Friday, April 30, 2010


Dogs, as my friend KT says, are never mad at you. You leave 'em out in the rain? No problem. Make 'em stay in a crate all day while you work? Who cares? Get home 2 hours late? So what? They are ALWAYS thrilled to see you. No matter what. Really.

So I already loved them, but I've learned to love them even more through working with a rescue group and serving as a foster home for dogs who faced other, much more bleak, possibilities. April might be the best story I can tell you about rescue, and fostering and happy endings. On April Fool's Day last year, I picked up a skinny, scared female Boxer from the Clay County shelter. When she felt safe enough she showed us her real personality: she was sassy, bossy and charming and we loved her immediately. The shelter folks thought she might have mastitis or some other inflammation of breast tissue, but it became clear pretty quickly that she had breast cancer and needed surgery. Boxer Aid and Rescue Coalition came to her rescue for a second time, helped along by a great vet, Dr. Rick Sutliff. April underwent a successful mastectomy in early May.

In late May, April found her way into the hearts of the people who would become her own family. Just about as sassy and delightful as April herself was Angie; her husband David was a patient, easy-going guy and their daughter was reserved but twinkled with fun. They were engaged by April's recovery from cancer. Angie's mother had died of the disease, her favorite month was April, and she seemed to have a strong feeling that April might be perfect for them. She adapted quickly to their cat, less quickly to being crated during the day. The first week with them, they closed her in the bathroom instead of putting her in her crate, and came home to find the bathroom door facing chewed into pieces. Patient David made a trip to the hardware store, replaced the door facing, and they stayed with it. When they called to tell me, I was amazed: so many people would have just called us and asked us to take her back. David emailed a photo of his daughter sound asleep on the sofa with Angie and April: his girls. One Saturday morning they called us from Panera, where they'd taken April for breakfast. Rodney and I laughed out loud from the simple joy of the thing.

The other day Angie left me a message. They had taken April to the Relays for Life walk, a fundraiser for The American Cancer Society. She wore a purple t-shirt, and walked the first lap with the other cancer survivors. Since my dear old friend Carrie died of breast cancer just over 5 years ago, this was powerfully personal stuff for me, one of those unexpected intersections life presents us now and then. In her small way, April brought a touch of healing to several lives, maybe more than I know. Small magic, but magic all the same.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Wisdom of Damon's Mother, and the Arrival of the Painted Buntings

The very term implies you're keeping up: weblog. Ah, well.

We do the best we can, all of us. This is a core belief shared with me years ago by Damon's Mother. She said, more or less, that she'd come to this belief, almost because she had to: Everyone Is Doing The Best They Can, All The Time. I was younger back then, and more inclined to judgement. How can you say that?, I asked indignantly, because it was abundantly clear to me that everyone was NOT doing their best all the time. How could they be? Look aROUND you, I thought. Serenely (if anyone should be called "Her Serene Highness", it's Damon's Mother) she spoke her patient words and convinced me that people are operating with the tools they have, often under circumstances we cannot begin to see, or even guess at. They're doing the best they can. If it's not good enough, we have to decide for ourselves how to react to it. But they're doing the best they can. As I trust in the wisdom of Damon's Mother, I believe this now.

And so we continue to watch spring unfurl itself, a blossom that continues to open for days upon unimaginable days. Dear Lorie sent this photo a few days ago; these are the roseate spoonbills who arrive each spring to feast on tiny fairy shrimp and deepen the pinks and fuschias of their feathers. Lorie tells me there was a line of cars, pulled over to the side of the bridge, all trying to catch an image of these ridiculous, astonishing, beautiful birds. Thank you, Lorie! In case you've never seen one in person, they're bigger than you think and when you see them in flight, they're PINKer than you think.

