Category Archives: Nature
Today was one of those stay inside and huddle days. Lots of pain. I won’t bore you with the details. The cloudy greyness and chill didn’t help.
I read, dozed, watched TV, played games. I did the things I needed to do – take my daughter school, drink some coffee so I could take my vitamins, do the bit of housework that needed doing.
And then I lazed, drinking tea.
Until my daughter came home and needed a ride to a friend’s home. As I was driving home, I noticed the time and pulled into a small park I frequent. It’s by a pond and a lake (well, it’s supposed to be a lake but it’s been drained for the past two+ years for repairs and dredging). The golf cart path cuts through it, crossing the channel between the pond and the lake. It’s one of my favorite places to go to walk, take pictures, and just be out in nature.
So I wrapped my scarf tighter around my neck and my sweater tighter around me, got out of my car, making sure to lock it, and wandered. I noticed a police officer had pulled in, also facing towards the setting sun. Multiple people walked, jogged, biked, drove by. A few stopped, at least for a few moments, to look at the sky. Look at the wildlife. No one was loud or noisy. There were no loud conversations. No blasting music. No loud vehicles.
It was peacefully full of the sounds of nature. The water flowing from the pond to the lake where it becomes a small waterfall. Ducks and geese chattering and arguing with one another as they start to settle for the night.
I watched as a heron circled overhead before settling in the tall grasses. A hawk or falcon flew by – too dark for me to tell for certain, but recognizing the silhouette. And I know there are hawks in the area, at least red-tail hawks. The ducks and geese started moving towards the edges of the water, or flew from the pond to the lake and vice versa. Something swam in the pond, not water fowl, not fish, not turtle. Too far away to see much more in the twilight than a small brown head and the movement of a body behind it. An otter maybe.
And then there was the sunset itself. At first I despaired as I watched the sun sink behind the trees, that even with clouds in the sky, the hoped for colors wouldn’t appear. Bit by golden bit the sun disappeared completely from view. Slowly the golden hue rose up into the sky.
I turned and caught the last bit of sunlight as it lit the treetops across the pond.
More and more gold appeared as the blues faded then darkened. While the air was still on the ground, it wasn’t on high, as I watched the clouds shift and morph and move across the darkening sky. The gold became darker and oranges and pinks joined in. The clouds and colors reflected in the lake and pools of water along its edges. As it got later, more and more purples appeared. I tried to catch as much as I could, switching between camera apps and views. And then I just stopped. And looked. My camera in my pocket. Until at the very last when the clouds became a deep stunning magenta hue.
As the last little bit of color disappeared in to the dark of night, I went back to my car feeling so much more alive, more me, than I had when I first got there. I even forgot about my pain (although once I settled in for the drive home, it reared its ugly head again).
It’s nature, all of it. The water, the soil, the sky, flora and fauna. Observing and being surrounded by it until it refills some parts of me that I hadn’t even realized were empty. I have always had access to nature, whether in wide open spaces like my grandparents ranch, or in small city parks while away at university. Walking through forests, sitting by the river that ran along our property when I was a teen, sitting on the edge of a lake or bay or seashore, standing on cliffs watching the sun sink into the Pacific, driving country roads and seeing new vistas, watching various animals as they live their own lives, listening to the sounds of animals and insects unseen, watching the stars and moon appear and wheel across the sky until the sun rises and they disappear from my view again. Even being caught in a sudden rain storm can fill me with joy and make me smile like a loon.
I’m out on the back deck because right now it’s cooler outside than in because of a storm rolling in. One of the cats is here too, curled up on a nearby chair.
In my yard I hear birds, our fountain, insects.
I can hear neighbors in their yards.
A short distance away I can hear cars* on the nearby road — one of the major roadways in town.
Farther off, train horns sound. Far away enough that I don’t know exactly where the trains are, but still close enough to hear them clearly.
And still far off, but getting closer, louder, more frequent, there is thunder. Long rolling rumbling bursts of it. Occasionally there is also a brisk uptick to the air movement, and for a brief moment a cool wind rushes past.
Will there be rain, too? Looking at the weather map, it appears likely. But it wouldn’t be the first time if it just skirts around us. Storms are…. Not sure of a good word for it… Rather random around here. We’ll get drenched while two miles away stays bone dry. Or vice versa.
