Although the days are still incredibly hot, I’ve noticed in the past week or so that once the sun sets the air cools quickly. As soon as we are able to each evening, my husband and I go around the house opening up shades that have been closed against the sun all day, hoping to flow fresh, cooling air from the lake through the stifling house. (Tonight the lake air smells of cow poop. I’ll tackle that one another day.)
On two sides of the house we have flowers and shrubs and tonight my eye was drawn to movement in the bee balm. I thought I was looking at one rather large bee and so I decided to grab the camera and go out to capture a shot. Once I got my camera focused I realized that what I was looking at was not a bee. Turns out I had a hummingbird moth in my bee balm.
Want to learn more about these moths? See http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/hummingbird_moth.shtml
I’m not certain whether I saw a hummingbird clearwing or a snowberry clearwing. Bragging rights to any one out there who cares to spend the time making the detailed analysis and comparison necessary to call it one way or the other. Me – I’m not doing it. I’m just glad to have seen a new outdoor friend today.
Not a lot of time for shooting lately. Managed to catch a few photos of this bird yesterday morning. (The clever folks on MAINE Birds think it is either a molting or a juvenile bluebird. I vote juvenile.) I noticed him (her?) flitting in the tree line after an Eastern Bluebird on the hammock caught my eye.
Went down to the lake last night after walking the dogs and snagged photos of these three birds. Not my best work, but I was smiling.
Owls are up to their usual tricks at night.
The lake is lower than we’ve ever seen it, though we’ve only been watching for three summers now. If it gets much lower the boat will be sitting in muck and we’ll pretend the tide has gone out.
Speaking of pretending, can we all agree not to notice that the days are getting shorter?
Went for a Sunday visit to the family camp on China Lake. Neighbors a few doors down on each side of my grandmother’s camp remarked that “the bats are back.” Did you know that Maine’s bats have been dying because of a disease called white-nose syndrome? In fact, millions of bats in eastern North America have been dying from this disease. Check out https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/what-can-you-do-help to learn more about the disease and what steps you can take to help bats in your area.
I’m sitting on the back deck typing this. Ten more minutes and the sun will be below the tree line. A small dog sits on my lap, pawing at my arm when I pause for too many seconds to type rather than stroke her chest. Birds seems to be settling in for the night, and the loons are calling periodically. A slight breeze is waggling the leaves. The setting sun is turning my green forest golden.
A plane just flew over. I hear a speed boat cutting across the lake.
The osprey juveniles are calling for food. Again. I wonder when their parents evict them?
Today is the fifth anniversary of my father’s death. I am sad.
We all have them: Sorrows, troubles, heartaches, challenges. If our biggest challenge is a remodel of the house we are blessed. If we are raising a grandchild because cancer stole our daughter, Lord Jesus give us the strength to get out of bed in the morning. If we lost a baby the day he was born, and don’t believe in God, may we dig deep for the courage to keep going. If we can’t see our way out of the dark, may we still keep our eyes open and searching for a light.
Naughty children. Arthritic toes. Aging parents. Empty bank accounts. Crushing debt. Dead-end jobs. No jobs. Another mill shuttered. Bad test results. A broken heart. A lump. An accident. The front page horror that is your own. A broken home. One more drink. Black lives matter. All lives matter. Nobody can begin to understand what’s the matter. A gun, a gun, another gun. Her black eye, his bruised knuckles. The secrets that we keep. The dog in the crate all day, all day, all day, all day.
Humble me, Lord. How can we think of saving the planet when we cannot save ourselves?
Brent Cecil. When the end came, he was alone. Or at least I think it is extremely likely that he was, for two reasons: First, if someone had been there when he’d crashed (slumped? slipped?) to the floor, they probably would have gone for help, unless they were too trashed to notice. (Such is the range of humanity in a facility built to house the most vulnerable of the chronically homeless, with a focus on “housing first” and sobriety perhaps never.) Second, and more likely, my father was alone because that was his preference.
At his funeral, after the dough-faced minister had gone and the small gathering had dispersed, my mother called her children to her in the tone she used when we were young and believed that our parents knew best. She stood near the hole that would cradle my father in death. I don’t remember how his urn – a teak wood box that my brother crafted – got into the hole, but she lifted it up and tossed her sweetheart ring gently beneath it, and then I placed a picture of our family, a relic from twenty-five years ago, on top of the box.
Five faces stared back at us: my mother with a calm smile, holding my baby sister, who beams with unbounded joy; my older brother, smiling, too, but with a question in his eyes; me, sandwiched between my parents, smiling the trusting smile of a little girl who doesn’t know what life is going to do to her; and my father – not smiling at all, his ice-blue eyes staring into a distance that none of us would ever understand.
