May 28, 2009

Barn Swallow Swirl

A fog was pressed against the lake, and I do enjoy that eerieness, but there was enough sunlight near the dam waterfall to reflect the white and bronze breasts of the birds on the water as they skimmed for insects. I didn't know what type of birds they were, but I was fascinated by their dancing flight-- almost like a quadrille-- and their shiny midnight-blue backs.

I racked my brain for the very little I knew about aerial creatures, and somewhere deep in the recesses I remembered that Swallows enjoy an insecty meal, so I looked it up after I returned home (and ate dinner, washed up, got the kids to bed, etc.,) and sure enough:

"The preferred habitat of the Barn Swallow is open country with low vegetation, such as pasture, meadows and farmland, preferably with nearby water . . . The presence of accessible open structures such as barns, stables, or culverts to provide nesting sites, and exposed locations such as wires, roof ridges or bare branches for perching, are also important in the bird's selection of its breeding range.[5]"-- Wikipedia

Sounds like my neighborhood. Here are some other interesting tidbits I Wikied up:
"In North America at least, Barn Swallows frequently engage in a mutualist relationship with Ospreys. Barn Swallows will build their nest below an Osprey nest, receiving protection from other birds of prey which are repelled by the exclusively fish-eating Ospreys. The Ospreys are alerted to the presence of these predators by the alarm calls of the swallows.[23]

Elsewhere, its long journeys have been well-observed, and a swallow tattoo is popular amongst nautical men as a symbol of a safe return; the tradition was that a mariner had a tattoo of this fellow wanderer after sailing 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km, 5,755 statute miles). A second swallow would be added after 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 km, 11,510 statute miles) at sea.[49]

In the past, the tolerance for this beneficial insectivore was reinforced by superstitions regarding damage to the Barn Swallow's nest. Such an act might lead to cows giving bloody milk, or no milk at all, or to hens ceasing to lay.[6] This may be a factor in the longevity of swallows' nests. Survival, with suitable annual refurbishment, for 10–15 years is regular, and one nest was reported to have been occupied for 48 years.[6]"

So, welcome back Swallows! And, nice to meet you at last.

May 24, 2009

The Jesus Moth



Sweet P brought this moth in the house yesterday. I'd never seen one before, pink and yellow like something out of a fairytale. She said it landed on her shirt and was dead. We were visiting with R's parents, so we set it aside so I could snap a few photos later.

After about five minutes we noticed a big moth attacking the kitchen light, and it was the same moth. Not dead. Or possibly risen. I said "It's a Jesus moth!" There was a quiet pause in which I thought I had terribly offended R's parents, and then R's dad said, "You mean it's the resurrection and the light?"

"Yes!" I said, and then R captured it so I could snap a few photos and we let it go.

After some research I discovered that it was a rosy maple moth. Such a sweet name, too.

The Lilacs are Speaking

"I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it" -- Shug Avery, The Color Purple

That line is the reason I fell in love with Alice Walker's book and then, ten years later, named my daughter after one of the characters.
I've been noticing the color purple a lot lately because Massachusetts is abloom with lilacs, and not just purple lilacs: pink, white, lavender, and deep, dark purple with inner white swirls. I can't help but stick my nose in a growing bunch and breathe their scent every time I take Bella for her walk.
This photo is of a bush in our neighbor's yard, and when I drive by the blooms with my windows rolled down their scent fills the car. I love them, and-- because of Alice Walker-- they make me think about God, and I love that, too.
Oddly enough, lilacs must have been making the UU minister think about God, too. Today she brought in a bouquet of lilacs, and talked about how good the scent makes us feel, and how we can't see that scent, but we know it's there, and that's kind of how it is with God-- or Spirit or Evolution and Reason.
At that point I took Buckaroo to Religious Education, but R told me that the minister went on to say that Unitarians are known for thinking about God, but they're not known for feeling God, and she sometimes feels envious of those who shout out AMEN, Uh-Huh, and That's Right in church, or dance with snakes, or speak in tongues, because it seems like it would be good to feel the presence of God that way. She then attempted to encourage the congregation to shout out in praise of Spirit during her sermon-- which probably would have made me burst out in a fit of giggles if I'd been there.
In any case, this was the first time R heard the minister speak, and he said he liked her so much he wanted to invite her to dinner and be her friend. She probably gets that a lot.

