Essence of a Holiday

Less than two days after my most recent post, I got a Christmas wish!cropped-santa-up-close.jpg

My son and I had a great day together!

We had a late start, but when we did make it out, the traffic was gone for the evening and we made it to the electronics store where we purchased him his first Tablet.  He’s so excited!

We stopped for lunch at one of my favorite local restaurants in the center of Chapel Hill.

Strangely, when we approached the street-corner, a hawk that looked the same as the Red-shouldered one that lives in my little corner of the world, flew through the intersection in the sidewalk’s path!

I couldn’t believe my eyes!  That hawk was flying about five or six feet above the ground in plain sight.  People were walking by, but nobody seemed to notice the hawk but me, which I thought was odd.

There is no way I can prove things that feel more than random or meaningful in a mystical way, but I admit to thinking that perhaps the hawk is helping me.

Life has been mostly difficult for me over the past couple of years.  A good day with my son came as a true blessing and desperately, what I needed.

I feel like my body is falling apart and perhaps, the way I had my life organized already has, but my spirit is strong and awareness is intact.

Nature helps me survive the hardest of times.

I’ve watched the Red-shouldered hawk since early Autumn.  The majestic bird perches close to my door on nearby electric lines.  I can get closer than I ever imagined I would to a hawk!  Honestly, I feel that if I got closer, I would disturb the animal’s hunting endeavors, but wow!  What a great bird to hang out with!

Since I haven’t been able to blog regularly or read other blogs, then sharing with you the beauty and interesting parts of my natural world is a way I can communicate.

Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope you have a peaceful holiday.

A Holiday Season for the Birds

“We missed you at the dinner,” my mother said.

“I missed being there,” I replied, sincerely.

We let the sadness sit in silence for a moment.

I’ve missed so many important occasions over the past decade.

Family reunions, weddings, birthdays, baby showers and this year, our Christmas gathering, have all happened without me.

Mother always tells me who showed up and gives me bits of updates on my loved ones.  Loved ones I’ve lost contact with, except through photos or indirect stories.

I’m trying not to let things get me down this holiday season, but so far, it is a huge challenge.

Not only am I in more pain from fibromyalgia and a few new ailments too, my son and I are not getting along.  It’s a double dose of holiday grief!

While talking with Mother about the Christmas gathering that I wasn’t able to attend, I immediately felt my heart-strings pull.  My efforts to be positive seemed to pay off because right away I decided to try and take joy in her account of the gathering.  I was surprised when soon I was smiling, as I imagined one of my great nieces bringing one of her cousins five wrapped presents.

“I don’t know if she got the other ones anything, but she sure had five,” Mother said, with that pure joy a Great-Grandmother has.  “She had every one of them wrapped too,” she added with a little laugh.

After a few minutes into the conversation, I walked to the window where I could see a flock of Robins in the yard. They love the grassy lawn where I live and they are spectacular to see!  They always seem to come when the light shows their silhouettes under the Sycamore tree.  Many of them move toward my door, and I get to see them up close and personal as they lean in towards the ground, turning their heads slightly, listening for earthworms.

Robin listening for worms

The Robin Listens

“Hey Mother!  The Robins are here!”

I’ve told her about the Robins before.

Amidst the flock were other birds about the same size as Robins, but with black with golden stripes.  One or two had iridescent blue heads, so perhaps they were young Common Grackles.

Sometimes, when I mention the birds in my yard over the phone to people, they’re silent for a moment afterward.  I always wonder if they think I’m making up these tales of many birds!

Mother was quiet for a moment, but then she remarked that I should, “send a photo to that wildlife magazine.”

I wish I could.  I wish I could, if for no other reason than to make her proud.  She would be happy to see one of my photos in a magazine.

I’m in pain and can’t sit long enough to complete even the most simplest of photo projects.

“Now,” I started telling my bird tales again, “there are Black-capped Chickadees, two or three bluejay, some Orioles, and the Hawk has landed on the ground!”

As if that wasn’t enough, a flock of Cardinals were perched on the bushes by the treeline!

“It’s a winged-oasis out there!” I told Mother.  “It’s so beautiful!”

I didn’t have the energy to go outside to take a photo.  At least, not yet.

I was happy to see the pretty winged visitors, as always, but when I’m feeling unusually blue, I am especially grateful because the beauty and life they bring lifts a part of my spirit every time.

