Thursday, June 25, 2009

June is Perfect

When I thought there was nothing left to share, I came upon a few things.


This first sunset of summer is a view from my front porch.

June is perfect - a refreshing mix of a cool, invigorating spring, sizzling hot and lazy summer,


and fresh colors that aren’t worn out and drab yet nor marked by Japanese beetles. Iced tea and bare feet.


I had a recent discussion about the absence of my female hummingbirds with friend Sherry in Missouri and we came to the sad conclusion that they have perhaps found other feeders nearby. Yes, it's probable that someone else is feeding my hummingbirds. This realization leaves my heart very heavy but I accept it. I’ve only seen one female Ruby-throated since April, so I will continue to make the frisky males happy until they begin leaving in a few weeks. This is the most recent terrible photo I have. When I crave hummingbird happiness this summer, I’ll look at my posts from last year, especially here, and laugh at the little juveniles who visited all day long and made me giddy with delight to serve them.

This summer might not be hummingbird sweet, but there is still so much to admire…


There are other birds with outrageous attitudes,


and other beauties that float



and flutter



who will beckon


and glisten in sunlight,



and hum.


It will take all of this and more

to ease my missing the hummer squeaks and chitters I love.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Eyes on Me


Center cropped, otherwise unedited. Cute?

This year has been full of challenges. Mine. And everybody’s watching me.

Almost six months ago, I kicked the smoking habit. Looking back on those first few weeks, it wasn’t extremely difficult or unpleasant but it was and continues to be a daily challenge. Early on, I was smug in knowing I was not gaining weight. Everyone knows about the inevitable weight gain during smoking cessation but I chose to ignore the issue. How could I believe I was exempt? Silly me.

A month later, a brand new four pound innertube inflated around my waist in one week. I fussed and fumed and swore and squeezed that new roll while establishing a love relationship with UTZ Special Dark pretzels and cheddar cheese, Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds or the ones with Sea Salt, and anything else I wanted all…day…long. I felt entitled to a Snickers bar every day at 2:30 because, after all, I was power walking and pushed myself hard for the good cardio. Still, I refused to get on the scale and avoided full-length mirrors.


Chloe will be 13 years old this week. She tends to constantly keep me in front of her for fear of losing sight of me. Her hearing loss is something new to deal with…

Late April, on to West Virginia I went with a suitcase full of stretch denim, elastic waist pants, and eight brand-spanking new pounds of fat wrapped around my waist. On a 5’-1” person, it’s very noticeable, especially to me.


In West Virginia I saw cameras so sophisticated that I could only dream of owning one like them. The Flock and everyone else at the festival had a camera within their reach for eighteen hours a day. A bunch of great photographers, they were, snapping away at people, places, and things and no one was off limits. We were celebrities. I would have needed to search for warblers continually, all day, to hide my second chin and chicken neck and I really got tired of sucking it in for so long. So I let it all hang out.

Naturally, these people I admire and also love, posted those photos on their blogs and Facebook for the whole world to see. And, in the late evening hours when the house was quiet, I would peek that those wonderful posts, see my plump self, and wail and writhe and whine, pleading to the computer monitor in a desperate whisper, U-u-u-u-gh. Oh, please. No more pictures? Stop?!
Pictures don’t lie. Sigh...


For me, Bella promises to keep an eye on Chloe and she does.

Is this abnormal behavior? Am I supposed to embrace my age and who I am, and love myself unconditionally? Yes.
Shall I embrace my inner tube? Well, hell no. I think not. I believe I’m entitled to be vain.
Hey, is there anyone out there, male or female, who truly embraces their chicken necks and droopy eyelids? How about female mustaches? I’m taking care of mine, thank you. And the laser hair removal technician and I had a conversation like this,

“My mustache is dark on the outer edges and I’d like it all zapped.”

“Ok, you want help with your upper lip.”

“No, my upper lip is fine. I have a mustache above it. (smiling) It’s a mustache. You can say it.” We laughed.

She still refers to my “upper lip” and I always want to laugh out loud at her professionalism. It’s a damned female mustache! If I can find the funds in the next few years, I might get my eyelids raised and my chicken neck tightened, too.


I also keep my eyes on them.

Back to the fat. Those eight new pounds turned into eleven. A week ago, I surrendered once again and began a strict, low calorie, basically no taste, no comfort-food diet. It’s a healthy diet and I’m serious about it. In three days, I lost 4.6 pounds and I’m delighted! Round two of the “3-day diet” starts tomorrow and I have a long way to go.

All without my old bad habit, foods I crave, and wine, I’m spending terribly long, vice-free days at work and taking walks every day. This is why you will not hear from me often this summer but I know I’ll want to make time to post here occasionally and share my view through the camera’s lens.


