Monday, May 16, 2005

More on the Highlands

I mentioned that week-end before last my dad and I participated in a guided hike on the Ka-Ma-Ma Prairie, a portion of the Highlands Sanctuary properties being preserved in southern Ohio. Our leader, Larry Henry, was a delight, with an autobiography that serves as an example of life's unending twists and turns. I can't do justice to his story, having heard it just that once, but I can offer the highlights:

Unable to afford college, Larry completed a two-year forestry program and ultimately found himself working in state natural resources. He had a successful career under Republican administrations -- he noted to us that Republicans used to stand for conservation of natural resources -- and, ironically, found himself out of work with the election of a Democratic governor. For the next 21 years he and his wife nurtured their love of growing organisms by operating a bakery, but eventually the wild lands of the Arc of Appalachia in southern Ohio issued their call.

Today, the Henrys respond to the challenges posed by the current version of the Republican party by running Highlands Sanctuary and purchasing magnificent pieces of property to preserve them from further development. They are not a second too soon -- southwestern Ohio, where I grew up and never expected to see anything other than farm after farm, is one of the fastest growth areas in the nation. Now it's development after development. My brother, whom I love dearly, lives in such a development -- he lives on a tiny plat of land on one of countless rows of streets characterized by an endless series of brand-new colonials and double locks his doors in the daytime, on land where wheat used to grow and quail once called and where, prior to the advent of the midwestern farmer, wildflowers proliferated and birds nested.
Larry Henry, seen here holding up an ash tree at Ka-ma-ma, is an eloquent advocate for lands that need him. I'm including his wife's most recent online newsletter piece -- she, too, is a passionately articulate spokeperson for the preservation of wild lands:

There is something about spring that soothes our soul in its deepest realms. Spring is the promise that we counted on last winter, when we endured the long winter nights and freezing daytime winds. Those barren trees, once black icey sticks clattering against a gray sky, are today glowing green and living beings, filled with birdsongs and flowers. If we ever lose our wonder for the miracle of life and the renewal of spring, it will be the greatest of losses.I traveled to the Ohio River yesterday to visit the Ohio River Bluffs property that we talked about last time; to seek support from the nearby village of Manchester -- a historic town perched on the mighty artery of the Beautiful River. The river was most comely on Friday, shining in the sun as it flowed past on its long journey to the Mississippi. The black locust trees were outdoing themselves. Every tree was completely shrouded in dangling cream-colored flowers, softening the landscape and filling it with perfume. Manchester, as it turned out, was thrilled at the thought of possibly having a nature preserve on its outer permimeter and gave us a warm welcome, gracing us with a half-day tour of its historic homes and businesses. It is really a lovely place on the river. I think all of us should be visiting the River more often. It defines who we are as a people, it holds our history, it keeps us humble, and it is undoubtedly Ohio's greatest natural feature, debatably second only to Lake Erie to our north. If you missed the pictures of the Ohio River Bluffs that we sent out last time and hopefully a preserve-to-be, see If we can raise the modest funds to buy this property (only $50,000), this spectacular Ohio river wildlflower display will be saved forever.On Tuesday I spent the morning in Hozho Canyon Preserve on the Rocky Fork Creek. It was its usual green and vernal self. Hozho is an Indian word for the dependable energy that renews and gives life, and so it was on Tuesday! The boulders that have tumbled into the bottom of the canyon made the water white as it swirled and rushed by -- each rock covered with dangling salmon-pink columbines. A mother wood duck glided downstream, with TEN little fluff-balls bobbing behind her in a tight cluster -- just a few feet away from where I sat upon a bed of sand. As she approached the rapids, she hesitated, then shot through. The ten babies streamed behind her in perfect single file as the water took them for a short but wild shoot through the rapids. For all you emotionally-reserved folks, I apologize for being so warm and fuzzy, but I think this must have been the cutest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. To think these little babies had probably just jumped out of a 10-20 foot high nest cavity over the river is a feat worth pondering. Talk about feeling like you are leaping off the edge of a cliff! And then having to learn to swim on the first try -- all at the tender age of a few hours old!Last night two great blue herons flew high in the sky over my husband, Larry, and my heads. As we watched their slow wingbeats, I felt very deeply the idea-essence of 'stork' and all that storcks have meant to human beings over the milennia. Thank heavens Ohio still has its storks, even if they grace our treetops instead of our roofs. Suddenly one of the herons tipped its wings and dropped rapidly in altitude, like a hawk in a dive, then righted itself before it swooped above the canopy of trees. Its mate froze still in the air, an unmoving shadow in the sky. Then it too tilted its wings to catch the wind, and soared away on a tailwind. Larry and I were flabbergasted. We had never seen such raptor-like flight behavior from these normally heavy-flying herons, who are ususally identified by their slow steady wingbeats and their directional steady flight.


