Day 13: SPRING HAS SPRUNG! Er, under the foot of snow.

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Boothbay Harbor, Maine. March 18, 2017 – Snow on the beach?

Today marks the Spring Equinox, which means even more daylight every day, leading up to the Summer Solstice here in mid-Maine, where we will have around 16 hours of daylight. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to actual consistent warm, but as far as winters go? This one did not bother me nearly so much as any of the ones in Indiana, even with two blizzards, want to know why? In one, simple, glorious word? Sunshine.

In Indiana, the best descriptor for the months from November to April is a big, cold, gray ball of suck. The sun is a somewhat rare visitor, which makes the months even harder. Here in Maine? The sun will disappear for a day or two during a weather event, but then it will be back in full, glorious, radiant UV splendor. I have to admit that the usual wintertime blues were mostly absent this year, which was a great relief to the entire family.

Back to this being the spring equinox: some folks here don’t think it feels very much like spring at all, but I disagree. Yes, we might have piles of snow in excess of 10 feet in some parking lots, and drifts up to my hips in the yard in some spots, but those obvious signs of winter aside, it was 51 degrees here today, and I counted no less than five species of birds singing. For an ornithologist, singing is a great sign, it shows that yes, the photoperiod is getting longer, and it is time to really start thinking about the gardens, the bluebird trail I want to start, and watching the sun rise out of my bedroom window at 05:00. It’s not as awful as it sounds; life starts early and is lived in glorious color for hours!

Now, back to the picture above: this past weekend, Youngest Spawn had a two-day basketball tournament in Boothbay Harbor, which is a cute little tourist destination here in Maine during the summer months. In the off-season? It’s a little deserted, but it affords a great opportunity to wander and figure out what in on the menu for the warmer months.

My list, in short, for Boothbay Harbor this summer:

Basically, we have decided that we are settled into Maine now, so we are going to become a part of the state fun. Acadia, Downeast, Machias, kayaking, hiking, Birds on Tap, you name it. For a state with a small population, there is so much to do, and we are looking forward to doing a bunch!

A bit of fun for the weekend: we finally tried the famous Red Barn this weekend. This place is a one-stop place for great food, friendly people, and a huge helping of the best of Maine hospitality. The owner, Laura, has made it her mission in life to be a stellar and shining example of the best of humanity. Have a cause that is near and dear to your heart and needs funding? Laura will have a donation night. Hungry but out of money? Folks here pay it forward by buying extra meals and putting a note on a board, you don’t go away with a gnawing belly. Need an uplifting hug because your day has sucked? She has you covered. This place is where you go to know that humanity still exists, and will hold out a hand to anyone that needs it to get up.

Now that I have lit a spark of happy in you, I am off to tackle more data. I have gotten through more than 30 pages today, and missed volleyball to keep working because I am in that kind of mood. Have a great one, whomever you are, wherever you are, and know: you matter!

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Me, in a nutshell.

P.S… I also netted a life bird this weekend: Kind Eider in breeding plumage with three ladyfriends. Whoooo!

Day 10: In which i finally figure out the dratted email, finish some data input, and generally ramble.

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I am mooning you!

I will be the first to admit that I am rubbish at keeping up with this blogging thing, and part of it at this point is this blog is public, and there are things that are no ones business but mine. For those, I would probably be best served to write a pile of no-send letters, then burn them. Have you ever heard of a “No-send letter”? It is basically spilling your guts, all you have to say, everything you are feeling (predominantly negative feelings) onto a piece of paper, and never sending it to the addressee.

I am neither religious, nor spiritual, but I find something cathartic in telling someone exactly what they can do, what they can do it with, where they can stick it, and where they can go when they have finished that insertion. After I am done telling them that, instead of leaving my toxic rage on a piece of paper that can be accidentally read by anyone, I tend to go outside and (safely) burn the letter, let the atoms go back out into the Universe, and hopefully provide nutrients for something that needs it. Positive out of negative, right?