So I’ll wait a while longer, lingering out here where it’s cooler, with my phone & a book & the cat, hoping for a good refreshing rain.
*apparently I write about cats too much as evidenced by autocorrect wanting this to be ‘cats’ not ‘cars’ ~lol~
I love fireflies.
Having grown up on the west coast I’d heard of them but never seen any (unless you count the fake ones in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Ride).
The first one I saw kind of freaked me out. I’m in Indiana with my three children aged 8 & under, husband is in Illinois for work. I’m in bed, lights out when I see a strange alien green light on the wall. I had no idea what it was. I watched, wondering & worrying, for a few minutes as it flashed on and off, then took flight. I turned on the light to get a better look. It took me a moment but then I figured it out — Firefly!
Of course after that, I saw them every night. I clearly remember the Fourth of July that year, how they filled a tree, flickering & flashing, making it look like it was covered in twinkling fairy lights.
Now I know that when I see the first firefly that summer is close. Every night, I love watching them rise from the long grasses & flit around trees & our yard. All you can see is the glowing bit, making it easy to imagine they’re little bits of magic, fairies or sprites, lighting the summer nights.
Seasons. As in Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.
Do you have a favorite? Supposedly lots of people do. I can’t say that I have a favorite but I do prefer Spring and Autumn, the transitional seasons.
Not that I hate Winter and Summer — they have their good points.
I love the singular crisp and cold days of Winter, when the sky is a bright clear blue and it is so cold that there are ice crystals shimmering in the air. Or the days when I can stay tucked warmly inside while large clusters of snowflakes float softly down — it’s like being in a snow globe. The rest of it is too cold, too grey, too messy, too damp, too chilly…
And Summer. Summer is great when it’s hot, but not humid, with a breeze, air conditioning , and easy access to a swimming pool/lake/ocean. BBQs — BBQs are a nice part of Summer. Hanging out in a hammock or on a shaded porch with lots of chilled beverages at hand. Late clear nights staring up at the Moon and stars. Sitting around a fire with hot dogs and s’mores. But like Winter, those days seem far too rare while most of them are too hot, too humid, too sweaty, too sticky, too many insects…
Spring and Autumn. Transitional. One when the world is returning to life, the other when it is returning to rest.
Everyday can bring something different — new leaves, buds, flowers; sweet floral scents; birds returning from their Winter away; baby animals; weather that varies from beautifully serene to stunning storms. The stripping off of the heavy Winter clothing for lighter garb. Ostara. Passover. Easter. Earth Day. Beltane. May Day (remember delivering flowers to neighbors?). Mother’s Day. Memorial Day.
Or conversely, each day the world slows down, bringing us closer to Winter — more colored leaves; fewer leaves on the trees and more on the ground; fewer birds and thicker coats on the animals that stay; cooler temperatures, during nights first then extending to mornings and then all day; that special smell that happens only in Autumn, of damp and rotting leaves — which is more pleasant than it sounds; the ripening and harvesting of so many crops. Bringing the warmer clothing, sweaters and boots and coats, back out of storage. Mabon. Oktoberfest. Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur. Sukkot. Diwali. Samhain. Halloween. Dia de los Muertos. Thanksgiving. Lots of family birthdays.
So, do you have a favorite or preferred season? Why?
Ever since I was a small child, I have had an abiding fascination with the ocean. I even went to uni to study fisheries biology, including marine mammalogy. And up until the past decade, I never lived more than a few hours away from the ocean, specifically the Pacific.
My childhood was in the East Bay area of California. We often went to San Fransisco, to the bay and the beach. It was my first introduction to the sea.Visiting Marineland/Africa USA further introduced me to a variety of sea life.
When I was about 8, my mother’s parents rented a boat, motorized, and we cruised around Puget Sound, through the San Juan’s, and up to Vancouver (or Victoria – I was young, memories have blurred). During that trip we ate fresh caught crabs, explored multiple islands, watched the tide rise and fall around us as we anchored in coves, saw a submarine go by (very close to us), saw the currents form a debris path on the surface, and I got to go out in a rowboat – sometimes with others and sometimes by myself. It was such a memorable experience, that even now, just recalling it makes me smile.