I sensed my mother knew, or somehow, she could feel what I saw.

Mother and I have always had a connection on a level other than this physical one that we can see and understand.

Our talk ended when my son called.  “I hope he’ll stay and have the chocolate croissants with me,” I remarked to Mother.

He’s in the habit of taking food that I cooked to his apartment to eat.  He won’t visit me at home or talk to me much lately.

The hawk was still on the ground when my son arrived.  A neighbor walked by and we each watched the bird for a few minutes.

He was excited over the beautiful pastries and gave me a hug, thanking me for baking them, but he took his croissants and headed back home.  I was disappointed, but at least I knew he would enjoy them and that gave me comfort.

Practicing gratitude helps me get through hard times, even if the feeling only last for a little while.  I need to remember the better times and keep hope alive.

I’m glad for the ability to enjoy the natural world around me.  The wild ones keep coming back, so I have plenty of chances to take in nature’s beauty!

The hawk was still in the yard when my son left, but was perched on the electric wires.

I reached for my Canon!

The Red-shouldered hawk and that streak of beautiful Carolina sky!

Getting closer to the red-shouldered hawk

“How close are you going to get?”

Red-shouldered hawk perched on wire in backyard

“That’s Close Enough.”

Thank you for visiting my blog, dogkisses.

Peace and Happy Holidays!

Your blogger, Michelle.

Coloring my World

It’s hard to live your life in color, and tell the truth in black and white. (Gregg Allman)

The Eastern Bluebird!

Backyard Birding in CarolinaI don’t think nature gets better than in the beauty of the Eastern Bluebird!

The little one in the above photo showed up in my yard with four or five more of the pretty blue beauties.  I reached for my Canon right away!

Differentiating between the male and female is somewhat challenging to me.

“Marvelous birds to capture in your binoculars, male Eastern Bluebirds are a brilliant royal blue on the back and head, and warm red-brown on the breast. Blue tinges in the wings and tail give the grayer females an elegant look.”  (Eastern Bluebird, Identification, All About Birds – Cornell lab of Ornithology).

Once in a while, when I have the energy, I practice photographing my winged friends in flight, which is a fun challenge, but not one I’ve mastered.

Eastern Bluebird landing on feeder

Winged in Blue, at the favorite feeder.

Fatigue has been a consistent companion since I moved to town in the beginning of 2014.  Taking photographs and uploading them to my computer meet my current energy limitations, but I enjoy browsing through the pictures.

I also enjoy recalling how I felt while taking a particular photograph.  The Eastern Bluebird’s backyard visit was exciting.   Watching them is a special time when nature is coloring my world.

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds foraging in grass and leaves.

Blue-Winged, Backyard Beauties!

I hope you’ve enjoyed a look at the Eastern Bluebird from my wild corner of town.

Thank you for visiting my blog, dogkisses!

RX: Notice Nature

I live in one wild corner!

Our newest wild resident is a deer.

She’s a brave young Momma and struts around like she owns the place!  Her territorial behavior makes me a little nervous.  In the photo below, she’s only a few feet from my door.  I stay back, keep my distance and she looks over at me from time to time, I guess checking to see if I’m still there.  After all, this is her new home and maybe in her mind, I am the resident human, who she thinks acts a little weird.

the young mother deer hangs around the yard

MY Home!

A few nights back, a neighbor knocked on my door.  She looked rather stunned.  I stepped outside.

First, she pointed at the deer standing close to us.

“Oh my!”  I gasped.

The deer was closer than usual!

We’ve become used to the deer and its territorial antics, but we had never seen it come for a sleepover right outside our doors, which is exactly what the deer did.

The neighbor pointed to our right and in a slight voice, suggesting she was taken by all the wild activity going on, she said, “The owls are here too.”

Two Barred Owls were perched under the street light on the electrical wires behind our building.  Oh, we’ve seen them before, both day and night, but lately, we’ve heard them too!

The owls were making a sort of hissing sound.  I’d heard the nightly noise for about ten days, but I wasn’t sure of the source. 

Barred Owls make several sounds other than the most known call (hoot), that can sound like they’re saying, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” 

I think the hissing sound we heard was from a fledgling.  The timing makes sense, because I heard the Barred Owls mating in springtime.

The hissing is a mysterious sound, and I think it’s a bit eerie for some people, but I love the owls and their presence is soothing.

Some people are afraid of owls.  Others say seeing one is a bad omen.