Tomorrow is a fresh day.
In the Kundalini tradition of yoga, one of the most powerful mantras is SA, TA, NA, MA:
SA is the beginning, infinity, the totality of everything that ever was, is or will be.
TA is life, existence and creativity that manifests from infinity.
NA is death, change and the transformation of consciousness.
MA is rebirth, regeneration and resurrection which allows us to consciously experience the joy of the infinite.
This week at work, I had several clients share personal stories of horror and heartbreak that made me grateful for my story of sorrow. Children lose parents every day: accidents, illness, abandonment. Suicide is not an acceptable avenue of departure from this earth, save perhaps for the terminally ill. So if your father points a gun at himself and pulls the trigger, or pours poison down his throat until his liver quits, you mourn your loss quietly and with a sense of shame – you are your father’s son, and you are your father’s daughter, are you not? No. No. No.
Tomorrow is a fresh day.
So first, do no harm. And then do one better and make a difference in somebody’s day. What can you give tomorrow to make your existence more meaningful? A smile to a stranger? A silent blessing to someone who is struggling? A piece of litter picked up and thrown away? Five miles per hour slower and move over a bit more for the guy on the bike?
With each passing day we lose something that we’ll never get back. Time passes, bodies age, flowers die. But we are here. And we have choices. Make them count.
This week I have seen the nature of Maine in different guises. This is a hard life. And a hard state to make a living in and to just plain live in. And it seems silly to worry about weedy lakes when we are still paying last winter’s oil bill. But Maine is nothing without its natural beauty, and so those of us who can care must.
For a list of Maine’s endangered or threatened species check out: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/endangered/listed_species_me.htm
For a discussion of the fact that 2016 is on pace to be the hottest year on record, see http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/18/health/2016-global-heat-noaa-report-irpt/.
To understand about the connection between climate change, drought, and wildfires, see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-fingerprints-are-all-over-california-wildfires/
Tomorrow is a fresh day. Humble me, Lord.
And thank you, Mr. Owl, for landing on the edge of our property and staying long enough for my husband to see and hear you.
A week of silence in the woods had me hurt and confused – where had my Up-All-Night-Screamers gone? Well, for the past few nights I am delighted to say that husband’s sleep is once again being punctuated by the sound of at least two owls swooping around in our mini-forest. Hooray owls! So glad to hear you back. I’m not sleeping anyway, so I’m game for the company. (And because my schooling as an attorney has taught me to check and recheck my facts before reaching a conclusion, the photo above was taken tonight after prowling around in the woods with my camera, listening and watching and finally standing underneath the tree where this juvenile made a few of the screaching noises I hear all night long.)
These are pictures of a patch of milfoil growing near my waterfront. (Hooray for resale value!) I have learned from the lovely folks at Cobbossee Watershed District that this patch of milfoil is native milfoil – not variable-leaf milfoil, which is the bad stuff that many volunteers are hunting for. Still, to ride over this expanse of weeds is to involuntarily gasp, “Oh my….oh….my…..” It is impressive and horrifying. Check your boat before it floats people!This weekend we had about a dozen seagulls passing the time of day at the lake. Apparently they’ve grown tired of the beach already. The crowds can be a bit much.
I’ve previously noted that dragonflies and hummingbirds make me nervous because I don’t like being darted at. (Pretty sure that is horrible sentence construction but I’m sticking with it.) So you know I was sorely lacking in something else to point my camera at when I started trying to get a good shot of this black beauty. And honestly, I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen one dragonfly eating the head of another. There, I’ve said it. The truth hurts, and life in the weeds is brutish and short. Never thought I’d hear myself say, “Get off! You aren’t using my foot to eat his head.” Right. Dragonflies resting on my pretty little toes. To eat a small snack of Other-Guy’s-Head.
First time I’ve seen four great blue herons fly overhead together. Not a great shot but I took it anyway.
Still learning to shoot the moon.
Tickled pink that flowers are growing near the house.
Will never, apparently, tire of my “pet” pig. His perpetual grin is the real charm.
Five generations of my family have had the privilege of creating summer memories on China Lake. One of my enduring childhood memories of the lake is that it turned pea-soup green every summer. Known as “China Lake Syndrome,” the annual algal blooms were the result of too much development too fast, leading to the leaching of nutrients into the lake. Too many nutrients (phosphorus) created an imbalance in the lake’s bacteria levels and the result was algal blooms – or a green lake. (For a more scientific explanation of algal blooms check out Maine DEP’s discussion of cyanobacteria at http://www.maine.gov/dep/water/lakes/cynobacteria.htm).
