Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Meet me in New Jersey

Back in the fall of 2007, I agreed to go meet some fellow bird bloggers in Cape May, New Jersey.  The lineup was originally much larger, but in the end only four of us were there to meet on that beautiful shore.

The Flock

Susan Merchant
and moi

I remember it being so strange, so awkward, to meet these people that I had only known through my computer screen up until then.  I had flown all the way to New Jersey to go birding with strangers??

 From that first meeting, from jokingly calling ourselves "The Flock", a wave...a movement...a thing has occurred.  Now numbering in the teens, we are a group...a passel...a force.
From all over the country, we gather to laugh, to love, to bird, to cherish. To giggle uncontrollably.  To be shushed by trip leaders.  To ingest very large amounts of wine.  To get glared at by other, more responsible birders.

To quote Delia in a comment about our last Cape May Weekend:
"I don't know why we all don't just admit that, with the exception of KatDoc, we all went to Cape May to see each other and be rowdy! Were there even any birds there?"

I cherish these women (and one man) so much more than I ever thought possible.
In a little over 24 hours, I will be packing the car and heading to Cape May once again, to frolic in the waves,
to cry at the peregrines and osprey overhead, to get frustrated over shorebirds, and to once again wrap my arms around my Flock.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hail to the Chief!!

When Jeff Gordon asked me recently, "What do you know about the ABA?", I didn't know what to say.  I knew what the letters stood for, and....umm....that's about it.  I couldn't tell you who was leading the organization, what they did or how they did it.  My opinion of the organization was vague, to say the least.  I proved a point for him, with my ignorance.

Over the past month or so, I have done some reading up on the ABA and have a clearer picture of what it's all about.  And up until about a week and a half ago, things were not looking good.  I kept reading phrases like "financial crater" and "poor leadership" and "Who cares about the ABA anyway?".

As it turns out, all birders should care about the ABA.  It is the only organization of its kind in North America, and it is FOR birders and BY birders.  They have a comprehensive Code of Ethics that as birders we all need to adhere to.  They contribute to bird and bird habitat conservation.  They offer conferences and workshops.  It's an organization for US.
This is the place where we all need to be.

About a week and a half ago, the news came ripping through the intertubes through email, texting, but most of all, Facebook.  Jeff Gordon had been selected as the new President of the ABA.  I'm pretty sure Facebook broke that day.

We will be learning more as the weeks and months go on, but for now, I am unbelievably proud of Jeff, honored to be his friend, and ready to help in any way he needs.  He has a HUGE job ahead of him.
Be sure to stop here, at his blog and the new ABA blog for updates.

Here's a link to a video Jeff has posted on the ABA blog:
Hello from the New President and Greetings from Providence

I was telling my mother about Jeff's good news, and I mentioned that I wanted to join the ABA for the first time.  Mom decided that a membership would make a good early Christmas gift for me.  Thanks, Mom!

I leave you with my favorite photo of Jeff (because I took it, and because it captures just what makes Jeff so darn lovable)...
Chilling on the Farmhouse porch one evening during the 2010 New River Birding and Nature Festival.
(And Jeff is on the front page of their web site too!)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A last kindness

Nellie came into our lives in February 2001.  A two month old mix of big head, big feet and sweet puppy charm.  Her mother had been a German Shepherd, and it looks like her father was a Lab and/or Rottweiler.
Whatever her lineage, I thought she was the best thing ever.

Baby Nellie

Until it came to house-training her.  I thought she was brain-damaged.  She just.  Didn't.  Get.  It.
After five months of sopping up accidents from the carpet, I sort of gave up on her, and told Geoff that she was his dog.  He was responsible for finally getting her brain to learn what "Go outside" meant.

I never thought I would love her the way you're supposed to love a dog.  She wasn't a dog you could hug...she wasn't smart, I thought.
Tongue hanging out

And like I said, I had given up on her.  But she never gave up on me.

When I was heavily pregnant with Isabelle, I was finishing the nursery preparations.  I had just steam-cleaned the carpets in her room and the hallway.  Wearing Keds (the only shoe that would fit on my swollen feet), I started down the stairs.  The combination of wet carpet and stupid shoes caused me to fall.
Somehow, in the 1.5 seconds it took me to stumble down 3 steps, Nelllie was there. She materialized out of nowhere and I threw my arms around her and stopped myself from pitching all the way down.  As I came to a screeching halt, I sat down on that wet carpet, and gasping for breath, put my arms around Nellie and shook like a leaf.  She sat there and let me hug her for the first time.
She had saved Isabelle.  That was the day Nellie became my dog.

Nellie had a neurotic fear of tree swallows, afraid to go out in the backyard every year they nested here.
She was always gentle with Isabelle and Lorelei, even when they weren't.
Nellie kisses Lorelei

She accepted a wide range of new animals into the house over the course of her life with us.

Nellie Boomer 1
(Everyone remember Boomer?)

Her life was completely intertwined with mine.  Never completely confident with her status in life, she looked to me when she was scared, or happy, or lonely.  She was my shadow, always watching for where I was, what I was doing.

I never could get a really good photo of her and me, since she never wanted to look at the camera...not when I was around.


Nearly ten years is a long time to love a dog.  And not nearly long enough.
We aren't completely sure what was wrong with Nellie at the end, but she showed symptoms of transitional cell carcinoma, cancerous cells in the lining of the bladder.  No cure, just treatment of the symptoms.
And we tried.  We worked the pills as long as we could.
But every day, she got thinner.  She stopped enjoying her food and her toys.  And the final thing, the moment I knew we were going to lose her...a look.  Just a look that she gave me, telling me that it was time to let her go.
And since I loved her, I found the strength to say goodbye.

With the help of a dear friend, I listened to her last breath and felt her slip away.  Away from the pain, and away from me. 
A last kindness to a soul that deserved the peace we were able to give her at the end.

Pooped puppy

Nellie Bly Williams
November13, 2000 - September 22, 2010
We love you.