Seeds of Empathy

This should be required reading by every single citizen of the United States … just as a beginning! Thank you, Swati!

Beyond... A Journey Within

Originally published in New York Spirit



I saw him in a shabby shop. All tied up. Even his mouth. Some men were torturing him. Deliberately hurting him. He was scared and in immense pain. I wanted to know how to save this poor soul from these butchers. Before I could understand who to call in this strange land, I saw blood bludgeoned all over. I felt the pain tearing me apart as I sat up. The dog’s face was haunting me. It took me a while to understand that it was a nightmare.

Was it?

Seeing news of gruesome murders of stray dogs for no reason other than hatred had probably instigated the dream. Hitting them mercilessly, feeding them poison, attacking people who feed strays, lighting up their skins, celebrating festivals killing them, shooting innocents and boasting it as a trophy sport! What is the world coming to?


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Lift Your Spirit

What a busy BUSY month … something I never expected.  Between working hard with physical therapy and my improving health (yes, it does take work!), writing and the start of new work besides that . . . I am finding myself exhausted most of the time.  It is great!  An honest work and though exhaustion can be a pain and feel like crap, it is inspiring to find myself in this situation . . . I love it!

Maybe sometime this month or next I will have the time for a day trip to the North Shore – that’s Lake Superior, by the way.  Sharing pictures from stops along the way might be a nice change of pace.  Of course, one person’s treasured spots in nature may not mean a thing to others, and I would welcome you sharing a treasured spot of your own.  The celebration of being out in nature, away from the city or even just a break from your usual daily pace can make an awesome difference on how you tackle each day.  Let’s face it, in the world day, that is an ever-growing challenge.  Sharing brings us together and can provide benefits that often can’t even be imagined.

As I sit here writing this I have elements of nature all around me, even though looking out my window only gives me a dark screen (it’s 3 a.m., Peeps).  The resonance of the nature I bring into my office, or you bring into your own space, can make all the difference in your daily ways.  I am listening to a wonderful nature video as I write … we’ll see if I can share that with you.  If it doesn’t work – my apologies. 

Even the birds have been busy this month!  A few of the neighborhood Ravens, guaranteed to be ruled by their stomachs, attraction to bright things & just their typical curious nature, have learned to come have meals at a couple of spots in my back yard.  When they’re lucky, there’s even between-meals snacks.  Thus, they have also learned to watch the back door and know when food is being offered.  Other birds are learning from observing the Ravens, although they wait their turns until the big birds are done.


I won an online auction a few weeks ago that I am thrilled with (you never know for sure from just pictures) … a combination bird bath and sun dial, with a sailboat gnomon.  It was listed as being cast iron and even though that was fine, seemed like it would be odd for that type of item.  I had my suspicions and fingers crossed when I went to pick it up.  YES!  As I hoped, it turned out to be bronze and despite its diminutive size, I couldn’t be happier with it.  As proof in the pudding, so to speak, the other day I looked out the window and there was a Chickadee sitting on the edge of it.  Not in the tiny puddle (relative for the size of the bird), but never-the-less looking every bit as though it was content in surveying its world from a long-time post.  Perhaps I’ll lay some black oil sunflower seeds out on the railing to further enhance the quality of its being there. 

It has been said before, and I will continue to advise you of such . . . bring nature inside with you.  Have it close at hand right outside your door.  It can make you smile. Brighten your day. And lift your spirit!    

Hot August Nights

Normally the hottest month of the year here in the great Northwoods tends to be August.  July was a beast!  I am ready to move to Antarctica at times, so c’mon climate change…let up on us for a little while.  Super PLLEEEEAASSSSSE!      How has your summer heat been where you are?

The latest in BIRD NOTES FROM MY YARD are two absolute delights.  I only get special feathered visitors like this when I don’t have a camera of any kind available, thus I must borrow shots from the internet.  When a camera of any sort is close at hand?  Forget it.  Ain’t happening. 

Visitor #1 happened along early one morning right in front of my window, while I was still sitting right on the edge of my bed.  I didn’t have my blinds all the way up since I was in a naked state, but open just enough that I caught a flash of feathers zip right past.  So, I leaned over slightly to peek under the edge and surprised to find a Catbird on the top of the clothesline post…looking back at me.            


The more I leaned over to get a better look, this vigilant little warrior of the yard leaned over too – with it’s head almost upside down and it just about ready to fall off the pole!  After a while he or she decided patrol duties were in order and went back to their normal routine, which first meant the porch railing.  I never saw them on the railing before, but that has been it’s added to it’s daily route ever since.

Gray Catbird 2158s

The second visitor was here just the other day and was the only one of the season so far (for me) and was such an awesome sight. 


I had been out doing errands and had just pulled in the driveway and turned off the car.  Truly, I have no clue what caught my eye, but perched overhead on the telephone line that stretches from my roof to the alley, was a beautiful lady Ruby-throated Hummingbird. 