A July 15, 1991 article in the Lewiston Sun Journal makes mention of the so-called “China Lake Syndrome,” using China Lake’s experience as a warning to readers about the damage done to a lake when we allow run-off from farms and lawn fertilizer and leaking septic tanks to pollute our lakes. Indeed, the title of this 1991 article is “Day-to-day Actions Can Damage Maine Lakes.” Included in this article are tips on caring for Maine’s nearly 6,000 lakes and ponds, such as not spraying herbicide on submerged vegetation, and not bathing in the lake. Today these points seem obvious, but I remember my father used to clean up in the lake with a bar of Lava soap, and the two generations of women in my family that preceded me routinely shampooed their hair in the lake.
Today, after a great deal of research and effort, China Lake is slowly mending, or at least not getting worse. This morning the China Lake Association (formed in 1987) held its annual meeting. Although listed last on the agenda for today’s meeting, I would bet that the discussion of the Alewife Restoration Initiative (http://mainerivers.org/projects/china-lake-outlet-stream-restoration/) was the hot topic of the morning. The scientific premise behind alewife restoration is that young alewives will improve China’s water quality as a natural consequence of their diet: alewives eat phosphorus as they move from the lake to the ocean. Removing excess phosphorus means decreasing the severity of algal blooms. The goal, then, is to create an environment (through dam removal) that will allow for alewives to return to China Lake by the hundreds of thousands (nearly one million, actually).
The near death of China Lake did not occur over night, and it is not an uncommon problem. The Belgrade Lakes, a chain of seven lakes and ponds in Central Maine, are being closely monitored in light of a 40 year trend of declining water quality. Last July, the Belgrade Lakes Conservation Alliance, the Maine Lakes Resource Center, Colby College and the landowner associations on each of the seven lakes joined forces to address the continuing decline in water quality. (See http://www.centralmaine.com/2015/07/26/belgrade-lakes-water-quality-could-dive-in-a-decade/ for details.) See an interactive map hosted by the Maine Lakes Resource Center (http://www.mapsforgood.org/mlrc/) for a look at data collected as part of this initiative.
I take my hat off to the people across our state who have volunteered time to help watch over “their” lakes and ponds. Interested in getting involved on a lake association in your area? Even if you do not live on the lake or pond, I would be shocked if your interest in getting involved was unappreciated. Go to http://mainelakessociety.org/maine-lake-associations/ for an alphabetical list of lake associations in Maine.
Around 7:45 tonight we were just home from walking the dogs when a pair of herons flew over, headed for Maranacook Lake or the Upper or Lower Narrows Ponds, I’m guessing.
Since the sunset was painting the woods with irresistible light I decided to take a few minutes with my camera in the woods. My husband had already gone in with the girls (dogs) so I called to him through the open windows.
“I’m just going for a bit” was met with “Don’t be forever or we’ll lock you out!” This translates to “Be safe, please, and use your head” in Husband-Speak. Truly. I’ve known this guy half a lifetime now. He’s a keeper, but not a Hallmark Card writer.
On my way across the lawn I remembered to check on the phoebe fledglings. The photo below is from Saturday, the first time I’d seen them up out of the nest. Tonight, they are gone.
The parents that have worked so hard, and so visibly (see Lunch, phoebe style), to feed this brood of three have left just a quickly. I hope that all members of this phoebe family are nearby, and well. I will be watching the backyard for them.
With the sun quickly sinking, and nothing but an empty nest to frown at, I kept moving toward woods and lake. To get to our waterfront we climb down a fairly steep (45 degrees?) incline of boulders and railroad ties (which were rotting in the field when we moved in). This is a difficult access route for many people we love dearly, but we do what we can with the resources we have, and talk in terms of “one day.”
So over the boulders and through the woods I went, scanning for the deer whose white tail went slipping through the trees on Sunday, and still peering into tree tops for the lumps of owl that can be so difficult to see.I found a robin and weeds bathed in the last of today’s sun, but little else. (Surely there was plenty more to discover but tonight I could not take the time.)
I did not take any photos of tonight’s full moon but I took a few last night. Here they are:
I took this photo last month. To date it remains my favorite loon photo.
Math is not my strong suit. I’m okay with that. God (by whatever name you give the creative force, or by no name if that suits you) left out the “Understands Mathematics” part of my brain during assembly. I got a double set of “Excels at Reading and Writing” parts instead.
