Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"You Can't Walk Backwards And Sip, Don't Swill" - Snow Geese And The Super Moon

Instead of the "Super Moon" maybe we should have called it the "Big Tangerine!" The top photo is of the magnificent orb as it crested the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean. The color was as you see it here, an intense melon shimmering slightly through haze on the water.

March 19, 2011 Super Moon as it came over the horizon, east over the Atlantic Ocean from Fox Island, Popham Beach State Park, Phippsburg, Maine
This was the Super Moon an hour later as it crested the tree line in the parking lot of the beach.

     I just guzzled a whole can of  carbonated Polar seltzer. I slugged it down so fast that a huge bubble of gas ballooned into my throat and choked me. For just a second the bubble bulged into my larynx so I couldn't talk or even burp. Then, out it blew with a satisfying belch that would make a sailor blush.
     Writing is like that. Emotional experiences, like compressed gas in a can, are awaiting their moment to irrupt. If the can is opened too soon, the gas dissipates into the air as a non event. Too late or too fast and it's likely to choke me. Timing is everything; it can't be rushed, but it's rarely too late. Sometimes, right after a thing has happened, I can't write about it or look at the photographs because it's too much - emotional Vesuvius in the can of my brain. If I open the can and swill I think I might die.
     When my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I felt like that. And, my beloved little dog died a year ago, though I have yet to write about that, either. Through my fingers on the keyboard, I feel the swelling in my throat coming and it feels too big. There are things in life that are so monumental as to defy my art, yet I need to tell them. How do I explain my terror, or awe and joy? How do I explain that when I sent my husband alone down a corridor to an operating room and laid my dog into the ground, when I saw the great rush of thousands of migrating Snow geese and the rising Super Moon that I knew union with the whole universe? That I saw God?
           From our house, we have a clear view of the eastern sky over trees. We see the moon every night when it's not overcast. But, to watch this rare celestial event, my husband and I went to the beach. Sometimes, to broaden your horizon or change your perspective, you've got to travel. For us, that was about three miles to Popham Beach.
     We've been married ten years which isn't long since we are middle aged. But, a decade is long enough that romance falls by the wayside of living if couples don't work at it. We are old enough that minor things are apt to feel like struggles not worth the hassles. And, unlike when we were younger, we flirt with lack of initiative.
    "Honey, let's go to Popham to see the Super Moon," I suggested a few days in advance. He answered, "It'll be cold." Though we were sitting in our living room, he shivered in advance to emphasize his point. I, on the other hand, had visions of a nighttime picnic on the beach. "Come on," I said. "It's once in a life time." "There's another one in sixteen years," he retorted. "Yes, but it might rain," I answered.
     I remembered that ages ago, a friend had given to me a wicker picnic basket, complete with dinner ware, a bottle opener and table spread. I had never used it, but had stuffed it in a closet, somewhere in our great ark of a house. It would be perfect; now, if only I could find it.
     Remembering that I own things is one thing. finding them is another. It can take days of tearing closets apart, going up and down the cellar stairs, and checking the haunting darkness of outbuildings to find things. And, that's if I can stay on task and remember what I was looking for. So, the lovely, perfectly appointed picnic basket was the first hassle factor to drop off the romance staging plan. Too bad, too because I could almost hear the dry creak of the wicker reeds and feel the soft nap of the throw in my hand. The basket will sit wherever it is waiting for its day, if  by then I remember that I own it.
     I had a bottle of Pear sparkling wine with a pearlesent golden label so pretty it had seemed a shame to mar it with spillage. Dribbles would be inevitable if opened in the dark. I had held onto the special bottle of bubbly for so long waiting for the magic moment to open it that it was probably flat anyway. And, if I didn't take a basket, glasses would be hard to transport without breakage. I know I could have used plastic, but I hate drinking from plastic. It's also not romantic. Item number two to drop from the plan: Pear bubbly.
