Wednesday, November 4, 2009

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Though our pumpkin headed, toddler-sized scarecrow, "Pumpkinelope" has been sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch for over a week now, we won't head out to get our carving pumpkin until tomorrow.

The heat and moisture are so high here in Florida, I didn't want to put out a Jack-O-Lantern too early, lest it become a real fright by rotting right in front of us and before Halloween.

So, in honor of the scraping, carving, and lighting to come, a few pumpkin facts for you:

  • Pumpkin is tremendously good for you - its bright orange flesh is a clue to the large amounts of beta carotene (vitamin A) inside. It is also rich in potassium, fiber, Vitamin C, E, and K. Click on these links for a good pumpkin soup recipe and instructions on pumpkin seed roasting.

  • The top pumpkin-producing states are California, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (listed in alphabetical order). They produced 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins last year. Source

  • Each year, growers compete for the title of growing the world’s largest pumpkin. The largest recorded pumpkin grown was on October 1, 2005 at the Pennsylvania Giant Pumpkin Growers Weighoff. It weighed in at 1,469 pounds, breaking all previous world records. It was grown by Larry Checkon of North Cambria, Penn. Source

  • American colonists sliced off pumpkin tops, removed the seeds, and filled the pumpkins with milk, spices, and honey. They then baked the entire pumpkin in hot ashes to make a dessert. Source

  • Pumpkins (which are biologically a fruit, not a vegetable, because they bear the seeds of the plant) are a member of the squash family, cousins to gourds, zucchini, and cucumbers.

  • The carving of jack-o'-lanterns originated from the tradition of carving the faces of lost souls into hollowed out pumpkins and turnips. A candle was placed inside the carvings making the faces glow. The Halloween lanterns were placed on doorsteps to ward off evil spirits. Source

Happy Halloween to all! Be sure to send in photos of your carving art - I'd love to post them!

One of these days, the perfect pumpkin will pose for my camera and I'll add its orangey awesomeness to the gallery collection. Check out the other oranges in the Orange Gallery.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nature Quote - October 23, 2009

My little girl is 3 years and 2 months old today - and this is 1 poem I can't wait to share with her! (How I wish it were illustrated!)

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came -
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
~George Cooper, "October's Party"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Because I Was Looking, I Saw. . .

a lot of really cool stuff happening in nature - from my backyard to Bear Lake, here are a few of the highlights:

  • A toad has taken up residence on or near our front porch. He (or she) appears to be your basic Bufo terrestris, about four inches nose to hind end, and getting plumper every night by feeding on the various bugs attracted by our porch light. We have not named our toad friend yet, so write in if you have toad moniker suggestions.

  • I have landscaped with wildlife in mind. I have even certified my yard as a Backyard Habitat. I'm used to birds at the feeder and anoles and geckos all around the house. But still, occasionally something catches me off guard and makes me so glad for my landscaping; a few days ago I spotted a mockingbird chasing a blue jay all around my crabapple tree. Then I saw why: the blue jay's beak was clamped around a ripe, red, crabapple the size of a fat blueberry. There are still hundreds of crabapples left on the tree, so I'm hoping to catch their Tom & Jerry act again!

  • Speaking of mockingbirds . . . they sure have moxie! While Abbey played at the playground next to our library this Monday night, I spotted a red shouldered hawk that came to rest in a bare tree across the street. I told Abbey and we edged closer to get a good look at the large, impressive raptor. And it was impressive, standing there still as a statue while a mockingbird hopped all around it, harassing its every last feather. This hawk could have made an appetizer out of the mockingbird, but still the smaller bird came to within inches. And the smaller bird achieved its goal - the unruffled but annoyed hawk took wing a minute or so later. I knew mockingbirds were protective and territorial, but this one seems either downright heroic or downright stupid. (Probably a little of both - when you come right down to it, all survival on the planet requires a little of both.)

  • Buckeye butterflies are everywhere! All over the woodland trail at Bear Lake, all over my zinnias, just all over. They are gorgeous! My identification books mention them massing at this time of year; not migrating like monarchs, but definitely moving southward. This is definitely a check mark in the "pro" column for living in the south.

  • We did get to see a bald eagle at Bear Lake. We haven't seen one on every visit, so it's special. This time, the great bird took off from a branch in a nearby pine snag so forcefully that the branch came tumbling down with a loud crack and rumbling clatter. The eagle flew over our heads while we were distracted with the noise. I caught it out of the corner of my eye and was able to alert Brian and Abbey before it turned to catch an air current and sailed back in front of us. A moment of pure natural magic, all the better for having seen it with my two best fellow explorers.
And we saw it because we were out there . . . just having fun and . . . looking.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't Forget: Orionid Meteor Showers this Week!

Bundle up and get outside each night this week to see the Orionid meteor showers!

The best night will be Wednesday, the 21st, and the best viewing times are 2am-5am, but I doubt I'll be up and out that early (unless I have to wake up to pee in the middle of the night).

You should be able to see shooting stars from dusk on, particularly in the eastern sky. (They're called the Orionids because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation Orion.)

Maximum rates are expected to be 20-30 per hour and since it's a crescent moon, that will make the sky dark and the meteors extra-visible.

Okay, I'm off to the store to stock up on jugs of apple cider to mull with cinnamon and take out with us when we go shooting star watching tonight.

Be sure to respond to this post and let me know how the shooting star show goes where you are!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nature Quote - October 9. 2009

"The green grass and the happy skies court the fluttering butterflies." -Astrid Alauda

The air here is fairly filled with the fluttering wings of butterflies. Some are taking in the nectar of our fall flowers (we've still got months before the first hard frost) and some are merely stopping over on their way to points further south.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad they're here - they make life seem enchanted.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Autumn Action

A well-supported principle of ecology is that the place where two ecosystems meet – between a forest and a stream, or a river and the sea – the diversity of life abounds. You’ll find more plants, more animals, more activity, courtesy of the mix.

I’m beginning to think the same principle holds true for the time around the change of seasons.

Fall fell on September 22 this year, and though afternoon temperatures here along the Gulf Coast are still mercilessly steamy, the air of autumn is all around.

The animals that seemed to loll through the end of summer’s heat (a wise tactic indeed – in the south you either take summer slowly or are struck dumb and still by its power) have been revived by the recent cool nights.

Here, at the change of seasons, birds and bugs (and bigger things, too) are teaching us about action and diversity in all their furry, feathered, whiskered and winged glory.

They know a change is coming.

They’re up and about and getting prepared.

They bicker and brag and celebrate and sing.

The opulence of summer has met the sweet breeze of autumn, and those of us lucky enough to be fed physically by the first and spiritually by the second . . . well, we need to get moving.

Now is the time to be outside – in this short reprieve between the hellish heat and the cruel cold – to be out looking and thinking and putting pen (or brush, or pixels, or child’s crayon if that’s what you have at hand) to paper.

We are the ones fortunate enough to be able to watch, listen, hear, taste, smell and see. We cannot capture the change, but it is both our responsibility and our reward to tell the story.

