Friday, February 05, 2016

A tiny voice

I haven't posted anything here for nearly three years.

This blog used to be my daily journal, my far-reaching arms to hold close to my friends.  Facebook happened and stole my attention and my time.

A lot has happened.  Here's the list:

1.  I got a job and separated from my husband in the beginning of 2012.  I moved into the new RAPTOR facility.

2.  I got a divorce at the end of 2012.

3.  In between those events, I met someone.  His name is Mark.

4.  I struggled.  I tried.  I failed.  I tried again.  I always got up after being knocked down.

5.  I hated many aspects of my job.  I just kept at it.

6.  In 2014, I moved to Indiana, presumably to give myself a break.  That move just made everything more difficult.

7.  I struggled.  I tried.

8.  I started applying for jobs in Louisville.  Because that's where Mark is.

9.  In October 2015, I was offered a job with the Louisville Fire Department.

10.  I moved to Kentucky.

11.  I fell in love with my job.

12.  In December of 2015, we bought a house.

And here we are, 2016.

I lost something of myself in these years.  It's a part I could have used to great effect during the hard times.  That part that people love me for, that part that burns hot when I need protection from the storm that is life.

But as I look back and see that I never quit, even when it seemed that I was screwing up every day or making the wrong turns at every turn, I see something.  Maybe that part of me that I thought I lost isn't really lost.

Maybe the fire sometimes chooses to be a small voice saying,

"It's okay.  Stand up, dammit. You've got this."

Maybe that tiny voice is what got me through it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

This Last Year

On Father's Day, 2011, Geoff and I came to the conclusion that we didn't want to be married anymore.

We cried, we talked.  We asked ourselves, "What happens now?"

To make a very long story short, it came down to this.... I would move out and the girls would live with Geoff. (More on that in a minute).   RAPTOR was building a caretaker cabin at our new facility and I was offered the position of caretaker.  Unfortunately, the position of education director was taken from me at the same time.
Great.  Now what?  I needed a job.
After pestering the owner of our local Wild Birds Unlimited, I was hired.
The cabin was completed in February of 2012.  Eight months after we decided to divorce.  I thought at the time those eight months be the most stressful time of my life.
I was wrong.

The euphoric cloud of freedom I was initially floating on quickly plummeted to earth and I found myself thinking, "What have I done??"

The divorce became final in December, 2012.  It was anti-climactic, after all the drama of getting there.

This has been nothing like I thought it would be.  Sure, I'm now a free-wheeling single woman.  But that doesn't even begin to cover what I am.  I'm not really free.  I'm more trapped now than I was when I was married.  Pressures and stress and outright fear.  I never

Would I do it again?   Absolutely.
Would I do things differently?  Probably.
Have I learned from my experience?  Yes.  And no.

They say what does not kill you, makes you stronger.  I'm not dead yet, but am I stronger?  In some ways, I am.  I can look back at This Last Year and say, "I survived that.  I can do this."   But I feel a hardness in me...a sharp edge I didn't have before.  I'm jaded and it's hard or me to trust.  I've dated, and there's one man who stands above the rest.  But how good can I be for someone if I feel the way I do?    I don't know what will come of it, and I guess for now, that's okay.  I hate the thought of ever getting married again or even living with someone, and my body is prematurely shutting down the baby-making equipment, so what's left for someone who loves me?  I don't know yet.

Moving away from my children..... Hardest thing I've ever done.  I'm only two exits away and I see them everyday.  But I feel that some of the connections I had with them are gone.  Forever.  All I can do is hang tight to the ones we still have and do my damnedest to forge new ones.

This Last Year.  I've been ground under the heels of things I can't control and I still stagger to my feet.  I keep saying to myself, "This is going to get better.  I'm going to improve my life and when I get smacked down, I'm going to get up again.  And again.  And again."

And again.
Alis volat propriis.  She flies with her own wings.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Something awesome this way comes!

Spring migration.

Those words make me giddy. 
(Photo by Charley Eiseman)

Next week, I'm attending the Biggest Week in American Birding.  It's been too long since I got to experience the absolute wonder of Lake Erie's marshes and shore in May. 

I'll be blogging live from the festival,  (I'm an "Official Blogger", woohoo!) so stay tuned to this blog for all the news!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Harriers against the sunset

This past weekend I enjoyed my first OOS Winter Raptor Extravaganza at The Wilds in Muskingum County, Ohio.
History of the Wilds:
(From The Wilds website)
Around the world, habitats are being severely degraded and overexploited-forests are being clear-cut, wetlands are being drained, and land-use patterns are changing to accommodate suburban sprawl, agriculture, and mineral extraction. Nowhere is this more evident than in southeastern Ohio where forests were destroyed to accommodate agriculture, and agricultural areas were subsequently destroyed by extensive surface-mining for coal. While subsequent efforts at reclamation were largely successful at restoring ground cover, controlling erosion, and providing areas for recreational activity, questions remain as to the biological functionality of these areas. What appears to be “green and lush” to the casual observer, may instead be an area of decreased biological diversity, with assortments of invasive species, and may not be returning to a functional ecosystem.

