Pay Attention

After a cup of very strong dark-roast coffee made silky with a dollop of half-n-half, I greet the morning from my front porch.  Two double-coated English shepherds, Cappy and Luci, lay at my feet, anticipating my next move into the day.

The walk.

Yesterday some kind of front moved in, laden with moisture and heat.  Dew point and air temperature met, and the curtain that rose skyward from the lawn clung to any fiber or hair with summertime tenacity.  Muggy. Humid. Words just don’t do justice to the heaviness of the air.

We headed over to the park before the sun climbed too far up above horizon. It was our regular routine. Out of car to the “registration desk”–a patch of grass littered with dog pheromones. Sniff, pee, sniff, trot.  Up the hill. Sniff, pee, sniff, trot. Nose to ground, walk, sniff, walk, sniff, pee, trot. Along the main park road to the campground entrance.  The trot sniffing continued as normal, all the way down the hill, round the corner, past the place of herons and turtles, down the straight-away where the hillside forest meets lake, a game of pheromone tag.

This is an out and back two-miler, shaded at this time of day, with just one hill in each direction.   We have been easily negotiating this hike for over a year.

But not yesterday.  Cappy made the loop around to head back, and walked.

One paw lifting at a time.

The water was waiting for us back in the car, as usual, and I could only promise to not do that again.  Luci was oblivious to her companion’s discomfort, continuing her trot explore, content with the many opportunities to pause for further message-leaving.  But I was exquisitely aware of the new pace, and concerned that whatever distress Cappy was feeling got managed well.

I let him set the pace as we wound back around the place of turtles and herons, up the hill still shaded by oaks and beech, passing the empty ball field. As we turned left onto the main road, Cappy perked up, smiling, picking up the trot, and joining Luci in a couple of last minute sniff and pees before jumping into the car’s hatchback.

I toweled off the liter of cold water before unscrewing the bottle and filling the collapsable bowl.  Cappy lapped until his muzzle was drenched, while Luci, still in her own world, clipped out orders to a passing dog.

Move on! Nothing to see here!

But I saw something.

I saw my Cappy as an elder dog, for the first time reckoning with his imperceptible decline.  My tri-color lad will be 12 this September, and with some reasonable accommodations to humidity and heat, we will continue our morning constitutionals.

Carrying water with us.

Move on.

MyStory: Birding is the only good reason to garden

 

Edited to reflect reality…*

Yesterday I tried to get super close to a bigger-than-a-crow hawk that sat perched on my neighbor’s play set. Tawny,heavy brow, white lores around the very big, very curved beak, yellow legs, brown and tawny back, white chest, several black stripes in the white tipped tail.

It was not a Coopers, and not a Red-tail.

It just rested and looked around, up and down, barely paying me any mind as a skulked closer, with either  camera or binoculars at my eye. The hawk let out a high pitched whistle, which I instantly recognized as that sound that had pulled me outside for the last month.

It let out another whistle as it unfolded its wings and drifted over the treetops. I raced into the house to examine my shots and ID the mystery raptor…only to notice that my card was still in the computer from last  photo edit. Drat!!!  Fortunately, trying to frame a good field ID photo had focused my attention enough on the hawk’s details that I could trip the empty-camera-card-slot-failure into a success.

I got really close to an immature Broad-wing Hawk!!!

And I ran out of time to weed before dinner prep.  *snaps fingers* Shucks…

Just so we are clear…Gardening is merely the prompt to birding in my backyard.  Binoculars, I have found, must accompany the trowel, or at least be a dash distance nearby, or I just procrastinate the dirt work.  Even then, birds trump plants. Like yesterday…

Night temperatures fell past dew point, and this morning’s herb garden was bejeweled in water beads, leaving even weeds pretty.  Yesterday’s chore had to be completed before the cilantro got crowded out by crabgrass and some mystery choker.  Summer contact calls were music to weed by so out I went, binoculars, trowel, weed bucket.  When I could distinctly see sage, oregano, cilantro seedlings, and thyme, I declared gardening done, and strolled around, glasses in hand, just in time to watch a mustached Northern Flicker and his partner send their sharp beaks between blades of dew-soaked grass.  In the distance, an adult male Northern Cardinal fanned his feathers wide, and a pair of Mourning Doves fluttered in to join his hedgerow morning spa.

Gardening is a gateway chore to my passion.  I relax, content.

Woodland Apparition

Ghost Flower 02

This ghostly flower can be found blooming in the deep woods from June to September, when the leaf canopy creates a shady gloom.  A symbiotic relationship between a fungus (mycorrhiza fungi) and tree roots releases nutrients that the myco-heterotrophic Ghost Plant soaks up.   

 

‘Twas a Dark and Stormy Night…

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It was a dark and stormy night…

Well, it was dark.

And the five week old tuxedo kitten sat transfixed by my daughter’s headlights…in the middle of the downtown street.  A powerful cat-lady, this young woman scooped up the furry handful and brought her home. Even if the local rescue organizations had had room, this kitten could never leave our hearts. Now nine weeks old, Dora Simone is an inquisitive, acrobatic house-cat.

It Was That Hard

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From driveway to birdbath in five minutes…the rain was THAT hard.