Right on schedule, the elusive painted bunting arrived this year, this very day, around 4 in the afternoon. He came back several times, braving the cardinals, who are bigger than he is, the catbirds and jays, who are bolder and the red-breasted woodpecker, who seems to think the bird feeders are filled for his personal use. (Note that I use the masculine pronoun because birds are difficult to identify by gender with some notably colorful exceptions.) It's not a good photo, I know, but perched out on the far range of that badly trimmed begonia is a small bird with an indigo blue head, a red breast and body, whose back and shoulders are a shimmering green and gold. Like his very distant cousins the Roseate Spoonbills, Mr. Bunting is unlikely and surprising to us, although clearly evolved for excellent reasons of natural history. But he looks as though he'd been dipped in several paint cans. I promise better photos when Rodney moves his from his camera, and shots of Mrs. Bunting when she arrives. She is less gaudy but no less beautiful, her whole body being painted with the soft shimmering green-gold her husband carries on his shoulders. So are we blessed, these April evenings, doing the best we can, all the time.

Credits: Roseate Spoonbills @Lorie Hollar 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Special Olympians needed - update

Dear ones, please take a look at this blog post and consider whether you might be able to help.

It comes to this: a woman who has adopted two children with Downs Syndrome has identified some needs of other people with Down's and we may be able to help her. If you read the post and find you're able to chip in, you'll see that Michelle (who has her own job and kids and crazy life, just as we all do) has made it easy to donate. This mom doesn't have a non-profit org set up yet, but if I didn't believe Michelle's attestation, I wouldn't pass it along.

And an update: the 501c3 application is in process. I'll keep you posted.

Love, love.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Life and Alzheimer's, Part 3

When I've written about Alzheimer's before, I've referred to Ms. Moon's finely written description of The Script, that carefully crafted dialogue developed over months and years and refined almost invisibly over and over again by people who live together, love together, know one another very, very well. It's probably fair to say that families have endless variations on that script; you could almost certainly pinpoint your own without thinking. Tonight's variation is one dealing with repetition of scripts across whole generations of families.

Pop is in the left corner of the photo beside beautiful Helen, and just in front of him is 7- or 8-year old Rick. Cradled in Helen's arms is a tiny bundle you can hardly see: little Rodney. The age difference between the two boys would shape their childhood and in some ways their whole lives, or at least Rodney's life.

What changes were occurring in the marriage in those years; what changes in Pop's life, in Helen's? Stories for another night, my dears, but as has been pointed out by far better-qualified mental health professionals than me, every child grows up in a unique family. A divorce was brewing and would happen when Rick was a teenager and Rod still quite young. And with the ripples of every event, whether ordinary or dramatic, the role of each family member became more and more fixed. When Rodney passed through the adolescent defiance common to boys of his age, Rick had left this stage far behind. Their parents had both remarried. Rick was on his way to a marriage of his own. Rod was finding his way through high school when, after a long illness, Helen died. From the slight distance of a remarried, non-custodeial parent, Pop painted the boys into their respective roles. They would change, through the next 20 years or so but with the resolute march of Alzheimer's the changes would be completely lost on Pop. For the rest of his life, he would deal with Rick as The Good Son, happily married, a successful entrepreneur, reliable and steady. Rod would be The Lesser Son, the one Pop thought of as - and often called - lazy. A hippie. A bum.

When Pop came to live with us in late 2003, our sons were both teenagers, still living at home. They were very different from Rod and Rick; in fact, they were still busy figuring out who they were; they were too unformed to have begun to resemble anyone else. Nevertheless, Pop assigned them the roles he assumed they should have. Mac was like Rick: The Good One. Dylan was like Rod: The Lesser One. That Was That. Sadly, that was that, at the powerful intersection of Family History, Memory Loss, Emotion and Reality.

