Sunday, June 30, 2013

Water Weight

Every morning, dragonflies and damselflies carry the weight of dew on their eyes, faces, thoraxes, abdomens, and legs. Seeking sun, they must dry before flight is light. 

I had forgotten how heavily they bend leaf and stem and how beautifully they look -- like beaded pins. I must rise early and return, and return, and return.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bloomin' Beautiful

Summer Saturdays begin at 5:15 am and baking for the Gardeners' Market.

As soon as Carlene and her husband begin to unload their truck and display their flowers, the early hours burn off like the morning rainshower's humidity in rising sun.

What a sight.

What a gift.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Play Date

When the butterfly count participants received instructions at the lake on Saturday, the group happened to run into me. David, their leader, introduced me as "the dragonfly/damselfly person" on the Domain.

A few days later, Jonathan, one of the participants, emailed to ask if he could join me for a walk one day. I checked his credentials with David, who enthusiastically endorsed him as exactly the kind of person we need more of up here on the Plateau.

That he is!

I so enjoyed a quick survey of Odonates this morning and our chat about Louisiana, cameras, bugs, yurts, and more. One former student will be thrilled to hear that Jonathan envied my camera; his, while perfect for birding (he's been involved in bird-banding), is not so great for the wee flyers we encountered, including the season's first newly emerged Autumn Meadowhawk and adult Swamp Darner.

With this post, I assure my readers that, while prone to solitude, I do know how to engage with humans as well as Odonates.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Note to Self

  1. Buy garden gloves.
  2. Buy a box of self-tying trash bags.
  3. Leave both in the car.
  4. Walk once around Lake Cheston for me.
  5. Walk a second time around Lake Cheston to clean up the mess others make.

These are not my people.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Note of Thanks

Dear Lydia and Mary,

Thank you for key. I finally used it today, although it was hard to give up time with the Odonates at the lake. I am so glad I did.

Lydia, your garden is beautiful this year. Everything is so neatly arranged: it's  algebra or geometry in earth and plant. And that's not all: you've also fooled those pesky critters interested in the berries. Even this "smart" one nearly fell over when she saw the big snake. Seriously. I didn't notice it when I was photographing the "scarecrow," but when I turned, I caught it out of the corner of my eye and yelped a bit and jumped a bit more. Then I lost it, laughing.

Mary, your garlic heads (is that what those giant balls are?) stunned me. The delicate white blossoms poke out on strikingly pink pencil-like stems, attracting so many pollinators, including this honeybee (from the new University Farm hives, perhaps?), furrowing and fumbling among the blooms. I did not get the picture I wanted, but I know now where to return for the one I still might get.

Gardens like yours bring pleasure to your tables and to those lookers lucky enough to wander by or those even luckier to have earned access.


PS Lydia, as soon as I wandered in, I saw a female Common Whitetail, the dragonfly you've been seeing! Here she is for you. She was awfully shy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Leftovers Plus One

1. Wednesday, June 19
Lucky duck: to have the sheen of teal to grow into.

2. Thursday, June 20
Early morning. 
Dew dots a dropped feather. 
A study in line and sphere.

3. Friday, June 21
Up a tree on a dark path, Bluets struggled to mate, an action made awkward by mites. A spotlit high-wire performance.

4. Saturday, June 22
Spun into a shimmering wheel, the Slender Bluet has begun her slow ascent to a spider's lair. I try hard not to play favorites and remind myself that everybody eats.

5. Sunday, June 23
I might sleep sheltered by bee balm too, given the chance, and surrender myself to sumptuous technicolor dreams.