She was in the process of doing her version of calisthenic exercises, stretches in half a dozen different positions.  That was followed up with some judicious preening.  I was grinning from ear to ear as she then went back to some more stretches.  After all Hummers can never be too limber!

She tasted the air a couple times, before she decided it was time to visit the neighbor’s nasturtiums.  That was it, I didn’t see her after that, but I was honored to have the chance to witness what I did get to see.

You never know what you might get to see right in your own back yard … you just have to be observant and careful not to disturb them.  I hope you have a most splendid August!

Raven and Cedar Medicine

July has arrived and as usual (for me) is the most chaotic month of the year.  Spending the entire month of June being sick, certainly didn’t help me prepare for crazy busy July.  Things are vastly improved, however.  Even though this will be a short issue, I do have a humorous Raven’s tale and a brief healing anecdote for you.

Somewhere in the first half of June a Raven stopped by in the back yard to provide some delightful entertainment.  It was frustrating to have plans for making potato salad foisted, due to the eggs having spoiled … floating is a sure sign of them having gone bad.  It was decided rather than tossing them in the garbage and possibly stink up the whole house, to toss them out in the yard for any critters who might like them.  It was quite a surprise to see some of the eggs take several lively bounces across the yard.  That garnered a few laughs right there, before I had to go sit to rest.

About fifteen minutes later I went back to the kitchen to get something to drink and noticed that a couple of the eggs were missing.  Maybe I just wasn’t remembering correctly the final landing position of each one.  It took a couple more trips of looking out the kitchen window before discovering that the culprit was, of course, Raven.

I watched with glee as I finally spotted Raven out there, going through an elaborate process of carefully approaching an egg, lest it spring up and attack or something.  Once it was decided the egg had nothing nefarious in store, Raven went through a somewhat shorter process of managing to pick it up and be able to keep hold of it.  Thinking the show was over, I was ready to go back and relax in front of the television but was amazed to see Raven skip across the yard toward the neighbor’s greenhouse.

It took several pokes and prods of Raven’s beak to create a satisfactory hole in the straw, for her or him to stuff the white treasure into.  Once it was tucked safely under the straw, Raven took off for several minutes, before returning to repeat the whole thing with another egg.  —  Who knows what the neighbors will think if they ever stumble across the mysterious eggs!

While I was in the hospital being aggressively treated for my pneumonia with antibiotics via I.V., my window view consisted of a very old Northern White Cedar tree.  Now Cedars are known for their healing, spiritual attributes, but this huge specimen was amazing.  Easily the largest one I have ever seen for a tree that is normally considered fairly small.  This tree was wider than my hospital room and who knows how tall it is.  It is anybody’s guess exactly how old it might be.  Its branches are so intricately woven back and forth with each other, that it has formed a basket-like growth over the ages.  It is the LARGEST basket I have ever seen!  It is an awesome thing to behold and my imagination has gone overboard on how wonderful it must smell.

Happy July to all of you and I hope your summer brings you many astounding delights.

Variety Is The Spice

As I sit here ready to write this month’s blog issue, I realize I’ve got nothing to say.  April Fools!  Oh, wait a minute … it’s June, not April.  No matter, I have a small collection of matters to write about, in fact.  This way you can pick and choose, since variety is always good.  With any luck, you might just enjoy all of it … fingers crossed!

Seriously now, as I was getting ready to start writing this morning, my daughter updated me with local news about a gas leak in our small town of roughly three thousand people.  At first it was thought a spill occurred when a tanker was delivering gasoline to the station in question.  The story going around was that the driver climbed back in his cab to do paperwork and did not notice the hose detaching from the truck…at that time it was reputed to be around 1,500 gallons.

Today that has taken on an entirely new spin, that to me says there has been something wrong for some time … in that the station’s storage tank/s have evidently been leaking.  Whatever the truth is or how it came to be, it seems the actual figure is almost FIVE thousand gallons … spilled/leaked or otherwise where it doesn’t belong.  In the storm drains, in one of our lakes, permeating the ground…. It is bad enough that City crews are putting warning flags at storm drains and sewer drains.  I hope a more serious approach for long term clean-up and recovery is taken with this problem than it seems has been adapted elsewhere in the country for water problems.

When did people start taking such an ambivalence toward the quality of our water and land?  I have never understood it.  I never will.

New thought……

It was about twenty years ago that I started taking a very serious interest in how to adapt my approach to the great outdoors to accommodate people with disabilities.  There are not many places around the country that are geared towards guests or clients who aren’t perfectly healthy.  If you are not perfectly able-bodied, there just isn’t much that exists to help you enjoy the great outdoors.

I may have written about this before, but sometimes a subject can stand repeating.  Twenty years ago, when I first started thinking about the topic, my body could still take any punishment I dished out for it.  So, the subject now gets hashed over in my brain from the added perspective of my own physical limitations, which are now considerable.

Creating a new model for my naturalist services that caters to those with physical challenges is very important to me.  If you know of someone yearning for a chance to spend time out in Nature, please share my blog with them.  Encourage them to contact me, so perhaps we can start a conversation about their time out in Mother Nature.

