Birds Before Bennington

So fellow travelers, this weekend’s road trip planned so many weeks ago evolved into something much more than expected.

As I prepared for the concert road trip, birding reports of returning migrants long delayed by April’s record setting cold began showing up in my messages. Even though I did not register to bird for this year’s Birdathon event, I could feel the compelling pull of the annual challenge we had risen to for so many years. On our last Birdathon Favorite Youngest Daughter and I finally broke the 100 species mark. Last year, even flying solo, I tallied a respectable total count of 73 species and I only birded for seven hours in a half dozen favorite locations, about half the time and distance we would cover as a team.

Calculating the time I would need to get to the concert, I set my alarm for first light, tossed my birding notes and checklist in the front passenger seat (next to the bin which holds my binoculars and travel copy of All About Birds) and finished packing my car.

When that alarm went off Saturday morning I hit snooze and rolled over. Half an hour later the punctuated calls of our resident yard robins and cardinals roused me from a surrealistic dream clearly scripted from the nerve wracking events at work the day before. I had slept through three replays of that snoozed alarm. Damn.

Grateful my husband had thoughtfully set up the coffeemaker the night before, despite the stress induced foul mood I had been in, I hit brew now, threw on hiking boots, packed a cooler with water, snacks and fruit and, after glancing at the forecast for both home and my afternoon destination, grabbed a rain jacket. Even after sleeping through that alarm, I managed to head out so early, our dog did not wake up to follow me downstairs. Travel mug filled with warm life restoring java, I paused in my driveway to listen~

Robin
Cardinal
House Sparrow
Goldfinch
Mourning Dove
House Finch
Red-bellied woodpecker
Blue jay                                                                                                                                                      Crow
Chipping sparrow
and of course our newest tenant “Chester” the House Wren

Eleven birds and I hadn’t even left my driveway.

As I drove up our road a great blue heron sailed high overhead. Always a welcome sighting, I had been told decades ago this graceful flier was one of my totem spirit guides. Driving across the bridge in the village I spied a pair of ospreys fishing for breakfast among the cormorants. But dark clouds moving in from the west threatened to shut down the opportunities to catch early morning activity and calls, so rather than stop to watch as I sometimes do on my way to work, I drove on to my next location where I hoped migrating warblers would be sheltered.

By the time rain arrived I had managed to log thirty-eight species in about two hours. I checked two more hot spots but found only a few persistent residents whose species I had already tallied braving the intensifying rains.

It was time to head East for songs of a different nature. (to be continued)

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Verdi in the Woods

So fellow travelers, cool overcast conditions have not dampened the enthusiasm of songbirds this morning.

Sipping tea at the kitchen table of a favorite AirBnB I’m focused on the serenade echoing from the woods behind the cottage. It’s a glorious chorus of melodic phrases, punctuated by bright chirps and an occasional bass riff by a woodpecker somewhere deep in the forest.

Morning serenade
Woodland concert wakens me
Friendship sings again

This weekend’s road trip was set in motion when I received word of a choral concert which included three friends from our creative group. It was an opportunity not to be missed and well worth the seven hour round trip drive, which of course gave me the perfect reason to stay over at this favorite spot.

The only hitch in this plan was the schedule conflict of the concert date falling on the same weekend as the annual Birdathon marathon, an event I have participated in for twelve years, nine of them with Favorite Youngest Daughter.

Still this performance led by Maestro Cailin Marcel Manson would include a mulitude of choral and orchestral musicians taking on Verdi’s sweeping Requiem. It promised to be as rare as any of the unusual sightings popping up in my local birding reports (which so far this season have included an Avocet, a White pelican and a Western meadowlark.)

I reserved my ticket, booked my overnight accommodations and marked my calendar. Little did I know how crucial this respite would prove. (To be continued)

a little watercolor sketch of one of my morning greeters.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

On Snow Events and Wonder

So fellow travelers, hush….listen

 

can you hear it?

