Nature

Taking Flight, Again

baby_pheobes

Last year, Phoebe, our winged resident, built her nest in one of two Arroyo Craftsman lights that frame the front door. Each year, I marvel at why she chooses the busiest location to tend to her nest, as she has a hissy fit — tail flicking, stressed alarm calls — every time the screen door opens and closes. Despite the coming and going disturbances, she keeps showing up each year to tend to her latest brood.

Peering around the corner from my summer office, the screened-in porch, I watched the building take shape. My front door, with its lopsided entrance, one light adorned with twigs and branches, the other naked, winked daringly to keep my distance.

It reminded me not to leave behind my work utensils on the commute from kitchen to porch.

Computer, check…glasses, check…phone and headphones, check…cloth napkin, check (have been known to spill while groping for the teacup in a computer trance)…

With loving care, Phoebe folded the natural bedding round and round until the little nest fit her perfectly. Then she sat, shimmying from side to side, watchful eyes aimed at the porch. One day, her peeping took on a fevered pitch and she was done sitting — hatched — five tiny, translucent bodies with open wide beaks peeking over the top of the nest.

Then came a soaking rainstorm. In the early morning hours, the summer sky opened to a deluge of windswept water. When the riot subsided, I tiptoed out to the porch, arms full of work paraphernalia, focused on not slipping on the slick deck. Stepping into the safety of the porch, I noticed the silence. No mother/child chorus. No movement above the light. Dead quiet.

Right about this time, my writing ebbed.

For months, writing had flowed out of me like nobody’s business. Notes filled notebooks and pages piled up. Then an insightful editor told me to put the breaks on the floodwaters and get cranking on publishing.

In the meantime, I continued along my work trail. Work thrived. Writing limped.

Even blog posts that used to spring out of nowhere, where nowhere in sight.

Waiting.

A few weeks ago, right on schedule, Phoebe came back and laid her eggs — one, two, three. All fluff and beaks, these minis flourished.

One morning, the birds stood up, peered around their nest, and like a toddler about to throw one chubby leg over a crib gate — they were ready. Thinking the birds would jump ship, I went around back to enter the porch. But they held tight.

The next day I was leaving for the BlogHer conference – 3 insanely hectic days in NYC. I dreamt about gardens and flight. The stark contrast of my lush home in the woods to the rush of city lights and throngs of people, couldn’t be harsher. But I enjoy the freedom of travel and look forward to the change of scene; always thankful I have a refuge, this haven, to return to. My nest.

Returning, I walked out to the porch this morning and the peeping started, reaching an all-time high. Then, in a blink of any eye, the babies flew over to the power line that connects us to the rest of the world. There they sat, tails flicking like mom’s. Once safely ensconced in my writing porch, I watched them fly into the woods, one by one.

Settling down to work, I click on my computer, but instead of opening my Inbox, I stare at a blank white page. Maybe I could write something today? How do I know?

‘Cause just like that a post took flight.


Photo note: I tried hard not to disturb Pheobe and her babies. I didn’t dare take photos. This photo of sleeping newborns is from Shutterstock.

The Poetry of Ikebana

ikebana

I watched this short video about Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, three times.

Years ago, when I was a teacher, I met a poet, Skip, who insisted children read poems three times to unlock the meaning. He asked them to experience a poem these three ways:

– Read it silently.
– Read it aloud, focusing on the sound of the poem — listening for rhyme and rhythm.
– Read the poem aloud, again, as if it is a blooming flower.

Ikebana is more than the creative expression of putting flowers in a container. It’s a disciplined Japanese art form that brings nature and humanity together. Steeped in the philosophy that being close to nature provides relaxation, the living branches, leaves, grasses, moss and seedpods produce natural shapes and graceful lines.

“In Japan, flower arrangements are used as decorations on a level with paintings and other art objects … The remarkably high development of floral art in Japan can be attributed to the Japanese love of nature. People in all countries appreciate natural beauty, but in Japan, the appreciation amounts almost to a religion.” ~ Ikebana International

Like poetry, watching this video three times made it bloom for me.

Spring is a tender time. There’s a youthful vibe in the changes and order of nature as life pops. What’s blooming for you?

Photo: Shutterstock

Desert Light

nm_sunrise3

“My first memory is of light — the brightness of light — light all around.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

It struck me the minute I stepped off the plane. That light! After spending hours in airless airports, I thought I landed in a foreign country. At first glance, the Albuquerque landscape seemed barren, thirsty dry and dramatically not green, like my east coast home, that had finally begun to recover from the depths of winter.

