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Everything Happens at Once

Sunday, May 26, 2013

One of the things that makes me delirious about spring is that everything happens at once. It would be nice, for instance, if the orchid collection that's crammed into the windows of the east bedroom would bloom from, say, November to February. The gray months. Could use a little color then. But noooo. It's got to go absolutely bonkers when? In late May. When, to be quite truthful, I need blooming houseplants the least. I mean, I'll take them; I love them, but come on. They're tropicals. They could bloom any time. Why do it when the roses and perennial beds are going crazy too?

But look at this. It's ridiculous. Encyclia cordigera, stinkin' up the place with clove scent wonder, in the forground. Three different Phalaenopsis, including little red Lava Glow. A Cattleytonia. A pink and yellow Encyclia/Laeliocattleya cross called Pixie. Pink Australian rock orchid, Dendrobium kingianum, with impossibly fragrant tiny purple flowers, way in the back. You walk in the bedroom and it hits you like a wall of mixed tropical fragrances. It's DIVINE. But why in late May?

Because. That's what they say. Because.

More. A white Dendrobium phalaenopsis in the foreground. Iwangara "Apple Blossom" just to the left. A giant blush pink Phalaenopsis, two other Phal's, two slipper orchids (Paphiopedalum) about to burst, and good old Psychopsis mendenhall "Hildos" dangling two yellow kabuki lobster guys off to the left border. Those same stalks, blooming since June 2008. Amazing, amazing, all of it. They like me. I like them. The rare ones that die I toss out and I rarely think twice about it. That means they and I weren't meant to be. The ones that live, live and live well.

Bill Thompson Jr's grave out in the orchard. Geepop. S.B. To Bill, Dad. Those are purple coneflowers and field daisies. And the broad-leafed paler plant in the left foreground is a royal catchfly, a super rare Ohio native that somehow has deigned to grow for me, here, where it's needed. It bloomed last year, its second spring, and I hope it will bloom this year, too. I saw one taller than me in Dayton a few years back, and bought three tiny seedlings on the spot. One has lived. That's a victory. Still no sign of the gazillion rose gentians I seeded on the bare ground. Kind of holding my breath on that one.

And in the nest boxes, six Carolina chickadees snug in their mossy nest in the house out by the oilwell, the same one that raised titmice last year. 
Some better developed than others, but truly only hours apart in age. Hours make such a difference in birds.

In a bluebird nestbox by Geepop's grave, a bluebird pellet. A hard beetle elytra (wing cover) encased in indigestible bugbits. This is not a dropping, but a regurgitation event. Just like owls do, so do bluebirds make pellets of things they can't digest and pass any other way.

In the side yard, another brood of lovely bluebirds. Tree swallows pierced their first clutch, so these birds moved to the side yard box and are raising five young. The tree swallows, seemingly satisfied by routing their neighbors, laid six eggs in the box next door, then mysteriously abandoned them (unheard of) and moved to a martin gourd in the front yard. They're copulating like mad and building another nest while six perfectly good pink eggs lie cold in the first one. I've never seen the likes of it. For all I know the incubating female tree swallow was killed, and this is a new one starting over with the same male. I'll never know.

Judging from the gabillion questions I get on Facebook, there are a lot of such weird bird goings on this year. Abandonments. Disappearances. Piercings. Things like that. I'm saying "I dunno" a lot.

It seems that this is the spring that I realize that having almost 3K friends on Facebook has become an actual, demonstrable liability. That many people translates to a lot of questions. A lot of requests for help with baby birds, bats, injured wildlife. What do I do? Should I remove the nest, throw out the cold eggs, feed the baby bird? What do I feed it? How often? Where do you get the food? How do I find a rehabilitator near me?  How do I keep this baby bird away from my cat? Can you take this baby robin?  How do I keep finches off my hummingbird feeder? How do I keep woodpeckers from pecking holes in my house?  Where are all my hummingbirds? My husband sprays our lawn. Will that hurt my bluebirds? Would you take this for me? It's hurt and I don't know what to do. Ack. As if the phone ringing all day long weren't enough, there's now a fountain of Facebook and email messages, too.

