I have lived a good life...no doubt. Great daughters and grandkids....a life that I can be proud of as a teacher. It doesn't matter of what age, for I know I touched a few at every age I taught. I have had the opportunity to travel the world and do what I want to do.
Ha...I always say that I have 'led myself' as opposed to having someone or some corporation or some boss etc, ....lead me. No, that didn't happen with me after I wised up to it.
I can say I found the secret to life although even knowing the secret, it doesn't come easy. But each of us can find that secret and you have to find it yourself, even though I could tell you. You wouldn't recognize it, or...you wouldn't see it, understand or grasp it, unless and until, you do so on your own.
I loved my involvement with nature ....even though earlier I had grand thoughts of helping the world and saving the planet and joining the Sierra Club etc, well, I found that just by walking the land and rubbing my hands against the tall grasses, or smelling the trees. Or looking at a sunset or a bird in flight and all type of animals doing whatever they do. Nah, I don't know the scientific names for hardly anything and am lucky now to remember what grass blade is what. I do better with birds though. I have learned to appreciate wildlife and habitat and environment and behavior. Sure, I like to find a new bird, but even an everyday bird like a Robin or Chickadee is good enough for me. I can remember when I was just a lad of 4 or 5 and my mom telling me about Robins and migration. I think that started it all. Way to go mom, thanks.....really, thanks.
I felt like I have learned to appreciate many things in my life, whether it is art, or just myself for when the bottom line is here, it is only you that you have to convince of , of anything. Learn to appreciate yourself and your existence within this world of ours. As Mars is being discovered, one meter at a time, you should be able to discover just a bit more about you on a daily basis too. Try it, you might like it.
We live in strange times, although isn't any time a bit strange with humans floating around? But yes, we live in strange times where much of 'ethics' might escape most people, most of our land is just abused so someone can make a buck if allowed....our wildlife is taken for granted and if in fact, we could put them on a postcard and remember that in that manner, I think most people might accept that. Oh, isn't that so sad.
But today my friends....yes today, well...yesterday too and perhaps even a week ago or two, and I am sure in the future too, it isn't quite time for me to say Adios to the world. No sir....I have important things to do such as losing money in the market or drinking a new glass of wine to celebrate the same, or....listen to music and wonder why I can't sing like that. No, not adios yet for yes, I do have things to conquer as of still. I haven't met a person yet I wouldn't meet again, just to meet. I haven't seen a land, or a bird or an adventure I might turn down too, for anything I run up against is an adventure which I need to experience.
For one day when I truly might have to say Adios....I want to review my life with a glance within me and know that I have lived 'a life' and not just 'life'. Then when I say 'adios'....I am comfortable saying it. ...........
By the way....I am not really going anywhere, nor anything wrong.... But I was listening to Glen Campbell's final album he sang with his daughter before he passed away due to Alzheimers. He actually made an album even in his final days. I grew up listing to this guy; being a country boy from back west.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. " Henry David Thoreau
"I am no more lonely than the loon in the pond that laughs so loud, or than Walden Pond itself. What company has that lonely lake, I pray? And yet it has not the blue devils, but the blue angels in it, in the azure tint of its waters. The sun is alone, except in thick weather, when there sometimes appear to be two, but one is a mock sun. God is alone,—but the devil, he is far from being alone; he sees a great deal of company; he is legion. I am no more lonely than a single mullein or dandelion in a pasture, or a bean leaf, or a sorrel, or a horse-fly, or a humble-bee. I am no more lonely than the Mill Brook, or a weathercock, or the northstar, or the south wind, or an April shower, or a January thaw, or the first spider in a new house."
What is within those words? .... read the words my friend and don't just read them; rather...disentangle each element of thought, visualize them and put yourself around the lake, open the door and enter the cabin, stare up thru the limbs and leaves and watch the clouds disperse, .... listen to nothing but wind and feel the warmth of the sun emblaze upon your face and then reach out to touch the low lying grass and allow your fingers to idely touch the tips as the breeze caresses them, and lastly breathe deep and fill yourself with air, so fresh and young that you yourself turn back time. No loneliness as Thoreau himself also found nothing in particular but in the solitude and fortune of being there at that time, he placed the essentials of life before him and prospered while still in life.
