Sunday, September 14, 2014

hawk vs. mouse

This morning I saw a predator in action. I was out running on a bike path and a bird of prey - a raptor - gracefully swooped down, talons first, and landed in a patch of grass on the side of the path. I stopped running, afraid I would scare it away if I got too close. The bird stayed where it had landed, mostly not moving, looking up at me every once in a while, and clawing at the ground. I heard a few desperate squeaks and realized that it had caught something, probably a mouse. I stood there for what must have been five minutes, watching. In the time that I stood there, a runner went by, and a few bikers, but the bird didn't move from its spot, just looking around and occasionally pecking at its now silent (and presumably dead) prey.

Of course since I was out on a run I didn't have a camera or my phone to get a picture. I just watched the bird, and it watched me back. I wish I knew what type of bird I was looking it. Most likely it's a hawk, but a quick online search didn't help me identify which kind. I can tell you that it was brown on top with a white belly and brown specks and that its legs had feathers all the way down to its feet, giving it the appearance of wearing wide pants, sort of the opposite of the "bird leg" stereotype.

How often do you really get a chance to see nature up close like that? I've certainly seen hawks flying overhead, and we've found the occasional dead bunny in the yard (that's always fun) or seen owl pellets in the park. You can find evidence of wild animals all around you if you know where to look. But to witness up close and in person that most basic act of one animal ending the life of another for its own survival is actually a pretty amazing thing.

I felt conscious of my own privilege. Somehow, I was in the right place at the right time to see this basic, carnal act of nature. Somehow, I didn't scare the bird away. Clearly, it was used to seeing humans (the path goes right by a golf course and is heavily used). After a few minutes, I left, figuring I'd seen the most exciting part - the capture and kill - and that what was left to come was just more pecking and clawing and feeding on the part of the bird. I could have stayed longer, waited until it left first, waited to see how long, exactly, it takes for a raptor to eat a mouse in front of a rapt audience. But it would have felt a little intrusive to do so. It was like the hawk or falcon or whatever it was was waiting for me to leave so he/she could finish its meal in peace, thank you.

How about you? Have you seen unexpected moments in nature around you?

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

good things

Today is a day I should practice gratefulness. I should do that any day, but especially days I'm feeling overwhelmed for no particular reason and convinced of my own mediocrity.

I'll try not to make this list too trite, yes? So here we go, some good stuff about today:

1. Biking to work. The weather for this isn't going to last long, so I need to be grateful for the warm sunshine while I've got it.

2. Kids who can read on their own and like it, even if that means all they read is Captain Underpants and Garfield comics.

3. Dinner that turned out okay, though I wasn't sure what it was going to be when I started making it. (You kind of can't go wrong with onions and olive oil and tomatoes).

4. A good book to read. I actually need some recommendations, please! I'm in the mood for some good fiction. I love a good novel, but I'm open to all suggestions at the moment.

5. Eye candy for knitters. This was just released today. I don't know if I'll make anything from it because all the big, boxy sweater shapes are not for me, but the stunning photography and pattern work on those sweaters and scarves are enough to make me swoon.

6. Fresh herbs. Soon it will freeze and I won't have basil right outside my back door any longer! I better harvest what I've got and make a nice big batch of pesto.

That's it for me today. What are you grateful for?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

second day

I took this picture on the second day of school because Stuart forgot to take one on the first! It's okay. I had to work early that morning so he was charge of getting them all ready and walking them there, and with all the rush and first-day jitters the picture didn't happen.

I'm happy to say the first week went pretty well. It will take me another week or two to adjust to the new routine, I think. I'm so glad to be working, but it means my daily schedule is more splintered than ever.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

first day

I had my first day of work on Thursday. I think it went fine but sometimes it's hard to tell. Four straight hours of teaching is hard on the vocal chords, that's for sure. I'll have to build up my stamina for that.

Madison schools start on Tuesday. We've got the holiday tomorrow and then we're off! A lot of us parents would have been happy if school had started a week or two ago. The days are getting noticeably shorter, and it just feels like it's time. Plus, kids have a way of driving you crazy at the end of summer break.

Last summer was stressful with family health issues and neighbor issues, plus I was kind of tied up in knots about Anya starting kindergarten. This summer was less stressful overall, thank goodness, but now that school is about to start, anxiety is kicking in for both Anya and me. This evening she completely fell apart over something that didn't seem like a big deal at all, and it took her a while to calm down. (That's a clue that she's feeling apprehensive. And that maybe she needs an earlier bedtime.)

I have to work on Tuesday morning, and I have to be there early enough that I won't be able to walk Daniel and Anya to school on their first day. I'll be there to pick them up at the end of the school day, and I'll be there on Wednesday afternoon already to help with a 3rd grade garden activity, but there is still this knot of guilt in my chest and a lump in my throat that I won't get to say goodbye in the schoolyard.