We can, each in our own way, share the joy and glory of the sweet place where two seasons meet, and mix, and move the world.

This piece was originally written for the October 2009 issue of Moonshine Magazine.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Photographs Available

Our summer trip to Virginia was amazing! Making my way through the 300 frames (slowly) now, and have just added three new photographs to the gallery collection. Enjoy!


Burgundy Swirl Dahlia

Appalachian Hillside Summer

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nature Quote - September 21, 2009

The return of sunshine after days of rain is a better than winning the lottery!

"The sun is the epitome of benevolence - it is lifegiving and warmthgiving and happinessgiving, and to it we owe our thanksgiving." -Jessi Lane Adams

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nature Quote - September 16, 2009

“Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere” - Blaise Pascal

This quote reminds me of one of my mother's many wisdoms:

In discussing the photography that we both enjoy (why she doesn't sell hers, I don't know) she remarked at the infinite possibilities for shots. One subject could be shot from an infinite sphere of angles and distances, and each position could be shot infinite times because the light (and wind, and interaction with the universe) change every second of every day.

So, now I both blame her and credit her for the fact that during our recent visit to Virginia, I shot over 300 frames and am now sifting through them all to pick the very best.

Three. . .hundred. . .frames.

Thanks, Ma!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nature Quote - September 15, 2009

A little ego boost from the Universe, itself:

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and
the stars; you have a right to be here.
- Desiderata

Of course, this also means that the trees and stars and ants and birds have just the same right, too. And aren't we lucky that they do?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nature Quote - September 14, 2009

It's raining again today.

It rained all weekend.

It's going to rain all week.

Rather than looking at this as the depressing, housebound, cabin-fever occasion that it surely is, I've decided to look at it as the opportunity that, surely, it also is.

So, ten positive thoughts about rain:

1. It's watering in all of the plants I put in last week without raising my city water bill.

2. It's washing ragweed pollen out of the air.

3. It's making lots of pools and puddles from which beautiful wildlife can drink.

4. It's not flooding.

5. It's not drought.

6. It gives my daughter an opportunity to splash in puddles, which gives me the opportunity to splash with her and/or film her splashing - both of which are highly joyous.

7. It gives me the opportunity to go out in the rain and get wet so as to experience the bliss of coming in to get dry.

8. As my mother's Nana used to say: "All sunshine makes a desert."

9. It's great book reading and napping weather.

10. This last one is our quote of the day, courtesy of Ms. Dolly Parton: "The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."

So now I'm going out for a walk in the drizzle. And I'm going to look for rainbows.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nature Quote - September 11, 2009

Even eight years later, when I hear the stories of those lost on this day, my eyes still well up with tears.

Though I was lucky enough not to lose anyone on this tragic day, I remember the grief of our nation and feel it still like a hole going straight through my chest and out my back. An emptiness in my heart and between my shoulder blades.

There is no quote that can soften the sadness of this day with the healing power of nature - though time in nature is perhaps one of the most healing things there is, for me, at least.

What I have found are these; words that help me to take a deep breath, and then to take another.

To recognize that we owe those who have left this life too soon our full attention to enjoying the planet while we're still here.

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal." ~From a headstone in Ireland

"As long as I can I will look at this world for both of us. As long as I can I will laugh with the birds, I will sing with the flowers, I will pray to the stars, for both of us." ~Sascha, as posted on

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nature Quote - September 10, 2009

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they're still beautiful.”
- Alice Walker

Alice Walker says here exactly what I've always believed: imperfection is perfect and perfection is, well, boring.

It's not always easy to remember, as we strive for excellence, strive to be better, but it is our imperfections that make us the most interesting!

The same goes for photography. You'll find in my collection of photographs that none of the specimens are perfect - always a bug here or a burnt spot there. Symmetry just slightly askew. (If that isn't a metaphor for life, I don't know what is.)

Rather than focusing solely on a subject's flaw(s), I try to consider it an interesting part of the flower's "face" - a mark of being real, living and growing in an imperfect world.

And then they become even more beautiful.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nature Quote - September 9, 2009

"There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story." - Linda Hogan

Today I plan to spend a lot of time outside. It's time to fertilize the garden here in Florida and I bought an organic fertilizer that I'll dissolve in the water from my rain barrel.

It will be a slow process of filling watering cans and watering each plant with the mixture - but that's what I want.

I want the time to look around. To think. To not think too much. To listen and absorb without fast forwarding to what's next.

I'll keep you posted on how the "story" unfolds.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nature Quote - September 8, 2009

Something appropriate for the first day of school:

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." - Frank Lloyd Wright

The lessons in nature are too many to count, the peace there too great to measure. Both are good for students of all ages.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thoughts from a Tired Gardener

I am an avid gardener. Which, during summer along the Gulf Coast, is to say that I am a tired and defeated weeder.

I have been thoroughly and roundly defeated by the shy plant and crabgrass.

They mock me in the slanted light of morning, knowing that they will thrive in the heat of day while I stare, helpless, from my air conditioned barracks.

When I do venture out in the not-cool-but-no-longer-searingly-hot evenings to wrestle what I can out of the soil, I can hear the survivors whisper,

"Do not consider yourself a victor for those of us you have taken. Each of the fallen will be replaced with three new invaders."

They're right; their seeds outnumber me a million to one and they know I won't use the only WMDs at my disposal because broad-spectrum herbicides are bad for all manner of life (including dogs and daughters and the frogs that sing to me from my porch).

And so I struggle to hold my ground while the weeds know that the war will go on for eons and my little patch of resistance will someday be theirs again.

I would delve deeper into the drama, but I have to go out and pull weeds.

I leave you with this piece of wisdom from another Floridian, whose writing makes me believe that he has felt my weedy woes:

"Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons."
-Dave Barry

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Back to Buzzing

I'm back!

Logging in and finding that my last post was an entire month ago was disheartening but not surprising - I taught environmental camp for the first three weeks of July and it always exhausts me.

It's a dream job - not just because it's so fun and awesome that I can't believe they pay me to do it, but because I sleep so hard when I get home each day that I have to remind myself that the camp part wasn't actually a dream.

But now I'm back home and Abbey starts pre-school on Monday and it's time to get talking (typing) again.

My thoughts today turn to bugs.

(Just saying that has me picturing each thought in my brain as a different insect: many as ants working to build something big, others as cockroaches skittering away to hide from the light, logic as the great and merciless spider waiting to devour all of the fancy fliers.)

Back outside my brain, I have a mosquito bite and my daughter has a fire ant bite. We have reached that time of summer when the insects - who rule the world from under our noses and under our feet - are making their presence known.

I read recently in Animal Ignorance - a book I highly recommend - that if it were not for spiders, human kind would literally be up to its ears in insects. Drowning in bugs. Eeesh. Thank you, arachnids!

But, then again, if it weren't for bugs, we wouldn't have much to speak of at all - no flowering plants, so no fruit or veggies and no decomposition of dead plant matter, or meat matter for that fact. I'll take the buzz of mosquitos and the smell of flowers over the serene silence and the smell of hot rotting carcass and any day.

