Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fall at the US National Arboretum

Washington is alive with color and much of it is at the United States National Arboretum.  Today I attended a class on winterizing bonsai and had an opportunity to go behind the scenes (on the other side of those doors marked "STAFF ONLY") at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum and enjoyed a walk around the grounds.
bald cypress (bonsai collection)
bonsai collection
My lesson for the day:   take advantage of opportunities to learn and you will be richly rewarded.  Not only was the class interesting, but I got there in record time, had a fantastic parking place (no small feat on a busy Saturday) and the fall colors were amazing --from the tiniest bonsai to the japanese maples and the groves of maples, oaks, sycamore and more.  What a gift, what a day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Amazing Frog Adventure On An Already Special Day

I don’t get a lot of alone time with my brother, since we live in different parts of the country, so this was a special day.  Typically, we were late in getting started.  In the passenger seat of his F250, boat on trailer in tow, I sat waiting for him to fill the tank at the local Hess station so we could begin our boating adventure.  It was a beautiful November afternoon in northwest Florida, getting warmer as we waited, the Louisiana Catahoula and I.  Being the only occupant with an opposable thumb, or any thumbs at all, I opened the door to let in the lovely cool breeze.

Within seconds, something flew through the door, landing with a wet-sounding “kersplat” on the overflowing console.  It was a tiny tree frog, appearing from who knows where, presumably there for a short visit.  Before he could hop about and get lost in the contents of the truck’s cab, I scooped him into my palm and he immediately did what all creatures do when they are in fear.  I held tight and flicked his nervous contribution on the floor.

The frog rode in my clasped hands, head and sticky toes peeking through my finger gaps, looking for freedom.  He was determined to find a way out of the confinement and somehow squeezed and flattened himself between my locked thumbs, jumping with another splat back on the console.  This time I retrieved and held him closer, determined to get him to a nice place to call his new home.

Once at the dock by the lake, while my brother readied the boat for a launch, I released my little frog friend and the dog ran around getting more excited by the minute about the upcoming boat ride.  I let the frog loose on the far side of the two rows of cypress trees that flank the shore of the lake, statuesque and full of knobby knees.  He sat in the grass then hopped tentatively at first but  I was sure he would find his new home appealing.  He wore a little bit of fuzz from my fleece but I didn’t disturb him to try to remove it.
Happy Louisiana Catahula
blue heron in tall grass
cypress knees
water lilies
great blue heron
great white heron
I helped launch the boat; the dog boarded happily.  We had a wonderful adventure for the next several hours, roving through a chain of lakes and exploring the shorelines.  We saw a red-tailed hawk, several blue herons, great white herons, a flock of ibis, snowy egrets and my favorite, the sandhill cranes.  We also saw fish and turtles, flowering lilies, beautiful moss-draped cypress trees and waterways that seemed to go on forever.
sandhill crane
sandhill crane
sandhill cranes
The most exotic bird we saw was a purple gallinule, who was fearless and seemed to be protecting something in the reeds behind him.  He marched back and forth across the water plants, like a soldier guarding his fortress.  His iridescent purples and blues and candy corn beak were something to behold

purple gallinule
cypress trees at the shore 
Three hours later, after picking up my sweet fun-loving niece at another shoreline, we returned to the boat launch, but pulled to the shore adjacent to the dock, in front of the cypress trees and about 25 feet from where I released my frog friend.  As my niece stepped off the boat into the shallow water at the shore, she saw my little frog friend, still with his piece of lint from my fleece shirt, sitting in the sand just at the water’s edge, as if waiting for our return.  We couldn’t believe our timing and our good luck to have encountered him again.

turtle enjoying the sun
How is it that one little frog visited us twice, choosing his location and timing it carefully, making us smile and causing us to wonder how he found us?  First at the Hess station and then after hopping through that grove of cypress and positioning himself in the exact place where we returned some hours later.  

blue heron flying in front of a house
I’ve always had a thing with animals and especially frogs.  This is just one more example of the little miracles that occur when you stop to notice them.

We placed the frog on a cypress tree, still with his little piece of lint clinging to his side, hopeful that he would find others of his kind in the shade of the beautiful mossy trees, along the shore of the lake in Citrus County, Florida.  What a special day.
frog friend on cypress

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A is for Anxiety: The Unemployed Alphabet

Skyline Drive, Virginia
I wrote this to help others understand the anxiety of their unemployed friends and loved ones whose days are focused on trying to rebuild a major part of their identity and figure out how to survive.  

A is for Anxiety: what started the day you became unemployed and never entirely goes away.
B is for Bitter:  what you don’t want to be but border on when you see someone doing a bad job and being paid well to do it.
C is for Comfort:  what your good friends provide in a way that energizes and motivates you to keep on trying.
D is for Drive and Determination:  the inner strength you muster to sign up for a volunteer project, do a short term paid assignment in hopes of landing a full time job, drop everything to return a networking call, get up every morning and make it your job to find a job, contact every person in your address book to ask for their help, be willing to perform work far below your skill level, look and act like you are successful regardless of how you feel on the inside, or stuff your pride in your suitcase and work for $10 an hour if it helps make a contact or provides cash for next week's groceries.
E is for Everything:  what gets to you sometimes when the situation is just too overwhelming to break into manageable pieces.
Blue Heron, Florida
F is for Fear:  what haunts you at night and sometimes paralyzes you during the day.
G is for Goodness: what you really try to find in every situation because it helps you hold it together.
H is for Hard:  what every new conversation is that starts with “so what do you Want to do?”
I is for Industriousness: your ability to creatively engage and develop new skills to earn enough to keep you afloat.
J is for Jumpy: the constant feeling that something might happen; the anticipation of the phone ringing with good news or that you will wake up and find out this was simply a nightmare.
K is for Kindnesses and Kick in the pants:  the thoughtful acts, large and small, that make you smile, help move your resume in front of the right person or simply give you a hand with a difficult task; and the honest feedback and shove (kick) only your dearest friends will give to make you reach out one more time and make a call that is a little out of your comfort zone.
Big Cat Rescue, Florida
L is for Lonely:  the empty realization that you have to adjust to far more solitary time than you have ever had before.
M is for Mindless: the activities that you find yourself undertaking when you can’t take the pressure at the end of a long day of telephone calls, email, resume distribution and cover letter-writing.
N is for Nag:  what you want to do when someone promises to help you and fails to follow through but instead you just feel disappointed.
O is for Old:  how you feel when you see who is getting hired.
P is for Patience: what you never had enough of and what all this waiting is supposedly helping to develop.
Q is for Quit:  what you want to do when things get really hard but you don’t do because you trust that it will get better.
R is for Resume:  the two pages you have edited more frequently than any you have ever written and that still fail to adequately reflect all that you are.
S is for Stymied:  how you feel when you can’t figure out how to make the right connection for a job you know should be yours.
T is for Talent:  what you know you have, your resume reflects and the right person hasn’t noticed yet.
U is for Understanding:  what your friends and family try to be but really can’t unless they have been there.
V is for Victorious: how you will feel when you get hired.
W is for Waiting:  what you spend a lot of time doing that is supposedly developing all that patience you need.
X is for eXercise:  the way to release tension and ensure you look your best – and the last thing you feel like doing when you are depressed and down on yourself.
Y is for  Yawn:  your reaction when one more person suggests a minor change in the resume that has been edited a thousand times already.
Z is for Zillions: the number of times you have focused on what you have to be thankful for rather than on what you aren’t.
Happy dog, winter walk, C&O Canal, Maryland