     Earlier in the day, I had packed the meal. Thankfully, the cold, Tai noodle dish was elegant, but not complicated by the need to keep it hot. The soba noodles rich in chili peppers, cilantro and smokey undertones of sesame oil would give heat enough. 
     My husband has a tremendous metabolism. He must  eat every forty-five minutes or he starts getting antsy. In the beginning of our marriage, when still blinded by love's power to make a woman do most anything, I cooked twenty hours of every twenty four to save him from collapse. Then, I wised up.  The blush was off the rose when I announced that I'd only cook one meal a day, no matter what happened. If he keeled over I would make sure that clause was written into the prenup the next time around. I am sensitive to his jittery state when his hungry horrors set in, though. Sometimes, I cave in and feed him. The moon rise wasn't due for hours after the regular time for feeding the bear. I'd have to do something, or I'd never get him to the beach alive in the dark. 
    The third article to drop from the Super Moon Romance Plan was the picnic dinner. Standing in the kitchen, I plopped the Tai noodles onto a plate and handed him a fork. It was a nice idea, but like sex on the beach, sand in the cold noodles wouldn't have worked. 
     Another thing about my husband is he wakes up very early, so he goes to sleep early. He's nodding off and cheek puffing before the evening news is over. He'll deny this until pigs fly or when the cow jumps over the Super Moon, but it's true. In order to keep him awake, I had to get him out of the house into the chilly March air before it was dark or I'd lose him. He was, after all, the last remaining shred of the Super Moon Romance Plan. 
     Like a lot of people with fast metabolism, my husband doesn't tolerate cold well, unless it's the frostiness that I dish out. We bundled up against the beach breeze and brisk night air then headed out. With time to spare, we walked out to Fox Island, which can only be done when the tide is low. Every year, someone gets stranded out there not realizing that they must get off the rock before the sea closes in around them. When the distress calls come across the Coast Guard radio channel locals say "Yup, someone from away must be out there." I knew that once I had my husband on the island, he would have to wait with me while the sun set. He's got a short attention span and otherwise, might have gotten fidgety waiting for the moon. The molten peach of the setting sun was reflected in every still pool of water. Rhythmic surf left a thin lace of foam on the sand and stirred up a thick musty smell of decay that was delicious. Then, the moon rose.    
     On the far eastern horizon, the straight line between to sea and the sky was broken by a bubble of luminous orange. Swelling as it rose, the Super Moon was everything the media had promised. With it, my heart swelled to bursting and I thought I might cry. Not speaking, I reached for my husband's hand in the dark. I can't imagine life without him and I wanted that moment to last forever.
    Then, his voice of reality said, "Crap. The tide's coming in and we've got to get off the island. We'll break our necks in the dark on these rocks. How are we going to see?" I sighed. From my pocket, I handed him the flashlight I had thought to bring. We headed down the rocks then across the flat sand with the moon to our backs. I wasn't ready to leave, but I did, to be with him, even though he was a mood wrecker.
     But, my husband couldn't be a moon wrecker; it was simply to compelling. I kept stopping to look back at the Super Moon. It was pulling me. I thought of every time I didn't say "I love you," every time I was crabby or in too much of a hurry. I thought of every time something seemed like too much trouble or too big to tackle. I said to myself, "From now on, I'll always........" and a thousand things rushed in to the hole. My husband was power marching to the car, his back to the moon. Finally, way ahead of me, he disappeared into the darkness, just the flashlight beam showing that he was still out there.
     I wanted him to be with me, but I couldn't turn away from the moon. To holler seemed like an offense to the sounds of the night. Like a kid, I tried to walk backward. So, I tripped and fell onto my butt with a thud onto the damp sand. Suddenly, he was there. "Everything okay?" he asked, taking my hand. He had come back for me. "Ya, I'm okay. It's just it's once in a lifetime ya know. It's so beautiful I can't look away. I even tried to walk backward. Don't you wish you could walk backward?" My face was tipped up to the candle colored light of the moon when he kissed me. "You're once in a lifetime. And, none of us can really walk backward," he said and took my hand for home.

