Sunday, March 31, 2013


On this joyous spring morning,
from my home to yours,
may you know love 
and peace 
and joy!

He has risen!
He has risen, indeed!

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 29, 2013


Lilac buds…swollen with spring's promise!

A promise made is a promise kept…that's what I was always taught and what I still believe. If I say I'll do something, I do it, or at least do my best at trying. My word is my bond, a promise is my word…and a man is only as good as the words he keeps.

And yes, alas, sometimes I do forget. Not often and not on purpose. I don't know whether it's creeping geezerhood,  irresponsible tracking, or some goofy form of selective memory—perhaps a subconscious process attempting an  form of warranted self-preservation. I do know whatever the cause, when I promise to do something and fail to fulfill that promise, I feel awful, a terrible disappointment in myself for having violated my own honor and principals.

To err may be human, but I'm really not much good at adopting the devine relief os self-forgiveness. 

Yesterday I made a slow circuit around the yard, checking on winter's aftermath and the state of the new season. Spring is here, or at least coming. How do I know? Promises! Buds and shoots, and rising sap–and an unmistakable electric green blush to a variety of growing things which they didn't show a week ago. Promises, promises, promises! Everywhere! 

Which I believe. Spring keeps her promises!

Monday, March 25, 2013


It did snow last night, after all—four or possibly even five inches which covered the ground and stuck to branches and twigs in fluffy wet cottony clumps. Really lovely, as I hope you can tell from an upstream view taken an hour ago, and another shot from earlier out my deskside window looking downriver.

Not a problem snow, however. The stuff was too wet, barely below freezing. Great for fashioning snowballs and snowmen, but you'd quickly soak your clothing making a snow-angel. Myladylove had no trouble getting her Honda up the short-but-steep driveway hill to the road, much to her great disappointment. She'd been hoping for a snow day off from work…or at the very least, a snow delay.

Naturally, the birds have been busy at the feeders since daybreak—especially the cardinals. How my mother would have enjoyed seeing them. She loved birds in general, but redbirds were her hands-down favorites. "Isn't that just the prettiest thing ever," she'd say when one appeared nearby.

It's impossible to accurately count cardinals when they're hungry and on the feed. Several times this morning I managed to quickly tally thirty-five or so in view at once…but that was probably not more than half. There might have just as easily been a hundred of them within a fifty-foot radius of the big box elder near the front door—males and females about evenly mixed, constantly coming and going, perching, feeding, fluttering, on the ground and stump and seed feeder, flying to and from nearby bushes, sailing and hopping, trading places with one another, occasionally squabbling.

And they were just part of the breakfasting traffic which also included chickadees, juncos, titmice, downy and hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, a couple of robins, goldfinch, house finches, various sparrows, a handful of ill-mannered starlings, some doves, and a Carolina wren who couldn't seem to decide whether he wanted to eat or sing. I don't think I'm leaving anyone out, but it's possible—as I said, it was a rowdy, animated melee.

Still, it was the cardinals which mostly caught my eye—the scarlet males like glowing neon against the puffy white backdrop, along with their lovely ladies, subtly elegant in chestnut and crimson and buff. Too beautiful, really, for my inadequate words.

A redbird snow…and one my dear mother would have surely treasured

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Today is Palm Sunday—a moveable celebration which always falls the Sunday before Easter—and commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. When I was a kid the church we attended decorated our familiar sanctuary with countless large, feathery palm fronds, which I loved because they gave the place an exotic, tropical look. It's a mystery to me where they acquired those fronds—if they were actual palm fronds, or oversized frond-like blades taken from some other strange plant. But they were huge natural leaves of some sort, and brilliant green, which contributed to the overall striking appearance…especially on years when the ground outside was white with snow.

Yes, I remember plenty of snowy Palm Sundays, and quite a few snowy Easters, too. So the fact that it snowed today is not  surprising…plus it didn't snow all that much. Maybe a couple of inches. Frankly, we were expecting considerably more.   

Yesterday morning the prediction was for several inches, starting soon after sundown and continuing through the night. The storm front apparently stalled or slowed, because the weather folks kept backing off on the forecast and timeline all day. By nightfall we'd gone from 90% to a 60% chance of some snow before morning. But when morning arrived here, the ground was still brown and dry. Flakes didn't start falling until late, almost noon. 