6. Monday, June 24
There are worse ways to begin a day than watching a watcher watching the coming of light.

7. Tuesday, June 25
Welcome, old friend: the Blue-fronted Dancer skips along the shadowed path, bouncing from pebble to leaf like a tiny aqua miracle.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Acrobats

They're at it for real now: the dragonflies and damselflies are mating with summer's frenzy. Like ecdysiasts or Cirque du Soleil gymnasts, Slender Bluets flex their abdomens; fly linked together, he pulling, both finding the place where they can connect; light, sometimes still winging for balance; complete their union (sometimes quickly, sometimes for an hour); return to the water and water plants for ovipositing, the female often doing the choosing, whether still linked, overwatched, or alone.

(Picture me: the perv leaning in for better focus.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Morning

At Florence and Jere's Bell Buckle home, I awoke today a bit after 6 and wandered downstairs (quietly) for coffee and garden. For two lovely hours, I communed with creatures (crab spider, katydid nymph, hover flies, damselfly, dragonfly, bees [bumble and honey], lightning bug, leaf hopper, ants, shield bug, birds). Everyone (except the birds and me) slept still. 

Even Prince, the poodle-cum-dachshund, stayed a-bed while the sun rose, dew dried, and world made itself anew.

I have always been a morning person, and I love mornings in this garden, tended so lovingly by my friend Florence and offering views my friend Jere calls "vignettes." On the kitchen table, a large pot holder, spilling ivy, says GROWGROWGROWGROWGROW all round the rim. A metaphor for their garden and for them. We talked about birthdays and ages, changes in social groups and milieu, health and politics, challenges and opportunities for turning corners and becoming new.

Ever new.

Like the sun rising as if for the first time again, today.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Thoughts about Hovering

The other day, a friend and I chatted about calming ourselves in trying circumstances. She talked about "going to her happy place." I mentioned that I meditate. 

I did that earlier this week when I endured a fairly lengthy dentist appointment. The sound of the drill (which sets my teeth on edge, no pun intended) virtually disappears if I repeat my mantra.

I remember my first successful meditation session about halfway through my Transcendental Meditation training. I was at home, sitting on my couch on a hot fall afternoon, and felt myself separate from my body, hovering as it were. Not in the creepy sense of seeing my body down below or a bright light above, but in the sense of feeling lifted out of consciousness into a limbo state, something like what I have felt when coming out of surgical sedation. At the end of the required 30-minute period, I felt joyous and rejuvenated as though I had slept like a proverbial child, deeply and refreshingly.

At the market, seeing a hover fly, balanced on a bud, a sea of red and orange and yellow below, I remembered our conversation and vowed to make time for regular meditation again. Perhaps then, my exhaustion from an out-of-balance set of demands, will be relieved and I, like the tiny hover fly, can perch above duties and see only a blur of beauty.

Friday, June 21, 2013


begins slowly
for the female Blue Dasher, 
perched at water's edge,
waiting -- like me -- 
for sun and heat 
on this first
summer day
of her first last
season of flight.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Returning to the spot where I dropped my walking stick, I stood and faced an Orange Bluet, sunning atop a smooth alder leaf. Only a bit longer than an inch, he braved my close inspection, eye-ing me, not nervously, but curiously. Equals, in a way, we shared a small space of green leaf, blue sky, and warm sun -- orange and maroon damsel and woman in bug pants and One Red Dot hat. More than 100 photographs later, he finally flew off between shots. Like that, gone. I would have been content to spend the day in his company.

When I got home, I started The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey, a remarkable book of illness and natural observation (reminding me in a small jewel-like way of Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge), and I felt that shock of meeting someone who reminds me of me. As beautiful as the Orange Bluet is, this book is more so -- in that the writer reveals the snail and herself through her observations in a way my blog does only rarely. With finesse and gentleness and hard seeing. I shall be sorry to let the book go.

A former student posted praise for her son's preschool teachers on her Facebook wall this evening, thanking them for creating a chronological, dated album of his artwork over three years. A treasure for remembering. Perhaps that's what this blog is: my own small portfolio.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


What do the ducks and geese see, paddling and pushing along? Do they know teal sheen of feather, orange flash of fish, herringboned brown of breast, and rippled reflection of sky and plant and bird on the marbled surface they swim?