Enjoy a safe and lazy summer. Laugh often!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Organized Life, Disorganized Garden


Butterfly bush by the pond came home with me during the driest summer I remember, in 2007. It was a pathetic bush about a foot around and pretty much brown. I asked the owner of the roadside nursery if the poor thing was for sale or ready to be made into mulch. Not quite a bargain at $5.00, I felt sorry for it there, hidden in the back with two others just like it and too many other sickly, wilted perennials and herbs, left to die in the drought’s dust. Since that summer, butterfly bush has grown to my height but didn’t really become alive until this spring. From the bench, it blocks my view of the pond now but I’ll live with it.

I am not an organized gardener. As a matter of fact, I'm not even a gardener. In front of family and friends, I act like I know what I'm talking about but I really don't have a clue. Seriously. I should have foreseen that this giant butterfly bush would be sprawling across the pond in two years.


I purchase flowers on a whim and then think about where I want to plant them for about a week or maybe two. No pre-planning. I’ll even buy them without knowing if I have potting soil which is usually a problem. I’m always out of potting soil.


A flat of snapdragons were parked on the back patio in their tiny little flat sections for two months last summer. I watered them every day and finally planted them in August. These “volunteers” stayed green throughout the winter, under ice and snow, and bloomed beautifully a few weeks ago. They have since turned slightly brown and wilted and I don’t know why.

My life is so organized that every morning at precisely 6:26 a.m., I am plugging my hair dryer into the socket. At 6:45 a.m. I am lowering the garage door. And, without my daily check-off lists, I’d be lost and totally out of control. Everthing has its appropriate place in my home. Bedtime? I panic if I'm not sleeping by 10:30 pm on a weeknight.

Out in the yard, I lead a different life. I don’t think I would like the Zinnias and Impatiens planted in an orderly fashion, all lined up in a straight row.

This is our third spring/summer here in North Carolina. That famous three-year drought kept us from adding much to the gardens as it was too sad and dramatic to watch plant life shrivel up and die. Now, since this year has been wonderfully wet, I feel like I’m seeing deeper shades of green and flowers screaming color for the first time in many years.

So, since my gardens are overgrown and poorly planned, I’ll show some of what’s growing, both new and old, flower by flower. Maybe one day I’ll be brave, stand back with the camera, and show the mess I’ve made.


Calla lilies were dormant for two years.


I love the deep red Yarrow and


I won't ever have enough Lavender.


Wildflowers are multiplying, mixed with


Spiderwort. Yes, Spiderwort under the wildflowers :o/ I should fix that. If someone asks me what the name of that wildflower is, I usually make it up or say, "Oh, gosh, darn, it's on the tip of my tongue!"


Hydrangea bloomed for the first time in three years. I wonder why.




Brazilian Verbena will grow to five feet around. It’s planted in a good spot. Ahem.

With evening sun and after a rain shower,


it's my favorite time


to photograph flowers.

For the birds -


they are ripe now. Do birds prefer wild raspberries or store bought?
Speaking of birds, have you been enjoying the clumsy, silly juveniles clunking their little heads on the feeders?


I have.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Where were the butterflies?


The Evergreen Chinese Ligustrum was in full, fragrant bloom recently. In a post written last year, I complained about that awful, sickeningly sweet fragrance I despise and could become sick over, but the bees and butterflies swarm these evergreens like flies on cow plop. Around the first of June on a sweet smelling afternoon, I experienced a butterfly and bee bonanza that happens only once a year.


There I was, photographing butterflies with a camera I would have never imagined owning forty years ago and wondered why I never saw butterflies like these when I was a child. I was a kid that felt trapped inside the house and thrived on being outdoors.


Near the stinking white flowers, butterflies and bees, I spent hours that weekend contemplating and sorting through a few things. There were events I remember like they happened last week but I don’t remember butterflies. Why?


I was a very observant kid and remember the flighty off-white butterflies in the city that we would capture and hold for a minute or two and release. Yay! Honestly, my big blues never saw dramatic swallowtails. If I saw them, I would remember as well as the times I saw daddy longlegs at my cousin’s country home in Finksburg, Maryland. They scared me then and they still make me shiver.


I would remember Giant Tigers, Pipevines, Buckeyes, American and Painted Ladies, and Silver Spotted Skippers.


Who could ever forget a Zebra Swallowtail?

In the city, we didn’t have space for ornamental ponds, lots of foliage and trees or landscaped gardens. My Mom grew Marigolds, a few tomatoes, Zinnias, and Mexican Roses on an eighteen inch patch between the chain link fence and sidewalk out back which led to a concrete alley speckled with black gravel. Oh, I loved the games we played in that alley.


We also had an overgrown and heavenly Lilac bush my Mom called the Breath of Fresh Air in Fume Town. There were transit bus fumes up the avenue I remember well on humid, hot days. The watermelon, canalope, and seafood vendors sang to us on horse-drawn carts in the alleys early in the morning before the sizzling sun was high. The milkman arrived early, too. Our tiny front yards each had a tree, usually a sappy maple. There was never a need for gas or electric powered lawn cutting machines as most of our lawns consisted of clover. Hey, it was green and we spent many summer days looking for ones with four leaves.