 

Uh huh,  that is the legendary “sound of silence.”

I’m not sure it’s what Simon and Garfunkle had in mind when they penned their iconic song, but anyone who lives in deep snow country knows it and it is what I woke to this morning after hours and hours of constant snow.  Sixty-six hours for anyone keeping track, which of course the airport weather station does for us.

66 hours and 19.5 inches later our yard is an arctic landscape, minus the glaciers, although if our sub zero windchills continue those may be coming soon. Stay tuned.

Lake Effect bands like this are common here. Unlike Winter Storm Grayson which blustered up the East coast earlier this week they are a not product of specific low pressure systems, but the result of several conditions (cold dry air, open waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, shifting winds) which combine to create streams of snowfall over areas of Upstate New York.  Our weather teams don’t refer to them as “storms,” they call them “events.”

How feastive!

I suspect it will be a while before I can put away the outdoor Christmas decorations.

It’s been a while since we had such a severe start to a winter season. Favorite Youngest Daughter commented it’s the first white Christmas we’ve had in a while. Oh we always get snow well before Christmas, but in recent years it seems it melted right before we most wanted it. Not so this year, in fact winter is ramping up to be one long, brain freezing endurance test.

So, if Old Man Winter is laying down the challenge, I’m determined to summit those wind driven snow drifts and seek wonder wherever I can.

Like the quiet “chip!chip!” outside my kitchen window,

drawing my attention to a flash of red, revealing a brave yard resident reminding me to check the feeders,

where little tracks are my thankful reminder not only birds are counting on me

and a burst of early morning color shines with anticipation for the coming year.

Dawn comes silenced winds

leave glistening gems of Light

Pause Wonder Breathe Be

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaching

So fellow travelers, challenges at work are on the rise right now. Mindful of the toll stress took on my physical, mental and emotional well being last school year, I’m striving to counter act it’s effects proactively.

During my recovery this summer, I learned how significant simple moments can be and how important it is to attend to them by being present in those moments.

Moments like seeing light streaming in a window after a tough session with a student struggling to get through the day.

Reaching for sunlight

Plants know to turn from darkness

Learn from Nature’s ways

Focus on positives, use what’s working well to move forward one step at a time and for the joy in those moments of Light.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Autumn Zinnias

via Daily Prompt: Gratitude

So fellow travelers, today’s blog prompt from WordPress is Gratitude.

With a forecast for heavy winds, rain and plummeting temps I knew the flowers still lingering in my garden were better cut and brought inside to enjoy than left to the elements.

 

 

Gratitude today

Is gathering zinnias

So late in autumn

 

 It’s a rare treat to even have flowers so late in the season.

The zinnias greeted me cheerfully on my kitchen table this morning as wind and rain sent leaves scattering all through the yard. One last breath of summer to be grateful for.

 

 

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.



Zen Moment: Park Bench

So fellow travelers, warm weather continues to linger and I’ll take it in as long as I can.

Yesterday a passing front left behind dramatic clouds, promising photo ops worth the drive to the other end of the lakefront park where Delilah and I often walk. It’s not far, but that end of the park is often more crowded and I usually prefer the quiet trails closer to my house. They are a go to spot for sorting through a challenging day’s residual impacts.

Delilah was delighted to have some new critter dens to explore while I stood in awe of the gallery which greeted my senses. The lake and sky had outdone themselves in creating canvases of light.

The smell of autumn leaves filled the air, a light breeze brushed my face. Laughter echoed from the playground where many families had gathered. Is there any sound more joyful than the sound of kids laughing? It lifted my heart which is carrying concerns for several friends facing life challenges.

Walking towards the lake I spied a bench where I could sit to watch the sun paint the sky with golden light as I sent some positive thoughts to my friends. This morning as I looked through the images from our walk I found one with that bench and this haiku with an extra line emerged from the memory of the moment.

 

20171025_083428.jpg

 

Park bench in my mind

you meet me here and we sit

in silent laughter

with the setting sun

 

Friendship is a treasure beyond worldly rewards. Like the golden gift of a beautiful sunset it’s value is beyond measure.

 Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Undiscovered country

It is indeed “easier in the woods” Shared with profound gratitude for Jennifer’s ability to glean wisdom from grief.

The Trailhead

This afternoon, I received the news that my friend died this morning. I’ve known for some time that he had a deadly and rapidly progressing condition. So the news was not unexpected, but it was still surprising in how ferociously piercing it felt. He told me last week it was about to happen, but there was a part of me that clung fast to denial. That’s the part of me that sits here, now, and wonders how someone can send me a message one day and be gone on another. It’s perfectly plausible and entirely common, and yet it still seems amiss.

During these last few months, I strained to minimize the gap that had opened between us, the one that inevitably appears between one person who belongs very much to the world, and another who is preparing to exit it. It was important to me that we remain on…

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Sanctuary Song

So fellow travelers, today we celebrate Thanksgiving a holiday dedicated to my two favorite things in life: family and food.

This morning I took our dog out for a good long walk before heading on the road to dinner at my brother’s house. He’s set an essential rule this year :  “Please leave all politics at the door.” It says something about the challenges of current times that he even felt a need to do so, yet I am grateful he did. We all need to relax and enjoy being together, to be in a space where the most divisive questions are  “red or white with dinner ?”  and  “apple or pumpkin for dessert?”

For the record the answer to the latter question is simply “Yes, please.”

Delilah and I walked down a neighborhood street where the two feet of lake effect snow which fell a few days ago has buried the election signs left standing either in victory or defiance.

 For once I am grateful for the early snowfall.

As that thought rattled around my weary brain cells, I caught the sound of distant bird calls. Rounding a corner we came across a row of trees filled with birds. As I stopped to take in the welcome chatter I recognized a song among the passing migrants I had not heard for several weeks.

Scanning the bare branches towering above us I realized the songs were coming from a small Chinaberry tree right in front of us where a small flock of robins had paused for breakfast.

Chinaberry buffet for migrant robins.

I stood silent, eyes closed, breathing in the clear cold air, letting the sweet, harmonious “cheeriup, cheeriup, cheerio” fill my soul with the hope of spring and joys of summer. I stood  a long time, embedding this sacred moment into the roots of my existence.
Tears ran down my face in a river of deep cleansing gratitude.

Gratitude for awareness

Gratitude for the healing powers of nature

Gratitude for family near and far, here and in Spirit

Gratitude for the gift of being alive.

“Fly fast and free feathered friends,” I whispered before moving on, “If it’s not too much a burden, please carry our prayers for hope, strength and solidarity to the Heart of God.”

One solidarity robin flew out from the tree, swooped overhead then circled back to settle again in the branches. I’ll take that as an affirmation for hope.

Blessings of gratitude go with you all, fellow travelers. Walk gently on the path and may adventure find you ready.

Zen moment The Mahjong Tree

So fellow travelers, I have arrived at a quiet retreat center for a weekend of creative adventures with several friends.

Early morning bird calls had me out walking a dew laden trail where I came around a corner and startled a small flock of goldfinches.

They swooped up to the shelter of a large tree at the edge of the field  where they twittered loudly at my intrusion. It reminded me of a phrase used in Mahjong to describe the sound of the tiles being mixed before stacking “the twittering of sparrows”.

Twittering tree song

Yellow dots dash branch to branch

Sweet morning greeting


Giving thanks for this zen moment I left the little feathered chorus to resume their morning routine and walked on along the path for further adventures.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready. 

Haiku for Monet

So fellow travelers, I am eternally grateful for those moments when the Light stops me in the midst of life’s craziest hurdles.

I had one of those moments this afternoon.

Water lilies in

Perfect afternoon sunlight 

I feel like Monet 

As I sat transfixed by the play of light and shadows on my little pond, I was deeply grateful to be reminded things of this life may pass yet that which is of true value always remains.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.