Category Archives: Animals

With Baby Steps, Spring Comes on Tiptoes

Slowly, slowly Spring is tiptoeing into Maine. In May, she will be in a rush, but right now she is just leaving hints here and there.

The male goldfinches have begun their change from drab feathers to bright summer yellow. Not wanting to scare them, I took this picture through our dining room window. The bird on the left illustrates how the male’s feathers are becoming brighter. When I go outside to do yard work—another sign of spring—I always bring my camera, and I’ll try to get a better picture.

Speaking of which…when I was outside, I did get this picture of Mr. Cardinal, that red beauty who graces our yard. I was especially pleased to get him in a maple tree with its spring buds, also red.

When I turned my gaze downward, I was thrilled to see the green shoots of irises in my back garden. I so love this tender color of Spring.

Now that the snow is gone and we can actually reach our front deck, Clif and I figured it was time to take down the Christmas decorations, which were looking more than a little frowzy. We also put away the shovel and the blue bucket with salt—you can see a glimpse of them behind the wreaths. Farewell until next winter. We hope. 😉

Finally, here’s a picture of a chipmunk that I took while I was resting on the patio and soaking in the birds and the trees and the natural beauty that comes from living on the edge of the woods. Truly a gift, one that gives in every season.


I am happy to report that this week I made good progress on my YA fantasy novel Of Time and Magic.

Word count this week: 6, 605

Total word count: 80, 789

Here’s a metaphor that describes how I feel with each book I write: When I start out, I’m leaving my safe port and heading out to sea. I know my destination, but I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to get there. In the middle of the book, I am completely surrounded by water with no land in sight. I usually hit the doldrums, where I seem to make little progress. This winter, I was there for several months. But now, come spring, I’ve escaped the doldrums and can finally see land. I’m still some distance away, but I will soon be reaching the book’s ending port.

Onward this week to another 6,000 words. Or maybe even more.

Friday Favorites: The Consolation of Nature

For me, as is the case with many people, nature is a great consolation when there are troubles big and small. Even in March in Maine, there are signs of spring, reasons to be glad and feel a little comforted.

At breakfast one morning this week, I looked out the window and spotted this chipmunk on the small wall Clif built to hide our garbage cans, which we use to store sticks and fallen branches. Chipmunks hibernate in the winter. Seeing the chipmunk out and about, even though the weather is brisk, even though there is mud aplenty, is a cheering sign of spring.

Tiny red buds have started appearing on the maples, and here they are silhouetted against a morning blue sky.

The fungi pictured below is not a sign of spring, but this time of year—when the snow is mostly gone and not much is growing—it really stands out.


Thoughtful Posts from Some of the Lovely Blogs I Follow

I’m guessing that for most of us, Ukraine is never far from our thoughts. How could it be any other way? Not only is the death and destruction in Ukraine horrible to behold even from afar, but it’s being wrought by a tyrant with an arsenal of nuclear weapons. In response, some of my blogging friends have, in their own way, added their voices in support of Ukraine as they chronicle this terrible time.

Donna, from Retirement Reflections, offers practical ways that people can help Ukrainians.

Tanja, from Tanja Britton, takes solace in memories from winters’ past and shares wonderful photos of animals that live in her area.

Xenia, from Tranature, wrote a simple, lovely haiku and lit a candle for peace.

Debbie, from Musings by an ND Domer’s Mom, has written a thoughtful post that asks “What’s Valuable to you?” I was particularly taken with this: “To grumble and complain that we don’t have more — when so many have far less — feels like the gravest of sins to me.” Yes, yes!

Jane, from Robby Robin’s Journey, has reposted an old blog post about a trip through the Soviet Union 1970. Her observations and conclusions are illuminating and help provide an understanding of where Russia is today.

D. Wallace Peach, from Myths of the Mirror, has written a haunting poem about war and hope.


DakhaBrakha’s music is not the kind I usually listen to, but that’s one of the reasons why I love NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts so much. It exposes me to music and groups I have never heard of. Also, DakhaBrakha is from Ukraine, which is particularly relevant right now. The group’s music is wild, haunting, and arresting, yet another example of how music can be many things. And the costumes? Well, as one commenter put it, “Came for the hats. Stayed for the music.”

When Life Gives You Covid, Go on a Picnic

Here we are in the beginning of August, with the Delta variant, reportedly as contagious as chicken pox, ripping through the country. According to ABC News, one year ago, the U.S. was averaging about 63,000 new cases of Covid a day. This year, we’re averaging 62,000 cases a day. No matter how  you look at it, that’s not progress.

At least Clif and I had two good months in June and July. A heady period when it actually seemed as though we were returning to normal times. Friends came over, we gathered at the local Brewery, we dispensed with masks when grocery shopping.

But all this was conditional. Clif and I are firm believers in science and data, and we continued to keep track of the Covid numbers. We decided that if the numbers rose, then our behavior would change. Unfortunately, the numbers rose. Our masks, tucked away, came back out, and we have been wearing them whenever we go shopping or to any other indoor place.

On a happier note…as I mentioned in a previous post, our eldest daughter Dee has come to stay with us until her office calls her back in. For now, she can work remotely, and we are thrilled to have her here.

But what to do on days off? Going inside with bunches of people no longer seems like a swell idea. However, never fear! We hit upon a solution that is both safe and fun—picnics. While central Maine does not have the dramatic beauty of the coast, there are still pleasing spots to enjoy that feature fields, rivers, and hills.

One such spot in nearby Hallowell overlooks the Kennebec River. There’s a small waterfront park that has jaunty chairs dotting a long boardwalk.  Perfect for a picnic lunch, and perfect for watching the river and the wildlife that thrives there.