Photo Credit, Granger, 1908.
Humans 'mutter' to ourselves when no one is around.... we might see something outside that just amazes us, or we eat a tasty treat and; oo la la......delicious. We might be binge watching some show and get excited with our voices.
Cats do the same you know....... Deb's son was around for Christmas and he brought his tabby cat with him. Cute cat....perhaps a year old. The tabby decided to watch a bit of TV behind the Louver doors and since it was around 10am, the feeders were busy, and so was the cat. It must have been very tiring for him, I can only imagine the cat-nap needed after that binge watching of the outside TV staring a cast of juncos, red breasted nuthatches, white-breasted nuthatches, a hairy woodpecker, some jays, a finch or two...... Bluebirds, and of course Chickadees' to (provide some sound of course).
A low cat growl coming from the depths and a twinge of his whiskers....animated paws...Midas (his official human name) was immersed in this outside show. And his lounging area being the louver doors sheltered him from 'us humans' who might ruin the party. His line of eye-sight provided him with 'spot on' view of all of this commotion near the feeder. On Christmas Day I timed him from 10:00am to 11:15 before the show ended. On the 26th a repeat performance minus the jays and bluebirds. I am thinking this shift from Act 1 to Act 2 didn't bother him for the smaller birds were just popping in their overall acting. Academy award nominations for the junco who got bopped by a rather large nut as one of the nuthatches let it fall from the feeder. How could he? It was a 'fine'...a pure nugget. Another Nomination to the Hairy Woodpecker on the suet for his rather long 'solo performance' on stage. Very moving. I could tell the cat loved it, and perhaps his favorite. I am not sure as I didn't ask him.
Either way....CAT TV at its finest and while not entirely free as seed is getting a bit expensive, it does beat the price of Cable. And best yet, the screen time is limited as the birds only perform as a full cast at that time of the day, so this allows the cat to concentrate on less screen time and more exercise activities such as chasing the laser light, or the old game of 'string on a stick'.
"Solitude, too, can be a way to gain perspective and find inner peace". Rona March, NPCA.ORG
Henry David Thoreau was known for Walden Pond and seeking solitude... He also visited the 'barred and bended arm' (Cape Cod) many times and would walk a 28 mile stretch from Eastham Beach to Provincetown, spending the night along the way in various places such as the Highland light house or the welcoming house of an oysterman. The seashore to Thoreau was a 'wild and rank place, and there is no flattery in it' yet ....'the seashore is a most advantageous point from which to contemplate the world' ...So we can assume, he came for solitude.
Years back....and for 10....I used to work for the National Park Service as a Ranger stationed in various spots such as Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and Whitman Mission National Historic Site; all back in the great state of Washington. The above picture shows a 'very much younger' me, somewhat goofing off in my stance. Yet, that was me. During these 10 years I grew even more so, to appreciate nature.
You see now, I was always 'into nature' and even as a child I spent most days if not all it seems, outside in the hills and fields behind our home. Horses of the 'wild kind' would run free and would escape my eyes by being stealthily hidden behind over-run blackberry bushes, seemingly a mile high and dense enough to ward off even a rabbit who might dare to enter. I would still attempt to sneak up on them but they would scatter. Many years in youth spent with just me, or my brothers... and the wind, the wide open sky and smell of mustard weed mixed with horse manure. In retrospect, this was surely the beginning of solitude, for me. The side- image was when I was 11 and learning how to handle a shotgun.
But it was my years in the National Park Service (NPS) where as a young adult, I did grow up to not just exist in nature, but almost become 'part of nature' as my mind shifted to what can be found within this kingdom. It was in the mid 80's that my love for birds grew. I would listen to my friend Jack (short for John, go figure!), talk about birds and migration and we would go out in the field and take our binoculars and scan the land; back-country which was deeply settled in the Blue Mountains of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Later on, as my girls were young, I would take long adventures with them into the Blue Mountains or Wallowa Mountains, but I have to admit, solitude wasn't quite in the cards. I tried....but you know how life is with kids that young and packing and prodding them around goat trails and shifting land. The mountains here in spots are an odd combination of soil and shale, make each step a challenge against slanted hills.