Fortunately, mathematical theories are capable of expression in words, not just numbers and squiggles, which means that I can understand, on a basic level, “Chaos Theory.” Perhaps better known as the “Butterfly Effect,” the gist of this theory is that events in life are unpredictable and can be influenced by an action as seemingly insignificant as the flap of a butterfly’s wings. Here, let’s allow the scientists at the non-profit Fractal Foundation (http://fractalfoundation.org) to explain:
Chaos Theory: Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on. These phenomena are often described by fractal mathematics, which captures the infinite complexity of nature.
The Butterfly Effect: This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened.
Full disclosure: I have no idea what “fractal mathematics” means. I was guessing it had to do with fractions – as in 3/4ths of a cup of sugar, that sort of thing. Not so. Look it up yourself if you must know; they lost me halfway through the first sentence. (That’s a partial lie, but I maintain the right to use the “Dumb Blond” card to my advantage whenever it suits me.)
Loons Count Too
Today was the 33rd year that volunteers across the state took a unified stab at counting Maine’s loon population. Organized by Maine Audubon, loon counters spend half an hour on the third Saturday of July counting loons on an assigned section of lake or pond. This year over 900 volunteers participated in the annual loon count, which took a snapshot of the loon population as seen between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. My husband and I were on stand-by in case any of the volunteers covering Annabessacook Lake had to bail at the last moment. Having not received a call by late Friday evening, I was rather certain we wouldn’t be counting loons.
We did go on a boat ride Friday after dinner, however, and ended up performing an unplanned loon count when we happened upon first a group of twelve loons, then a single loon, then a mother with two chicks and finally a mother with one chick. While math is not my strong suit, I can do basic addition, so a quick tally brings us to 18 loons on Friday evening. I have no doubt there were others we didn’t see, since we did not cover the entire lake on our boat ride. I’ll be eager to find out how many loons were tallied as present on the lake as part of the annual loon count.
Chaos Theory + Loons Count Too = So What?
So here’s the thing: none of us know how the story will end. Maybe your story will last for another five decades, or five years, or five minutes. And maybe what you did, or did not do, today will make a difference in that equation. And there are times when we get tangled up in thickets and think we won’t make it out of the forest. Then we hit those sweet spells when nothing breaks, nobody skins a knee, and the sun just keeps shining. Hallelujah, hallelujah, an angel chorus hums in our hearts.
Still, most days are not like this, they are just regular days. And lately if we can get through a day without a horrific tragedy at home or abroad it seems we are doing well. What responsibility could we possibly have to others then, beyond our nearest kith and kin, to help them thrive in the game of life? When the world has gone mad, shouldn’t we run and hide?
I do not think we can allow this to be an option. Sure, take cover from time to time, that you might rest, recharge, resurge renewed. But do not go away. The world needs you. You cannot know how that wing flap will change your life; that being the case, you must march on, march on, march on.
Whether you are counting loons, rubbing dirt from scraped knees, giving a sermon, filling a gas tank, shuffling papers, saving lives, it all matters. And in matters of the environment, we must look to ourselves to take meaningful action. If we do not, who else will? Put down your Pokémon Go and find ways to volunteer in your community, even if you only have a few hours of time to donate each year. Go on – the loons will thank you.
For more information on Maine Audubon’s Annual Loon Count, or other ways to take action for wildlife, go to http://maineaudubon.org/about/citizen-science/.
Shortly after posting Mother Nature Abounds two nights ago, I heard my mystery bird calling from our wooded waterfront. (Unlike waterfront properties built before state and local government adopted shoreland zoning laws, our property has not been clear-cut down to bare earth, which means we have a mini-forest separating us from the lake. While I may not have an unfettered lake view from my windows, I have something much more beautiful and ecologically sound – habitat that supports an abundance of wildlife.)
When I heard the gentle screeching from the woods, I ran outside toward the sound (a familiar tactic of mine, taken to the extreme in I Swear I’m Not Making This Up). I caught sight of an owl flying among the trees along the lake’s edge, and saw and heard enough to connect bird and sound together. Take a listen to the sound of a juvenile great horned owl here: http://birdnote.org/show/great-horned-owls-calling.
Looking forward to posting loon pictures tomorrow – we saw a raft of loons tonight and several pairs of parents and chicks. Tomorrow is Maine Audubon’s 2016 Annual Loon Count. If you don’t know much about the annual loon count I’ll be eager to tell you about it tomorrow. Sleep tight. I’m going to lay down and listen to my dog snore and my owl scream for a snack.