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Bonaventure Cemetery: Daylight in the Garden

Thursday, January 31, 2013


I like that Bonaventure's angels are palpably sad, not blankly insipid. I almost expected to hear this one snuffle. 

Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery really is a stunning place. The older parts of the cemetery held the kind of scenes that made me just stop and stare for awhile. There was something about it, though, that I wasn't prepared for. Most of that fell into the realm of the spiritual. It felt to me like an unsettled place, a place not so much of peace but of activity. It's hard to put my finger on it. It was so crowded, graves on top of graves, and I guess I'd expected it all to be very old. But there are new stones wedged in amongst the old kind of willy-nilly. Many of the new stones are, for lack of a better word, tacky, not in keeping with the graceful statuary and timeless themes of urn and dove, angel and olive branch. 

There was quite a bit of aesthetic tension.

Everywhere were tributes, big and small. Does everyone who passes Becky leave a pebble? 

An azalea peeks out from under a cast iron fence, trying out a couple of ill-timed blossoms..  I saw so many azaleas in Savannah. None in bloom yet. But I could imagine what the place must look like in April. Zow. Blasts of color everywhere. I'd like to see that. I don't know. Maybe they bloom in March that far south.

I loved gazing up into the faces of the angels. There weren't as many angels as I'd expected. Maybe I never found Angel Central. When I went into shops and galleries in town, though, I saw all the same angels I'd photographed on the cards and prints. 
They'd become old friends if I came here a lot.
Maybe I need an angel on my grave when the time comes.

 Or the world's largest bluebird. 

The Spanish moss in Bonaventure is so well-developed and huge and drapey (it must like being on a bluff by the river) that it became downright overwhelming for me. Maybe creepy. Something about the way it was blowing in the uncertain southwest wind, the constant motion and sighing of the breeze through the endless drapery, made me feel surrounded. There was so much motion all around me I felt as though I were constantly being crept up on. I kept catching waving gray drapery in the corner of my eye and whipping my head around to see what it was. I guess I'd have to get used to that if I lived in Savannah.

A cycad, coming into fruit. This ancient gymnosperm dates back to the Age of Dinosaurs. A bit palmy, a bit piney, a bit bromeliady. It reminded me of Audrey, the man-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors. Feed me!  (Thanks, Jennifer Hurst!)

Not an angel, but a mourning woman. Or perhaps Corinne herself. Whoever she is, she's very beautiful.

I mentioned activity. There was nobody around, yet here was a perfectly fresh, just-plucked camellia bud in her broken hands. Someone has snapped off her fingers, which makes me very sad, and yet she's so beautiful, broken, like Venus with her busted arms. 

Who put the camellia there? 

Time to head toward town and food, the company of the living. I was glad I'd come to Bonaventure, but it was one of the many times on the trip I wished I'd had a friend to share it with. Maybe I'd have handled the haints a little better with company.

The Festival Life

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


 As those of you I see on Facebook may know, I’ve been on a ten-day swing through Savannah, GA, up through Virginia Beach, speaking and participating at the Georgia Ornithological Society’s winter meeting on Tybee Island, and at the Virginia Beach Wildlife Festival. Since both functions were on the East Coast on succeeding weekends, it didn’t make sense to me to fly back to Ohio in between. I saw a chance to have a little downtime near the ocean, and grabbed it. I’m so glad I did.


I’d always wanted to see Savannah. And now I had a couple of days to do it! When Enterprise asked me if a Fiat would be OK, I actually squealed. I wasn’t sure what a Fiat would be like, but it sounded like something I’d like. “Four on the floor?” The agent laughed. “Nobody rents manual transmission cars.” Oh well. I coulda done it.

This is my little chocolate chip. I looooved driving it. I could squirt between semis and park just about anywhere, make a quick Uey without going up on to the median…just what you want in a rental car in a strange city.


Sunrise from my hotel on Tybee Island, south of Savannah. A palm tree silhouetted against surf. I’ll take it. I would see every sunrise, and when there wasn’t an early field trip, I’d run almost five miles along the packed wet sand in the fortuitous morning low tides. As I think back on the trip, those were my favorite times, alone on the beach with the birds and the dolphins.

It was nothing but delicious. Sometimes was in the low 30's at night...but so beautiful, with the changing pastel colors, the birds and the dolphins pulling me on and on.