I have finished inputting a lot of data for my thesis, still a handful to go, then it’s on to data analysis, map making, writing, and a ton of back and forth with my thesis advisor. I am bummed that I am not still on campus to do my revisions, because honestly, sussing out the info, what I am writing, and general conversation with my advisor was one of the highlights of my days. Talking about birds, their behavior, their habitats, politics, theories, jokes, and general conversation was always a hoot. Even better at all of the aforementioned was my lab mate, especially since he had a better feel for the pulse of politics than I, and was studying a different subject for his dissertation. I really miss the banter, and his assistance when I felt out of my depth, which was an awful lot!

The highlight of my day today: I finally figured out my email for this site, so if you want to tell me what a loon I am, you can now do that!

I am currently listening to the soundtrack from Gladiator, as it has no lyrics (for the most part) for me to get lost in while working, just a good, full, rich sound that makes my fingers go. I love music, all genres, and I love that a song can evoke a memory for me, some stronger than others!

I am assiduously avoiding news right now, because I know I am going to lose my ever-loving mind when Ms. DeVos is confirmed, despite the nation begging their Republican congresscretins for weeks to not do so. *sigh*

Nope, nope, not getting dragged down into the quagmire of politics, because doing so severely tests my resolve to abstain from weekday tequila shots for lunch.

On a lighter note, how about an odd list of some of my favorite things, in no particular order?

  • Hubs
  • Thing 1 (offspring)
  • Thing 2 (offspring)
  • Nutella lattes
  • Upcoming trip to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Birds
  • Wine
  • Music
  • Maine
  • Fleece sheets
  • Watching the sun set over the trees in the yard
  • Driving with the windows down and the sunroof open (when I have one) on a warm summer day
  • The ocean
  • The quiet place in my mind where I work out life’s issues
  • Snuggles from Hubs, Thing 1, and Thing 2
  • That Things 1 & 2 still want hugs and kisses from Mom and Dad
  • Egyptian mythology
  • Documentaries (much to the chagrin of my family)
  • Sunshine
  • Plants
  • Cooking

And that will about do. DeVos was confirmed, and I am angry, so it is time to go listen to Drowning Pool.

Bodies.

 

 

 

Day 9: Is it safe to come out yet?

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Sunset from the stern of the Disney Dream, August 2012

I am not going to lie, the past week plus has been one horrid story after another coming out of our government, hate, exclusion, outright lies, and there are many folks out there that are scared. Not a little concerned, downright scared for themselves, loved ones, friends, and communities. I am, though accident of birth and geography a member of the privileged class, and because of this, I feel it is my duty to shut my mouth, listen to these groups, and pitch in where they say I would be most helpful.

These feel like dark times, but in wave after wave, I see a whole host of my fellow Americans saying: “Bullshit! This is NOT our America!”, and it makes me proud. Proud in a way I haven’t been of my country in a long time. It seems that the masses are rising up, pointing to our founding documents, the motto we present to the world when it arrives on our Eastern shore, and saying: “This is what we were founded on, and this is how we want our country to run”! I am seeing the America so many believe in beginning to peep its head out from behind the clouds. Will it be easy? No. Will it happen overnight? No. I do believe that humanity will win over humiliation, though.

And that is as tall of a soapbox as I can stand on right now. There are those who are better able to explain, discuss, and enlighten; one of my favorites is Jim Wright, who writes over at Stonekettle Station: he’s retired USN, brilliant, eloquent, and when he’s not pissed off, he has tales that will make your stomach hurt from laughing.

Life goes on here in Maine, though I find I am careful to avoid politics, as are many folks here, it seems to get folks too fired up, and I avoid it like the plague since I am the new kid in town. No way do I want to alienate folks I just met, and would like to remain friends with for years to come.