Georgia O'Keefe

Georgia O’Keefe

Unlike Georgia O’Keefe who came to the desert of New Mexico on a vacation and felt an immediate affinity, I landed in the desert for a conference. Inspired by O’Keefe’s enthusiasm for brightly colored paintings of the earth, sky and mountains, before dawn each day of my NM trip, I grabbed the down jacket I hoped to retire for a few days, and stepped out onto the balcony to watch the sunrise over jagged mountains. It was easy to imagine O’Keefe’s desert abstractions as the day crept in. The sunrise was dramatic, but nuanced, as it revealed colors in contrast to the dusty groundcover. Moments before sunrise, coyotes, dogs and rustling creatures I could only hope were elusive roadrunners, sounded a wake-up call in unison.

Santa Ana Pueblo

Santa Ana Pueblo

I knew it would be dry, but was it supposed to be bone-dry?

As drought bakes California, we tend to forget climate change is also ravaging other areas of the west. Changes in New Mexico’s climate are taking a toll.

“In this parched state, the question is no longer how much worse it can get but whether it will ever get better — and, ominously, whether collapsing ecosystems can recover even if it does. The statistics are sobering: All of New Mexico is officially in a drought, and three-quarters of it is categorized as severe or exceptional.” ~ LA Times 

After the last conference session, I decided to see what was beyond the Santa Ana Pueblo. I wanted to catch a glimpse of a roadrunner and was told by a conference attendee who lived in the area, the highly adaptive bird can survive on very little water. But it’s been unusually dry, even for NM, even for roadrunners, which is why they have been spotted along the path leading to the Rio Grande River behind the pueblo.

Rio Grande River

Rio Grande River

adobe_shadow_smI hiked the path down to the river slowly because the heaviness of the high altitude was beginning to take hold. Dry heat is deceptive. While I didn’t spy a roadrunner, I did stop to catch my breath and marvel at the Rio Grande in all its muddy spring glory.

Unlike other places I visit for work, New Mexico is a wistful dream I can’t seem to get out of my head…and I don’t really want to.

Photos: Ronnie Citron
Painting: Georgia O’Keefe Museum

Going Somewhere

bufflehead

After a few stunning fall weekends by the ocean gazing at skiddish water fowl preparing to flee to their warmer homes, I’ve come to love ducks. My new favorite ducks are called, Buffleheads. These snappy looking guys with the colorful name, bob their big heads and tiny bodies around the Massachusetts shores where I’ve been lucky enough to visit. I’m told by New Englanders that they arrived weeks earlier than usual and are hanging around longer.

I watched the ducks manage their changing positions while they bobbed — diving into the water for bugs and tiny fish. Their brilliance seemed to be adapting to each and every ripple and wind shift. At one point during all their bobbling, the flock of ducks stopped, spun their heads around and switched into carefully negotiated new positions — ducks in front moved to the middle or back, ducks in back paddled up to the front. Then they bobbed along floating to a new location. They were going somewhere.

Not often, but every now and then, a rogue duck would drift away. The pack would slow down to watch, and one or two ducks would glance back — then they’d all circle round and fold the wandering character back into the fray. They were going somewhere.

In this time of rising seas, diminishing shorelines and stranger than strange weather, skilled ducks adapt. Do they have a choice? They are going somewhere.

Photo: An adult bufflehead drake swimming, Shutterstock

Helpfulness, Heroism and Hope

Helpfulness, Heroism and Hope

Lately, does it feel like we are on a treadmill running from disaster to tragedy, while reacting to situations unimaginable? The news of the devastating category 4 tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma came via Facebook in a Monday evening panic. A blogger I work with, Lisa Sharp, provided a blow by blow heartbreaking account of friends missing, lost relatives, worry about pets and charged cell phones…all as she moved from a watchful perch on her porch to packing a bag and heading underground. Her last post for a while just stated, “Yes hug everyone…When Okies freak out about tornadoes, it’s bad…” Riveting and horrifying.

As the night dragged on, the death toll rose…but in days to come, stories of helpfulness, heroism and hope emerged. In the wake of such tragedy, there were two stories that reminded me just how powerful humanity is.

1. The New York Times reported about a parent’s worst nightmare. Just as the storm raged, Sarah Johnson rushed from her home in Moore to the hospital because her 4-year-old daughter, Shellbie, was having an asthma attack. Johnson told the Times that she put a hard hat on her daughter and raced to the emergency room, while hail poured down. By the time they got to the hospital, all of the nurses were down to the ground. Johnson shoved her daughter next to a wall and threw a mattress on top of her. The two survived the storm.

2. Just moments after the tornado swirled through Moore, leveling houses, schools, and leaving behind death and debris, a brilliant rainbow spread across the Oklahoma sky. Nature’s prismatic moment illustrated that there’s a spectrum ahead of us that will be decisively noxious and deceptively hopeful.

Photo: Levont’e D. Douglas