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.