May 23, 2009

Vampire Flies

I looked down at my bloody legs and thought I had cut myself shaving. Badly. Wow, I thought, that razor must be really dull. I'll have to remember to throw it out.

Buckaroo was enjoying some lake time, and I was trying to simultaneously keep an eye on him and stanch the leg bleeding because, I thought, if anyone saw these razor cuts I'd never be allowed near a sharp object again.

Then more lacerations appeared on the other leg, and that's when I realized I was under attack by the evil vampire flies-- also known as black flies.

I had been warned about the black flies, but I really had no idea. I thought they were something along the lines of the mosquito. Well, they are as plentiful as mosquitoes, but their bite is more like a wasp sting in terms of its effects. One doesn't feel the bite until it swells, scabs, and starts to fire-itch for the next several days.

I did a bit of research, and it appears that one builds up an immunity to the black flies during their short season-- Mother's Day to Father's Day-- so the bites become less severe. Unfortunately, the first attack of the season is always going to be the worst. Also, there's always the chance of contracting River Blindness. Good times.

At the moment I have an entire constellation of nasty bites all over my body, but so far I can still see. I thought folks would be horrified by my uglified legs, but everywhere I go people look like they've been through the vampire fly wars, so I fit right in.

My friend Grateful Mama recommended Herbal Armor, and it seems to help, but just this morning I must have missed a spot underneath the arm of my glasses because I was promptly bitten there.

The article I read said that the flies can't bite through clothing, so I should stay thoroughly covered, or else I should just stay indoors. Oh, heck no. After staring through the window at the ice for five months, I'm not going to let an insect drive me indoors.

Oh, and did I mention that the flies live under the dead leaves? So here's where I have to eat all of the words I wrote about the de-leafing frenzy. I get it. I am so incredibly glad we don't have mountains of blood-sucking-insect-ridden leaves hanging around our yard.

May 22, 2009

Bella Blue Sky

Meet Bella. She enjoys long walks through the woods, chasing squirrels, lounging in the shade, wading in the lake, and eating peanut butter sandwiches courtesy of Buckaroo.
I went into this whole dog adoption thing a second time figuring we would never find a dog as good as Blue, and that I wouldn't love another dog the same way, but that was ok. We would still end up saving the life of a (possibly) perfectly lovely dog.
Enter Bella (the labby formerly known as Jasmine). She is not Blue, but she is one good dog. She used to run wild with a pack of dogs in Tennessee. She was emaciated and preggers when her foster mama found her. That was six months ago. Her pups have been adopted, and she's healthy now, but it looks like Bella will never have her pre-pregnancy figure again, so that makes two of us.
She's a quiet girl, rarely barks, and mostly enjoys her meals and sleeping on the floor next to us. We walk her twice a day, and after her walk we take her for a dip in the lake. Back out of the water she gets really excited, shakes, prances around, and does this horsey thing with her head and front paws-- sort of a rearing. I can't explain that move, so you'll have to see it for yourself.
And do we love her? Of course. I especially love when she nuzzles my nose.
After much negotiation we decided to name her Bella (R said a two-syllable name sounded best), and I've started calling her Bella Blue Sky. It just seemed to fit.

May 18, 2009

Who's that Girl?

Sweet P was required to wear full make up for her dance recital, and I didn't recognize her in the stuff. Oddly, I think the makeover made her look more like her dad.
The big dance event was last Saturday, and I have to admit I was dreading the four-hour extravaganza, but it turned out to be quite entertaining. In addition to Sweet P's "Hip Hop Meets Ballet" performance, there were a plethora of tiny children dressed as Mary Poppins, tiny frogs, and mini-ballerinas. Who can resist ooh-ing and aah-ing over costumed cherubs.
Even R said all of the pre-recital chaos (including midnight sobbing over unfinished homework projects) may have been worth it, and it would be ok if Sweet P wanted to continue next year.
I have to also admit that I was completely unprepared for the insanity that is beautification. I had never even heard of the Hairagami for crying out loud!
Fortunately, our neighbor gave me all of the good tips (even mentioning that some parents give their dancers post-performance flowers). Shew.
So we're ready for next year. It's a good thing, too, because Sweet P wants to add jazz dance to her repertoire.