It's silly, I know. Most kids ride the bus and plenty of kids stay for the after-school program and all of them and their parents are obviously just fine not walking to school together from day one so I should just take a deep breath and get over it and dial back the on the helicopter thing.

Stuart, as far as I can tell, is as nonplussed as ever (his daily work routine isn't changing, after all), and when I asked Daniel if he feels a little nervous about school, he looked at me quizzically and said, "No. Why?" Ah, to be that easygoing!

In fact, Anya is pretty excited about my new job. She has been asking me a lot of questions about it, like where I'm working and exactly what days and how that fits into the school routine for her and Daniel. She wants to know who I'm teaching and what book I'm using. She is a curious child, and perhaps more interested in these sorts of things than other children her age, but I find it touching that she wants to know about my life outside of my role as Her Mom. It struck me last week that if I am a role model for both my kids, it's important for them to see that I have a fulfilling professional life, even if it's part time for now, outside of taking care of them and the house and helping at their school.

It just might be a bigger adjustment for me than I thought.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

back to school

Summer went by in a blink. School starts next week. For Anya, who insisted we buy all the school supplies weeks ago, it's not soon enough. Daniel says he can wait, but I think even he is getting bored hanging around with us all the time.

It's dark by 8:00 now. It feels so premature.

We're all antsy about the new school year and tired out at the same time. After a week of vacation, and readjusting to life at home with school on the horizon. I'm exhausted; tonight is the first night I've made it past 10 o'clock without crashing. Even my sunflowers are drooping under their own weight, threatening to take out the neighbor's fence. Considering our contentious history, it would probably be best if I pull those flowers out before they cause any trouble, but they're just so impressively tall (12' at least) I can't bring myself to do it just yet.

I start a new job this week. It's a part time teaching position and pays accordingly, but it's exciting all the same. This all came up rather quickly (in fact, I got the offer over the phone last Tuesday as I sat in the car - the only quiet place I could find - on the Lake Superior shore), so I've been on overdrive this week getting my shit in order. Normally, the last few days of summer I like to spend doing whatever my kids want to do - pick raspberries, hang out at the park, stuff ourselves with ice cream, you name it - but instead I've been scrambling to find childcare (the job starts this week, public schools not until next Tuesday), dragging my kids along to places like the dentist and the HR department of my new employer, and wondering what on earth I will make for dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays (workdays for me now) this semester.

Part of me can't wait for school to start. My patience is wearing thin, I'm anxious to get moving on some projects this fall. The other part of me wants to stop the clock, just for a minute, so I can enjoy the good moments a little longer. Time flies.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

more vacay

We spent last week in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on vacation with my parents. I'm pretty sure everyone had a good time, and even though the weather wasn't 100%  cooperative, we managed to do a lot of fun things outside. (All those pictures from my previous post were taken on the first two days, when we went to Tahquamenon Falls State Park and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point.)

One foggy day, we drove along the scenic shore of Lake Superior towards  Sault Ste. Marie. We stopped at one overlook spot for pictures and a bathroom break, but couldn't really very far. Even in the fog, it was pretty, though.

That's Lake Superior behind the kids. You just can't see it.
We stopped at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse and climbed the tower,

Looked at some cool bugs and spiderwebs,

walked along the cobblestone beach, where Daniel practiced his stone-skipping skills,

Then we continued on to Sault Ste. Marie for lunch and a look at the Soo Locks. It's quite the engineering feat there! We skipped the boat tour (too long, too expensive), but there is a large observation deck where you can go and watch the locks in action. We waited for a 1000-foot-long freighter to come through. That was pretty impressive.

On the last day, the weather finally cleared. It was calm and sunny and perfect. My parents took the kids back to Whitefish Point to walk along the beach and skip more rocks (Daniel's new favorite thing to do on vacation, apparently), and Stuart and I went back to Tahquamenon Falls to hike the Wilderness Loop. It was a little over 8 miles and exhausting, but beautiful and so worth it.

Wolf Lake

Stuart swatting mosquitoes
 We didn't see wild animals, but we saw evidence that they live there.

Might this be a beaver dam?

Moose crap Bear crap (Thanks, Barb T!)
Wild blueberries were EVERYWHERE. I ate a few, and they are delicious.

Towards the end of the hike as we neared the visitor's center, we came upon this enormous tree, a giant white pine. 

There was also a bit of swimming and canoeing in Lake Superior, some fun cooking experiments, and much more I could say about vacation, but I think I've already put up more pictures than I should have. Suffice it to say, we had a great time. 

Now we're home and it's time to get ready for school starting. Where does the time go?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014