Now the word is a 90% chance of snow tonight, 3-7 inches accumulation,  80% tomorrow, 1-3 inches, and snow in insignificant amounts in the 30-40 % range day and night thereafter until Thursday. 

I say bring it on, whatever remains in the storehouse. Myladylove would enjoy a snow day off from work. Let's just get all this snow business over with. 

Maybe then we can have some bird-singin', bee-buzzin', flower-bloomin' spring!  

Saturday, March 23, 2013


It isn't often you can get close to a turkey vulture…"close" being a relative term, of course. While a chickadee might not decide you're invading their space until the distance separating the two of you is under six feet, a buzzard—which is what most country folks hereabouts call these big sepulchral creatures—is quite a bit more stand-offish. Closer than a hundred feet and they're apt to get edgy—and even that is often pushing things. 

They're just being sensible. For all their soaring mastery aloft, turkey vultures are slow and clumsy when it comes to getting their ungainly selves airborne. Should your intentions be detrimental to their welfare, they know they need time and to get "on the wing" and make their escape.  

Sure, maybe they're a little paranoid. Or it could be they're aware of being regarded by many with ill-concealed distaste, if not malice aforethought. Buzzards aren't exactly warm and fuzzy. In the public mind, they're the feathered lepers of the bird world—unsavory characters, unclean, undesirables best shooed away to conduct their dirty business elsewhere. 

It's always surprising to me how many otherwise decent outdoor folks count vultures as lesser members of the avian clan—unfairly viewing them through a similar prejudicial lens as many do undertakers and coroners, simply because the birds share their own commitment to the dead, wherein they play a top role in nature's necessary clean-up crew. Frankly, I suspect such an unfounded bias may simply reveal an inability among these intolerant individuals to handle reminders of their own fleeting mortality.

Whatever the cause, buzzards usually like to keep their distance…except when curiosity seems to override their caution. 

Turkey vultures are fixtures here along the river. Welcome neighbors. When not off sailing the high blue sky, they regularly roost, sunbathe, and lazily loll among the huge sycamores across from the cottage. It's not uncommon to step outside and find several vultures sitting on a nearby limb. Most times they promptly fly off. But occasionally they wait, as if choosing to watch first and see what might be happening. If my activity looks interesting, they're apt to hang around for quite a while—a black-robed audience taking in a free show.

The turkey vuture in the photo above seemed more curious than alarmed. I was checking out a stretch of river a mile or so above here.  Several buzzards were circling around and playing in the updrafts over an open hillside. I watched this individual bird break from the pack, angling down, descending to land in a nearby clump of understory bushes beside the gravel lane. 

The vulture seemed to be watching, interested about what I was up to. It stayed put when I walked back to the truck and began driving slowly its way—eyeing me as I drew parallel to where it sat, eight feet up on the right-hand side of the road. 

I stopped. The buzzard held. I made its portrait through the pickup's windshield—though it's admittedly not a very good photo. The bird looked at me. I waved, then buzzed down the passenger-side window and offered some pleasantry about the weather. No response. Unfortunately I had things to do.    So I waved again and drove slowly on by. 

And after I'd passed, I watched in the review mirror as the bird hopped off the limb, caught the wind under its wide wings, and began sailing off and up to rejoin its brethren.      

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Whoo-hoo, springtime in Ohio! Day two. Let me count the ways…

Ummm, well, when I got up at 3:30 a.m. with the usual back pains, gimped into the great room, fed another log to the woodstove, and huddled under a blanket in the recliner for another try at sleep, the outside temperature read a measly 18˚F. Rather nippy for a vernal First Act.

Okay, bad example. Let's consider something more recent…

Right now it's a full eight degrees warmer, 26˚F on the big thermometer and the same according the National Weather Service's web site. Not much of an improvement, perhaps, but at least headed in the right direction. The really dramatic part is that it's snowing to beat the band—great big flakes swirling and blowing in a thick white slurry. I can barely make out the shape of the island across from the cottage. My mother would say the old woman is really shaking out her featherbed.

And I guess that's the gist of the day's report. While it's certainly spring in fact, it isn't very much spring in appearance and feeling. But historically, early spring in Ohio is—more often than most of us like to admit—an act of summoned faith…less about weather than belief.

And possibly a little bit like falling in love in that your head needs to follow your heart. Spring is truly here. I just know it!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


When spring comes along, the winter-weary heart rejoices. 