And what would they make of the blown glass in the museum by the lake? The smooth, cool surface like water stilled but swirling with haloed orbs, reflecting rays and stringed ovals on a polished platform. The black room, like dark matter or vast space, the bowl like a solar system, spinning under a pin of light.

And what of the great swirl of stardust, the explosion of light and color spun from the oldest supernova, eons before human, and art, and duck, in that distant past even now visible in a suspension of time like water or glass, holding what is and what appears to be?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More Things in Heaven and Earth

Another rainy day means the camera stays inside, providing an opportunity to revisit seven days of memorable vignettes not yet celebrated.

1. Tuesday, June 11.
A nightmare does not have to be large. Small, when it comes in the form of a robber fly, will do. Good thing I didn't know about these when I read Dracula. At 13, I knew vampires were a fiction, but . . . robber flies aren't. I have seen one in action. Three years ago, I watched a larger one snatch the Snowberry Clearwing Moth I had been admiring and photographing, then fly to a leaf just below my camera, and kill and feed on the beautiful moth.
2. Wednesday, June 12.
While strolling across the open sandy area at Lake Dimmick, I was torpedoed by a beetle missile. When this fellow hit me smack in the chest, I reacted impulsively, brushing it away. Poor thing: it startled me and I startled it. At least it paused long enough for me to get a good long look. Scarabs have nothing on this sparkly Goth bug whose proper name may be Western  Sculpture Pine Borer.
3. Thursday, June 13.
My Odonate mania began with one of these: a male Eastern Pondhawk.
Lime green. Turquoise. Any questions?

4. Friday, June 14.
I am never alone at the lake, and I am not the only animal who appreciates the view. Witness:

5. Saturday, June 15.
A day that begins with beautiful flowers is a day with sunshine, even in cloud-cover. At Saturday's Gardeners' Market, I arrived third among the vendors, much earlier than Carlene and her greenhouse blooms, which I always love shooting. I found these, however, at the edge of the gravel lot. Magenta, orange, greenish yellow, fringe, hairy stems -- what's not to like? The star of my day: a weed.
6. Sunday, June 16.
Amphibian-ness: floating among lilies, eyes glazed, head and back sunning, legs stretched. I love floating too: staring up at sky, feeling the water hold me, tension releasing like air from a balloon, but slowly, slowly, slowly. I'd like to be down there, with him, among blooms and bugs, half in shadow, half in light, suspended in loving the where I am.
7. Monday, June 17.
What must it be like to host parasitic water mites like tiny red pearls, clinging to every body crevice, even in this Swift Setwing's subgenital plate? How will she mate? How will her eggs be fertilized? The intruders, which cause no harm, are just looking for a ride. They're freeloaders, but don't they weigh her down?
8. Tuesday, June 18.
There are more things in heaven and earth, dear Reader,
Than are dream't of in your philosophy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What This Blog Can't Have

If this blog could have sound, it would have the dry flick-clicking of wing against wing; the tip-tapping of water spiders skating across the lake's surface; the whispered rustle of drying buds as the Swift Setwing shifts the prongs of its legs, the slow drip of the one raindrop still clinging to its claspers; the lake runoff crashing down the hillside below the dam; the hawk's scream, twice, and the crow's insistent caws from the woods beyond; the clap and slop of runner's feet; the one small plash of a Common Baskettail dropping all of her eggs in one white string into the water just beyond my right hand and my exclaimed Holy cow!

But a blog can't have sound.

(suggested by the foreword to Gary Paulsen's The Winter Room)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Little Box of My Own

I confess: I really want a "little box" all my own. Not one made of "ticky tacky . . . all the same" as others, but a tiny house like this one, or this one, or even this one.

I want to shed the stuff I have carted from state to state, town to town, apartment to house: books, bookbinding materials, paintings and pictures, even the few family heirlooms. I want to give to my niece and nephew what they want or to others who can use any of the remainder.

