Monday, December 29, 2008

Beyond Xenia

North, beyond the flat fields, where the stubble of corn stalks left standing fades to blond beneath a bright winter sun, and silver-roofed silos stand as sentries beside small, clean brick houses of the dozing mid-western farms, the historic town of Xenia welcomes rural travelers. Its stately, old city buildings, the picture of the picture-perfect town.
And beyond Xenia, on a bright and breezy day, we revisited the Fen.

Boardwalk trail of Seibenthaler Fen

From the edge of the nearly mile-long boardwalk, cottonwoods and sycamores stand in swamps that line the banks of the parallel waters of Big Beaver Creek. But, soon the planks turn and set out across the sedge meadows, small puddles of the cool, clear water from the aquifer below, seeping through to the spaces beneath our feet.

The marshes are a tangle of browns now. The dense summer greens, gone.
Cattails stand in great groups, their fine, downy droppings gathering in piles along the trail, keeping just ahead of the brisk breeze carrying us along. Dock, its sturdy, lined stem of deep rusty tones is backlit by the afternoon sun.
The fruits of Swamp rose and stems of Dogwood, shine as bright reds.
And the Willows, in deep, golden yellows.

View across Sedge Meadow

Rose Hips


Dock stem and seeds
Rumex sp.

Golden stems of Willow beside the marsh

Scattered among the brown,
the colors of winter.
Such a fine greeting to visitors here.

Big Beaver Creek
December 2008

Big Beaver Creek
May 2008

Delicate seeded stems
beside marsh trail

View more ABC Wednesdays here!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Anyone who has had children or pets knows that the simple truth of travel, “If some illness will come upon you, you will be miles from your family doctor,” also may be expressed in its holiday form. After all, what completes a long-awaited celebration and houseful of breakfast guests more perfectly than a series of frantic phone calls to an emergency service and a visit to a 24-hour pharmacy?

I had stumbled downstairs in the darkness of an early winter morning, briefly stopping to lay out food for the cats, upstairs, before quietly emerging to start the holiday breakfast. The five furry bodies in our bedroom, nothing more than five dark blotches against a light rug, swarming around their kibble in the pre-dawn light.
I had touched each for a moment, tousled their hair, and left.

Only after breakfast, and in daylight, did I return to check them more properly before beginning the rest of my day. And found Lily, apart from the others, her face tilted down, and away.
As she tentatively turned to look up at me, I saw only one eye, golden and round, as it should be--the other, barely there, peeking from deep within its socket, while plump folds of pink filled most of the rounded space. She fussed and fussed at it with one paw, rubbing the soft pink, unable to see beyond the puffiness--
and hissed
and yowled.

“How quickly can you get her here,” came the welcome response from my third attempt to connect with something other than a recorded holiday message. And, minutes later, cat box in tow, we arrived on the doorstep of an animal hospital, the vet inside just finishing rounds before closing early for the afternoon.

She flushed it and peeked into the pink—to discover what appeared to be an uninjured eyeball, hiding behind an allergic response of Lily’s third eyelid, the angry membrane badly swollen from her repeated rubbing and fussing.
With orders for steroids and instructions for several days’ eyedrops, we headed home.

On this balmy December day, Lily sits in her favorite spot on the front porch, eyes already much brighter.
Focused on the world below.
She glances sideways at me as I sit watching her heal, two round golden eyes very thankful—
of the miracles of modern medicine
and those who practice it with passion.

Lily on front porch, looking down


See more Camera Critters here.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas! (SWF)

After the shopping,
after the decorating,
after times of food, friendship and fun,
may you find a quiet time,
and a place that brings you comfort--
to reflect,
to rest,
to rejuvenate your spirit.

May you find yourself in Nature.

See more Skywatch here.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Have you seen...

I remember the sharp pain well.
Walking too quickly to be able to stop dead in my tracks, the nasty, reaching cane of a Multiflora Rose had snagged my cheek and, with my forward motion, torn a path across it. I suppose I should have been glad, later imagining the possibilities of such a run-in, that it was not my eye, caught and held with its strong, curved thorn. Weeks later, only the faintest mark remained.
But the sting of a rose is like any other betrayal.
A lesson is always learned.

First leaves on canes
in early Spring

Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora
Summer Blossoms

I have grown wiser, now, and move gingerly among them. Better to avoid all contact, than to think a glancing touch will fall aside. Coverings of heavy denim or leather offer only false protection. For the arching stems easily latch on and, once in the midst of them, as in quicksand, struggle is futile.

But, on this wintry day, when all else has faded to brown, I find my eye caught on them.

Rose hips of Multiflora Rose
in Autumn Field

The rose hips,
brightly glossed in morning light,
where bumbling bees last summer visited
the clusters of tender white flowers
that covered these long reaching canes,
in winter,
grace the field in red.

Multiflora Rose,
Winter canes

"Have you seen...." is an effort to discover the unusual beauty in things not usually appreciated for their beauty.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Winter Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker (male) and
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (female)

Sunday was a sunny day and cold.
Against a bright blue sky and beyond frosted windows, we counted 8 woodpeckers, in bold black and white—drawn to the edge of the woods by seeds and suet. The most numerous and smallest, the Downy Woodpeckers, we see often and know well. And the Red-bellied, Hairy, and Pileated, in fewer numbers, often visit. These woods and the many dead and fallen trees provide the insects and nesting sites for these year-round residents of eastern North America.

