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The Peace of Wild Things

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sometimes it takes a visit from a friend to bust you out of a rut. My friend Mary Alice Koeneke, who lives in Manassas, VA, is working in the area (she's a biologist who studies the effects of power plant outflow on aquatic life) and we arranged a rendez-vous on Newell's Run, one of the best birding and wildflower sites I know. Chet in tow, I donned my birding vest, grabbed camera and binocs and took off. It felt so good to be doing nothing, especially when nothing is so much more than the things I've been doing lately.
The columbines and rock cress were glowing along the cliffsand blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia virginiana) was in full bloom. There wasn't nearly as much of it this year as usual. This charming little annual sometimes looks like blue mist pouring down the hillsides. It ranks as one of my favorite wildflowers; true blue is so hard to find in plants.The pawpaws are in bloom, promising fragrant "summer bananas" by August.We watched a Kentucky warbler singing relaxedly from a quiet perch right by the road, and actually had to walk away from him! I hate walking away from such a skulky, lovely bird, but we needed to get home so MA could see the place. On the way home, I checked five bluebird boxes along Stanleyville Road. Four have bluebird nests in them, and one has a tree swallow. Nothing like batting 100! Here are some 13 day old bluebirds, three girls and a boy.At home, I chanced to catch the forsythia cardinal off her nest, and quickly snapped this portrait of two babies and an unhatched egg. Remember when one of these was singing its silent song of hope? That was May 3. This is May 10. What a difference a week makes in the life of a tiny bird. Their eyes are open, and they're beginning to look like cardinals! The development of baby birds never fails to bring me to my spiritual knees.

Mary Alice decided that Chet Baker would be the perfect souvenir of her trip to Ohio. She grew up with brindle boxers, and Chet was a reasonable simulacrum of these wonderful dogs. And much easier to hold on one's lap. We both agreed that Chet, while all dog, also incorporates the best features of cats--lap-friendly, clean, quiet, incredibly amusing and agile, able to leap tall buildings, able to use his front paws to manipulate his toys, and all this with no kitty litter to change. MA offered to baby-sit Chet whenever we wanted. Dropping him off in northern Virginia is the only hitch.

While working on this entry, I heard an unfamiliar song from right outside the studio window. The photogods smiled on me; my camera was at hand, and I snapped a portrait of an exquisite male chestnut-sided warbler checking out the Bird Spa from my little birch tree. Ahhhh.
A rear view, too. I take this as an omen of great things to come. B, this one's for you. I love you forever.


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