June 30, 2009

Wild Lake Life

Here's a funny thing about the Fowler: They can't tell whether another toad is male or female, which makes mating difficult. The male toad has a special croak for when he's been mounted by another male. I'm going to resist making a crack about that.

This little guy, hiding under our shrubbery, is a Fowler's Toad (I think. He could be an American Toad, but the Fowler has a creamy belly, I've read. His belly looks creamy to me). The main difference between a frog and toad is the skin. A toad's skin is rough and warty, much like mine when I've forgotten to exfoliate. This toady also secretes a nasty poison when attacked. Wish I had that talent; it could come in handy.

Despite the abundance of rain, or maybe because of it, we're enjoying all kinds of wild life out here in the woods. The dragonflies are metamorphosing, which is quite a spectacle. I took this photo last weekend.

Today I stood in the mist and watched the swallows swoop over the spillway again. There's something mesmerizing about them.

Buckaroo is another of the wild animals on the lake. These days he prefers to romp around nakey bum, wearing only his cow-spotted rain boots. He can't go near the water without stripping, and he's learned to open the screen doors on his own and has endeavored to get himself some alone time on the beach. Fortunately we're not right on the water, and the screen doors have locks.

Sweet P is having some beach time in sunny California, and I have to admit I'm more than a squinch envious. I would love to update you on her travels, but when I call, all I get is, "Can't talk now, Mom. I'm visiting with. . . . "

To assuage my soggy soul, I've bought two plane tickets to California for Buckaroo and myself. We don't leave until September, but I've heard that the anticipation of pleasure is even more rewarding than pleasure itself.

Meanwhile we look forward to the return of Sweet P and Obo. We celebrated our one year anniversary of moving to Massachusetts in June, but I told R that it won't really feel like we've come full circle until the five of us are together again.

June 23, 2009

Hey, That's Not a Lupin

My whole life I thought this was Lupin. They grew in my Nana Pat's yard, and I thought they were wild. No, turns out this is a Grape Hyacinth-- a bulb. I love them because the little petals are so grape-like and almost rubbery to touch. Maybe they look more like blueberries, but I don't think I was so familiar with a blueberry as a child.

A few weeks ago, R's mom pointed out the pink Lupin in our back yard. I thought, "Boy, those don't look like California Lupin at all. They're huge!"
This is our Lupin below; although I didn't take the other two photos.

So, in fact, they don't look like Hyacinth at all.
I was a little bit right, though. There are many different kinds of Lupin, as it turns out, and the Lupin out here in Massachusetts do look different from the Lupin back home; I just didn't know that the seaside flower I was seeing in California was a Lupin. I can be a bit thick. So here it is:

I'm sure you all knew this stuff already, but it's news to me so I thought I'd share.

Here's something you may not have known: The Grape Hyacinth and the Lupin have something in common; the Lupin's beans and the Hyacinth's bulbs are both pickled and eaten by the Italians.

I'm not sure I would like those dishes so much, but I'll eat them with ice cream if it'll get me back to Italy. When in Rome . . . .

June 18, 2009


That's what it's called when a whole bunch of herons hang out together: heronry. The word strikes me funny. It sounds like an act one might commit, like adultery. A heron, however, would not commit adultery because they are monogamous birds. It's so romantic, don't you think?
There may be up to 75 Great Blue Herons communing in one heronry, but on our lake there are only two, as far as I can tell. They may be a couple, and if so, they probably have nestlings nearby, and if there are nestlings nearby, they'll be ready to fly the coop sometime in July-- according to my internet sources. I'll let you know if I spot any real-life baby bird activity.
To tell the truth, I haven't even heard the herons call out there. I had to listen to the call on Wikipedia, and I'm glad they're not chatty because the heron honk sounds like an angry trucker laying on the horn.
We have seen them, though. We all climbed in the boat yesterday and very quietly followed, and attempted to photograph, both herons. We were mostly unsuccessful, but it is peaceful out there. I'm not much for zooming around the pond at high speeds-- too many goose bumps, too much hair whipping-- but I do like it when we turn off the engine just drift for a while. That's just what we were doing when the heron took off, and I took the photo above. Yep, it's a bit blurry. I'm still learning.
In the meantime, here's a nugget I Wikied about herons:
"Herons are also known as "shitepokes", or euphemistically as "shikepokes." Webster's Dictionary suggests that herons were given this name because of their habit of defecating when flushed. The terms "shitepoke" or "shikepoke" can be used as insults in a number of situations."
Just remember, if you choose to use shikepoke as an epithet, you'll be calling someone a beautiful, faithful bird-- although they do eat frogs, snakes, insects and sometimes other baby birds, so there's that.