So, for my first post back here on the Web (sorry, I couldn't help myself), I'd like to extend great gob of gratitude to our six and eight legged friends. And to help me do it, a little something from E.O. Wilson:

"If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos."

Monday, June 29, 2009

When You've Got It, Flaunt It

~ An article written for the June issue of Moonshine online magazine.~

A few mornings ago I took my daughter on our third blueberry-picking trip of the season. Less than ten minutes from our house is Lundy’s Blueberry Patch, a little plot of heaven on earth where Doc Lundy (a retired veterinarian) offers beautiful blueberries to the picking public from late May through mid-July.

“The blueberries are waning now,” Doc Lundy warned us, “but I think I saw some good ones out on row 57 and 58.”

I smiled at Doc – knowing how blueberry spoiled he is – and said we’d take what we could get.


Ha, ha, ha!

Rows 57 and 58 may have been “waning”, but the bushes were still heavy with ripe, blue fruit. Hundreds of gleaming indigo orbs smiled at us as their juice-filled weight pulled branches down toward my pre-schooler’s eager little hands.

Abbey and I picked till our fingers were blue and our tongues deep purple. (Doc encourages his customers to “sample” while they pick, and we wouldn’t want to be rude . . . so we “sample” with abandon.)

Each bush had dozens of ripe berries on it because folks never remember to grab the berries from the shady center of the bush, where they grow extra fat and sweet. I don’t blame them for this, though, because a) there are so many berries on the outside of the bush to keep you busy picking and b) that means other folks leave the center berries for me.

I try to pick each bush thoroughly before moving on to the next, but most often a particularly rotund little sapphire will catch my eye on a neighboring plant and off I’ll go like a butterfly – fluttering blissfully and hungrily to the next pretty flower.

My daughter and I compete for who can find the biggest berry, all the while I’m smiling to myself between popping berries into my mouth, savoring the sweetness of the sun and fresh air, the trill of birdsong, and joy good company. (Abbey, though not quite three, has been known to pick over a pound of berries all on her own.)

Then, on the way out, my pink-cheeked and glistening little girl will turn the parental tables on me – it’s her turn to cajole “Let’s go! Hurry, hurry!” because I’m going slow, trying in vain to pick all of the berries I missed on our way to the end of the row.

The prices at Lundy’s are incredibly low and I always feel we should have picked more, even though blueberries and countless other gorgeous fruits and vegetables are available at rock-bottom prices at our weekly farmer’s market.

But that’s not what gets me. The part of the whole experience that really gets me is this: abundance.

Blueberry bushes are the definition of abundance.

Nature’s abundance is, perhaps, her greatest gift to us in summer. An abundance of flowers, of fruit, of vegetables, of animals, and, most profoundly, of light and color.

Summer is the time when Mother Nature is showing us that she’s got it and she ain’t afraid to flaunt it.

I say we use those extra summer hours of light to capture and reflect this glorious abundance, fullness, and ripeness. Though I remain the tree-hugging, reduce-reuse-recycle conservationist, I say that now is the time to use more paint and bolder colors. Take more photographs, create more sculpture.

Let your summer art be full and abundant, rich, bright, multi-hued and sparkling with the joy of nature’s annual promise fulfilled.

In fact, here’s a suggested color palette: Eggplant Purple, Rhubarb Magenta, Watermelon Pink, Strawberry Red, Georgia Peach, Bell Pepper Orange, Cantaloupe, Lemon Yellow, Banana Pepper Chartreuse, Cucumber Green and, of course, Blueberry Blue.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nature Quote - June 25, 2009 -Farm Fresh

This afternoon Abbey and I went out to visit Hicks Honey Farm. Just five miles outside of town and on a few acres we had an adventure better than the zoo.

We went to pick up beeswax tea light candles (I've gone completely off of paraffin candles - too many toxins, too much petroleum usage), but came home with so much more!

"Mr. Bee Man," as Abbey quickly named him, not only let her pet his sweet calico cat, but also held a big white goose for Abbey to pet its soft down feathers, dressed her in a beekeeper's hat (more like a dress on her) and showed her the bees coming back to the hive with their sacs full of pollen, and then took us to the hen yard so Abbey could pet a hen, too.

Abbey had already tried to catch several different roosters running around the property, but to no avail. Note to self: show Abbey the chicken catching scene from Rocky for encouragement.

So, Mr. Bee Man went into the hen house and gently grasped a hen that was currently laying. He brought her out and taught Abbey to pet her mottled black and white feathers gently and with her whole (little) hand.

And I didn't take any pictures. I just hope it's engraved on my brain.

On the upside, though, Mr. Bee Man was able to gather 10 eggs laid fresh today for us to buy for a paltry $2. I was so excited that I declared we'd have breakfast for dinner (a family favorite), whereupon he went into his home and collected another 12 to give us for free that had been laid a couple of days ago and he couldn't eat because - here's the kicker - he has high cholesterol.

Here I feel bound to note that cage-free and free-range hens lay eggs that are significantly better for you (lower in cholesterol and higher in omega-3s, I believe) than caged hens.

But, enough about me - I have a belly full of delicious eggs and a camera full of egg pictures (and blackberry pictures - picked up two pints at the Farmers' Market earlier this week), both of which need processing. So I'll leave you with this quote:

"It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen that lays the eggs."
Margaret Thatcher

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mourning Dove Chick Pics

Two shots of our little hanging basket chick taken today:

Mourning Dove Chick

After all of that waiting, my husband was the first to spot our little mourning dove chick!

The chick was first seen Friday evening at dusk and appears to have doubled in size already. I'm charging a camera battery now, so stay tuned for pictures!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gorgeous Gulf (Photos taken May 31, 2009)

Thinking about adding one of these to the collection of gift photos. Which one is your favorite?

Comment on this post to let me know which one you "vote" for!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Learning Curve

Today was the first day of environmental camp. I teach 8-12 year olds all about our excellent earth and our fabulous Florida ecosystems for six weeks every summer.

These are the best six weeks of my whole year!

This first camp started off particularly well - only five students, so I had lots of time to interact with each of them. They were smart, knowledgeable, kind, and eager to learn.

Pure bliss.

We discussed the elements of survival (air, water, food, shelter) and how to record data about wildlife in order to properly identify individuals (size, number of legs, body covering, activity, habitat, etc.) and all of the reasons WHY we want to "save the planet."

The best part, of course, was the time we spent outside. With little prompting from me, the kiddos were all over, finding damselflies and tadpoles and trumpet vine flowers and frogs and pill bugs and spiders and beetles and junebugs and all manner of wonderful things.

They turned over rocks, looked up at overhangs, poked at sap dripping out of the slash pines, and were absolutely psyched about it all.


Their sense of wonder is a lesson in itself. More than I could teach, but something I am all to happy to foster.