Duckfoot has Landed

Yesterday R planted Duckfoot the Ginkgo (who is sprouting out in leaves) in front of the house. I was going to do the shoveling myself, but once I saw his wrestling match with the roots and rocks, I was glad he offered to do the digging.
Our neighbors are having two more oak trees felled this week-- because they don't like to rake leaves-- and I am determined to plant a tree for every one they cut down. Today, on our dog walk, I gathered some maple helicopter seeds (that's the scientific name), and I plan to raise some saplings.
R says we'll be long gone by the time those maples are dripping with syrup, but that's ok. Maybe our grandchildren will think of us while soaking their pancakes in the sweet stuff (blech!).
I also plan to plop a few lilacs in the ground between us and our leaf-hoarding neighbor on the other side. It's lilac season out here now-- which, just like mud season, I didn't know was a season, but I'm enjoying it so much more than the I did the mud.
In other vegetative news: We are possibly surrounded on every side by poison ivy. I've done my share of research on the evilness, and it is all inconclusive. According to various web sites, the nefarious plant may have 3, 5, or 9 leaves, it may turn red in the spring or in the fall, may be shiny-leafed in its early or late stages, may or may not have flowers and white berries, and may be ground cover or tree vines. The one fact on which they all seem to agree is that if it's growing in the trees, it has gnarly red tentacles shooting out of it. Unfortunately, that's not the brand we have. Whatever it is in those woods, I'm staying far, far away.
I've much more to say, but that will all have to wait because Sweet P is desperate for a new pair of shoes.

May 4, 2009

Ropes Course

R and Sweet P spent the day in the woods with the UUs on Sunday. Sweet P had a full day of teen bonding, wall climbing, and rope coursing. She chose not to participate in the high course, but R said he didn't want to push her because she had a great time and really came out of her shell with the other girls. She even chose to ride back with them on the way home.

R thought he might be able to walk the course, but parents were not allowed, so he was the trip photog for the day.

I am gearing up for my trip to CT to pick up the pooch. We've decided to change her name-- after reading some research that said it wouldn't traumatize the dog-- because there was a very famous dog named Jasmine who lived on the lake a long time ago, and R thinks the older folks might be a bit baffled by another one. I thought Belle would be a good name for a southern doggie, but R says it's too girly. We've decided to wait to (re)name her when we meet her, but here's our list so far:

Buttercup
Maisie
Scout
Harper
Bronte
Gracie
Izzy
Indigo (because Buckaroo wants to name her Blue).

We're still brainstorming, though, so we may come up with something completely different.

May 3, 2009

Buckaroo's First Joke


Here it is:
Q: Why did the skunk take a bath?
A: Because he peed in the car!
Ok, he's two. He's got a few years to work on the punchline before he takes his show on the road.
This joke was very likely inspired by a ride in the car with the FMF, during which they pretended to squirt ketchup at attacking space skunks.
I'm not sure about these New Englanders. This sounds much more like something that would happen in California.
In other news: We're adopting a black lab, and we'll pick her up in Connecticut on Wednesday. She's a two-year-old southern belle and leaves tomorrow to make the long journey from Tennessee. Her foster mama says she's one sweet, gentle doggie. I'll post pictures when I've got 'em.

May 1, 2009

Perking Up with Poetry

It's hard not to feel dejected when receiving one rejection letter after another, even if editors write lovely notes that say things like, "I'm smitten with this one poem."
One poem out of 70ish pages isn't looking so good for me.
I told R the other day that my poetry just isn't hip. It'll be fashionable one day when I'm dead, and maybe my grandchildren or their grandchildren will dig it out of an attic, convert it to the contemporary format, and get it out there. Or maybe not. Either way, I doubt I'll be so concerned about it.
Then I remembered that a long time ago in a land far, far, away (California) I had an idea for a poetry project involving historical women-- I won't tell you all of the details because that would ruin the surprise. I was so pleased with the idea, and then I got preggers and fell asleep for a couple of years.
Now I'm waking up, and I'm researching Boadicea (pronounced Bo-a-di-sea-ah or Bo-die-kah, depending on whom you ask).
I think she looks something like Kate Winslet here, don't you?
In any case, she kicked some Roman tushie back in her day, so I'm going to let her lead me back into the battlefield of the written word. I hope it ends better for me than it did for her-- although, they do call her land England now, and not Rome, so her self-sacrifice must have done some good in the end. I'll let you know what I find out.
Come on, Bo. Let's get started.