Then as they aged a bit .... we would go off many more times such as the image below, ... in the Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon. This time more quietness except when the pre-teen got hungry.
Or....just forget walking and immerse yourself in a crisp stream and learn a skill.....' that of how to skip a rock'. Skipping rocks is a time-honored tradition that should be honed by the time one comes of age. While not total solitude, the satisfaction of (a) seeking that perfectly-sided flat stone and then (b) successfully skipping it 'upstream' 5 to 6 to 7 or more times; well, you did yourself proud that day.
Eventually, while still working for the NPS, I would venture on my own....this time I found a rock to lie on in Mt Rainier National Park. I loved this rock and would return to it often. Mt Rainier can get a bit chilly, even in the summer and to find 'nature' so flat, so ....'sunny' , was too much of a lure. I can recall lying like I was, gazing upwards at the crystal dark blue sky, and just thinking of peace. Hands out, my body plastered against the rock where I could feel every protrusion nestling into my skin. I had clothes on, this time.....I use to do this buck-naked on this very rock; my rock, my peace, my solitude.
As my girls grew and found their life outside of the 'home'... I began to travel more in the world and collect my thoughts, high in the Andes....away from most folks as the image below shows. I would grab my camera and depart for the day, only looking back when I hit a ravine that cleared itself from the trees. A mist would always fall, my reading glasses always wet. I crept to each turn, and with each turn in a path, it would be like Christmas as a kid, not knowing what I would find. A cock-of-the-rock ? ...startled and flown, or a slithering snake caught open in the sun?
Solitude found me and since, has never left.... I find myself, sometimes....around people to be more awkward as I have to 'talk'....I have to say something to be human. I would sooner be out in the forests and trees or better yet, wide open land where one can view miles. I would sooner be grabbing sights of color, dispersed in the trees or to look down and find the same among leaves and dirt. I remember one time where I spent an entire day looking at leaf cutting ants make their way across acres of land. Sun up, sun down...just myself and the ants. Solitude and that of appreciation of, allows one to be found in another world, ....a dimension of modern society long forgotten by technology. Then that time, oh that precious week on a deserted Island in the Pacific where each night I would venture to the shore line to watch the orange cast glow of the sun and when darkness welcomed my hours, I would watch natures own headlights as the luminosity of algae playing in the crashing of the waves, would lend itself to a visual party, of just me. Solitude, pure none-the-less. Or my time spent roaming areas of the Australian outback ....walking...listening in fact to the dust settle upon my hat as the wind would chase it to me. I yet managed to shoot a simple Fairy Wren, elongated such as it is, against the wire with nothing to show in the background except for more of the same wide expanse of land. That my friends is the epitome of solitude. Seek it out, search for the land that matches your soul within the time you have on this earth. Life is too short to be spent strictly with humanity.
17...an odd number. I was going to change this blog to '16' but this ain't no Quinceanera dude. But on the side, do you recall when you were 16 of age? For me and others, it was BC time....'before computers'. ... When life truly was life. Frankly that concept is unexplainable unless you had the fortune to live in the BC times. If you never did, I feel sad for you as life really was life back in those days.
But 17 was a dang good number the other day as I took my walk around Egg Harbor Township High School. Thru the year I have watched my little family of Bluebirds grow from 4 to what appears to be at least 17.
January 2019.....4 adult winter hold-overs enjoyed my bird feed. They knew my house and I knew their house. In the woods, over there...across the trail and towards grandmother's someplace. Today, we have 17 or perhaps more. They love the chain links fences and as I walk, they lead me forward, or perhaps I am chasing them. Regardless it is a game we play.
The other day I did manage to count 17 on the fence or in flight, or near by. Like that, 17. I haven't given them names, nor could remember that list, or to which name belonged to whom. I just know them as my family. I walk, they are there. They lead me around the school on the edges and I am curious if they even care about me or if I am just some blob approaching them and their natural inclination is to just 'take off' as I near. I have a feeling that is the case.