So, here's to the beginning of a new adventure. A few quotes from the kids to revive your own sense of wonder:

Question: Why do we need lots of different kind of animals?
Answer: To eat them. (I loved this one. It was so authentic!)

"Oh, look! There's a mushroom!" "And there's a bug on it, too!"

"I think it's an American crow, because it was all black and it had a skinny beak." (He was comparing the crow to the raven in the bird identification book to try to figure out what he saw. And he was right, he had observed a crow.)

There are tons more, but my teacher brain and toddler-mommy brain are both terrifically tired and I must take myself for a time out.

Contented sigh.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Watched Egg Will Not Hatch

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Right now I'm waiting, wondering when the mourning doves' eggs will hatch. I wish I had been more observant and noticed when they first came to nest in the hanging basket on the porch. Was it more than 18 days ago (the gestation time for mourning dove eggs)?

Are they sitting on bad eggs, doomed to disappointment (and I with them)? Or will we have cheeping dove babies any minute?

The possibilities for either exultant joy or deep sorrow are staggering. So many of life's experiences are a waiting game of one sort or another yet, when I searched, I found no good quote on nature and waiting.

How is that possible?!

Well, I refuse to wait for one to appear, so I'll create one here:

"Waiting is like a jawbreaker - hard and sweet at the same time."

It's frustrating and, occasionally, painful, too. But, in the end, we find that it is better enjoyed slowly and fully - savoring each layer of anticipation as a new flavor. We must try to remember not to crunch through too quickly because we will miss the possibility when it's gone.

And now I'm gone, too - gone out to check on the doves and eggs just one more time. . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nature Quote - May 20, 2009 - On Weeds and Weeding

Funny thing, being a naturalist and a gardener. It means one half of me recognizes weeds and the other sees only wildflowers.

The gardener wants them gone and the naturalist refuses to use chemicals to do it. And that means that one half of me is constantly bent over pulling weeds (trying not to moon the neighbors too badly) while the other half questions her own sanity and the date of inevitable spinal collapse.

I try to pull 100 weeds a day, but I forget on most days and so end up pulling five or six hundred in one evening to catch up. Yesterday was just such an evening.

While Abbey scampered about, pulling as many weeds as her preschool attention would allow (about three at a time, with long tricycle breaks in between), I yanked out every pesky "volunteer" I could find. My back ached, my knees creaked, my nails filled up with dirt. . .and it was wonderful.

The sun was low and sparkling gold, the breeze ruffled the leaves of trees and blades of grass, and a simple peace settled over my daughter and me as if for just those few minutes, I knew without a doubt that we were in the right place, doing the right thing.

And we'll get to do it again:

"But make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last." ~Robert M. Pyle

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nature Quote - May 18, 2009 - Spring Weather

I watched the weather this morning over a cup of fair-trade, organic dark roast coffee. The coffee was delicious, but the weather pattern over the U.S. was even more enticing.

While the poor southwest is baking at 100 degrees for its umpteenth straight day, a glorious cool front has moved in over the midwest and east.

Just when I had resigned myself to five months of Florida summer and days that break 80 degrees before 8:00 a.m., Mother Nature throws us a meteorological curve ball! (Yes, women can pitch. If you doubt it, check out your nearest softball game. Those women could pitch a fly off a fencepost fifty yards - both killing the fly and shattering the post.)

It's 62 degrees, grey, and breezy here in the Florida panhandle! I would write more about this lovely reminder that summer doesn't really start till June 21, but I've got to get away from this keyboard and out into the gorgeous weather.

And so I'll leave you now with a quote from a famous American writer, observer, and lover of life's curve balls, quirks, and all things smart and funny:

“In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” - Mark Twain

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nature Quote - May 17, 2009 - The Gospel of Nature

There were bluejays in my worship service this morning. Mourning Doves singing there, too. A little girl thoroughly enjoying herself with only sand and sky and grass and water from the hose. Two dogs at peace, sharing good tidings with me in their furry way.

There in my own back yard, feet planted softly in the Earth, my gratitude for Creation was immeasurable. In the birdsong and the breeze I heard that clear benediction of my familiar Lutheran service: "Thanks be to God!"

I think Luther himself might have had this experience once or twice, too:

"God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars." ~Martin Luther

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nature Quote - May 15, 2009 - Galileo and Farmers' Markets

This one is for my daughter Abbey who, upon our first visit to the Farmers' Market this season and greatly to her mother's joy and surprise, thought the fruit tables were much better than the candy in the checkout aisle at the grocery store.

When I informed her that we weren't buying peaches (I was going to wait for riper ones to appear on Saturday morning), Abbey protested "But, Mom, we NEED peaches."

When a kid's right, she's right.

Speaking of people who were right. . .

"The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do." ~ Galileo

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nature Quote - May 13, 2009 - Fine Buy, Me!

A few minutes ago I purchased some eco-friendly storage boxes from The Container Store. They're made of post-consumer recycled paper and they were not cheap. Even using the online discount code, I think I paid $12 for each of them.

I know that I could have purchased less expensive ones made of non-recycled materials, but in order to save the planet, we must not only recycle, we must buy recycled items. It's time to put our money where our recycling boxes are! Two quotes to inspire you to do the same:

"The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard." — Gaylord Nelson, former governor of Wisconsin, co-founder of Earth Day

"Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action; try to use ordinary situations." — Jean Paul Richter, German Romantic novelist and humorist

If we make environmental sustainability a factor in everyday choices - from the groceries we buy (local or organic, please) to the clothes we choose (great organic stuff here, too) to the homes, televisions, and appliances (green materials, green energy, and Energy Star options) - we'll be using the unprecedented power of the U.S. consumer economy to save the planet. Shopping for a cause! What could be better?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nature Quote - May 12, 2009 - Patience

I got to spend all day today being a Mommy and I actually feel like I did a decent job of it which, as I think most mothers will attest, is a rare and wonderful feeling. The key, I think - for mothering two year olds, anyway - is patience. Because, really, there are very few times that we really have to be somewhere right now.

If we take a step back and indulge in our child's sense of wonder with them for a minute (or five), we find such amazing teaching and bonding opportunities! And, we learn to slow down a bit ourselves, to admire the ants and find shapes in the clouds and be grateful for the day's new blossoms.

The same goes for photography. Every moment of every day provides new opportunities to capture some stunning facet of the natural world. A lot of those moments we miss. Some we get, but not quite right. We must have patience with ourselves, too. When we slow down, look deeply, engage our minds and truly focus (pun entirely intended) - that's when new and untold treasures appear. In kids and in flowers.

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nature Quote - May 11, 2009 - Purple

The wonderful wild moss verbena (Verbena tenuisecta) are blooming with abandon here on the Gulf Coast. Perfect purple wildflowers that practically carpet the roadsides and trail sides, moving in wherever there's an inch of room and blooming from April till November. I love them almost as much as the butterflies do. So, in honor of the valiant, violet, vagrant verbena. . .

"I think it annoys God if you walk by the color purple in a field
and don't notice."
- Alice Walker
From The Color Purple

To learn more about verbena, visit the Verbena tenuisecta page at the USDA Plants Database.