I'm not a veterinarian. I don't run a wildlife rehabilitation center in my spare time. I never did. I can't fix snapped bones, suture wounds, put broken turtles back together. I can't take wildlife in when I'm traveling constantly. Even if I weren't traveling constantly, running a wildlife rehab center is not my career objective. It's not even close to my idea of fun.  I would love to pass the job of Sole Owner and Operator of Wildlife Problems Hotline to someone else. It was a job that came by default, by putting myself out here as some kind of factotum, I guess. By having this presence, this Googleability, by showing myself feeding bats and festooned in fledgling birds. And as anyone could have predicted, it's gotten way out of control, because one person can only do so much all at once. So I'm left with answering what I can.  It all takes time. It goes back to everything happening at once in spring. Thousands of things, tugging at my sleeves all day long. My things, their things. Everything. All needing attention. If I sit down, something might die. I'm chuckling as I write this, but it feels all too true.

 Sorry for the rant. I get frustrated because I can't help everybody at the level they want me to help, and this time of year my heart gets run over about ten times a day, along with the turtles and the birds. The guy from Athens who called and left a message about a cat-grabbed hoary bat with a broken wing, and then never returned my call. The baby hawk wandering around a front yard. Should I just shoot it? the wildlife officer asked. Return call. Please don't shoot it. Call me back...The turtle found in pieces in West Virginia. They all haunt me.

I think about disappearing. I do, each morning...Changeable weather, changeable skies, and my running route is never the same from day to day. I love it because it's empty but for Chet and the birds and the occasional deer bounding across the road. I can hear myself breathe.

 Healthy bluebirds, who lift my heart:

Back in the yard, Rio Samba has fifty flowers. Fifty. I can't get enough of gazing at her, burying my face in her blossoms. We've had this rose almost 20 years and it just gets bigger and more beautiful each year.

It's a color changing rose, going from yellow to coral to deep pink as it ages. Excellent choice for an inveterate color junkie with a touch of ADD. Oh look! A pink one! A coral one! A yellow one! This one's red! All on the same bush. Like those crazy Burgess Nursery plants that claim to have pears and apples and cherries all on the same tree! Right.

Doesn't cut worth a darn, usually wilts like wet tissue paper when put in water. A mandala rose, meant to be loved while alive, I guess.

She grows where she's planted. Oh, to be a rose.


I SO know what you mean about the frustration that accompanies not being able to help everyone. I have parrots. People KNOW I have parrots. Ergo, whenever people want to get rid of their parrots, usually while saying "I don't have time for it anymore now that I have children", they usually ask me if I want them. I feel bad because if I take in any more parrots, I will feel "birded out". It's gotten to the point where I try not to mention that I have parrots to people I meet, because I'm afraid that once they know, they will ask me to take another one in. And I feel angry as hell that someone would give away a companion just because they started spitting out kids. Would they give away a previous child because they had a subsequent one? Then why turn their back on a creature that they had heretofore seemingly loved? I feel so sorry for the bird, who no doubt wonders why his human doesn't pay attention to him anymore.

People want to latch onto someone -anyone- who can relieve them of a responsibility, whether it be for the lifelong care of their pet or for the life of a found creature. I don't think that there is anyway we can change that.

Posted by Anonymous May 26, 2013 at 3:49 AM

Thanks for reinforcing my disdain for Facebook (as one of the worst designed/operated sites on the Web, not to mention the forever changing, not-to-be-trusted 'privacy' controls).
Anyway, in math, the "Dunbar number" estimates a person can only have around 150 human relationships (perhaps 250 at most) that are real or 'cognitively' meaningful. So if you just UNfriend about 2850 folks from Facebook, life will be manageable and delightful again! ;-)

Heavens! I have fallen behind. Somehow managed to miss your last few posts. I'm caught up again now, and I'm glad I found this one, as it hits home on a couple of levels.