The landscape of the Wilds has undergone a series of major transformations, from the open surface mining to the reclaimed grasslands and now areas are being converted to healthy, high diversity meadows.

The Wilds is home to a diverse list of raptors in the winter, and I had heard about this event for years and decided it was time to bundle up and subject myself to Arctic temperatures and howling wind for the sake of seeing so many birds of prey.

Raptors seen this day:
Northern Harrier
American Kestrel
Red-tailed Hawk
Dark and light morph Rough-legged Hawk
Great Horned Owl
Short-eared Owl

(And there were a bunch of songbirds around, too.  I was more interested in the birds of prey.)

With very little narrative, here are some photos from the day.

It was cold.
Meeting point, in lower parking lot:
cold parking lot

It was around 20 degrees as we all convened, with a wind chill of "Holy crap it's cold!"
erik and cold birders
Erik Bruder and other cold birders.

tricia wilds
Tricia West!  I was so happy to have her in our group.  For all of our Facebook banter, we have never birded together.

kathi and tricia

jeffrey point
The view at Jeffrey Point

hood ornament
Someone left me a hood ornament while I was out pacing through a pine stand looking for Long-eared Owls.  The lower mandible of a six month old deer.  Thanks a bunch, guys!

One of the highlights of the day was this:
rhino eye

The Rhino Barn.  OMG.
tricia and rhino
Tricia acted like she pets baby rhinos all the time.

rhino and me
This was the Asian rhino...the ones with the prehensile lip.  And this one kissed me.  I loved it immensely.

mama rhino and me
This mama rhino enjoyed having her ears scratched, and leaned against the rail to get closer.
This was one of those moments in my life that I will never forget....and the back of a rhino's ear is softer than you would imagine.

Ack!  Baby rhino!!
mama and baby

I took very few bird photos.  The cold and wind and shivering on my part did  not lend itself to good photography conditions.

This Short-eared owl was good enough to sit still for a minute or two.

The setting sun made a vista out of a field of hay bales.
hay bales

tricia and lifer merlin
Tricia got her life Merlin, spotted by Phoebe Thompson.

We welcomed the sight of the sun finally coming through the clouds, and said goodbye to it in nearly the same breath.
caravan sunset

As harriers coursed over the fields in front of the setting sun, I was thankful for the heat in my car, the love and laughter of my friends, the dinner waiting for me, and the fact that I am a birder and can experience days like this one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

There aren't too many poems about Red-tailed Hawks. But this is a pretty good one. I mean, it's Yeats. Can't go wrong there.

Two Socks

'Call down the hawk from the air;
Let him be hooded or caged
Till the yellow eye has grown mild,
For larder and spit are bare,
The old cook enraged,
The scullion gone wild.'

Can I help you

'I will not be clapped in a hood,
Nor a cage, nor alight upon wrist,
Now I have learnt to be proud
Hovering over the wood
In the broken mist
Or tumbling cloud.'


'What tumbling cloud did you cleave,
Yellow-eyed hawk of the mind,
Last evening? that I, who had sat
Dumbfounded before a knave,
Should give to my friend
A pretence of wit.'

Williams Butler Yeats

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What does a birder look like?

There's been a recurring theme lately in the birding world, and this post has been slowly and steadily building in me.  It's about birders and how the world sees us, if we even care about their opinion, and where we are going as a group.
It's been a mission of mine, at least informally, to wipe out the classic stereotype of "birder" or "birdwatcher".  Just look at the header of my blog. I've never ever been considered "uncool" or a "nerd".  And frankly, I hate labels anyway.  But to make things easier for all of us, we do tend to lump people together.
So for the sake of argument, let's just accept the fact that there are labels.

A non-birder, or anyone who has seen a movie or TV show depicting birders, knows the stereotype.
Nerdy, nooby, contemptible and socially awkward people who wear silly pants and/or hats, wear binoculars around their necks and spout the Latin names of birds.  That sounds familiar, right?

What part of that description is accurate for EVERY birder you know?
"wears binoculars around their necks"

I won't get into the psycho-social aspect of labeling and stereotyping, but I've learned that even if a stereotype is a positive one, it can still be harmful in the fact that it lessens the individual it pertains to.  It limits your ability to see the whole person.

The Big Year came out yesterday, and it kind of felt like birders came out, too.  I enjoyed it immensely and didn't care that they got a few things wrong.  It's a work of fiction.  But I liked the story pulse behind each main character.  Crazy about birds?  They sure were.  Prissy, Latin-spouting noobs? They sure weren't.
Lots of birders were in a froth about using it as a springboard to bring in more birders, and I think that's valid. But I stayed out of the discussions that quickly degenerated into nit picking about bird IDs.  It's a MOVIE.