I had been prepared for Savannah to be beautiful, but still, the building-sized live oaks draped in Spanish moss took me by surprise. It was all so green, and so gray, so shadowy and visually stunning. To have these monstrous trees arching over everything made the urban spaces so much more humane and at the same time dramatic. 

Every green space became a park, just by virtue of the majestic beautiful trees. Having lived there, I wondered how you could live in any other city, where lollipop Bradford pears pass for trees. Any one of Savannah's live oaks would easily be the biggest tree in Marietta (which has fabulous trees, make no mistake). 

The first place I headed was Bonaventure Cemetery. My fondness for cemeteries has been well-documented here, so this was a natural destination. I left my car outside and entered on foot, laden with binoculars and two cameras. I quickly realized that this vast city of the dead was probably best negotiated by car. The wind sighed through the Spanish moss and I walked from sight to sight.

I was after vistas and statuary, images that would capture the feel of the place, which was distinctly spooky. I am not one to falter in cemeteries; I feel at home there. But this one was different. There was a spiritual activity about it that evades words. Perhaps it was the many tributes lain even on old stones, but I had a strong feeling that, deserted as it was this cool gray Tuesday, there were forces moving, afoot and aflight, through the monuments.

The little voice that helps me understand animals and birds, to anticipate their behavior and watch for anomalies was speaking to me, keeping me alert and on edge. My situational awareness was high and sharp as a blade.

 More Bonaventure Cemetery coming up! 

Meet Me at the Owl Symposium!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Virginia Zick AlertThanks to a snowstorm predicted for this evening, Friday, 1/25/13, my talk, "The Bluebird Effect," has been moved to 5 pm Sunday 1/27/13 at Kempsville Recreation Center in Virginia Beach. The 175 people pre-registered for the talk are being notified via email and/or phone of the change. Rollin' with it, like the ocean. For more info contact Katie Whanger
I'm sittin' in my oceanfront hotel room watching dolphins, common loons, red-breasted mergansers, black scoters, and greater and lesser black-backed gulls. Mighty fine viewing!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Ohio Ornithological Society Presents The Owl Symposium!
       February 15-17, 2013, Mohican State Park, Loudonville, Ohio

Babeh snowy owl in his tweedy natal down.

An adult male snowy owl brings a nice wad o' turf back to line the nest.

 Did this little creature grow up to be one of the vagrant snowy owls who thrilled us in the lower 48 last winter? Hiding in the cotton grass on his Arctic nesting ground...These photos courtesy Denver Holt of The Owl Research Institute.

I'm excited! The Ohio Ornithological Society is holding an Owl Symposium at beautiful Mohican State park in Loudonville, Ohio, from Feb. 15-17. Bill, Wendy and I will kick off the reception Friday night with original music from at least half of The Rain Crows. Talks and fabulous field trips will round out Saturday and Sunday's offerings. A wonderful cure for cabin fever--hobnobbing with happy spirited Ohio birders in a gorgeous setting. Getting outside, looking for birds, getting warm inside, hearing great talks.

To whet your appetite, here are some photos from Denver Holt of Montana's Owl Research Institute. Denver's graced the pages of National Geographic with his snowy owl research, and he delivers a terrific talk, complete with imitations of snowy 

owl courtship displays that, by my observation, work pretty well on ladies too.

I'll speak about Ohio's owls on Sunday morning, and Bill and I will be helping lead field trips with the likes of Jim McCormac, Roger Troutman, Greg Miller, Gary Cowell, Steve McKee, Warren Uxley, Craig Caldwell, Dan Sanders and Kyle Carlsen. You really couldn't be in better hands if you wish to hunt winter finches like crossbills, redpolls and evening grosbeaks, or perhaps see an owl in the wild. 

Conference Overview and Registration

Pay For Your Registration Online!

Fill out the registration formand mail it to the following address: The Ohio Ornithological Society, P.O. Box 14051, Columbus, Ohio 43214. Take note of your registration total on the form, click the button below, and enter your payment in the "item price" field.
The Owls of North America Symposium will be held on February 15-17, 2013 at Mohican State Park in Loudonville, OH and will be presented by OOS and the Greater Mohican Audubon Society. The Ohio Ornithological Society is proud to present this symposium offering a spectacular weekend of fun, fellowship, and birding. You will hear great speakers, search for Ohio owls and winter finches, and catch up with birding friends. Events include talks from Denver Holt, founder of the Owl Research Institute, Tom Bartlett & Bob Scott Placier who will share their research of banding Northern Saw-whet Owls in Ohio and Gail Laux from The Ohio Bird Sanctuary who will teach us the evolution and dynamics of Ohio owls. On Friday evening, enjoy snacks, drinks from the bar and music from members of The Rain Crows! Saturday afternoon, travel to one of our field trip locations to search for owls and other winter birds. Saturday evening, we will offer the chance to get up close and personal with one of the most adorable birds on the planet! - A Saw-whet Owl! On Sunday we will wrap up the weekend with field trips in and around Mohican State Park.