I respect the owl and feel protected when they come around.  Owls eat snakes, mice and rats.  They watch the darkness and alert their mate or youngsters (and me), of unusual intruders.

If you’d like to see the Barred Owl and hear the hissing sound, here is a video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on YouTube:

My neighbor and I stood together for a few more minutes in the wild of our otherwise pretty normal residential neighborhood.  We watched and listened.  The owls were successfully hunting.  The deer was cozy in the corner of the yard.

OUR BEAUTIFUL RESIDENT BARRED OWL

Barred Owl hunting in daylight in North Carolina Town

Perched Above Creek

The air was thick with wild.

“I also saw a big snake on my walk home,” my neighbor added.  “I think it was a Copperhead.”

Our wild backyard scenario was becoming more interesting by the second!

Barred Owls at Night

To our left, the Barred Owls hunt

wildlife comes to camp

To our right, the deer prepares for bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank goodness, I don’t have a photo of the snake!  I’d rather they are not seen by me.

 

Nature is very much alive where I live and the residents do take notice.  Every neighbor I’ve talked with mentions something about the natural environment around here, usually pointing out one creature or another.  The children seem to like the turtles and the adults often mention the Great Blue Heron. 

A sense of community can be felt in our common awe, interest or simple excitement, inspired by the wild things that live amongst us.

Seeing the owls during the day (and capturing a few photos), is a beautiful thing.  Watching all the pretty birds, listening to the sounds of nature, and once in a while, getting a glimpse of the Great Blue Heron, are each blessings of beauty.

Nature’s beauty is healing in so many ways.  Beauty shows up unexpectedly too, like in the green muddy moss on the turtle’s shell and the hissing owls.  I think those are beautiful things.

A flood zone, surrounded by a creek, with a pond in the center, apparently has a unique ecological system, which is a big reason why we have a diverse community of wildlife, such as the family of turtles that live in the pond.

Below Photo:

A resident turtle.

Normally, the family of turtles take leave and dive into the water when people approach, which they did, but one came back after a minute or two of my arrival, climbed on the rock and gave me a stare!

Pond Turtle is Big!

I Like Water, Mud and Sunshine

Maybe I imagine these wild-life-looks I get, but I must say, I believe communication happens.  I like that.

For instance, I played with a white butterfly the other day.  That’s right.  We played and I had a grand time!

I was growing a few Kohlrabi plants, which might have been the reason for my playful winged visitor, the Cabbage White Butterfly!

I was so happy about my time with the butterfly, that I shared photos and wrote a little about it in my photo journal blog, Green Healing Notes.

Photo Below:

A Green Healing Morning with the Cabbage White Butterfly!

Nature is Beauty

Beauty in the Cabbage Patch!

I need the outdoors to thrive; whether it’s walking through woods, tending plants, birdwatching, chasing butterflies, or taking photographs of the beauty I see. 

In nature, even in my own little green space, with one butterfly hovering around, I lose myself.  Or perhaps, I find myself and lose the rest.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Logo by Leslie Sigal Javorek, IconDoIt, the blog, and other places of original art
dogkisses

 

 

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Four-legged Neighbors

Ruthie and Happy sure know how to be good neighbors.  They’re polite and respectful to one another.  They always greet each other with a bark or if there is time, several dogkisses!  They are good friends.

Happy has a busy schedule of walks, playing and sleeping, but she enthusiastically remembers Ruthie on her way home from her morning walks.  Ruthie is always happy to see her friend and neighbor, the dog, Happy!

Dogs Make Good Neighbors

When it Rains it Floods

The Art Tree

Little Treasures of Home

The first thing I reached for when the creek started rising, was a picture of my son at the ocean when he was about five years old.  It’s my favorite photo.   He’s wearing a little pair of blue jeans rolled up above his ankles, walking in the sand and looking down at the waves barely covering his small bare feet.

I placed the photo carefully in the plastic tub I was using to hold my most cherished belongings.

I wasn’t ready for a flood, but I should have been.  Along with my rental lease when I moved six months ago, I signed a statement informing me that the apartment is in a flood zone.

I didn’t read the paper I signed.  I was desperate for a place to live. 

An unexpected bed bug situation in an apartment my son had recently moved into interrupted my search for a rental.  Suddenly, my son was without a home and I had a deadline to find myself a place.  We were tired.  The winter weather was cold and I was in severe physical pain.  Neither of us were able to continue looking, so we each rented an apartment in the flood zone.

