skills and I was pleased to see how well Jazzmin walked alongside my oldest daughter.

Jordan walking Jazzmin and Jaycie following behind.

Jordan walking Jazzmin and Jaycie following behind.

It was the perfect end to a perfect day, an ideal beginning to my favorite season, and an eye opening transition to a new perspective!

Autumn in Summer

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Today was a beautiful combination of summer weather and fall colors. A strong breeze made the warmer temperatures tolerable, golden sunlight streamed down, fluffy clouds floated swiftly along, and a bright blue sky created the perfect contrast to the sporadic flashes of autumn colors appearing in the trees. Jazzmin and I took full advantage of the perfect weather by taking a nice, long, semi-leisurely walk. I say semi-leisurely because Jazzmin doesn’t really have a “slow” speed so everything has to move at a decent power-walking pace. Even though I could slow her down if I wanted to, the pace is beneficial for both of us and we strut along side-by-side with her on my left as I keep my eyes peeled for oncoming cars.

The warmth of the sun today convinced me to seek a shady route for our walk. Since we were heading out at 2:30 p.m., the only viable option for shade from the sun’s angle was the farmer’s access road. The farmer’s road is one of my favorite walking routes because we never have to worry about other dogs and the only “traffic” is the occasional slow tractor that we can easily avoid. Along the road today, there were intriguing spots of bright red and warm orange among the tree leaves as well as numerous butterflies, dragonflies, and birds. I was happy to see and hear the bluebirds because I know it’s only a matter of time before they head south. I don’t blame them and I wish I could go with them but I’ll miss them when they’re gone.

When we reached the area where the farmer’s road opens up into multiple fields, I decided we’d walk up to the top of the nearest hill and then back down to investigate the little pond filled with cattails. The farmer very recently added fresh dirt to the road leading up the hill and it was well-packed but refreshingly comfortable under our feet. We walked until we reached the top of the hill and the end of the tree shade and then paused for a while so I could take in the view. Photos don’t really do the view justice but I took some anyway in an attempt to convey the vastness of the surrounding landscape.

 

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One of the fallen leaves. Note Jazz keeping watch nearby.

One of the fallen leaves. Note Jazz keeping watch nearby.

After we made it over to the little pond, I was pleasantly surprised to see a pair of redwing blackbirds flying among the cattails. I’d just been thinking the other day that I hadn’t seen any redwing blackbirds in a couple months and I’d wondered where they went. Apparently, they just become more particular about where they live once they’ve settled in for the season. Unfortunately, the cattails were too tall to see anything else through so we headed back toward the main road home.

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The little pond and the view beyond.

 

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One of the many monarchs we saw flying around the fields.

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Walking among the “tunnel of trees” on the farmer’s access road is one of my favorite experiences. It looks as though the path is endless even though I know there’s a paved road on one end and fields on the other. The canopy of branches and leaves gently falling down from them created a very serene feeling that I reveled in all the way back.

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Jazzmin and I had just turned the corner onto the road we live on when I heard a hawk cry from up in the sky. I looked up and saw not one, but two hawks circling above the trees to our right. I stopped in my tracks and watched them circle as they talked to each other amid lazy circles. Eventually they separated and I grabbed my camera again to see if I could capture one in flight. It’s no easy thing finding a distant hawk against a bright blue sky when looking into a camera viewfinder but I managed to spot him and snap a couple pictures. I then tucked my camera away and we continue down the road and into our driveway as I kept my eyes on his soaring form.

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The hawk flew south over my driveway and into the farmer’s field behind my house before disappearing beyond the treetops. I appreciated that he felt the need to make sure I got home safe and I imagine I’ll be seeing him again soon.

I do love autumn, it’s one of my favorite seasons, but I don’t mind when a bit of summer manages to sneak in before the end of its run. Every day with sunshine, warmth, changing leaves is a blessing and I’m going to revel in it as I try not to think about the less pleasant season that follows.

Keep looking up!

Hawk I saw soaring over the back field today.

Hawk I saw soaring over the back field today.

 

I knew it was going to be tricky balancing taking care of the girls, writing freelance and doing my college work but I wasn’t quite prepared for all that and the other unexpected challenges I’ve faced over the past week. Things that had been constants in my life became unpredictable and I dealt with the pain of loss in familiar, heart wrenching ways. The most important thing though is that I’m still here, still kicking, still fighting the good fight. I attribute that to my ability to keep looking up even when I’m on the ground.

Trying to read online text books and complete college assignments while I had the girls proved a mostly futile endeavor but I got everything done once they were back with their father. Then I was faced with the challenge of defining a thesis and writing an essay about it. I thought that would be relatively easy but I was wrong and I was left frustrated and doubting my abilities as a writer. I may never be great at thesis and essays but I know I’m a good writer. I was born to be a writer and I’m certain the challenge of college English will help me grow and strengthen my abilities.

I floundered a bit when contact with friends faltered and vanished but I knew they were facing their own challenges so I mustered my courage and marched onward. I know my mom and my girls are always there to cheer me on and support me but I still long for the social circle aspect of my life that has been missing since my divorce. I knew there would be a transition/adjustment period when my marriage ended but I didn’t expect to still be in it three years later.

I’ve definitely made progress in my different and better life but sometimes it’s tough to go it alone. Well, I’m not totally alone, my pup Jazzmin will be my shadow to the ends of the earth and beyond. I’m so lucky to have her in my life because she’ll never judge me or question my choices. She always sees the best in me and through her eyes I see what a kind-hearted human I am.

Jazzmin is great at making me smile and laugh!

Jazzmin is great at making me smile and laugh!