For more information and registration, click HERE.

Feeding the Wild Bat

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Drusilla's been in the warm house for three nights now. It warmed up to the 60's on Jan. 10-13, and I took that opportunity to bring her in and feed her up, reasoning that she might have stirred in her hibernaculum and, if she were lucky, maybe even caught a few moths. For all I know, bats sleep all the way through the winter, but I don't want to take the chance of starving this little creature. She's been sleeping for a month. That seems long enough. Time for some food!

Bats amaze me at every turn. I find it incredible that you can take a hibernating bat, wake her up, and feed her just a few hours later. You can feed her and then put her back out in the garage and she'll cool down and sleep for another month. That's just cool.

My cinematographer is really jumpy tonight. She's standing on a chair and making comments, and she's very cute up there. She kinda freaks out at the end. I can't blame her.

I figured I would temper Drusilla's nastiness with another dose of dog. Bonus Chet Baker boudoir footage at the end.

Writer's Retreat

Sunday, January 20, 2013


It's become a destination. Whenever I enter, something has changed. Bloomed, budded, leafed.

I hardly recognize the geranium stubs I started in the living room in November.

The resilience of plants is something I strive to emulate. All they need is water, light, and warmth.

 Love helps, too.

Crown of Thorns. I want to cut it back but it won't stop blooming.

Teeny tiny Hawaiian impatiens.

Basking Zick

I've strung lights on Rosemary.

The Baby Butterhead lettuce is coming in, nice and sweet. I keep it near the floor where it will stay cool and not bolt.

Sweet fake of summer, the jasmine's in bloom. It looks pathetic but it's leafing out at last. And blooming, first. Thank you.

These greens are good for the eyes and spirit.

I have yet to tire of the primroses.

Best ten bucks I've ever spent.

Chet has his own chair. We keep three in there, one for me, a guest (usually Bill), and Chet. There wasn't room for even a stool in the Garden Pod. I always stood up when I was in there. But this is more like a little atrium. It's a room. A place to be.

And why shouldn't I have my own chair?

Mether thinks I look like George Clooney with my gray eyebrows.

A Room of One's Own

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Things that are good for the winter-weary soul.

I made a lot of noise about what a pain in the asp it was to build the Groanhouse. Well, it was. But even as I wrote those posts and cursed those curses, I kept a vision in mind that, in the end, it would all be worthwhile doing. That one day I'd have this fabulous structure I would love even more than I loved my little Garden Pod.

That vision was like the end-of-the-day glass of Sauvignon Blanc, waiting to soothe me as the sun sinks in glory. And it seems it has arrived.

All the plants are installed. The geraniums I tore so violently from their pots, the divisions that lost all their leaves and apparently died have all resprouted, and most are in full bud. I cannot wait until Graffitti Red breaks out in fireworks.

Happy Thought Pink won't be far behind. She has a flower the color of rose gentian.

Chet Baker and I spend a significant amount of time in the greenhouse, especially on sunny afternoons. Which are rare as Reba's upper lip this winter.

Don't let his expression fool you. Chet is very, very happy in this picture.

Most of the time, it's warm inside and cold outside, so the greenhouse is one big condensation tank. You can't see much through the windows.

It fairly drips with humidity. Which is really, really nice when you're feeling parched by forced air heat. It's relaxing, right, Chet?

On the rare warm day, touching 65, as it did on January 12 and 13, the temperature inside and outside equalize and the condensation momentarily disappears. O joy! And the greenhouse contents are revealed.

And it looks so cool, like something's going on in there. And something is. Growing and thriving and changing and blooming.

Come in!

the weather's fine.

Heat is provided by a little space heater (left corner) which runs off the gas which comes out of our land via a wellhead on the back 40. It's piped up the meadow and right into the house. That heater's been working overtime, but it looks like it's got what it takes to keep the place warm when the temps dip into the 20's. We'll see what happens should we hit the single digits.

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