June 10, 2009

Death Day

It's not something that comes up in casual conversation. I might say, when talking to another mom at the playground or a friend outside the grocery store, that I'm having a hard week or even that this Friday is the anniversary of my dad's death. The thing I almost never say is that I'm also grieving for the family of the man my dad killed-- the driver of the car he hit. My dad was a drug addict, and he was on heroin at the time.

See how it takes all of the air out of the room?

So, while I'm not trying to keep it a secret, it feels like a heavy, heavy secret. Plus, I have all of this grief-guilt, because, yes, my dad did something horrific, but I still love him, miss him, wish he were alive-- even alive in prison. I feel a need to tell people the facts before they feel too sorry for me, for him.

I never hear about people like me, but then again I don't watch a lot of TV, so maybe that's not saying much. I hear about the victims and the criminals, and once in a while, the parents of the criminals, whom I tend to want to blame if the criminals are young enough. I rarely hear about a convict's kids, his brothers and sisters, cousins. There are 2.3 million people incarcerated right now, so there must be others out there like me-- people who carry around this shame-laced love for the bad guy, but there are times when I think I may be the only one. Am I to blame as well? Should I have tried tough love, forced re-hab? This is the bargaining stage of grief, right? If I had only . . . .

It's enough to make me want to start a support group. I would have the acronym spell out an expletive-- because I tend to want to hurl a lot of expletives when these thoughts are swirling, which is most of the time lately.

June 12. I don't know why this date should be more significant than any other, really. My dad is not any more gone on this day. I guess it marks the passage of time, though. Two years. The grandson he never met is two years old. Two years since my dad called me at 6 a.m. and asked, "You still sleepin' , Fish Head?"

The Unitarian minister, this week, talked about the Alternatives to Violence program, of which she is becoming a leader. She said, and I'm paraphrasing: We can convict the guilty, but we should not condemn them. If we condemn them, they have no hope of self-redemption.

I'm trying to let go of my condemnation, but it's got a stone grip on my heart. Why should it matter, though? My dad is never going to become a better person.

A few nights ago I had a dream that my dad was holding me hostage. He had a gun, and he was pointing it at me. As usual, he didn't speak. Eventually the police came and took him away, but I kept screaming. Every time someone came near me, I screamed. Eventually my step-sister said, "Stop screaming. You know who I am."

I started shouting at her,"How am I ever going to trust anyone when the person I was supposed to trust the most was holding me hostage?"

But maybe I'm holding myself hostage.

Well, this is a bleak little post, so I'm going to end it with something happy. The laurels are in bloom once again. Today I spotted a fox wending in and out of the trees near our house, and driving home tonight we followed a slow, waddling skunk down the long dirt road. He was all white tail and no spray.

We were coming back from dinner, and Sweet P was crying (that's for another time), and Buckaroo asked her, "Are you crying, Sweet P? Are you OK? You want to hold my hand?"

And he held her hand all the way home.

June 1, 2009

The Nature of Falling

R first noticed a pile of twigs and grasses on the dock last week and was perplexed about it until he spied a frantic robin shouting at him and building her nest in the branch of the pine tree directly above him.

He pointed it out the next day as we were returning from a boat ride. We thought it was in a precarious position, sort of loose between two branches, but I was hopeful it would hang tight.

We had a couple of days of high winds, and then Sweet P came in from the lake and said the nest had fallen and one blue egg was smashed on the dock. I was very sad for that mama bird. The egg seemed unusually large for a Robin, and R was amazed at how hard the mama worked on building her nest while she was also working on that egg.

You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the nest is held together with smeared mud and padded with soft grasses. It's really a work of art. We're going to have to create a showcase for all of the nests we've found.

It would have been this Robin's first hatch of the season. According to Wikipedia, the northern Robin builds her first nest in the forked branch of an evergreen, while later broods are hatched in deciduous trees. Wiki offers no explanation for this.

It's good to know she'll have another chance or two to nest with hatchlings this summer.

It's so amazing to live out here with wildlife all around us, but it's also a little bit heartbreaking to see dead wild animals, usually on the side of the road: skunks, frogs, snakes, chipmunks, and something large and unidentifiable I think might have been a Fisher Cat. I'm always worried about the Swallowtails smacking into my car (they seem to be everywhere right now), and Sunday morning R tried to herd a couple of Canadian Geese and three goslings across the road with our car before they could be hit by a car coming from the other direction. It was tricky, but I think they made it to the lake on the other side. I hope they did.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel responsible for protecting these creatures and burdened with the knowledge that it's an impossible task.

Still, I'll be watching for the mama Robin building a new nest in the maple trees.