Highlands Nature Sanctuary E-magazine, May 14, 20057629 Cave Rd., Bainbridge, OH 45612937-365-1600

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Birding Quickie

I had such a disastrous morning, one in which everything I tried to accomplish just crumbled to dust. But I DID make it out to the marsh boardwalk for a whole 20 minutes of birding, and here's what I saw (thanks to other folks for the photos):

Black-and-white warbler:
Yellow warbler:
Chestnut-sided warbler:
American redstart:
Palm warbler:
Northern oriole:
I tried to find a photo of an oriole that would indicate just how glorious it looks singing away in the sunshine from the top of a tree.

Not bad for a 20-minute walk, huh?

Saturday, May 14, 2005


It is quiet around here, as another journaler has noted. So, some questions. If you feel like a week-end chat, post the questions and your answers in your journal and leave a link.
1. Do you know your next door neighbors?
2. Does your family have any interesting plans for summer?
3. When was the last time you saw your in-laws?
4. What is the first thing that you have to do at work on Monday morning?
5. What would I see if I were to walk up to your front door this week-end?


1. Our neighbors to the west have been here since we moved in 21 years ago. Our combined seven children played together all the time for many,, many seasons. Now among us we have a financial services professional, a married daughter in Germany, a recent graduate back from Germany and looking for work, three in college and one headed that way. The couple to the east moved in few years after we did and eventually produced a darling child who is still in elementary school. We began our acquaintance with a huge squabble over an encroaching fence (ours), but I think we have all nonetheless turned out to be good neighbors to each other.

2. We have been humbled by four different school schedules. The older children have interesting plans -- Spain for one and architectural design classes for the other -- but the rest of us are lagging in the planning department.

3. I think it's been nearly a year! The kids went with their dad to see his family at Christmas, but my extremely limited vacation time and my ill stepmother's needs combined to keep me in-state.

4. Ahhh. I am the yearbook advisor and we are in a state of crisis. The first thing that I have to do is log on to the yearbook website and see whether there is any hope of a yearbook arrival before graduation.

5. You would see an unraveled hose, decrepit daffofils, and. . . Ta Da: (In my old journal, a photograph of a white tulip, gently unfolding).

Friday, May 13, 2005

Rural Cemetery

My mother is buried there, and my brother.

My grandfather, and someday my grandmother.

Other people gone a century ago,

and some more recently, but long after the county lost track of which bones lie where.

A cross made by a desolate child for World's Best Dog, crumbled decades past.

Trillium in abundance.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

America the Beautiful

Today is a holiday at my school.
So here's my schedule, with my daughter's court date for last month's accident as its focal point:
Yesterday afternoon: Suddenly remembered that my daughter might lose her license in court today, so raced to meet her at P.O. at 4:30 so she could apply for a new passport while she still has a picture ID in her possession. Informed by hassled employee that they only do weekday passport apps between the convenient hours of 9 and 4. Look at application and ask if she can use her old passport to prove both her citizenship and her identity. Am told no; she MUST have her license because her passport picture (which looks exactly like her) is too old and my presence is inadequate to verify her identity even though, since she is under 18 and obtained her first passport before age 16, my presence is REQUIRED. Get in car and read on app that she CAN use ME to prove who she is. I don't bother to go back in. I am remembering very clearly how they would not allow me to verify the identities of my boys when they got their first passports, despite the CLEAR instructions from the Department of State of the United States of America labeling such as a clear option.