Alzheiemer's seems to erase memory from the outside in. Deeply held in the "center" of the brain are the things we learned earliest, the things that are fundamental: keeping our bodies clean, combing our hair, making our beds. Memories are built over this foundation, layer by layer: when we were 5, when we were 12, when we were 20, and so on. They are lost in the same order. So for Pop, demented in his 80s, Family History meant his relationships with his own parents, sisters and brothers. Emotion was what connected him to his siblings, his wives. His perceptions of Memory Loss and Reality had only a passing acquaintance with our own. During the work and school day, I worked and the boys went to school. Rod was home, dealing with Pop's unique view of that intersection. Rod would call and say, Just listen to this. And I would hear bitterly angry invective, vicious, hurtful things, screamed at Rodney or Dylan, things I don't think I can ever put into words myself again. But if Mac or I came home, got on the phone, or suddenly caught Pop's notice, the tone and the words would change immediately, softening, losing the will to do as much damage as possible. He was kindness itself to Mac and me, almost without exception.

At a critical point in the story for our family, we had to take Pop to a nursing home. Mac was 15. We took him with us, with his generous consent, because we all understood that his very presence reduced the likelihood of a terrible, angry tantrum, with no limits as to what cruelties might be spoken. Dylan was relieved to be out of the line of fire. And it was just as bad as we thought it might be, but a tale for another long winter's night, my dears.

At the final critical point for Pop, we had to attend his funeral. We made the long drive across the state; Mac made the trip from his Naval posting to meet us. Dylan simply said he would not go. We did not blame him. He had been the brunt of sarcastic ridicule once too often from his grandfather, and would not honor him in death. Mac, never painted with the brush of the less-loved child, was able to withstand the thing, even beyond my own limits of tolerance. I stood in the vestibule and watched Rodney walk alone down the center aisle to say good-bye to his father. Seconds later, I watched Mac walk in his dad's steps, wearing the uniform of the rank his grandfather had himself held in the Navy, catching up with his dad, putting his hand comfortingly on his dad's shoulder. And all this last was in spite of Pop. Having made his bed while in his right mind, he had to lie in it forever, with no possibility of change. Perhaps this is the very worst of Alzheimer's, that no matter how sorely amends need to be made, no matter how much pain might be alleviated in the making of them, mutual peace isn't possible. If you cannot make amends, you may only be able to hope for forgiveness, that gift which is as sweet to its giver as to its recipient.

Fall in spring

As I may have mentioned, we are comfortably housed under a gorgeous oak hammock, the oaks hung with Spanish moss and, in the right weather, bright emerald resurrection ferns. The oaks provide protection from the summer heat, filter the light from a harsh glare into puddles and spills and spatters of soft gold, and house birds ranging from the huge pileated woodpeckers and thrushes who seldom come down from the canopy to the cardinals and chickadees and wrens that visit our feeders every day. But there's a downside. See that picture? See the carpet of inelegant crunchy brownness? Those are oak leaves. Millions and millions of oak leaves. And that picture wasn't taken back in November; it was taken just now. Millions of brown ungly oak leaves, falling like rain from the sky, all spring long.

When the spring comes, the bright new leaves push out, like babies that come when the Great Mother calls them and cannot be denied. Because the fall and winter weather have not sufficed to strip off last year's leaves as they did the acorns (and believe me, they DID strip off acorns in the hundreds of billions), the old brown leaves still garnish the trees. Until the birth of the bright pale new ones, which you can see here. In both photos, the pale green leaves in the foreground are those intrepid new ones, pushing the old ones on their journey to the ground where Rodney and I will mow over them or push them into piles or try and burn them. Eventually we'll ignore them. And we will take joy in the new growth, celebrate the passing of the spring, the lengthening days, and the bright coming of Midsummer, at the summer solstice.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cherry blossom time

Just a brief post this evening, my dears, so you have a glimpse of our yard, house sky and delicate pink cherry blossoms cast against the golden sky just before sunset. We planted this ornamental cherry tree on a whim about 5 years ago, knowing it would struggle to get enough early spring light to birth its blossoms. We are snuggled for better or worse under water oaks and live oaks, draped with wisps, touches, bunches and even gigantic armloads of grey beards of Spanish mosss. The oaks and the moss are beautiful, of course, but they have a direct impact on what will (or can) grow here. Last year, the cherry tree spit in our eyes, more or less, producing a listless bloom or two and then going back to sleep. This year, perhaps because of the long, chilly spring to which I and Ms. Moon and other have alluded here in the Southeast, it has surprised us with winsome blossoms and a whole new attitude: Look! We're lovely! We're almost as nice as Washington or Tokyo! Don't you love us?