When I was 11 we moved to the mountains in Washington State. No longer as close to the ocean as we used to be, we were still just a few hours from Puget Sound. We spent plenty of time at the Sound. Des Plaines Salt Water Park was a favorite place to visit, especially during low tide, when if you stepped just right, something under the sand (clams?) would squirt, and we’d stick fingers in anemones to feel them close around us. The Seattle Waterfront was another favorite — the aquarium, Pike Place Market, Myrtle Edwards Park, waiting at the Ferry Terminal to take a ferry to one of the many islands (Vashon – where my great-uncle lived; Bainbridge Island – where one of my uncle’s lived for a while). Or maybe we’d go down to Tacoma, visiting the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and then walking along the beach in the park. Or taking the Tacoma Narrows Bridge over towards Gig Harbor, but then turning south to go visit my mom’s best friend who lived on Fox Island.
When I was in high school, twice I went to an art camp held over on the Olympic Peninsula, in Fort Worden State Park. The fastest way to get there was to drive up to Mukilteo, take the ferry to Whidbey Island, drive to the other end of the island, get on another ferry and take it across to Port Townsend. One of these trips was made in a storm. It was pouring so much on Whidbey that it wasn’t even certain the ferry to Port Townsend would still be running. We made it on to the last one, the Rhod0dendron (or as we referred to it, the Chrod0dendron because it was old and grody and cruddy). Side note: I just looked it up and they only just retired her in 2012! The amount of clanging and groaning the ferry made on that stormy crossing… It sounded like she could go down at any minute. It was actually more comfortable upstairs and outside than in one of the passenger rooms. But I loved the storminess of the crossing. And during my time at the art camp, I escaped down the beach as often as I could.
After high school graduation, we took a family trip to the San Juan Islands. I could have stayed so much longer than just a week. Unfortunately, I never saw any orcas while we were there. I loved the way the trees grew down as close to the water’s edge as possible and the deep turquoise-green of the water. And then we spent a week on the northern Oregon coast, with its fantastic haystack formations.
A couple years later and I was back in Seattle for university. Again spending as much time at the waterfront as I could. An uncle had moved to Alki Point and a boyfriend’s family lived in West Seattle so I spent time there, looking out over the water, watching submarines go by (mostly at the boyfriend’s). I studied Fisheries Biology, going out on boats for lab work, going back up to the San Juan’s for more lab work (where I got to hold just hatched itty bitty baby octopuses, watching their chromatophores pulsing and changing color — talk about adorably cute). Those years at the university were pretty wonderful.
My first real job after college was as an observer on fishing vessels in Southern California. I was living in a coastal town, working out on the water in all kinds of weather, eventually moving just 1-1/2 blocks from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. I was there for almost 10 years — it’s where I met my husband and all three of our children were born. I used to love walking along the cliffs, looking out over the ocean, especially at sunset. When the two oldest kids were old enough, I’d take them to the tidepools (when it was still free) and we’d look at anemones, sea stars, sea hares, hermit crabs, tiny fish, tiny crabs, snails… And we’d usually find a few shells to bring home.
And then we moved inland, all the way to Illinois. I only got close to oceans (or seas) on vacations — to California, Washington, Oregon, Wales, cruising the Mediterranean, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico. I crave these trips, to stick my toes into the ocean, to try to dodge the waves, watching the tide rise and fall; the pelicans, gulls and other birds; the surfers; the open vistas to the horizon; and if I’m really lucky, a variety of marine mammals.
We’re a little closer now, 4 – 5 hours from either Atlantic or Gulf, but we’ve only made the trip once. Any time the topic of vacation is brought up, I always respond with “beach”. Someday, hopefully, I’ll be living within walking distance again.
Sorry this is so long. If you made it all the way down here, thank you 🙂
Not that I have anything against the Sun. I love a nice warm sunny spot on a cool day. I love sunny days when I’m on vacation. I’m not, however, a big fan of sunburns, excessive heat or sweating.
But I digress.
Why does the Moon hold such fascination for many people, not just me? I think because it has a greater air of mystery and magic about it. Unless you know your science, the “purpose” the moon serves for earth is not really clear (except if you pay attention to the tides).
