Saturday, September 25, 2010

On Sunday, I faced the choice of tackling the foothills of paper on my work table, or taking a bike ride with my husband.
    The bike ride won, though I did have to convince my inner responsible person that those foothills would be climbed … later, when the sun was not beaming and the outdoors were not calling.
    My husband, a bicycling explorer, had been wanting to show me Pennypack Park, an amazing stretch of woods in Northeast Philadelphia. We rode for about an hour, following the meandering trail of the creek, surrounded by greenery. Occasionally we pedaled under a lofty concrete overpass, a reminder of the city beyond.
    The reflections in the water were amazing, and deep. You could get dizzy looking into the landscape mirrored upside down.
    Ken and one of his bicycling buddies had been on the same trail earlier in the morning, and they had spotted an egret along the way.
    Seems the egret liked the territory. As we cruised along the creek, we saw a flash of white: A tall bird waded slowly by the far bank, then froze.
    I thought perhaps the bird knew we were watching, but the real reason for its stillness became plain. In a splash, the egret darted its bill into the water, and shook a meal down its throat.
    Stealth egret.
    I’m glad my inner responsible person gave me the afternoon off.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall is in the air, or should I say the end of summer.
    When I listen to the night air these days, I hear only the chiming of crickets. Breathe in, and I detect the earthy scent of the first fallen leaves.
    September nights – and days – are far quieter than those of August.
    Gone is the buzzing of cicadas, whose huge sound filled the trees all day and into the hottest summer nights.
    Gone is the scratchy, three-note tune of the katydid – a summer lullaby or irritation, depending on your taste. (I’m in the lullaby camp.)
    In the song that is a summer night, the varied singers make their entrances and exits. One August evening I paid attention. As dusk descended, around 8:15, the cicadas were in full voice. Here and there I could hear a cricket chirp, as if warming up.
    By 8:30, the cicadas had exited, and the cricket chorus was front and center.
    The katydids joined in just a bit later, creating the duet I eventually would fall asleep to.
    Summer will leave us next week, and the only singer left these days – and nights – is the cricket. Even his* sound has slowed, as if winding down with the season.
    I will miss the music.
* Fun facts to know and tell: Only male crickets chirp, and his chirping speed drops along with the temperature. There’s even a formula that lets you calculate temperature based on that speed. It’s called Dolbear’s Law, and if you're curious, you can click here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back yards, like children, need their independence. Let them grow as they will (within reason) and the results may surprise you.
    I granted our back yard much independence this summer, “inspired,” in part, by the oppressive heat and humidity we so often slogged through. In return, the yard gave me … serendipity.
    While mowing the back lawn recently, I spotted a beautiful white flower climbing up the garage. I don’t remember seeing it before, and I’m certain I did not plant it.
    I came back with my camera and focused in, enjoying the contrast of delicate blossoms against weathered wood. What I saw next surprised me: a praying mantis perched within, his (?) greens and browns blending perfectly.
    As I looked through the lens again, he turned his insectoid head and looked right back. Whoa.
    Serendipity squared.
P.S. Last Sunday I noticed the same white flower rambling beautifully through the front garden at my church. Thanks to two veteran gardeners who happened to be chatting nearby, I learned the flower's name: clematis.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I am not a morning person. My mom tells me that even as a baby, I slept through the dawn and blissfully beyond. It’s something I’ve never outgrown. Just ask my snooze alarm.
    I think it’s genetic, though I do come from a family of mostly morning people. The only other night owl perched in our family tree is my oldest brother (also a writer). I’m sure one of our Ukrainian ancestors also dreaded the dawn. Considering we come from peasant farmer stock, I feel for him – or her.
    I know the morning has its beauties. Sunrise, for one. I almost never see one of those. (I did set my alarm for sunrise during our shore vacation. Our bedroom had a beautiful beach view. I woke up, watched the sunrise, and immediately went back to sleep.)
    Another, more accessible beauty? Morning glories. Years ago my neighbor planted seeds by the telephone pole that stands between their driveway and our curb.  Every year the flowers return: gorgeous purple blossoms twining their way up the pole. In recent years, they’ve spread, reaching out to and up the Watch Children sign.
    Come summer, those flowers greet me each day when I take our dog out before breakfast. My eyes may be bleary, my brain may be fogged, but those glories of the morning break through.
    They are so aptly named. I timed them today: In full glory at 8, the blossoms were already closing by 10:30, packing up their palette for another day.
    They almost make dealing with morning less difficult.