I must admit that we do. So tomorrow we're off to the beach (and you know what THAT means, people...a blog post full of fossils and shells and eccentric tales) but for this evening here are a couple of pictures of the quietly gorgeous cherry tree.
Look up, and see the warm butter colored sky highlighting the pink. Imagine the lemon tree right next door to the cherry blossoms. Soon you'll be seeing photos of the pink-edged, waxy white flowers of the lemon tree, with lazy bumblebees humming from flower to flower, all of it still set against the slightly embarrassing excess of the azaleas, at least for a few days more. The low tide calls Rod and me; we know it's not as low a tide as we always hope for, but it does come at noontime. We'll pack a lunch in our backpack, take one or two of the dogs and walk for a mile or two. And then we'll share the view with you. It's a fine thing to look forward to the sharing of those little views of the great ocean and the small magic that happens there every day. For now the magic is in the small pink blossoms and flowers, holding their own under the strong oaks, shielded in patches by the threads of silvery Spanish moss in the treetops.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring babies for swallow-tailed kites (and the rest of us)

When spring really comes, the birds come with it. I've written about the the robins, who lingered this year because of the long, cool spring in the southeast. Besides their annual arrival and departure, there are several other species in which we take careful interest. We note the details informally but with care, mentioning to my friend Sue that the painted bunting arrived, or watching as our pal Pablo posts a photo of one or another denizen of the Anastasia Island bird feeder. Some of them are annual visitors like the painted and indigo buntings and the goldfinches, and others are more specialized. The swallow-tailed kites are among the special visitors, endangered in some states (including South Carolina) and protected in others. Their federal status is "species of concern". The excellent site of the Fish & Wildlife Service gives state-by-state detail and generally refers to these glorious fliers as "imperiled". Have you ever seen one of these birds? Their stunning elegance in flight takes your breath at first. And when you realize there are less than 3,000 of these birds...well, remember the North Atlantic Right Whale?

I keep a rough notebook going back several years, noting the unusual sightings. Beginning in 2006, Rodney and I spotted (and Rod photographed) a family of swallow-tailed kites. We've seen these birds for years but '06 was the first year in which we noticed what seemed like spring courting behavior. In April and May of that year, we watched as the family group expanded from 2 birds to 4. We watched, quite amazed, as the family flew together in great, beautiful circles and ellipses, constantly calling to one another. This was new to us; we'd seen kites alone and in pairs for years, but only very seldom heard them calling to each other. This was different. This was virtually constant sound: "I'm here. Come this way. Here is food. I am here, I am here, I am here..." It sounded like the talk of almost any species capable of vocalization within the range of human hearing. Apparently, kites in family groups raising fledglings (we guessed), relied on vocalizations as heavily as some other species.

This year we began to see (and hear) the mating pair a couple of weeks ago. Their sharp, unmistakable voicings became more frequent and insistent in the past week or so, and this morning I was awakened by the clear sound of the family talking among itself. Rod took this photo, in which he captured 3 of the 4 individuals, in the perfect blue light of this April afternoon.
They're soaring above the Spanish-moss laden oak trees bordering Stokes Creek at the back of our land, and Rodney thought they might have been flying at stunning speeds as they coasted across the thermal air currents and dove through the clear air in pursuit of small prey. Most of the bird books we have seem clear about the on-the-wing lifestyle of swallow-tailed kites; they seem to do almost everything in aerobic acrobatic fashion. They hunt, eat and drink in flight. They court and mate in flight. And they create messy, indifferent nests in which to lay their eggs, presumably because the lure of flight is too irresistible to allow them to dawdle over prosaic details like construction.