There are many varieties of verbena that have been hybridized for use in home gardens (right now I've got both a royal purple variety and a red-with-white-center variety in my front garden), consider adding them to your garden for care-free beauty and lots of butterflies!

To see a photograph I took of a white garden verbena, check out Fresh.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Nature Quote - May 10, 2009 - Mothers

This one is for all of the mothers out there, who certainly deserve at least a week's holiday and praise instead of one day! It is, however, in honor of the little mourning dove mother-to-be who sat patient and quiet (and probably petrified) as my family and I made a royal ruckus gardening in and around the porch that holds the hanging basket which she has made a home. Like all mothers, she is brave, dedicated, and at least a little bit crazy.

"God could not be everywhere and therefore He made mothers." - Jewish proverb

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nature Quote - May 8, 2009

The blythe breeze of a May day is both the delight and the demon of a nature photographer, even more so that of one specializing in close ups. Friday is my photography day (Monday is for Marketing, Wednesday is for Website Work) and it is just windy enough to keep the already high Gulf Coast temperature bearable. . .and just windy enough to make everything that I want to shoot dance, shimmy, and wave instead of holding still. So I took a break and came in to find an appropriate quote. Instead, I found two:

"Rough winds to shake the darling buds of May." - William Shakespeare
(Now, we all know that this is not a literal statement, but still, the Bard hit my dilemma right on the head.)

"A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache." - Catherine II

Now back out to indulge that imagination. A May breeze and a little time outside are also quite good for blowing indoor-office-induced cobwebs right out of your head.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Nature Quote - May 7, 2009

"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature." - Anne Frank

An amazing quote made even more stunning by the fact that it was written by a young girl who could not go outside at all. Made me take a deep breath and say a prayer of thanks for the beauty I find every day right on my own doorstep, in my front yard, all over my small town and even beneath my feet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mourning Dove

This morning while I was making toast and coffee, I looked out onto our porch and noticed a mourning dove in one of our hanging baskets. The basket is planted with an asparagus fern, but apparently there's still enough room for two mourning doves (the second popped its head up right after I saw the first) and, I hope hope hope, a nest! In their honor, I've selected this as today's Nature Quote:

"Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission." - Mourning Dove, a member of the Native American Salish tribe

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


After yesterday's pouring rain, today dawned golden and bright, with the morning sun making crystals of the raindrops still held on the plants' leaves and petals. It was absolutely breathtaking.

And then I stepped outside.

And quickly discovered air so thick with moisture that I, in fact, might have had trouble breathing because (silly me) I'm not accustomed to breathing underwater.

When they reported the weather as "humid" this morning, I believe our Gulf Coast weathermen were either making the most outrageous understatement in meteorological history, or playing rather tasteless joke on all of us. Had they wanted to get out the true story and warn the public properly, they would have put up a little image of a steam room with skull and crossbones over it and the warning caption "Do not go outside if you've a) forgotten deodorant or b) bothered to put on makeup or c) mind sweating through every stitch of clothing you're wearing."

And all of this was plainly obvious from just my first breath.

My second inhalation told me that it wasn't just moisture in the air, but moisture carrying the heady scent of every blooming flower in a five mile radius. Most close to home, the jasmine in full bloom scented the air with the essence of the sultry South.

There was no doubt about it - refreshed by yesterday's long, cool shower, nature had put on her perfume, unfurled her petals, and declared herself ready to mingle.

No less obvious than the haughty humans in a nightclub, all of the local wildlife is strutting its stuff and on the prowl for possible procreation opportunities.

How apropos, then, that today the local procreation poster children arrived: the "lovebugs".

Lovebugs (Plecia nearctica) are also called honeymoon flies or kissy bugs. They fly around attached to one another but, unlike that last nickname might suggest, they are not attached at the mouth.

For the next four weeks, the air will be full of paired lovebugs finding satisfaction in flight. Love on the fly. Or, rather, love on the wing of the fly.

And those of us that live here will heartlessly crush unknown millions of these diminutive duos as we zip from here to there in our cars (and sometimes on our bicycles - a lovebug couple in the face will pretty much ruin a ride, in case you were wondering).

Caught up in the heady perfume of the season, the copulating couples will meet life's windshield together. Sad, it's true, but not a bad way to go out.

At least they get to escape the humidity.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Nature Quote - May 4, 2009

We had an absolute deluge today! I got soaked to the skin and don’t have to water the plants for a week. Fantastic! In that vein, here’s a wonderful quote I found:

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” ~John Ruskin

View vibrant nature in sunshine, rain, wind, and frost at

Are you listening?

My daughter is learning about the five senses this week in daycare. She seems especially focused on hearing. She's always been one to ask "What's that sound," but now she's more attentive to subtler sounds. Listening to the world with her, mentally borrowing her fresh, young ears has got me thinking about this awesome sense - how much we use it subconsciously and how much we ignore the wonders it can bring us.

I think we ignore our hearing sometimes because we live in such a noisy world; right now I'm sitting in my office, listening to the clickety-clack of my fingers on the keyboard, my home's A/C air intake, and the ridiculously loud tick-tock of the clock on the wall. I would classify the latter two of the three sounds as moderately annoying.

I know I'm not the only one who sometimes gets the feeling that you'd like to have a mute button for life. Or at least the ability to tell all noise (not just toddlers and husbands, but splashing dishwashers and buzzing microwaves and TV commercials featuring overly-excited salesmen who've obviously been told that product sales are directly related to the volume of their voices) to "Shhhhhh!"

I think all of the noise we have to filter through all day makes us tired. It's just too much input.

On the other hand, when I throw open my office window, the sounds I hear make me at once excited, intrigued, and peaceful. Come to think of it, hang on, I'll open that window right now. . .

Okay, the first thing I hear kind of detracts from the point - it's the morning traffic on the mildly major road we live right next to. (Here's a piece of free advice: if you can avoid it, don't buy the model home that's at the beginning of a subdivision, right next to a mildly major road.)

Ah, but now here comes the reward. Above the traffic I hear the peeping of baby birds in my neighbor's live oak tree. I hear the rumble and crackle of distant thunder, warning of the approaching storm.

And, somehow, these sounds are changed by the high humidity and still air. It sounds like a rainy day even though the rain hasn't made it here yet.

I hear the quiet cheeps of mourning doves and the trills of titmice and chickadees who frequent my bird feeder.

These nature sounds make me breathe deeper, relax my tensed shoulders, close my eyes and pay attention to all of my less-used senses. They all deserve some positive input.

When the rain comes, I'll give them a treat by going outside, feeling the rain on my upturned palms and tasting the big, fresh drops on my tongue. I'll see the rain and let my eyes focus on the middle distance. (These eyes do a lot of focusing and examining for my macro photos, they deserve a break.) And, breathing deeply, I'll smell the ozone created by the lightning and the loveliness of wet leaves and forest floors.