We have had snow on the ground here for nearly a month straight, and the few inches down now are pretty much compacted down into ice, which makes it super easy to explore the woods behind the house, which is what I did this afternoon. No milkweed to trample, no wild berry vines to tangle, no excess of leaves obscuring the view. I got to the top of the ridge on our property, shut my eyes, tipped my head back, and just took deep breaths. The cold air, tinged with pine from the fallen branches, the scolding of the chickadees, the calm I brought into my mind, willfully.

There is something about this state that meshes with me. I wasn’t completely sure about small town living, but I really enjoy it here, where kids grow up together because their parents did, and everyone knows all the stories from years gone by. The clean air, the constant bright sunshine, water everywhere, and honestly, the smaller population.

Okay, so it doesn’t hurt that I checked on the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest across the street today, and there are “nestorations” going on, and I am pretty sure I will get to see eaglets this year!

Life for the family has been both busy and a little difficult, but because we have always had an open conversation policy, it is nowhere near as bad as it could be, which I am grateful for. Both kids do multiple sports, along with theater, which leads me to feeling like a chicken with its head cut off most days, running them around!

I have been more thoughtful lately, and by thoughtful I mean “more in my head”. I have been pondering more, thinking things through, trying to decide on many things. I think one of the biggest things I have decided on is that I am going to go get more life birds this year, and that I am choosing happy. Not every day is assured, not every tomorrow is promised, so for right here, right now, I will do the right thing, and let the universe handle the rest.

Sometimes that means dancing outside in a short-sleeved shirt in January, and realizing you are going to be okay.

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Day 6: a new beginning – mom, why is new years such a big deal?

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What most of us picture when we think of 2016 – source unknown

Last night was low key, just hubs, the kids, the dog, and I, warm and snug in the house, watching the snow fall, and more than 2 million people on television in New York’s Times Square. Hubs and I spent the early evening watching our new binge favorite, and are one episode away from being caught up on it: Penny Dreadful (spoiler: Rose Tyler is still excessively pissed off about being left on a beach in an alternate universe. If you get that joke, hello fellow Whovian!), and we had yummy snacks, champagne, and “kid wine”, as my youngest calls it. Welch’s sparkling grape juice, to be exact.

As we watched the frenzy build, and folks joyously count down from 10 to 0 and scream “Happy New Year!”, kiss, cry, toast, and generally be excited, happy, enthused, etc., my youngest turns to me and asks “Mom, why is new year’s such a big deal?”, which took me by surprise. I took a moment, thought about it and gave him my thought on why.

To me, New Year’s is a symbolic new beginning, the slate is wiped clean, with the turning of the page to a blank calendar, waiting for all of the events and appointments to be filled in as the days, weeks, and months roll by, I see possibilities. I see the chance to start a fresh chapter in my life, and fill the pages with the story I want to write.

Some folks may think that is a little deep for a 10 year old, to that, I say: you have never met my 10 year old. I secretly think he’s a 40 year old who got trapped into the body of a 10 year old during a freak storm (think Freaky Friday), but then he makes a fart joke, or can’t figure out how to take out the trash and I think he’s normal. He appreciated that explanation, and actually seemed satisfied with it, so that’s a great start.

Every year I read about, overhear, and discuss resolutions with people, and I will say this: I don’t make them. To me, resolutions are an absolute, a line in the sand, and once your toe goes over that metaphorical line, there is a mental “Eh, fuck it”, and that resolution gets binned. No thanks, I don’t need to start piling up the mental tally marks of failure from day one.

Which is why I make general goals, turn the rudder a bit to the right and start heading in the direction I want my life to go. I have that power, I have that ability, and though I know not every day is going to take me closer to where I want to be, I know that keeping that goal in sight will keep me moving in an overall forward motion.

This year, my goals are fairly simple, and I think attainable:

  • Be grateful. Look for the good, the positive, and find happiness in every day, no matter how tiny it may seem.
  • Look after my health. A walk around the property, a hike though the gorgeous scenery here in Maine.
  • Be more present for the family. Start doing my PT so oldest and I can jog together, start family game night, movie night, pile on the grass and talk night.
  • Bird more! I live in a state that gives me the opportunity to see a bunch of lifers, if I would just go get them.
  • Do more. Take the family out and explore!