First - my orchid collection has been blooming since about February. It's a collection that is growing because the husband keeps bringing them home from dumpsters where he finds them! Supermarket Orchids is mostly what they are. But, they've been charming this Spring - and nicer than yours about spacing out their blooming. Probably next year if/when they bloom it'll be all at once. They live in a "garden window" in our East Bathroom (HA!) but I bring them downstairs when they bloom. Meanwhile, I see now, up in the bathroom, that there's another getting started on a bloom!

Second - the price of fame. Now that most of my local friends who are also FB friends are seeing my interest in bird and wildlife in general, and my association with The Wildlife Center, I am starting to get a few calls from them with "what should I do??!!" questions. The most recent was a "crane" with his foot seemingly stuck on the edge of a pond. I gave them some advice about covering the (ahem) GBHE with a sheet or some such while trying to see what was holding the foot - but they called back to say that got himself loose and flew off. Thank goodness.

I'll never reach your level of busy with such things, but I feel your angst. And will try not to bother you too much with my "what bird is this?" photos!

It was lovely to meet you and Chet and his Daddeh at the NRBNF!!! Sending kisses for the Bacon.


I was smiling for a while knowing you were ranting. Then you apologized for it. Not necessary! Hugs

My mother has a rose that changes like that. It makes flowers almost as large as my hand. Amazing. Loved, loved, loved all your photos today.
Thank you.

Please don't disappear. It is a battle for those who are helpers, fixers- so many need help. But you learn to pick your "engagements", choosing the things you are passionate about that you can fit in to your life. Your children, your marriage, your painting, your life work of informing and educating- you do them so well. Over-extend, well then you must do a good pruning, for the sake of the mother plant.

Rant away, if you don't vent you will explode.

Posted by JanetP. May 26, 2013 at 7:56 AM

I realize this is more work...

But maybe develop an FAQ with 'go to' links for all those questions?

And instead of answering every query, dropping in the link to the page?

I'm sorry you are stressed. It is, in part, the season. Spring. Good thing it's so lovely because there is always So Much To Do!

Focus on the one. I can save this one, and learn to be satisfied with that. I still struggle with that outlook, but am trying.

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I am sorry for your overwhelmedness (a word?). I don't believe all the people contact you because they want to be relieved of a responsibility for injured and sick wildlife. (Maybe for pets, however, and that’s another story and not a happy one.) It's just a desire to help the creature and they know you know stuff! Lots of stuff! Luckily we have Project Wildlife here in San Diego--I've called them and also taken creatures to them. I think the comment about a FAQ link is great. And maybe get Phoebe involved. She must be learning about all this from you, yes?

Okay, enough about that from me. Love the photos of baby birds, orchids, and that ROSE BUSH! And of course the Chet. And love your passion. While it is a gift to know so much about wildlife (& other things) you ARE the mother plant (as another person wrote) and you may have to prune--which involves some rest. Take care and good luck! Just one last thought—you talked about the calls you get about injured animals and these animals haunt you. Maybe take those haunting thoughts to your Geepop’s grave site and leave them with him. This way you haven’t forgot about these animals, but Geepop’s spirit will keep them for you.

Julie, I never knew bluebirds regurgitated pellets like owls do -- thanks for that new knowledge!

As for your Facebook problem, you have my sympathy. I've often wondered how some people manage to keep their heads above water when they have hundreds or thousands of "friends" on there. (I've kept my friend list under 50 on purpose so far, but it's tempting to add more people to expand the reach of my occasional conservation messages and pleas.) I'm sure you hear more than your fair share of sad wildlife stories, and that must make for an emotional roller coaster some days. I do like the suggestion made by another commenter about making a FAQ page for the most common questions and linking the FB people to that when you feel overwhelmed.

Beautiful roses and orchids too, by the way!

Posted by Anonymous May 28, 2013 at 7:37 AM

Rant away! When you're done, take a deep breath, hug Chet Baker and think about all the good things in your life. You can't help everyone with everything, such is life.

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