Then I'll really have something to tell my daughter about. She is an excellent listener.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


"If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change." -- Siddhartha Buddha

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

This morning I reminded my daughter to wish everyone at her daycare "Happy Earth Day."

She immediately inquired "Happy Birthday?"

I could see the visions of cake and balloons sparkling in her eyes.

I gently corrected her, but it's hard to get the concept of the planet and taking care of it through to a two year old. (Though she does remember to turn off lights and water faucets and always colors on both sides of the paper. Good habits start young.)

Abbey's mistake got me to thinking, though: why not really celebrate Earth Day? Why not make a dessert with organic ingredients, light some beeswax candles, and buy each other eco-friendly gifts?

And, come to think of it, why shouldn't we get the day off to do community greening projects or at least spend the day outside enjoying this beautiful planet we inhabit?

I've got lots more ideas on this subject, but I have to go now - I'm baking a blue and green cake.

Monday, April 20, 2009

FREE SHIPPING! Happy Earth Week!

In honor of Earth Day, April 22, World of Color Photography will give full refunds of all shipping and handling charges on any items purchased from the website before midnight on Sunday, April 26. Happy Earth Week!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Harvesters in Spring

Enter the ant.

So, my daughter's doting grandmother (this would be my mom, Queen of Backyard Naturalists and Internet Shoppers) recently found out how much Abbey likes watching the fire ants that build mounds all over this great state. Abbey's been bitten more times than I can count by the little buggers, but still she loves to watch them. And, I must admit, I do, too. Though I probably spend more time watching her feet to make sure she doesn't get close and get bitten again.

Well, Grammy's aiding and abetting my daughter's nature study in the most wonderful way: she sent us an ant farm.

We never had an ant farm when I was a kid. (Mom says her naturalist tendencies have taken the last few decades to mature.) Now that we've had one for about 24 hours, I can say this:

It . . . is . . . AWESOME.

Abbey likes it. She looks at the industrious little insects whenever we remind her. (This is serious interest for a two year old.) I, however, am completely enthralled.

The fifty or so harvester ants in there have already dug two side tunnels half way down the eight inch mound and are carefully depositing each grain of sand that they move to a very precise location. They have a plan.

They also often fall down the outside of the domed "hill" but, protected by their hard exoskeletons, they quickly right themselves and start back up again. They are determined.

I must do more research to find out about these harvesters. All I know right now is that their bite is even more painful than a fire ant's bite, and I can tell you from experience that those are no fun. (I take breaks from studying the ants to check that the lid is still securely fastened at least a half dozen times a day.)

I want to learn more than the power of their bite, though. I know I'm not the first person to be intrigued by the seemingly utopian society of Antville, but where there's interest in the natural world, there's generally a good reason for it.

So, off to Google and Wikipedia and my stash of nature books and ID books I go. I'll be back with more info soon, but in the meantime, I think it's apropos for Earth Week to start thinking about these little sand movers: Each of us, doing just our little part, can make our home planet a more beautiful place.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Springing Into Spring

This piece was written for the April edition of Moonshine magazine.  To view the whole magazine, please visit

I recently had the good fortune to travel to Virginia and back over the first weekend of spring. Driving northward from the bountiful blooms of the Florida panhandle to the still-skeletal trees of the Appalachians, it seemed at first as if we were traveling back into winter. On the contrary, though, the longer I spent staring, rapt, out the windows, the more attuned my vision became to the subtler signs of mountain spring.

Where the azaleas, tulips, redbuds, and daffodils had already danced onto the stage of the deep South, singing “Spring is here!” the trees and plants of the mountains seemed, still, to be holding their breath, anxious and waiting in the wings for their cue.

This made me think that spring is the season of held breaths. Starting with that poor, beleaguered groundhog in early February, we’re all waiting for Mother Nature to tell us “It’s all right. You can breathe. I’m going to bring the flowers and the leaves and the warm sun and the soft breezes back this year. I keep my promises.”

And we wait and hope and wait and look for buds and tiny sprigs of peridot green and wait and then one bright morning, the natural world bursts forth in its party ruffles like a line of can-can dancers. The birds strike up the chorus and it’s time to celebrate!

So, artists, photographers, sculptors, crafters, knitters, jewelers, weavers, and writers, it is time for us to join the party. Not just to document the joy, but to take some time to revel – to let our own party ruffles fly out around us as we twirl in the confetti of petals. To strut our fine feathers. To turn our faces to the sun, smile, and say, “Welcome back!”

So get out there and party with the primavera! Take all of your supplies outside on the next sunny day and let loose. See your work in the truest (and prettiest) light: sunlight. Listen to the springsong and feel the warming wind, smell the blossoms on the fruit trees and trace the softest petals with the tip of your finger.

Take it all in and then let it go freely into new and inspired work. And, try to remember to dedicate at least one piece to Mother Nature – she deserves a thank you for always keeping her promises.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New: Clearance Section

As we've recently changed our frame style, we're clearing out our old stock of frames!   I've selected a photograph to complement each frame and the results are available at tremendously reduced prices.  Have a look!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Spring is springing out all over down here and it's gotten me to thinking about one of my mother's favorite phrases, "Bloom where you're planted."

I've always enjoyed the concept of being happy where you are, but never really delved into it.  Now, surrounded by tulips and daffodils and blooming dogwoods and crabapples and pear trees and peach trees and wisteria, I'm thinking about it and getting a better grip on it.

"Bloom where you're planted" isn't just a simple instruction - if we follow the flowers' example, it's a step-by-step guide to a joyful life:

1.  Start by sending out roots into your community.  If you stay tightly closed in your seed shell, you'll be dark and lonely forever, so break out, get out immediately!  Explore and let your feelers find for you places of nature that will inspire you, places of culture that will excite you, and (most importantly) friends that will nourish you.

2.  Once you've got your roots taking up nutrition, learn to absorb the place and the people, go slow and take in the good parts while leaving the not so good parts alone, but without judgement.

3.  Push through the muck till you see sunlight.  Persevere.  

4.   Keep growing.  Stand tall and strong, but let yourself be flexible so that you can dance in the breeze.  

5.  When the sun is warm and you are well rooted and nourished, open up and share all the best you have to give.  You are wise and beautiful; feel the sunshine on your cheeks and know that you are reflecting that light to the world in a way only you can.  You are beautiful.  You are a miracle and a blessing all wrapped up into one - just like the blossoms of spring.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

NEW Frame Style Examples

Zinnia in Technicolor
Frame Style:  Black with Black Mat

Spring Daffodil
Frame Style:  White with White Mat

Eucalyptus II
Frame Style:  Oak with White Mat

Frame Style:  Walnut with White Mat

Rainbow of Rocks
Frame Style:  Chrome with Black Mat

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Work

New photographs available at !

Brugmansia's Blush
The swaying of Brugmansia's "Angel Bells" lure you in like singing sirens, but be careful - these pretty blooms decorate a plant with deadly poison.