No matter whether the day is sunny and warm, the very personification of the new season—or dreary and cold, with sleet and snow pouring from a sullen sky. What's important is that winter has been left behind and is already fading in our memory's rearview mirror. 

Spring has arrived, the word itself setting mood and direction. One does spring up, after all…so it only follows that we're instantly uplifted. Dark spirits are lightened, ennui metamorphoses into energy, despondency becomes hope. There is vernal magic afoot, and even if we can't see it with our eyes, we feel it stirring in our DNA.

The spheres have danced their timeless waltz. Earth has spun and whirled, bowed to the sun, tilted that necessary degree as it crossed the celestial equator. Daylight now rules over darkness. 

Spring is here and our souls rejoice in gladdened song!             

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


This morning I spotted a fairly unusual visitor to this corner of the state…a great egret, Ardea alba. The big bird was wading the shallow end of a small, marshy pond located in the secluded corner of a field a mile or so from the cottage

In all likelihood this stately, dazzling white guest was a transient, perhaps on the way to the marshy basin area of western Lake Erie where the largest great egret colony in the Great Lakes nests on West Sister Island. Or maybe the bird just wanted to check out the nearby nature center run by National Audubon Society, which uses an image of a great egret as its symbol.   

Many folks who see one of these birds mistakenly think it's an albino great blue heron. The legs afford an easy and positive identification key—yellow on the great blue and its subspecies (see below) and black on the great white. They're also slightly smaller than a great blue heron, though not by much. The noticeably scaled-down snowy egret has a black bill; both great blue herons and great egrets sport yellow bills.    

Great white egrets are our second largest heron species unless you count Florida's great white heron, which is currently listed as a subspecies of the great blue, and the associated Wurdmann's heron, found only in the Florida Keys and thought to be a color morph between the great blue and great white. 

The images aren't great, but I didn't want to pressure the bird too much. Travelers need their rest and nourishment. 

Monday, March 18, 2013


According to the almanac, spring is just a couple of days away. I'll have to take the experts' word for this. At the moment it's 36˚F and drizzling; damp and chilly. Possible snow flurries are in the forecast for this evening and Wednesday. And daytime temperatures through the rest of the week are not expected to rise above the mid-30s˚F. 

Not exactly the seasonal debut I'd prefer…though not at all out of character for Ohio. Spring's arrival hereabouts often doesn't find a landscape appearing noticeably different than it did in mid-February. In fact, we had sunnier, warmer, drier days the latter half of this year's February than we've had throughout the first half of March. Which, I repeat, isn't really surprising.

Spring seldom pops in looking like spring. A friend of mine used to say spring must be taken on faith. A dedicated countryman, he lived in Ohio all his four-score-plus years, and knew well the fickleness of Buckeye weather. 

He also said dependable spring weather wouldn't arrive until "the frogs have looked through ice twice." Meaning there'd be at least two occasions after spring's official onset where temperatures dropped enough that ice formed on shallow ponds. 

And along those same lines, he cautioned to not expect spring to "hold" until I'd seen snow on the forsythia blooms.

For at least thirty years, I've watched all three of his homespun proverbs come true more often than not. We usually do have a couple of below-freezing nights early-on where at least a thin skim of ice covers frog-holding bogs and backwaters. Time after time I've witnessed bright yellow forsythia blooms white-capped with snow. And there are lots of years when spring's outward appearance belies it's seasonal beginning…and to truly believe such a fact requires an act of faith. 

My forsythia bush is nowhere close to blooming this week, so any snow on its bright flowers will have to come later. But nighttime low temps for the foreseeable future are expected to be in the mid-20s˚F, well below freezing—so any frog foolish enough to stir from his muddy chamber and glance upward will doubtless be forced to view the cold world beyond through a pane of ice.

Meanwhile…I'm hanging tough and keeping the faith. Isn't that spring a'comin?   

Friday, March 15, 2013


Cooper's hawk, on "refuge" Christmas tree, near the box elder by the front door. I made this shot a few weeks ago, when there was snow on the ground. 

Recently, during the course of answering someone's comment to another post, I replied that our mild winter had apparently made meal gathering easier on the Cooper's hawk, as it had been awhile since I'd observed it terrorizing the feeder-visiting birds and squirrels. 