I’ve also started keeping a journal of all the positives things in my life and the positive omens and signs I see every day. Taking the time to write it all down every single day really put it all in perspective for me. I receive numerous positive messages every day and have more blessings than I can count. Focusing on the positive aspects of my life completely outshines any negativity I encounter and it gives me the strength to continue on my journey.

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As I said in the beginning of this, I keep looking up and I mean this literally. I’m always looking up toward the sky for signs and spirit guardians. Every day I see numerous little butterflies around my yard and at least a couple of monarchs. For several days in a row I’ve seen hawks soaring in the sky and they’ve gone out of their way to make sure I see them. The hawks have circled in front of my living room window, cast shadows in front trees so I’ll go outside and see them in the back field and flown directly over me during walks with Jazzmin.

A quick online search reveals various meanings behind seeing a hawk but I believe that they’re guardians and guides from the spirit world sent to remind me to see the world with a wider vision. I tend to become too focused on small issues without having patience and faith in the bigger picture. When I see a hawk, I’m filled with a sense of calm and of knowing that everything will be okay. Whether the hawk is soaring or sitting atop a tree or pole, I’m aware of their watchful eye and I’m filled with reassurance that I’ll always be on the right path as long I keep looking where I want to go: up!

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When you know the song…

One of my bluebirds on their favorite pine tree perch.

One of my bluebirds on their favorite pine tree perch.

Growing up, I remembering marveling at how much my dad knew about life, the universe and everything. I couldn’t comprehend how he held all that knowledge in his head. While I don’t know the same information he did, I have my own library of knowledge in my head and it’s constantly expanding.

One of the mental encyclopedias I’m most fond and proud of is the one containing my ability to recognize a bird by the sound of their song. As long as I’ve seen the bird before and either heard it singing or listened to its song online, I can usually recognize it when I’m outside. When I know the song, I know the bird and it’s a musical reminder that I’m never alone.

Some days when I walk Jazzmin I hear a variety of songs, while other days I hear only a couple. Last week I took her on a short walk and the only song I heard was from the Eastern Bluebirds. I walked down a total of three roads and on each of them was a pair of bluebirds singing to each other. I hadn’t realized how many bluebirds were around where I lived until I knew their song so well from hearing it coming from the ones in my own yard. I like their song, it sounds  very calm and cheerful to me.

Another favorite bird song of mine is the one sung by the Eastern Towhee. I rarely see these birds but I hear them on almost every walk. Their song is unmistakable and resembles a melodic “drink your tea!” that’s warbly and sweet. I enjoy the songs of the cardinals too and find them as pretty as the birds themselves.

While I appreciate all of my feathered family and friends, some of their songs aren’t exactly what I want to hear at 5 a.m. Like this morning when the House Wren and Great Crested Flycatcher were both tittering away in the pine tree by my bedroom window. I’ve learned to sleep through the robins at 4 a.m. and grown accustomed to the cardinals too but other songs jolt me awake. Perhaps the birds have caught on to this and send different singers near my window to help me “rise and shine.”

Happy Humming Wings

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One of my best hummingbird pictures so far.

I’m always ecstatic the first time I see a ruby throated hummingbird zip by me in the spring. If the adorable little turbo wing flappers believe it’s warm enough to return north, then surely spring has arrived!

I hung the hummingbird feeder in my bird oasis, filled it with store-bought nectar and would periodically see the adorable quicksilver flyers stop by for a drink. I eventually decided that one feeder just wasn’t enough and hung two in the bird oasis. When I hung the second one with perches, I attracted a Baltimore oriole much to my surprise!

A Baltimore oriole drinking from my hummingbird feeder

A Baltimore oriole drinking from my hummingbird feeder

As I don’t spend my days at the kitchen window, I then decided to hang a couple hummingbird feeders on the frame of my deck swing. The swing sits right outside the window beside my desk and the idea of seeing the adorable flying darlings that close was exciting for me. I also started making my own nectar with two cups of water and 1/4 cup sugar that I heated up in the microwave until the sugar dissolved. Within a few hours of hanging the feeders on the swing, I had a hummingbird drinking from them!

Wanting to see the happy hummers better, I bought a new feeder that’s flying saucer shaped because then I can see better without the nectar tank blocking my view. The hummingbirds weren’t sure of it at first but now they love it!

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hummer flying1

 

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I have two hummingbirds that I know of. One is brave enough to sit on the perches and drink but doesn’t visit often and the other visits every 5-10 minutes but has yet to rest on a perch. I have the window by my desk open and both little guys (I know they’re males because of their ruby throats) make little squeaking noises so I know when they’ve arrived. The one that never lands has grown so accustomed to my presence that he even comes to drink when I’m standing out on my deck or sitting in the swing. He’s not real sure of me so he’ll drink, fly up to look at me and back again until he’s temporarily satisfied and flies off.

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flying hummer2

I refresh the nectar every couple of days and try to do it early enough in the morning to beat his arrival. I didn’t quite make it this morning and he came looking for the feeder just as I was filling it inside. He flew around where it had been hanging, obviously very confused and then flew off. I quickly went out and hung the freshly filled feeder and within a few minutes he was back and happily drinking.

It’s impossible not to smile when I see a hummingbird. No matter what kind of day I’ve been having, the moment I see and hear the little buzzing birds, I smile so wide it probably lights up the room. I even smile when I see them sitting on the wires in front of my house as one is right this very minute…oops! The other one just came and a chase ensued. Well I’m sure they’ll sort it out and come to eat and be the happy little hummers that brighten my days!

 

Feathered and furry, friends and family

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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.