No matter.....todo bien.
I met my old friends today..... or so it seems. A few years back when I was more of a 'western' man, true to my calling, ...a bit settled with dust and age and at that time...resided in eastern Washington state. Open and wild and inviting .....I would venture to one of my favorite areas; just to sit, no more than that; just to sit. For here I had 'old friends'....
It was here in my 'sitting locale' akin to a park bench but a mere set of boulders that created this bookend nestled near a mudflat, that I learned to appreciate my old friend; the killdeer. They would flitter about like sections of a crumpled newspaper blowing around the tall grass on one side.....they would offer courtship to each as the male would strut around with his tail up high....showing off of course. For what else does a good male do?
''There on the mud flats during certain times in which they occurred', we became companions to a degree....the killdeers would go and court, for yes, they were members of the court at that time. ....lost in their overcoats with a black ascot around their neck, in proper attire no less yet with eyes that shown of bloodshot red as if coming home from a hard night. Their behavior was caught by whom might venture just to stop and do no more than just watch. They were not shy, nor hidden from sight....but open and inviting, just like the country.
These were my friends. I would take my camera with me and capture a shot or two, or just let my eyes wander over the full scope of the mudflats, soft and oozing as footprints left a record of their travels. These friends of mine never cared much for me, as I said before....but matter not, no need.... for I knew of them as part of nature, as sure as the mudflats themselves or the algae that grew in little pools around. Yet strange enough I knew, we might possibly sit later on in other days, perhaps sharing an apartment and resting just quietly.
My friends would so casually turn to me.....as if to care..... at other times I felt like offering myself a glass of wine, so I could toast to their act. It was an act, but not for me of course. Killdeer..... my friends. Times like today as I walked around the grounds of a quiet high school nestled in the pines of south Jersey, my friends and I met up once more. Oh, it must be a few thousand miles away from my other encounters but strange enough, they still turned their attention to me, and I towards them. There they were in a parking lot this time.....flirting around. I love to watch them fly so directly to a spot, just to fly. They land and speak, and act.....they play tag with my eyes and with their partners. They then just 'up and go'....without much thought and not without any recognition to me, nor I to them. As I walk I know I will encounter them again in a different part of the parking lot.....over there, beyond.... A time it was then...and is now. Sweet innocence borrowed from my mind and yet confident I am that yes, we will play the game with eyes and sound and flirts be it tomorrow or the next, or here in Jersey or in Washington for I want you to know that my old friends don't escape me it seems, for I have a photograph where I preserve my memories of my friends.
Welcome to the ZEISS Digital Nature Hub!
Over the last few months, we’ve seen the world changing dramatically and we've learnt to connect with each other in a different way. With this in mind, we wanted to bring ZEISS Nature & Birding to you in a different way. Introducing, the ZEISS Digital Nature Hub!
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Never say never..... I should learn that. But 'never' in this case is something I have noticed as of recent. Summer is a pretty slow time of the year for birding and while I spent a portion of my COVID summer getting a new pair of binoculars, I also spent the same COVID summer viewing backyard birds.
One thing I noticed was how birds simply refuse to gorge themselves. Just the other day as I was sitting out on the patio and I noticed we have one of those huge Tent caterpillar nests on one of the pines. Living around here, you know what I am talking about.
Sprinkled throughout this mess....always cobwebby in design.....are insects who have found themselves permanently fastened 'by death no less' to this cobweb design. I can't tell you when they entered and lost the ability to escape, but I can tell you that many #'s of them were there.
Along came a finch....... This little guy would cherry pick his way thru the nest, pecking away at insects that looked tasty. Now, either some were not to his culinary standards or the bird just became full and not wanting to gorge, it left.
Do birds do that? Chances are that bird flew over to another tree or branch and an insect came their way and 'gulp'....down it went. So if that surely (can't be sure) OR might (a better word as not as definitive) be the case, why not just sit in the nest that was pocked full of insects and nibble away? If you are hungry, you are hungry....take the easy meals.