Think about it — it changes size and shape, is not always visible at night, is sometimes visible only during the day. Sometimes it’s bone white, sometimes butter yellow, and just this morning was blood-red with the eclipse. Scientifically it is predictable, maybe even constant, but to the casual day-to-day observer, it isn’t. It is different every single day.
And unless you have the right equipment, getting a good photograph of the Moon can be difficult, elusive, if not downright impossible. I know, because I’ve tried many many times ~sigh~
Right now, I was just out in the cold walking the puppy before bed. The Moon is white, still rising, just starting to the clear the tops of trees in our neighborhood. It’s beautiful, glowing strongly in the clear night sky.
I can’t help but look for the Moon any night I am outside, and I will notice it when it’s visible during the day. I can easily tell whether it’s waxing or waning, even just a day or two either side of full. I have an app on my phone — Star Walk — that I frequently pull out so I can find out what the bright lights — planets or stars — are that I see near the Moon.
Is the Moon magical? Is it mysterious or mystical? I think, as with so many things around us, it is what you personally make of it. If you like to sit out in the moonlight, gazing at the Moon and following moonbeams, go for it. I’ll be right there with you.
If you’ve looked at my Instagram feed or read some of my other posts, you’ve probably figured out that the Great Outdoors, nature, is very important to me. Spending time outside, in nature, observing, walking, just being, has always soothed and renewed me.
Some of my earliest memories are of lying in the grass in our backyard when I was only 3 or 4. I liked to pick the blades of grass and a chew on the ends. As I grew, my range grew too. On my grandparent’s ranch I could roam freely, so I did, throwing stones into the ponds, picking wildflowers, climbing stacks of hay bales, climbing the hills to stare off into the distance, watching hawks and prairie dogs, and more. During recess at school, I’d go sit in the grass, looking for pretty stones or four-leaf clovers, watching water striders and other bugs in and around puddles.
For several years, in one yard, my father planted a large garden and many fruit trees. We all helped some to care for it, but it was mostly my father’s ‘baby’. There were artichokes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, apples, cherries, grapes, pomegranates, lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, and others that so many years later I can’t remember. I do remember Dad making pickles with the cucumbers.
When we moved to Washington, at first we lived in town. Less than a year later we moved a few miles out of town, onto two acres along a river. I spent many hours sitting by the river or wandering in nearby woods. I watched otters and fish in the river; eagles and hawks overhead; deer, bears, elk, weasels, beavers, coyotes, skunks. And so many others. Caddis fly larvae in the river were always interesting. We think there were cougars in the mountains surrounding our little valley based on screams heard at night — not human. The bears — we always knew when they were feeding down at the river because the dogs would go crazy. We even had one run along side us in the river once, while we were rafting. For a while we had horses — deer would come and visit with them, then visit our vegetable garden for a snack.
I love storms. The winds are invigorating. The lightning and thundering exciting. In Washington, our front door faced north and the back door, south. There were nights when we could go back and forth from front to back watching two separate storms at opposite ends of the valley. More than once we called in suspected lightning fires. When I was in high school, I attended an art camp on the Olympic peninsula. The most common way to get there was by ferry, as to drive would take several hours. One of the trips was during a storm, so bad that our run was the last of the day. The ferry rocked violently, spray flying high over the bow, various things clanking and clanging. Where did I spend most of the crossing? Outside, of course, in the wind and the rain.
I went off to college, first in Idaho then back to Washington. Then California, Indiana, Illinois, and now Georgia. Always I found places to be outside — parks, gardens, paths. Always I noticed what was around me, near and far — mountains, clouds, rivers, streams, ocean, beaches, cliffs; sun, moon, stars; wind, rain, snow; the flora and fauna. All of it. Already, here, I’ve wandered paths, found two nature areas, and look forward to visiting a third. Now that it’s spring, every day I wander our yard, looking for buds and blooms, animals, birds, and insects.
If I go more than a couple of days without time outside, I feel it — a restlessness, a sense of something missing.
