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Wild Nights

Monday, March 5, 2007


I'm sorry I have been such an irregular correspondent. Life is bigger than I am right now, and there are too many obligations and people vying for attention, too many issues and too little peace of mind . As I wade through hundreds of e-mails I wonder at what point a person cries UNCLE! How many speaking dates is too many? Should I try to keep some weekends through the spring and summer free, just to do...nothing? Or, more correctly, to try to do all the things that don't get done while I'm traveling? I dunno. It's all new territory, and it feels like walking on tundra. Squish, sink, lose a boot, dig for it, raise leg, take another wobbly step, lose that boot, dig for it. Squint and look far out toward the horizon, try to remember where you're headed. Take another step. Try to keep your matches dry.

Weekend, March 3 and 4. BOTB and I checked in to Murphin Ridge Inn in West Union, Ohio. It was voted one of National Geographic Traveler's Top 54 Inns in the U.S. No mystery why. It's beautifully appointed, incredibly comfortable, has a great restaurant you can walk to, and is situated in rolling countryside dominated by Amish farms. Oh my goodness. The Adams County Amish Birding Symposium took exquisite care of us, booking a wonderful room and treating us to dinner and breakfast there. After a romantic dinner, we flopped into bed at 9 p.m., not rising until 8 a.m. Saturday. I did not want to leave. I wanted to stay there for several more nights. I was just starting to feel like myself when we had to check out. The proprieters, Sherry and Darryl McKenney, couldn't have been nicer, and they were great fun to talk with. Wine flowed. The full moon rose over an open field. The woodcock danced. Let us draw the silken curtain on a wonderful night.Well refreshed, we arose and had fluffy pancakes and fruit, the sun beaming in a hand-hewn log cabin breakfast room. Ahhh. Then we headed over to the Adams County Amish Birding Symposium. Susan Gets Native was there with her raptors, and I didn't even get to take a peek at her birds. Never got out from behind my table. Skunked, once again! I was to speak at 1 p.m, after a home-made Amish lunch, yumm. Book sales had been fair until then. I did a reading, stopping in the middle to have the crowd sing Happy Birthday to BOTB. Our friend Randy came out with a cake, candles blazing. BOTB was totally surprised and embarrassed to have 300 complete strangers singing to him. Exactly my plan.
After the talk, we moved some books. 52 copies, gone like fluffy pancakes. It was something, really fun. I try desperately to carry on conversations, spell everyone's name right in the inscriptions, move the line along, record sales, and remember to breathe. Bill and Randy were both taking payments for me. It was insane.
I so appreciate the chance to speak at this unusual festival. A lot of people don't know what hot, hep birders the Amish are, especially the younger guys. They're outside most of the time, working, and they see the cool stuff. Dennis Kline told stories and showed photos of black rail and groove-billed ani that he'd found, to name just two ridiculous rarities he'd picked up near his farm. He made the point that it's not that his farm is that unusual; it's just that he's out there, looking. Sounded familiar to me. Adams County has chuck-will's widows and blue grosbeaks, breeding. Good birds. We hope to get back there someday when it's not snowing and 29 degrees to enjoy them.

The vehicles pulled up outside the building were way different.

Our computers. a single microphone, and the slide projector were powered by a diesel generator that thrummed along outside; other than that, the huge metal barn was dark.That's me, the little red face to the far right. The barn was full to capacity. Thank you, Chris Bedel, of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve, for inviting us, and for holding this amazing event for four years running. It's a ton of work. Watching Chris and his staff of volunteers work to make it unfold, I was reminded that altruism still exists.
Symposium duties discharged, BOTB and I went on to Oxford, Ohio, to celebrate his birthday with friends John and Heather Kogge. Doug Meikle came over Sunday morning to make us laugh until our stomachs hurt. Doug is just cripplingly funny. I promised BOTB that he could have all my pictures of him and his friends, but I have to post this one. BOTB is striking a thoughtful pose. Doug's second from right. I believe he is sniffing his finger.The Man in Black is John Kogge, and 3-year old Jesse Kogge (Human Cute Overload) is giving his best nose-wrinkling camera smile. We had us some fun!Heather Kogge, Doug, Zick and John. Photo by BT3. How we hated to leave! but even BOTB's birthday has to end sometime. It was a good one, I think.

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