And they are positively stunning to watch in the air they seem unable to resist. They inspire. They lure. My own spring fever has been fanned by the fabulous weather and the calling of the kites so that my mind wanders outdoors at every opportunity. Well, in fairness and honesty, the kites aren't singularly responsible. The long winter has given cautiously into spring. Redbud trees have opened with reservation. Some wisteria I've been monitoring with distant affection for years has just emerged, including some along U.S. 1, where the road is under construction and paths are being re-routed. Even the Gatorbone Studios dogwood, I am told, has opened only after long, serious boardroom meetings in which all considerations were weighed, but it would seem that the decision is irrevocably made and the tiny white flowers are beginning to show their faces.

So my dear friends, my teachers: what calls you to spring this year? What makes your heart soar with the kites? What beckons from your window, and pulls you to the change of season? If you've been listening on the sidelines, it would mean the world to hear from you. Do tell. Love, love.

Photo credits: Both photos of kites in this post are (c) Rodney Christensen 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter: azaleas, waterways and swingtime

We're not vegetarians and we're not even very good Catholics but we do know an excellent holiday dinner when it presents itself. And we don't ignore meals that promise to serve as lunch for the following week. With Mac away in Connecticut this year, I didn't have the heart to make the glazed ham he loves. So I made homemade baked macaroni and cheese (which, by the way, he dislikes rather strongly), and we heaped up piles of salad on our plates, topped with fresh (Plant City!) strawberries and sliced almonds, carefully toasted in our oven. We had mandarin oranges, golden raisins and feta cheese as salad topping options.

There are deviled eggs, egg salad and just plain old boiled eggs in the fridge so we don't lose sight of the festival's heart which is, after all, to speak of fertility. To ancient (and not-so-ancient) people, the vernal equinox had significance to the Goddess as the returning light meant the hope of abundant crops; it was an affirmation of life. In the Christian calendar, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring after the vernal equinox. The ancient Egytians built the Sphinx so that it faces the rising sun on the very day of the spring equinox. There is powerful energy here, in my opinion, no matter what your personal language of spirituality. And there is poweful magic in homemade macaroni and cheese, and I mean no irreverence. Really.

For more evidence that Easter's tidings are upon us, the azaleas have finally burst into color. A long, chilly spring has made them reluctant to open their faces to the sun, but here they are, at last. (You already know this if you visit here often or if you live in a garden zone analagous to Zone 9A. I'm sorry for boring those of you who already have azaleas blooming at home.) Here they are along our fenceline, their deep fuschia colors looking glamorous in the golden light of late afternoon. All the plants along our driveway were rescued by Rodney when someone else thought they were dead. He planted them and carefully nurtured them until one spring they burst into this astonishing display of color. We've never looked back. But wait. That's not the best of spring in St. Augustine.

Here's even better evidence: the rope swing at the back of our property. To our endless joy and amazement, we live at the tiny, occasionally tidally navigable point where land meets the narrow Stokes Creek and spills out to the Tolomato River, almost directly across from our much-loved Guana. The Tolomato River is the western boundary of Guana and part of the the Intracoastal Waterway. Water flowing into the river becomes part of the ICW and eventually pours into the Atlantic Ocean.

Long before it gets there, it is overhung by water oaks and live oaks, one of which (at our house) is draped with a long, thick rope. It's a type of rope called "hawser" in nautical terms, which means it's nearly as thick as my wrist and certainly heavy enough to carry my fat butt from our bank out across the marsh for a roller-coaster-like head rush and the best view of the grass river you can see without being in a boat. That's the academic description, of course. Once you get past that, you'll just see Rodney laughing, joyfully weightless, reflected in the thin stream of water on the edge of the marsh. It's not a bad reminder of spring, albeit less elegant that the Pyramids or the Easter Vigil or even a gorgeous Easter bonnet. It's a fine Easter reminder, indeed. Sometimes the boundary that sets apart our spiritual wellness is blurred positively by physical pain. When my dear old friend Carrie was dying this was very much how it looked to me. For other people in other circumstances, the blurry line takes on a faint taste of bitterness and one's reach to peace is harder and less forgiving; perhaps this whole equation is harder to resolve when the situation is indefinite. The rope swing lets me see someone I love, released from any worries or pain or concern: this is a vision of resurrection we can all believe in.