If I start with number one, the rest will fall into place, so I have decided to set up a “Happy/thankful/smile” jar on the kitchen counter with a pile of small slips of colored paper. Everyone in the family is encouraged to participate! Had something make you smile today? Write it up, toss it in! You are thankful for something or someone today? Write it up, toss it in! The whole point of this is a visual exercise, the more we are happy for, the more slips of paper that go in, the more we will look for things to share. Anonymously, or not. The even bigger picture here is that if we are looking for things to put in the jar, we are actively choosing to seek happiness. I think that’s a worthwhile endeavor, don’t you?

I know many folks are dreading what 2017 has to bring, for very valid reasons. I am one of those people. I know there is only so much I can do with some of these situations, so I will take deep breaths, toss in my hands where I can, but make sure I spread happy where I can. Hubs and I have started telling the kids “It starts with me”, meaning: if everyone says “Not my problem”, nothing ever gets done. If you take two minutes of your time and pick up the trash on the side of the road, wash up the dishes you didn’t use, smile at a stranger, say hello and mean it, close the lid on the public bin someone left open… you start a small ripple in a big pond. No, it may not change anything, but if you lead by example, choose to do right, you can change your environment, and possibly teach other folks to do the same.

I hope that this bright, beautiful first day on the clean slate of 2017 brings you hope, happiness, humanity, humility, humor, whichever adjective you need to make it through and take one baby step towards steering the ship of your life in the direction you want and need it to go.

We’ve got this.

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Your negative argument is invalid. I am wearing a crown of flowers, and I am happy… and probably up to something.

 

Day 1. Or: the first post, which belongs in a pot of gumbo.

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Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), Chinook Mine North, Indiana

I have had more than one person ask me if I blog, and the answer is always the same: no. Evidently I need to update that answer from here on out. I always wonder: why would I? What would I have to say that millions of other people across the globe don’t have to say? And then I realize this is my life, and the experiences and viewpoints are different from those of anyone else, because I am unique. Like everyone else.

I blogged back in the days of MySpace (anyone remember Tom?), and that ended like a tire fire. Everyone was hot, and the flames are still smoldering. Lesson One of the Internet: if you don’t want to start a family war, keep your opinions to yourself. Those that are unflattering, obnoxious, or even general, because even the most innocuous musings can and will be used against you.

So what is the purpose here? Mostly to keep track of myself, I think. I am inside my own head a lot, and perhaps spewing here will invite some to share in my thoughts, maybe give a giggle, provide a recipe. I give fair warning that I swear like a sailor six months out to sea, and I consider Jenny Lawson (Of The Bloggess fame) to be hysterical, and if you are even remotely twisted, you should check her out.

A brief intro into how I got where I am now: about a year or so ago, the hubs and I decided that Indiana was really not where we wanted to spend much more time, and I was winding my studies down to just writing my thesis, so it was as good a time as any to plot an escape plan.

I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, and though there were some great people and things in Indiana, my soul was slowly dying for lack of access to the ocean. There were movement opportunities available within hubs’ company, with two coastal states and an even more land-locked state than Indiana. No, really. At least Indiana touches Lake Michigan. That left a state that was occupied by Federal Troops for far too long, or a state that the rest of the union leaves alone unless they want to see beautiful fall foliage, enjoy a cooler summer, or damned good “lobstah”.

He calls me one day and says: “What do you think about Maine?”, to which I respond: “It’s on my bucket list.” He rephrases: “How would you feel about moving to Maine?”

My response: “…..” “Hang on.” I checked eBird, then gleefully, and a bit maniacally chortle out: “PUFFINS!!!!” He rightfully interpreted that to mean he was going to interview for the Maine position. Smart man. I have a slight bird addiction.

So, here we are, 10 months after the interview, five months into our new adventure. In Maine.

I have yet to see a puffin.

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Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

By Richard Bartz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27624174