Hydrangea's Blue Heart
I almost titled this "Life on Planet Earth", because the center of this beloved flower is so often unnoticed that when you do look at it, it's so fantastic that it seems as if we've got our own little aliens right here on our home planet.


Put this pretty purple "petunia" plant in a pot and you'll be pleased as punch with the end product.  I promise.

Dry Tortuga
Though they may be humped and slow, no tortoise is an island.  In fact, these rabbit-racing reptiles are imperiled all over the world.  From the giant Galapagos tortoises to the gopher tortoises of Florida here in the U.S., "tortugas" need our help.  Find out more at The Nature Conservancy's website, 

Coral Rose
Just barely over the border from the pink family into the orange family, this is the perfect color (for me, anyway) for a summer dress.

Fairy Forest
Look closely.  Look with your skepticism closed and your imagination open.  There!  Did you see them?!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Curl Up with a Great Green Book

We are what we take in. We are the food we eat, the water we drink, the words we listen to, the sentences we read. Though the weather may be dreadful outside, you can still bring nature into your mind and into your self by curling up with a great green book. (You'll be too green for words if you get the book from the library or second hand - it's better for the environment and much better for your wallet!)  Here are a few of my very favorites to add to your reading list:


Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver - her description of my beloved Appalachian mountain ecosystems is lyrical and the characters and their stories are compelling.  Barbara Kingsolver has written a number of books and essays;  I highly recommend them all, especially her most recent book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. 

The full works of James Herriot - guaranteed feel-good reads about being a country vet.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London - a classic.

The poetry of Robert Frost - If you want to immerse yourself in the nature of New England or nature in general, Frost's poems will get you there.


A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold - his thoughts on the history of a tree that he is currently sawing through leave me in awe every time I read them.

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey - I was never interested in the desert until I started reading this book.   Abbey's descriptions are vivid and his take is very rough, very real.  He also wrote a number of fiction pieces and other non-fiction.  I've loved everything of his that I've read.

The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson - Should be required reading for all parents.  For all people, come to think of it.  Best to read this short book when you can go outside immediately afterward, take a deep breath, look around, and let the ensuing wave of gratitude sweep you away.

Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart & William McDonough - The "cradle to cradle" concept is considered revolutionary, but it shouldn't be.  Of course we should design products this way - it's the slap-to-the-forehead simplicity of it that makes it genius.

The Foxfire Series edited by Eliot Wigginton - These collections of essays written by high schoolers on nature and tradition in the Appalachians are as good and straightforward an education in natural science as anyone could wish for.

A Country Year by Sue Hubbell - This one was a gift from my mother.  She loves books that take you to a wonderful, beautiful place and then tell you interesting stories.  Great mom, great taste, great book!

365 Ways to Save the Earth by Phillipe Bourseiller - A great book for any coffee table, it features stunning photography, amazing facts, and helpful suggestions on being green through small, feasible actions.  You can pick this book up at any time, flip through it, and learn something new.  Additionally, the pictures will inspire you to save the planet before all of the beauty in it disappears.

Essays  and One Man's Meat by E. B. White -  Writing this good doesn't come along every day, or every decade for that matter. 

Books for Children

Hoot by Carl Hiassen - They made this into a major motion picture but, as always, the book is better.

On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier - This book is a wonderful gift for new parents.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss - A conservation classic, good for kids ages four through 104.

The Wump World by Bill Peet - I found this book when I was looking for something good to help explain air pollution to children.  It did the trick nicely.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein - Explains very nicely why we should ALL be tree huggers.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - Helps children understand that food isn't magically made at the grocery store in a gentle way.

Books for Parents

These books all have great information and/or fun, fast, and cheap activities that will help you introduce your child to the wonders of nature while having some serious fun yourself!

The Kids' Nature Book by Susan Milord

EcoArt!  by Laurie Carlson

The Handy Science Answer Book compiled by the Science and Technology Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

A Mother's Manual for Summer Survival by Kathy Peel and Joy Mahaffey

Well, that's a start, anyway.  I hope you'll check out these books and truly enjoy them.  If you've got a favorite green book (or two) that I've missed, please share your recommendations with us!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Season of Love

Well folks, welcome back to the season of love. Though most folks will have their sense and senses overwhelmed by greeting cards and bouquets for the next couple of weeks, here in the south the best shows of love are in the trees right now: it’s courting season for the animals!

Here in the south, temperatures are on the rise and so are the libidos of our ardent avians. Whether you’re writing sonnets or capturing the beauty of flight in oils this season, take a minute to look out your window at the amazing adventures of our winged Romeos. The courtship rituals and displays of our songbirds are the best show in town. A few lessons in love from our fine-feathered friends:

Eat Like A Bird

This may be the best lesson my mother ever taught me about dating and marriage. Before a female cardinal will accept a male suitor as a mate, the male bird is expected to bring her food for a number of days. In this way, the female makes sure that the male is healthy enough and committed enough to take care of her and, hence, the chicks they will raise together. He literally has to show that he can bring home the bacon (or black-oil sunflower seed) reliably before she’ll invest the energy in helping him reproduce. Apparently courtship feeding is also the habit of many other species, including gulls, American Kestrels, Northern Harries, and Snowy Owls. Not so bird-brained after all, eh?

Give Gifts That Are Better Than Chocolate

House wrens build nests that females then judge and choose from. The best nest gets the girl. Bowerbirds build even more elaborate structures, complete with colored trinkets and that they find, to attract females. Life may be like a box of chocolates, but marriage is more like a house (or nest) – one that is built to be strong takes work, dedication, and upkeep; one that is weak will fall out from under you or down on top of you at the worst moment.

Do A Little Dance

There’s nothing like a little display of “the goods” to attract a mate. In the bird world, it’s usually the males in the spotlight, while the females get to play wallflower. Then, when a female spots a dapper dancer that just steals her birdy heart, she’ll go out to join her John Travolta in some couples dancing. I suppose the lesson we could all take from this is that in the game of love you’ve got to take a risk to get a big return – a little vulnerability and a lot of courage can get you a dancing partner for life. There’s no guarantee that you won’t step on each other’s toes, but at least you’ll have someone to shake your tail feathers with.