Not many butterfly memories but I remember plenty of bees that stung bare feet and lightning bugs in July!


My parents, children during the Great Depression, were survivors more than naturalists. My Mom shared her late-thirties and forties farming stories that I loved to hear but my Dad grew up on a city block. Their lifestyles were never more or less than “no frills”.

In elementary school, I don’t remember being taught much about science but I do remember history, perhaps because I hated that subject most of all. The tomboy in me diverted my attention to the classroom windows and to daydreams about my next game of dodge ball on the side street off the avenue instead of listening to a boring science or history lesson given by a teacher who really didn't care. Boring, boring, boring.


Children are fortunate now. There is an enthusiastic awareness and focus on the environment and nature. The fifties and sixties weren’t times of nature awareness, I guess. Post war, revolution, and more war – a very different era.

I didn’t learn about butterflies but I learned to be compassionate towards ethnic groups. I learned to be generous with brown-eyed, olive skinned, curly haired, skinny Jackie, my elementary school Italian playmate straight from Sicily. She had one freckle on her face and I had thirty-one. Jackie and her large family lived about fifteen doors down the avenue and even though her parents were non-English speaking shoemakers, Jackie didn’t always wear leak-free shoes. They grated fresh romano cheese and ate spaghetti every day as a side dish for supper, didn’t have carpet and walked on cracked tile floors. Poor Jackie never owned a bike so she rode my two-wheeler. I taught her to ride that bike and my parents bought her snowballs or nickle-sicles from the trucks that rode the back alley several times a day. Jingle bells from heaven! Her enormous older sisters, Rosina and Maria, beat her. It was not a game. I’d wince and swing back at them many times and used switches if I had enough time to plan my attack. What a wild bunch of bitches we were!


I learned that although my neighbor across the street with Down’s syndrome scared me with his size, demeanor, and appearance for many years, Frankie wouldn’t hurt a fly… I never saw Frankie leave his home until he died, at 29. I was only 9. From inside my living room window I'd sit and watch friendless Frankie, afraid to be near him - I don’t think he ever had a friend or playmate.

And I learned that Jews made the best bread and pastries and owned most of the jewelry stores and dress shops in town. Polish were the hardest workers and the most generous souls, Greeks and Germans were the best cooks in the best restaurants, and Italians had the cleanest neighborhoods in Baltimore City. Yes, you could lick the marble steps leading to their front doors.


I learned that calling an ambulance for the alcoholic lady down the street who fell in the gutter in front of my home was the right thing to do. She bled, hallucinated, and almost died. 1966. I was eleven years old then. And shocked.

When I was a teenager, I learned to tuck my ones low in my sock before I boarded the bus and shopped downtown with my girlfriend, very tall Mary Lee. I always looked up to her for that reason. Years later, when I was a young adult chick working downtown, I learned to always carry a large umbrella to be used as a defense weapon. A few truant kids felt it on their backs and limbs more than once! Those thieving brats deserved my wrath.

I understood and comprehended early.


I learned not to make fun of little Jimmy and his family (Dad called them hillbillies). Jimmy was my childhood next-door neighbor for twenty years. He was a crybaby all his life and into his teens but his Mom died of cancer and his Dad committed suicide soon after… He was left with his mean uncle, so Jimmy had good reasons to cry all the time. His sad life all happened right next door with only twelve inches of cinderblock and drywall between us.

I learned to steer clear of the feel-good stuff that flowed freely in the girls’ Catholic high school I attended in the late sixties and early seventies. Those gals had the funds and I didn’t. Funny – I didn’t miss it or need it or want it.

That’s when, in my high school years, I realized I was financially challenged. It doesn’t take long for things like this to come to light when you are in math class with daughters of medical doctors. I didn’t realize my status until 1969, so it was alright because in many ways I was very rich, indeed! It was all good. I didn’t have butterflies but I had a boom box.

So, I did not learn to correctly identify bugs and butterflies and wish I had...

It isn’t too late. I am ordering a field guide for bugs and butterflies this week ;-) Any suggestions?

Sunday, June 07, 2009



There is a dragonfly convention on the pond. I’ve never seen so many at once.

No stories today - just dragonflies.


I want to share the fun I had with Blue Dashers and the macro setting.

It’s no wonder Monet and Swarovski have dragons and damsels in their brooch lines.


Aren’t they fabulous?

Blue Dasher males are very territorial. I didn’t know that until now.


Female Blue Dasher. If my ID is incorrect, let me know, please?

Mid-day under the highest sun and evening when mosquitoes gather are the best times to find them.


I chuckle when they fly away suddenly and quickly return to the same look-out post.

Eyes and heads scan incoming from all directions, ready for combat.


I’m photographing dorsals now and will move around in front of their eyes when they know me better.

Mosquitoes aren’t a problem for us when an army of dragonflies is on duty.


There are more species around. I’ll find them.