Saturday, May 30, 2009


I have been alive just over 36 years and I've never seen baby great blue herons...until today!

The dad flew off in search of food, and I watched the mom heron straightening up the nest, putting branches back where they should be. Classic family dynamic.

Either late fall or early spring, the fabulous folks at the forest preserve built nesting sites for the herons in this marsh, and fingers were crossed that they would use them. Indeed they did! New construction houses among herons are all the rage.

Not to be outdone with babies, this great white heron let me get in close while he was fishing in a tiny creek that feeds the marsh.

I'm such a bird nerd.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Any Baby But a Human Baby

The camera is fixed, it only cost $45 to clean it, and there isn’t a gosling in a 10-mile radius who isn’t in danger of running into me, with a bag full of bread and my camera.

My brother has gathered a personal flock of Canada geese that come to our house every morning for birdseed and breadcrumbs. The other day there were 12 on our driveway and front lawn, just lounging about, waiting for him to get up and feed them.

Finally he got up and we went outside for breakfast with the geese.

We both can hand feed a few of them, and one stands right next to me and will nibble on my kneecaps if I don’t give him bread. They’re awesome.

I’ve been going to a nearby park and following two families of geese around. They actually recognize me now and come to me when I approach.

I have an album of goslings on my tabblo page if you’re interested in cute, little goose babies.

Tabblo: Welcome To the World, Goslings

Eventually, there won’t be as many babies around and I’ll be home more, so I can write about all the absolute insanity I’ve been dealing with for the last few weeks. But until the babies grow up and move on, I’ll be out taking pictures.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Google Doodle

Have you noticed the Google logo today?

Do you want to feel better about the future?

Go look (here) at what the kids drew when Google challenged them to doodle what they wish for the world into a Google logo. About half-way through I was crying and laughing at the same time. Leave it to the kids to put things into perspective.

Sooooo many wanted to save the animals, and one drove it home with a title "Animals Deserve a Lifetime To". I couldn't believe how many wished for greener living! And they also wanted peace, or they wanted people to be nice to one another. Some wanted to bring dinosaurs back or to have a pet dragon, which cracked me up, and one just drew a huge dog, and strangely, I totally get wishing for the world a big puppy. Some wanted really noble things, like housing for everyone, education, healthcare, a cure for breast cancer, an end to world hunger, and an intriguing one that wished for safety -- makes you wonder what is going on in their lives to prompt this. There were a couple wishing for art, music and a party. But overall, they were really touching.

So, if you had the time and the artistic abilities, what would you doodle as your wish for the world? I bet adults would doodle much different images than the children.

I think I'd go with the puppies theme. Puppies make everything better.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sky Breaks

Last week the director was in Washington, D.C., and today was his first day back to work, so when the library closed and I was on my way out, I stopped at his office to see how his trip was.

The lights were on and his personal effects were still sprawled all about, so I knew he was still in the building.

I asked a coworker, “Have you seen the director? Is he off directing someone?”

My coworker responded, “He’s outside checking out the sky.”

I found this curious.

“He’s checking out the sky? Is there a good sunset or something?”

She just shrugged.

I continued, “Soooooo, he just decided to go outside and stare at the sky? Like, a sky break or something?”

She didn’t answer, but she looked at me like I was speaking another language.

On I went.

“Well, it’s good to know we can just go outside and stare at the sky when we need to. If the guy who’s in charge of everything takes sky breaks then no one will miss me if I take a sky break.”

She continued staring at me, this time with a blank stare, like she’d given up trying to understand what I was saying.

Honestly, I was starting to think she might have some kind of mental disability, the way she was looking at me. It was a joke, and even if you don’t find it funny, staring blankly at someone who is making a joke is really unnerving.

Quickly, I turned around and sought Christi for some humanity.

We walked out the back door together and found the director outside with our security guy, who will heretofore be referred to as Sergeant. (He was in the Army for a long time and I have no idea what his rank was, but Sergeant rolls off the tongue nicely. Sergeant is not to be confused with Arms, our other security guard and my nemesis.)

My first reaction was to look up to see if there was a cool sunset, but no, there wasn’t much to be seen.

Me: So, I was looking for you and someone said you were out here checking out the sky. And, lo and behold, you are!

Director: Heh, you know that Jimi Hendrix song with the lyrics “Excuse me while I kiss the sky”?

Me: No, I thought it was, “Excuse me while I kiss this guy”.

I thought I was being funny. I thought I was making a joke.

Little did I know, I was the joke.

Director: Exactly. That’s exactly what just happened.

Me: Huh?

Director: I’m out here checking out this guy, not the sky.

Sergeant looked at me and snickered, not because I just became a misheard lyrics joke, but because the director said he was checking out a guy.

