First Day of Summer Vacation

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hOn Saturday morning, I woke early. Summer vacation had begun! It was about 4:30, my regular school-day rising time, and coming downstairs, I glanced outside. The sky glowed with streaks of pink and red.

Ooh. I thought, I could go down to the river and take some pictures.

Now, really, nothing stops me from doing this on a regular Saturday morning during the school year, but the idea of going down spontaneously felt like a bold step out of my routine–A declaration: Summer is here! Delighted with the idea, I quickly made my coffee, poured it into a travel mug, threw on a sweatshirt and headed out.

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At the river, the colors weren’t as brilliant as I’d hoped, but it was still lovely and the air pulsed with birdsong. Tendrils of mist drifted across the water’s surface and periodically a fish jumped, sending rippled circles outward.

I walked over to the bridge to get a different vantage and took some more pictures, enjoying the cool, fresh air, and the feeling of unscheduled time stretching before me. After a few minutes, a car  pulled into the lot and moments later, an older man walked up, camera in hand. We nodded to each other.

“It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?” I said.

“Oh, yes,” he agreed, smiling.

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We chatted casually for about 20 minutes, stopping every so often to take pictures as the light changed. It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly given the context of our meeting, that we had a lot to talk about. Each of us enjoys rising early and coming down to the water to take pictures, though our spouses think we’re slightly insane.  We compared favorite sightings and photos–muskrats and beaver, multiple bald eagles, a cormorant eating a catfish, a heron silhouetted in flight against a pink sky. We shared our favorite local spots for taking pictures. I told him about the Baltimore oriole that had been visiting me this spring, and he told me about watching a fox cross the iced-over river this past winter. He lamented that he hadn’t seen any kingfisher or herons this year. We shared anecdotes about our cats.

“My wife makes my photos up into photo books on Shutterfly,” he told me at one point. “I’ve got one in the car. It just came yesterday…but I wouldn’t want to bore you.”

“Oh, I’d love to see it!” I enthused sincerely.

After a few more moments of conversation and picture taking, we returned to the parking lot and he pulled the book from the backseat of his car, handing it to me. The cover photo was a stunning shot, a late afternoon picture with a silhouette of a scull and several rowers. I opened the book and paged through, and he shared additional information and background stories about the photos. As I expected, natural scenes with birds and animals featured prominently. I admired the photos, asking for help identifying some of the birds that were unknown to me.

“Oh, what a great picture of a cedar waxwing!” I said pointing at one picture. “I haven’t seen one of those in years.”

As we talked I saw a movement in the river.

“Oh, look! It’s a beaver or a muskrat!” I said, pointing.

He turned and together we watched the animal swim across the river, then dive and disappear before we could identify it. A bird fluttered into a bush near us. We both turned again.

“I can’t believe it!” I exclaimed, “I think it’s a cedar waxwing!”

And it certainly was. It didn’t cooperate enough for either of us to capture a good photo, but we delighted in watching it dart in and out of nearby bushes.

“Ok,” I finally said, “I’m going to head home now.”

“Well, I’m going to head up to my favorite spot on the tracks,” he said.

I turned and then moved closer to the water to take yet another picture.

“It’s addictive, Molly!” he said, smiling and shaking his head.

“I know!” I replied. “There’s just always that possibility that something wonderful will happen.”

He nodded and smiled again, and I knew that he knew exactly what I meant.

What a wonderful way to start summer vacation.

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I went back early this morning and captured this photo of a cedar waxwing. 

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Dandelion Extravaganza

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“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” A.A. Milne

This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about dandelions (to see a previous post and my favorite dandelion picture ever, click here). Every year they delight me more, and this year, it seems like there’s been a bumper crop. I’ve been more fascinated than ever and I’ve taken picture after picture of them in all different stages, from all different angles. It’s addictive! I’ve also been having a lot of fun reading and writing dandelion inspired poetry.

This Valerie Worth poem is one of my perennial favorites. (Get it? lol)

dandelion

Out of
Green space,
A sun:
Bright for
A day, burning
Away to
A husk, a
Cratered moon:

Burst
In a week
To dust:
Seeding
The infinite
Lawn with
Its starry
Smithereens.

~Valerie Worth

And here is a new favorite of mine, discovered this spring in my dandelion mania.

I Wandered Lonely as a … Dandelion?
by William Barton

A plague on your daffodils, Mr Wordsworth.
Granted, daffodils look very fine – harbinger of spring and such,
But they just stand about admiring themselves
or head-tossing and fluttering in a freezing gale,
and you can buy a pot in any corner shop.

The trouble with daffodils is that they turn up
at such a miserable time of the year – snow, ice, fog etc –
season of flu and fruity cold-full-ness.
As a countryman you should have written a poem about
“a crowd, a host of…dandelions”

(click here to read the remainder of this delightful poem)

And here are two of my recent efforts.

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Spangle a spring meadow
Sway in a breeze
Tap deep into soil
Nourish the bees

Gather your energy
Pucker up tight
Then burst into seed and
Launch into flight

©2018 M. Hogan

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Meadow Genie

Sun-lit dandelion
Shakes out her gossamer skirts
Poised to grant wishes

©2018 M. Hogan

If you’re not suffering from dandelion fatigue yet, here’s a time-lapse video of a dandelion moving through its life cycle. I could watch it again and again! (and have!)

Finally, here are some of my favorite dandelion photos.

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Kiesha Shepard is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup on her blog, Whispers from the Ridge. She’s sharing a beautiful summer poem and links to more poetic treats.

Giant’s Stairs

 

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Some whimsical soul in the past saw a giant’s staircase in the slabs and boulders along this stretch of Maine coastline, and the name has stuck: Giant’s Stairs. Today, the water crashes against the upheaved rocks, flying into the air in wild abandon. Common eiders bob in the surf. When the males dive, you can see the glimmer of their white plumage flash below the surface. Again and again, my eye follows their ghostly descent until they vanish, only to pop up moments later nearby. Amidst the rocks, snails skim in shallow tidal  pools and a piece of kelp casts its shadow. Soft silvered rock glows in the afternoon sun. Flecks of mica sparkle and stripes of quartz erupt in brilliant, hard white fissures.

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DSCN3114.jpgThis landscape tells a story of powerful forces at work, but speaks a language that is foreign to me. Almost like hieroglyphics. Each shape and bubble, each boulder and slab tells of force and movement, of time and wind and weather. I need my own Rosetta Stone to make sense of this world– Something that would explain the layers, the shapes, the cataclysm that shifted  horizontal shelves of rock until they were rotated and running in ridges perpendicular to their original orientation. Even without fully understanding, I’m captivated by the story.

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Giant’s Stairs on a previous visit — You can see the descending slabs that inspired its name.