Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I'm sitting here at my desk, responsibly trying to work on a column which I must get off today…only to be repeatedly distracted by a certain nuthatch who insists on regularly ratcheting down the trunk of the big box elder and giving me a quizzical, bright-eyed stare before flying off to snatch a sunflower seed from the feeder.

What's the deal? The feeder is in the other direction. An efficient nuthatch should be creeping down the far side of the tree—checking out that flightpath. Nope. Herky-jerky down. Stop. Stare…and stare…and stare some more. Then off and around the tree. A few minutes later, the scenario repeats. Maybe fifty times so far. 

So I stare back and wonder.…    

I sit at this windowside desk most days—and no doubt look pretty much the same from the other side of the glass: a sturdy fellow wearing a shirt—camo today—hunched over a keyboard. Neither so ugly nor handsome that he needs repeatedly checking out. Why the long, thoughtful looks?      

If I were annoyed or unnerved, I could close the blind—or simply keep my head down and ignore the bird. Unfortunately, so far as my work is concerned, I'm rather amused. Distractedly, delightfully, amused. I've never been this window-peeped by a nuthatch.      

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Late yesterday I stood watching as the westering sun blazed its final hurrah before slipping below the hill beyond the river. Another day winding down; one more check-marked box on the calendar. February will soon be over and there'll be a fresh page on the calendar on which to start ticking off the passing days. And before March ends, winter will officially bow out and spring will begin ushering in its vernal green resurrection throughout the land.

Day, month, season…all respond to the relentless passage of time. As do old dogs and their masters. Only the river seems exempt, answering more to weather and geography—tirelessly flowing, winking, pouring, burbling, its quite pools a living mirror for reflecting time's changesAs the sun slipped lower I kept my eye on the swirling surface and watched the dwindling light go from rose to copper to gold, as shadows turned an indigo blue. 

Yesterday was a good day—sunny and clear, warm enough that a few more crocus opened their cheery yellow blooms. Now I had this lovely kaleidoscope of sunset's light upon the moving water. I was both happy and at peace—so why the twinge of melancholy? I am greatly blessed. My favorite season of the year awaits only a few weeks ahead. 

And yet…I find myself dreading all this winding down.   

Friday, February 22, 2013


It's been a dim, gray day here along the river—dampish-cold, as if the weather seemed unable to make up its mind whether to sleet or drizzle. Most of the time it opted for sleet. Thick ice eventually coated everything. The top row of the firewood stack was locked solid. To bring in an armload for the stove meant I first had to knock each individual piece loose. Sometimes the ice won…or maybe I just gave up too soon and moved on to an easier chunk.  

Still, I've managed to keep the woodstove going strong. The cottage is cozy warm. There's a pot of hot tea ready on the warming trivet. And besides deskwork, I've managed to do a nice kettle of chicken soup for supper, with lots of veggies, barley, and a bit of fresh ginger. I'm thinking of baking cornbread to round out our meal. 

A couple of hours ago the sky lightened and for a moment, I thought it might even clear. That proved to be wishful thinking. But even the bright overcast was welcome and seemed to lift everyone's spirits…particularly the feeder birds, who descended upon the suet, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn like a pirate horde on a treasure ship. I couldn't resist making a few shots. 

The male goldfinch in winter garb is my favorite of the lot. His colors seemed to glow in the soft light. By summertime standards his current plumage would be considered drab. But life is a matter of perspectives. On a dreary February afternoon, to my winter-weary eyes, the fellow was delightfully gaudy!

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Again, here I am acknowledging it's been awhile since my last post. Again, that "awhile" was longer than intended. Myladylove had accumulated an excess of PTO (personal time off) days at the financial branch she manages, and it was either use a few or stand a chance of losing them entirely. So she took off all last week. Monday of this week was a holiday, and her branch was closed. That gave here nine days, total. 

I have no boss other than my own subjective and suspect sense of responsibility, and a few editors stuck behind their respective desks waiting with bated breath for my latest erudite missive. Those who know me figure there's a pretty good chance whatever piece of writing I owe them will arrive on or before deadline; the others mostly worry needlessly. I'm seldom late…in fact, whenever possible I try and work ahead, stockpiling, say, perhaps a month's worth of columns for a particular market—even if I don't send them off until their appointed due date. In this way, I sort of self-accrue my own PTO days.

Anyway, when Myladylove took off, I hadn't planned to take off the entire time. Maybe a day or two, plus most afternoons since I like to work in the morning and she likes to sleep late. Moreover, the fact was we had no real plans. Yet even for a work schedule as loosely formulated as mine, you can't do an hour here, ten minutes there, run around, constantly interrupt the flow, and expect to make much worthwhile progress. At least I can't. And it seemed especially silly seeing as how I could spare the free time. So I took off, too—completely. 

In the end, we didn't do much other than take a few drives, a couple of walks, ate several meals out, shopped a bit—nothing major on the shopping. For the most part we stayed home, read, cooked, watched movies on TV, did a few things around the cottage, played with Moon-the-Dog, kept the new woodstove stoked and took happy satisfaction in its wonderful heat—and simply enjoyed the rare pleasure of just being lazy together. A delightful, low-key week, though the weather could have cooperated more.

I'd planned to do a post Tuesday morning when Myladylove returned to work. Instead, I left early and spent way too much time running necessary errands. And for one reason or another, I never managed to get anything going afterwards. I can't remember why. That evening one of my favorite editors emailed and said she had to go into the hospital for surgery today, and wondered if I could get a couple of columns in, "just in case." Though I'd already turned in my piece for next week—it's deadline would have been tomorrow—I spent yesterday doing columns for March 6 and 13, which I sent her…and one for the 20th and 27th, just in case her just in case takes a really bad turn.