Today, 8:30-9:30: Drive to courthouse of county where she had her accident.

9:30-9:45: Wait for officious bailiff to announce our presence.

9:45 -10: Court hearing. Magistrate is decent and recognizes that daughter made an error of judgment in a bad situation that might have been a problem for anyone, but still puts 2 points on her license and suspends it for 30 days. (In our county, where the judges recognize that points and license suspension for juveniles basically punish the parents, in the form of higher insurance rates and the need to drive said children around, the penalty for a first offense is to bring in 50 cans of food for the homeless after 6 months and, assuming no further incidents, the record is wiped clean. If said child gets another citation in those 6 months, they throw the book at her. MY child was, was, of course, approximately five feet over the county line when she made -- ahem -- a rather large mistake.) She is permitted to drive to school and senior project but we have to turn in her license and get paperwork indicating same. Magistrate agrees that we can hang onto the license for 24 hours so she can do passport application.

10-10:15: Wait for officious bailifff to let us see the clerk (right behind him) to pay fine and costs.

Interlude: Explain to daughter the old saying: "People often feel the need to insist upon demonstrations of authority in exact inverse proportion to the level of power they actually possess."

10:30-11:30: Drive to home P.O. for further demonstration of above maxim. Clerk says casually, "Oh, with you here and her old passport, she doesn't need her LICENSE." I mention that I had asked her about this yesterday and note that she has just added 2 hours of driving to my day. No apology or even blink of recognition forthcoming.

11:30-12:30 Get lunch, go home for a change of clothes, drive daughter to senior project site.

12:30-2:30 Drive back to county courthouse to turn in her license and collect papers saying what her restrictions are. We have forgotten to mention that she takes voice lessons outside of school. Clerk says too bad; you will have to petition the court or drive her yourself. Drive home.

3:30-4:30 Retrieve daughter from senior project.

5-5:30 Daughter has to drive to school for concert. Please God let there be no more traffic incidents.

7:00 I have to drive to school for concert. Another hour's round trip. Isn't this a great day off? Well, it's spring and there will be music at the end of it. And right now I feel an intense need for chocolate chocolate chip.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Highlands of Ohio

Last week-end I went down to visit my dad for the first time since my stepmother died nearly two months ago. One of the reasons I had delayed my visit was our plan to visit the Highlands Sanctuary, which we had to decided to postpone due to the heavy, wet, and destructive snowfall two weeks earlier.

Because the preserves of the Sanctuary are private and managed with an eye toward preservation rather than human intrusion, a permit is required for hiking there, and we missed the one-week pre-registration deadline for our own trip. So my dad signed us up for a guided prarie hike instead, which turned out to be a completely different experience than we would have had on our own. We were with a group of about 20 people, many of them experienced birders and expert botanists. Since I can't recognize bird calls other than those most basic to our neighborhood and know absolutely nothing whatever about wild plants, it was a treat for me to be among knowledgeable (completely obsessed, actually) folks. I'm not sure that I would have otherwise noticed a single wildflower of the many we spent hours photographing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Perfect Day - Somewhere Else

I have been playing around with what-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up questions, incited, no doubt, by my youngest's imminent departure for college, and I've been looking at websites focused on creating a life mission statement. I'm sure that many of us have done this; it's an excellent method for procrastinating the actual getting on with one's life. At any rate, one such site suggested as an exercise writing out your idea of a perfect day. I had a lot of fun with that one, although I only chose one perfect kind of day. Maybe I'll try another one in a week or so.
In my first perfect day, I live in a condo on the ocean in St. Augustine Beach. I have a particular condo in mind, because I've stayed there: it opens onto the dunes and has a huge deck from which you can see the ocean, and the master bedroom is on the ocean side.
I wake up to the sound of the ocean while it's still dark.