I'll keep my cat, my computers and photo equipment, my clothes, and just enough practical furniture to fill my tiny house and make my tiny heart expand.

Give me wood floors that don't collect fur or dust bunnies, a space I can clean in a couple of hours, a studio for writing and thinking and teaching and blogging, and a view. Put that tiny house in woods or near a pond or creek. And please let it be near a branch of my family.

I dream at night of my tiny house fit for a queen, and I wake in an albatross of a cottage. Then I look at tiny houses here and here and here, and I feel the big envy building for one of my own.

Snug as a bug bluebird in a comfy box, that's what I long to be!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

On Memory Lane

The owners of the Crestline Piggly Wiggly and the property owner have hit an impasse in negotiating a new long-term lease. Neither side has discussed details of their talks, though the lease owner appears to have offered an option for a national drug company's lease. It would make the fourth drug store in a four-block village. 

My grandfather built one of the first houses in the new suburban village some time in the 1920s. My father spent most of his teens and twenties there. After college, my father and his friends, including a friend's girlfriend whom my father later married, made a silent horror movie. The house figured prominently as the home of an evil scientist. Each of the people in the film continued to live in the village, and I knew them all.

My parents' first house on Euclid Avenue was a block-and-a-half walk to the village which contained one gas station, one mom-and-pop grocery owned by the Levios, Ariail's Drug Store, a five-and-ten, a church, a dry cleaner, Davis' delicatessen, Crestline Elementary School, a dancing/piano lessons school, and Hill's Grocery. Crestline proved the rule that it takes a village to raise a child.

My parents' second house lay between creek and woods two blocks out of the village, three houses from my grandfather's house. After building the house, my mother was asked what the dirt road should be named (or at least I have been told): Memory Lane, she decided. From there I walked to school, sometimes passing old Mr. Hill's farmhouse behind our home, sometimes walking through the neighbor's lush yard. I stopped for penny candy on the way home and "helped" Miss Irene Vereen at the Utopia cleaners. Everyone knew my name, and I knew theirs.

My nephew and his family live just two blocks from the Euclid Avenue house, and his children have the same small-town experiences I enjoyed. For them, the Pig is the anchor -- a place where folks greet them by name, wish them happy birthday, commiserate and share life's experiences. I would be sad if they were to lose their safe and happy place.

I must be old. I know this because I have been spending time looking back, especially since the news broke about the Pig. Like this horse, half in and half out of his small stall (his safe place), looking down the road into woods through which neither of us can see, I am stuck in a kind of time-warp, remembering my own childhood, knowing something of my father's, and hoping that my grand-nieces enjoy the same kind of youth we enjoyed.

Oink if you love The Pig!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Addendum to Wednesday's Post

Some dragonflies not only patrol their territory, but also attack those who trespass. 

I have grown accustomed to the mock sorties some species conduct. Blue Corporals, for instance, have a habit of tussling, with two flying one over the other, in a rough-housing upward sweep. Then one breaks away and they generally return to their own business.

This morning, however, I witnessed a remarkable scene of violence perpetrated by one Common Baskettail against another. I heard the flicking of wing on wing first, turned, and saw one butt against the other hard enough that the loser fell into the shallow muck of the lake. 

It fluttered twice, but could not get out of the water, and as quickly as I saw him struggle, I stepped into the water, extended my walking stick, and scooped him onto a leaf. He was weighted down with mud and struggled to catch hold. I threw my stick behind me and offered a finger. I then lifted him into sunlight. (Fortunately, it was quite warm and there was little breeze.) 

For several minutes, I studied him while he cleaned his eyes and legs, shivering his wings just as tenerals do before first flight. As I wondered what the heck I was going to do with him (thinking he was doomed), he lifted off my finger and flew away.

Dadgum but those bugs are strong!