Maybe it’s because my name is Robin but I’ve always had a thing for birds. I’m always noticing them. Just this morning while taking my daughter to school it was a bright red male cardinal sitting on a crepe myrtle. Unfortunately I was too far away to get a decent photo with just my phone camera.
I love to note the first robins I see every spring. And yes, I do talk to them, welcoming them. One winter a few years ago, I noticed that there was a flock of robins in our neighborhood, eating the berries on the trees and bushes. I was a little confused… Didn’t robins fly south for the winter? I did a bit of research, and discovered that yes, most robins do fly south for the winter and what I was probably seeing were either robins hanging around in the area or ones that had migrated down from Canada — Illinois is south of Canada.
Another bird that holds a special place in my heart is the quail — it was my father’s favorite bird. I can remember as a child seeing quail on my grandparents ranch in California. While they do have lovely patterning, it’s that cute little feather that bobs over the head when they walk that gets me. It’s just so adorable. During a visit to the Brookfield Zoo one year, a cute little quail decided he liked me. He came running over, right up to the edge of the enclosure and ‘talked’ to me non-stop, his little head bobbing up and down. I have no idea what attracted him to me — I had no food or anything to offer him. Eventually, sadly, I had to leave him to rejoin my family.
Peacocks — The colors, the pattern, the way they move. I love it all. How the blue is so iridescent in the sun, those incredible tail feathers with their ‘eyes’. On my dresser I have a peacock tail feather I brought back from a trip to New Zealand. The birds in the animal park were molting, leaving tail feathers all over the place. I asked and was told I could take as many as I wanted. So I did, bringing them home and sharing them with my kids. Years ago in California there was a family of peafowl in our neighborhood. We didn’t see the males too often, although we heard them, but we did see peahens with their peachicks. In fact, one morning we came out to find them lined up on the roof of our apartment building. Still not quite sure how they made it up there.
Birds of prey. Hawks. Falcons. Eagles. Love them all. There is such a feeling of intelligence and potential menace from them. I often saw red tail hawks hunting while on the ranch. When we moved to Washington, bald eagles lived nearby. In Illinois, if you passed a prairie on a warm day you would always see hawks out enjoying the thermals. On my commute, I often saw multiple hawks perched on light poles along the roads. And here in Georgia, there are hawks everywhere, in the trees, flying over and circling over the neighborhood. I was startled one day by a hawk swooping silently over the pool, trying to catch a squirrel. Luckily for the squirrel, the hawk missed. I was impressed with how silent the large bird was. Not a sound from it as it passed. It was only the motion of it that caught my attention.
Those are my favorites. What about you? Do you have any favorite birds?
The other morning, while letting a cat out, I noticed a very large, healthy looking squirrel circling the spa. Clearly he was trying to figure out how to reach the water, which was about a foot below the edge.
I’m watching, mumbling “please don’t go in the water; please don’t fall in and drown”, when I see movement from the other side of the yard.
It’s a hawk, swooping over the pool, heading straight for the squirrel. The squirrel was faster, darting into hiding before the hawk reached the edge of the spa. The hawk shifted flight, pausing briefly in a tree (before noticing me standing there) then flew off.
I do have to say, having seen hawks hunting before, that I don’t think it was really trying.
Another morning, after I’d gotten back from my walk and before my husband left for work, he called me out to the front door. Way up high on the wall was a lizard. We’re still not exactly sure how it got into the house. Nor were we sure how we were going to get it out. Lizards are quick, and with a two-story entry, it was going to be very easy for it to stay out of our reach.
I decided to leave the front door open, with the glass storm door closed. Not really for the lizard but because it was nice out and it’s easier to tell when a cat wants back in.
A little while later, while heading to the kitchen, I noticed the lizard wasn’t up on the wall any more. When I approached the front door, there it was, down in the bottom corner, looking for a way out. So I obliged it. I opened the storm door, which got me a look of concern, and with a little nudging with my toe, it hopped off and disappeared into a flower pot.
Since then I’ve seen a smaller, greener lizard climbing around on one of the pillars outside the door.
And final story… For now.
Once a week we take care of the pool — testing the water, adding any necessary chemicals, brushing off the steps and sides, emptying the skimmers, scooping out debris… All those things that need to be done regularly to keep the pool nice.