I take a sunrise 3-mile walk on the beach, come in and shower, and go back out to the beach to do yoga while my hair dries.

I spend the morning on the deck doing my own work -- writing, working on photos, preparing classes. I eat a light and healthy breakfast and lunch while I am doing those things.
In the early afternoon I go into town, where I teach a couple of classes or go to a meeting or two, and then meet a friend for an early Margarita on the porch of Scarlett O'Hara's or one of the restaurants on the bayfront.

I go back home (Imagine! "Home" is on the ocean!) and change and grab my gear and head over to the marsh for a little kayak trip to a tiny oyster shell-encrusted island so that I can shoot some sunset photos as the full moon rises over the Mantanzas River. I am particularly fond of moonrises over the river as pelicans and herons sail toward their evening roosting spots.
As it gets dark I am loading my kayak back onto my car rack and heading home for a late dinner and conversation with my husband. He's made the dinner, of course, since I am a dreadful cook, and we have become very European in our dining times.

We go out to check on the ocean one last time before falling asleep. It is, miraculously, still there.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Water Not Ice

I am a bit overwhelmed by demands on my writing life: my honors history students are zapping me with e-mailed drafts of a paper due in a few days, and a speaker for next Sunday's adult education at church has landed in the hospital, necessitating a quick revision in plans. I have some good material to use, but I can't figure out where I put it down earlier today. Oh, and I just finished a one-page summary of that 15-page paper I wrote last week for a presentation tomorrow night. (OK, so I cheated; I can't fit it onto one page. I altered the spacing and font size just a tad. Think my ultra-compulsive prof will notice?)

Anyway, for journal purposes, let's just say that I don't have another written word in me right now, but I am very aware that the ice has melted and the grasses are growing in the marshes. Our tiny back yard's feeders briefly hosted a chipping sparrow and a white-crowned sparrow last night -- spring is here, the ice has gone, and the migrants are coming through!

Monday, May 02, 2005

It's finished -- over and out, done, ready to turn in tomorrow night: a 15-page paper on St. Peter's Dome, complete with 60-plus footnotes, a 2-page bibliography, and 14 images. The monstrosity that has dominated my life for weeks and weeks is behind me, and I'm off for a walk to enjoy springtime without the weight of that particular item monopolizing my "To Do" list.

This morning I also ran errands and managed to purchase a short term health insurance policy for one of my college sons, who announced last week that he plans to drop a course, which will relegate him to part-time student status for the remainder of the quarter. "Not so fast," I ordered, before going off to investigate and discovering that, sure enough, immediately upon his dropping said class, both our medical and dental insurance would consider him ineligible for coverage until he is a fulltime student once again next fall. (Not that one should assume that any such thing will happen... .). I could go into a long rant about the state of health insurance in this country and our President's misplaced obsession with Social Security, which might be better directed at the REAL funding crisis we face, the one for medical care for individuals not umbillically attached to a large corporate employer, but I've been muttering about that all week-end. So I'll spare you.

It's SPRING out there. A cold, damp, and cloudy but nevertheless post-equinox day. Things can only be looking up.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Prom? Already? Already Over?

Prom? Already? Already Over?

A baby who always navigated the world in her own way, a scoot rather than a crawl.

A tiny girl with a white-blond cap of hair, standing underneath a newly identified crabapple tree: "Don't let the crabs out!"

A kid in elementary school, taking advantage of Montessori freedom to write cat stories with her girlfriends all day long.

A 10-year-old homeschooler, volunteering at the animal shelter.

A middle schooler, making a graduation speech in which she minces no words about the diappointments wrought by administrative changes.

A high school freshman, stiffening herself against almost unbearable loss and heartache.

A sophomore, realizing that she's "maybe smarter than I thought!"

A junior, reconsidering the above.

Friday, a senior going to her last high school classes EVER.

Last night, a girl with a prom dress and a date.

Tomorrow, back to the animal shelter, after an absence of five years, for a month-long senior project.

It was all too fast.

I love you, sweetie.