The rain started late in the afternoon.  I hadn’t watched the news and was not aware of pending thunderstorms.

My dog, Ruthie, tried telling me the rain storm was unusual.  She barked loudly as soon as it started.  My gut grabbed me for a moment.

I opened the door and looked outside.  I could feel something different.  The rain was loud.

There were two birds here that I’d never seen before.  Cardinals were rushing to the feeders, getting more wet by the second.  As the rain continued, the birds kept feeding.  Water had soaked one cardinal’s wings and the poor bird struggled to stay in flight.

I quickly realized that everything in my home means a lot to me.  I’ve downsized and what is left isn’t replaceable.  Anxiety set in.

Family photos, art and crafts that either my son or mother created, and my pretty wooden clock that my sister gave to our immediate family members one year for Christmas, all went into the plastic tub.

I wrapped my little sculpture of a girl holding a bouquet of orange flowers to her face that my mother gave me for a birthday present about five or six years earlier.

Then of course, there’s the beautiful hand carved wooden spoon that I love.  My son made it from a large piece of Cherry when he was thirteen years old.  Without using power tools, he worked for many weeks chiseling, carving, sanding and shaping the wood.  How in the world can something like that be replaced?

I spent the best of four hours, while the downpour continued, putting things in high places, packing them in the plastic tubs and lastly, unplugging electrical devices.  I packed bags of clothes and necessities. 

Management sent a messenger to tell tenants to evacuate the parking lot.  Everyone moved their cars to higher ground.

Anxiety had me distressed.

Image of Haw River water currents

Currents Meet

Then, my son came over.  He was completely calm. 

At first, I was upset by this.  I mean, how could he be so calm, I wondered, when our homes might be flooded any moment!  I needed his help packing, I thought.

I felt disoriented.  I honestly wished I could have afforded a hotel, but since I couldn’t, then I was planning on driving to my mother’s home.  

After several hours of packing and listening to the downpour, along with seeing the families of other tenants come and go, taking their loved one with them, fatigue was overcoming me.  I would likely have to surrender my pride and perhaps, accept the invitations offered to us by two friends for nearby refuge.

My son had earlier gone to the store for water, drinks and snacks.  While I was running around packing stuff, he lied down on the floor with Ruthie and whispered in her ear.  This obviously relaxed her and since she is such a sensitive dog, I was grateful.

Within a few minutes, Ruthie was lying on her back with her legs in the air.  You know a dog is alright when they do that.  My son gently rubbed her little belly and continued talking softly to her.  

Ruthie and I both needed what he had to offer during the crisis.  I suppose he needed it too.

The worst of the storm came at midnight. 

The fire department and Red Cross had waited for hours on the other side of the bridge.  They had a rescue truck in our parking lot.  The water started to seep into the front door when I called them to say I was ready to leave.

Ruthie wouldn’t go outside.  I would need help carrying her to the rescue truck.  I was beginning to wonder if they would have to carry me as well.

My son had disappeared just before the water starting to come inside.  He’d gone to check on his own place.  I don’t think he realized how bad the situation could have been, until he saw the water rise to the level of my doorstep.  I had begged him not to leave because the water wasn’t only standing in our otherwise grassy lawn, but by that time, there was a current.

I didn’t want to leave without him.  I waited.

Within about fifteen more minutes the water started to go down.  I had a feeling the worst of the storm had passed, but the rescue team suggested that we leave in case of another downpour.

The water level had gone down enough so that Ruthie would walk on the sidewalk.  Three firefighters were at my door.  My son had told them I needed help.

“Where is my son?” I asked the men.

“He’s at the club house playing pool,” one answered.

Apparently, he wasn’t alone.  Floods are common and expected at this property.  Management opens up the club house for folks to gather, watch TV and play pool.

Ruthie and I walked with the men.  They carried my bags.  They were most enthusiastic about their duty, which fire fighters tend to get.

I had only seen three men, until we rounded the corner of the building.  There were six more waiting for us.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!

Ten strong beautiful men waiting to rescue me!

Thank you for visiting dogkisses!

Note:  I was right about the storm’s end when the creek reached the level of my door and fortunately, we didn’t have damage to the inside of our homes.  I did not refuse the help when one of the men offered to lift me up on the back of their truck.  How could I?