So on Saturday, a beautiful sunny day that was not too hot, we headed to Hallowell. Other people, it seems, had the same idea.

Who’s that guy in the front? Could it be Clif?

Here’s a view of the river going north,

with mallards resting by the water’s edge.

We also saw ospreys, which were flying too high for the wee camera to get a good photo.

And even more exciting, for the first time ever, I saw an Atlantic sturgeon, a big one about four or five feet long, jump not far from us. Too quick for a photo, but the image of that leaping prehistoric fish is embedded in my memory.

What a great way to start our season of picnics.


Nifty posts from some of the lovely blogs I follow:

For daylily lovers, the Strafford County Master Gardeners Association blog features a post about John Hric, an Ohio gardener whose passion for daylilies has led not only to growing them, but also to breeding them.

From Canberra’s Green Spaces: Birds, beautiful birds. What could be better? How about tree kangaroos? Wowsah! This Mainer had never heard of tree kangaroos before.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring My Backyard, celebrates the changing seasons.

From Thistles and Kiwis, a week of small pleasures that included food and a trip to the museum to see an exhibition featuring surrealist art.

Horses, horses, horses! Derek J. Knight gets some great pictures of horses that are allowed to roam free.

Friday Favorite: Little Miss

As many of you know, on Tuesday we had to have Sherlock, one of our cats, put down. Despite Sherlock’s, ahem, challenging ways, we loved him very much. I miss him terribly, and I get a lump in my throat whenever I think about him.

Fortunately, we still have a cat in our household, and this week’s Friday Favorites is dedicated to Sherlock’s litter mate, Ms. Watson, whom we call “Little Miss” because of her gentle nature. (The picture below was taken a couple of summers ago.)

To say that Little Miss’s personality is the polar opposite of Sherlock’s could not be more of an understatement. Gentle, shy, skittish, Little Miss usually runs and hides when friends come to visit. She is affectionate with us, but for over twelve years she was completely overshadowed by her domineering brother. Yet, we love her as dearly as we loved Sherlock, and Little Miss is a great comfort now that he is gone.

“Stay healthy!” I tell her. “Live for many more years.”

Little Miss makes no reply except to blink at me.

Before we took Sherlock to the vets to have him put down, I set him down on the kitchen floor, where he clearly wanted to be, in the middle of things, as always. Little Miss looked at Sherlock, went over to him, and gave him two gentle licks on top of his head. Then she moved away.

A farewell? An acknowledgement of the greatly diminished state Sherlock was in? Yes, I certainly think it was the latter and perhaps the former, too.

For the past few days, Little Miss has definitely been at loose ends, frequently coming into my office to see me, and meowing so that I will pat her, which I gladly do.

A blogging friend asked if we planned to get another cat to keep Little Miss company. I don’t think we will. In fact, I’m not sure if I want another cat when Little Miss goes. It seems that the older I grow, the softer I become, and it breaks my heart to have them put down. In our household, animals seldom, if ever, go in their sleep.

But we shall see. Because we feed the birds, our house is a mouse magnet, and having a cat definitely keeps their numbers down. Plus, a house feels more like a home with a cat or a dog around.

In the meantime, Little Miss brightens our day and makes us smile, reminding us how our fur buddies help to open our hearts and consider creatures other than ourselves.

And, as I noted in my previous post, that is a lesson beyond compare.


Here are some favorites and small pleasures from other blogging friends:

From Thistles and Kiwis, a recovering cat, food, and good movies.

All Things Bright and Beautiful features an oh-so-lovely Light to Night festival.

Sherlock, 2008-2021

Today, during a pandemic, during a snowstorm, we had to bring our cat Sherlock to the vets and have him put down. A day or two ago, he had what was most likely a stroke although we didn’t know it at the time.  We noted stiffness in Sherlock’s back leg and thought it might be arthritis. We had planned to mention it to the vet in a spring appointment.

However, by this morning Sherlock was dragging himself around by his front paws, unable to stand or walk. He wouldn’t eat or drink, and we could tell by looking into his eyes that the end could be measured in days rather than months or years. Because of the pandemic, we couldn’t be with Sherlock when he was euthanized, and that was hard. All we could do was watch as the assistant took him away.

We made the right choice, and we know this, but it was not an easy one. Our fur buddies mean a lot to us, and the decision to have one of them put down always fills me with grief, which, in a strange way, seems fitting. To expand love to a creature from another species strikes me as a very, very good thing, especially when you think of how often it is that we don’t even love members of our own species. The  more we can widen our circle of love, the better it is.

Sherlock was not what you would call an easy cat. From the moment I brought him and his litter mate Ms. Watson home, I knew Sherlock was going to be a challenge. That first day, he climbed my back ten times as I tried to work. Not exactly a laid-back cat, and this picture Clif took of Sherlock as a kitten shows his “cat-attitude.” But he sure was cute, wasn’t he?

Sherlock had the lamentable habit of biting the hand that patted him. He was also a bully, and Sherlock kept the meeker Ms. Watson in a constant state of agitation. And yet. As our daughter Shannon put it, Sherlock was a punk, but he could also be very sweet. Yes, he could.  Sherlock loved to lie on my lap on top of “his” special fleece blanket. (Without the blanket, it was no good, and unless the evening was stinking hot, I had the blanket on my lap for him.) Despite the biting, Sherlock was extremely social, and, as our other daughter Dee observed, he always liked to be part of the action and usually attended our Zoom meetings.

At any rate, we loved this punk, and we already miss him.

Here are some pictures of Sherlock from his younger, better days.

Farewell, orange cat!