**This piece was originally published in the February 2009 issue of Moonshine, the online creativity magazine. View the entire magazine at**

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chilling Facts About Cold Weather

Okay, so hopefully you're snuggled up in a blanket and drinking a hot beverage, the warmth of which will help you appreciate the winter temperatures outside and how very "cool" cold can be:

1. If you pour a cup of water out of a window when it's -40 degrees Farenheit, the water will freeze before hit hits the ground. (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA)

2. Snow forms in six basic shapes: columns, needles, plates, dendrites, columns with plates, and "irregular". (Source: Winter Snow Facts and Records,

3. Between 32°F and 25°F snowflakes form as thin, six-sides plates. Between 25°F and 21°F long needle shaped snowflakes are formed. When the temperature is 21°F to 14°F columnar snowflakes are formed. Between 14°F and 10°F snowflakes form as six-pointed stars. Finally, at temperatures of 10°F to 3°F dendrites are formed. The colder it is outside, the smaller the snowflakes that fall. (Source:

4. One inch of liquid rain is equivalent to ten inches of snow! (Source: NOAA)

5. You don't need clouds for snow; ice cyrstals can form and fall from clear skies when temperatures are less than 10 degrees Farenheit. (Source: NOAA)

6. All forms of frozen water on the Earth's land or sea surfaces and permafrost (perennially frozen ground) are grouped together and referred to as the Earth's "cryosphere". (Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center, NSIDC)

7. Approximately 10% of the surface of the Earth is covered by glaciers or ice sheets. (Source: NSIDC)

8. Antarctica is the largest single mass of ice on the planet; it comprises 70% of the Earth's fresh water. Buried beneath this ice sheet is Lake Vostok, a body of water that has been cut off from the rest of the planet since before humans walked the Earth. (Source: National Geographic Channel)

See? Cool, huh?

Friday, January 30, 2009


Thought the temperature is a pleasant 55 degrees in my Florida back yard, most of the nation is suffering what might be described as uncomfortably chilly weather.

So, for those of you who have cold fingers and toes, here's a little piece I found in a journal from June 2005, part of a writing assignment for my master's degree.

If this whole mind over matter thing is true, and I think it is, this should warm you up at least a degree or two:

I am sitting on the hot pavement of bridge number six north on the Blackwater State Heritage Trail. It's sultry. Sticky-hot. The humidity is like being in a steam room after several days of heavy rain. There is no breeze.

The brown, tannin-stained water of the wetland slough rolls beneath us, making little noise - just little rippling sounds where it swrils and eddies around the stems of plants - small maples and bog buttons and seemingly single fern leaves pointing at the sky.

These are mixed in with a thousand plants who are yet strangers to me. (It's like being at a cocktail party full of beautiful, interesting people - will there be enough time for me to know them all?)

A biker rides by and gives us a tiny breath of breeze.

Suddenly in the bright sunlight, the air can hold no more and fat drops begin peppering the water, the plants' leaves, the pavement, and my left thigh. A tiny, delicious relief.

It stays, a wet and shiny polka dot on my still untanned skin - simply because there is nowhere for it to go - the air will not take it back.

The momentary sprinkle does nothing to quiet the sweet trills around me - the caw caw caw of a large songbird in the distance, the occasional grrrulllp of a bullfrog, the twee twee of a jay , the buzz of dancing, mating dragonflies and (not far enough away) the rumble of logging trucks on Munson Highway.

I blow on my arm for a moment, hoping to cool the glistening sweat that has coated the inside of my elbow.

Beyond and above the powerlines that stretch through he wetland and over the bridge I see the bright whit of an anvil cloud and watch tis top billow and roll, building toward the edge of the troposphere.

I cannot tolerate my shoes and stick my bare feet out over the water - in hope of a cool updraft that doesn't come.

Still, bare feet always feel better. Freer.

I see trash trapped in a sandbar at the rivers' edge. It was white once - perhaps a bottle or bucket. Now it is brownish, old, and dirty. Funny that it is dirty when nothing else here is. Nature doesn't get dirty.

Splattering rain again. Smallish drops land on my outstretched legs - knees, calves, ankles - God bless it.

And on the page, too - ink is not waterproof.

This rain does not smell - or, rather, this place is so saturated with the scents of wet and decay and the sweet exhalation of green things that the smell of rain is incidental.

I ride this trail on my bicycle several times a week, but haven't before now gotten to sit still on it. Sitting still is marvelous.

I glimpse a brown bird that has taunted me on my rides. Not the shape of a robin, not the color of a mocking bird - it is itself, and another guest a the party that I'm eager to know.

What is that peeew peeew peeew peeew in the distance? Such a call from my childhood! It is the song of spring and "All's right with the world."

Maybe it's better that I don't know who sings it.

The slough flows from somewhere deep in the woods - an opening in the green of the trees that, to me, looks like all forest openings I've ever sen: like the entrance to an enchanted world.

How I long to hike up my skirt, jump in, and wade upstream in the cool, tea-brown water and into that dark, green garden.

But today, the only water for me is the bead of sweat rolling down my spine. It's time for me to go. Papers to write and research to cull. For a moment I wonder how that really might be taking away from my education.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Got Any Change?

It is one of the great ironies of my life that, as a person who has trouble with change, I have fallen in love with a subject (the mercurial Mother Nature) that seems to be nothing but change.

I'm not sure why I have trouble with change. As a kid, I used to rearrange my room every few months and change my outfit every few hours. As an adult, though, I have the strangest reaction to change.

Take for example an average Thursday evening. All day at work I had been planning in the back of my head to spend the evening doing the laundry. I'd finally get through a whole week's laundry in one go. I really dislike doing laundry, but I was excited about it, in a cute, obsessive-compulsive sort of way.

Then (there's always a then, isn't there - it's the marker on the spot where the plot thickens) my husband called me at the office.

"I want to take you out to dinner," said my sensational spouse. "You're a wonderful woman and I want to take you on a nice date."

Now, I loved the compliment (the man has always been a stickler for accuracy, I might add), but the concept of a night out gave me pause. The little hamster that runs on the wheel that operates my brain stopped cold and said "Oh, no! What about the laundry?"

And I hate laundry. (Did I mention that? Oh, I did? Well, it deserves to be said twice.) That is the degree to which I have trouble with change. I mean, I got on board with the romantic date thing pretty quickly, but just the change in plans from what I had had planned was tough. It's like the brain hamster has trouble operating the clutch, disengaging one gear and switching to another are just a bit much for its furry little faculties.

So how is it that I can love so deeply nature, which seems to be nothing but change? For instance, off the top of my head:

-The planet is warming.
-The coyotes are actually expanding their range despite humans sprawling all over the landscape and paving paradise.
-Our nation that has suffered under a frighteningly anti-environmental administration has new hope, today, in a President whose platform is all about change for the better and who intends to do better through green projects.
-Even the moon changes shape every minute (predictable, yes, but still changing) and the sunlight on every flower I attempt to photograph changes every nanosecond.

Okay, that last one was cool. The fact that a flower or leaf or stone can appear wholly different because the sun is sashaying across the sky while our planet tilts toward or away from it in our annual Do-Si-Do, well that's just awesome.

I suppose, in the end, constant change means there will never be a shortage of surprises, never be a shortage of hope. Certainly there will never be a shortage of romance with this planet, because it is the heart's unchanging tendency, when presented with the glories of this place, to open in wonder and joy, awe and love.

Perhaps the lesson to learn is that embracing change is the only way to adapt and survive. (I'm reading Darwin's The Origin of Species via a daily post from - adapt, eat, and breed or sit still and wait to die seem to be the two main life choices there.)

Be like the coyote. Let the laundry pile up, go out into the world, experience the best it has to offer, and then try to give your best back to it. And then, if you're lucky enough to have been taken to a romantic dinner, and are therefore inclined to a little life change, go home and make more people like yourself!