Last thought for this issue……

If you have an interest in gardening  — & a green thumb to boot, doesn’t hurt – consider growing little plants you can craft cute containers for, that you might turn around and sell for a modest fee in your local farmers market or some such place.  It does get you outside.  Conversations you can strike up with people at different venues can establish long terms friendships that values can’t be placed on.  It may not be the type of outdoors I normally discuss here, but if it gets you out of the house and provides some fun … how can you beat that?!  Put your own spin on the idea and see what you can come up with that may spark something for you.

Spice up any ideas with details that will really appeal to your individual tastes.  Variety can be wonderful!

From Snowbathing To Fire Danger

It was only three short weeks ago I stood at my back door, delighting in watching a pair of Ravens snowbathing in the yard (back to that in a minute).  Now the snow has melted, we have open water on the rivers, ditches filled to near overflowing (the ground isn’t completely thawed) and yet things are already so dry, that we are under severe Fire Danger weather warnings.  All in the span of less than a month.  This is a mild example of how quickly Nature can enact drastic changes and is an issue that people should always be alert to.  Precise types of danger vary from place to place, but the point is Nature has an effect everywhere.  Observe always.  You never know when your life could depend on it.

     Switching gears back to my beloved Ravens … it is one of those types of things that you can’t quite appreciate without witnessing it for yourself.  It would have been apparent to anyone observing this pair of corvids, that they were enjoying themselves immensely.  They never got more than six feet away from each other as they wove their way back and forth across the yard. 

FHR-03582-00246-184 - © - FLPA/John Hawkins

     Stretching their bodies out as far as they could reach, they leaned forward – bodies parallel to the ground (rather than their typical upright nature).  Their beaks slightly down, so that as they walked the snow scooped up over them as they tunneled their way along.  At times they would tunnel their body length or longer.  Sometimes they would pause mid-way, sort of rolling their shoulders (if you will) around, rearranging the snow on their backs – almost like someone with an itch directing a good scratch to the right place.  Maybe that is exactly what was happening, I’m not quite sure.  I imagine the snow getting worked down under or between certain feathers could accomplish that.

     From time to time, one would walk over to the other and …I know this may seem anthropomorphic… they would kiss, by rubbing their beaks to each other.  It was not a case of bill-polishing where frustration is being expressed.  They were behaving like a doting couple, to put it in human terms, and the scene could not have been more endearing.

     This year’s newborn Ravens are already fletching out and will be leaving the nest soon, if they haven’t already.  They began learning some time ago and will continue doing so throughout their twenty-some year life span.  Ravens can identify and remember human faces … and even pass that on to their young.  Imagine if people were that talented.

back paddle

     The forecast has temps in the 80’s for next week…..I will do my best to remember the snowbathing while I am sweltering.

Feed The Soul

Feed the Soul

Anyone who has ever experienced the angst of the phenomenon called spring fever knows, Spring doesn’t always know how to follow a calendar and thus arrive at it’s appointed “time”.  Nor does the weather always strictly mandate it either.  It is my opinion that the most common form of Spring is a deep psychological, emotional need that is met by different criteria for everyone.  Sometimes, via spring fever, it hits in January with two to four feet of snow on the ground.  There are years up here in the Northwoods where Spring might last a couple of days in mid-June.  The only sure thing is there’s never any telling ahead of time. 

This year, for me, Spring arrived loud and bold – a pounding in my psyche – in early March, when I took the photo above.  Woodsmoke from the steel fire pit wafting across my sitting area is one of the most primal satisfying scents you can ask for.  It represents warmth, comfort, a hot meal and so many more things in our subconscious pathways.  Still plenty of snow was still around, but it already began Nature’s intended slow time-release method of watering the ground … a crucial consideration for plantlife submerged under the snow.  Spring can have temperature levels as cold as winter (just not sustained for the same length of time), snow insulates the earth and growing things, while a little water at a time is like your Mother telling you to sip a drink slowly.

Plenty of wildlife has already started the annual cycle of mating and rearing the new year’s brood.  There are a few trees beginning to show signs of protruding buds.  Pussy willows will be popping in no time at all – the budding moon.  If you shovel down through the snow, gently revealing the surface of the ground, you can see tiny half inch or smaller wild strawberry leaves, their runners reaching and extending to new places – they too are preparing for the quick race of producing new fruit in a very short growing season here.  Where you make a clean cut through a depth of snow, observe the face of the wall in the snow – you can see lines just like the strata layers in the earth of rocks and soil deposited, in this case each snowfall is revealed.  But you don’t see that under normal conditions until it goes through a sort of compression once the melting begins.

Spring is Mother Nature’s time of Renewal.  Your activities can be designed to get the maximum benefit from this time of year … it is your chance to feed the soul and reap all the benefits possible.  I hope you have had the chance to do that for yourself.  Please share what Spring is for you or what signs of spring you cherish.