I had my daughter out helping me. While she turned on the hose and opened the skimmers, I got the scoop. But not to scoop out leaves. Oh no. What I had to scoop out of the pool was a dead critter, of the furry type. I’m not exactly sure what it was — a chipmunk or some type of squirrel. But yuck 😦 I flung it off into some distant bushes.
By this time my daughter had two skimmers open and was opening the third as I approached. Just in time to see the snake curled up in one corner.
“Snake!” This time with pointing.
By this time I’m thinking we may need to have her vision and hearing checked.
“Right there. In the skimmer. In the corner.” Now I’m standing as close to it as I’m comfortable.
She wanders up, looks down, “Oh.”
I grabbed the scoop and attempted to coax it off into the bushes outside the pool area. Yeah, that didn’t work too well as it went the opposite direction, right down into the skimmer proper. And stayed there. I hoped it would swim out into the pool so I could scoop and fling, but nope.
Now, I don’t know what kind of snake this was. All I know is that while most snakes here are harmless, there are some very poisonous ones — rattlesnakes, water moccasins/cottonmouths, coral snakes, copperheads. I was knew it wasn’t a rattler (no rattle) and it wasn’t a coral snake (no red, yellow, and black) and I was pretty sure it wasn’t a water moccasin. But I couldn’t 100% rule out copperhead. It was about 8″ long, maybe half an inch in diameter at it’s widest. The head didn’t look triangular to me, and the patterning seemed wrong but I’ve heard that juvenile copperheads look like a lot of other snakes. So while I didn’t want to kill it, I also didn’t want to get too close, just in case.
I went and got the smaller scoop that would actually fit into the skimmer and helped it out. By this time it was extremely upset with the situation, attacking the scoop repeatedly. I persisted, and finally, managed to get it into the scoop. And promptly flung it over the fence and into the bushes — where it stayed for a while, probably in shock.
Of course, we will all be much more careful now when opening the pool skimmers.
My husband is having difficulty with all the wildlife around here, particularly the snakes & spiders, but before I even moved down here, he was sending pictures of deer in the yard, dead armadillos by the road, birds in the yard, dead spiders from the garage, etc.
Part of it is that he’s very much a city boy who’s just not used to all this, and part of it’s that this is the South with more just more critters of all sorts.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t have wildlife where we lived in Illinois, because we did — deer, foxes, coyotes, mice, squirrels, bats, all the usual suspects that we pretty much also have here. But it was mostly innocuous. We weren’t worrying about poisonous spiders (brown recluse, black widows, brown widows) and snakes (copperhead, rattlesnake, coral snake, water moccasin) or leprosy carrying armadillos. There are even rumors of alligators being found in lakes in the area.
Since I’ve been here I’ve seen one small live snake — no idea what type. Many dead armadillos — I’m guessing they’re not too smart. Turtles. Bats (they were swooping over the pool one night while the girls were swimming). Lots and lots of deer. Many types of birds from hawks down to tiny songbirds.
And spiders — lots of spiders and even more webs. I’ve done some research so I know that the spiders I’m seeing are not ones I have to worry about. The poisonous ones tend to build chaotic webs in dark places. These build organized and beautiful webs out in the open; some are quite large with obvious rings.
One lovely lady, an orb-weaver, who for lack of any creativity I call Charlotte, has taken up residence on our deck. The first time I saw her, I have to admit, I freaked a bit. She’s big. Her body is a good 1.5″ long, with a leg span of probably 2″. She’s mostly brown with pretty markings, and her legs are brown and orange striped. She builds beautiful big webs, with the rings placed perfectly. Once I realized she was not a dangerous spider, I looked for her the next day but she and her web were completely gone. A few days later, she reappeared in a slightly different spot. One evening I watched for a bit while she repaired damaged spots. A couple of days later and she and her web were gone again.
Now she’s been building a web between the fan light and the wall. She’s smart enough not to attach the web to the actual fan blades. Some days she completely takes down her web only to rebuild it at night; other days she just repairs what’s already there. During the day, I can see her curled up on the light fixture, just waiting for evening. I always say hi to her when I go out. And I’ve refused to let my husband or daughter do anything to her or her web. They’re not happy about it, but Charlotte’s not doing any harm.