Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Heart Swells

Dear Rocky-
It's been almost 20 months since I first took you into my arms. You were just hours old and all legs. I remember holding you close and smelling the top of your head. You smelled like the earth and were so very tiny. I barely listened to the excuses of why you were taken from your mother.

I remember that first night--I was so worried for you. I set you up in a small laundry basket with the best soft blanket daddy had. He wanted you to sleep outside but you didn't. You slept right beside the bed, my hand on your head so you wouldn't feel alone. You went to sleep after I fed you and woke up around 2am for another feed. Remembering your little whimpers and mews makes me smile. You took to the bottle and your little tongue curled around the nipple--I was in love.

I suppose I could write a note about every day since then, but I will only say this--you have changed my life. I have spent more time in a pasture than I ever expected. Countless days I've watched clouds slowly pass overhead, you and I side by side; in the sun during winter, the shade in summer. Oak trees whispered their memories of past seasons and the resident vermillion flycatcher performed his aerial gymnastics to catch seemingly invisible winged insects, then land within the oak's protective branches. Killdeer have passed us by as they foraged in the pasture grasses for ground dwelling insects.

You and I have laid side by side against a huge round bale of hay on a winter's day and napped, sun barely warming our bodies as the winds whipped across the pastures. Head to head and often nose to nose, I breathed in your earthly smell and I suppose you memorized mine. Your coat grew thick and I would leave with brown fingers and palms from scratching your skin. My hands were soft for days after with all of the lanolin they absorbed.

I have taken probably thousands of pictures of you, some I have shared but many I keep for myself to slowly go through and remember. I have listened to your language change from a sweet baby's call for food to an adult sheep's deep call of recognition. I have one of your baby teeth and some of your wool from your first shearing. I hold these as sacred as much as I do my kid's treasures.

I love you, Rocky. I really do.

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Week Back, Part 2

A couple of days after the wild fire, I was called to help with an egret emergency. There was a huge egret rookery at Brakenridge Park in town and the fledglings were learning to fly and ending up in the water or landing on the concrete sidewalks and breaking fragile legs and wings.

The Parks department had begun clearing out the lily pads that were in the river along with the algae that was covering the surface of the water. They had no idea the juveniles needed the foliage as part of their learning process. The egret's feet are made for walking on the lily pad leaves, and their rookery, several huge old oak trees, lean directly over the water. So as the young ones tried out their new found wings, what they found was water.

Many of the birds came in soaking wet, cold, and emaciated. The babies need a lot of food in order to have the energy to learn to fly and if they're cold and wet and stuck in water, they cannot be fed.
Over 100 birds have ended up in the clinic and are getting around the clock are for what ails them. A rotation for release is beginning with healed birds being moved outdoors to become acclimated once again before being transported to a release site.

Spending time with my animal friends always puts me in a good place. Something about unconditional love... something about these beings being so true to themselves, something about them always being happy to see me. Just makes everything O.K.

A baby black vulture just arrived with a friend who is just a bit older. Together they will grow and then be released. For now, they are learning from our resident and visiting vultures just how good life at the sanctuary can be. How can you resist that sweet face!!

A Muscovy duck bathes in a wading pool. It has been so hot and dry that all of our waterfowl take turns cooling off and bathing. He didn't mind one bit that I was taking photos... secretly I think he stayed in longer because I was there.

This is Ms Ripley. She came to us because a girl's mom didn't want a large pig as a pet. She loves people. I've become especially fond of her--my very first experience of pig love. She comes running up to me, rumbling all the way, and plants her nose right on my leg. If I am sitting, she will find any skin and park her nose on it, breathing deeply with eyes partly closed. To me, she smells like sweet celery...

And here's Gracie. She's getting so big and turning so black!!! Her favorite thing ever is to be scratched under her chin--to her chest. Her eyes looks skyward and her chin follows--soon, she is standing very still, loving every scratch. If you stop, she will take a step closer to you and look at you with her big brown eyes and nudge you with her large wet nose.
Keep scratching or walk away.
Walk away from that look?

Friday, August 14, 2009

My First Week Back Home

Niles, Lillie and I were coming in from seeing a movie (Ice Age 3) and as we topped a hill, the smoke made us gasp. A HUGE column of white smoke. My first thought was that Lillie's school was on fire (it's in our neighborhood). As we got closer we realized the school wasn't on fire, but, the fire wasn't far from it. We pulled over and I called 911. The fire department was on its way.

It was very exciting. Not in the 'ooooh something bad's gonna happen' but in the 'wow the energy that fire brings gives me goosebumps'. Watching fully green cedar trees being engulfed by fire and rendered charcoal sticks within seconds reminded me how fragile life really is.

This photo shows when the fire jumped the road and began burning Camp Bullis.

This photo was used on one of the local TV station's online homepage.

This is the aftermath.

The fire eventually came within 1/2 block of the elementary school and burned close to 200 acres. It was said to have been started by the spark from a welder. The drought has gotten so bad--most grasses and a lot of understory trees have died. Any kind of energy can start a fire.

You can still smell smoke when you drive by, now a week later.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Last Days

The day before we left Newport, the kids wanted to get out. The fog had been steadily moving in since the night before. We all sat at dinner (outside!) and watched it move in. Overnight I can only guess it decided to stay. (And the fog horn woke me only once!)

We knew the fog was bad when we set out, but, as we rounded the corner to the kite park (Castle Hill area) visibility careened down to almost -0-! We had no idea people were flying kites in the park until we were almost upon them.

I know, it looks as if there's nothing in the next couple of photos. Just click on them and you will see something...

And here is Niles getting his kite up. I can say kite flying in thick fog is a challenge--not because of diminished visibility, but because of the moisture that rides the kite. It makes the kite really heavy and very hard to keep in the air.

The following day was the Day Of Leaving. A very Sad Day. I wanted to get a few more photos of the area so Brent and I headed out to St. Mary's Catholic Church. One of the oldest churches on the island. And...

where JFK and Jackie got married. They had their own pew (#10) in the church. Come to find out, St. Mary's was in Jackie's mom's parish, that's why they were married there.

Unlike many modern day catholic churches, the congregation faces an amazing stained glass window over the tabernacle (instead of the suffering Christ). All of the stained glass was made in Switzerland in the 1800's and shipped over. The colors were enthralling.

The outside of the church was fascinating to me. Arches, lines, angles... so many visually stimulating and photographic components. I love the hinges on the doors.

Back at the house, I walked the gardens. Near the rear of the gardens in the shaded area there was this huge star:

Branches over the winter had fallen and proclaimed the garden Magic. The hydrangeas in the gardens that surrounded the house were breathtaking.

We packed our things and slowly drove towards the airport in Providence. Over the Pell bridge and past all of the waterways. Until next year...