What about the ABA?  An organization that is supposed to be for us, by us?  Have they represented us well in the past?  It seems not.  I was ignorant of the ABA until Jeff Gordon took the helm, and most of what I have heard has been the same...."I feel that it isn't an organization for ME.  I don't do hardcore listing or get into fights about wear on a gull's tertials."  I hope that birders will see the ABA in a different light, to forget about the stereotype that seems to be following the organization.  I'm a member of the ABA.  Does that make me a hardcore lister or rude know-it-all?
There was a little kerfuffle on Facebook a few weeks ago...I was talking about a certain bird we all saw at Ottawa NWR, and someone wanted to see photos.  I chose not to post them, because they did not capture what we SAW through our binoculars.  It rapidly spiraled into a war of doctrine and flat-out rudeness, from someone I don't know personally.  When I said that this kind of thread was what was wrong with birding, all Hell broke loose.  There was even a threat made by this pompous birder to use the thread in an article.  This seems to be a facet of the ABA that lots of people recognize.  The snooty, uptight and belligerent tone that some "old school" birders affect just rubs me the wrong way.  Isn't this supposed to be fun?  Sure, there needs to be record committees and people who keep track of stuff.  But what about the joy of it all?

(This next part has to do with race.  Please spare me any gripes about my verbage or labels.  I'm the most non-racist person in the world and I am using typical terms for people of colors and creeds different than me, so just don't go there.)

Another aspect of this theme is diversity.  Okay, birders.  Count on your hands ten birders you know.  Now, put down a finger for each non-Caucasian birder you named.  How many fingers went down?
I know lots of different people.  All colors and nationalities.  But I know zero non-white birders.  No African Americans, no Latinos, no Asians...everyone is very much like me.  I've seen black and Latino birders, so I know they exist.  But they are so few and far between they are noticeable.  I think most birders, or even just decent people in general, would be highly offended to think that their hobby is all-inclusive, snobby and white-elitist.  But it's a fact that we tend to be white, middle to upper class folks.  "Tend" to be....and that's the problem with stereotypes.  None of us "tend" to be anything. We are what we are.
I'm attending the diversity conference in Philadelphia next week and I am excited to learn about what can be done about the disparity.  To understand it more, to change it, to bring more people of all sorts to the wonderment of birding.

I leave you to think on this, but in closing, I am including photos of birders.  First, think of the stereotype. Then look at the people.  Then put the stereotype down and never pick it up again.

rain crows

kathi lynne drinking

Beth and Bus




Jeff G.  Farmhouse chillin'

Laura the stinker


Delia and Hooper

OYBC banding

Paco the Cabana Boy


Taking nets down

Do not throw things over overlook

The Flock 2011


Saturday, October 08, 2011

People photos from the Midwest Birding Symposium

I'm going to spare you my excuses for not updating my blog more.

So September brought the Midwest Birding Symposium in Lakeside, Ohio.  My arm got twisted (Thanks, Jeff!) and I am so glad I gave in.  Not only was it a birding event, it was full of faces I wanted to see, people I love to spend time with, and lots of new and wonderful people to meet.
There are a bazillion photos to are about, oh, forty of them.

First, Palito:
Palito got to meet lots of new people and see new places...

The Black Swamp Bird Observatory!!!
palito and BSBO sign

Ottawaa National Wildlife Refuge!!!
palito at ottawa

He got to meet (and be blown on by) the President of the ABA!
jeff and palito

And Liz!!
liz and palito

Palito doesn't like cole slaw.  He's an owl.
feeding palito

The Birder's Gang Sign:
palito gang sign

He got to meet Kim Kaufman!  He was so nervous.....
kim and palito

And Barb!
barb and palito

And beer!
palito and bud lite

And Gentleman Jack!
palito and Gentleman Jack

Here, Corey taunts him with a knife.
corey and palito

And now the people:
Okay, I was totally innocent this time.  I was INNOCENTLY taking photos of Lynne and Kathi, and what happens?  Up goes the FINGER.
And look at the hairy eyeball she is giving me too!
lynne birding me

Okay, funny story.  Al Batt told a hilarious story the last night of the symposium, and here's a short synopsis:
When he was a teenager,  he and a friend let some Muscovy ducks loose in their high school.  They put tags on the wings of FOUR ducks:  Duck #1, Duck #2, Duck #3 and Duck #5.  And the next day, the school was in an uproar because they "couldn't find the last duck".
Well, we found Duck #4!
duck number 4

The Rain Crows!
rain crows

Ann Oliver's KICK ASS shoes:
ann's kick ass shoes

Bacon!!!!  Yes, he's a people!

I went birding with the guys, and it was so great....
(Corey Finger, Christopher Ciccone and Greg Miller....yeah, THAT Greg Miller!)
corey greg chris

Corey liked the back of my car.
corey and my car

Here's Kathi being all volunteery at her post at the information/registration booth:
Kathi being volunteery

Ah, the boat ride on Thursday night.  Lynne and Ruthie had JUST gotten there as the boat was leaving.
It was a fun, albeit rocky trip.  And it was GREAT to finally meet Ruthie...we actually got her to Ohio!
the boat people

Oh, and here's a random bird photo:
BE over Lakeside

Do yourself a favor and mark your calendars for the next Midwest Birding Symposium....
In 2013!
sunset over Lake Erie