My casual words obviously reminded the raptors they'd been missing some easy pickin's. This past week, I've watched a Cooper's on the hunt a dozen times—zooming past my deskside window like a feathered jet on a strafing run, leaving the usual mess of mayhem in its wake…discombobulated small creatures scattering every whichaway, and sometimes a few gray-brown feathers floating in silent testimony to that unlucky one which regrettably zigged when it should have zagged. 

Today I've witnessed a double-header. 

About noon a Cooper's flashed around the corner and startled the usual mixed feeder flock into a confused mass retreat. Like a heat-seeking missile, the hawk locked onto a fleeing junco, pacing it turn-for-turn, quickly overtaking to nail the bird in mid-air, a few wing-flaps from where the chase began.

Then, a hour ago, another Cooper's—or maybe the same one—did a reverse surprise assault, coming around the streamside end of the cottage, and plucking a plump gray squirrel from the hanging suet block where he'd been greedily gorging. I watched the hawk carry his limp prize across the river. 

Two-for-two…and the day's not yet over!        

Thursday, March 14, 2013


My little procedure Tuesday went fine. And barring any problems from the test samples, I won't have to do an encore for another three years…almost enough time to halfway forget how exceedingly vile the gallon of prep-solution was to gag down.

On the other hand the propofol was dandy! Like switching off a light…one moment you're completely alert, the next you're waking, just as alert, and the procedure is done. They then wheel you back to your curtained cubicle, give you juice to sip, and ten minutes after that you're good to go—being pushed down the hall and out to the car. Not a moment's fuzziness, no odd sensations, tastes, smells, or after-effects that I noticed. Great stuff, propofol! I can see why Michael Jackson loved it.  

Back home—three minutes from the hospital, which is directly across, fifteen-hundred yards, but out of sight beyond the hill  from the cottage—I devoted the rest of the morning to snoozing, being woefully short (even for me!) on sleep. After a two-hour nap, I spent the afternoon reading and eating—first lunch, and a few hours later, supper. In-between I munched. 

About midnight, just before heading to bed, I accompanied Moon-the-Dog outside for her evening constitutional. The night was cold and dark. A fine mist peppered down from the overcast sky—wet, icy, but whether sleet or rain I couldn't tell. The river was up, running fast and silent.

I relished it all…the cold, the darkness, the icy mist on my face and the spate river at my feet. I am truly blessed, and so very grateful.     

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Yesterday's brilliant sun and 40˚F high all but finished the snow-cover from earlier in the week. Only a few traces now remain—small white patches in protected pockets on the island across from the cottage…not even visible in the shot (below) I took in the afternoon, which I posted to show what a difference a day can make here along the river. Just look at the previous post pix of the same snowy scene taken a couple days before!

Today is supposed to reach 50˚F and tomorrow 60˚F, so even the remaining snow daubs will soon be gone. And with any luck, we'll have seen our final ground-covering snowfall of this version of winter. Which suits me fine and dandy. I'm ready for spring. It's my favorite of all the seasons.

I love the energy—the message!—of spring: reawakening, renewal, resurrection. Spring speaks of life and hope, dreams and faith. Spring rekindles the fire in my mind and body and soul. The shot (above) of yesterday's strong afternoon sunlight pouring through a clump of yellow crocus on the hill, their petals glowing like stained glass—while not much of an image composition-wise—did capture for me the spirit of that coming spring. In both photo and spring itself, there's always vernal magic abounding—which is something I will welcome with open arms.  

It has, frankly, been one of those weeks. Myladylove has been semi-down with some viral bug. Dizzyness, aching, low-grade temperature. She needed bed rest, sleep, care. But sheer bullheadedness saw her dragging herself off to work every day, in spite of how awful she looked and felt. Mind you, I understand this attitude, being of a similar obstinate nature…though it doesn't make such foolish and self-harming stubbornness any easier to watch. She kept herself "pumped up" on the job via antibiotics and pain relievers, but would practically collapse when she got home. I did all I could.

On top of this there have been doctor's appointments for her, various business meetings for me, columns to write, emails, and the usual mundane essentials such as grocery shopping, washing, cooking, keeping the woodstove going, taking Moon-the-Dog out for brief rambles, and prescription pick-ups just in case there was a miracle drug which would either alleviate Myladylove's symptoms, or temporarily suppress her mule-headedness and allow me to persuade her to stay home a day or two and get some much-needed recuperative rest.