But, it is not often that she visits us here, this migratory woodpecker who spends the warm summer months in Canada and eastern Alaska. In fact, only twice in the 16 years we’ve lived in southwestern Ohio, have we seen a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Whether, on this day, she was just passing through to a more southern spot or arriving to spend the winter with us, I don’t know.
But I have a big box of suet cakes to see her through the coldest days ahead.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius,
feeding at Suet

View more ABC Wednesdays here!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Fast and Furious Rain

December is a difficult month.
The bright, clean snows blanketing much of the country, are absent in southern Ohio, where clouded skies bring us, instead, rain.
And, for months, only shades of gray hang above the brown fields.

I work hard to keep an attitude of cheer, especially with Christmas just days away. But even I find it hard to keep joy in such gloom.

Beyond my window, Goldfinches, now in their olive drab, nestle close to the trunk of our Hawthorn—a cluster of vines wrapped densely about it, their shelter from a fast and furious rain.

Much, indeed, most of what I love has gone.
Against the white sky, the dark shapes of bare branches reveal empty nests where the colorful birds, in reds and yellows and blues, were once hidden behind summer’s green.
The surface of the pond has become quiet and still.
And even the milkweed patch, once teeming with every winged or walking insect, stands dry and withered—its few remaining seeds, waiting for the next breeze.
It would seem that with the end of the year, has come the end of it all.

Across the field, beneath tumbling clouds pushed by a strong wind, I went to the vernal pool—where, last spring, Spotted salamanders gathered to dance beneath its cool water on a dark, moonless night.
And wood frogs sang the first notes of spring’s great chorus.
Sending the next generation out, from water to woods, the last days of summer dried it, and, as it should, left it empty and waiting.

For four months I have waited, too, as brown grasses and faded leaves have filled the dry basin.
Wondering when water would return.
And the pools, again, start their cycle.

First water in Little Pond Pool
December 17, 2008

In this time of so many endings, today, it has happened.
The first drops of cool water, left standing, still clearly there.

Now beginning, even as all else ends.

First Water in Wood Pool
December 17, 2009

From the archives

Spring 2008
Little Pond Pool, full

Spotted Salamander returning to Little Pond Pool
March 2008

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Transcendent (SWF)

I watched, as an ordinary day

Passed with such fire

Into darkness,

Saddened that it could not stay
for me to marvel longer,

Its brief glow,
even more beautiful in its absence,

To cause one stranger to turn to another and say,

“Did you see the sky last night?”

See more Skywatch here.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Slow Snow

Our Gravel Drive

The snow has come.
Yesterday’s forecast arriving a day late, upon roads sprayed and scattered with salt—readied for a Midwest winter.
More ice, than inches, the warm surround quickly melts each frozen flake into a slippery covering, paralyzing travelers across the city.

I sit in a line of traffic, inching forward as each car gets a grip on the slick surface and rolls forward under a green light. Against the dark shadow of the underpass, I watch the falling flakes drop slowly from the whitened sky, and land in small clusters on my windshield.
Just for a moment, their delicate shapes remain.
Then they are gone.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Winding, twisting, climbing,
reaching, grasping, wrapping.


View more ABC Wednesdays here!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nature's Joy

While a spitting rain from heavy clouds taps upon the window, I look out into yet another gray December day. This time though, thinking of times that brought me joy, and answering a call from Wren to share the five greatest of these— I have found in Nature.

Finding Joy in Nature

Harder than it would seem, it is to explain joy.
For in that moment it is experienced, the intensity may be so consuming, words leave me. Once spilled, gathering them again is like trying to recapture a bagful of bouncing balloons—the harder I try, the more they escape me.
But, back through my favorite pictures I traveled—from this cold afternoon in December, to times of sunshine and warmth, color and life.
And found it all there, as I had remembered.
The times that captured my heart and left me …changed.

Day Lily in afternoon sun

Amberwing on Smartweed around pond

The experience of color--
so pure and so rich as that of a Day Lily, set ablaze in the afternoon sun. Bright and bold tones on petals so soft.
Or on wings of glass that cast a warm glow from their tips, through, to flowers below. To be able to say, “I have peeked through an angel’s wing.”

Dunce Caps in lawn each morning

To find perfect, tiny parasols between blades of grass each morning, in a lawn still filled with crystal dewdrops. Their paper-thin heads so tender and fragile, the day’s light soon turns them dark and withered.
From delicacy, they disappeared.

Jumping Spider watching from Milkweed stem

Female Wolf Spider carrying young over driveway

Becoming small, from tall.
And discovering that, in my looking, others are looking back, staring curiously at me. And living lives, just smaller--from under leaves or upon the ground…

Stamens falling from flowering grass

Being witness to a moment that will never happen again.
A leaf’s fall to the earth,
or the melt of a snowflake that lands on warm skin, just once.
For just me.

Hatching Hummingbird in Nest

Newly hatched Wren

Seeing the first breaths of a new life.
So tender, so small, so innocent.
So beautiful.

How could there not, from these, be joy?

All photos enlarge with a click.

Where have you discovered joy?

Stumble Upon Toolbar