Director: No, I’m not checking him out. I’m watching him.

Again, Sergeant looked at me and laughed.

Me: What are you watching him doooooooooo?

Director: He’s cleaning his car.

Me: Is that a euphemism?

Director: Yeah, he’s totally getting his car washed.

Me: And you’re checking him out?

Sergeant and I were cracking up at that point.

Director: Aw, jeeze, that’s worse! It doesn’t get much worse than checking him out while he’s getting his car washed.

Sergeant: Yeah it does. It could be a lot worse.

Director: Okay, I guess it could.

Sergeant: It could be you watching him and another guy washing his car.

Me: Woooooh!

We were all laughing heartily at that point.

Yes, I’m definitely going to need a sky break everyday now.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Just Call Me Miss van Pelt

Does anyone remember the Peanuts movie when Charlie Brown went to compete in a spelling bee? There is a scene when Linus gives Charlie Brown his blanket for good luck, but Charlie Brown loses it (or something), and being without his blanket is so distressing that Linus keeps passing out. Charlie Brown sends Snoopy to get some water for Linus, who is prostrate on the floor, unconscious, with birdies flying in circles over his head, and Snoopy obeys, brings back a glass of water, but then proceeds to drink it himself. Linus is in and out of it, waking up briefly only to pass out again, so Charlie Brown sends Snoopy for more water, and the scene repeats with Snoopy drinking the water.

I am Linus.

It’s as if there isn’t enough blood in my body or there is insufficient air in my lungs, but I feel like the birdies are flying in circles over my head and I’m about to pass out.

A week ago I broke my camera. I’m not talking about a button snapping off or a mirror cracking. I scratched my low-pass filter, which is, evidently, made of some magical substance that stays put, doesn’t run, but cannot be touched or it will scratch and smear. Having survived Honors Chemistry in high school with a B- (working my hardest and still struggling to get buy), I realized it was not a field I could handle, not because I’m chemistry-impaired, but because my brain isn’t wired to understand it easily, and therefore it wrecked my confidence. Since then, I have avoided anything related to chemistry. Having this magical part of my camera damaged in a way I’m not quite sure I comprehend, I wish with all my might that I understood more.

All week I’ve gone back and forth about what to do to fix it, and where to take it. I’m looking at a $500 repair, and it ranges from a few days to two months for it to be repaired. I won’t bore you with the negotiation details or the 100-mile drive to finally bring it to a Nikon authorized repair facility, but I handed over my camera today to a man who I barely understood, who laughed at me when his technician saw what I’d done, and who said he would call me on Monday to let me know what they could do for me.

Standing there, I kept wanting to take pieces of it with me.

“Should I take the strap off?” I asked.

“No, I wrote down the strap already on the inventory,” he explained.

“Should I keep the battery? Do you need it? Should I take that with me?”

“No, that’s on the inventory too. We don’t need it, but I already wrote it down.”


He set it in a generic plastic bin, labeled with a number that matched my ticket. The bin was blue and cold, and I felt like it was wrong to put my camera in a plastic bin. I wanted to grab it and to run out, promising to take better care of it and to bring it to a place that would treasure it as I do. But I resisted. The drive was long and I’d already decided on this location because of the speed at which they promised to have my camera fixed. If I rescued it and brought it to a different repair store, it would prolong the separation, and that was the worst thought of all.

My eyes welled up as I turned away. I abandoned my camera, my most precious possession, and the emptiness inside me was growing.

I walked to my car, camera bag unnaturally light, feeling shaky and sick. Once in the car, it took three swallows before I felt like the lump in my throat was starting to shrink. I couldn’t visit my camera now, couldn’t look at it and convince myself that it still looked okay and it would be fine. I couldn’t ease my conscience. Now it was alone and cold, in a plastic bin, awaiting a fix so that it could go back to doing what it does best. And we were apart for the first time in a year. Was it missing me like I am missing it?

Today I realized something about myself. I have no idea who I am without my camera. I have no clue what I do with my time when I’m not taking pictures or planning an outing to take picturesjavascript:void(0). Everywhere I look I see things that interest me and I frame them in my mind, planning out how I’d shoot that scene and what I’d like to take away from the experience. Everything is a photo to me.

So, I’m quite lost. I feel as if I could pass out repeatedly, unable to face the world without my camera, unsure how to be myself without my Nikon limb.

Linus is me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why Can't They All Be Flint?

Every year when the weather starts to get nice, and then throughout the entire summer, we battle carpenter ants in the house. Whether due to the many holes in the many screens, or due to the crazy number of landscape timbers used to make split rail fences, walls for raised gardens, boxes around various yardscape items, or the actual furniture and an arbor in our back yard, or due to the fact that we sit on 3 inches of soil and a mile of clay, or due to all of these things, ants are a problem for us year after year.