Finally, this week Adam comes home to Katie, to his mother and his father, to celebrate spring (and a WEDDING!) and love. He's an unlikely Easter bunny. Come to think of it, he's an absurd Easter bunny. But there it is, no more weird and unbalanced than any other part of our wacky lives. Happy Easter, everyone.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Mon Amie Ribbonerie, and other creative endeavors

Did you notice the gorgeous hat I added on the right-side nav of the blog? That's delicately handmade work from Mon Amie Ribbonerie. If you look closely (by which I mean, follow the link to the Mon Amie Ribbonerie site) you'll see a very finely rendered appreciation for antique hand work, the well-made materials, like ribbon, from before the turn of the previous century, and an eye for Art Nouveau design. (This is me, modeling a Mon Amie pink rose.) I recently heard a business analysis of demographic behavior that seemed surprisingly disconnected from what I perceive as an increasing interest in hand-crafted art and the relative importance of hand-crafting in the things we use every day. I could be wrong about the perception; thoughts and comments are welcome on that.

I recently "commissioned" a minor work of art from Ultra Cute Crochet because I wanted a Boxer-ears hat for Rodney. It was whipped up and shipped to me in just a few days. Rodney loves it. Along with another beautiful crocheted hat Lis made for him, it's gotten his bald head throught the unusually cold winter and spring. You might not be able to buy locally, but you can certainly buy hand- or homemade if you look (welcome to the internet).

You probably already support local or independent endeavors. If you get your hair cut at an independently-owned salon or shop at a local grocery or farmer's market, you do. If you eat out on Friday or Saturday night at a locally-owned restaurant, you do. In some cases the avenue to independent retail has been blocked; most markets don't have independently owned bookstores any more, for instance. (This is a sore point at Eat Here.) If you make a point of going out to listen to live music now and then, you do. And the world gets smaller and smaller, my loves. We are pulled together into tiny, busy virtual communities like the ones at Eat Here or Bless Our Hearts, and we are able to influence each other. So here's my voice of influence: go out and listen to music, or buy yourself a perfectly gorgeous hair clip or beaded necklace made by someone yo know or recommended by someone you know, or just go to the farmer's market to buy your tomatoes and peppers. And if you can't find local music, let me know. I can hook you up with a MadriGalz CD full of Christmas music.

Oh, wait. Let me know about that in October or, when you're ready to think about holiday-ish stuff. For now, go to the farmer's market. Go out and listen to music. And be thankful for the arrival of spring on the calendar, and in all our hearts.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Conversational citizens

Our friend Louise is officially a citizen of Canada! She's coming home as we speak (she and her husband are on assignment in Florida), having passed whatever test it is they give, and presumably produced a rendering of "O Canada" sufficient to permit the issuing of citizenship papers. They made you sing, right, Louise? In recent years we've had several friends who became American citizens, having come to the U.S. from Switzerland, Costa Rica, Syria and India, and now are very proud to welcome Louise to our continent, if not our country, exactly.

Our unlikely connection to Louise and Tyrone is rooted in work but has flowered in a surprising way. Tyrone seemed like a person I'd want as a friend because he shamelessly wore grey Chuck Taylors to the office. Louise eclipsed him, of course, immediately. Together, they are The North American Right Whale Spotters of 2010, for my money, having sighted multiple whales several times off the beach. They were able to report the sightings, helping support the re-establishment of this extremely endangered species, of which perhaps only 350 or 400 individuals inhabit the earth. They are dog people who understand the language of dogs, and are loved by every dog they meet. In the unusual magic that connects people to each other in St. Augustine, they happened to choose our dear friend Eric at Antigua Vets to care for their dog. And they are intrepid, warm-hearted people who can be tossed into virtually any social situation and find their way to a comfortable place. Good job, Canada.

