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Thursday, March 15, 2018


A collapsed field sparrow nest from 2017 along the driveway. Japanese honeysuckle, already leafing out. Spring is coming, I think. The daffodils are in suspended animation, leaning into the biting wind.

I raised the blind yesterday on two inches of fresh snow. No matter how many times this happens, I am still surprised. Oh! Snow!

Not as surprised as they are in the Boston area I'm sure. An Ohio March snowstorm is a joke compared to what the North Atlantic can hurl at the New England coast.  I feel for them. So much.

I surprised myself a second time by lacing on running shoes instead of Keen boots, and heading out for a run. You would think that, having not run since oh, August 2017, I might have trouble. The only trouble I had was working up to doing it, getting my mind ready to run. The actual doing is no big deal. I don't have to stop; I don't get terribly winded on the hills; I just chug along. I really expected to be a wreck, but I wasn't. When I think about the first time I ever ran, I stopped eight times in the first mile! Most of it is pacing myself. I didn't know then that it wasn't a sprint; it was a jog. Or maybe it's because I've been hiking most every day since I stopped running. I don't know. I'm just grateful I can still run.

Is this thing working? Can't tell... Typical Zick selfie. They're rare, because I usually look like a possum in them. Headband is pure alpaca--best ear warmer I've ever owned. Hair, styled and colored by Old Man Winter and Father Time. I'm kinda digging the steel coming in. I'm going with steely.

All I know is I've got to keep moving. Running gets the blood going to my brain like nothing else. My brain gets ideas when it's got enough oxygen. It gets inspiration. Best of all, it stops feeling sorry for itself.

Because I needed a lesson in gratitude this day, I brushed the snow off the Congletons' stone. I read it whenever I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself. I think of Thomas, oly 25. And I think of Ida B., born one day after Phoebe, albeit 119 years earlier, and gone by the time she was six months old. Just when she was getting really fun to hold and play with. If ever there were a great name for a baby, it's Ida B. I imagine her parents calling her that. Ida B what are you doing?

OUR LOVED ONES AWAIT US. Oh Osborn and Adaline, if you only knew how that simple line tears my heart up.  If you only knew how reading your stone and musing on your too-short lives can realign my thinking, again and again, more than a century later. For what it's worth.

 And there are the Long girls, who I'm assuming must have died very young, for the way they're all ganged on the same stone. Jane, Emma, Delia and Ora Lee. Such beautiful names for those babies. Oh, the tears shed over that little tablet.

And this one haunts me, because nobody knows who lies there. I think it's probably Civil War era. There are a bunch of these, all in one part of the cemetery toward the back. I honor you, whomever you may be.

I ran to this cemetery nearly every morning for four years at least. I always found something interesting, inspiring, sad, intriguing or wondrous here. I still do. I wish I could still meet my friend Clarence here, and hear his stories of life on an Ohio farm, of fighting in Viet Nam. Oh, the stories he tells. But he quit driving school buses years ago.

So I stop and look at what the snow did to Father overnight.

And Mother.

This post is me, telling y'all to get outside. If you can walk, hike, run, you should be getting out and doing something every single day. Mobility's a gift, and you don't truly realize that until it's taken away. Humans were not built to sit all day! We stand. Walk. Run. Stoop. Squat. Crawl. Nothing physical really happened to me to make me stop running. I just lost the heart to do it. I missed my little black inkblot. Things happened. Well, things happen to everyone.

 My challenge now, taking it up again, is not to do too much, too soon. That's how you hurt yourself. Keeping it under 3 miles to start, and I'm going to make myself take a couple rest days each week, too. Riiight. No, I will. Wiser than I used to be. The stakes are higher.

I'll leave you with this little barn and its artful tic-tac-toe junkpile, which never looks better than in a new snow. I think that cool dark crimson might be the perfect color for a building. It seems always to complement the sky, whether it's cerulean or Payne's gray. If the new neighbors mind my walking up their unmarked driveway to take these photos, they haven't let on. People around here just have to put up with me, my relentless pursuit of beauty, and my utter disregard for property lines. Somehow, it works. Probably because I wave and say a few kind words as I go by. Being kind is a passport you carry.

The beauty here is so sharp it sometimes sears me. It's good to start your day that way, blinded by grace.

Plucky's Gift

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What ever happened to that half-winged mourning dove?
You know I wouldn't leave you hanging if I could help it.

I had this whole post written on a plane. And the Internet swallowed it. The photos stayed but the text disappeared. Never had that happen before. Now I'll probably say something completely different than I did while hurtling over Kansas at sunset. One of the things I like about blogging is that I have no idea what's going to come out when I sit down. I started this one, and what came out was "One Day in Light" (the last post). When I'm blogging, I enter into a conversation with you, and it can go anywhere.

I saw the ghost of Ellen on March 11. I'm at the point where I can recognize certain deer naked eye at rather long distances. I raised the blind in the bedroom and saw Ellen against the west border of the meadow. The camera revealed that it was actually Flag, her daughter. All the little Elleny things in her gestalt at several hundred yards, that added up to Ellen for me, made me smile so big. It was like a visitation from her mama.

Nobody would give a passing glance to a small plain doe like Flag, unless they had known her mama, and come to love her so. I grow fonder of Flag every day.

I almost never see Flag without Buffy. Doughty little Buffy. I'll always wonder if she was related to Ellen, because they were always together, too, though they didn't get along very well. 

I have watched Flag take corn right from under Buffy's nose, and have never seen one iota of aggression between them. That's saying something, because I've seen Buffy fight.