Me: Watch out. I’ve killed 3 carpenter ants today so far.

Bro: Already? Ick.

He said this and then stepped on an ant, squishing it. Different rules apply to these ants than do other bugs.

Me: I think it’s because of all the wood inside and outside the house. And the holes in the screens.

Bro: You know, I don’t have any bugs in my room anymore since I haven’t left any cans of pop or food on plates in there. You see me, right? I bring my dirty dishes down as soon as I’m done eating, and I don’t see any bugs in my room now. Except the occasional beetle.

We have bushes under our front windows that seem to be adored by a particular little beetle, which we have named Flint. There are a million Flints, and Flint is harmless. We address Flint like an old friend. “Hey, look, it’s Flint! Flint! Where ya been, buddy? We haven’t seen you around in about three minutes!” When it comes to Flint, we preach live and let live. Perhaps one day I will look Flint up in a bug book and find out what he is. We’ll still call him Flint, though.

Me: I have a couple spiders that hang in my room, but I think they live in the attic and come down at night when I sleep.

Bro: As long as you’re okay with that…

Me: Well, they’re just little house spiders and not the big, furry wolf spiders. And we have an understanding. If I see one, our eyes lock and I remind him that he has to stay in his area while I stay in mine. Then we just ignore one another.

Bro: Until you feel one on your skin.

Me: Ugh. I’m guessing there are little bugs they eat because I never see bugs, but the spiders seem to survive just fine.

Bro: You need a praying mantis.

Me: Yeah, but I’d be afraid he’d knock on my forehead early in the morning and say, ‘Excuse me, but can we talk about Our Lord Jesus?’

Bro (laughing): ‘You may think Jesus was white, but he was really green.’ ‘Do you know of any people who can walk on water? No, but I know plenty of bugs. Jesus was clearly a mantis.’

Me (laughing): Why didn’t they do that in A Bug’s Life? That would’ve been awesome! A male ladybug was cute, but a praying mantis zealot would’ve been the best. ‘The grasshoppers are coming?! Let us pray.’

Bro: He would’ve been busy starting religious wars. Can you just see the mantis standing in the center of a circle of other bugs, teaching them about Jesus?

By then I was choking, I was laughing so hard.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On the Road Again...

In case anyone is interested, I finally completed the travel diary of my trip to Grand Rapids.

And if you prefer pictures, I have five albums of butterflies and flowers at my Tabblo page.

Aaaaaand, I'm already planning the next trip. :-D

For the Love of Fear

Recently, I had an email exchange with a friend that left me scratching my head and unsure how to proceed.

It began when he sent an email to a number of people about H1N1 having a “probable” case in a nearby suburb.

I responded, as calmly and politely as possible, that I felt the swine flu panic was unscientific in basis, fueled by the media and politics. I cited the 1976 swine flu “debacle” as support, and explained that I didn’t really want to be a part of the spreading fear over swine flu. I thanked him for caring enough to send it, but was fairly stern in saying I didn’t want to continue receiving email updates.

What I didn’t say, and wished I had the icy blood to do so, was that, in case everyone forgot, I am a library reference staff member, who is not only self-motivated to know about public threats, but that I’m well-equipped to do the damn research myself, thank you very much.

His response startled me. He reminded me of his family members who he considered at-risk, as well as his own desire to stay informed about a threat to the health of the world. There was something about his choice to walk into his future informed rather completely in the dark, which I resented, but let go. And he ended it by saying he didn’t understand how anyone could say that the swine flu had political ties.

For someone who has a healthy distrust of government, I was shocked he couldn’t see it. So, I enlightened.

We have been ordered by the politicians and the media for a decade to fear a faceless enemy, which always changes. Fear the terrorists, fear the illegal Mexicans, fear global warming, fear the food contaminated with e.coli, fear the collapse of the economy, and now, fear a flu. We are beaten into submission by the instructions to live in fear, and why? Who profits from this? First you have the makers of the flu vaccines making boatloads of cash, then the people who administer the shots, and anyone who can produce an ineffective and paranoia-inducing mask, who deserve to profit on our fear as well. Does anyone know how small a virus is? Think DNA and RNA, people. If the mask could filter out something you can only see with an electron microscope, you wouldn’t be getting any air through that mask, let me tell you. Let’s look at the fact that the people dying from this flu are not in the US, but in a country where medical care is sub-standard, which also happens to be a country that produces people grossly discriminated against in our country. So we are occupied with concern and worry over something we have no control over, but won’t speak up and question anyone when they spend billions of dollars (which also MAKES them billions of dollars) fighting the faceless thing they want us to be scared of. Politicians and the media don’t just make money on our fear, but they make a career out of feeding us fear. And I, for one, won’t be a part of the fear.