On top of all this, I'm scheduled to have a colonoscopy Tuesday (oh boy!) so I've been trying to get a bit ahead on the things I usually do early in the week, plugging frenetically onward. So yeah, I can definitely use that dose of vernal magic.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


The view upstream this morning

I am not a weather oracle. Let's make that perfectly clear at the outset. I possess no precognitive powers, and do not own a crystal ball nor a set of goose bones. The only tea leaves I read are those in the bottom of my cup which informs me when it's time for a refill.
Snow on riverside deck rail…under two inches.

However, yesterday's extended hoopla of adrenalized predictions by the professional pundits—"major winter storm," "significant accumulation," blah, blah, blah—just didn't square with what my gut instincts about the coming situation kept indicating. Admittedly, sometimes my "gut instincts" turn out to be the result of that chili dog I had for breakfast. Therefore, while I wouldn't have bet my best fly rod against the paid professionals, given the opportunity I might have gone a cup of coffee and a large wedge of homemade apple pie at my favorite country café…which, since I'd be having my own pie slice and cuppa, would ameliorate any sting of losing.

I did voice my doubts in yesterday's semi-ranting post: "I wouldn't be surprised if the end result turned out to be a couple of inches of wet snow…" is the exact quote—and as it turned out, a smack-on precursive call, prophesy, forecast, or prognostication. Pick your noun. I'll settle for guess. The forewarned snow arrived about 8:30 p.m. and fizzled before midnight. Total accumulation as revealed by morning's cloudy light: something under two inches. Wet and sticky, already melting. 

The riverbank augur got it right! Hummm-m-m?  Now that I think about it, I believe such a dazzling feat deserves more than mere self-awarded accolades…I'm pretty sure—no, make that absolutely convinced!—that the fair and just reward for such a display of evisionary accuracy is that aforementioned large wedge of homemade apple pie and cup of coffe at my favorite country café. 

Please excuse me while I go collect. 

Miss Cardinal thinks I deserve pie, too. I never disobey redbirds.   

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Is winter coming? That would, of course, be winter weather, seeing as how winter the season has been around for more than two months and has only a few weeks of officialdom remaining until spring takes over. 

If you believe the weather pundits, we're going to have a fairly impactful snowfall tonight, starting around 9:00 p.m. EST. The prediction is 3-7 inches. And the long-range radar shows there's definitely something, weatherwise, stalking our way from the northwest…the question is whether it's snow, sleet, or rain—and how much?

This morning's prediction called for 4-8 inches, to start at 1:00 p.m., with sleet before the snow. A few hours before that guesstimate, the postulated snow amount was 6-8 inches, also preceded with rain and sleet. Obviously, those estimates are being ratcheted down. The rain held off all day, though it has now started a light drizzle. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if the end result turned out to be a couple of inches of wet snow that was a sloppy mess, but a decided fizzle as "a major winter snow event," which is what one reporter on the Weather Channel gushed excitedly. 

You gotta take the Weather Channel crew with a big grain of salt—especially when it comes to their "Local on the Eights!" forecasts. Checking updates from the National Weather Service proves far more accurate and reliable if you want to know both current and future weather for your area. I understand that for the Weather Channel crew, weather is their thing, and that storm chasing and breathless "stand-up" reporting is their game. They live for "major events. I get that, really. But those people need to chill out, lay off the mega-doses of caffeine. All that bouncing around like a bunch of hyper squirrels is seldom warranted. Too much science as showbiz for me, though it makes for exciting television, which, I suppose, is the point. Creating you own channel costs BIG money, and income comes from sponsorship and sponsorship follows audience numbers and audience numbers result from high-energy, exciting TV…even if you have to stir the pot regardless of whether or not anything's cookin'.

Myladylove says I'm being cynical. She adores the Weather Channel. Watching them enthusiastically track and dramatically detail a rain shower moving in from Indiana can transfix her for an hour. Their reporting of a winter snowstorm heading our way can work her into a state of worry bordering on panic. 

Not that this isn't useful. All I have to do is mumble something along the lines of "let's not wait too long to salt the driveway hill," and she's out the door like a shot, flinging Ice Melt everywhere. And while she's relieving herself of all that nervous energy, I log onto the National Weather Service site, see what the weather's really doing…and switch the TV's channels to the latest episode of Duck Dynasty, Swamp People, Wicked Tuna, or Finding Bigfoot. I know good television when I see it!