A bonus of heading out to Middle of Nowhere, Ohio is seeing Julie, who happens to live just south of Middle of Nowhere, Ohio.
Sure, Julie is fun to talk with, and you are always sure to come away with a new tidbit or two of nature lore. But it's the critters who seem to be the stars:
A mini-Monarch ranch was set up on the kitchen table when I came in:
This guy was this close to folding over into the "J" position, and we checked as I was leaving to see that he only had one more set of feet to let go of before beginning the process of turning into a chrysalis filled with goo....soon to be a butterfly.
This one was already cooking:
If you follow Julie's blog, you will recognize Shelley:
(And that's Phoebe in the background, with late afternoon sunlight setting her hair aglow)
(Liam was at a cousin's house...I was trumped by video games. It's cool. I've been snubbed for less.)
A little turtle aerobics around the living room:
I absolutely LOVE this one....you can almost hear the wee little turtle "uhn!".
Thank goodness for "burst" mode...Chet Baker rarely sits still...
"Please throw the ball, Miz Susan...watch how fast I go."
"Are you watchin'?"
Yes, Baker. Always.
"Look, Miz Susan! I'm SO high!"
"And I can do a neat twisty, too."
"I brought it back for you. Please throw it again. And again...."
All that running, jumping and twisting can wear a Boston out and heat up their little bodies. So Julie wet down a towel (adorned with Australian wildlife, even) and draped it over His Royal Dogness.
"That's better. Thank you, Mether."
After a snort of really yummy wine, it was time to hit the Birding Tower.
I listened with unbridled envy as Julie rattled off the list of raptors either seen and/or heard on the property. Golden eagles. Peregrines. Show offs.
I looked below at the feeding station and a strange bird caught my eye.
The conversation that followed:
Me: What the...?
JZ: Whatcha got?
Me: There's a weird bird in that tree...(pointing it out)..it has a white head!
JZ: (looks down)....
And then she said something that I never thought I would hear from Julie's mouth...
"I don't know what that is!"
She then started cussing that she hadn't brought up either her big lens or her binoculars. She called down to Phoebe, who brought up the implements. We followed the bird for a few minutes...
And my camera got a big ego-boost when Julie complemented it on its light-gathering ability. This is the photo I got, and remember, we were 42 feet in the air:
This weird thing was gleaning bugs in the trees, and was traveling with similar-looking birds, which helped with ID...a leucistic red-eyed vireo! A very cool find...and MY find. That didn't hurt my ego, either.
A new leucistic species for both Julie and me.
The sun was retreating fast, and I had a rehearsal dinner to attend. With a pout on my mouth and a "crrrrrap" in my mind, Julie, Phoebe and Chet walked me out to my car. But there was one more critter to be discovered.
I saw what looked like a toy snake in the garage doorway and pointed it out. I really thought it was a rubber snake, but it was instead a baby red-bellied:
And it was not going to be picked up without a fight....
A beautiful little snake, and this is coming from a gal who DOESN'T LIKE cold-blooded anything.
(Look closely at Julie's necklace...it's a perfect representation of a monarch chrysalis. I want one.)
A final hug and thank-you, and a sweet gift from Phoebe. She picked a tuberose from the garden for me to take along with me. If you haven't experienced a fresh tuberose bloom, you ain't lived. A night-blooming plant, its blossoms give off an exotic yet clean, sweet yet light-filled fragrance. You just have to smell it for yourself.
I placed the bloom on my dashboard and waved heartily as I went down the driveway. I hate driving away from Indigo Hill. Visits are always too short.
But during the hour-long drive back to Zanesville and my family, I breathed deeply as the scent of tuberose filled the air.
Thank you, Julie and Phoebe (and Baker!) for the lovely visit, for opening up your home to me for a few short hours.