Now, I didn’t say this with such hostility to my friend, but I did spell out all these things with clarity. And I closed by saying that people do have a right to their fears, as his are founded in concern for his at-risk family members, but personally, I couldn’t base my fear on speculative media reports and blurbs from people in charge. Until there was some scientific basis for the panic, I chose to not be a part of the widespread scare.

This really seemed to bother him, not only because he couldn’t defend his fear with empirical evidence, but he redefined his feelings as “careful awareness”, and said he put his faith in apolitical organizations like the WHO (ahem!) and the CDC (AHEM!), who had our best interests at heart.

My inclination was to respond by saying that the “probable” cases being reported in the newspaper article he sent me were not facts doled out by these altruistic (ahem!) organizations he held so high. Nope. They were speculative, unscientific, panic-driven articles by local newspapers, and we were warned that someone was 99% probable to have swine flu in our backyard. Remind me never to believe an article that says anything is 99% probable anymore, because that percentage seems to have been made up out of thin air, given that the case in question proved to be negative by that apolitical, unbiased, non-governmental agency, the CDC. *cough, gag, sputter*

No, I didn’t respond that way. In fact, I didn’t respond at all.

It’s painfully clear to me that we have not only accepted the fear tactics used by media and government to keep us homogenized and tuned in, but we defend it and embrace it. We want to be scared. If we’re scared of this faceless enemy, the blame for anything wrong in the world does not fall into our hands and we don’t question anyone for doing something to fight it, even if it’s the wrong thing, because at least THEY are doing something, which I cannot do.

Im scared! I have no power! I can’t stop a plane from crashing into a building, or car monopolies from toppling the global economy, or a pestilence from wiping out all of humanity. I’m afraid! And I’m powerless! And I’m defeated! So, I’m going to allow the government to torture others, and illegally detain people without legal representation, and tap phones without warrants, if it means we might be in the same hemisphere as Bin Laden sometime before I die. Also, I’m going to throw a fit when I see someone Hispanic speaking in Spanish because they’re going to take my job and government benefits. I’m going to die in a hurricane from the melted icecaps way up in Illinois unless I recycle more plastic. And if I don’t get the vaccine for the swine flu – for a mere $25, not only do I get the vaccine, but it also comes with a mask, rubber gloves, and a spanking for not being more careful about spreading the disease, and a set of Ginsu Knives if I act now – I likely will be the first to die from this disease of pigs. Or grow hooves. Or something. Right? Like mad cow disease. And SARS.

On Friday I went grocery shopping with Ann, and before I even knew which side of the hysteria she stood by, I announced that swine flu stood to make me a much happier person. My theory was the global panic would incite an ignorant fear that would cause people to stop eating pork, which would drive the prices down, and I hoped the hysteria had already struck sufficiently so I would be able to stock up on things like ribs, bacon, and pork roasts. Such was not the case so soon at my grocery store, but Ann found my excitement amusing and she cheered me on in the meat department. So you see, I not only refuse to be a part of the fear, but I refuse to fear the fear. Instead, I will take advantage and stock my freezer with pork chops.

Last week someone tried to break into my garage while I was home, with the lights and TV on, windows wide open, and my car parked in the driveway. I think I scared the person off when I turned on the outside light and (don’t yell) went outside to see what the ruckus was. Someone else called the police. The person(s) didn’t get in, didn’t do any damage, and didn’t come back, but I spent the night not being able to sleep, waking every time I heard a frog croak, every time my dog stirred, and for every other noise the night had to offer. When I woke up, I said that was enough. I’ll do what I can, being more careful to lock doors and windows, and I’ll try to be more vigilant about making sure things are as they should be, with outside lights on and the dog downstairs, but the truth of the matter is, if someone really wants in my house, they’re going to find a way in. Glass breaks. Doors can be bashed in. Locks are only as strong as the vulnerable wood we screw them in to. Granted, I would hope that would bring the police again, but as a wise landlord I once met said, “Locks only keep the more honest criminals out.”

An attempted break-in is far more frightening than the flu, particularly when you consider that the interloper might have had intentions far more insidious than stealing my grill out of the garage. What if s/he wanted electronics in the house? What if s/he would kill someone to get what s/he wants? What if s/he was a rapist? What if s/he was an arsonist? Frankly, that’s more fearsome than the flu. Yet, I still refuse to live in fear of what some unpredictable, faceless entity could possibly do to harm me.

Now that more people are speaking out about the swine flu being far less virulent and dangerous than earlier predictions would have had us believe, it seems we have merely opened the door for the next scare to come in.

Do I dare predict what that disaster will be?