Here's Buffy kissing Flag back in January 2017. Flag was still a little fawn. She'd just lost her mother in November.

Buffy, left, Flag right, today. See how much warmer-toned Buffy's hair is?
Buffy's also got tear tracks from her weepy left eye.

Buffy gave me a good laugh on March 8 when she stamped me. Deer stamp when they see something they don't like. Which would be me, through the window, at my drawing table.

 She stamped me with both front feet!

 Come on, Buffy. You know me. Stop punching more holes in my poor mushy lawn.

I do notice a difference in these two (the only ones who come in to clean up the jays' corn) and the other deer at Indigo Hill. Buffy and Flag are much more approachable in the field, more likely to watch me pass at a safe distance than the others, who all bound off. They know the Corn Lady, know my schedule, know my voice. It feels good to be recognized, even if I can't throw my arms around their necks.

Speaking of recognizing...A small gray female mourning dove, the avian equivalent of Flag, came walking in from the direction of the trumpetvine tangle on March 1. 

 Nothing to distinguish her on the left side, unless you were to notice the fresh white edging on her secondary wing feathers.

But on the right side...oh yes. Hello, Plucky! Look at that regrowth! There's still a lone black primary exposed, one of the two that remained after the hawk attack. But here come the primaries!

Luckily, she gave me a closeup.  It took only two weeks for all those feathers to regenerate. That, to me, is amazing.

In a few more days, she'd be virtually indistinguishable from the other doves.That won't stop me, and hasn't. I'm still looking for a small, grayish dove--probably less than a year old-- with a pale cheek and fresh wing feathers. So far, I haven't seen her again. But I take that to mean that she no longer needs to hide in the vines and gobble down grain at my feeder simply to survive.

As is so often the case,  I find myself scrutinizing groups, looking for one special creature. It may seem silly to some, but for me it's time well spent. Looking for Plucky taught me that each mourning dove has a unique spot pattern on its wings. Like this one--likely an immature, who is sprinkled with small dots.

And this mature male, with his iridescent neck and large oval spots on his coverts and tertials.

 I'd never realized that about mourning doves before Plucky came into my life. And I will recognize her should she appear again, as her wings are very lightly spotted.  And that's something to be able to say, that you could pick one special mourning dove out of a flock. That's the gift of close observation.

When Plucky finally took flight March 1, she corkscrewed as she went, but not nearly as badly as she had before. No longer would she have to walk from the tangle to the feeders and back.

Plucky had gotten her second chance.

One Day in Light

Thursday, March 8, 2018


March is slapping us around here in Ohio.  Hey! Spring's here!! Whoops! Snow! Here are the Three Graces at noon today, on my way into town. I wanted to document their buds and flowers coming out so early in March, even though the light was flat and dull.

And here they are at 5:46 pm. Same day. Same place. Somewhat different light. If you don't think that light changes everything, that light is life and love, that light is everything, well, it is. At least it is for me. I raced home to catch this scene, praying under my breath that the light wouldn't leave before I could get to this exact place. This place I've shot dozens of times, this place that is never the same twice.

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN? I don't know. I'm just so grateful that it does.  How lucky can you get, to live on a planet that has skies like this? 

 Before that could happen, though, this had to happen. I went into the store and the sun was out, and the clouds were racing across a cold blue sky. I came out with a full cart and it was blowing a gale, a total horizontal snow whiteout. In the time it took me to unload the cart, my hair, which had been having a pretty good day, was plastered to my skull and dripping. My coat was white with wet snow. I was laughing helplessly because I had no hat, no gloves, and way too little coat.  March, you got me.

By the time I got to Fifth Street, the squall was already ending. I could see a sky-blue petticoat under the flannel. This is our beautiful Washington County Library, built on a sacred Native mound. It's a Carnegie library, which means it was built with a $30,000 grant from the Carnegie foundation given January 2, 1913. My father was seven months old, smiling and crowing in his crib. 

In Ohio, 104 public libraries were built from 79 grants (totaling $2,846,484) awarded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1899 to 1915. In addition, academic libraries were built at 7 institutions (totaling $368,445). 

 I'm awfully glad to have a Carnegie library in our town. Grateful to see my tax dollars at work here, continuing the legacy Carnegie started.

 Glad it's still a library, glad it's got books (and computers) and wonderful staff and they hold public programs. The Washington County Public Library, the Ohio River Museum and Campus Martius Museum will host me March 29, telling the story of that unlucky/lucky West Virginia snowy owl in narration and photos. There isn't a room big enough in the library proper to house it, so we're holding it at 7 PM at Campus Martius Museum, Second and Washington Streets in Marietta.  I can't wait! More info here.

Just a few more shots from today, because they're too beautiful not to post. 

The Shadow Barn, from another perspective. When I think of all the times I trotted past here with my little familiar, trying to get a shot of both our shadows, I get a little choked up. I remember the foggy morning we saw a whole family of raccoons cross the road here. They reminded me of nothing so much as coatis. I held onto him and we let them pass. I can still feel him trembling, hear him clearing his throat and just barely whining. I can smell his damp ruff.

I love the color combo of asbestos shingles and weathered red wood. I love this little machine shed so much.  It looks like something you'd find out on the North Dakota prairie, only it's rotting faster in Ohio.

 The sky was just ridiculous. The shed had a spotlight on it, like someone was expecting it to dance.

Click on this one. Click on all of them, please.
 I got out of the car to grab the mail, and almost fell to my knees. For all the days when the gray flannel reigns, for the weeks on end when the sun barely makes an appearance, there will be an hour of golden glory, and it is enough. It's enough.
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