     Savor all your once in a lifetimes. Share your songs, your dance, your words and images. You are part of the universe, you are a piece of everything -you are a migrating bird, you are the rising moon.

To see this photo full size and get a better impression of the magnitude of it, double click.

This blog post was the Editor's Pick for Open Salon (http://open.salon.com/cover) March 29, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

FLYday - Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher, female in flight, March 5, 2011
An homage to what our feathered friends so best, fly.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011


March 19, 2011 Waiting On The Super Moon, Popham Beach State Park, Phippsburg, Maine

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"March" - Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier, also known as a "Marsh Hawk," hunting across a salt marsh on the Atlantic coast

At the tail end of the winter
March plods
through endless dour days
marked by brownish gloom.

While beneath the cold earth's floor
the secret songs
of flowers
are building to a roar.

Spring fed - suddenly
the crocus blooms
Shouts out
"Wake up! Wake up!"

The yellow faces yell
"Bend down
and kiss me!"
Take in the lemon smell.

The sun will shine,
the warmth will come
then we will all be well.

Robin R Robinson

   Yesterday, it soared to 65 degrees here with a warm, southerly breeze. Portland, Maine set a record breaking 68. I worked in my gardens for hours for the first time since last fall. It felt so good! As if by magic, the first crocuses of the year popped out of the ground. While I clipped, pruned, raked and hauled debris, more and more of them opened before my eyes. They escorted me by the hand to this sappy verse.
     This morning, before I opened my eyes, I felt cold air. Through the window came the cool, blue light of falling snow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Out Of Place" White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpolls

Common redpolls and White-winged crossbill March 14, 2011 Phippsburg, Maine
White-winged Crossbill, male March 14, 2011 Phippsburg, Maine
     A flock of about a hundred and thirty Common redpolls is still here. Among them has been this lone, male, White-winged crossbill. As boreal forest birds, it's highly unusual for either species to be here this late into spring. Maine has seen unprecedented numbers of Common redpolls this winter. Though they look somewhat out of place, the birds seem comfortable in this environment far from their northern homes. They don't spook easily and are aggressive at the feeders. I've carefully studied the flock of redpolls hoping to see a Hoary redpoll, but no such luck. I did notice that some of the Common redpolls were wearing high heels and the White-winged crossbill was wearing false eye lashes. Hoping to fit in, boreal birds are known to don this type of attire when they travel south to the cities.
     My husband and I just came back from a trip. We travelled south to see family and to see the Philadelphia Flower Show. Though we only went to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, for us it was a big trip. Jersey and PA are after all, south of here and closer to spring. We don't often get off the Phippsburg peninsula, and when I do it usually involves a police escort and zip ties. My children have both moved away from Maine and I sometimes wonder if my reputation is one of the reasons they fled. But, they haven't completely escaped me; occasionally, I visit them. And when I do, I try to clean up my act. Both of my kids are now adults. They have complete lives with respectable jobs, friends and images of their own far removed from when they lived with me. I don't want to embarrass them. I remember with crystalline clarity the days when I held my breath fearing that it was they who would embarrass me. I don't recall anything either of them actually did that mortified me, but I do recall the anxiety of fearing that they might.
     My daughter's life is now in New Jersey, land of concrete, asphalt and the most shopping malls per square mile of all fifty states. She is a stylish, citified and gorgeous, young woman. She wears huge, hoop earrings and boots with four inch heels as day-to-day wear. On her worst day, she looks like a super model.
    I, on the other hand, live where practical shoes dictate all outfits. I look comparatively like a troll that's lost its bridge. I sleep in plaid flannel and wear snow shoes to bed! The day we left, it was zero degrees Fahrenheit and we still had two feet of snow pack, making these nightwear choices prudent. Most days, I'm also bundled in layers of mismatched fleece.
     My daughter and I had not seen each other in eight months. Suddenly, I envisioned myself through her eyes. I looked like a bear! Now, the mortification tables had turned and I felt woefully inadequate. I would have to do something radical to myself in order to not be an embarrassing hick, a gnarly Nanook of The North, an Ellie May Clampet without great legs. First off, I bought high heeled boots. For several days, while in my bathrobe, I wore them around the house for practice. Nothing pegs a country girl quite so fast as when she falls off her own shoes. After I had that licked, I got a hair cut. That involved two and a half hours in a salon chair. With a reciprocating saw, the beautician whacked a foot off my coif. It took half a pound off my body weight and ten years from my face. But, I wasn't done.
   Of late, on television, I've been watching Real Housewives Of Atlanta. The trashy, reality TV series fascinates me because the women are preposterous. Yet, they do exist in real life, albeit in a bizarre social context. They represent a world and people so far removed from me that I find it easier to conjure Martians. And, in that respect, I find them educational. It's always good to get in touch with what's out there that you can't possibly imagine. I also learned something practical beyond the bare sociology, too.
     I discovered that they all wear false eye lashes and they wear them all the time! The fake eye lashes are what account for some of their vapid, doe-eyed blinking. I noticed this when one of the ladies was crying in a fit of despair and her eye lash came off in her hand like a soggy caterpillar. Some of the "housewives" are not classically pretty women, but they do have gobs of money to throw at their problems. They definitely know how to make the most out of their less than perfect god given selves. So, I decided I'd try it. I'm sure that they spend bundles on expensive false eye lashes made from the furs of endangered mammals. But, I bought a five dollar set from a chain drug store in the same aisle as the cigarettes, condoms and on sale cans of Spanish peanuts.
    Like the high heeled boots, it took some practice in the privacy of my own home to master the application. Naturally, or not - as the case may be, I put them on crooked a couple of times. I got the adhesive in my eyes more than once, which ruled out reading anything for a couple of hours, but I persevered - anything for the cause of fashion. When I left for New Jersey, I no longer looked like a country bumpkin; I looked like a squinting bear with a thorn in its foot and a limp.
     I'm just not a glamorous person and my fashion artifice left me feeling like a silly fraud. In the mirror, I saw a stranger in my own skin. Beneath the Bambi lashes, killer heels and  fancy do, I was still just me. I know my daughter loves me regardless of what I look like or even if I were to embarrass her. She loves me as I love her, unconditionally, no matter what. She sees me for who I really am and I feel beautiful in her eyes; I feel okay. It's a pivotal moment for parents when we realize that our children accept us for who we are, and sometimes for who we are not. From the moment my children were born they have punctuated my life with moments of beautiful clarity.
Displaced Baltimore Oriole at the 2011 Philadelphia Flower Show
"No matter how foolish you feel, someone always looks worse. "