There are the people with whom you cautiously build friendships, and there are people you pass at the beach with whom you exchange greetings, and then there are people who pass silently and yet not without contact. Thanks to our frequent visits to Guana, those people in the second category are more numerous than you might think; two Saturdays ago I walked up to The Woman in the Black Bathing Suit on the beach. I hadn't seen her during the winter. I said, "Is it Kathy and Brian?" and she said, "How did you ever remember??" and we caught up with each other. She took out her phone and made a note about our names and the blog address. I hope she'll find us here. (Brian was with her, but he was busily searching for shark teeth, so I didn't interrupt him. The beach is sacred that way.) I may have mentioned the woman we used to see last summer, who asked me, "Do you always leave your shoes at the walkover?" When I answered that I did, she smiled and said, "I can always tell when you're here by your shoes," and we laughed about it. I haven't thought about it in some time. But yesterday was a truly amazing day for marine fauna. There was that big old conch or whelk or whatever it calls itself, which I'd carefully removed from the water for a photo and to show Rodney and then just as carefully replaced. There was the sand dollar.

And there were two couples walking on the beach, taking photos, probably tourists. They took notice of me in their own ways, the older couple perhaps wondering if they could get me to take a photo of them together, the younger couple just sitting in the sand in their good clothes, letting the sun warm them. None of them spoke, but all four of them made eye contact. All of them were interested, as I was, in the abundant wonders of nature, but none of them dared a conversation so Rodney and I walked on up the beach a mile or so and then back. But when I bent over to pick up my old Chuck Taylors, there was the conversation I thought no one had dared.
There were my shoes, but into the heel of one of them had been tucked a gift. It couldn't have been accidental. By design, someone said very clearly, "I thought you might like this," and I thought they must have seen me carrying the whelk/conch shell. The one left in my shoe hadn't had a resident for a long time, could be taken home without the guilty scent of life, interrupted, and was perfectly formed. The people I passed without comment that day didn't step into our lives quite like Tyrone and Louise did, but they didn't pass without a conversation, either. What a world we live in.

Spring Fever

It's late and I'm tired, but I find I can't sleep without sharing some Spring with you. A deadly case of spring fever infected me today, and I sort of lost my mind. Because of the lateness of the spring, my sweet little violets are still in bloom so I took yet another photo to show you. And then I realized that the phrase "riotous color" must have been born when some flamboyant writer came upon spring azaleas for the first time.

Rodney and I took off this afternoon for an unexpected walk on the beach, and some magical combination of the change in seasons and the astronomical tide created a very low tide for the time of year, the lowest we've seen since last summer. The water was clear and there was a long, shallow lake on our side of a sand bar, created by the water trapped at the low tide. I found a couple of treasures, including a conch or whelk or whatever those things are, with a gorgeously slug-like creature at home. I took a picture and put it back in the water. And then (maybe a reward from on high?) I found a whole, living sand dollar. I haven't seen one of those outside a tourist shop since I was a kid. I really wanted to keep it, but Rodney pointed out that it was alive. Again, I took a picture and put it back in the extravagantly blue ocean. You can't see it in the photo; the light was shifting in the late afternoon and the shadows were tricky, but there is a very fine growth of fuzzy fauna on one side of the sand dollar. It looks like the fine short hair some babies have when they're born, the stuff that grieves you when it falls out. What a lovely thing it was to find. There was more - we found some very cool sharks' teeth and so on, but this was what I couldn't sleep without sharing.

Some folks I know are passing through a terrible trial right now; a great tragedy has been visited upon them. Without sharing the details, it's made me reflect long and hard about how fragile everything is. The delicate tissue that holds our lives together is so easy to think of as muscular and resilient. Perhaps in some ways, it is. But it can be so breakable, so brittle and almost impossible to put back together. Hold your babies tight, my loves. Love them all you can. Take them out into the spring sunshine and sit on a blanket as the air begins to warm. Say your prayers, wish your wishes, speak to your God or Goddess, guardian angel or higher power, and count your blessings. It is Spring, and the light has come again.