The heron photo was easy. I glanced out the glass slider door overlooking the river, saw the big bird fishing the riffle, grabbed the camera. All I had to do was point and shoot.    

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Myladylove has the week off…so we've spent the day tooling amongst the backroads and small-town hinterlands north and west of here, in search of a memorable cheeseburger. 

Alas, the sandwich—a good version, anyway—remained elusive, though we probably logged upwards of 200 miles. But we saw some nice country along the way. And at one shallow lake we stopped beside, a bunch of Canada geese were gabbling loudly and diving for their own version of lunch.

Their eating posture, however, does nothing for their dignity. 

Friday, February 8, 2013


It's cool (32˚F) and cloudy here, damp from a bit of rain during the night—a good afternoon for a warm fire, moody background music, and settling in with a cup of tea and a good book. Alas, though this is Myladylove's day off, she's scheduled to go help man—or in her case, woman—the company's booth at a large local "home show" from 4-8 p.m. 

Alas, deux…my sweet lovely, with possible malice aforethought, procured me a ticket that I might share in the joy of spending four hours in a sprawling convention center amongst the home-improvement masses. 

Misery loves company. 

I'm usually good for about an hour of schlumping around on my own up and down the isles, checking out pools and hot tubs, lawn mowers, cable suppliers, roofs, gutter systems, garage doors, water softeners, and paving blocks before I go in search of the sorrowful band of fellow miserables—huddled masses yearning to breathe free! Husbands, boyfriends, and androgyne individuals who've accompanied—willingly or under duress—their significant others to the show and have, like me, reached their gag limit and are now simply looking to survive. Such a glum congregation can always be located somewhere about (the food court is a good place to start, unless it's full of screaming kids) and a fellow refugee will find easy welcome among their ranks.

So what has all this got to do with the photo of missus pileated? Not a blooming thing! I just made the shot a few minutes ago and wanted—before I go off and do what a man must occasionally do…whine, whine, whine—to share the image. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I don't know what's going on, but today I've noticed an inordinate number of robins around the cottage. Yes, contrary to popular opinion, a fair number of robins always hang around my corner of Ohio all winter—though they mostly stay back in the boggy patches and briar thickets. I see a few each week…but only a few; not a dozen or two birds at a time. Never this early in the year. 

So why the plenitude in robins? What are such numbers of these red-breasted vernal harbingers up to, hopping and scratching about in the leaves and duff? The ground is fairly frozen, so there are yet no fat redworms available to be pounced upon and yanked up for a succulent meal.  

No matter. The birds are here. Do they know something I don't? The weather has been relatively mild—it's 36˚F at the moment—and most of last week's snow has melted. My daffodils poked green shoots up weeks ago, but temperatures have turned more wintery since. Whether you go by the groundhog's shadow or the almanac, spring is more or less six weeks away. At least officially, astronomically—who knows when weather and season will truly align?

Optimist though I am, it neither looks nor feels like spring.

Still, those perky birds are here for a reason. And though I know better, it's hard to argue with a gang of robins. I swear they're listening for spring.  

Monday, February 4, 2013


Let me begin this post by saying I'm fine…health, work, life. All good. Several of you have written comments (which I'll put up and reply to the moment I finish this missive) or emailed (which I'll likewise answer ASAP, though there are an astonishing, humbling number, so please be patient) wondering and worrying about my absence. While I'm truly touched and appreciate your concern more than you'll ever know, I'm also really sorry to have caused anyone a moment's anxiety.

My mysterious hiatus was completely unintentional. The quick explanation can be blamed on a "perfect storm" of circumstances. Or to put it another way, the triadic intersection of bad discipline, bad karma, and bad wiring.

It began with several snowy days and no opportunity to get out and tramp around with my camera. Then there was a passel of errands that used up another day or so. Plus work, which tied up a lot of time during this period and, for whatever reason, took way longer than usual. And if truth be told, a couple of times during these initial missing-in-action days, when I suffered bouts of LBTFARS (Laze-By-the-Fire-and-Read Syndrome) which required immediate therapy.

So that's the accounting for the first few days. And as most of you know, not an unusually prolonged gap for posts hereabouts—in spite of my New Year's aspirations otherwise.

Then I got ambushed by unplanned work. I spent three days in a row going full-bore from 8:30 a.m. until nearly midnight, with only brief breaks to feed the woodstove, assemble a late lunch to consume while writing, and perhaps 30 minutes for supper with Myladylove when she got in about 7:00 p.m.

Trust me, during this time my head was too deep inside these projects to be in any shape to post.

And then? The Internet went down—or at least the portion of my high-speed connection that carries the World Wide Web; the cable T.V. half continued to work. And while it finally got fixed sometime Saturday, by then Myladylove and I were in high gear getting ready for a family birthday dinner that evening. Yesterday we worked in the house all afternoon—cooking, cleaning, fixing a few things up as we'd invited a longtime friend over for dinner (three-bean chili, nachos, jalapeño poppers, Buffalo wings, veggies and dip) and to watch the Superbowl.

So here I sit—eleven days since my last post. An omission which was honestly unplanned, and possibly even more surprising to me than those who noted my uncharacteristic silence. Yet as I write this out, the facts seem less a good reason than a lame excuse…and maybe that's the unavoidable truth. Surely I could have found time during those first days, before the technical issue, to post something? 

But it's also the truth that I've really missed not getting a post or two up and being able to read and answer comments afterwards. Blogging is something I genuinely enjoy, a responsibility I do take seriously. 

I didn't mean to go AWOL; it just sort of happened. Please forgive me.