To Be Idle and Blessed

Baltimore Oriole, enjoying his insect with a bit of grape jelly. This is the first summer that we have hosted two pairs of baltimore orioles. In the past we heard and saw them for a day or two, if at all. This year we sprung into action and started plying them with their favorite treats.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

Baltimore (male)

We watched this bald eagle fly from a very small island on the lake to one of the largest – and there we found his (her?) nest. Didn’t get a clear photo of the bird in the nest.

This garter snake ( Thamnophis sirtalis) was watching me watch him.
Loon chicks. Counted 20 adults and three chicks on the lake today.
Practicing preening and grooming with mom. Dad paddled nearby. Hard to get a great shot given the distance I keep.
This mother and her two chicks were on the opposite side of the lake from the parents with a single chick. (I found the latter pair’s nest in our cove last month.)
The pair – with their mom just outside of the shot on the right hand side.

The hoot of an old friend

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2:30 a.m. and I am out in the driveway with my little old lady dog.  We’ve been at this schedule for many months now, and I do my best to remain partially asleep while also not slipping on the ice that has been plaguing us all winter.  On nights when the sky is clear I steal glances into the twinkling heavens, then dart my eyes back to my dog, watching her maneuver ice on arthritic joints.

Tonight I heard my old friend the barred owl.  Owl sightings have been non-existent this winter.  We’ve not even heard them calling in the distance.  But now – finally! – my friend is outside in the treeline that hugs our waterfront.  Small blessings.  A bird calls in the night and a weary woman feels the corners of her lips turn up in a genuine smile.

DSCN1918Several cardinal pairs have been with us this winter.  The male cardinal’s blood-red plumes always draw my attention.  Typically animals survive by blending in, going unnoticed, keeping under the radar.  Not so, male cardinal.  Wearing the most audacious outfit in a bleak landscape and not even worried about the hawks and eagles that come to my land to find lunch.

I did a little research on why the cardinal has survived despite his flamboyant coloring:

The bottom line seems to be that his enjoys using his fancy gear to show off for the ladies more than he cares about dulling down and hiding out from danger. Living on the edge, then.


Last winter I stood in the woods for forty five minutes, snow lightly falling, and watched this pileated woodpecker fling chunks of wood from this tree.  I could spend happy hours every day wandering the woods and watching the winged and furred and slippery creatures that share this land with us.

If ever you can’t find me look to the woods.  You’ll find my laptop bag will lead you into the trail.  I will have dropped its heavy weight from my tired shoulders and left it for ants to explore and ferns to grow around.

Farmers Wall in autumn

I will be stepping lightly, so you won’t be able to locate my by listening for tromping feet.  Rather, listening for my singing.  Then walk until you come to a  bend in the trail  where you’ll find my cracked cell phone lies ringing.  Don’t answer it.  Just veer right.  Ten paces and you’re over a knoll and deep in an old pine forest.  See the water in the distance?  You’ll find me at its edge, crouched or bent or otherwise scheming to capture a photo of a lovely creature – or a footprint or just the water slipping by on its way to somewhere else.  You won’t be able to mistake me for anyone else.  I’ll be the grinning girl clutching a camera.


Winged creatures

While boating this weekend my husband and I eagerly scanned the lake for the domestic goose on the loose.  (It’s probably a Toulouse.)  My husband spotted an inflatable swan and declared that we’d found my friend.  Moments later I saw that my goose had indeed found his friend.  With apologies to the stranger in the photo.  His belly and beer can shall remain anonymous for all time.


Four phoebes have hatched out in the nest under the deck.  So excited to see them.