Or....does a bird's appetite naturally stop at a certain point and no more gorging needed. But does a cat gorge if food is around? Does a cow ever quit eating green grass on the other side of the fence?.... Is 'stopping' and knowing not to gorge just a 'bird thing'? Not sure...I am just guessing that birds just know when to stop. Otherwise a caged canary (a bird) would be a lot larger than needed as food is available to them 24 hours a day. So that natural inclination to 'stop'...is evident in birds.
In my case...was the bird pecking away until full? Probably.... Did the bird then take off and fly to another tree and by hap-chance eat an insect or two along the way? Perhaps.... perhaps not.
What can I say.....the video says it all. I am not even sure where this was taken but it appears to be an Osprey with a young shark in it's talons......
Sometimes, rather than writing 'something' fancy about any one subject, it is best to just let the video speak for itself.
Simply fascinating and a bit scare.... taken from the naval Pilot's eyes as they attempt to land an aircraft onto an aircraft carrier...in the wind, fog...etc. This is a skill that I would most likely fail in.
One just doesn't wake up one morning and land an aircraft on the high seas on a pretty small deck. Practice....more practice is needed. Sometimes the pilot misses on the first time around and has to feel the heat under his collar as he knows 'all eyes' are upon him during these attempts. Bee bee eyes....all staring at the pilot. Pressure on man....come thru to 'earn your wings on the water'.
Earning your wings is simply not an easy task all the way around. There are three phases of flight school as a naval Pilot.
Phase 1: Prove you are worthy of earning a commission. Competition is fierce....you need to perform ...
Phase 2... Earning your Wings. This is a six week ground school call API (Aviation Pre-flight Indoctrination) where you will study the academics behind flight. Then on to a primary base where you will be given a plane and you start learning in flight
Phase 3... Just because you have earned your wings doesn't mean you are ready. Now you move on to Fleet Replacement Squadron or FRS where you are doing Phase 2 on the water. Here you learn the specifics about a particular plane you are flying landing that object on an aircraft carrier.
So.....today as I came back from my humid walk .....I was sitting outside feeling the wind dry off the sweat. A good place to do this is on the patio as I can observe bird behavior. This time of the year is fun for there is a lot of activity with adults busy 'training' the juveniles in all types of skills. I am just thinking that 'flight' itself is a learned instinct. I don't necessarily see any training wheels on the birds or parachutes for soft landings etc. Flight just seems to occur yet, there are still some phases of flight that need practice. I have listed the three phases I have developed to equal that of naval flight school.
Phase 1 where they are proving they are worth it. This involves learning how to get food from a parent.... growing wings, learning how to tweet etc.... Are they worthy of being a bird? Competition is fierce as some might tweet louder and get more food.
Phase 2....While flight itself might be instinctive this phase is the practice state of earning your basic wings. It doesn't quite last 6 weeks as birds operate under an abbreviated schedule, so please keep that in mind. But in this phase they are taking that first step from nest to branch.... to branch, to branch. Perhaps in the case of a nuthatch (as I witnessed them today) the branch can be substituted for the trunk of a tree and then learning how to walk up and around. So basic flight and landing both occur as does a navel pilot in their phase 2.
Phase 3...earning your wings to eat and beyond. During this phase birds are beyond the practice stage of flight itself and have mastered movement over several long distances and are now being more specific in flight as well as landing. They have their chosen tree and now learn how to navigate around the branches and leaves and as I saw earlier; how to land on suet for food. Landing on suet is not an easy task and especially if the suet is swaying in the wind, like an aircraft carrier is moving on the high seas.
Below is 'actual simulated' video from the eyes of a nuthatch as it attempts to land on the suet holder. It might be a bit scary for you as we are not birds, but this is a phase 3 skill that has to be mastered. Many unsuccessful attempts I have witnessed as they have to not only take into account the wind and movement of the suet holder but flap their wings around the same movement, and put down their landing gear. I mean, wow.....intense. Baby brother or sister is looking on... The wren from the nest is staring. The robin pretends they are not looking but yes, they really are. Intense.... Enjoy the video....